Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tyndale: The Man Who Gave God an English Voice

By David Teems

I found this book to be awe-inspiring! It makes me want to live my life more courageously as a Christian. Even though sections of the book were quite difficult for me to get through in terms of readability, I learned so much about this incredible saint of the church. Because of his drive to translate the Bible into the English language, he lived in a continual state of being hunted, hated, exiled, and deprived of comforts. As the author puts it, "His life was reduced to a kind of living martyrdom." As a homeschooling mom, born-again Christian, and a student of the Bible for the past 34 years, I have read about, and taught my children about, the bravery of William Tyndale. Yet, it has been mainly his translation of Scripture and his martyr's death that I have known about. His life, choices, and bravery are presented in such a way as to make the reader feel they really know and understand William Tyndale and the pressures and persecution he lived under. God had so wonderfully prepared and placed this man to do this work. He was an English speaking scholar of Latin and Hebrew in the Medieval years, an oddity in itself.

In addition to giving the King James Bible much of the lyrical beauty that makes it so easy to memorize, William Tyndale also had an incredible impact on the English language in general. There are lists in the book of the incredible amount of words in our language to which we owe gratitude to Tyndale (including Godly, sanctified, chastening, zealous, and so many more). William Tyndale was a contemporary of William Shakespeare. A valid and thoughtful point that the author makes is that we (English speakers) speak much more 'Tyndale' than we do 'Shakespeare', and yet it is Shakespeare who is studied and credited as a great writer. I was brought to a deep awareness of my great debt to William Tyndale for spending his life making the Holy Scriptures accessible to me. The author does an excellent job of describing the medieval times and the fear that was used then to try to control the thoughts and actions of 'heretics' to the Catholic church.

The author has painted a very complete picture of the pressures put upon Christians in the Medieval era. We see Tyndale through the words of others who knew him, such as Desiderius Erasmus and Thomas More. The book contains exhaustive references to works of the time. One of the major detriments to me in reading this book was the use of the original texts in Old English. It is a very scholarly work. I have a master's degree in education. I am no stranger to scholarly texts. Having said that, let me confess that I lost my concentration in certain deeper segments of the book, since, as a wife and mother, my life is subject to frequent interruptions and demands on my thought processes! I had expected and hoped that this book would be more accessible to the average reader. Still, I think it is good that it is written at a more demanding level. The more distracted or casual reader will certainly come away much richer for having read it, and those with more concentration will take away even more.

The peace and resolve that Tyndale showed in the face of his imprisonment, sentencing, and death are awe-inspiring. I am so grateful to this man, and even more so when I read of the calm, kindness, and care for their salvation, that he showed to those who imprisoned him and forced him to suffer such hardships, cold, indignities, pain, and terrible death. His final words were: "Lord! Open the King of England's eyes."

No matter that some of the book is so deep that I will have to read it again to uncover more of the facts, I still have come away from this book better for having read it. I am much more knowledgeable about the path of peril that brave men took to bring me the King James Bible I read daily. It is rare that I finish a book, already having made the decision to read it again (and again), but that is how I feel about this book. There is much inspiration to be gained by studying the lives of the martyrs. This book on William Tyndale is a most excellent place to begin, or continue, to study.

I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Friday, December 2, 2011

Heaven Is For Real--DVD Based Conversation Kit

I was so anxious to receive this set, hoping to use it in small group
settings with other believers. I had read the book (twice!) and absolutely LOVE
it! This kit is such a disappointment to me. There is not nearly enough of
Colton in the DVD sessions. It was enjoyable to see him 'in person' on
the DVDs, but there was far too much extraneous stuff, and not enough just
hearing what Colton had to say. Now, I thought that the section on the DVD with Sonja, Colton's mother, talking about babies who die through miscarriage was absolutely wonderful, very full of hope for those who have suffered through this. One of the aspects of the book that offers such hope for hurting people is the description of Colton meeting his sister who had died in a miscarriage before Colton was born. The DVD does do this justice, I think. I am so happy to have this to share with women, and families, who have suffered miscarriage. The study guide doesn't seem to be geared to adults, or to born again believers as I hoped it would be. I suppose it is a good point that the questions range over a large spectrum. If you want to pick
and choose in the contents of the conversation guide, you will find questions
geared toward children, casual seekers, etc. Some of the questions seem so
air-headed, or wishy-washy that it is distracting to have to read through them.
Possibly this was done purposefully, so the set would be applicable to a wide
range of people. In my opinion, it detracts from the usefulness, or even the
pertinence of the set to the people I hoped to use it with...born-again
believers, middle school age through adult.
The bottom line, in my opinion, is that the book itself is wonderful, I HIGHLY recommend it to everyone, but this DVD and conversation guide set just doesn't live up to that standard at all (sadly). It would be better to just stick with the book, and let the book itself generate any discussion in small

Disclosure of
Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the
BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive
review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in
accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides
Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Review of :
Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo with Lynn Vincent

This book is just the most incredible story. It is a very quick & enjoyable read, too. You won't be able to put it down. Colton, is the 4 year old son of a pastor, who has a near death experience and, over time, begins to tell his parents small bits of what he experienced. The writing completely captures the sweet innocence of the little boy who seems to believe that his experience it not out of the normal at all. His parents, of course, are quite at a loss with what to do with Colton's new knowledge. Without letting him know they are fishing for information, and without feeding him leading questions, they begin to piece together the whole story.

