One of the Most Important Gifts We Can Give Our Children


One of the greatest gifts in moving to Tennessee has been quickly finding a new church home. We’ve been challenged, inspired, uplifted, and spiritually fed each week through the preaching, as well as being blessed by the people and their warm hospitality and hearts for the Lord.

During the Christmas season, our church has been encouraging families to adopt a theme of “Less Under Our Tree, More For the World.”

While the adults in our church have been encouraged to give and make a difference, I’ve loved the strong emphasis they’ve placed upon encouraging the children to give, too. They have given the kids specific needs and ways that they can help with their coins and dollars.

These specific needs and dollar amounts have been a huge inspiration to our girls and they’ve been spending time doing chores, emptying their piggy banks, counting change, and soliciting donations from us for the special Global Christmas Offering on Sunday.


Earlier this week, I discovered this sign that they had put in our hallway as a reminder for us all to keep contributing any loose change this week.

As I’ve observed my girls being so passionate about finding ways they can contribute and impact other children around the world, it’s motivated me to look for ways to be more of a giver in my own life.


And Kathrynne and Kaitlynn’s desire to give is rubbing off on Silas, too.

Last week, I took the kids to the The Greatest Christmas event here in Nashville. Ann Voskamp was one of the main presenters, along with Ellie Holcomb and Amena Brown. This event was sponsored by Compassion, so halfway through, Ann shared about the opportunity to sponsor a child and how it could make such an impact.

When Ann finished sharing, my kids all looked at me, eager to do something about it. I quickly leaned over and reminded our kids about the girls we write notes to/support and the moms & babies we support through our CSP.

I want to be able to regularly write notes to our Compassion girls as I know this is so important to them, so we’ve opted to only sponsor two girls (plus our CSP) so that we could be more faithful about writing to them.

And honestly, I was feeling like that was enough. Or so I had told myself.

But then, 5-year-old Silas looks at me intently and said, “But what about the boys? We need to support the boys, too.”

I was speechless. There was no quick comeback for that plea.

So, I sat there for a moment and then said, “You’re right. We need to do something for the boys, too.”

I hesitated before I responded, “Would you like to pick a boy for us to sponsor?”

His eyes lit up and he excitedly responded “Yes!”


The next day, Silas and Jesse looked through all the children waiting to be sponsored on Compassion’s site and finally chose 6-year-old Gerald from the DR.

Silas instantly felt a connection to Gerald because they are almost the same age and they both love baseball. Watching his enthusiasm over making a difference in Gerald’s life reminds me that giving our children opportunities to be involved in impacting others’ lives is one of the greatest gifts we can pass on to them.


We don’t have much figured out as parents — other than that we have so much left to learn! — and every day, we struggle with attitude issues and character issues. There are days when it feels like nothing we are trying to teach or live before them is sticking.

But then there are moments like this past week, when we realize that they are watching and learning. And I’m so grateful for these hearts and their desires and willingness to have less under our tree so we can give more to the world.

If our kids can someday leave home knowing that there are a world of needs around them, that money will never buy happiness, that there is so much fulfillment that comes from giving, and that money is just a tool to be used to change lives, they will be well on their way to living contented, rich lives — no matter their income level or career.

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Gretchen $49 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan



2 Dillons dozen Eggs – $1.25 each

1 gallon Dillons Milk – $3.09

2 Vidal Sassoon Hair Styling Cream – Marked down to $2.24 each, used 2 $2/1 coupon from the 12/7 RedPlum insert – $0.24 each after coupons

4 cans Del Monte Green Beans – $0.50 each, used $0.40/4 coupon from the 11/9 SmartSource insert – $0.40 each after coupon

1 Frosted Flakes – $2.99 (A request from my husband)

1 loaf Nature Valley Bread – $2

1 Turkey Hill Ice Cream – $2.99, used $1/1 printable – $1.99 after coupon

2 Kroger Peanut Butter – $1.50 each (I’m planning to make Christmas cookies this week and will need lots of peanut butter!)

1 Kroger Cottage Cheese – $1.25

1 Bottom Round Steak – Marked down to $2.36

1 Bottom Round Steak – Marked down to $2.53

1 bag Kroger Baby Carrots – $1.69, used $0.40/1 mailer coupon – $1.29 after coupon

1 Romaine Lettuce – $0.99

1.25 lbs Tomatoes @ $1.99/lb – $2.49 (These are SO expensive right now!)

