Mary and Regular Joe

Mary and Regular Joe


A week ago, through this blog, I challenged us to be more like Joseph, the husband of Mary and the earthly father of Jesus. Today I’m posting an encouragement from Tina Hollenbeck. She, too, uses Joseph and Mary to remind us of some valuable things. If you read our free, twice-a-month email newsletter you’re familiar with Tina. She always writes an insightful column for you. That’s why she wrote this initially, but I want more of you to read it so I’m also posting it here. Read it slowly and let her thoughts sink in.

Mary and Regular Joe

Mary was a young teenager when she gave birth to Jesus. Joseph was a bit older, but he was certainly as unprepared as she to raise the child thrust upon him. The angel who initially encouraged each of them announced that the baby would be “the Savior,” so they had a glimpse of how his life would turn out. But, of course, they couldn’t possibly have guessed the painful journey He’d need to take in the process.

Yet they managed, successfully raising Jesus to adulthood in the face of continual gossip about His paternity and despite living in relative poverty. How did they do it?

God didn’t give them the ethereal halos with which they’re so often portrayed in Medieval paintings. They were regular people, aiming to do their best – no doubt stumbling through plenty hard days along the way – without really knowing the “end game” for Jesus or their other children. They relied on the Scriptures available to them at the time, the Holy Spirit with Whom they’d been infused, and supportive friends, family, and community members. They lived by faith that God was with them and would guide them each day, week, month, and year.

Of course, none of our kids is destined to be the Savior of the world – that job’s already been taken! – but the Lord does have a unique, individual plan for each of them nonetheless. And He will guide us step by step, the same as He did Joseph and Mary, as we choose to walk by faith through the parenting process. Though His plan will sometimes differ from our expectations, He always works everything for the ultimate good of those who love Him. He did it for Mary and her “regular Joe” husband; He’ll do it for us, too.

Merry Christmas!


Tina Hollenbeck

In addition to homeschooling her own children, Tina Hollenbeck directs The Homeschool Resource Roadmap and a Facebook group for homeschoolers.

She enjoys providing useful information and encouragement to those called to educate their own children. In addition to writing for our newsletter, she also co-authored Celebrating Children’s 12 Genius Qualities with me and Brad Sargent.

End of Year Gifting

End of Year Gifting

End of Year Gifting


When children know their purpose, it can direct their efforts throughout life. Purpose is an antidote to helplessness and hopelessness. Purpose prevents apathy and inspires passion. It does this because purpose strengthens children’s security, identity, belonging, and competence. Knowing purpose builds lives. It rebuilds lives, too.

A major purpose of Celebrate Kids is to inspire people to find and believe in meaningful purpose. Purpose and life go hand-and-hand. We love helping children and teens discover why they were created and the differences they can make. We do this through programs for them in schools and churches. Also, our seminars and materials for parents, grandparents and church- and school-based teachers help them communicate purpose to their children, grandchildren, and students.

Also, many parents and teachers have told me they make new commitments to prioritizing their children and students after hearing me speak. Truths in my books inspire them in similar ways. Rather than succumbing to legitimate fatigue and rather than giving up when children challenge them, they step into their meaningful purpose. Their lives are rebuilt. All of us at Celebrate Kids are very grateful for these opportunities. We are grateful for our meaningful purpose!

In just a few days, I’ll be celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. I hope you will be, too. I celebrate His birth because of His purpose – He came to earth to sacrifice Himself and to save us from our sins. Purpose always matters. Always.

Especially if you agree in the importance of children and teens knowing they were created on purpose, with purpose, for purpose, you can help us continue to fulfill our purpose. The gift of a contribution says “thank you” to us for what we do for you and others.

As a non-profit, for-impact ministry, contributions are an important income stream. Crunching our numbers reveals that on top of earned honoraria for my speaking and the profit from material sales, it costs an additional $2.36 to reach each person. When considering your gift, keep in mind the number of people you would like to impact.

Also, know that we have a matching challenge because of people who understand the needs of families and our ability to meet them. When we receive $10,000, members of our Celebrate Kids family will donate another $10,000! Now would be a great time to say “thank you.” Every gift matters. Just click here.

Thank you!

Be More Like Joseph This Christmas

Be More Like Joseph This Christmas

Be More Like Joseph This Christmas


When Joseph chose Mary as his wife, he had no idea what he was getting in for. That’s an understatement! He certainly didn’t expect God to choose her to give birth to His Son, the long-awaited Savior. This changed everything.

