Sunday, December 13, 2015

Happy Fourth Birthday, Mary!

Today is Mary's fourth birthday, and what a joy she is to have around.  It seems like she is always singing and dancing, and her happiness is contagious.

Mary is very excited about becoming a big sister.

She is willing to try just about anything, as long as it looks like fun.

But it's hard keeping up with her older brother and sisters.  :)

We look forward to seeing Mary grow and develop into the person God wants her to be.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Review: Delighting in God by A.W. Tower

In Delighting in God by A.W.  Tozer, the author states, "That, then, is the purpose of this book:  to be faithful to point out that the evangelical church today has some serious spiritual problems, the primary one being a loss of the perception of God that has been its hallmark since its inception."  Each chapter deals with a different perception we have:  about God, about the church, about His grace, about how our perception of God determines everything.  Tozer critiques each of our perceptions and shows what those perceptions should be.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, limiting myself to only one chapter a day because I wanted to absorb the spiritual truths in each chapter before moving on.  At times, Tozer gets very critical of the modern church in its worship, understanding, and knowledge, but it is well-deserved criticism.  I wish more people in our churches would read this book or one like it.  I think it would cause our knowledge of God to increase along with our understanding of our relationship with Him.

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

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Some of Our Favorite Christmas Children's Books

I've come up with a list of some of our favorite Christmas stories, in case you are looking for something new to read with your children.  Unfortunately, several of these books are no longer in print, but maybe your library has them.
  • On Christmas Eve by Margaret Wise Brown.  A cute story about the wonder of Christmas Eve and how children can't sleep because of it.
  • Mr. Willowby's Christmas Tree by Robert Barry.  I love this story about how one tree provides Christmas trees for many different families.
  • Fancy Nancy's Splendiferous Christmas by Jane O'Connor.  We enjoy this story about how Nancy creates a disaster (in her eyes) and how her grandfather helps her to make things right.  
  • Mousekin's Christmas Eve by Edna Miller.  This delightful story about a mouse who leaves his empty home to look for a new place to live.  What captured me was where he ended up in his new home.
  • Christmas Parade by Sandra Boyton.  This book is for little children, especially, but it's fun to read and the pictures are fun to look at.
  • The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey by Susan Wojciechowski.  A gloomy carpenter life is turned around when a widow and her son ask him to make them a nativity set.
Did you notice there are no books about Jesus' birth on this list?  I must be more critical of those storybooks because I haven't found any that I really like.  Most of them focus on the superficial aspects of His birth:  the angels and shepherds, being born in a barn.  I want one that delves into the reason why Jesus had to come:  to save us from our sins.  If you know of one, please let me know.

If you know of any other good children's Christmas stories, please leave a comment.  I would love to add to this list!

Monday, November 30, 2015

Book Review: 9 Thoughts that Can Change Your Marriage by Sheila Wray Gregoire

In 9 Thoughts that Can Change Your Marriage, Sheila Wray Gregoire tackles several -- nine, to be exact -- misconceptions that we Christians bring into marriage.  She refutes them practically and biblically in a winsome way.

I've read several marriage books recently, and they were all filled with practical, godly wisdom.  But they were all written by men, and I didn't even realize what they were lacking until I read this book by Gregoire.  Certainly, there is nothing wrong with books by men, but reading this book was like having tea with a friend who understands what I think and how I feel.  I especially enjoyed it when I would read something and think, "You mean, I'm not the only one?"

Each chapter contains several suggestions that can help to improve your marriage, if of course, you follow them.  I appreciated the listing of these suggestions at the end of each chapter for an easy reference later on instead of having to search through every chapter.

Even if you have a great marriage, I'm willing to bet that you could improve it even a little bit by reading this book.

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

Friday, November 27, 2015

Book Review: I Prayed for You by Jean Fischer

When I saw I Prayed for You by Jean Fischer, I knew immediately that I wanted a copy of it because I have prayed for all of my children, even before I was pregnant with them.  This book contains different scenarios of a mother and child, and the mother bear tells her cub each time that she has prayed for him in each one and how she has prayed.  It's a sweet book, filled with adorable pictures, which I plan to read again and again to my children.

Initially, I got this book for the baby with whom I am currently pregnant, but I think it's more applicable to my three year old since it deals some with walking and talking.  Of course, I plan to hang on to this book for my newest little one!

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

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Review: The Shock of Night by Patrick W. Carr

When I saw that Patrick W. Carr had another book coming out, I knew that I would read it because I enjoyed his last series The Sword and the Staff so much.  The Shock of Night has a new protagonist in a new world, but the writing is just as good.  Willet Dura has recently become the king's reeve, basically, the king's own detective.  He is very good at what he does, so when a man is murdered and the religious groups want the king to leave it alone, he asks Willet to investigate, quietly, of course.  Willet does and becomes drawn into experiences that he never thought possible and gains a kind of power he really doesn't want.

I really enjoyed this latest book from Carr.  His heroes are flawed men:  the hero from his last series was a recovering alcoholic, whereas some people think Willet is insane.  (I'll leave it for the reader to decide if they are correct.)  But Willet uses his mind and talents and discovers what others are unable and/or unwilling to find.  And watching him grow into his newfound ability is fun to watch, especially when he uses it against those who try to manipulate him.

If you're interested in this book, you should start with Carr's prequel, a free e-book By Divine Right which tells how Willet becomes the king's reeve.

I look forward to seeing how Willet's tale progresses in the rest of this series!

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

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Book Review: The Stone of Ebenezer by Susan Van Volkenburgh

The Stone of Ebenezer by Susan Van Volkenburgh tells the fictionalized story of when the Israelites took the Ark of the Covenant into battle with the Philistines -- and the Philistines captured the ark.  This tale follows the Israelite soldier Nagad as he witnesses the capture, and it also follows four Philistine soldiers who observe the devastating effects that God wields upon the Philistines until they return His Ark.  The last third of the book also deals with the return of the Ark and the subsequent defeat of the Philistines.

