Thursday, September 29, 2011

Raising a Daughter After God's Own Heart by Elizabeth George FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Raising a Daughter After God's Own Heart

Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri | Marketing Assistant of Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Elizabeth George, whose books have sold more than 6.5 million copies, is the author of A Woman After God’s Own Heart® (more than 1 million copies sold) and Breaking the Worry Habit Forever! She’s also a popular speaker at Christian women’s events. Elizabeth and her husband, Jim, are parents and grandparents, and have been active in ministry for more than 30 years.

Visit the author's website.


Elizabeth George, bestselling author and mother of two daughters, provides biblical insight and guidance for every mom who wants to lead their daughter to a godly life through example, study, and prayer. Elizabeth includes questions to draw moms and daughter closer as together they pursue spiritual priorities and God’s heart.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers (September 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736917721
ISBN-13: 978-0736917728


The Bell Sheep

Part 1  —  Earning Your Bell

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.
And these words which I command you today
shall be in your heart.

  —  Deuteronomy 6:5

On a recent Christmas Sunday, my husband, Jim, and I and our family of 14 arrived at a church service extra early to make sure we didn’t end up in the “Standing Room Only” section for this special occasion. With my bulletin in hand and several minutes to spare before the service started, I opened my Bible and looked up the Scripture passage the pastor would focus on during his message. Then I read through some additional teaching notes and commentary in the margin of my Bible. One article was entitled “The Bell Sheep.”

The bell sheep? What in the world is that? I wondered. I read on. The article explained that when a shepherd noticed a sheep who willingly followed him and stayed near him, he hung a bell around the neck of that sheep so the flock would follow the bell sheep…who, in turn, was following the shepherd.

Knowing I would begin writing Raising a Daughter After God’s Own Heart as soon as the Christmas holiday was over, I almost jumped out of my seat when I read this. I was shouting out in my mind, “That’s it! That’s it! A mom should be the bell sheep for her daughter!”

And it’s true! When we as mothers stay close to Jesus—as close as close can be, and when we love Him with all our heart just the way Jesus said to, and when we willingly follow Him and His Word, guess what? We become His bell sheep for our daughters to follow. Our girls observe—and copy—our behavior. They can—and will—follow our example. We become their very own personal walking, living, real flesh and blood, visual example of what it means to be a child, girl, tween, teen, and woman after God’s own heart.

How to Be a Bell Sheep…in Three Verses

Finally Christmas was over, meaning it was D-Day for me—or more accurately, W-Day as in Writing Day. So I sat down to begin and wondered and prayed, “Where does Christian childrearing really begin? And what is Thing 1, Goal 1 for a mom?”

In a few seconds I had the answer! And it came from God’s Word. It was packaged in three verses I had discovered as a young mom, and also as a baby Christian. I flashed back on those early new-believer days of excitement, of newness, of need as I hungered to find out for the first time what God teaches about…everything! And especially “What in the world am I supposed to do with two little toddling girls?”

I’m so glad a wise woman had advised me to read in my new Bible every day. Well, the day arrived when I made it to the book of Deuteronomy. And there I hit gold when my eyes landed on Deuteronomy 6:5-7. I was stunned. Amazed. Thrilled! God was actually showing me His guidelines for raising my own little daughters, then only one-and-a-half and two-and-a-half years old. And in only three verses! How practical is that? Here’s what I read over and over again and finally memorized:

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up.

I adore these verses because they are packed with clear communication to moms. God goes straight to the heart of the matter—the parent’s heart, the mom’s heart. He knows we become what we love. So He is utterly straightforward about where we are to place our love: We are to love Him supremely.

Two Questions to Ask Yourself

Believe me, I thought through this powerful passage—a lot! Then I took it apart word by word and thought by thought. And I came up with two questions I constantly asked my heart during those days with little girls, and still ask even today with two married daughters who are now raising their daughters. (After all, a mom is always a mom!)

Heart Question #1: What—and whom—do I love?

We “love” a lot of things for a lot of different reasons. But God prescribes perimeters and scope for our love. He tells us what not to love: “Do not love the world or the things in the world” (1 John 2:15). And He tells us what we are to love and where our love is to be focused—we are to “love the Lord” (Deuteronomy 6:5).

But hold on. The Lord goes a step further and demands all of our love. He wants us to love Him with every fiber of our being—every breath, every ounce of energy, every thought, every emotion and passion, every choice. He wants us to love Him. He wants us to think first of Him and to desire above all else to please Him. And He wants that love to be intense and total, “with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.” As writer Matthew Henry summarizes, “He that is our all demands our all.”

Matthew Henry continues on to point out that our love for God is to be a strong one that is lived out with great enthusiasm and fervency of affection. It is to be a love that burns like a sacred fire, a love that causes our every affection to flow toward Him.

Now, apply this information about the strength of this kind of love for God and think about the love you have for your daughter, for your children. I’m sure you’ve heard others say, “There is no love like a mother’s love.” And it’s true! From the split second we know a baby is on the way, all our thoughts, dreams, prayers, and goals are channeled toward that little one. We are completely consumed and preoccupied by this tiny being. As the baby grows within us, our love blossoms and our commitment to it grows right along with our expanding body.

Immediately we begin to prepare physically for his or her arrival by meticulously taking care of our health. Healthy mom equals healthy baby, we’re told. We also prepare physically by setting up a nursery area for the new little addition. A bassinet or crib. A blanket. A mobile. Clothes. Supplies. Loads of diapers! Sometimes we even paint or remodel a room.

Then we moms get to work preparing our schedule. Maybe we have to quit a job or arrange for a leave of absence. Oh, and we have to find a pediatrician, as well as make time for our own doctor appointments. And, if we’re smart, we begin to prepare by gathering wisdom and information from our own moms, other moms, and from classes, books, and the Internet.

But as much as we obsess and focus on an approaching child, God wants us to obsess and focus even more on Him. That’s because the more we love Him, the more we will know about love. And the more we know about love, the more we will know about how to love. And the more we know about how to love, the more we will love our baby, our child, our daughter. I like what C.S. Lewis wrote about his love for God and how it affected his relationship with his wife: “When I have learnt to love God better than my earthly dearest, I shall love my earthly dearest better than I do now.” Mom, your love for God will prepare you to love your child. The more you love the Lord, the better you shall love your earthly dearest daughter.

So…God’s first assignment to any and every mother is to love Him above all else. If you are a sold-out, on-fire, hot-hearted, committed-to-God woman, you will be infinitely further down the road to being the kind of mom who, by His grace, can raise a daughter after God’s own heart. Because all your love centers upon God, and because you follow Him with all your heart, you will qualify to lead your daughter to follow God too—to be…well…God’s bell sheep for her.

Heart Question #2: What’s in my heart?

I don’t know what’s in your heart, and I’m working on what’s in mine! But God tells both of us what is supposed to be there, what He wants to be there. Here it is: He says, “These words which I command you today shall be in your heart” (verse 6).

And here’s the scene surrounding these words: In Deuteronomy 6, Moses is in the final weeks of his life. It has been 40 years since God’s people left Egypt, 40 years of homeless wanderings in the desert. At last a new generation was poised to enter into the Promised Land. But before they move out, Moses restates the Law one more time to this new generation that had been born in the wilderness. Because this next generation had married and now had—and would have—children, he addresses their spiritual responsibility as parents. As Moses speaks, he doesn’t want these moms and dads to merely hear the words of the Law and the Ten Commandments. No, he wants more, way more! He wants the words of the Law to go beyond their ears and reside in their hearts.

You may want to look again at Deuteronomy 6:6, but it tells us that God’s Word, the Bible, is to be in our hearts. Other passages in the Bible send us this same message:

This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night (Joshua 1:8).

Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against you (Psalm 119:11).

My son, keep my words, and treasure my commands within you…bind them on your fingers; write them on the tablet of your heart (Proverbs 7:1,3).

Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16).

The message is repeated…and loud, isn’t it? And clear! God’s Word is to be in our heart. He asks this of you and me as moms. Why? Because when truth resides in your heart, then you have something to pass on to your daughter. She benefits! And you benefit too: As a mother you have something to guide you when you need help, strength, wisdom, and perseverance in your role as a mom, as a bell sheep. Don’t get me wrong—having and raising a child is perhaps the greatest earthly blessing you will ever enjoy. But, at the same time, it is the greatest challenge. But take heart, mom! God’s Word will always be there in you, with you, and for you as you guide your daughter in the ways of the Lord.

