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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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 and Yarn Along Wednesday

Today I am blending my Wednesday feature with my Tuesday feature–sorry! However, I think that they fit together very well. I often talk about what I am reading during Yarn Along Wednesday, and what I was going to talk about this week is also one of my favorite “read-together books.”  After discovering what fun it was to crochet boot cuffs, I decided to make some more. This green pair is going to a friend who is having a rough time. It is my prayer that they brighten her day and let her know that she is thought of and loved. If you … 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…

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…

How do I connect with God when I am a busy parent?

Each week I am going to begin taking one to two days to talk about intentionally building faith in the home. This is at the heart of The Engaged Home and at the heart of what I believe is a major purpose of parenting. This is not a new topic to The Engaged Home. However, it is one I want to engage in conversation about more by sharing my insights, my ideas for different ages of kids, my favorite resources, and by opening up the conversation in the comments or through guest posts. I have several things I am excited to share with you, … 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…

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…

Free Printable Valentines, Stationary, and Scripture Cards

Last week I created a devotional for our youth groups girls about identity and who we are in Christ. (You can download the devotional to encourage yourself or use within your own youth group.) This message was on my heart for weeks. We have so many influences trying to shape us, I think it is important to back up and affirm that we are loved by God, God’s child, beautifully created, made for a purpose, holy through Jesus, valued, forgiven, redeemed, called out of darkness, filled with the Holy Spirit, and ENOUGH.  From those truths, good characteristics and fruits will naturally begin to … Read more…

Are You Kind to Yourself? #WholeMama

I think we often associate kindness with our attitude toward others. But I am learning that kindness begins with myself. If I am beating myself up with guilt over my failures or perceived shortcomings, if I am constantly comparing myself to the edited versions of others, I am creating a heart that is critical. Critical of myself and critical of others. This heart opens itself up to bitterness. Though I may don a kind smile or share a kind word, if I am not learning to treat myself with kindness and grace, the contents of my heart may not be … Read more…

Letting Go

Have you ever seen those stubborn winter trees who refuse to drop their leaves? The wind blows, the snow falls, and they endure. Those old brown leaves remain withered on the branches until spring overtakes them. I used to admire these trees. I thought, What determination they have. They are lesson in perseverance. But the other day I realized they are not persevering. They are resisting change, resisting transformation. Fall purposefully strips away leaves in preparation for winter and then the rebirth of spring. But here they are in mid-winter clinging to death. When spring unfolds her fragrant garment of new grass, tulips, and budding … 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…

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…

Are You Ready or Not?

Today we celebrate Jesus’ birth in the flesh. Think about that for a second. He was born: blood, placenta, labor pains, and all surrounded by animals. (Probably not on December 25th, but still . . .) He came to earth fully human, fully God. I think sometimes we almost romanticize his birth in a cozy little stable with fluffy sheep. But Jesus was born without luxury, hospitals, or even a familiar family home. He came to encounter what we encounter: hunger, dusty feet, an aching back, fatigue, and much more. More importantly, he came to touch the untouchable and to … 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…

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…

Helping Your Teen Find Their First Job

Do you remember your first job? I do. I worked as a hostess at Red Lobster. I was so excited that I did not have to resort to working in fast food or detassling! (Unfortunately, I did still end up detassling one summer during college. If you don’t know what that means, consider yourself fortunate!) I owe a lot my success to my parents encouraging and equipping me, and my high school English teacher drilling us on how to write resumes and cover letters. Ugh. To this day, I hate writing resumes and cover letters. But, knowing how to do it well can … Read more…

Do Not Be Deceived

Deception is alive and well. Satan is the master of lies and a deception artist. Truth can be difficult to discern. Intuition can be muddled. Consciences can be dulled. Our world has lost sight of truth. A lack of truth has led to watered-down morality. It has also led to anger, confusion, and darkness. Desperate for truth, many people–like the youth persuaded to join ISIS–buy into extreme, radical lies. Our world is polarized between extreme, hate-fueled philosophies and a post-modern disillusionment.  But, there is nothing new under the sun. Paul addressed self-delusion in Romans. He explained how many people strayed so far … 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…

Join Me on Monday!

