Training by Example

ACFW 5

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?”

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Photo by Africa taken from freedigitalphotos.net

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:

TORI EATON IS READY TO START OVER 

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 christianbook.com, barnesandnoble.com, amazon.com, harlequin.com, and barbourbooks.com. 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 InspyRomance.com, 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!

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Low-Sodium spirituality

If you peruse the isles of any grocery store long enough, you’ll quickly recognize American’s love-hate relationship with salt. In the crackers and chips isle, your blood pressure will rise just staring at all the labels. One ounce of potato chips have 186 mg of sodium. And believe it or not, pretzels are even worse! Most pretzels pack a whopping 500 mg of sodium per ounce. Then there’s spaghetti sauces, cheeses, peanut butter (my personal favorite) and cottage cheese. Yep, even cottage cheese. It has 450 mg of sodium in every half cup serving. We have become so saturated with salt, “low-sodium” has become the latest buzz word. In fact, according to the NY Daily News, researchers from PepsiCo and Frito-Lay are working to reduce the amount of salt in potato chips by changing the shape of its crystals.

In our day and age, salt has become so prevalent, it can be hard to understand why Jesus talked so much about its importance, but in Bible times, salt played a crucial role. It added flavor, preserved food and was even used medicinally. Salt was so important, in fact, that it was often used as money. Our word “salary” arose from the phrase  “salarium argentum” which means “salt money”. In ancient Rome, soldiers were given salt as part of their pay.  So when Jesus talks about His followers being the salt of the earth, He is telling us to add flavor to our surroundings and preserve what is good in our culture. (IMHO)

With my bags of potato chips, pretzels and sodium-loaded sauces (salsa’s my favorite) I understand this analogy. I can actually visualize flavor-producing “salt” pouring from my Spirit-filled being, but what I couldn’t understand for the longest time was how to keep my salt from losing it’s saltiness. (Matthew 5:13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”)

I know salt. I’ve been using salt, in one way or another, for–oh, do I really want to age myself? Let’s just say, for a long time.  I’ve dissolved it, re-crystalized it, looked at it under a microscope, stuck my tongue on halite (rock salt–for a college Earth Science class) and I’ve got to tell you, the flavor doesn’t change.

I understood the concept. Flavorless salt would be bland, ineffective and basically worthless. The same is true of a flavorless Christian. And I certainly don’t want to be bland, but how in the world can I keep my witness spicy?

Last Sunday as I read a footnote in my new study Bible (It’s an archaeological study Bible and I love it!) I had an ah-ha moment. Most of the salt used in Israel came from the Dead Sea and was full of impurities. These impurities caused the salt to lose some of its flavor.

So now that I understand the historical context of this verse, it is easier to see how it might apply to my spiritual walk. Just as impurities weaken salt’s flavor, impurities in our lives, known as sin, weaken our witness for Christ. We talk about the love of God in one breath, and in the next, gossip about our neighbor. We share how great life is with Christ, and then complain about our jobs or doing the laundry or chasing after energetic two year olds. We say God is loving and in control, and then we fret endlessly about our finances. We talk about the power of the Holy Spirit and then allow our emotions to control us. And to the non-Christian world, this can be very confusing.

For me, my greatest impurity is selfishness. My selfishness weakens my witness, takes away my flavor and, and when left unchecked, reduces my words, no matter how heart-felt, to flavorless powder. It is my selfishness that hurries past an old lady working to get groceries in her car instead of stopping to help. It is my selfishness that dashes into line while a fellow shopper struggles with her shopping cart so that I can get to my car a whole five minutes faster. And it is time that I act on the conviction God sparked on Monday. (To find out more, read my Death by Wheat Squares post) And maybe now that I recognize this flavor-sapping impurity (one of many, I’m sure.) I’ll be more diligent in my flavor-preservation.

Today, as a first step effort, I’m going to focus on the needs of others by asking them for specific ways I can help or serve them. Waiting for them to come to me is too easy. Today I’m going to beat them to the punch. (Feel free to hold me accountable by checking back with me tomorrow. -grin-)

Wanna join me? What is your greatest “impurity” and what are some steps you can take to purge that sin from your salt?

PS, this post may seem to contradict my previous one on transparency, but understand, there is a difference between being real with one another and just plain griping.