Archive | November, 2011

Finding Peace in God’s Presence

By monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry

‘Tis the season to be jolly . . . yet often overly busy.

Writing Christmas cards. Decorating the house. Buying and wrapping presents. Cooking. Baking. Preparing for parties and hospitality. Getting ready for church events. Just thinking about all these things we “need” to do can be exhausting, but it doesn’t need to be.

As we’re heading into the Christmas season, a time to celebrate God’s PEACE and joy, let’s remember to simply seek God for what should be done (and what activities could be eliminated to bring more of God’s presence into our homes and family).

To stay in God’s divine daily balance, let’s make PRAYER a priority!

Jon and I just returned home from a thrilling two-week mission outreach to East Africa, so in addition to all of our upcoming Christmas activities, I’m catching up with kiddos and homeschooling, doing weeks of past ministry correspondence (and laundry!!!), helping my husband with oversight for 500+ remote village pastors from nine different nations who are joining with our ministry, seeking God’s provision for 750+ orphan children, preparing for big-kids coming home from college (including a just-engaged son — making two upcoming summer weddings), plus thinking about what to do for upcoming holiday meals with lots of company and for three immediate-family-member December birthdays . . . Whew!!!

Is it possible to have peace in the midst of busyness?

YES!!! The key is casting our cares on the Lord, and spending special time in the presence of God, one-on-one with Jesus, our Almighty Prince of Peace.

The will of God —
nothing less, nothing more, nothing else.”
— F. E. Marsh

Real PEACE comes from the PRESENCE of Jesus!

Special moments at Guma Na Yesu Children

Think of everything Jesus needed to do!!!

I just love the example our Lord Jesus demonstrated to us during His time here on earth. Instead of being directed by the overwhelming needs of the moment, Jesus took time to pray and to seek the Heavenly Father’s perfect direction for each day, and did exactly (and only) what needed to be done . . .

Jesus only lived 33 years on earth and spent just 3 short years in ministry.

In this short time period, Jesus had more on His “to-do” list than any of of could ever comprehend.

  • He was responsible for providing God’s only way of salvation for all humanity.
  • He had to establish a brand-new worldwide training program (through scriptural teaching and personal example) to explain God’s eternal kingdom.
  • He had to equip His ground-level leaders (in deep theology and practical life skills) for future global impact.
  • And on top of all that, He couldn’t sin or make a mistake . . . not even once!

Even with such a limited time allotment, an eternally important job, and such spiritual “pressure” (from our point of view), Jesus was never rushed or stressed-out. In spite of all He needed to do (and because of all He needed to do), Jesus always took time to pray.

God’s perspective is so much different than ours.

During his 33 years on earth, Jesus took 30 years to live as a simple carpenter and to simply “be” with His Heavenly Father. Jesus was totally perfect and totally God-in-the-Flesh, yet throughout His life He took time to seek God’s direction and guidance. Even when everyone else was busy and multitudes had pressing needs, Jesus took time to be quiet and to get away, and to pray.

Mark 1:35-38 says,

“Now in the morning, having risen a long while before daylight, He [Jesus] went out and departed to a solitary place; and there He prayed. And Simon and those who were with Him searched for Him. When they found Him, they said to Him, “Everyone is looking for you.”

But He said to them, “Let us go into the next towns, that I may preach there also, because for this purpose I have come forth.”

Instead of being directed by the overwhelming needs of the moment, Jesus took time to pray in a solitary place (and He didn’t even tell His disciples where He was going). After this personal prayer time, Jesus knew the heavenly Father’s perfect direction for that day, and He did exactly what needed to be done.

If prayer was that important to Jesus, it should be important to us!

Finding PEACE . . . through PRAYER!

If you haven’t been praying regularly, it’s a good idea to begin by setting aside a particular new “MEETING TIME” with God:

  • perhaps set your morning alarm a bit earlier
  • perhaps establish a habit of reading the Bible as you’re sipping your morning coffee
  • perhaps take time for the Lord during your children’s quiet time in the afternoon
  • perhaps pray in the evening, after you put your kids to bed

May God bless you with PEACE this Christmas season . . . as you take time to seek Him in the quiet place, in a time of prayer.

