Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Man Who Invented Christmas (movie trailer)

I know, I know. It's not even Halloween; how can I be talking about Christmas? Well, simply put, I heard about a fabulous movie coming out called "The Man Who Invented Christmas." 
image via Grace Hill Media

I can't say I agree with the title of the movie (Christmas is really about Christ's birth) but I really enjoy most any re-telling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" (Kermit the Frog, Mickey Mouse, even Jim Carrey) and this movie is based on the true story of Dickens writing that very book! Starring Christopher Plummer (Captain Von Trapp from "The Sound of Music," the Narrator in the Madeline tv series, and the voice of Charles Muntz from "Up"), "The Man Who Invented Christmas" comes out Friday, November 22 - just in time for Christmas (and the birthday of both my sister and a dear friend).

Reading about how Charles Dickens mixed real life inspirations with his vivid imagination reminds me very much of "Finding Neverland" with Johnny Depp about playwright J.M. Barrie's creation of "Peter Pan." I'm not sure if this movie will entail as much imagination as "Finding Neverland," but the trailer makes it look excellent. You can see for yourself below.

Disclaimer: I received this information in return for my post. I received no other compensation.

Monday, August 14, 2017

When Parenting Isn't Perfect by Jim Daly (book review)

This parenting gig is hard. Can I get an "amen"? I read almost any parenting book (reputable) I can get my hands on, but I really appreciate the ones from people I trust. Jim Daly, President and CEO of Focus on the Family, is one of those people I trust. I listen to the Focus on the Family podcast almost daily (when I workout) and I love hearing Jim's stories about his boys and his and his wife's parenting. They seem like people we could just hang out with.

I have most of "When Parenting Isn't Perfect" by Jim Daly highlighted and notes in the sidebars. I had my heart opened to much of my parenting faults - looking for achievement, not character. How often do I get so angry with my boys when they misbehave in the grocery store (every time) instead of realizing they are little boys running a super boring errand and are trying to entertain themselves instead of thinking they are being rude - that's not their heart intent at all! They may not be thinking of others around them (including their mom) but not with bad intent. They aren't necessarily being selfish but just don't really have the immaturity to think outside of themselves all the time. Daly says, "We've somehow convinced ourselves that how we present ourselves outwardly, how close we can appear to approach perfection, is far more important than what's really going on. That's pretty rich, considering that Jesus taught us exactly the opposite."

via BookLook
I have found motherhood to be terribly difficult for me, not a "natural" thing at all (like breastfeeding). It is wonderful but I have to work SO hard. I have wanted to quit many times, but Jesus always pulls me back to my family. Daly says it well, "I think children can make us better people too. They're so needy, which forces us to think of them before ourselves. They're so demanding which makes us consider limits, both on them and us. They teach us patience. Self-control. The art of forgiveness. The beauty of unconditional love. Or at least that's how it's supposed to work. I think that's how God designed it to work. Unfortunately, our children don't always bring out the best in us. Sometimes they bring out the perfectionist in us. And that's a problem."

"God doesn't expect perfection from our families. And neither should we." But so often I do, don't you? Please say I'm not alone in this! I love my kids...but I think I've turned my thoughts of perfection into an idol of perfection (pg 41 of the book). I need to put aside that idol and embrace the beautiful mess of a family that my family is, that I am.
I've been learning to be present, in their worlds (not my world of cleaning and cooking and dinking around on Facebook), laughing with them (we enjoy America's Funniest Videos together, knock knock jokes, and laughing when faces get frozen in weird positions on "pause"), to actually practice the Golden Rule (how can I expect them to talk to me with respect if I talk so rudely to them sometimes?), to be consistent (rather than letting my emotions dictate), to be their role model (I have a very observant little girl who picks up on words...need to watch my tongue), to use my time wisely (which is why I write this during nap time), and to talk even when it's difficult (using kind words, not arguments or yelling).
my beautiful lounging kids
Daly talked about yelling, too. What do I expect to accomplish by yelling at my kids? It does not bring them closer to Jesus or better behavior. "But many of our deepest, most joyous moments need no words at all. Language is unnecessary. In fact, it's insufficient. By contrast, the things that tend to tear down our families bit by bit, the things that break us, overflow with words. 'You're a failure.' 'Why can't you behave?' When we look for perfection, we seek it through words. We instruct. We demand. We yell. We accuse. Even when we clam up, when we give our spouse or our children the silent treatment, our brains continue to work overtime, formulating our grievances, tabulating how we've been wronged...But when we look back at our most precious many are lectures or diatribes? How many involve someone telling someone else how badly they're failing?
Not many, I imagine. In fact, I bet that lectures - ones we've given, ones we've received - often are the very things we'd most like to forget."

