Creating a Family Rule of Life


When opening the Sacred Ordinary Days planner, one of the first things you’ll see is a section that helps you create a rule of life. What is a rule of life, you ask? Great question.

A rule of life is a set of routines, patterns, or habits that we practice in order to help us to become the kind of person we want to be.  A rule of life isn’t about achieving, but about being.

I spent some time last year writing about it in Developing a Rule of Life and Developing a Rule of Life (Part 2). Feel free to read those if you want more background.

This time around, I’m more interested in developing a rule of life with and for our family. We already have a version of this in place, I suppose. We try to talk about and celebrate our family’s core values (compassion, generosity, faith, equality and creativity) on a semi-regular basis, which is a great start. But I think a rule of life takes us to the next level. It means creating rhythms that help us to become people who embody those values instead of just hoping that we end up there.

We’re still in the brainstorming and creating phase, but here are some ideas that have sifted to the top:

  • Read together. We want to be a family that’s learning, growing in our understanding of the world and how other people experience life. Reading helps us grow in empathy and compassion, and helps us to remember that everyone has a perspective and it’s vital to listen to those perspectives.
  • Explore the world together. We’d love to travel together someday, but for now, it means finding opportunities to learn about different cultures, eating different kinds of foods, examining maps and playing with languages. We want to be the kind of people who love well, are not afraid of that which is different, and are listening to the voices that may not always get equal air time.
  • Grow in our faith together. We started out really good about this- being intentional with reading the Bible together every night, praying together, and simply living life with an eye towards what God is doing in us and in the world. As the kids have multiplied in number, we engage in this less intentionally and less often. It’s been challenging to find our rhythm. We keep trying things out, as our kids get older and we start learning about how they might best experience God. We know that our kids might not end up choosing to trust Jesus with their lives, but we also know that we want to be on this faith journey together, always with an open door for sharing thoughts and questions.
  • Give together. We want to be generous with our love, our time, and our money. This one might be the hardest for us. Our budget is tight. Our fairly simple schedule already feels like we don’t have enough time for one another, let alone people outside of our walls. But we continually try to find ways that we can say yes to opportunities that allow our family to engage generously together. Yes to creating a relationship with a child through Compassion International, Yes to making a meal for someone, Yes to spending our money on someone else. Yes to babysitting a friend’s child. Yes to making a bracelet for a friend. Yes to giving a book we love to a friend. Yes to inviting people into our lives.
  • Create together. Cooking. Drawing. Inventing. Creating videos. Writing. Making games. Picasso has been credited for saying, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” We believe that we were created in the image of a creative God, and that when we create, we are playing alongside God.

Here are some questions we asked ourselves when creating our family rule of life:

  • What’s the end goal? What kind of people do we hope we’ll be in 10 years, 20 years, 30 years?
  • What values do we hold higher than others? How can we lean into those?
  • How is our family wired? What natural dispositions or heart leanings do we have? Where are they different from one another? Where are we the same?

As I have learned more about this tool over the past few months, I have come across a few creative ways of writing and illustrating them.

  • This person used a bread recipe format for her rule of life. It communicates the organic nature of spiritual formation, and it’s just really beautiful.
  • This person used images to communicate their rule of life. I would have never thought of this!
  • If you scroll down a little in this post, you’ll see a rule of life written in a word art kind-of-way. I can imagine making something like this to hang on a wall in our house.

Have you ever created a rule of life? How has it helped you to become more of the person God created you to be?


How to Use the Project Section of Your Sacred Ordinary Day Planner


The Project section of the Sacred Ordinary Days Planner stumped me at first.

I wasn’t sure why there were only 3 project slots. How do I decide what’s worthy of a project slot? And on top of this,  I had no idea what “cue” meant, or “rest/reward.”

While I’m still learning, here are some of my thoughts on this potentially puzzling section.

“What? Why only 3 slots for projects? I have a gazillion things to do today!”

