Life as a Second-Time Mom with Twins

Earlier this week I talked with a new mom who has a three-week old baby and is desperate for sleep and concerned about her daughter’s persistent crying. We talked a lot about the anxiety of being a first-time mom and realizing you have no idea what you are doing. She asked me what I wished I would have known the first time around. So many things . . .  After visiting with her I kept thinking about how hard is hard. Whether you have one child or ten, hard is hard. Our conversation also got me thinking about how different things … Read more…

Play – The Moving Force of Development

I am so excited to share Claire’s post with you today. Claire Adams is a professional development expert and believer in the power of a positive attitude. She is also quite sweet and patient. As many of you have noticed and kindly inquired, The Engaged Home has been quiet lately. As with our daughter, we’ve found the 4-8 month stage one of the most difficult for us as parents. So many major transitions seem to happen. Only now we have two babies and a two-year-old. Between teething, colds, and a severe lack of sleep, we bunkered down as a family … Read more…

“Let Me Check My Calendar”

This post is brought to you by a contributing author. It has been formatted and edited by Nathana. Many moms find the busyness of the school year to be a burden that runs them down or turns them into a taxi service as they shuffle kids to school and extracurricular activities. While we all need to practice saying “no”, even scaling back doesn’t create a life of external peace and solitude. Our society is obsessed with everything that saves time. And learning to coordinate and manage our time can make a big difference, especially during the school year. Here are … Read more…

Engaging the Holidays with the Help (Yes Help) of Your Kids

Post by an Engaged Home contributing writer. Edited and approved by Nathana.  Holidays, while designed to be a “break” often involve a lot of work. At least for adults. And though they can become quite stressful, holidays are a time of celebration and togetherness. The work of baking all those holiday cookies can pay off (and not just by eating them) when you think of the memories you’re making with your kids. With all the craziness and travel surrounding holidays, can you really fit in some fun learning activities? Yes, and it may be easier than you think! Make a … Read more…

Skill-Building Activities for Kids

Post by an Engaged Home contributing writer. Edited and approved by Nathana.  There is no great substitute for hands-on experience. We can take a tour of the Grand Canyon online, but it will never take our breath away like seeing it in person. Moreover, opportunities to let our kids learn outside the box are enriching and memorable. Here are some activities you can do with your little ones during the evenings and weekends to boost their brains and have fun in the process. Baking Baking incorporates science and reading instructions/reading comprehension. Unlike cooking where recipes can easily be adapted, baking … Read more…

Learning Outside the Box

Post by an Engaged Home contributing writer. Edited and approved by Nathana.  Learning is a way of life. We do a disservice to our children when we relegate learning and education solely to traditional school. Whether you homeschool or not, there are ample, valuable learning opportunities you can engage in with your children.   Think Beyond Academic Achievement There’s no question that being ‘book smart’ has value. However, children should develop plenty of other skills and traits. Though most schools try, it is not their job to focus on building character in our children. We can encourage traits like empathy … Read more…

10 Uses for Your Garage

Post by a contributing Engaged Home writer. I love the creativity in this list. It makes me want to reclean our garage and get creative. 🙂 Garages come in all shapes and sizes. Some are attached to the home. Others are a little separate building next to your house. They sound pretty boring, right? Wrong! Your garage could be one of the most essential parts of your home. Just think of the potential . . .  The Obvious: Safe-Keeping for Your Car If you live where it gets really hot or cold, housing your car in the garage can make … Read more…

Don’t Let a Busy Life Be Your Excuse

Busyness–a badge of courage in our society risks becoming a sin of pride. It goes beyond a strong work ethic and service to a place of “doing it all” with calendars filled to the max. Many families are too familiar with drive-thrus and eating on the go. Many a family van turns into a taxi. Kids are in so many activities they hardly remember what it feels like to be bored or to play creatively. We are proud of all the things we, our kids, and our families are doing. However, it comes at a cost: less family time, at … Read more…

Because He First Loved Us

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate and make a very small profit off any purchases you make through our links. You have no obligation to buy, and it does not affect cost at all! We only share about products that we love and use personally. Every little bit helps us out–thank you! After the boys were born we found our natural rhythms temporarily thrown into chaos. The past few months, I’ve focused on rebuilding and redefining our routines. (Which we often break!) We also just returned from a week visiting family, so daily rhythms and expectations must be reestablished yet again. … Read more…

Taking a New Path: The Boys’ Birth Story

This is a real birth story. I wanted to keep it appropriate, but true to our experience. I know I would have appreciated reading something like this before our  c-section, so I wanted to be as vulnerable as appropriate. Be prepared for a few pictures with blood. Also, keep in mind that no two birth stories are the same. Everyone’s experiences are different. Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate and make a very small profit off any purchases you make through our links. You have no obligation to buy, and it does not affect cost at all! We only share … Read more…

Baby Insomnia

This is a contributed post approved and edited by myself (Nathana Clay). The moment you begin to tell people that you’re pregnant, you will receive an endless chorus along the lines of: “Oh, so many sleepless nights in your future!” and “Sleep while the baby is sleeping!”. Usually this sleeplessness is due to your baby being awake and often hungry.  These long sleepless nights are rough on your health and mental well-being. It can leave an already hormonal new mom weepy, grumpy, and in some cases quite anxious or depressed. And usually when sleep is available, you sleep like a … Read more…

Pursuing Growth in Your Life

This is a contributed post approved and edited by myself. But it is something both Mitch and I have thought about a lot as we approach 30. Our 20s flew by and held a lot of excitement: graduating college, getting married, travel, moving across the country twice (3 states), new jobs, starting our family, and career shifts. What areas are we focusing on as we move forward into our 30s? (I still have a couple years fyi). One of the fastest growing genres of books is self-help. There are thousands of books like these on the shelves of every bookstore … Read more…

Cooing Babies, a Screaming Toddler, and Life as We Know It

***Disclaimer: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. But I decide what I want to share and only promote what we love and use or plan on buying. You are under no obligation, and it doesn’t cost you an extra cent. However, it does help us. And you can buy anything off Amazon through our affiliate link and we will benefit. Thanks! 🙂 *** This post made possible by my amazing husband who let me sneak away with only one baby–Daniel (the one who doesn’t ever take pumped milk in a bottle) to Panera to use my free pastry reward for … Read more…

