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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Get Back on Track This Spring with These Organizational Resources

I used to consider myself an organized person. But since I became a mama, my free time to reorganize all of our closets greatly diminished. Now, as we are preparing to spring clean, buy our first house, and host a garage sale, I am realizing how full our closets have become! I also was not prepared for how much stuff we would acquire after Rebekah was born: baby clothes, baby toys, baby paraphernalia . . . Her stuff is slowly encroaching on all of our living spaces: toys and books in the living room, toys in the kitchen, diapers and wipes … Read more…

Six Tips for Caring for a Baby with Sensitive Skin

Out of nowhere, our one-year-old daughter, Rebekah, decided baths were synonymous with torture. Every time we started a bath–she’d start a tantrum. She kept trying to stand up and crawl out of the tub. So not safe! To complicate the bath situation further, she has also been battling mild eczema for the past three months. We just ended the bath standoff this week–hurray! We have successfully had two baths where she didn’t scream or try to escape this week. I think I even saw her smile . . . Switching her bath time to morning or midday when she isn’t tired, like … Read more…

Yarn Along: Thinking of Others This Week

This week I am trying to finish up a couple gifts to mail off to encourage some special people in my life. The first is a hanging towel (I will make a matching dish cloth too) for a blogging friend who got married last year. It will only be a year late, so let’s call it a one-year-anniversary present . . . 😉 When I saw this kitchen towel, I knew it would look great in her kitchen, and it reminded me of them. My aunt has recently undergone some serious surgeries for a bad break in her leg and … Read more…

The First Time I Changed a Baby’s Diaper

Many kids grow up babysitting or taking care of younger siblings. I did not. Well, I did babysit, but mostly later in college. I somehow managed to make it all the way until college without ever having to change a baby’s diaper. So when my friend and I enlisted to sub for another friend in the one-year-old Bible class, I thought how hard can changing a diaper be? To be fair, it is not that hard. Ahem. As long as the child is not actively using all their strength to squirm away from you . . . Rebekah! (We’ve improved a lot … Read more…

Do your friends speak truth into your life?

Sometimes it is hard to find a friend (and to be a friend) who speaks truth. Not that there are tons of people out there just lying left and right to their friends. No, I don’t think most people are liars. 😉 But I do think people are guarded. And I get it. I do. We can’t “go deep” with everyone. It would wear us out. Plus, having some fun, surface-level relationships can be refreshing! However, I do believe we all need at least one person in our lives to speak perspective and truth. Maybe that person is a friend, maybe that person … Read more…

What are you afraid of?

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my relationship with God. And I think that there are two fears that most people, myself included, struggle with overcoming. If we believe that the Holy Spirit is powerful and active, as outlined in the Bible, we are either afraid that 1) If we ask God for something, He won’t show up, or 2) That God will show up and ask us to do something we don’t want to do.  I grew up in a rather conservative church, especially when it came to the Holy Spirit. I did find faith there that I made my … Read more…

My Blogging Mistake and “The Truth About #MomFail Culture” Free Video Series

Have you ever had one of those days where you know you have reached your limit, but you are determined to press on anyways? Well, I hit that wall on Saturday.  Last Saturday was Rebekah’s birthday. My parents were in town, we were throwing her a birthday party at the park. I was determined to blog about her birth story on her birthday. If I had been more on top of things, I would have prepped the post earlier in the week. But alas dear friends, I did not.  As a result, I was sitting in bed typing away after a fun, but loooong Saturday (Mitch … Read more…

One Year Ago Today . . .

One year ago today, sweet Rebekah, you were born.   Your dad and I paced the house, walked the block, and walked the mall waiting for your arrival. 10 days you made us wait. I guess due dates are more of suggestions anyways . . . 😉 During those days we nested, rested, and dreamed of meeting you. We had to go in for a 7-days-over-due ultrasound to make sure you were okay. And you were great–but we barely glimpsed your face because you were so cramped in there. But a two-second glimpse revealed your expression and filled my dreams … Read more…

Plan to Be Surprised

I am a planner. I like to know what is going to happen. I tend to set unobtainable expectations. Unlike my spontaneous, easy-going husband, a change in plans can really derail my day. The past several months I have been reflecting on what it means to give thanks in every circumstance, even when plans change. A couple months ago I read One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are (affiliate link), which opened up my mind and heart to how often God tells us to give thanks. Jesus was always giving thanks, regardless of the circumstances. Even when … Read more…

