Toni Burns was raised in a missionary family, they lived in Italy until she was 11.Upon returning to the states her family worked in South Dakota. While in college at Oklahoma State Toni did a summer mission trip to Ukraine. The following year she moved to Lubbock, Texas to attend missions school.She interned in Kosice, Slovakia for 13 months.After her internship she finished missions school and got a degree in Human Development from Texas Tech.Toni and her family lived in Guadalajara, Mexicofor 10 years.During that time they helped plant churches and minister to the Mexican people.Toni and her husband, Cory, mentored 21 year long interns during their stay in Guadalajara. Currently Toni is a Realtor® in Lubbock, Texas and enjoys ministering to those she helps buy and sell houses.
Summer is my favorite time of the year. I love the warm weather and traveling. Over half my life, I have been blessed to do mission work and travel to other countries. I have worked in Ukraine, Russia, Slovakia, Italy, and most recently spent ten years in Mexico.
There is no greater joy than traveling around God’s creation sharing Jesus with others. Many of you might be preparing to leave, or have a loved one leaving for summer mission trips. I would love to share some things with you that I have learned about missions to prepare you for this great experience.
1. The American way is not the only way.
Yes, we live in a great country and are very blessed in many ways. Please do not expect or want natives to act as Americans do. They are God’s creation just as much as you are, but they might do things differently than you do. It’s not a question of right or wrong–it’s just different. Embrace the differences and praise God that we are all different even though we are made in His image. Praise God for the diversity in cultures.
Enjoy the culture you are visiting. Try new foods, activities, and enjoy the sights.
2. Bless the people, but at the same time make your work simple and reproducible.
It’s fun to bless the natives with neat gifts and crafts from the United States. Just make sure that you are not making it an environment where they think the only way they can bless others is by having neat things that they might not be able to get. Help them see that sharing God’s message can be simple and is reproducible.
3. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
You will fall in love with people and places on your trip. Please don’t tell them you will come visit or promise to send them gifts, etc. Remember, “let your yes be yes.” It is easy to build a deep love for those you will serve. As you leave you will want to promise them that you will see them again. Hopefully that is true, but realistically you might not ever get to go back. They will hold on to that promise and will be disappointed or bitter when you can’t fulfill your promise.
4. Be more like Jesus every day.
While living on the mission field my husband and I mentored twenty-one interns. One of the most important things we tried to instill in them was that being more like Jesus every day is all that is expected of them. God will do the rest. We go on these mission trips wanting to save the world. If we go with expectations of baptizing and converting we might come home feeling like a failure. This is one of the devil’s ways of discouraging the church. Did you come home more like Jesus? Do you have more of a vision for what God wants? Did others see Jesus through you? Don’t define your success with things that are out of your control.
5. Don’t expect those at home to understand what you have experienced.
You will come back a changed person. Unfortunately many people back home will not understand how life-changing the experience was. They might not even think to ask you about how it went. Before you leave, set up some times to meet with people when you come back. Maybe you can host a breakfast or lunch for your supporters, missions committee, and family. Plan times when you can talk about your experience so you can bless others with what you learned.
6. Have a great time and keep your eyes open to His blessings!
Wife, mom, daughter, teacher, blogger, crafter, organizer - but most and best of all, I am a Christian. I am passionate about my family and my God. I am married to my best friend and am blessed with a one year old son who keeps me busy all the time staying at home with him. And I am glad to be in the service of our incredible and awesome God.
You’re in the middle of worship. The entire church has their heads bowed in fervent, quiet prayer when suddenly your kid erupts like a verbal volcano and discovers that your previously vetted out and carefully chosen toy can be:
whacked noisily against the pew in front of you,
launched like a Cuban missile onto the other side of the auditorium,or
just in general be likened to an explosion of sound and excitement.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all felt that mixture of panic, frustration, and embarrassment. These things never seem to happen in the middle of a great, noisy, swelling song, only during Communion or a prayer! So what’s the secret to making your quiet bag a success? I’m here with the answers. Maybe…
Pack in grace for yourself. Grace for your kid. Grace knowing that no matter how hard you try or how well you prepare, you can’t always be perfect or utterly quiet or completely still. And that’s OK.
