Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Daniel Fast by Susan Gregory

When it comes to fasting, there are two important elements...the why and the how.  This book does a great job at explaining both!  It contains 104 pages of reading, over 100 pages of recipes and menu ideas, and a 21-day devotional.

She writes "The definition of a biblical fast is to restrict food for a spiritual purpose...it's a spiritual tool that God created to help you strengthen your spirit, learn self-control of the flesh, draw closer to your Father, and focus on prayer".  Without a purpose, a fast would simply be a "diet".  Therefore, the book focuses on what we can learn from the account of Daniel fasting in the Bible and why we should incorporate this spiritual discipline into our lives.  I got a little confused during her explanation of the differences between soul and spirit, but otherwise was very motivated to give this a try sometime in the near future.

The Daniel Fast specifically is a "plant-based eating plan with additional restrictions that include no sweeteners, no leavening products, and no man-made chemicals or processed foods."  It is a very healthy diet with many health benefits.  The author walks through the steps needed to plan and prepare to go on this fast, both physically and spiritually.  While the typical length is 21-days, the fast can be adapted to any length of time.  For anyone wanting to learn more about fasting, this is a great resource.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Ed Thomas Story

The Sacred Acre is the true story of Ed Thomas.  It is a story of faith, overcoming adversity, grace, forgiveness, and hope.  Ed Thomas was a high school teacher and football coach who inspired his students and his community to greatness.  In May 2008 after an EF5 tornado destroyed his town, Coach Thomas was on the front lines helping to rebuild what was lost and restore hope.  One year later he was murdered by a former player with a mental illness.  Today his legacy lives on through the people who loved him and through the inspiring message in this book. 

This story is an excellent example of an ordinary life well-lived for the glory of God.  It is about a coach who "often said that if all he taught his boys was how to play football, then he would have failed as a coach".  My eyes were opened to the devastation left in the wake of a tornado, followed by the inspiring ways people can rise up and work together to rebuild.  When adversity hits, true character is revealed.  This was certainly evident in the reactions of Coach Thomas' family after his tragic death.  They knew the man who pulled the trigger.  Yet they set an example to the community by showing grace and love to the man's family.  Ed's son, Todd, says "There is no doubt that we are in a spiritual battle on this earth.  Evil came after my dad that day, but evil did not win.  The day of the funeral...people saw a man who had finished strong, and peoples' lives were changed."  The family urges others to follow in Ed's footsteps by choosing to do what is right, working hard, and living a life of faith in relationship with God.

I love an inspiring true story.  This book has something to teach everyone, but would be especially helpful for coaches who are in a position to instill in our youth the same values that Coach Thomas lived out.  Thank you Thomas family for telling your story.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

To learn more about this story, watch here...

Monday, December 19, 2011

What do you tell your kids about Santa?

Santa Claus is always a hot topic this time of year.  It brings back memories of my childhood.  I lived with my father during the week and from a very young age I knew that Santa was not real.  I don't remember caring very much...I mean, I still got the presents...who cares where they come from?  Then I would go to my mom's house on the weekend and she INSISTED that Santa was real.  Even to this day she has not admitted to me otherwise!  But I was wise enough to recognize her handwriting on the "From Santa" tags on my gifts.  I just played along for her sake :)

I struggle with how/when to bring up the truth about Santa to my boys.  Up to this point when they have asked something about Santa, we reply "what do you think?" and have conveniently ignored giving a straight answer.  I know I will draw the line at lying because I want my boys to trust that what I tell them is true.  This year I saw a blog post on this topic that I really like.  You can view it here.  The writer shares my conviction about telling the truth, and suggests doing it by teaching about the real Saint Nicholas and how Santa Claus came to be.  It suggested a Veggie Tales movie on the topic, which I'm going to check out.  What about you...how/when did you share the truth about Santa Claus with your kids?  And how do you keep them from spilling the news to other children whose parents want to keep up the fantasy?  I'd love to hear your input!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Awakening by Stovall Weems

Stovall Weems is the pastor of Celebration Church and leads his church through a 21-day fast each January called Awakening.  He says "when it comes to my devotional time or certain areas of my life, if I start to not feel like obeying God, I know it is time for a fast...burdensome obedience should be the rare exception, not the norm." His desire is to see people move from a stale "have to" attitude toward God to an alive "want to" relationship.

This book is divided into three sections.  The first section contains 124 pages which talk about topics such as surrender, passion, God's goodness, prayer, and fasting.  The conclusion of each chapter has a testimony from a member of Pastor Stovall's church who has gone through the Awakening fast.  I have to admit that I struggled through this reading.  There were many points that I agreed with, but there were also things that alerted me to read with caution.  I'm not sure that the author truly takes all personality types into consideration when presenting what a relationship with God "should be like".  The chapter I most enjoyed was entitled Fasting For Your Health.  I had no idea all the health benefits that come from fasting!  But since there are many types of fasts, I was a little disappointed that the author didn't mean what type of fast these benefits were resulting from.

The next 18 pages detail The Awakening 21-Day Plan.  Information about different types of fasts are given, along with a sample menu.  Since I have never fasted, I would have liked to see more content in this area.  Most of the book talks about the "why" of fasting but not the "how", both of which are important.