Comments { 15 }

Our Simple Advent Calendar

This year we are beginning to use an Advent Calendar for creating fun, meaningful, creative, and gift giving activities through the Advent season. I have seen a ton of amazing Advent Calendars across the web, but knew I had to put together something very simple in order for this to be manageable. I purchased this set of muslin stamped bags to fill with our daily activities, and hung then on a simple branch from our backyard with a ribbon to hang it on our wall. Each day we will add a piece to our children’s Nativity Set as well as we await the arrival of Baby Jesus. I also have purchased a few new Christmas books to be opened throughout the month to add to our collection.

Here is our list of activities for this year:

Buy a new Christmas album and listen to it
Open and read a Christmas story book
Go to the mountain and find a Christmas tree
Make pumpkin bread and give to the neighbors
Sing Christmas carols around the tree
Make a fun Christmas ornament
Open and read a Christmas story book (Legend of the Christmas Stocking, Legend of the Christmas Tree, etc)
Wrap Christmas Gifts for our stockings
Make a popcorn/cranberry garland
Make Candy Cane Playdough – give some to neighbor friends
Make reindeer candy canes
Dance to Christmas music
Make a memory Christmas ornament – record memories from the year
Color a Christmas picture
Make coconut hot chocolate and stir with candy canes
Watch a Christmas movie and eat white chocolate peppermint popcorn
Build a Gingerbread house
Drive around and look for Christmas lights
Go visit Santa Claus
Make a Jesus Gift basket and deliver to a family in need
Have a camp out in front of the Christmas tree
Call grandma and grandpa and sing a Christmas song
Sing Christmas carols at senior citizens home
Watch The Nativity Story about the birth of Baby Jesus
Make a birthday cake for Jesus.

Merry Christmas!!!

Another idea we’d like to do throughout the month as we receive various Christmas cards from family and friends is to read/look at the cards together and pray for the families in turn.

Comments { 40 }

10 Frugal Stocking Stuffers for Children

Written by monthly contributor, Emily Pastor.

I love Christmas Stockings! The mystery and excitement of stocking gifts gets the best of my inner-child every year. Put something in my stocking and you will see a composed, grown woman transform into a runny-nosed girl in footie pajamas right before your eyes. Now that I’m the one “stuffing” these stockings, I’m realizing the challenge of finding both meaningful and cost-effective contents. Those stockings start seeming bottomless when trying to stay within a budget, but I don’t want to fill a stocking with cheap items that just add “stuff” to our lives. Below are some stocking stuffer ideas that are both meaningful and budget-friendly.

Every family holds different traditions, so if Christmas stockings aren’t a part of your Christmas festivities, feel free to use the below ideas for other occasions in which you might need a frugal gift for the little ones in your life.

1. Dress-up Supplies. Do your children like to dress up? Find unique dress-up clothes or accessories at your local thrift store. For a DIY dress-up accessory, try making homemade play silks. Play silks are a wonderful open-ended toy that encourages creativity and hours of imaginative play.

2. Thrift Store Books. Some of my daughter’s favorite books have come from thrift stores for under a dollar. Keep your eyes open for “stocking-stuffer-sized” children’s books next time your at your local thrift store!

3. Homemade Body Products. For older children, whip up a batch of homemade chapstick to last them through the winter. For the teen girl in your family, concoct a lovely-scented homemade sugar scrub and pair it with a new color of nail polish.

4. Homemade snacks. Make-ahead and freeze a batch of your child’s favorite cookie. Bring several out of the freezer on Christmas Eve to thaw. Wrap them in brown paper and twine before placing in their stocking. OR, Compile your own trail mix bag with your child’s favorite dried fruits, nuts and whatever else might suit their fancy.

5. Art Supplies or Projects. Make a batch of Homemade Playdough in vibrant colors. Or, Go to the dollar tree and pick up supplies for this fun art project. Put the supplies in your child’s stocking for an art project you can do together.

6. Unique Foods. Go to a local international market (Asian or Mexican grocery stores are good options) and pick up an exotic fruit or a food item that your family hasn’t tried before. Enjoy sampling your international goodies throughout Christmas day.

7. Homemade Ornaments. Starting a Christmas ornament collection for your children can get rather expensive, especially if you have a handful (or more!) of children. Start a tradition of making each child in your family their own homemade Christmas tree ornament each year as a special keepsake. I especially like these homemade felt ornaments.

8. Mini Photo Album. When I was about three years old, my mom gave me my very own mini photo album in my Christmas stocking. I still have that album to this day, and I can’t tell you how much I loved flipping through the pages year after year. Take time to get some of your year’s best digital photos printed and compile mini photo albums for each child.

