Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Greater (movie review)

Sports movies are some of my favorite ones; even better if they are underdog stories! "Greater" is just that - a true underdog story about Brandon Bulsworth who could be called the greatest walk-on in the history of college football.
The movie follows Bulsworth from the time he's a kid. His mother is raising he and his brother (who is quite a bit older; old enough to be mistaken for his dad, laughably). His brother gives him a kick in the pants when Brandon claims he wants to play for the Arkansas Razorbacks. Brandon was a heavy kid so no one really thought it would happen.

However, Brandon worked as hard as he could and made it. Walked on the team and caught the attention of his coach who put some amazing work into this kid to help him become better. I love when coaches look at the heart of a player more than ability.

This really is an amazing story, an amazing movie - full of inspiration and encouragement. Things that seem impossible become possible.

The reason I love inspirational, underdog movies is because I feel like my son is an underdog. Autism and epilepsy have made his whole life an uphill battle. Speech therapy since he was two, multiple doctor appointments with multiple specialists, watching his brother surpass him socially, having meltdowns and sensory issues and brain surgery. It's been an interesting journey but I am so thankful to know him. He brings such joy to our lives and to many other people's lives. He is the underdog and I think that God has greater things in mind for this child than even I can imagine.

I don't always see this perspective and I get fearful, as I'm sure Brandon's mom felt when he moved away to college not really financially knowing if it was going to work, but I will work my tail off to help my son, just as Brandon's mom did (you have to see the movie; you'll love her!). I know my son works hard, always has. He is in a new situation this year in 4th grade that will leave him more independent than ever before. I'm excited for this and know it will be wonderful, but I know it will take a lot of work from him and me to make it work. I can't wait to see how it will all continue to play out. Gotta love the cliffhangers from underdog movies, too, right?

GREATER is an inspirational movie based on the life of Brandon Burlsworth that reminds us that any dream is possible. GREATER releases in theaters this August 26.

Disclaimer: I received a screener of this movie to preview in order to write an honest review. I will also receive a Walmart gift card of $25 for including an inspirational post and another to give to a person of inspiration in my life. Others' opinions about the movie may differ from my own.

Hillsong Let Hope Rise Original Motion Picture Soundtrack

Hillsong United has just released a new CD "Let Hope Rise: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". I wanted to share some more information with you:

image via blogspot
Nashville, Tenn. (August 12, 2016) - Hillsong UNITED’s 2013 release of Zion garnered RIAA Gold Certification, totaling more than 500K in sales. Of the songs found on Zion is “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” which spent a record breaking 45 weeks at No. 1 on Billboard’s Hot Christian Songs Chart and was the first Christian song to hit Billboard’s Hot 100 Chart. Most recently, the platinum selling song was honored with a 2016 Billboard Music Award for “Top Christian Song.”

In July, Hillsong UNITED surprised fans by releasing 
Of Dirt And Grace - Live From The Land, a LIVE visual take on songs from their best selling EMPIRES recorded and filmed at Biblically historical locations throughout Israel. Upon its release, the digital album topped the Soundscan Praise & Worship Chart, hitting No. 2 on the Billboard Contemporary Christian Chart, No. 2 on Soundscan Christian/Gospel Digital Album Chart and top 40 on the Billboard Top 200. Hillsong UNITED will wrap the final leg of their U.S. EMPIRES Tour this week at Chicago’s United Center.Hillsong – Let Hope Rise – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack will street on August 12 in advance of the upcoming film. Included in the album are some of the most beloved hits from the ministry to date like “Touch The Sky,” “Mighty To Save,” “Hosanna” and “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail).” The 11 track project features performances from Hillsong UNITED as well as Hillsong Worship and Hillsong Young & Free. The movie Hillsong LET HOPE RISE will release on Sept. 16 in partnership with Pureflix. The film follows Hillsong UNITED as they record an album and explores the history of Hillsong, a 30-year journey from a church in the Sydney suburbs to an international ministry.
Hillsong – Let Hope Rise – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack Track Listing:
With Everything
Touch The Sky
Mighty To Save
Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)
This I Believe (The Creed)
Broken Vessels (Amazing Grace)
Break Free
The Stand

About Hillsong UNITED:

The heart of UNITED is to create music that reveals the truth of who Jesus is. In studio and out of the studio, on tour or at home, Hillsong UNITED is committed to writing songs that speak truth, create a unique sound, connects with churches, individuals and ultimately connects people everywhere with God. Fronted by worship leaders Taya Smith, Joel Houston, Jad Gillies, JD and Matt Crocker, the team is an evolving collaboration of pastors, worship leaders, musicians and songwriters -- all intentional about giving voice to a generation passionate about God. Everything UNITED does, whether it be from recording or writing songs, to playing them in front of people and all that goes with that, it’s an expression of a really extraordinary God doing what only He can do through really ordinary people who love Him, want to serve Him and to build His Church. To simply serve God and allow Him to do what only He can do has always been the team’s desire.
About Hillsong Church:
In August 1983, Brian and Bobbie Houston founded the Hills Christian Life Centre in the Hills District of Sydney, Australia. It has grown from a congregation of 45 to what is said to be the largest local church in Australian history. It has now expanded to be a global church with local expressions in significant cities; with churches in Australia, London, New York, Los Angeles, Paris, Cape Town, Stockholm, Germany, Kiev, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Phoenix. Each week, tens of thousands of people across the globe call Hillsong Church ‘home’ and the reach, impact and influence of this local congregation is seen across many nations.

Get Connected with Hillsong UNITED:
Snapchat - Hillsong.UNITED

Little Bible Heroes: Miriam and Daniel by Victoria Kovacs (children's book review)

I love children's Bibles but I like to read stories, too. The "Little Bible Heroes: Daniel and Miriam" (it's a flip book - one book per side) by Victoria Kovacs is a wonderful choice.

A lot of children's Bibles skirt around hard issues of the Bible. For instance, in the story of Moses, some don't mention why Moses' mother sent him down the river. However, "Little Bible Heroes: Miriam" says "the ruler of Egypt is an evil pharaoh who orders all the Hebrew baby boys to be killed." And "Little Bible Heroes: Daniel" says "Later, the king has terrible dreams. He orders all the wise men put to death because they can't tell him what he dreamed and what the dreams mean." This world is a place with evil and sin in it and I think it's healthy to not hide it. A friend said it caused her some major faith doubt when she was older and realized that the story of Noah's Ark wasn't just animals coming in two by two all cutesy but included the majority of the world dying in a flood. Now that flood was probably terribly scary and God's wrath is scary but we must understand (and teach our children) that his wrath comes about because His holiness cannot be near sin. I just believe it's good to teach our kids all about God, not just the parts that warm our hearts like Christ coming to save us (so that our sin didn't interfere with us reconciling with God).

The illustrations in this book are CUTE. David Ryley is the illustrator in both stories and they just look friendly. Even old man Daniel looks adorable. Kids will be attracted to these illustrations.

There is a Parent Connection portion after each book. It has a verse straight from the Bible to connect this from a story to real life. There are then two Think questions - "Is it hard to obey God when others tell you not to?" and "How was Miriam brave? When have you been brave?" for example. It's important for children to not just passively read stories but to connect with them. And it ends with another verse from Scripture (not specifically from the story) to help the kiddos dig deeper into God's Word.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may have different opinions.

Young and Beardless winner

Alaina Mooney - you are the winner of a copy of Young and Beardless by John Luke Robertson. I sent you an email yesterday so I just need you to email me back with your address and I'll mail it out.

Disclaimer: I wait 48 hours to hear back from a winner and then I choose a new one. Since Alaina was the only entrant, I would re-open the giveaway.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Young and Beardless by John Luke Robertson (book review & GIVEAWAY)

Aside from political support, I really like the Robertson family of the Duck Dynasty empire. They seem like real people who really love Jesus. This is not just true of the parents or grandparents, but of the younger generation including John Luke Robertson, author of "Young and Beardless: The Search for God, Purpose, and a Meaningful Life."

Having been a fan of the television show, "Duck Dynasty," for several years, I'm well aware of John Luke and his new marriage and charisma. Have you seen the episode where he gets his wisdom teeth out? Hilarious. Anyway, back to his book, John Luke provides young readers (I believe this is more specified toward young men) a guide into how he has come to where he is in his life - not simply relying on the faith and fortune of his family, but pursuing his own relationship with Christ and business pursuits along with his wife, Mary Kate.

