Monday, October 10, 2016

5 Minutes with Jesus: A Fresh Infusion of Joy by Sheila Walsh with Sherri Gragg (book review)

I love the idea of starting your day in Scripture and/or prayer. The Bible says His mercies are new every morning and so it just makes sense to start your day that way. However, as much as it makes sense, I fail to do that most mornings. It just doesn't work with the way I'm built and my schedule. Generally, I like to get up in the morning to work out so that is kid-free time. And then the chaos of mornings before school starts. Then it is generally mid-afternoon before I get a chance to sit down. 

However, I like that this book "Five Minutes with Jesus: A Fresh Infusion of Joy" by Sheila Walsh are ones that I can really read with my kids. It's not meant to be a children's devotional but I have found that it works for us. We have been reading this at breakfast - it's quick and still spiritually deep so it's perfect for us right now at the stage we're in.

image via

It is usually a page and a half devotional and then a page (5 minutes) of Scripture. And the Scripture pertains to what the devotional was about. The devotions vary: talking about being chosen or what we want to be when we grow up or Nick Vujicic and his unstoppable joy despite his disability. I think the only thing that could make this book better was if it were an audiobook and you could listen to Sheila Walsh's beautiful accent.

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

Raising a Young Modern-Day Princess by Doreen Hannah and Karen Whiting (book review)

We have called our daughter "Princess" almost since the day she was born. I even love the idea of her sharing names with a real princess (although that is not how she got her name). 

I have been quite disappointed in many princess books that I have read with my Princess. They make princesses seem air-headed and prissy. I believe that a princess should be graceful and kind and generous and loving and caring and tender. I love the idea behind "Raising a Young Modern-Day Princess" by Doreen Hannah and Karen Whiting which combines Scripture to teach the Fruits of the Spirit with the idea that all girls are Princesses (as they are daughters of the One True King, God).

image via
One idea from the book is a marble jar to keep track of when you see your child showing a Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, or self-control). My family has started to do this very thing with a sticker chart rather than a marble jar. When we see a family member (parents and kids) showing a Fruit, then they get a sticker. When the kids get 50 stickers, they get a Daddy date. Not sure what us parents get when we get 50 stickers. I love that idea to affirm and our children that they are growing in the Spirit. 

There is a whole list of acts of kindness to help grow the fruit of kindness: pick up litter, when you meet someone learn his or her name, read to a younger child, clean out the car, hold the door open. I love that they are not just huge things but small acts of kindness. There's an idea for kindness bookmarks, too, which has made me think to make some for my boys. 

The chapters have ideas for mothers for activities to do with their children and then there are daughter and dad activities, too. I believe that it is always important to keep a dad on the inside when you are teaching character and virtues. He speaks volume to a young girl on how to act and expect to be treated.

The chapter that resonated with me my most was the self-control chapter. One of my children and myself struggle with this and so I noticed the heading, "how to be a mom who teaches by showing." The mom said she was "grumpy, short tempered," and wanting her husband home as soon as possible (sounds familiar). She found herself snapping at her daughter, and then crying in tears guilt. A friend helped her by telling her she needed to ask for help - from God and from friends -without shame or pride. I have learned about my need to ask for help and not worry about whether I'm burdening someone (they can always say no) or a bother. If I need help, I need to ask, just as I would help if a friend needed me.

I believe this book will help me as I do raise my daughter, but the one thing I dislike about this book is that I'm not sure of the age group it is intended for. It seems more geared toward children older than my daughter (15 months). I am guessing this would be more fruitful no earlier than three years old. But there is a companion for older girls, tweens and teens, called "Raising a Modern-Day Princess." I am planning to use some of the activities for all of my children - males and females. Just don't tell my boys. ;)

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

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Holiday Greetings From Basic Invite (guest sponsored post)

There are two types of people in this world… those who dread the holidays and those who live for them. Whether you’re an Ebenezer Scrooge or a Cindy Lou Who - Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or whatever winter holiday you may be observing (or avoiding) will inevitably be upon us. We need this balance of love and hate to perform all of those classic holiday miracles though, right?! So, let’s get started by brining our families together, dressing in our finest matching attire and snapping a cheesy, but equally awesome family photo for your 2016 Holiday Cards.

Now that we have established that it’s never too early to get into the holiday spirit, it’s definitely never too early to order holiday cards to send to your loved ones for when the time is right. I have a very special place in mind that will help make all of your holiday greeting card dreams come true - effortlessly and without a single trip to the craft store. Let me introduce to you, Basic Invite.