Gather Around Inspirations: A Special Gift of Love

I grew up knowing most of my extended family on my mom’s side. And I am talking extended family . . . like 4th and 5th cousins extended. Growing up we always went to family reunions and annually gathered at my great-aunt Margie’s for Memorial Day lunch after placing flowers on the graves of extended family in Arnold, Nebraska. My husband has always marveled at the interconnectedness of my family. Even in Phoenix, we had the blessing of getting to know my mom’s cousin (so my second cousin) Doris really well. In fact, on most family vacations we would visit some cousin … Read more…

A Family Tradition–Watching the Sandhill Cranes

Rebekah’s fever finally started to break and stay low enough to get out a bit. And by “get out” I mean drive around. After all, we didn’t want to overwhelm her. We had been wanting to drive around to the cornfields and river to look for sandhill cranes, so we packed up and set out. Most of the cranes have already continued on with their migration, but we still saw quite a few rummaging in the cornfields. Going out every spring to see the cranes is a favorite family tradition of mine. Some years, like today, we just casually drive the … Read more…

Gather Around Inspirations: Unpacking My Childhood

I don’t have much to share by way of Yarn Along Wednesday, except a dream I have to crochet Rebekah a light yellow dress for this summer. I crocheted a darling little yellow flower for a hair clip to match her Easter dress, but I failed to get a fantastic picture of it. Now that she is walking, she is a busy body. I don’t walk away with many pictures that are not blurry. And our Easter family picture was a bit mopey. Rebekah was on the brink of sleep when we took it. As always, remember to check out more … Read more…

A Breath of Fresh Air: Dealing with Anxiety

I understand that for many people, anxiety is a severe disorder that requires medication to function. I am not arguing with that reality. However, I do believe that we all struggle with and internalize anxiety in our day-to-day lives. You may not even realize that you are dealing with it because our culture is addicted to self-medication–and I’m not talking about prescription drugs.  We all seek out things to numb our pain, help us cope, or provide an escape. This could be food, books (depending on the type of book this isn’t necessarily a bad thing), TV, pornography, drama, social … Read more…

Crocheted Boot Cuffs and the Downside to Spring

As much as I love spring, I am sadly coming to terms with the fact that it probably won’t snow again. New growth is happening everywhere, the birds are singing, and the spiders are becoming active again. In case you don’t know, I am very afraid of spiders. So much so I think I drive Mitch slightly crazy some days. One thing we didn’t consider when frantically trying to find a place to rent last June was that this place is old, the carpet is brown, sealing around doors rotted, the windows ancient, and there are cracks and crevices all … Read more…

Gather Around Inspirations: Poetry

In case you missed what Gather Around Inspirations is all about, let me fill you in. It is about introducing quality literature (but also art and music) into your home. Looking for a good book to read as a family? I’ve got you covered! Through Gather Around Inspirations, I am sharing some of my favorite (past and present) read-aloud books. I believe we cannot effectively pass on a love of reading to our children by nagging them to read more. Instead, we need to be willing to come alongside them and share the joy of reading with them, together. Which leads me … Read more…

Gather Around Inspirations: Tap the Magic Tree

I love to wander the aisles of children’s books at the library. I always come home with way too many picture books. And I have the unfortunate habit of picking out books that I think look awesome, rather than thinking of what Rebekah would like. Right now, we are mostly reading aloud from Heidi while nursing, or enjoying board books together (which I often don’t like to get from the library because every baby chews on them). She loves turning the pages of board books and will sit while we read several. She does has a few picture books she … Read more…

Surrender and the Joy of Spring

Over the past three weeks we have been enjoying spring-like weather. Everything is budding or blooming. Everywhere I look, new life is pushing its way out of the earth. This warm weather has resulted in several family walks. Rebekah has taken to wanting to either hold tight to one of our hands or on to Hazel’s leash–which she is quite good at! Columbia has so many parks and trails that we are still exploring and finding new locations to walk. Over the past two weeks we have either visited or been visited by both of our families. This new year truly … Read more…

