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Advent at Our Home: Our Favorite Christmas Books & Resources

IMG_3957The holidays are upon us, and I just love this time of year! I love making it meaningful and Christ-centered with so many wonderful resources at our disposal. I love pointing my children’s hearts to the manger where the greatest love story of all time began, and to set our hearts anticipating the coming arrival of the baby King. I just wanted to share some of our favorite resources we have used over the years to make this time of year special.

This year, we will be taking off from our normal school routines for the full two weeks before Christmas, so we can have extra time for Christmas reading, Christmas themed handicrafts, and baking. These are wonderful learning activities and are a lovely break from the regular school books. We will continue our daily couch time, where we will be reading picture books, memorizing a Christmas Scripture passage, reading and memorizing Christmas poetry, and the like.

Family Advent Devotional

Each morning, during our usual family devotion time, we will light our Advent wreath, and read a section from Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room by Nancy Guthrie. We will be using this excellent and rich devotional this year for Advent. Nancy Guthrie has done a fabulous job providing some meaty biblical content that is short and bit size. It also has a sprinkling of Christmas hymns and their intriguing histories throughout the book.

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Other great options:

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift: A Family Celebration of Advent- by Ann Voskamp – This is a good devotional to accompany a Jesse Tree style advent (check out our Jesse Tree here), where you put an ornament on the tree to represent various events throughout the story of the Bible, giving the full story of the coming King. My kids have always loved putting the ornaments on the tree. It made the stories so tangible. We have used this book the past several years. Overall, I believe it a good resource, although can be a little overly poetic at times. You have to like her style of writing. :)

All is Bright: A Devotional Journey to Color Your Way to Christmas – Nancy Guthrie – What a fun resource that has both advent readings and beautiful coloring pages! This book is just lovely and fun. Has coloring pages for adults and children. This has the same content as Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room as I mentioned above, but includes coloring pages.

Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Family Devotional – by Marty Machowski – This devotional has short and meaningful advent readings while incorporating several hands-on activities. An excellent resource, especially for the busy family, as it has just three readings for each week of Advent.

If you have just littles, you will want to check out Truth in the Tinsel: An Advent Experience for Little Hands. I loved using this when my kids were younger.

Advent Circle Time

Each morning, we will snuggle up on the couch for our Christmas themed Circle Time. We will be memorizing Matthew 1:21 and Isaiah 9:6-7 (which we began last year, and will add verse 7 this year), memorizing a Christmas poem (A Christmas Carol by G.K. Chesterton), and doing one Christmas Fun Mad Libs (for laughs and language building). We will conclude our circle time by reading a Christmas picture book (see recommendations below).

In addition, we will have poetry tea time once a week with Voices from Christmas, a lovely poetry book that highlights the perspective of the different people surrounding the nativity, and T’was the Night Before Christmas and other Seasonal Favorites by William Lach. We will also enjoy some of the beautiful paintings from The Christmas Story (Metropolitan Museum of Art). Sprinkled throughout our days at home, and while in the car, we will listen to our annual favorites: Handel’s Messiah,  Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Focus on the Family’s Christmas Carol (favorite!), Hallelujah Handel!, and Classical Kids Christmas albums. We also have the audio version of The Best Christmas Pageant Ever, because that is another hilarious favorite around here.

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 Christmas Activities

I am not a very craftsy mom, but Christmas break gives us a fun opportunity to learn new handicraft skills with a few simple Christmas kits: sewing ornaments, beaded ornaments, origami, etc. And of course, they must be all-in-one kits for this mama. Karis and I made these felt bird ornaments (pictured below) last year and they were super doable and turned out beautifully and teach hand sewing/embroidery skills. We will be making this felt ornaments set this year, and I’ll include both my 7 & 9 year olds. They can make a great Christmas gift for grandparents or relatives as well.

We will be using Bake Through the Bible at Christmas this year as a fun baking opportunity to do with my kids. I’ll be rotating through each child to give them a one-on-one time to bake with mommy as we work through this book. We will share the finished products with friends and neighbors.

