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Our Next #StewFamAdventure, Part 2

If you are lost, check out Part 1.

Basically, after much prayer and discernment, the Stew Crew is moving back to Tennessee.

We knew we had a short window to see if the Lord was opening doors for us to return to Tennessee as we were sensing this was the step we were to take for our family. If we were not moving back, we had to find a home in Rocklin quickly. Because we were specific on area, we knew finding a church role for Jason would be difficult in our time frame, so we began to lean into other areas God may be opening up.

Over the last four or five years, we have seen God narrow and shape our hearts and minds in the area of discipleship and mission. We have dove deep into the reasons we “do church” a certain way and began to really ask the questions, “Are we living like Jesus and doing the things He did?” and “Are we His disciples who are making disciples who make disciples?” Part of Jason’s role at Bridgeway was to help shape a disciple making culture with an intentional focus UP with the Father, IN with community and OUT into the world. Another part of Jason’s role has been helping Bridgeway clearly define WHO they are, WHAT their mission and values are, and HOW they are going to accomplish their call to glorify God and make disciples. He simply geeks out on all things VISION, STRATEGY, and MISSIONAL DISCIPLESHIP.

But, not only is he passionate about those things, we have had numerous others affirm his gifting in those areas. As we looked back over our 20 years of ministry, we saw a pretty clear pattern of Jason stepping into places that needed some sort of redefinition of their ministry, a transition to something different, a new vision that needed a new strategy or a foundation that needed to be laid so ministry could grow to a new level.  Jason asks hard questions, a lot of question, deep questions and the beloved WHY question.

We began to sense that maybe it was time for Jason to really lean into consulting for churches in the area of vision and mission, but we knew for that to happen, we would need to be rooted closer to family, I would need to work and it would be a huge leap of faith. So in our short time period, we decided to see what God may open up. Jason began to explore some possibilities.

AND I applied for one job.

And within in two days, I had an interview. Within a week, I had two. Within a week and a half, I had three.  And within three weeks, I had several more and then…presented with a letter of intent.

And, after much prayer and the decision to simply walk through the doors the Lord was opening even though we didn’t have all the answers, I accepted the job.

Beginning mid July, I am the new Kid’s Ministry Director at The Bridge in Spring Hill, Tennessee.

To say this is a switcheroo is an understatement, but we are THRILLED to be a part of The Bridge and I am overwhelmed with the creativity of our God. I felt the call into ministry as a college student, went to Seminary and have been in ministry alongside Jason for our entire marriage. To be able to pour into adults who love on kids each week, invest in the hearts and minds of little ones, be a support to families and encourage parents on their journey to love God and  create a home where their kiddos see HIM, is something I absolutely believe in and am excited to step into in a new and fresh way.

We are still fleshing out all the logistics of what Jason will be doing next, but what we know is that GOD is at work.

And we are coming home.

 

 

 

 

6 Resources for Teaching your Preschooler about Jesus

6resources

 

When I think of family devotionals, I imagine time spent in God’s Word, sharing great insights and wowing my kids with the depth of how much God loves them. They hang on every word I say, respond thoughtfully and with a depth of knowledge that surpasses their young age. They are focused in, eager, and have a hunger for how they can reach the world for Christ. We end by singing a worship song and they each take time to pray to their Father with a desire and fervor to see His Kingdom come on Earth as it is in Heaven.

Then I wake up and realize I was dreaming.

Our family devotionals NEVER look like that completely! We often set ourselves up to fail before we even start by setting unrealistic expectation of what it means to spend time as a family around God’s Word. While it is important to have a plan, it is equally important to risk leading a devotional badly. Often our children will not remember the specifics of every devotional time, but they will remember their parents loved the Lord and made it a priority to teach them about His Word.

I thought I would share some great resources that we have used in our own Family Devotionals throughout the years over the next few days based on stages of development. The Toddler/Preschool years are all about laying a basic foundation that you will build upon as they grow. We used simple phrases over and over at this age: God Made The World, God Made You, God loves the World and God Loves You. These concepts begin to develop a worldview of  how they will view the world around them and  how they see themselves as a part of God’s story.