And finally there is a Daily Plan to use each day during the fast.  Each day contains a devotion, bible reading plan, prayer focus, optional book reading plan, and a space for journaling.  There are also three small group discussion guides for those going through the fast as a small group.  I did not personally go through this fast so I cannot give an opinion on how beneficial the plan is.  I feel the need to consult more sources before embarking on this journey.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Meet Cristian

Our family decided to give Hope to a little boy this Christmas through Compassion International.  This organization provides food, health care, education, and support for children living in poverty and their families.  There are over 2,000 children currently on the site who need sponsors.  The sponsors are encouraged to be in frequent contact with the children to show them that someone cares.

We want our boys to realize how much we are blessed with in this country, and  be able to develop a relationship with a child who lives in a different part of the world.  We want them to be involved in making a difference in the life of a child.  So we set about selecting a child to sponsor, which was no easy task!  We narrowed our search by looking for a boy around Jacob's age who had been waiting 6 months or longer for a sponsor.  Jacob selected Cristian (pictured above) from El Salvador.  All we know at this point is that he was born in Feb 2003 (same month as Jacob) and is one of 3 children in his family.  We look forward to getting our sponsor packet in the mail soon and beginning the communication process.  Please pray along with us that Cristian and his family would feel the love of Jesus through our act of obedience.

To sponsor a child of your own, or get more information about Compassion International, click here.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick

Being the pastor of one of the fastest growing churches in America, Steven Furtick knows what he's talking about when it comes to walking in faith.  I have been listening to his podcasts for months and he is a great preacher!  This book highlights the biblical account in Joshua 10 when Joshua asks God to stop the sun from going down for an entire day so he can have complete victory...and God does it!  Pastor Steven says that we too can have the confidence (or "audacity" as he likes to call it) to ask God for seemingly impossible things when they are in line with God's desires.  He reminds us that God is great, God is good, and God is very much at work in our world today. 

For those who have done much reading about faith and prayer, I can't say that the information presented in the book is entirely new.  But I can say that it is presented with a fresh perspective, different vocabulary, and current examples of lives changed through audacious faith.  Pastor Steven answers common questions such as what happens when we make mistakes, and how do we deal with the sun going down (or in other words...with our prayers not being answered the way we had hoped).  One of my favorite chapters was Push While You Pray which talks about our need to act.  He writes "Prayer is rarely all we can do.  We can pray and we can prepare.  We can ask God to intervene and we can initiate changes in our lives to make it happen.  We can ask the Lord to fight for us and we can pull out our swords and start fighting in his strength.  Sun Stand Still prayers are integrated prayers: They join our faith-filled prayer with our faith-filled action." 

While it is mentioned in the book that this message applies to everyone, not just church leaders, I would have liked to hear more real-life examples.  I'm still trying to figure out what having audacious faith would look like for a stay-at-home mom like myself.  Maybe his wife Holly could write a follow-up book to add a female perspective :)  Overall, there is something for everyone in this book. It would be hard to read it and not be inspired by Pastor Steven's passion and ministry.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Well

Before reading this book, I only knew the talent of Mark Hall as the lead singer of Casting Crowns.  Now I've had a glimpse of his heart as a pastor.  This book is based around the biblical story of the Samaritan woman at the well.  He writes that "most of us have wells we count on to sustain us and bring us joy, security, hope, peace, and contentment" - but they are really dry holes since these things only bring temporary relief from our thirst.  The chapters highlight common "holes" such as control, approval, religion, talent, and entitlement. Through the use of personal stories and scripture, Mark uses his humor and insight to show how these things do not satisfy...and how Jesus is the only true Well who will.  

There are discussion questions listed at the back of the book for each chapter.  While this information can apply to any age, I think it is written in a style that would especially appeal to teens, which makes sense considering the author is a youth pastor.

Personally, while I enjoyed reading this book, I can't say there were many "wow" moments...except for Chapter 7 about the Hole of Talent.  I am married to a worship leader and therefore exposed to all the joy and strife that goes along with that ministry.  I wish I could photocopy Chapter 7 and hand it out to the team!  (But of course I won't since it's illegal)  You may however see a future blog post about it ;)  There was a turning point in Mark Hall's ministry where God showed him "it's not going to be your voice that reaches people.  It's going to be your heart."  That's what will lead people into worship.

The perfect way to end this book is to listen to the song "The Well" from Casting Crowns new album.  As the author concludes, "May we all learn to listen to him, lean on him, and refuse to dip into our familiar holes.  May Jesus always be our Well."

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Zondervan in exchange for an honest review.

Friday, December 2, 2011

God Gave Us You by Lisa Tawn Bergren

This is a board book meant to answer a little one who is asking "Where did I come from?"  The text and illustrations show a mother bear leading her cub through the stages of her pregnancy starting from papa and mama wanting a cub, to finding out about the pregnancy and watching it progress, and ending with bringing the cub home from the hospital.  The message throughout is that the cub is a gift from God and is loved and treasured by her parents.  The book contains words that are easy to understand and cute illustrations...the perfect length for a small child's attention span.

