Being Thankful Every Day

This year, a friend and I have been doing a challenge together. We both had been struggling with being thankful/grateful last year, so we decided to send each other a list each evening of what we were thankful for that day. We started simple – one a day in January – and then built up, adding one extra thing to the list each month. Now we’re in November and listing 11 things a day. I’ve been surprised by how much easier it is to find things to be thankful for when I’m looking for them.

This coming Thursday is Thanksgiving. I know that we often say that Thanksgiving Day shouldn’t be the only day that we give thanks, but do we ever actually remedy that? I meant to every year, but I never took action on that resolution until this year, and it’s been a blessing.

It probably won’t come as a surprise when I say that I’ve been most thankful for the little things. (That seems to be my “theme” this year, doesn’t it? Choosing to be thankful for the little, everyday things?) I’ve been finding that there are so many blessings and memories to be had in the seemingly unimportant things that happen every day.

That’s probably what I’ll say during Thanksgiving this year: I’m thankful for the little things. Each year at Thanksgiving after our family has stuffed ourselves with food, 😉 we sit around the table and each share something that we’re especially thankful for that year. Usually there are tears and laughter, and it’s just a special time that we have set aside as a family.

This is another short post without much depth, but I want to encourage you to choose to give thanks to God every day. You don’t have to do what my friend and I do, with a longer list each month. Maybe just list two or three things every day that you’re thankful for. If you have trouble remembering to do so, find a friend to keep you accountable and send the list to her each day. And I’m always available for that! 😉

This past week I’ve been especially thankful for the sunrises and sunsets on the way to and from my babysitting job, and for the pretty scenery I have during that drive. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving week? Please share in the comments below!

Little Cozy Things in the Busy Season

Usually you think of fall as a cozy season, one to bundle up, kick back in a recliner, and sip hot chocolate or apple cider while watching Hallmark Christmas movies, right? That’s my dream, but it’s not exactly reality at the moment (at least not completely… I definitely have those moments and days!). So far, for me this fall has been a busy season (as you can tell by my lack of blogging lately).

And it has been CRAZY, especially the last two weeks of October. I was spending long work days stocking up our products over at Par la Grace (click here to check out the cuteness!). And then this past week I started a new babysitting job, 9 hours a day 5 days a week. But that’s not so bad – I get to cuddle a sweet newborn all day. 😉 Definitely a job to envy at the moment.

In the midst of all the craziness of going here and there, working a ton at home, and starting a new job, God’s been bringing something to mind: it’s the little things that make the memories, and the little things that can make a difference.

So I’ve been trying to purposefully do some “cozy little things” this fall, even on the days when signs had taken over our house and dishes were piled in the sink. And you know what? It’s been amazing how cozy and fun this fall has been, even when my stress level is at its max. Sure, there have been moments and days that weren’t fun in the least bit, but taking the time to make memories has been something special that has made a difference in my life.

I would challenge you to do the same. Take some time out of your busy schedule to do just one or two little cozy things a week. It doesn’t have to be anything big… and here are some ideas, some of which I’ve done and some of which I haven’t!

  1. Make homemade hot chocolate and French toast for supper… or breakfast… or lunch…
  2. Bake cookies
  3. Have a lazy day in pajamas and watch movies and eat snacks (coziest when it’s cold and rainy outside)
  4. Do a bonfire
  5. Decorate for Thanksgiving
  6. Light a candle
  7. Play Christmas music (sure, maybe it’s early… but I did see an article that said that studies have shown that people who listen to Christmas music early are happier, sooo… ;P)
  8. Open the windows, even if it’s cold, and bundle up
  9. Take a walk or sit outside and enjoy the fall colors (or snow, depending on where you are)
  10. Curl up and read a good book

The key to it really being fun, though, is to do it with other people. My family, and especially my sisters, are my best friends, so I’ve been doing most of my cozy things with them. Somehow it’s just not as much fun when you don’t share… although I have definitely made myself a single-serve cup of homemade hot chocolate and curled up on the swing outside when I was having a bad morning. It’s amazing what comfort a mug of hot chocolate can give…

And don’t forget the most important thing to take time out for – your relationship with Christ. That’s another thing that I’ve been struggling with during this busy season in my life, but I don’t want it to be a struggle. I want to have purposeful time with God every morning, and sometimes it’s hard to find time, especially when other things feel more important at the moment. But nothing is ever more important than God and His Word, and I’m slowly learning to prioritize my life, with Him at the top. One of the things I have found that works the best is to take that time before starting your work day or sometimes even before doing your chores. I have to eat something as soon as I wake up, so before I started my job I would get up, eat breakfast, and then read my Bible. Now that I’m working and have to leave at 6:20 AM, I get up, pull everything together, eat a quick breakfast, and head out the door… but I try to read my Bible one of the first things after I get there, if the baby is happy on his play mat on the floor.

I will admit… sometimes I just read a chapter and that’s it. I don’t really get much from it. But I’m learning to be more purposeful. I would encourage you to have a notebook on hand while you’re reading, to jot down a verse that stands out or a thought that comes to mind while you’re reading. And remember – even when it doesn’t feel like you’re getting much out of your Scripture reading, God’s Word never returns void. I have to keep reminding myself of that, especially right now while reading through all of Moses’ books in the Old Testament. Sometimes I read a Psalm or a chapter from one of Paul’s books to get a little something to meditate on during the day.

The most important thing is to just do something each day, even if it’s just reading a few verses in the morning. Allow yourself time to learn and room to grow, but just don’t do what I’ve been doing and use that as an excuse to not do what you’re supposed to do. :\ Remember that God’s grace is always sufficient… and find something to thank Him for each day. And do something cozy every once in awhile. 😉 Take time out of your busy season to focus on what’s most important – your relationship with God and your relationship with your family and other people. It’s been a blessing to me, and I know it will be to you too.