I’m not saying to let your kid run loose on Sunday morning while throwing him goldfish in the middle of the sermon. But I am saying that it’s OK if neither you or your kid are perfect. Give yourself the grace that you would extend to other moms. And find peace in the fact that God sees your efforts and will reward them.
I know. This is like a dirty word with Christians. The problem with praying for patience is that you get it, right?
But you’ll need it. You need lots and lots and lots of patience to quiet your kids, to miss yet another chunk of the worship service, to smile instead of strangle.
Patience is knowing that you’re doing this for the end game. Nobody in their right mind says, “Boy, that mother of two toddlers and a baby is coming to church and just filling her spiritual cup to overflowing.”
What she’s doing is showing her kids that even when it’s hard for her, even when it’s not ideal for her, even when she may only get five minutes out of the worship service–it is still the most important thing to do. There is nothing more important than going to worship the Creator of the Universe. To give Him the praise and adoration He deserves. And to teach our kids to do the very same.
A Sense of Humor
This is, perhaps, the key to surviving not just a worship service, but motherhood in general! Laughing at the crazy, the ludicrous, and the full moon coming out in your kid (and perhaps you!) is the best way to relieve your stress.
It’s OK to find it funny when your son has a poopsplosion in the middle of opening prayer. And It’s OK to giggle when he happily shares his now-slimy cheerios with the little widow you chose to sit next to this morning. Finding joy in these moments is perfectly OK!
Without joy, you’ll turn into a little ball of stress–and that’s no fun for anyone.
I am an Oklahoman by birth, a Texan by current living situation, but claim the world as my playground.I love to travel and hope to someday soon take our family on adventures to far off lands, where we can share God with others and experience all the wonders He has created.
I am a mother of 5 crazy, homeschooling children ages 10 & under, wife to an amazing man, and daughter of the King of the Universe!I enjoy reading, making my kids laugh, cooking, all things natural, learning to play guitar and dusting off my piano skills.One day I hope to run again, but until then I’m learning patience.
He is coming! It is that time of year again when we get to be in awe of Christ’s coming. We’ve only been enjoying advent with our family for the past five years or so. But I’ve noticed, that when we devote our full attention to Christ, Satan will try to divert it, discourage us, and just make us give it up. (This is true during any season of life.) That’s why I want to encourage you as this season begins not to stress over advent, but enjoy it as much as you can. Here are some tips for a stress-free advent.
Tips for a Stress-Free Advent
#1 – Have a game plan that fits with your schedule.
We all have completely different schedules. It might be so awesome to hear what one person does, but if it doesn’t fit your schedule and you are trying to do what they do, stress will follow. So take a look at your calendar. Pray about it and set aside your family advent time.
Consider these questions:
How often you will set aside to enjoy the advent season? Weekly? Daily? A few times a week? Fan the spirit the whole time?
What will those set aside times include? Singing, Scripture reading, devos, ornaments, activities, etc?
After answering the questions above, maybe instead of doing a daily advent you do a weekly devotional activity that you can use as a talking point throughout the entire week. (Look below for advent devotional & activity ideas.)
#2 – Simplify Other Parts of Your Calendar
Easier said than done. December has become the BUSIEST time of the year. If we are running from thing to thing, our stress levels will already be high, and then adding advent to that, makes it feel like just another item to check off the list. When praying about your schedule, consider what you can cut back on during December to really allow peace to filter in. I love what Tracy stated in her post about what she wants for Christmas:
Sometimes we get the idea that just because an activity is a “good” activity, we should do it… Doing fewer things and doing them well not only helps me to be less hectic… it also helps me to actually be present and enjoy the activities we choose to do. Less truly is more: more patience, more attention, more grace.
How about we make more room to be able to focus on Jesus, who is the peace-giver, this month, instead of overloading ourselves with fun things that just leave us drained?
