Monday, January 14, 2019

Remember God by Annie Downs (book review)

I can't remember if I first read or heard Annie Downs. I know she is a frequent speaker at the annual IF:gathering ( but I've also read Let's All Be Brave (perhaps a devotional based on that?) and Looking for Lovely (which I enjoyed). That to say that I enjoy her. I haven't listened to her podcast but I know that we would be fast friends. I knew right away I wanted to read "Remember God" by Annie F. Downs because I've been through some things in the past few years that make me wonder "if He is really kind - really deeply always kind" as she writes on the back cover. Watching my son have seizures and brain surgeries that affect our whole family (another son dealt with anxiety and still does to some extent...just today my daughter who is three was pretending she was having a seizure...oh affects us), makes you not doubt but just wonder about God and His character and what you know to be true and how it doesn't seem to be matching up to your story. I think Annie does a wonderful job reflecting these questions in this book. I wanted to share a little more about my thoughts below.
image via Barnes & Nobles

What I liked: Annie seems like she could be your best friend! She's very vulnerable and shares a lot of vulnerable things. Her book really reads more like a story and I appreciate that. I read a lot of non-fiction and can get tired of how those are written. This was a very nice change in scenery.

The cathedrals she wrote about sound lovely. I've never been inside an actual cathedral (are there those in the Midwest?) so I enjoy reading about that. Her ability to describe is wonderful and actually can make pictures in your head. I don't think as many people are as talented at that as they think. haha.

I don't know if I necessarily liked this but her description of depression was so close to how I felt. Dark, dreary, heavy. Mine differed in that it felt like spiritual warfare in my head and body. But I've not read anything that comes so close - so close, I felt it. I felt the wisps of it wrap around me and had to take a little break from that chapter before continuing on. Gives me goosebumps just to think about. I guess that may be a trigger thing so if you deal with depression, that's something to be aware of as you read this.

What I didn't like: I had a hard time relating to her relationship woes. I've been married since I was 20 (although I hadn't ever had a steady boyfriend until then). I'm used to reading mom books or marriage books so this is slightly out of my genre norm; that doesn't make it bad, just different. A little refreshing.

I really dislike the ending. Not that it wasn't well-written - it was. I just don't like how it ended for her. I've followed Annie for a few years now (probably 2015) so I keep my fingers crossed for her that her Bethlehem is out there (which is from the book, so read it so you get it). 

Why I think you should read this: It's nice to sit and chat with a girlfriend about hard life issues and big questions about God. That's what "Remember God" feels like. It's hard to be brutally honest with our doubts and the mysteries of God; Annie takes some of that leg work out for us. This could be an open door to talking to anyone - believers or pre-believers - about these things!

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. I'm so thankful I get to do that! All opinions are my own and may differ from others' opinions; that's ok. I also use links that link to AmazonSmile which gives a very small donation to Emmaus University in Haiti, so if you purchase things through these links, you'll be supporting this wonderful ministry. 

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Made for the Journey by Eisabeth Elliot (book review)

I have found myself drawn to autobiographies and biographies about missionaries for awhile now. I like to read about their passion for the Lord, their love for people, and their hardships. Yes, their hardships. These always end up showing God's character through his compassion, kindness, gentleness. Not always in the taking of the hardships but through His walking with the missionary through it. 

Anyone who knows missions knows Elisabeth Elliot or at least her husband, Jim Elliot. Being familiar with their story, I was ready to read "Made for the Journey" by Elisabeth Elliot. It did not disappoint. 
image via Baker Publishing

I have a degree in English and I fully understand how vital it is to read the Bible in one's own language so I adored all of her linguistics talk! Her honesty about the physical hardships, her identity crisis, and her faith lessons she learned during them. Sometimes we can think of missionaries as Super Christians but Elliot is deliberate to show herself real and fallen, like the rest of us. 

A few things I didn't care for was that sometimes she sounded snobbish - I don't have an example of this but I wrote it in my notes. Perhaps it was just a different way with generation gaps so I could just be reading it like that. 

Her friend in the book, Barbara, felt called to missionary life and ended an engagement to go. It made it seem that motherhood  was incompatible with missionary work - which is, of course, untrue. One line made it seem like one is more important than the other but that, again, could just be my reading into it. 

