I tell my girls all the time, “Girls, readers are leaders!” Cue the eye roll, and “Yes mom, we know.” They may be sick of me saying it, but I firmly believe this statement, and I have always had a passion for encouraging children to read. Years ago when I lived in Texas, I worked as a second grade teacher. My favorite subject to teach was reading. Watching the light bulb go on when my students started to really get it was so exciting, and I could see a whole new world open up for them.
During my time as a teacher, I fell in love with children’s literature. I was always personally contributing to the library in my classroom, and I made every effort to make reading fun and exciting for my students.
When my teaching days transitioned from the classroom into my home, the love of children’s books didn’t fade. Now I had the opportunity to instill this same love into my daughters. As their reading levels began to grow, I wanted to find books that they could both relate to and that had a positive message.
They began to transition out of picture books and into chapter books which presented the new challenge of finding more book options for them. There are so many wonderful books out there, and the choices are endless. But I wanted to be intentional about finding books that I knew would encourage my girls, grow their faith, and teach them lifelong lessons.
Matthew 6:22 says, “The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light.”
As a parent, I want to make sure that I am guiding my girls as it relates to what they are seeing and consuming. Especially when they are young, I feel it’s important to guard the gateway of their hearts and minds and be watchful of what influence is being allowed into their lives. Then teaching them to make their own decisions and to discern if something, whether it’s a movie, video game, or a book, is edifying for their spirit is the ultimate goal.
I know from my own experience, finding chapter books that I felt checked these boxes was a bit challenging at first so I thought I would share some that I have found. And just so you know these all got the “Lauren and Katherine stamp of approval”!
The Glimmer Girls Series (faithgirlz by Zonderkids)
This series of four books is written by singer Natalie Grant with Naomi Kinsman and is about three sisters whose mom is a famous recording artist. The books tell of their adventures and how they solve problems using their faith in God. The book titles are London Art Chase, A Dolphin Wish, Miracle in Music City, and Light Up New York.
The Secret of the Hidden Scrolls (Worthy Kids)
This is a series of eight books about siblings, Peter and Mary and their dog, Hank. These three adventurers discover ancient scrolls that transport them back to key moments in biblical history. These books are great because they help bring Bible stories to life for young readers in a way that they can relate to. This series is great for boys or girls!
Riley Mae/The Good News Shoes Series (ZonderKids)
Riley Mae is an action loving girl that becomes a spokesperson for the Swiftwater Shoe Company. Through her many adventures, her faith and trust in God continues to grow! This series has three books, Riley Mae and the Rock Shocker Trek, Riley Mae and the Ready Eddy Rapids, and Riley Mae and the Soul Fire Safari.
Soul Surfer Series (Zonderkids)
Inspired by surfer Bethany Hamilton, this series is about a 14 year old girl who discovers God’s love and guidance while tackling the “waves” life throws at her and her friends. There are four books in this series, Clash, Burned, Storm, and Crunch.
Princess in Camo Series (Zonderkids)
This series of four books is authored by Missy Robertson, one of the stars of the TV show Duck Dynasty. The main character, Allie Carroway, lives in the Louisiana Bayou and struggles with allergies and asthma. Her family has a reality TV show called Carried Away with the Carroways, and she and her friends have many exciting adventures. The four books in the series are Allie’s Bayou Rescue, Running From Reality, Dog Show Disaster, and Finding Cabin Six.
Lena in the Spotlight (Zonderkids)
Lena and her little sisters face challenges of everyday life while trying to realize her dream of being an actress. Throughout this series, Lena relies on her faith to help her navigate life’s tough choices and help her persevere when things get hard.
The Imagination Station (Focus on the Family)
There are multiple books in this series that will keep your reader busy for quite awhile. Cousins Patrick and Beth travel to various lands and times and have incredible adventures. What I love about these books is that they not only teach Biblical lessons, but they also teach about historical events. This is also a great series for boys or girls!
Yes, you heard that right. YOU are a warrior. Is that hard to believe? What? You’re not feeling like you’re channeling Superwoman right now? You’re not flying off to save the world from utter destruction? Are you instead feeling like just getting dinner on the table for the “fam” before 8:00 pm is looking a little iffy? What if I told you that you ARE a warrior and you have a secret weapon that can fight and win major battles everyday? It’s true.