my baby birds
Are my children going to be better people, closer to Jesus because of my lectures? Does my yelling want them to play at our house or run far away? One of my kids told me the other day after a rough patch that they didn't feel like I liked them when I yelled at them. Hopefully by using the tools I've learned from "When Parenting Isn't Perfect" and the other hundreds of parenting books (including my favorite, the Bible!), I can grow into a better mommy (and I cannot grow myself, I know God makes all things new). One day, moment by moment. And hopefully, you can too.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own. Others' opinions may differ.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Good vs. Evil: what horror movies can teach us

I have seen my fair share of horror movies...but not for several years. They give me the creeps and nightmares. I am already a worst-case-scenario kind of a thinker so that just makes things worse, so I try to avoid them. I have been intrigued by a few the last several years, including Annabelle: Creation, which releases August 11, 2017.

The synopsis, without giving too much away (nothing you can't get from the trailer, which I couldn't even watch all of), is about parents who lose their little girl in a horrible tragedy. In their grief, they try to bring her back. This movie portrays possession of a doll and that's about all I can tell you because the trailer creeped me out.

As Christians I think we tend to stay away from horror movies, but in doing so, sometimes we stay away from their messages. Messages such as

-evil is real! There is a spiritual battle going on all around us! I don't pretend to understand it completely but I know it's real. I've felt the battle going on inside myself during a battle with depression.
-possession is real! We may not see it much here in our Western culture but it's real and it happens. We must be careful not to open doors to spiritual attack such as Ouija boards, tarot cards.
-grief is real! It's so hard when you lose a child or go through a tragedy. We are weak in those times and while we hope our faith is strong enough to sustain us, we need to be sure to be with a body of Jesus followers to help us through those times. It's hard to be that vulnerable with people but their prayers can uplift you and hold you accountable.
-prayer is real! Sometimes we act like God is a genie, waiting to do our will, but prayer really does work. Not always in the ways we want it to, but His will be done.

I have also included some features from Grace Hill Media in promoting the lessons in this film. I don't want to promote the film itself for my sake, but feel free to watch it if you can handle it!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Bible Sleuth: New Testament, text by Vanessa Carroll, illustrated by Jose Perez Montero (book review)

Where's Waldo? (first published in the U.K. as Where's Wally?) has been around since 1986 (so have I!). I remember looking at the books growing up, trying to find that elusive red and white striped guy with glasses. Now my children can have that same hunt while learning more about the Bible with Bible Sleuth: New Testament, illustrated by Jose Perez Montero (text by Vanessa Carroll).
image via Amazon
The main character in this is Mike, a Bible-loving time traveler. He travels back to biblical times, sharing stories like The Birth of Jesus, The Wedding at Cana, Zaccheus the Tax Collector, Stephen, all the way to Revelation's A Crowd of People Praising.

While not as vibrantly colored as a Where's Waldo? book, Bible Sleuth is just as tricky. Some of the people or items in the sidebars are difficult to find in pictures.

My big boys (ages 8 and 10) have enjoyed looking through this book from time to time, but it's not on their top 10 list of most read books (most things not superhero related aren't). Most of the stories in Bible Sleuth are familiar, although not all to my children (who, to be honest, are not really in love with God's Word...yet but who regularly get the Bible read to them).