I did not enjoy this book; I could not read it fast enough to get it over and done with.  While the story was fine (not good, not bad), the writing left much to be desired.  The author tried to write poetically, to the extent that a few times I read and reread a passage and could not fathom what she meant, other than that the sun came up.  It also seemed as though she used a thesaurus, looking for new words, without actually knowing what they meant or how they should be used.  A good editor could have fixed that along with some of the grammatical errors.  Maybe that's what she needed.

If you enjoy reading fictionalized Biblical history, you might enjoy this book -- if you can overlook the problems that I just couldn't.

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

Friday, November 20, 2015

Finished Object Friday and an Update

I made both of these baby blankets for friends who are also having babies.  Since both of them are due before I am, I had plans to make blankets for them before I discovered that I was pregnant. I must admit that I'm happy to be done with these two blankets so that I can work on one for my baby.  :)  The pattern for the first one, the yellow one, came from Knit Baby Blankets.  The second one came from Afghan Medleys to Knit, and it's not actually a baby blanket pattern.  :)  My mother suggested taking the pattern for a scarf and making it bigger, and it came out lovely, don't you think?

As for me, I am doing well.  I feel pretty good most of the time, although I am easily tired.  I guess that's what happens when you get pregnant at my age.  ;)  Things are keeping me busier than I have been, and most of it has been good.  School takes longer this year with three children to teach, and Sarah Beth has more work to do because of her CC Essentials class.  With Mary not napping -- most of the time, we take advantage of the free afternoons to get together with friends at the park or even just to run extra errands.  And my almost daily nap takes time, too.  :)

On top of all of that, I realized last month that we don't have room for the new baby's paraphernalia, and we should because we have a nice, big house.  I was inspired by Marie Kondo's book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, and I've been going through my closet and the library, sorting through things.  Both rooms look so much better!  If you're thinking that I shouldn't be doing this right now, well, maybe you're right.  But I actually enjoy it, and I'm doing it in small windows of time so I don't wear myself out too much -- and neglect the rest of my life.  

With all of that, I barely have any time to get on the computer some days, but that's okay.  I try to keep up with my blog reading even though I'm not writing much.  I hope that things slow down -- but I really don't think they will.  I'd better get used to this level of busy-ness!

Monday, November 2, 2015

Book Review: The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert

The Girl from the Train by Irma Joubert tells the story of Gretl: how she escapes from a train carrying a load of German Jews to Auschwitz during World War II, then stays with a Polish family for a few years before ending up in South Africa, adopted by a loving family.  The author does a great job describing the different cultures Gretl adapts to, especially the one in South Africa which is the one with which I am the most unfamiliar.  I especially enjoyed watching Gretl make the journey from watching others' faith to making Christianity her own.

I absolutely loved this book!  From the very first page, I was enthralled, and I couldn't read it fast enough.  The writing style of this author is wonderful, and I wish more of her books were translated into English.  The pictures that she paints and how she describes the characters' feelings are extraordinary, and I can't recommend this book more highly.  As an added benefit, it is clean!

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Book Review: Grit to Great by Linda Kaplan Thaler & Robin Koval

Grit to Great:  How Perseverance, Passion, and Pluck Take You from Ordinary to Extraordinary by Linda Kaplan Thaler and Robin Koval contains many stories of how people with ordinary abilities were able to do exceptional things because they were determined to do so.  Along with the inspiring stories, the book is filled with suggestions on how to develop "grit" so that you can stick with your dreams in order to make them come true.

Honestly, I decided to review this book because I want to help my children develop "grit."  I want them to learn to stick with things until they get them accomplished.  But I learned a few things about myself, one is that I have more grit than I thought.  :)   Also, I enjoyed reading this book more than I thought I would, and I would recommend it to anyone who desires to do more than maybe they think they can, anyone who wants to learn to persevere.

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Book Review: On This Foundation by Lynn Austin

On This Foundation by Lynn Austin continues the biblical story told in the earlier two books in this series, the story of how the exiled Jews return to Jerusalem from Babylon and rebuild it.  This book focuses on Nehemiah and how God used him to build the walls around His city.

When I saw that I had the opportunity to review this book, I leaped at it!  I love Austin's books, and this one was just as good, if not better.  Her Bible-based books are so accurate, and I really appreciate her attention to detail.  I skimmed through the book of Nehemiah just to get an overview of the story, and found almost everything she included in the book.  As a matter of fact, I thought the story of Chana and her sisters helping their father rebuild the wall was just added to give us a strong heroine to admire, but no!  One of the rulers of Jerusalem did have daughters who helped on the wall.

I really enjoyed this book.  The character development was wonderful as we watch Nehemiah struggle with his desire to protect his brothers along with his need to let them be the men God wants them to be.  And Chana goes through an amazing renewal as she learns to put aside her grief and embrace the life that God wants her to lead.

So, yes, I recommend this book!

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

Monday, October 12, 2015

An Update

Please disregard the mess in the background.  I forgot to check it out before having my picture taken. :)

As you know, I haven't written anything personal on my blog lately.  I've just been too busy lately with being pregnant, homeschooling, directing our CC campus, etc.  Did I mention that I'm busy with just being pregnant?  It takes so much more energy than I remember!  :)  But I'm sure that the few of you who regularly read my blog are curious about how we're doing here.  As a matter of fact, I started this post two weeks ago, and I'm just now getting around to publishing it.  Oops!

First of all, I'm about twenty-three weeks along in my pregnancy, and I'm feeling pretty good for the most part.  But the older I get, the harder it is to be pregnant.  :)  But I'm taking things slowly and resting as much as I can, while enjoying this pregnancy.  A nap every day has become a must!