Here’s my secret. Your weapon is prayer. (Crickets)…. Was that a little anticlimactic? Just hang with me for a second. I’m serious. Prayer is your superpower, and you want to be tapping into your superpower on a daily basis.
A few months after I had officially finished my fight with breast cancer (and by “officially” I mean I was done with my chemo treatments and recovering from surgery) I was asked by a friend who owned a local clothing boutique if I would help with her fall photoshoot. She needed a few “models” to wear some of the new looks that came into the store and truthfully, I was the token mom in the bunch. The other girls were beautiful young twenty-somethings that were made for the camera. I was honored that she asked me and was excited to play dress-up, but I felt highly inadequate for the job. I mean really. My hair was just growing back so I had crazy lengths I was trying to manage, my eyebrows and eyelashes were essentially gone, and my reconstructed chest was still feeling a bit wonky. Not exactly checking all the boxes in the “model” department. But I happily agreed because again, I thought it would be fun.
Once I was ready and in my first outfit, the photographer and I went into the alley to start shooting. To say that my confidence had taken a hit due to my previously difficult road and very recent memories of being bald, would be an understatement. But I did my best to loosen up and dig down deep to my previous dance and performance experience for inspiration. As we were shooting I saw the owner of the shop come around the corner and take a couple of pictures of us on her phone. After the day was over, she sent one to me and it stopped me in my tracks.
The picture was of me standing against the alley wall doing a full-on Superwoman pose. My hands were on my hips, my feet firmly planted in a wide stance and the look on my face was one of complete confidence and let’s just say, world dominance. It looked like I was ready to go to war and no one or nothing was going to stop me! (Now, please know that was not how I was feeling inside, whatsoever. I was just praying that my fake eyelashes weren’t going to blow off in the stiff breeze swirling around us.)
But here’s the cool thing. As I looked at that picture I felt the Lord impress upon my heart these words. “Jamie, this is how I see you. You may be weak physically and emotionally at times, but you are strong in Me. You are my warrior.”
Guys, this is how God sees US! And it’s not how strong we are on the outside. It’s about the inner strength we have when we put our faith in Him! When we do that, He gives us the Holy Spirit to help us fight our battles, and He gives us the best weapon to do that with. Prayer!
I love this quote from Charles Spurgeon, a Baptist preacher from the eighteen hundreds.
“True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that- it is a spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth.”
Prayer isn’t something you just repeat to check off a box. It’s true communication with your Heavenly Father and because He loves you, you have the ability to move the heart of God! I’ll say that again, YOU can move the heart of God with your prayers. How beautiful is that.
Matthew 18:18-20 says, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I am among them.”
You might be thinking, “I don’t know how to pray.”
Well, this is an easy one. You know how to talk, right? That’s all you have to do! Just talk to God like you would a friend. Share your hurts, your fears, your wins and your successes. Tell Him everything! It doesn’t have to be perfect. Just talk.
But when should I pray?
Whenever you want to! (and all the time) I pray when I’m in the shower. I’ll pray when I’m driving in the car. I’ll even pray while I’m walking the dog. It doesn’t matter when you pray, just do it.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Your prayers move the spiritual realms so why wouldn’t you want to use this power God has given you. Does every prayer request turn out the way we want it to? No. That would be like giving our children everything they ever asked for including the pony and the riding stable. Duh. God our Heavenly Father loves us as His children, and He’s not going to give us everything we want, in just the way we want it, because He knows what’s good for us. But He does hear every prayer we pray and He will work all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.
Stop walking around with your head hanging low feeling like you can’t make a difference in your world, your family or your marriage. If you believe in Jesus and He is your personal Savior, you have everything inside of you to fight massive battles. Start by praying. Stand up, get into your best Superwoman pose and start letting those words fly.
You ARE a warrior and you SLAY when you PRAY!
