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12 Days ‘Til Christmas: Day 7

December 20th, 2014


On the seventh day of Christmas, Family Camp gave to me . . .

Seven Parenting Articles,

1. 14 Ways to Teach Children to be Thankful: Ann Voskamp shares some ideas for instilling gratitude into our families.

2. The Dirty Work of Motherhood: Tarissa Helms recounts her journey in becoming a stay-at-home mom.

3. Rethinking the Perfect Holiday: Glennon Melton of Momastery guides us through a difficult moment in a difficult season, and how she found beauty in the midst of it.

4. No More Wicked Stempmother: Charity Singleton Craig talks about her transition into being a step-mother.

5. When Your Heart Grows Three Sizes: Jim Liebelt provides some discussion points and questions to go along with the book (or movie) How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

6. My Mate is Not My Enemy: Explore the life-altering perspective found in the mantra, “my mate is not my enemy” over with Family Life.

7. Bulldozer Parenting: From our own blog, a two-part interview series with Marriage and Parenting experts, Sharon and Terry Hargrave. Are you a “bulldozer parent”? The phrase might not mean what you are thinking.

Six Quotes from Camp,

Five End-Of-Year Stats!

Four Christmas songs,

Three places to find them,

Two videos of the interns,

and a big list of tasty recipes.

12 Days ‘Til Christmas: Day 6

December 19th, 2014


On the sixth day of Christmas, Family Camp gave to me . . .

Six Quotes from Camp,

8-year-old to staffer: “My middle name is Grace, and my sisters middle name is Joy . . . I think my brother’s is Satan.”

Camper: Daddy, lets get an Icee!
Dad: You know I pay for those things . . .
Camper: No, it just goes to your last name!

5-year-old upon pulling into Headwaters: “It’s so good to be home!”

6-year-old to Mom: “Mama, all the counselors have their smiles on their faces. Everyone likes a smile!”

14-year-old to Mom: “Go back to the cabin, Mom, so I can dance.”

5-year-old to staffer: “You’re not the boss of me, Ballbach is.”

Five End-Of-Year Stats!

Four Christmas songs,

Three places to find them,

Two videos of the interns,

and a big list of tasty recipes.

12 Days ‘Til Christmas: Day 5

December 18th, 2014


On the fifth day of Christmas, Family Camp gave to me . . .
Five End-of-Year Stats!

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Four Christmas songs,

Three places to find them,

Two videos of the interns,

and a big list of tasty recipes.

12 Days ’til Christmas: Day 4

December 17th, 2014


On the fourth day of Christmas, Family Camp gave to me . . .

Four Christmas songs,

(and since we talked about this song on Facebook…)

Three places to find them,

Two videos of the interns,

and a big list of tasty recipes.

12 Days ‘Til Christmas: Day 3

December 16th, 2014


On the third day of Christmas, Family Camp gave to me . . .

Three places to find them,


1. Facebook:



2. Pinterest:



3. Instagram:


Screen Shot 2014-12-14 at 4.39.28 PM

Two videos of the interns,

and a big list of tasty recipes.

12 Days ‘Til Christmas: Day 2

December 15th, 2014


On the second day of Christmas, Family Camp gave to me . . .

Two videos of the Interns,


and a big list of tasty recipes.



12 Days ‘Til Christmas: Day 1

December 14th, 2014


On the first day of Christmas, Family Camp gave to me . . .

A big list of tasty recipes.

Dinosaur Food Cookies
Holiday Apple Bacon Brussels Sprouts
Egg-less Nog
Laity Lodge Cookies
Buttermilk Pie
Caramel Corn

Dinosaur Food Cookies - submitted by Mary Echols

1/4 C dirt (cocoa)
1/2 C swamp water (milk)
2 C crushed bones (sugar)
1/2 C fat (margarine)
2 C grass (oatmeal)
1/2 C squashed bugs (crunchy peanut butter)
1 tsp muddy water (vanilla)

Mix dirt, swamp water, crushed bones, and fat. Bring to boil, and boil for 1 minute. Add grass, muddy water, and squashed bugs. Stir until bugs dissolve. Drop on waxed paper and let cool. These cookies are fun to make with kids. No hot oven – no waiting for cookies to bake. Plus kids love the names of ingredients.

Holiday Apple Bacon Brussels Sprouts – submitted by Marcus Goodyear

One stalk of Brussels sprouts (or 1-1.5 lbs)
1-2 apples
5-6 slices of bacon
1 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Cut up 5-6 pieces of bacon into bite-sized pieces and spread on cookie sheet. Cook until crispy (10-15 minutes). Cut Brussels sprouts in half and toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then lay them cut side down on top of the bacon. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until Brussels sprouts begin to soften. Core and cut an apple into small bite-sized pieces and sprinkle them on top of the Brussels sprouts. Cook for an additional 10-15 minutes until Brussels sprouts begin to brown and apples begin to soften. Toss everything together and serve warm.