I'm sure what you really want to know, though, is what we're having:  a girl!  We look forward to meeting our new daughter in a few months.

We started school back in July, and I'm so glad that we did.  It's given us a nice head start so that when the baby comes, I won't be worried about taking some time off from school.  We started back with Classical Conversations in the middle of August, and that has been wonderful.  Being director is harder in some ways than I expected but much easier in others.  All in all, I enjoy it.

We also got some new chicks about a month ago, and Sarah Beth and Daniel have done most of the care-taking for them which has been nice.

We've also taken several field trips with friends which were great fun along with being informative.  We visited Crocodile Encounter last week, and I highly recommend it.

That's most of what we've been up to the past couple of months, and I'll try to post more than just book reviews in the near future -- but I can't promise anything!  ;)  I've only got so much energy these days, and blogging is down near the bottom of my priority list.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book Review: The Legend of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Richard Cowdrey

In The Legend of the Christmas Cookie by Dandi Daley Mackall, Jack's father is gone from home looking for work at Christmas.  Jack and his mother don't have much money, so he is surprised when he comes home one afternoon and finds his mother baking cookies.  When he asks about it, she tells him a story about a medieval family who make cookies to tell the rest of the village about the true meaning of Christmas.  Later, on Christmas Day, a man comes to the door asking for food.  Jack shares his cookie with him and tells him about the true meaning of Christmas.

My children and I enjoyed this book, although I must admit that I noticed something was missing from this cute story.  At first, I thought the "true meaning of Christmas," according to the book, was sharing with those less fortunate.  But after reading the book a couple more times, I realized that the "true meaning" is that Jesus was born as a baby which is a better meaning, although it still leaves something out.  Why did Jesus come?  Why was it such a big deal that He was born as a baby?  Such a big deal that a heavenly host of angels came to announce it?  This book leaves out the reason that Jesus was born, and that is a huge omission.

With that said, this book is a fairly good one to add to one's collection of Christmas books.  To be perfectly honest, I have found very few that get the "true meaning of Christmas" completely correct.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Book Review: Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund

Luther and Katharina by Jody Hedlund tells how Martin Luther and his wife Katharina may have decided to marry and fallen in love, taking into account their fierce and prickly personalities.  The book starts off with Katharina escaping from a convent where she had been secluded as a nun.  She was influenced in this decision by some of Luther's writings.  Of course, when they first meet, it is definitely not love-at-first-sight for these two; rather, they have utter disdain for each other.  But as always happens in books like these, circumstances happen to cause them to change their feelings for each other.

When I saw this book about Martin Luther and his wife, I wanted to read it immediately!  I think the author tried to make it as accurate as possible, using quotes from Luther's letters and works.  However, it just didn't have the ring of reality to me, so I can't highly recommend it, although if you think this book sounds interesting, you may like it.  I did enjoy learning about some of the history and culture of the time, about how the German princes and the Pope interacted during this time, and the many stresses placed upon Luther as he led this fledgling movement.

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

Monday, September 14, 2015

Book Review: Chivalrous by Dina L. Sleiman

In Chivalrous by Dina L. Sleiman, Gwendolyn does not want to get married, especially to the cruel man her father has chosen for his power and title.  She would rather become a knight and help those who are in need.  Alan with his humble background has just been knighted, and through a series of events is chosen to marry the Duchess after the Duke is murdered, despite his feeling for Gwendolyn.  These two have to learn to trust God with their circumstances, deal with their pride, and figure out what to do about their feelings for each other.

I enjoyed this book, even though I had to suspend thoughts of reality as I read it -- or maybe because I had to.  I mean, no woman could hold her own against a trained knight as Gwendolyn did, but it still makes an entertaining story.  But watching Gwendolyn and Alan struggle with their thoughts of what God's will for them was, that was a nice dose of reality -- because what Christian hasn't done that?

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

Monday, August 24, 2015

Book Review: Submarines, Secrets, & a Daring Rescue by Robert J. Skead

For Submarines, Secrets, and a Daring Rescue by Robert J. Skead, the title says it all.  This book is the wildly impossible but wildly fun adventures of twins Ambrose and John Clark during the Revolutionary War.  They pilot the world's first submarine, The Turtle, to sink a British warship; carry secret messages to George Washington; and help execute a daring rescue.  The action packed into this little book is amazingly wonderful!

Despite its unbelievability, I enjoyed reading this book.  I think it's just about perfect for boys (and girls) who love a great adventure story.  Children don't care if everything in a book is realistic, and honestly, neither do (most) adults.  I got this book specifically for my seven year old, but he isn't quite ready for this chapter book; however, my nine year old devoured it and asked for the first one in the series which I plan to get for her.

Another thing I enjoyed about this book was the history it contains.  The people in it were real heroes of the Revolutionary War, and the Turtle was a real submarine.  Along with the story, children will learn some history, too.  Win/win!  And best of all, the twins and their family are Christians and look to God for protection when they are in dangerous places.

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

Monday, August 10, 2015

Book Review: the Prince Who was Just Himself by Silke Schnee

When the queen decides that she wants another child, the king isn't so sure.  But as he spends time with his two sons, he decides that children are a blessing and that he agrees with his wife.  When the third son is born, everyone notices that he is not like the other two.  He moves at a slower pace, as if he intends to enjoy life instead of racing through it.  But when the evil Scarface shows up, Prince Noah is the one who rescues the kingdom through his kindness.

This sweet story about a child with Down's syndrome pulled at my heart strings.  Everyone I know with a child with Down's Syndrome says what a blessing their child is, a blessing they would never wish away.  I think this book does a great job showing how special these children are, even though they are a little different.

