Archive | October, 2011

A Valuable Task

I’m at the Relevant conference this weekend continuing to be strengthened and encouraged in using this blog for the glory of God (If you are a blogger, check out the live streaming!)…so I thought I would leave you with this quote:

“How can it be a large career to tell other people’s children about the rule of three, and a small career to tell one’s own children about the universe? How can it be broad to be the same thing to everyone, and narrow to be everything to someone? No. A woman’s function is laborious, but because it is gigantic, not because it is minute. I will pity Mrs. Jones for the hugeness of her task; I will never pity her for its smallness.”

G.K Chesterton


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Joy and Grief During Pregnancy

 Written by monthly contributor, Emily Pastor.

My husband and I were planning a bike tour across Europe when we found out about our first pregnancy.  We planned to quit our jobs in a year’s time and head off on an adventure for three months of cycling and seeing the world. I was 22 years old. With places to see and adventures to enjoy, a baby just wasn’t on our itinerary.

Although we welcomed the news, it also came at an unexpected time. I believe that children are a blessing from the Lord, so why did I feel such a mixture of joy and grief throughout my pregnancy? All around me, women struggled to conceive, adopt, or carry to term the babies they so desperately wanted. It seemed so shameful and ungrateful to hold even a hint of sadness regarding such a gift of life.

Every Woman Experiences Different Emotions Regarding Pregnancy
Many women enter motherhood with the utmost joy and abandon. Many women enter motherhood with grief from less than ideal circumstances. Many women desperately desire to enter motherhood but face grief due to infertility, miscarriages, and adoption delays. I am not qualified or equipped to speak about the emotions in each of these circumstances. I can only relate my experience and hope it encourages other women facing a pregnancy with mixed emotions.

New Life Born from Sacrifice
A seed cannot bear fruit unless it first falls to the ground and dies. In marriage, spouses must die to their independent life and choices to promote a united life together. Jesus Christ Himself couldn’t bring us true life without first giving up His own. Each of these “new lives” were born out of sacrifice and death. It is right and true that grief accompanies the greatest of joys.

Grief comes through the realization of what must “die” to bring about new life.  I grieved for the loss of personal freedom.  I grieved for the loss of alone time with my husband.  I grieved the unknown changes that were ahead of me.  I grieved for the delay in travel plans.  And while I knew the joy set before me would be worth these sacrifices, I still felt grief in the midst of that joy.

Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.

-Theodore Roosevelt

A Harvest of Joy
With the arrival of our daughter, grief remained. I felt it in the new and daily sacrifices mothering required, but as my daughter grew so did my joy and delight in mothering. My husband and I haven’t cycled across Europe yet, and I haven’t actually ridden my bike in two years, but as my daughter and I walk hand in hand on a crisp fall day, somehow those things don’t seem so important anymore.  Joy is replacing grief.  The new life that started so small in me, now produces joy a hundred-fold daily.  Yes, motherhood is hard work.  Yes, there are times of grief and sacrifice, but I now know from experience that great sacrifices produce the greatest harvests of joy.

Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.

-Psalms 126:5-6

What emotions have you experienced regarding transitions into pregnancy/motherhood? 

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Teaching Our Girls to Cry

By monthly contributor, Ann Dunagan of Harvest Ministry

Right now is a very exciting time in the life of our girls. Our oldest daughter, Christi (a recent college grad), is now engaged to an awesome third-generation missionary from Niger, West Africa; our brand-new daughter-in-law, Anna, is working with our son to pioneer a new mission including an orphanage and Bible school in S.E. India; and our youngest daughter, Caela, is thrilled to be chosen as Christi’s maid-of-honor. It’s also a great time in ministry. My daughters and I are launching a brand-new vision, called DARING DAUGHTERS to inspire teen girls for missions and fulfilling God’s purposes. Our heart is for teens and ‘tweens (girls, ages 10 to 20), along with moms and mentors.

Christi & Trae in Niger, West Africa -- quite a ways to go to get to know the family!!!

