Books & Reading · Holidays

Links for Thanksgiving

I just love Thanksgiving.

I love Christmas, too, of course, but sometimes the oh-so-very-important meaning behind the holiday gets overshadowed by the gifts we exchange.

Thanksgiving doesn’t have that problem. More than any other holiday I can think of, Thanksgiving is a time to simply enjoy good food with the people you love. We are celebrating Thanksgiving with my husband’s family this year—we’ve rented a house a few hours away, and we’ll all be together for several days. I can’t wait.

This Thanksgiving is special in some new ways, too. We’ve been studying American history this year with our boys, and so more than ever before, they’re aware of the rich history behind this holiday and some of its traditions.

If you’re looking for some new books, songs, or traditions to add to your family’s celebration this year, I’ve gathered a list of some of my favorites below:

To Read

Squanto and the Miracle of Thanksgiving by Eric Metaxas

An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving by Louisa May Alcott

This is the Feast by Diane Z. Shore

Balloons Over Broadway: The True Story of the Puppeteer of Macy’s Parade by Melissa Sweet

The Thanksgiving Story by Alice Dagliesh

Bear Says Thanks by Karma Wilson

Give Thanks Bible reading plan from She Reads Truth

How to Celebrate Thanksgiving All Year

To Listen To

My Thanksgiving Playlist on Spotify

“Stepping Stones,” Part 1 and Part 2, an Adventures in Odyssey story about the Pilgrims

To Make

Chex Party Mix (use the oven method, not the microwave method; it makes a difference!)

A Thanksgiving Tree

Libby’s Pumpkin Pie (expert sources and my dad confirm it’s the best)


I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving!


Books & Reading · Holidays

5 Ways To Celebrate the True Meaning of Easter with Your Kids

When I was a new mom, I didn’t realize that you don’t have to have all the traditions for all your holidays and special occasions all figured out from the moment your firstborn enters the world.

Thanks goodness for that.

But it was hard for me at first. I had all these ideas that the special things I did growing up would be easy to automatically implement with my own children.

That wasn’t quite the case, especially when it came to Easter.

As family in ministry, Easter has always been an extremely full day for us. Most churches, of course, want to plan a service that somehow attempts to adequately celebrate all Christ has done. But also, Easter is a time when many who would not normally darken the doors of a church are willing to come. For many pastoral families, mine included, this means extra services or special events.

It was hard, those first few years, for me to adjust my expectations from how I’d grown up. We would always have an egg hunt in the living room before church, then eat a special breakfast before changing into our fancy new clothes.

But when you’re a pastor’s wife, either your whole family has to be at church very early, or you have to let your husband leave the house while you get the rest of the family ready without him. (We’ve done both at different points).

I could not celebrate Easter in my own home the way I had as a child in my parents’ home.

As I said, at first I was disappointed. When we couldn’t have a special breakfast and scour the house for eggs first thing in the morning, I thought, Well, then, I guess we just can’t do anything special.

I’m so glad I was wrong.

My boys are six and seven now, and we’ve finally found some ways of marking the season that fit us. Like so many of our traditions, the way we celebrate Easter has grown out of our family dynamics, a willingness to work within our schedule, and by learning what resonates with our children’s individual personalities.

I can’t figure out for you what Easter traditions will work in your home.

But if you’re looking for some new ideas of how to make the season special, ideas that respect and reinforce the true meaning of Easter, I’ve put together a list of things you might want to try.

Fast together before Easter

It’s too late to observe Lent if you’re not already doing so, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t fast, or give up something as you prepare your heart for Easter.

Our kids, at 6 and 7, are at the age where we are just beginning to explain to them and model for them the concept of fasting and self-denial.

While I believe that biblical term “fasting” really applies only to food (that’s another post for another day), any act of self-denial helps us to identify with Christ, and hopefully to understand that no matter what we do, we can’t really live righteously on our own.

Even if it’s just for a week, you could purpose as a family to go without something –sweets or TV or whatever might be meaningful for you. Whenever it feels inconvenient or uncomfortable, talk to your kids about what Christ gave up for us. Then when Easter comes, celebrate together that Jesus is alive and that he gives us abundant life in Him!