Hello and Goodbye, All in One Day

This past week we rejoiced with our family and friends who welcomed sweet baby Blake and Eleanor into their arms. Our friends, Andrew and Sonia, gave birth a sweet baby girl Eleanor. I couldn’t resist making her a couple headbands. Here is the first: I am working on crocheting flowers for another headband (possibly interchangeable flowers) and a flower or two to make into barrettes for her older sister, because older sisters should not be forgotten! Be sure and check out other Yarn Along posts here. Last Friday we made the trek down to Springfield for a quick day trip. … Read more…

Gather Around Inspirations: Heidi

As a young girl I dreamt of a loft bed of hay with a little window over looking the mountains and fresh goat’s milk for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I always remembered how Heidi  is described in the book and the vivid descriptions of the mountains and her loft bed. My mom had this old, large, edited version of Heidi. I can still see the blue cover with a picture of a small girl in her thin, white smock. I don’t know where that book ended up, but I hope I can find it again. As a pre-teen at a scholastic book … Read more…

The Battle for My Epic Door Collage and How My Parents Encouraged My Self-Expression

The Battle In middle school I started a door collage. A door collage, you wonder . . . . Yes, it was my pre-teen, then teen form of self-expression. I am not sure what motivated me to start. Maybe it was my obsession with Allen Iverson from the 76ers . . . I don’t really follow many sports, but I saw an article about him in my dad’s Sports Illustrated magazine and it spurred a short-lived interest in him and professional basketball. Embarrassingly, his pictures were the first to be taped to my door. (To be fair, I do really enjoy basketball, … Read more…

Hospitality When You Have Young Children

I used to wonder how parents could manage to be hospitable when they were wrangling small kids, constantly picking up toys, wiping noses and bottoms, and trying to maintain children’s sleeping schedules. Fortunately, I have been inspired by many young moms through the years. Currently at church there are several moms who consistently open up their homes for playdates, small groups, bonfires, or other get togethers, despite having young kids. I love that young moms still stretch themselves to be welcoming and hospitable, even if their homes are not perfect or the sliding glass doors have finger prints. Hey, life happens. And … Read more…

If Only Life Came with a Pattern . . . Oh Wait, It Does!

In Psalm 142:3 David proclaims, “When I am overwhelmed, you alone know the way I should turn.” Reading this made me feel both grateful and disappointed. I am thankful that God will breathe strength into our weary hearts and guide us when we are overwhelmed. Still, some days I want a pattern in life to follow that will reveal the finished product. What will the tapestry of my life be? Like the picture on the front of the puzzle box, I want to know how it all fits together. But, oh, how forgetful I can be! God gave us the ultimate pattern to … Read more…

Gather Around Inspirations

Gather Around Inspirations will be my new Tuesday feature, focusing on books, art, and music worth gathering around. Call me old-fashioned, but I love the imagery of families gathered in front of the hearth, sewing or relaxing while someone reads aloud or plays the violin. Often they read from the Bible or classics like Tennyson. It is idyllic, I know. It may not have involved a fireplace, but some of my favorite childhood memories revolve around books. Whether that meant reading through Laura Ingalls Wilder books with my mom, The Chronicles of Narnia with my dad, admiring pictures in picture books, scoping out … Read more…

Yarn Along: Finding Beauty and Finishing My Winter Projects

The other day I found myself thinking how all life is poetry if we look close and listen. Even the hard moments. The flecks of color in my cracker, a baby’s cries, dust on the window sill, and the dripping of snow off the house. I am trying to slow down and observe life, especially in the hard moments. There is beauty everywhere, even among pain and tears. Still, it is hard to slow down and see. Though my eyes may be open, my heart is often blind. And some days just don’t get off to a beautiful start. Not because beauty … Read more…

Stay-at-Home Mom Seeking a Friend . . .