9. Kid-friendly Tableware. Most children love having their own special mug, dish set, and placemat. Unique tableware can make frugal and special stocking stuffers for your little ones. Find a unique mug just for your child at a thrift store and fill it with a bag of homemade hot chocolate mix and homemade marshmallows or roll up a different educational placemat for each child’s stocking. If you are a crafty mama, try your hand at sewing placemats and napkins for your children.

10. Words of Affirmation. Encouraging words are perhaps some of the most frugal and meaningful gifts we can give. Write your child a letter about how you are proud of them, how you’ve seen them grow, or how they are a gift to you. It’s okay if your child can’t read yet, you can still bless them by writing and reading them a heartfelt letter.

If you try an idea that’s a hit with your children, consider making that type of gift a tradition that they can expect each year. OR, start a combination tradition where each stocking gets three items year after year such as a book, a letter, and art supplies.
What are your favorite frugal and meaningful stocking stuffers?

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Serenity for Little Ones During the Holidays

Note from Lindsay: We are excited to welcome Daniele at Domestic Serenity as a new monthly contributor! Daniele is a lovely pastor’s wife and mother of five children and has lots of wonderful wisdom and insight to share with us on living simply and intentionally. Check out her blog for sweet encouragement! So without further ado… here’s Daniele.


 ”Okay kids!  Here’s the plan and agenda for today — first, we’re running to the craft store for supplies, a quick stop for groceries, then off to the library to check out our holiday books…won’t that be fun?  After lunch, we’ll bake gingerbread – lots – and deliver the cookies to our neighbors.  Oh, and we’ll shop for our Angel Tree child somewhere in there!

When Daddy gets home, off to get our own tree!  We’ll decorate, have hot chocolate, play Christmas music and do our Advent calendar.  This year we’re reading some exciting stories each night that I know you’ll just love!  Right before bed, we’ll pause to choose a few gifts for those in need.  Hmm, what shall it be — chickens, pigs, Bibles, a bicycle?  Can’t wait to decide!  This is going to be such a fabulous day, right?

Kids?  Kids!?…”

{Mom looks around to find that her children have dozed off.  She sighs and wakes them.  Off they go into the day.}

Okay, so this is a fictitious scenario I’m imagining with Mom excitement-filled and kids running very quickly out of fuel.  It’s too full of over-the-top-activity that none of us would actually attempt.

Or do we?   Reflect for a moment on the upcoming holiday season :: the plans, ideas, gatherings, celebrations, activities and timeline of events for your family.  Now think of the little ones in your home (or the big kiddos as well).  Does the pace ahead provide some breathing room, time for pause to soak it all in, some time for…

…serenity?

Serenity is a fancy word for a state of stillness or calm, of peacefulness.  We all gravitate towards this need because I believe our Maker created us with a ‘pause-o-meter’.  An internal reminder that our minds, our hearts, our bodies can only go so fast and so long before burning out.  The same is true for our children.

I’ll be the first to admit of this tendency to over-schedule November and December with good things, but plans nonetheless that rob our home and my little ones of the greatest gift I could bless them with during the holidays — time for pause.  Time to reflect.  Time for serenity.

I’m committing to three areas of provision for this gift in our home.  Perhaps we could all use a gentle reminder — care to join me?

Serenity Socially

Simply put — I’m cutting back on people contact.  Instead of succumbing children to extra doses of hustle bustle, seek to run errands in larger chunks while they stay with a spouse, friend or sitter.  If there’s a stretch of many activities, try for days ahead or afterwards of just being home, sandwiching the fullness with rest on either side.

Prioritize which people events to include the children, which to provide for another option and which to say ‘no’ to for this year.

Serenity Physically & Emotionally

Little bodies become weary much quicker than Mom or Dad, so pausing and keeping to routines and schedules should play a huge role.  When I cut short the toddler’s nap, no wonder he’s not interested in smiling for pictures later or in Christmas crafts {or such is our case, wails loudly in aforementioned craft store! Ahem.}

Evaluating how much stimuli surrounds our days is important — offering the sights and sounds of the season in bite-sized doses instead of too much at once allows children time to receive each one, and to enjoy.

When are children are physically rested, their emotions are more likely to stay in check.