So…God’s second assignment for you as a mom is to be committed to His Word. You are to do whatever it takes to embed the teachings of the Bible in your heart, soul, and mind. As the saying goes, “You cannot impart what you do not possess.” The same is true of moms. To teach and guide, lead and raise a daughter after God’s own heart presupposes and requires that God’s truth be in your heart first. Then you possess something to impart. Then you have the most important thing to pass on to your precious daughter—the truth about God and the grace He extends through His Son, Jesus.

Becoming the Bell Sheep

I hope your heart is responding fervently to our initial glimpse at this primary role in the life of a mom after God’s own heart—that of being your daughter’s very own bell sheep. But maybe you are feeling like you need a little help. Well, read on to find out how to become the bell sheep. Practical help is on the way!

Part 2  —  Ringing Your Bell

You shall teach them diligently to your children,

and shall talk of them when you sit in your house,

when you walk by the way, when you lie down,

and when you rise up.

  —  Deuteronomy 6:6-7

When my girls were young, I didn’t know about the bell sheep. But if I had, I would have wanted with all my heart to be one. And I would have been praying, “Oh, dear Father! You know how much I desire to be a bell sheep for my daughters. My greatest goal in life is to lead them to Jesus and teach them His ways.” I’m imagining this same heart-cry is being lifted heavenward from your soul’s core too.

As you’ve probably learned, knowing there is something God wants you to do is crucial. And wanting to do what God wants you to do is vital. But if you don’t know how to do what it is God wants you to do, you can become extremely frustrated.

So now we come to the big issue of how do I do this thing God wants—and expects—me to do? Well, here we go!

Yes, but How?

How does a mom help her daughter develop a heart for God? Deuteronomy 6:7 comes to the rescue and answers this question for you and me. God says, “You shall teach them diligently to your children” (verse 7). A mom who wholeheartedly loves the Lord and holds God’s words in her heart is to teach them to her sons and daughters.

—  “To teach”   There are two key ways to teach—by model and by mouth. And there are some basic practices you can follow for teaching effectively. I have a degree in education and have taught preschoolers, students from grades seven through twelve, and adults taking night school classes. Teaching was a job and I took it seriously. I developed my lesson plans for each day, week, month, semester, and school year. And I studied and prepared in advance for each day’s classes.

I also have a daughter who homeschools. I am in constant awe of her commitment. She plans out each year. She searches for materials for five children and their respective grade levels. She orders curriculum to arrive well before back-to-school day so she can preview it. Then she plans in advance the best way to teach, lead, and guide the five of them through each day of study.

Now picture this: I taught subjects that had nothing to do with God or with being a Christian, and so does my daughter. Imagine the effort we both put into teaching information and facts. And here in Deuteronomy 6:7, God is telling both of us—and all moms—to teach our children His Word, His ways, His truth. Now, this is life-changing stuff! The Bible is wisdom that will guide their lives and their choices. It is truth that will pierce a heart and bring a daughter to Christ. So be aware that every time you teach God’s Word you, the bell sheep, are ringing your bell! You are signaling to your daughter the priceless value of the treasure of the Scriptures.

This is exactly what happened in the New Testament to Timothy. As the apostle Paul said of Timothy, his trusted associate in ministry, “from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). God’s Word is dynamite! And Timothy’s mom and grandmom, a mother/daughter tag team after God’s own heart, were faithful to ring their bells! They were faithful to teach him the sacred truths of the Bible, which paved the way for Timothy’s salvation. Mom and grandmom did their part—they fulfilled their mission to teach God’s saving truth. And God certainly did His part!

Time out for a second. I’m thinking as we pause here, shouldn’t a mom after God’s own heart who wants to raise a daughter after God’s own heart take her teaching of Scripture seriously? If you are in this position, shouldn’t you be committed to…

…instructing your daughter in God’s ways?

…planning to some extent how you will accomplish this goal?

…scheduling a time each day for some kind of formal Bible time with her?

…encouraging her to have some time alone with God, a quiet time?

…coaching her in ways to have daily devotions?

…searching for age-appropriate materials and talking with other moms about how they teach their children biblical truth?

…praying daily about this mission from God, this teacher role He has personally given you?

—  “To teach diligently”   Next God tells us in verse 7 to “teach them diligently to your children.” The “them” is what you are to teach—God’s Word and His commands. And “diligently” is how you are to teach—being purposeful and conscientious in a task or duty.

Think about this for a minute: What are you diligent about? Some women diligently floss their teeth. Others are so diligent they would never miss their daily exercise or walk, or be late to work, or fail to pay a bill on time. I know women who are so serious about every bite of food they put into their mouths that they diligently record what they eat in a daily log. On and on goes the list of life instances in which women choose to be diligent instead of careless, or lazy, or negligent.

Now switch your thoughts to doing what God says, to being diligent to teach spiritual truth to your daughter…versus leaving this all-important assignment to someone else, such as a church leader or a Christian school or a grandparent. Don’t get me wrong! These are wonderful and needed resources. But they are to be your partners in imparting truth, not your substitutes. You as a mother are to be the bell sheep who rings the bell of truth like crazy! You, mom, are to be the primary model and teacher of truth to your daughter.

Well, thank the Lord He doesn’t leave moms on their own. This isn’t mission impossible. No, it’s mission possible. God knows most moms don’t have a degree in education or training in teaching. And, whew, God doesn’t expect this or demand it! Aren’t you glad? Instead, He tells us how to teach and what this teaching involves. He says, “You…shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (verse 7).

No matter who you are, or what you do or don’t know about teaching—or how busy you are!—God expects you to pour God’s Word out of your heart and into your daughter’s heart. All you have to do is:

Step 1, love the Lord with all your heart;

Step 2, have God’s Word in your heart; and now

Step 3, teach His truths diligently.

By…what? Talking?! You mean that’s all? That’s it? Yes, that’s it—by talking.

Now I ask you, you’re a woman. How hard can talking be? Why, we girls are the world’s experts when it comes to talking!

And note where all our mother-to-daughter talking and teaching is to take place—at home. Nothing could be easier or more natural or more convenient than home sweet home! You don’t need elaborate plans. You don’t need to dress up or go anywhere. You don’t need to start the car. And you don’t need to spend any money. No. God simply says that “when you sit in your house,” you are to talk about Him.

Whew again—this one’s easy! You sit to relax. You sit to eat. You sit to visit. You sit to read. You sit to work on a craft together. And you sit whenever you’re in the car together. No matter what your daughter’s age is, these natural, low-key, sitting instances provide prime opportunities to talk about the Lord and His love and His promises…and His Son.

And “when you walk by the way” you are to talk about the Lord. From babyhood, to toddler times, to little girl, to schoolgirl, you’ll be walking with your daughter. That’s your special time for talking about the Lord. So…

Got a newborn? You will walk…and walk…and walk each time you calm your crying, ill, or restless baby. And you’ll put in miles pushing her stroller. And you’ll find yourself talking baby talk to her. I laughed out loud when I read this true-to-motherhood quip: “Being a mom means talking to your baby all the time.” So go ahead and talk all you want. It will develop the habit in you—and tune your baby girl’s heart to your voice.

How about a school-age daughter? If you walk your young daughter to school or to and from the school bus stop, you get to talk about the Lord. Tell her how He will help her through her time at school, with her test or report, with making friends. If you walk to the mailbox down the road, take your daughter along and chat about the wonders of the Lord and what it means to know Him. Let her know how she can trust Him and talk to Him anytime, anywhere, and ask for His help. When you walk together through the grocery store or the mall, again, make that an opportunity to talk about God and His provision and blessings. If there’s a breathtaking sunrise, sunset, rainbow, or wonder of nature—a bird’s nest, blooming flowers, even something as small as a dandelion, go outside and marvel at God’s handiwork together. And while you’re at it, do as the psalmist did and “talk” of His doings. “Praise” the Lord for His mighty acts and His greatness. “Declare” His faithfulness.

And then come the teen years. Hopefully you and your daughter have developed the habit of talking to each other about any and every thing, and especially about the Lord. So during her teen years, when things can get a little weird, and she may even see you as a little weird, you can still talk because of your history of talking. Believe me, if you are available, and care, and give her your love and attention, she will spill all!

And if you haven’t developed this early habit of talking, don’t worry and don’t give up. Just be sure you start now. Start talking, even if your daughter doesn’t seem to be listening. She is hearing, and what you say in loving wisdom will be filed away in her mind and heart. And it won’t go away. She won’t be able to shake it or forget it. Draw your strength from the Lord and speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). And if your daughter won’t talk to you, that’s okay. Just know before God that you talked, just like He asked you to do. You faithfully rang your bell. You shared truth from His Word. And take comfort in the fact that God promises His Word will not go forth in vain but will accomplish His purposes (Isaiah 55:11).

