Journal It
Courtnaye Richard

About Kate Motaung

Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.

Kate Motaung

Kate Motaung
RSS this blog Archives Contributors

Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.

13 Summer Staycation Ideas for Families with Kids

#parenting #Summer

Many kids count down to the end of the school year, but once summer break begins, some parents begin counting the days until it’s over. Kids love having more free time, but often it helps to have some planned activities to add a bit of structure to their days.

Here are some fun suggestions to make this summer staycation the best one yet. When boredom threatens to settle in, be ready with this arsenal of ideas.

• Create your own board game based on a favorite chapter book or movie — or maybe you could base your game on a book or section of the Bible, such as the ten plagues, the life of Joseph, or the book of Esther. Grab a posterboard and brainstorm some of the main action points in the story, then include them in your game.

• Play your own version of The Amazing Race, or create a scavenger hunt around your town. At the end, talk about how your family overcame the challenges and twists in the road.

• Pretend like you are researchers or historians. Research the history of the churches in your town. Try to find out which one is the oldest, and how it started. See if you can interview the pastor or some of the older congregation members. Write what you learn, and think about God’s faithfulness in preserving His church. Design a timeline or poster illustrating key events and interesting facts you discover.

• Make handmade greeting cards with words of encouragement or Bible verses, then deliver them to a nursing home in your area. See what a joy it can be to be a blessing and bring a smile to an elderly person’s face.

• Organize a neighborhood bake sale. Collect donated baked goods, sell them, and give the proceeds to a local charity or mission organization.

• Write letters or send a care package to someone serving in the military or on the mission field. For other ideas on how to encourage missionaries, click here.

• Hold your own Master Chef competition. Using only five or six ingredients, have a contest to see which family member can prepare the most appetizing dish.

• Check out some audio books from your nearest library. Go home, make some lemonade and popcorn, and enjoy the story!

• Make a list of five different countries around the world. Find a recipe for a traditional dish that represents a culture from each country. Block off a week on your calendar as Around the World Week, and plan to eat from a new region each evening.

• Plan a talent show. Invite friends or neighbors, and perform your favorite skits, songs, or poems for each other.

• Gather a few other families and meet at the park for a fun-filled track and field evening. Plan potato sack races, water balloon tosses, three-legged races, long jumps, and softball throws.

• Map out a frisbee golf course, grab some discs, and start a new hobby!

• Set up an obstacle course in your backyard, or in your driveway. Use sticks or sidewalk chalk to construct a course, find a stopwatch, and let the fun begin!

What are some unique activities your family enjoys doing together during summer break?

Books I Read in 2015

#books #Book Review





I read some fantastic books in 2015. Really, really good. So grateful for the brave, faithful writers out there who sit down and put in the work for our benefit.


My goal was to read a book a month, and I rounded out the year with a grand total of 16 books. Not many compared to some, but I’m satisfied.


Here are the books I read in 2015:


Three nonfiction covers 2


Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves by Trillia Newbell {Review & Video Author Interview}


Such a helpful, biblical resource for all who battle with various fears, anxieties, and insecurities.


Until We All Come Home by Kim de Blecourt {Review}


A page-turning, suspenseful account of one family’s harrowing journey to adopt from Ukraine.


Dragons and Dirt: The Truth About Changing the World – and the Courage it Requires by Dalene Rayburn {Review}


One of my favorite books I read this year. So much wisdom and food for thought on a wide range of topics and issues. A short read, but full of gems.


Three more nonfiction titles


For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards by Jen Hatmaker


This is the first Jen Hatmaker book I’ve read. There are a few chapters I wish I could mass produce and distribute all over the country. I didn’t write a review, but my friend Bronwyn wrote a good one here.


Every Little Thing: Making a World of Difference Right Where You Are by Deidra Riggs {Review & Video Author Interview}


Inspiring and motivating. That’s how I would describe this debut book by Deidra Riggs.


Girl Meets Change: Truths to Carry You through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong {Review}


Encouraging words for all who have experienced change.



Nonfiction Titles 3


Nobody’s Cuter Than You: A Memoir about the Beauty of Friendship by Melanie Shankle {Review}


A funny and heartfelt tribute to friendship among women.


Let’s All Be Brave: Living Life with Everything You Have by Annie Downs


I underlined copious amounts of this book. So many challenging words; highly recommended.


Dance with Jesus: From Grief to Grace by Susan B. Mead


Susan Mead kindly sent me a copy of this book, and I read the whole thing in one evening. It’s a quick read, but a moving testimony of a mother who has found grace in the midst of grieving the loss of her son.




Three fiction titles


Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner {Review}


Beautifully written historical fiction about two sisters during the London Blitz of World War II.


Dear Mr. Knightley by Katherine Reay


I adored this debut novel by Katherine Reay. A series of letters written by a Jane Austen-loving journalism student to her anonymous benefactor. Captivating and cleverly written.


Stars Over Sunset Boulevard by Susan Meissner


This latest novel by Susan Meissner releases on January 5th, 2016! I was privileged to read an advance copy of this story set in the Hollywood period when Gone With the Wind was filmed. Review coming soon. Pre-order now by clicking here!


