Devotions Starter Kit

My friend Mari Jo and I taught a middle school breakout at church camp on doing devotions and quiet time. In a nutshell: have a time, have your materials, read your Bible, and journal.

During one of our classes, we suggested to these students to ask their parents for a back-to-school or birthday shopping spree to purchase their materials for doing devotions. The next week, a student asked me to baptize her. She’s about to be a 6th grader, so I decided to gift her this devotion starter kit. I love shopping for journals and pens so it was just as much fun giving this gift as I hope it was receiving it.

First, the Bible. The best version of the Bible is the one you’ll read. At our church we encourage elementary students to read out of the NIrV (New International Readers Version), our youth group’s version of choice is ESV (English Standard Version), but I also have begun to encourage middle school students to read the Biblical paraphrase version The Message too. That’s what I purchased for this student. I found a pink one on Amazon, and it was super affordable. Pay a little more and get a super nice leather bound one, but this worked for my purpose.

Then at Target, I found this sweet journal.

And these pens…

They’re erasable?!? Of course I bought a pack for myself too.

That’s all you really need, but Mari Jo suggested to have a drink with you for your devotions. She drinks tea. I figured my 6th grader would like pink lemonade. I bought a country time mix, they have directions to make a cup at a time, and I also got her a cute melamine cup. All hers.

I wrote my student a card explaining the kit and then suggested a place to start. Now, she and I, and my other small group leaders all committed to reading a chapter of Proverbs every day in July. 31 chapters, 31 days. If you have a young adult or an friend who is new to quiet time, this starter kit would be a great gift. Other suggestions to include:

  • Noise canceling ear buds or head phones if a kid lives in a packed house.
  • A camp chair or blanket or cheap tent if the student would do best reading out doors.
  • A beanbag chair or camp chair for inside, or a new fun pillow.
  • Get into reading plans you find on the YouVersion Bible app. So many students are tech savvy. Pick one you can do together.
  • A devotional- books that supplement or lead your devotion time. Buy one you’ll do together. Our elementary students are doing this one.

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Trim His Eyebrows

This is Katie.

She styled my family’s hair when we lived in Wisconsin, and she surprised my husband the first time she took scissors to his eyebrows. His initial shock became delight when he saw the results. Before we moved, Katie taught me how she did it.

Simply backcomb one eyebrow (from temple to nose) and trim with hair-cutting shears whatever hairs come past the spine of your comb.

Katie told me she once trimmed a family member’s eyebrows while camping and there was no comb, so she used a fork. (I always think of Ariel’s “dinglehopper.”) So resourceful!

Katie will always do this more capably than I do, but now every time I cut his hair, I trim my husband’s eyebrows too. Thanks for teaching me how, Katie!!!

Christmas in July

We’re heading out for vacation soon. We drive, so my husband wisely buys little dollar store gifts for “on the way,” but we also give gifts just in preparation for the trip.

Because of the timing (leaving in July), and because my daughter missed our church celebrating “Christmas in July” last year because we were on vacation, and probably also because my car wash’s free air freshener was pine scented (aroma inspiration) we decided to surprise the kids and throw our own. My stickler 2nd grader want everyone to know that it was Christmas in June since we did it on the 30th. (Any tips on breaking a semantically-inclined arguer????!!)

We decorated with three outdoor lights we usually put on our play set out back (they’re wonderfully tacky and yes, we saved them from large trash pick up day, so I banish them to the backyard usually).

My husband read the Christmas story with the kids out of the Bible App Kids Bible (any Bible will do or even the actual Bible App for kids).

We streamed a couple of kids worship songs.

Oh What a Special Night

And we watched this… Best Christmas Carol written by kids

Then we opened presents…

Then last night we had family over after church, ate falafel and I made the world’s most epic banana splits (future blog post soon) and the kids opened some gifts from Grandma too (great time to give their patriotic shirts for Independence Day)!

Merry Christmas in July!!!

Kid Days

After reading a phase guide for each of my children’s current ages, I knew I needed to get more intentional in celebrating their uniqueness and interests.

If you’ve never seen a phase guide, it looks like this… I’ve saved the link on the picture, so if you click it you can learn more.

Our church’s children’s ministry uses the curriculum that is also made by the creators of these special parenting guides.

After writing down some notes on each of my kids’ interests I decided to do a special day with each of them.

In November my daughter and I went to a mall to be the first customers at a Charming Charlie accessories store, we also rode a double decker carousel (side note: taking a picture looking backwards while riding a carousel can lead to this mom getting motion sick.) We got personal MOD pizzas, I gave her my old digital camera and taught her basic photography, we got drinks at a cafe and brought a My Little Pony board game, then finished with a round of put put.

It was good, but exhausting. The next one, I decided would be much simpler.

My son and I spent a day in December at the St Louis Science Center.

I wanted to plan another day for each of them. His birthday is April 6th, so I dubbed the 6th or so of each month is a “Titus day.” In March we did Taco Bell, Monkey Joe’s, and McDonald milk shakes (only for Titus since I wasn’t through with Whole30.

I joined a class field trip on March 14 for my daughter whose birthday is December 14th. So from then on the 14th or so of each month has been declared “Elodie Day.”

Now each kid has a special day each month to look forward to and help plan. Their birthday months are covered already of course.

But on all other months, we do a few things that make each kid feel special. Last month Elodie Day involved going to IKEA with Daddy and getting a new light for her room. All four of us went to the science center on the 7th last month for Titus day.