And to end each day and start the next, God tells you what to do in Deuteronomy 6:7: “When you lie down, and when you rise up,” talk! Talk about the Lord, and keep on talking about Him. You can help even your tiny young daughter start her days and end them with thoughts of God in her mind. You can greet your waking girl with, “This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Or you can call out, “There you are, my precious blessing from the Lord! Good morning!” And at night, prayer is the perfect way to put a little—and big!—girl to bed. It puts her day and all that happened to rest. It calms all sorrows and soothes every hurt from the day. And it quells her fears. Like David testified, “I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me,” and “I will both lie down in peace and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 3:5 and 4:8).

So…another of God’s assignments to any and every mom is to constantly be teaching and talking to your daughter about the Lord you love. Teaching and talking. And talking and teaching. Or put another way, ringing your bell! I hope you are grasping that being a Christian mom is more than taking your children to church. Home is a sort of church too. Home is the natural 24/7, morning-to-evening place to impress truth upon your daughter. Home is where she gets to see and hear every day how important the Lord is to you. Wherever and whenever the two of you are together is God’s opportunity for you to tell her about Him. So take advantage of the gift of such times. And if they are too few and far between, make it happen. Create the times together. In his book Shepherding a Child’s Heart, author Tedd Tripp gives this challenge to parents:

You shepherd your child in God’s behalf. The task God has given you is not one that can be conveniently scheduled. It is a pervasive task. Training and shepherding are going on whenever you are with your children. Whether waking, walking, talking or resting, you must be involved in helping your child to understand life, himself and his needs from a biblical perspective.

But What If…

I realize this ideal scenario does not happen in every mother/daughter relationship. Maybe the family you grew up in was not a Christian family. God knows that. He knows all about it—all about what you missed, and all about what you know and don’t know about being a Christian family and mom. So know that your mission is to begin where you are to follow the Lord. It’s never too late to receive Christ as Savior, to begin loving the Lord and growing in grace and in the knowledge of Him and His Word. You can choose any day—today, if you haven’t already—to begin diligently teaching the daughter you love, and talking to her about the God you love and who loves her. Point her to God. Encourage her in the Lord. Teach her what you know about Him from experience and from study. Pray for her with your every heartbeat. See her spiritual growth into a daughter after God’s own heart as your calling, your mission assignment from God. Commit to doing your part, and trust God to do His.

Perhaps you are thinking, This woman is crazy! Well, I wouldn’t blame you. But I will tell you I am crazy about God, crazy about my two daughters, and crazy about my four granddaughters. I will also tell you that I am passionate and passionately sold out to my role as a woman, mom, and grandmom after God’s own heart. It’s just so clear what God wants His moms to be and do. Your daughter has no other mother. You are the one He has chosen to teach her. And if you don’t, what if no one does?

Here’s a powerful description of what an all-out, all-or-nothing love for God and our daughters looks like. Let it encourage you today and in the decades of mothering to come:

…my mission is clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, diluted, or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of adversity…I won’t give up, shut up, let up, or slow up.

You Can Do It!

Each of the following suggestions is something you can do to contribute toward becoming the mom you dream of being. And each one betters your life…and your daughter’s too. Here we go:

Analyze your day.

Think through the rhythm of your day and pinpoint your discretionary time, the time when you have a choice about how it is used, when you can choose how it’s spent. There is always time to do what’s important to you. You’ll need to find the time to get to know God—to put first things first.

Design a quiet time.

Once you’ve carved out a special time to be with God, begin reading your Bible—even for just ten minutes. It’s been calculated that if you simply read your Bible for ten minutes a day, you will read through all of it in one year. That’s a doable task for you as a bell sheep whose life goal is leading your daughter to Jesus. There are scores of activities that fill your day. So steal ten minutes from a nonimportant activity like time on the Internet, time talking on the phone, time watching TV. Make a daily appointment with God and allow Him to speak to your heart from His Word.

Memorize Scripture.

Here’s a statistic for you: People remember about 40 percent of what they read. Wouldn’t it be nice to remember 100 percent? Well, you can if you memorize verses from the Bible. That’s what someone told me as a new Christian, and I followed their advice. As I shared earlier, as soon as I read Deuteronomy 6:5-7, I learned it by heart. I also picked out some verses that would help me with my daily life, including the daily challenge of being a mom after God’s own heart. Like “I can do all things [including be a mom!] through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13). Once you store up some verses in your heart, you’ll find that wherever you are and whatever is happening, you can remember God’s words to you. And just think—as a bell sheep, you can draw your daughter to Jesus as you speak His words to her.

Read about parenting.

In my mentoring ministry, one of my assignments for the women I meet with and give my time to is that they read five minutes a day on a variety of topics. They can pick the topics and the books. They can buy them, borrow them, or check them out of the church library. I do this because I’ve been reading on my own topics for five minutes a day for decades! For instance, I’ve been reading five minutes a day on marriage and family for what seems like forever. The same goes for time and life management. And health.

If you do this too, you will amaze yourself as you become an expert on your subjects by merely reading five minutes a day on them. You will also be super motivated because the topic and your new knowledge is fresh in your mind. Instead of dreading something, you’ll look forward to approaching it differently and trying some new techniques or methods. Your reading will serve as a reminder and an instructor to pay attention to the areas of your life you targeted for growth. Pray, and then choose your subjects. Just be sure as a mom that childrearing is one of them.

Write a letter to God about your daughter.

Then read the letter to Him as a prayer. Prayer involves God. So now there are two of you taking on the challenge of raising a daughter after God’s own heart. It will seal your commitment to becoming God’s kind of mom so, Lord willing and by His grace, your daughter grows to be God’s kind of girl. File your “My Prayer to Be a Mom After God’s Own Heart” away where it is handy and can be prayed often, even daily. Your prayer is another good reminder each day to keep on keeping on in your goals as a mom and your goals for your daughter. And here’s an idea: Each year on your daughter’s birthday, slip a copy of your prayer into her birthday card. Be sure to tell her where you were and what you were feeling when you wrote it. What a gift!

Mom’s Think Pad

Before you move on to your next Mom Mission, take a minute or two to think about what you can do to track with God as a mom. Make some plans of your own to take a few small steps that make a big difference.

I’m awfully busy, but I want to be the mom God wants me to be! What are several things I can do—or not do—to create some time to get into God’s Word? I want to be a mom after God’s own heart!
I want to set a goal to memorize Deuteronomy 6:5-7. Here’s my checklist:
Write these verses on an index card and carry it with me.

Pick a daily five-minute time slot that works for my schedule, during which I can memorize these verses.

Write out each verse ten times.

Copy these verses on several more index cards and post them on the refrigerator door, bathroom mirror, computer, car dashboard.

Ask my daughter to help me memorize these verses, to listen to me recite them, to be my audience, my checker, my best helper!

What are some ways I can “teach” my daughter about God and His Word by “talking” about Him…
…when we are sitting together?

…when we are walking together?

…when she is going to bed or going down for her nap?

…when she gets up?

What are some ways I can be more faithful and “diligent” in passing on God’s truth to my daughter?
Do I need to be mentored in my own spiritual growth? Who could help me? Or is there a class I can take? A group I can join? A book I can read?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Hot Chocolate With God by Camryn Kelly with Jill and Erin Kelly FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card authors are:

and the book:

Hot Chocolate With God

FaithWords (September 21, 2011)

***Special thanks to Sarah Reck, Web Publicist, Faith Words & Center Street for sending me a review copy.***


Camryn Lynn Kelly is the youngest daughter of Jill Kelly and her husband, retired Buffalo Bills Quarterback and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Kelly. Camryn has a passion for writing and sharing her child-like faith in Jesus. She loves teaching imaginary students and anyone willing to attend her classes the exciting truths found in God's Word. While Camryn has loved books since she was just a toddler, her two-inch thick Bible Concordance is one of her favorites. As her relationship with Jesus flourishes, Camryn will continue to encourage others with the light of her faith that she shines boldly and brightly, and without apology.

Jill Kelly is the wife of Jim Kelly and mother of Camryn and Erin. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller Without a Word, the story of her son Hunter, who as an infant was diagnosed with a fatal disease. Without a Word was published by FaithWords in hardcover, September 2010.

Erin Marie Kelly is the oldest daughter to Jim and Jill Kelly. Currently in the 10th grade, she enjoys playing basketball and just like her father Erin is a great, competitive athlete. She is a very artistic and gifted writer who also creates very colorful and beautiful drawings in many of her journals. Although she does not know what she hopes to become in the future, Erin believes that God desires her to excel as a student and follower of Jesus-trusting in His guidance all the way.

