Friday, January 30, 2015

January Reading

I enjoyed reading this month!  I read several good books, and one was even on my reading list this year (*).  Here's what I read:
  • DragonQuest by Donita K. Paul.  I've been looking for good books for Sarah Beth to read (as she is rereading the same books from the library), and I thought of this series, the Dragon Keepers Chronicles.  It follows Kale as she discovers her ability to find dragon eggs and then becomes a disciple to Paladin, a Christ figure.  
  • In This Mountain by Jan Karon.  Book seven in the Mitford/Father Tim series, and it's just as good as the rest.
  • A Secret Gift:  How One Man's Kindness - and a Trove of Letters - Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression* by Ted Gup.  An amazing look at the Depression.  The author found a bunch of letters in his late grandfather's things and did some research.  In 1933 his grandfather anonymously put an ad in the newspaper saying that he would give $10 to seventy-five people who wrote him.  He never told anyone he had done this, and his grandson discovered it seventy-five years later.  Gup did some research on the lives of these letter writers before and after the Depression, and the result is this book.  An amazing, microscopic look into the lives of a few who lived through the Depression.
  • The Ishbane Conspiracy by the Alcorns.  An eye-opening look at the spiritual warfare going on around us right now.  You can read my full review here.
  • Hidden Places by Lynn Austin.  Secrets and tragedy abound in the house where Eliza lives with her three children after her husband and father-in-law die.  When she prays for God to send her an angel to help her run the orchard, an injured hobo shows up at her door.  When she makes the "mistake" of asking Him for another one, circumstances force "Aunt Batty" to move in with them.  Through time, Eliza sees how these two are messengers sent from God to help her, and in turn all three of them find the strength to open up about their pasts.
  • Orphan's Song by Gillian Bronte Adams.  All of her life, Birdie has heard a song that no one else can, and she has suppressed it.  When she finally gives it voice, she is kidnapped, and the only one who can save her is Amos, a traveling peddler.  Questions abound as she tries to learn who she is, and no one will give her a straight answer; everyone seems to want to use her for their own ends.  But the little she learns is explosive!
What have you read lately?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Book Review: A Plague of Unicorns by Jane Yolen

When a herd of unicorns arrives at the abbey and starts devouring the apples, Abbot Aelian works to find a solution to this "plague."  In a different part of the county, nine-year-old James tries to find answers to his many questions, not the least of which is whether his father the Duke is still alive or not in the Holy Lands fighting the Crusades.  James is sent to the abbey to be taught what he needs to know as the future Duke, but he also might just be the help the Abbot needs for his "plague of unicorns."

I enjoyed this light-hearted, little book.  It is definitely written for children just starting to read chapter books, but that doesn't take away from the story.  I gave it to my eight-year-old daughter to read, and she liked it, as well.  However, I must say that the half of the book is taken up with setting the scene, and the resolution of conflict happens very quickly.  It would have been nice if it had taken a little longer.  But it's still a fun book to read.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Happy Fifth Birthday, Rachel!

Today is Rachel's fifth birthday!

She's been planning it since the day after her birthday last year!  We're heading to a couple of stores for her to pick out her own presents, and we'll be eating lunch at Chick-fil-A.  

Rachel is a sweet girl who enjoys sharing with her siblings.

She also loves playing with legos.

Rachel is even looking forward to the chores that she will have to do now that she's five...well, maybe not all of them.  ;)

Happy birthday to our Rachel-y girl!  We look forward eagerly to see what the Lord has in store for you!

Friday, January 23, 2015

Book Review: The Ishbane Conspiracy by the Alcorns

The Ishbane Conspiracy by Randy Alcorn and his daughters Angela and Karina appears to be based on C.S. Lewis' Screwtape Letters.  If you haven't read that, Jillian Fletcher is finishing up high school, cheering at basketball games, and has a new boyfriend.  As we follow her "adventures" in high school, like dealing with another cheerleader who holds a grudge against her, we are also privy to letters written from a greater demon to a lesser one.  These letters detail the ways the demons try to keep her from the "Enemy" (Jesus) through her relationships with her family and friends.