Serenity Spiritually

Scheduling our families to complete a large list of hospitable and charitable activities can leave us just short of irritable.  That’s not quite the gospel Jesus had in mind.  He does asks us to meet needs of those less fortunate and to open our homes, yet we should choose wisely and carefully how to involve our families.  How can your home attend to this commission while still honoring Christ’s command to rest?

The same is true for spiritual instruction during this season – it’s a marathon, not a sprint.  Each passing year as we’re faithful to teach, our children understand more and more.  There’s no need to download it all at once or to fear that they won’t get ‘the reason for the season’.  They will.  A little bit at a time.

The holidays are a celebratory time, yet they’re not in isolation from the rest of life.  We can and should provide for both a joyous and peaceful season in our homes, and especially for our children.

Grace in the journey…

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4 Ways We Are Simplifying Christmas

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We are all very much aware how much time and energy Christmas preparations can consume and how easily we can loose focus on the true meaning of it all. Every year I have to sit down and prayerfully evaluate what we should and should not do this season. We want to keep our hearts in tune and limit the clutter. Here are a few ways we are simplifying this year…

1. Photo cards – get them shipped for you!

For the last several years we have been intentional about sending out Christmas photo cards to our extended family and friends as a means of letting others know that they are loved and thought of during the holiday season. It is a simple way of staying connected and communicate Christ’s love across the miles. We don’t do any fancy letter but love to send out a simple greeting with our annual family photo. But I admit, it is certainly taxing to address and stamp all the cards and get them shipped in a timely fashion. This year, I am simplifying it further and paying a company to address and ship them for me! I found that Card Store will address and ship your cards for free with any purchase. They have some great sales running right now too – 50% off today! One less thing to fill my plate!

2. Limiting the Gifts – stockings only!

While our children young I wanted to establish the proper understanding of the reason and purpose of Christmas. I want our hearts to focus on the blessing of giving with the majority of our Christmas budget resources. We want to cultivate hearts of generosity in our children from a young age, thus we participate in Operation Christmas Child and we chose a family that we can adopt and bless with a Jesus Gift. So this year we are establishing a new tradition of only giving gifts that fit in our stockings with a specific gift budget of $25 per child and $50 for my husband and I. So I’ve purchased an assortment of fun learning things: Classical Kids CDs, art supplies, Brain Quest, garden gloves & kids garden tools. This has really helped simplify the gift giving process, as my size and cost are limited, thus my choices are limited.

3. Name Drawing – one gift per side of the family

For gift giving for extended family, we draw names. So we just have one person on each side of the family to buy for. This makes holiday celebrations simple and kept within a reasonable budget. Since we are a married couple, we put our name down together in the hat so if one of our unmarried siblings pick our name they buy a gift that would be appropriate for both of us. I am sure it would be easier to stop gifting to extended family all together, but there is certainly something special in sharing with one another even in a small way.

Beyond our own family, we like to choose just one other baked goodie that we can bless our neighbors and any one else we are trying to reach out to. This year, I am making small mini loaves of pumpkin bread.

4. Pre-plan and limit family outings

In early November, we plan out our outings for the Christmas season. We make a list of all the different activities, concerts, plays, etc. that we could participate in, and then we choose our top 3 activities that we would like to attend for the year, and then we often rotate in the coming years. This year, Aaron is taking Karis on a special Daddy/daughter date to a local adapted production of the Nutcracker, and we will attend our local Macy’s Day Parade, and a children’s version of Handel’s Messiah. We always prefer things that can be fun family outings rather than adults only events.

What steps are you taking to keep Christmas simple this year?

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Embracing Neediness

It has been one of those demanding days with frequent cries of neediness from my little brood. “Mommy, can you wipe my bottom?” “I can’t do it,” cries from my 4 year old trying to spread the peanut butter, to my 2 year old trying to pull up his pants. “I am hungry Mommy.” “My belly hurts Mommy.” And it all seems to happen simultaneously from every different corner of the house. I was ready to scream as I scrambled from her to there meeting every need.

Then the thought struck me…Aren’t you thankful that God is never ready to scream at me? Here I stand in all my own neediness. Desperate for grace to do this mothering thing. Desperate for help to get up in the morning and cultivate joy in the tasks ahead of me. I am constantly laying my requests before him. “God, give me grace to discipline this child in love.” “God, give me strength today when I am weary.” “God, please take away this pain.”