A Modern Day Cinderella

Cinderella is probably one of my favorite fairytales. Who doesn’t love the story of the poor orphan girl, slaving away at the beck and call of her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, always selflessly denying herself… until one day her fairy godmother swoops in and paves the way for Cinderella to escape her life of drudgery? Oh sure, there’s ups and downs along the way, what with the stepmother finding out about the mystery princess at the ball and keeping Cinderella from immediately racing off to join her prince and all that. But mostly, it’s an uphill journey, from rags to riches, from nondescript servant girl to princess of the land. And if we’re being honest, which of us doesn’t want that for ourselves?

For that matter, how many of us have felt like Cinderella at one point or another in our lives? Both hands raised here—at one point, I honestly felt like everyone was shoving their work off on me and I was the only one accomplishing my responsibilities around the house, like I was their slave or a victim of my circumstances or something.

Oh, my family wasn’t cruel—far from it! I have a wonderful family and I love them to death. And they really weren’t treating me like Cinderella. It was something that I had fantasized about in my mind so often that I became accustomed to the mindset. I felt like all I was doing was giving up everything I dreamed about or wanted in order to fulfill my family’s wishes. I was even given the nickname “Sanderella” as a joke. Part of my job for my oldest sister is sanding wood (for the signs we make). I always get messy anyway no matter what I do, but when I was sanding stained wood, I would be covered with a fine coating of brown-black grit that made me look like I had rolled around in soot. (And let me clarify; although I complained about it a lot, I don’t really mind the job… most days. ;P)

But I allowed the modern Cinderella mindset to become so ingrained in me that I became discontented with where I was in life. And I know that it wasn’t all just that mindset. I was working through some other spiritual struggles and our family was undergoing a lot of change at the time, plus I was dealing with teenage girl hormones and all that.

Sometimes it felt like all I was doing was giving up everything I dreamed about—or even realistic goals and wishes, like graduating high school—in order to fulfill my duties to my family. I felt a lot like Angie in “A Cinderella Christmas,” one of my all-time favorite modern Cinderella retellings. (I mean, come on… a Cinderella story and Christmas all wrapped up in one movie?? Can’t get much better than that!)

I did a lot of self-pitying and complaining in those days. And my poor friends and family who got my woes dumped on them! (Y’all know who y’all are… and I just want to say a big thank you for hanging in there with me through all that!) In fact, it was one of those “dumps” that started my attitude change.

It was just one of those days, you know? Nothing was going right, I felt like I couldn’t be myself or do what I wanted, I was really discouraged because I couldn’t find a “real job,” and I was just stressed out. I actually don’t remember what all I was dealing with that day, but it was enough that I wanted to cry (and I usually only cry when I get really stressed out and overwhelmed). I finally told my friend I was texting, “You know what? I’m going to go out to the shed and just organize and pray.”

So that’s what I did. Organizing (and reorganizing) things clears my head, plus I work things out best by writing or talking them out. That day, I went between organizing shelves and writing out a prayer on the computer. And through that mind-clearing and soul-searching couple of hours, I believe God finally got a much-needed lesson through to me (that I am still learning and relearning!).

He placed me where I was (and am) for a specific purpose. He wasn’t moving me somewhere else like I wanted because I wasn’t ready yet. He still had lessons for me to learn and areas in which I needed to grow, right here at home.

There were and are several things that I really desire(d). First and foremost, I want to get married and have a home of my own. I felt that I couldn’t be a witness and testimony for Christ at home, because I was raised in a Christian home and my whole family is saved. I felt that I needed to get a job out of home so that I could both provide for myself and have more of a mission field.

I felt that by staying at home, I was being denied even the chance to fulfill any of those dreams. Not every day, no. Some of the time, I was happy being at home, doing school, and working for my oldest sister. But mostly, housework was drudgery, school was something I just wanted to get done with as soon as possible, and work was stressful. I just wanted something to come along and get me away from where I was and whisk me to a place where dreams come true.

Are you relating to any of this? Maybe we’re not quite a servant girl who miraculously gets to meet her Prince Charming and is swept off her feet… but we’re sure looking forward to that day when someone or something comes along and whisks us to the place of our dreams, whether it’s a tall, handsome fellow who calls us beautiful and would do anything for us or perhaps maybe something more like going to college… moving to our own place… serving on the foreign mission field… getting an out-of-home job… and the list goes on.

Now please, before you think I’m downplaying God’s calling on some of us in these areas, I’m not. I fully believe that where God has led you is the best place for you to be. For some it may be marriage, for others the opportunity to serve in a work place or foreign mission field, for others college, or wherever it is that God has called you to be. But for most of us, especially teenage girls still in high school, that place—for right now—is home.

I think that sometimes, in our quest for our Prince Charming, whatever that might look like… we forget to be still, to live and serve and grow where God has us right now. We forget that we have be buried and toil hard to grow before we can bloom.

So many of us, including me, try to jump the gun. We want the privileges, the ability to make our own choices, the freedom, right here and right now. We want to go to college or get a job or get married as soon as we graduate from high school, or sometimes even before. And there’s nothing wrong with that, if you and your parents are positive that that is what God has for you.

But let me remind you of something. Jesus does not call us to get; He calls us to give—to give of ourselves, our money, our time, our love, whatever it may be.