Have you ever felt like posting a wanted ad for a friend? For me, the realization hit when we graduated college and moved across the country: it is a lot harder to make friends as a young adult (post-college). At least it felt that way to me. During college, I was surrounded by friends, ranging from close, intimate friendships, to friendly acquaintances. Whether studying, grabbing coffee, watching movies, talking, praying, or eating wings at Applebees, there were always available friends. And, I am happy to say that I have stayed in contact with many of those friends–thank you technology! However, we are separated … Read more…

The Cure to Loneliness

Yesterday, I watched the snow fall. The feathery, fluffy flakes started slow and lazy, but they soon gained momentum as they came in contact with each other and began to clump. Soon, everything was covered in a fresh, white layer of snow. When we allow ourselves to accept God’s love and grace, it blankets our hearts in such a way that God doesn’t see our sin. He sees His child. He sees the blood that Jesus shed to bring us back to him. His love working in our hearts begins to shape every interaction we have. Not all of these … Read more…

Valentine’s Day: A Family Affair

Valentine’s Day. Do you love it or hate it or celebrate it at all? I know people who are all over the spectrum on their feelings about this famous holiday. Mitch and I always treat it as an excuse to go on a slightly nicer date than usual. Sometimes we will budget to buy ourselves gifts while we are out. One year, while we lived in Phoenix, we trekked up to the Grand Canyon, snow and all. It was Mitch’s first time. We remember just standing at the edge and staring at the vastness in silence. Later, on that road … Read more…

Yarn Along: So Many Babies!

What am I crocheting? I have a couple baby items I am sewing and crocheting for our nephew Blake. He is due this next month. We cannot wait to meet the little fella! I will share all my projects when they are done, but for now I am working on crocheting a sweet little vest. I am making it 9-12 months in hopes that it will fit next fall and winter. So far the pattern is easy and adorable. But I am about to start the arm holes, which tend to be tricky. When I made Rebekah’s fall sweater I … Read more…

What I’ve Observed on Raising Healthy Children

As a new parent, I sometimes find myself stressing out about whether or not I am giving Rebekah the best start in life possible. Crazy thoughts sometimes bombard me: Oh no! We haven’t started a college fund yet . . . Can I feed her non-organic food?! (Just typing some of my thoughts out loud make me realize how nutty they are!) One of my favorite things to do is to observe others. I know that makes me sound like a creeper . . . but I promise I am not! I like to observe couples and families who are raising healthy children … Read more…

The Sickness, Quarantine, and the Delicious Soup I Developed in the Meantime

The Sickness Ugh. Hand, foot, and mouth (HFM) can be a nasty bug to fight off! We thought Rebekah’s strain of it resembled chicken pox more than HFM. Rebekah’s primary doctor is older than he looks and had seen more than the typical pediatrician. Due to this, he had seen chicken pox firsthand (many new doctors have not) and many, many strains of HFM. Even though he was confident it was HFM, he sent pictures of her sores to Dermatology to double check. Right before Rebekah got sick, I wrote about treasuring the moments. Well, few things make you treasure your child’s smiles, … Read more…

Our White Christmas

Christmas took us from Columbia, up to Nebraska, back to Columbia, and then down to Springfield. I fought off a cold the first leg of the trip, but all things considered, it was a lovely Christmas. Rebekah did quite well around our large families, at least until she reached nap time. Then it was nuzzle-into-mama-and-don’t-let-go time. She even slept pretty well, thanks to a rocker that some friends lent us. (Sadly, we are now on the rocker’s goodbye tour because Rebekah barely fits in it length-wise, and the tiny straps barely reach around her tummy.) It snowed on Christmas Eve. … Read more…

Crossing Kansas

Watching the terrain change before our eyes as we travel across Kansas toward Colorado makes me marvel at how diverse we are as a nation. As I write this post, the mountains of Colorado are rising in front of us, straight out of the plains that draw our eyes miles in every direction. We made our way through a patch of winter fog earlier this morning while crossing Kansas outside Salina. Frozen cow ponds and knotted, gnarly trees draped in the heavy mist, looked as if they belonged in a gothic novel by Emily Bronte. Mitch let me pull off at … Read more…

Motivational Books for the New Year

I’ve lost my rhythm with reading. I still love it. But sometimes it feels like such a luxury that it gets pushed off into a dusty corner of my mind and life. TV at least allows me to multitask: crochet, fold laundry, etc. I’ve been reflecting on changes I would like to make in 2016. I decided that reading needs to become a bigger part of life. Reading is more than recreation. And I need it to be more than an auxiliary activity in my life. Reading encourages my imagination, sparks ideas, motivates action, helps me relate to others, relaxes me, stretches … Read more…