TOTALLY. You have lots and lots to do. Your to-do list is unending. I get that. But…. (more…)

The Sacred Ordinary Days Planner


I love planners. Mostly because they save my life. Every single day.

If I don’t write things down, it exits my mind and I never see it again. As you can imagine, this doesn’t work too well for a momma juggling not only her own work and home schedule, but also those of her 4 sweet and wild children. Hence the planner love.

I first heard about The Sacred Ordinary Days planner from a Kickstarter project. A woman named Jenn Giles Kemper had a wild and crazy dream of combining a planner and a space for spiritual reading and reflection.

She knew that how we view and spend our days deeply influences our spiritual formation. And to put all that wrapped up in one? Genius.


Reading Together: How Communities of Readers Can Transform the World

reading-togetherBooks are one of the most powerful tools in the world.

Books change the world by offering a new perspective.

Books inspire people to step out and take risks.

Books allow people to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, increasing a reader’s capacity for empathy.

Books explain, they instruct, they motivate.

Books offer another way forward, and get people talking.

Most of my favorite books inspire me towards action. And they are always ones I want to talk about with someone else. (more…)

How to Make Personalized Back-to-School Photos

Families around the country have been snapping pictures of their kids on the first day of school for years. 90% of these photos seem to happen on the home’s front stoop.

In our family, it’s no different. Fifteen minutes before departure time, we line the kids up and snap pictures of their sweet faces in front of our door.

How to Make (easy) Amazing Back-to-School Photos

Each year, I like to add a little extra information to help me remember what they were into (and what they weren’t). For fun I even sometimes make one for my husband who is a PhD student ;). 

To create these great memories, I use the free online editing tool- PicMonkey.

1. I upload the photo by going to “edit” and then “computer.”

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2. After choosing the photo I want to edit, I’m ready to add some text. (more…)

What I’m Into {August 2016}

What I'm Into August 2016

Tomorrow is the beginning of a fresh school year.

This is a big year for us.

By 8:15a, all 4 kids will be out the door, headed to their learning spaces for the day. What in the world?! I knew this day would come someday. I dreaaaaamed of this day while changing diapers and cleaning mess (after mess after mess) and juggling playdates and tantrums and feeling the toll of pure exhaustion. I just didn’t know it was going to come so soon! While the oldest three will be in elementary school all day, the youngest Malloy will be attending an early childhood program where she will be able to extrovert to her hearts content.

What all this means is when I leave the house in the morning, it’s more or less going to look exactly the same way when I get home from work. Hallelujah! This means less cleaning and tidying when I get home, and more sitting on the couch snuggling, talking, and reading books at night.

Of course, this transition will mean more emotions, more feels, more neediness at night from kids who have been without their momma all day. So, now that I think about it, you should probably ask me again in 3 weeks how excited I am about this transition. (more…)

The Family Reading List {Summer 2016}

The Family Reading List

Welcome to the Family Reading List!

Each month I’ll be sharing a list of recommended books for kids. This carefully curated list will come straight from our bookshelves and will answer the question I get asked all the time- What are my kids reading and loving? I’ll not only feature one book from each kid’s list per month, but I’ll also give a short list of other books we highly recommend. Some of these books will be ones the kids read on their own. Others will be ones we listen to in the car or read aloud at night before bed.

I’m circling the kids into this series of fun monthly posts, and they’re already excited about sharing their recommendations. Who knows, they may even show up in some video recommendations in the future!

And of course, please feel free to leave book recommendations in the comments! We often find our next books to read through the recommendations of other families.


What I’m Reading {Summer 2016}

What I'm Reading (summer)

For many readers, summer is the time to put a dent in the reading list. The pace of life is a bit slower, and who doesn’t love the opportunity to sit on the beach or lay in a hammock, enjoying the beautiful weather while taking in a good book?

This summer wasn’t really like that for me. I spent most of my days inside working. And my weekends were spent out and about with the family sans books.