Their beginnings as a couple were different in many ways. Of course, the most significant was that Joseph would raise a boy not his son by birth. He would raise Jesus! God didn’t only choose Mary; He also chose Joseph.

Joseph and Mary started their marriage with an infant and wouldn’t have much time alone. They also relocated often in their early years because Joseph was obedient to the messages received in dreams. Joseph saved Jesus’ life by fleeing to Egypt and then to Nazareth.

Let’s Be Like Joseph

There’s much about Joseph I appreciate and admire. When finding out Mary was pregnant, he could have left without shame or blame because of cultural expectations. But, he stayed. He put Mary and Jesus first. He believed Mary was pregnant with Jesus. Joseph had integrity, taking his vow seriously.

During this Christmas season, Joseph’s ability to be flexible inspires me. He was also able to act quickly when he needed to. He most likely had plans and expectations for the way their lives would start together and continue. Little or nothing went according to his plan.

I need to be more like Joseph especially this Christmas season. I wish this for you, too. We need to be flexible, not holding onto our plans too tightly. It’s fine to have expectations, but we don’t need to get upset when things change. And, rather than analyzing everything even if this is our preference, we need to act quickly when we clearly know what’s best.

A Reason to be Like Joseph

I arrived at my brother and sister-in-law’s home outside of Atlanta on November 30th because of a series of speaking events in the area that began on December 1st. Deb and Dave’s washing machine malfunctioned before Thanksgiving. Their kitchen wood floor and some cabinets were damaged. Repairing the floor would mean it wouldn’t match the rest of the wood floors in their home so the insurance company approved the plan that all their flooring would be sanded, stained, and varnished to match.

Therefore, we moved out of their home to a hotel for four days. We’re back in the house surrounded by boxes that we need to unpack. Including the two basement rooms that needed new carpets and ceiling tiles, eight rooms in their home were packed up. In fact, from the room in which I’m writing this blog post, I’m staring at two huge storage units taking up space on their driveway that were full of their furniture and boxes.

Other than one small pre-lit Christmas tree, no decorations are up. We didn’t have our big (huge!) cookie-baking day on the 2nd like we had planned to do way back in early November. Other traditions won’t be enjoyed this year because there won’t be time.

We have to prioritize dusting everything and putting things back where they belong. We want to have energy left when their children and first grandchild arrive for Christmas.

Taking Responsibility

It’s all okay. It has to be. That has to be our attitude. Otherwise, we’ll ruin what is left of the month. We will be responsible. No washing machine, floors, the timing, or anything else. We will be responsible.

Attitudes are our responsibility. I’m responsible for mine, Deb for hers, Dave for his, and their kids and others affected for theirs.

For awhile on Monday, I didn’t handle things well. I chose to focus on what I wasn’t able to accomplish. I chose to experience stress and stay in that valley for awhile. Rather than focusing on one thing and feeling good when accomplishing it, I thought more about all I had left to do. I focused on my plans and expectations. And I was not pleasant to be around.

I want to be more like Joseph. Need to be more like Joseph. Do you?

(By the way, the floors are beautiful and we are very grateful excellent craftsmen accomplished everything before Christmas. We realize we have a lot to be grateful for. This perspective will help us be well and do well the rest of the month.)

8 Great Smarts Christmas Shopping

8 Great Smarts Christmas Shopping

8 Great Smarts Christmas Shopping


Christmas and children – they just go together, don’t they? Perhaps you’re looking forward to spending time with children and teens later this month. Maybe you’re still shopping for their gifts. You’re not alone. Stores are still full. Website traffic is high.

Games and toys are some of the best ways to awaken and even strengthen their eight great smarts. Here’s a short list of suggestions taken from the end of each chapter of 8 Great Smarts.

Shop strategically. If you don’t know how the children are smart just pick one or two that sound interesting. If you do know, think about whether they’d enjoy a game for a smart they’re already developing or whether to buy one to better awaken one they haven’t used as much. Or, buy both!

Word Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Scattergories: If you can quickly come up with a list of, say, things at the park, in a drawer, and that you wear that start with the letter t that no one else thinks of, you can win this game.

Play Apples to Apples: One player draws a card. Each player selects a word card from their hand that they think is most relevant to the word on that card. If the judge picks your card, you win that round. Unlikely connections among words make for lots of laughter!

Logic Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Blokus: Players take turns placing pieces of their chosen color on the board. It’s tricky because each new piece must touch at least one other piece of the same color, but only at the corners. You win if you place more pieces than anyone else.