Attend a sunrise service

If you’re a parent to tinies, this one probably isn’t for you, and this isn’t something that makes sense for our family right now. But if you have older kids and are willing to get up a little early, this can be a really meaningful way to connect them with the wonderful news those women heard at dawn when they went to the tomb: “He is not here; he has risen!” (Luke 24:6).

Use Resurrection Eggs to tell the Easter story

This is a newer addition to our family’s celebration. We bought a set of Resurrection Eggs a couple years ago for our church at the recommendation of some friends in children’s ministry, and when I found out what they were, I had to get some for our family.

If you’re not familiar with them, Resurrection Eggs are just like regular plastic Easter eggs, but instead of candy, each egg is filled with an object that relates to part of the Easter story.

This is how we use them in our family: starting about two weeks before Easter, we get the eggs out and open one that night. We look at what’s inside, and read a passage of Scripture relating to that part of the story. After that first night, we keep going back to the beginning, having our kids take turns telling the part of the story each object represents before moving on to that night’s egg.

What I love about using these eggs is the way it has helped develop biblical literacy in my sons’ lives. By the time we got to the last egg last year (spoiler: it’s empty!), the details of the Easter story were ingrained in their hearts from several nights of retelling it. And because of the eggs and the little trinkets, they were always so excited to do it. Any time I can make understanding Scripture fun for my kids, I’m all in.

We have this set, which comes with a little guidebook. But if you’re on a tight budget, it’s not too hard to make your own.

Make resurrection cookies or hot cross buns

There’s nothing quite like special food to set apart a special day. We have all kinds of holiday favorites in our house: birthday cakes and cupcakes, Valentine’s Day cinnamon rolls, and Christmas cookies.

You may already have food traditions for Easter, but if you have room for one or two more, these can be fun because they offer a way to tell the Easter story to your kids.

Resurrection cookies are meringues that sit in the oven overnight, and when you bite into them the next morning, they’re empty inside! There are also several ways to connect the ingredients and process to the Easter story as you make them together. I like the recipe and instructions here.

Hot cross buns have a long-standing history in the church as a traditional Easter food (eaten on Good Friday). Like the resurrection cookies, there are elements of making them that can be connected to the Easter story (the dough is beaten like Jesus was, you add spices like the women used to prepare Jesus’ body), and of course, the cross carved or iced on the top reminds us of Jesus’ death. This is my favorite recipe.

Have a Passover Meal

This is a tradition that we just stumbled into. One Spring, several years ago, we were reading in the Jesus Storybook Bible about how Jesus celebrated the Passover with his disciples the night before he died. My son was intrigued and asked if we could have our own Passover meal sometime.

I hadn’t planned it out this way at all, but that night was the Wednesday before Easter. So, on a whim, I said we could have Passover the very next night – the night before Good Friday, just like Jesus did.

Now, it’s something my kids really look forward to. While we eat, we talk about the first Passover and how God led his people out of slavery and how death passed over them because of the blood of the lamb. And then we talk about that meal that Jesus had with his disciples, and how he is the Passover Lamb who saves us from death and slavery to sin.

I absolutely love it. You can read more about how we celebrate this special meal, including what I make for us to eat right here


I hope this gives you some ideas of how you could make this Easter even more meaningful for your family. It’s the best news in the world, and it deserves our marking it with a special celebration: He is risen!


**Note: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I get a small commission if you buy something using them. Thanks so much for supporting me!

Books & Reading · Faith At Home · Holidays

My Favorite Bibles for Kids (Just in Time for Easter!)

I don’t know what you’re planning to give your kids for Easter this year (if anything), but I am ridiculously excited to give my kids their first real Bibles.

They have a lot of picture-book Bibles, and they were given New Testaments when they were dedicated as babies, but since they’re both emerging readers, and since they’re going to classes where it matters if they have a Bible with them or not, it seemed like time to make sure they have their own copies of God’s Word.

