We Will Call Her Eleanor

Three weeks ago, we welcomed our newest addition to our family — Eleanor Hope Alison Dawson.

our sweet girl

So many of you have asked about her name, I thought I’d write up a post about it!

I am eager to share the story behind sweet Eleanor’s name because, like the names of our other children, her name is  a testimony to what God has done in our lives!

All of our children have at least one family name as a middle name. For Eleanor, that name is Alison, after my mom.

We want every other name we choose to mean something. Not only will these kids answer to these names for the rest of their lives (!!!), names have a way of molding us, defining us in a way. So choosing names for our children has always been a prayer-filled, thoughtful process. 

Our Eleanor is no different. She was named as a result of God’s promises to us, and I am eager to see how her life continues to demonstrate the promises and character of God.

As we looked through girl names, we loved the name Eleanor.


When Josh and I heard the name, we had totally different thought processes. I’m still laughing at our different perspectives because each is so typical of us. {I love this man God has given me, and I’m so thankful that we get to do life together!!}


Josh’s take:

People have asked how we decided on the name Eleanor, and it’s funny because when Erika and I were talking about names, I mentioned that I liked that name. Erika looked up the meaning and loved what Eleanor means.

Me? I am a huge nerd, and love fantasy stories and classics like Lord of the Rings. I liked the name because I remember this clip from one of my audiobooks:

{Subscribers, click here to view this video.}
Frodo asks Sam what he will name his new daughter, and asks if he will follow the old custom of naming her after a flower, like Rose.

Well it will have to be a beautiful flower…because you see I think she is very beautiful, and is going to be beautifuller still…” said Sam.

Well, Sam, what about Eleanor, the Sun Star? You remember the little flower growing in the grass in Lothlórien?” said Frodo.

Yes, Mr. Frodo, I remember. That is what I will name her.” said Sam.

So, many things go into your decision when you’re picking out a name for your kids. Names have meaning and last. When you see your little one enter the world for the first time, you just know.


Erika’s take:

For me? Well, it was a different thought process all together.

When I heard the name Eleanor and learned that the name means “God is light,” I knew it was to be her name.

Above all, we want all of our children to know the Gospel, to understand and experience in a personal and deep way that Jesus is the light of the world and whoever follows Him will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life! (John 8:12).

We pray that each one of our kids will trust the Lord as their light and for their salvation (Psalm 27:1), having a steadfast assurance that they are chosen and as a result, can show others the goodness of God because He called them out of the darkness and into His wonderful light (1 Peter 2:9, Matthew 5:16).

But her name, meaning “God is light” is two fold.

This past season has been a challenging one for me, one in which I’ve battled the darkness that threatens to overwhelm in depression and suffocate the free, joy-filled life God has given me.

Many days were a battle to get through. It wasn’t all bad of course — so many days were normal and joy-filled and beautiful. But there were heavy days, too — days when the clouds rolled in thick and I’d cry on my bed or on the floor or locked up in the bathroom, overwhelmed, weary, defeated. Days where my mind felt attacked and the darkness would inch closer and closer, threatening to overwhelm. With every ounce of strength in me, I’d cling to Truth and cry out to Jesus.

As my kids laughed merrily and played full and free, I fought demons in my mind, wielding the sword of Truth, but wondering how bloodied and bruised I’d end up. I was warring in my mind for a freedom that seemed out of reach, even though it was already mine in Christ.

But God was so faithful. He always is.

our girls
I was walking through a particularly hard time and spent so many nights, mornings, and in-betweens crying out to God, asking Him to remember us, to intervene, to bring healing and hope. And one night He did that.

God gave me a dream. It was somewhat abstract, far-away feeling, but I remember it so vividly. The feelings, the images, the freedom.

God gave me a promise in that dream. He is the hope giver, and He was promising hope. He, who is the Healer, would come and heal!

On those dark days and in the fog, I clung to Jesus, inviting Him to shine His light over the darkness of my sin and fear and doubt, and I clung to that dream God gave me – that promise of hope.

When hope seemed impossible, the healing never coming, I’d hold up this promise, offering it right back to God as my sacrifice, my way of saying, I believe you. I trust you, no matter how long it takes. My hope is in You!

Repeatedly during this season, through Scripture, through prayer, through the encouragement of my husband and friends, and so often through the laughter of my children and their tender hugs and prayers, God would draw me out into light and hope and freedom.

There is no darkness too deep or too dark or too far for Him.

God is light, and in Him there is no darkness. His light dispelled the darkness I was fighting. Once again, He saved me. 


We prayed over this new baby, asking God what her name should be.

He led us to Eleanor Hope, and we pray that she will know and live the light and hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ. We pray that she will be a Light shiner and a true-Hope giver.