Tips for Hosting an Outdoor Summer Party

***Post from an Engaged Home contributor. *** Summer is the ideal time to get out the patio furniture, fire up the grill, and spruce up the garden for an outdoor summer party. When the weather permits, gathering with friends and family outside is the perfect opportunity to kickback, relax, drink some tea, and enjoy life. Thinking about getting some friends together this summer? Here are some tips to make your party simple, but spectacular. Invitations Usually outdoor parties and BBQ’s can be organized by a quick phone call or a text to invite your friends and see who can make … Read more…

Preparation and Safety Strategies for Raising Children

As parents, we need to be prepared and to prepare our children well for navigating the world around them. Despite what some may think, we don’t have 18 years to prepare them for the “real world”. They start encountering the real world as soon as they are born. Children may encounter unsafe situations with sexual predators, or teenagers may make reckless decisions to do things like text and drive. We can’t protect them from everything, but we can do our part to prepare and train them. This means we have to take certain precautions, help them develop common sense, and … Read more…

Homeschool Planners That Work for You

***Seeing as we are in a busy season right now, I am inviting some guest posters to share with you! Some are personal friends and gifted writers brimming with encouraging inspirations to share. Others are fellow bloggers and writers I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know. Today, I am kicking things off with Joanna Wilkins. She owns a cleaning agency called Top London Cleaners. She not only knows a lot about cleaning, but also organizing. Today she is sharing about ways to wrangle much of the paper clutter that comes along with homeschooling! As someone with a small house, limited … Read more…

Playing Catchup As We Reinvent Normal Life

So it has been quiet around here. The Engaged Home blog, not our home. Between a toddler and two newborns, we have a fair amount of hustle, bustle, crying, giggles, and impromptu singing. The singing comes mostly from Rebekah. Occasionally from Mitch and I . . . What can we say, Moana has catchy music! This is just normal life in the Clay household. 😉 I must admit, part of me is tempted to do a huge photo dump. Mostly because it is way too much fun taking baby pictures, and it is hard to select which ones to include. And Grace, who took our … Read more…

A Busy Two Weeks–Blessings and Adjustments

(So many causes for celebration! Pink decor from Rebekah’s birthday, blue in honor of our boys, and lovely flowers my husband brought home for Mother’s Day. It has certainly been a season of blessing and celebration!) Well, most of you have probably heard our big news (thanks to social media). But I am so excited to finally share it with you here on our blog! Our boys Daniel Alan and Joseph Morris joined us on May 2nd. The past two weeks were full of new adventures and adjustments. Due to having a completely different birth experience (more on that later) than with Rebekah … Read more…

To My Growing Family

Call it pregnancy hormones, excitement, I don’t know, but over the past couple days my heart keeps threatening to burst wide open with a kaleidoscope of emotions. Overwhelmed with excitement for what is ahead, tired at the thought of sleepless nights, anxious and all love-achy to hold my boys, and even sad to say goodbye to our precious trio of a family. Right now I am writing from bed, unable to sleep, with Rebekah nestled down between us softly snoring. (Not something we allow her to do often, but she protested sleeping on her own from 2-5 AM. She wore us … Read more…

Connecting with Your Child at Home

I am not going to pretend to be supermom. Because if there are two things motherhood has taught me, it is 1) I am more selfish than I like to admit, and 2) I am so thankful for God’s grace and new days! Like most of you, there are probably days you think Huh, I’m not too shabby at this whole mom thing! I feel like I handled that tantrum really well by connecting to her heart. And she already knows so many shapes and colors!  And then there are days I think What did I get myself into? My goal today … Read more…

The Homestretch

Welcome to the final days before our boys are born. I am 37 weeks pregnant with twin boys if you missed the news. And while I think all the big things are in place, little things to clean, organize, or prepare keep pestering my mind. But at this point what will get done will get done. Rebekah and I both caught colds, so we are slowing down, resting, and recovering. I don’t imagine being sick when the boys are born is the best scenario! On my nightstand currently sets Birthing from Within: An Extra-Ordinary Guide to Childbirth Preparation (Amazon Affiliate Link) … Read more…

Reducing Costs to Save Money

We all want to live frugally so that we have money for the future: college, vacations, and helping our kids get started in life. Or, if you are like Mitch and I, you are going through a financial adjustment (and about to add twins to the mix!) and figuring out how you can live on less and make your budget stretch. Fortunately, there are almost always areas where people can cut back. Here are a few money saving suggestions to help you cut costs. Reduce Your Energy Bill It makes me cringe when I hear how much some people pay in … Read more…

Protecting Your Garden From Pests

This is a post from a contributing writer. I know many of you are already hard at work in your gardens! We’d hoped to be as well, but with our boys due any day now, we decided not to undertake it this year. I did, however, manage to get some tomatoes in pots and am hoping to add some herbs soon as well! 🙂  Pests are the bane of every gardener. Fortunately, there are many ways to protect your plants from being savaged by creatures and critters. Here are some of the more creative and effective methods for those that … Read more…

Good Friday

Three Easters ago we lost our first baby, our Cadence, to a miscarriage. That quiet Easter passed with pain paired with peace. Because peace is not the absence of pain. Nor is joy the absence of pain. And neither means we have all the answers or understand all the “whys” that press into our minds. We know that someday our peace will be made complete in Jesus without the presence of pain. But we know not the day or time. And some days hanging on to that future hope is hard. Three years ago, the Easter Lily sitting on our antique … Read more…

Promising Careers for Teenagers to Consider

Whether or not your teenager worked during high school, they still have to figure out what is next for them. Is your teen nearing the end of their time in high school and still trying to figure out post high school plans? While I am not one to speak about being career-oriented (I chose my majors less on job options and more on areas of interest and passion.), I have observed job areas that offer promising options for teens merging into adulthood.  Real Estate Agents There is a lot of potential to grow in the property industry, and there are courses out … Read more…

Should Learning Be Fun?