So, in case you’re wanting to give Bibles to the littles (or anyone else!) in your life this Easter, I thought I’d share with you some of my favorites.

For little kids:

The Jesus Storybook Bible
I cannot recommend this Bible highly enough. I bought it for my boys when they were babies, and I just bought it for my brand-new niece, too. We’ve read through it several times as a family, and my kids love the DVDs, too. I love how it shows how the entire Bible points to Jesus, and the language of the storytelling is beautiful and fun to read.

Read And Learn Bible
This was one of the first Bibles we started using for bedtime stories when my boys were very small (as in, under two). The stories are very, very short, but what I love about it is how much of the Bible it includes (it’s the only kids’ Bible I’ve ever seen that tells the story of Nebuchadnezzar’s dream from Daniel 2), and how close it stays to the actual language of the Bible. This is a great Bible to read to wiggly toddlers.

The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden
This amazing book tells the entire narrative of the Bible in 10 short chapters. It’s such a good look at the overall picture that the Bible is telling and helps kids see where all those little stories like David and Goliath and Daniel and the lion’s den fit in the BIG story God is telling throughout history. Also, the illustrations in this are just lovely.

The Big Picture Interactive Bible Storybook
This is by the people behind the Gospel Project curriculum. We bought this when we were considering using their curriculum for our church, but it quickly became a favorite bedtime read-aloud in our home. Like the Jesus Storybook Bible, this shows how the whole Bible points to Jesus, but it covers a whole lot more stories. This one will take you a while to get through (I think there are about 150 stories), and there’s only one illustration per story, so this one isn’t great for the littlest kids. But we’ve found 4-6 to be a great age for this Bible, and there’s a question at the end of each lesson to help you gauge if your kids are really getting what the story is saying.

For bigger kids:

The Adventure Bible
This the Bible I had as a kid, and the very first Bible I read all the way through (for my Honor Star requirements; if you grew up in an A/G church, you know what I’m talking about). This is also what we got for Caleb for Easter this year (this one). It has some child-appropriate study helps that I think will really be useful for him as he learns and grows. We chose NIrV for him (after a LOT of deliberation) because we believe it will encourage him to read this on his own, but this Bible is available in several versions.

The Big Picture Interactive Bible
This is what we got for Garrett for Easter (this version). I love that it has the same illustrations as the Big Picture storybook they’ve been reading from, and I think it will help him transition better from picture books to a big kids’ Bible, and help him stay interested in it while he is still learning to read. This isn’t available in as many versions as the Adventure Bible, but there are still a few options to choose from.

THE BIBLE STORY Complete 10 Volume Set
This is a 10-volume set. Don’t be put off by its outdated appearance; this is a fantastic Bible story set. We only have two volumes so far, so I haven’t read every single story, but what I have read, I’ve been very impressed with. Like so many of my other favorite Bibles, these show how each story the Bible tells is part of a larger whole of what God is doing. Also, when I first became a parent, I was disappointed by how many kids’ Bibles (even some I remembered loving) presented a very works-based concept of salvation, as if the whole message of the Bible was to be a good girl or boy. This Bible doesn’t fall into that trap–it explains, in kid-friendly language, how we can’t be good enough, and that is why we need Jesus. Finally, these books are beautifully illustrated with the types of pictures I hope form my kids’ imaginations as they grow.

For everyone else on your list:

The Books of the Bible
This is one of my favorite ways to really read the Bible. There are no chapter or verse numbers to distract from the text, so this is excellent for when you want to read a long passage or an entire book in one sitting. One day recently, when we were going through the hard season at the end of our church, I was feeling frustrated and read through the entire book of Job one afternoon. I don’t think I could have done that as easily in any other Bible. It’s in TNIV, which I don’t think lasted for very long, and I’m not sure why, but as far as I can tell, most of the text is very similar to NIV (my preferred version), and like I said, I use this for reading, not for study.

Journaling Bible
I write a lot of notes in my Bible, and I’m happy with the Bible that I have, but whenever I’m in the market for a new one, I imagine I’ll get something like this with wide margins to give me room for more thoughts.