Christi, ministering to children in a slum area in Cambodia

Christi & Trae -- on their Engagement Day, at our home in Oregon

It’s a time of joy in our family . . . yet even in the midst of dreaming about fun girly-stuff like wedding colors and bridesmaid dresses, our heart remains focused on the needs of this world.

Recently, I found a weird verse that I shared with my girls. It’s from Jeremiah 9, and in context, the prophet was talking about how horrible it was that Israel had fallen from God’s ways. The nation was dealing with wickedness, deceit, idolatry, and all kinds of evil.

In verses 17-18, the Bible says,

Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Consider and call for the mourning women, that they may come; and send for skillful wailing women, that they may come. Let them make hast and take up a wailing for us, that our eyes may run with tears, and our eyelids gush with water . . .”

Isn’t that kind of strange? God was calling for the professional criers and the wailing women. There was a need for tears, but a total lack of mourning and grief. Then in verse 20, Jeremiah 9 says,

“Yet hear the word of the LORD, O women, And let your ear receive the word of His mouth; Teach your daughters wailing . . .”

Wow. This verse really stopped me.

I’m a mom with daughters, and I’m always on the lookout for what God tells me to teach my girls. So here, God is saying to teach my girls to cry . . . to shed tears . . . and even to wail. God is talking about big stuff, like rebellion against God, and not caring about sin.

Anna -- with one of the precious girls from "Aasha Children's Home"

The newlyweds -- Josh & Anna Dunagan -- already with 20 kids!!!

As moms, how often do we allow thoughts about the injustices of this world to penetrate into our hearts, to the place where we would care enough to cry? Or care enough to motivate our girlfriends and our daughters? All across the globe, and in our own nation, and right down the street, and (sadly) even blaring into family rooms through televisions and movies, there’s horrible stuff going on.

It’s stuff God calls SIN and INJUSTICE.

Even while living in God’s joy and peace, there should be seasons when the needs of this world should make us so sad, and so shocked, and so ashamed (especially as mothers who deeply care for the next generation). At times, we should be compelled to our knees, where we should cry, and even weep. Yet as women and as moms, most of us are just too calloused . . . or too busy . . . or too tired.

Moms, we need to quit striving, and to quit caring so much about what others think . . . about us, and about our homemaking skills, and our motherhood successes (or failures).

Instead, we need to care more about what God thinks. He loves us so much, and He loves our daughters, even more than we do. For both moms and daughters, our calling is to simply walk with Him and to abide in Him, and to follow His leading, day-by-day. As we each draw closer to Him, He will show us His daily divine balance, to keep our family (and for our daughter’s future family) in His order, as He will also show us how to help others.

Our youngest daughter, Caela, having fun with orphan children in Uganda, East Africa

Caela, praying for a girl at Guma Na Yesu Children's Home in Uganda

Needs that should concern a godly girl . . .

As Christian women (of all ages), we need to allow ourselves to see the big needs of this world, especially those that concern women, and girls, and children . . . like teenage pregnancy, abortion, pornography, the plight of orphan children, child slavery, human trafficking (especially of young girls), hurting and broken hearts, neglected children, and so many unsaved women and lost children who desperately need the love of Jesus.

Many of these are feminine needs that should “pull” on the God-given “nurturing” and life-giving hearts of our daughters. In this next generation, it’s going to take a mighty army of godly daring daughters to minister to these needs. But will our girls even hear about them?

It’s a responsibility of godly motherhood to instill in our girls a heart for the world’s needs (just look at Proverbs 31:8-9, about pleading for the cause of the speechless and those appointed to die, or verse 20, about extending our hands to the poor and the needy). As Bob Pierce prayed, “Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God.”

As women of God, we need to care. Will our girls grow up to be pampered or passionate? Will they be cute, or compassionate? As moms, let’s ask God to give us more of His heart and His perspective. Our little girls don’t need to know all the nitty-gritty details of the world’s horrible evils; but as they’re old enough to understand, we need to teach our daughters to pray, and to pray HARD!

Our daughters can be radiant pure lights . . . to reach a very dark world.