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

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Book Reviews: Two Children's Books

With Princess Charity Sticker and Activity Book,  the title explains exactly what this book contains.  There are different puzzles and games on each page along with two full pages of stickers.  There is, also, a short, sweet story about Charity and her pony.

As soon as I handed this book to my younger two daughters (three and five), they loved this book.  The younger one enjoyed the coloring and stickers.  The older one was able to do most of the games, although she wasn't ready for the word search since she's not reading yet.  (My oldest daughter, who is nine, loves word searches, so she did it.)  I especially appreciated that this activity book is Christian-based, teaching girls character qualities.

The Rainbow Egg by Linda Hendricks tells the story of Hope, a chicken who lives in the woods and doesn't have a nest.  When she lays an egg, she has to carry it around with her which gets very tiring. One day, she find a henhouse and discovers a pair of chickens who have been trying to lay an egg in their nest but haven't been able to.  Hope decides to give her egg away to the Rainbows because she knows they can give her egg (and future chick) a better home than she can.

This story seems like a neat way to talk to children about adoption, explaining it in terms that they can understand.  It explains why a woman might give up her child and why another family would adopt him.

I want to thank BookLook Bloggers for my review copies of these books, but my opinions are my own.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Sarah Beth's "Catch of the Day"

John took Sarah Beth out Saturday in their kayaks, and she caught this huge, beautiful red fish.  They would have had a good time without catching anything, but this beauty was the icing on the cake, so to speak.  When they got home, John cleaned the fish, then he fried it for supper.  Yum!  We hope they continue to go out and have fun -- and bring home supper!  Just look at that face; doesn't she look proud of herself!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

July Reading

I read more than usual this month.  Being tired and not feeling well, it's been nice to "lose" myself in the pages of a book.  Most of the books I read this month were good ones with one notable exception.  I just couldn't put it down because I wanted to know what happened.  Here are the books I read in July:
  • Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling.  This book is a collection of short stories which I read as a child.  I enjoyed them more, I think, reading them as an adult.  This book counted as my book from Asia for our library's summer reading.
  • Refining Fire by Tracie Peterson.  Two people with violent pasts come together, overcoming what was done to them.  You can read my full review here.
  • Your Sacred Yes by Susie Larson.  A great book about using your time wisely for the Lord, you can read my full review here.
  • Using John Saxon's Math Books by Art Reed.  Since we use Saxon Math books, I figured I should read this, especially when one of my good friends offered to lend it to me.  It was a quick read and very enlightening about how to use these books for the most benefit to my children.
  • Green Mansions by W.H. Hudson.  This strange book was my read from South America.  A Spanish Venezuelan runs away into the jungle in the early 1900's and falls in love with a native who is unlike any others.  Apparently, her tribe was destroyed earlier.  Things end tragically for the two.
  • The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber.  A man is sent to a distant planet as a missionary to the natives there, leaving his wife behind.  I read this book based on its being World Magazine's fiction book of the year, but this book was awful.  The premise was a good one, but the author ruined it.  I only finished it to find out what happened to this man's marriage -- and it ended inconclusively.  
  • Second Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy.  A woman in the late 1800's is chosen to investigate the murder of a leading citizen, having to deal with opposition from people not wanting a woman to do this.  You can read my full review here.
  • The Core by Leigh Bortins.  This book was written by the founder of Classical Conversations, and I read it so that I could get an even better understanding of this homeschool program.  It was full of wonderful information about classical schooling and how to implement it at home as simply as possible.  
What have you been reading lately?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Book Review: Second Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy

In Second Street Station by Lawrence H. Levy, Mary Handley wants to work for the police.  Unfortunately, in the late 1800's, this option isn't a viable one for women.  Out of the blue, however, Mary gets her chance to investigate the murder of one of New York's leading citizens, although the "powers-that-be" plan to use her as a scapegoat, if things don't work out.  But of course, she solves the crime and catches the murderer, showing that women can be policemen, too.

I did enjoy this book, even though it has some feminist propaganda in it, because it's a fun story.  Levy brings in all kinds of famous people who lived in New York at the time:  J.P. Morgan, Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and George Westinghouse.  Even Mary Handley was a real person!  I've read a biography of Tesla, and Levy seems to have portrayed him accurately, so I can only assume that he did the same with the other figures.

Mary has to work hard to overcome her limitations as a woman to fit in with the all-men's police department, but she does it without too much bitterness.  The story is fast-paced and exciting, although at times the language is a little much, almost like the author is going for a shock value -- which maybe he is.

Like I said, I enjoyed this book, but I may or may not read any more works by this author.

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

Friday, July 17, 2015

Book Review: Your Sacred Yes by Susie Larson

In Your Sacred Yes:  Trading Life-Draining Obligations for Freedom, Passion, and Joy, Susie Larson shows how to take advantage of God's gift of rest while evaluating the obligations we choose to see if they are God's best for us.  Sometimes we think being busy, busy, and getting as much done as we possibly can is the best thing to do.  But Larson shows that that is not how God wants us to live.  He wants us to choose the best things that He has to offer and to take time to rest so that we can be more productive at what He has called us to do.

I enjoyed this book as it does encourage us to slow down and rest, to choose the best things instead of things that are just "good."  While I don't have the problem right now with over-scheduling myself, I do see this as a problem and this book could help many women to slow down and actually get more done while getting the rest their Heavenly Father knows they need.

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

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Thankful Thursday: Blessings Abound!