Mark your calendars for this Monday! Tomorrow is the kickoff for the Joyfully Empowered Moms Summit. This is a free opportunity to learn from 21 different women about topics such as stress-management, self-care, creative outlets, business development, and more. The heart of the summit is about living each day with joy. Yes, it is geared towards moms of special needs kids; but the host, Kristine, emphasized that the summit is designed with all moms in mind, and it would even be beneficial for dads. So, if you are feeling a bit frazzled (cough, cough, I know the feeling), if you feel like you are barely surviving … Read more…

The Importance of Superheroes for Children and Teens

  I am excited to share Tracey’s post today! The Clay household enjoys Batman. So much so that I made Rebekah a Batman outfit. 🙂  By Tracey Clayton Superheroes track the bad guys relentlessly through the sky and defend the innocent against injustice, all without ever revealing their true face. Whether they are called Superman, Batman or Spider-Man, our kids love them. But why are superheroes so fascinating to the youngsters? How do they help them grow? Why Do Children Need Superheroes? The superhero is an ideal, an aspiration, a goal, and that is an excellent moving force for children as well as … Read more…

DIY Bible Box with Supplies From the Dollar Tree

Rebekah loves Bible class. I started dropping her off when she was only three months old. I honestly didn’t know how she would do, but she adores it! Sweet teachers, Bible songs and rhymes, and objects to grab and play with make it a fun experience for her. (I’m sure she will go through separation anxiety at some point, but for now she loves going to class.) I genuinely believe that babies can learn a lot more than we give them credit for. So, why not start teaching them about the most important thing: The fact that God made them and loves them!  … 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…

Equipping Our Children to Engage a Broken World

equipping our children to navigate life

Some days I wonder about what type of world our children will live in. I think of the challenges we faced growing up and wonder what is in store for them. It doesn’t surprise me that more and more parents are trying to shelter their kids from the world. Yet, I do not think that approach is always beneficial. I believe we need to teach our children to navigate and engage the world around them in a healthy way. Teaching our children truth, so they can filter out lies is essential. How do you teach your children the wisdom they need … Read more…

When Your Child Asks “Why would someone do that?”

The "Why" question

I think one of the most intimidating (but healthy) questions a child can ask is why. Recently, a friend of mine mentioned how her young daughter came home from school, where they had talked about 9/11, and asked “Why would someone do that?” Why? I think we could jump into a discussion about how the terrorists believed false ideas of glory, how America was evil, etc. And historically, that is good to talk about if your children are old enough to understand it. But doesn’t why come down to hatred?  Whether you are Muslim, Christian, Atheist, or Buddhist, isn’t it hatred that causes … Read more…

How to Talk With Your Child About 9/11

Do you remember what you were doing when you heard about the terrorists attacks on 9/11? I do. I saw it on TV as I walked into 7th grade history after band class. Those images are forever imprinted into my mind. However, this is not the case for most children today. They were not alive, and if they were, they were too young to remember. So how do you introduce this historical subject to elementary age children? And should we?  First of all, yes we should talk about it. It is an important part of our national history, it lead … Read more…

Guest Post: Speaking the Love Languages of Others

Love languages. It does sort of sound a bit new age-y, or even like a different name for the Romance Languages like Italian and Spanish. But no, it does not have to do with foreign languages, although sometimes it can seem foreign. In the book The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman, he explains what the five live languages are and how they work. In case you haven’t come across them before here’s a brief overview. (Read the book I promise you will love it and you’ll probably start assessing your friends! There are also versions covering teens, children and … Read more…

“Inside Out” Embraces the Wholeness of Life

Inside Out movie review

Pixar has perfected the art of high-quality, funny, and cute animated movies that tug on our heart strings. Both Up and Toy Story made me shed a few tears. My husband cried too. He called them “man tears“ . . . but his ability to cry is one of many reasons why I love him! Inside Out proved to be just as cute, funny, and touching. Plus, it tackles the topics of personality, emotions, and life transitions in a way that I think kids and adults can both relate to and learn from. My in-laws invited us to accompany them to the movie, and though we had not … Read more…

3 Challenges for Wives on Father’s Day

This past week we spent moving across the country. With a two-month-old baby. Yep. Fun stuff. All things considered it went smoothly (thanks to the help of my awesome mother-in-law Teri!). But I felt so ragged and worn down by the time we landed in Missouri after a three-day drive. There is so much that goes into a major relocation, so making it to Missouri (after a long week of packing) was only the beginning. We still need to nail down a place to live, finalize our new bank account, find new insurance, get new car tags, register our dog, … Read more…

