Over the weekend, my youngest son asked to go on a scavenger hunt. It is already the middle of October and we hadn't been on one yet, so of course (and because I love hiking) I said "yes"! But I wanted this "scavenger hunt" to be different. I love watching my boys find treasure in God's beautiful woods. I, also, wanted them to learn to find treasure in God's Word. So, for every "treasure" they found, I had a corresponding verse to be read before they marked it off their list. They loved this and it opened up great, teachable moments as we discussed what these verses meant as we hiked along the trails. If you are looking for something more than just a scavenger hunt, I share below how I added bible verses to ours. Use the verses and items I list at the end of the post, or come up with your own! You won't regret spending an afternoon seeking treasures with your kids - not only treasures in nature but in God's Word too!
1. I punched out tags using a paper puncher I already had on hand. You could use round or square punches too. Or, if you don't have any paper punches, just cut some shapes out. I used three different colors of cardstock to go along with the "fall" theme. You can use any colors you want or only a single color if you choose.
2. Next, I punched holes in each tag.
3. Then I wrote each item on the list on one side of the punched out tags. You can have as little or as many items for your hunt as you like! I choose to have 15 items for my boys to look for.
4. On the reverse side of each tag, I wrote the corresponding verse. I underlined the word in each verse that was on their list to find. After they were all done I attached them to a metal ring. I already had one at home but these can be found at any craft store.
5. Finally, I wrote all the items on a brown paper bag for each of my boys. I put a check box next to the item and added a little autumn leaf washi tape at the top for fun! Then we were ready to go!
As soon as we got on the trails the boys couldn't wait to start finding and checking off the items they were to find. Their excitement upon finding each treasure was so precious, but the way the eagerly wanted to know the verse that went along with it melted this mother's heart. They will look back and remember the seeds, pinecones, and rocks. But the real treasure was in the simple conversations about our great, big God and how He can be seen in every moment of our lives. Check out my list of items and verses. Use these or create your own items/verses. The truth is, I was doing this for my kids, but the reminders of these beautiful verses was a blessing to me as well.
Fall Scavenger Hunt with Bible Verses:
~ Something you think is a treasure Matthew 6:21
~ A Flower Isaiah:40:8
~ Something Heart-shaped Proverbs 3:5
~ 2 Kinds of seeds Matthew 17:20
~ Dirt Genesis 2:7
~ Something Beautiful Psalm 139:14
~ A Rock 2 Samuel 22:3
~ A Feather Psalm 91:4
~ A stick Proverbs 18:24
~ Something Straight Proverbs 3:6
~ An Bird Matthew 10:29-31
~ Something Broken Psalm 34:18
~ A Pine Cone or Something Rough (for rough times) Philippians 4:13
~ A Weed Matthew 13:30
~ 2 Different Types of Leaves Proverbs 11:28
I hope this inspires you to try this with your own kids! I'd love to hear what other items/verses you add to your scavenger hunt!
Autumn is my favorite time of year. I love the smells of apples and pumpkins mixed with spices, hot chocolate on a crisp morning, evening bonfires. I love the falling leaves and wrapping up in a knit blanket, but I cherish most our annual family trip to the apple orchard. There is something so refreshing in the simplicity of picking those plump, juicy apples. I find joy in filling up that bushel with the bountiful yumminess that God provides. That orchard is plentiful, and as I walk down those rows of trees in full bloom each year, I am always in awe of the abundance of fruit that seems to magically appear. But its not really magic. Those apples didn't just appear there and those trees didn't always bear the abundant crop it now yields. The apple tree needs to be prepared to bear fruit and so do we. God grows and prunes us until just the right season and then we bear the fruit He has planted in us. He grows us, in a way, like those apple trees I love so much and here's how.......
8 Ways We Grow Fruit Like Apple Trees:
1. Seeds are not just thrown into the ground if you are intentionally growing an apple tree. Actually, It is recommended to wrap the seeds in paper towel, seal them in a bag, and place them somewhere cool.
God intentionally, hand picks us. And therefore He intentionally grows us too. And He certainly doesn't scatter seeds of faith just hoping they will land in the right spot. He plants them purposefully. These are not just any seeds. They are seeds of faith. Seeds that call us back to Him. Seeds to seek Him. Seeds that are the beginnings of the plans He has for us. Seeds of desire to follow where He leads. Seeds to seek truth; to know His word. And just as those apple seeds need to be wrapped in paper towel, these seeds of faith are wrapped in moments, in lessons, in our loved ones and in strangers. He wraps them in these things and places them in the season of our lives where they have the best chance to grow.