THIS is who I am. I am not a dancer, a teacher, a mom, or a cancer survivor. I AM a child of God. Are all of those titles pieces that make up the story of my life? Absolutely. I am proud of every phase that I have experienced and that God has walked me through. I believe that each of these seasons has played a very specific and important role in developing me into the person I am today. Each has been an opportunity to gain wisdom and insight for the next season. I have seen how God uses the spring seasons in our lives to gently grow and mature the seeds He has planted within us. I have also seen how He uses the winter seasons to demonstrate His fierce and unwavering love for us and to teach us to trust in His goodness no matter what we are facing. He will never leave us through those storms because we are His.
I have a strong desire to instill this same identity in my daughters and to equip them with the tools they need to face the identity crisis this world inflicts upon our youth. In searching for the best way to cement this concept into their sweet little hearts, I turned to my always reliable and favorite theological resource, Hobby Lobby. Yes, believe it or not, I found what I was looking for at this craft store that I harbor a slightly unhealthy obsession for. One day around the holidays, I was perusing the aisles trying to decide what farmhouse chic item needed to come home with me and was stopped dead in my tracks by a pretty lettered sign propped on a shelf. It read,
“I am the daughter of a King who is not moved by the world.
My God is with me, and goes before me.
I do not fear because I am His.”
I felt my arm reach out as if being powered by something other than my own strength and watched my hand take this sign off the shelf. I put it in my cart and headed home. I wrapped it up and gave it to my oldest daughter for Christmas that year, and promptly hung it in her room where she would see it every night before she closed her eyes, and every morning when she woke up.
This saying has become what I call our family’s, “I am” statement. We recite this statement in the car going to school in the mornings and pull it out when my daughters are feeling inadequate in any area of their lives. We stress that they don’t need to be moved by the world by peer pressure and that their God is with them always. They do not need to fear the challenges that will come because they belong to a God who hung the stars and set our world in motion. They are His now and forevermore. My hope and prayer is that these words will be rooted in their hearts, and will surface when they need them most. I want them to know their identities are in their Creator, and not their accomplishments. If this statement is a constant truth in their hearts, then it becomes a weapon they can use to fight the lies that the enemy will whisper in their ears, “You are a failure. You are ugly. You aren’t good enough.” Truth trumps lies every time, and when it comes to our identities, it’s no different.
So often my girls get asked the question, “What do you want to BE when you grow up?” They may answer, “I want to be an artist.” Or “I want to be a doctor.” I am guilty of asking them this question myself. However, I have learned that a better question to ask is, “What do you want to DO when you grow up?” God has given us all specific gifts and talents that He desires us to use for His purposes and His kingdom. But, defining our future by what we want to BE is deceiving because it insinuates that our identity is in what we do. I believe our identities are who we are from the minute we put our faith in Jesus Christ, and that identity is a son or daughter of a King. We can aspire to work as a teacher, a lawyer, or a stay-at-home mom, but just as the seasons in nature change, so will these seasons in our lives. The only thing that remains the same throughout the ever-evolving life path we follow is our title as a joint heir with Christ.
Changing seasons are extremely unpredictable. In fact, as I sit at the table in my sunroom writing this, I’m gazing out at my snow-covered yard. You may think, “Oh that sounds lovely. All of that white, beautiful snow must compliment your Christmas decorations so well.” It’s April. Yep. Not just April, but the MIDDLE of April. Five days ago my family and I were riding bikes and skateboarding in shorts. Today I’m looking at snow. It’s the same in our lives. There will be days when everything in your world feels bright and sunny, and then in an instant, a violent storm blows through and everything you know and find comfort in is crashing down around you. The Bible says in John 16:33,
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
We will experience hardship and trial. But through those storms there is a constant and steady truth. You are a son or daughter of a King. You are loved and cared for by the King of all Kings, and He is faithful to provide all you need.
When I excused myself from the rollercoaster of identity seasons and settled into the steady knowledge of who I truly am, I gained a peace that laid a foundation for me to build upon. This foundation is the rock solid wall that I now decorate with the gifts and talents that God has given me. When one of those giftings or professions gets a little cockeyed on the wall, or flat-out falls off and crashes to the floor, I will still be grounded in who I truly am. I now have the confidence to proudly wear my identity name tag that will always and forever read:
Jamie Dahl, The Daughter of a King
This is an excerpt from a chapter that I wrote in the book, “The Identity Effect”, A Collection of Stories by Women Who’ve Discovered Their True Identity in Christ. This book was published by FEW International Publications and can be found on Amazon.com.
