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?

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Thankful Thursday: Many Different Things

God is constantly showering gifts upon us, and I like to share some of the things that He has done for me during the week.  This week I'm thankful for:
  • my mother's amazing sewing ability...
  • and more than that, her willingness to make skirts and dresses for my girls
  • CC and the great friends we're making there
  • my hens' laying has picked up a little; we're getting about three eggs a day
  • my immune system which kept me from getting the flu over Christmas when everyone else in my family had it, but is now in overdrive fighting off allergens.  Ugh!
  • my husband who is making a wonderful effort to come home from work earlier
  • Homeschool Moms' Winter Summit which is this weekend!  I can't wait.  I had a great time last year, and I'm going with a friend this year.  Yea!
For what are you thankful this week?

Monday, January 12, 2015

Monday's Quote: God's Bigness

During my blogging break, I read Golden Daughter by Anne Elisabeth Stengl, and I came upon this quote which I think is magnificent.  This portion of the book takes place near the end when good has overcome evil.  The Lumil Eliasul, who is the Christ-figure, has just defeated the Dragon, who is His enemy, and the Lumil Eliasul shows the Dragon His greatness, and the Dragon's own smallness.
Then the Lumil  Eliasul turns upon the Dragon.  The Dragon, who had been larger than worlds, and who is now small, so very small that his Enemy reaches out and picks him up in one hand. 
"I will show you a wonder now, Death-in-Life," says the Lumil Eliasul, speaking the Dragon's true name....  Look!" 
The Giver of Songs lifts the Dragon to His face, up to His very eye.  And that eye is huge.  It is as far beyond the Dragon's understanding as the Gardens of Hymlume are beyond Jovann's.  That eye contains the Sun, the Moon, the whole of the starry hosts of Heaven.  That eye contains this world, that world, all worlds, and all Betweens.  That eye contains the Boundless, and yet there is still more, and more.  The Dragon looks, and he sees that all of Time is but a grain of sand within that eye, and Space itself is smaller still. 
"No!  No, please!"  The Dragon screams, struggles.  He tries to find the vastness of his wings, but they are as infinitesimal as his own imagined might.  "Let me go!  Let me go!" 
"Poor, foolish thing," said the Lumil Eliasul.  "Do you see now?  Do you see the truth?  Nothing you set your hand to will be accomplished beyond My will.  Now even your foul work will I turn to greater good, to greater glory, beyond anything you have imagined.  Behold...." 
"Your greatest evil is not great enough to mar My smallest good.  Your evil is bound in the confines of Time.  Your workings only exist for a moment.  Then they are swallowed up.  But My good extends to all Times, all Timelessness, all worlds imagined and unimaginable.  Vain, futile creature, for creature you are, created and sustained only at my will.  Can you not see how all this fire is swept away and becomes nothing at all?" 
The Dragon can see now.  He can see it all too well.
I appreciate this passage so much because it reminds me how big, how great God is.  My favorite part of this quote is "Your greater evil is not great enough to mar My smallest good."  Isn't that comforting?  Our sovereign God (who is unfathomably huge) holds us securely in the palm of His hand, and nothing, nothing, can happen to us without His consent.  Nothing is big enough or powerful enough to change the smallest part of His plan for us.  How reassuring!  And I love the imagery Stengl uses to show how big God is, how the sun, moon, and stars, and all of time can be seen in just His eye.  Amazing!

I enjoy this type of reminder because it is so encouraging to be reminded of my place in things.  Do you enjoy being reminded, too?

Friday, January 9, 2015

Fun School Days

One of my goals this year (and the past couple of years) is to incorporate some "fun" into our schooling.  Typically, we do our regular school first and then supplement it with some celebrating.  For instance, when we celebrated Dr. Suess' birthday a couple of years ago, I read several of his books to my children, then we watched some of them on DVD.  I even scrambled some green eggs, but they were a little unappetizing.  On Chocolate Chip Day last year, we read some books about the history of chocolate and how it's made.  Of course, we also ate some!

Here are the dates that I've accumulated so far.  We won't celebrate all of them; my goal is one per month, but sometimes we may do more.