There is a debate currently going on among educators about whether or not we should strive to make learning fun for kids. Many believe it will help engage students, while others think it is important to teach our kids to persevere through hard things. Not everything in life is fun, but many things are still worth putting in the work and doing. I actually agree with both sides of this argument. Life, work, changing diapers with a squirming toddler, these things are not always fun. But they are worthwhile. However, if it is possible to make learning a fun and … Read more…

Pregnancy Life Savers

As I am well into my third trimester of pregnancy, I am frantically trying to get everything done. The spring cleaning, the many sewing and crocheting projects, the nursery, projects for Rebekah, and yes, enjoying times of sleep and rest because they will be few and far between soon. Some days it leaves me a bit dizzy and exhausted. If I don’t pace myself, I find that I don’t actually accomplish anything. My mind simply races with everything. Which is exhausting in its own way. So I am working on simplification and focus. What doesn’t get done won’t kill me. Right? Mitch and … Read more…

Common Shopping Mistakes That Bust the Budget

Unfortunately, most of us don’t have a money tree in our backyards, so we have a finite amount of money with which we need to pay for our homes and utilities, clothe and feed our family, and then think about luxuries after that. Trying to get a family budget to go further and spread thinner is an artform in itself; but when retailers both online and in the store are trying their hardest to convince you to part with even more money, you can have a real challenge on your hands. With all the best intentions, it’s still far too easy … Read more…

A Cute Combo and a Great Deal

A couple weeks ago we drove down to Springfield for our nephew’s first birthday. Though sadly, he got sick so his parents delayed plans. I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here in Missouri the cold and flu season hit hard. My sister-in-law asked for books for boys, since their daughter is into princesses and the like, they wanted to make sure they had some quality boy books for our nephew. And if you know me at all, you know buying books is one of my favorite things to do! So I set about looking for a fun, … Read more…

Tips for Moving While Homeschooling

When your home is also your children’s school, the idea of moving takes on a more terrifying slant than normal. Not only are you uprooting your entire lives and all the usual hassle that goes with that, but you’re also in danger of disrupting an educational program for your kids. It is stressful to say the least.  But one of the blessings of homeschooling is that it is flexible, and you have the opportunity to incorporate teaching life skills. While there are plenty of tips to sell your house, how do you keep your family functioning and sane during the process? … Read more…

Lent: A Call to Repent

Missouri has decided it is spring. Yesterday, we met the cool morning air, with the sun starting to warm the earth and began the work of pulling up dead plants. Our tulips and daffodils burst from the ground a couple weeks ago, and now our lilies and sedum are making their presence known. Unlike the tulips and daffodils who bloom early and then die away, sedum and lilies grow for longer. They are in it for the long haul of summer. They don’t really die off until we head into fall. As a result, we left their dead and dying remains … Read more…

Resources for Teaching Kids About Renewable Energy

If I’m honest, I’m intimidated by the thought of teaching science to my children. I enjoyed aspects of science as a kid. But, I was naturally drawn to subjects like history and literature. As a parent and educator, I whole-heartedly believe that science is a crucial subject to teach. Science teaches kids to ask questions and explore how things work. Our world is growing rapidly in the areas of science and technology. We can’t ignore this subject and adequately prepare our children for the future. I consider myself a nature nerd. Though I don’t know as much as I should about … Read more…

Preparing for Baby’s First Outing (Part Two of Encouragement for First-Time Moms)

The first time I took Rebekah out of the house was a big deal. At least for me. In addition to trying to figure out a carseat for the first time (I am challenged in this area), I had to decided how to dress her. Fortunately, we learned a lot about our daughter on night one. Most babies have a hard time regulating their temperature to stay warm enough. However, Rebekah overheated quickly in her footie pjs and small cap. She takes after her daddy and is often warm. Nonetheless, I remember how stressful those early outings were. I still … Read more…

A Practical Home Education

Most people think of home education as homeschooling. And yes, it can be one and the same. But home education is so much broader. It encompasses what we teach our children about everyday kindness, how to follow Jesus, responsibility with chores, and home and car upkeep. You should strive for a practical home education for your child, whether you homeschool or not. So many of us graduate high school and move out of our parents’ house without much of the needed knowledge for adulthood. Now, while I agree experience is the best teacher–there are so many home projects and practical … Read more…

Encouragement for First-Time Moms Part 1

Many of us dream of that day when we get to snuggle our beautiful, perfect newborn in our arms. And those moments are nothing short of bliss. Your eyes well up, your heart is full, and if you are breastfeeding–your milk comes in. However, there are a lot of hard times: cluster feedings in the middle of the night, sore nipples, unexplained crying and wailing, sleep strikes, flipping days and nights around, sickness, acid reflux/spit up, and worst of all the nagging fear that you are doing everything wrong and messing up your new child. If you are pregnant with … Read more…

Money Management Tips for Young Adults

Money management is one of the hardest things about young adulthood. At least at first. Unless your parents taught you well, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. As a result, when you land your first “real” job, it may feel like you are making a lot and finally have financial freedom. Regardless of how much you are actually making, it is a great time to start setting some financial goals and employing smart habits. Mitch and I have never had a lot of money. But we’ve always made things work and avoided many (not all) mistakes because we had … Read more…

Fighting Against the Strain of Long Distance Relationships

This post is contributed by Michelle, an Engaged Home contributor. I know many dating and married couples who are striving to keep their relationships strong despite the distance, and, sadly, I have witnessed many long distance couples fall apart. Due to this, I thought this was an important post to share. For the record, Mitch and I have not done the long distance gig since we were dating, and then it was only during the summers. Enjoy! (Approved and edited by Nathana) Keeping any marriage or relationship strong through all the changes of life is a challenge. When a couple adds distance, … Read more…

The Educational Benefits of Traveling With Your Kids

Whether you’ve chosen to homeschool your children or not, there’s no arguing that travel is beneficial for their learning and development. In fact, many parents within the homeschooling community are now traveling with their kids as much as they can afford. When families travel, children gain firsthand experiences and applications. Consider some of the benefits of traveling with your kids: A better understanding and appreciation of different cultures One of the most amazing things about traveling abroad, whether it’s to New York City, China, Africa, etc, is that it allows your children to learn about different cultures. While you could teach … Read more…

3 Easy DIY Valentine Crafts

Heart Journal: Super easy to make! We made these as prayer journals at a girls’ devo this past year. 🙂 2. Heart Mug: This is similar to the journal, but on a mug! 🙂 By the way, you can often get cute journals and white porcelain mugs at the Dollar Tree! (credit to Today’s Creative Life) 3. Heart Painting: I took this heart sticker/paint marker idea and applied it to a painting idea I had. Rebekah and I were talking about the color blue, and since she loves to paint, I decided she could help me with this craft. I put … Read more…

Where’d My Baby Go?