Basic Invite is a stationery company working to provide the best of the best in online stationery creation, offering everything from wedding invitations and birth announcements to holiday cards and thank you cards. They even have downloadable printables for all of your holiday party needs!

With over 180 color options you are able to customize each part of your card to create the perfect greeting that will either sum up your family’s year or simply wish your loved ones well this season. All aspects of every card are customizable including the font, card shape, paper type, and photo option! If you still aren’t able to find the perfect fit for your family’s holiday greeting cards (which likely won’t be the case) - try their upload your own design option and simply create everything from scratch!

If you are one of those people who needs to see what your finished product will look like and feel like all you have to do is order a custom sample! You will then be able to feel the paper quality and see exactly how the printed product will turn out before you send them off. You are able to make any changes you would like and this goes for all of Basic Invite’s products! Their instant preview technology is especially handy for holiday greeting cards and wedding invitations so you are sure to get the look you desire and the information accurate.

Head over to Basic Invite to kick this holiday season off right! There might even be an early holiday gift for you in the form of a discount code… I guess you will gave to check out Basic Invite to find out! ;)

Disclaimer: this post was written by Katie Scott of Basic Invite. I was compensated with cards for this post. Others' opinions may differ from those shared in this post. All images are via Basic Invite.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Unlikely Champion and "Queen of Katwe" movie trailer

Disney has a new film coming out called "Queen of Katwe." It's based on the true story of Robert Katende and Phiona Mutesi from Uganda. Phiona grew up in the slums of Katwe, Uganda and she came upon Katende and a group of children playing chess in a church building (not the type of church building we imagine here; think makeshift). Katende starts to teach her and guide her, building her confidence, not only in chess but in herself. She finds herself competing in local chess matches and then winning international competitions. Their story proves that champions can come from the most unlikely of places. "Queen of Katwe" opens Friday, September 30 nationwide!

As I've said before, I love underdog stories. A girl from the slums of Africa winning international chess tournaments and eventually having her story become a feature Disney film - that's good stuff to me. I believe God allows underdog stories because that's what all stories truly are. We are all underdogs, living life on a broken planet in sinful bodies. And yet, He uses us to complete His work! 

I wrote about my son in another blog post about the movie "Greater," but I cannot help but look to him again. When we think of champion, we think of sports generally, but I believe that overcoming challenges is another way to be a champion. My son is young and has many challenges to overcome for the rest of his life.

One area of his life where he struggles is friendship. He thinks everyone is his friend, but that doesn't always mean others feel the same about him. Most of the kids in his class have grown accustomed to him, some not so much. One girl in his class literally ignores him and avoids him when we have seen her in public. I try not to let one person's rudeness stick in my head because I have seen so many heartwarming instances in my son's life.

We attended swim team practice all summer, despite his not being able to swim (his brother was on the team). Three girls from his class came up every day to talk to him, whether he paid them attention or not. One says she and another friend are taking him to prom. Cute.

Each time Moose has missed school due to a seizure or doctor appointment, one boy in his class is worried sick over him. He's been such a sensitive friend to have. 

We have some girls that come to our house to play or visit the cat. I enjoy seeing them talk to Moose. 

And then there was last year's field day. Moose chose to run in the 400 meter dash. He loves to run even though it's a slow and steady turtle pace (like mother, like son). The rest of the heat finishes before he's around the last bend. And he just trucks along, having a great time. Then the chanting starts of his name. His whole class, then more and more kids from other grades. I'm so glad I had sunglasses on because I was a blubbering mess. Any special needs mom can tell you how special a moment that is when they realize their child is loved. That's all most of us want for our kids anyway - for others to love them.

Now, I know friendship is not an obstacle overcome on his own. Moose has much work to be done if he's ever going to be invited to a birthday party or even supper at someone's house. Friendship is a two-person deal and I am thankful for the parents of those he can call friend. I know they have spent time teaching their children compassion and how to be a friend, too. 

The world needs more parents like that, teaching about how differences aren't bad, how to accept others as God made them, how to love and care for and appreciate others. This is what tolerance is and this is how we can all become Unlikely Champions.

Disclaimer: I received a Target gift card in return for this post. I also get to give one gift card to an Unlikely Champion in my life or community. Others' opinions about the movie or about overcoming challenges may differ from my own.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

"The Wedding Shop" by Rachel Hauck (book review)

Do you ever just need a book that isn't so deep? I read a lot of deep books, sometimes I just need to fluff book. I don't mean that in a mean way but in a way that I need to plot a storyline instead of theology and facts. "The Wedding Shop" by Rachel Hauck proved to be something entirely different but just what I needed.