Now, I’m preaching more to my heart than to yours maybe. I tend to overload my schedule but have been working really hard to give our family breathing room, to experience Christ and his grace in our lives, instead of just reading about Him and moving on. There is nothing more beautiful than seeing Christ’s light shine brightly in the hearts that are before us. Let’s not rush their little flames so fast that we almost extinguish them.
#3 – Decide how you will focus your thoughts.
Many of you already have your Advent devotional book picked out for this year and you’ve got everything ready to go. Fantastic! But if you don’t, don’t stress. You can always pick one up, catch up, or just start at the day we are on.
Need some FREE ideas?
The Bible. Yes, you can just keep it simple. God’s word is beautiful and will fill you in on everything that you need. Read a few verses a day out of Luke, Matthew, John or all three. If you don’t have access to a Bible at home, use the Bible App on your phone or Biblegateway.com.
Family Time Training’s Advent Guide.This FREE guide will help your advent be memorable but not overwhelming. It brings the family together for Scripture and an activity once a week.
Our family gathered together in our living room with only the soft glow of candles and the sparkling trees lights illuminating our time of singing and Bible reading. All 5 children are attentitvely listening and hungering for more. They are hanging on every word and can’t wait to hang the advent ornament on the tree. We will pray joyously and the kids will beg to do the craft.
But I have to expect that not every night will look like I’ve planned in my head. Right!?! And that is ok.
If we stress about having the perfect advent time, then we will be frustrated. But if we are flexible, have grace, and realize some nights we maybe doing our advent while driving in the car, or around the dinner table instead of in that perfect serene scene in our heads, then peace with follow it.
#5 – Keep it Simple!
If you enjoy doing all the extras then enjoy it. But the moment you start stressing about it, I encourage you to take a deep breath, take a step back and just enjoy Christ. The activities can get overwhelming for some of the advent devotionals out there. Keep it simple. Just because it has an activity doesn’t mean you have to do every. single. activity. Give yourself permission to be ok with skipping some of them. What I’ve done in the past is pick the activities I think we would enjoy the most or be the most thought provoking and do a couple a week.
Did you know there are no rules around advent?
It’s all about preparing our heart for Christ’s coming. We can use this beautiful season to start training our children and ourselves how to set our thoughts on things above all day and not just when we have a quiet moment. Then we will start to learn that any time is a great time to seek Christ, his love and wisdom. And we will start longing for him not only during the advent season but all throughout the year too. Because, he is coming! And he is coming soon!
May your hearts be filled with Christ’s peace and joy this season!
Prayer Over Our Hearts
Lord, we come in absolute awe of you! All you have done for us…all you left behind, just to set us free! Your love overwhelms us.
We pray that we will learn to be in awe of you of you not just during this season but throughout our lives. Let us not let the devil keep us “busy” doing good works so that we forget to focus on who is truly good. Let us be expectantly waiting and rejoicing in your returning, just as so many were anxiously waiting your coming!
It is with open hearts that we embrace this season to focus on you and encourage others to be in awe of you as well.
In the One who is the light of the world and is coming soon – Amen!
I am a recovering Army brat who loves to travel and start new adventures. My handsome husband and I met at Oklahoma Christian University and he whisked me away to Kansas. So, I bought some ruby red high heels and made Topeka my home. I have a rough and rowdy Princess 4-year-old girl, amazing twin boys (almost 3) and a newborn baby girl who all make every day an adventure. We are grateful to be part of an amazing church in Topeka who regularly challenges and encourages our whole family. I have been both a full-time working mom and a stay-at-home-mom and/or both at the same time at one point or another. I am constantly seeking God’s wisdom on “balancing it all” and following His plan for my life, not mine.
She challenged me to do fun things WITH my kids more often even if it means it might not turn out Pinterest-perfect. That little lesson has been tugging at the back of my mind as we approach the holidays with my almost three year old. This is such a magical age of understanding and excitement. How could I not capitalize on this finite time of being little and awesome? Well, I was not really one to enjoy group projects growing up, if you know what I mean. I’m a bit of a control freak. Guys, it’s a struggle!