"You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you." John 15:16
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28
2. Apple seeds do not turn into trees over night. It takes weeks for the seeds to just begin to grow little white sprouts. And these sprouts? They are a sign. A sign they are ready to be planted.
These little sprouts remind me of that moment we begin to open our eyes and ears. That moment we begin to truly listen and take off the blinds that have been covering our eyes. Perhaps we are opening our ears for the very first time to hear God. Perhaps, we are opening them to an issue we are struggling with or a lesson we need to learn. Either way, these sprouts are the beginning of a desire to know God more, to acknowledge the path he sets before us, and the willingness to seek and follow Him. A sign we are ready to be planted.
"Incline your ear and come to me. Listen, that you may live; And I will make an everlasting covenant with you....." Isaiah 55:3
3. Once the seeds have sprouted and are ready for planting, they need to be covered in deep compost. Then watch them grow.
Compost is a rich soil. Some fondly call it "Black Gold". So, what then, is the "Black Gold" we cover ourselves in when we are finally planted in faith? We should cover ourselves with the word of God. God's word is what feeds us; it is our bread.; our spiritual milk. We need it's nutrients to become stronger in faith, to build a relationship with Christ. It is what raises us up. It is what brings us to the Lord's saving Grace. And only when we are piled deep in it, do we truly begin to KNOW the Lord. You, see, we can cover ourselves with the dirt of the world., but we will just remain a sprout. It is the rich soil, that "Black Gold" that arms you with truth. It is that rich soil of God's word that strengthens, that teaches you to rise up from the ground boldly. And from there it begins to grow you into that spiritual tree.
Like newborn babies, long for the pure milk of the word, so that by it you may grow in respect to salvation. 1 Peter 2:2
4. This is vital in growing an apple tree, without it, your tree will not grow apples: it's called grafting. Grafting takes a piece of wood from the variety of an apple tree you want to grow. You then cut it and your tree identically. Once cut, push the two together; binding them tightly with some kind of wrapping. If your tree starts growing leaves after this? The grafting is successful!
There comes a point in our walk in faith that we choose the world or we choose Jesus. When we either choose to continue to be in control or we give Jesus the wheel and let him take over. A point when we consciously choose Him as the "variety of apple" we want to be like. In that moment, we graft ourselves to Him, clinging to the wood of the cross; giving Him our hearts. This is vital to our Christian walk of faith. Without this grafting with Christ, there is no salvation. Without it, the spirit does not reside inside us. Without it, we will not produce fruit. But when we are bound up with Christ by the Spirit, it is from this moment that we begin to bloom.
But whoever is united with the Lord is one with Him in spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:17
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life." John 3:16
5. Pruning causes your apple tree to bloom faster. The pruning causes the tree to expand energy on healing rather than focusing on fruiting. Pruning removes the old, dead, and broken branches, providing sunlight to reach within the tree.
God prunes us constantly. Snipping here or there. Some "branches" we know are broken, dead, causing decay in our lives that is trying to keep the light of Christ out. He starts working on these branches first. Healing both old and new wounds. But then he begins snipping away at those hidden, decaying branches. The ones we don't let world see. The ones we don't think God sees. And sometimes it is brokenness we do not even see or acknowledge. He continues to prune and bring to attention the things in our lives we need to work on; letting in His light. He continually heals and mends these broken branches. In doing so, He continually reminds us of our humanness and how much we need Him. And as He heals us; we begain to focus on growing a relationship with Him, moving forward in faith, and becoming more like Christ, instead of focusing on the fruit we can produce. Because the fruit? When we focus on Christ, the fruit grows vigorously on its own.
".....every branch in me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit..." John 15:1-8
6. The first season's apples are small. Pick them off to grow a better crop next year.
Every fruit we bear that glorifies God is a good and worthy fruit no matter how big or small. However, God picks that first season's fruit off, uses it in His great plans, and knows that next season's crop will be bigger and more bold. He picks the fruit of the first season to encourage us to step out of our comfort zone with boldness. To be strong, and fearless and thus producing that lush, juicy red fruit that He knows we all are able to bear when we follow and trust in Him.
What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? Romans 8:31
7. The first few years that an apple tree grows, it is being shaped into a healthy tree. It is shaped with a "single" leader. The continuation of pruning helps keep the shape of the tree balanced, thus keeping it stable, strong, and less likely to break. If the tree is not pruned and does not have a "single" leader, it will produce poor quality fruit, will be unstable, and will not have a long life. To keep the tree from cracking, it needs that "single" leader in the center. In this way the branches are protected from the heaviness it bears.