I turned what was going to be a fall sweater for Rebekah into a spring sweater. After a few attempts, I finally finished it. And once I got the right sizing, it only took me a couple days to make it. But looking through these pictures made me realize how much Rebekah has grown since her fall sweater last year! Time moves so swiftly these days. Every day she is learning something new and her vocabulary is expanding exponentially. She still has her quizzical blue eyes and expressive faces. And her personality has been the same since day one. She is … Read more…

Valentine’s Day Gifts for Under $15

Looking for a great gift for someone in your family for under $15? Here are some fun gifts for men, women, and children, all for under $15! ***This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links at no extra cost or obligation to you. We only share products or resources we love or have on our own personal wishlist. It does not cost you a cent extra to buy through our link, but if you do buy anything on Amazon through our link, it greatly helps us out! ? 1. Jane Austen Coffee Mug  (Can you ever have too many mugs?! And this one is … Read more…

Leaving the Nest: Preparing for College

Winter is quickly closing up shop for spring. That means scores of high school seniors will be making their final decisions about college, applying for scholarships, and preparing to graduate and leave home. This can be an intimidating and stressful period for both seniors and their parents. Every mom and dad hopes they have emotionally, spiritually, and academically prepared their child for this next stage of life. College challenges beliefs, refines or corrupts character, and (hopefully) expands one’s knowledge and world view. How can you make sure your child is ready for this next chapter of life? Encourage Involvement (to … Read more…

Four Great Activities to Engage Your Whole Family

It’s often hard to find activities that all of your kids will enjoy, especially if they’re a range of ages. Luckily, there are some simple activities the whole family will enjoy.  Hiking/Walks/Bike Rides It can be hard to drag kids away from screens, but it’s also important for you as a parent to give them opportunities to exercise and appreciate the great outdoors. Walk around your neighborhood or local park. Or, if the weather is nice, find a nearby trail. Let your toddler stop and explore and pick up rocks. Let your older kids bring along nature journals or digital cameras … Read more…

Be a Blessing This Valentine’s Day + Free Printables

In so many ways, life is a beautiful collage of blessings. God has blessed us immensely time and again, and often through the generosity and love of others. As I write I am admiring a beautiful bouquet of flowers from my in-laws sent to us after the loss of Mitch’s sweet Granny. And I think of the wonderful meal of thai food and conversation a friend shared with me earlier this week. On Saturday another dear friend brought us over an abundant meal of delicious healthy food: roasted chicken, wild rice, fruit salad, healthy greens, and sweet potatoes. We talked … Read more…

A Journey Through Unemployment

Before I begin, I would like to say thank you. Today’s blog is brought to you by Mitch, the incredibly blessed husband of Nathana Clay. I thought I’d give her a morning off. She’s earned it in countless ways. So, while I have the opportunity, I would like to take a moment and express my gratitude for you. Yes, YOU. If you are a consistent reader of this blog, then you know that our family has been in the midst of transition for a while now. Many of you have sent us kind messages, good thoughts, and even prayers. For … Read more…

Our Snowy Day

***This post contains Amazon Affiliate Links at no extra cost or obligation to you. We only share products we love or have on our own personal wishlist. It does not cost you a cent extra to buy through our link, but if you do buy anything on Amazon through our link, it greatly helps us out! 🙂 Snow days and nostalgia: no school, sleeping in, tromping through the snow, sledding with friends, and warming up with a mug of hot chocolate. To most kids, snow days equate to bliss. I still remember sledding the hill by my middle school, and of … Read more…

Finding the Right Balance of Indepedence and Boundaries with Children

This post is contributed by Sarah, a contributing writer. Edited and approved by Nathana. From the moment our kids are born, they are precious. They mean the world to us and when we bring them home from the hospital, we handle them like a fragile family heirloom. In some ways, I guess, that’s exactly what they are! But that simple need to protect, that desire to make them secure, never leaves us. Speak to anyone with grown-up kids, and it’s still the same. Even the 80-year-old great-grandma will fuss over and look after her own children into their fifties and beyond. … Read more…

Easy and Free DIY Gift Tags–Not Even a Printer Required!

If you are like me, you LOVE after-Christmas sales. These sales allow me to stock up on almost everything I need as far as wrapping and decor for the next year. However, it is not too often I come across new gift bag tags. That, combined with my love of Christmas card art led me to make my own DIY gift tags. I hate it when I’ve already used tags on a gift bag. Before I started creating these tags, I resorted to putting stickers on the bags. This means the following year I am trying to find a sticker tag the … Read more…

The Color Blue on my Mind

Blue. A serene, peaceful color. The color of Rebekah’s eyes. I’d long been saving some lovely blue yarn to crochet into a sweater for her because I knew it would look beautiful with her eyes. A couple weeks ago I finally decided on a pattern and started. But since December 27th, I’ve had blue on my mind for different reasons. I started reading Fantastic Mr. Fox (Amazon Affiliate Link) to Rebekah the other day. She seems to really enjoy it, though I decided not to read it to her before bed because it gets a tad scary for a 21-month-old! It has … Read more…

January: Be the Gift

Noise. Busyness. Negative media. Bad news. Disasters. Suffering. Sickness. Financial crisis. Personal struggles. All these things fill our world at large and often our personal worlds. If I’m not careful, these things easily overwhelm me. But, if there is anything the past several months have taught me, especially through a fear-packed election cycle and a year where so many people I know have struggled through grief, it is this: What we do matters.  As we enter into this new year–2017–we have a choice. Really, we have a choice every minute of every day. We can allow fear and worry and busyness to overwhelm … Read more…

Our 2016 Christmas Letter

Dear Friends and Family, I know for many of you this past year was joyful with births and new jobs. For others, it was difficult with loss of loved ones, jobs, or illness. And many of you have been in our hearts and prayers, as we know we have been in yours. It is such a joy to walk through life with others, through the ups and downs of life in community. Thank you for your love. I thought about doing a big long recap of the year, but I think I will just share a few highlights, and A … Read more…