Weirdly enough, TV-watching played a big part in my night-time routine, crowding out my normal reading rhythm. Between American Ninja Warrior, the Olympics, and re-watching Gilmore Girls, I found myself not having energy to read more than a chapter before lights out each night. BUT. But. but. In spite of Netflix trying to ruin my life, I did manage to get through a few books that I highly recommend. 


Matthew Desmond

Evicted is a book that our city is reading and discussing this fall; author Matthew Desmond is an alum of the UW. I wasn’t sure what I was getting into when I picked this one up, but it didn’t take me long to get hooked into the stories of Scott and Arleen and several other families whose lives have been deeply affected by the ever-present reality of eviction. Desmond is a master storyteller- he helps readers to see the heartbreaking and surprisingly complex situations that many of these families who have been evicted have gone through. I don’t think I’ll ever think about poverty and housing the same. My recommendation, if you pick up this book, be sure to read through the About This Project portion at the end. Reading about how Matthew did the research, and also his ideas for helping to solve the housing crisis in America, is well worth the read.



What I’m Into {July 2016}

What I'm Into July 2016

When I reflect back on this past month, I think “What I’m Into” can be summed up by one thing:

Gilmore Girls.

I’m in total fan girl mode. In order to be all caught up with my re-watch by the Gilmore Girl long-awaited-final-series-releasse, I need to watch 4 episodes a week. In case you’re considering a rewatch and want to start NOW, you’ll need to watch 9-10 episodes a week. I always knew my math degree would come in handy :).

But of course, a post about how much I love Gilmore Girls would be too much, so onto the other parts of my life.

June/July Highlights


Extended Family. We live far from family and can feel the lonely that comes with that during certain seasons. One great thing about summer is the stretch of time to pack up in the van and head south. This summer was extra special because we all convened on my parents’ house. Believe it or not, this is the first time I met my youngest nephew (and it had been a long time since I’d seen the others!). This trip really couldn’t have gone smoother. The kids got along great. We had fun being tourists in a place we used to call home. We talked a ton and ate too much.


Major league baseball. I grew up going to a baseball game each summer and up until this point, the kids had only gone to minor league games. When I found out that the Brewers were playing the Cardinals on St. Louis terf, it was the perfect time to go. Although the game almost got rained out, we had a blast. For the record, the Cardinals won!


Tree Ciimbing. All summer the kids have raced to the tall climbing trees before their daily camp. If you look at the very top of the picture, you’ll see my two oldest kids. Each day they stretch themselves and climb a little bit higher. I think there’s some kind of spiritual journey lesson in that. I’m really proud of them for being brave and adventurous.

DSC_6017 DSC_6066 DSC_6071

Olbrich Gardens. I’m not really an outdoorsy person, but this place is magical to me. I love walking around and taking in all the beauty. Every since I was a small girl, I have loved willow trees. I would often daydream about reading under my own willow tree someday. I haven’t gotten one yet, but I’m still holding out hope. In the meantime, I can just come here whenever I want! The one above is a version of the willow called “scarlet curls”- oh la la!


Ideas for Women’s Ministry// Amy Simpson pushes women’s ministry outside of the box and encourages leaders to think harder about they whys behind the what… and then have the courage to do something different.

Mom Tiger Will Finally Lose Her S** on New Episode of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood// Please excuse the cursing in this post, and don’t let that stop you from reading this start to finish. I laughed. so. hard. And breathed a sigh of relief, knowing I was not alone in this battle.

25 Books to Read when you feel like the world is falling apart// Great recommendations on this list.

10 Ways to Soulfully Slow Down// “If I’m going to understand the meaning of delight, the joy of savoring the goodness all around me, and if I’m going to discover what it means to enjoy God, I have to slow down. I have to create space and room for delight, for celebration, for my soul to find rest and exhale. To let out a long sigh of relief and find a safe place to come out of hiding, free from incessant doing, and fill up once again.”

Books I’m Reading

Evicted.  The Sin of Certainty. The Gifts of Imperfection. Daring Greatly.