Visit the authors' website.

Written for young girls 8-12, this brand-new series combines the writings of the Kelly girls with journal/activity elements in an engaging, exciting companion book to every girl's walk with God. Each book in the series includes scriptures, fun facts, journal writings, and fun personal quizzes. Girls will be able to express their deepest thoughts and feelings, as well as share everything from their favorite ice cream to the things that make them cry.

In this first book, it's all about the reader. Finding out who you are can be a fun process that will take you a lifetime-and this book gets girls started out in style! A self-guided tour through every area of a girl's inner life, this book encourages girls to find the answers to small questions (What's your favorite color? Your favorite ice cream flavor?, etc.) as well as large ones (What makes you sad? What makes you angry?)

A section on dreams and special gifts will also be included. All little girls have dreams of what they want to be when they grow up, and this book will help them discover which of the special gifts talked about in the Bible they have been given.

With activities ranging from word searches, create-your-own story fill-in-the-blanks, true/false questions, journaling space, a companion web site, fun facts, and scriptures, this first volume in the HOT CHOCOLATE WITH GOD series promises hours of fun and self-discovery!

Product Details:

List Price: $10.99
Reading level: Ages 9-12
Paperback: 160 pages
Publisher: FaithWords (September 21, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0892968451
ISBN-13: 978-0892968459


Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Megan's Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me about Life by Mike Cope FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Leafwood Publishers (June 14, 2011)
***Special thanks to Audra Jennings, Senior Media Specialist, The B&B Media Group for sending me a review copy.***

My Review: This book was so wonderful and reminded me of my daughter, Tatiana, that passed at the age of 6 in April of 2010. My daughter taught me so much about life and happiness. She was a gorgeous girl of red curls and bright blue eyes. Her outlook on life was always cheery and she was loved by all that came in contact with her because of her attitude about everything. She had so much love to give and we gave her our love in return. Rest in peace my beloved angel daughter!


Mike Cope is an author, blogger, professor, minister and magazine editor. He has written four books, including What Would Jesus Do Today? and One Holy Hunger. He was a minister for many years at the Highland Church in Abilene and now works with Heartbeat Ministries. He and his wife, Diane, live in Abilene, Texas, and have two surviving children: Matt, a resident in internal medicine at Duke University, and Chris, a junior in high school.


Mike Cope’s best teacher was his mentally disabled daughter—Megan. In her ten years of life, she taught her father secrets more profound than anything he’d learned in college or seminary. In his moving remembrance, Megan’s Secrets: What My Mentally Disabled Daughter Taught Me about Life, Cope shares those secrets in a way that will make readers laugh, cry and find new hope.
Megan was a beautiful pint-sized girl whose only spoken words were “I’m Megan!” Although a child of few words, the best scholars in the world could not teach what she did in her brief life. Her life exposed some of the insanities of the world and revealed some life-giving secrets such as:

We are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God.
What really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need and living with courage, joy and unconditional love.
God uses our brokenness to His glory.

This unique inspirational book wraps these secrets and more into stories that will restore hope to those grieving. All readers who long to see modern-day examples of the “little ones” Jesus held on his lap and loved will be inspired and moved to exult in God’s incredible wisdom. What Mike discovers is that life with Megan, who slept only three hours a night, was exhausting, challenging, and even disappointing but also filled with joy and truths.
Max Lucado, best-selling author and minister, says, “The world would look at Megan Cope and her brief little life and see limitations. Imperfections. Inabilities. Her dad, just like her heavenly Father, saw something else entirely. Joy. Big heart. Love. Wisdom. Raising a disabled daughter, and then saying goodbye after a brief ten years of life, Mike knows the struggles, triumphs, pain, everyday miracles. . . and the secrets. Secrets God shares with those who care for the least among us. In Megan’s Secrets, my friend Mike shares the wisdom he learned from loving Megan.”

Product Details:

List Price: $14.99
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Leafwood Publishers (June 14, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0891122869
ISBN-13: 978-0891122869


Looking for a Few Good Eggs

I gave this mite a gift I denied to all of you—eternal innocence. . . . She will never offend me, as all of you have done. She will never pervert or destroy the works of my Father’s hands. She is necessary to you. She will evoke the kindness that will keep you human. . . . This little one is my sign to you. Treasure her!1

MR. ATHA (the returned Christ) speaking of a child with Down Syndrome in Morris West’s The Clowns of God
A while back, I read an essay in Atlantic Monthly by Jessica Cohen, a Yale University student. She told about spotting a classified ad in the Yale Daily News: EGG DONOR NEEDED.
The couple placing the ad was looking for an egg from just the right donor, and they were willing to pay big bucks, to the tune of twenty-five thousand dollars. She learned that they wanted an Ivy League university student who was over 5 feet 5 inches tall, of Jewish heritage, athletic, and attractive and who had a minimum combined SAT score of 1500.

Being a bit short on cash, Cohen thought she might follow the lead. Cohen began corresponding with the anonymous couple. And as she did, she was introduced to a whole world of online ads by such desperate couples. She found one website with five hundred classifieds posted. An eBay for genetic material, she thought. Plus, there were ads like the following from young women wanting to sell their eggs:

Hi! My name is Kimberly. I am 24 years old, 5’11” with

blonde hair and green eyes. I previously donated eggs and

the couple was blessed with BIG twin boys! The doctor told

me I have perky ovaries! . . . The doctor told me I had the

most perfect eggs he had ever seen.

Cohen’s e-mails with the husband were strange. He and his wife were concerned about her scores in science and math. Then she sent a few pictures they had requested. The husband responded: “I showed the pictures to [my wife] this a.m. Personally, I think you look great. She said ho-hum.”
After that, Cohen’s correspondence with the couple abruptly ended.2
What kind of bizarre world is this? Our culture is fascinated with the “accidents” of birth: looks, athletic ability, and IQ. What if volcanic ash suddenly covered the United States, and it wasn’t until centuries later that archaeologists dug down to uncover our civilization, but the only written material they could locate were magazines from the checkout counters of grocery stores? What would those archaeologists assume about us? Maybe that we were the most shallow group of people ever?

This world of genetic engineering would favor my sons. But who—in our success-driven world—would want my daughter’s genetic makeup? She was, after all, mentally disabled. She would never take the SAT test, she wasn’t headed toward an Ivy League school, and chances were really good she wasn’t going to be over 5’5”! She couldn’t produce anything, had no fame to be proud of, and couldn’t brag of any trophies. We have classes in schools for “gifted and talented” students. By that standard, my daughter

wasn’t very successful.
And yet she was the most radical witness to the love of God I’ve ever met. She changed our world. I wonder: What if our society awarded friendliness, forgiveness, endurance, joyfulness, and unconditional love?

Megan was a quiet, loving witness to the gospel. She was an incarnation of God’s love. She received whatever gifts of service we offered to her without expecting more. She embodied the truth of 2 Corinthians 4:7: “But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.”

Let the world search for “the perfect egg.” But our eyes have been opened by the breaking through of the kingdom in Jesus Christ. We’ve heard him say, “God bless you—you who are poor in spirit. God bless you—you who mourn. And God bless you—you who are meek.”

One of Megan’s much older friends was inspired by her life and wrote the following about her:

Megan proclaimed her message in her life. She was a

walking icon of Christ’s admonition to take no thought for

tomorrow, but simply, in faith, to let each day unfold on

its own. I doubt it ever occurred to Megan to make long-range

plans or to fear what the next five minutes might

bring. Megan, like the birds of the air and the lilies of the

field, trusted in the Creator, through his human agents,

to supply whatever requirements she might have. She

knew no other way to live. And in that respect, she sits in

judgment on us all, and leads us toward a more primitive

and perfect trust.

So many people were drawn to Megan. I think many college students in particular were drawn to her because they were being constantly bombarded everywhere else with messages about who they were supposed to be in order to be successful in this life. And the powerful reminder they always received from being with Megan was that success has more to do with internal qualities of the heart than with external circumstances and accidents of birth.
A society reveals a lot about itself by what it esteems and rewards. Apparently, we tend to value accidents of birth that we chisel and hone into perfection, then put on display—and even then we airbrush out the imperfections: how you look in a swimsuit, what you score on your SAT, how fast you can run a forty-yard dash.

No wonder so many people end up feeling bad about themselves. Some express this in self-loathing, others in arrogance. We watch anorexic models on television who’ve had surgical assistance with their shape, and we start feeling bad about ourselves. We often feel we’re too short, too tall, too wide, too skinny, hips too big, hips too small, curve too much, don’t curve enough. No wonder plastic surgery is such a booming business. Convince enough people that they are a mess as they are now, and you have an endless supply of business.