I would have LOVED to see pictures of her life but perhaps that's not technology she had at the time; it wasn't mentioned in the book. 

The last thing I disliked were the bats. Oh the hardships those gals went through! Animal hardships would probably be my biggest hardship if ever I get called to foreign missions. I have friends who deal with cockroaches (giant ones), snakes, tarantulas, and more. Yikes!

I so appreciate the ability to vicariously live through missionaries like Elisabeth Elliot. What an honor to learn about her faith and God-honoring life.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others' opinions may differ from mine. Links in this post will link to AmazonSmile and if you purchase, you will be supporting Emmaus University in Haiti.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Love Does for Kids by Bob Goff (book review)

It's almost Christmas, I know - 7 days! - but I needed to let you know about this book. Bob Goff is a lawyer, an human rights activist, an author, and seems to be a really great guy. He loves Jesus, his wife Sweet Maria, and many many others. If you haven't read his first book, Love Does, get yourself to a bookstore or Amazon and purchase that (or do like I do and borrow from your local library). I haven't read his second book, Everybody Always, but I have no qualms in recommending it. Goff is a reputable person. Sweet Maria Goff (found under Maria Goff) also has a book I'm hoping to find under the tree this year, Love Lives Here. So now that you are fully understanding how much I enjoy reading the Goffs, let's introduce your kids.
image via BookLook
Bob Goff and his daughter, Lindsey Goff Viducich, have written Love Does for Kids. It's full of short stories (dare I say devotionals?) for kids that take them with the Goff family on adventures - riding a unicycle, meeting a prince, giving strangers your house key. I hesitate to call this book a devotional because you won't find verses taken out of context to fit the need of the little story. You won't find study questions or even a lot of Christianese. You will find funny, poignant stories that your kids will enjoy and laugh at - my 3-year-old daughter is always wanting me to read the book about the man. She means Bob. Apparently I didn't tell her the book title.

I dare to call this a devotional because Christ is in these stories. He is in the life of the Goff family. Love Does for Kids brings Christ to your family more naturally and in a way very familiar to Jesus - in the form of stories! I wish we would all talk more naturally about our Lord like this, as if we know Him rather than as if we are reading from a text. The stories are uplifting and funny and have a good lesson to learn, too.

If you're looking to fill a stocking or wrap a book this Christmas, I really encourage you to buy Love Does for Kids (or any of the other Goff books). This is a great book for young kids or older kids - my kids range from 5 months to 11 years.

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

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Is It Done Yet? (Cave Tools Thermometer Review)

Since I've been a mom, I've been concerned over cooking things properly for my children. Is the baby food mushy enough? Is the formula too cold? Are the grapes cut small enough? However, I've never used a food thermometer to check the temperature of meat. Well, enough of that! I got myself a Cave Tools digital thermometer.

Not having a thermometer for so long, it does take some discipline for me to use it (mostly to remember I have it to use). I have been using my Instant Pot a lot since the baby's birth and that's given me time and space to use the thermometer. I plan to start making my own yogurt in my Instant Pot so this is going to come in handy for making sure the milk is at a high enough temperature and then cooled to a low enough temperature in that process. 

way hot enough for chicken
 I like how sleek it is; it doesn't take up much room in my overflowing kitchen drawers. The thermometer is 100% stainless steel, waterproof, shatterproof. I keep it alongside my Instant Pot cord and accessories so I see it often. It's very easy to use - just turn it on and stick it in. There is a 4-6 second read on it, so it doesn't take long to make sure your food is safe.

I can't think of a thing I dislike about it. The battery is a replaceable watch battery so this thermometer has the capacity for a long lifetime! The digital display is easy to read, as you can see in my pictures. 
I did just read that turkey is supposed to be at 165...oops...helps to know these things prior to reading, but no one got sick. So maybe other parts were at 165 and I should have used the MAX button on the thermometer. 
You can use this for candy making, yogurt making, meat, chocolate, liquids, deep fryers (although we did not use this in the oil when my brother-in-law deep fried our turkey; this is not long enough for that but we did use it after the fact), etc. So when you decide to buy yours, you can find it at Amazon (get 15% off using the code LH58KB66) or on the Cave Tools website

Disclaimer: I received this thermometer in exchange for an honest post. All opinions are my own and may differ from others' opinions.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Sacred Questions by Kellye Fabian (book review)

Since my surrender to Christ in 2014, I have changed in many ways - I don't talk the way I used to (I try really hard to not use bad words and to be thoughtful in my speech), I don't spend time with the kinds of people I used to (who weren't good influences), I don't see life the way I used to (for myself). In other ways, I KNOW I have changed but it's hard to see - I'm still impatient, get angry, and am selfish...but I have grown MORE patient, LESS irritable and offendable, and LESS selfish. Some days it's so hard to see. In those times that it's so difficult to see the change, the growth, the sanctification, I question myself. I question my salvation.