Trust in a Limitless God

I often mistake the story of Christmas as “the beginning” of the story. It is not. Christmas occurs at a pivotal point in the saga of humanity. Or more accurately, God’s love story. The Old Testament is full of God’s passion, love, and pursuit of his people building toward and setting the stage for the New Testament. All the gospels, in their own way and perspective open with the Christmas story. Jesus’ birth suggests that God would hold nothing back. He sets aside all glory to become man. But while his birth is important, it is only the start of what … Read more…

Six Years

This week we celebrated six years of marriage. On December 18th, 2010, after a whirlwind of finals and preparations, we took our vows. I still remember walking out of the sanctuary to the glassed-in foyer to see snow lightly falling. As we walked out to the car, snowflakes drifted down and sprinkled our hair. We felt blessed to share such love and to be able to share our big day with friends and family from all over. But we also knew it was only the beginning. Weddings are beautiful and full of hope and promise. Still, they are a mere beginning. … Read more…

Taking Jesus Off the Shelf

A few years ago my grandma gave me an old nativity set. Not a fancy one. Just a cheap ceramic one. She bought a bunch of them one year for all her grandkids. My cousin accidentally ended up with an African American nativity set. The rest of us got “white” ones making Jesus a redhead and Mary blond. Not the most historically accurate, the African American one probably would have been more accurate. But I love it because I love my grandma. I didn’t have much display space this year, so the nativity ended up on our kitchen window sill. Rebekah, … Read more…

Confessions of a Writer and Recommended Book Purchases for High School and College Kids

I am hesitant to tell people I majored in English. People associate that with crazy things like being able to spell and use proper grammar. The truth is I struggle with both. I don’t think I am an awful writer, but I have to edit a lot. Otherwise, well, embarrassing things happen. Like, um, using the wrong grammar on the sign you scrawl out in 5 seconds for your announcement photos that you then post all over social media . . . Yep. That was not the fault our sweet photographer, Grace, that was all me. ” . . . then … Read more…

Big Changes

Leaning back in the examination room, trying to ignore how full my bladder is, I crane my neck to see the screen. Any moment I’ll get to see our baby. Remembering back to seeing Rebekah for the first time, around 11 weeks along– kicking away like crazy, her little legs like a soccer player. This time all I see are blobs. And the dark, watermelon size balloon that is my near bursting bladder. Mitch has a better angle. He is totally engrossed. I rest my head back on my thin pillow, hoping for a better view later, or the ultrasound nurse to enlighten me about this strange … Read more…

10 Simple DIY Presents for Christmas

One of the ways I make our tight Christmas budget stretch is by making many of our Christmas presents. I told myself I would scale back on how much I was making. And well, I had the best of intentions . . . Let’s just say that I need to set aside some serious sewing and crocheting time over the next couple weeks! 1. DIY Cookies in a Jar from Raining Hot Coupons 2. 15-minute Pillowcase by Craftsy Who doesn’t love a fun and funky pillowcase?! 3. Simple Crocheted Hat (any size) by Oombawkadesign Many family members requests my simple beanie hats at Christmas. … Read more…

Make Christmas With the In-Laws Merry Not Miserable

I don’t do many featured posts by others, but I thought Clare’s post on in-laws and the holidays had a lot of good thoughts to share. I love my in-laws and have no complaints, but anytime you marry someone, you marry their family too. That means things like working out holiday schedules and expectations. Please welcome Clare to The Engaged Home! It’s your first Christmas together as a married couple, what could be sweeter? The joys of decorating your tree, curling up together and watching “It’s a Wonderful Life” and strolling the streets admiring neighbors’ twinkle lights… or, not. The … Read more…

Advent as a Family: Waiting, Hope, and Peace

Advent–the time leading up to Christmas when we reflect on Jesus becoming flesh and dwelling among us. But even more so, we anticipate Jesus’ second return. This is what I truly cherish about Advent. We not only get to celebrate Jesus’ willingness to become man–experiencing temptation, filth, hunger, pain, and grief–but we get to look forward to his return where he will make all things right. Advent is not practiced by many people in the churches of Christ, our faith heritage. In fact, some churches of Christ hardly acknowledge Christmas because of the dating inaccuracies. (Of course this varies greatly from church … Read more…

2016 Family Gift Guide

(This post contains affiliate links.) As usual, we are going the frugal route for Christmas. I make the majority of my Christmas gifts and will be posting on some of my favorite DIY ideas soon. However, with so many family members asking for ideas, I thought I would share some Christmas present recommendations with you for different ages. Though keep in mind, most of these are products that we (Mitch, myself, and my 19-month-old daughter) love. Enjoy our 2016 family gift guide! 1. The Jesus Storybook Bible: Every Story Whispers His Name I’ve recommended this before, but I will keep on … Read more…

It only takes a spark

A mere spark ignites a great fire. Forest fires ignite from dying campfire ash. Small actions, thoughts, and words hold the power to foster healing, inflict pain, summon joy, and much more. Often a person’s faith and character are not tested by the greatest trials in life, rather the small daily battles. For better or worse–Life happens in the details. Thanksgiving began as a three day festival where the Pilgrims celebrated their autumn harvest, alliance with the Wampanoag, and–after a brutal winter–their survival. This shared celebration later became a national holiday. Our heritage calls us to celebrate, to give thanks, and to remember some … Read more…

When Life Shakes You and Leaves You Broken

“We are made in the image of God. And wasn’t God’s heart made to be broken too? Wounds can be openings to the beauty in us. And our weaknesses can be a container for God’s glory.” – Ann Voskamp from The Broken Way When life begins to crumble around me, or doubts and fears flood my mind, I tend to tense and close up. My hands snap shut to grace. They form determined fists, ready to fight for a way out. Instead of opening myself up to walk through the trial ahead, I dig in. I retreat. I pull the shades … Read more…

Walking The Broken Way to Abundant Life

I think our long wait for autumn may be over. I dug out my sweaters from storage and started wearing them. Many trees are in garbs of orange, red, and yellow. Still, others are completely green. Rebekah and I keep examining our young Silver Maple in the front yard. It is holding out as long as it can before it turns red. This past week we’ve spotted a handful of leaves just beginning to turn. The red seems to travel up the stem then slowly encroach from the edges of the leaf. Catching a leaf in transition is one of my favorite things … Read more…