When we keep God as our leader, we are balanced and strong. He needs to be the single leader in our life. There is no room for God and the world to lead us. If we follow both, we will crack under the weight of our own branches that bear our trials and the poor quality fruit we are trying to produce (see Matthew 6:24). Serving one, our mighty God, produces quality fruit that exemplifies the glory of God and reflects the Holy Spirit that lives in us. With Christ as our center, our rock, our salvation, we are protected from the storms that will try and break us. We will not crack, but will remain strong.
" I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." John 15:5
8. Your tree needs continued maintenance. It needs to be watered well. The more water it is given, the bigger the fruit it will produce. The base needs to be kept free from weeds. Otherwise, these weeds take up the nutrients before the tree can use them to stay healthy and keep growing.
To keep our faith nourished, and to continue growing healthily, we need to water it with the living water of Christ. If we limit how much we feed ourselves the word of God -limiting the time we spend with Him, limiting what we believe He can do in us and around us- we limit the size of our fruit. If we are not well-watered, we will not be as bold and fearless. If we let the weeds of the world creep around us and begin to influence our identity and worthiness, our fruit will not shine. If we let those weeds steal the nutrients God so lovingly hands to us, we will bear less fruit. If the weeds of the world seep into the soil that feeds us and we began to pray less, and striving more for worldly things., our fruit will reflect this. God-sized fruit does not always require God-sized action, but it does require God-sized faith. And God-sized faith is centered around a savior who gave it all on a tree.
Growing an apple tree takes perseverance. It takes diligence and a strong centered trunk. So does our faith. Long after my family has picked the delicious fruit to our hearts content each fall, the aroma of those apples lingers, and so do the memories we make. Continue to let God grow and prune you. Don't make Him the center of your life for a only a short season, only an annual fall activity. Keep Him there for all the seasons of your life. Let Him linger in the nooks and broken places in your soul. Persist in binding yourself to Christ daily. Someday, you may find he didn't grow just an apple tree in you, He created an orchard.
" The seed which fell among the thorns, these are the ones who have heard, and as they go on their way they are choked with worries and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to maturity. "But the seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance."
As I continue on this walk in faith, I am always finding new layers that the Lord is uncovering. A friend was teaching a class on the fruits of the spirit (Galatians 5:22-24). We each picked an apple. My apple had the word "Joy" written on it. She had prayed that each one of us would pick the word we needed. God answered her prayers! Little did she know how much I needed, still need, that word. That apple is hanging by my desk where I see it everyday. It beckons me to seek it. To seek Joy. So that is what I am doing and I hope you will follow along here (and on instagram!) as I seek to understand, know, and feel joy!
Before I can start asking the questions, "what is joy?" or "how and where can I find it?", I must ask a different question first. That question is, why is joy important?? That might seem like a silly question. Everyone wants joy, right? Who doesn't want to feel joyful! But, why is it important? Why should I be seeking it?
There are several reasons to seek joy. Several reasons, why as a Christian, as a believer, and a child of God, my heart needs to be filled with joy.
1. When our joy can be seen outwardly, it shines brightly. It reflects our joyful love and thankfulness for God; shining that light on Christ. By wearing joy as a garment, we are able to display what Christ has done in our own lives.
2. Joy is a necessary and measurable part of spiritual growth. It is a part of the fruit we are to produce. Fruit that is produced by the spirit working in us. What fruit is that exactly? Paul tells us in Galations 5:22-24 that the fruit of the spirit is love, JOY, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. If we have no joy, we are not producing all the fruit we are called to. If God did not consider JOY an important part of our faith, not only would it not be mentioned so many times throughout the old and new testament, but it would not be one of the fruits of the spirit.
3. Joy helps us through life's trials. Paul himself is a great example of this. Through all his suffering, his joy is ever-apparent. A God-given joy cannot be crushed by the troubles of this world. It holds you up in your sorrow and strengthens you to persevere.
4. Our own joy ignites and encourages joy in others. Jesus did not come to keep the joy that he offers to himself. He came to share it! Paul was passionate about instilling joy in the churches and people he nurtured! We are called to spread the good news! How can we do this without a joyful heart?
5. The Lord wants us to have a full life, filled with joy (John 15:11). What better reason to seek joy-God desires it for us!
These reasons are more than enough to encouragment on this quest for joy. If you find yourself like me, and the fruit you need to grow is the fruit of JOY or if you just seek to find joy abundantly in your life, join me over the next week as I seek to find more joy!