Megan had a way of exposing the insanity of all this craziness. As my friend Thom Lemmons said:

Megan was a flesh-and-blood display of the topsyturvy

economy of the kingdom of heaven. She was one

of the least of us, yet she occupied the apex of our care,

absorbing all the loving service we could offer, and able

to absorb still more. Without any thank you, without any

false reticence, without even seeming to notice, she took all

that we could give her, and still we were left with the sense

that it was not enough.

And yet, to anyone who held her down for a breathing

treatment, or marched with her through the church

parking lot, singing, “I’m in the Lord’s army. Yes, sir!” or

changed her soiled undergarments, or tried in vain to

rescue some semi-edible artifact from her unbelievably

quick hands, or held her as she gasped for breath—to

anyone who ever poured a minute’s worth of love down

the bottomless pit that was Megan, the blessing that

followed beggared any other reward.

Megan taught us all the difference in value between

receiving and giving. We only wished we could have done

more: there was no question of doing less. And all the

while, we were the ones being made over—by her innocent

carelessness and her shattering need—into a closer

imitation of the One who poured out his life as a ransom

for many.

One day, Thom and Cheryl Lemmons were taking care of Megan at a time when she needed oxygen to survive. Thom describes how he thought he’d figured out a secret to Megan’s care.

The trick was to keep Megan within a short enough

radius of her oxygen tank to permit the tubes to stay in

her nostrils and simultaneously remain connected to the

hose. She was also prone to seizures then, but I didn’t

know that. At one point, I remember having her in my lap

on the floor of the living room, and I may have even been

singing to her. For a few moments, the ceaseless thrashing

stopped, the grasping fingers were still, and she stared up

into my face with what appeared to me as a beatific half smile.

Then, after a minute or two, we resumed the Greco-

Roman wrestling match. “What a wonderful, peaceful,

very brief interlude,” I thought, as I put her oxygen tubes

back in place for the 5,357th time, “no doubt, made

possible by my instinctive gentleness and boundless

patience. Surely, even Megan is not immune to my gifts.”

Later, over lunch, I was relating to the Copes and

Cheryl my moment of epiphany with Megan, there on the

living room floor. Diane got a slightly embarrassed look

as I described the scene. Cheryl leaned over to me and

whispered, “Thom, she wasn’t listening to you sing; she

was having a seizure.”

Classic Megan: if ever your sense of “Christian duty”

became self-congratulatory or the least bit inflated by

a sense of its own worth, Megan would simply leave you

holding the punctured bag, and allow you to deal with

your own deflated ego. Megan, how could we ever repay

all that you taught us?

Megan’s simple-yet-profound life reminded us that God is a heart specialist who looks deeper than accidents of birth.

On the day she died, Diane and I were leaning over her praying for her, telling her we loved her, and assuring her it was all right to go. We almost forgot that anyone else was in the room. But the moment she took her last breath in the pediatric intensive care unit, my mother stood up from her chair behind us and began singing Megan’s favorite song:

I may never march in the infantry,

ride in the cavalry,

shoot the artillery.

I may never fly o’er the enemy,

but I’m in the Lord’s army.

Later it hit me: Megan had been preparing us her whole life with her simple little song. It’s like she’d been telling us that there were many things she’d never do, but we shouldn’t worry, because she’s in the Lord’s army. There’s a little grave just outside Abilene that bears her name, the dates of her abbreviated life, and then the words “I’m in the Lord’s army.”

This tiny minister taught me more than I learned in ninety hours of graduate school. She taught me that God will use my brokenness to his glory. She reminded me that the power is God’s, not mine. She made me remember we are often fascinated with things that are impressive from the outside but which may not be that important to God. She taught me that what really matters has to do with the heart: keeping promises, seeking justice in a brutal world, learning to see those in greatest need, and living with courage, joy, and unconditional love.

Now, years later, my diminutive instructor-daughter is still guiding me.

Friday, September 16, 2011

The Amazing Fitness Adventure for Your Kids by Phil and Amy Parham FWCT Book Review

It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

The Amazing Fitness Adventure for Your Kids

Harvest House Publishers; 1 edition (September 1, 2011)

***Special thanks to Karri James, Marketing Assistant, Harvest House Publishers for sending me a review copy.***


Phil and Amy Parham, authors of The 90-Day Fitness Challenge and The 90-Day Fitness Challenge DVD, were contestants on Season 6 of NBC’s The Biggest Loser. Over a seven-month period, they recorded the highest percentage of weight loss of any couple in the program’s history. Married for more than 20 years, Phil and Amy live in South Carolina with their three boys, Austin, Pearson, and Rhett.

Visit the author's website.


The Amazing Fitness Adventure for Your Kids equips parents with the tools they need to help their children become healthier and happier. It’s also an inspirational guide to the ultimate rewards that come from sharing a healthy lifestyle together—stronger and healthier kids and more closely knit families.

Product Details:

List Price: $12.99
Paperback: 240 pages
Publisher: Harvest House Publishers; 1 edition (September 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0736939210
ISBN-13: 978-0736939218



Dream Big!

A Word from Amy

When Phillip and I returned home from The Biggest Loser ranch, we experienced the beginning of an amazing physical transformation. All of our friends, families, and fans of the show had a slew of questions for us. “How did you do it?” “What was it like?” “Was it hard to do?” But two questions we were repeatedly asked stuck out in our mind—“Wasn’t it hard to leave your kids while going on the show?” and “Where were your kids during that time?”

At the time we were chosen as contestants for The Biggest Loser, Austin was 12 years old, Pearson was 10, and Rhett was 8. Trust me, it wasn’t easy to leave them for three months. Phillip and I gave a lot of thought to the impact our departure would have on them before we even considered trying out for the show. Although we competed to better our health, we knew that in doing so, we would better the physical, emotional, and even spiritual health of our family as a whole. Ultimately, in many ways, we did the show for our kids.

Phillip’s sister, Joan, was a major influence in persuading us to try out for The Biggest Loser, and she even offered to watch our boys during the time we were away. If it weren’t for her, we probably would have never even considered undertaking the opportunity. Joan had been concerned about our health for quite some time. She was also a big fan of the show and was the first person who encouraged me to watch it. I was resistant at first because I didn’t know the premise behind it. I initially believed it was a show that made fun of fat people, but I quickly discovered I was wrong. The Biggest Loser isn’t simply a reality TV show where contestants compete against each other to lose weight. I like to think of it as a powerful tool that helps forever change the lives of individuals and families.

During our absence, our boys were cared for by Joan and her husband, John, who have three boys similar in age to ours. My children and their family quickly formed a Brady Bunch of sorts. The cousins shared a tight-knit bond, and many wonderful memories were created that my boys still talk about today. We were so fortunate to have Joan and John—as well as my parents, sisters Allyson and Donna, and loving neighbors—who made tremendous personal sacrifices in order for Phillip and me to have the opportunity to transform our lives for the better.

Dreaming Big for Our Family

While we were gone, I felt incomplete because I missed our boys terribly. You can’t imagine how difficult it was to know that my husband and I wouldn’t be in contact with them for an undetermined amount of time. Our saving grace was knowing our family was taking good care of our children, and they were in the best hands we could have asked for. During the show, Phillip and I were also fortunate to win a particular contest where the prize was a phone call to our boys and a 24-hour visit home to see them.

However challenging it was for us to be away from our boys for so long, we knew the reward was greater than the price we were paying. This was a time we had to sacrifice for our family and take care of ourselves so we could become better role models for our kids. Not only that, but we also had to take care of our physical health so we could stick around for them.

Phillip and I were morbidly obese, and at the rate we were going, we had some serious health risks. I especially thought of Rhett and his autism and his need for special care. He needed us around for a long time. If Phillip or I had a heart attack or suffered from a life-threatening ailment because of our obesity, what would happen to our boys? Nobody wants to think about those kinds of things, but we had no choice. Phillip and I had to face some hard facts in order to reevaluate our priorities and make positive change.

Being on the show was a step in the direction of dreaming big for our family. We wanted the best for us and for them. Sometimes dreaming big as a parent means taking time for ourselves. That can be a hard thing for some folks. Many parents fear that when they focus on themselves, their children will deem them selfish and become resentful or spiteful. But this is not true when you commit to making changes that ultimately benefit your entire family. (I’m not talking about spending money reserved for paying bills on a fancy car you don’t need or not helping your child with homework because you have to get your nails done. I’m talking about making good choices that will exact positive change.)