The Road Back to You … life through the Enneagram has been so fun for me to listen to on my drive to and from work. The Enneagram has played a special part in my faith journey, and I’m loving the opportunity to learn about the different numbers through the interviews they’re doing. I’ve listened to the interviews with Shauna Niequest and Mike McHargue, and have a new appreciation for 7s and 9s. I can’t wait to hear more!

I’m coming back around to Seminary Dropout again and have been moved to tears with some of the last episodes. This one with Soong-Chan Rah was a much needed listen for me. It reminded me that lament is a vital spiritual practice. And success-centered triumphalism is not what I want my life to be about. I forget that a lot.

Also, the episode with Jessica Kelley was a good one. I hadn’t heard of her before this, but after this interview, I immediately emailed the publisher and asked for a review copy of her book. I’ll be digging in and sharing my thoughts this fall.

My last favorite was an interview with Katherine Willis Pershey about spiritual practices on The Simple Show (episode 26). If I could find space to read for a few days straight, I’m pretty sure I’d gather up the books she’s written and find myself a place of solitude. She has a new book about marriage coming out soon that I’ll also start to dig into soon. Review coming this fall!

My June/July Posts

Raising Globally-Minded Kids (without traveling around the world)

Stitch Fix #2: Summer Lovin’ 

The Kingdom Work of Being a Dad

Wonderland (A Coloring Book Review)

What are you loving this month?? 

{And as always, I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer’s What I’m Into. 🙂 }

Raising Globally-Minded Kids (without traveling around the world)

Raising Globally-Minded Kids

Tonight Ada snuggled up to me on the couch, took a deep breath and said, “Mom, I’ve been trying to figure out the right time to tell you ….. when I get a little older, I want to travel to another country and tell people about God.”

This simple sentence was not only exceedingly adorable (why was she trying to find the right time to tell me? what did she expect I would say?), but it also made me a very proud momma. Will Ada really ever travel to another country to tell people about Jesus? Eh, who knows?! Am I concerned that she feels like she needs to go to a different country to tell people about Jesus when people right here need to know about Jesus too? Not yet :).

For right now, I’m just glad she loves Jesus and also has some sort of global awareness. Being globally-minded is a deep value of both Jake and I, one that we desire to pass on to our kids.

To be quite frank, in this season of our life, helping our kids to be globally-minded takes very little effort on our part. All we have to do is send our kids to school each morning. The local public school is fondly nicknamed “The Little United Nations”  because of the diversity of nations represented by the students. We totally lucked out.

But before we had the opportunity to get to know and love people from all parts of the globe on a regular basis, we spent a lot of time teaching the kids about the world… from home.

give your child the worldIn her new book, Give Your Child the World: Raising Globally Minded Kids One Book at a Time, author Jamie Martin shares her family’s love for books, travel, and learning about the world. She not only gives us a glimpse into her family’s rhythms and strategies for raising kids who think and love globally, but she has done the hard work of creating a list of great books to read to our kids.

How the Book is Organized

Each chapter lists books covering a different part of the world. The reading lists are well-organized according to age-level (ages 4-6, 6-8, 8-10, and 10-12). With each book suggestion, Jamie gives a couple sentence summary, as well as highlighting some of the book’s special features. As I looked through list after list, I was so impressed and slightly irked that she didn’t write this book sooner (it would have saved me a lot of time in those early years when I would stay up until midnight, searching long and wide for the perfect “next books”)!

My Plan

My plan is to start working through the book, chapter by chapter, requesting the books from our library and writing our thoughts in the margin. As we read the books together, I hope to be intentional about finding places on the map together, talking about which of our friends are from there, as well as reflecting on how the book depicts a life similar to ours as well as different from ours. Plus, I’ve been really wanting to pull out my *Study the World* Pinterest board to do some fun multi-cultural activities! I think some of these would be great supplements to these books.

This book goes down into my very small list of books that every family must own. Grab a copy and start your family on a journey around the world right from home!


Thanks to booklook bloggers for sending me this review copy in exchange for my honest review!