  • 15 - Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday
  • 18 - Winnie the Pooh Day (A.A. Milne's birthday)
  • 19 - National Popcorn Day
  • 29 - Puzzle Day
  • Alfred Cralle invented the ice cream scoop
  • 7 - Laura Ingalls Wilder's birthday
  • 14 - Valentine's Day
  • 23 - Tootsie Roll anniversary
  • 26 - Tell a Fairy Tale Day
  • 2 - Dr. Seuss' birthday
  • 4 - Pancake Day
  • 14 - pi Day
  • 17 - St. Patrick's Day
  • 2 - Hans Christian Anderson's birthday
  • 22 - Jelly Bean Day
  • 15 - Chocolate Chip Day
  • 5 - Gingerbread Day
  • 14 - Flag Day
  • 25 - Eric Carle's birthday
  • 28 - Paul Bunyan Day
  • 14 - Peggy Parrish's birthday (Amelia Bedelia's author)
  • 28 - Beatrice Potter's birthday

  • 16 - National Play-doh Day
  • 19 - Talk Like a Pirate Day
  • 26 - Johnny Appleseed's birthday
  • 12 - Columbus Day
  • 31 - Reformation Day

  • Thanksgiving
  • 4 - National Cookie Day 
  • 30 - Rudyard Kipling's birthday
As you can see, I've got all kinds of different dates listed here:  birthdays, real holidays, and some that are completely just fun.  I think our favorite is Talk Like a Pirate Day.  We go through our day saying "aargh, matey!" a lot, and I make up a scavenger hunt complete with a treasure for my children to find.  

Do you celebrate these kind of dates?  Have I missed any other good ones?  Do you have any suggestions for my empty month, August?  

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Reading List for 2015

For the past several years, I have made a goal to read certain books.  And most years, I don't read all of the books on my list...which is fine except that it leaves me with more books for the next year.  This year, I decided to keep my list short (and finish up last year's list) so that I hopefully will read all ten of these books.

Here is my list:
Did you see a theme?  Well, not really a theme.  Sometimes, a certain period of time piques my interest, and this year it's the Depression.  I've got two books about that time, and I look forward to learning more about it.

Do you have a list of books that you would like to read this year?  How long is it?

Monday, January 5, 2015

New Year's Goals for 2015

I have really enjoyed my blogging break and spending some extra time with my family.  We had a nice Christmas, despite the fact that all four children had the flu that week.  By God's great mercy, I did not catch it, too.  John took Christmas week and New Year's Day week off, and it was lovely to have him home for two whole weeks!

But now it's time to get back to "normal," our regular routine.  And I thought it was time to start writing on my blog again.  What better time to start than at the New Year and with a list of goals for the New Year.  I based this list off last year's list with a few changes.

Personal Goals:
  • Read through my book list.  I did not finish my list of books last year, so I'm carrying some of them over and adding just a few more.  I plan to share this list later this week.  Hopefully, I will get them all read this year so I'm keeping the list short!
  • Walk on the treadmill three times a week for twenty minutes.  Since I fell off the treadmill (figuratively) this summer and never really climbed back on, I need to work on this.
  • Look for a job.  Actually, this isn't a goal anymore.  John and I decided that my time is better spent at home rather than working, even just the one weekend a month I had planned to work.  So this goal is done!
  • Write one letter or note a month.  
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.  
  • Have one fun day in school a month.  I'll publish a list later this week of potential days that we will celebrate.
  • Take my children on one field trip a month.  
  • Teach my children to do more around the house.  This month, I plan to have Sarah Beth and Daniel help me with cooking supper.
  • Read a book about motherhood.
  • Read a chapter book with my children.  I've got several collected that I need to start reading with my children.
Goals as a Wife:
  • Schedule monthly date nights for John and me.  
  • Do something weekly to make John feel special.  (I got this goal from Tracey at Girls to Grow.)  
  • Read a book about being a godly wife.
Goals as a Family:
  • Continue having another family over for supper once a month.  
  • Continue our family devotional time.  
What goals did you make for this year?