As Christians we are promised a re-birth, to become a new creation. So how should we feel when we can't see the change? We can question ourselves, our salvation or faith, or even God. Instead we should ask questions. "Sacred Questions" by Kellye Fabian allows room for such questions. In this yearlong journey, Fabian leads readers through Scripture passages with questions about themselves, God, and others.

I enjoyed the divisions in this book. There are twelve topics divided into four sections: the first to "ground your heart, mind, and soul in the truth tha tin Christ, you are unendingly loved and unshakably secure." The second section "begin[s] the outward movement, as you will confront the things that try to dislodge you from the truth that you are loved and secure." The third section will "turn your eyes, ears, and heart outward to join in the redemptive work God is doing in the world." Finally, the last section "will allow your life to speak and reflect your relationship with Jesus, doing good in the world with the Holy Spirit's help and inviting others into the life Jesus has granted you." While the book is written with the ability for readers to go through it in a year, the author gives allowance for readers to "engage the sections in whatever order you choose." It's difficult for me not to read a book from cover to cover, but I appreciate the freedom with this book. I had a rough time connecting to the first few sections but when I skipped (gasp, I know) to another section, "Grounded," I really started to enjoy the book.

I disliked the font size! It's so small! I have good eyes although I'm thinking I might be on my way to getting reading glasses. While I appreciate that all the Scripture is printed in the book, the print is really, really small in some places.
small font! Eek!
If you have questions about God but don't feel like there's space in Christianity for questions, read this book. It's ok to ask questions. God is bigger than our doubt! He can meet you in your questions and lead you closer to Him.

You can find Sacred Questions by Kellye Fabian on AmazonSmile or other book retailers!

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from others' opinions. I also use a link for AmazonSmile - if you buy with this link, a small (small) percentage goes to Emmaus Biblical Seminary in Haiti. They help equip Hatian leaders to go forth and spread God's kingdom!

Friday, November 16, 2018

favorite sports movie (Creed II movie trailer)

The Blind Side, A League of Their Own, Miracle, The Sandlot, The Cutting Edge, Cool Running, Remember the Titans, The Replacements, Field of Dreams, The Rookie, Rookie of the Year, Cinderella Man, Facing the Giants, Coach Carter....oh I could go on and on. But what's my favorite sports movie? 
“A team isn’t a bunch of kids out to win. A team is something you belong to, something you feel, something you have to earn.”
Gordon Bombay, The Mighty Ducks (1992)
A bunch of ragtag kids slapping around a hockey puck....then this limo drives onto the ice. They go from basically hating one another to becoming a kind of family. The Mighty Ducks was probably the first movie I obsessed over. I knew all the names and jersey numbers of the players. I LOVED Guy Germaine - Number 00. I remember writing in my diary about this movie. 
OK that's a little embarrassing. BUT I still love this movie - and D2 and D3. I've enjoyed watching it several times (on VHS, no doubt). I've enjoyed sharing them with my older boys (despite a few curse words...thanks a lot Disney). 
Not everything has to be serious to be inspirational! This movie has slapstick humor and jokes (bad ones, Averman) right alongside hard things like divorce, death, and injury. 
One movie series I've never seen is Rocky. Gasp, I know! I should; it's an iconic film series. With a new movie coming out! Learn more about Creed II below:
The poster is even inspirational!
image via Grace Hill Media
Life has become a balancing act for Adonis Creed. Between personal obligations and training for his next big fight, he is up against the challenge of his life. Facing an opponent with ties to his family's past only intensifies his impending battle in the ring. Rocky Balboa is there by his side through it all and, together, Rocky and Adonis will confront their shared legacy, question what's worth fighting for, and discover that nothing's more important than family. Creed II is about going back to basics to rediscover what made you a champion in the first place, and remembering that, no matter where you go, you can't escape your history.  The film releases in theaters on Wednesday, November 21. #CreedII

What a better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than going to the theaters with the ones you love the most?! 