Fire Bible: New International Version, Student Edition
This is Jason’s go-to study Bible. The study notes are comprehensive, and written from a Pentecostal perspective. We loved recommending this to our students when we were youth pastors, and we love it for ourselves as pastors.


***This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission for any purchases you make using the some of the links. Thanks for supporting Faith Starts at Home!


Should You Include Santa in Your Celebration of Christmas?

So… Santa.

Lots of talk going on this time of year about this one poor man.

I had a friend ask me recently about my opinion on this issue, and suggest I write about it. At the time, I didn’t feel like I had much to say, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I do have some opinions about Santa and Christmas.


Of course, if you go on Facebook, it won’t take long before you begin to believe that everyone has an opinion about how you should celebrate Christmas and whether or not it should include Santa. Easter and its infamous bunny has a lot of the same issues, but I don’t know that anyone takes the debate over the Easter Bunny quite as seriously as they approach the issue of Santa Claus.

It’s tricky ground, I realize. Some people would have you believe that if your children are taught Santa Claus exists as a red-suited, chimney-climbing, gift-delivering North Pole dweller, when they find out otherwise they will categorically deny everything else you’ve taught them to take by faith, most notably, the existence of God.

Others would have you believe that if you deny your kids the experience of believing in Santa, they will miss out on an important rite of passage as children, and grow to be joyless adults who have no sense of the magic and beauty of the world.

These are generalizations and over-simplifications of the two main camps when it comes to Santa, I know, but that is the general gist of what each is afraid of, deep in their hearts. But the truth, as is often the case, lies somewhere in the middle.

The phrase Santa Claus has descended to us from the Dutch Sante Klaas, and the earlier Sinter Niklass which means Saint Nicholas. Saint Nicholas was a real person who lived in the 3rd century and was a follower of Jesus. Nicholas lived in what is now Turkey, and was known, among other things, for his generosity.

There are a lot of legends surrounding the life of Nicholas, the most well-known of which tells how Nicholas heard of three young women whose father was too poor to afford a dowry for them. There were not any good options for single women back then, and without a dowry, the girls could have ended up having to sell themselves to survive. In one version of the story, Nicholas came at night to secretly give enough gold to the father to be able to marry his daughters off, and the bag of gold landed inside a stocking that had been hung to dry by the fireplace.

But aside from this well-known story, Nicholas was also an important figure in church history. He was a part of the Council of Nicea in 325, a meeting of bishops called by Constantine, which helped solidify some of the essential doctrines of the Church. After his death, the bishop Nicholas was sainted by the Catholic church, and St. Nicholas Day is observed on December 6 on the liturgical church calendar

We talked to our kids about St. Nicholas this year, and how he gave things to people who had less than he did. Part of the reason we talked about him was a reaction to Caleb’s interest in Santa this year, for the first time ever. He started slipping casually into conversation things about Santa – how he lived at the North Pole, and how he would be delivering presents to us this year, and I’ll admit, I panicked a little bit.

If I had to pick one side or the other of this debate, I’d have to confess that right now I lean a little toward leaving Santa out of things, but I think that’s mostly a default because neither Jason nor I really remember ever believing in Santa, and we do not feel as though we missed out on anything.

But I think it possible to do either and do right by our kids, and by the same token, do either and lead our kids astray. You can make sure your kids know that Santa isn’t real, and still fill the bottom of your Christmas tree with everything your child asks for and more, and teach them by example that Christmas is about how much you can get. Or you can encourage Santa fantasies and teach your kids about a generous spirit and the power of faith in things that are unseen.

I’m not certain about all these things, by any means. Honestly, we are just making up this whole parenting thing as we go, talking with our kids as much as we can, about as much as we can, and praying that God’s spirit will fill in all the gaps of our imperfection. But I have a feeling that in the context of the larger scheme of my boys’ life, when I look back in 10 or 15 years, agonizing over Santa will seem as silly to me then as agonizing over pacifier brands in the boys’ infancy seems to me now.