Our Top Five Favorite Posts of 2015

It is always interesting to look back over the year when on the cusp of a new one. 2015 held more change for us than we could have predicted. Looking back over my posts from 2015, the word transition kept popping up. This was a year of transition. But it was beautiful and wonderful. Due to all the changes, it went by fast. Now, I am trying (hopelessly) to remind myself that tomorrow is January 1st, 2016. As we close out the year, here are our five favorite posts from 2015: Joy Redefined: My Heart Now Resides Outside Itself: The moment Rebekah … Read more…

Small Things

faithfulness

This Christmas season has left me a bit worn out. I’ve been battling my first cold in a long time. The day we drove up to see my parents last week, I found myself shivering and utterly void of energy. Not a great way to start out our Christmas travels. Fortunately, the worst of the cold passed within 24 hours. Now, I am left with the annoying cough and stuffy nose. But I will take it. Dealing with the initial debilitating fever and sore throat made me so thankful for Mitch picking up a lot of my slack, especially during the … Read more…

Our Christmas Letter

Maybe it is a bit old-school, but I love writing and receiving Christmas letters. And since I didn’t get around to writing one to go with our photo card, I am sharing my Christmas letter here with you. Dear Friends and Family, Our hearts are so full when we think of all our friends and family stretched across the country and even the world. We wish we had time to sit down with each of you over a steaming mug of coffee as we catch up on one another’s lives. But sadly, that is not possible. I think that is … Read more…

My Beautifully Crowded Bed

Mitch and I joke that we keep trying to chase all the little foxes out of our bed (bad Bible joke from Song of Solomon). But they keep burrowing back under our covers. This morning Rebekah woke up at 5:15 AM to nurse. My alarm was set for 6 AM, so I decided to bring her into our bed to nurse and snuggle for a bit before I got up (She was wide awake, on her tummy, and attempting to crawl around her crib when I went into her room. Can we slow things down a bit?). As I was … Read more…

Last Minute Gifts to Buy

Yesterday, I realized that in my gift guide I failed to share a couple of my all-time favorite Christmas gifts to buy for others! And then I realized how quickly Christmas is coming! Breathe Nathana . . .  The problem is not that I procrastinated on shopping. My issue is that I have way too many DIY Pinterest gifts to make . . . Time to prioritize I guess and save the rest for next year!  You can always follow what I pin on my handmade gifts’ board on Pinterest. I am hoping to follow up this post with cheap and … Read more…

Reality Check: Six Things I Don’t Usually Share

Vulnerability is hard. It takes courage. Letting down barriers and letting people see into the dusty corners of our lives means risking rejection. But it’s so desperately needed within our churches, marriages, friendships, and, even blogs.  One of the things that I truly love about following blogs are the posts where those men or women admit their humanity. Yes, they are a food blogger, but this recipe failed miserably. Or the mom blogs where they talk about their personal struggles with yelling or how messy their homes are. It helps me relate to them and realize I am not alone. Being … Read more…

The Final Reveal: Rebekah’s Fall Sweater

As of Thanksgiving week, I finally finished Rebekah’s fall sweater. It was a really fun and easy pattern to follow, minus all the ends to weave in from changing colors. If anyone has a pro-tip about how to manage those, please let me know in the comments! (Rebekah’s fall sweater pattern is pinned on my Yarn Along Pinterest Board, along with many more crocheted sweater patterns.) (Those teeth . . . She has four coming in on top right now. All things considered, she handles it well. But she has her moments. Does she ever. But my heart goes out to her … Read more…

Lengthening Your Baby’s Attention Span

First of all, I am not a medical professional. Also, I am right in the thick of this parenthood thing with you! But I have researched and learned many things from people with vast medical and non-medical experience with babies that I have successfully put into practice with Rebekah. We have seen positive outcomes. So I am excited to share these tips with you. All of that said, I do understand that each child’s development is done at their own pace.   Before I jump in, I do have three more disclaimers: 1) playing with your child is a good thing 2) engaging … Read more…

2015 Gift Guide for Your Family

As I have confessed before, I am that Aunt. The one who buys you books for Christmas. Yep. That’s me. This year, I intentionally pushed myself to try and find more fun gifts.  I thought I would share some gift ideas that have made my list this year or in past years. Enjoy my 2015 gift guide. As much as possible, I try to encourage gifts that will bring your family together! 🙂 ***Disclaimer: These are Amazon affiliate links. There is no obligation or cost to you. But if you buy anything through our Amazon link it blesses our family!*** 1. Devotionals for Children … Read more…

