2012 Spring/Summer Monthly Menu Plan

Our favorite fish tacos!

Spring is here and time to refresh the menu! Here is my updated menu plan for the Spring and Summer months for May through September. I have a few new recipes to try that I am excited about, including making my own homemade gyros and pizza on the grill! Can’t wait! For more information on my strategy for monthly menu planning, visit here.

Mondays – Main Dish Salads

1. Cobb Salad
2. Macaroni Ham Salad
3. Chicken Caesar Salad
4. Bacon & Blue Cheese Steak Salad 

Tuesdays – Sandwiches 

1. Grilled Veggie Sandwiches (an awesome vegetarian frugal meal!)
2. BBQ Beef or Pork Sandwiches (throw a roast in the crock pot with soy sauce and your favorite BBQ sauce and let it cook on low all day! Shred the meat and serve with additional bbq sauce on hamburger buns! Yum!)
3. Eggplant Sandwiches – (this is a new recipe to try! I love goat cheese, so may mix and match with this recipe)
4. Beef or Lamb Gyros - this is on my new list to try and experiment with this summer! I am a huge fan of gyros and want to learn how to prepare them myself!

Wednesday – Italian

I like to use brown rice pasta for all our pasta needs – it’s yummy, more easily digestible than wheat, and far more nutritious than white, and still light and flavorful!

1. Pasta Presto (twice a month)
2. Summer Squash Chicken Alfredo (with homemade alfredo sauce and substitute with raw cream)
3. Penne w/Chicken and Asparagus (or in season produce – summer squash, bell peppers, etc.)

Thursday – Mexican

1. Grilled Stuffed Burritos (We love to put all the ingredients in a tortilla and wrap it up and grill on all sides on the stove)
2. Fish Tacos (twice a month)
3. Chicken Fajitas (sliced chicken, bell peppers, onions, tomatoes, black beans, and corn, sauted together with taco seasoning mix! Serve with sour cream, salsa, and guacamole.)

Friday – Pizza

Friday is family night, so it is usually our traditional homemade pizza! I make a batch of 4 crusts at one time and stick them in the freezer for easy pull-out on Friday nights.

1. Homemade Pizza Supreme on Homemade Pizza Crust - one of the things I want to try this summer is pizza on the grill! (twice a month)
2. BBQ Chicken Pizza
3. Pepper, Onion & Feta Pizza (add humus underneath ingredients)

Saturday – BBQ

Saturday is Daddy’s opportunity to have fun on the grill and give Mommy a break! ;)

1. Pork Chops
2. Hamburgers 2x
3. BBQ Chicken, Steak or some other special meat

Sundays

We like to try to intentionally keep Sunday as a day of rest at our home, so one way we have found to make it fun, simple, and intentional is to often eat out as a family on Sunday evenings. Otherwise, we eat leftovers, baked potato bar, nachos, etc.

For further inspiration, check out Real Food Meals for Summer and Busy Seasons.

What are your favorite summer recipes?

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Spring Bucket List – Family Fun for the Seasons

A glimpse of spring at our house shown above includes reading stories in the sunshine on our front doorstep with green smoothies in hand and bare feet romping around the lawn. Any time we get a glimpse of sunshine we bring it all outdoors. One of my goals this month has been to compile a seasonal list of fun doable family activities that we would encourage family togetherness throughout the seasons. I have been inspired in various lists around the web, but wanted to adapt for our own season of life and to what’s also available in our area. I need simple and easy activities that we can do together to build our family and encourage a heart of service as well. My list includes various giving opportunities that are relavant to the season as well to keep our focus on being a blessing to a needy world around us.

Check out this fun colorful Spring bucket list printable to help get you started.

What are your favorite family activities for Spring?

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Springtime at Our Home

It has been awhile since I have shared a family update with you all, so I thought it was high time. Spring has been gradually peaking through the clouds here in the Northwest. We have had a few days of glorious sunshine which is a blessing after months of indoor cold rain weather. Spring brings beautiful colors and allergies all in one. The springtime has included celebrating my son Titus’ third birthday, hosting a baptism at our home in our backyard hot tub, hosting Easter dinner with family and friends, celebrating Lent and Easter in our home with passover and other fun readings and activities, starting some flower and veggie gardening in our backyard, spring walks, and a weekend getaway to the Oregon Coast to rest, walk on the beach, play games, and simply be together as a family.

