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'.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Silencing Insecurity: Believing God's Truth About You by Donna Gibbs (book review)

Most people are insecure about something. Whether that is in relationships, how they look, how good they are at their roles, something. I found when reading "Silencing Insecurity" by Donna Gibbs, that I have more than I though (which makes me feel a little insecure haha). 

image via Baker Book House
I found the book to be helpful in identifying some insecurities and symptoms of them. We can identify insecurities by finishing this sentence: "if only..."

If only I looked like ________.
If only my emotions weren't too much. 
If only I could go here or do that. 
If only I had a friendship like so and so. 
If only my kids acted like theirs. 
On and on. These aren't all necessarily mine but you understand my point. 

Once you identify these identity thieves (as Gibbs calls insecurities) then you can begin to learn how to replace those thoughts (often half-truths and lies from the enemy) with truths from God himself. 

My favorite part of this book was the Appendix. In there Gibbs wrote Scripture Truths for a Secure Identity. Verses you and I can use to remind ourselves of biblical truth and God's love. Replacing our insecure thoughts with truth and promises will help lead us to having identities not of the world but of God. That's something that is secure for eternity.

You can find "Silencing Insecurity" by Donna Gibbs on AmazonSmile (when I clicked on the link it also said I could try it on for free!)

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. I am honored to share my opinions, although they may differ from others'. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Crack Yourself Up Jokes for Kids by Sandy Silverthorne (book review)

Knock Knock.
Who's There?
Althea who?
Althea later, alligator.

I love knock knock jokes, puns, one-liners, and other jokes. My big boys do too. When my second oldest takes a lunch to school, I like to add a joke; that's way cooler than the mushy note telling him how much I miss him I would like to send. Right?

We have several joke books in our home library and my boys will spend time telling jokes between themselves and then telling me the same ones (they don't seem to understand I can hear their jokes between rooms so they think I'm really good at punch lines!).

image via Revell

"Crack Yourself Up: Jokes for Kids" by Sandy Silverthorne is such a good resource for lunch box jokes and more. I appreciate the cleanliness of the jokes (sometimes it's hard to Google such things because you NEVER know what inappropriate jokes come up) and that they are truly funny.

One of my personal favorites is:
Q: What kind of lights did Noah use on the ark?
A: Flood lights

Good clean fun for everyone!

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. It's late but it's honest! All opinions are my own!

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Yeti or Not

My family doesn't do a lot of traveling but we have big dreams: Haiti, Germany, New Zealand, England, Alaska, South Africa - the sky's the limit when it comes to dreams. However, there is one place I cannot wait to take my kids that's perhaps a little more plausible: Yellowstone National Park. 
On July 2, 2005 my then-boyfriend took me to Yellowstone when I visited him in Wyoming. We saw Old Faithful, the stinky sulfur paint pots, beautiful animals and landscapes. And then in a fairy tale dream, I got asked to be his wife as we overlooked the beautiful Lower Falls waterfall *cue dreamy eyes*. 

Ever since we welcomed our first child in 2007 until this last baby in 2018, I've dreamed of the day when they would all be old enough to take and explore this beautiful place. I want them to see Old Faithful, Lower Falls, and so much more. I want them to see moose (the one animal I wanted to see and didn't get to), longhorn sheep, and hopefully not bears. It's such a special place in my heart and I cannot wait to share that with my family. 

An animated adventure for all ages, with original music and an all-star cast, “Smallfoot” turns a myth upside down when a bright young yeti finds something he thought didn’t exist—a human.
News of this “smallfoot” throws the simple yeti community into an uproar over what else might be out there in the big world beyond their snowy village, in an all new story about friendship, courage and the joy of discovery.

“Smallfoot” stars Channing Tatum (“The LEGO® Batman Movie,” the “Jump Street” films) , Zendaya (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”), Common (“Selma”), LeBron James (upcoming “Space Jam 2”), Danny DeVito (“The Lorax,” Oscar nominee for “Erin Brockovich”), Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”), and Yara Shahidi (TV’s “Black-ish”).  It debuts in theaters on September 28.