While this would be a great gift for any traditional family, I would hesitate to give it to a single parent.  Both the mama and papa bear are present throughout the pregnancy and involved in the story (hence the "Us" in the book title).  For a small child growing up without a daddy, for example, this may raise more questions than it answers. 

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Lucado Inspirational Reader

Max Lucado has been preaching and writing for over twenty-five years.  He uses his knowledge of Scripture, personal experiences, and stories to illustrate many biblical concepts.  This inspirational reader takes excerpts and quotes from 25 of his books and arranges them by topic for easy reference.  Some of the topics include the Bible, Comfort, Faith, Heaven, Purpose, Relationship with God, and Worship.  There are also a source index and more specific topical index at the back of the book to help the reader locate specific sections.

I have always liked the style that Max Lucado uses to write.  It is easy to understand and leaves me with many thoughts to ponder.  Since I have not come near to reading all his books, it's nice to have a resource like this that compiles many of his main messages into one source.  This isn't the type of book that I would sit down and read cover to cover.  Since the sections are short, it would be great for little bits of reading at a time, possibly to keep in the bathroom :)  It would also be helpful for someone who is studying a particular topic either for personal growth or for preparing a lesson/sermon. 

Here is one of my favorite quotes: "He knew the price of those sins was death.  He knew the source of those sins was you, and since he couldn't bear the thought of eternity without you, He chose the nails." - Max Lucado

The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 28, 2011


This weekend has been largely preparation for Christmas.  Lights on the house.  Lights on the tree.  Gifts purchased (yes, all of them!).  The house filled with Christmas songs as Jeremy prepares to lead worship during the month ahead (you can listen to one of my favorites below).  Now to relax and enjoy the time with my family, anticipating the celebration of Jesus's birthday :)


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Fierce Beauty by Kim Meeder

Kim Meeder is a woman who has overcome tragedy in her own life and loves outdoor adventure.  She searches for the lessons that God is trying to teach her through her various experiences.  This book is a collection of real life stories, many of which lead to beautiful analogies of our spiritual lives.  The main message is Who are you going to focus on and serve...yourself or your King?

The first chapter sets the stage with a trek up a mountain and the subject of overcoming adversity.  Then the book is broken down into 3 main sections, each which include a few discussion questions.  The first section is meant to help the reader evaluate what/who she is living for.  It talks about the definition of true beauty, illustrates how sin (even little ones) can so easily hurt and entangle us and how we need to fiercely defend against it, and points the way toward hope.  Kim says "We were not designed to be princesses of entitlement but warriors of encouragement, fighting to bring love and hope to the world."  The next section is meant to help the reader discover God's faithfulness, peace, and love.  The final section explores how "you can answer God's call and begin living the life you were uniquely created for."  It illustrates the power of a smile, the need to forgive, and how we can use our wounds and our words to encourage others.

I enjoyed reading this book.  Sometimes the descriptions of her outdoor adventures got a bit too detailed for my tastes, but I loved how she was able to take these experiences to God and say "What do you have to show me through this?"  The way she was able to relate tangible things to our spiritual lives was insightful.  I was also touched by the wonderful stories of hope and perseverance presented.  Overall, I think this is a book most women would enjoy and benefit from reading...especially those who enjoy the outdoors.

"Don't be concerned about the outward beauty that depends on fancy hairstyles, expensive jewelry, or beautiful clothes. You should be known for the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God." - 1 Peter 3:3-4

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this review.  Click here to read the first chapter!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Open and Eat

Little Isaac

Trying to get kids to eat what you fix for them can be challenging.  As a parent you enjoy giving your kids foods they like, but you always need to make sure they are getting a healthy diet so they can grow. 

Why are some kids picky eaters?  Sometimes it's all about appearance.  They trust what they can see...and if it is unfamiliar or looks like a vegetable, forget it.  Other times they have eaten that food before and know that they don't like it.  They fail to recognize or care about the long-term benefits the nutrients have to offer.  Or it can all boil down to an issue of trust.  For example, if someone told you "Close your eyes and open your mouth"...would you do it?  Most likely only if you trusted that the person wasn't going to poison you or give you something really disgusting.  Opening your mouth is a vulnerable position!

So when I read these words God spoke to Ezekiel, it got me thinking.  In Ezekiel 2:8 God says "Open your mouth, and eat what I give you".  He was being asked to be receptive and responsive to the words God was about to give him.

We can be picky eaters too.  Why aren't we always receptive and responsive to God's word?  Sometimes it's all about what we can see.  If we don't understand "why" or see how everything will play out, we are hesitant to obey.  It's easier to stay in our comfort zones.  Other times we know that what God is asking of us is not pleasant, such as needing to apologize and ask for forgiveness, and we choose short-term comfort over the long-term reward.  Or it can all boil down to an issue of trust.  Do we trust that God knows what is best for our lives?

To open yourself up and say "I'll eat whatever you give me" is a vulnerable position.  Not everything we are given to "eat" will be pleasant, but we can trust that He knows what's best for us and our growth.  And just as I give my boys a balance of foods they like and foods they need, I'm thankful that He gives me a balanced diet as well.