It's been a while since I've written a "Thankful Thursday" post, but I've been wanting to write this one.  I've dropped a few hints over the past couple of weeks, but it's time to come clean, so to speak.  We're expecting again!  So here are some things for which I'm thankful this week:
  • nausea, etc. as it points to a normally-progressing pregnancy
  • that I don't feel as bad as I did when I was pregnant with Mary
  • children who are old enough actually to help around the house
  • a supportive husband
  • maternity clothes:  I gave some to a friend, and she graciously sent them back when she found out I was pregnant
  • mostly, that God is blessing us with another child!
We also started back to (limited) school this week.  We received our new math books in the mail last week, and Rachel started begging to do math, and Sarah Beth joined in.  How can you tell a child "no" to that?  So we started this week with math and a little bit of writing for each of my oldest three children.  Also, I figured that getting an early start would be a good thing considering our middle-of-the-year-interruption:  the baby!  In a couple of weeks, we will add a little more, and then a couple weeks after that, we will start back to Classical Conversations.  

For what are you thankful this week?

Monday, July 13, 2015

Monday's Quote: Do You Let Others Determine Your Worth?

How often do we judge others for how well (or not) they live their lives?  I know that's something that I work on; I want to show others the grace that I want them to show me.  On the other hand, how often do we let others determine our worth?  How often do we let their negative comments affect us when they obviously have no idea what we're going through?  Here's another quote from Your Sacred Yes by Susie Larson:
When you look at your life from the inside of your mess--and apart from God's involvement in your life--your assessment will always be incomplete.  And when others toss out their assessments of you based on partial information, their assessments will always be incorrect. 
Don't let the reality of your beauty fall underfoot like a used gum wrapper simply because you don't feel or see your worth quite yet.  Trust me.  Better yet, trust God when He says that you're worth far more than you can even comprehend.  And don't give away your power to those who know you either from a distance or through a skewed lens.  They only know in part.  (p.105)
The only Person whose judgement really matters is God.  He's the only One who truly knows what each of us is going through and why exactly we're doing what we're doing.  As long as we're in His will, it doesn't matter what others think we should be doing.  I'm trying to work on this, as well.

What do you think?  Do you let others' opinions affect you?

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Review: Refining Fire by Tracie Peterson

In Refining Fire by Tracie Peterson, Militine Scott has enrolled in the Madison Bridal School in Seattle in the last year of the nineteenth century, although she has no desire for marriage.  Because of her violent past, she does not think any man would want to marry her.  Thane Patton, who helps out at the school, has a similar past, and as the two develop their friendship, they find they have much in common.  This friendship leads to a romance that neither one saw coming as they deal with their respective pasts and are drawn to the Lord.

I was intrigued when I read about this book, as it sounded like the author was going to bring two people together and have them work through their pasts as their romance develops.  And that's what happens except that the "dealing with their pasts" happens very quickly in one scene, and then it's all better.  I was hoping for something more realistic, as I read about these two people with troubled pasts.  My biggest problem with this book, however, has to do with Abrianna.  Who? you are probably thinking.  Exactly!  She's not mentioned on in the book summary at all, and yet over half of the book is about her.  I felt like that was misleading and detracted from Militine and Thane's story.

I did enjoy this book, but I have no desire to read any more in this series.

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

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

June Review of Goals

This month has been an eventful one!  I started my training for Classical Conversations, and I hosted my first Information Meeting which actually wasn't as big of a deal as I thought it would be.  We've got two or three new families which is exciting!  Then we took Rachel for her appointment with her pediatric rheumatologist, and we received excellent news:  we never have to go back!!!  I also haven't been feeling well, so I haven't done so well with my goals.  I'm not upset or concerned because there is plenty of time for goals when I am feeling better.  ;)

Personal Goals:
  • Read through my book list.  I didn't read anything off my list in June, but I did read several good books.
  • Walk on the treadmill three times a week for twenty minutes.  Like I mentioned above, I haven't been feeling well, so I let this go.
  • Write one letter or note a month.  Fail.
Goals as a Mother:
  • Do something (like a playdate) with someone (and her children) once a month, whether it's having someone over for lunch, going to someone else's house, or heading out for a field trip together.  We've been busy with other things and just didn't make this one happen.
  • Have one fun day in school a month.  I meant to celebrate Flag Day, but it just slipped by me.
  • Take my children on one field trip a month.  We didn't even make it to the planetarium.
  • Teach my children to do more around the house.  Working on this!
  • Read a book about motherhood.  Not yet.
  • Read a chapter book with my children.  We listened to several on the way to my CC training.
Goals as a Wife:
  • Schedule monthly date nights for John and me.   This didn't happen, either.
  • Read a book about being a godly wife.  I've read one so far this year.
Goals as a Family:
  • Continue having another family over for supper once a month.  We have fallen off the bandwagon, so to speak, and need to get back on.
  • Continue our family devotional time.  We have done great with this goal this month!
How are you doing with your yearly goals?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Monday's Quote: Can you Homeschool Your Child?

I've always thought that anyone can homeschool her children, but I read this quote in The Core:  Teaching Your Children the Foundations of Classical Education by Leigh Bortins, the founder of Classical Conversations.  I have to agree with Leigh that not everyone can homeschool her children, and I'll let her explain why:
The most important point I can make is that any parent who really tries can become more involved in his or her children's education....  The first requirement is to believe that it is important and that you can do it.  Whenever I hear a parent groan, "I could never homeschool my children" or "The classical model is too hard," I find I have to agree with them -- not for everyone, but for those who lack confidence.  The person who says, "I can" and the person who says, "I can't" are both right.  I believe every parent can participate in the restoration of our culture to one that appreciates classical learning, but only if they will believe it about themselves.  I believe the strong love of parents for their children makes them capable of providing a quality education for children centered from the home.  (p.  4)
What do you think?  Do you think everyone is capable of teaching her children at home?

Friday, July 3, 2015

Happy Birthday to My Wonderful Husband!