Serving Together

Giving back and loving others doesn’t have to be complicated. Though sometimes with words like philanthropy and charity it can sound complicated and reserved for those with wealth. Philanthropy may be a big word for your children to get their heads around, but the actions of compassion, empathy, and loving others can be taught and modeled. Children learn by example. So it’s a good idea to show generosity and humanity throughout all you do in and outside of your home. Serving together with your kids can leave a powerful impression on them. The life lesson of giving back is an … Read more…

St. Louis Travels

I have not pressed my fingers into my keyboard hardly at all the past couple weeks. The desire has been there, but along with many other things, it fell by the wayside with my lack of motivation as I battled through some sickness. Some days my only goal was survival and keeping food down. Other days were better, but they were busy because due to my sick, get-little-done days I had gobs of laundry, cleaning, grocery shopping, etc. to do. Though Mitch has been pitching in a ton and frankly keeping us going and fed some days, despite being quite … Read more…

A Missouri Heat Wave

I kept spotting glimpses of fall in the turning of leaves and feeling it in the cool mornings and evenings. But this week pounded us with the resurgence of an Indian Summer heat wave. I even considered getting back out the wading pool. It feels odd to be crocheting on leg warmers and a winter hat when our heat index is pushing 100. But I found such easy and lovely patterns for leg warmers that I could resist. I made the simple ones for Rebekah to match her hat. But I think I am going to experiment with this pattern and some sparkly … Read more…

Save Money on Household Bills

Paying bills is a part of adulthood. I still remember setting things up with the electric company and Verizon before Mitch and I married. It really was a “you are an adult now” reminder. Whether it is our grocery budget, electricity, or the internet, we learned quickly the value of shopping around and cutting costs. Here are some tips to help keep your family’s expenditures under control. Take a long, hard look at your spending and budget Get real here. How much are you actually eating out? Did you sign up for the free month of Audible and forget to cancel the subscription? If you don’t … Read more…

A Coloring Experience and Giveaway

We weren’t sure what the teens would think. At least the guys. Teen girls almost always love coloring, but boys tend to be “too cool” for such fun. But our teen guys took to it as readily as the girls. Maybe it was the cool designs that didn’t feel innately girly, like so many generic coloring books. The teens chatted as they chose their medium (colored pencils, crayons, or markers) and decided on a color scheme. Even parents and volunteers joined right in on the fun. The only complaint we received was that we did not give them enough time to finish. … Read more…

Nebraska Adventures

Rebekah and I spent a lot of our time in Nebraska visiting friends and family. However, we had a unique chance to do some of my favorite “Nebraska” things and even mark something off my bucket list. It was a last minute trip, but we packed in a lot to those six days. Several downtown Grand Island businesses hosted a free concert series. As a teen I loved going to local concerts. It just so happened one of my favorite musicians from my teen years, Connor Oberst (Most known for his work with Bright Eyes.) was set to perform while we were in town. Dad … Read more…

Yarn Along: Winter Hat Ready

I tend to be a tight hooker (good ‘ole crochet joke). But this hat I made for a baby fits my 16-month-old daughter just fine. I decided she could keep it as a warm winter hat. She loves wearing it, even in the summer. I have several projects stewing in my mind, including cute leg warmers for little girls and Rebekah’s fall outfit. I would love to knit her outfit, but I doubt I can pick up knitting that quickly. Meanwhile, I am reading through the moving novel Gilead (affiliate link) by Marilynne Robinson. Rooted in Christian spirituality, it was praised with high acclaim, even winning the … Read more…

Going Home–An Anchor Set in Shifting Sands

Going home simultaneously feels familiar and foreign. Traveling back to my roots and my hometown in Nebraska reminds me that few things stay the same. And yet, some things never change. Though many of the changes in my hometown are positive and full of hope–I still find a part of me mourns the change. I think I want to preserve something in this life that feels ever familiar. Nostalgia I guess. In theory, isn’t that why so many people romanticize going home? They dream about their mom’s cooking or drive by the old house they lived in for 30 years. But instead they … Read more…

A Prayer for Students, Parents, and Teachers

Sunsets, camps, sticky games, water balloons, devotionals, campfires, cards, classes, and sleepovers filled our summer days with our amazing teenagers. My husband is a youth minister–so summers for us are a festive and crazy time of year full of travel, camps, and special memories. We know it is for you as well. Fitting in all the summer appointments, camps, and even vacations makes June and July fly by! Though the weather is still warm, summer is drawing us into its final act. School is starting this month all across the country. This week we are joining their parents–and parents across the country … Read more…

Faith in Action and Hearts of Compassion: The My Life Clinic

On our back patio sits a spindly Marigold. It grew from a single seed. After we moved, I transplanted the tender plant three times. This summer blasted it with heat, wind, and more rain than soil can absorb. Still, it grew and bloomed. As a blossom fades, it drops its seed into the surrounding soil, increasing its beauty all the more. Recently, I met Shirley, a woman living a beautiful life sprung from the seed of God’s love. She took her battered heart, fears, inadequacies, and set them at the feet of Jesus. As a result, our Ever-faithful God held … Read more…

Jesus’ Vulnerable Life of Love

I’ve thought a lot about vulnerability over the past year or so. The concept challenges me, excites me, and terrifies me. I know that the moments I am the most vulnerable yield the deepest connections and the most rewarding experiences. Still it is a process that lays me bare. It’s like one of those dreams where you are delivering a speech and realize you are completely naked. And I am the first to withdraw, close up shop, and slip back into my “everything is great” mask. And to be fair, oftentimes everything is great. Or fine. I’m not always lying when I say that. Just … Read more…

Motivation

This week I sent off Benjamin’s blanket with a prayer and good wishes. Lately, I’ve had endless motivation to crochet. Mostly because in the evenings I avoided dealing with our taxes. I spent months attempting to resolve the issues with our 1095-A before we could send everything off. (Last night we finally put on our “adult pants” and tackled them. More on that later.) This week I bordered a light-weight receiving blanket for sweet Annabelle, our friends’ new daughter. She is all that is a sweet little newborn. We can’t wait to celebrate her birth at their shower this weekend. If time allows I will crochet … Read more…

I am NOT a parenting expert.