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Other fun crafts we recommend:

Beaded Candy Cane Ornaments (all-in-one kit – great for little hands!) – The Beadery Holiday line has some other lovely simple bead kits as well.
Nativity Scene Gingerbread House (so much fun! Or buy a pre-baked all-in-one nativity scene kit)
Nativity Scene Cookies (with these Nativity cookie cutters) – Use these cookie cutters to make a Gingerbread Nativity Scene
Easy Christmas Origami (a fun book for kids to learn origami -see picture below)
Make Cranberry Bread for the neighbors/co-workers – Last year, we made Cranberry Bread (from the delightful book Cranberry Thanksgiving) in miniature loaves to give to friends, neighbors, and co-workers. It was delicious and received rave reviews! Another favorite for gifts is Taste of Home’s Pumpkin Bread (oh my! This is the best recipe ever!).

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Christmas Family Read-Alouds

In the evenings, we love to snuggle up for a family read-aloud with Daddy. This year, we will be reading Bartholomew’s Passage, which is the second in a series of adventure stories centered around the birth of Christ. Need a fun family read-aloud for the holidays?

We have greatly enjoyed all of these titles over the years:

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – by Barbara Robinson – A hilarious account of one town’s attempt at putting on a Christmas play with the most obnoxious family in town taking the lead roles. You can also get the picture book version.
The Christmas Carol - by Charles Dickens – I absolutely love this picture book adaption too! And you can’t miss the Focus on the Family Radio Theater: A Christmas Carol. It is fabulous and you’ll want to listen to it every year!
The Twenty Four Days before Christmas – Madeleine L’Engle –  A sweet short Christmas tale.
Keeping Holiday – by Starr Meade – Go on an allegorical adventure into the true meaning of Christmas with this story.
Jotham’s Journey: A Family Storybook for Advent – by Arnold Ytreeide – These are just delightful adventure stories set during the time of Christ from the perspective of a shepherd boy and his companions. My own parents read this series to my siblings and I growing up, and it has been so much fun to continue the tradition with our kids. Just a little tip: Start before Thanksgiving if you want to complete it before Christmas (gives you a little buffer room). Also in this series, you will want to check out Bartholomew’s Passage, Tabitha’s Travels, and Ishtar’s Odyssey.

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Favorite Christmas Picture Books

We absolutely love Christmas picture books! We love pulling out or unwrapping a new title for each day of December. We have done an Book Advent Calendar basket for a few years now, where we wrap up 24 Christmas picture books (in brown paper from Dollar Store) and open a new one each day. I’m not sure I’ll get around to wrapping them this year, but I certainly will have a pile to draw from each day. My kids never seem to get too old for picture books, and they still eagerly anticipate pulling out the stash year after year. “Oh, I love that one! I remember that one!” are the cries you will hear around here. I usually buy 1-2 new titles each year (usually from my favorite used book store, Thrift Books), and the rest we get from our local library (and yes, I’ve wrapped those too!). You can see my previous recommended list here. I have updated with some of our newest favorites below.

The Christmas Promise – by Alison Mitchell
The Year of the Perfect Christmas Tree - by Gloria Houston
The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski
The Town that Forgot About Christmas – by Susan Leigh
Cranberry Christmas - by Wende Devlin
Mortimer’s Christmas Manger – by Karma Wilson
Humphrey’s First Christmas – by Carol Heyer
The Crippled Lamb – by Max Lucado
The Story of St. Nicholas: More than Reindeer and A Red Suit by Voice of the Martyrs
Fear Not, Joseph – by Julie Stiegemeyer
God Gave Us Christmas – by Lisa Tawn Bergren
How the Grinch Stole Christmas – by Dr. Seuss
A Christmas Carol - by Charles Dickens (adapted)
The Pine Tree Parable by Liz Curtis Higgs
The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne
The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg
The Legend of the Christmas Stocking by Rick Osborne

Happy Christmas Advent planning! Would love to hear your favorite Christmas crafts and resources ideas!

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Favorite Thanksgiving Picture Books

IMG_3840We adore picture books around our house, especially when they are themed around the upcoming holiday season. Today, I wanted to share some of our favorite Thanksgiving picture books that will be enjoyed by all ages! Many of these you can find at the library, but some of them you’ll really want to add to your family collection to pull out year after year.

Cranberry Thanksgiving by Wende Devlin – this by far our all-time favorite Thanksgiving book! I highly recommend you add to your collection. A delightful story of welcoming the outcast. 1971 classic returned to print. This book also includes a fabulous recipe for Cranberry Bread on the back cover that is really incredible. We made it for neighbors and friends last Christmas and received no end to complements on it.