A Thankful Year

I know I am a bit late on my “thankfulness” post for November. Nonetheless, I felt moved to share all that God has done in our lives in just this past short year. We have faced challenges, goodbyes, and hard times, but it has also been a year of life-changing blessings: the birth of Rebekah, Mitch’s new ministry position, a cross-country move, laying down roots in a new job and new state, and a so much more. We put our trust in God when we had no idea what the future contained, and He not only brought us through–he brought … Read more…

An Educational Christmas Countdown

    Many of us treasure holiday memories with our families because of unique family traditions. Mitch and I have formed a couple of our own since we got married (5 years ago!!!). We always make homemade pizza on Christmas Eve (or before we go to celebrate with family). We have certain Christmas movies and music albums that we love to listen to (you can check them out in my Amazon store under products that we love). Seriously, if you have not checked out The Star of Bethlehem, do so this year! We watch it every Christmas. I’ve seen it … Read more…

All Life is Transition

The wind is roaring tonight. The blustery winds are rattling the poorly installed windows of our rental. Nonetheless, we are cozy inside (minus a warm fire because I am pretty sure the fireplace isn’t safe). Flaws of our rental aside, I am thankful to be in a warm home and not out on the streets on a night like this. Something about tonight lends itself to be a night of reflection. On the way home from church, Mitch and I recounted that we have lived four different places within the past five years. Technically, we’ve lived in four different apartment/houses and … Read more…

Avoid Common Engagement Mistakes

I remember vividly the moment I got engaged. I think it’s a moment in your life that you never want to forget. We knew we were going to marry before he proposed, but he still managed to surprise me and make it a wonderful day. He proposed after our college’s annual banquet in the Prayer Chapel on campus. It was a place we both loved. We spent many moments there in prayer about our future. It was perfect, minus being interrupted twice by another college student relocating a dance party. Argh . . . .  (Right after we got engaged.) (Where he proposed.) … Read more…

Yarn Along

Well, I haven’t made much progress since last week on Rebekah’s sweater. I need to pick up the pace! I keep having grand plans of what I am going to finish before Christmas. I think I need a reality check. 😉 However, on the reading front I am making decent progress. The class I attend on Wednesday nights at church just started reading The Lord and His Prayer. I am a little over half way through it, and I feel so challenged to rededicate to my prayer life. In the churches of Christ, we don’t regularly say the Lord’s Prayer, … Read more…

Thankful Thursday–A Linkup

This week I am co-hosting a linkup with my solidarity sister, Charlene, a blogger at From Bisons to Buckeyes. And I am SO excited about it! Every last Thursday of the month she co-hosts a linkup called Thankful Thursday. Tonight, I am thankful for so many things. My mind is flooded with blessings. But as I sit down to write, I have my sweet, sleeping daughter curled up at my side, and our dog Hazel cozied down by us with her head resting on my leg. Poor Hazel has had a hard time adjusting since Rebekah was born. She went … Read more…

The Joyfully Empowered Summit

Do you ever have opportunities come along that surprise you, make you feel honored to be thought of, super excited, and yet incredibly nervous?  Well I just had one of those fantastic opportunities come my way! After discovering The Engaged Home, Kristine Farley contacted me about participating in The Joyfully Empowered Summit that she is hosting November 9th through the 21st. Kristine Farley has such an amazing heart for families with special needs children, and moms in general. It was an honor to be able to take part in her telesummit. And, as a new mom, I am thrilled to … Read more…

Encouraging Your Child to Have a Healthy Self-Image

Now that I am blessed to be the mother of a 5-month-old baby girl, I am realizing how easy it is to slip into the comparison and labeling game. I am excited to unravel her unique personality. Yet, the sneaky sin of comparison sometimes sneaks into my mind. She doesn’t laugh as often as so-and-so, but she has more motor skills than that kid . . . etc.  These thoughts are unfair to her. They make me over-analytical and anxious. Plus, comparison is always a lose-lose situation. Either she comes out ahead in my mind and it feeds my pride (a sin I struggle with), … Read more…

What Defines Your Self-Image?