I know that I lost sight of that. I was expecting to have all of my dreams fulfilled and have everyone and everything cater to me when that elusive Prince Charming came along. But one thing that God has shown me again and again over the years is that it’s not all about me. The mindset nowadays is all glorifying to self. It’s “do what makes you feel good,” “take out some time for you,” “get rid of anything in your life that is hindering you from fulfilling your dreams and passions,” and so on and so on. And while there is a small grain of truth in it—yes, you need to follow what God has called you personally to do, and sometimes you do need to cut out some things in order to do that—there is also a large factor to finding happiness and fulfillment in life that they completely miss out on.

“In Christ alone.” That simple phrase is so, so powerful and so often underrated. We forget how helpless and needy we are without Christ, even (and I might even say, especially) as Christians. And in my whole self-pitying state, I was missing out on something special.

I had to change my whole mindset, and let me tell you, it was and is a process. I am still growing and learning. But instead of thinking “why am I stuck here?” perhaps try thinking “what does God have for me to do right here, right now?”

That day when I was reorganizing the shed and my mindset, I realized a few things.

Where God has me right now is my mission field.

For me, it’s being at home, helping out around the house, being a help and blessing to my family. And slowly I have been able to gain more privileges, do more things, go more places, make my own choices, etc. But only because of this next thing.

Be faithful in the little things.

One of my favorite verses is Luke 16:10. “He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.” Verses 11 and 12 continue the thought. “If therefore ye have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will commit to your trust the true riches? And if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” That really helped me to be more focused on doing well in my household chores. I wanted my own house… but if I didn’t learn to be faithful in and care for the chores I have at my parents’ house, how will I be able to faithfully maintain my own home?

Choose joy.

It’s hardly ever easy, especially at first, but choose to have a positive outlook on things. Choose to find something good in every little thing that you do. I discovered that I actually love doing housework when I began choosing to look at it as something that I had the opportunity to bless Mom in than when I looked at it as something that I just had to do.

Keep my focus on Christ and others.

In Ephesians 2, Paul gives an example of how Jesus gave up everything and came as a servant to others, and he encourages us to follow in Jesus’ footsteps. Jesus also taught multiple times to put others above ourselves. Like I said earlier, the mindset today is to put self first, but the Bible teaches us to deny ourselves and serve others. By serving and loving others, we are serving and loving God (Matthew 25:40).

Trust that God will lead me in His will in His perfect timing.

Waiting is the hardest part. Believe me, I know. But when He starts directing things in His timing, you’ll see that it was worth the wait, every time. It takes a ton of patience and trust, I will admit, and sometimes a lot of tears and frustration. But He works it out for good in His perfect time (Romans 8:28).

There were some other things that I have learned over the years, but this was pretty much my starting place. By trying to glorify God above myself and serve others before myself, it has helped me to be more cheerful, at peace, and fulfilled. I’ll be the first to admit that it’s not easy. There are lots of ups and downs. But like I’ve said before, when you look back and see how far God has brought you, it’s worth it.

I know I kind of strayed from the whole Cinderella thing the last few paragraphs. I guess the main thing that changed for me was that I no longer viewed myself as a victim of my circumstances. God has placed me where I am, right now, for a specific purpose, and that place is my mission field and my calling right here at this moment. It may not be my ideal, but He will work it out for my good. I don’t enjoy every moment of it, but I am learning to find the blessings in every day.

And you know what? I don’t have to wait for a Prince Charming to come sweep me off my feet, because God has given me everything I need for right here and now. I may not be living a “happily ever after” Cinderella fairytale, but I am living a “blessed right now” real life, and it is good.

DIY Shoe Organization for Almost Nothing

I don’t know about you, but shoe organization was never hard for me. Of course, that could be because of the fact that I just never had very many shoes. I wasn’t a shoe person. I’m still not, until we get to fall and winter and I can pull my boots out. But for the most part, I run around barefoot.

Growing up, I never needed more than two or three pairs of shoes. When we went to church, I had a pair of black shoes that I wore. Going to a friend’s house? Tennis shoes. Outside work? Rubber boots or said tennis shoes.

Over the past few years, I have accumulated more shoes… honestly, probably more than I need. Now, I know that this number is probably the minimum some of you may have ever had, but for me it’s a lot. I have probably 15 pairs of shoes and boots now. I haven’t counted them lately, but that’s a guess. And to tell the truth, I don’t need all of them.

But we’re not talking about purging our shoe collection right now (though I do encourage it! ;P). Shoe organization can be expensive. This shoe rack is cute and functional and fits probably 30 pairs of shoes on it, but it’s also $30. If I had the money and the space for it, I would probably buy it. Or, if you like over-the-door storage, you could buy a shoe organizer with 24 pockets for about $14. Pretty decent price… but I don’t have a door on my closet.

My solution? Grape boxes.

I will admit, not the cutest. Especially since my closet doesn’t have a door, so anyone who walks into the room can see everything in my closet. I’m in the middle of making over my closet right now to where it’s a little cuter and more organized, and organizing my shoes was the first thing on my list.

We get a lot of our groceries in bulk at Sam’s. I’ll let you in on a little secret… if you go to your local Sam’s and head for the produce section, there’s usually piles of empty fruit boxes that are up for grabs. We’ve gotten them multiple times for different things.

So I asked Mom and Daddy to grab some grape boxes next time they went to Sam’s. I knew that they would probably fit all of my shoes in them, and hey. I would rather spend $0 on not-as-cute shoe organization than $20 or more on cute shoe organization.

Okay… maybe not quite. I do like my stuff to be cute. My solution? Spray paint.

I used the satin color as a base coat to be sure all those grapes and letters got fully covered. Then I used the “Blue Ocean Breeze” as my color. I probably put it on thicker than you’re supposed to at a time, but it worked pretty well. 🙂 (note: I couldn’t find the satin color to link, but this white should work just as well.)