I can’t tell you whether or not including Santa in your Christmas celebrations is right for your family. There isn’t a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits all answer to that question. But I can tell you that the way to give your kids the best chance to follow Jesus when they are adults is to make sure they hear about him at home for more than a couple of days in December.

So let’s agree to be okay with how other people – people who genuinely love Jesus – decide to celebrate Christmas with their kiddos, even if the choices they make are different than the ones we have made for our own families.

I honestly do not know which side of this we will land on in the course of the next several years. I’m sure the boys will pick up things from friends at school, and even if we don’t teach overtly about Santa, he’s in a lot of the Christmas movies we love, like Polar Express and Elf. But I’m really not too worried about it, because I am convinced that whether or not my boys end up thinking that Santa Claus exists, it won’t shake their faith in Jesus. Of course, only God can draw their hearts, and they will have to decide to follow him for themselves at some point, but God is a part of our family life in a way that Santa will never be.

Santa Claus sees heavy action in most homes, ours included, for four weeks, maybe five. But we talk about God all the time. We talk about God at each meal, and before bed every night. We talk about God when we see people making bad choices, and when we are believing him for things that are bigger than us. We talk about God when we see a pretty sunset or hear scary thunder. He is the center of our home.

And I don’t think anyone, not even Santa, can uproot that.

Books & Reading · Holidays

Picture Books We’re Reading This Christmas

Picture Books We’re Reading This Christmas


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I get a small commission for any purchases you make using the some of the links. Thanks for supporting Faith Starts at Home!

I mentioned last week one of my favorite things we are doing for Advent this year: a Christmas picture book every day. In case you were curious, I thought I’d share the full list of titles we are reading. Most of these we own; a few of the early ones we got from the library. There are new favorites on here, along with books the boys have been reading every Christmas, and even a few that were mine when I was a kid.

I wrapped up all the books back in October, when our schedule was a little calmer, and wrote the names on the spines in pencil. Then on Thanksgiving night, I pulled them all out and numbered them.

Here’s what we are reading each day:

Nov 25: Christmas Trolls // Jan Brett

Nov 26: Mr. Willowby’s Christmas Tree // Robert Barry

Nov 27: Christmas Cricket // Eve Bunting

Nov 28: Good King Wenceslas // Jane Seymour

Nov 29: Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas // Julie Rawlinson

Nov 30: The Legend of the Poinsettia // Tomie dePaola

Dec 1: Snow Day! // Courtney Carbone

Dec 2: Polar Express // Chris Van Allsburg (The version we have came with the audiobook, which is read by Liam Neeson, and it is fantastic.)

Dec 3: The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey // Susan Wojciechowski

Dec 4: How the Grinch Stole Christmas // Dr. Seuss

Dec 5: The Hat // Jan Brett

Dec 6: Santa, Are You For Real? // Harold Myra

Dec 7: The Legend of the Candy Cane // Lori Walburg

Dec 8: Merry Christmas, Curious George // H. A. Rey and Catherine Hapka

Dec 9: The Wild Christmas Reindeer // Jan Brett

Dec 10: The Night Before Christmas // Charles Santore

Dec 11: A Charlie Brown Christmas (Peanuts) // Charles Shulz

Dec 12: The Bears’ Christmas // Stan and Jan Berenstain

Dec 13: The Nutcracker // Ronald Kidd
(I’ve also heard good things about this version of the story, and this one.)

Dec 14: Gingerbread Baby // Jan Brett

Dec 15: Bear Stays Up for Christmas // Karma Wilson

Dec 16: Christmas in the Big Woods // Laura Ingalls Wilder

Dec 17: The Night Before Christmas // Clement Clarke Moore, illustrated by Tomie dePaola

Dec 18: Country Angel Christmas // Tomie dePaola

Dec 19: The Night of Las Posadas // Tomie dePaola

Dec 20: The Tale of Three Trees // Angela Elwell Hunt

Dec 21: The Crippled Lamb // Max Lucado

Dec 22: Humphrey’s First Christmas // Carol Heyer

Dec 23: Cock-A-Doodle Christmas! // Will Hillenbrand

Dec 24: Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story // Sally Lloyd-Jones

Like I said, some of these were from the library, and so I had to just go with what was available, but for the most part, these books are ones I love and heartily recommend. There’s a good mix here of books that mention Santa, and books that don’t, so whichever is your persuasion, hopefully there’s plenty here to suit you.