I find this book (and Screwtape Letters) to be scary.  No, not because there are demons in them, but because it brings to my attention how involved in our lives they might be.  This book is an eye-opening look into the spiritual warfare going around us all the time, and I think we need this reminder.

I don't have teenagers (yet), but this book would be especially relevant to parents of teenagers.  I was amazed at the way that things like heavy metal music can be used to keep them from Jesus Christ, and I couldn't believe how prevalent things like seances are.  This part of the book scared me, as well.

In conclusion, read this book!  Open your eyes to the fight going on around you all the time, the fight between Good and evil.  It's a book that I plan to read regularly for the reminder.

I want to thank WaterBrook Multnomah for my review copy of this book, but my opinions are my own.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Thankful Thursday: A Wonderful Time at a Retreat

This past weekend, I had an amazing time at the Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit.  Since everyone there was a homeschooling mother, we all understood the typical problems and challenges that we face...and were able to offer applicable encouragement.  There were plenty of times to interact with the women around you, and since we tended to sit at the same tables the whole time (although we didn't have to), we got to know people.  Many veteran homeschooling mothers, mothers who have already graduated some or all of their children, were there, and it was a great time to pick their brains.  I went with a friend this year, so I had an even better time than last year, especially since I knew what to expect.  I really enjoyed spending time with her since we don't see each other very often, and it was nice getting to know her better.  While John doesn't mind my going and he's awfully glad when I return home, I know that he's also happy I've gone.  The biggest thing that I've brought home both years has been encouragement to be a better wife.  With all of that said, if you live in Texas and homeschool your children, put it down on your calendar for next year:  February 5th and 6th.  You need to go!

There are quite a few other things for which I am thankful this week:
  • the beautiful weather we had earlier this week; we enjoyed spending a good bit of time outside, even at the expense of our schoolwork ;)  We'll make it up on the ugly days.  :(  
  • the retreat, of course!
  • John holding down the fort so I could go, and I came home to a clean, neat house!!
  • John letting me go
  • story time for homeschoolers at our library
  • friends
  • free books!  Someone contacted me about reviewing a new series that I would have enjoyed reading anyway.
  • a little girl who is so excited about her upcoming birthday!
  • the work God is doing in my life as He points out my sins and weaknesses and gives me what I need to change
  • children who play happily together
For what are you thankful this week?

Monday, January 19, 2015

Monday's Quote: Studying the Bible is HARD

I've been working my way through Women of the Word:  How to Study the Bible with Both our Hearts and our Minds by Jen Wilkin, and I came across this quote:
Being a student of any subject requires effort -- the process of gaining understanding is not easy and can often be frustrating.  Depending on the subject, learning may be enjoyable, but it will not be effortless.  Learning requires work.  This is as true of learning the Bible as it is of learning algebra.  We think that learning the Bible should be as natural as breathing in and out; if knowing God's Word is so good for us, surely He would not make it difficult for us to do do so.  But learning the Bible requires discipline, and discipline is something we don't naturally embrace.  Because learning the Bible is a discipline, patience will play a much-needed role in our progress.   (p. 76)
What?  Learning the Bible is hard?  Doesn't that go against all popular wisdom?  But Wilkin hits the proverbial nail on the head when she says that learning anything well is hard and takes work.  After reading this paragraph, I plan to re-tackle some of the harder passages in the Bible and see if I can struggle my way through them.

Honestly, I find this paragraph encouraging because it means that understanding the Bible isn't necessarily easy and actually parts of it are hard.  There's nothing wrong with me when I don't understand something!  It just means that I have to work harder and dig deeper.

What do you think?  Is studying and understanding the Bible hard for you?  Do you think it should be?

Friday, January 16, 2015

Finished Object Friday: A Knitted Baby Blanket

Last week, I finished this knitted blanket.  I had fun working on this project even though the pattern was rather easy.  It was just challenging enough to be fun without taking too much mental energy -- the ideal pattern!  I found it in this book.  Before I dropped it off at the pregnancy center, I was able to talk with my children about why I make these blankets and who receives them.  I'm always looking for opportunities like that.

I've already started my next blanket, another easy one that I hope to work on at the retreat this weekend.  After that, Daniel wants me to make him one, but I'll crochet it.

What have you been working on lately?