We are in the final stages of launching my husband’s new business, but I believe the end is in sight. We can finally tell you all what he has been working on! The business is called Bourbon and the mission is to provide mobile websites for small businesses – restaurants, retail stores, etc. Aaron has set up the launch page for the business, which you can view here. We are super excited and praying fervently that it would take off over the next few weeks. Our prayer is that it would be able to financially support us and give our family more freedom to start serving more actively in our church and missions. It has been an intense 4+ month period as he has been working days and most nights. It has certainly been taking its tole on our family, but by God’s grace I am holding on and trying to enjoy the ride.

We have been prioritizing our family and keeping our schedule pretty free and simple. My blogging has been minimal as you might have noticed. ;) I have felt bad for all the times I have had to say “no” to various invitations, but I know it is paying off in the long run.

During this transition, I have really been seeing the value of just being a helper to my hubby. As wives we play such an important role in keeping our men going strong. We can tear them down through discouraging words, or we can help them flourish and succeed through loving support and cheering them on in our words and actions. Guys seem to be pretty simple. They need us to believe in them. I have been amazed at how just a simple text message or email expressing my love or telling him how proud I am of him sometime during the day can make a world of difference on his spirits. It’s easy to forget about our men while taking care of the little ones around us…but honestly, when we plant those seeds of expressing love and admiration, our love will only grow and flourish all the more. Write him a note, make a love message board that you can update regularly, plant post it love notes in his car, on his desk, or wherever he visits frequently. Let him know you are behind him…and you might just be surprised at the results. Care to join me in striving to just write or speak one little message each day to encourage our men?

Enjoying our first passover meal

My sister, Christa, and her fiancé Dan

My younger sister got engaged in early February so we are in the preparation process for a wedding in mid-June. I’m so excited! We are all involved in the wedding, so I have been searching high and low finding appropriate attire for all of us. In my spare time, I’m planning a shower and will also be hosting the rehearsal dinner. It has been a joy doing some spring cleaning here and passing on some household items to help my sister get started well.

Eden girl has an awesome army crawl mastered and is cruising around all over the place at 9 months of age now. Karis is starting Kindergarten work, and my Titus man is my sweet helper watching out for his sisters (amidst some challenges with his potty training :( ). They all keep busy taking walks with Daddy, unloading the dishwasher, reading lots of books, playing dress up, and romping around outside as sunny days start peeking through the clouds. We are looking forward to a full summer with my Karis girl turning 5 this week (which we are celebrating with a small mommy/daughter tea party), Aaron and I celebrating our 6th anniversary this month (which will include a day outing to the Columbia Gorge – yah!), my sister’s wedding, summer outreach projects in our community, and a family vacation to the beach! Praise the Lord. He is good.

Springtime Reading

What have I been reading lately?

Books on my nightstand over the last few months have included: Jane Eyre, The Scarlet Letter, and Madam Bovary (which I am currently reading) as I continue in my goal of reading more classics to further my own personal education (thanks to inspiration from The Well Educated Mind). I have also been inspired to more intentional generous living through the life and testimony of Katie Davis in her book, Kisses From Katie and her adventures in her early twenties adopting and caring for children in Uganda. I want to be active in the care of orphans and children around the world. I want to be able to live a radical life of generosity in all that I do. Such an inspiring story!

I also have been reading off and on Comforts From the Cross and Overcoming Fear, Worry and Anxiety, which are both by one of my favorite authors, Elyse Fitzpatrick. She has such a powerful way of turning my heart and mind back to the truths of the gospel. Highly recommend her books! Aaron and I are reading The Meaning of Marriage by Tim Keller and this book is by far the best marriage book we have ever read. It is so rich, meaty, thought-provoking, and challenging us in the truth of the beauty of God’s design for marriage.

The Thankfulness List continues…

I am continually working on my thankfulness list…one by one God is continuing to draw my eyes to focus on the beauty around me. I forget about it here and there, but each time I come back to it, my soul is encouraged and lifted up to rejoice in the goodness of the awesome God that I serve. Here is a sneak peak at some of my recent blessings…

1151. The delicious meals concocted from leftover ham
1156. The delight of bare feet on sunny days
1158. The warmth of socks on freezing toes
1162. Diapers drying in the sun
1164. Overflowing laundry baskets displaying we are well clothed
1165. The blessing of one stop shopping at consignment sales to cloth all the kids for the next season
1167. Baby girl sleeping in my arms
1169. Daddy cuddled up with kiddos reading the Bible
1170. My daughter’s delight in reading The Boxcar Children together
1172. Tickling fest with little underarms, feet, and bellies
1176. A good classic movie to enjoy with the kids
1178. Creating a garden space for my little ones
1180. Spring robin birds created from sweet foot prints
1186. The simple joys of making new friends through hospitality
1188. Buttoning up three little jackets

Thank you so much for all your continual support of this blog! I want to give a hearty thanks to our faithful sponsors – Paula’s Breads, Sweet Bottoms Babys Boutique, The Fertility Flower, Savvy Teas and Herbs, and the Willow Store. These companies have supported us for multiple months at a time and it has been such a blessing working with these awesome people! Check them out!