Colton is able to describe deceased relatives he had never met or even heard about. One very moving part of the story involves his parents' quest to find out what Jesus looks like. His father begins nonchalantly showing Colton each photo of Jesus he comes across. All of them are dismissed by Colton as being all wrong for various reasons. Then, his father comes across the drawing of Jesus done by a Lithuanian-American young girl named Akiane, the daughter of athiests, who begin having visions of Heaven at the age of four. With her phenomenal artistic talent, she was able to translate her visions into paintings. This picture of Jesus, Colton pronounced as being exactly right. I now have that photo, by Akiane Kramarik, displayed in my home. It is just unbelievable to me to think that I am able to know exactly how Jesus appeared to these two little children! One of Colton's pronouncements about Jesus was that He "really, really, really loves children!" and He must indeed to make Himself so tangible to these two small children, and to all others now who read this book.

You will have chills when you read the descriptions of Heaven and Jesus as related by this innocent little boy. He tells of a horse that only Jesus can ride, and describes Jesus' garments, as well as angels. Colton is able to come up with details about people he has never met or heard about, but that his parents can personally verify, and all in the sweetest child-like way.

I plan to give this book as a Christmas present to anyone on my list who has not yet read it. It is THAT good! Do yourself, and anyone you love, a big favor and buy this book. You won't be disappointed!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Wonder of Your Love
by Beth Wiseman

I can't wait for the third book in this series.   This was such an enjoyable book. It had its moments of predictablility, but the sweet love story made it all worthwhile. The book pulled me in from the very first sentences with a very surprising and un-Amishlike beginning, and then provided such an engaging read for the two short days it took to finish it. The book is set in Caanan, Colorado, in a small, insular Amish community. The main character is Katie Ann Stoltzfus, she is an older woman who has been married for quite a few years, and is tragically widowed before her first child, Jonas, is born. She is asked to defer her own very human feelings in order to help someone who has wronged her. She has suffered several terrible hardships leading up to that point, that left her feeling very hesitant to place her trust in people, especially men.   

I loved the parts of the story line that involved Katie Ann being an older first time mom, in new surroundings and having lost her mother, and finding herself being wronged by her husband, whom she thought she could trust. I think this book will speak to a great many women in ways that will stay long after the novel has been finished. Seeing Katie Ann go through her struggles and then come through them better and happier gives the reader hope in the midst of her own struggles. While it doesn't always seem like it, God does provide a way through all the circumstances He allows into our lives. Katie Ann's answer in part comes in the form of Eli Detweiler. He is in a very different season of life and of parenthood than Katie Ann. The first time Eli sees Katie Ann with her tiny son, he is convinced she is the boy's grandmother since he has grandchildren about that age also. Eli is much more outgoing and gregarious than Katie, which also bothers her. The two meet by chance at an Amish wedding. There are sparks of attraction right away, but both of them have reasons to hold themselves back. Eli has been widowed for many years and his children are all grown, so he isn't really interested in starting over with young children. After all that Katie Ann has been through, she is very hesitant to give her heart, or her trust, to any man.    

This is the second book in Beth Wiseman's Land of Caanan series. The reader will have no trouble starting right in with this book, but will probably find herself wanting to read book one immediately following finishing this book to find out more about the characters. I can't wait for more in this series to find out what happens next. The characters are well-developed enough that you feel like you 'know' them, even the secondary characters like Katie Ann's outspoken non-Amish friend, Martha. I haven't found one of Beth Wiseman's books that disappointed me...this one certainly didn't! I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys Amish fiction, and a good, uplifting love story, too.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

Friday, September 30, 2011

The gift apron is a perfect fit!

Having guessed at the right size to make this little apron for the little daughter of a friend, I am so happy to find out that it is a perfect fit in all ways. She loves it! I wanted to show the photos I received today of little Michala wearing her apron made of vintage sheets. I'll be making more of these, for granddaughters and other little girls we know.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Little Girl's Apron Made From Vintage Sheets

I can't wait to show the project I've been working on this week. It took me most of an afternoon what with making the pattern from scratch, but it had no cost investment at all. A wonderful friend of mine who happens to be our former pastor's wife, mentioned to me that her sweet little 6 year old daughter wanted an apron. Well, an opportunity like that just doesn't come along every day!