The Toddler/Preschool Years (18months-5):

The key here is to read to them and to have some consistency in having time with them around the Word. With each story you read, you are building a foundation and speaking Truth and Identity into your little ones. Here are some of our favorite resources for the Toddler years:

  1. The Beginner’s Bible for Toddlers:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Beginner’s Bible is great for toddler because the stories are short and appropriate for their active minds! We loved this resource. The bibles that are geared to toddlers are just short stories that retell Scripture in a way they can understand. They will learn about some of the fascinating men and women in the Old and New Testament as well as how much God loves them.

2. Read With Me Bible for Toddlers:

How cute are these graphics? Such a fun little bible story book for your toddlers! Same concepts as mentioned above just another fun resource.

3. Little Blessings Series:

I seriously love this line of books for little ones. The first half of the books are questions kids have about Jesus, Heaven, God and the second half is answered in the voice of God and Jesus. It answers deep, big questions that kids ask in such an appropriate level for little ones to begin to grasp the concept. Here are a few of our favorites:



These sweet books also include bible references at the end which are additional resources for you and your children to look at. For example, one line states, “I died on a cross so that others could live and know there is nothing that God can’t forgive. The day that I died was a sad one, but then God gave a new life. Now I live again!” The book then lists John 3:17 which states “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn it, but to save it.” as a reference. So good!

These books are great for preschoolers, as well as young elementary school ages. We read these over and over again and they remain some of my favorites of all time.

4. The Bible App for Kids

This is super fun and interactive app for kids to use on your iPad or Android device. Not only does it bring the story to life, it is done with the high quality kids love. They don’t just get to hear the Bible story, they can see it come to life. Our kids love technology, so this is an app that you can feel good about your kids playing with while you are hoping for a few minutes of peace…or is that just me?!? I also saw they have come out with a print version called The Bible App For Kids Storybook Bible.

See more about this highly useful app:

5. Goodnight Warrior: God’s Mighty Warrior Bedtime Bible Stories, Devotions, and   Prayers and God’s Little Princess Bedtime Devotional

 

Little Warriors and Little Princesses will love these devotionals which are perfect for your preschooler. These devotionals include Scripture, a short devotional thought and a prayer which are perfect for bedtime. They are based not the book series which are also great resources for your preschooler. I love the idea that I a raising warriors and princesses for the King!

6. My First Hands-On Bible

I have heard great things about this Bible. Not only does it use actual verses (New Living Translation), it has simple activities for your preschooler to do while you are reading the story. Brilliant! This is so in line with our themed family nights we have done for years. Then, the Bible has a section at the end that describes how Jesus and God’s plan for redeeming His Creation is a part of every story in God’s Word. Each story ends with a prayer as well. I plan on getting the Hands On Bible for our older kids as well.

These are a few of our favorite Family Devotional Resources for teaching preschoolers about Jesus. I hope they help you begin having a family devotional with your family.

 

This post contains affiliate links.

 

 

How to Guard Your Heart

Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.

Proverbs 4:23

We are in a battle. 

From birth we are taught through words, actions, sights, and sounds what to believe and to value. We are given mixed messages, false securities and are bombarded with images of what a woman should look like, sound like, and live like.  Our identity is up for grabs everyday and we are in a battle to determine where we will root our worth.

I for one am rooting into Christ.

I am believing the Gospel that He died to declare to a world that has for too long built its worth on shifting sands. I am sinking down deep into the soil of GOD’s Truth and CHOOSING to grow in that space. I am going to face the battle for my heart and mind, not as a victim, a complainer, or a martyr anymore, but instead with weapons that have already won the war of our souls.

Because every moment I decide that my identity is found in the horizontal world is every moment where the enemy wins.  We all have triggers, scars that can be ripped open at a moment’s notice, so putting safeguards into place is a wise, strategic move to keeping your heart safe.

We will be tempted to look in the mirror and base our worth on what you see.

We will be tempted to look at the behavior of our kids and base our worth on what others think.

We will be tempted to control circumstances and base our identity in our accomplishments and the praise of man.