On Writing:


Writing book covers



On Being a Writer: 12 Simple Habits for a Writing Life that Lasts by Ann Kroeker and Charity Singleton Craig


A wonderful resource for writers. I was challenged and guided in my personal writing life, and had such fun leading a six-week online discussion on this book with several other writers. Catch up on the discussion here. I’ll be referring back to this book many times in the years to come.


Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg


This book is pure gold. Natalie cuts right to the chase in this no-nonsense, down-to-earth book that will make you want to pick up your pen and write like crazy. She covers all the bases and then some.




Advent devo covers



The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas by Ann Voskamp


Another gorgeous book from Ann Voskamp. This one offers daily Advent readings which carry the reader through biblical history, starting with Adam and Eve. So much spiritual food here; definitely worth reading at any time of the year, not just Christmas.


Unwrapping the Names of Jesus: An Advent Devotional by Asheritah Ciuciu


My friend Asheritah wrote this wonderful resource focusing on the names of Jesus. I read it aloud to my kids to start each of our homeschool days in December. Again, this book could be read and benefited from at any time of the year, not only during Advent.


What books did you read in 2015? 


Still busy reading:


Still reading covers



Making It Home: Finding My Way to Peace, Identity, and Purpose by Emily Wierenga


Rhinestone Jesus: Saying Yes to God When Sparkly, Safe Faith is No Longer Enough by Kristen Welch


The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer


Related Post: My Top 14 Books of 2014


What are you reading now? What do you hope to read in 2016?


Note: This post contains affiliate links. 


It’s your turn! I’d love to see what you read this past year. Come share your list in the comments or by linking up your own blog post by clicking here


What's On Your Christmas List?

#Christmas #gifts


A couple of weeks ago, my sister asked my kids, “What’s on your Christmas list?”


They looked at each other blankly before asking, “What’s a Christmas list?”


At the risk of sounding prideful, I was relieved and grateful that they had made it to ages 6, 8 and 11 without knowing about Christmas lists.


I should clarify, however, that this is their first Christmas living in America.  That definitely has something to do with it.


Of course, as soon as they learned what a Christmas list is, they wasted no time heaping wishes, desires and wants to their newly discovered ‘lists.’


The mindset of giving


This past Sunday, our pastor spoke on Hebrews 10:24-25 and our tendency to leave a worship service asking the question, “What did I get out of that?”  Instead, we ought to be asking ourselves, “What did I give?”


The same attitude could be prescribed for all of life, couldn’t it?


Instead of spending our Christmas season and our lives asking, “What did I get?” we should ask for the Lord’s help in continually asking, “What can I give?”


It’s a mindset that I’ve tried hard to instill in my children, and one that I daily need grace to practice myself.  It’s fine to be excited about what wrapped parcels may be waiting under the Christmas tree, but that anticipation shouldn’t overshadow the greatest anticipation of all — the coming of Christ.


The mindset of serving


This past weekend, my kids had an opportunity to distribute over 200 handmade Christmas cards to elderly people in nursing homes and assisted-living facilities.  It wasn’t my idea.  We didn’t make the cards.  In fact, I wasn’t even there.


They haven’t stopped talking about it.


One of them has been pestering me for two days, asking when they can do it again.


Another sister of mine took her kids to serve at a Thanksgiving dinner for homeless people.  It was their first time doing something like that, and her 8-year-old and 10-year-old couldn’t stop talking about it, either.  They, too, asked when they could do it again.


Don’t underestimate the impact that an experience like that can have on a child.


It takes effort to purposefully go out and serve, but the ramifications are so worth it.  Not only will you likely bless someone else, but it’s quite possible that you and your family will be blessed by the experience as well.


While this holiday season may spark a brighter flame of desire to make a difference, it’s a habit and lifestyle that can and should become part of our year-round routines … not only because it’s Christmas.


The mindset of blessing


If you still have shopping to do, consider how you might give gifts that could potentially have eternal significance.


Instead of another sweater or coffee cup, or the latest novel or DVD, consider buying your children and/or other family members or friends gifts that will spur them on in their faith, or encourage them to consider Christ if they have not yet bowed the knee.


There’s nothing wrong with buying Monsters University or Disney’s Planes … but what about a children’s DVD that will teach kids biblical principles and cause them to grow in their love for their Lord and Savior?


Another coffee mug is fine, but why not get one with a verse of Scripture inscribed across the ceramic, to help a friend start their day not only with a shot of caffeine, but with the words of life that will quench a thirst and provide a boost far greater and longer-lasting than a grande Starbucks.


If it’s a book you are planning to purchase, think carefully about choosing one that will build up and strengthen the recipient; one that contains a message that may change a life with the help of the Holy Spirit.


I know it’s cliché, but let’s go beyond just remembering the true reason for the season … Let’s ask God to help us develop mindsets that turn the focus away from ourselves and what we can get, and rather turn our thinking toward others — how we can give, serve and bless, to the glory of God.


“And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works …” (Hebrews 10:24)