Monday, November 14, 2011

There You Are!

Taken from Max Lucado's book Fearless, pg. 26-27:

"Every year tens of thousands of women attend the Women of Faith conferences.  One reason they do is to hear words of comfort.  After hearing one speaker after another describe God's compassion for each of his children, an attendee sent this email.

In the movie Hook, Peter Pan had grown up, become old and overweight, and looked nothing like the Peter the lost boys knew.  In the midst of the boys shouting that this was NOT Peter, one of the smallest boys took him by the hand and pulled him down to his level.  He then placed his hands on Peter's face and proceded to move the skin around, reshaping his face.  The boy looked into Peter's eyes and said, "There you are, Peter!"  I brought a lot with me to Women of Faith, things that only God could see.  But throughout the weekend I could feel God's hands on my face, pushing away all of the "stuff" I had brought.  And then I could hear him say, "There you are.  There you are!"

Shhh.  Listen.  Do you hear?  God is saying the same words to you.  Finding the beauty the years bury, the sparkle that time tries to take.  Seeing you and loving the you He sees.  There you are.  There you are."

Hagar called God by the name "El Roi", which means "the god who sees me".  Today I am thankful to be seen and loved by El Roi, who can see past the stuff to the woman He created me to be.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ascent From Darkness by Michael Leehan

This is a true story of one man's journey into the depths of satanism, followed by his ascent into the light of Christ.  It will open your eyes to the reality of the spiritual realm.  Satan is real, but God is greater.  And what was intended for evil God can redeem for His glory!

I had a hard time putting this book down!  Michael Leehan shares his story with the hope that it can reach others who are hopeless and depressed, letting them know that no one is out of God's reach...even a soldier of Satan.

I believe there is a spiritual battle going on, but reading a book like this makes it so much more real.  I wasn't surprised by the cutting and the blood sacrifices that satanists practice...but I was shocked by something else.  Michael describes many of his "missions" to be finding lukewarm Christians and leading them astray.  This meant that he spent time at church, in bible study groups and at singles events.   He memorized scripture, fasted, and prayed (to Satan).  He seduced Christian women and tried to cause confusion and division within church groups.  Satan sends his soldiers onto our turf, and we don't even know it.  This confirmed to me the importance for Christians to grow and stay connected because the danger is real.

Michael had an assignment to kill Pastor Craig Groeschel of LifeChurch.tv.  Since I have seen this pastor speak before on video, I was intrigued.  It was stated that others were given this assignment previously and had failed....thankfully Michael did too.  (On a side note...I'm thinking if Satan wants Pastor Craig dead that maybe he is a pastor worth listening to!)  Since his conversion, Michael now sits in the front row of this pastor's church.  He also passionately shares his story and the gospel with many...he has become God's warrior.

Hearing about the reality of spiritual darkness can be scary, but the book continually points to the fact that God's power is greater.  The appendix of the book is filled with testimonies from people who knew Michael during this time in his life and can attest to his transformation. I love happy endings :)

The publisher has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book through BookSneeze in exchange for an honest review.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Bring On The Books!

There have been times recently when I've been bored.  I know, how can a mother of 3 get bored, right?  Well, I get my chores done during the day and by the time homework and dinner is done, I've usually had enough of "work".  So when my husband is busy and the kids are occupied/in bed, or I find myself alone, I feel unmotivated to do anything.  Thankfully we don't have cable, otherwise I fear I would fall into that trap of mindlessly killing time.  It was during one of these times that I realized...I haven't been reading!  I should have picked up on this much sooner.  When I don't keep my mind occupied I fall into a slump.  So I picked up a book from the shelf, and in an instant I was no longer bored :)

The next day I was given a little gift from God.  I received a Christian book magazine in the mail and decided to see what looked good so I could make some requests from the library.  (I like getting books that way because they are free of course, but I don't like not having control over how many come in at a time and then rushing to get through them before the return date.) Anyway, I was looking at book reviews online and kept seeing references of people getting free books from BookSneeze.  I checked it out and found that it is a company that gives free books to bloggers in exchange for an honest review!  Too good to be true, I thought.  But as I read the info and saw the selection of books that were available I began to get excited.  I was just accepted and my first book is in the mail!  I will be posting my reviews on this blog, and I hope they will be helpful to you in determining what to spend your time reading and what to pass by. 

Monday, October 31, 2011


There's much debate in Christian circles about whether or not to participate in activities surrounding Halloween.  I can see both sides.  What I've decided personally is that our family will not "celebrate" Halloween...but that doesn't mean that we have to ban all related activities.  For example, you won't find my house decorated with ghosts and witches, but if my boys want to carve a goofy face on a pumpkin and have it glowing on our front porch - not a problem.  If the boys came to me wanting to dress up as a zombie or sorcerer, the answer would be "no".  But so far they have wanted to dress up as things such as a pumpkin, animals, and Super Heroes - go save the world little ones!