Mistake #1: Impulse buying an Oreo milkshake during Happy Hour from Steak N’ Shake. (It was hot outside and sounded good. I promise we are mostly healthy eaters . . . ) Mistake #2: Buying this milkshake right before grocery shopping at Walmart with my 15-month-old in tow. Bad idea all around . . .  Mistake #3: Letting my screaming 15-month-old have a sip. This sip then turned into several long–DON’T YOU TAKE THIS AWAY FROM ME MOM BECAUSE I WILL SCREAM BLOODY MURDER–sips. Who knew she would like an Oreo milkshake so much! 😉 Mistake #4: Giving in and letting her suck down … Read more…

For Benjamin

I keep thinking about starting new fall sweater for Rebekah. Yet, all the sweet new babies entering the world and the pregnant mamas that are due in the next couple months are foremost in my thoughts and prayers right now. As a result, I am crocheting around fleece and cotton blankets, and trying my hand at newborn clothing. As I mentioned last week, my dear friend from church embroidered Benjamin’s name for me on his blanket. I kept his blanket simple and cute, crocheting two coordinating receiving blankets together. This is one of my favorite styles of blanket to make because it is … Read more…

Inviting Imagination: Storytelling and Illustrations

Children are natural storytellers. They love to spin tales birthed in the purity of their imaginations not yet as tainted by harsh realities. Stories also draw children into new worlds. Storytelling draws adults in as well. Why else would we bing watch shows on Netflix like The Office or Doctor Who? We connect and relate to stories on a deep level. We compose them to preserve history and memories. Even throughout scripture, God uses stories to teach and preserve. Jesus’ utilizes parables to impart the wisdom and truths of heaven. Maybe God wrote storytelling into our DNA. As a result, some children are … Read more…

Beauty in the Details

This past week has been full of outdoor adventures: Running barefoot through the grass or squealing as we dart through the sprinkler. I lather Rebekah and I with sunscreen every day. We both have very fair skin. And if she is anything like me, the sun will blister her skin long before she ever tans. This Badger Balm Kids Face Stick SPF 35 – Tangerine and Vanilla works great and smells amazing. Though it is a bit hard to rub in. I worried about finding summer sunscreen that would not irritate Rebekah’s sensitive skin. Fortunately, this face stick hasn’t caused a single … Read more…

When Community Feels Like a Challenge

I once knew a highly religious lady. She wore her “Jesus Saves” button everywhere she went, her long white hair piled on top of her head, and her mouth always over pouring with the good news of Jesus. I came to know her somewhat well over the course of a couple years. You see, my mom can’t resist making friends. Even with the people most others avoid. And, to my 12-year-old dismay, this woman, Twila, always cornered my mom in the grocery store for hours.  Already hating the long trips to the grocery store, my heart would sink when Twila rounded the corner of … Read more…

When the World is Dark

Some days I wonder if the world has gone crazy: the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, running for Senate, mass shootings beginning to feel like weekly events in America, ISIS spreading violent, vehement hate, racial tensions and fears regarding the law and order system, and politicians spewing lies, slander, and no one bothering to care whether the information is true or fabricated. Hatred is far from a new phenomenon. And though violence and angst may seem to be on the rise, I believe there is an opportunity that lies at the center of all of this darkness: “You are … Read more…

Light Yellow and the Nature of Gentleness

There is something so clean, refreshing, and sunny about the color yellow–especially a nice light yellow. And now I can officially knock off having a pale yellow kitchen from my bucket list–Yay! I find myself drawn to this color over and over again. A couple weeks ago our dear friends had a sweet baby girl. I made a darling little yellow dress, headband, and diaper cover for their sweet Annabelle. Isn’t that a sweet name, deserving of a sweet color? It was so good to see them and their sweet daughter. So many emotions washed over me as I realized that … Read more…

A Summer Birthday

Being born in July can be rough. I do have several “classic” birthday memories from my childhood, but often my birthday was overshadowed by the fourth of July, church camp, or a big transition–like moving across the country. But I’m not complaining. I don’t care to make a hoopla out of my birthday. I prefer to keep it simple. However, the past couple years it has fallen at very busy and stressful times. And though we are still quite busy with camps and a recent move, we were actually able to do a bit of celebrating this year. And I’m glad we … Read more…

Yarn Along: Sweet Babies

It occurred to me today how far behind I am on making baby gifts. I’ve had three friends and a cousin-in-law have babies this past week alone. And that’s not counting my friends that are due very soon! I need to pull out and set up my sewing machine and spend a couple evenings sewing. After baby girl goes to sleep of course. Pins, scissors, and babies do not mix well! Hopefully I can finish this Angel Wings Pinafore for a friend who just had a baby girl. It has been an easy pattern to follow, and I don’t think it … Read more…

Blue Box Gifts

Do remember that moment when you came home from the hospital with your new baby? Or that day a couple weeks later when all the family left? Or that one 2AM feeding with tears streaming down your face from exhaustion because you couldn’t figure out what was wrong: I thought I was supposed to have a mom-instinct for these things?! Wait, I am a mom?! And I have no idea what I am doing . . . Babies should come with instructions . . . I remember those moments well. Becoming a mom requires a lot of trust and prayer, … Read more…

Freebie for the Fourth: Weather Unit for Kids

Keep your kids learning and having fun inside and outside this summer, and all year, with this free weather unit. It is adjustable for age, with several different activities. I am slowly beginning to create educational units to use with our children as they grow, so this is the first of many. I can’t wait to share it with you, wonderful readers! I don’t know about your neck of the woods, but here it has been rainy and stormy. So I thought, what better place to start off then a weather unit! I’ve created this weather unit complete with weather … Read more…

What is Enough?