In case you haven’t guessed, the spray paint is the money in this project. But once you get a can, it’ll last you for a couple smaller projects, if you want to do some matching stuff. Or, if you’re blessed like me, then you’ll be able to use free leftover spray paint from someone else’s project. My oldest sister is into all things crafty, and she had a whole drawer of partially used spray paint that she said I could use. So my DIY shoe organization was free!

And it’s super simple, not involved at all, to do this project. Simply bring your grape boxes outside, shake the spray paint as instructed on the label (make sure you read the instructions for proper use!), and spray away.

The lighting in the third picture is a little weird and doesn’t quite show the true color, but my finished product picture does pretty well. So, just some simple spray painting, and you’re pretty much done! (Note: I did paint some other grape boxes with acrylic paint, the kind you get in little bottles at Hobby Lobby, and a foam brush, and I actually like how they turned out better than the spray painted ones. Not to mention that that paint is a good bit cheaper than spray paint! So if you’re a brush type of girl instead of a spray type of girl, I highly recommend doing that instead!) I did let mine dry overnight out in the workshop. Then I wrote out “summer shoes” and “winter boots” with Sharpie paint markers on the two boxes I used so that I could easily tell what was in each one and arranged my shoes in them. As you can see in the next pic, I had to kinda put my boots in creatively, but they fit all my shoes. Of course, they work best with regular shoes. I have no idea how heels would work.

Okay, so I have 11 pairs of shoes. Yay me. (And I have my eye on a pair of really cute ankle boots at Walmart right now… face palm.)

Anyway, that’s it. I feel like I could be much more concise with my posts and not ramble as much, but what’s the fun in that? Or do y’all just wish I would get to the point? Please let me know. 🙂

Without further ado, here’s the finished product and the end of the post. ;P

“Organized Simplicity” Book Review

I don’t know about y’all, but reading organization books relaxes and motivates me. And I love for the books to be personable, possible, and is there a word that starts with P for inspiring? Prompting or propelling? Might as well aim for the alliteration. 😉

Anyway, this book has it all. Tsh Oxenreider (don’t ask me how to pronounce that) has such a fresh, personable style. She clearly states the difference between her idea of a simplified home and the stereotype minimalist–and often unrealistic–home. Although she doesn’t hide the fact that it takes a ton of hard work, she makes it feel worth it… and that it’s possible. (And there are my three P’s. ;P) Be prepared for a lot of quotes, because I took so much away from this book.

“When simplicity is married to reality, [simple living] is possible. Not only is it possible, it’s quite possibly the best way to live life. Each family ultimately has its own description of what “simple living” looks like, and each family should strive for a simple life in its own ways.”

Tsh has such an open approach to simplified living. She allows plenty of room for each family or person to customize her methods to their own lives. She outlines a 10-day plan for simplifying your entire home, but she also acknowledges that it might take some people longer. And it’s not a “one size fits all” type, if you get what I mean… like the mindset of “this is how it should be done and your house should look like mine.” She encourages you to make your home a place that is uniquely yours and your family’s.

“The lifestyle you want won’t happen passively. It takes effort and intention to create that lifestyle and to create a home that embodies it. Choose today to make your home a haven for your entire family, one that allows each member to live at peace.”

And to top it all off, the book design is sooo streamlined and simple. It’s honestly just inspiring to look at! The only thing I didn’t love about the book design is that my copy is hardback with spiral bound pages within the cover. It wasn’t so bad in the middle and end, but when I first started reading it, I noticed that the pages tended to bend and crease by the spine. But it is SO worth that little annoyance (and more)!

Photo by Rachel Tero

She also has some inspirational chapters to start off and finish the book, as well as the chapters dedicated to the ten days of simplifying your home.

Photo by Rachel Tero

As you can see, some of the rooms require two days (but if you can get it done in one, great!). There are also super helpful appendixes with pros and cons to different aspects of simple living, lists, and examples for how to use said lists.

And she just keeps it real.

“…don’t create some lofty, improbably objective of simple living that doesn’t really exist. Live life in the present, and accept that simple living is a process, a journey.”

I guess this isn’t exactly a “professional” book review, but I just wanted to share how much I enjoyed this book!

Find “Organized Simplicity” by Tsh Oxenreider here!

And one last quote that’s close to the end of the book. 😉

“In the end, you’re golden when you just start somewhere. It doesn’t really matter how far you still have to go toward simplifying your life, so long as you’re moving forward. Remember writer Elisabeth Elliot’s wise words, “When you don’t know what to do, do the thing in front of you.” If you feel stuck, just do something. Anything. Throw out the trash, clean out the fridge, or organize a bookshelf. See? You’re one step closer.”

Fishing from the Wrong Side of the Boat

 “One comment Bro. Jackie made tonight stuck with me… he mentioned something about fishing from the wrong side of the boat. And it made me think. Am I fishing from the wrong side of the boat? Am I searching in my own strength, my own ability, my own time for something that only God can provide? Something that, if I only turned around and searched for in His strength, His ability, and His time, He would bless me with abundantly? Something that I won’t be able to find until He tells me to cast my net?”

The above is part of my musings one recent Sunday night after the sermon from a visiting preacher. He wasn’t preaching about this by any means—he just mentioned something about fishing from the wrong side of the boat. I know that this isn’t at all in context with the John 21 passage he was referring to, but it was an interesting thought.

How many times do we rush ahead of God? How many times do we either try to find His will in our own time, or just give up waiting on His answer and go back to our old pursuits and pleasures? I know that I am so very guilty of this. Instead of waiting patiently for God to speak to me and clearly show me His plan for my life, I usually try to get ahead of the game and figure out what He wants me to do. Or I’ll lapse into spiritual laziness and fill my time and head with things that make me forget that I’m supposed to seek God’s will for me.

