Thursday, September 29, 2016

We have a Savior who is Closer than Close

I've pretty much "grown up" as a Christian-in that I grew up in a Christian home and knew about God and what His Son did for me from the start. This is not something I am complaining about: what a great blessing and one I am trying to endow to my children now. I have also pretty much always been a "Good Girl" and have never really had a desire to be anything else. But even mild mannered, tame people who aren't even necessarily tempted to be "bad" realize in a real hurry that it's hard work doing good works and you can always be better. Call it perfectionism, Type A personality or whatever, but I don't think I'm alone in "hustling" in the Christian life. In serving more, being a part of more ministries and on top of that doing these things with the right intentions and attitudes. And then there's the whole list of sins and downfalls I can't seem to shake or move past, even though I really really want to. Being a "good" Christian is hard work and I'm frankly sort of exhausted. 

I know of grace and God's rest for me and I know I can receive those things by being close to Him. Then the question is, how do I get close to Him? I know the right steps to achieve closer proximity (or at least the way we are usually to do so)- get up early, read your bible, pray, serve others. I want to do those things, I know they have merit and are key parts of the Christian walk; but I also am kind of horrible at being inconsistent in those things and getting bogged down in the rest of life. And so I start to feel a little hopeless, like if I can't hold up my part of this deal than why should God want to be close to me and how well I ever "get it right" enough to feel close to Him? 

During a time of a lot of internal wrestling over this conundrum came a book that tackles just these questions and more. In Closer than Close: Awakening to the freedom of your union in Christ  Dave Hickman does a wonderful job of verbalizing all the doubts and fears I've secretly felt and bringing to light the true meaning of how close God wants to be to me and how it is possible. Jesus died on the cross to cleanse my sins so the gap could be crossed and I could be truly united with Him- really, Closer than Close. 

Dave starts by "introducing" himself and I instantly knew he was a voice I could trust on this journey because I could so relate with his early christian experience growing up and how tough it was to fully commit and live a mature christian life as a kid and young adult. He talks of seasons of being fully on fire for God and then being slowly pulled away by "teenage life". Of wanting so badly to give up sins and grow and yet finding yourself doing that very thing, over and over. Dave writes, "Although I was learning more about Jesus and wanted desperately to please and obey him, I became trapped in an endless cycle of sin- confession- sin- confession- sin- confession.'' And pretty soon all you feel is guilt and despair. I could very much empathize with all of this, but also when he writes, "I continued to fight for my relationship with Jesus. How could I not? How could I give up on the one relationship that is suppose to save me?"  Yes, how could I ever give up on that?

Dave goes on to share how after his first son is born and he is completely overcome with love for this child, his child, he just wants to be as close to him as possible. It's then he realizes, God reveals to him that this is who God feels about him, about his children. He wants to be closer than close, He wants to be One. He continues to look at the "Us" of God revealed thru scripture- how there is one God with distinct and different personalities or divinities within. Dave explains how the Trinity is "eternally present with one another, for another, and in one another." And how God created man as another picture of that relationship and form. Of course we know sin came in and tore that idea apart but then Christ came along to redeem and restore that beautiful concept. 

The rest of the book focuses on how to actually life like we have Christ living in and through us. How to grasp our personal identity as the Most Loved. I loved the example Dave uses of how when Jesus first steps onto the sign of public ministry with his baptism God could have understandably encouraged him with affirmation of his divinity or divine calling but instead God says, "This is my Son who I love and in whom I am pleased." This was first and foremost who Jesus was- God's most loved Son and we are at our core his most loved children. In the next chapter, Dave explores the spiritual disciplines of living closer than close to Jesus and shares how it is in some ways like living married life. As you become one with your spouse and daily draw closer to them, so with Christ, you are a new thing and daily dig deeper into what the reality of this union really is. Lastly, Dave dives into what identity and reality in Christ looks like when applied to how we approach the church and the great commission. This book is a very insightful and yet encouraging book on Christian growth, in the truest sense.

 I received this book in exchange for my honest review from Tyndale Publishers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Two beautiful books to consider gifting this Holiday Season!

I wanted to share a quick post with you today to let you know about (and look inside!) two gorgeous books for gifting that Tyndale is releasing this fall. I truly think you are going to want to consider adding these titles to your holiday shopping list for the special women in your life!

The first treasure is Gratitude: A prayer and praise coloring journal- a richly designed and beautifully detailed interactive journal that I'm pretty sure would make an lady happy to see on her coffee table. :) This book is made uniquely sturdy with a cardboard cover and heavy weight pages that are perfectly suited for coloring and writing on. 

Each page spread offers one page of a themed prayer and another page with a prompting and space for you to pour out your own written version. There is even certain days that ask those creative people to illustrate their feelings or prayer! 

The page layouts and artwork are varied and so fun- this book is a visual feast and in turn, I believe will really inspire women to engage in collecting their thoughts and prayers in it. I am really excited to see that Tyndale is putting out many equally gorgeous and interactive titles in their Living Expressions Collection!

The other sweet, little volume I wanted to share was Has anyone ever seen God? 101 questions and answers about God, the world and the bible. This is a petite yet, jam packed book that I think would be such a perfect gift for a friend or acquaintance who was really searching and had lots of questions about God. 