Phillip and I were not the best role models when it came to eating right and exercising regularly, but it was time to change all those bad habits into good ones. And it took time for us apart from our children to get the ball rolling. When we came back from The Biggest Loser ranch, we found that our family was reenergized by the changes we had made in our lives. When we changed, our children wanted to change too. They wanted to follow our example and dream big for their own lives. This meant making changes in their health.

Making Changes

There was no doubt that we had to do an about-face with many of the lifestyle habits in our home. The biggest area that needed a major overhaul was nutrition. Our boys got an introductory course in good health when family members took care of them. I believe this prepared them for our return and transformation. Joan and John are excellent parents and provide a great example of what a fit and healthy family should be. While our boys were under their care, Joan kept a close watch on what they ate and limited their snacks. They weren’t used to this in the Parham household.

Before our weight-loss experience, we had poor eating habits as a family. We ate fast food almost every day, and our meals outside of the drive-thru were usually processed foods. Convenience always trumped nutritional content. We were (and still are) a busy family on a budget, so it made the most sense to eat fast and cheap. I thought I was doing my kids a favor. At least that’s what the TV commercials led me to believe. I’m sure you’ve seen the advertisements for boxed meals that require only one or two “real” ingredients. They picture a doting mom, happy kids, and a warm meal that took no time to whip up. It was cheap, easy, and tasted great. This was something I could do, I thought. Look at me, I’m a good mom!

For most of my life, I bought into this lie hook, line, and sinker. I didn’t realize that providing my children with meals and snacks low in nutrition was negatively affecting their energy levels, mental focus, and overall health. I didn’t realize that not feeding them with foods designed to fuel their body meant they would not function at their best. I didn’t realize that fatty, greasy, and salty foods would not just make them feel bad in the long run, but would increase their chances of getting sick later on. After being on the show, Phillip and I understood how critical it is to teach our kids good nutrition habits and provide a solid framework for good health that will ultimately help them be successful in life.

As a working mother, I also carried a lot of guilt for not spending enough time with my sons. One way I soothed my guilt was by giving them sugary or salty treats like cookies, candy, and chips. I worked a lot to help provide financially for my family, and I thought I had to “make it up” to my kids. I wanted to be one of the moms you see on TV who greets her children from school wearing fashionable clothes, sporting perfectly styled hair, and holding out a plate of freshly made chocolate chip cookies that melt in your mouth. I was no such mother. On the days I couldn’t be home when they returned from school, I left them a bag of packaged cookies they could snack on in my absence.

You might relate. Do you feel that you’re not giving enough time or energy to your children and ease your guilt by giving them forbidden snacks? If you miss a baseball practice or dance recital, do you make it up by letting your son or daughter eat something they really shouldn’t? Are you so busy doing the million things most of us do that focusing on good nutrition is just not a priority?

Do you not even have the time to think about how poor eating habits will affect your children 5, 10, or 20 years from now? Maybe you think of illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes as “grown up” problems. I know I did. I thought my kids had plenty of time before they had to worry about those issues. I figured they needed to grow up first, and then they could pay attention to what they ate and what kind of exercise they got. This is poor thinking.

I believe this comes from the mind-set that going on a “diet” is reserved for adults. Now, dieting is not the answer for children or for adults. Dieting denotes something that you go on and come off of. It’s about restricting food and eating in a way that is temporary and can’t be continued for life. We should think about being healthy and fit. We need to permanently change our habits to healthy ones. This applies to adults and children. The truth is, kids who have healthy habits growing up have a better chance of sustaining a healthy lifestyle as they get older.

We need to make small changes every day that can add up to a new life. Whether it’s saying yes to natural foods and no to processed foods or going for a walk instead of watching TV, the little things we do accumulate into a future worth having. A future that is healthy and makes you feel good inside and out. A future worth dreaming about.

We need to encourage our children that when they are healthy, they gain a better life. They can do more things and they can think more clearly. They will have more energy to be active. They will have better mental focus and get better grades. They will feel stronger and not get sick as much.

It’s a win-win situation. Gaining health is a positive process that will help them succeed in whatever they do. It will give them the confidence to live as if the sky is the limit and to know that their dreams are within reach.

When Dreams Die

Our children don’t need poor health to stand in the way of a great life. They need to give their dreams a chance to blossom. They need to be unencumbered from feeling tired, sluggish, or moody—things that come from making poor health choices—in order to dream big. Their ability to “go for it” should never be restricted by their size, physical-fitness level, or because of a negative self-image.

Childhood should be a time of dreaming, yet here’s a sobering reality. Childhood obesity has become so prevalent that it has tempered our children’s potential to dream big. This condition has locked them in a prison built with forks and spoons. Poor health prevents them from attempting new things.

As a parent, I know this may be a tough pill for you to swallow, especially if you have allowed bad lifestyle choices to rule your home. But don’t be discouraged. This is not the time to question your parenting skills, feel sorry for yourself, or give up. This is a time for change!

Today you can commit to creating a healthy lifestyle for your family. Today you can make sure your child’s future is not limited by poor eating or exercising habits. Today you can lead your children in this “Challenge” to become healthier. And today, you can embark on a new adventure to witness your children gain confidence, feel better about themselves, and dream big.

When I was a girl, I struggled with weight. I gave up on many dreams because of that battle. Here’s one I’ll never forget. Like most teenage girls, I wanted to be a cheerleader. I remember feeling so out of place during the first tryout because I was the chubbiest girl there. My confidence level hit rock bottom, and I dropped out before I even had the chance to try out. I had many similar experiences.

I was always picked last when teams were selected for gym. I never raised my hand in class because I was afraid the other kids would laugh at me. I shied away from any physical activity at school because I was so big and doing the simplest things exhausted me. Because of my weight, my self-esteem suffered. I wasn’t carefree and having fun. I was miserable.

I became comfortable with not taking risks and not taking a stab at doing new things; it was safer not to even try. Sadly, this mind-set stayed along for the ride as I grew up and entered adulthood. It was a tough mentality to break, but through losing weight and working on my emotional and mental health, I was able to break free from harmful thinking. And as I like to say, I am not a fat girl anymore; I’m a fit girl.

You too have the power to change. You can make better decisions that afford your children the chance to dream big, create a future full of possibilities, and shine.

Don’t get wrapped up in the guilt of feeling you haven’t done enough for your children or haven’t helped them make the right choices. Guilt is a wasted emotion. Guilt will keep you emotionally paralyzed so that you won’t do anything to change your circumstances. Guilt will not change a single thing, but here’s the light at the end of the tunnel—taking a step in the right direction will.

Taking the First Step

Decisions pave the way to making dreams come true. Making the right decisions will change the course of your life and the life of your children. When Phillip and I decided to go on The Biggest Loser, we had to move heaven and earth to make it happen. We had to sell our cars and major household items so that my family would have enough money to operate while we were gone. I had to leave my children. I had to endure the physical, emotional, and mental process, which was grueling at times. None of these things were fun or convenient. None of these things were easy. But the payoff was amazing and totally worth it.

Former Boy Scout administrator Forest Witcraft once wrote, “A hundred years from now it will not matter what my bank account was, the sort of house I lived in, or the kind of car I drove. But the world may be different because I was important in the life of a boy.” When I worked as an early childhood director at my church, I printed those words on bookmarks and gave them to all the volunteers who worked with me. The bookmarks were one way I reminded them that their sacrifice would last long after they were gone.

As a parent, you need to constantly remind yourself of that same truth. What you sacrifice today when it comes to your children will still be paying off long after you leave this earth. You have the power to affect their future for the better. You have the power to influence what their legacy will be. You have the power to commit to bettering the health of your household. I know you are ready to make this change because you are already reading this book. I am confident you want the best for your children and that you want to see their dreams come true.

Yes, sometimes dreaming big dreams requires overcoming big challenges. Don’t worry. We will help you along the way. Believe me, we have had to work our way through many challenges that could have stopped us cold. Our book will equip you with knowledge, tools, and inspiration so you can move any mountains that may stand in your way of creating a healthy home.

Think about what dreaming big as a family looks like to you. Maybe it’s as simple as eating better and exercising more. Maybe you want to lose a few pounds to have more energy to play with your daughter. Maybe you want to improve your health because you just got diagnosed with diabetes or another serious disease. Maybe you want to incorporate fitness into your family life and start running 5Ks together. Whatever it is, dreaming big means improving the quality of your family life. And that will guarantee a brighter future.

Today, take the first step and commit to making your children’s health a priority so that you can see their dreams come true. It only takes a simple decision to change your life and your future.