Disclaimer: I received a family fun pack as compensation for writing this post. All opinions are my own and I am excited to see Smallfoot with my family. 

Monday, August 6, 2018

"Finding the Love of Jesus: from Genesis to Revelation" by Elyse Fitzpatrick (book review)

 The past three years, my Sunday school class has been going over The Gospel Project. This is a curriculum that goes through the whole Bible showing how the gospel of Jesus Christ is intertwined within the whole story!
My Bible study did the Angie Smith study "Seamless" last year. That study shows how the people, places, and promises of the Bible are sewn together into one overarching story (held together by Christ). 

Needless to say, I was thrilled to read another book about Christ through the Bible: Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Finding the Love of Jesus from Genesis to Revelation." 

image via Amazon

Fitzpatrick took each section of the Bible - the Pentateuch, history, the Law, poetry and songs, Prophets, and the Gospel - to show how Christ's love (and Christ Himself) is found in each!! She takes readers through the story or book(s), then points out Christ. She explains where He is seen physically, in prophesy, and where the gospel story is shadowed. These were some of the most eye-opening areas of this book. I'd never given much thought to Jesus physically being in the Old Testament but Fitzpatrick pointed out how He was the angel of the Lord who appeared to Hagar, He was sovereign in the sleeplessness of King Xerxes that lead to his remembering Mordecai's deeds, He was the pillar and cloud leading the nation of Israel in the desert. I'd never given thought to "is this God the Father or the Son?" in specific stories. I'm not sure that is extremely important except in acknowledging that Christ is throughout the Bible. However, I love seeing Christ more and in ways that I hadn't thought because I am obviously not an expert. 

There were a few things that I had never heard before in this book. This was written for women and Fitzpatrick is passionate about women seeing that Christ loves them. She spoke about Hagar, Ruth, Esther, the woman at the well, showing the love of Christ for them. She post that one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus could have been the wife of the other disciple, Jesus's uncle. I had never heard this theory but it makes sense, I suppose. 

This also is not just a book, but a Bible study. I did not realize that when I got it and I read the majority of it just after having a baby, so I did not get into the Bible study portion. Sometime after this newborn stage, I would like to go back and re-read the book and do the study. 

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

Engraved on the Heart by Tara Johnson (book review)

I took a chance on "Engraved on the Heart" by Tara Johnson. Romance novels are not my first pick of genre but I was intrigued by the portrayal of a character with epilepsy during the Civil War era. I was rewarded for my choice with terrific writing, likable characters, and a plot line that went beyond romance. 
image via Amazon
Johnson has a way with words that makes one forget that this is historical fiction. Nor does it fall into the category of cheesy Christian romance. The reader is drawn into the plot that intertwines Civil War Southern society with the suspense of the Underground Railroad, laced with a star-crossed lovers-type romance (but it doesn't make you roll your eyes because the characters are so well developed). 

The aspect that drew me most to reading a book beyond my norm was the main character's epilepsy. To see this disorder (which plagues my own son) portrayed in this era broke my heart. That real people with this disease were forced to hide something out of their control, veiled in shame, is so sad. It makes me incredibly thankful for modern medical practices and the acceptance of this disorder. The love people now show is drastically different than what is portrayed in this book to Keziah during this era. 

"Engraved on the Heart" by Tara Johnson was truly a treat to read. 

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. My opinions are my own.

Monday, July 9, 2018

I Can't Believe You Just Said That! (Biblical Wisdom for Taming Your Child's Tongue) by Ginger Hubbard (book review)

If you are around my age, in your 30s, and are striving to raise Christ following children, you have probably read "Shepherding a Child's Heart" by Ted Tripp. The first time I read this book was when I was a newer mom and my oldest was probably no more than five. I just recently flip through this very book to gain that same wisdom from my second set of children.