The disciples didn’t catch anything that night until Jesus came and gave them specific instructions. Because they obeyed them, He blessed them with a huge catch—so much their net could barely hold them. I wonder how many blessings we don’t get to enjoy because we’re looking “on the wrong side of the boat” for them? I wonder how much more blessed we would be if we would stop looking to ourselves, just turn around, and wait on Christ for the answers?

One last blip from my journal, and that’s it. Just a short reminder to look to Christ for our all instead of to ourselves or someone (or something) else.

“It makes me wonder what all I’m rushing ahead of God in. A job, maybe? A guy? Perhaps even some blessings only He can provide—I can’t earn—like peace, joy, contentment? Lord, please teach me how to fish. Show me how and when to cast my net.”

How to Make an Activity Binder for Teens

As promised, here is the post about how to make an activity binder for teens. This one has more advanced puzzles and no coloring pages or hidden pictures or things like that which younger kids enjoy (though there’s no problem with teens doing those things – you can find them in this post!).

There isn’t as much variety in this binder because I printed many pages of the same type of activities. But the sites that I link to have tons of fun things to do!

activity binder for teens

I also included a couple things in this binder that my youngest sister would enjoy doing as well. Since we all enjoy doing them, I left them in this binder.

notebook for mad libs in activity binder

As mentioned in my last post, you can find some fun mad libs here, but we enjoy making our own mad libs. All you need is a notebook and a pencil or pen and your imagination! It’s most fun when you just write down a random story and leave key words blank. I wish I had an example of some of ours, but I don’t. Instructables Living has a great idea to use short stories from old books, or The Inquisitive Mom has a great article about creating your own!

tough mazes by Krazy Dad

These tough mazes by Krazy Dad are really hard and fun at the same time! You can find easier ones and other hard ones here.

intermediate sudoku by Krazy Dad activity pages

These intermediate level Sudoku puzzles can be found at Krazy Dad, too. He’s got lots of great puzzles!

challenging sudoku by Krazy Dad

Challenging Sudoku puzzles – once again from Krazy Dad. You can find even more – some I think are even harder – here!

activity binder challenging word search puzzles

These advanced word searches from usually have 40 words to find in each puzzle. And when you’re done with the puzzle, there’s a hidden message in the remaining letters! There are tons of fun categories. You can also find other hard word searches at The Spruce Crafts. I printed the 50 states and the state capitals puzzles from them. And I printed three each of several of the word searches from both of these places, because my two teenage sisters and I love to race with our word search puzzles and see who can finish first. 🙂

activity binder brain teasers

These Start to Finish brain teasers from Puzzles to Print are HARD. You’ll probably have to look them up – but they do have the solutions in case you want to go the easy route. 😉

logic problems for activity binder
logic puzzles

These logic puzzles are SO FUN. They are hard, but it’s just a process of elimination, and you can really feel your brain working. You can print them in color, but I chose to print them in black and white.

KJV Bible crossword puzzles

I was excited to find these KJV Bible crossword puzzles! I did one on the children of Israel crossing the Red Sea, and I had to pull my Bible out to look up some of the answers. KJV Bible Verses has other fun Bible trivia questions and word searches, too.

I had more USA maps for the license plate game, road trip scavenger hunts, and such like that were in the tween’s activity binder, as well.

Well, that’s about it… I hope that y’all enjoy these as much as we do!

How to Make an Activity Binder for Tweens

I say this activity binder is for tweens, but whether you’re 11 or 41 or have a 5-year-old kid, these activities are perfect for long trips–or for if you just want a coloring page or word search to do at home. (Find some more advanced ones here.) Maybe you’re looking for something to keep your kids occupied during the last weeks of summer break. This is by no means an exhaustive list… but there is a lot of fun stuff!

I put all of these activities together in two binders, one for my 9-year-old sister and one for us older girls. With 64 hours on the road ahead of us for vacation this year, I wanted us to at least have something to do during some of the hours – so I researched and found ideas for an activity binder. Warning: lots of pictures and links ahead. 😉

Travel/Activity Binders

These are the finished product. Altogether, they weighed about 5 pounds. (Yes, I weighed them… our van only holds so many pounds and we filled it almost to the max!) It’s a lot of paper. You don’t have to print all of these, of course – just pick and choose to your liking. That’s the wonderful thing about making your own activity binder; you can customize the activities to what you like.

Ashlyn's activity binder

First, I’ll walk you through my youngest sister’s binder. Ashlyn is 9, and I think that most of these puzzles and activities are age appropriate.

Front pocket of activity binder

In the front pocket of Ashlyn’s binder, I put some star stickers and a little notebook (I couldn’t find the one in the picture online, but the one I linked is a really cute one!). I also included a pack of colored pencils (not pictured). You can put other cute stickers (here are some cute animal ones), some pens and pencils, crayons, whatever, maybe in a zippered pencil case. I put things like that in the other binder, which was a 2″ binder, because they didn’t fit in this 1″ binder.

Activity binder tic-tac-toe page from Artsy Fartsy Mama

You can find this cute road trip tic-tac-toe at Artsy Fartsy Mama in this article. I also found Hangman (next picture). Put these in a clear page protector and pack a dry erase marker, and you can play these games over and over again.