While I support alternatives to trick-or-treat (such as Trunk-or-Treat), there is not one in my town.  And to be honest, I don't really see anything "dark" about letting the local business owners and our neighbors hook my boys up with enough dessert to last them through Christmas.  I respect people who feel differently, but that's where we stand.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Even Though...

The prophet Habakkuk lived during a time of international crisis and national corruption.  He questioned where the Lord was in the midst of the destruction and violence.  Yet after remembering who God is and what He has done, Habakkuk's prayer ended like this: "Even though the fig trees have no blossums and there are no grapes on the vine; even though the olive crop fails and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields and the cattle barns are empty; yet I will rejoice in the Lord!  I will be joyful in the God of my salvation.  The Soveriegn Lord is my strength!  He will make me as surefooted as a deer and bring me safely over the mountains." (Habakkuk 3:17-19)

I think it would do us good to remember this prayer in times of uncertainty. 
"Even though________, yet I will rejoice in the Lord."

We all have different things to fill in the blank, but it is the same God who is in control of it all.  May you be filled with His peace today as you place your trust in Him.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Top 10 Excuses for Not Serving in Hopeland

In every church there are ministries that struggle to get volunteers.   In our church, one of our greatest challenges is getting people to volunteer their time in our Childrens Ministry.  So I thought I'd take a look at a few excuses that have gone through my head and that I've heard about serving in Hopeland (our birth-age 5 area). 

#10 "I didn't know we needed more volunteers."

It's true that we don't hear the pastor begging from the stage every week for people to volunteer (although he may have to start soon!), but that doesn't mean the need is not there.   I looked at the schedule this morning for the weeks ahead and it is SAD.  I love my church, but this makes me ashamed of the investment our church family as a whole is making in our children.

#9 "I am not gifted to serve in that area."

Sometimes it is necessary to serve in a secondary ministry in a church if there is great need, regardless of gifting.  I am not a "natural" when it comes to kids, but I am capable.  Maybe you are too.

#8 "I am too busy!"

If you are already serving in another ministry on Sunday morning...ok, valid excuse.  But if not, is it really too much of a sacrifice to give an hour or two of your time once a month?  Invest in the ministry of the church...don't just be a consumer.

#7 "The chaos will drive me crazy!"

Maybe so.  But consider this...the chaos is mainly due to the fact that we have a shortage of volunteers.  Be part of the solution.  There is safety in numbers :)

#6 "I need a break from my kids."

I understand.  Being a mother is very energy-consuming and we all need a break.  But when you are enjoying sitting in service and allowing someone else to care for your childs needs, why not return the favor?  Hopeland exists to teach our children about God, but also as a ministry to mothers and families so that they can worship and learn without distraction.  Without volunteers, no one will have this luxury.

#5 "I have no one to watch my kids while I'm serving"

If they are old enough, have them help.  If not, it won't kill them to spend two services in a row either in Hopeland or XTreme Kids (trust me...I've tried it).  Yes, sometimes my boys complain when I tell them daddy is leading worship and mommy is watching babies so they have to stay at church longer.  BUT it is also a great learning opportunity for me to show them how we all have to sacrifice and serve if our church is going to function well.  Plus, they really learn their lesson well for the day after hearing it twice in a row :)

#4 "I don't know what to teach"

Great news...the lessons and crafts are all planned out in detail.  And if that's still too intimidating, you can volunteer in the 0-2 year old room or to do Check-In. 

#3 "Children scare me/I don't know what to do"

Ask someone to volunteer with you who is more comfortable with kids and can give you direction.  You don't have to do it alone.  This Sunday I had 4 in the nursery, two under 1 year and two that were walking.  I finally had my 8 year old come in to help me because I just needed more ARMS.  No skill was needed...just someone to pay attention to the babies and keep one of the toddlers from throwing hard objects :)

#2 "I don't enjoy spending time with kids"

Sometimes it's just a matter of adjusting your perspective.  Remember that this ministry is vital to our church body.  The children are our future.  And by volunteering you are doing much more than caring for and educating the children.  You are blessing the ministry leaders who give TONS of time planning lessons and covering for people who don't show up to serve (I won't even go there...it happens way too often) . You are serving families by allowing them to fully engage in the service.  And you are also serving the Lord who has made it clear how precious children are to Him.

#1 "I don't know how to sign up"

Just ask me, or anyone on the staff for that matter, and we would be glad to help you with that!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Are You Plugged In?

Our family loves watching movies.  We need to make decisions about which movies to allow ourselves or our children to watch and be influenced by, and ratings don't help very much.  There is one resource that I use frequently and am so thankful for, and that is http://www.pluggedinonline.com/ by Focus on the Family.  This website reviews new movies coming out, older movies, tv, and music from a Christian perspective.  The reason the reviews are so helpful is that they don't just give you thier opinion, but they break down the movie into specific content areas so that you can make an educated decision.  Instead of merely knowing a movie might have "foul language", the review will tell you exactly which foul words are spoken and how often they occur.  You can know what the sexual or violent scenes consist of in detail.  The reviews sum up positive elements and negative elements of the film.  It's the first place I go before deciding what to see at the theater, what to reserve from the library, and what to say when asked the question "Mom, can I watch this?". 