I went right to work looking at photos of children's aprons and drew up a muslin pattern of what seemed to be an apron of about the right size. It retrospect, the circular ruffle could have been a bit more full.

For a couple of months I have been collecting vintage bed sheets, hoping to use them to make quilts for all of my children and grandchildren and some other special people for Christmas 2012. With the help of my teenage daughter who is blessed with lots of creative ability, I chose three of the sheets that looked cute together to use to make the apron. I also chose ones that were pretty much 'new' so the material would have more body. I couldn't resist making a little potholder to go into the apron pocket. I even quilted a little heart into the center of it. Then, we added a couple of fun cooking extras to make it even more exciting for her. In trying to get the lighting just right on this cold, wet day in the Midwest, I took photos in a couple of different locations in my house.

The apron is going in the mail today to the sweet little recipient. I hope to get a photo of her wearing the apron to add to the blog at a later time. Almost immediately after seeing it finished, I thought of several other little girls in the family who are certain to be needing a cute apron, so I guess I'll be making several more. I'm just thrilled with how it turned out, and I hope my friend and her daughter will be also.

Not really sure how to do this, since I've never tried it before, but I'm going to try to link this post to The Shabby Nest's Frugal Friday link party, and Made By You Mondays at Skip to My Lou. Wish me luck with that : D

The Shabby Nest

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

A perfect book for gift-giving, although you will want to keep it for yourself!

Right From the Heart
Turning Your Day Toward God
By Bryant Wright

First of all, let me say that I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of this devotional on a number of fronts. I have read a great number of devotional books, including the ones that I give away long before the book is finished. The content of Right From the Heart is meaty enough to satisfy even one who has been a Christian for quite a long time. I do believe it would be just as helpful for a new Christian, and not intimidating in its content at all. Doctrinally, I was quite satisfied also, although I found the use of such a large number of Bible translations for the daily verses to be distracting and the least pleasing part of the devotional for me.

While it may seem trivial to mention, since I am supposed to be reviewing the content of the book, the tactile and aesthetic quality of the book are lovely. The cover is just beautiful, and the paper used is very nice quality. Even the font seemed to add to the 'ambiance' of the book (can the word even be used that way?) It has a feeling of luxury and permanence about it, like an heirloom book would feel. This would be such a fine gift book for a beloved teacher, mentor, friend, or relative.

Obviously, I didn't read the devotional the way it is meant to be read, a page a day. I think it would be a very pleasant way to start one's daily devotions. The author likens the reading of a daily devotional to the warm up exercises done before physical activity. They limber the athlete and ready him or her to get the most out of the workout, just as reading a daily devotional puts one in an excellent state of mental readiness for ones daily Bible reading. I do think this volume would be excellent to use as a family devotional as long as the children were middle elementary and up in age, in order to have the lessons understandable for the children.

This is a book that will be remaining in my personal collection. I have made a note on my Christmas planning list that this would be a great gift for several of the people on my gift list. I give the book 5 out of 5 stars, and wish a higher rating was possible!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Thought provoking quote

It has been my blessing and privilege to homeschool each of my 5 children at some point in their school years. My first year of homeschool was 1985, with 4 students. It doesn't seem that long, but it has been 26 years! I am still homeschooling my youngest daughter. I know firsthand, as do so many other parents, how much time, energy, dedication, and commitment are required to homeschool, so when I saw this quote, it really spoke to me:

“Home schooling is a very old way of doing things. If you look at any of the bills in your wallet or the coins in your pocket, they all have a picture of a homeschooler on them.”

William Lloyd

That puts the efforts into perspective, doesn't it? That is just the thought I need to start this new school year with fresh energy to give my best to my student each and every day!

Saturday, August 27, 2011

On the subject of modesty:

I came across the letter below on the topic of modesty, written by a young man who didn't want his name used. It is so good, I have to re-post it. What a wise young man!

A Letter to the Girls I Know:

Dear Girls,

There are two kinds of men: Godly men, and worldly men. What kind of man do you want? I’m betting most of you said “a Godly man.” Someday, you want to marry a man who loves God with every fiber of his being because he will be an excellent husband and father. He will honor and be true only to you. Most women want a Godly man or at least think they do. Well, I think I have found a way to tell you exactly what kind of guy you will get. I don’t even have to know you! All I have to do is look at you. The kind of guy you want or will get is advertised by the clothing you wear. I know what men want. Trust me, I am a guy. I know more guys than you do and I know them better. I know what we think, what we talk about, what we want, and what we look for, and it is different for each one of us depending on our relationship with God. I’m sure you already know this, but men were created differently than you. We have different desires and priorities. Our eyes and minds react very differently to some things than yours do. It isn’t disgusting, perverted, or wrong; it is wonderful and good! It is how God made us. It’s how we handle these differences that separate a Godly man from a worldly man.