BUT, I’m letting go and picking my battles because God is gracious to my ridiculousness and teaches me His ways instead. Slowly but surely. HA!
So, I’ve picked some specific crafts this year to do with my daughter throughout the season to teach and play and hopefully start some family traditions. I honestly can’t wait to include the boys next year. It will be so much more messy.
My first attempt was a Thankfulness Tree. I had grand visions of a home decor-worthy tree to accent our living room with sweetness.
I knew I was going to have to let go and let her love the craft without taking over immediately. Laying out the paper and sketching the tree got…sketchy. PLUS the construction paper pack I bought didn’t have brown (WHAT?!) so I guess we have a Birch Thankfulness Tree.
Anyway, this really is a easy craft to do, whether you keep it up for the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, use it the week prior, or even fill it up on Thanksgiving day with the whole family!
Here is what I did, but you could do this in so many different ways!
I purchased a standard poster board from the craft store along with a big pack of construction paper in various colors. You will also need a pencil, glue stick, tape, and scissors. But THAT’S IT!
First, I set out a few pieces of construction paper (in white, but if you are cooler than me, you can really play around with the colors) and taped them together in a general tree shape. Next, I sketched a tree and branches with a pencil (not too detailed) and cut it out.
I then let my daughter use the glue stick. Oh, my!
It was actually fine.
After realizing I have no skill at drawing leaf shapes, I googled leaf drawings and traced a few different varieties onto lots of different colors. TIP: Fold the paper into quarters and cut the leaf shape only once to get four. This size ended up being perfect.
My girl even helped fold the paper and draw leaf shapes too.
We had a great time.
Finally, I found a silver paint marker and wrote Psalm 107:1 on the bottom: “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.”
There are a TON of great thankfulness verses! I chose this one because it was short and simple enough for my daughter to memorize.
I hung it on the wall at about her height (mistake because her twin baby brothers have tried to destroy it, but it has survived.)
Now every night, we say the verse together. Then we write something she is thankful for on a leaf and tape it to the tree.
I’ve had to let go of the tree aesthetic–I let her choose where to place the leaves–but she loves it and is very proud of our craft.
It has been so fun to hear what she is thankful for each day. To date, the list includes:
Apple juice, pants, lions, trees, Dad, Mimi, noses, pillows, and cars.
I encourage you to do this or something similar with your kiddos while they are small! It was SO EASY ! Even though I made it even simpler than I may have initially planned, I loved including my daughter in our craft. I think in the best ways, it is definitely Pinterest-worthy!
TIP: My mom had the idea to laminate the tree/background part so that it lasts for a few years. Then you only have to re-do the leaves. My mom is a teacher. Also, full disclosure, she made some of my leaves and hers look legitimately awesome. She has the gift.
I am "Mom" to Chloe, Allie, & Emilia. I am wife to Misael Escobar. I am a child of God. I love to learn about other cultures and learn about others life experiences.I am always a "work in progress". Through many struggles I have become "me" and I am finally happy with the person God has led me to be.I am excited to see where God will lead me in this life.
Usually, when I want to change something in my life it is either a behavior I want to start or a behavior I want to stop. For years, I struggled with feeling weak and that I just didn’t have any “willpower.” However, I have discovered that willpower is a myth. I once heard willpower described as “God’s will and power in my life.”
Isn’t that a great description?
I got it all wrong when it came to stopping behaviors in my life because I did not change my focus. I did not replace the behavior with something else. Whatever I focus on I will want and will probably give in to. For example, if I am trying to stop eating chocolate cake and just tell myself over and over, “Don’t eat chocolate cake. Don’t eat chocolate cake. Don’t eat chocolate cake,” I will probably eat chocolate cake. It is not enough to simply resist the chocolate cake; I need to replace the thoughts and behavior with a different one. Otherwise, we often will replace one unhealthy behavior for another one. Jesus speaks about this concept in Matthew 12:43-45:
“When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, seeking rest but finding none. Then it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ So it returns and finds its former home empty, swept, and in order. Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before. That will be the experience of this evil generation.”