Normally the only theater we see the inside of is the dollar theater because I refuse to pay top dollar for a new movie.  I've learned to wait.  But every now and then a movie comes out that I REALLY want to see!  Recently the movie Courageous fell into that category, and it didn't let us down.  As I was trying to decide if we should indeed spend the money, a friend of mine told me about a way to get cheaper tickets!  So this tip is for my frugal friends: http://www.halfpricemovieticket.com/.  You enter in your zip code and the movies playing in your area come up.  Select the movie/time that you want.  The tickets are 50% off, plus $1 each processing fee.  (So instead of $8.25 per ticket, you pay ~$5.12.)  You pay with a credit card and within an hour they email you a Pick-Up number.  You can go up to the cashier or the kiosk, enter the number, and out come your tickets.  I was nervous about trying it, but it worked!  Got to see a great movie and save money at the same time...woo hoo!  The one thing we had forgotten though was to show up earlier than the start time of the movie.  Being given the choice of the first or second row in a movie theater was not so great...

Monday, October 3, 2011

Learning Something New

I love to look downstairs and see this.  Plenty of salsa, beans, and applesauce to last us through the winter.  I've always thought canning was a great idea "in theory" but was never willing to put in the effort...until a good friend coaxed me into it.  She has a garden and asked me if I would be willing to help with the weeding and canning.  In exchange I could have half of the goods.  I agreed right away!  Any job done with good company is a whole lot more enjoyable. 

For the apples, "Gramma Jan" and I took the boys to Scenic Ridge Fruit Farm in Jeromesville.  Wow, is that place huge!  I didn't know if the apple picking would be kid-friendly, but to my surprise it was perfect.  There were lots of trees and they were so low to the ground that even Brady was able to participate easily.  Later that day I got to show them how to make applesauce (which was a first for me too).  I was in awe of the Squeezo Strainer that allows you to dump in cooked apples (skin and all) into the hopper, turn the crank, and out comes the applesauce while discarding the skins and seed out the side.  Simply an amazing invention!  Although you do have to turn the crank the right direction for it to work properly as I found out :)

And while I'm on the subject of food, I have never been able to get banana-nut bread to turn out right.  This week as I was staring at two large brown bananas that no one in my family would dare eat, I decided to try a recipe given to me many years ago.  I now wish I would have tried it sooner!  The bread was yummy and moist and so I want to share it with anyone else who doesn't like to waste their brown bananas.


3/4 c. sugar, 1/2 c. vegetable oil,  1/2 c. applesauce
1 c. very ripe mashed bananas (2 large)
1 3/4 c. flour, 2 t. baking powder, 1/2 t. baking soda, 1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. chopped pecans (optional)

Mix together and bake at 325 for 65 min.  Makes 1 loaf.

My dad was always the cook when I was a child.  He had a garden, canned, and cooked from scratch.  Of course I was never interested in learning it all then.  I suppose I'm making up for lost time now :)  And I'm very thankful for knowledgable friends and family who are willing to teach me!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Sept 11th

 September 11th has another meaning for my family now.  It is the day we lost Freddie.

I grew up with cats and have never been much of a dog person, but Jeremy talked me getting into an adorable boxer puppy and so began our pre-parenthood training.  I had so much fun raising him...until he grew too big for me to control and my responsibilities grew with each little boy that entered into our family.  I still liked Freddie, but my perspective changed.  I began to only see the bills for dog food, vet care, and heartworm medication.  I got tired of picking up poop in the backyard so Jeremy could mow or cleaning it out of my boys shoes.  I got tired of cleaning up muddy footprints, slobber on the window, accidents on the floor.  He had bad breath, bad gas, and was a burden when we were going to be gone overnight.  The common phrase at our house was "Go lay down, Freddie!"

And then on the 11th he had a seizure that took his life.  Jeremy and I were right there with him, and frankly did not expect it to happen since he'd had seizures in the past which he recovered from quickly.  I became focused on doing what needed to be done and comforting my boys who had never known life without their dog.  The next day I created a slideshow for the family with all the pics of Freddie over the years. It was easy because they are all still on the computer :)  Seeing scenes from the past 10 years and watching my boys grow up with their dog touched me.  We buried him that evening.  Something happened to me that next morning as I finally began to feel the loss and realize that even though I had all these complaints, I missed him.  The house seems so much more lonely when I'm here by myself.  When I open the garage door I still expect to see him stand up, shake, and run out to greet me.  I scanned the Classifieds just to see if any boxer pups were for sale.  I'm even hesitant about cleaning the last of the slobber marks off the window because it's one of the last remaining traces of him (or maybe I'm just too lazy to clean it and that's a good excuse!) 

Freddie may have been a pain to take care of at times, but he was mine.  It was a reminder for me to think about all the people/pets/circumstances in our lives that we complain about, and stop to be thankful that we have them at all. 