And if you need more recommendations, there are more great lists of Christmas picture books at  All About Reading, Brightly, the Read-Aloud Revival, and Money-Saving Mom.



How to Celebrate Thanksgiving All Year


A couple of years ago, I accidentally got on a kick of books about suffering.

I had been wanting to read CS Lewis’s A Grief Observed for quite some time, so I picked it up. I think I had known ahead of time that it was a more or less private journal of his thoughts and feelings following his wife’s death, but it was a great read.

Then I picked up a book from Jason’s bookshelf by an author I’d already read and really enjoyed, not knowing what it was about. Turns out Bob Sorge’s In His Face is a study of the book of Job and how it can help us in the midst of difficult trials that make no sense.

And then I went to my mother-in-law’s house and saw a copy of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts sitting on the table in her hearth room. I had heard of the book, but did not know anything about it, so I asked what she thought. She hadn’t read it yet, but insisted I borrow it. I remember sitting by the window downstairs at her house, reading with tears streaming down my face, while my boys fished outside,  how at four years old, Ann had he watched her little sister be run over by a propane truck in her front yard. And then she told the story of her two nephews, both born with the same genetic disorder, being buried by their parents less than two years apart.

I was reeling, unable to imagine the pain of those losses from the comfort of my unfathomably blessed life. But as I read how Ann began to wrestle with God and how we serve him and continue to believe that He is good despite the pain we suffer in this life, I began to wonder what God was trying to tell me.

Over and over and over again I was reading about grief and loss, and trusting God in the midst of the storm, and I wasn’t choosing books on that topic on purpose. They just kept coming to me. These themes were showing up unbidden, and I was starting to wonder if perhaps God was preparing me. I still don’t know if that was purpose of those books or not. We did lose my sister-in-law tragically last September, and I can tell you unequivocally that it was only God’s grace and his presence that has carried my family through that loss. But I don’t know what is around the corner of tomorrow – perhaps fresh grief awaits me there.

But no matter what I face, I cling to these words from One Thousand Gifts: He is always good, and I am always loved.

Of all the books I read that fall, One Thousand Gifts had the most lasting impact on my life. When I saw a sale on it at our local Christian bookstore, I snatched it up, and over the summer I reread it, underlining something on almost every page now that I had my own copy.

I started keeping a blessings journal shortly after I read One Thousand Gifts for the first time. It was an exciting habit at first; I took the journal with me everywhere and saw gifts in everything. But like most new things I undertake, my enthusiasm for keeping the journal eventually faded, and the habit went by the wayside. I would still occasionally write when the inspiration struck, but I was not writing gifts down anywhere close to every day.

Rereading the book renewed my passion for keeping gift lists, as watching this video, where Ann explains that there is no wrong way to count gifts. It sounds a little silly now, but I was super-paranoid about writing down the same thing twice, thinking that somehow it would only count if I was able to name a thousand unique ways God had blessed me. Realizing that it does not really matter if I wrote the same thing more than once was completely freeing for me.

If I’m being really honest, I want to write “coffee” down every morning. Every single morning. Also, looking back through my journal, I can see that there are a number of time where I’ve written “potty in the toilet,” and every mom who has every potty-trained a child understands what a gift that really is.

The truth is, it doesn’t matter how many times I’ve written down that I’m thankful for my morning cup of of coffee, because the goal of counting gifts has nothing to do with reaching the milestone of 1000. It has everything to do with learning to find something today, right now, for which you can offer thanks to God.

Looking for things to be grateful about changes the posture of your heart. Especially when it seems like there is nothing for which to offer thanks – only things to complain about. For example, I remember distinctly one night recently, when I was trying everything I knew to get the boys to go to sleep. I’d spent almost an hour hopping off the couch every few minutes to send them back to bed.

