Listen to the Quiet :: A Daily Pause for Moms

Written by contributing writer, Daniele Evans from Domestic Serenity.

Alright, I know what you’re thinking.  Maybe you’re even laughing.  Listen to the…quiet?

And you’re wondering just where this post is going.  We could probably agree that a daily spa moment of sorts is helpful to our well-being.  But just how to make this happen may seem a mystery.

So, hear me out and offer your thoughts as well?

I know Mama.  I know.  A household full of little ones, homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, ministry, training, teaching, being a wife, a friend, a sister — where in the world does a daily pause fit in!?

May I suggest today that it naturally doesn’t?  At least not all on its own.  This time will not just happen…it must be created.


First, we must embrace the necessity of pause, of rest.  Rest is not man’s idea, it’s God’s.  Man takes it farther than ever intended and makes it laziness, but true rest was designed and demonstrated by a loving God from the beginning.  He knew just what people, Moms like you and me would need.

Rest honors God’s way and design; we give glory to Him when we follow His command to rest.



True rest includes pausing to reflect upon our work.  For we were also created for purpose-driven Christ-honoring work, yet not without pause.  Stepping back before moving on is simply wise.  It’s not waiting until we’re completely exhausted and burnt out, then finally collapsing.  God’s example in Creation offers a daily rhythm of reflection to think upon and consider our work — to name what is good.

We Moms have trouble with this, at least I do.  I lean more towards thinking on all that still needs doing instead of celebrating what has been accomplished.  But still, we should think on what is lovely, excellent and praise-worthy :: yes, this includes our work!

Because the nature is reflection, a midday or late afternoon break is what I’m suggesting.  A short time of 15 to 30 minutes to separate morning work from evening work, to refuel a little before going on.

Now, no need to cancel vacation plans, a visit with a friend, or digging into a good book.  Rest can and should also include leisure; engaging in pleasurable activities or interests provides refreshment as well.  Jesus often took his disciples away and on one occasion fixed breakfast on the beach for them — sounds nice and leisurely to me!


What if you did just that?  Created a space and time for moments of daily pause, of quiet?  With the purpose of reflection upon your work, and for a bit of leisure as well.  But, let’s be very real.  Many of us are in a season of fullness, of numerous responsibilities.  Just how do we accomplish such a task?

I’m sounding like a broken record, but the first step is believing that you should.  Then quickly following up with believing that there is a way, that it is possible.  Before we get to the nitty gritty and some suggestions (that’s an upcoming post!), may I encourage your heart?  Too often, we jump on a band-wagon thinking…

“Yeah, this is just what I need!!  Tomorrow, right now, I’ll start this daily pause thing! WHOOP!, Whoop, whoop….fizzle, fizzle.  Oh, well.  I guess that just didn’t work for me.”

End of story.  That’s living intensely, not intentionally.

Maybe you’re ready to start now, by all means…move forward!  But, maybe you just need to take a baby step, to consider just how this all might work.  To prepare and plan for making room.

Begin with prayer.  Asking God to convince your heart of this need.  Stretching your faith muscles to believe it can happen.

Take an inventory of your days.  Nothing fancy, just be more aware of how things flow, thinking about when and where a pause would most benefit your schedule and routine.

In the comments, feel free to offer thoughts :: do you see a need for this in your days?  what would you view being a hindrance to taking time for a daily pause — where could you use suggestions or help?  

We’ll seek to answer or address questions in the next post.  I absolutely do not have all of the answers!  But, I’m convinced we can learn and grow together in this community.

To God be all glory….

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Paula’s Bread: NutriMill Grain Grinder Giveaway!

Today we are excited to offer a fantastic giveaway from Paula’s Bread, our longtime sponsor and supplier of wonderful kitchen equipment. Paula would like to offer a NutriMill Grain Grinder to one special reader! This grain mill is valued at $269.99 and is a wonderful tool for your natural kitchen.

Paula’s Bread is a sweet family operated business offering a wealth of natural kitchen supplies to equip you for making your own homemade goodies. They have been a longterm distributor of the Bosch Universal Mixer and NutriMill grain grinders which are powerful reliable tools for any whole foods kitchen.

Paula shares, “It has been my passion to help the harried cook feed their family nutritionally while not overtaxing the cook. The kitchen products I carry are kitchen tools I personally use to help/enhance getting the finished food product done. I love helping others make great bread, saving the cook time and saving family’s money with all the wonderful things they can do to stretch their budget with a simple batch of bread.