We need to teach our girls to cry.

If you’re a mom with teen daughters ages 10 to 20, or a woman with a heart to mentor a younger generation for Jesus, I invite you to come see what my girls and I are up to. We’ve just launched a DARING DAUGHTERS blog, twitter, facebook page, and blogtalkradio show; in March, we’re speaking at the Teaching Them Diligently Homeschool Convention (in South Carolina); we’re leading a DARING DAUGHTERS Retreat (at Christian Renewal Center in Silverton, Oregon); and Christi and I are writing a new book for teen girls entitled Daring Daughters & Dirty Feet (coming, Lord willing, in 2012).

Learn more at Daring Daughters.

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Making a Creative Art Space

I’ve always been one that hates a mess of art supplies, so I have kept them tucked away high out of reach to prevent any disasters. I’m just not a crafty mommy…it is a stretch. What resulted was very infrequent art projects because of my own shortsightedness. I’ve learned that when things are not accessible or clearly visible for littles ones, they are rarely played with. Low and behold, I have a 4 year old daughter that loves crafty art projects!

Recently, I was inspired (thanks to Playful Learning & Not Just Cute) to arrange a little art center in an organized fashion that could be easily accessible for the kids to explore and inspire creativity to their hearts content. I have been so thrilled with the results! We arranged our new set up on a little kids’ table and stocked it with the following supplies:

Storage rack ($4.99 from IKEA) – storing construction paper, doodle books, watercolors, child scissors, glue, stickers
Metal plant pots (.79 each from IKEA) – markers, crayons, and colored pencils
Art smock (full body bib from IKEA) - hanging from nail on wall
Art boxes (basic pencil boxes) – one box is holding paints, another is storing an assortment of fun texture items (fabric scraps, felt, popcorn, beans, beads, and buttons)

I am planning to add this stamp set in their Christmas stockings! It is a simple enough arrangement that the kids can easily clean up after themselves and can engage with the supplies freely.

My four year old had made a collection of a dozen different works of art within an hour and keeps going back for more!

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Take Your Kids on a Date

Hand in hand, Daddy and daughter, explore the ice on a recent outing together. It’s Karis’ first time ice skating and she stumbles and trips many times, but Daddy’s strong arms are there to hold her up. The glee is all over her face as she holds on tight and learns how to glide across the ice rink. She’s been looking forward to this time for weeks.

A fun way to build relationship with your child is to schedule in regular date times out together. In our home, we plan monthly daddy/daughter dates for my husband to pamper and love on our daughter, Karis. He is just starting to take our two year old, Titus, out as well (mainly going on errand to Home Depot or riding escalators at the mall together). These are fun little events that our children love. There is nothing like going on a special date with Daddy or Mommy. I like to plan fun things to do around the house for special one on one time with each of my kiddos. Life is so short and these precious years are going fast. We want to build wonderful memories of sweet moments together while helping to guide and direct the hearts of our children. One on one time is so important for building a relationship of trust and open communication. In these younger years, there is not much heart to heart conversation happening, but that will come in time. Now is the time to show them they are truly loved and special.

Here are some other fun and frugal ideas that we have done. I keep my eyes open for Groupon, Living Social, or Google offers, and have found many great deals for plays, painting pottery, and local museums this way!

Visit a local museum or zoo
Ice cream
Coffee shop for hot chocolate
Paint pottery
Walk to the park
Have a picnic
Read books together at the library
Watch airplanes take off
Have a tea party
Paint fingernails
Bike ride (Daddy takes the kids in the bike trailer currently and they love it!)
Miniature golf
Ride the max/train/subway
Watch a play/ballet (local children’s theaters or high school productions offer a wide variety of productions, exposing the kids to the arts and having a fun date at the same time!)
Photo booth (these little booths at the mall have been the source of many fun date times with cute results!)
Ice skating

What ideas can you share for fun and frugal date outings with your kids?

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Great (Not-Your-Average!) Board Games

Written by monthly contributing writer, Natalie Didlake.