May the Lord richly bless you all!

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Unique Blessings of Every Season

This season of young motherhood with three lively little ones under foot is incredibly full and unbelievably tiring. I’ve realized that the reality is I will likely be tired for quite some time to come. Each season of our lives will have its own unique challenges but also its own unique blessings. Blessings that we may not see again in the next season of our lives. Each season will have its own trials and joys. It is easy to be in this season of busy motherhood to three young children and get stressed over the unending neediness of my children. Can I sit down for a minute, please? But what might happen if I seek to simply embrace my tiredness and focus on the passing unique blessings before me.

As Susan Yates in her book, And Then I Had Kids, so beautifully put it, “Seeing life in seasons enables us to get some perspective in our lives. In every season there will be trials and joys. Hardly anything lasts forever. We need to see our life in seasons and rejoice in the season at hand. As we relax and begin to soak up the unique blessings of this particular season, we will begin to experience and to enjoy the incredible richness of life.”

Today I am enraptured in cuddling on the couch and reading stories, exploring with paint and crafting simple creations. Moments enthralled in wonder listening to the birds in the trees and making our own garden space for my little ones. Sweet moments with these little hearts that are eager to pray for the needs of others. Or the precious time of  simply walking hand in hand with my 3 year old son. His precious kisses and telling me he loves me. His fascination with cars and all things moving. His sweet surprise expressions of “that’s awesome”. My 5 year old girl delighting in tea parties and toe nail polish.

Even with stressful moments of calming sibling arguments, settling overly dramatic expressions, madly vacuuming floors repeatedly to prevent my crawler from eating every crumb or dirt piece in sight, and multiple pee-pee accidents in a little boy who is struggling with staying focused…God is giving me grace to remember that this is only a season. These things will pass and my littles ones will grow and may not be as eager to kiss me or hold my hand in the future. I know in the next season of my life, I will truly miss kissing boo-boos, wiping sweet bottoms, and putting on multiple pairs of little shoes and coats, so why not see the beauty in it now? Lord, give us grace to embrace the season you have placed us in and take time today to enjoy the blessings.

I’m going to go kiss some sweet baby cheeks right now!

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My Favorite Things: Natural Recommendations for Your Home

I frequently get asked, “what’s your favorite natural detergent? what’s your recommendations for cloth diapers? What homemade products do you still make and use?” Since I have been experimenting and reviewing various natural products for the last several years since I began my own journey to sustainable living, I have certainly bought, sampled, liked and disliked numerous things. I want to save you some trouble today by offering a list of my personal tried and true products in the natural world. You will discover that I keep things very simple in my home to the best of my ability. I don’t like several different cleaning products – I want one tried and true that can do it all! I don’t like numerous options of body care products – I want to stay frugal and sustainable with one or two products to get us by.