I will start by saying that this book is not fluff. It is an intricately woven story between past and present, between life prior to Christ and redemption. I love books that weave between many characters. "The Wedding Shop" goes back-and-forth between Cora Scott, a wedding shop owner in the early 1930s, and Haley Morgan in modern-day times who is just returned home to Heart's Bend, Tennessee after leaving the military and a toxic relationship, and  the death of her best friend. Haley dreams of opening the wedding shop that was closed long before her time, just as she and her friend had pinky promised in their childhood.

I love how Hauck takes us back-and-forth between time, leaving us hanging at moments, but never leaving the story without moving it along. There is love, lies, drama, the Depression, AND, most importantly, the ever-present God who makes all things new.

image via me; I couldn't put this book down.
The characters of Haley and Cora really resonate with me as they fall for the wrong guys. In my younger years, I was trailed along by an unworthy boy until God met me with a kind man who is now thankfully my husband, for 10 years. My husband reminds me so much of Birch Good, a man after Cora's heart. He is the strong, dependable, God-loving man. Cora sees Birch as boring, but when I met my husband, I saw him as a breath of fresh air. He did and still does treat me like a princess, like he always wants to sweep me off my feet. It truly is a dream.

I love the ending in this story but you will have to read it for yourself. I stayed up way too late trying to dive deeper more than a few nights.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may vary from others' opinions.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Me: A Compendium by the Wee Society (book review)

My middle son always complains that I always get books for myself and never for them. He doesn't know that I am usually on the lookout for books for them, but the opportunity for adult books comes up more frequently than child books.

image via Blogging for Books

I love this sweet, sensitive boy!
I was thrilled when I had the opportunity to get him "Me: A Compendium" by the Wee Society. I had to look up what a compendium was – a collection of concise but detailed information about a particular subject, especially in a book or other publication. To me it just seemed like a fill-in journal. I knew my son would love it!
(but I have not watched it) LOL

He started to fill it out immediately. I thought he would color it more and add more color but he insisted on using this new pen that he had gotten his school. He did a wonderful job of filling everything out. He only asked for help a few times on spelling. You probably should've asked a few more times. Ha ha

I love the different aspects in this book that allow him to draw and share things about himself and just give insight. I love the creativity put behind this book but also the creativity that it allows. Drawing how he looked as a baby and how he'll look when he's 50, if you have a band  what was the name of it B, his favorite animal the room of his dreams top secret spy name favorite thing to do inside and out. So much is in the small book.
I don't think we talk allllll day...but sometimes we do experiments. I love 2nd grade spelling.
because I would never attack anyone...especially not with pool noodle light sabers...

I think that "Me: A Compendium" would be a wonderful book for boys or girls, anyone who likes to write or draw or express themselves. It would be wonderful if you have a very quiet child who doesn't share much about themselves to share more. I believe that it is more suited toward smaller children, ages 6 to 10, but I'm sure that varies with each child. It would be fun to see this in an adult version as well. 

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. I also received permission from my son to share about his book. Others' opinions may differ from mine.

"A Different Beautiful" by Courtney Westlake (book review)

I have really gotten into the app Instagram. I like to share my photos, see my friends photos, and even browse through photos and videos of people I don't know. One photo that really caught my eye was one of a lady named Courtney Westlake. It caught my eye so much that I went to her Instagram homepage and started scrolling through her pictures and videos. Come to find out Courtney has a daughter, Brenna, who is adorable. She is probably one of the most joyful looking kiddos I have seen! Brenna and Courtney both have just lovely smiles and pretty features. 

And reading more about them, I found that Courtney had written a book about her journey in "discovering and celebrating Beauty in places you never expected". The book, "A Different Beautiful" by Courtney Westlake is about her journey being the mother of Brenda who has harlequin ichthyosis. This is a skin condition in which her parents passed on a mutated gene causing an air in her genetic code. "This mutation means her body does not produce a protein that helps her skin form correctly. Period. It tries to make up for it by producing skin much too quickly. This very rare disorder caused Brenda to be born with thick plaques of skin divided by deep, read fishers so raw that they look bloody in many areas."

Reading about Brenda's birth, I can imagine how scared Courtney was. It is scary to think that something is "wrong" during deliver your birth. I know that I was scared even when my son did not cry for 45 minutes after his birth. And Brenna's disorder was so rare that there was hardly any information for Courtney and her husband to research. It seems that most cases ended with the child passing away within weeks or months.