There are times I am lost in this overwhelming world, when I wander, when the right path and the future seems unknown. I don't know about you, but I need help finding my way back. I need guidance to lead me down a new and right path. I need to be shown how to build a stronger relationship with the Lord. I need a compass. And that compass is GOD'S WORD. Here are 5 Reasons why......
.1. A compass is a direction finding instrument. It points to the direction one should travel. God's word is the best instrument I have to direct me to what is right and true. This truth points me to Him and His Son. It leads me to Grace and salvation. It points away from sin and towards righteousness. Psalm 119:133 says, "Direct my footsteps according to your Word; let no sin rule over me."
2. Mariners need very accurate measurements. They don't rely on their own intuition, or memory. A compass gives them that accurate measurement to the correct course, especially when surrounded by nothing but water. God's Word is the most accurate measurement I have to guide me towards the life plan He has for me. When I am lost in a sea of hurt or trouble, and I see no land around me, it is His word that provides not only hope and encouragement, but gives me the truest of measurements to aid me in choosing the right course. When I am engulfed in darkness, it is His Word that leads me out into the light. Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path."
3. A compass enables a person to return to their starting point. At times, I have found myself starting to stray from an intimate relationship with the Lord. Life gets busy and I find myself giving less time to Him. At times, I focus on what I want to do or on worldly things. Whether I stray a little or a lot, it is God's Word that pulls me back, and builds up that relationship with Him again. It is his Word that opens my eyes, and spurs me on; starting that fire within me to seek Him more. It is His word that returns me to the place just before I strayed and then points me further along the journey. Psalm 119:130 says, "The unfolding of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple."
4. A compass needs to be laid down on a level surface. If used on a tilt, it will not point accurately. God's word needs to be used correctly. To accurately be pointed in the direction I need to go, I must not tilt it by not reading the context before and after a verse. It is in this context that the true direction and instructions are revealed. In it's entirety, the truth and the way is shown and leads me down the accurate path with hope. Romans 15:4 says, "For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope."
5. A compass needs to be kept away from magnets. Magnets disrupt the needle and thus it cannot correctly align with the earth's magnetic field. When I allow the world or my own inner distractions to keep me from focusing on His Word, I loose the opportunity to hear what He is trying to say, and I may miss a turn I was supposed to take. When I focus with my heart and keep distractions at bay, like the needle of the compass, my heart will align with his Word and hear what He is saying. His words are the way. I will never be lead astray with an open heart; a heart that asks the spirit to reside in it. 1 Corinthians 2:14 says, "The person without the spirit does not accept the things that come from the spirit of God, but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the spirit."
This compass, the Word of God, is a gift for you and me. It was given to fully see and know the goodness he provides. Through the Word, the way to salvation and a righteous life is laid out before us. Trusting the compass provides me with peace and hope., knowing that I have this instrument to depend on as I navigate this life. I pray, that you too, make God's word your compass,
In the beginning was the WORD, and
the WORD was with God, and the WORD was God.
There are certain photos I have taken in which I remember exactly what I was thinking when I took it. This Photo is one of them.
I was struck by the image of these individuals emerging out of the fog, where seconds before they could not be seen. The beauty of their emergence affected me immediately. It reminded me of how life is sometimes like the fog. The busyness and stress of life can creep up on us and before we know it, it has so densely surrounded us we can no longer see anything else. We keep moving forward in this fog, but the pressures of the world, of our troubles, become so thick. It then clouds out all the simple, beautiful moments that are happening around us. We begin drowning in a vapor of condensation either of our own making or by the hurt inflicted on us by others. Regardless of where the pain stems from, it creates a veil over our eyes. We are unable to see sun, the light. It becomes a barrier to the gifts and blessings of the here and now. And as it thickens, it stops us in our tracks. It can become so debilitating we can not move. We can not take a step forward, for we cannot see anything. But, there is HOPE! The fog can be lifted! Look for the light in the fog that is Christ. The things of this world will try to keep you veiled in it's dreariness, but the light is there. 2 Corinthians 5:7 says, "For we live by faith, not by sight." Persevere! Keep taking that step forward in faith even though you cannot see. The peace that is found in the Lord, is at the end of your fingertips.....reach for it! He is always there. When it feels like he's absent in that cloud of trial, remember Deuteronomy 31:6 "Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified, for the Lord your God goes with you; He will never leave you or forsake you." You CAN emerge from the fog! You may be weary, scared, or broken, but as you cling to the hope that is in our God, light will emerge. The fog WILL dissipate. Sometimes slowly, sometimes right in front of your eyes. Nonetheless, it will lift and you will be strengthened.