Body Care

Deodorant – my homemade recipe has withstood the test of time (except when you use old baking soda – keeping it fresh seems to be pretty important)! When I’m lazy, I keep Tom’s of Maine aluminum free deodorant on hand.
Shampoo & ConditionerTrader Joe’s Nourish Spa line (this is the cheapest and most conveniently accessible product I have found at just $3 per bottle at Trader Joe’s. Sorry, Amazon prices are definitely higher, but I wanted to give you a visual of the product). We made our own homemade shampoo for awhile until we just didn’t like the texture, lack of lathering ability, and smell. I dilute the shampoo with baking soda to make it stretch further. I have found 1 Tbsp baking soda to 1 Tbsp shampoo to be very effective in cleaning my hair, removing all problems with itchy scalp and allowing me to go 3-4 days between washings. The Nourish line is made from mainly organic ingredients and essential oils and works really well to clean our hair naturally. It just feels good! Another good backup option, is to use the subscribe & save feature on Amazon for Kiss My Face shampoo.
SoapGraham GardensI absolutely love Graham Gardens soap bars. They are so wonderful for the skin and natural and safe for the whole family. Graham Gardens offers buy 4 get 1 free sales with flat rate shipping making it affordable to stock up on soap for our family. I’m not into have a special separate products for the little ones, so we all use these with great results. This is all we use in the shower and for shaving. I use this soap bar to shampoo up the kids’ hair as well. Our favorite alternative is Dr. Bronner’s lavender or unscented soap bars.
ToothpasteTrader Joe’s fluoride free toothpaste (this is so nice and mild and not hot for the kids like most peppermint flavored toothpaste) – at just $1.99 per tube at Trader Joe’s this natural toothpaste is much more simple to purchase than make my own. If TJ’s was not accessible, I would likely use Tom’s of Maine children’s toothpaste
Lotion – My all time favorite lotion and moisturizer are  the Graham Gardens lotion bars. They work for all my skin issues and I don’t use anything else. This works on all of us too. Otherwise, coconut oil alone would works as a backup although more greasy to the touch naturally.
Hand soap – I have really been enjoying the foaming hand soap from Jenuinely Pure…it is certainly the best refillable natural hand soap option I have found. I also have used and love Mrs. Meyers hand soap refill packs. A great way to save on packaging waste. Mrs. Meyers is my favorite natural household product line for the wonderful scents, texture, and effectiveness of their products!
Makeup – I currently use Everyday Minerals base and face powders for my makeup with a touch of mascara. I love mineral makeups and this company offers you the ability to test any powder shade for free with the cost of shipping. The samples lasted me forever! I was formally using Bare Minerals but found over time that they irritated my skin. Everyday Minerals has been a perfect non-irritating product!
Sunscreen- I only apply sunscreen if we are going to be outside for several hours or outside in a pool/lake or something when a lot of skin would be exposed. Otherwise, I just put sun hats on the kids. I personally think that it can often do more harm than good on our skin the way it absorbs into our bloodstream. But if you are in a hotter environment, you may need to use more. It’s pretty mild here in the Northwest. When we do use it, I use Avalon Organics Baby sunscreen. I also recommend California Baby, which is also available at your local Target.
Bug Repellent – Graham Gardens Bug Bar and Apple Valley Natural Soap Bug Spray are two natural bug repellents that work equally well. We used both extensively in the Philippines last year and highly recommend them. Graham Gardens is a rub on lotion and Apple Valley’s is a spray…so chose whichever you prefer.

This is honestly all that we use on our skin! For my hair, we use a few not so natural options…but they work well to give us the results we desire. I use Foxy Curls to maintain my natural curls otherwise I also like to straighten my hair for variety, and my hubby uses Tigi’s Men’s Workable Wax.

Baby Care

Diaper Cream - I use my homemade salve for any problems with yeast infections and Graham Gardens diaper cream for any standard rash when I need a quick healing together with a disposable diaper. Graham Gardens is such an effective cream that lasts forever!

I occasionally use Burt’s Bee’s Buttermilk Lotion to give my kids massages after bath times as well.

Household Items

Laundry DetergentCharlies Soap (while I still love Soap Nuts, Charlies’ Soap is wonderful and simple because it works great for our cloth diapers and regular laundry. I love the subscribe & safe option through Amazon.)
Stain Remover – I’ve tried a lot of natural stain remover options without much success. The one product that I have found that really works the best is OxiClean Stain Remover spray. It is made from oxygen bleach so definitely superior to regular chlorine bleach.
Dishwashing Detergent – Bright Green Dishwasher Powder (Bright Green natural products are available at Safeway), Green Works or Seventh Generation (whichever is most convenient or frugal). Green Works product line is available in most every grocery store now giving us all a frugal natural cleaning line. They all work equally well.
Dish Soap – Again, any of the above mentioned product lines for dishwashing detergent works for finding dish soap.
Cleaning Product – Mrs. Meyer’s All Purpose Cleaner - I love this concentrate because it lasts forever! I dilute it in individual spray bottles and use it for cleaning everything in my house. I place small spray bottles with a rag in each bathroom under the sink for easy clean up of messes. I also use a homemade window cleaner, made from vinegar and lemon juice. My final cleaning product, is baking soda in a shaker for dusting inside the toilet. My cleaning bucket has literally 2-3 items in it!. Jenuinely Pure’s all-purpose cleaner is another great option.

I am a firm believer in the concept of less is more and that is why we use very few products in our home. Our skin doesn’t need tons of products to keep it healthy. I don’t use any sort of face wash, toner, etc. I personally find them unnecessary. It also saves money to keep your product choices to a minimal.

I may have missed an item or two in this list…so if you have a specific question for a product recommendation you don’t see discussed here…feel free to ask! What are your favorites? 