This is definitely a Bible supplement, as kids are not going to gain a wealth of knowledge about the Bible from the paragraph explaining each scene. However, I think these are good chunks of stories for kids to know and learn and read.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Links in this post link to Amazon Smile and help support Emmaus Biblical Seminary in Haiti.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A Wrinkle In Time (trailer)

"A Wrinkle in Time" is a beloved book by Madeleine L'Engle and Disney is coming out with a new film starring Reese Witherspoon, Chris Pine, Mindy Kaling, Oprah, and newcomer Storm Reid as "Meg Murry." 

A Wrinkle In Time opens in US theaters March 9, 2018.

The film, which is an epic adventure based on Madeleine L’Engle’s timeless classic which takes audiences across dimensions of time and space, examining the nature of darkness versus light and ultimately, the triumph of love.

Directed by Ava DuVernay from a screenplay by Jennifer Lee based upon the beloved novel by Madeleine L’Engle, “A Wrinkle in Time” is produced by Jim Whitaker and Catherine Hand with Doug Merrifield serving as executive producer. 

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

faith and fireworks

I love celebrating the 4th of July - always have. I remember so many years of going to the local Independence Day parade, their firework show, and fireworks at my Grandma's house.

Tonight the firework show brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the past. I miss my Grandma (not because she's passed away but I just don't see her often). I am so thankful for technology that allows me to talk to her whenever I want (which is never often enough) and that in a few weeks I will get to see her.
image via 
The same cannot be said of God. I do not have the technology to physically see Him. I do long to see Him and will some day. But for now, I am learning to practice the presence of God. That sounds kind of hokey, doesn't it? How does one practice that practically?

For me, it's very simple. It comes down to being conscience of God every second of every day. I'll be the first to tell you that I'm very bad at this! I am just learning to do this, though. Learning the actual process of never ceasing my prayers.

I came upon this practice without knowing it was a practice. I just have struggles with sin (who doesn't?) that were taking my mind captive. I would ruminate on a conversation or my mind would wander to "what if" conversations (that are always more dramatic than they actually would be). It's awful how much this happens, but it's just one of those things I struggle to overcome. This practice made me realize it really was a sin because it often was about me people pleasing and caring about what others thought of me. As a Jesus follower, my thoughts should be of Him and what He thinks of me - and He loves me enough to have died to rescue me! Not that I'm great, but I am great through Him, if that makes sense.

So I thought that when I catch myself having these false conversations or ruminating over past conversations, I would think of God and talk to Him and pray through it. I would think about what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, or praiseworthy - mostly of Him. And then I listened to a podcast who mentioned Brother Lawrence who wrote a book "Practicing the Presence of God" (which really he didn't intend to write but it is his writing and about him).

I had only just begun the book when, on Sunday, our pastor mentioned this practice of being in the presence of God. It's a new idea to me, really. A constant state of being in God's presence (or that's the ideal, at least). In "Practicing the Presence of God," Brother Lawrence tells other monks about how he does this practice - he never ceases praying; he is always in conversation with God and that love he has for God overflows to make him peaceful and kind, even through suffering and kitchen duty.

It's awesome to me when God brings something to my mind and then I realize it's something of an old practice. I'm so thankful for the opportunity afforded to me by Jesus Christ's death and resurrection that we know longer need a mediator, but that Christ is our mediator. And so I can practice the presence of God continually.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Jesus Loves Me: A Sing-Along Book illustrated by Gynux (children's book review)

"Jesus loves me
This I know
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong;
They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so."

This is one of my daughter's favorite songs to sign along with (along with The Itsy Bitsy Spider and The Wheels on the Bus). She doesn't quite sing yet but will sing "me" at the end of the chorus in this song. It's pretty much as sweet as it sounds! I adore toddlers singing and loving music.
image via BookLook
I was really excited to see a book with this song in it! It's really a foundational song in a child's spiritual walk. Jesus loves me! Jesus loves you! That's it, people! He loves us! Amazing! We try to say this is just a song for toddlers but it's a song for us all. I believe the song "I Wanna Go Back" by David Dunn proves that.