So what does it mean to Guard Your Heart? What does that look like when I am scrolling through Instagram? How does that play out when I hear criticism for a decision I have made? What does it look like when my toddler is throwing a tantrum in Target and all eyes are on me? How does it play out when “everyone else” is doing it?

Here is what Guarding Your Heart has looked like for me over the years. I fight for these everyday because I want to walk out my journey reflecting the GLORY of the LORD. I want to call out the LIES that the world tries to sell me and DECLARE that HE is GOOD and because of the SHED blood of JESUS, I am REDEEMED, MADE NEW.  I want that for my man, my children, my friends and for you.

  • Guarding my heart means memorizing Truth and when I feel my emotions leading me to believe that my identity was found in the approval of others, I preach the gospel to myself.  It means recognizing that I am more concerned about their opinion of ME than I am about their opinion of CHRIST. Guarding my heart has meant loosing the fight for the approval of man.

 

  • Guarding my heart and choosing to walk In All the freedom God died for me to have meant letting go of friendships.

 

  • Guarding my heart means having Truths that I say to myself like..

               Tomorrow’s freedom is today’s surrender. (thank you All Sons and Daughters)

              God is for me and He is with me.

              The battle is won. He does not need me to advance His Kingdom. The rocks will cry out if

              needed.

              My worth is not found in the obedience of my children.

             He is enough. You are a GOOD, GOOD Dad.

             That is a First World problem.

  •  Guarding my heart means saying NO to MYSELF. It means there are things I don’t watch, read, engage in or believe. It means there are places I don’t go, relationships I don’t pursue, comments I don’t leave, links I don’t click on and people I unfollow. It means planning out my calendar, living on a budget and creating a meal plan.
  • Guarding my heart means learning to give grace quickly and not be easily offended. It means seeking clarification instead of assuming the worst.
  • Guarding my heart means that I have accountability. I ask women I know and trust to speak Truth into my life and I begin to see the challenge they can bring as a gift to be unwrapped. Guarding my heart means REVEALING my heart to those who will be tender with it, encourage it and speak TRUTH to it.
  • Guarding my heart means letting go of the life I had planned so I can walk out faithfully the one God has for me.  It means recognizing that expectations are not reality.
  • Guarding my heart means learning to celebrate others instead of using my insecurities as an opportunity to criticize and discredit their abilities.  It is understanding that someone else’s AWESOME does not make me LESS THAN. Nor does someone else’s CHILD’S AWESOME make my child less AWESOME.
  •  Guarding my heart means that when I hear criticism, hurtful words, or differing opinions, I am not crushed under the burden of someone else’s view of me, but rather, I actively choose resting in the Truth of God. Then I can hear the criticism, the hurtful words, the differing opinions and receive them with an attitude of learning and grace instead of defensiveness and justification. (this is not easy!)
  • Guarding my heart means I let myself and others off the hook for my happiness and practice how to find Joy in Christ. Guarding my heart means having an eternal perspective, practicing gratefulness and contentment.
  • Guarding my heart means my heart is steady, unwavering, and focused on my Father. It means a calm and a peace in knowing that He is Sovereign and there is not one minute of my day that He did not ordain. I can rest that nothing is wasted and it is all for His glory.
  • Guarding my heart means I let my emotions be a gauge of for my heart instead of a guide for my actions. It means letting my feelings reveal what my heart is believing and not an excuse and a justification to respond in sin. (thanks John Piper blog)

Scripture says to guard our hearts ABOVE ALL ELSE. I think that shows this is a battle worth fighting…..

How do you guard your heart?

 

Preparing to Move

This past weekend, Jason and I had the chance to get away to Seattle for a few days to prepare for the move.

We had a list of what we felt like we needed to accomplish and set out to get some things done! Our adventure started out a little shaky thanks to Southwest Airlines. We received a text saying our flight was delayed about 50 minutes, so we set out a few minutes later than originally planned. Then, as we are in route we get another text saying it was on time…which was 20 minutes later! AWESOME.

We pulled in on two wheels, parked in short term parking (first row for $24 a day), got a short lecture from the lady at the counter about arriving on time and were told there was little chance we would make it. She was full of encouragement.