I have owned a NutriMill for nearly 6 years now and it has served me faithfully in grinding all my grains into fresh whole grain flours to make our own baked goods.

It has a very trim design and is not huge and awkward making it easy to store on my kitchen counter tucked in the corner for easy access. It produces fresh flour very quickly providing me with a nice batch of flour in a matter of minutes. It actually stays relatively clean while grinding flour and does not have a huge off spray, thus providing easy clean up. Its works very well for grinding fresh flours for all your baking needs. It has a twenty cup bowl capacity, so you can prepare a lot of flour at once or any smaller amounts as well. The Nutrimill keeps your flour at temperatures (typically around 118 degrees) that protect the nutrients in your grains. Its new airflow design makes it the world’s coolest-running impact mill. It has a lifetime warranty including the stainless steel blades.

For my complete review of the NutriMill, visit here.


1. Visit Paula’s Bread and check out their line of products. In the comments below, share your favorite product that they offer and how you would use the NutriMill if you were to win this product.

2. For an optional second entry, sign up for the Paula’s Bread newsletter (located on the lower right hand portion of the side bar) and let us know in a second comment below.

Giveaway Closed.

AND THE WINNER IS…Therese – Artistta!!! Congrats!

Check out Paula’s Bread on facebook to stay informed on future sales and updates!

Paula’s Bread is offering a special discount of $5 off any order of $25 or more with a stainless steel purchase. Enter “Stainless Steel” at checkout. Expires 1/31/12.

Giveaway limited to US participants only.
Winner will be randomly selected and contacted on the Wednesday following the completion of the giveaway. The end of this post will be updated to announce the winners.
Email subscribers: You must click through to the original post on Passionate Homemaking to be entered into this giveaway.
No purchase necessary.

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Simplifying by Buying Groceries Online

Did you know that it is possible to do the majority of your grocery shopping online these days?

This has certainly be a huge blessing lately while trying to juggle three kiddos and the various responsibilities I have within our home. I have been investigating different options lately in an effort to use my time most productively. Honestly, it is pretty tiring for me to haul all the kiddos to the store. Buying groceries online saves my energy and is a simple way to protect against unnecessary stress.

Additionally, it’s far to easy to buy items that aren’t necessarily on my grocery list when I get in that environment (oh, wouldn’t the kids love trying this? Ahh…coconut milk yogurt, yum!). Surprisingly enough, shopping online has been saving me money!

It has been two year now since I shared my initial real food budget and what food purchases we make at our home. It has certainly changed and been tweaked over this period. With food prices continuing to rise, we have had to adjust and re-evaluate as necessary. I used to shop primarily at our local Trader Joe’s but have become more and more dissatisfied by the lack of freshness and packaged nature of their produce. I also found I had to make multiple stops to get everything I needed because TJ’s doesn’t have that large of selection.

Currently, our food budget is $500-$525 per month and these are the majority of the purchases we make. 

I am finding myself using the Subscribe & Save feature on Amazon more frequently for finding huge savings on many food items in their Natural & Organic Grocery section. Their selection is growing each time I look. Most of the items are more bulk purchases, but they are non-perishable items, which makes it very possible to spread out their use over a 2-3 month period. With the subscription option, you save an additional 15% and have scheduled deliveries every 1-6 months as you desire. We have prime membership which provides wonderful quick free delivery (even without prime, most items are also available for free shipping if you spend over $25). In this manner, I don’t have to think about it and there is still flexibility to change as you need. You can also cancel at any time. I love food being delivered to my door!

We purchase the following via subscriptions. I have compared them extensively with my other food sources and found Amazon’s prices to be the best: Organic peanut butter, organic raisins, organic coconut milk, vanilla extract, organic coconut oil, maple syrup, gluten-free honey rice cereal (our Sunday morning breakfast), chicken broth (I prefer making my own chicken broth, but I also forget to pull it out of the freezer a lot, so I like having small portions of chicken broth on hand for easy access), toilet paper (yes, you can even save on the basics!), charlie’s laundry soap, mac & cheese (I like having Annie’s on hand for an easy lunch). Amazon also has a growing selection of quality dry goods, including beans and grains.