However, this book was a big disappointment to me. I'm not sure quite what I was expecting because I saw the cover with its raccoon, weasel (??), and rabbit with their little instruments on the cover. That's really the whole book. These animals are gathering and playing instruments and singing as they walk along to listen to an elk or deer or something presumably tell them that Jesus loves them. Then they have a picnic, bonfire, and go home. It's really shallow as far as the art goes, even for a children's book. Even animals reading a Bible would have been great.

The book did include a second verse I was unaware of:

"Jesus loves me still today,
walking with me on my way.
Wanting as a friend to give
light and love to all who live."

I really love that. It continues on that Jesus is with us which is so important to understand. And I know that it's important, even still for me as an adult, to remember that He is with me.

I will continue to read this book to my little girl, but with a grain of salt. I want her to know that following Christ is not a Disney movie with animals talking and birds chirping and such. It's real hardship and dying to self. But it's amazing because He loves us and won't leave us.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own even if I'm a bit picky about books. 

And Still She Laughs: Defiant Joy in the Depths of Suffering by Kate Merrick (book review)

I haven't written anything personal on my blog really since December 2016. It's been nothing but reviews and things of that nature - nothing wrong with that, of course (or I wouldn't be writing this), but I'd like to explain why.

I have been lost in a sea that I had only vaguely known prior to this past season of life. The sea of depression. It's weird to even write that, to be honest. I think I had some postpartum depression after my second son, Squirt, was born in 2009 but I started running after that. I think the endorphins honestly helped me get out of that fog.

Fast forward a few years. I injured my foot in 2013 and I'm still not sure if it's healed properly. My running hasn't been the same since, so less endorphins. I believe that has left me vulnerable emotionally. In 2015 we welcomed our sweet Princess into our lives but that first year of her life was marred by the epilepsy of my oldest son, Moose. He had brain surgery last summer, 2016, to remove ablasia cells that were causing his seizures. In that time period, I think things just built up and up and up and up. People prayed and helped and kept us feeling the love of God - being the hands and feet of Christ.

Afterward, it was like my guard was let down and the enemy kicked me hard. I have been struggling through this - talking to my husband and best friends, medication, and getting back to exercise/running - for a better part of a year. I believe that shows that people can look fine from the outside but you never know where their hearts are hurting. I'm doing well most days but I must keep my eyes focused on the Lord. In Kate Merrick's book "And Still She Laughs," she writes, "Perspective is a giver. Comparison takes. Perspective is generous. Comparison pares down the loveliness of your life until it appears a thin shred of its former glory. Perspective carries us through life laughing. Comparison evokes cursing and frowns and grumbling." How true and timely for me to read this book.

I have found myself these past few weeks grumbling and complaining (and yelling and crying). I wanted to read "And Still She Laughs" because I heard Kate Merrick and her husband, Britt, speak at the IF:gathering this year. I wasn't sure what I would get out of her book, never having lost a child like she has lost her Daisy to cancer. But God knew I needed to read this and so plopped it in my hands.

Reading is like oxygen to me but I've found these past few years that it's taken more motivation for me to finish books (you wouldn't guess that when you see I read 40+ books last year). I've numbed myself a lot while also trying so hard to live up to expectations (mostly my own) and to be there for my children (one of whom is growing like a weed...make that three of them, but one is still learning much of this world, one is better but has struggled in this season with anxiety, and one who is a wild card much of the time...a box of chocolates, if you will).

"Nothing stays the same. Nothing. Children grow up and people change. Church communities ebb and flow; hopes rise and fall. Marriages grow and weaken; some break up. ... For Pete's sake, even my rear end has changed, traveled south - and she's not coming back up where she belongs anytime soon, if ever.
So I drink in truth. I drink in the only life that is sure, the very Word of God. What was that he said? Remind me, for I can't see through the muddle of tears, the feeling of rejection, the shaking in fear.
If I idolize a certain season of life, I will drown. I must learn to extract the joy from each and every season, or I will experience a different kind of death. I can't life in the past; I can't live in a place of missing the good old days. I need to agree with Jesus that, while things can be different or even disappointing, there is still abundant life for me to grab hold of."