It was a gentle reminder to my heart that we serve a gracious, all-knowing, merciful God, who never grows weary or tired. He is one that loves us intimately. He knows our every need and often meets them before we even ask. We are helpless, dependent creatures. We cannot do our mission without His daily renewal. We can’t get up and work in whatever sphere he has called us to without first crying out with our dependence upon Him.

Do you need help today?

Let’s embrace our need for Him. How often do I try to labor each day on my own strength? Who wants to ask for help? No, I am here to prove myself to the world that I can do this thing. I am strong. I am tough.

I am going to embrace my neediness today. For when I depend, grace is given to fill my cup to overflowing. And grace will be given to meet that one more cry of neediness from my little ones. Grant me grace, O Lord, to love them as you have loved me.

Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you. (1 Peter 5:7)

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Traditions: Choosing the Best for THIS Season

Written by monthly contributing writer, Trina Holden

Are you feeling overwhelmed at the thought that Christmas is just around the corner? Are you passionate about maintaining family traditions and creating memorable moments but are stressed at the mere thought of all the the work that entails?

Perhaps you have just welcomed a new baby into the home, recently moved, or are traveling during the holidays.  This year my days are full to the brim with three little ones, plus our family is going out of town for 10 days in December. This is requiring me to sift through the list of traditional ‘to-do’s’ around our house, choosing the best and letting go of the rest to ensure a peaceful Christmas season. Here’s a list of ways you can simplify this year…

In the Kitchen…

  • Choose your favorite recipes and ditch the rest. I’m making just two kinds of cookies this year (gasp!) and one sweet bread. I’m also not obligating myself to any cookie swaps. If we miss some treat terribly, I’ll do up a batch on Valentine’s Day.
  • Plan simple and wholesome breakfasts to allow more time for the holiday baking and to balance out the extra sweets you’ll be consuming. Soaked Oatmeal and Smoothies are quick and easy!

Around the House…

  • Let some routine tasks go for the month to give you more cushion time. Skip the weekly library run, or use the dryer instead of the clothesline to get the laundry out of the way faster – just for a few weeks!
  • De-clutter rooms in preparation for holiday decorations. Box up knick-knacks and put away excess toys and books for the month. It will be easier and more enjoyable to decorate if you start with a clean space.
  • Choose one or two ‘go-to’ outfits for each member of the family at the beginning of the season. Keep them washed, ironed, and set aside so you know exactly what you’re all wearing in advance of parties and outings.

And the Gifts…

  • Go digital with your family photo and update. I only print and mail to those who don’t have internet, like grandparents. Or, let yourself skip the letter every other year (I do this, too!)
  • Postpone some gifting ’till after the season. I don’t know about you, but around here the kids get deliciously overwhelmed by the generosity of friends and extended family on Christmas Day. I’m actually saving a few ideas of things I’d like to make for them till I have the time for crafting in January. I’m sure they’ll appreciate a random, mid-winter surprise!
  • Choose ‘One-Size-Fits-All’ gifts for extended family and friends. That list of people you’d like to give ‘just a little something’ to seems to grow each year! Simplify  by choosing a single item that will delight many. Last year, inspired by Lindsay, I made little jars of homemade vanilla extract by the dozens. Every woman on my list got one and they all loved it! A one-size-fits-all gift for guys could be new gloves. For kids this year, I’m thinking homemade play-dough packaged in jam jars, which my children can help me make and wrap.

My goal for this holiday season is to put extra emphasis on our family values and together time. Taking a moment to step back and choosing only the traditions that work for us in this season in our lives ensures I won’t be too rushed and burnt out to enjoy the little moments of twinkle lights reflecting in my daughter’s eyes, or my one-year-old’s wonder at erecting a tree in the corner of the living room.  May you, too, be inspired to simplify so that you can enjoy the season well.

What can you let  go of this year? What traditions are dearest to you or your kids, that you will be sure to make happen? And why?

Comments { 17 }

Thankful in the Waiting Room

Waiting RoomPhoto Credit

Written by monthly contributor, Natalie Didlake.

Sometimes I’m in the spiritual dumps.

Sometimes I’m a lousy mom.

Sometimes I am tired of living in a place I don’t think I belong.

Sometimes someone I love dies.

Sometimes I have a habitual sin I don’t understand and can’t conquer.

Sometimes my relationships are in shambles, and I can’t see how to help them along.