This fog, I know it well. I am those shadows emerging on the beach. My scars remain, but the Lord has changed them from wounds to seeds. The further I walk on the beach with the Lord, the farther I leave the fog behind. Hold tight to the anchor of hope in Jesus. Emerge, my friend! One step, at a time, emerge!
Romans 8:24-25 says, "For in this HOPE we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." May you hold tight to the hope that is in Jesus Christ. May you perservere in the fog. May you emerge from the cloud by putting one foot in front of the other even though you cannot see. May you follow the voice of the one who loves you above all others. May you reach for the hand that will lead you to the light. In all your troubles, may hope grow, the fog lift, and your wounds turn into seeds.
Healing. That is a word I am familiar with. As a nurse, it is something I try to do for others every time I work. As a mom, I kiss the bumps and bruises, wipe the tears and counsel broken hearts. As a woman, I knew there were things inside myself that were completely broken and needed healing. Probably. Someday. However, it was not something I ever really considered. Healing was a wonderful, beautiful, possible thing. For others. Just not for me.
One evening, I heard some beautiful ladies praying for the physical healing of their children. In that moment God opened my eyes: I had never asked him to heal my pain, to heal my soul. I had prayed for peace and strength. I had asked the Lord for courage, wisdom, and safety. But, I had NEVER ASKED GOD TO HEAL MY INNERMOST AND SPIRITUAL WOUNDS.
One would assume that with this enlightening revelation I would have gotten down on my knees and asked God to heal me that very moment. Nope. Instead, inside me rose a need to protect the control over these past wounds, even though I knew I could not heal them myself. I could not ask for this healing. Truthfully, I WOULD NOT. It was a choice. One that I deliberately chose because selfishly I wanted to hold onto them. They were so deep and buried that I felt as though they defined me. They were mine. I I wanted to hold onto them. To give all of that to God somehow meant my total surrender, and to one who needed to control my feelings and how I dealt with them, the thought was terrifying. Not only this, but I knew without a doubt that this would mean I would start feeling again. The pain and hurt had been my armor against the world for so long. Tearing down the wall meant vulnerability. A Vulnerability to God, to myself, and to the world. To ask for God's healing meant trading my own armor for God's Holy Armor.
I won't lie. That brought out a struggle in me that had me in tears for weeks. But GOD IS GREAT! He never stopped calling me to Him. When I opened up my bible, I began to look for verses on healing. I heard Him speaking through these beautiful words. I knew he was gently putting these healing prayers right in my hands. And then I began to weep. A lot. I wept like I had never cried before. I had not allowed myself to cry in years, and as I read His word, the flood of tears held in for so long swept over me. I was beginning to feel. Really and truly feel. God was putting the proof of his healing power in front of me and I knew I needed to be obedient. Still, I was a rebellious child and did not pray for my healing.
I began a journal. My healing journal. In this journal, God dangled His sweet peace in front of me, never giving up on me. I wrote down all sorts of things. Verses, quotes, my own thoughts. Everyday I read this journal and the verses within it. I listened to the words God was speaking to me. I read them over and over again. The emotions I experienced were overwhelming but I continued to read the journal daily, as I felt the Holy Spirit encouraging, beckoning me to do so. The existence of healing began to seem so tangible and how I wanted that! More than I had ever realized! An understanding began to flow through me that while I would never forget my past, the things that had happened to me could be used for God's glory someday. I longed to be rid of the anger, shame, and pain. I WANTED TO FEEL all that God designed my human heart to feel.
One morning, I opened my journal and realized I was no longer reading these beautiful verses. I was praying them. I was pouring my heart out to God in them. So I prayed them more fervently. Soon I cried out to the Lord with all my heart to heal my broken soul.
My past still hurt sometimes and it has forever changed me. Allowing myself to feel and be vulnerable is a choice I continue to make with God's grace and strength. But the load is lighter now that Jesus carries it. My anger is gone and I feel things I had not been able to feel since I was girl. God NEVER gave up on my stubborn heart, even though at times I thought he did (and wouldn't have blamed him). He will never give up on you either!!. Tears fill my eyes as I see a part of the girl I once was inside the woman I have become. I am healed more and more everyday.....I am his work in progress.....and IT. FEELS. GOOD.
Wife. Mother. Writer. Photographer. Child of God. Encouraging others in faith through a lens of grace and seeing beauty in the ashes.
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