Play Clue: Crack the murder that took place in the mansion by asking the right questions to win this classic game. Junior version available.

Picture Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Telestrations: Picture the “Telephone Game” using drawings instead of whispering something into your neighbor’s ear. Lots of laughter.

Play Pictionary: Make quick sketches that others will hopefully guess correctly. Junior version available

Music Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Cranium: Answer trivia questions, create art, hum, act out clues, and use your vocabulary skills to win. Relevant to many smarts.

Play Encore: Draw a card with a word on it and sing at least six words of a song with that word in it. Judges memory, not musical ability.

Body Smart – Let’s Play!

Play tag (or any outdoor game).

Play Twister: Give the spinner a whirl and follow the directions. Just try to keep from falling over!

Nature Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Qwirkle: Match colors and shapes and use wise maneuvers and a strategy to win.

Play Rock On Geology Game: Rock and mineral collection includes fifteen specimens and fifty-plus polished rocks and minerals; five levels of play.

People Smart – Let’s Play!

Play Headbanz: Everyone but you knows what role you’ve been assigned. Ask questions to try to figure it out before you run out of time. You could be a mouse, dirty sock, or cash register.

Play Guesstures: You only have a few seconds to use classic charades techniques to get your team to guess the word on your assigned card.

Self Smart – Let’s Play!

Do quiet things together that your child chooses, such as completing a puzzle, coloring, building with Legos, playing with dolls, or playing a car game like “Who Am I?”

Shop, shop, shop! Play, play, play!

The Gift That Says “I Believe In You”

The Gift That Says “I Believe In You”

The Gift That Says “I Believe In You”


My memories of Thanksgiving and Christmas with both my mom’s side of the family and my dad’s are only positive. I’m very grateful.

Presents are certainly among my memories. I will always remember the year I was 12. At some point, as we were opening gifts, I realized my brother, Dave, had more presents left to open than I did. I said something about this and noticed my mom immediately look at my dad. They nodded, indicating they agreed about something. Then my dad suggested I look under my bed. Even though I was surprised, he didn’t need to tell me twice!

I’m sure I ran up the stairs. In contrast, a few minutes later, I walked carefully down those same stairs holding my very own viola. If I remember correctly, I was crying by the time I got back to our family room.

I carefully removed the Christmas ribbon, opened the case, and stared at the shiniest viola I had ever seen. I lifted it from the velvet-lined case and caressed it. I gingerly placed it under my chin and imagined playing great symphonies.

The gift wasn’t special just because it was expensive. It meant a lot to me because having my own viola, rather than renting one which we had been doing, meant my parents believed in me. They believed in my growing talent. They believed I was mature enough to take good care of my own viola. Their trust inspired me.

What can you give your children this Christmas that communicates, “I believe in you”?

Making Memories This Christmas

Making Memories This Christmas

Making Memories This Christmas


Making memories might be the most important thing to do next month. It’s more important than making cookies, making purchases, or making money.

When we concentrate on making memories, rather than just going through our Christmas routines, our experiences will be richer. We’ll intentionally pay more attention to the people we’re with than to the tasks at hand. Therefore, we’ll establish stronger emotional ties with the people and make memories that last.

Think about the activities you have scheduled next month and the tasks you want to accomplish. What if you think about them in the context of memory making? You might’ve already done some of the things I list at the end of this post, but maybe you can now have rich conversations to still broaden the potential for positive memories that last.

What would it take for you to create memories that are thought of fondly next year as you participate in activities and tasks next month? If you think back to past Christmases, what do you remember? Why do you remember those things and those people? Your answer to these questions may help you do things differently to create richer memories for your family this season.

Did humor make your list? I suspect it did because bonds are often deepened during times of joy and laughter. Look for opportunities to enjoy each other.

Did you think of something that involved a surprise? That’s often the case for me as I reflect on strong memories of my childhood and even adult years. For your family, add something surprising that you’ve never done before. Or you could add a twist to something you have typically done. This will make it more memorable.

Small and Insignificant Things Are Significant

Some of my best memories are those of small and seemingly insignificant things. … Seeing my sister-in-law putting newly-baked Christmas cookies into a tin that belonged to her mom and has been used for maybe 40 years or more. Hearing a song on the radio and remembering who I was with when I heard it performed at a concert. Using wrapping paper that my mom would’ve loved. A recipe that was hers that her grandchildren still love. Dessert plates hand-painted by my grandma when she was about 18 that we still use at my brother’s home.