Steady Joy Amidst Chaos

Alicia Britt Chole

Steady joy: A joy that cannot be tainted by circumstance. A joy that persists on our darkest of days. This is what God offers.  Over the past five weeks I felt both more joy and more stress than I have ever experienced before. Who knew they could co-exist? If having a new baby for the first time was not stressful enough, we decided to add in traveling across the country when Rebekah was just over two weeks old, a job tryout, and now a cross-country move and another trip to see my family in Nebraska. Call us crazy, but I do believe these … Read more…

“God is Our Source of Joy” Family Devotional

family devotional on joy

“God is Our Source of Joy” Family Devotional As always, alter  according the ages of your children. I try to make the devotionals accessible for all ages, but there may be parts you need to tweak. Also, at the bottom of this post you can find a printable PDF of this devotional! 🙂 Explore the Meaning: What is joy? How would you describe it? Are joy and happiness the same thing? If not, what is the difference? Happiness is circumstantial, meaning that we are happy if good things are happening to us, but unhappy when bad things are happening to … Read more…

Today I Choose Joy by Bethany Miller

 There are few things that can drastically reshape your philosophy on life than working thirty hours a week in a grocery store. How do I know, you ask? Because I worked in a local store for eight months, and the lessons I learned while bagging potatoes and scanning bags of apples have stuck with me even three years later. The vast of majority of my customers were senior citizens, and I remember the phrase they all used. Every single one of them seemed to know this string of words by heart, and gladly applied it to every situation possible. I … Read more…

5 Ways to Support Your Child’s Self-Esteem by Holly Doherty

1) Don’t praise them just for showing up. I know this statement flies in the face of conventional wisdom, in a world where every kid in the soccer league gets a trophy just for being on a team, and some leagues don’t even keep score lest they hurt a child’s supposedly fragile self-esteem. But life doesn’t give you a trophy just for showing up. Teach your kids to work hard, to take pride in their work, and to do their best. To praise them just for showing up breeds entitlement and an empty, false sense of self-worth. 2) Praise their … Read more…

Embracing Joy: April’s Character Study

I like to believe joy and pain are separate and opposite from one another. But this is a misconception on my part. How would we appreciate or know joy without pain? Does embracing joy also mean embracing pain? “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4 What is our reaction to trials and pain? Bitterness? Anger? Frustration? Or Joy? Looking back over the past year, I’m … Read more…

Book Review and Giveaway: The Magic of Family Meals

http://hollydoherty.com/

Does your family eat on the go a lot? Are you looking for ways to recover the habit of family mealtime? Does your family zone out in front of the TV or retreat to separate bedrooms during mealtime? Are you looking for more quality time as a family? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, The Magic of Family Meals: 115 Conversation Starters to Connect With Your Kids will be a helpful tool for your family. You CAN retake lost ground and reclaim family mealtime! Here at The Engaged Home I am dedicated to intentionally moving toward an engaged home life … Read more…

Family Movie Night: Courageous

Courageous

We didn’t go out to the movies much while dating or when first married (we still don’t, unless it’s at the cheap theater for $3). Young, married, and poor, we were picky about the movies we were willing to spend money to see. Nonetheless, one weekend the itch struck us and we indulged. Popcorn and all! Courageous had been in theaters for a week or so, and we felt good about supporting a Christian movie with our money. However, we did not know much about the movie and as a result we were inadequately prepared. Bring tissues . . . Trust me … Read more…

Family Devotional – The Courageous Christian

Family Devotional on Courage Explore the Meaning: Courage. What do you think of when you hear the word courage? (Firemen running into buildings, policemen, standing up for what you believe in, etc.) Do you think God wants us to be courageous? If so, how? (i.e. standing up for our faith, talking to others about Jesus, living out God’s calling for us rather than being afraid to go where he calls) (For older kids) What is the difference between being courageous and being confident, or even cocky? The dictionary defines courage as “the quality of mind or spirit that enables a person … Read more…

“Surrounding the Wounded” A Counselor’s Perspective on Grief and Loss

Surrounding the Wounded

Have you ever faced a personal struggle that opened your eyes to how many hurting people there are in the world? After our miscarriage, I felt overwhelmed. Not so much by my own pain, but by the pain of others. My heart broke in a whole new way for all the women that had to go through such an experience. It seemed like every day I met someone new who was either going through a miscarriage, or had gone through one recently. Friends were asking me to pray and talk to their friends that were going through miscarriages because they, … Read more…