Safeway Delivery

I am starting to order many random food items (that are not available through my other sources) via Safeway delivery lately. Our budget is $100 per month. The time it saves is worth the slightly increased price. You can save on shipping simply by being flexible as to delivery time or they often offer free shipping if you purchase a certain number of items from their specials list or on orders over $150. I pay no more than $6.95 for delivery in our area. I try to purchase most of my produce organically, and use the Dirty Dozen as my guide. In the summer, I love to use Organics to You for fresh local produce delivered to our door.

Here are the items I purchase through these sources: Organic Milk for making yogurt (1/2 gallon twice a month), lunchmeat, pepperoni, mozzarella, Parmesan cheese, fresh organic produce (bananas, oranges, salad mixes, etc), various other food needs not available through other sources.

Azure Standard 

I appreciate Azure Standard and the bulk natural foods that they offer. We spend about $100 per month through Azure. They deliver to drop spots all over the Northwest and moving more into the Midwest of the US. I buy the following: Brown rice pasta, natural soaps and shampoos, organic crackers, mayonnaise, organic produce, tortillas, raw cheddar cheese, sour cream, soy sauce, olive oil, vinegars, raw honey, spices, condiments, sucanat, oats (other bulk grains and beans), canned wild salmon, tomato soup.

In addition to these purchases, I buy local raw milk & eggs  (1 gallon per week, 2 dozen per week – $68 per month), and we also set aside $100 per month for bulk meat and fruit purchases throughout the year to stock the freezer. We buy 1/4 cow, 1 pig, and about 40 lbs of chicken breasts annually. We buy a dozen loaves of sprouted wheat bread from Dave’s Killer Bread/Healthy Bread Store warehouse (they offer a frozen dozen of sprouted bread for $25). We consume this amount of bread in about 2 months. I continue to make my own jam, salsa, kefir, yogurt, and various pastries as we desire. That’s pretty much it…

Other excellent food delivery sources:

Beyond Organic (this online store has recently been launched birthed out of Jordan Rubin’s book)

U.S. Wellness Meats (find quality grass fed products)

Vitacost (this is another growing option that has a great selection of real foods, vitamins, herbs, and more at deep discounts! I found Eden Organics, Nutivia, Bob’s Red Mill and many other quality brands available here. Many of their products are very comparable to Amazon and Azure Standard too. I just made an order because they sell cod liver oil and other good supplements.) Refer a friend and you both get $10. A fun way to save!

Be sure to search google for specific grocery delivery companies in your area!

Found any good natural food deals lately? Please share!

Note: There are affiliate links in this post for Amazon, so we receive a small percentage of any purchases made through these links. Through your support, we are able to sponsor an orphan home in India.

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My Personal Goals for 2012

As we begin a new year, I love mapping out some purposeful goals for myself to continue to grow in my faith, keeping a simple lifestyle, and being intentional in missional living. I want to be continually examining my walk to make sure I am growing (2 Cor. 13:5) and striving “not to act thoughtlessly, but understand what the Lord wants you to do” (Eph. 5:17). This year I have been inspired to adopt 12 intentional goals for the year. One to make habit for each month of the year. I have prayerfully written these out in my homemaking binder using the Graham Ministry Intentional Planner forms, along with our family mission statement and my personal mission statement so I can review weekly in my planning times and keep myself on track. Putting thought and prayer into selecting what the Lord would have you do will bring about beautiful fruit. Don’t try to force goals on yourself that others may have added. Submit yourself to what the Lord would have for you.

I am eager to keep my focus this year on continuing to strive to treasure the little moments, the blessings of each and every day. I don’t want to get caught up in doing so many things, that I miss out on the gifts of my little ones. I want to make our home a gift of grace for others through our hospitality. By God’s grace, my prayer is that I “shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual womanhood.” (thanks to 10 Steps to Stay Alive to the Beauty of God’s World) And as the article continues later on, “I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, ‘fulfill the moment as the moment.’ I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is just now.”