One of my favorite parts of this book is when John Luke talks about his spiritual toolbox. He has "notes on almost every sermon I have ever heard, notes on almost every book I have ever read, prayers I have prayed, sayings I have heard, thoughts I've had, letters of encouragement from others, and dreams I want to see become reality. Everything." Perhaps it is because I am a pack rat like that. I keep journals. I finally got rid of my 4th grade-high school journals before my wedding because I was a different person back there, but I keep journals now since then. I keep it as a diary, sermon note place, prayer place and I like to keep sayings, too. Mine is a condensed version of John Luke's, I suppose.  He uses his toolbox to "remind me of who I am and who God wants me to be."

image via BookLook
Another aspect of this book I enjoyed was at the end of each chapter when John Luke shared a book that changed his life. Books like "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens" by Sean Covey, "The Hobbit" by J.R.R. Tolkien, "Love Does" by Bob Goff (my favorite), "Outliers" by Malcolm Gladwell, and "Oh, the Places You'll Go" by Dr. Seuss. I love books and, while I've read some of them, I now have a new reading list (although you will not find the Rob Bell book on my booklist).

The content of the writing was good, although written for a younger crowd. I liked the way the book was divided; Who I Am?, Where Am I Going?, and What Am I Doing? - such important questions for people to ask of themselves. My favorite chapter was "Rebelling" because he wasn't talking about normal teenage rebellion, but not doing the same things everyone else is doing. Being an atypical teenager, rebelling against the status quo. That's what I'd like for my children. I read a quote that said, "why fit in when you were meant to stand out" and it really resonated with me. As I age, I don't want to be like everyone else (totally against my natural instinct though); I want to be who God made me to be, who is as unique as the next person.

 You can win your own copy of "Young and Beardless" by John Luke Robertson! I have one (1) copy to send to the winner. Please comment below (one entry per person) about who you're voting for in the presidential election - JUST KIDDING. Please comment with your favorite book (include an email address I can contact you at in case of your winning).

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may or may not have the same opinions. Giveaway is open to everyone in the continental US 18 and over (void where prohibited). Giveaway will close at 11:59pm on August 18, 2016. 

Raising the Perfectly Imperfect Child by Boris Vujicic (book review)

If you're unfamiliar with Nick Vujicic, then please check out his website, Life Without Limbs, before proceeding. Nick Vujicic was born without limbs - no arms, no legs, and two feet (one bigger, one smaller). His father, Boris Vujicic wrote "Raising the Perfectly Imperfect Parent" to inspire and encourage parents raising special needs children.

When his wife gave birth to Nick, they were unprepared to raise a child without limbs. However, through grief and uncertainty and a great faith in Jesus Christ, they managed to raise Nick - and his siblings - with great faith. Nick has become a very famous speaker, sharing encouragement and the light of Christ with so many people, especially those with special needs in need of inspiration.

I really enjoyed how brutally honest Boris was in his book. He and his wife actually contemplated whether they could care for Nick and, so considered putting him up for adoption. They eventually came to the conclusion that God would provide what they needed to raise their son. Most people would sweep that information under the mat, but I think it's important for those with special needs to know they aren't alone in the concern that they wouldn't be enough as a parent. I've often thought I am over my head when it comes to parenting (my special needs kiddo or my other kids)! He also spoke of Nick's attempted suicide and depression which must be a terribly hard thing for a parent to re-hash.

One thing I had highlighted in the book was this: "It is important to always keep open the lines of conversation with children and to actively engage with them as often as possible to get a read on their emotional lives. It's often said that you should listen even to the unimportant things they have to say so that they'll come to you with the truly important things later." I take flack sometimes for knowing so much about Star Wars and superheroes. This is precisely the reason I do. I listen to my children and take an interest in their interests. I hope this leads us to a connection, a relationship that will go beyond their interests into more important things as they grow up.

There isn't just encouragement in this book but also practical advice on being an advocate for your child. When you have a special needs kid, they often have therapies and medical needs - thus many appointments. Boris recommends keeping "detailed notes, medical records, and time lines or Nick's treatments, prescription drugs, allergies, illnesses, medical procedures, and all other medical matters. You can't rely on your physician to keep these records for you because records can be lost or destroyed." So true! It's important for parents to do their research on treatments, doctors, and other medical things. I've had to learn a lot about autism and epilepsy and sort through fact and fiction. It was interesting to read about how Nick's mom, a nurse by trade (her name is Dushka), had to really stand up for her son in a medical procedure. Without limbs, Nick overheats very easily and so during an operation, the doctors and nurses didn't listen to his mom and he overheated underneath those bright lights in the operating room. She made very sure to be more forceful during his next procedure to protect her son. No one knows your child better than you; be an advocate.