Ready to pull out the board games for the cold weather, but tired of Monopoly and Clue? Playing games as a family is a great bonding experience and builds memories for years to come. A collection of games is also very useful for hospitality events in your home. It is an easy way to break the ice, build relationships, while enjoying good laughter together!

There are lots of great board games out there you may not have seen before. Many are European made, just gaining popularity.

We’ve been collecting these games for a few years, so I’ve assembled a list of our favorites. They are all wholesome, engaging, and lots of fun!

(Note: You’ll pay a little more for these games, but I promise you will not get tired of them! We have played these over and over, and they still haven’t gotten old!)


Orchard – This is our favorite kids’ game! Roll a wooden die to collect fruit before the bird eats it! Well-made, sturdy pieces. Great for colors and matching. Our 2-year-old even plays. Best of all, it’s a team game! Players work together instead of competing against each other.

Hisss – Players build colorful snakes by matching colored cards. It’s so fun to wait and see who will draw the last card of a snake! Very simple and easy to play, also short. We can usually play at least 2x in one sitting.

Uno Moo – Great for preschool age and older. Variation on Uno, obviously. Get rid of your farm character pieces by matching either color or animal. Great for learning basic strategy. Very colorful and cute!

Bingo Link – Get a “bingo” by connecting hexagonal spaces across the board. Each hexagon contains a tiny photographed object. If you like the “I Spy” children’s books, you’ll love this game, because it’s made by the same people! Also easy enough for the youngest children to play. Sturdy boards and pieces.


Ticket to Ride – Start with this game if you’d like to try one but aren’t sure where to begin! Simple to play, but challenging. Build train routes across the U.S. from city to city, before someone else does. Would be great for geography fun, probably 8 and up.

Dominion – My all-time favorite! A game using cards, in a medieval setting. Build your deck in order to gain the most points. Cards can be changed each game, making each time you play unique and very exciting!

Some may not want to purchase, as this game has a witch card and a curse card that deducts points for the person who receives one. Alternately, the game could be played without these cards.

Settlers of Catan – This game is becoming more popular, so you may be familiar with it! Takes one or two games played through to catch on, but very fun once you master it. Players barter for sheep, wheat, bricks, and other commodities in order to build the most roads and cities. 3-5 players required.

Big Boggle – My first love (at least in games) is for word games, so I have to list at least one! Boggle is great, but this version has a 5 x 5 grid instead of  4 x 4, so you can make more and longer words. My hubby and I keep in our room and play a round (or 5) before bed sometimes. Don’t forget the dictionary!

Agricola – We think this one is the ultimate board game! Has about a million tiny, wooden pieces, takes 2-3 hours to play, very involved, but soooo fun. Especially for those who love strategy games. Another medieval game, build your farm, buy animals, add children, and feed your family. Can be played with 2, but best with a small group.

Do you have any favorite games to add? We are always looking for a new one!

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Resources for Family Devotions

One of my richest memories growing up in my family was the sweet times of family devotions, or “wisdom search” as we called it. A couple mornings each week, you could expect Mom to wake you up at 6:30am and herd us all together into the living room. With most of the eight of us children it was certainly pulling teeth to get us out of bed, but in the long run it was certainly worth it. Dad would lead us through a chapter in the Bible and we would each take turns reading 5 verses and sharing a comment. “What golden nugget can you share with us? What stood out to you?” Mom or Dad would often ask.

It was a simple time together. Not longer than an hour. Some times our response was minimal, but they would faithfully encourage us to think about the verse and share any thoughts that come to mind. Each time we were digging deeper into the Bible and growing in our love for God’s Word. My parents faithfulness certainly made an impact on my walk with the Lord. Praise God that all eight of us are walking with the Lord. Certainly a testimony to God’s grace.

Ultimately, it can be as simple as reading one Proverb a day, as we did over and over again.The Word is living and active, and sharper than any two edged sword. (Hebrews 4:12)  You can come together in the morning, evening, or around the meal table for your devotions. Whatever works best for you. Now there are numerous wonderful resources available to give you tools for helping hide God’s word into the hearts of your children. Here are a few recommendations that we have used or previewed.