{ps — for all of you asking what her nickname will be – because just about everyone has asked!!! – for now, we will call her Eleanor.}

Eating Together: How to Establish Family Meal Times

Eating Together: How Busy Families can make meal time work for them #family #dinner #parenting
I’m an idealist. I have this picture in my head of how I want my family to look and the habits I want us to have. The trouble is, sometimes I’m so focused on that perfect picture, I become discouraged easily when our reality doesn’t line up with my desires. Family meals is one of those areas.

As a child, we rarely ate regular meals together. On special occasions or when I’d eat over at my grandparents house, I loved time around the table. I was enchanted by stories of long-past days when families started the day together at the breakfast table and ended it together at the dinner table. Even as a child, I knew that though our culture and calendars undermine the importance of family meal times, some day, my family would eat every meal together.

Now as an adult with a family of my own, I’m experiencing just how challenging it can be to protect family meal times! 

The challenge sometimes is a result of our busyness  — schedules conflict and make together time elusive. Sometimes it’s a result of exhaustion — how many days I feel too tired to cook and too weary to insist on everyone being together! Sometimes my biggest roadblock to family meal time is my own selfishness — because by the end of the day, I don’t want to talk to anyone and I’d rather the kids just watch a show so I can eat in quiet!

For you, there may be other disruptions, but I know how challenging it can be to protect and preserve family meal times! 


One thing that has helped me stay the course is to look at the benefits of family meals and why time together around the table is important to me. This list encourages me on those weary days when I wonder if the battle is worth the effort.

These are some of the other things that have helped me establish family meal times in our home.

Family Meals: HOW to eat together as a family

Pick a meal

Family meal time doesn’t have to be dinner. In our family, my husband works a job with a constantly changing schedule. From one week to another his work days, shift times, and days off change. We can’t count on dinner together every evening because many nights, he is not home for dinner!

My kids, however, are early risers, so in this season, breakfast is our best opportunity for eating together. No matter what time my husband’s shift, we are usually able to squeeze in at least some time together around the table.

Look at the schedules in your family. What meal works best for you?


Set a goal —

Can’t commit to seven days a week? Start with one meal a week or two! Mark your calendar and let the family know, then work together to preserve that one time every week as your family meal time. As you’re able, begin to build in another day each week.


Establish expectations

If you haven’t spent much time eating together as a family, make sure you are first aware of what your personal expectations are and then begin to communicate, model and teach those expectations. 

For example, are you okay with the kids getting up and down during the meal or do you expect them to sit at the table until being excused? What is your expectation for behavior? How long do you plan for the meal or conversation to last? Does everyone have to contribute to the conversation? How do we respond as a family to each person as they share their ideas, answers, and stories?

Family meal times are such great opportunities to teach manners and etiquette and honoring others! But you first need to understand your own expectations and communicate those in a fun and loving way to the rest of the family.


Make a Plan

Remember your expectations and make a plan for your family meal times.

What do you want from your meal time? More conversation? More time together?

If your expectation is to use family meal times to help deepen the conversations in your family, have a plan for how to do that. Maybe you will use a resource like this one to generate conversation.

Do you want to use your meal time for your family devotions or coincide with family game night? Is your purpose to teach life skills or to encourage honor in your family? Be intentional with the time you have. Pray and work at making it a meaningful time for the family.


Keep it Simple –

Focus on one or two goals and let the rest go. Otherwise you may end up overwhelmed and frustrated when things don’t come together just the way you want. I have to remind myself of this again and again because I’m an idealist, remember? I tend to expect everything to be perfect right away, but this time together is new for most of us. Getting where we want to be takes modeling, training, and consistency, but let’s not forget that the process is sometimes the most beautiful part of the journey. Let’s move together where we’re going, not always sprinting ahead of everyone else!


Blessings to you, Friend, as you seek to spend time together as a family!


Question for You:

Do you eat together as a family? How do you “make it happen” in your home?



Resources for You:

Around the Table: Why Eating Together as a Family is so important #family #dinner #kids #parenting

Conversation Starters for Families {a FREE printables!}
Click here for a free PDF copy of Conversation Starters your family can use for the month of July. To receive a new set of conversation starters each month {for free}, please subscribe to my newsletter.
{Just a note: The newsletter is different than the blog. If you’d like to receive these blog posts by e-mail, you can do that here.}

*Affiliate links are used in this post – at no cost to you, of course.

More – Pursuing My Daughter’s Heart

Pursuing the Heart of my Daughter
We have a baby coming any day now, Lord-willing, and I am in full nesting mode.

Coming on the heels of planning a double-birthday party and preparing for a 3,000 mile road trip with 3 kids, wrapping up a homeschool year and prepping for a month away from work — organization, purging, simplifying has been at the top of my list. 

But in all of my hustle and bustle and checking off tasks, I find myself stopping and wondering, seeing both behind and ahead.