It’s the conversation surrounding these things that make the memories – and, therefore, the people involved – come alive. Let’s purpose to talk a lot about meaningful things as we’re out-and-about and in our own homes. Let’s get pods out of ears and eyes off of devices and talk. It can be done! Expect it. Have high expectations. Listen and talk. Talk and listen.

No one in our family would know about the Christmas cookie tins if Debbie wouldn’t tell us. My nieces and nephew wouldn’t know their great-grandmother painted the dishes their cake is on if we didn’t tell them. They wouldn’t know that the food they enjoy was first served by their grandmother to her father on Christmas Eve many, many years ago if my brother and I didn’t tell them.

Make memories, not just cookies. Make memories, not just a clean house. Make memories, not just purchases. You get the idea.

How might concentrating on making memories influence the way you do tasks like these?

Choosing a tree. Decorating a tree. Shopping for a present for your child’s teacher. Choosing presents for friends and loved ones. Wrapping presents. Planning menus for times when family and friends will come over for dinner. Choosing outfits to wear here and there. Watching favorite Christmas movies together. Choosing recipes to make for different events. Making them together in the kitchen. Practicing the piano for an upcoming recital or to play for a visiting relative. Making cookies together. Eating cookies with hot chocolate in candlelight. Driving to see Christmas lights and decorations. Visiting shut-ins. Surprising neighbors with flowers, Christmas cookies, or something you know they would appreciate. Singing Christmas carols. Cleaning the house so it’s more ready for relatives to arrive. Attending church. Having meaningful conversations in the car on the way home. Practicing for and then attending church or school Christmas programs.

Build Lives – Multiply Purpose

Build Lives - Multiply Purpose


Build Lives – Multiply Purpose



More than ever before, if we are not careful, Thanksgiving will be swallowed up and quickly forgotten because of Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday. Thanksgiving matters. Giving thanks matters. It should be who we are and not just what we do on one day.

What would it look like if we kept thankfulness, THINKfulness, and thanksLIVING, in mind throughout December? What would it sound like to live a life of gratitude?

Instead of, I have to buy more gifts, we would think, I’m grateful for my family that I can encourage with the gifts I choose just for them.

Instead of, I have to clean again, we would think, I am blessed with friends and I’m grateful I can host them.

Instead of, We are spending too much on groceries!, we would think, Isn’t it fabulous that our kids and our parents can come home for Christmas and that we have space for everyone together here?

And one more example. Instead of, I can’t believe how many requests for money we get this time of year!, we would think, I am privileged to know many people doing important work. I’m glad God gave me a generous heart.

Okay, maybe that last one was a bit of a stretch. I get tons of these letters, too. Is it a burden or a blessing? Our attitude and perspective matters.

I don’t just get letters like this. I occasionally send them, too. Celebrate Kids is a not-for-profit ministry relying on contributions from people who believe in the value of our work. Many families are in crisis and parents and educators are overwhelmed. We are privileged to help them build stronger and healthier lives by empowering them to discover meaningful purpose.

We feel so strongly about this that we’ve chosen that as our fundraising theme:


Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 28, has been designated as Giving Tuesday. If you give, you will join with others who support causes and organizations they believe in. Your gift of any size will allow us to influence more parents, educators, and children directly. We’ll be very grateful for your support!

Being a part of Giving Tuesday can be fun. Wouldn’t it be great if more is given tomorrow than is spent today on Cyber Monday purchases? Of course, tomorrow is not the only day to give. This is the start of the traditional giving season and contributing to Celebrate Kids at any time is always a blessing. Contributing with a check or credit card is easy here.

Each gift is tax-deductible. Thank you for helping us BUILD LIVES – MULTIPLY PURPOSE!