Baklava – submitted by Dana Williams

1 lb walnuts, finely chopped
1/2 C sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1 1/2 C butter, melted (3 sticks)
16 oz phyllo dough, thawed
1 C sugar
1 C water
1 T lemon juice
1 C honey (net weight 12 oz.)
1/2 tsp vanilla

You should make baklava at least 24 hours ahead of time — a week is best. The longer you let the Baklava sit, the better it gets.

After you have everything gathered and the nut mixture done, you can assemble the baklava in about 45 minutes — the time before you need to start working on the syrup for the batch in the oven. Use those darn corner and funky shaped edge pieces to test how it’s doing or as your private reward!

Remember that the frozen phyllo dough needs to thaw in the refrigerator for around 6 hours. If you thaw it at room temperature, the individual sheets of phyllo dough will stick together. Once you open the phyllo dough you will want to keep working. Half sheets work better. You can melt all of the butter and keep it in a crock pot on low so you don’t have to melt butter as you go.

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Combine and set aside walnuts, 1/2 cup sugar, and cinnamon.

Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the bottom and sides of a Jelly Roll Pan (15.5″ x 10.5″ x 1″) with melted butter. Open the phyllo dough and layer 6 whole leafs (or 12 half leafs) in the pan, buttering each layer as you go. (The edges will extend over the side.) Spread 1 cup of the walnut mixture. Cut the remaining phyllo dough in half. Layer 8 half sheets — butter each layer. Each sheet will be an inch or so short, so stagger the sheets from corner to corner to cover the whole pan. Spread 1 cup of the walnut mixture. Repeat 8 sheets and walnut mixture twice. You will end up with 4 layers of nuts. Layer the remaining half sheets on top — butter each layer. Brush the top with the remaining butter. Trim the edges off.

Cut halfway through the layers using the pattern shown. (Note: Do NOT cut from corner to corner.) This is done now since it will be very fragile after it’s been baked.

Bake 1 hour or until golden brown. 15 minutes before the baklava should be done, mix 1 cup sugar, water, and lemon juice in a sauce pan. Cook sauce over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, add the honey and vanilla, and stir until well blended.

Remove the baklava from the oven and finish cutting through the layers. Pour the sauce over the hot baklava. Cool. Let it sit for at least 24 hours (lightly covered — but not in the refrigerator) — longer if you can stand it!

A nice way to serve individual pieces is to put each one into a muffin cup that has been partially flattened.


Egg-less Nog – submitted by Christy Richardson

2 C fat free half and half
4 C milk
3 T light rum
1 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 small package vanilla instant pudding

Whisk together milk and instant pudding in a large bowl until blended and smooth. Gradually whisk in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 8 hours or overnight.

Laity Lodge Cookies – submitted by Deidra Riggs

1 box graham crackers (Trader Joe’s Cinnamon Graham crackers, if you can!)
1/2 C sugar
1 C butter (2 sticks)
Sliced almonds, toasted
1 tsp vanilla

Line 2 jelly roll pans with foil. Lay graham crackers in a single layer over foil. Boil sugar, butter, and vanilla for 1 minutes. Pour over crackers. Top with sliced animals. Bake at 350°F for 8 minutes.

Buttermilk Pie – submitted by Denise Stripling

3 3/4 C sugar
1/2 C flour
6 eggs, beaten
1 C butter, melted (2 sticks)
1 C buttermilk
2 unbaked pie shells

Mix sugar and flour, add eggs, vanilla and butter. Mix well. Stir in buttermilk – DO NOT BEAT.

Bake at 350°F for 45-50 minutes. Let set before serving.

Caramel Corn – submitted by Tina Howard

6 Qts popped corn
1 -13 oz can salted nuts
2 C light brown sugar, packed
1 C butter
1/2 C dark corn syrup
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vanilla

Placed popped corn and nuts in large roaster. Combine sugar, butter, corn syrup and salt in saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn down to low heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add baking soda and vanilla. Pour mixture over corn and nuts; stir with wooden spoon to combine. Spread in large baking dish (or two) and bake at 250°F for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool. Stir and break into chunks. Store in air-tight container to keep crisp.

We Walk

December 8th, 2014


As we rush toward the end of the year, Laura Boggess reminds us to slow down and be present with our children.