In this title, there are 101 plainly spelled out questions and then brief, yet pretty through answers
There is a page per question and answer pair accompanied by some adorable illustrations and a coordinating verse. The format of the book almost reminds me of some the catechism or basics of the faith books I've been working thru with my boys, only in a prettier and more grown up edition. 

Again, I really feel this is a great little book to give a woman who doesn't have much knowledge about Christianity but wants to learn more. There's also two more titles to accompany this one- What does God really promise? and Can I really know Jesus?

I received these books in exchange for my honest review from Tyndale Publishers. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Saying goodbye to Summer and hello to Fun Schooling

The leaves are starting to fall, the evenings have got a chill to them and there's more garden harvest than I know what to do with; I think it's safe to say that fall is upon us. It's a bittersweet fact around this house: we are summer lovin' folks. The season of the sun is fairly short lived in the Pacific Northwest and as much as we don't mind the rain, the sunshine is a gift we hold onto as long as we can. Autumn is slowly winning us over though. With it's mountains of apples, beautiful landscape and piles of fresh books and a new year of school to dive into! 

September was a semi-summer holdover month for us with lots of end of the season trips and plans and so much garden preserving to get done. I think October will be our official buckle down into a structured school pattern month. We have dipped our toes into the academic year and it's been an encouraging intro to the school year. I did put some semblance actual goal setting and lesson planning together in August and I think that's going to be a blessing in the coming weeks! For now, we've jumped into some seasonal and interest led projects- such as apple sauce making and apple sauce inspired poetry writing, constructing "measure for measure" paper skeletons of the boys and of course, a lot of fall nature study. We are warming our way back into Morning Time and Asher is excited to be an "official" preschooler this year. Cole and I picked back up in the "100 easy lessons" reading book were we left off at the end of last year and we are both really encouraged by how much more competent he is with reading now! He's started to pine over being able to just being able to pick up a book and read it. I think his actually really wanting to read and pride in what he's learned so far is really going to take him a long ways this year! 

Another new dimension I'm really excited to add to our school plans this year is not only educational, but also just plain fun! we are going to enjoy some Fun Schooling with Thinking Tree books. I have had my eye on this super creative and open ended series of interactive books for quite some time now (complete with having a pretty full Amazon wishlist of the titles I wanted to try out most on standby ;). Sarah Janisse Brown is a homeschooling Mama of a large brood who has authored and illustrated so many titles in this ever growing and unique collection of homeschool books. They fit nicely into "out of the box" unschooling and as a Charlotte Mason-esque supplement, as I intend to use them.  Sarah was very generous and sent me a hefty box of personally curated books for my boys and I to enjoy and share with all of you. I can't wait to get these bright and engaging books into my boys hands and share in depth looks into new titles with you through out the school year. I really think my boys are going to learn so much copying things into their very own fun schooling journals and I'm going to look for excuses to "learn" things to jot down in my own homeschooling handbook ;) (spoiler alert!) I foresee these books doing a wonderful job of keeping the joy in learning under the guise of just being "for fun"!

The first book I want to share with you is the perfect example of how focused Sarah is in these titles on capturing the interest and heart of a child. The All about Horses Homeschooling Journal is a thick and delightful six week unit study on, you guessed it, Horses! The first page asks students to write down several things they want to specifically learn thru their study time about horses and then instructs them to go to the local library and pick up six books to use as "text books". The book may be all in black and white but it does not lack in beautifully detailed illustrations and all the more opportunity for kids to get creative themselves in coloring it in! 

Each day's study opens with a fun circle the date intro page and place to fill in a daily to do list and daily inspiration. After that, Sarah does a fantastic job of mixing things up each day and including a wide variety of activities and "subjects". One day the student is learning to draw a horse, finding spelling words in their horse "text books" and another they are watching a documentary, writing up a days worth of meal plans and doing a nature study sketch. I just think this is a really great way to engage a maybe hesitant student who would rather be out, say, riding a horse than working in school books.There is an impressive mixture of inspiring, yet open ended project prompts to definitely document education but the learning itself is coming from such pleasurable, real life experiences. 

I would have LOVED this book as a homeschooled farm girl growing up and I have a little animal lover middle child who I think will grow into this fun resource nicely. :)

I received these products in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, September 9, 2016

An adorable pair of children's books to celebrate both day and night!

As my big boys get older, I find myself buying more picture and chapter books and less board books which is kind of sad. There really are some adorable and well written "baby's first books" out there!  Plus, it is so nice to have a big stack of books that I can let my littlest boy enjoy (on his own terms) and know they'll hold up to all the "love". :) We added two new titles to our board book basket that have become instant hits with my boys. God made the Sun and God made the Moon by Mary Manz Simon and illustrated by Lizzie Walkley. 

  God made the Sun is a bright and sweetly illustrated book with a fun and upbeat rhyming text that celebrates the Sun and the joys it brings from rise to set! 

God made the Moon is the companion book that whimsically shares with children some of the gifts that come at what can easily be a scary time for kids- nighttime! My middle son has a special affection for the moon and instantly claimed this as his special "moonie" book. :) 

I love that these adorable books coordinate in giving glory to God for providing us with a great to smile on the Eath- both day and night. These precious board books will get a lot of readings in our house and would be great titles to gift to the favorite little people in your life as well! 

I recieved these books from Worthy Kids Publishing in exchange for my honest review.