Well I appreciate the biblical wisdom given in that book, I always felt it was more a book of grand ideas versus practical application. Thankfully, not long after I read the book the first time, I came across another book called "Don't Make Me Count to Three" by Ginger Hubbard. This was the book I was looking for! Practical advice on how to use the wisdom from Tripp's book in real life with real people. I have often gone back to this book when I am in need of advice.
image via BookLook
One of my biggest struggles for myself has always been my tongue. And I see those sins pouring out of my own children's mouths. Not to say they wouldn't have their own tongue issues even if I did not, but sin is easier to see in a form that is familiar to you. I was pleased as punch to read Ginger Hubbard's new book "I Can't Believe You Just Said That!" The subtitle is "biblical wisdom for taming your child's tongue."

This is again, a practical application book of biblical wisdom. It covers the gamut of child since that overflow out of their mouths: whining, lying, tattling, defying, manipulating, interrupting, complaining, blame-shifting, teasing, aggravating, bragging, arguing, yelling, gossiping, bickering. I think I have covered most of those issues in my own home in the past week. 

Hubbard goes deep to the heart of each matter, continually reminding readers that these are not merely behavior issues but heart issues. She provides many pieces of Scripture that you can use to go through a simple discipline model of understanding the heart of the matter (yourself), ask (your kid) heart-probing questions, deprive your child for their issue, and following with training your child with biblical wisdom. I love how this is not a discipline book about punitively punishing children so they stop annoying you or disrupting your plans. This plan allows you to speak wisdom to your child and help them to put off their old sinful self (habits) and put on a new self full of Christ. That's the goal!

My only issue with this book is that it does contain a LOT of information that would be nice to have in a chart or printable. While she does have a chart "Wise Words for Moms" available for purchase, I wish the book came with something so you didn't need to flip through the book to buy what you want. On the other hand, I just purchased my copy of her chart for $4 on Amazon.

Hubbard evens warns that this is not "a how-formula for being good parents who raise good kids...there is no parental success, and there are no good parents or children, apart from Christ." I know this from personal experience and I'm so thankful for godly books like this one that helps me direct my own tongue and sin issues while helping to parent my kids in theirs. 

Disclaimer: I received this book in order to write an honest review. Others may not share my thoughts. All of my links are linked through AmazonSmile to support Emmaus Biblical Seminary in Haiti.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Lord, Change My Attitude Before It's Too Late by James MacDonald (book review)

Several years ago, my husband did this Bible study called "Lord, Change My Attitude Before It's Too Late" by James MacDonald. It was so good that he recommended for me and my Bible study group. What a convicting study!! I've struggled with complaining, covetous, and critical attitudes which are replaced with thankful, contented, and loving attitudes. I don't think I deal as much with a doubting attitude (replaced with an attitude of faith) but the three wilderness attitudes are enough to deal with. 

While the study was so good and I learned a whole lot, I still find myself struggling with those same attitudes probably 4-5 years later. And sometimes struggles seem to cycle them selves. So, I decided to read "Lord, Change My Attitude Before It's Too Late" by James MacDonald in book form. 

image via

You really find the same material in book form as you do on the video and study guide so it's not like I was delving into unfamiliar territory with this book. But I found it to be a very helpful tool to help replace some of my attitudes they have snapped back into my life.

I know the attitudes are so important as I see that play out in my children. My attitudes affect them, their attitudes affect me. I see the harm of attitudes that look like mine in their lives. I see the harm of those same attitudes in my life. And so, every day, we need to make a choice of how to handle our attitudes. They are a choice.

I can complain with the best of them, But what does that get me? Nothing but more complaining and a bitter heart. But thankfulness can lift my eyes to the provision of God in my life. You can help me see circumstances in a new light so that I can be more content were able to see solutions. 

When I find myself criticizing other people, I have to ask the purpose of that. Is it to raise myself up? It sure doesn't draw me closer to the Lord or other people. I feel like it breaks with Jesus claimed as the two most important commandments, love God and love others.

I'm ready to use the tools of putting off my old self and putting on my new self in Christ as I navigate my attitudes!

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

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