We did the classic RUN through the airport, only to arrive at the FARTHEST GATE and boarding HAD NOT EVEN STARTED. At least I got some exercise in before a six hour flight.

Thankfully, our sweet friends, Kristi and Sully, came and picked up our van, and we didn’t have to pay outrageously for parking!

We had lunch the next day with Dale and Tina Braswell, our campus pastor and his wife at our Lynnwood campus, on Thursday and then started our weekend search for a place to lay our heads for the year. Which for a family of six…quite the challenge! We drove all over the area and scouted out houses, so it felt really great to lay eyes on the area and begin to get our bearings. Jason and I actually went to a movie that evening, which was the first in a long time, so it was very nice!

Friday we were able to go to downtown Seattle and play tourist. We did Pike Place, which I just love. When you come and see us, it will be the place we take you. We had some great conversations with the locals and found out about Green Lake, which has a large park around it, so we headed there for dinner and ate at a local restaurant, Spud’s Fish and Chips. We just took it all in, imagining what our life will look like over the next year.

Saturday could have been an episode of House Hunters we looked at SOOO many places. We are debating homeschool versus sending the kids to school, but school still factors into our decision making. We also looked at old and new, yard and no yard, closer in and farther out….you name it, we looked at it! We narrowed it down to a couple.

Sunday we went to LifePoint Lynnwood! We were able to have lunch with a sweet couple who attended our Smyrna Campus for years and have moved to Seattle to be with their grandkids. Then that afternoon, we spent time with some leaders at the Lynnwood Campus. It was such a great, relaxing afternoon. They are all so very welcoming and encouraging of us. They are willing to help us in any way, which makes this much less daunting. I am so thankful that my kids will have built in friends! Such a frequent prayer is that our kids will be SALT and LIGHT and that they will build good friendships quickly.

Sunday night we went to dinner with the Braswells at a very cool restaurant in Edmonds which was on the water. I ate Salmon, of course! I am just overwhelmed with the beauty of God’s creation that we get to explore and see everyday!

We saw a few more houses before we left and still did not have a complete peace about which one, but felt confident that we had some options. Literally, on our way to the airport, we drove by one last house that had JUST come back up on craigslist. We looked in the window, talked to a neighbor and later in the week, Dale gave us a Skype tour of it! That house, is less than a mile from their home, is zoned for the same school the Braswell girls attend and has a fenced yard.

And, the Landlord is a Christ follower.

God has provided and opened door after door, confirming and revealing that He is for us, He is with us and all we are to do is walk one step at a time in obedience.

To answer a few questions:

We are not selling our home. We LOVE our home and plan to be back in it next Summer.

We are DRIVING across this great nation.

Knox needs a home for a year…still figuring the 12 year old Yellow Lab out.

Our kids spoke into this decision and are on board.

More to come…

 

 

Because We are All About Change

The main reason I started blogging again is because I know I am going to have a lot of material to share over the next year.

Because we are moving…

To Seattle, Washington….

For One year….

Our church is a SENDING church, we don’t just say it, we actually DO it. We have five campuses, two internationally. One of those campuses is located in Lynnwood, Washington, a suburb of Seattle. We believe in sending teams of people to reach a community, to BE the church where there is NO church and show the LOVE of Christ in a very real way. Jason and I, along with our four children, have the privilege to do that, everyday of our lives, but specifically, in the community of Lynnwood, in the city of Seatlle, over the next year.

Crazy, right?

Yes, in may ways it is crazy to think about packing up our family of 6, driving 2500 miles with a TODDLER and living apart from friends, family and an amazing church family for one year.

But, Noah also built an ark when it had NEVER rained, so I am thinking….us, not so CRAZY. Yet, when we reflect on the expanse of our God and the Scriptures, this is far from crazy but yet another incredible gift from a loving God that allows us to join Him and know Him in another way in our lives.

Jason will still maintain his current job at our LifePoint Smyrna Campus, but will do it from Seattle. We get to be apart of another great campus and pour into the lives of the people there, as well as those who NEED to be there. When Jason and I began to think through this and seek the Lord, we had a lot of questions, fears and uncertainty, mainly concerning our four, precious children. How would they adjust? Is it too much transition? Will people make fun of their southern accents or for one, southern Ethiopian accents? But at the end of the day, we are giving them an amazing adventure and hopefully, living out obedience to Jesus, even when there are fears, unanswered questions, many unknowns and the knowledge that we will have HARD days.