Over the River and Through the Woods – by Lydia Child – This is a lovely fun poem that is compiled in a beautiful picture book. Find a recording online and enjoy singing this engaging poem. My children have requested we memorize this poem for the month of November.

Sharing the Bread: An Old Fashioned Thanksgiving Story – by Pat Zietlow Miller – This is another one of our favorites as it emphasizes the beauty of celebrating with family and how a family works together in preparing for the celebration. Delightful!

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The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dalgliesh – In this festive Caldecott Honor–winning picture book, Alice Dalgiesh brings to life the origin of the Thanksgiving holiday for readers of all ages. If you want just one book on the history of the first Thanksgiving, then pick this one to add to your shelf.

Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation (Time Traveling Twins) by Diane Stanley – My kids beg for this one every year. Join the time traveling twins and Grandma as they head back in time to learn about the first Thanksgiving on Plymouth Plantation. Fun and engaging!

The Very First Thanksgiving Day - Greene, Rhonda Gowler – A simple but lovely rhyming account of the first thanksgiving.

Squanto’s Journey: The Story of the First Thanksgiving  by Joseph Bruchac – I love this re-telling of the story of Squanto and how he helped make the first thanksgiving possible. Another good title option is Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas.

Sarah Gives Thanks (how thanksgiving became a national holiday) by Mike Allegra – A fascinating account about how Thanksgiving became a national holiday and the courageous woman behind it. Another good version of the same story is Thank You, Sarah by Laurie Halse Anderson.

Saying Grace: A Prayer of Thanksgiving – Virginia Kroll – A Christian fictional account of a young pilgrim girl and how her family learned to say thanks.

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving – Louisa May Alcott (illustrated by Jody Wheeler) – this is a sweet picture book adaption of Louisa May Alcott’s classic. The abridged edition illustrated by James Bernardin is also a lovely version.

The Pumpkin Patch Parable – by Liz Curtis Higgs – A fun story about shining your light in the harvest season.

P is for Pumpkin: God’s Harvest Alphabet by Kathy-jo Wargin – a rhyming alphabet themed book highlighting different themes of the Thanksgiving/Fall season.

Give Thanks to the Lord – Karma Wilson – A lovely book based upon Psalms 92.

What are your favorite Thanksgiving books?

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Our Top 10 Classic Christmas Movies

It’s not too late to enjoy the joys of the holiday season with a fun family Christmas movie. This is one of our favorite things to do during the holidays. Snuggle up with some yummy white chocolate peppermint popcorn (yes, this was sooo yummy!), or maybe a cup of hot chocolate stirred with candy canes. We love adding to our Christmas movie collection with a new title each year and pulling them out for the holiday seasons. Here are some of our favorite classics (in no particular order):

1. The Bishop’s Wife - A sweet Christmas story emphasizing the importance of treasuring the gift of family (Watch instantly through Amazon rental here).
2. Christmas in Connecticut - I love this one for a good laugh! A young woman writing about her made up farm and family life has to entertain for Christmas without any true. experience. (Watch via Amazon Instant Video here).
3. Going My Way (watch via Amazon Instant Video here) – Bing Crosby plays a bishop seeking to minister to poor boys.
4. Belles of St. Mary’s (sequel to Going My Way)
5. White Christmas (watch instantly here) – another great Bing Crosby film full of fun, singing, dancing, and a sweet story line.
6. The Nativity Story (watch instantly here) - Enjoy the story of the birth of Jesus in a beautiful realistic way/
7. Holiday Inn (watch instantly here)
8. A Christmas Carol - this Patrick Stewart version is by far the best rendition and most accurate to the original story of Charles Dicken’s Ebenezer Scrooge. Use caution when watching with little ones because of the spirits.
9. It’s A Wonderful Life (this one is surprisingly not available to rent instantly, but I have seen it available to watch on YouTube.) – What would Christmas be without this sweet family film?
10. Miracle on 34th Street (1947 edition) (Watch instantly here)

What’s your favorite Christmas movie?