Shy. Spoiled. Tom Boy. Only Child. These are all adjectives, or more accurately labels, that I remember struggling with as a child. I was quiet. I loved my friends and family, but I was not naturally extroverted. I was simply not your “normal” 5-year-old chatterbox, at least not around those I didn’t know very well. Now get me around friends and family and that was a different story! In addition, I was an only child–though by no choice of my own, mind you. Every day I prayed for a brother or sister, even writing God a letter with the request of a sibling. … Read more…

3 Column Bible Study

If growing up in the churches of Christ taught me one thing, it was how important it is to read and know your Bible. Teachers and preachers impressed on me the importance of context and how we need to look at it through the eyes of the initial readers. When I was a child I loved church. And in middle school I really fell in love with Jesus and decided to get baptized. Reading my Teen Devotional Bible and praying every day came easily. I devoured books like Mere Christianity in high school. Yet, as a busy adult, sometimes reading the Bible and praying … Read more…

4 Ideas for Making Your House a Home

Have you ever walked into a house that felt sterile or staged? Those houses always make me feel uncomfortable because I cannot envision the family actually living there. Since our home is where we spend a lot of our family time, and since we are considering homeschooling in the future, we really want to make sure that our home is a comfortable, cozy, and a positive place for Rebekah. Based on that, here are four ways I’ve learned to make a house a home your family can relax in and enjoy: Personalize it: Your home should be filled with things that you want … Read more…

Flash Sale: 3 Reasons Why You Should Check Out Lilla Rose

The Engaged Home has been quiet lately for a couple reasons. 1) We have been busy and my blogging time has been unorganized–we are working on finding that consistent slot of time to write (if such a thing exists!). 2) We are also working on creating a stronger focus. We have many interests, and we want to make sure what we write about and share is beneficial to you and your family. So, we are taking some time to vision cast. Please be patient, we have some great things in the works for the future!  But in the meantime, I am going to try … Read more…

Embracing Life’s Bittersweet Moments

bittersweet moments: transitions

Bittersweet. The word everyone uses when facing a transition or major life change. We use it to encapsulate our conflicting emotions: excitement about what lays ahead mingled with nostalgia and sadness about what must be left behind. I first experienced a bittersweet transition when I graduated high school. A new adventure stretched out before me; yet, it meant moving away from, and inevitably loosing, close contact with many of my high school friends. Graduating college was also bittersweet. It was that long-awaited transition into adulthood: no more homework, no more classes, etc. However, I mourned the tight-knit college community, familiar sights and sounds of campus, … Read more…

Joy Redefined: My Heart Now Resides Outside Myself

Our midwives were awesome! Grandma Teri. 🙂 Grandpa Jim. 🙂 Grandma Connie. 🙂 First Bath. Not her favorite experience . . . Our midwives decorated our board. 🙂 Last Thursday, our Rebekah joined us after a long, but peaceful labor in our home. I knew life would change forever, but I don’t think I fully grasped how much our hearts would expand. It feels like this rich, deep joy that I have never experienced before. A joy accompanied by a new sense of complete vulnerability. The child I carried safely in my body is now out in the world and my heart along with … Read more…

10 Tips for Grocery Shopping on a Budget, Eating Healthy, and Meal Planning

Do the rising costs of groceries have you nervous about how you can afford to feed your family fresh, healthy food? Does making your grocery budget each month for a growing family become a task you dread? I know we have unfolded our grocery envelope half way through the month and realized we only had $25 left to last us two weeks! Stretching our grocery budget used to be a consistent concern for us. So how did we manage to wrangle in our grocery budget and make it work for us? Let me tell you! What we finally realized we needed to do was … Read more…

Final Nursery Reveal and a Super Simple Crocheted Gift for That Little Girl in Your Life!

nursery revelation

We debated how much to decorate our nursery. We are renters, so we didn’t want to paint and do a complete overhaul. Also, Rebekah will probably spend the first couple months in a bassinet in our bedroom. As I started to work on the nursery, I debated over some cute themes like “baby animals” and “Noah’s Ark.” I kept a few of those elements, but in the end, I decided to go a more “simple elegance” route. What helped me decide was the fact that I loved the curtains we already had in there (I’ve had them since college). They are a … Read more…