Thursday, December 29, 2016

Our First Big Boy Bible

My oldest boy just turned 6-he's growing up in a hurry and taking us to all new stages in life as a family. He's enjoying venturing out of home and doing his own individual activities more and more, the biggest right now is Awana. He just loves getting picked up by his best buddy and his dad each Sunday night and going for a fun night of bible stories, verses and games. Now that he's old enough to really understand and memorize bible verses they encourage him to bring his own bible to look verses up in. Well, so far his bible collection has been made up of The Jesus Storybook Bible and a couple, colorful Gideon's New Testaments. I knew his birthday coming up meant I needed to get him his own unabridged "big boy" bible. But boy, what a wide market it is for kid's bibles- so many options! 

The winner for us was the NKJV: Airship Genesis Kids Study Bible edited by Dr. David Jeremiah. My husband grew up on the KJV of the bible and I used the NIV, I felt the NKJV was a good starting place for a young child just learning how to read. David Jeremiah is the founder and leader of Turning Point ministry and I respect and enjoy his work and teaching there.

I really appreciated the intro letter Dr. Jeremiah included welcoming kids on this "bible adventure" and encouraging them to take ownership of their very own bible- circle verses, write notes, it's yours! Then we are introduced to the crew of the Airship Genesis and given an overview of our mission- explore the bible from start to finish! There is a "mission overview" for each book of the bible and tons of extra fun facts and notes. As well as a concordance and nicely done illustrations of major bible characters.

I was excited to see there's even a whole complementary website for this bible with audio lessons and bible adventures. That will be a fun bonus for my son to work his way through.

I think this will be a great first bible for my curious and growing little boy!

Thanks to Book Look Bloggers for providing this copy to review.

All the Pretty Things: An Absorbing Memoir

I am a fan of a good true story. I don't expect it to be fairy tale happily ever after perfect, it can be rough around the edges- I especially love to see God shift the plot and redemption wash over the messy parts. Edie Wadsworth's All The Pretty Things is just that kind of story. I devoured this book in just a few, late nights. lifeingrace was one of the first blogs I ever read and was instantly impressed with Edie's "picture perfect" life and home (the internet lends such a rosy shade of lens to us all ;). I never knew the hard won life story behind Edie's beautiful and encouraging webpage. 

Edie has quite the narrative voice that draws you in and paints a picture of a childhood that, while very different from the one I experienced, makes you believe in and empathize with the good and the hard parts. She may not grow up in the ideal living situation with the most stable of families, but she does know love and God's providential hand gets her through. It's clear Edie had a special tie to her father and she does a marvelous job showing a realistic profile of the man who both loved her like no other and scarred her deeply with his own scars. A wide cast of characters make up Edie's colorful extended family and they all play a part in the story line of who she was and who she has become. Her upbringing causes Edie to grow up in a hurry and pursue perfection in everything that was so imperfect and incomplete in her childhood. She finds hope and direction in the Lord at a young age and her life really is turned around by clinging to that. Edie does very well at bettering herself by jumping headfirst into medical school and becoming a doctor. Along the way, she has got married young and has a couple kids and thinks she has outrun her "demons". Only after she has everything that should complete her does she realize that the work of her own hands won't bring peace-she has an affair, her marriage dissolves and she finally is brought face to face with all the wounds from her past. What is surely a very broken place proves to be fertile ground for redemption and God to step in and take over. Edie is able to make amends with her challenging childhood and remarries and becomes the face of lifeingrace that I was first introduced to. 

Never judge a book by it's cover rings true here-there is far more to Edie Wadsworth's story than meets the eye.I can imagine some parts of this story were very hard for her to bare to public scrutiny, but she does it with class and grace and we are all thankful she was willing to share this story of God's faithfulness in bringing pretty things out of sometimes ugly places.

Thanks to Tyndale Publishers for providing with a copy of this book to review.

