Wednesday, September 28, 2016

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.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Hillsong giveaway winner!

Whitney, you are the winner of the Hillsong movie vouchers and CD! I will contact you with more information.

Disclaimer: I've spoken with Whitney about her winnings! Yay! The winner was chosen by my son who I asked to pick a number between 1-4 and he said "3." Simple.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

I Wish He Had Come With Instructions: The Woman's Guide to a Man's Brain by Mike Bechtle (book review)

I am 10 years into marriage and 9 years into being a boy mom. Yet, some days, I am still drawing a blank on exactly how to handle these boys. Just this last weekend, I remember saying "Seriously? What is wrong with you guys?" Sometimes it's just frustrating (c'mon, boy moms, you understand, right?)!

I pretty much jump at a chance to better understand my husband and boys. "I Wish He Had Come with Instructions: The Women's Guide into a Man's Brain" by Mike Bechtle is just such a book. I have dog-eared this book!
image via Revell
I really appreciated the look into what a man thinks and wants. For instance, "Men want a partner, not another mom...Men want you to understand their need to connect with other men, and they don't want you to be jealous of other women. Almost all of the men I talked to said the former was a genuine need, and the latter was completely unfounded...Women have more of an impact on men than they realize...Women often obsess about their looks, but men think they look great anytime."

When we are frustrated with our husbands (and all of this applies to our sons, too), we need to take a three-step process:

"1. Determine what, exactly, he is doing that frustrates you.
 2. Ask yourself if it is something that is just part of his being a man (such as the way he process information). If so, don't try to change it. Learn to accept the reality of it, and decide how to capitalize on it.
 3. If not, is it something that he has simply developed as a pattern, habit, or behavior (such as the way he withdraws from conflict)? Then it's negotiable. It won't change by pointing it out as a problem. Change comes through influence and trust. When a man feels that he's in a safe relationship that has meaning to him, he'll be more inclined to work on the behaviors that are so challenging to you."

How many disagreements or times of annoyance could be avoided if I just would merely go through that checklist? I can think of many times of homework frustration alone!!!

One other gem that really struck me. How many of you feel like the romance has been let out of your relationship since getting married? There's a reason for this! Basically, men are goal-oriented which is part of their desire to conquer. "The problem is that most men are better at conquering than they are at maintaining. Once they've won a woman's heart, they've achieved their objection. Inside their brain, they've accomplished their mission and it's time for the next challenge. That doesn't mean he loves her any less; it means that he won't naturally be as focused on courting as he was doesn't mean she has to give up on him improving. Maintaining a relationship is out of his comfort zone, and he hasn't had much practice. In most cases, he really wants to be a good partner and give his woman what he needs. Since it's new, it will take intentional effort."

Sorry, I can't help but pass on this information. It's so good! The top fourteen needs of men:
"1. We want you to communicate directly.
 2. We love your emotions when you express them well.
 3. We want you to be independent.
 4. Treat us with kindness...The more value something has, the more we treat it with care.
 5. We respond to praise (SO TRUE)
 6. We don't want to cheat on you.
 7. We want you to be playful.
 8. We need passion.
 9. We think and feel deeply.
10. We need your respect and admiration.
11. We need your companionship.
12. We need encouragement.
13. We need you to flirt with you.
14. We need appreciation."

I could go on and on with wonderful bits from this book! I won't say I'm an expert or that I will fully comprehend or use what I've learned. I'm a woman, after all, and I have much too much information in my head to remember all of it and I multi-task terribly and forget my manners. But hopefully, something from all these scoured pages and flapped corners will stick in my brain and I'll be better for it.

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

Gratitude: a prayer and praise coloring journal (book review)

Adult coloring books are all the rage right now and I love this! I loved coloring as a girl all the way into college. I also love to thank God for my blessings, to practice gratitude, to count my blessings one by one. "Gratitude: a prayer and praise coloring journal" seemed to be a perfect way to blend the two.

I started at the beginning (seen above) with an entry titled "friends." I know how blessed I am with my wonderful friends. The right page above is a list of my closest friends but by no means a full list. I love that I can see these girls once a year or several times a week and they love me the same. I'm learning to trust that they truly are my girls, truly are for me, and they've never given me any other reason to believe so but I'm learning I don't trust as easily as I seem to. It was a good practice for me to color and ruminate on and thank God for these wonderful women in my life.

"Gratitude" has wonderful pictures to color and small prayers with Scripture to meditate on throughout your day. I love another that says "Nobody has to walk alone" and the prayer is thanking God for the community I am surrounded with, emphasized by Matthew 25:35 "I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home." How many in my community have fed me or filled me up (either with a literal drink or just filling me up with love). So many have invited us into their homes and shared their lives with us. It's amazing to me how blessed I am.

My only issue with this "Gratitude" coloring journal is that each page would just take me so long to color. I have a time issue - I waste a lot and, thus, don't have much. I also have things to do during the day and end up not having much free time to color, even while praying. I have thought of gifting this to a more artistic friend, not because I don't like it but because she would utilize it better than I.

You can find a copy here.

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

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