Please note: There are affiliate links in this post which we only use to share products that we truly love and recommend for your family. We receive a small percentage of each sale made through our links which we use to help support an orphan home in India and other ministries. 

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Covering Our Nutritional Needs with Green Smoothies

If you are anything like our family, it is rather challenging to get my little ones to eat any vegetables. So we mash and puree soups and some casseroles at the request of my little girl just so the evidence of their existence has disappeared. Salads are another challenging task unless they are nicely sweetened with a raisins and apples. Green smoothies has been my solution for a long time to help supplement their diet and ours as well.

Green smoothies are very nutritious because they are easy to digest, are a complete food because the contain the fiber (as opposed to juices), are enjoyable for all ages and optimal for human consumption (with a recommended 60:40 ratio of fruits to greens), and so easy to make. (Ten Health Benefits of Green Smoothies)

Here are a few tips I have learned in the journey of creating delicious smoothies backed with lots of greens and fruits:

Limit the Ingredients

When I originally started on this quest of creating green smoothies, I tried to stuff everything imaginable in them – multiple fruits, greens, and nutritional herbal powders. Some smoothies would turn out descent, but others were downright gross. I was just trying to get the most nutrition out of one smoothie! I recently discovered that the key to a green smoothie is limiting your ingredients to 3-5 items. Why? “This makes the absorption and digestive process easier on your body and to derive the maximum amount of nutrients from the ingredients you do add.” (Green Smoothie Guide).

Find A Good Base 

Some of the best base liquids to use in green smoothies, include yogurt, coconut milk, kombucha or orange juice. I keep all of these liquids on hand to create a variety of smoothies and they add simply delicious flavors and added nutrition with priobiotics and protein from yogurt, healthy fats from coconut milk, and fermented benefits with kombucha. I like to add a bit of orange juice concentrate to most of my smoothies for a touch of added sweetness and flavor. Also, you will always want to keep bananas on hand. I add a ripe banana or two to every smoothie for smooth texture and wonderful sweet flavor. Avacado makes another good base for a similar end result.

Eat Your Smoothies as a Snack

I’ve also learned the importance of eating your green smoothies as a snack as opposed to part of a meal. It is recommended to eat other foods in a 40-60 minute window before or after eating your smoothie to give your body adequate time to consume the maximum nutrients from the smoothie. So a green smoothie makes the perfect afternoon pick me up before dinner time!

Rotate Your Greens

In order for your body to get the most value from your green smoothies, it is valuable to rotate your greens. Celery, spinach, romaine make good choices to rotate through. I have also found that an organic spring salad mix is an awesome option because there are multiple different greens in one mixture including baby leaves of red and green romaine and oak leaf lettuces, lollo rosa and tango lettuces, red and green chard, mizuna, arugula, frisée and radicchio. I buy the 1 lb packages of organic salad mixes (example pictured at right) that are stored in the plastic container and these greens really last in this packaging. Yes, not ideal in plastic. But something about the process of being pre-washed, dried, and packed in this container keep the greens fresh and extend their life incredibly so. I buy 2-3 of these bins each month and they last me at least through the entire month. This is our main green choice but I also love getting celery in there as well. I’m not sure if I’m officially following the rotation of greens idea with this mix…but it works for us and we are getting a good variety!

Here are some of the combinations we like best. Have fun and be creative!

Banana + salad mix (I like to stuff my blender full!) + 2 oranges + 1 can coconut milk + 1 Tbsp concentrate = creamy orange julius!

Banana + salad mix + 1 cup raspberries + 1 cup blueberries + 1 cup of grape juice = berry delicious!

Banana + 1 apple + 3-4 stalks celery + orange juice concentrate + water/kombucha = light apple kick!

Banana + frozen mango/pineapple + lots of greens + orange juice concentrate & water/kombucha = citrus bliss!

Banana + salad mix + strawberries + orange juice = strawberry banana delight!

Looking for some more recipes to get you started? 

Check out these free guides:

The Green Smoothie Guide (download from the sidebar of Raw Smoothie Recipes)
Fruit & Green Smoothie Recipes
Green Smoothie Web App – tons of recipes with the ability to search by ingredient! They also offer an iPhone app for $1.99.

Photo Credit - I didn’t have my own picture to share…but this Blendtec photo looks incredibly similar to our daily concoctions! We use a Blendtec at our home on a daily basis if not multiple times a day and we love it!