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Truth in the Tinsel: Advent with Little Ones

Spending December in a meaningful way with my little ones is a passion of my heart. I want to prepare their little hearts to love and treasure the true meaning of Christmas. Celebrating Advent has been a tradition in our family every year, but finding a resource that is appropriate especially for little ones has been a challenge. Truth in the Tinsel is a new resource that fabulously meets this need! This little ebook has 24 daily activities including Bible readings, talking points, extension activities, and craft ornaments for the advent season (all for just $7.99). Each craft is simple, hands-on, beautiful, and ties in wonderfully with the theme and goal of preparing our hearts for the Savior’s birth. They all can be hung on your Christmas tree or a separate dedicated tree displaying the story of the birth of Jesus from beginning to end. Most of the crafts are easily made with just simple things around your home.

I am super stoked about this book! And even if you don’t have the time or energy to make a craft every day, you can also get the paper ornaments set that can be purchased along side the Truth in the Tinsel ebook that can be simply colored and cut out. I highly recommend this resource! It is appropriate for all ages, not just the young ones, as the ornaments are not cheesy in any way, but truly elegant! I am going out this weekend to collect my supplies!

Click here to visit Truth in the Tinsel.

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Our Thankfulness Wreath

I am passionate about being intentional during the holiday season to cultivate simplicity and special family traditions in order to tune our hearts towards our Savior and focusing not upon ourselves but upon the glorious gifts that we are blessed with each and every day. It is easy for the holiday season to get incredibly busy with activities, outings, and gift shopping, and miss out on the more important work of preparing our hearts for the Lord’s coming. I am certainly guilty of this. I am thankful for the grace and strength that God freely gives to help us stop the madness, search our hearts, and begin to make practical steps towards refocusing our hearts.

This year I came across a cute thankfulness wreath pictured in a recent edition of Family Fun magazine that I was inspired to make for our own use. It was super easy to make. You only need a 12-inch styrofoam wreath, fall colored cardstock (or construction paper works too!), and about 1/4 yard of fabric cut into thin strips (about 2 inch strips works best I discovered). I took each strip of fabric and wrapped it around the wreath and secured it with straight pins. Then, I cut out leaf shapes on the cardstock and folded each leaf in half for added dimension and pinned them around the wreath with more straight pins. Each night as we prepare our hearts for thanksgiving, we will take our wreath down from the wall and write on a leaf the things each of us our thankful for.

To take just a few moments on a regular basis to think upon what we are grateful for during this month of preparation for Thanksgiving is really precious, especially as you hear the small voices of little ones whispering their thanks and recording it upon our wreath. Oh to keep our hearts focused on the goodness of a Mighty God who loves us. I need grace each and every day to keep my eyes upon the Lord rather than my failures and problems. This simple practice is just one way to get our eyes off ourselves and on One far more worthy of our gaze.

For further inspiration, visit: 5 Meaningful Things to Do In Preparation for Thanksgiving. Looking for a quality picture book read aloud for Thanksgiving? Check out our favorite: Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving.

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Whole-hearted Motherhood {Minus the Guilt}

Photo Credit

Written by contributing writer, Trina Holden.

This spring, being the analytical person that I am, I discerned that the stress level I was enduring and the general behavior and attitude of my kids and myself was no longer tolerable.

In other words, I was fed up, and it was time for a change.

Ahh, but I had tried to change in the past, and I knew all my try-hard efforts would only get me so far. A different tactic would have to be employed.

A Problem of {My} Heart

Sally Clarkson clued me in to the true problem (and thus the solution) as I read the first chapters of her book The Mission of Motherhood. She wrote of “The Divided Heart”, and I fit her description to a ‘T’. She shared her own journey and the decision to pursue motherhood whole-heartedly:

“Instead of pursuing a career with mothering tucked in around the edges, I have chosen to focus first on the mission of motherhood. My reward for this decision has been both simple and profound. I have been able to know the joys of mothering without a divided heart.” –Sally Clarkson, The Mission of Motherhood

Her beautiful description of whole-hearted mothering–in contrast to my own messy attempts at being the mom I wished I could be while juggling so many other balls–prompted me to pray a dangerous prayer.

“Lord, change my heart toward my children.”

I wanted to view them not as distractions, mess makers, and cute-but-time-consuming barriers between me and my definitions of success, but as gifts that allowed me to be what I’d always wanted to be: a mother. I wanted them to become my highest priority, and I knew that required heart change, not another set of rules or a new schedule.