One year, in a cool, beautiful, city….could be a lot worse.

We are still working out details, but we are hoping to head west at the beginning of August. So I know the first thing you are thinking is how can I pray for the Stewarts? Pray for our children…Pray for wisdom for Jason and I as we have a LOT of decisions that need to made quickly and if you know us, that is not necessarily a strength…pray for our parents, who love Jesus, but really wish He would keep their grandchildren CLOSE

We are willing to answer any questions and ask that you encourage our children over the next few weeks. Love on them, pray for them and build into them the knowledge that they are being the hands and feet of  Jesus…

Let the adventure begin…..

Camp Whatever

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3:17

This is the verse that is the foundation for our student camp, Camp Whatever. This is the sixth year, we have taken students to Horns Creek camp in Ocoee, Tennessee. To see  how it has grown, how adults who love teenagers will take a week away from work and family, and to see how students have deepened their walks each year, is one of the greatest joys I have been apart of in my walk with Lord.

It had been a couple of years since I had gone and this year, I went as the girls counselor. For a few months, I have been available to do counseling for girls on Wednesday night. To say that girls these days have a lot to deal with, is an understatement.  At camp, I was able to do the same. Once you separate a student from the world, wear them out, and have adults continually focusing them towards Christ, it is amazing to see the barriers come down.  Not only are they open to hear from the Word, the also are more open to share the hurts that so many deal with on a daily basis.  In some cases, they address sin in their life, and in some cases, the sin that has been done to them.  To see students who are far from Christ, come to salvation, leaves you breathless.  And, then to see a student commit to chase hard after him, without shame and in complete abandonment, leaves you challenged.

I was both this past week.

How are you pouring into the next generation?

Adventure Week

Last week we had our VBS style emphasis at our church, Lifepoint.  I helped coordinate all of our preschool workers and student volunteers. This year we opened up Pre-K to the community and had a great turnout! I got to love on some babies and toddlers, which was good. I am content in being able to love on them in doses and hand them back to mommy or daddy! We had around 800 kids on our two campuses and raised around $3800 for Haiti relief.

I love that our church focuses on children and students. I love that our kids worship with music that speaks to them, their age and their generation. The message is not watered down, which many often confuse with a hipper style of music or the use of lights and motions.  Our kids are learning to worship in spirit and truth and that following Jesus is about giving Him your life, not just a moment, a prayer or an acknowledgment.  They are learning what it means to follow Christ.  Last week they learned about Heroes in Scripture and their example. I am doubly excited to see our middle and highschoolers serving.  This week is possible because they sacrifice time at the pool, with friends, or hanging out in front of the tv for time spent investing in the lives of preschoolers and students. They are growing because they are serving Him.  Such a blessing to watch them grow in their journey with Jesus by being His hands and feet.

Emery was  on the praise team again this year and she did a great job!  It is so cute to watch her and we know that she is learning that leading others in worship is a privilege and that her role is to simply point others to Him.  No focus on self or on being the center of attention….at least that is our prayer.  Bradley was able to be in worship this year.  He came home singing some of the songs and talking about what he was learning, as well.  He told us all about, “the woaves and the fish.”  The girls were also able to invest in our neighbors this week. We don’t have many kids in our neighborhood, which is very evident in the summer.  Our neighbors had their nieces visiting and they came for two days.  The girls were so excited to be able to invite them. We are praying that they get to continue to see these sweet girls in the weeks to come!

Month of Thanks..Day 1 & 2

My friends Jenn and Kim have inspired me to actually share what I am thankful for this month, instead of letting the month go by without thinking about it!  Some  may be specific and some may be general.  I encourage you to take the time to think and share what you are thankful for!

I may be a day behind but I am not going to let that stop me!