Walk with us on this journey and let’s dream big together!


Face the Facts

A Word from Amy

Dreaming is fun, isn’t it? It is such a big first step in your new adventure of gaining better health. After we dust off our box of hidden dreams, the next critical step is to face some facts. And some of them might not be pretty.

You are reading this book because you believe you and your family will benefit from this fitness challenge. This means some poor habits are in place that you need to change. You might acknowledge that you need to be healthier, but for whatever reason you give your kids more slack. You might be thinking one or more of the following thoughts:

Why do I need to concern myself with what my kids eat and how much exercise they get?

Is it really so bad that they eat fast food? They get to be kids only once, after all! Let them live a little, right? Since when did a little fast food hurt anybody?

What’s wrong with letting my kids play video games, play on the computer, and watch television after school? They work hard all day. Shouldn’t they be able to veg out in front of the TV to unwind? Everyone needs a little break.

What’s the harm in having a little baby fat? They’ll eventually grow out of it. I mean, really, what’s the big deal?

Prior to our health transformation, I used to be defensive when it came to our family’s health habits. So if you’re feeling the same way, I understand.

The Facts

Before we deal with some of these questions, let’s get some facts straight. Childhood obesity is an epidemic. It has almost tripled in the last 30 years. The 2008 “Facts for Families” report published by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry remarked that an estimated 17 percent of children and adolescents ages 2–19 years are obese. This unhealthy weight gain in our children stems from poor nutrition and inactivity.

A child is considered obese when her weight is at least 10 percent higher than what is recommended for her height and body type. Studies have shown that an obese child between the ages of 10 and 13 has an 80 percent chance of becoming an obese adult.

Though these facts are eye-opening and disturbing, the trend can be stopped. Childhood obesity is preventable if we work on changing to a healthy lifestyle. If an obese child has a greater chance of becoming an obese adult, you can see what a big deal it is for parents to model and implement healthy habits in the home as early as possible.

Contrary to what many people believe, obesity and weight gain do not come solely from genetics or biology. Most of our unhealthy habits come from behaviors we learn in our culture and in our home. And sadly, many of these behaviors are harmful to our health—from the plethora of fast-food restaurants, to the indulgence of processed foods, to the inactivity caused by spending too much time watching TV or playing video games.

Creating a healthy lifestyle in the home may be a challenge, especially if you have not maintained good nutrition or fitness goals for a long time, but it is doable and it is imperative if you want to raise a healthy family.

Priorities! Priorities! Priorities!

Give me a break, Phil and Amy. I’m a busy parent. I can’t do everything perfectly. Nobody’s perfect!

This might be your thought as you find yourself in the fast-food restaurant drive-thru for the fifth time this week. Sure, you’d rather be like Betty Crocker and put a hot meal on the table every night, but really, who does that anymore? Who has the time?

So many of us justify our actions when it comes to our kids’ diet and exercise habits because we are simply overwhelmed with all of our other responsibilities. Most of us have more than enough to do during the day. We work full- or part-time, spend time with our kids doing homework, manage their after-school activities, clean our house, make time for our friends, meet our spouse’s needs, volunteer in the schools or community, go to church. And that’s just a few items in the long laundry list (oh, did I mention laundry?) most of us have.

It’s much easier to go to the drive-thru after school for a quick meal or pick up a pizza after baseball practice than to sit home cooking. And I know how easy it is, when you do find an afternoon that’s free, to stick your kids in front of the TV or put a video controller in their hand while you take a nap or watch a movie instead of going to the park as a family. The thought of adding more things, like exercise and making your own snacks and meals, to our ever-growing to-do list is exhausting.

Trust me, I know that feeling. I am no Harriet Nelson and my life definitely isn’t a TV Land show. As a mother of three boys, I am well aware of how stressful raising children can be. There never seems to be enough time to do everything you need to do. I have gone to bed many nights knowing I had so many things left undone and feeling guilty that I let my kids down (again). I have juggled all the balls that you have to juggle as a working mom raising a family, and I know that sometimes, you just have to let some of them drop.

Some things are more important than others. We have to determine what our priorities are when it comes to raising our children. We need to determine the right balls to allow to fall to the ground. You may have to choose not to make the bed every day. You may have to turn off the TV for a long time. You may not be able to spend much time socializing on Facebook. You might see more loads of laundry lying around than you would like. The fact is, you can’t do it all without sacrificing some crucial lifestyle habits as a family. And because you picked up this book, you know that healthy lifestyle habits is something you need to work on. You can’t afford to sacrifice that any longer.

The amount of attention and care you invest in shaping your children’s nutritional and fitness choices charts the course for the rest of their lives. It really is a big deal.

Sometimes, Love Means Saying No

We love our children and would do anything for them. If we knew we were harming them in some way—perhaps by being lax in monitoring their health habits—wouldn’t we want to stop and start doing the right things?

I like what Jesus says about the nature of parents to give good things to their children: “If your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not!” (Luke 11:11-12 nlt). The problem, however, is that our kids often ask for stuff that’s not good for them (like fast food). And we think we show them love when we give in and say yes.

But then what happens? When we allow our kids to be in charge of our decision-making, they become the boss. They take over our job. They become the parent. Obviously, a family won’t function well when children are running the house!

I know there are daily battles you fight with your kids. The trick is to pick your battles wisely. I want to challenge you to pick the battle of good health. This is a fight where you need to quit raising the white flag. You need to fight for the health of your children because this war really is a matter of life or death.

From the time our children are born, we try to give them the very best we can. We buy the best baby food and take them to the doctor any time they have the tiniest sniffle. We move to homes in the best school districts and sign them up for activities that we hope will grow them in some way, whether athletically or intellectually. We focus on doing all these things and more so that they have the best shot at a good life. In this hustle and bustle, sometimes we forget that the foundation of success is good health.

As parents, we have the power to ensure that our children do not fall prey to all the bad stuff that can result from being overweight and possibly even obese. These include conditions, illnesses, and diseases that can cripple them as they become adults. I want to talk about a few of them.

Silent Destroyers

According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, childhood obesity puts children on the path to diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. These are health problems that only adults used to suffer from. If you don’t pay attention to your child’s health now, you are essentially creating a breeding ground for these health issues as they get older.

Type 2 diabetes is an obesity-related illness that has drastically increased in children and teens. Diabetes is a condition in which a person has high blood sugar because the body can’t make enough or can’t properly use insulin. In order for your body to function optimally, your blood-sugar levels need to be in a particular target range. When the body isn’t producing enough insulin or the body isn’t processing it properly, this healthy range gets out of whack.

It’s tough to detect type 2 diabetes in children because many symptoms may be mild or nonexistent. A blood test is required to properly diagnose this disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), children who have type 2 diabetes are generally between 10 and 19 years old, obese, and have a strong family history of type 2 diabetes.

This surge of diabetes in children and teens is attributed to lifestyle choices that lead to poor health. These include eating foods high in fat and calories (such as fast food), eating too much sugar (such as soda and candy), eating larger portions, and not getting enough exercise.

High blood pressure is another health condition that can result from being overweight. It affects only 3 percent of children and teens, according to the American Heart Association’s website. This may seem like a small number, but it has risen over the years and is attributed to a poor diet, excess weight, and an insufficient amount of physical activity. High blood pressure is a really big deal because if left untreated, it can lead to damage of the kidneys, brain, heart, and eyes.

Blood pressure is the force of the blood pushing against the artery walls. When a person has high blood pressure, there is a higher than normal pressure inside the arteries, and the heart has a harder time pumping blood throughout the body. When the heart has to work harder than it needs to, it puts stress on your heart and makes it more difficult to get the necessary blood to your vital organs.

High cholesterol is another health problem on the rise. High cholesterol is something we need to pay attention to because it can create a material called plaque that builds up on the walls of the arteries. Plaque can prohibit the blood from flowing through the arteries and can even cause a heart attack and stroke if left untreated.

Three factors cause high cholesterol levels in children—heredity, diet, and obesity (notice the trend?). Most children with high cholesterol have a parent with high cholesterol. If this condition runs in your family, get your child diagnosed if you suspect they might suffer from the illness. It’s easy to find out if this is the case. Just ask your pediatrician for a simple blood test. It’s also fairly simple to treat high cholesterol. You have to put your child on a healthy diet (basically eating natural foods that are low in fat and good for you) and an exercise program. Medication might be in order for severe cases.

More than Feeling Blue

Another side effect of childhood weight problems and obesity is low self-esteem and depression. Being overweight impacts not only a child’s physical body, it also impacts their emotional and mental states.