My theme this year I feel is pursuing GRACE in my daily interactions with my children. I find I am so easily succumbed to anger and frustration at their many needs, questions, and demands. I want to be able to stop what I’m doing and meet them with love and graciousness. I’m embracing Proverbs 31:26 as my verse for this year, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”

1. Read 12 books (one per month)
2. Start my day by getting dressed
3. Take a daily 30 minute pause/rest each midday to simply read or nap as needed
4. Re-establish weekly planning retreat (have gotten out of this routine a bit due to my husband’s crazy work routine – but as we enter a new season, I think it will work to get back on track!)
5. Record a daily highlight, blessing, or memory from each day in my Mom’s One Line a Day journal (to treasure God’s goodness, my children’s progress and humor, and all the other little blessings since I am so prone to forget!)
6. Continue recording 1000 gifts and beyond! (This exercise has certainly been life-changing! I can’t stop! I want to make thanksgiving my dialect! I’m joining the Joy Dare to record 1,000 gifts in 2012! I’ve completed my first 900 over the past 14 months, so I’m going for 2,000 gifts by the end of 2012.)
7. Find a workable exercise routine for this season
8. Convert all my crockpot recipes to freezer meal adaptions (to simplify my meal preparations!)
9. Work on seasoning my speech with more kindness toward my children
10. Plan one way to bless, serve, or encourage my husband on a weekly basis
11. Plan a monthly outreach opportunity for our family
(to our community, at Elderly home, or local public school)
12. Begin reading more classics to further my education and improve my vocabulary and writing. Join classics book study group for accountability. Want to always be pursuing the joys and delights of learning!

In all our goal making, let’s embrace this simple reminder: (thanks to the lovely ladies at GirlTalk for the following encouragement)

In her book, Keep A Quiet Heart, Elisabeth Elliot encourages us to focus on the most important of New Year’s hopes:

“Will the young woman find a mate? Will the couple have a child? Maybe this year will be the year of desire fulfilled. Perhaps, on the other hand, it will be the year of desire radically transformed, the year of finding, as we have perhaps not yet truly found, Christ to be the All-Sufficient One, Christ the ‘deep sweet well of Love’” (page 49, emphasis mine).

This year, let us ask God to dissolve all our hopes (however good they may be!) into a single hope: to know Christ and to be found in Him. May this be a year of desire radically transformed, a deeper, truer, knowing of Christ as our All-Sufficient One.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord” (Philippians 3:7-8a).

And may we remember that the only guarantee of lasting change in our lives is through the power and grace of our Savior. We can strive in our own strength to make the goal, but without God’s empowering grace we will never succeed. Let’s make sure to embrace His gracious work that was accomplished on the cross and walk in that beauty day by day as we seek to be transformed into His likeness.

For help with your own personal goal making, check out Simple Mom’s helpful list of questions.

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Stepping Forth in Faith in a New Year

Within a three week period we decided it was time for my husband, Aaron, to quit his job and begin a whole new business venture. It has been ruminating in our hearts for several months now. My husband has been working tirelessly. There is so many initial fears that resonated in my heart. I like the security of a regular paycheck. I am comfortable. I like paid vacations and health benefits. We have lived the self-employed lifestyle previously and its hard work. I wasn’t ready to step out again. I had my five year plan in place. But God is graciously reminding me that he doesn’t work in my timetable.

I have been mediating on the life of Rebekah from Genesis 24 lately. Abraham’s servant has been sent to his hometown to find a wife for his son, Isaac. Abraham’s servant asks this young lady to come with him to marry Isaac. Rebekah simply says, “I will go.” In a moment, she was willing to say farewell to all that she had ever known. She knew that potentially she would never she her family and home country again. She was willing to marry a man that she had never met. That is amazing faith. I want that faith. To be so at rest in my Father’s arms that I could willingly walk the unknown path before me.

I don’t know what lies behind the next corner of our lives as we let go of my husband’s job and walk by faith and not by sight. We simply don’t know what it will look like this year. The only thing we can do is strive to be faithful in the knowledge that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

Am I willing to take a leap of faith into this unknown? For it is in the unknown that fellowship with my Lord is sweetest. It is in the unknown that God’s mercy is most beautifully manifested. It is in the unknown that our faith is refined and comes forth shining more brightly. Am I willing to simply say with Rebekah, “yes, I will go?” Am I willing to follow my man, to faithfully stand by his side, as I committed to at the altar nearly six years ago?

We can be confident in one thing. He will never leave us nor forsake us. He holds me by the hand and walks before me. I am not alone.

I am excited about the new adventures that life brings with it as we set forth in this new year. We will certainly be living more frugally until his new business gets off the ground. Our budget is being trimmed down significantly. I love how God seeks to stretch our faith and get us out of our comfort zone so we can see His beautiful majesty in a whole new light.

