52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids: When You Need to AIM [Answer It More]

52 Weeks of Talking to Our Kids When You Need to AIM

We wanted our children to ask questions–and lots of them! We wanted to be their answerer as much as possible. Thus, we “trained” them to ask questions–by answering them freely and endlessly.

Ray is the best answerer I have ever met (honest!). He is the one who made me come up with the little acronym that we teach at our parenting seminars. I have watched him day in and day out, year in and year out, answer a question. Then he paused and continued on with more answers and more answers and more answers.

(more…)

O is for ORGANIZATION–DAILIES, TIMELY TASKS, AND ABC WEEKLIES!



Once you learn to “Delight in Dailies” and get the things done that need to be done on a daily basis, it is time to get other things done, but what?

I can remember when my husband and I were first married, I would ask him, “How do you know what to do every day when you go to work?” I just couldn’t figure out how he knew what needed to be done.

He would always ask me, “How do you know what to do when a student comes for tutoring?” or “How do you know what to do around the house and with the kids every day when you get up?”

I remember telling him, “I just do.” And he would say it was the same for him at work.

Prioritizing at work and at home are two very different things though. I mean, at work, you have a boss waiting for you to finish something. And you have deadlines, etc.

But at home, once you get the dailies done, everything else that isn’t a daily is always screaming out to you! (Come to think of it, before you get the DAILIES done, everything is screaming out to you!)

I have followed two very simple tips in working on non-dailies:

1. I always do the next thing that is due. I call these my TIMELY TASKS.
(Well, almost….like just now I was printing recipes for my cooking morning tomorrow and I got sidetracked writing this post. Technically, the recipes are due before this because my cooking day starts at 8:30–and this could wait until tomorrow–but I digress!)

Once I am done with my dailies, I always ask myself what is the next thing that has to be done–my editor is waiting on a document; student papers have to be edited for class the next day; tomorrow’s meat has to be marinated; bedding has to be moved to the dryer in order to go to bed tonight, etc.

This one little tip always keeps me moving in the right direction!



2. I have an ABC WEEKLIES list. 


Yes, for many years, I hardly saw this WEEKLIES list, but now I get to some of the things–and I am having so much fun! 

After I get my dailies done–and I have “put out fires” by doing the next thing that is due–then I am ready to consult my WEEKLIES list. (I finally get to organize a closet or clean out the snack cupboard!!!)

But I don’t just have a WEEKLIES list; I manipulate my WEEKLIES list. I go down the list task-by-task and write an A, B, or C beside each one.

Then when I have a chance to do something off of it, I do an A task. And I keep on doing A tasks all week–anytime I get a chance (after my dailies and timely tasks).

No matter what else happens in any given week, I know that I have my DAILIES done; I have my timely tasks out of the way; and I did as many A’s as I could (and occasionally even a B or two!).

This isn’t a glamorous approach. I don’t craft beautiful things. I don’t decorate my home Better Homes and Garden style. I don’t always cook from scratch. I don’t scrub between the washer and dryer.

But I feel like an organizational genius. And my home runs fairly smoothly. And I spend time with my kids and husband. And we eat decent meals. And we always have clean clothes and the trash out of the house….because these things are my DAILIES.

When I was homeschooling a houseful of children, the new readers read, the writers wrote, and I checked their work, read aloud to them, talked to them, and taught them the Bible…because these things were my DAILIES.

Because I always did my DAILIES…..I became an organized homeschooler! 

Everything is always crying out to be done. People want us to do everything. Our extended families need us. Our church needs us. Our ministries need us. Our jobs need us. Our children need us. And we can start to feel like the hamster on the wheel very quickly if we don’t have a plan in place to get to the important things.

My DAILIES, TIMELY TASKS, and ABC WEEKLIES have helped me do that for many, many years!

(Now back to my recipes!)

The Impact of Teaching Our Children to Minister to “the Least of These”

The Impact of Teaching Our Children to Minister to “the Least of These”


The homeschooled kids in our area start out young (as early as ten years old with their parent) serving in the One Heart Disability Ministry. Look at the joy that children bring to those with disabilities!




A Facebook post just came through from my daughter and her husband concerning their 

disability ministry, One Heart:


“Got some sad news this morning that Charlie, one of our dear One Heart members passed away this Wednesday night. Charlie always made us smile and brought us joy. I bet he’s bringing other people joy in Heaven now! He always answered questions about the Bible with, ‘Jesus died on the cross for us.’ What a simple, amazing truth. Last year at the Talent Show he sang ‘Jesus Loves Me.’ So blessed that he was part of our lives!”