Courtney walks us through the next several years of a Brenna's life, sharing about how the Lord use this time to change Courtney's perception of beauty. And really not just beauty but changing her perception of normal. Because now her life seems normal to her but her normal is different from my normal and my normal is different from yours. However society wants us to think that there is one normal that we should all strive for. Courtney writes, "but labeling the way people look in their abilities as normal and not normal is such a dangerous game to play. Trying to operate our lives under the structures of what we believe is normal (and not) leads to minds and hearts that are closed off from wanting to understand, empathize, to feel and express compassion. Living this way means we can never learn to except and celebrate anything that is outside of our realm of normal. We can never fully appreciate the amazing unique that God has placed in this world."

Courtney's book really resides with me because I have a son that is different. My Moose looks the same on the outside but when you're around him for a while you can tell that he is different. He has autism, and while it is high functioning, it does create some barriers. I love the portion of Courtney's book when she talks about what to do when your child points and ask a question about a special needs child or anyone who is different. I know that my son may not have an outward skin difference like Brenna does, but he can throw some wild tantrums or say weird things. 

What do we do during those moments? I know that my children have pointed at people in wheelchairs thinking they look like the X-Men's Professor X or even a bearded man who they thought looked like Obi-Wan Kenobi. "When your child points and tells you to look, I wish you would respond clearly, "yes look at that little girl. It looks like she's having so much fun playing, just like you are! ... When your child asks you… "Why does she look like that? "I wish you would answer honestly: "I'm not sure, but the way someone looks is an important. We all look different from each other, don't we? Just like you have curly hair and I have straight hair! I wish you would encourage your child to say hi and ask my kids names. I wish you would apologize without feeling ashamed if your child is offensive right in front of us… And above all, I wish you would talk about differences more often with your children. I wish you would read children's books about being different, and I wish you would positively and naturally converse about various kinds of differences – from wheelchairs to birthmarks, Down syndrome to skin disorders, and racial differences to wearing glasses." I couldn't agree more. 

I don't want people to skirt around issues with my son or other special needs kids. These kids are going to grow into adults who are going to be around their entire lives. And I think the least that we can do is teach our children empathy and compassion and that differences are OK. "We want to teach our children that we are all different, not that Brenna is the "different one" simply because her appearance is noticeably unusual. Some people in the disabled community say that they are not here to be a learning opportunity for others. But I would argue that we are all constantly learning opportunities for everyone else, and especially for children…"

Too often the world is going to be cruel to kids with special needs whether it is their appearance or their behavior that is different. I've observed this when people stare, when kids don't include everyone, and when parents are ignorant or indifferent. Sometimes it really helps to walk a mile in someone else's shoes so that the world can be a nicer place to be different, to be who God made you to be. That is why I appreciate Courtney writing this book. Because we all need to get over Hollywood and Western beauty standards and realize that God has made so many beautiful people in different ways. 

While I was reading my copy of this book, Princess pointed at Brenna, the "baby," and wanted to kiss her. I think we could all take a pointer from babies and just be more accepting. Isn't this darling?
I love the dark skin of my sons classmate, and the red hair of my middle son's classmate, I love the cheesy close mouth grin of my daughter's little friend. I love my tall friends and my ethnic friends and my older friends and my strange friends who hate running and would never read a book. They make my life fuller and more beautiful because of the wonderful attributes that they bring. And I know that the same can be said of my Moose and Brenna who will make this world a more beautiful place by just being themselves.

You can follow Courtney on Instagram here.

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

Saturday, September 24, 2016

"This Road We Traveled" by Jane Kirkpatrick (book review)

"This Road We Traveled" by James Kirkpatrick surprised me by being a book of historical fiction. When I picked it up and chose that I did not realize that it was based upon a real person. I really enjoy when a book surprises me-especially with history.

The book follows Tabitha Brown, an older woman who refuses to be left behind in Missouri when her children decide to travel out to Oregon. And by travel I mean in wagons with a wagon train, headed west. That used to be a great dream of mine. 

my stack of newly finished books
And then I began to read books about traveling west and realized how very, very difficult the time traveling in a wagon was. I believe it was especially hard on women, having to do the cooking without what was then modern conveniences and doing laundry in various places and keeping children occupied that time. I personally would have no idea how to cook over a fire except to make Smores and if everybody wants to eat chocolate marshmallow graham cracker sandwich every night, we would be good to go.