A worldly man doesn’t control himself, rather, he looks at anything that attracts his attention or gets him excited. A worldly guy has no problem when girls wear clothes that show off skin, like boxers, high or low-cut shirts, low-rise jeans, and “cute” little swim-suits. He’s a fan of tight-fitting shirts and pants that show off your form, he thinks they’re fine! Worldly guy watches a lot of TV and R-rated movies, isn’t really offended by sexual content or nudity and secretly dabbles in pornography. He’s a “Christian” and makes up a significant portion of your church and youth group. He’s a really nice guy and sees you mainly for your body. If you were to marry worldly guy, he’d bring lots of baggage into the relationship, have intimacy problems, entertain thoughts of other women, and possibly cheat on you.

A Godly man is in control of his drives and desires. He constantly seeks God and reads his Bible. He “walks in the Spirit” and isn’t set off by everything he sees. When immodestly-dressed girls, magazine covers, or risqué advertisements come into view, Godly guy quickly “bounces his eyes” away from the image. He’s constantly guarding his thoughts and what he allows into his mind. He hates being around girls that disrespect him and his struggles by wearing inappropriate attire. Godly guy doesn’t watch much TV and is selective about the movies he sees. He views you as a person, knows you and respects you. He has your best interests in mind and guards against inappropriate thoughts of you. If you were to marry Godly guy, he would give you the emotional attention you need, he would ignore other women and remain faithful to you no matter what.

Unfortunately, there are more worldly men than Godly men. And to make matters worse, to the untrained eye, a worldly man can look a lot like a Godly man. So what can you do to only attract a Godly man? An important way of delineating between them lies in how you dress. As mentioned before, the clothes you wear advertise what kind of guy you are looking for. If you dress immodestly, you will attract worldly guys and scare away the Godly ones. It all comes down to the kind of man you want to spend your time around and eventually marry. You cannot afford to be complacent in this area of your life! You will pay the price someday.

This issue isn’t limited strictly to you and your future relationship. The way you dress directly affects other men and women and their relationships. You don’t see the struggles, the pain, the tears and the sin that you cause, but I can promise that you would be shocked if you did! Ask any Christian young man; we’ve all seen it. It’s kept hidden but it is definitely there. By dressing immodestly, you effectually spit on the struggles of our weaker ranks, appearing to care more about toying with us than helping us. You’ll never know how many broken relationships and lifestyles of sin you’ve contributed to simply by the way you dress. You want to marry a Godly man someday, well so do many other women. Don’t just help yourself and your future, help all women and their relationships by showing discretion in your dress.

Of course, I understand the desire to look stylish, attractive, and “cute.” It’s important to fit in and get attention. Trust me, it can be done modestly! I also understand that it is easier for some girls to find stylish and well-fitting clothes than it is for others. This is an area where guys really don’t understand what you are up against. But just remember, for every sacrifice you make to honor God with your image, Godly men are making sacrifices in their lives that are just as hard, if not harder! They will and do respect you so much for choosing to be modest! A real lady is conscientious of the image she presents, and real men want a real lady. And you can forget about any guys missing out on how attractive you are because you don’t wear revealing clothing. You could wear a circus tent and we would still know; it’s a gift we have.

And so the question still remains: What kind of man do you want? Answer me with your clothes.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas

The sheer size of this book, 544 pages plus notes and errata, gave me pause. I am a wife and mother with all the daily busyness that implies, so I wondered how long it would take me to read such a thick book. I needn't have worried! From the very first pages when the reader is introduced to Bonhoeffer's illustrious forebears, the author grabs the reader's interest in such a way that this becomes a very hard book to put down.

I am not old enough to remember the Second World War or the tyranny of Hitler. Other than my horror at the atrocities committed against the Jewish people, and my mother's tales of rationing and hardship during the war years, I hadn't really given too much thought to that time period. This book is more than just a wonderful expose of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's life. For one thing, it may change your idea (as it did mine) that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a martyr for his Christian principles. He was actually put to death for his part in an assassination plot against Adolph Hitler.

This book is also an excellent education in the history leading up to the Second World War, and the thinking of the German people during this time period. I especially appreciated the author presenting the religious climate of the time period and the religious influences on Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the generations that proceeded him in his family. I found it fascinating to know that the same community school that educated Bonhoeffer's mother and governess, Hernnhut, founded by Count Zinzendorf in the eighteenth century, was also a force in influencing the beliefs of Charles Wesley. Being aware of the connection between Boenhoffer and one of my most awe-inducing heroes in the Church, drew me so tightly into this biography. Historical background is woven into the story very skillfully so the reader almost feels present in that time, not separated by 60+ years.