Let me testify: this is the kind of prayer the Lord loves to answer.

The Change

I began to feel a difference after only a few days. I was beginning to cherish and enjoy my children more! My passion was rekindled to be the kind of mom I had always planned on being–a mom who read and played and drew and sang and climbed trees with her kids. I began to notice the little moments in each day to create these memories with my children. It did involve sacrifice in other areas, but thanks to God’s work in my heart, I felt the grace to embrace the sacrifice.

As we leave summer behind and head into a busy fall season, I find my heart quaking at the challenge of maintaining my new rhythm. But I’m beginning to see grace and beauty in the process because my new motivation is coming from a place of joy instead of shame.

Minus the Guilt

Jerry Jenkins wrote about a choice he made at the beginning of his writing career–to only write after his children were asleep. He believed in quality time with his children, so after working his day job, he’d spend time with his kids and not write till after they were in bed. He feels God blessed this choice and that his success as an author is largely due to keeping his priorities straight. He said,

“The major benefit for me as a writer? No guilt…There are things more important than your writing career.” –Jerry Jenkens, Writing for the Soul

I want to be a mom without guilt–don’t you? And I believe that wherever we find ourselves, whatever other passions and callings and roles He has given us, God will equip and provide grace for us to fulfill our highest calling without guilt. We just have to be willing to let Him do heart surgery.

If you struggle, as I do, with keeping motherhood balanced with all the other passions and pulls of life, I want to challenge you–not to another list of resolutions, or a new schedule, but simply to pray one small prayer from the heart:

“Lord, change my heart.”

He tells us He can change the hearts of Kings. I think He can handle this mamma heart, don’t you?

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Special Tea Time Moments with Your Girls

Guest post by Katie Stanley

It is important to create special moments with our daughters. I like to have tea times where we prepare yummy treats, dress up and have a few friends over.  This past tea was no exception. Princesses and fine ladies sat around a beautifully set table, nibbled on delicious treats and sipped fragrant tea.

Teas are a perfect time to remind our girls that they are daughters of the True King, our Heavenly Papa. We dawn on our best or most fun clothes and take time enjoy one others company while learning why we are important to God. We pull out the pretty dress, scarves and floppy hats. Part way through the tea I like to read a book that is just for girls. Some of my favorites are:

With You All the Way

The Princess Kiss

A Parable About The King

Gigi, God’s Little Princess Treasury

Teas are also an important time to teach manners in a fun environment. While I try to teach my daughters to have good manners and be polite all the time, teas are a fun time to put those manners into practice. Saying please and thank you, not slurping, having our elbows off the table, even putting our pinkie fingers up in the air while we drink our tea.

 Additionally teas are a perfect time to invite girls and their mothers from the neighborhood. It can be a wonderful way to reach out to our unsaved neighbors in a friendly non-confrontational manner. Simply invite some mamas and their daughters and enjoy one another’s company for a time of fun and fellowship.

I want to serve special treats for my girls to enjoy but at the same time I don’t want to sacrifice nutrition. I have found that it is easy to make treats that are nourishing without sacrificing flavor. This past time they nibbled on chocolate cherry coconut flour cupcakes, soaked lemony scones, lemon curd and sourdough blueberry muffins. We drank Rosy Black Tea sweetened with raw honey and a touch of farm fresh raw milk. None of our guests noticed the difference yet it was important to me to not sacrifice our nutrition by compromising and using refined sugar and flour. With exception to the coconut flour, none of the treats cost anymore to make than it would have to use refined products. I grind my own wheat, buy coconut oil in bulk, use lemons from my own trees and purchase my milk and eggs from a farm down the road.

Here is our favorite special tea to serve at Tea Time. The roses impart a delicious, light flavor.

Rosy Black Tea

6 cups water

¼ cup lose leaf organic black tea

½ cup organic rose petals

Raw honey to taste

Raw milk or cream to taste

Bring the water to a boil. For convince sake place the Rosy Black Tea in a large mesh tea ball or a small linen bag. Place the tea in your teapot and pour in the hot water. Let steep for five minutes, remove the tea leaves and then you are ready to serve.  Add a little honey and milk/cream for a delicious tea.