Sometimes I am too depressed and discouraged to go to bed; the next day isn’t much improved by a sleepless night.

Sometimes my day-to-day life feels aimless and purposeless.

If I ever tell you I’m having one of those “sometimes,” don’t tell me to be thankful for what I have. Don’t remind me to remember all the good things God has already done for me. Don’t tell me to enjoy the little things, or cultivate gratitude.

Because it won’t help.

When I’m full of angst, deep questions, and frustrations, they can’t be swept aside and replaced. Problems and sin cannot be amended by attempts at thankfulness.

Problems and sin can only be amended by crying out to God. Sometimes He takes his time….a long time. Even the waiting can be painful and frustrating, a grief in itself. Trying to be thankful doesn’t even give me the bit of comfort I so crave, especially in that “waiting room.”

In the Waiting Room

As in, the doctor’s waiting room. I remember as a child being miserably sick, sitting there in a grimy, hard plastic chair, in a public place. Oh, for the quiet of your own room, instead of noisy children and the whine of a soap opera in the background. The temp was always 10 degrees below comfortable, so your teeth chatter while you imagine snuggling under a blanket on the couch. You just feel awful, and sit there.

But you have to, in order to see the doctor. Which, of course, you want to do, because that’s where you hope to find some relief.

And then, I remember the nurse coming through a heavy swinging door, calling my name. She’d meet your eyes, nod, and say, “The doctor will be with you in just a few minutes.” Oh, for joy! The long wait is almost over.

Sometimes we are in the waiting room, and we so desperately need someone to pop their head through the door to remind us the wait’s almost over. Sometimes we can’t push a trouble aside, but we can be eased and comforted in the midst of it by remembering the “doctor” will see us soon.

When my soul is in that waiting room of unfinished business, I love this precious promise God gives me in Philippians. He sweetly pops through the door to remind me he is still working in me and has not forgotten about me:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Phil 1:6

A simple, small verse. But it always gives me the strength I need to sit and wait a little longer. My God is the Great Healing Doctor, and he made our appointment. He knows what is wrong with me, and as long as I follow his prescription, I will get well!

And for that, I am always…yes,  thankful. Truly, deeply, thankful. I can be sure God will finish the work he started in me. Thankful, dare I say happy? Even in the waiting room.

Comments { 31 }

The Best Toys: the Miniature of Real Life

We have been radically purging our toy collection this year to really minimize to the truly best toys – toys that would stand the test of time. And we have discovered that it is the miniature versions of real life things that our children love the most. They love pretending in their dress, their cooking, and their building. They want to be like Mommy and Daddy. What better way to encourage their participation in service and family life then providing them with little tools so they can jump on board with us?

I love what Harvey & Laurie Bluedorn share in their book, Teaching the Trivium:

“Give the child plenty of time to explore and play. Do not buy ‘toystore’ toys – they are expensive and are usually forgotten after the newness wears off. Invest in real things. Garage sales and auctions are an unending source for things like sewing machines, small tools for working in the garden, hammers, nails, and things for building, some wooden blocks, and dress-up clothes. Buy tools for exploring (a good microscope, telescope, binoculars, etc), not toys for adoring. When your children are young, spend your money on the tools of exploration, and motivate them to learn how to use the tools and enjoy using the tools.”

Dress-ups

A big box of miscellaneous dress ups have been one of the most enjoyed items in our home. Every time we have company, all the girls get lined up in their princess/wedding attire and march around the house. Our collection is a random assortment of Goodwill/thrift store items including fancy girls dresses, old wedding gowns, sparkly women’s shoes, vintage hats and purses, play silks, and a few Melissa & Doug role play costumes. We will be adding some knight costumes soon as our little boy guests are feeling a bit deprived.

Karis has had one sweet Rosy Cheeks cloth doll and a few accessories that she has loved from 15 months of age. No need for a huge collection…one has been well loved, washed repeatedly, and treasured for over three years, and still holding up strong. Practicing being a little mommy is one of the cutest things ever.

Building tools

Some basic wooden building blocks have been a fun item to have in our house because their is a never ending variety of things that can be built and torn down and built again. Lots of imaginative play happens here building churches, castles, grocery stores, and more. Melissa & Doug offer two fabulous wooden block sets that are reasonably priced and nice quality.