For your consideration …

“Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good; His love endures forever.” – 1 Chronicles 16:34

“To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might.” ~Daniel 2:23

“I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.” ~Psalm 7:17

“I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.” ~Psalm 9:1

“The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.” ~Psalm 28:7

“O Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever!” ~Psalm 30:12

“In God we have boasted continually, and we will give thanks to your name forever.” ~Psalm 44:8

“I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.” ~Psalm 57:9

“I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.” ~Psalm 69:30

“We give thanks to you, O God; we give thanks, for your name is near. We recount your wondrous deeds.” ~Psalm 75:1

“But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; from generation to generation we will recount your praise.” ~Psalm 79:13

“I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” ~Psalm 86:12

“Rejoice in the Lord, O you righteous, and give thanks to his holy name!” ~Psalm 97:12

“Sing a new song to the Lord, for He has done wonderful deeds.” ~Psalm 98:1

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!” ~Psalm 100:4

“Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” ~Psalm 106:1

“Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” ~Psalm 118:1

“You are my God, and I will give thanks to you; you are my God; I will extol you.” ~Psalm 118:28

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy.” ~Psalm 126:3

“Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever.” ~Psalm 136:3

“But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” ~1 Corinthians 15:57

“Thank God for His gift that is too wonderful for words!” ~ 2 Corinthians 9:15

“Give thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” ~Ephesians 5:20

“And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” ~Colossians 3:17

“Let us be thankful and please God by worshipping Him.” ~Hebrews 12:28

“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18


Are you thankful for the Word of God and all the reminders of how much we have to be grateful for?

A Month Of Thanksgiving

A Month of Thanksgiving

A Month Of Thanksgiving


Picture your ideal Thanksgiving. Did you think of the food? Or did you think first of the people you’d be with? I wouldn’t be surprised if both of these came to mind. Maybe you pictured yourself gathered with others on the couch to watch the big parade. Or football. Or both.

What if we thought more about the conversations we’d like to have? If we think about them now, maybe we can plan for them to happen.

What would we sound like and look like in 22 days – on Thanksgiving – if we thought about being thankful every day this month? Or, what if instead of celebrating Thanksgiving day we celebrated Thanksgiving month?

What would have to be true for us to be able to celebrate thankfulness?

  • Think more about what we have than about what we don’t have.
  • Believe all we are and all we have are gifts.
  • Believe nothing is guaranteed.
  • Know we deserve nothing.
  • Believe something is better than nothing.
  • Believe “All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23)

Beliefs cause behaviors. Absolutely.

Therefore, it makes sense to understand that we’ll influence children’s behaviors the most when we work to change their beliefs. Of course, the same is true for you and me. What do we talk about? What don’t we talk about? How much of our talk could be classified as complaining? Which of our beliefs need to change?

What would you add to the above list of beliefs? Think about negative behaviors related to thankfulness that you’d like to change in your life or the life of your kids. Maybe, entitlement attitudes? Being demanding? Complaining? Selfishness? Confusing wants with needs? Something else? What beliefs are their foundation?

Therefore, if we want giving thanks to be automatic on Thanksgiving day, we need to start thinking about, talking about, and praying about corresponding beliefs now. We can help children be truly thankful and not just say they are because the date on the calendar requires it. We can change, too.

So we’ll have to work at it, be aware of what we are and are not modeling, and have some deep conversations. Are you willing? Is it worth it to you?

Talking About Halloween

Talking About Halloween


Talking About Halloween


Tomorrow is Halloween. It’s tempting to post about it.

Logic-smart people would expect me to. It’s the logical thing to do. Maybe they’d enjoy hearing the different perspectives on why some Christians don’t have their children participate in the holiday.

Word-smart people might like me to research the history of the word “Halloween.” And, we could read about different candy – how was each invented and named?

People-smart people would enjoy learning how people choose their costumes while getting friends’ reactions while shopping.

Nature-smart people might enjoy stories about how weather affects costume choices and how long children are allowed to be outside going from house to house in inclement weather.

Self-smart people might prefer thought-provoking quotes or poems to reflect upon.

Picture-smart people would enjoy details about unusual costumes and decorated haunted houses.

Music-smart people might enjoy knowing if there are any songs associated with Halloween.

Body-smart people would enjoy thinking about acting out different roles their costumes would require them to play – the happy clown, the old man, the rock star, etc.

Should All 8 Smarts Always be Included?

So, how could I possibly write one blog post about Halloween to please everyone? I probably can’t. Or, maybe I just did (if you’re easy to please).

That’s why I recommend that when teaching one short lesson, we don’t necessarily try to include all eight smarts. We’d have a headache and so would our children. The content might actually not be taught well. The same thing is true in our writing. We can and should make sure we don’t always teach or write to the same smart. But, including them all isn’t always a good idea.

When we teach a topic over time, we can and should include all eight smarts. And, if our lesson or written work is long enough, we can work to include as many smarts as seems appropriate. Our learners will benefit with greater motivation, learning, and ability to apply the ideas.

If you participate in Halloween activities, watch to see how the different smarts show up and influence your thinking and reactions.