I was having some major mom guilt. I was kicking myself all over the place because I felt like I was failing as a mom when it came to teaching my girls scripture. This has been one of those things that I knew I wanted to do, and knew was important, but I just couldn’t wrap my head around an easy and fun way to do it. So I did nothing. Until recently.
I thought I’d share what I did. By the way, it’s working:
I started by making a list of favorite verses. Knowing that I would be challenging the girls to memorize them, I started with shorter ones, or verses that we say around the house a lot. I wanted to set them up for success to keep them motivated when it got a little more challenging.
After I had a list of eight to ten verses, I printed them off, cut them apart, and pasted them onto pretty colored paper. Then I glued magnets on the back so they would stick to the refrigerator. My next job was to get the girls excited about it. I needed to remember that MY attitude is everything! If I acted like it was a chore, then it was going to feel like a chore. I found that if you show your kids that scripture memorization can be fun, then guess what? It’s going to be fun!
Next, I presented my pretty paper verses to the girls and told them that we were all going to participate in a family challenge. Never once did I make this only about them. I explained that “I” wanted to learn more scripture and so did their Dad, and I thought it would be fun if we all did it together!
You know your own kids and what makes them tick. For me, if I involve the whole family and not single them out when it comes to things like this, they seem to be more willing to participate. It’s about creating a culture in your home where everyone is learning and working on growing their faith. When your kids see you do it, they model what they see.
I began by choosing a short scripture that I knew they already had down. (I know, that seems a bit like cheating, but there’s a method to my madness. Keep reading.) I put the verse on the refrigerator and during breakfast I enthusiastically said we were going to start learning it. I spent a maximum of 3 minutes on it. We each said the verse, then said it together, and I tried to make it as fun as possible. Oohh…I may have done a little goofy dance to go along with it. Then I left it alone! The next morning, I brought it up again at breakfast, and we repeated what we did the previous day. Thirty seconds, that was it.
I revisited that verse a few more times, but not everyday. Because they already knew that verse pretty well (my sneaky plan), they felt confident moving onto another one. I really feel that this early success was helpful in the longevity of my plan.
Once we all celebrated that the ENTIRE family had learned it, then I added another one to the fridge. I made sure to keep the first one up to show the progression knowing that as the list grew, so would their confidence in their ability to do this.
Over the course of a few months we continued to memorize more verses. I purposely picked verses that I knew would be helpful to them and might meet them where they were in their lives. For example, knowing that one, or both of them, occasionally get a little freaked out over what might be lurking under the bed, we learned a verse about fear. Then I could strategically pull out one of those verses, in that exact moment, and show them how it could apply to whatever situation they were going through! Score! Real time application, check!
I also began taking longer passages and breaking them up into smaller sections. As we all learned each small chunk, I began putting them together. The girls were amazed that they could recite larger sections of scripture. Again, that feeling of accomplishment and success is what kept them motivated!
Proverbs 6:20-22 says, “My son, keep your father’s command and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. Bind them always on your heart; fasten them around your neck. When you walk, they will lead you; when you lie down, they will watch over you; and when you awake, they will talk with you.”
Psalm 199:105 says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”
Give your kids the ammunition they need to fight the battles that will come in their lives. Scripture is the living breathing word of God and will enrich, encourage, and protect them wherever they go.
We as parents would never let them leave the house in the dead of winter without a coat, right? Why would we let them go out into the world without the protection and guidance that God’s word provides.
Helping to bind His words on their hearts is not hard. A little paper, glue, and 30 seconds every now and then over breakfast will give them a lifetime of blessing.
If you’d like to know which scriptures we started with, here is the list:
2. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:7
3. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable-if anything is excellent or praiseworthy-think about such things. Philippians 4:8
4. Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6
5. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. I Timothy 1:7 NKJV
6. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6
7. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord. Colossians 3:20
8. Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105
9. For I know the plans I have for you, “declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11
10. But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31