This was just an enjoyable read because I've seen what a wonderful life Nick Vujicic has lead. He loves the Lord, has a terrific wife and children - and those are things you wouldn't necessarily have believed at the start of his life. I think it's a good testimony to his parents.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may or may not share my opinion. 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Better Together by Jill Savage with Anne McClane (book review)

My MOMS (Mothers on a Mission) group is gearing up and I feel like "Better Together" by Jill Savage with Anne McClane should be our theme book. There are so many good things about this book, but I think just the overall message is my favorite: "Because You're Not Meant to Mom Alone."

Motherhood can be a really lonely time for so many moms. I remember when my boys were very small and we lived in communities that just weren't friendly. Not that they were mean but just isolating and lonely. I feel so blessed to be raising them in a community where there are more chances at relationship for me, but I still feel isolated at times (especially with it being summer and I have a baby who naps most of the day).

image via
Jill Savage and her daughter Anne McClane wrote this book together, and one of the opening questions is "Why are Mom Friends so Important?" I wish I could read this at my church to encourage women to come to our MOMS group no matter their parenting stage. It feels like so many women think a group like this is not for them when they don't have preschoolers, but I believe a mom group (whether MOPS or Moms in Prayer or a freezer meal group or anything else) is important for all moms because "A century ago, extended family often formed a woman's natural mothering community. While quilting with aunts and sisters-in-law, marriage wisdom passed along. While cooking with your mom and grandmother, parenting knowledge was shared. While scrubbing clothes with sisters and friends, homemaking tips were discussed. If a mom was sick, her community helped care for her kids. When a new baby was born, the village fed and cared for the new mom and her family. When there was a big project to accomplish, her tribe of mothers pulled together to help.

  Today, many of us live away from our moms, aunts, sisters, and in-laws. Families are more independent in carrying out their household responsibilities. Even if a mom lives near her family, many older women are now in the workforce and just don't have the time or the opportunity to be together  in the day to day - which is what it takes for regular interaction and natural conversation to happen.

 Because our mothering community is no longer formed naturally within extended family relationships, we have to pursue, discover, and assemble it ourselves. We have to recognize the value of it and make it a priority in our lives because we're stronger, wiser, and even healthier when we have a mom community around us."

 The book goes on to explain the benefits of friendship: connection, a sense of belonging, the ability to give, the ability to receive, sounding board, wisdom and experiences of others, marital health, spiritual health, emotional health, and physical health. It's just so helpful to know we're not alone, right?

Savage goes on to explain how to find friends, how your friends don't have to be mirror images of you, ideas on how to get together (once-a-month cooking, housework together - my favorite, kid exchanges, craft nights, or Christmas present wrapping, exchange parties, block parties, exercising together, etc). I personally love the idea of cleaning together. Anyone want to come help me fold laundry? I'll help you with yours!

 One of my favorite chapters is about helping others. The best advice I think I've ever been given is to allow people to bless you. If you say no to someone's help (whether a meal or cleaning house or money), then you are not allowing them the chance to bless you. They may need to do that. Just the other day I made a meal for someone and I NEEDED to do that. I needed to think about someone other than myself. Too often we are too prideful or fearful or something to accept help. Too often we are too busy or fearful or whatever to offer help. We're afraid of "owing" someone or failing (or seeming to fail). It is so important of us to put ourselves aside to help and accept help at different seasons in our lives. This past year with a new baby and a son's brain surgery, we've had to accept a lot of help. We so appreciate the people in our lives who were willing to step up to offer childcare, money, a meal, an encouraging note, prayers. I've learned to say yes to help and I'm learning to offer help in areas I can help.

 Next time someone is in need of help, "rather than saying, 'Let me know if you need anything,' try one of these offers:
 - I have next Thursday available; can I take your kids for a few hours?
 - I'd like to come clean your house for you; can I come do that on Tuesday?
 - I'd like to bring you dinner; will tomorrow night work?
 - I have two hours on Tuesday evening free. What needs to be done that is bugging you that I can do for you?
 - I'm headed to the store. Is there anything I can pick up for you?
 - I'm running some errands this afternoon. Can I drop by for a thirty-minute visit?
 - Here's a gift card and delivery menu - dinner's on us tonight."
Does that make it seem so much more manageable? And offering something specific takes the pressure off of the person you're helping to come up with something for you.

 At the end of each chapter in "Better Together," there are sections with Anne's perspective and Friendship Assignments. Nothing hard but just ideas to get you thinking about connecting with those you love.