For the toddler/preschool age, we have used and love the Jesus Storybook Bible. We have read it through at least 4-5 times now since my daughter was 2. It is so solidly Biblical and rich as it traces the story of Jesus’ redemption through each chapter. This takes maybe 15 minutes depending upon how many stories you read and discuss. We read it together before our school time each morning. Another good one is Big Picture Story Bible and Family Time Bible (we used this one primarily for the beautiful artwork, the stories are shorter than the Jesus Storybook Bible but it also covers many stories that other picture bibles do not include).

We also integrate this with bible memory verses and character reading. My ABC Bible Verses has verses that correspond to the alphabet along with character building stories. Along with this we are memorizing the catechism questions in Big Truths for Little Kids by Susan Hunt. I’ll ask, “Who made you?” And I love hearing my 2 & 4 year old shout, “God!” or “What are the three persons of God?” and they proudly declare, “The Father, The Son, and the Holy Spirit.” It’s so much fun.

For the elementary ages, some recommendations include: Long Story Short: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski. This book is fabulous for short devotions together whether you are tight on time or lacking in the area of children being able to focus. The devotions are simply reading a short passage of Scripture followed by discussion questions. Mighty Acts of God (another longer storybook style), Training Hearts, Teaching Minds (devotions based upon the shorter catechism), and Big Truths for for Young Hearts by Bruce Ware (a great introduction into the study of doctrine and theology- probably best for 10-12 year olds) are a few other excellent resources.

A recent new release by Nancy Guthrie, called One Year of Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters, is another I am really excited about. Here’s a snippet about it:

“Whereas most family devotionals focus on Bible stories or on practical moral lessons, Dinner Table Devotions and Discussion Starters focuses on biblical themes, concepts, and words, in ways that are understandable to children without talking down to adults or teens. It will help your family take a step back to look at the big picture of what God is doing in the world and his purposes and plans in creating and redeeming the world. Once you and your family have worked your way through this book, you will have discussed nearly every major attribute of God and a host of profound theological truths, such as justification, redemption, substitution, and sanctification–without all those daunting words. You will have looked into important concepts from the Bible, such as covenant, adoption, judgment, and redemption, as well as spiritual realities, such as hell, angels, resurrection, and glorification. This is not dry theology for theology’s sake, but living theology that makes a huge difference in how we do battle against temptation, deal with disappointment, and determine our futures.” Sample the first 10 chapters here.

From a young age, at least when we were first able to read (5-6 years), my dad would purchase for us our own Bible and encourage us to start our own personal devotions. We would start with The Picture Bible for our own reading before graduating up to a full bible. The Picture Bible was one we all loved and was so well read by each of us it would start falling apart. So we would do a personal devotions time followed by family devotions each day.

I pray you would be encouraged and blessed to press on in planting God’s Word in the hearts of your children! It’s a worthwhile pursuit.

What tools or tips can you share for establishing family devotion time together?

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My Winter Monthly Menu Plan 2011-2012

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I have been a fan of monthly menu planning for the past couple of years because of the simplicity it provides for my life. It enables me to decrease my grocery shopping excursions to twice a month and have more free time to focus on my family and home. How do we do it? Learn more with my step by step guide on this process here. It may not be for everyone, but it is a fun adventure to try it out. It really takes one solid chunk of a few hours time to plan out a monthly menu that can be rotated for several months. I usually make two monthly menu plans per year – one for winter/spring and the other for summer/fall. This season we are utilizing the crockpot a lot more. I wanted to be able to prepare nutritious real food meals without consuming too much time. With three little ones, getting dinner prepared in the morning is so much easier! There is less clean up and less hassle. You will notice many of recipes below come from Crockpot 365, which we will be sampling and experimenting with this year.

Here is our updated winter/spring menu plan for the new year!