Life is full of new adventures saturated with God’s gifts to be observed and recorded and if I stayed in my comfort zone I surely would not be able to experience them.

In addition to it all, during these past few weeks, I have honestly been really struggling and wrestling with the future of this blog. At the start of a new year I want to get all my ducks in a row, have a wonderful inspiring plan for my writing. I wanted to have amazing themes for this new year. I felt pressured that I need to be this professional, organized blog. But the Lord wasn’t opening these doors. No amazing creative ideas. Was this a sign that this season of blogging was coming to an end? I was willing if God wanted to close these doors. But then I felt the Lord speaking to be gently: “Lindsay, I just want you to be faithful in sharing your messy self with these women. I just want you to share My messages. I don’t want you to be about overwhelming women in all the little things they “should” be doing, but rather encouraging them to press in to know the Lord right where they are at.”

I believe in the importance of sharing my real life messes with you. I’m far from perfect. Daily I must cry out for grace and mercy to walk this rode of mothering and homemaking. I want our team of writers (many thanks to my awesome contributing writers) to be about encouraging you in your homemaking, mothering, and wife-hood. We want to see you grow to see the beauty of your work. It is a glorious task that we have been assigned. We need each other in standing strong even when our culture seeks to make us seem invaluable. But ultimately this is all about Jesus. Everything here is for Him. I want this new year to be flowing with His Spirit in everything that is shared here.

So there you have it. The dawn of a new year. You will still find practical simple living tips and healthy recipes sprinkled here and there. These are part of my day by day passions to live by our family mission to live simply in order to give generously. We’ll be sharing practical ways that you can live a generous missional life in the sphere that God has placed you. But ultimately, our writing will be Spirit led, sharing the day by day struggles to kneel humbly before our Master and offer up our hands and feet to his service.

Will you join us and step into the unknowns of God’s amazing grace for you today?

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Merry Christmas!

The Edmonds Family 2011

We want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a blessed holiday season as we celebrate the beauty of Christ’s birth together! We will be enjoying the fun of family celebrations, stockings, cranberry candy canes, caroling to neighbors and friends, and building other sweet memories. I also can’t wait to help bring my newest niece/nephew into the world any day now! Life is full but God is so good. We pray you would have a lovely Christmas as well!

We will be taking a blogging break here for the remainder of the month and plan to return in early January. Be blessed!

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When Your Mother’s Heart Trembles

Written by monthly contributing writer, Daniele Evans.

Something wasn’t right.

I knew it deep down, and it shook me upThis boy of ours struggled, unable to translate words in his mind to ones we could hear from his mouth.

He tried, yes he did.  His toddler lips shaping silently, that innocent voice straining to move beyond babbling to actual speech.

Each attempt met disappointment, and Mama’s heart trembled as I watched my son. Often I’d look into those eyes, sometimes teary with frustration…and the core of me ached.

He knew.

Neither one of us understood why, but he knew words escaped him.  Unlike the possible fits or tantrums from a strong-hearted two-year-old, the battle within him displayed as silence.

He laughed, he played, he engaged with our family.  But when it came time for words, and toddler attempts at repetition didn’t quite sound like Mama’s or big brother’s or anyone else’s…

…He sat in silence, alone with his pain.  Oh, how my heart would ache for him.

Since those months, we’ve been introduced to the world of Early Intervention, speech therapy, and a host of other special needs considerations for this concern.  At times overwhelming, I am mostly grateful for assistance in guiding our son.

These days, when my heart’s still shaky on the subject, I think of Mary.

I admire Jesus’ mother for many reasons.  She was so calm and collected when a host of strange men excitedly arrived into her birthing space, a stall no less.  I’d like to think I would simply ‘ponder all these things in my heart’, but realize words would probably escape my lips.  Sigh.  Most of all, I remember Mary’s initial visit from the angel (Luke 1:26-38) — an interruption to everything she was planning. Motherhood for Mary didn’t begin all cozy and sweet.  She was shaken from the start with news of all her son be responsible for, all he would face.

And her heart trembled.

I am repeatedly humbled by the response.  Even with heart and mind likely scattered as she processed the impact of her calling, Mary responded:

“I am the Lord’s servant…May it be to me as you have said.” (Luke 1:38)

Here’s my interpretation — “Alright.  I’m God’s and I’m available to Him.  Go ahead, birth Jesus in me.”