Childhood should be a time free of anxiety. It shouldn’t be a time when your child is worried and depressed about his weight. If you were an overweight child, as I was, you know how painful that experience can be.

There are many things we can’t control about our children, but one thing we can do something about is their weight. No one wants their child to be the last kid on the team picked to play kickball or an object of ridicule because of her size. No one wants their child to feel less-than or like a loser.

Our middle son, Pearson, was about 20 pounds overweight when we came home from the ranch. He was always a little shy and self-conscious when it came to those extra pounds. He is the most sensitive of our three children, and it pained me to know how bad he felt about himself. As I saw him get healthier when he lost the weight, I also saw his self-esteem blossom. As a mother, this was such a rewarding thing to witness.

Unhealthy Building Blocks Lead to Unhealthy Adult Habits

There are several more reasons why we need to take the health of our children seriously. One main reason is that an overweight child is much more likely to be an overweight adult. One study found that approximately 80 percent of children who were overweight between the ages of 10–15 years were obese at age 25. Another study reports that 25 percent of obese adults were overweight as children, and that if unhealthy weight gain starts before the age of 8, then obesity in adulthood is likely to be more severe.2 The idea that “a little baby fat never hurt anyone” is not true. It can hurt your child for the rest of his or her life.

Here’s something else to think about. Once your body creates a fat cell, it never gets rid of it. The fat cell can shrink as you lose weight, but it is always there available to be filled up. And fat cells generally are not created in a person’s body after puberty; the one exception is if an adult gains a considerable amount of weight. But for the most part, the number of fat cells a person has is determined in childhood. When kids become overweight, they create more fat cells than they would if they were at a healthy weight.

Fat cells also have memory. Once they have been full, they want to be full again. This is why once someone has been overweight, it becomes much more difficult for him to stay slim later in life. This is why it is so vital that we help our children get and stay healthy. We don’t want them entering adulthood with the propensity to store fat, be obese, and be generally unhealthy. We don’t want to create a disadvantage for them so early on.

Here’s another sobering fact. Childhood obesity more than doubles the risk of dying before age 55, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine and conducted by Dr. William C. Knowler, chief of the Diabetes Epidemiology and Clinical Research Section of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

More Facts

The list of the dangers of childhood obesity is ever-growing. Extra weight on your child’s body can cause lung problems, leading to ailments such as asthma. Sleep apnea (a condition where your child has abnormal breathing patterns while sleeping) can be a complication of childhood obesity. Being obese can create hormone imbalances for your child that can cause puberty to start earlier than expected.

Extra weight can even affect the way your kid’s feet are formed. Did you know that flattened arches are often developed during childhood? An article in the June 21, 2010 edition of USA Today states that extra pounds can take a toll on feet, causing conditions such as flat feet, inflamed tendons, and sore feet. A spokesman for the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons said, “The foot was made to carry the average body, of maybe up to 200 pounds. When you add 100 or 200 pounds, it overloads the tendons, the ligaments, and the bones.” While your child may not be 100 pounds overweight, any excess weight puts undue pressure on their feet. Likewise, Dr. Wendy J. Pomerantz of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center found obese children had more leg, ankle, and foot injuries than normal-weight children.

When we say that obesity can affect you from the top of your head to the soles of your feet, we’re not kidding.

Is My Child Part of This Problem?

Is your child at risk of being overweight or even obese? How can you tell? Phillip and I like to evaluate healthy weight by using the Body Mass Index (BMI) chart.

BMI is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height that is a reliable indicator of whether your child is overweight. It’s not foolproof, however, because it doesn’t take into consideration how much muscle a child has. Muscle weighs more than fat, and some kids naturally have more muscle than others. Also, the BMI chart can be a little skewed during periods of rapid growth. Still, it’s a generally solid guideline to use. The best way to get an accurate reading is to get a scale that measures body fat, weight, and hydration levels or make an appointment with your child’s doctor.

If you decide to calculate your child’s BMI on your own, you first need to take some measurements. Measure your child’s height and write it down. Then weigh your child and write that number down. Compare these numbers with the chart on the previous page or insert them into the handy BMI calculator on the Centers for Disease Control website (

If you find that your child falls in the overweight or obese range, don’t waste time beating yourself up about it or blaming your poor parental skills. The key is to realize that starting today, you can change this number. You can change the way your family eats. You can change the way your family exercises (or doesn’t at all). You can even change your child’s health if she is suffering from weight-related conditions. You can make a difference.

Reading this book and working through the 90 challenges in Part 2 is a great first step. Make this a priority and read the challenges together as a family at the breakfast or dinner table, right before or after you help your children with their homework, or the first thing when they come home from school. Make these challenges a part of your routine to help your children understand that you are on their side and you want to help them be healthy.

Don’t judge or make your kids feel bad if they are overweight. Support them and let them know this is something you can conquer together. When I was a little girl, my grandmother would make negative comments about my weight all the time. She meant well, but it made me feel as if she didn’t approve of (or even like) me. Your child needs to know that you love her and support her in every area, including her journey to become healthy.

How to Make Change

As you read this chapter, you may have noticed a continual theme. Like a drumbeat, the words healthy eating and exercise sound over and over. Many life-threatening conditions can be prevented by making changes in our diet and in our level of activity. Why do we not do it? I believe three culprits prevent us from making these changes—time management, energy, and motivation.

We must take inventory of our time. You may think that you already have every single second scheduled to a tee and you have absolutely no extra time, but I bet you can adjust your schedule and incorporate small changes that will give you more time to spend on your health. You can cook food ahead of time so you always have a snack on hand to avoid the drive-thru window. Instead of throwing bags of chips or cookies in your children’s lunch box, pack a piece of fruit. Do homework with your child at the park, so after he or she is finished, you can run around and play together and squeeze in some physical activity. See what I mean? Making little changes in your routine can make a big difference.

What about energy? Many parents I know complain of not having enough energy to make health a priority. They are simply too tired. This is where you have to make sure that you are taking care of your health first so that you can help your family. (This is also the best way to role model healthy habits for your children. If you don’t do it, why should they?)

When you make time for exercise, you actually have more energy than when you are sedentary. I know this is true from personal experience. If I start my morning with exercise, I have tons of energy for the rest of my day. I turn into the Energizer Bunny. I just keep going and going and going.

Finally, sometimes we don’t make changes because we don’t have the motivation to change. But what is more motivational than our children? Our kids should be the biggest motivators in creating a healthy lifestyle at home. I don’t know of anything that can move me more than when I know my child has a need. I like to think one thing most parents have in common is a desire to see their children live long, healthy lives. And I believe you, as a parent, will do anything to give them a foundation for a great quality of life. So make the commitment to make change. Let them be your motivation to eat better and start moving more. We will be with you every step of the way!

How Healthy Are Your Kids?

Let’s find out how healthy your kids are. The quiz below is a great starting point for you as a parent to know what kind of commitment you will need to make to get the change-ball rolling. Circle your answers and tally your score.

My kids eat fast food…

a) once a week (2)

b) at least five times a week (3)

c) once or twice a month as a special treat (1)

d) every day (4)

When we do something together as a family, we like to…

a) go out to eat (4)

b) go to the movies (3)

c) do something active such as play sports or go hiking (1)

d) go to an amusement park (2)

The drink that my kids have most with meals is…

a) soda (4)

b) water (1)

c) milk (2)

d) juice (3)

My kids watch TV and play on the computer or video games…

a) an hour a day (2)

b) two hours a day (3)

c) three or more hours a day (4)

d) less than an hour a day (1)

My kids participate in regular exercise…

a) 30 minutes a day, five days a week (1)

b) an hour a day, three days a week (2)

c) once a week (if we’re lucky) (3)

d) never (4)

We eat dinner together as a family…

a) during major holidays (4)

b) once a week (2)

c) at least five days a week (1)

d) on weekends when we go to a sit-down restaurant (3)

If you scored:

6 to 12 points—Green light! All systems are go. You are traveling in the right direction as a family. As you read this book you will continue to learn more about great health.

13 to 18 points—Yellow light! Caution. On the way to trouble ahead. You can find your way to the path toward great health by reading how you can create a healthy family environment.

18 to 24 points—Red alert! You need to get your family in the “Challenge” ASAP! Don’t worry. Today can be the first day of your family’s journey toward a life of good health.

Whatever your score, in the following chapters we will equip you to make your family life not just happy but healthy. Whether it’s learning about the best foods to fuel your body or discovering creative ways of exercising as a family, the time to challenge yourself to be a healthy family is now. And the best place to start…is with you!