Monday, December 26, 2016

What do you cling to when it all goes wrong? Why She Reads Truth

I am SO glad we were able to make the Advent season rich and full of soul preparation and a reminder of the full gospel story- beginning of the world to Nativity scene and all the hard waiting in between-because we definitely needed the hope of what Christmas was really and truly about come Christmas morning. I have some precious memories of this Advent season with my boys that I will be so thankful to look back on for years to come: Making candles with friends, lighting our special candles for devotional times at night and our extra special night of the Shepherd's Meal and journey to follow "the Star." We baked cookies, and cuddled up on the couch with piles of Christmas picture books and followed God's Big Story from creation to Jesus with our Jesse Tree readings. We thoroughly relished the countdown to Christmas and it really felt like one for the books-until those last few days leading right up to the Big Day and suddenly Mama is covered in a mutant looking case of Poison Oak and the Biggest Boy is coughing up a storm and all the sudden has his last set of molars popping through his gums and where did all the peaceful Magic go?! We soldiered thru, sure that all would be made well by Christmas, only to have Christmas Eve roll around and we're all about to pack in the car and head to the traditional Christmas Eve service, but wait, the baby is burning up and not ready to go anywhere. So Mama stays home and rocks a sick toddler to sleep and everybody else comes home from festivities with family only to have the Middle Boy sobbing from sickness and hot to the touch. It was a not so silent or calm night with little boys tossing and turning and no sleep to go around until well past 4 am. At this point, Christmas morning church service is out the window as well and maybe we can get thru some gifts before collapsing back into bed for a bit? Let's just say it was so not my picture perfect, ideal Christmas morning and not too long ago that would have left me so depressed, marring the whole Christmas season in my mind. After putting so much intentional time and effort into making the season the best it could be- focused on what was true and gleaning all we could from this joyous time of the year, to have that one special day out of the year go so horribly out of plan would have definitely got to me. But this year, because I did focus in on what was true about Christmas, it was ok, I knew I was ok. All the circumstances could go crazily wrong and Christmas was still Christ's birthday and that was worth celebrating and making the most of in whatever fashion we could and we did! It was a good day- a messy, tired, no-photo-proof-it-even-happened kinda day- but we were surrounded by family and blessed to give gifts and eat amazing food and most of all, remember we had Emmanuel-God with us.

As much as I should have known all this truth all along, I can't say I have been the best about actually living it out as reality in my life- really truly living like I believe and know God has it all in control, no matter what happens around me. I have tried over the last few years to really soak my life in scriptures so it does become so much more of my natural response and I have to say one resource I have found amazing helpful in bible study is She Reads Truth. This company and community has been such a blessing to me and several of my close friends; they offer beautifully designed bible study books filled with rich truths that always lead you straight back to scripture. I have done several of their studies, including their Advent study last year with a group of friends, and always feel enriched because of them. I was so excited to hear that they had a book coming out, named after the company and the real life stories of the two cofounders, Rachael Meyers and Amanda Bible Williams. She Reads Truth: Holding Tight to Permanent in a World That's Passing Away is truly a breath of fresh air in women's christian living books; I have read so many books in this category they really start to feel like repeats but not this book. 

Rachael and Amanda alternately write the chapters, weaving together a narrative of their own personal journeys with the Lord and how She Reads Truth came to be. But rather than take us through their actual business success story they focus on the more relevant topic of how their lives brought them to truly be a She who Reads Truth. Amanda shares her painful walk through losing her father to cancer and how she learned that "The promises themselves were true, and we held on tight. But there immutability was inseparable from the Promise Maker."  She read truth to find Jesus, the Perfect and the Permanent. Rachael vulnerably tells of having to say goodbye much, much to early to her precious baby.  How she asks her Father to take this cup from her, but that isn't his answer. "The cup didn't pass from us. The only way out was onward, drinking deeply. Honoring our daughter and her Maker with our grief for a life lost. Not my will, but Yours be done.They were the safest, most dangerous words we had ever spoken."  Rachael found comfort in reading scripture to know that Christ himself had asked the Father for relief from suffering but chose to trust God's ultimate plan.

I may not be able to relate to every situation and feeling that Amanda and Rachael share, but they bare their hearts in such a way that I can glean much wisdom from their experiences. I could find ties to my own struggles with anxiety and striving after being a "good girl" out of my own strength. This book was so beneficial to me- edifying and challenging, encouraging and always pointing back to Christ. There is so much I loved enough to highlight and too many quotes I could share.  These women said just what I (and I think it's safe to say every She) needs to hear- The Permanent is there for you. Whatever this temporary life has looked like, and whatever signs are waiting on the road on the road ahead, God and His Truth will always be true. You cannot change the Truth. You cannot earn it or lose it or escape it. But you can hold on to it, knowing that it holds you."