Lord, grace me with such a heart.  In this unexpected path of speech delays and unknown worlds of therapists and education plans…remind me that I am Yours; and you’re up to something in my life.

The path of motherhood for any of us is both exhilarating and terrifying.  It may not always be pretty, we’ll most definitely face challenges and we’ll sometimes wonder if any good is being done.

Our children will test us, onlookers will misunderstand us, and the impact of our callings will bring us to our knees. I won’t pretend to understand each personal story in this raising of children.  But, I am convinced of one thing for us all:

If we allow, if we like Mary lend ourselves to being His servant, willingly walking hand-in-hand with Him in this up-over-the-top journey of motherhood…

He’ll birth Jesus in us.  

And the Prince of Peace will settle our trembling hearts.

Grace in the journey sisters…

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Healthy Peppermint Patties

Mint chocolate is my thing…Andes Mints have my favorite chocolate for as long as I can remember. Minty freshness with a hint of sweetness just makes my day. Any other chocolate simply have no appeal to me. With the holiday season came the thought of trying to make a healthy adaption of peppermint patties for a fun little treat and gift for others. I came across Elana’s Pantry version and knew I just had to give it a try. I prefer using raw honey in replacement of agave nectar for the increase nutritional value, so I adapted the recipe as follows. I also found you could use maple syrup just as easily. I also increased the peppermint extract because it needed a bit more. I doubled the recipe below and it made about 20 small peppermint patties. It turned out simply scrumptious and received rave reviews to the recipients that I shared it with. It is a simple 4 ingredient little treat for anyone!


1/2 cup coconut oil (solid state – firm at temperatures below 76 degrees)
1/4 cup raw honey or maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1/2-1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted and cooled slightly (I found it easiest to melt them and thin slightly with a Tablespoon of milk to get the best consistency. Cooling is essential for it to stick correctly.)


1. Combine the coconut oil, honey/maple syrup, and peppermint extract in a food processor or blender till smooth.

2. Place in freezer until the ingredients are fairly solid (15 minutes or so).

3. Scoop out mixture with a 1.5 teaspoon scoop or whatever you have on hand (I used a standard Tablespoon) and form small balls on a parchment paper/wax paper lined cookie sheet. Press down into flattened rounds. (It will naturally melt a bit when brought in contact with your hands, so quickly form little mounds but don’t stress for perfection, because it will not happen. ;)

4. Transfer back to the freezer to solidify again.

5. Remove from freezer after they are firm again and dip with a spoon into your melted cooled chocolate until fully covered. Allow 10 minutes or so to harden. Store in refrigerator until you are ready to consume.

Yield: 10-12 small patties (if you want to make them larger, go for it!)


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Simple Ways of Treasuring Family Memories

One of my greatest struggles in life is my terrible memory. I am sure I am lacking some sort of brain cells because my memory serves me so poorly. I hardly recall incidents from my past that my siblings could describe in detail for you. The reality of it is that we all have a tendency to forget. We forget how God has demonstrated His persevering grace over our lives. This being said, I want to be very deliberate to record our family history so I can have reminders of God’s faithfulness to us throughout the years. Recording your family history is such a beautiful treasure. It is a gift that can be passed on to the next generation. It is a reminder of the goodness of God in our lives. Here are a few ideas we have started over the years to begin treasuring these memories more deliberately.

Birthday Letter Journal

As a child, my parents would write a special birthday letter to me every year. These letters have been treasured and re-read numerous times over the years. They have been a source of encouragement as well as treasured memories. I was the determined mother to record all the fun growth chart and progress reports of my little ones from their birth, but as more children have been added it has been very difficult to maintain. Over this last year I decided I needed to adapt this plan in order to make it more maintainable. So I now keep a simple journal for each of my children in which I record a special letter to them on the occasion of their birthday each year. Each birthday I write a letter highlighting all the progress from the previous year and how the Lord is growing and shaping them. I want it to be a letter that can encourage and bless them as the years go by. I want to be able to give each journal to my child to take with them when they leave our home.