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The Hidden Power of Family Prayer

By monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry

Do you sometimes feel inadequate in prayer? Do you often struggle with praying together with your spouse or children? Do you perhaps wonder, since it’s so difficult, if praying together is even worth it?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you are a PERFECT candidate (for one reason and one reason only) to pray effectively with your family:

You can rely totally on the Cross of Jesus Christ!

If you are a Christian, you have likely heard how important is is to pray together as a husband and wife, or together as family unit . . . but have you often wondered why this is often so difficult and humbling? Or maybe you’ve honestly wondered if your prayers, and the simple prayers of your far-from-perfect family, can really make a difference?

It’s actually that very gut-level of honesty within a family, and our knowledge of each others’ inadequacies, that makes praying together so powerful.

You can’t be fake when praying with your family; you have to rely on God’s forgiveness and His righteousness through the Cross of Jesus Christ.

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Praying Together as a Christian Family

If we could comprehend, deep in our spirits, the true power of prayer, we would all pray more–and the difference would radically impact our lives and the lives of those around us.

James 5:16 tells us, “The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.”

We want our prayers to be effective, but what does it mean to stand “righteous” before God? It’s totally standing and relying on Jesus Christ and HIS righteousness, not coming to God based on our own “good works” or efforts!

As a family, we’re very aware of our differences and our faults. We’ve all sinned, and we need to acknowledge that no one of earth can stand blameless before our perfect, holy, and awesome God. No matter how good we try to be, our own works are nothing but filthy rags in His sight (see Isaiah 64:6). To pray effectively as a family, we need to grasp the importance of the “fear of the Lord.”

We need to realize how powerful and mighty He is.

Our Self-efforts are like Filthy Rags . . .

Teach Your Kids about Prayer with Filthy Rags:
The next time you come across an extremely dirty rag in your house, use it an opportunity to share an important lesson with your kids. We may think our own self-efforts help us earn “Brownie points” with God. But, to Him, our human works are as worthless as stinky rags. If we try to earn favor with God–instead of trusting in Jesus–it’s like collecting yucky rags. The more they pile up, the more they stink and mildew.

But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.

Isaiah 64:6

 3 more family prayer ideas:

Take a Prayer-Walk:
As you walk around your neighborhood, take time to quietly praying for each neighbor, and seek God for ideas on how your family can be a light for Jesus.

Make a Poster:
Have your children make a “Ten Most Wanted” list or poster. Have them think of ten people who need Jesus. These can be relatives, neighbors, famous people, or the man who works at the convenience store. Use this list or poster to remind you to pray for these people to come to know the Lord.

Use a Map:
Put a small world map on your refrigerator, and use this area to display newsletters from missionaries you support, along with current international news updates. Pray regularly as a family, perhaps around the dinner table, for specific world needs and for people you know who need the Lord.

The power of family prayer is relying on Christ’s righteousness!

In prayer, each of us must come to God in an attitude of total surrender and humility, keeping our hearts clean and open before Him. Through the cleansing sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, every mom and dad, and boy and girl, can pray as a “righteous man” before God. Because of Christ’s forgiveness and righteousness, even your family can come before God with boldness and authority to effectively intercede on behalf of others.

 

So, what do YOU think about family prayer?

Is praying together as a family (as a husband and wife, or with your kids) a spiritual priority in your family? Has praying together been a delight . . . or a struggle and a challenge . . . and can you share any specific reasons why? Have you had any specific moments of encouragement  (or a key or idea that has helped YOUR FAMILY to pray together with more effectiveness)? Or do you have a story, or a “testimony,” of a time when a specific family prayer was answered?

I would LOVE to hear your thoughts . . .

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Take Time to Live Intentionally

Over the last month I have become lethargic. This season has been full with my husband launching a new business, with periods of insomnia and multiple sicknesses. I have been in survival mode. I have stopped doing any planning, journaling, or seeking to simply evaluate where I am going. Aimless walking is the feeling stirring in my soul. I felt lost. I’m running haphazardly. I am thankful for the grace that God supplies for these seasons, but also for the grace he provides to guide me out of the forest again and onto the straight and narrow path before me.

Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom. (Psalms 90:12)”

My time is certainly limited with my calling to nurture my three little ones, but I want to make each moment count. This life is precious and short. I want to be faithful with the gifts God has given me to be used to impart life in my home and extending out from my doorstep. I want to bring life to every relationship entrusted to my care – my husband, children, and the brothers and sisters and needy around me. Investing intentionally in my relationships is what I am called to do. I want to live for Jesus. And we have a faithful guide, the Holy Spirit, who promises to walk before us. Through prayer, He directs us as to the most effective use of our time. He is faithful to inspire us.