"She is Me.
She is You. 
She wants faith, hope and love. 
She wants help and healing.
She wants to hear and be heard, to see and be seen.
She wants things set right."
So, She Reads Truth.

In light of how much I love and want to recommend this book, I wanted to let you all know that is offering a free one week bible study (starting today) made of selections from this amazing book. Go check it out!

Thanks to B&H Publishing for providing a copy of this book to review. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Advent is a time to Prepare Him Room

Summer and Fall just flew by and I had no idea how we could possibly be at Thanksgiving and now well on our way to Christmas, but you know what? Once I had a clear picture in my mind of what I wanted our Christmas season to look like and somewhat of a game plan to make it happen, it really seemed as if the days magically slowed. I feel like we have already fit it some really fun holiday activities, without being stressed about it, and we're only half way there! We made our homey and wonderful rolled beeswax candles to light up our Advent nights and the boys have really enjoyed getting to enjoy their handiwork while listening to our Advent devotional readings.

This year, we are reading thru Prepare Him Room: Celebrating the Birth of Jesus Family Devotional by Marty Machoswki. This slim but potent book has been a wonderful additional to our family time in the evenings this holiday season. It is broken up into the 4 weeks of Advent- there are three readings per week, which is actually a nice feature that allows grace for hectic days and I think makes it more approachable for busy families. The book starts with an intro and "how to use" page that goes over what exactly Advent is and how the book is set up to assist your family in making the most of this special time. Following this, is a tutorial on how to make your own Advent wreath. 

I appreciate that the devotions themselves aren't just simple readings, but very integrated lesson plans, really. Each one starts with a list of supplies needed to do the hands on activity so you can come prepared. You start off the devotional with some sort of short "warm up" to grab your kids' attention and act as an example later in the reading. Some examples are making chocolate pudding and looking at your little ones ultrasound photos. Then we dive into scripture reading and a "picture it" reading that leads us to dig a little deeper into the biblical text and helps kids to really picture what was happening. I have been really impressed with this part of the devotionals-they aren't just cliche thoughts on Christmas being Jesus birthday. Marty did a great job of providing some interesting and impressive facts from history and theology. I have been learning right alongside my boys and that is always a great sign of a true "family study book"! It has also provided some better answers to my little ones questions that have been organically coming up with Christmas approaching. I was pleasantly surprised to have our reading today dovetail so neatly with a question my oldest was struggling thru- how old is Jesus? 
Of course, we do make a big deal about Christmas being Jesus' Birthday and that he cane to earth as a baby, just like we all did. That coupled with the fact that my son just had a birthday last week and is very aware of ages right now, lead to "How old is Jesus?" I told him that Jesus doesn't have an age because he has been around forever, the same as God. He had a very hard time buying this answer since we have been talking so much about this season all being about Jesus' birthday-he must have an age?! The devotional today started with the Scripture John 1:1-5,14 where John writes that Jesus was the Word and He was in the beginning with God. I appreciated how Marty explains that the gospels of Matthew and Luke begin with a very literal account of Jesus's coming to earth, but John shows a different side of the story-as Jesus being the eternal Word of God. Marty explains, "When we think of Jesus, the Son of God, we think of his birth in a stable. But that is not really his beginning. Before Jesus was born, the eternal Son of God, whom John called the Word of God, lived with his Father in heaven. Then, when the time was just right, God sent his Son into the world as a baby...Jesus was Immanuel-God with us." I thought this teaching was so clarifying and a needed theological perspective to share with our kids.

(Littlest Boy helping with one of the lessons)

Next, we're given a few, simple follow up questions to help make sure kids comprehended the lesson and prayer prompt to use. To wrap up each devotional, a song is recommended to sing. I think it's so neat that there is a complementary cd to go along with this book, found here. This album is produced by Sovereign Grace Music and is just beautiful- my favorite Christmas cd of the year! Each devotional suggests one or two corresponding songs and provides the lyrics for them so you can sing along. 