Today is John's birthday, and I won't tell you hold old he is.  ;)  But I will tell you some of the things that I appreciate about him:
  • he loves God and is trying to instill that love in our children
  • he is a loving, supportive husband
  • he loves me even when there's little about me to make him love me
  • he enjoys spending time with our children
  • he works hard supporting our family
  • he likes my family
  • he always calls on his way home from work so I know when to expect him
  • he helps out with my chickens even though the deal was that he wouldn't have to 
Happy birthday to my wonderful, sweet husband!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

June Reading

Our library system has adult summer reading along with the children's, and the challenge this summer is to read books from the six major continents with a bonus given if you read a book about Antarctica.  This goal influenced what I read this month, and I have to admit that I found a new series to read thanks to it.

Here's what I read:
  • Onion Tears by Diana Kidd.  A refugee from Vietnam, Nam-Huong has to learn to adjust to her new life in Australia after leaving her family behind and seeing her grandfather die.  Her teacher, neighbors, and friends all help to bring this young girl out and help her to talk again.
  • Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good by Jan Karon.  The latest in the Father Tim novels.
  • Speaking from Among the Bones by Alan Bradley.  Another adventure for eleven year old detective Flavia de Luce in Britain (Europe).
  • The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah Mccoy.  You can read my review of this excellent book here.
  • The No.  1 Ladies' Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith.  Precious becomes the first lady detective in Botswana (Africa) when she opens her agency.  She has several adventures as she solves a few crimes and helps her clients.  This book is especially enlightening as it tells of life in Botswana.
I'm in the middle of The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling (Asia), and I plan to read Hotel Brasil by Frei Betto (South America).  I'll probably pick up a book about James Cook who discovered Antarctica or something like that, unless you have a suggestion.  :)

Does your library have adult summer reading?  What have you read lately?

Monday, June 29, 2015

Book Review: The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy

The Mapmaker's Children by Sarah McCoy weaves together the stories of Sarah, abolitionist John Brown's daughter, and Eden, a woman from current times who struggles with infertility.  As Sarah deals with her father's hanging for the raid on Harper's Ferry, she continues his work helping escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad.  On the other hand, Eden wonders whether her marriage will last through infertility, or even if it's worth trying.  While she considers her options, she discovers some interesting things about her house that lead her to learn of Sarah's story.

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would.  Honestly, I was surprised at the end to find that Sarah Brown was a real person and the events told in this book really happened, although a lot was fictionalized because we have no way to know what she felt about things.  Also, I appreciated both romance stories, as Eden falls back in love with her husband and Sarah, well, I won't tell you what happens with Sarah because it might spoil it for you.

So, yes, I recommend this book, especially if you would like to learn more about the Underground Railroad and Sarah Brown.

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Tuesday's Tip: How to Keep Plastic Wrap from Sticking

Recently,  I made a cake for our church's potluck dinner.  After icing it, I put the lid on it, but try as I might, the lid would not go all the way down.  I took it off...and peeled half of the icing off with it.  *Sigh*  So I scraped off the icing and put it back on the cake.

Now I had to figure out what to do?  I needed to put some kind of top on it, but I knew that plastic wrap would do the same thing.  So I had to figure some way to keep the plastic wrap from sticking to the icing, but toothpicks would go right through it.  What would be small enough and light enough?  Finally, I thought about little medicine cups, you know, the ones that come with liquid medications.  What a great idea, I thought.

And you know what?  Those little medicine cups worked wonderfully.  They were small enough and light enough not to hurt the cake, but tall enough to keep the plastic wrap from touching (and sticking) to it.  I actually had a couple of people tell me what a good idea this was, and I thought I would pass it on to you, in case you've had the same problem.

Have you had this problem before?  How do you keep your lids from sticking to the icing?

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Monday's Quote: What is the Best Way to Spend Your Time?

I started reading Your Sacred Yes:  Trading Life-Draining Obligation for Freedom, Passion, and Joy by Susie Larson last week, and I've been enjoying it.  It's helping me think about the choices I make, whether they are things that I want to do, or whether they are things that I feel God wants me to do.
When we--without thinking too much about it--give away our time to things un-appointed by God, we will not have the grace to sustain them.  Consequently, we put ourselves at risk of the enemy's schemes.  We may forge ahead with energy and enthusiasm, but, under our own strength, we're not strong enough to keep our own footing.  Especially when we live out from under God's best will for us.  (p.21)
When we try to do things that God has not chosen for us to do, we don't necessarily have the energy that we need to do them.  And we rob those things that He has appointed for us to do.  For example, if I choose to volunteer at the pregnancy center, but it means neglecting my children and husband, I have chosen something good, but not the best.  God can find someone else to help out at the center, but only I can take care of my family.

Do you evaluate your choices in light of what God would have you do?  I think it's something that we should routinely do.  What do you think?

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Finished Object Friday: A Baby Blanket

I made this blanket for one of my friends who is having a baby girl next month.  I made a blanket from the same pattern several years ago for a different friend, but I love the pattern so much that I wanted to make it again.  I was glad for a good reason!  It's a light, airy blanket that seems to fit the summer months well.

The pattern comes from Crochet Today! the March/April 2009 issue, but the magazine is now out of print which makes me sad.  :(  But at least, I have a copy of this issue so I can make this blanket whenever I want to!  :)

What project have you worked on recently?

Thankful Thursday: Summer Vacation

Sometimes you just need a matter where you are!

While last week was our first week of summer vacation, we were so busy with camp that we didn't feel like we were on vacation.  So this week feels more restful and stress-free since we didn't have much planned.  As a matter of fact, Monday morning as I was planning my day, I realized that I had all kinds of time since we were not going to do least, not very much.  ;)

A few other things for which I'm thankful:
  • we went out for supper last Saturday night with friends and really had a good time with them
  • Tropical Storm Bill did not drop nearly as much rain on us as predicted which was wonderful because the rivers around us are full
  • electricity!  We lost power for over seven hours on Tuesday, and we were so glad to get it back.
  • electricity!  It blinked a few times Wednesday morning, but it kept coming back on!
  • John was home all day Tuesday, and it was great to have him around
  • my first CC information meeting is tonight...I'll be glad to have it over!  ;)
For what are you thankful this week?