I want to balance my time so my family gets the meat and not the scraps of my time and energy. I want to take simple practical steps to build up, encourage, and strengthen these relationships. How can I spend quality time with each of my little ones? How can I encourage my hubby? I’m not trying to take on a boatload of projects…I’m just praying weekly about one way to bless each of these precious lives. One simple action. One doable act. I am certainly not limited to one…but I feel a greater chance of accomplishing any if I start with one and then let the juices flow to inspire more.

I want to think each day how I can bless another today. An email of love to my hubby. Getting down and dirty with my kids. A simple text message with a verse or word of encouragement to a friend just to let her know she is in my thoughts. A small handwritten card with truth to inspire a weary soul. A simple pot of soup to nourish a needy family. A bouquet of flowers from my garden to bless a sister. I want to write words of truth.

We need focused time…It might be a weekly planning retreat or just an hour or two before the week begins on a Sunday evening to think, pray, and plan. Designate a specific time when you could intentionally plan for your week.

Taking a few minutes on a daily or weekly basis can redeem many a wasted hour. You may not get to every dream on your list, but that’s okay. We are not striving for perfection, but God glorifying intentionality in the grace that He supplies. This last week I took a chunk of time on a Friday afternoon to sit down and just prayerfully think. The results?

This week has been filled with sweet intentional moments…visiting a dear friend in the hospital while her son goes through surgery, taking a walk one-on-one with my little guy and talking about trucks and wind in the trees, surprising hubby with his favorite treats, planting flowers in the garden with my kiddos, acting out “The Wheels on the Bus” around the yard, and reading books in the front yard enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Scattering God’s love to those entrusted to my care. It does not have to be extravagant. It just needs a little love. I want to savor each moment that I have been given and live it to its fullest. I feel blessed to be His hands and feet and I just can’t stop…

Free printable: My Weekly Intentional Living Plan. 8 simple questions to evaluate at the start of each week in helping to grow in Christ-likeness and living a generous intentional life in each priority relationship in your life.

Here’s some further inspiration to get you started:
15 Little Ways to Bless Your Husband

12 Ways to Love Your Husband Without Saying A Word
Take the 30 Day Husband Encouragement Challenge
Reaching Out to the World from Your Doorstep
100 Ways to be Kind to Your Child
100 Ways to Have Fun with Your Kids
100 Ways for Your Family to Make a Difference

My favorite quote that inspires me again and again in this call to be intentional in the short life I am living:

Only one life,
T’will soon be past.
Only what’s done
For Christ will last.

“So I keep stopping and loving one person at a time. Because this is my call as a Christian. I can do only what one woman can do, but I will do what I can. Daily, the Jesus who wrecked my life enables me to do so much more than I ever thought possible.” – Katie Davis, Kisses From Katie

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Just Second Rate

She won every competition she entered…and I was always left with second prize. I strove so hard to prove that I was smart, but always fell just a little short. I was the tallest girl with the lanky skinny legs compared to a colt that wasn’t comfortable on my feet. I had a mad bush of curly, frizzy, untamable hair. I knew nothing about style or fashion or even how to apply some basic eyeliner or shadow. Did I mention I didn’t wear makeup till I was 18? I was kind of an outcast at extended family gatherings because I was homeschooled, shy, and modest. I didn’t flaunt it because I sure didn’t have it. Just second rate.

Comparison…self-identity….depression…insecurity….have been frequent struggles in my heart over the years. They have entangled me time and time again through a comment received, through the success of another, and through my own failure. God’s mercy has been paving the way for my deliverance through the only thing that can possibly bring change…and that is the gospel.

In my heart I have based my own security and happiness on the way that other people think of me. I had raised the approval of others to a place of idolatry in my heart. My feelings and emotions went up and down based upon the opinions of others. I had made the opinion of others my God-replacement and the results were continual sinking into despair.

I need the gospel for every struggle. I need to be reminded that the gospel is the only thing that can truly draw us out of our idolatry and provide us with the true freedom in Christ. “In Christ” I am fully accepted and approved because of Jesus’ work for me. No improvement, good behavior, or performance is necessary in order to experience the deep acceptance we long for and in fact strive for on a daily basis.

Colossians 1:12-14 says,The Father…has qualified you [past tense; it's finished] to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us [past tense again; the deliverance is completed] from the domain of darkness and transferred us [past tense once more: the transferal is already concluded] to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have [present tense; this very moment we possess it] redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”

Dear sister, whatever your struggle, stop with me know and recognize that we serve a God who has paid the price for your freedom. Soak it in. Claim it as your own. We are free in Christ from the slavish demand to “become”. WE ALREADY ARE!