A fun bonus to this already awesome book? There is a sweet, little Christmas story thrown in at the end of each week for some read aloud enjoyment! The story is called "Bartimaeus" and is about an orphan boy named Christopher who unexpectedly finds himself at the Bartimaeus House orphanage right at Christmas time and the new friends and adventures he encounters there. It has been a delightful little tale that seems a perfect fit for my little boys.

All in all, I have found Prepare Him Room to be a blessing to help my family savor a very sweet season, indeed. I would like to thank New Growth Press for the opportunity to read this wonderful book my boys and share my experience with you all. 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Seated with Christ: A timely reminder of our true identity for all believers

After reading Closer than Close earlier this fall, I've been striving to live aware of my truest identity of Christ in me. I've been trying to continually live in the realization that I am not left alone in this tempestuous life with only my own failings and weaknesses to fall back on. I am ever in the care of and empowered by a Savior who intimately knows my struggles and has already secured my ultimate victory. What an amazing reality we are blessed to call our own, but how very easy it is to forget it!

So I'll take all the reminders I can get and I found a great one in Heather Holleman's book, Seated with Christ: Living Freely in a Culture of Comparison . I really enjoyed this deep, yet light hearted book that helps us to see Whose table we really belong at. I appreciated that Heather is a college English instructor so she brings an understanding and study of words as well as theology. She takes us to the Old Testament temples to see the never ending work of the priests and how it's purported that there wasn't even chairs for the priests because they had no time for rest. Then we go to Ephesians 2:6 where we find the inspiration for this book- "God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms."  Heather explains how our Great Priest presented the ultimate sacrifice and then was seated at His Father's right hand. The work was finally done and He could rest- we can rest in his work. 

He invites us to His table, just as we are-with our own unique giftings and weaknesses, and we can freely enjoy the Feast with our Brothers and Sisters- who Christ called just as they are. I love Heather's analogy of King Arthur's Round Table and how Christ calls us to a similar valued equality at His table. She goes on to elaborate on Seated Living and how we can experience it in our lives. When we realize Christ is captivated by us, we can radiate his beautiful glory to those around us. When we understand how rich we are in Christ, we van be truly generous. When we wrap our minds around the fact that Christ already achieved all we could ever need to, we can rest and abide in Him. 

I really benefited from Heather's concluding chapters on four hard questions to ask yourself to move forward from finding your identity to living it out in the world around you. I appreciated her words about making yourself wholly available to God and then really "gathering" your life around what you feel Him calling you to. It truly is freeing to know are Seated and Sent.

Thank you to Moody Publishers for providing me with a copy of this book.  

A bit of Fiction for the Rainy Season

The rainy days just keep rolling along, as does the holiday season. We've been enjoying  cozy, fun days at home with lots of Christmas books, projects and little boy enthusiasm. Mama still gets a couple, precious hours of quiet during nap time and once in awhile, I'm smart and indulge in some reading!

My current fiction read I knew I couldn't go wrong with because it is by one of my all time favorite authors, Jane Kirkpatrick. This Road We Traveled is set in the 1850s and follows 3 generations of women in the Brown family as they face the greatest challenge of their lives- the Oregon Trail. Tabitha Brown has lived a full and varied life in Missouri- raising her children and working alongside her husband in the many ventures he undertook- but know she is a widow, who is feeling a little restless in her older years. Excitement comes when it's suddenly decided that all of her neighboring children and their families are headed West, though it's quickly deciphered that she is deemed unfit for the trip. But with her persuasive skills and the "assistance" of her aging, though plucky brother-in-law, John, Tabby convinces her family to let her tag along on the adventure. 

Her daughter, Pherne is is very content to stay in Missouri with her comfortable life and the memories of sweet baby boy now gone to Heaven. Soon her older brother, who has already made a trip there and back again, has caught Pherne's Husband up in the grand opportunities of the West and she finds herself headed down the Oregon Trail-whether she wants to or not.

Virgilia takes after her grandmother more than her mother, choosing to find the hope in a new venture rather than the worries. She is surrounded by family but is the only girl her age and is lonely for some kindred souls. An adventure, and her beloved Gramo joining them,it seems is just what her life needs. 