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday's Quote: Why Does God Love You?

Here's another quote from The Sovereignty of God by Arthur W. Pink; this one deals with why God loves His chosen:
When we say that God is Sovereign in the exercise of His love, we mean that He loves whom He chooses.  God does not love everybody; if He did, He would love the Devil.  Why does not God love the Devil?  Because there is nothing in him to love; because there is nothing in him to attract the heart of God.  Nor is there anything to attract God's love in any of the fallen sons of Adam, for all of them are, by nature, "children of wrath"  (Eph. 2:3).  If then there is nothing in any member of the human race to attract God's love, and if, notwithstanding, He does love some, then it necessarily follows that the cause of His love must be found in Himself, which is only another way of saying that the exercise of God's love towards the fallen sons of men is according to His own good pleasure.
Isn't that humbling?  God doesn't love us because of anything that we've done or anything that we are; He loves us because He loves us.  Isn't that wonderful!  If we haven't done anything to earn His love, we can't do anything to lose it.  How comforting!

What do you think about this quote?  Do you find it humbling, comforting, or both?

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Thankful Thursday: A Week of Camp

Our summer started this week, and my two older children have art camp this week.  Since they have camp at different times (Daniel in the morning and Sarah Beth in the afternoon), we're spending a lot of time in the car.  But it's worth it since both children are having so much fun.  Other than camp, however, we're not getting much done at home because we're just not there long enough.

A few things for which I'm thankful this week:
  • camp!
  • how much fun my children are having.
  • the nice compliments I've gotten on my children's talent and how they pay attention.  While I'm glad that they have some talent, I'm very pleased that they are paying attention and doing what they are supposed to be doing.
  • the nice, sunny weather.  It's not quite hot yet, although it is unpleasantly warm.  ;)
  • I have my director's training done for CC...
  • and my training for Information Meetings
  • that CC does so much training so that we feel ready for the tasks set us
  • being able to start getting things ready for our campus next year
  • that my Support Manager was able to get us into a CC Practicum (more training!) that didn't officially have room
  • my tomato plants are doing wonderfully.  I can't wait for those ripe tomatoes!
For what are you thankful this week?  Are your children doing any camp this summer?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Book Review: The Wood's Edge by Lori Benton

When Reginald's newborn son dies while his wife sleeps, he trades the dead body for the living newborn son of a sleeping Indian woman with newborn twin sons.  This book follows both families during the time in America before the Revolutionary War.  The Indian family misses their living son and try to find him, while Reginald hides the truth.  When the truth finally comes out, things don't turn out the way the characters think they might.

I chose this book because I thought it would be more than just a romance novel, but it degenerates into that.  The story ends up focusing on Anna, the adopted daughter of Reginald, and Two Hawks, the Indian twin, and how they fall in love.  I had hoped that it would focus more on Reginald himself and his marriage and family and how they deal with the switched child and the truth.  

I had a few problems with this book.  The love story between Anna and Two Hawks didn't seem right.  I'm sure there were mixed couples like this back then, but the author makes it seem like it wasn't a big deal, that Anna wouldn't mind giving up living in a town with her family and friends to move in with an Indian tribe.  The author also has obviously not given birth to any children.  The way she dealt with postpartum issues (and I won't say anymore than that) makes it clear that she has no experience in these matters.

However, other than that, the book seems thoroughly researched, and I enjoyed learning more about the Indian tribes in New England.  And the Christian aspects were excellent, as the characters learn to trust God and then to forgive those who have wronged them.

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

Monday, June 8, 2015

Monday's Quote: The Sovereignty of God

I started reading The Sovereignty of God by Arthur W. Pink last week, and it's full of such good truth that it's a joy to read.  I wonder, though, if we truly understand what God's sovereignty means, both to us and to Him.
Were we to announce from the average pulpit that the subject of our discourse would be the Sovereignty of God, it would sound very much as though we had borrowed a phrase from one of the dead languages.  Alas!  that it should be so.  Alas!  that the doctrine which is the key to history, the interpreter of Providence, the warp and woof of Scripture, and the foundation of Christian theology should be so sadly neglected and so little understood.....To say that God is Sovereign is to declare that He is the Almighty, the Possessor of all power in Heaven and earth, so that none can defeat His counsels, thwart His purpose, or resist His will.... 
To argue that God is "trying His best" to save all mankind, but that the majority of men will not let Him save them, is to insist that the will of the Creator is impotent, and that the will of the creature is omnipotent.  To throw the blame, as many do, upon the Devil, does not remove the difficulty, for if Satan is defeating the purpose of God, then Satan is Almighty and God is no longer the Supreme Being.
If God is truly sovereign, then we have to realize that nothing we can do, nothing that anyone can do, is able to thwart His will.  It also makes me wonder if I really want to have any control since I don't know everything like He does.  Not knowing everything could would lead to bad decisions, so I think know that I will leave everything in His infinitely capable hands.

I find God's sovereignty comforting, don't you?

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Thankful Thursday: Cinderella!

I took Sarah Beth and Rachel to see Rogers' and Hammerstein's Cinderella on Saturday, and we have a wonderful time.  Rachel was so engrossed that she didn't even smile, while Sarah Beth got into it and laughed and smiled the whole time.  I enjoyed it, too, especially since they had such a good time.

This week I am thankful for:
  • a wonderful time at Cinderella!
  • a safe trip up to Houston and back.
  • God holding the rain off until we were out of Houston.
  • today is our last day of school for the year!  Hooray!
  • the kids' willingness to help weed a flowerbed.
  • John coming home earlier a couple of nights this week.  It's so nice to have him home more!
  • plans made to see some friends for supper soon.
  • bright, sunny weather...even though it makes it a little warm outside.
For what are you thankful this week?