Hangman activity page from Artsy Fartsy Mama
Activity binder map page from Mr. Printables

You can use this cute map for several purposes, such as mapping out your route or coloring in states you’ve been through. I found it at Mr. Printables. What we used it for, though, was the license plate game. How you play it is simple: just color in (or mark with a sticker or something) each new state as you find it on a license plate. When we traveled to Maine about ten or twelve years ago, I think we found all the states except Alaska and maybe a couple others. We even found Hawaii! We did drive through New York City, so we got a ton from there.

Scavenger hunt from Carla Schauer Studio

This is such a fun road trip scavenger hunt! I found a lot of them in just a few days. I printed it in black and white to save ink in our printer, but you can print it in color. You can find this one for tweens at Carla Schauer Studio. She also has another website, Meander and Coast, where you can find another scavenger hunt for teens.

All Kids Network hidden pictures

I used to love doing hidden pictures activities when I was younger, and I still do sometimes. 🙂 All Kids Network has some adorable ones!

Activity binder coloring page from Disney Family

Disney Family has some great coloring pages that look like they came straight from the movies!

Leap coloring page from Super Coloring

And honestly, I was soooo excited to find these coloring pages from Leap, plus some other ones. I got some from Bambi, more from Cinderella, a couple from Tangled, and even one from How to Train Your Dragon! Super Coloring is where I found these, and it has some other great coloring sheets too.

Activity binder Mad Libs page from Woo Jr

Who loves Mad Libs? I know that my sisters and I do. These cute ones from Woo Jr are super fun. I printed some from the summer ones, travel ones, and historical ones.

Activity binder page from Puzzles to Print

I don’t know if the girls have done these yet, but they look like a lot of fun. You can find them at Puzzles to Print. They even have the solutions if you can’t figure them out! 😉

Sudoku activity from Krazy Dad

I’m not sure how hard these Sudoku puzzles are for Ashlyn. They’re the easiest ones that Krazy Dad has. He has a page of hints for the order in which to solve the puzzle, and also the solutions.

Activity binder for tweens word search from

Annd… my favorite! Word searches. These ones from are perfect for younger ones because they’re all about children’s fairy tales and fun stuff that they can relate to, like breakfast and birds. (There isn’t a print button when you download these, but just click CTRL+P and they print right out!)

Well, I was gonna do a post with both binders, but just this one filled it up pretty quick. So, go read about the activity binder for teens here! 🙂

Ashlyn checking out her activity binder
Ashlyn checking out her travel binder

Thankful for Freedom

I wasn’t planning to post anything for the 4th… but sitting on the love seat tonight (it’s 10:16 PM at the moment, to give you an idea of the crazy schedule our family lives), I suddenly got an urge to write about freedom. My brother is playing electric bass to a Southern Gospel song. Mom is frying fish in the kitchen for supper. And my little sister is sitting on the floor playing with Playmobil. I know that that isn’t exactly a picture of our independence (though it’s a picture of the South), but I don’t know. It just made me want to write.

And while thinking about the 4th of July and what it means to our country as our Independence Day, I began pondering what freedom means for us individually–and not just as a country.

According to Webster’s 1828 dictionary, one of the definitions for freedom is: “A state of exemption from the power or control of another; liberty; exemption from slavery, servitude or confinement. Freedom is personal, civil, political, and religious.”

Most people focus on the civil and political aspects of freedom this week. I want to focus on the personal and religious side. I’m not just talking about freedom from sin by salvation. Today, I just want to simply muse about a few of the things that I have found freedom from spiritually.

Probably my biggest one is freedom from fear. I am still a fearful person, but I’m not in bondage to it anymore, praise the Lord! It still comes back, but by God’s grace I can conquer it.

Self-deprecation is another struggle I have been overcoming. I do still struggle with this a lot, because I have never been one to build up others and especially not myself. I’m trying to work on the building up others part. But I am my own worst critic, and this is a journey that I’m still very much in the middle of.

I want to encourage you this Independence Day to find one or two things that God has given you freedom from. Then spend a minute or two and thank Him for those things. I’m thankful for freedom from fear and for being able to embrace who God has created me to be (read my post about it here). What are you thankful to be free from today?

3 Steps in the Journey of Embracing Your Identity in Christ

What do you do if you struggle with self-confidence or find yourself stuck in the journey of “finding your identity”? When you just feel like anything you do isn’t enough, that no matter what you do, someone else will do it better, that you just plain aren’t important?

I have always struggled with self-confidence. A few years ago, I started looking for answers to who I was. Sure, I knew who I was by birth, and that I was a child of God since I was saved, but… I guess I wanted more. Some more depth or something. The popular opinion out there today sounds pretty good: “you’re strong,” “you can do this,” “you’re beautiful,” “don’t let anyone stand in your way,” “chase your dreams,” and all that sort of stuff. Oh yeah, and “just believe in yourself and have faith in yourself and you can do anything!”


First of all, being raised in a Christian home, I knew that without Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5). Secondly, I am one of the world’s worst (or is it best??) about being hard on myself and being my own worst critic. Telling me to believe in myself is pretty much like telling me to… I don’t know, what’s one of the most impossible things you can think of? Even though I have wonderful friends who tell me that I am such an encouragement, that I am sweet and helpful and all that, I’m still thinking deep inside, Well, you don’t know who I really am!

That is true. But what is also true is that I have always struggled with choosing trust in God’s Word over what I feel like in that moment. And even though I knew what God’s Word said about who I am, I still struggled with accepting it. Something just didn’t feel right about it.

But then, a few months ago, my pastor taught about embracing our identity in Christ in our young adult Sunday School class, and God used that series to help open my eyes about who I am in Christ.

1. Learn about your identity in Christ

Honestly, it’s difficult for me to trust God’s Word when “I don’t feel like it’s true.” Terrible as that sounds, it’s the honest truth. Sometimes I have a really hard time believing and trusting God because my feelings are getting in the way. But God’s been teaching me to press past that, to see that the truth about who I am and how God sees me is founded in His Word, not in my feelings.