1. On Sunday, our church launched a campaign called The Sending Church.  The vision is to raise money to send over 30 missionaries, to launch 6 campuses in 4 countries, in order to reach 1.4 billion people with the Love and Salvation of Jesus.  I am so thankful that God called us to this place almost 6 years ago.  He has used this church to stretch us, refine us, challenge us and inspire us to see beyond our four walls for the cause of Christ. 

2. I am thankful that through unforseen events, I got to spend the day in Knoxville with Bradley.  I have relaxed, spent the day with Luann, and even took a nap.  Also, for a husband who stepped in to fill by mommy duties for the afternoon and evening!

My prayer is that throughout this month, we may all take time to stop, think about how God has blessed us and call out praises to His name!

“My soul glorifies the Lord 
    and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,”

Luke 1:46-47

Fun week, big week

We had a great week at church!

First of all, we had an amazing VBS week.  I will admit, I am not great with kids.  I love them, but feel much more comfortable with teenagers.  Call me weird, but I do.  But, when you have kids, I think it is important to be a part of the things they are involved with, so I help out each year in VBS.  We began using a Group curriculum a few years back and I really love it.  It is so creative and truly brings the Word to Life!

This year, my pal, Ashley and I, were roped into, volunteered to coordinate our preschool workers.  We had around 100 preschool children, and that was just for our workers kids!  It went great and I think everyone had a wonderful experience, for the most part!

We also had almost 800 kids on campus all week, raised over $3000 to build 4 wells in India (our goal was 2) and had 44 children indicate they were following Christ for the first time!  I was able to counsel with two precious girls and I could barely hold back tears.  Baptisms do the same thing to me- get me all teary eyed, every time.

All in all, it was a a very exciting week.  Emery also was a part of the praise team and help lead out in worship.  She loves it and has already informed us that she wants to do it again.  Love that kid.  Completely different story, she also got her hair cut short and it is adorable if I say so.  B also got his summer buzz and it just about sends me over the edge because he looks way too old.  But, his daddy insists on buzzing that hair!

On Wednesday, Jason and Pat, were interviewed by Outreach magazine because Lifepoint made the 100 fastest growing churches in America.  Again, we are so thankful to be in a place where God is at work in the lives of people and that as a result, those who are far from God are entering our building each week and hearing what a life with Christ is about!  It is so not about the numbers but about God and His glory!  He alone is drawing and leading people to our church but more importantly to Himself and I pray we continue to be faithful to His leading.

We had a full week and one where I know the seeds of faith are being planted in our children.  Parker and Emery are both asking a lot of questions about being a Christ follower.  We did have a funny moment in the midst of a conversation. Jason was talking to the girls about having love in their heart and Parker interrupts with “How can you have love in your heart when it is a muscle?”  That kids is so logical and literal at times, it is scary.

Today, we spent some time together as a fam, at the pool.  It was hot as blazes, so it was a great way to spend the day!

I dare you..

Yesterday, we started the Love Dare series at Lifepoint. I love writing that!
Pat is preaching through the Song of Solomon. Yes, you read that right! How funny is it that we had the largest, non-holiday Sunday, on this particular day?

As a part of this series, we are going through the Fireproof small group series and reading the Love Dare for 40 days. For those of you not familiar, the recent moving Fireproof uses a book called, the Love Dare to help a marriage heal. I must admit, confess, lay it out there, that I did not have high expectations of this movie. Lifepoint showed the movies last night in our Auditorium and let’s just say, I almost shed a tear! This movie totally exceeded my expectations of average acting, slow story line and “Christian” cheesiness. I get really nervous when something is labeled, “Christian” and it then only mediocre in quality. I think if you are going to put it out to the world to represent Jesus, you better come with excellence.

I think this movie is a must see for any married couple, no matter how good, bad, ugly or pretty your marriage is. It is just a great reminder of what a covenant of marriage should look like.

Jason and I started the Love Dare challenge today and I think we have both done just fine! Day 1 is about showing patience. I really didn’t have reason to be impatient with him today, so it was great! Or maybe, I just didn’t look for a reason to be impatient!

What a great month to commit to your marriage! Check back this week for a great book giveaway!!! One of my most favorite books for us girls on the subject of intimacy! Maybe that will hook you to check back!

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