Katie Stanley is a dorm “mama” to 12 amazing girls ages 8 to 18 at a home and school for the Deaf in Baja California, Mexico. She and her “hijas” can be frequently found in the kitchen, the garden or making friends with their new chickens. She loves to read, hike the hills near her home and spend time with her girls. In her spare time Katie blogs at Mexican Wildflower about nourishing foods, herbal remedies, simple living, the Deaf, raising her girls and encouraging other women in their walk with Christ.

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Motherhood: A Career?

Have you ever been asked the question, “So, what do you do?” I have found myself dreading the question and repeatedly responding, “Oh, I’m just a mom.” “I’m just a homemaker.” Why do I speak of myself in a negative fashion? How easily we forget all that really goes into being a wife, mother, and homemaker. It’s not for wimps. It’s a challenging task and the most rewarding career you can pursue. We are loving and nurturing children day in and day out. This work can change nations…through the simply loving and guiding the heart of a child. How many different skills does a mother and homemaker have to possess? Next time someone asks you, “what do you do?”

Here’s your answer:

Accountant
Administrator
Advisor
Barber
Beautician
Chauffer
Cheerleader
Coach
Cook
Counselor
Driving Instructor
Gardener
Hostess
Helper
Interior decorator
Landscape designer
Maid
Merchant
Mind-reader
Mother
Nutritionist
Nurse
Organizer
Prayer-warrior
Psychologist
Seamstress (whether I like it or not, there are buttons to sew back on and holes to patch up!)
Spiritual advisor
Teacher
Waitress AND wife

The list goes on….You don’t need to be ashamed to say you are a wife and mother any more…Let’s declare it to the world with pride and delight!

What you do in your house is worth as much as if you did it up in heaven for our Lord God. We should accustom ourselves to think of our position and work as sacred and well-pleasing to God, not on account of the position and work, but on account of the word and faith from which the obedience and the work flow.
-Martin Luther
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Summer Vacationing with Kids

Guest post by Dawn Fong at My Daily Road Trip

I arrived home exhausted and disappointed. I was impatient with my kids, my husband, and quite frankly, I didn’t even like being around myself because of my own crabbiness. Where had I been, you ask? Actually, our family (me, my husband, our 1 1/2 year-old daughter and our 3 year-old son) had just returned from our summer “vacation!” Sound familiar? Have you ever embarked on what you thought would be a restful and fun time of meaningful connection for your family only to come home and wonder what happened? It’s possible that you may have gone at your vacation with wrong attitudes and/or wrong expectations.

When I discussed the aforementioned vacation with a friend, she said, “Actually, if your kids are with, it’s not really a “vacation.” It’s a family “trip.”‘ Ah, yes! Now it all made sense. I realize that people vacation in very different ways. Some pack their days full with activities and events, while others (like myself) prefer to choose a few activities for the entire vacation, while also taking time just to sleep, read, head to a coffee shop, or enjoy deep conversation with others.

However, no matter your vacationing preference, the fact is that things look different when children are involved. Now that you know my vacationing preference, is it any surprise that I returned home from our “family vacation” disappointed, exhausted, and frustrated? Since then, I’ve come up with a few tips that help me and will hopefully help you enjoy that trip your family may be taking this summer.

1. Examine Your Expectations

Before you leave, examine your expectations for the trip. Be realistic. If your entire family is sleeping in one hotel room or tent and your expectation is to get full, restful nights of sleep, you are bound to be frustrated.

If you are packing 7 days full of activities and expect angelic behavior of your kids even though they are exhausted, you are not being realistic. Because your kids are with, your responsibilities as a mom do not get to go on vacation. Accept that and move on.

Try to get a bit of meaningful time with your husband during the trip, but accept that this may happen during travel time in the car. Be ok if your children are not on their all-time best behavior (because how can you really plan that for your trip?!) and your time away isn’t as “special” or “meaningful” as you had hoped. Just enjoy being together, whatever that may bring.

2. Simplify Your Trip

Depending on the ages of your kids, simplifying your trip may allow you to keep your sanity. This may involve being gone for shorter periods of time. Our family took 2 main family trips last summer, each of which lasted about 4 days total. We also chose to stay within 4-5 hours of our home as to minimize the car time for our small ones.

Choose several activities to do and then be content doing the simple, everyday things together. For example, one of our long weekend trips was our “urban trip.” in which we stayed in a motel a few nights, went to the city’s aquarium, and enjoyed one meal out. Beyond that, we went to a local park, enjoyed swimming in the motel pool, and just hung out.