I look at my now 6-year old, her legs growing longer and her ideas growing deeper, and I wonder where the past 6 years have gone, wonder if I’ve missed them in the sleepless nights of pregnancy and nursing and toddlers crawling into my bed. Was I too preoccupied to capture the wonder of everyday living? 


Of course it’s easy to look back and see how I could have done better – hindsight is 20/20. In the moment – the everyday living – wonder feels lost in days that feel like a tooth and nail cat fight, just clawing to get through: the busyness, the boredom, the one more game of Candy Land or if I have to tell you one more time. Some days the training feels endless and I wonder if I’ve come to the end of myself

But now she’s 6 and another baby coming and I don’t want anything to keep me from savoring the days I’m given with her. Because they feel shorter and already she needs me less, and one day soon she’ll be driving off with her friends, her electric smile spread wide across her beautiful face.

I want to love her well today.

How do I become so busy, so preoccupied, so distracted from her? Why do I major on the minors and hold her to a standard no 6-year old could attain? What causes me to so often veer away from love and camp out with expectation?

Organizing my house has been useful, but purging my heart is paramount.  Because I don’t want to miss these days, these opportunities, this girl.

Maybe that means not writing, not achieving, not pursuing so many other things. Or maybe it’s fewer activities and plans and playdates in the book. Because maybe loving her well today means pursuing her now, chasing the heart of my daughter and making more space for her to be her and us to grow.

Maybe the simplifying should be more than the toys and the clothes and the physical space of our home – maybe I need simplicity of heart and thought and cluttered schedule — more margin to allow my heart to be more full, more for her.





From the Journal -- words from the heart

Original photo of little girl: Mike Baird, Flickr Creative Commons, text all mine.

Why You Need a Family Vacation Too

Why You Need a Family Vacation
Is it just me or are vacations challenging to plan?

Maybe it’s the fact that we’ve been having babies every two years or the warnings from other well-meaning parents who remind us that vacations with young kids often leave us more tired than refreshed, but either way, going on a real family vacation hasn’t happened often for our growing family.

This year, however, it became a priority.

In January of this year, I poured out my heart to God and sought His guidance on what my priorities needed to be this year: where I needed to say yes more and where I needed to hold a firmer no.

Intentional time creating memories with my family was at the top of the list. As I looked at how to do this well, God impressed two things on my heart for my family for this year: every day memories and taking a family vacation.

So 3,000 miles, over 48 hrs of driving, 8 months pregnant, and 3 kids in tow, our family went on our first official family vacation last month!

Friends, I am living testimony to tell you that not only did we survive, we thrived! I can’t tell you what a blessing it was to have time away, together as a family. 

Here’s the hard reality: I knew we needed the time away as a family, but I am good at making excuses, and with vacation, there can be a lot of them:

  • we don’t have the time,
  • we don’t have the money,
  • it will be really hard.
  • Is it really worth it?

So I put it off. I kept making excuses. This family vacation was a step of faith for me. Because of work loads, time schedules, financial concerns, and a baby coming, I honestly didn’t know how we would be able to make it work, but I trusted and God provided.

While we were away, I was reminded of why getting away together is so important.


Why Family Vacation is so Important

1. Shared memories and experiences unite us. 

You and your family will have these memories forever. From pictures and souvenirs to sights and sounds and smells that jog our memories, you are creating shared moments with your family that will always be a part of each person’s life.

2. Leaving our everyday responsibilities refreshes us.

The commitments of work and school and extra activities can be overwhelming. Taking a break and having an extended amount of time away — even from the cooking and cleaning and folding laundry — is often just what we need in order to come home with renewed vigor, focus and purpose.

3. Uninterrupted family time refuels us.

Just about everything in our culture and our calendars seems to pull the family apart. Carving out space to be together as a family, uninterrupted by sports and schedules and familiar surroundings, gives us an opportunity connect again, enjoy each other’s company, and take our relationships to a deeper level — we gain the fuel we need to keep going!


I know a vacation isn’t possible for everyone, and some of you are dreaming and praying and brainstorming how to make a vacation possible for your family. Please know that I am praying with you, Friend. I have been there and know that this year’s trip was a gift of God. I also want to encourage you, though, that creating memories as a family is so much more than just a vacation. 

Thinking back to some of my favorite memories as a kid, most were in the everyday rhythm and routine of living — lazy summers at my grandparent’s pool, catching fireflies in the evening, camping out in the backyard — those things that don’t require a lot of time or money or even effort. Yet now as a parent, it’s easy to forget how powerful those everyday memories can be. I’m writing about that over at For the Family today. Click over to get some great ideas of how we’re working on everyday family memories in our home.

Unforgettable Simple Summer JPEG


Don’t Forget – We’re jumping into our Back to the Basics: Practical Biblical Parenting series this week! Click the image below for more info:

Back to the Basics: Practical Biblical Parenting Support