The author notes that, even while having 5 members of daily household staff to help in caring for her home and family, Dietrich's mother thought it imperative that she teach her own 8 children herself for their first 7 or 8 years. As a homeschooling mother, this really spoke to my heart of the lasting impact that can come from the simple commitment of time spent teaching our children. I would like to incorporate the reading of this biography into our curriculum covering the war years and holocaust, but I will wait until the last years of high school to do so because of the harsh realities it contains. It was heart-wrenching for me to read as an adult, but I think that seeing the soul of such a good man and the hard choices he made so willingly, has been of great benefit to me. Boenhoffer's scholarly & personal commitment to standing for what is right is so inspirational, and speaks loudly of the impact that comes from one person's commitment to stand firm and act resolutely in his or her beliefs. The book gives such a personal look at what people faced in those years also.

The inclusion of many photos in the book and the many direct quotes from Bonhoeffer's own writings were an excellent aid in making the story accessible. The story is presented with a good deal of background & very skillfully written so as to cause the reader to become immersed in the book. Eric Metaxas is an incredible writer, to be able to take subject matter so hard and a person so scholarly, born over a hundred years ago, and write the story in a way that makes it personal, gripping, and very hard to put down.

I recommend this book heartily, to anyone who wants to learn more about Germany in the war years, or to learn more about a great hero who stood steadfastly for his Christian beliefs in the face of terrible, unfathomable evil. Reading this book will build your faith and vision. Bonhoeffer is both very educational and one that feels like it was time very well spent when you are finished reading.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Monday, August 1, 2011

Healing Hearts...an engaging collection of stories, perfect for summer reading!

Healing Hearts by Beth Wiseman

This book contains three separate novels within the one volume. They do not build on or relate to each other, but are stand-alone stories. I loved each of them. They are tender romances with enough conflict to keep the reader turning pages. I love that they are chaste and clean enough for me to read with a clean conscience and to share with my teenage daughter should she want to read them. I also really enjoyed the small amount of Pennsylvania Deutsche that the author included in the dialogue. It made the stories seem just that much more enjoyable and realistic. Each story has very well defined characters and a well-described setting, so the reader is immediately captivated and feeling a part of the culture and the storyline.
Incidentally, I learned an interesting fact in reading this book: Pennsylvania "Dutch" is actually a mispronounciation of Pennsylvania "Deutsche" or German. That makes so much more sense to me now. I had always wondered why the Amish dialect was called 'Dutch', yet actually seemed to be so similar to the German spoken by my parents and grandparents. Now I know, lol!

The first novella is A Choice to Forgive. It is a wonderful story of love, loss, and forgiveness. The main character, Lydia is left to raise her three children alone when her husband dies. Her first love, and former suiter, Daniel, drops back into her life, giving the story its drama, and, ultimately, giving the reader a wonderful glimpse of the healing power of forgiveness.

The second story in the book is A Change of Heart. This was perhaps my very favorite of all of the stories, although I did really love them all. In this story, Leah, the second of four sisters in an Amish family, is struggling with her own dreams of becoming a writer, which is not a traditionally accepted goal for an Amish woman. She is definitely the odd sister out in her family, and feels as though she comes up lacking when compared to her sisters. The story introduces a very colorful character in the person of Auntie Ruth. Leah finds herself becoming attracted to her soon-to-be brother-in-law, the great nephew of Auntie Ruth. It is a very engaging story; hard to put down!

The third novella in this book is Healing Hearts. It is a very touching and emotional story of Lavina Lapp. She is an older woman, mother of 5 grown children, who finds herself abandoned by her husband. It is a perhaps too emotional story of how Lavina struggles to find the trust to allow her husband back into her life and heart after the hurt he has caused her. I did really enjoy this story, too, but it pulls on the heart-strings a tad too much for me. As a married woman, it did give me a well-needed pause to consider if I am doing all that I can do to keep the love and romance alive in my marriage.

I wish is was possible to give this book a 4 1/2 star rating, but since the half star isn't possible, I am going to have to go with 4 stars. The stories were very uplifting and enjoyable, but were kept from being as good as they could have been by the slight predictability of the plots, the shortness and non-connectedness due to the stories being novellas, and the slightly over-emotional nature of the final story. All that said...I would certainly offer the book to a friend as an very pleasurable, quick read, and I am glad I read it myself. I love reading Amish stories. They have a way of making me see the simple beauty and blessings in my own life.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Such an engaging an inspirational book!