Monday, September 19, 2011

A War Between Confidence and Doubt

The title of this post came from a song lyric, but it's one I can relate to.  A war between confidence and doubt...a war I've been in for too long.  I've filled my head with the truth and I know who I am and whose I am, but allowing that to take root in my heart and live it out takes time.  At times I get inspired and really excited at how God could use me to make a difference, and then the doubt sets in.  Do I really have anything to say worthwhile?  Do I have anything to offer?  Someone else could certainly do it better.  I take my eyes off of "Christ in me" and start looking at just me with all my insecurities and weaknesses.  That's one reason my blogging has become infrequent recently.  I think too much about how something might be perceived and eventually talk myself out of writing it!  Even now that Backspace button looks appealing :)  However, this blog is one thing I have received positive feedback on, and I don't want to be guilty of neglecting or failing to develop something that may have been given to me as a gift.  My plan is to post something each Monday, whether I feel like it or not.  I'm making no promises as to the content other than it will be me.

I had a cool "God Moment" this morning.  I was reading 1 Timothy 4:12 "Don't let anyone think less of you because you are young.   Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity."  I thought that sounded like a great mission statement for me and decided to not only put it on an index card with the intent of memorizing it, but to actually do it.  Then I continued on with my morning routine and got on the treadmill with my iPod, ready to listen to the latest podcast by Pastor Steven Furtick of Elevation Church (who by the way is an amazing preacher and the sermons can be downloaded for free from iTunes).  He finished his message and had a teen come out to talk for a minute.  The verse that was shared?  1 Timothy 4:12.  I love when God confirms something in that way.

Here's the song that I referenced earlier.  May you all have a blessed week!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Few Good Reads

If you have followed my blog very long, you know that there are two things I love to write about...books and music.  Today is no exception.  Lately I have been drawn to biographies about real people, with real problems, that have encounters with a very real God.  I have been so blessed the past 11 years that having faith has been easy.  But I want to know what faith looks like when things are falling apart.  (And I'm quite content to learn that from other people rather than from my own experience for now!)

This first book is about two missionaries who were given a great love for the people of Afghanistan.  They left the comforts of home to live among the people, serve the poor, and offer the hope of Jesus to anyone who sought it.  The sharing of their faith led to imprisonment, which became even more complicated since it occurred during 2001 when the terrorist attacks on America and the war began. 

I decided to read this next book because I've heard it referenced many times by other authors, and I was not disappointed.  It tells the story of Corrie Ten Boom, who lived in Holland during the time of occupation by Nazi Germany.  Corrie's family was part of the underground movement to protect the Jews, and they ended up imprisoned in very bad conditions.  But the faith of Corrie and her sister Betsie are very moving.  Here are women who put the safety of others above their own, truly prayed for their persecutors, shared God's Word and love with those around them, and saw some mighty works of God as a result.  The whole time I was reading I thought "this should be a movie"...and I just checked...it is!  So I've got it reserved at the library and plan on sharing it with my husband soon :)

These two stories have shown me a few things about faith during hardship.  First, when people are suffering they hunger for God's Word...for hope.  I often take for granted how accessible the Bible is.  For them it was a precious treasure that sustained them.  I was also amazed by how many miracles these people experienced, things the world might say were "coincidence".  But when you stack so many "coincidences" together, God's presence is so very clear.  It was through the trials and the hardship that their faith and ministry grew. 

Just last week I stumbled across this song that fit with the things I've read and have been thinking about.  May it be an encouragement to those who are going through a hardship now.  I pray you find Jesus in the midst of it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Remembering Janie

Ecclesiastes 7:2-4  "It is better to spend your time at funerals than at festivals.  For YOU are going to die, and you should think about it while there is still time.  Sorrow is better than laughter, for sadness has a refining influence on us.  A wise person thinks much about death,while the fool thinks only about having a good time now." (NLT)

Janie was someone who said what needed to be said.  I only knew her through our church family at New Hope, yet she had a profound impact on my understanding of what it means to be a godly woman.  Janie would greet me with a smile and a hug, express her appreciation for the smallest acts of kindness, and make me feel special.  She was a woman who clearly put the needs of others above her own.  You never quite know what someone is made of until the storms of life hit.  During her battle with cancer, Janie proved that her faith was genuine.  She shared in His sufferings so that she may also share in His glory, and has been an example to many as to how to fight the good fight, finish the race strong, and keep the faith.  I am glad her suffering is over.  And I look forward to seeing her smiling face again when I enter the gates of heaven.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Missing Ingredient

I love baking molasses cookies.  They taste good, stay soft, and come out looking perfect every time....except today.  I made a double batch because I'm planning to take them to Emmaus Send-Off tonight.  I took the first sheet out of the oven and it didn't seem right.  Same with the second.  I'm trying to figure out what could be wrong.  Am I not baking them long enough?  Did I switch brands of an ingredient?  Is my cookie sheet not doing what it is supposed to?  It wasn't until the third pan came out that I realized I might have made a mistake!  That's pride for ya :)  Sure enough, I looked at the recipe and realized I had left out the baking soda.  I was able to add some in and improve the other cookies (thankfully they both taste good).  So in case you are wondering what role baking soda plays, check out the picture below.  A teaspoon of powder makes a big difference!