Total with tax: $30.74


2 cans Lindsay Olives – $1 each, used $1/2 printable (doubled) – Free after coupon

2 Hefty Plates – $1.50 each, used $1/2 coupon from the 11/16 RedPlum insert (doubled) – $0.50 each after coupon

4 cans Del Monte Green Beans – $0.59 each, used $0.40/4 coupon from the 11/9 SmartSource insert (doubled) – $0.39 each after coupon

2 boxes Ritz Crackers – $1.88 each, used $0.75/2 coupon from the 12/14 SmartSource insert (doubled) – $1.13 each after coupon (I’m using these to make this AMAZING cookie recipe here.)

2 Kraft Cheese – $1.67 each

1 Farmland Bacon – $3.49, used $1/1 printable (doubled) – $1.49 after coupon

2 Keebler Crackers – $2, used $1/2 coupon from the 12/7 RedPlum insert (doubled) – $1 each after coupon

1 Chinet Napkins – $2, used $1/1 printable (doubled) – Free after coupon

1 Cucumber – $0.69

Total before coupons and sales: $53.92

Total with tax after coupons and sales: $14.91


I also ran into Walmart to price match a couple of fruit items from other stores I wasn’t going to make it to this week.

2 Pineapple – $0.99 each (Price matched to Save A Lot)

1 (4 lbs) bag Navel Oranges – $1.68 (Price matched to Aldi)

Total with tax: $3.93

My husband also got a deer this week (yay!) and after processing it we now have over 40 lbs of ground venison and roasts in our freezer! :) I will be substituting ground venison for ground beef in most recipes for the next several months.

Total for all grocery items: $49.58

Menu Plan for This Week


Cereal, Oatmeal, Homemade Granola, Toast & Juice


Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwiches, Scrambled Eggs/Bacon & Fruit, Fruit/Veggies/Crackers/Cheese, Leftovers, Baked Potatoes


Steak, Toast, Green Beans, Tossed Salad

Sour Cream Enchiladas, Steamed Broccoli, Fruit Salad

Spaghetti, Biscuits, Grapefruit

Homemade Pizza, Breadsticks, Steamed Carrots

Baked Chicken Drumsticks, Rolls, Fruit Salad

Sloppy Joes, Homemade French Fries, Veggies

Dinner with family (I’m bringing fruit.)

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What Everyone Really Wants for Christmas

How to Create a Christmas Budget -- and Stick With It!

Jon Acuff has a fantastic post up on The Gift Everyone Really Wants for Christmas. It’s a must-read. Here’s a snippet:

Your husband? He wants your presence.

Your wife? She wants your presence.

Your kids? They want your presence.

Your girlfriend, your boyfriend, your father, your mother, your friend, your neighbor? They all want your presence.

Every day this gift becomes rarer and rarer. Can you remember the last time you had a full conversation with someone’s face, not just their forehead as they stared at their phone? Can you remember the last time someone was “all there” not just partially there because interacting with you wasn’t enough to hold their full attention? I have to leave my phone in the car when we go to dinner parties or I will be physically present but absent in every other way possible as I engage with the phone instead of anyone else.

Don’t miss Christmas because you’re working or you’re lost in your phone.

This year, give someone that rarest gift of all, your presence. No one else can give them that.

It costs nothing, but it’s worth everything.

Read the full post.

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Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

Less Under Our Tree

I was with a group of friends earlier this week and one of the gals asked me, “So, are you all ready for Christmas?”

She was referring to whether or not I have all our presents purchased and wrapped and whether the myriad of other Christmas details were taken care of.

I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. You see, we simplified Christmas so much this year that it almost feels like we cancelled Christmas.

Only we didn’t.

We just decided that the past few months have been full enough that instead of trying to pack our December full, we’d instead leave it really, really empty.

Our extended families had already asked if we could cut back and really simplify when it came to gifts this year and we’d already decided that we were going to keep our kids’ gifts super simple, too.

Then, we decided to just let the kids choose which Christmas decorations they wanted to put up. They opted for their little pink Christmas tree — which they had fun decorating themselves.

Next, we decided that we’d skip sending Christmas cards. And pretty soon, after we’d crossed off or nixed most of the usual Christmas obligations or activities we’d opted to do in the past, we were left with a wide open December.

And it has been bliss. Bliss, I tell you.