We have enjoyed each time we focus on the special interests of our kids. Having an approximate day of each month gives us an easy way to set something up.

How about you? What’s one of your ways to spend individual focused time with each of your children?

Long Lasting

Today is our 10 year wedding anniversary. 


The last gallon of milk I bought was dated today. So nice of my milk to celebrate with us… by going bad?  Oh well, our marriage is not “Best before” today. It’s going to get better and worse. That’s a vow. 

The 10 year traditional gift is tin/aluminum. The modern gift is diamond jewelry. Seriously!  That’s a big price difference. My dad was theorizing that 10 years is not what it used to be when it comes to a lasting marriage. He said it seemed way more of a milestone now in our divorce prone world. 

I recently visited with a couple about to celebrate 50 years. I asked them if they’ve outlived all of their wedding gifts. She told me stories of a glass bowl set of many colors. She said a few broke and one red one is now white from being washed in a dishwasher.  (There’s some symbolism in there if you scratch the surface, I’m sure.) The gift they still use and has lasted is a hot/cold chafing dish. 

As much as it is frustrating when something we use all the time breaks, I think, well, our marriage has lasted longer than…

Our coffee pot (I’ve broken three, no four!). Our toaster. All of our non stick pans (if their coating is gone, you’re supposed to replace it.) A blender. A microwave. A dryer. Two DVD players and two Blu Ray players. 

We’ve lasted through several world events. Three presidential elections. Three summer Olympic Games.  We survived several life events, including some of the big stressors. Having kids, check check. Moving, check. Changing jobs, check. Illness, check check. 

It’s fun to take inventory like this. What has your marriage outlasted? 

What is keeping up with you?  Our electric tea kettle still works.  Thanks Grandma and Annette. Our red cloth napkins have made the journey with us too. Thanks Tarrah. 

Good for a Laugh

I’m coming off conference high right now. It was three days full of workshops and main sessions, amazing challenges and innovative ideas. I laughed until I cried every day.  Too many times I was still laughing from one gaff when the next was zinging me before I was done. Like labor contractions on top of each other… but with laughter, not crazy pain. 

It’s been too long. 

I need to laugh more.

It’s not that I’m grumpy or angry, maybe just too serious. 

Can you have a New Years resolution start in May?  I say yes!

So please please please I need suggestions for great reads, watches, and listens that will make me laugh. 

I’ve got my own little list of what gets me. I’m curious what your list would include. I can’t promise I’ll read or watch what you suggest, but I might. I’m guessing it would reveal some personal taste in humor and that’s good to know even for our own benefit. 

What makes you laugh?
My list…

Jon Acuff 

Mike Rowe (The Way I Heard It podcast)

Bob Goff

Jenny Lawson


People you may not know…

My Life Group (church small group)

Book Club

Sharon Sontag

Kristen and Jeff (my neighbors)

Marriage Savers

Marriage saving may be false advertising as nothing can save a marriage like Jesus, but as we’re coming up on our 10 year anniversary, we have found there are some helpful tools (like actual objects) that have either kept an argument from happening or solved a problem that was leading to grudgy (not a word but it should be) feelings.

Our first compromise… A toaster oven/conventional toaster combo.  When registering for our wedding we realized how differently we were raised.  He grew up with a toaster that springs, I was raised with a toaster oven.  Worlds apart, I know.  If this is you, there’s a product for that.

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My arguments for choosing a toaster oven was sandwich melts and butter storage.  (In our family, we put butter on a plate and kept it in the toaster oven for safe keeping.  I later learned that my mom did this because her butter dish broke and something about mice? )  Funny how the way things were when you were a kid creates a belief system for “the way this is supposed to be done” even when it wasn’t a preference of your parents but just a problem solver at a specific time with specific circumstances.   It’ll be great when my kids register for their wedding and they scan long handled tongs to reach things up high.  “Because that’s what you do.”  Ha!

Back to the toaster… We used our compromise happily until it broke then got a cheap pop up toaster.  I really didn’t make sandwich melts anymore and I started using a butter dish… and storing it in the fridge so it doesn’t go rancid.

My in-laws gave us these and actually called them “marriage savers.”

Are you a toothpaste tube squeezer who doesn’t mind if you’re pushing product toward or away from the opening or do you thoughtfully and wastelessly squeeze toward the spout?  Most likely you’re one and your spouse is the other and you need these cheap little plastic pinchers to appease the waste-conscious one.  We should all practice tooth hygiene grudge-free.

Do you wake up your spouse in the middle of the night when your fitted sheet comes off the corner of your mattress so you can pull it back down?  I Googled something like “fitted sheet suspenders” and I found these bad boys and got them for my husband’s birthday as the “Something you Need” present.  It was sure hard to wait until his birthday to give this gift.  These may be my new go-to wedding gift.

Finally, I do this to extension cords…img_6738Some may call it braided but it really is hand crocheted in a simple chain.  All you do is pull the ends and it comes right out if it’s crocheted right and if it is pulled correctly, but it drives my husband crazy.  He just winds cords in a loop, but that can make a knot really easily.  We nearly had to have his and hers extension cords.  Recently he bought this hand cranking spool to store our extension cord.

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I don’t intend to product promote with this blog, but these are my current marriage savers, and I want to hear yours too!  If you can think of a tool that you use to avoid petty arguments please share it; far better to have a list of marriage savers than deal breakers.