Small Moments of Courage

small moments of courage

Immeasurable odds. Men on the front lines of a battlefield. Dying for a cause larger than yourself. Fighting for freedom or equality. Firefighters running into a burning building.  These are all common connotations of courage. Yet, this month as we look into the character trait of courage, I don’t want to just consider the traditional meaning. Traditional courage is important–I am so thankful for Martin Luther King Jr. and those in our country who fought for freedom and equality. But, I want us to consider and remember small moments of courage today. I can think of only a few times in … Read more…

My 30 Days’ Journey to a Fulfilled Life by Ifeoma Samuel (Book Review)

In one way or another, we are all seeking to live a fulfilled life. But so often we seek fulfillment in things that can never truly fill us or satisfy our deep longings. In her eBook, My 30 Days’ Journey to a Fulfilled Life, Ifeoma Samuel lays out the simple truth of not just what, by who leads us to a fulfilled life. Though I have never met Ifeoma (she lives in Africa and I in America), I have followed her blog and was honored when she asked me to review her eBook. Though a bit rocky grammatically in portions, her content … Read more…

The Beauty of Simplicity

Simplicity

There is an art and beauty to simplicity. Those who practice simplicity find joy, fulfillment, and freedom. Our culture tells us that we need more. Or, it tells us what we have isn’t good enough, we need something better. Maybe you have plenty of shoes, but you don’t have any purple pumps. Your iPhone 5 might still work great, but have you seen what the iPhone 6 can do? Materialism keeps us trapped looking for that one thing that will change our world. But none of it ever does. At least not for more than 5 minutes. Simplicity brings the freedom to experience life more … Read more…

Contentment vs. Comparison

The Peony Project

Comparison is the thief of joy. – Theodore Roosevelt If there is one self-esteem lesson I wish all children could learn, it is that they are enough. I wish every girl and boy could believe they are worthy of love because they are a child of God. From a young age, my identity became wrapped up in being “the good kid” and “the smart kid”. I never got in trouble. My grades were always perfect. I accepted nothing less than an A, and usually an A+ at that! I avoided competition, but if a friend tried to out score me on a test … Read more…

One Stitch at a Time

Psalm 139

Our church recently started a crocheting and knitting class. So far, a variety of ages and skill levels have joined us. But regardless of experience or age, they all have one thing in common: they learn one stitch at a time. Which is why when I pick up a new pattern, I have to take it slow, counting each stitch, and keeping my tension uniform. I found this especially important as I worked on my first crocheted baby cardigan. As I learned the new bobble stitch, I discovered that my counting was off. I had to restart the first bobble row several times … Read more…

Faithful Love

Do you have little nuggets of wisdom, verses, or songs that you attach to certain ideas? I think we all do. It is part of the way our brains are wired. I know as I studied and thought about faithfulness this month, one of my favorite church songs kept popping into my head: Faithful Love.  I would love to share the lyrics and an audio recording of the song with you today. May it be an encouragement to you as you pursue faithfulness now and always. Faithful Love (Verse 1) Faithful love flowing down from the thorn covered crown, Make me … Read more…

Creating a Capacity for Compassion #1000 Speak

Sometimes I feel as though my capacity for compassion is low. As a Christian and a youth minister’s wife, I am ashamed to admit this. In fact, the past three years of ministry have made me more calloused. Before full-time ministry, compassion came easily to me. I felt deep, genuine empathy and love for others. We nurtured vulnerability in relationships. Alas, one of the unintended pressures of ministry, (and sometimes church in general) is the donning of a facade. We leave our junk at home and paint on what I like to call my “Michelle Dugger smile” (though I greatly admire her). We … Read more…

Make Your “Yes” Count

Over the past couple months, I’ve been more selective about what I say “yes” to. With a baby on the way, I realize our life is headed toward great change. For one, I will have to scale back my list of commitments. Which, I am not all that sad about . . . 😉 Too often I act out of obligation, or the feeling of “I really should help with that . . . ” or even worse, “What would others think if I wasn’t there?” This week, I’ve been reflecting on the idea of faithfulness and how it interacts with our daily choices and … Read more…

“Are You Faithful?” Family Devotional on Faithfulness

Faithfulness: Reflecting God’s Character I would first like to challenge parents who are preparing to go through this character study with their children. Your children are watching you. The example you set in your marriage should be one that lifts up the character traits of love and faithfulness. I believe that love and faithfulness are deeply intertwined. God created marriage to be a reflection of his image. What is your marriage reflecting to your children? Are you leaving a legacy of faithfulness and love, or strife and infidelity? Explore the Meaning: What does it mean to be faithful? (Being faithful … Read more…