Daily Family Journal

Recording fun sayings and daily developments has been a desire of mine for some time. I loved keeping a daily journal as a child but that is not so practical now with three little ones. I came across the idea of a One Line a Day Memory Journal. I love this concept of recording a simple one line highlight from each day of our lives and being able to track what takes places on that same day in years to come. Now that is doable. ;) Another variety along these lines is the Postcard Calendar Journal.

Annual Memory Ornament

I stumbled across this idea on Pinterest of recording highlights from the year on an annual white/clear ornament. I love it! A simple way to look back over the years and remember special highlights of different events, vacations, progress report, etc. I used a permanent marker to record the events. You could do a family oriented version or a different ornament for each child highlighting the child’s accomplishments, milestones, silly things they said, and personal favorite’s from the year (book, food, movie).

Annual Photo Books

Scrapbooking has never been my thing. I’m just not that creative gal. But I do want to store our family photos in a easy viewable format. So I began making an annual photobook (pictured above). I’m a bit behind and have 2010 and 2011 to finish this year, but it is a fun way to treasure the photos in a book style attractive format without having to print individual pictures at all. I have used Blurb, Costco, or Shutterfly for these photobooks and have had great success with all of them. At the end of each photo book, we write a family report from the year answering the end of a year questionare.

I am so thankful for all the simple ways that we have for treasuring our family memories. I do not want to forget His unending love and faithfulness to us. I want to pass it on to the next generation so that God might be glorified through our testimony.

For further inspiration, check out Trina’s post on 24 Ways to Keep A Family Journal.

“Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassion’s never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness”. Lamentations 3:21-23

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Gift Wrapping Made into Memory-Making and God-Honoring Fun

Guest post written by Rachel Garlinghouse.

Gift wrapping is one of those activities that just gets tacked on at the end of all the little jobs we have to do in preparation for the holidays. Often times it is hurriedly done without a lot of thought. Usually I plow through gift wrapping marathons, occasionally letting my toddler hold the tape dispenser or plop a bow on top of a package. This year, I realized that treating Christmas like a task to be completed rather than a special time of year full of teachable moments and joy was doing a disservice to my children. Christmas is an opportunity to embrace peace, create memories, and reflect on blessings. Jesus’ birth is far too incredible and important to one’s understanding of God’s greatness to be rushed through.

I have purposed to make this year unique when it comes to gift wrapping. I want to make it more mindful, joyous, and reflective of the God we serve. How will we do it?

Set the stage. 

Turn on Christmas music, grab some snacks (milk and Christmas cookies, anyone?), and place wrapping supplies near the Christmas tree, the fireplace, or at the kitchen table—wherever you feel festive. Avoid distractions like the television, cell phones, and the computer by shutting them off or setting them aside.

Share and pray.  

As a family, take turns praying for the gift’s receiver and sharing a memory about the person. For little ones, a simple, “This tea pot is for Grandma. Grandma collects tea pots.  Remember when Grandma played tea party with you?” For older children, allow them to share a special moment they had with the receiver. Prayers can be as simple or as elaborate as your children’s understanding and attention span allows.

Get creative.

Wrapping gifts in brown packaging paper gives your kids a blank slate to get creative (plus the paper is heavy duty—hopefully avoiding tears). Give children age-appropriate crafting materials (stickers, glue, ribbon, buttons,  stamps, markers, etc.) and encourage them to decorate packages. Older children can cut out pictures from magazines and create a collage on the package.     Gift tags can be a photo of the receiver glued onto cardstock and tied with a ribbon (which helps little children identify gifts when distributing) or a homemade card with a handwritten message from an older child.

Read and discuss the Christmas story.  

Read to children (or have an older child read) as they decorate gifts, and remind them that the Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus in celebration of His birth. Talk about how giving can be a joyful experience for the giver and the receiver. Christmas is also a great opportunity to memorize a Bible verse pertaining to giving, joy, or peace. Choose a verse and commit to reciting it as a family a few times a day.

Quality, not quantity.   

Allow the family to set the pace of the gift-wrapping session. When little ones begin to get agitated and distracted, put away the supplies and gift wrap more presents another day. A great way to create short and meaningful wrapping sessions is to spread them throughout the month of December by incorporating them into your custom Advent calendar.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”  ~James 1:17

What creative ideas do you have to make gift wrapping more meaningful?

Rachel Garlinghouse is a Christian, wife, mother of two, freelance writer, and college writing teacher. She blogs about adoptive family life (and so much more!) at White Sugar, Brown Sugar

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