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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Going Home–An Anchor Set in Shifting Sands

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

A Prayer for Students, Parents, and Teachers

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

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

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

Jesus’ Vulnerable Life of Love

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

When Community Feels Like a Challenge

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

When the World is Dark

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

Light Yellow and the Nature of Gentleness

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

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…

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…

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 and a Giveaway

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

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…

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…

Gather Around Inspirations: The Life Giving Home

When you walk into somebody’s house and feel at home, what is it that makes you feel that way? Is it the physical environment? Probably not, though that can contribute to it. That feeling of home that embraces you like a warm hug is often a combination of things. But most of it is relational in nature. Casting a vision for your marriage, family, and home is crucial. We all need direction and focus. Without it, we wander aimlessly. Meandering about letting our days and precious moments with our families slip away from us. To recapture and engage the hearts of … 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…

He is Here

This Easter we celebrate so much: Christ conquering death, defeating Satan, and delivering forgiveness, restoration, and redemption as only He could. Though Christ rose from the dead many, many years ago, may we never forget the resounding truth that He is Here. Jesus stands as our advocate in heaven, but also within our hearts and souls in the form of the Holy Spirit. Every day we have reason to celebrate this incredible truth.

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Blessings Big and Small: A Linkup

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God,which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, … Read more…

Treasuring the Moments

“And his mother (Mary) treasured up all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2:51B) From a young age, this verse about Mary treasuring the moments always stuck in my mind. We don’t have many specifics about Mary after she is visited by Gabriel. Or Joseph for that matter. But I’ve always loved this glimpse into her heart. She knew who her son was born to be. But he was still her son. I used to think that she treasured all these things because Jesus was Emmanuel, God’s son. And, be warned, I am getting solely into the territory of my opinion here. But, now … 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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

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…

Creating Space and Seeking Balance #Whole Mama

It makes my head spin some days trying to comprehend how much others accomplish. To be honest, it often makes me feel less-than enough. How can she juggle so much and still look so good doing it?!  We live in a do-it-all, have-it-all-right-now world. I have learned through listening to women bear their souls and through simple observation that having it all, at least all at the same time, is impossible. I believe we can have it all over the course of our lives, but not all at once. Something will inevitably suffer: our marriages, our children, our job performance, our … Read more…

Intentionally Transitioning

Isn’t it crazy how many stages we move through in life? Not just from babyhood to childhood to adulthood, but all the tiny transitions within the larger ones? If we tallied up all of the phases, seasons and changes we go through in one lifetime….well, we probably couldn’t count them all. As this pregnancy progresses, I’m getting more and more aware of just how many transitions I’ve gone through in such a small piece of time. Within the last two years the titles of student, girlfriend, barista, writer, friend, fiance, mommy, wife, nanny, stay at home mom, daughter, teacher (and … 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…

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…

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…

Full Circle

Today marks a landmark for us. We have come full circle in this past year. From heartache to hope. This time last year we were cowering in our house in intense pain, both physical and emotional. We knew we were having a miscarriage, but I did not realize the physical pain that would accompany it when my body finally decided to clean house. I was in no shape to travel and Mitch didn’t want to leave my side, so we stayed home from the yearly Leadership Training for Christ (LTC) youth convention. This year, we are again home from LTC because I am … 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…

Dads Hurt Too: Miscarriage Support

miscarriage

***Disclaimer: This is an account of a miscarriage we had back in April 2014. Thankfully, our Rebekah is growing, kicking, and developing just as she should at 8 months in the womb. Dedication: I would like to dedicate this post to Cadence, the child we lost early April 2014. Daddy will always love you, even though I never had the chance to meet you. I can’t wait to see you face to face in Heaven… My wife (who most of you know quite well by now) wrote an amazing post called “Breaking the Silence: Miscarriage Support”. This post takes you … 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…

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…

Lent and Our Little One

Lent and Our Little One

Last year Lent was an emotional roller coaster for us. We decided to give up meat and go vegetarian. However, a couple days into Lent, I realized I was pregnant. Out of fear of depriving my body of protein during early pregnancy, we started eating meat again. Lent was a new idea to us anyways. It is not a tradition that most churches of Christ practice. A week before Easter we learned that I had a blighted ovum. Easter weekend my body fully committed to the miscarriage. I still remember one of our elders bringing over a white Easter Lily to … 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…

The End of Winter (at least here in Phoenix)