Why We Simplified Christmas This Year

We’ve hung out as a family more. We’ve read together more. We’ve snuggled together and watched Christmas movies together. We’ve listened to a lot of Christmas music. We’ve gone to bed early. We’ve slept in. And we’ve not felt rushed or stressed or exhausted or frantic.

For the most part, December has been one of the calmest and quietest months we’ve had in ages. And it’s freed up much-needed space to just breathe, listen, love, rest, and enjoy being together.

Do I think families who have opted for lots of beautiful decorations, lots of Christmas shopping, and lots of festive activities are doing it wrong? Not in the least.

We’ve had years in the past where the Christmas season has been bustling with a lot of fun and where I found so much fulfillment in spending hours and hours picking out the perfect gifts to bless others. I don’t regret those years or those memories one bit.

But I also don’t regret having a quiet and simple Christmas this year. Sometimes, your soul just needs to take a step back and breathe.

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One Fairly Big Blogging Change I’m Making in 2015

One blogging change I'm making in 2015

Over the past month or so, I’ve quietly been thinking, mulling, pondering, talking with my husband, and considering blogging changes for 2015.

This past year has been one of much growth for me as a person and as a blogger. I’ve truly loved going back more to my roots. And I want to do even more of that in 2015.

One of the changes I’m really excited about for 2015 and have been slowly rolling out over the past few weeks, is that I’m planning to have themes for each day of the week starting the week after Christmas.

I thought through which posts were the most viewed and the most commented on from 2013 and 2014 plus considered which posts I most enjoyed writing. Based upon this information, I put together a list of themes I wanted to cover on a weekly basis and this is what I came up with:

Daily Blogging Themes for 2015

  • What I Cleaned/Organized This Week — This post will be on Monday and will be in the vein of the Clean Your Home for Christmas posts that you all really enjoyed. I’ll post a cleaning project in the morning and a Day in the Life sort of post in the evening to share the results of my cleaning plan. I thought this would be a great way to start off the week. And it would also help keep me accountable to keeping our home organized.
  • What I Cooked/Baked This Week — This will either be a post on a freezer cooking session, a new recipe, or a kitchen flop — something I’m really good at. :)
  • What I Read This Week — This will be a post recapping what I read/watched/listened to/read to the kids over the past week + mini reviews on each item. Plus, I’ll also share what I’m planning to read in the upcoming week.
  • How We Saved This Week — This post will share some simple ways we saved that week. From little to big ways, it will give you encouragement for living a frugal, simple, contented life.
  • What I Tried This Week — This post will either be a DIY idea I tried, something I sewed, or a new idea I tried implementing and whether it was successful or not.
  • What We Did This Week — This will be a peek into our week type of post. I’ve kind of fallen off the bandwagon in sharing these and I’ve missed it (and many of you have mentioned missing these, too).

And That’s Not All

That said, don’t worry: I still plan to share my goals for the week, regular Q&A posts, regular content pieces on a wide variety of subjects as I’m inspired to write them, regular guest posts, and, of course, plenty of deals and freebies and coupons and giveaways.

In addition, you can still count on finding a regular smattering of other eclectic posts on wide variety of topics — as you’ve likely come to expect (or be surprised by!) here.

My goal in having daily posting themes is that having a sort of set posting schedule will help keep me on track and will also provide variety around here, as well as a bit more predictability.

I know that I sometimes get side-tracked with topics I’m inspired to write on and I know some of you enjoy this, but others of you would love a little more consistency here. So I’m aiming for the best of both worlds with this!

As always, I can’t promise that I will follow this outline 100% perfectly every single day of every single week in 2015, because you know how life goes, but I’m really excited about this concept and am hopeful that it’s going to work well and be something that I’ll be able to follow through with. I’m at least going to do my best to stick with it!

I know I say it often, but I feel I can’t ever say it enough: Thank you for being on this blogging journey with me. I am grateful for each and every one of you and what you mean to me. Without you, there would be no reason to blog.

So thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I appreciate all of you more than words can express and am excited for what 2015 has in store!

Coming Up After Christmas

After Christmas, I’ll be sharing my personal goals and some of our family goals for 2015, some thoughts on why I struggled with my goals in 2014, and what I learned from a year that was packed with a lot of new and stretching opportunities. Look for those posts soon!

What would YOU love to see more of here in 2015? What are some of your favorite types of posts? I’d love to know as I plan out posts for the beginning of the year!

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