Finally, I decided to sit in their room with them and sing to them and rub their backs. At the point where I was finally giving in to frustration and my belief that they were never ever going to sleep again, Ann’s words came to me unbidden: eucharisto (the act of giving thanks) always, always precedes the miracle. So I started thinking of things I could thank God for, even in my frustration with them.

I thanked God for the two little beds sitting side-by-side in my boys’ room, a luxury many kids in third-world countries cannot imagine. I thanked him that they had their own room, and that I could go do something else in another part of the house when they were asleep. I thanked God for the music that was rising softly from the mp3 player we leave in their room, and the way it was turning my thoughts towards him. Earlier that day, I’d seen pictures of orphans in China who’d been abandoned because of their deformed hands, so I thanked God for the five little fingers interlaced with mine.

It was hard thanks, but I started offering it up anyway. And you know what? They fell asleep. They probably would have eventually anyway, but giving thanks changed my attitude about it.

You will probably spend at least a part of today thinking about things you’re thankful for. But don’t let it stop after today. Don’t buy into the lies that as soon as the dishes are cleared away, you need to start planning a strategy for how you can acquire so much more tomorrow. Look around you and really see all the amazing blessings that are in your life.

“For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” 1 Timothy 4:4

Happy Thanksgiving!


Why We Are Okay With Trick-Or-Treating


Today is Halloween.

We will be taking our kiddos out this evening and trick or treating, and the longer we do it, the more convinced I am that it is the right thing for our family. I’m not saying it is the right thing for every family. I know there are a lot of strong opinions in the church about this day, and that there are some places where the celebration of Halloween has some decidedly evil elements.

If you live in an area where there is a lot of pagan celebration of Halloween or maybe where it’s not safe for kids to be out after dark, maybe your church could be a witness to your community by offering kids a safe place to come and spend their evening. But for us, that’s not our reality.

The first four years we lived in this neighborhood, we were at a church event in Springfield. The longer we did it, the more we noticed that our event was mostly attracting people from our church and other nearby churches; we were not reaching the lost.

Two years ago, we were home, for the first time ever in this house, on Halloween. And let me tell you, our neighborhood does Halloween right. Families are everywhere. Most houses hand out candy. Several people deck out their whole garage, and some sit on their driveway around a fire pit, giving out not just candy, but cider or cocoa or popcorn. It’s a big deal around here and I cannot believe we missed it all those years.

We are excited to take our kids out and meet our neighbors. We have met more of our neighbors in the past year that we had in the previous five, thanks to our cat (who has a tendency to wander). Now most of the people know us (or at least him), and I’m excited to have that as a way to start a conversation.

I am convinced that there are people in our neighborhood who need Jesus–and what better day than today to be light and salt?

Here are some other great thoughts on celebrating today with Christ and community in mind:

Six Reasons I Celebrate Halloween with My Kids (Even Though I’m a Christian)

Practical Ideas for Being Missional on Halloween

Halloween: love it or hate it?

On a lighter note, I love making special food for special days. A couple of years ago, I made these cute hot dogs for Halloween, and when I showed them to the boys, Garrett took one look and said, “They’re baby Jesus hot dogs!” We just gotten to the nativity story in our Bible storybook, and while his comment made me laugh,  that’s what happens when we make our homes a place that honors Christ all year long. Halloween comes and goes, but Jesus is central to our home every single day. I’m glad that his innocent little mind has a better frame of reference for recognizing baby Jesus than a mummy.

And while we’re on the topic of Halloween recipes, I’m all about swiping the kids’ candy and using it up in treats that have a little more to recommend to them than sitting around and snacking on handfuls of sugar. Here are some ways I’m planning to use up all that chocolate:

Orange-Scented Chocolate Chunk Scones from Homemade with Love (these are our favorite!!)

Coconut Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookie Bars from Paleo Sweets and Treats

Chocolate French Toast

Faux Cookie Dough Dip (do you think I can convince my kids to eat this? I hope so!)

However you decide to celebrate tonight, from my family to yours – Happy Halloween!