Contentment is made elusive by comparison. Our culture tells us that enough is never enough. We always need just a little more money, time, talent, success. We sit in our air-conditioned homes, richer than most people on our planet, and we feel empty and emotionally bankrupt. No amount of money in our bank account brings the love we desire, the excitement of each new success or conquest wears off, and we try desperately to jam everything we can into the limited time we are allotted each day. We rush forward, failing to just be. And when we look around at our kids we … Read more…

Unexpected Grief

Like a flash flood in the desert or the sudden, raging storm across the prairie, unexpected grief can wash away those we love, leaving devastation in its wake. Quick as a flash of lightning, it can cut into our souls and singe our hearts.  This past month, my heart has swelled like a lake against a dam that threatens to give way. I’ve bore witness as acquaintances, friends, and family members encountered deep loss and grief that they never could have foreseen: the loss of a mother, the sudden loss of two uncles, innocence destroyed, a close-call with death that still … Read more…

After a Long {Unintended} Break and 15 Things I Love About Our New Home

Well, if I ever proved my greenness with blogging, it was with my complete failure to have posts scheduled ahead through our move to our new home. I actually think I did a better job scheduling posts when we moved across the country with a 3-month-old last year! But in my defense, I did not anticipate not having internet at the house for a week . . . (excuses, excuses). Apparently, our new location is a bit hard to service for cell phone reception and internet. I feel like we went off-the-grid–ha! We are now within city limits, which we were not … Read more…

Teaching Your Kids About Quiet Time

This is a topic I want to talk more in depth about over the coming weeks; however, I am on a major time crunch today. First of all, this affiliate resource I am sharing is only available (in this amazing bundle) until the end of TODAY! Yikes! Also, we are in the middle of our move–so this may be one of the quickest posts I ever do. (You’re probably like–“Yay short!”) But I knew I had to share it with you. Putting affordable and quality parenting resources into your hands, especially ones that help build your kids’ faith, is one of … Read more…

Excitement All Around

I think this week can be summed up in one word: Exciting. The right house, for the right price opened up for us a couple months ago, and this week we closed on it. It is our first time buying a home, and it is a landmark moment for our family. Owning a home means we get to live somewhere longer than a year and a half. We have moved five times in five years. We are laying down roots. Maybe it won’t be a forever home, but we are anticipating all the memories that will resound within its walls: … Read more…

Tips for Mastering the Family Road Trip

With summer now upon us, I am excited to share a guest post by Marie Nieves about ways to have an enjoyable family road trip! As you set off this summer for your own road trips, family time, and adventure, my prayer is that you may be blessed with safety and lifelong memories. – Nathana Most youngsters are prone to showing defiance when removed from their common environment (their room, the company of their peers, etc.). Road trips can be troublesome due to the long ride in the car. As the pumped air circulates through the car with the smell of stale Cheetos, … Read more…

Faith in the Home Forum: Motherhood

Thank you for those who joined in the Faith in the Home Forum conversation last week! I really appreciate your input. I cannot wait to talk about motherhood and how we can overcome the societal pressures that draw us away from what is really important. Here are a couple responses from Andrea and Jessica last week about intergenerational mentorship, dealing with doubts, and keeping your faith vibrant: “We have been very intentional about making sure our kiddos have several people in the church to connect with in part by having high school kids and college kids babysit but also by … Read more…

Thomas Locker Wins My Heart Again

Sometimes there are books that appeal to the teacher in me, or the mom in me, or the historian, or poet . . . But rarely do I find a book that wins the whole of my heart. Thomas Locker has a way of stunning me on all fronts. Every page in a Thomas Locker book is a work of art. His landscapes are worthy of being framed–and many are in prestigious museums. I am slowly buying all of his books for our personal collection. Home: A Journey through America (amazon affiliate link) celebrates the beauty of the different places across America … Read more…

Faith in the Home Forum and a Giveaway

Welcome to the first official discussion for the Faith in the Home Forum! I am excited you could join in the discussion today about creating a “Sticky Faith: Everyday Ideas to Build Lasting Faith in Your Kids”  (affiliate link) through intergenerational mentorship, navigating doubts, and modeling genuine faith. Now, I did share some resources/homework for those who were interested, but it is not required to join in the discussion. I would love to hear your input as a parent, young adult, or from the perspective of whatever season of life you currently reside in. In Kara Powell’s research she found that intentional intergenerational relationships, … Read more…

Join us for “How to Save Your Marriage From Your Kids”

The foundation of a healthy family has got to be Christ. But, I think once we start having kids, it can be easy to forget how important it is to continue to cultivate and care for  a strong marriage. Too often, with the demands of kids, work, and everyday life, our spouse fails to be a priority. Mitch and I swore this would never happen to us. We were so dedicated to the idea of marriage maintenance. But when you are busy with kids, it is so easy to fail to connect with your spouse. And the busyness and demands of parenthood can almost … Read more…

Spring Adventures

  This spring has been full of adventure for us. From picnics in our backyard, first birthday parties, visiting family, exploring Branson, going with our families and teens to the Leadership Training for Christ, and buying our first house! Sometimes it is tempting to get overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle and pressing deadlines, but spring always makes me want to slow down and soak in life. The unfurling of every new green leaf and emerging flower bud seems to proclaim “Take time to notice me and give praise!”  And so, today I strive to give praise for the blessings … Read more…

Faith in the Home Forum

Alright wonderful readers and friends! I have a proposition for you . . .  The Faith in the Home Forum.  Above all else, I believe our calling as parents is to introduce our children to their creator. To nurture and model what authentic faith looks like in daily life. But how do we do this? I want to start a discussion here at The Engaged Home about nurturing faith in the home. Mitch and I love to share what we are doing in our own family, and we have experience working with teens and their families. But we know that you also … Read more…

Gathering Around Inspirations: Losing Yourself in a Good Book

This past week has not been my most productive. At least not in the practical sense of productivity. I have always loved reading, so much so that I have to be careful it does not consume all my free time. I could lose myself in a good book for hours. And this past week I have become totally sucked into good books. It started with Because of Winn-Dixie (affiliate link). I’ve read this book several times, but I decided to start reading it to Rebekah while nursing her. It is a quick read and hard to put down, even on your fifth time reading … Read more…

Is Imitation the Greatest Form of Flattery?

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.  I’ve been thinking about this quote a lot lately. Rebekah wants to do everything I do. She will sling her mini purse over her shoulder and walk around perusing her toys. She’ll pick up her baby doll and feed her with a toy bottle. She will sit and look at books, slowly flipping through them, studying the pictures and words she does not yet know. She will imitate sounds that I make, tongue clicks, and blowing air. When we are playing, she will mimic silly faces back at me. A few weeks ago she … Read more…