Monday, March 28, 2011

The Movie of Life

From Francis Chan's book, Crazy Love:

"Suppose you are an extra in an upcoming movie.  You will probably scrutinize that one scene where hundreds of people are milling around, just waiting for that two-fifths of a second when you can see the back of your head.  Maybe your mom and your closest friend get excited about that two-fifths of a second with you...maybe.  But no one else will realize it is you.  Even if you tell them, they won't care.

Let's take it a step further.  What if you rent out the theater opening night and invite all your friends and family to come see the new movie about you?  People will say, "You're an idiot!  How could you think this movie is about you?"

Many Christians are even more delusional than the person I've been describing.  So many of us think and live like the movie of life is all about us." p.42-43

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Valentine

Happy Valentines Day!  For some of you this may be a great day, having an excuse to express your love to your spouse or significant other.  For others it may be a day of disappointment or sadness. 

For those who have a spouse already in heaven I wanted to share with you a comment I recently read by Beth Moore..."What comfort to know that not only did God fashion us in our mothers' wombs, but He also knows the exact moment our hearts cease to beat.  God's desire to have us with Him will finally eclipse His desire to have us on earth, and He will take us to glory." 

If Valentines Day is a day to give and receive love, I can think of no better Valentine to have than Jesus.  God has created us, chosen us, loved us, revealed Himself to us, redeemed us, forgiven us, guided us, strenghthened us, and blessed us beyond measure.  And he gives some of us spouses to love here on earth, who we all too often take for granted.  While today I hope to let my husband know just how special he is to me, I want to turn my focus for just a moment to the One who loves me, and you,  perfectly and completely.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

And They Keep Growing Up...

My boys keep growing.  We will be celebrating Jacob's 8th birthday this week!  Jacob is in 2nd grade and loves sports and video games...or doing just about anything with his daddy.  It makes me proud how well he does in school, both in academics and behavior.  But at home it can be quite different...

Every new stage with Jacob is both exciting and a little bit scary since he is the oldest.  (By the time I get to Brady I feel like a pro!)  I'm learning that as a child grows up, discipline needs to change.  The puzzle is figuring out how.  A book I'm reading made a point that the goal of discipline should not be to merely control behavior, but to look deeper and shape the child's heart...the place where the behavior comes from.  I'm a little overwhelmed with that responsibility!  But I'm thankful I don't have to do it alone. 

We have used "grounding" as a punishment for a while now.  Sometimes I think it's effective, and other times I'm not sure because I keep seeing the same attitudes reappear.  Recently I heard of a new discipline technique that I'm going to test out.  The basic idea is to assign sentences.  The child is grounded until the assignment is completed, giving them control of the length of their punishment.  So if a child talks back, you could assign him "I will not talk back to my mother" 25 times....which can increase if he complains about the assignment.  But my idea is to assign Scripture that relates to the bad behavior or attitude.  As the child writes, he will be memorizing God's Word at the same time.  For example, Ephesians 4:29 which says "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." I need to do some searching and come up with a list of Scriptures that would be appropriate. 

And so I ask for input.  Have you ever tried anything like this with your children?  Do you think it would cultivate a love and respect for God's Word, or have the opposite effect?  And are there any specific Scriptures you have as suggestions?

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Early Church

Recently I did some reading about persecution in the early church and I can't get it out of my mind. Roughly 30 years after Jesus's resurrection the Romans were led by Caesar Nero. He wanted to stir up hatred for the Christians and see them executed in horrible ways. Christ followers were arrested, jailed, and then given an opportunity to either deny their Savior or die a painful death. Some were covered in fresh animal skins and released into an arena with wild animals. Some were coated in wax and set on fire, being taunted about being the "light of the world". The lucky ones were the Roman citizens who were granted a quick death such as a beheading. How many of the people who call themselves Christians today would choose this death rather than deny Christ? Would you or I? The courage and faith of these early Christians inspires me.

What also amazes me is how God used Nero's plan against him. Nero wanted to wipe the Christians out. Yet after time, witnessing person after person choose Jesus, the world began to take notice. Who is this Jesus that people would sacrifice their lives to honor? These sacrifices became witnesses to the truth and aided the spread of the gospel. What man intended for evil, God used for good.

When I think of those early martyrs, I can hear them answering their captors with the chorus of this song...

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Victorious Life

I started a new devotional this year that I received as a gift. It's a unique little book because the entries are written as if Jesus were speaking directly to you. And so far the words have been just what I've needed to hear.

I was getting discouraged around the holidays thinking about how I still struggle with the same issues. Yes, I've made progress, but I want the victory. So these words gave me much to think about: "You can achieve the victorious life through living in deep dependence on Me. People usually associate victory with success; not falling or stumbling, not making mistakes. But those who are successful in their own strength tend to go their own way, forgetting about Me. It is through problems and failure, weakness and neediness that you learn to rely on Me. - Jesus" (Taken from Jesus Calling by Sarah Young)

It reminds me of what Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10. He pleaded with God to take his "thorn" away, but learned to accept that when he was weak he was able to be strengthened through God's power. It kept him humble and dependent. So this year I want to learn to boast about my weakness instead of getting discouraged, remembering that His grace is sufficient for me and His power is made perfect in my weakness.