Training by Example

Shannon and I at the ACFW conference in 2009. Or 2010. I can never remember!

Moms, do you ever feel like the gimmees have infiltrated your home? Like your child’s main focus is himself? Since our ancestor Adam first bit of the forbidden fruit, mankind has been dominated by selfishness. Yet, according to many, this generation is the worst. I’m not sure if that’s true or if technology simply makes our character flaws more evident, but regardless of where we measure up compared to those who lived before us, it’s no secret, we’ve got a bad case of the MEs! Our children included. So how do we counter this constant pull toward selfishness? Today multi-published author Shannon Taylor Vannattor shares her thoughts with us.

As an added bonus, she’s giving away a copy of her romance novel, Rodeo Family, to a reader randomly selected in the comments left on today’s post.

But first, I want to announce last week’s winner. Pat Dyer, congrats! You won an e-copy of Stephanie Prichard’s novel, Stranded. I’ll email you shortly to discuss the best way for her to get that to you.

(Shannon, we need a new picture! Let’s plan to go to a conference together soon!)

Children Learn by Example by Shannon Taylor Vannatter

From the time my son’s motor skills were firing, whenever we went shopping before Christmas, I’ve given him money to put in the Salvation Army buckets. Anything from one to five dollars. I’ve always explained that the money is to buy Christmas gifts for kid’s whose parents don’t have any money. By the end of the season, we probably contribute $200.00.

Over the years, he’s kept me accountable. If I don’t have any cash, he gives me the I-can’t-believe-we-just-snubbed-the-bellringer look. When we check out, I add cash back to my total, so we can put money in on the way out. We also take coats my son has outgrown to the bellringers.

At thirteen, he tries to get me to put the money in these days, but I still make him do it. Hopefully, someday far in the future, he’ll teach his child to put money in the bucket.

For the last several years, our church has donated shoeboxes to the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child ministry. After all the money and items are donated, my son and I volunteer to shop for items with the donated funds. Before our shoebox packing party, he goes with me to the church and helps me sort all the items and set up tables by age and gender. At the packing party, my son packs shoeboxes for a boy his age.

The other night, we were watching Survivorman, one of his favorite shows. The host goes to remote areas and gives tips on how to survive if you get lost. Survivorman was in Papua New Guinea. He got sick and the villagers offered him shelter. They lived in huts with slatted walls you could see daylight through.

I took the opportunity to explain to my son that the kids who get our shoeboxes live in houses like that.

His eyes saucered. “Really?”

Photo by Africa taken from

This past year, as the packing party neared, I had a horrible virus and was afraid he’d been exposed. We didn’t get to do the shopping or help pack boxes. I missed it and wondered if he did. I hope seeing those children living in such poverty made him anxious to pack shoeboxes next year.

For local ministry, we have a battered women’s shelter in our area. Over the years, we’ve donated furniture, clothes, and toys. Our church takes any leftover meals from funerals to the shelter and our members have bought Christmas gifts for the kids. We have to call and let them know we’re coming, especially if there are men helping with deliveries. My son has been there on several occasions.

Our association of twenty-three churches recently bought a food services van. Once it’s finished, the van will go anywhere in Arkansas where a natural disaster has occurred, serve food, and witness to survivors. Arkansas is in the middle of tornado valley. I’m hoping this summer, we can take a training course as a family and be available for this ministry when tragedy strikes.

By including my son in helping others, I hope all of the small gestures we make stick with him. That he’ll always remember there are those less fortunate than us and that he’ll always be willing to help.

Rodeo Family coverRodeo Family:


She’s beginning a new chapter in Aubrey, Texas, away from her abusive ex-boyfriend. As she picks up the pieces of her broken life, Tori’s surprised at the helping hand the church’s new song director, Brant McConnell, offers her, and at the warm emotions he inspires.

Brant is drawn to Tori. And as their friendship grows, so do his feelings for her. But Tori is still hounded by her past, and the walls she’s built around her heart are high. Can he convince the wounded beauty that he’s exactly the kind of man she needs—and deserves?

Buy it on Christian Book Distributors here!

Get it from Amazon here!

Central Arkansas author, Shannon Taylor Vannatter is a stay-at-home mom/pastor’s wife. She lives in a town with a population of around 100, if you count a few cows and once climbed a mountain wearing gold wedge-heeled sandals which became known as her hiking boots. Vannatter won the Inspirational Readers Choice Award in the short contemporary category, The 18th Annual Heartsong Awards 3rd Favorite New Author and #1 Contemporary Award.

She has ten published titles and is contracted for five more. Her books are available at,,,, and Visit her website here to learn more about Shannon and her books and check out her real life romance blog here to read true stories from other writers. 

Connect with her on FacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and Twitter by searching: @stvauthor.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this!Raising godly children is such a tremendous responsibility and such an incredible honor. What a blessing to think God has entrusted us with these most precious gifts. May everything we do honor that great calling we have received. What are some family habits or events that have produced positive behaviors in your children? What are some things you are doing now to grow certain character traits in your children? What are some behaviors you’d like to counter, and what are some ways you can do that? Share your thoughts in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Before you go, I have some fun news! My debut novel, Beyond I Do is on sale at a limited time for $3.34 in print and kindle form! If you haven’t read it yet but have been wanting to, now’s a great time! You also might want to stock up on Mother’s Day gifts, birthday gifts, and next year’s Christmas gifts! 🙂 Because the book presents a clear gospel message, some readers have been buying numerous copies to give to nonbelieving friends as evangelism tools.