The little helpers toolbox (pictured above) is an awesome way to include your little people in the basic repairs around the house that need to be done. Working together with Daddy fixing and building things is quality time invested together plus they are learning basic skills at the same time.

Kitchen tools

We love the Curious Chef Nylon Knife set as they are safe and easy to use for both my two and four year old. The Sassafrass Little Cook set is a full line up of supplies for encouraging kids to participate in the kitchen. And of course the broom and dust pan is always a hit. There are a variety of fun little chef costumes, aprons, and such out there as well. We made our own little apron for Karis a few years back and she still uses it regularly.

Of course, a cute little miniature kitchen with our own homemade assortment of food items with a little grocery cart have been the top favorite toy in our home.

Garden tools

Raking leaves, gardening, weeding, and planting are regular happenings if you have a back yard of any kind. Why not include the little ones and work together? With a kids Big Tool set or garden tool set, they can learn how to help and enjoy the wonders of exploration outdoors in their own free digging play.

Old cell phones & cameras

We have kept a few of our old broken cell phones (or run out of battery life) for the kids pretend play and we experience a lot of laughter as we over hear their conversations calling Aunts and Uncles, Grandma and Grandpa. An old workable digital camera is also fun for little eyes to be able to begin exploring with capturing pictures. Their perspective on life is so precious, it helps keep me treasuring the little things. There are an assortment of kids digital cameras on the market as well which would also encourage that fun explorative creative outlet.

Musical Instruments

We bought Titus a little guitar and xylophone for his 2nd birthday this year and it has certainly been a hit. It has withstood some wear and tear but it has been so much fun to encourage a love for music in our home. Wooden drums, tamborines, and harmonics are other fun instruments for children’s play.

Exploring Tools

As the Bluehorn’s shared above, why not invest now in some quality exploratory tools, such as a good microscope, telescope, binoculars, etc. Now go out and explore nature together with real tools!

I’m excited to start investing in real tools that will help teach my children valuable life skills while serving together to care for the needs of our family. That real toolbox set is on Titus’ birthday list as I can’t get over how cute it is! I look at our toy collection now and see wooden blocks, a kitchen set, matchbox cars, and dress-ups, and they get used every day.

Comments { 31 }

Because Giving Thanks is for Everyday

Written by contributing writer, Michele at Frugal Granola.

Turning the calendar page to the autumn-leafed splendor of November momentarily brought slight pangs of “mommy guilt” to this homeschooling mama.

“What?! Thanksgiving is approaching, and I haven’t prepared a “thankfulness unit,” complete with Bible verses, family activities, and crafts?”

Then I heard my little boy’s voice at the table behind me lisping, “Yeth please. Thank you.”

And I remembered.

It’s the intentional, everyday thankfulness that I seek to cultivate in my children’s hearts; illuminating the awe of everyday blessings amid both trials and goodness.

Yes, we’ll still celebrate Thanksgiving. We’ll eat turkey, sweet potatoes, and pie (they’ve already put in their requests).

But real thankfulness isn’t limited to one day; albeit how special the “National Holiday”, or how creative a schooling curriculum may be.

The real joy to this mama’s heart is when we’re celebrating moments.

(I’ve been journaling my thankfulness for daily gifts, since reading One Thousand Gifts last year.)

  • The family “assembly line,” picking the bucketfuls of apples before frost arrives.
  • My brave little girl spontaneously giving her testimony for the first time to another girl at the library.
  • Warm chocolate chip cookies from the oven (from Nana’s well-worn recipe).
  • Memorizing our weekly Bible verses together.
  • Savoring a visit from a special friend. (“It’s ok the dog ate my present; I just wanted to see her.”)
  • A soothing bedtime medicine on a rough night.
  • New snow boots for the coming winter.
  • Giggles & hallelujahs from the playroom; singing along to a (very loud) worship CD.
  • Pennies saved to sponsor an international AWANA club.
  • My little boy with his favorite library book, carrying it around town.
  • The joy at choosing special items for our Operation Christmas Child shoebox.
  • Sweet smiles from a friend’s baby.
  • The whole family (including the kicking littlest one in my belly!) snuggling in the cozy flannel sheets of Daddy & Mama’s bed on an early, chilly morning.
  • Warm milk and a big bowl of popcorn on a Sabbath afternoon.
  • Sharing a huge pot of homemade soup with friends.

17 Pray without ceasing, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)

What are you giving thanks for today?

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