These remain the same on a weekly basis with some variety:

Monday – kefir green smoothie, fried eggs, bread (muffin or toast)
Tuesday – Soaked Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Wednesday – French toast
Thursday – Soaked Oatmeal w/raisins & apples
Friday – Eggs (Breakfast burritos) or Fruit salad, yogurt & granola
Saturday – Soaked Pancakes
Sunday – Granola or cold cereal (a quick breakfast before church), hard boiled eggs


Lunches are a bit more flexible, as often times we will have leftovers on hand to eat from a previous meal, but if not, I keep the ingredients on hand for these ideas:

Monday – Salmon Melts
Tuesday – Egg Salad Sandwiches
Wednesday –Tomato Soup & grilled cheese sandwiches
Thursday- Ham & Cheese sandwiches, fruit/vegi, Crockpot Mac & Cheese
Friday – Peanut Butter & Jelly or regular sandwiches
Saturday – Leftovers (Saturday is generally leftover day or clean out the fridge day)

In addition to our weekly menu, we have a baking day on a weekly basis. Every Tuesday afternoon, we will rotate through restocking some nutritious snacks and baked goods, such as granola, protein bars, granola bars, muffins, and/or biscuits for various meals. 


I like to choose dinner themes for each night to work around. This time around we are using the following themes:

Monday – Stir Fry/Date night
Tuesday – Soup
Wednesday – Chicken
Thursday – Beef/Mexican
Friday – Family Night – Pizza (homemade pizza is a family favorite)
Saturday -BBQ (my hubby likes to BBQ, so I am happy to give him the opportunity!)
Sunday – leftovers, hospitality (BBQ beef sandwiches), or Baked Potato Bar

Other themes could include: crockpot, Italian, etc. I have heard other creative ideas such as Meat Monday, Taco Tuesday, etc. Have fun and be creative! Anything to make meal planning enjoyable for your household.

Here are our four weeks of dinners which we rotate monthly:

Week 1:

Monday – Stir Fry
Tuesday – Clam Chowder
Wednesday – Whole Chicken in the Crockpot (followed by slow cooking the bones to make broth)
Thursday – Beef Bourguignon in the Crockpot
Friday – Pizza w/homemade soaked crust
Saturday – Hamburgers
Sunday –  Burritos w/homemade refried beans

Week 2:

Monday – Date night
Tuesday - Zuppa Tuscana
Wednesday - Chicken Curry in Crockpot (using shredded chicken from the whole chicken I made the previous week)
Thursday – Spaghetti
Friday – Fish Tacos
Saturday – Ham/Ribs on the BBQ
Sunday – Sloppy Lentils in Crockpot

Week 3:

Monday – Stir Fry
Tuesday – Chili in Crockpot (cook beans the day before in the crockpot)
Wednesday – Coconut Chicken
Thursday – Crockpot Lasagna
Friday – Pizza
Saturday – Pork Chops on BBQ or crockpot
Sunday – Baked Potato Bar

Week 4:

Monday – Date night
Tuesday – Garden Chowder
Wednesday – Chicken Cordon Bleu in Crockpot
Thursday – Fajitas or Mexican Casserole in Crockpot
Friday – Blue Cheese & Cherry Meatloaf in Crockpot
Saturday – Pot Roast
Sunday – Hospitality (BBQ Beef/Pork Sandwiches in Crockpot or Pasta Presto)

Free Templates

Winter Menu form
Monthly Menu Planner form

Looking forward to trying some new recipes this season and simplifying my life at the same time! Real food crockpot recipes here we come! What recipes are you excited to try this season?

For more on the topic of monthly menu planning, check out Simplifying Grocery Shopping & the Benefits of Monthly Menu Planning.

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24 Ways and Reasons to Keep a Family Journal

Written by Monthly Contributor, Trina Holden

I’m a journalist. Not of world news or current events, but of something much more interesting and dear to my heart – the story of Gods’ hand in my life and my family.

I’ve kept a personal journal for over 20 years, filling nearly 80 volumes. Before my children spoke their first words, I began a journal for each of them, to record all the cute things they would say and developmental milestones. My motley collection of notebooks — a true eyesore to look at on the bookshelf — is a treasure trove of fond memories and testimonies of a faithful God.