A Place Called Blessing: Where Hurting Ends and Love Begins, by John Trent, Ph.D with Annette Smith

This book really took me by surprise. It is a lightning fast read, largely because you just don't want to put it down! The main character has so much heartache, deprivation, and loss, that you just want to weep for him and his brothers. The author does a fine job of keeping the pace going just like real life, so you never have time to bog down in the sadness, instead forging ahead to see if better circumstances come into Josh and his brothers' lives. It almost seems like that will never happen. The three boys are neglected & abused, abandoned for large amounts of time with scarcely any food to eat. Then, their parents are killed in an automobile accident, leaving the boys to be raised in foster homes and group homes, waiting for an adoptive family that may never arrive.

Our communities are full of people like Josh, so in need of kindness. I taught for quite a few years at an alternative middle & high school, so I have known a great many of these dejected young people, aching for just one person to believe in them. Dr. Trent did a fabulous job of portraying the loneliness and fear, and utter lack of hope that anything good will ever come to them, or OF them, that lie just barely hidden under the skin of young people like Josh. This book is so inspirational, and at the same time, provides a clear and practical picture of the way to throw out a life line to these people so in need of one.

The story is a practical application of the lessons taught in another of Dr. Trent's books, (which I have not read), The Blessing, written with Gary Smalley. It illustrates how to bless those in our families and those whom God brings into our lives through the "5 essential elements" of blessing:

Meaningful touch
A spoken message
Attaching high value
Picturing a special future
An active commitment

I was surprised to realize that one of my favorite books to read my children and grandchildren, the wonderful children's picture book, I'd Choose You, is also written by Dr. Trent. The same principles are at work in all three of these books, giving people tools to bless the people in our lives. After reading A Place Called Blessing, I don't think I will ever lose sight of what those five elements are, or the power they hold to change lives.

I highly recommend this book to everyone from young teens through adults, male and female alike. Probably those in helping professions and those who deal with children and young adults in the course of their workday would be especially challenged by this story to see the ways that God is waiting to use them. I can't think of anyone who would not be inspired and blessed by this engrossing novel.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Simplicity, Sharing, & Saving...what a timely book!

Money Secrets of the Amish by Lorilee Craker
Book Review

As soon as I read the title of this book, along with its subtitle, "Finding True Abundance in Simplicity, Sharing, and Saving", I knew this was a book I was going to love reading! What a timely book-for my family as well as for most other people I know. The author, Lorilee Craker, sets about to discover some of the thrifty ways of her Mennonite ancestors by researching the frugal ways of the Amish.

The book is well-organized into chapters for each of the thrifty ways that modern families can adopt the money saving ways of the Amish people. Some of those include: buying used items instead of new, not replacing items that are still able to do what they need to do, evaluating 'needs' versus other reasons for purchasing things, gardening, canning, baking & cooking from scratch, finding low-cost or free fun activities, finding joy and fun in working together as a family, re-gifting, bartering, and so many more. These are certainly not new ideas. My family and I have been zealously frugal for many years, so there was scarcely a new idea in the book for me, BUT, I still wholeheartedly enjoyed reading this book. It is inspirational and challenging to have so many great ideas, along with the practical benefits and the author's examples of how she applied them to modern life, all gathered together in one well-organized volume. The author stresses, and illustrates with some great examples, the benefits of having a long-term financial vision, with the cumulative small sacrifices and savings providing the stepping stones to get there.

I could scarcely put this book down, and I plan to re-read it as necessary when I need a booster shot of inspiration. I have often been asked for tips on how my family gets along on one income with all needs well met. If I had the ability to write a book listing what our family practices, this would have been the book! Since that is far beyond my abilities, I am so happy to have found this book so I can recommend it to anyone who asks us our money saving methods. I *will* say that I would love to read the hypothetical 'volume two' that would contain more stringent methods that my family and I have yet to put into practice.

Beyond just the financial gains of a simpler, more thoughtful lifestyle, the author shows the benefits to self, family, and community, of choosing more interactive pastimes over the typical American leisure activities. Dining in with friends as opposed to eating out; playing games with loved ones instead of sitting passively watching a movie at a theater; finding the fun in doing meaningful work together as a family instead of needing to be entertained, are just a few examples of enriching life by choosing the simpler path.