Nothing has pulled me from the muck and mire of despair, loneliness, and depression quite like the Lord has. From music about Him, to books by authors who love Him, to friends and church family who speak truth into my life, and especially from His actual Word, the Bible - that's been the real life giver.

I appreciate Kate's book for its honesty, beautiful writing, and how she wove her story and the stories of Hagar, Sarah, and mother Mary around the hardship, through the deep cracks that were welded together in the way of kintsugi from the Lord, and into the deep faith in Christ that sustained them and sustains her and sustains me. She also gives a fresh perspective on the Proverbs 31 woman we all love to hate. Really! I don't hate her anymore!

If you need to read something that speaks truth in love without brushing aside the hardships of life, this book is for you. If you need some perspective to see how life is still beautiful even in the darkness, this book is for you. If you need to laugh, this book is for you (she's awfully funny).

Disclaimer: thanks to BookLook and Tommy Nelson Publishing for allowing me to read this book. I received the book in exchange for my review. All opinions are my own even if you disagree with them. 

The Frightening Philippi Jail by Gary Bower (children's book review)

Awhile back I wrote a review on "The Beautiful Garden of Eden." My older boys (7 and 9) really enjoy reading that book and I enjoy reading it to my daughter (almost 2) because of the lilting, poetical way it's written.
image via Tyndale Blog Network
I thought "The Frightening Philippi Jail" by Gary Bower would give my big boys a good visual for them for this Bible story. Honestly, we haven't talked a whole lot about the apostles in our home; we have mostly focused on Jesus. I think this is a good starting point.

I love the writing of this book. It's the same lyrical type of writing based on "The House That Jack Built." It just flies off the tongue so well, so don't miss reading this aloud! Even encourage your little readers to do so.

The pictures in this one are a little more drab - brown color palette with some orange and red. But they are in jail back in the day, so who says it was colorful? Just comparing it to "The Beautiful Garden of Eden," visually a person would be more drawn to the Eden book. It's just lovelier in color; although the artistry in "The Frightening Philippi Jail" is great, too.

I would highly encourage Sunday school classes or story time readers to consider these books. They are very captivating for young and older kids alike.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own although they may differ from others' opinions. Some links are affiliate links with Amazon Smile which will help support my choice of charitable organizations which is Emmaus Biblical Seminary in Haiti which trains Haitians to spread the word of God to their nation.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Zip It: The Keep It Shut 40-Day Challenge by Karen Ehman (book review)

I didn't get a chance to read Karen Ehman's Keep It Shut (although I should), but I fell in love with her reading her "Listen Love Repeat" book about loving others. When I had the opportunity to read "Zip It," the 40-Day Challenge that goes along with Keep It Shut, I jumped! Well, I read.

Ehman is so personal in this challenge/devotional. She shares her struggles, her successes; something I think we need to do more for one another. Share our struggles so none of us know we're alone but then fight the good fight together so we know we can be successful with Christ in this struggle to tame the tongue.

Each day starts with a Bible verse pertaining to the tongue or words, followed by a devotional. The day ends with "Today's Takeaways" which are snippets that summarize the story's lesson. "Lesson for the Lips" is next, which is the part that makes this a challenge rather than just a devotional. There's action in these lessons. This is the deed part of our faith, our faith in action! A prayer closes each day, drawing you closer to the Lord through your struggle and success.

Although I've made it through this book and challenge, I know Zip It will be one I continually go to for inspiration and conviction. Ehman has allowed the Holy Spirit to fill the pages of these books and go out into the world to make disciples of the Lord...calmer, gentler, wiser disciples.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others' opinions may differ from my own.

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