Now, for those following my book launch tour, here’s where I’ve been this past week:

Yesterday on Takin’ it to the Streets’ blog, I reminded readers to rest in God’s strength. You can read more here.

I also visited A Word of Encouragement to discuss the question: Is venting biblical. You can read more about that here.

Tuesday I visited fellow Living by Grace hostess, Maria Morgan’s blog to share how God used one woman’s surrender to bless many during Reality Church’s first ever Women’s Connection Event. You can read about that here.

On Monday I stopped by Novel Rocket to discuss ways for writers to keep their heads in storyworld when life tries to pull them from it. You can read more about that here. 

I also stopped by Karen Beery’s blog to discuss Christian fiction and how imperfect characters reveal God’s grace. You can read that here. 

I also visited Writing Prompts to  chat with my sweet friend, Jennifer Hallmark, contributor to A Dozen Apologies and Sweet Freedom. You can join the conversation here.

On, I shared some ways you can revive a dead marriage (or make a strong marriage stronger). You can read my suggestions here. 

Finally, on Friday I visited with Lena Nelson Dooley, where I shared a bit about my novel and an excerpt. You can join that conversation here.  One of the characters in When Dawn Breaks stopped by Infinite Characters to talk about widowhood and true love. You can read that here. 

OLATHE_Slattery signing_JAN15-FBAnd before I go, for those of you in driving distance to Olathe, KS, I hope you’ll join me next Saturday (Jan. 31st) at Lifeway Christian Book store where I’ll be signing copies of both my books, then afterwards, whoever wants to is invited to join me and some other authors at Homer’s Coffeehouse in Overland Park to chat about books and other pure randomness while we gorge ourselves on heavily-flavored coffee! Holly Michael, author of Crooked Lines will be there. Yay!


  1. Thanx for the giveaway! We also included our children in our giving and community involvement. Now we have grown children that continue the tradition of helping others with their children.

    1. Hi, Jennifer! Thanks for stopping by. That is so awesome! I love seeing families serve together. What a way to create lasting memories while training Christ-like behavior! It’s lovely that your efforts have become a tradition. What a legacy!

  2. Thanks for the giveaway! I try to teach my daughter that when you help others you are helping God

  3. Isn’t it amazing the change that comes from a simple act of service. One may not think that it would bring such a change in mood and in thought, but it does. I always find myself so giddy after I am given the opportunity to serve someone. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts! What are some good service projects to do in this time of the year, now that Christmas is over?

    1. So true, Taylor. The shoebox packing is one of the highlights of our year. It does seem that so many ministries are geared around Christmas. I guess because it’s such a great time to share what Christmas is all about.

      This time of year, shelters are always there. And even visiting the nursing home. I know you can find out from the staff which residents never have visitors and visit them. My parents’ church and several other churches in our town take turns going once a month to the nursing home to sing gospel hymns.

      Donating good used items to Goodwill or a similar ministry is another way to reach out. Or shopping there since your money will go to help others. And maybe check into a disaster relief mission like ours. Anybody else have any ideas?

    2. I so love your comment, Taylor, and the tender heart it reveals! What an example of Christ’s love you are! As to year round service projects, I’m sure Shannon has some ideas on that, but I can maybe suggest a few. I bet there are soup kitchens and homeless shelters in your area in need of help or donations. Perhaps there is an elderly person in your church or someone going through chemotherapy who could use help with basic household chores? Maybe there’s a single mother who could use a break from her children? I would suggest maybe asking your pastor for areas/people to serve. I would bet he knows of plenty of opportunities. 🙂

  4. Thank for sharing. I enjoy reading your posts. We definitely need to teach our children to have a heart for less fortunate families. My daughter and I buy Christmas presents for a boy and girl child from the angel tree. There are so many children in our area in need of help. Very sad.

    1. Hi, Mary Anne! Thanks so much for stopping in and joining the conversation. I totally agree! And I loved the examples Shannon provided! She’s such a great mother! So intentional!

      I love the Angel Tree! I’ve been wanting to write a story about a family–a child and her mother–“adopted” by the Angel Tree program for some time. I love that ministry! And you are right, there are many children that can use our help, and yet, I am encouraged to know God is sending many believers to help them. 🙂 How beautiful and precious that your family is one of them!

      1. We’ve done the angel tree in the past too, Mary Anne. Jennifer, thanks for the compliment. Sometimes I feel like I’m just muddling through this mothering thing. Love your suggestions for any time of the year ministries.

        I saw a movie a while back about how much an angel tree touched a single mom family. Through the movie, I learned that the Salvation Army is behind the angel trees. I didn’t know that. Write that book, sounds like it would be good.

  5. Forgot to mention something – a great way to support missions and help year round is to support missionaries. Our church association has a missions program our church donates to monthly. Through our cooperative programs, we support missionaries in the states and around the world. We also have two independent missionaries we support – one in Mexico and one in Cambodia. Check with your pastor on it.

  6. And then there are the Gideons. Gideons place Bibles everywhere and what better way to help someone than providing Bibles. We often donate to the Gideons and every penny we give goes to purchase and place Bibles.

  7. wow thank you so much for your comments back! I really appreciate it! We have gotten some snow here so we have been doing cold weather type service around the community like shoveling. I am a missionary so I am always looking for service opportunities!

    1. And I love interacting with readers, so I try to keep track of the blogs I’m on and respond in a timely manner. Sometimes, I miss opportunities, but I try not too. It was great chatting with everyone.

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