This book is written in a folksy, conversational style. The ideas are (for the most part) practical (the art activities she recommends left me shaking my head at the cost/mess/uselessness of the 'product', but that is a very small part of the book.) and easily accomplished for any family truly desiring to save more and spend less. I highly recommend this book to all!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Monday, June 13, 2011

Quilting Inspiration Photos

Here are the photos of two of Sophia's quilts. If this doesn't make you want to go shopping--imediately!--for vintage sheets...take your temperature : )

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Quilting inspiration

Sophia, a blogger I follow regularly Frugal ideas from the Parsonage, is having a fat quarter giveaway. Quick!...Get yourself over there and enter : )
I've been seeing the gorgeous small quilts that Sophia churns out so quickly, while running perhaps a busier life than most of us. My daughter and I have been gathering up vintage sheets, planning to try our hand at making quilts for family members. We'll see if that all turns out, with homeschooling, putting up all the produce from our big garden, and all of the other things we stay busy with. It IS fun to plan and dream, though, right : )
Just to give you some further inspiration, here are two of my favorites of Sophia's quilts. You can find her Etsy store through the address on the pictures. I've purchased adorable skirts for American Girl dolls from her, and I have my eye on other of her items also.

(photos are pending Sophia's approval)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Summer in the Country Blanket is finished!

I finished this lovely blanket about 2 weeks ago, but haven't gotten around to showing the finished project. It is SO soft and just the right warmth for the chilly spring evenings and nights we have where I live. It took exactly 3 cones (690 yards each, so about 2070 yards) of cotton yarn. I stopped when I had about 2 yards left on the 3rd cone. It is VERY generously sized; about 54" X 76" before it stretches, and it is really stretchy. I absolutely LOVE it!

This blanket was done as a KAL (knit along) from one of my favorite designers, Firefly (scrumptiousliving.wordpress.com). I've been taking it along on day trips with my husband and daughter in the hills where we live, and it is so perfect for the chilly spring weather, especially in the hills. Some of the photos were taken on those little trips. This is completely different than a toddler taking along a comfort blankie...right???? lol

This is a classic old Oldsmobile, possibly a 1947, I didn't write it down. What a beautiful old car, hmmm? It seemed like a nice backdrop for my pretty new blanket : )

I started another blanket in the same baby blue Peaches and Cream cotton yarn. One of them will be for my sister. I'm going to try to make this one a bit smaller, and without bobbles, as our cats think the bobbles are completely irresistable. I have to fold up the finished blanket inside out to keep them from biting the bobbles, so I should just give this blanket to my dear sister who would love it. Blue is her favorite color also.

For the second blanket, I cast on only 170 stitches. It will also have 5 cables, but with only seed stitch between them, no lattice work. I need a project that I can do without a pattern so I can work on it without thinking at all : ) I'm anxious to see the photos of my KAL-mates' Summer in the Country blankets, too. Here's hoping Firefly hosts another KAL before too long!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Book review: Daddy Dates by Greg Wright

Daddy Dates, subtitled “ Four Daughter, One Clueless Dad, and His Quest to Win their Hearts: The Road Map for Any Dad to Raise a Strong and confident Daughter”

I would certainly recommend Daddy Dates by Greg Wright to any father who desires to become closer to his daughter/s. The author has four daughters, whom he decides to really get to know, ‘to win their hearts‘. What he sets out to do is so simple, so basic to parenting, that it almost seems superfluous to have to read a book about how to do it. That is my opinion as a mother, but when my husband heard about the book, he asked quite a few questions, seeming to think it was a GREAT idea.

The author has given very specific and detailed instructions for every thing he advises fathers to do. I think this is perfect for most dads I know. Writing the book as though it is a step-by-step blue-print makes it very accessible. If, indeed, women are so very hard for men to understand, this book seems perfectly crafted to lead the way to a close relationship with daughters for any man who will give a bit of attention to the author’s methods and the degree of caring and love he gives to his daughters.

Anyone can glean great ideas from this book. As I read it, I thought of how valuable these tips would be in getting closer to other family members where not much relationship has been forged (think mother in law for instance, lol!). The ideas are equally applicable to sons, or to the relationship between husband and wife. Doesn’t everyone spell ‘love’ t-i-m-e?

This book was well worth reading. Greg Wright has a conversational writing style that makes the book a quick read and one you don’t want to put down. I recommend it to anyone longing to get closer to the most important people in their lives. It is a warm and encouraging book, sure to give you great, easy to use, ideas.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rise & Shine Coffee Oatmeal Muffins

Lately, my teenage daughter has been enjoying these muffins for breakfast and (frequent LOL) snacks throughout the day. We homeschool, so grazing during the day is happily welcomed. You might notice that the plate of coffee oatmeal muffins is short of a dozen...I had to take the photo fast, as the number was diminishing rapidly as soon as they came out of the oven!

We tinkered with this recipe several times and now find them to be just 'perfect'...healthy enough to feel good about eating, and tasty enough that we don't think we'll ever get tired of them!