Building Character: Faithfulness

Faithfulness is something we can all relate to on a personal level. All of us have experienced the never-ending faithfulness of God. While we were still sinners, Christ loved and died for us. He is faithful, even when we are not. Many of us have also experienced unfaithfulness. Maybe even in a close friend or spouse. That breech of trust in an established relationship is difficult to overcome. Trust is not built over night, rather over time. Chances are, we know how deeply that unfaithfulness can wound. Yet, when we were at our most unfaithful, Christ still died to make us right with … Read more…

If It’s Not a Definite “Yes”, It’s a Definite “No”

I have issues saying “no.” It feels rude and selfish. But it is a powerful tiny two-letter word. Due to my inability to say “no” I even found myself dating a guy I had no interest in dating. My attempt to “let him down lightly” without saying a straightforward “no” backfired. Unsurprisingly, that short-lived relationship led to an awkward breakup. That experience was a wake-up call for me. Even if “no” didn’t feel very nice, it was a word I needed to incorporate into my vocabulary. In college I wanted to do it all. I feared the thought of passing up an opportunity or missing … Read more…

4 Ways to Empower Teens to Protect Their Hearts

Do you remember the old saying “Garbage in, garbage out”? It was a popular churchy phrase I heard a lot as a teenager. It was a catchy way of saying that what we allow into our hearts will overflow into our life in good or bad ways. We are all susceptible to this problem. We don’t outgrow it. It just looks different when we are children, teenagers, young adults, and then adults. Teenagers are bombarded junk and lies. They buy into the lies that they need to have a “thigh gap” to be hot or that the “right” clothes = confidence. As adults we too struggle … Read more…

Mental, Spiritual, and Physical Health

In 2015, I want sharpen The Engaged Home’s focus. Our core message is that learning and faith begin at home. We will explore ways to strengthen our families as a unit and as healthy individuals. In my opinion, there are three overarching aspects to a healthy family: Mind/Mental Health Spirit/Spiritual Health Body/Physical Health (Some people would also include a fourth: the heart. I believe the heart can fall into any of these three categories depending on how you look at it. The Bible does say that out of our hearts, the mouth speaks. I also know that if our hearts are … Read more…

Practicing Peace

This month’s character trait has been a real challenge for me. First of all, I have a hard time relaxing and being at peace physically unless I feel like I have marked everything off my to-do list–which happens like once in a blue moon! Also, I am a worry wart, or at least I used to be. This is something I have intentionally worked on throughout the year. I have made some positive strides, but some days the worries sneak up and ambush me. Like last night. I had been struggling the past couple days with what I am pretty … Read more…

Family Devotional on Peace

Intro for parents: Sometimes we are guilty of simplifying the idea of peace to a quiet, nice feeling. The truth is that peace is powerful. Teaching your children the power of peace enables them to face the challenges of life with an anchor and a strength, not born out of the hardness of sorrow and failure, but rooted in a relationship with God, where they are living in the presence of their Lord and Savior. Our children need to not only learn what peace is and how to experience it, they need an example of peace in their lives, both from the … Read more…

Ah, the Elusive Character Quality of Peace

What do you think of when you hear the word peace? No war/world peace? Serenity? Yoga? An early morning hike? An undisturbed cup of coffee? We all attach different connotations to the idea of peace. Yet, it is something God tells us we can possess through Him. He calls us to pursue a life of peace, especially in our interactions with others. Confession: I decided last week that peace would be a fitting character quality to focus on in our families during December because the chaos of the holidays can sometimes leave us thread-bare and caught in the snare of materialism. However appropriate … Read more…

Letters to Rebekah

My friend Natasha recently encouraged me to start writing letters to Rebekah (the name we chose for our daughter, due in April) in a journal. I brought the idea up to Mitch, and he latched on to it immediately. This past weekend while we were shopping, a simple but beautifully elegant journal caught my eye for Rebekah’s letters. We plan to fill it with prayers, letters, verses, memories, wisdom, encouragement, and affirmation. Our prayer is that we can affirm her that she is as a beautiful, strong, daughter of the King. We also want to remind her often of our constant love for her. The … Read more…