Their journey is much more trying than any of them could have ever guessed. Demanding they sacrifice comfort, almost all their earthly belongings and nearly their lives. God is faithful and can help us rally through any difficulty- this book will remind you of both these truths.

Thanks to Revell Publishing for providing me with a copy of this book. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

The Hunt for the Perfect Christmas Tree

We always enjoy our annual trip out to our local U Cut Christmas tree lot. This year, we went while Daddy was at work but got to go with our Grandma, Grandpa and Uncle. It was pretty darn chilly and even started snowing on us a bit, but we had a great time hiking around and choosing the perfect tree. The boys even got a tree for their room and Cole helped cut it down. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Our Current Christmas Read Aloud- The Snow Queen

With the countdown to Christmas well on it's way, our pile of "to read" Christmas books is growing quite high! I wrapped up 25 of our most classic picture books to open one a day until Christmas- this is really one of the boys most favorite traditions. I also have a collection of longer books we are going to work our way thru for read aloud time each day. Currently, we are reading The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen and Finnish illustrator, Sanna Annukka. 

I was so excited to find this beautiful edition of this classic fairy tale. For one thing, I have a goal to own all titles by Andersen and for another, The now Disney classic-Frozen- is based upon The Snow Queen. My boys (and I'll admit, myself as well) are big fans of Frozen and I've been anxious to read the original tale. The book is actually broken up into seven short stories that all tie together and are based around the account of two childhood friends-Gerda and Kay- and their sad separation and then reunion. My boys have been enthralled hearing how Kay's little heart is turned icy and how the Snow Queen whisks him away and how sweet Gerda goes on a daring adventure to find and rescue her dearest friend. This book may be about a queen but there is plenty of action to keep little boys engaged!

Annukka, who also illustrated Andersen's The Fir Tree, did a splendid job bringing the magic of this story to life with whimsical, modern illustrations. The decadent cloth bound cover is embossed with beautiful, metallic images.

The story's illustrations are done in rich, vibrant color befitting a fairy tale. 

I am having so much fun reading this book with my children as one of our special holiday read alouds and am sure it will be treasured for years to come.

I received this book from the Blogging for Books program.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Making Math Fun!

Math has never been my "thing". It was my least favorite subject in school and I barely made it thru Algebra. I love letters, words and stories; numbers, letters and equations- not so much. I do realize the great importance of math and honestly, I wish I would have kept my mental math more up to par and not just delegated that skill to my smart phone. Always something to work towards, I suppose! But, my little boys love math and have so naturally caught on to it. They find math problems everywhere in every day life and take great pride in their budding skills. I am sure my oldest would do just fine if I set a run of the mill math text book in front of him with just basic math equations to solve. However, there are so many wonderful and fun out of the box math books and teaching ideas out there for his age I just can't quite bring myself to do it! 

We have been using a mixture of Miquon Math Orange Book and Kate Snow's Addition Facts that Stick as our main math curriculum. But we've also been using a fun math supplement that I mainly wanted to share with you today! 100 Numbers Wildlife Coloring Book by Sarah Janisse Brown of Thinking Tree Books is a fabulous workbook that focuses on teaching the 100 chart. The 100 chart concept is such a great tool to get kids acquainted with the first 100 numbers and what they look like in succession. You can use it as a number line, to look for patterns, and to skip count by twos, fives, tens, etc. A book I picked up this fall on teaching math in homeschool-Let's Play Math by Denise Gaskins, has a whole section on different activities and games you can use a 100 chart to do. We jumped into our 100 Numbers book and tried out a few.

First, I had Cole take some counter stones and count by 5's and mark it off with the stones.

Then we marked only the numbers with 7's in them and found a neat design.

Another neat, creative activity we did was find and color in which numbers would "make" a heart. 

The book itself offers multiple activities- a new "way" to count to 100 each time! Some examples are color all numbers with twos, write all your favorite numbers, color all the even numbers, and many more.

 Each math page has a corresponding fun animal coloring page. They vary from realistic black and white animal photos to detailed, adult coloring book style pictures to color in. Some pages even come with lines to write a short description or story about the featured animal.

I am sure this is a book we will have no problem filling up with colorful fun and numbers by the end of the year!

Thanks to Thinking Tree Books for providing this wonderful book for me to review and share with you all. 