My son-in-law Joseph with Charlie


If you have heard Ray and I speak in our parenting seminar, “Raising Kids With Character,” or at a homeschooling convention, you know that we are big advocates of teaching children to serve at young ages. You might also know that we believe there is a hierarchy of service outlined in the Bible that teaches children to serve the Lord at home–to serve their own families—first, followed by reaching out to those locally and finally to the “uttermost parts of the world.”



“Journey Through Easter”–drama and walk through (with petting zoo!)–is always a hit with the One Heart attendees


Without going into the entire seminar session, I will give you some keys that have led us to this thought process:

1. “To whom much is given, much is expected.”
2. “He who does not provide for his own family is worse than an infidel.”
3. Parable of the talents
4. Serve in your own “Jerusalem” then your state/region….then the uttermost parts of the earth


One of my sons helping a One Heart client fill in his VBS book



We began this teaching with our kids when they were two or three years old–teaching them to pick up around the house, unload the silverware in the dishwasher, help put away laundry, etc. Then they continued to learn household skills that they could/would eventually use in serving others.

As they grew, they served with us–starting with setting up chairs for small group or homeschool support group meetings and moving into going with us to nursing homes and other local outreaches. 

Soon the time came for them to go “out” and serve others–that is, they had learned to serve their family so well and so cheerfully and so diligently that they could take the skills that they had learned here and serve on their own.


The skills that we have built into our children during their formative years–cooking, cleaning, organizing, serving, music, drama, reading, writing, leading, Bible teaching/studying, etc.—are used over and over by our young adults in their various ministries

This has looked different for different kids–from preaching in young adult services to leading/directing dramas in church to singing on the praise team to working in children’s ministries (locally and at state homeschool conventions) to “going to the uttermost parts of the earth”–such as taking wheelchairs around the world with Joni and Friends; serving at state capitols every weekday for a semester; leading drama teams of teens in summer drama traveling around the midwest or southern USA; and even starting a ministry that would some day reach over one hundred disabled adults every week for many years.

Boys’ sports night (along with a trophy for each client!) is always a hit with the One Heart male clients

The latter is what this post is going to focus on–and the impact that teaching our children to minister to “the least of these” really has on our children–and their futures.

When our third child, Cami, was seventeen years old, she served at a Joni and Friends Family Retreat (the world-wide disability ministry of Joni Ereckson Tada) for two weeks. At the end of the retreat, she told the leaders there that she wanted to do something similar to the retreat back home–on an ongoing basis. They told her to go back to her pastors and tell them and see what she can start. 

One Heart “Special Deliveries” is a yearly outreach to nearly three hundred disabled adults in the Fort Wayne, Indiana area

Cami was a senior in high school when she began the One Heart Disability Ministry (One heart…one soul..is worth it…). She had trouble getting volunteers (it is difficult to work with disabled people–and many adults do not want to get involved), but she started rounding up her younger sister and little brothers and their friends, and before she knew it, she had a weekly ministry, sort of a “Sunday school” every Tuesday night for adults with cognitive disabilities. And it grew. And grew. And grew.

The joy that One Heart brings to the lives of those who attend is unmistakable

Within two years, she had her associates degree in church ministry with an emphasis on disability ministry, and she was asked to come on staff at the church as the Disability Ministry Director, the “official” head of One Heart Disability Ministry.

Four years ago Cami married a young man who has a paraplegic brother and cousin with severe brain injury–and also a heart for the disabled and broken, much like Cami has. They have continued leading One Heart together with their combined compassion, love, and selflessness.


In addition to the weekly services that are held with over one hundred disabled attendees all throughout the school year, One Heart delivers gifts and goodies to up to three hundred disabled adults in the Fort Wayne are every Christmas, hosts a summer VBS, and has other special events throughout the year. 

My message today is not what kids can do when they are trained in so many skills (that would take a book–and I would love to write it!); nor is it about having kids serve in general (though that is a good idea too!). My message today is this:

Teaching our children to minister to “the least of these”–the widows, elderly, disabled, and orphaned–has the potential of having a bigger impact than almost any other ministry or service opportunity they could do.

Why do you suppose this is the case?

It is consistent with Scripture–“do not only invite those who can invite you back”; “care for the widows and orphans”; and Jesus’ ministry to the blind, mentally challenged, poor, hungry, homeless, etc.

It builds an empathy in our children that cannot be duplicated anywhere else. Truly, we can tell them there are poor children who do not have enough to eat, but until they serve food to them in a summer ministry in the park, they cannot comprehend that. We can tell them that there are people whose brains do not work like ours do and they cannot do for themselves, but until they go week after week and listen to these people tell the same stories over and over or teach them to color or tell them about Jesus, they cannot FEEL the feelings that we should as Christians feel for those less fortunate than we.