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

May Review of Goals

Once again, I did okay on my goals.  I certainly could do worse...but I also could do much better.  Oh, well!  I'll just keep plugging away!

Personal Goals:
  • Read through my book list.  I did not read anything from my "to read" list, but I did read several other books.
  • Walk on the treadmill three times a week for twenty minutes.  Other than the week we visited my family in Georgia, I did well with this.
  • Write one letter or note a month.  Fail.
Goals as a Mother:
  • Do something (like a playdate) with someone (and her children) once a month, whether it's having someone over for lunch, going to someone else's house, or heading out for a field trip together.  My children and I spent some time with friends while we were in Georgia.
  • Have one fun day in school a month.  Nope.
  • Take my children on one field trip a month.  Does taking Sarah Beth and Rachel to see Rogers' and Hammerstein's Cinderella count?  ;)
  • Teach my children to do more around the house.  Working on this!
  • Read a book about motherhood.  Not yet.
  • Read a chapter book with my children.  This goal fell by the wayside during May, but with summer reading starting (and school ending), we should get back into this.
Goals as a Wife:
  • Schedule monthly date nights for John and me.   We went out with friends one evening.
  • Read a book about being a godly wife.  I read A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas.
Goals as a Family:
  • Continue having another family over for supper once a month.  We have fallen off the bandwagon, so to speak, and need to get back on.
  • Continue our family devotional time.  While we didn't do this in May, I'm excited that we started back this week!
How are you doing with your yearly goals?

Monday, June 1, 2015

Monday's Quote: Listening -- A Generous Gift

While I read In the Company of Others by Jan Karon, I came across this quote.  Father Tim and his wife Cynthia are talking about some of the reasons they love each other, and she says,
You listen.  Really listening to someone is a very tender and generous gift.  (p. 88)
I wonder how much our relationships with others would benefit if we listened, really listened when they spoke, instead of trying to figure out what they're going to say next, how we're going to respond, or what topic to pick next.  Think about how much you appreciate it when someone stops what they're doing and obviously pays attention to what you are saying, listening attentively.  Then think about how your husband, children, and friends would enjoy your listening to them.  How could our relationships not grow deeper and closer?

I don't know about you, but my listening skills need some work, especially with my children.  Thinking about what a "generous gift" my listening could be should inspire me.

Do you listen well?  Or do you think you need to work on it?

Friday, May 29, 2015

May Reading

Looking at what I read this month, it was a good month...except that I didn't read anything from my "to read" list.  *Sigh*  I've got to get on top of that!  Here is what I did read:
  • Edge of Eternity by Randy Alcorn.  I've read several books by this author, and this one is my least favorite.  Basically, it's an allegory about the Christian life being a journey on a road, like Pilgrim's Progress.  Alcorn put a lot of good truth in this novel, but the story itself leaves a lot to be desired.  Coincidentally, Alcorn put an interesting post about this book on his blog recently about how some people love it and others, well, not so much.
  • A Lifelong Love:  What if Marriage is about More Than Just Staying Together? by Gary Thomas.  I highly recommend this excellent book from Thomas about marriage and making it work the God designed it.
  • Then Sings My Soul Book 2:  150 of the World's Greatest Hymn Stories by Robert J. Morgan.  I really enjoy reading a little history about my favorite hymns and their authors.  
  • In the Company of Others by Jan Karon.  Father Tim makes a trip to Ireland and does his usual work of helping out the people he meets, knowing that He's serving God as he does it.
  • I'm Half-Sick of Shadows by Alan Bradley.  Eleven year old Flavia is at it again, solving a murder mystery that happened this time in her own house.  This series is such fun!  But not for children.  I especially enjoy the juxtaposition of her adult insights with her childish fantasies; e.g. she notices that someone else put on the murdered woman's makeup before the police detectives, but she also believes in Father Christmas and wants to catch him.
  • Draven's Light by Anne Elisabeth Stengl.  The newest book in the Goldstone Wood series, this tale is just as good as the previous ones, and maybe a little more straight forward and easier to read.  It seemed shorter as I was able to read it in just a few days.  Of course, Stengl's writing makes me not want to put her books down, so that may have been it, too.  ;)
What have you read lately?

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Thankful Thursday: A Visit to Georgia

Last week, we took a trip to Georgia to see my family.  It was wonderful to spend time with my parents, my sister, both of my brothers, and their families.  On the way, we met a good friend and were able to spend some time with her which was really nice, too.  And I was even able to visit with other good friends while at my parents' house.  All in all, it was a great trip.  Here are a few things for which I'm thankful this week:

  • a sweet husband who made the trip possible
  • traveling mercies:  we didn't have any trouble other than traffic which is such a blessing.
  • our children ride well in the car...even for two days straight
  • catching up with family, especially my niece who heads off to college next year
  • incredible fellowship with friends; we didn't just stick to easy topics
  • quick visits with John's mother (going and coming!)
  • seeing John's brother briefly
  • having John with us for such a long time:  he had Monday off for Memorial Day and took Tuesday off for Sarah Beth's birthday
  • a nine year old!
  • getting back into our routine:  I think we were all glad to get back to "normal" yesterday after all of the fun and excitement of the past (almost) two weeks
For what are you thankful this week?

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Happy Ninth Birthday, Sarah Beth!

Today is Sarah Beth's ninth birthday, and we are excited to celebrate it with her.

This girl loves to swing...

and to read.  (I really like this picture of her!)

Whenever she has the chance, Sarah Beth is figuring things out:  how they fit together and what happens next.

She also enjoys cross-stitching.

Sarah Beth is growing into a lovely young lady, and we look forward to seeing what God has in store for her!