The trials along the way for the Brown matriarch and her children were significant. People got sick, others on their wagon train passed away, and eventually they were left with really hard decision of whether to go a very difficult path over a river or to take a new path that was supposedly easier. I don't want to give away more than that but I thought it was just very interesting how Kirkpatrick wove such a wonderful story around someone who was historical but who is not widely known.

I personally did not care for the character of Tabitha Brown because she is very headstrong and seem to stick her foot in her mouth quite often. Perhaps I did not care for her because that is the part about myself that I don't care very much for. Sometimes I can say the wrong things at the wrong time. But it did give some authenticity to the character.

I very much appreciated hearing about another character who is separated from her family. I never thought about that and never heard any stories about that, although I'm sure there are plenty. But to really think about how difficult that would be if your parents decided to go one way and we're almost forced to leave by the head of the wagontrain to leave because of weather or rationing.

I always appreciate learning something in a book and I feel like I learned a little more about what the Oregon Trail with like and a little more about how certain parts of Oregon were  established thanks to "The Road We Traveled" by Jane Kirkpatrick.

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

Friday, September 23, 2016

Can I really know Jesus? (101 questions and answers about Jesus, salvation, and prayer) by Carolyn Larsen

I am always on the lookout for books that can strengthen the faith of my children. What I've often found is that through strengthening their faith, mine is as well. "Can I Really Jnow Jesus?" by Carolyn Larsen is one of those books that is easily read but is full of the right material.
image via me; I love how clearly the gospel is presented
Too often and I find that children's books are not deep enough to take our children from drinking spiritual milk to eating spiritual meet. I think that this is a book that bridges that gap. It is split into three parts: questions and answers about Jesus, questions and answers about salvation, and questions and answers about prayer.

I like this book is factual and when it can use history to cement the Bible, it does. One question is "how can we know Jesus really existed?" and the book says, "the Bible, of course, tells us that Jesus existed as a human on earth." Then it goes on to tell about a Jewish historian name Josephus who wrote about the choose from Adam to the time of the Roman empire a Nero and he mentioned Jesus three times. History is fascinating to me and even more so when it comes alongside my faith.

Another format of the book that I like is that it each page concludes with a verse of Scripture. It's all fine and dandy to have the questions about Jesus, salvation, and prayer but if our answers are not rooted in scripture then they are not rooted in truth.

My only dislike of this book is that the graphics and illustrations are very girly. Not that I'm against a girly book but I could see that being something that could turn a boy off from this book. And the material is not geared toward male or female but the graphics make it so.

I could see myself reading this to my boys one question at a time, really getting deep into the heart of their questions about these topics. I love when my boys can really open up about their faith and I believe that "Can I Really Know Jesus?" can help them open up to me.

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

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Hope Prevails: insights from a doctor's personal journey through depression by Dr. Michelle Bengtson (book review)

Depression is not something people talk about much. I have a few friends who have been kind enough to open up about their journeys through depression and an author I admire does, too. In "Hope Prevails" by Dr. Michelle Bengtson, Dr. Bengtson talks about how she has been on this journey many times with her patients. She's prescribed many different successful courses of treatment, but when she found herself in the throes of depression, those same things didn't work for her.

I love how encouraging this is to have a doctor say, I've been there. I don't think there is anything more powerful in humanity than realizing someone actually gets what you're going through or feeling because they have been there, too. I have some of my strongest friendships because those women get me.

This was a difficult book for me to get into, possibly because of the downer subject that depression is. The writing is good and I think Dr. Bengtson speaks from her heart. I loved the letter to herself at the beginning. It is full of hope and Scripture and love and encouragement for herself from herself. That encouragement really spoke to me.

I think my favorite part about this book is that it's not all about having medicine prescribed to treat depression. While I am in no way against medicine, I don't think that alone can do it. I think that you must be rooted in God's Word and confident in His love. Dr. Bengtson writes, "God knew you, your personality, and the choices you would make before you took your first breath. Jeremiah 29:11 assures us that God knows the plans he has for each of us, and they are good." This truth is something I've held on to desperately this past year.

It's helpful to me to read this sentiment: "What if you stopped listening to the father of lies and asked the Father of Light what he thinks about you? When tempted to review your faults or beat yourself up, what if instead you stopped and asked God for an honest appraisal?" I have a terrible habit of beating myself up and I've found many of my friends do, too. It's awful when we listen to the "father of lies" and it hurts not only us but our families and friends.

God points us in the path toward light but we must listen. For some that means counseling, for others medicine, but for all it should mean time with God, listening to His Truth. I believe that Dr. Bengtson has brought some wonderful thoughts on this through "Hope Prevails." 

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

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