Teaching Praise and Worship

In Bible Hour at church we have been talking about developing a thankful heart and attitude toward God and others. Thankfulness led us to talking about the importance of praise and worship in our relationship with God. Praise and worship are directly tied to our expression of thankfulness to God. To help us remember this concept, we spent time memorizing Psalms 100:2: The book of Psalms literally means “songs of praise”, which is fitting because it is full of direct praise! Don’t get me wrong, the Psalms are genuine prayers and songs that capture the diversity of human emotion: praise, thankfulness, sorrow, … Read more…

Thankfulness Amidst Disappointment

This past week has included little sleep, headaches, bad hair days, stress, fatigue, and disappointment. My husband and I had one of those weeks where what we thought was an open door God wanted us to go through, slammed shut in our face. That’s ok. Those days will come, and God is good–ALL the time. We both tried to stay positive and practice strong communication through it with each other and God. But, I have to admit, I had my moments where I did not handle it well, and I did NOT feel very thankful . . . I could … Read more…

Operation Christmas Child

Last night some of our teenagers participated with us in buying items and packing shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Operation Christmas Child is ran through Samaritan’s Purse, a non-profit Christian relief organization that helps children and families around the world. Since 1993, over 113 million children have received shoeboxes full of toys, school supplies, hygiene items, and more as a physical example of God’s love. With the Christmas boxes that they receive, Samaritan’s Purse partners with local churches in America and overseas to make sure these children and their families are followed up with through their “Gospel Storybooks” and “The Greatest … Read more…

Thankfulness Family Devotional

Family Devotional I wanted to create a family devotional that you can start the week with together. This month we are focusing on thankfulness. Read the devotional and scriptures aloud as a family. The italicized questions are for you and your children to discuss out loud. “Explore the Meaning” introduces the concept and assesses your children’s prior knowledge. I tried to define words as much as possible, but depending on the age of your children, you may need to back up and explain some vocabulary (great learning opportunity). “Look It Up” offers some scriptures from the Bible to illustrate the concept. “Apply … Read more…

Six Ideas for Nurturing a Generous Child

  The children I have observed are not naturally generous. They don’t want to share their toys. They want to do things their way. But let’s face it, selfishness is a problem people struggle with whether they are two or 52. Raising a generous child is something that you have to do purposefully. Helping your child understand the why of generosity is important. Within the why it is necessary to teach them that we are not generous for the recognition or praise of people, but we are generous because we love God and we want to share God’s generous love with others. That … Read more…

5 Ways to Practice Generosity as a Family

Yesterday we talked about things YOU, as the adult, can do personally. Your kids need to see you model generosity; they will learn through your example. But one of the best ways to instill values into your family is to practice them together. I know a lot of kids who watched their parents do this or that, but they never learned how to do it for themselves. Generosity is a wonderful character trait to practice together because there are so many opportunities and ideas. Today, I brainstormed five ways you can practice generosity as a family: 1. Decorate a jar as a … Read more…

Seven Ways to Express Generosity

Wealth and generosity are words we associate with our financial status, but I have come believe they can have a much broader meaning. We can be “wealthy” or “generous” in different ways depending on the physical and emotional resources available to us. “Wealth” could mean an abundance of money, or time, or patience, etc. Sometimes people don’t need monetary generosity, but they crave a generous listener to hear their heart. As you decide how you are going to practice generosity this month, consider some ideas: Bless someone in need financially. Do you know someone who is having trouble paying their bills? (Ask … Read more…

Bible Verses Reflecting on Generosity

Tomorrow, I am going to share some generosity challenges with you; but today, I want to share a little more with you about why we should be generous. First of all, if we are blessed to have an abundance, God tells us in 1 Timothy 6:17-19, As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure … Read more…

Made in the Image of a Generous God

Over the years, Mitch and I have been touched by the generosity of others. When we were first beginning in ministry, an older ministry couple compassionately took us under their wing and generously gave time to mentor us. Transitioning to Arizona took faith, but the generosity of those that opened their home for us (until we found an apartment) and provided us with grocery cards and meals touched our hearts. Even when Mitch faced major dental work that would drain our savings, an amazing couple from church blessed us by paying for the majority of it (without us even asking). … Read more…

Creating Character: An Education for the Whole Family

I was inspired by the Duggar Family (20 Kids and Counting on TLC, or in our case Netflix) to begin a journey focusing on developing godly character. They incorporate character building into their homeschooling curriculum and daily life. At first, I thought practicing good character was only for little kids, something taught in Sunday school. But, I was very wrong. Just because we are “adults” does not mean we have it all together. Building character is a journey you can begin whether you are two or 72. I am a work in progress and I pray God is not done with … Read more…