I love how Tullian shares it: “If you’re a Christian, here’s the good news: who you really are has nothing to do with you – how much you can accomplish, who you can become, your behavior (good or bad), your strengths, your weaknesses, your sordid past, your family background, your education, your looks, and so on. Your identity is firmly anchored in Christ’s accomplishment, not yours; his performance, not yours; his victory, not yours. Your identity is steadfastly established in his substitution, not in your sin. As my friend…recently said, ‘The gospel doesn’t just free you from what other people think about you; it frees you from what you think about yourself.’ You’re free!”

You are a unique jewel, my friend.

You are beautiful…just the way you are.

You are accepted.

Each quirk was fashioned by a glorious Father that designed it to add to your beauty.

Your vessel may be cracked…but each crack allows the beautiful light within you to shine more brightly.

Every fear and failure…He has overcome.

Can we just let go and embrace his love for us today?

And remember…all those worldly trophies, they just get dusty on the shelf or boxed up in the garage anyway.

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Remembering the Gift of Marriage

Written by contributing writer, Daniele at Domestic Serenity.

I’m not sure exactly what possessed us to take on the project – usually engaged couples have lists to tackle, details to attend to.

We were no different. All the same, bypassing dozens – hundreds? – of possible wedding songs available, we decided a few short weeks before wedding day to write our own song :: music, words, the whole thing. See what I mean by possessed?

To our credit, we’re both musicians with a creative knack for words. Teaching wedding singers our latest invention, everything went beautifully without a hitch.

We titled the song “Gift from God”.

***

Marriage is a Gift

It’s fairly safe to say as Christian women, we understand marriage was designed by God to be a good thing, a gift. No one argues that point. Yet sometimes, the ‘all-we-ever-wanted’ grows into a cross we must grudgingly bear.

What’s happening to us? This gift we dreamt about and prayed for cannot become what we grow to despise. To pretend that all is roses is hypocrisy; the combining of two personalities, perspectives (not to mention our past) is tricky business and no, it doesn’t always go well. We can and should receive help in those seasons.

But, we can get into trouble when forgetting this principle of God’s: marriage is a gift. God’s perfect idea in our imperfect hands, but an incredible union still.

Our Husbands are a Gift

In a marriage conference once, the speaker asked each spouse to draw a line down a sheet of paper. On one side, we were to write five of our spouse’s weaknesses. I did as asked, assuming we’d write five of our own on the opposite side. There’s was a twist.

“Now, write five of the weaknesses you’d like them to have.”

What? Everyone was stumped, the speaker dove in and made his point. Our spouse has blind spots, personality quirks, annoyances and tendencies towards mistakes — they have weaknesses, they are human. Expecting they never display those is completely unrealistic!

And while we may wish they didn’t do ‘such-and-such’, it’s helpful to remember they are going to be weak in some area. I remember smiling and thinking it’s easier to stick with what I knew! But we are not without hope, we can design them by prayer :: asking the Holy Spirit to shape and mold their hearts, to encourage and uplift them (instead of trying to play Holy Spirit ourselves…ahem).

Even in his mistakes, my spouse is a gift from God.

We are a Gift Together

Here’s the meat of what I’d like to encourage today:

You + Your Spouse = Shaking the World for God

God didn’t just design marriage to be a lovey-dovey relationship where husband and wife are simply all into each other (though this is really nice, right?). He intended we also impact the world around us.

Why did He bring you two together? Two sets of gifts, of different talents and abilities, of various passions and ideas? To shake heaven and earth as one! To move mountains, to further His plan of redeeming a lost world, to expanded the kingdom of God together!

But, we get distracted – doubting God’s plan for our lives, questioning if He really means what He said. Satan takes advantage, filling our hearts with thoughts leading us to words, actions we know are wrong. It worked in the beginning, and that simple plan still stumps husbands and wives today.

It’s happened to me; it’s happened to you.

Again, we are not without hope. We can lift our eyes towards a greater vision and purpose instead of grumbling about him not picking up clothes or attacking the to-do list. Yes, the everyday matters…

..but the eternal matters so much more.

***

My husband and I recently celebrated 16 years since crazily writing out our wedding song. Humming our tune throughout anniversary day, I prayed for grace to remember this always:

Marriage is a gift, my husband is a gift – and together? We’re gonna shake this world for Christ’s name.

I believe the same for you.

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