The benefits of keeping a journal have so richly enhanced my life, I long to encourage others to begin or cultivate the habit. But the challenge of keeping a daily log or starting one for each child may be intimidating or overwhelming,  so I propose…

The Family Journal

  • What: A sturdy, spiral bound, hard cover book with lines spaced wide enough that a grade-school-er would not be intimidated.
  • Authors: Anyone in the family who can write legibly, though younger artists are encouraged to add illustrations.
  • Where: Kept in the open, pen sandwiched inside, ready for instant reporting.

The Family Journal Contains:

  • Humorous quotes from the children (or parents!)
  • Ways the Lord has blessed the family
  • Significant family events
  • Gratefulness lists
  • Requests and answered prayers
  • Notes from visiting friends

Benefits of the Family Journal: 

  • A place for young writers to showcase their progress
  • A record to instruct the children in God’s faithfulness
  • Young children can be encouraged in the skill of narration as older family members take dictation
  • Best of all, the Family Journal provides a unique way to honor a family member on their birthday. The Librarian or Scribe of the family can spend some time prior to a birthday looking back and bookmarking passages that record personal development, funny quotes, and ways that God has used or blessed the birthday person. These selections can be read aloud at the birthday dinner or over dessert, and the whole family can laugh and celebrate that member of the family as the gift from God that they are.

Hints for Filling Your Family Journal:

  • encourage participation from youngest to oldest
  • have family recording time, perhaps directly after a meal — everyone can narrate a memory, with one person appointed as scribe
  • Don’t put it away — leave it open and available
  • Let it double as a guest book!
  • Take it in the car
  • Bring it on vacation!
  • Encourage extended family to contribute to special pages for birthdays
  • Don’t be a perfectionist. No one should be graded on punctuation or grammar — the only requirement should be legibility.
  • Choose a spiral bound book — they’re much easier to write in than one with traditional binding.

Bonus Idea: A Family Journal makes a great gift! Gift wrap a quality journal for a family Christmas or housewarming gift, with a nice pen and a copy of this article so they’ll know what to do with it!

Thrifty Tip: Find journals for $2-$5 at dollar stores and discount retail stores.

Without our family journal, I’d never remember precious things like…

“Me wanna be a pirate when me grow up. But me miss you, so me only go on pirate ship on Wednesdays.”
- Jesse, age 4

Don’t let the adorable things your kids say or the miracles God has worked in your life be forgotten – preserve them so you can rejoice over them in the future!

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Yummy Pumpkin Bread/Muffins

I love fall and the smells, colors, and sounds that it brings! I have been getting excited about apples, pumpkins, harvest festivals, and simply enjoying a hot cup of homemade cocoa as the cold weather sets in. Today we made some yummy healthy pumpkin muffins with good wholesome ingredients and it turned out heavenly! They were light, fluffy, and full of rich flavor. They are being consumed very quickly around here. The kids and I enjoyed them over a hot cup of homemade cocoa…ahh! The sugar and oil in this recipe can be easily adapted to what you have on hand. We just prefer these more natural choices.


2 cups pumpkin puree (or 1 – 15 oz can)
1 cup coconut oil, melted
2 cups rapadura/sucanat (a natural unrefined whole cane sugar – learn more here)
4 eggs
3 cups & 2 Tablespoons whole wheat flour (I used a combination of whole wheat & spelt)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves


1. In a large bowl, combine pumpkin puree, coconut oil, eggs, and sugar. Mix until smooth.
2. In a second bowl, combine all the dry ingredients: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.
3. Gently fold the dry ingredients into the first bowl of wet ingredients. Gently fold in, just until mixed. Do not overmix.
4. Grease your pans or muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes for muffins or 45 minutes for loaf pan.

Yield: 2 loaf pans, or 20-24 muffins

For a cup of homemade cocoa to accompany your muffins, mix 1 tablespoon of cocoa powder with 1 1/2 tablespoons of honey in 8 oz of water or drizzle this homemade chocolate syrup into hot water to your taste. Enjoy!

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