It’s not about me. It’s not about how I feel. It’s not something that I obtained, gained, or changed. And even when I’m doubting the truth of God’s Word, it never changes.

God’s Word is TRUTH. Nothing that I feel changes that.

And God’s been teaching me something through His Word. This whole thing with my quest for my identity? My struggle to discover who I really am? Guess what?

It’s not about me. It is ALL about Christ. When I trusted Jesus as my Savior and was saved, I obtained a new identity in Christ—a completely new, unattached-to-my-old-identity identity.

I have to beat that truth into my thick skull time and time again. Because guess what? I’m human—just like you. I fail. I mess up a LOT. But that doesn’t change who we are in Christ or how God sees us.

You know why? Because when God looks at those of us who are in Christ, He only sees Christ. That is why we have to understand what Christ’s identity is—because that is our new identity too. And when we read the Bible and see Who Christ is… wow. We realize that our new identity is not tied to our old identity, because they are completely different. Our old identity is dead. Gone completely. We are a completely new creature in Christ. Our old identity died with Jesus on the cross.

Yes, we still struggle. I struggle every single day. But it’s a battle of my flesh and spirit—it’s not who I am. And in order to daily defeat our flesh when it rises up within us, we have to be able to stand strong.

In order to grow well without toppling over, we need to have a strong root system, and we get that in Christ, not in our feelings or anything else. You will always be tossed to and fro if you can’t take God at His Word and be rooted and grounded in what God has done for us.

(Quote from my church notes on one of the Sunday School lessons my pastor taught about our identity in Christ)

You see, the whole foundation of it is in God’s Word. If we don’t have a strong knowledge of what’s inside of it, we’ll be weak. We have to be rooted and grounded in its promises. When our flesh or Satan tries to tell us that we’re not enough, that we’re no good, that it’s hopeless to keep on trying… that’s when God’s promises come to our aid. If you have a strong root system in God’s Word, then you’ll be able to stand strong in the battles.

Sure, you may fall sometimes. But we have to make the choice every time to grasp God’s hand and get back up, to trust that what He says about and to us are true.

Believe me, I get it. It’s HARD. Sometimes we really don’t want to, sometimes we’re just plain scared to,, and sometimes we just don’t know how to trust God. But it really boils down to this: trust is a choice. And today, right now in this moment, am I going to choose to trust God or am I going to choose to be battered about by my feelings? Am I going to battle my old identity, or am I going to embrace my new identity in Christ?

2. Love your identity in Christ

Most times, embracing and accepting who I am in Christ is harder for me than learning about it. When they say “you are your own worst critic,” I can completely relate. I AM. It is so hard for me to believe what people tell me about myself.

I’m not talking about building up my own ego. I deal with pride enough as it is. But when people are trying to encourage me, I am so often guilty of brushing it off. They don’t really mean that, I think sometimes. Or, They might think that, but they don’t know what I’m really like inside sometimes.

I think that an attitude like that is unhealthy. Yes, we’re supposed to be humble… but there is a difference between humility and being negative about ourselves.

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He shall lift you up.” (James 4:10)

That doesn’t sound like God wants us to beat ourselves up, does it? Because honestly, sometimes that’s a form of pride. If I keep abusing myself, especially to other people, then sometimes (for me, at least) I am really asking them to assure me that I’m not that bad, that I’m great and amazing. And that is just puffing me up in pride. But when we’re truly and honestly humble, God lifts us up.

Adrian Rogers, a well-known and respected preacher in our circles, said this about the difference between true humility and just thinking negatively of ourselves.

“Have you ever wondered what humility is all about? True humility is not thinking negatively about yourself. It is agreeing with what God says about you. The grace of God will exalt a person without inflating him and humble a person without debasing him. I am what I am because of Christ. In this life, you are not going to be sinless, but as you deal with sin in your life, you can come closer to being free from sin. Sinless? No. Blameless? Yes. As you confess and stay prayed up, you can be blameless.”

That’s an interesting viewpoint. Not sinless, but blameless. That really sums up our identity in Christ, doesn’t it? We’ll never be sinless in this world, but we can be blameless before God, because of Christ in us.

The focus of loving/embracing our identity in Christ isn’t about loving ourselves. We are to embrace who God has made us to be, yes. But ultimately, we are to love Christ in us. I, left to myself, am not a very loveable person. But because of God’s grace, and the new identity He has given me, I can embrace who He has created me to be.

I can, but I don’t always do. Sometimes I allow my emotions to dictate what I believe instead of the facts of God’s Word. When I don’t feel loved by God, when I don’t feel like I’m anything special, when I don’t feel that God is working in me… that’s when I tend to fall apart and get in trouble, because I’m depending on my emotions instead of embracing the facts of God’s Word.

I know the truth. I know that God loves me, that He has saved me and covered me in His righteousness, that He views me as someone really special to Him. But I allow my emotions to take over: fear, guilt, shame, and doubt.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.” (1 John 4:18)

I have experienced the torment of fear countless times. I am a very fearful person. And most of the time, it’s the fear that leads to the other emotions. I’m scared that I’m not doing enough or being enough. Then I feel guilty that I don’t do more and be more.

The truth is, Satan doesn’t want us to live in the joy of our salvation. He doesn’t want us to love who we are in Christ. He wants to keep us doubting and fearful and ridden with guilt so that we are robbed of a close relationship with Christ and a heart of gratitude. It is a battle to overcome these feelings.