Thursday, December 1, 2016


I know I maybe a (couple) day(s) late with this post, but before I move into full on Christmas mode, I wanted to share a wrap up on fall and what I am thankful for in current life. 

My little boys have been true and constant sunshine in a oft times grey and dreary part of the year. We have defintely had seasons where trying to parent 3 rambunctious and very young boys was easily the biggest stress factor in my life, I am thankful this chapter lets them star as one of the biggest delights. 

School hasn't been religiously consistent, but it has happened and we have had a ton of fun learning when it does. It's been such a treat to see Cole soak up reading lessons and take such pride in is new found skills. Asher slowly but surely is improving on his speech and jumps into learning with full enthusiasm (when he's in the mood for it ;). Silas is a dependable source for joy and entertainment for the whole household- what a gift that littlest boy has been to our family! He is a go getter who has always wants to be in on the action. "I wanna Twy", is his current catchphrase. 

I can know say I have been blessed to be married to my husband for seven years. Seven is kind of my number so it almost feels like a bigger deal than say, ten. I envisioned seven years ringing in triumphant bliss- this year hasn't been an easy one in any aspect of our lives but the celebration does taste a little sweeter being hard won.

 I am so grateful for family and friends that love and support us in tangible ways- like watching our little crazies and allowing us to get away for our anniversary. We contemplated several new trip itineraries but in the end, decided to stick with our stand by- Bend. We knew we could enjoy ourselves without a ton of mental energy being expended on trying to navigate a new to us area. We slept in, ate so much great food and  refilled our kombucha growlers. We did some Christmas shopping, hiked to a gorgeous water fall and saw two movies in theatres. It's so refreshing to splurge on a weekend or so a year of just a time of fun, just the two of us. I always come home and am thrown for a bit of a loop stepping right into our extra busy holdiay season- jam packed with not only holidays but a whole lo of birthdays in our house- but I am also thankful for that little breather before jumping in to all the seasonal activities too. We came with a pretty awesome souvenir, my anniversary gift, a Pendleton blanket. It's gorgeous and something I could never justify buying for myself so it really was the perfect gift. 

Thanksgiving was of course, filled with the best meal of the year shared with loved ones. From there it's been a fast shift into the Advent season and here we are already at December first. I am really glad to have adopted some meaningful advent rhythms and traditions to our days last year and am excited to pick those back up and add in a few more this year as well. I really don't want to overload us on "doing" and loose really "being" in the season, so we're slowing down on our outside commitments and focusing in on our home and on Christ. 

I am using the Slow and Sacred Advent ebook as a weekly framework. It is a laid back, but lovely guide to the 4 weeks of advent with handicrafts and recipes. As a family devotional for the season, we are using Prepare Him Room by Marty Machowski. This book is full of scripture, projects, songs an even an original Christmas story. I am really excited to share a more extensive review on this great family resource in the near future! 

It is so neat to watch the boys become more aware of what Christmas really means more and year and be more able to be involved in the preparation and festivities. Yesterday we had a full house of little and big friends to start of the Christmas season with an afternoon of handicrafts. We all shared a big pot of hearty soup, fresh baked breads, cups of coffee (for the mamas) and hand rolled beeswax candles. What a fun project it was! The kids exceeded my expectations with their interest and ability with it all. They really loved making something with their own two hands to be used for Christmas time. the natural, honey scent of our candles is very homey and comforting-perfect for cold, winter days.  The boys loved doing our devotion by candlelight later that night. It was fun to find a project that was first for both me and the boys and to learn together. Though, we later found out that Daddy had rolled many a candle in his childhood- in preparation for Y2K! ;) 

We've strung a few popcorn garlands and enjoyed a Christmas movie or two while sipping tea. I'm looking forward to a lot more cozy time at home over the next weeks- including, of course, a lot of time snuggled up on the couch reading Christmas books. We've pretty much put school on hold to enjoy all the special books, music and other "lessons" the season has to offer. We are using Pam Barnhill's Advent morning time plans and adapting them with the Christmas read alouds we have on hand to use- including the Hans Christian Anderson The Fir Tree (which I've reviewed here!) and The Snow Queen (which all be reviewing soon!) On top of the pile of Christmas picture books I have accumulated over the last couple of years.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.