Disclaimer: I received a gift card in exchange for my post about my favorite sports movie. All opinions are my own and may differ from yours. 

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Winter War by Priscilla Shirer (A Prince Warriors sequel/book review)

My nine-year-old son has started to read The Prince Warriors trilogy by Priscilla Shirer. He's working his way through the second in the series. I loved when he came to me while reading the first series, saying, "Mom, there's a Bible verse in here!" He sure couldn't say that when reading "Diary of a Wimpy Kid." I love the faith infused in this Prince Warriors series. It's been fun to hear him tell his friends and older brother about this series (and it's worth 9 AR points!). So I had to read "The Winter War" by Priscilla Shrier, the first in the sequel series to The Prince Warriors.

Image via

"The Winter War" is basically an allegorical story, much like The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lord of the Rings series. There is a Christ figure (Ruwech), a God-the-Father figure (the Source), and even the Holy Spirit (The Sparks). There's an enemy (Ponèros) and his henchmen (Thayne and Lava Forgers). It took me a little while to figure out who was who in this book and I could be wrong about the Trinity figures - who is who in particular. Just like in Narnia, there is a real world and another world - in this series it is the spiritual realm of Ahoratos where the humans who come are Prince Warriors.

There are humans in the story, mostly kids, mostly from the first trilogy. Levi and his dad, Mr. J. Ar; Brianna, Xavier and Evan (brothers), Finn, Ivy. I appreciated that for the most part I could read this book without reading the first three books, although there were parts that were alluded to, I could get by without specific details.

My favorite part of this book was seeing a parallel to my own family. We are currently in the newborn season and it's been overwhelming, to be honest. And reading about Winter time in Ahoratos made me realize that this is a winter in our lives. It's a time that seems desolate and unfriendly, but is a time of rest and restoration, of growth. God gives us hard seasons where it may not look like much on the outside, but deep growth and restoration is happening beneath the surface. It's helped me realize that about this season. 

You can find a copy of The Winter War and the other Prince Warrior books on Amazon or other book retailers.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may not be the same as yours. Links are through AmazonSmile that supports Emmaus Biblical Seminary in Haiti - so you get a great book AND support the growth of God's kingdom!

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Nutcracker And The Four Realms (movie trailer)

Christmas is fast approaching and while gifts are not central to the reason (that's Jesus!), they are an important part of the holiday for many families, including mine. Two years ago, I wanted to make something special for my grandma, Marilyn. I had taught myself to embroider in 2015 while pregnant with my daughter. Earlier in 2016, I had made my mom a family tree embroidery piece for her 50th birthday. 

While I love the tree idea, I knew I'd need something different to accommodate the many people in the extended family tree. My grandma and grandpa had five children. There are 10 grandchildren and, at that time, 13 great-grandchildren (that number will be extended to 15 by February). I wanted something that would last and become a family heirloom, so I came up with this: 

I presented it to my Grandma Marilyn at our Christmas celebration. Her reaction was perfect! She loved it (even though I had left out a grandchild...I didn't realize...oops) and cried and it got hung up immediately. I love giving gifts as much as I love to receive them; making something with my hands to give makes it more meaningful to me. I can pray over that person while I stitch or craft or create which is so special!

With my newest addition and my little sister having a baby in February, I do wish I'd made a way to add to it (I glued the backing on...I'm not great with backing). However, I may just have to add to my design and make another...when I have a chance with a toddler and newborn and two big kids. Some day. 

image via Grace Hill Media

Gifts are important and for some of us, our primary love language. A gift plays a "key" role in the upcoming movie, "The Nutcracker and the Four Realms:" All Clara (Mackenzie Foy) wants is a key – a one-of-a-kind key that will unlock a box that holds a priceless gift. A golden thread, presented to her at godfather Drosselmeyer’s (Morgan Freeman) annual holiday party, leads her to the coveted key—which promptly disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world. It’s there that Clara encounters a soldier named Phillip (Jayden Fowora-Knight), a gang of mice and the regents who preside over three Realms: Land of Snowflakes, Land of Flowers and Land of Sweets. Clara and Phillip must brave the ominous Fourth Realm, home to the tyrant Mother Ginger (Helen Mirren), to retrieve Clara’s key and hopefully return harmony to the unstable world. Starring Keira Knightley as the Sugar Plum Fairy, Disney’s new holiday feature film “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms” is directed by Lasse Hallström and Joe Johnston, and inspired by E.T.A. Hoffmann’s classic tale.