My Facebook feed has been cluttered with pictures of snow and statuses about snow days. It makes me homesick and nostalgic. Well, all of it but the pictures of cars buried in snow and status updates about shoveling the driveway. I can’t say I miss those aspects of snow. But I do miss bundling up for the blustering winds, sipping warm beverages of all varieties, and cuddling up with a blanket to read. I’d hoped to accomplish some of these things while visiting family in Nebraska, but it was pleasantly in the 40s and 50s the whole time I was … 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…

The National Conference on Youth Ministry (NCYM 2015)

Mitch and I just returned from the National Conference on Youth Ministry (NCYM 2015) in Dallas, TX. We drove the whole way, and, whew, my stiff pregnant body is glad to be off the road! I intended to post more from the conference, but God commanded our full time and attention. The theme this year was “Presence” with a scriptural focus on Exodus 33. That familiar chapter came alive in a whole new way for me this past week. The speakers and teachers brought encouragement, but we also walked away feeling personally convicted and challenged to grow. Mitch jokingly refers to … 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…

Engage Life in 2015

“Don’t let your year happen to you–Happen to your year.” –Mitch Clay How will you engage life in 2015? This idea of actively engaging life goes back to the root purpose of The Engaged Home. At The Engaged Home, our purpose is to engage life, specifically our family life. If we live life passively, then we are like a paper boat carried here and there by the tide. Some days it is smooth sailing, but other days we run adrift. When we live passively, life happens to us and all we can do is react. It may seem easier, but it … Read more…

Breaking the Silence: Miscarriage Support

***Disclaimer: This is an account of a miscarriage we had back in April 2014. Thankfully, our Rebekah is growing, kicking, and developing just as she should at 6 months in the womb.  Dedication: I would like to dedicate this post to Cadence, the child we lost early on in our pregnancy last April. I know we will meet you someday. I also want to dedicate it to every woman who has struggled through loss, specifically miscarriage. I want to break the silence. At the turn of the New Year, Mitch and I decided to start trying for a baby. It was … Read more…

Sharing the Story of Jesus

We used to read the nativity story aloud from the Bible every Christmas as a family. It was a small gesture, but enough to always remind us what the focus of Christmas should be. When I was young, probably 4 or 5, I would “help” my mom decorate the house and the tree by dressing up in towels like I was Mary, swaddling our cat in another towel (you can imagine how that went) to pretend he was baby Jesus. I guess all my dolls were girls? I would sit under the Christmas tree and reenact the nativity story, to … 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…

The Star of Bethlehem

The Star of Bethlehem documentary was not on my to-watch list. I heard about different groups watching it at church while we lived in York. But to be honest, I just thought, boring! I didn’t think I needed science to prove anything to me about the star for me to believe it was true. Fast forward two years and we are in Missouri attending church with my in-laws over Christmas. And what video is their Bible class watching? The Star of Bethlehem . . .  Within minutes, my interest was hooked. About halfway through I was tearing up. Both my husband and I were so … 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…

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…

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…

Compassion Calling

I have learned that when God calls you to do something, it is best to listen. Even though it may seem daunting, the safest place to live is in God’s will. For over a year, it felt like Compassion International was following Mitch and I around. We heard about them at conferences, concerts, and other various events. We were both feeling God’s quiet little tug on our hearts to sponsor a child. But, we put it off. Money was too tight, we reasoned. Maybe later, we told ourselves. We both experienced some guilt, because deep down we knew we could … Read more…

Protecting Our Hearts

I love wildflowers. You know, the weeds that grow naturally in nature and look so lovely alongside the road. But most of the time, we don’t want them in our yard. This is especially true if you have a rock yard. In Phoenix, rock yards are very popular. After all, who wants to pay to water their lawn every day when half the year is a blistering 100+ degrees? Not many people. During the monsoon and winter rains, it is common to wake up to a yard full of weeds. We left for a conference last January and came home to find that … Read more…

God Asks YOU to Pass on Faith to Your Children

  God asks YOU to pass on faith to your children. A lot of pressure, right? But let’s face it, you are influential in your child’s life, even if it feels like they listen to their friends more than you. While it is your responsibility to pass on faith, you are not alone. Church is a beautiful community of people who can help you raise your children to know and love God. That is the purpose of youth and family ministers and Sunday school teachers. I believe most ministers would agree that they love being a part of your child’s faith journey, … Read more…

Is an Emotional Faith Good or Bad?

The answer may not be so simple. I think we can all agree that God wants our hearts. But is there such thing as putting too much focus on emotions? I truly believe that God wants our whole being. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul (Matthew 22:37). God does not want an isolated part of us, like our physical obedience. He wants everything: actions, beliefs, emotions. Do I believe that we need to experience God emotionally? Yes. Anyone who has experienced God knows how incomparable it is to other experiences. … Read more…