Changes that Last
Replacing old behaviors with new ones can be hard. When I had my third child, I was thirty-six years old. Just like with all my pregnancies, I gained more than I was supposed to. I finally decided that I wanted to make a real change so I did two things that have worked for me in the past.
1. I asked for accountability. 2. I created small, obtainable goals.
I texted a good friend of mine and asked if she would be my accountability partner. Then I set a list of goals for that week. My first goals were to walk 5,000 steps daily, journal all my food intake, and do some kind of intentional exercise for fifteen minutes three times a week. Every other Friday I would send a picture of the number on the scale.
Gradually, I worked up to 10,000 daily steps and continued journaling my food. I also added goals of drinking 64 ounces of water each day and thirty minutes of exercise five days a week. And, I continued to send a picture of my number on the scale to my friend every other week. Having to be honest with another person by texting her each day whether or not I reached my goals really made me think about my choices and kept me motivated to reach my goals each day. I lost twenty-five pounds before I found that I was pregnant again!
This idea of strength in numbers is also rooted in scripture. Ecclesiastes 4:12 says:
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
Proverbs 27 also contains words of wisdom about a friend’s counsel in verses 9 and 17:
9 The heartfelt counsel of a friend is as sweet as perfume and incense… 17 As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.
How do you bring about changes that last in your life?
I am a proud wife and Mother! My hubby, Tyler, and I both attended Oklahoma Christian where our love grew! We got married, had two beautiful kiddos, our son Gunner and daughter Brooklyn, and we are living a truly blessed life! I am a Kindergarten teacher in the great state of Texas and most importantly a Christian. I strive daily to keep God #1 because he is the reason I have all the amazing blessings, I give him all the praise!
“It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small. And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all.”
Yes, that is a part from the well-known song “Let It Go.” If you have small children, you have heard this more times than you would like to admit. But have you ever really listened to the lyrics? These are some beautiful words of truth to live by in everyday life! I would like to focus on one topic that plagues me on a daily basis: control.
Yes, I said it, control. I feel that as parents, it is hard not to control everything. Things would be better, run more smoothly, and you would get things done a LOT faster if you did things rather than the little people. I would like to point out–I do not have all this figured out, hence the reason why I am writing this post! But I hope this may be a source of encouragement for all the parents out there who want to “help,” “guide,” etc. your kids in all they do.
Here are some points to consider:
1. Give them space.
Kids need space to do what they need to do. If you are over their shoulders they do not have the capacity to express what they would like to do. You will realize your kids are capable of SO much more than you think.
2. Let them make mistakes.
Instead of calling them “mistakes,” let’s say learning by trial and error. They will make mistakes, but this is how they will learn, grow, and understand what they could do to make it better next time. You want them to understand that there will be tough times, but they need to learn to work through it on their own.
3. Be present.
Be there, love them, lend them a hand when they need it. It is always important that you are still there with them so they know you are available when they need you. There is a fine line between hovering and hanging back to let them figure things out. Make sure your kids know that when things get tough, you will be there to assist in any way possible.
I wanted to write this post because every day I try and want to do EVERYTHING for my kids. I tend to assist, hold their hand, insist that I do it for them. But what I have learned is that when you let go, you let your kids show you just how much they can amaze you. Recently, I wanted to do a painting craft with my daughter. I knew that my instincts to not let her would creep in. So I decided to embrace what she could do. The time we spent together painting blessed me tremendously because I learned what an encourager she is!
“Mommy, you do a really good job!”
“That is beautiful!”
“You are the best Mommy ever.”
It brought tears to my eyes because just letting her paint by herself showed me one of many talents God gave her! We serve an awesome God!
Make no mistake, God works in all of us when we let him and he works in your children as well. He blesses, he cares, and when you let go…you let God take control. What a beautiful sight it would be if we let go and have full faith and trust in God!