Disclaimer: I wrote this featurette and will receive a small compensation as a partnership with Grace Hill Media. However, that doesn't discount anything I write; all opinions expressed are always my own. I can't wait to see this movie with my big boys. 

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Becoming Mrs. Lewis: The Improbable Love Story of Joy Davidman and C.S. Lewis by Patti Callahan

"Becoming Mrs. Lewis" by Patti Callahan is about C.S. Lewis and his wife, Joy Gresham. I found it to be a fascinating tale of historical fiction, weaving truth and fancy while leaving the integrity of the real people. Callahan made you feel Joy's feelings, allowing you to follow her journey from struggling in an abusive marriage to following her heart to England and eventually rebuilding her life there. 

I really enjoyed the characters that Callahan portrayed. From Joy with her deep-set feelings to her ex-husband Bill with his disappointment and rage, you feel like this is a biography rather than historical fiction. Her sons are lively and real. C.S Lewis is made to be human, rather than a figure of grandeur (although Joy's perspective often gives him a larger-than-life depiction in her love for him).
image via BookLook
Joy, for me, was sometimes a hard character to swallow. I'm not used to fictionalize characters being so real (this was tricky because this character was part real, part fictionalized). She struggled to surrender to Christ, to truly understand his love for her and that he would be the only thing to fill the void in her. And her indiscretions were not what one usually reads in a Christian novel. However, I like that she was written with sin, that Callahan did not canonize her, leaving her character flat and false. We all struggle and to read of someone's struggles is humbling and relatable. 

If you are a C.S. Lewis fan, you'll enjoy learning more about this aspect of his life. How she was a muse for him in much of his writing. I really appreciated how their love story unfolded, slow as it was at times. It was real, agonizing, and deep to the end.
If you enjoy a good (and complicated) romance, this one is definitely complicated. But there is such joy to find in it!

You can find "Becoming Mrs. Lewis" by Patti Callahan on AmazonSmile.

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. My opinions may differ from others' opinions. You will find links here to AmazonSmile and if you purchase through this link, you will be supporting Emmaus Biblical Seminary in Haiti.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Cave Tools: Grill Gloves (review)

After my fourth baby was born this summer, I've started to have my biggest boy, who is 11, get food out of the oven for me. He doesn't have the most grace so this was a leap for me. I just hate for him to burn himself.

Needless to say, having the opportunity to have these Cave Tool BBQ gloves was great!

These BBQ gloves are thick and have this red silicone parts so he's not going to have something hot slip from his hands. He did spill fries getting them out last week but that was his inexperienced grace. Oops!

I love that the light weight flame retardant aramid fiber part of these that extends way past my wrist (and his) so no real chance of a forearm burn. They are flexible and have a great grip! It doesn't feel hot at all when I'm reaching in. Do be careful if your gloves get wet; these gloves are not waterproof. So steam and hot liquids can still burn you through the gloves (like most oven mitts). 

My husband has huge hands and these stretch to fit but don't stay that way. They still fit my small hands. He doesn't like these gloves as much because they do take a small bit more effort to get on than slipping your hand into a mitt. I think it's well worth the effort. My husband did like that he didn't burn his fingers while getting these muffins out of the pan! 

I haven't had to wash my pair yet but they are easy to wipe off the silicone parts and are able to be washed in your washing machine! It doesn't get much better than that!

The instructions for the grill gloves also recommend them for "safely dumping a chimney starter full of charcoal" and "adjusting logs in a fire pit." We don't have either of those things but I could see these as a useful thing to pack when you go camping or sitting around waiting to make s'mores on a fire pit!

To get your pair of Heat Resistance Barbecue and Cooking Gloves, check out Amazon or the Cave Tools website. Use the promo code GrillGlove15 to get 15% off of your order!

Disclaimer: Thanks to Cave Tools for allowing me to try these gloves out in order to allow me to write an honest review. All opinions are my own and may differ from others'.

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