Our four youngest children started working in One Heart with Cami as soon as they could be trusted to fully obey their older siblings and really work hard without parental supervision (not be tempted to play ball in the gym during the gym night but instead stay focused on the people they were there to serve). This was between the ages of eight and ten for all of them. 

And as a result, they are four of the most sensitive, compassionate kids I have ever known. 

Would they have developed this sensitivity and compassion without serving “the least of these” in an ongoing manner? 

Maybe. Maybe not. But I know that this consistent outreach–having to give up their own interests one evening a week, being responsible for their parts (teaching, serving refreshments, leading games and crafts, etc.), and learning to love and reach out to those who are “different” and extremely-mentally challenged–has had a huge impact on the kinds of people that they are growing up to be. 




P.S. Cami and Joseph are expecting their first baby in January, and Cami recently posted the status below. It is such a blessing to think that my grandson is going to start learning to serve “the least of these” from babyhood.




Funny story from One Heart last night….(this is even better than last week’s story!) I (Cami) was closing the evening in prayer with a full classroom of people and as I stood in front with my eyes closed, I feel someone patting my belly. I look down (mid prayer) and I see Susie, a One Heart member with down syndrome, just patting my belly and smiling as if she was talking to the baby. It was adorable and hilarious all at the same time. I got through the prayer without cracking up too much and dismissed everyone. Love it that the One Heart people are so excited about our baby. Can’t wait until he is here and can meet everyone. He is loved already!”


A Change a Week–Times Fifty Weeks a Year Times Thirty Years…Equals a Lot of Change!

A Change a Week–Times Fifty Weeks a Year Times Thirty Years…Equals a Lot of Change!

Even just one change a month can equal a lot of changes over a lifetime—and a lot of NOT GIVING UP!

Thirty years ago, Ray’s mentor said, “Sit down with Donna every week and ask her, ‘What change do you think we need to make? What do you need for me to do?'”

He continued, “After you do this for a long time, it will give Donna peace, and she will feel secure that you really care about your family and how to improve it. 

He said, “Then one day, you will ask her ‘What do you need for me to do for you?’ and she will say ‘Nothing at all. What can I do for you?'”

Well, that time of my saying “nothing at all” has never happened yet in over thirty years! 😉 

But he was right about part of it: the peace and security that come from knowing for over thirty years that my husband wants good things for our family as badly as I do is incomprehensible.

A change a week times fifty weeks a year times thirty-plus years–equals a lot of change. Granted, we didn’t do this every single week of our lives. But even if we made a change a month for thirty years….

Twelve months times thirty years equals 360 positive changes. That is 360 opportunities to make our family stronger. It is 360 times to solve problems. It is 360 situations to improve. 

It is 360 painless times to say, “We can do this. We can make changes in this area, and we can make this month better in our home than last month!”

You see memes on Facebook and other places all the time that read something like one of the following:

1. Just do it! The time is going to pass whether you do it (a fitness activity, usually) or not, so you may as well have a good change being made as the time passes!

2. Make the change (again, usually fitness-related). Sixty days from now (or whatever), you will look back if you do it, and be glad you did. If you didn’t do it, you won’t look back and be glad you didn’t!

There is actually no place this is truer than in parenting….
(from Destination Healthy Me)

And so it is with family changes. We all have things to work on in our homes. We need to tweak the schedule, so that things run more smoothly. We need to discipline a child differently so that the child’s behavior is changed. We need to remove so much fun or add more fun in. We need to drop things for our lives to have time to spend on/with a certain child at a certain time. We need to take our focus off of one thing and put it on another until a skill is learned. And on and on and on.

However, those many changes can feel overwhelming when we look at them all at once. (I used to make “Master Changes Lists,” so I know what I’m talking about here!) 

But what if we didn’t have a “Master Changes List,” but instead we just looked at this week, this moment in time, and we decided to do one thing to improve our family….and what if we really carried out the steps necessary to make the change? And what if once we got that change down pat, we took on another problem area and solved it–and again really did what it took to make it better?

Now that doesn’t feel overwhelming at all–and not only does it not feel overwhelming, but it also feels good–and doable. 

We are talking on the Facebook page about how my husband and I kept going–NOT GIVING UP week after week, month after month for thirty years of parenting so far. This is one of the things that kept us going–knowing that we had the ability to change things that were not working in our homes–but also knowing that we didn’t have to do everything all at once.

You can do this! You can have the family life that you want. You can discipline your children properly and in love. You can raise children who have the character of Christ—not perfect, mind you, but virtues in their lives that you know the Lord wants for them. You can have fun in your home, have organization, and develop deep relationships with your children…

…one change at a time…facing one thing today and another thing in another week or month…because even a change a month times twelve months a year equals a lot of change…



Ray and I for our thirty-second anniversary this summer visiting the first place we made changes in our lives–the church where we were born again the year before we got married

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