During our weekend trip (our “mountain get-away”), we set up camp at a beautiful campground and didn’t leave for 2-3 days. However, we had a grand time as we went on hikes, explored the campground, and enjoyed time around the campfire. Those times were still special because we were away from home doing things we don’t usually get to do together.

3. Seek to Bless Your Family Members

Seek to bless the others in your family and don’t just think about what YOU would like to get out of the trip. Pack a few special new toys you know will especially bless your kids. After you begin your driving shift, stop at a nearby coffee-shop and grab your husband his favorite coffee drink. Seek to serve others rather than demand to be served just because you are away on a family trip.

4. Enjoy the Journey!

Enjoy the journey and not just the destination – even in the literal sense! Thankfully (because it does not come easily to me), my husband lives out the attitude that life is more about the process and journey of life than the destination, no matter how messy it gets.

Embrace this attitude on your trip, even during the car or plane time you have. Instead of viewing it as the necessary evil to reaching your end destination, view it as part of the trip. And overall, try to go with the flow despite things possibly not going how you were hoping.

Yes, I realize the above things are difficult to carry out, but your adventure will go more smoothly if they are. Now, go and enjoy making memories during that family trip, whatever it may bring!

What tips can you share for cultivating peaceful family vacations with little ones?

Dawn Fong resides in beautiful Colorado where she lives out the adventure of loving her husband, 2 kiddos, and those around her. She enjoys creative communication, deep conversation, iced coffee, hiking, and being part of the process in which other people become more fully who God created them to be. You can find more of her thoughts on life at My Daily Road Trip.

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Tucking Them in With Truth: Scripture Memory with Little Ones

My desire is that my children would come to love and uphold the truth of Scripture in their precious hearts from their infancy. My prayer is that we might plant seeds of the gospel in their tender souls so they would desire to walk closely with Christ. I want to be able to memorize Scripture together with my children – combining storing truth in my heart and in their hearts at the same time. But how can this be done in a doable simple manner?

I was recently reading, Shaping of A Christian Family, by Elisabeth Elliot, and was inspired by her mother’s writing in the introduction with this simple challenge:

“I found that simply repeating Psalms 23 each night to Jim after he was tucked in bed was a painless way of implanting this beautiful song of David in his heart and mind. Winthin a week he was beginning to say it with me, and it was part of the going-to-bed ritual. As he mastered Psalms 23, we added other Scripture.

In teaching young children, it is well to remember the words in Isaiah 28:10, ‘For precept must be upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little.‘ It is thus our patient God has dealt with us; and so we must deal with our little ones, repeating often the Word of God so that it will be hidden in their hearts so they will ‘not sin against God’.”

Scripture memory doesn’t have to be complex and overwhelming. It simply requires repetition. I think the key here for me was the idea of simply adding it to one of our other regular routines – bedtime! We already have a regular bedtime routine established which helps settle the little ones down for the night in a peaceful manner. Why not follow the challenge to just read an adopted portion of Scripture for memory work during this time?

In this past month, we started our bedtime routine with reading a passage of Scripture, followed by a bedtime story, before tucking them in with a goodnight prayer. We began with Psalms 23 as Elliot’s mother had suggested. We read it multiple times a week for a two week period. It took maybe 5 minutes of time. We all just listened as I read it twice. In just two weeks, I was blown away at how both my 5 and 3 year old had memorized it completely.

I knew my 5 year old could do it as we have memorized a fair amount before…but hadn’t tested my 3 year old son. I finally randomly asked him if he wanted to share it. With great speed and fluency (even more solidly presented than his older sister), my little guy recited all six verses in rapid time. It was such an encouragement to my soul. These precious souls are listening. Their hearts and minds are ready to be filled with truth and they can memorize more than we can imagine. Since completing Psalms 23, we have memorized The Lord’s Prayer as well as Psalms 1 through this simple habit of reading a chosen portion of Scripture before bed.

Titus would like to share with you Psalms 23…May you be blessed today and encouraged that it is possible to  hide God’s Word in your hearts as a family and in this way prepare your hearts to continue following hard after Him. I share this as an encouragement to all of us that God will reward your faithfulness!

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