The good news? God doesn’t want us there. He wants us in the exact opposite place. He wants us to live in His joy, His love, His mercy, His grace, and His victory.

And He has given us the victory, even though sometimes we still feel bogged down by our past sin and mistakes.

“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath He removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12)

If you’ve ever really thought about it, “as far as the east is from the west” is an impossible distance. It just keeps going and going and going, because there’s no end point. God forgets the sins that we have repented of to Him. He has forgiven and forgotten—why should we keep bringing our old identity, our old sins that we’ve been forgiven of, to our own minds?

It’s hard. I know. But we have to remember: our victory is not found in what we have done. It’s found in who Christ is and what He calls us to do. And He is calling to us to lay aside our burden and embrace His victory, resting in Him.

“Come unto Me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn of Me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

It’s not very restful, always finding fault with myself or getting upset with myself over and over again. I have to remember that, if I have confessed my sins to Jesus and asked Him to forgive them, He has. I have to embrace that fact and trust Him. I have to change my mindset from who I was to what Jesus has done in me.

Because I’m not who I was. Christ has made me into a new creature, and every single thing that I learn about my new identity is something to love. It’s a growing thing, a step-by-step journey. And we do have to learn to live in our new identity. It’s a pursuit of Christ, a reaching forth to the things He promises us.

“Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:13-14)

3. Live in your identity in Christ

Okay, so it’s simple, right? Learn about our identity in Christ, embrace it, and then start living in it. 1, 2, 3, easy-peasy.

Yeah, right.

It is so hard for me to get things through my thick head sometimes! Believe me, I haven’t perfectly learned how to love and live in my identity in Christ. It is an ongoing learning process with many, many ups and downs. It’s a daily, moment-by-moment choice and journey.

In order to live a fulfilled life in who we are in Christ, we have to learn to receive and embrace His amazing gift, and we have to have the proper perspective. Like I said earlier, it’s all about Christ. I am who I am through Christ… in all areas of my life.

It’s not just a Sunday thing. It’s not even just a morning quiet time or nightly devotional thing. It’s something that we have to embrace every moment of every day. Living a life of surrender to God’s will is a choice we make every second, whether we realize it or not.

“We can’t compartmentalize our spiritual and physical lives. We’ll never experience victorious Christian living that way. Yes, we’re a new creature, but it came at a cost. Now we are completely the Lord’s—His bondservants, His slaves. What people don’t understand is that we’re slaves, but our Master is so good. When we freely surrender everything in our life to Him, we’ll find joy, fulfillment, affirmation, etc.”

(quote from my notes on one of the Sunday School lessons my pastor taught about our identity in Christ)

Abiding in Christ (John 15) is part of living in who we are in Him. Abiding in Christ is a daily dying to self. It’s a continual consciousness of Him. It’s a daily choice to stop and ask Him to fill us with His Spirit. It’s a continual maintenance job—keeping a short list with God, so to speak. God doesn’t fill a dirty cup, and it’s our job to keep our cup—ourselves—clean for Him to fill with His Spirit.

God doesn’t just want to be a priority in your life, as one of the preachers around here said. He wants to be preeminent. He wants to be Lord of every area of your life.

And the truth is, we can’t accomplish anything for God’s glory without abiding in Him and relying on Him. It sounds like such a sign of weakness sometimes, being dependant on God. It’s like we’re incapable creatures… and that’s because God knows that we can’t do it on our own. We’ll trip over our own feet and fall flat on our faces.

And we have to realize that and accept it. God is always reaching out His hand to us, inviting us to walk alongside of Him. But we have to recognize that we need Him, His grace, His strength, etc. And when we realize just how much we need it, we’ll start living more consciously, more purposefully.

I feel so needy sometimes, so helpless. And all I can do is to pray (a LOT) for God to show me my heart, to show me what I need to do or stop doing, to reveal to me His mighty grace and love. I have to humble myself before Him and beg for His help. I have to take each step as He shows me.

Sometimes I feel stuck. I get really discouraged. I feel so far from my goal. And sometimes, I honestly just set my expectations of myself too high. I feel like I need to have this down, to know perfectly what I need to be doing next.

“The goal is not perfection. It’s simply to be in an intimate relationship with Christ each day, fully embrace who He created us to be, and seek to fulfill the purpose He has for us. He is our greatest strength—and the One who enables us to live out all the other strengths He’s placed within us.”

(Holley Gerth; You’re Already Amazing – this is an amazing book that I highly recommend! It really helped me understand more about who I am and how my personality is special, and how God can use me just as He created me to be. It does have more of a “modern Christianity” vibe, but she does a great job at balancing that viewpoint of “you can do anything” with the Scriptural “you’re nothing without Christ.”)

It’s a continual journey, as I keep saying. Little by little, inch by inch. But God is so merciful and showers us with so much grace. Hold His hand, keep in a close relationship with Him, and He will show you each step to make.

Learn more of Him. Read and study His Word. Pray and ask Him for help. Because the more that we taste the goodness of God, the more we desire it. The more that we desire it and learn from His Word, the more we grow in His knowledge. And the more we learn of Him, the more we love Him.

And when you feel stuck, like nothing is working, and that you’re missing something important… just remember that God loves you and wants nothing more than to be in an intimate relationship with you. He wants you to grow. This rollercoaster journey brings you through both mountaintops and valleys throughout your whole life… but by God’s grace, you will come out of each valley stronger than you went in.

So hang in there—keep pressing on, step by step, in the incredible journey of embracing your identity in Christ. It is so worth it to be able to look back on what He has grown you through!

(This post contains an Amazon Affiliate link. If you buy something from the link, I get a very small commission—but that doesn’t affect your price at all. Just letting you know. ;P)

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