We Walk

by Laura Boggess

We walk.

It’s not something I planned, or thought out very well, but I remember my mother doing the same with me. And ever since their legs could carry their small frames upright, this is what we’ve done.

Sometimes it’s just me, needing to get out from under the thumb of the house … needing to breath deep. But as I squeeze through the small crack in the door—shrug off the bindings of the day—I give the invitation. And they usually follow.

We stand on the threshold of the world together, my two boys and I, look into each other’s faces, and step out.

With each step, I feel the trappings of busyness unfurl like fingers—that lingering ribbon of time begins to unwind. They feel it too; I see it in the free way they step.

We slow.

When they were small, four tiny fingers would curl around my one. A boy on each side. That’s how we would go. The smallest delight would catch their eyes back then … a tiny insect, puddle of water, a smooth stone. They were, after all, closer to this crust we walk around on. The walking opened their eyes—gave birth to endless curiosity.

Now, when we walk, their shoulders brush against mine. No longer do they stand in my shadow; too often I find myself looking up into eyes the same blue as my own.

But one thing hasn’t changed: we talk easy as we move. It’s a habit now. We share stories about the day: I tell them about my work; they share things they wouldn’t normally let go of across the dinner table. Something about putting one foot in front of the other opens us up. Stories told aloud become a banquet, and we feast together.

Mostly, we just be together. And it feels good.

Now, I don’t know if you are much of a walker, but I don’t mind saying that there is a certain intimacy that develops between people when they do so. So much happens along the way. And even the silent moments are a balm to the fast-moving pace of every day.

Mostly, we just be together. And it feels good.

I knew it wouldn’t always be easy. They no longer are fascinated by ladybugs. The smooth, cool stones by the creek bank hold no particular allure.

My husband, who has one brother, once told me that when he entered adolescence, his mother stopped hugging him.

I know I didn’t want her to, he said. She was just doing what I asked.

I watched them a few years ago when she was preparing to leave for a trip to Spain. We went to say goodbye the night before her departure. When the time came for us to leave, they hovered about each other nervously.

Will you please hug your mother? I finally said.

I gave him permission. And everyone giggled as he wrapped her in his arms.

Once, when he was in second or third grade, my firstborn said to me, Mom, you have to stop this hugging stuff. I took his face in my two hands, looked him in the eye, and said, “Never. I will never stop hugging you.”

They no longer reach for my hand as we walk together. But they’ve grown used to my hand on their back, my arm wrapped in theirs. There are a lot of things I do not do well. Dinner is not always homemade. Sometimes they watch too much TV. Laundry sits unfolded in the basket as the door closes behind us.

But this I do well—this being together. When we walk together, we are present—right there in that moment. We leave behind what is behind and be together. All it takes is time.

And putting one foot in front of the other.

Laura Boggess lives with her family in West Virginia. She works in a rehabilitation hospital as a clinical psychologist. When she’s not doing that, you can find her writing or editing at our sister site, The High Calling, or on her blog. Her most recent book is Playdates with God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World.

Advent Resources

December 4th, 2014

The holiday season can be a flurry of activities and stress that leave little time to pause and reflect on the Advent of Christ. Here are a few resources to help you carve out space to engage your family in looking forward to Christmas.

1. Do you own the Jesus Storybook Bible? Here is a reading plan using the stories there to reach Christmas day.


2. Ann Voskamp has created a beautifully illustrated book titled Unwrapping the Greatest Gift that can be read as a stand-alone selection of stories or used in conjunction with a Jessie tree.


3. The Advent Book gives you doors to open each day of the Advent season. Another book with gorgeous illustrations adding a different twist to a typical Advent calendar.
4. Thriving Family magazine (Focus on the Family) has a free downloadable Advent calendar, including poster, cut-outs, and puzzles.image

Family Camp Style: Gingerbread Houses

November 17th, 2014

Family Project: Gingerbread Houses

Gingerbread house

Are you spending more time inside because of the weather, but you don’t want to resort to TV or video games? Build a Gingerbread House together!
Here are a few tips from Mary on how to do it.

  • Use graham crackers for the walls.
  • Use Royal Icing (recipe below) to glue it together.
  • Hobby Lobby also has decorator frosting in the cake section for additional details.
  • Put icing in baggies and cut one of the bottom corners to enable piping.
  • Decorate with any kind of candy you like.  We used cereal for roofing and sugar wafers for windows.

Royal Icing Ingredients (about 3 cups of icing)
* 3 tablespoons Meringue Powder
* 4 cups (about 1 lb.) confectioners¹ sugar
* 5 tablespoons warm water

Mix all ingredients in mixer.