I think every mom needs a copy of this book. It was just full of ideas and inspiration to get together and get connected. Motherhood is hard and I don't have all the answers and neither does anyone else but we can get the job done well if we work together.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may or may not have the same opinions as I do.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Cave Tools brand BBQ Brush (review)

When most people think of grilling, they think of summertime. Not me. If it's nice enough outside, I don't care the season, I like to grill. Doesn't matter what's being grilled either: burgers, chicken, pork chops, hot dogs (oh I love me a good hot dog). It just tastes better! I even tried to grill bacon once...I about killed our grill on that one. But wouldn't it have tasted awesome?! Hard to improve on bacon but I think grilling could!
see? all shiny!
I digress. With grilling so much, our grill gets dirty. We've tried cheap brushes from the store and they work ok; nothing fancy. Then I got to try Cave Tools BBQ Brush and I love it! It was shiny when I got it but now it's dirty from all the hard work it does. I don't have to push super hard like with the cheap ones to get my grill clean. I just liked that pretty much with one swipe, I was done cleaning that section. I don't waste a lot of time on grill maintenance like that so it's nice to get to the grilling. 

rust proof in snow? that's good news in the Midwest!
image via

100% rust proof design, stainless steel bristles (safe on porcelain even), and a lifetime satisfaction guarantee makes this BBQ brush a really great deal.

image via Amazon although it may as well be my grill
Go get your own brush on Amazon or through their website and try it out. I don't think you'll be disappointed. You can use the code: V9BW7SDN for 15% off the BBQ Brush. I know your grill is already dirty from this summer but get it ready for Labor Day with the Cave Tools BBQ Brush. They have other products, too: rib roast rack, tongs, burger press, grill light, grill spatula. Those are probably very useful, too! 

Disclaimer: I received this tool in order to try it out and write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from yours.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Wild and Free by Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan (book review)

"A hope filled anthem for the woman who feels she is both too much and never enough" was enough to catch my attention (and a hearty thumbs up from Jennie Allen helped) to jump at the chance to read "Wild and Free" by Jess Connolly and Hayley Morgan. Who hasn't ever felt like they were too much and also not enough? I raise my hand real high in answer to this one.

image via
I really love how this book is crafted. Connolly will write a chapter, followed by a prayer, and a response from Morgan. Then Morgan will write a chapter, followed by a prayer, and a response from Connolly. However, I will admit, it took me several days (week?) to really get into this book. I don't know exactly what it is, but it felt like drudgery. Truly.

And then, I cannot tell you what happened, but then it didn't feel like that. I kept reading and finding jewels. These pearls of wisdom. I could get through the book faster the more I got into it. And I want to share some of those things I learned or liked in the book.

Morgan wrote, "I believed I should be small because quiet and small girls are the most loved." I have believe the same for far too long! I am not small nor quiet - I talk, too much most often, but I believe God made me to be a talker, an over-sharer. I need to embrace that identity and, of course, work on the things about my identity that are not of Him but don't destroy or look down upon who He made. He didn't make a mistake. She went on to explain that meekness doesn't mean quiet and small but rather "a harnessing of God-given strength." I'd like that.

Along those same lines, Connolly later wrote:
"When we critique ourselves or discount ourselves, we are doing the very opposite of worship. When we pinch our thighs in disgust, when we shake our heads at how awkward we feel, when we stand in the mirror and look on in frustration, when we look to the right or the left and assume that everything would be better if we just had that one person's life, gift, beauty, talent, family, or home, we are not in agreement with our Father, who has made us, appointed us, and called it all good.
We are flat-out telling God He is wrong."

Deep breath, sister. I've done it too. But all hope is not lost - "When our eyes are on God and His goodness, we can rightly worship. When our eyes are on ourselves, we see only our own insufficiencies." Point those eyes to Him.

One more. "That word in Genesis used by the Creator to describe all that He'd made, including us? Tob. It means so many wonderful things: 'good, better, best.' But it also means 'at ease.' ... Our Savior paid the ultimate price so we could live the way we were intended to - underneath the banner of the gospel, at ease. ... You can stop running, stop striving, stop hoping that one day you'll be the better or best version of yourself. You can walk away from comparison, throw shame in the trash, and stop skipping around worrying whose toes you step on. Because of Jesus, we don't have to try so hard."

Isn't that the best breath of fresh air ever?! Trying is so hard. And I get so tired from it. And so I will live "Wild and Free" and understand that doesn't mean what the world may think, but it means living in freedom with a Wild God.

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

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Hillsong - Let Hope Rise movie trailer

I enjoy worship music and I am drawn to music by Hillsong UNITED. They are coming out with a new movie and I wanted to share this trailer with you. You're welcome. Enjoy.

in case you missed something