Rise & Shine Coffee Oatmeal Muffins

3 heaping Tablespoons of instant coffee powder (we use decaf)
1 cup hot brewed coffee or hot water
1/4 cup dry powdered milk
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
2/3 cups sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp vinegar
1/3 cup sourdough starter (can omit this if you don't have starter)
1 1/3 cups white flour
2/3 cups whole wheat flour
3/4 cups oatmeal
1 cup chocolate chips

Dissolve the milk and coffee powders in hot coffee or hot water. Beat together the eggs, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, vinegar, yogurt, butter, oatmeal, and sourdough starter. Add the coffee mixture. Mix well, and mix in the flours and chocolate chips.

Fill paper cupcake liners in standard size muffin pan about 2/3 full. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes. Makes about 20-22 muffins.

We have made these as peanut butter oatmeal muffins also, by exchanging peanut butter for the yogurt, and omitting the coffee and sourdough starter. Those were wonderful also, but not as addictively yummy as these : )

Progress on the Summer in the Country Blanket

I am really enjoying the "Summer in the Country" KAL (Knit ALong) from Firefly. It is fun to see the bands of seed stitch meandering over and under the cable pattern. As you can see by the photo, I am nearly finished with the second cone of cotton yarn, so there are about 1380 yards of yarn in this blanket already! I think it is going to take about 3 1/2 cones as it is only about 32 inches long so far. I used Peaches and Cream article 930 yarn in baby blue color. I'm SO sad to see Pisgah mills close down. Theirs is the softest, smoothest, strongest cotton I have ever worked with. Luckily, I bought nearly a ton of their yarn a couple of months ago ; )

There is still plenty of time to join this KAL if you are interested. Firefly's patterns are always easy to follow and turn out so lovely! I think I am going to make one more of these blankets for one of my sisters, probably in this same blue color as that is her favorite. I will alter the next one to omit one cable and one section of lattice work, though. Mine is about 68 inches wide, which would probably be heavier and just bigger than my sister would enjoy.

The pudgy gray cat in the photos is trying to chew on my KnitPicks Harmony needle tip! Rascal is her name. She certainly lives up to her name : )

Max Lucado answers life's toughest questions

Max on Life: Answers and Insights to Your Most Important Questions is Max Lucado's newest book. This book is different from any of the other Max Lucado books I have read. He has taken many topics that believers (and non-believers) have questions about, and written a devotional in question and answer style. The book makes it very conversational and non judgmental for the reader to acknowledge that they may have had those very questions, and not ever had anyone to ask or to discuss them with. Each question and answer are complete on one page, or not much beyond one page.

For the most part, I found his answers to mesh soundly with my own doctrine and thinking, so that I would recommend this book to friends and family. I would not, however, give the book to a teenager or younger as the answers he offers to questions on sex and marriage are quite graphic. He uses humor to great advantage in many of the answers, driving home some points as nothing else might do. His statement in answer to how to select the right mate, “If you are a child of God and you marry a child of the Devil, you’re going to have trouble with your Father-in-law.” is a perfect example, and one that is going to stay with me for a very long time.

There are well thought out and very helpful answers to many of the toughest questions, regarding death, finances, children who do not seem to serve the Lord, and every aspect of the 'cares of this world'. The topics are well indexed, making it very easy to use in situations of immediate need, such as comforting or counseling others. I highly recommend the book. I think those who look hard enough will find aspects that do not mesh with their theology in certain ways, such as evolution (he speaks of millions of years) and seeming to believe that it is inevitable that many marriages will end in divorce, but given the encompassing scope of topics covered and the carefulness to base answers on scripture, I do highly recommend the book to any adult reader. I am very happy to have this resource on my bookshelf!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Summer in the Country Blanket

I joined a KAL (Knit Along) headed up by one of my favorite knitting pattern designers...Firefly . We are knitting a mystery pattern which is turning out to be so pretty. There are four large cables with bobble detailing, with sections of diamond laticework between the cables. I'm using 2 cones of Peaches and Cream 930 100% cotton yarn that I had in my stash. The color is baby blue. It is going to be such a soft blanket, the perfect weight for summer evenings.

Since I made it in my sister's favorite color, I think it is going to be hard to keep from gifting her with the blanket when it is finished. I might get to make two of them : )

It will be fun to see what the next set of directions add to the design.

Extremely Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies : )

My daughter and I love to fool around in the kitchen, just putting together ingredients and proportions that sort of feel right, to see how they turn out. We made these cookies last week, and oh, my! They were so good, with just the right amount of chewiness. We actually wrote this one down so we could do it again : )

Extremely Yummy Chocolate Chip Cookies

3/4 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup Sucanat
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3/4 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 cup unbleached flour
1 12 oz bag semi-sweet chocolate chips

Cream the butter, brown sugar, Sucanat, and vanilla; beat the eggs and add the eggs and yogurt to the other ingredients; mix in the leavening, oatmeal, and flour; stir in chocolate chips. Place well-rounded tablespoonsful on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 375 degrees for 12-14 minutes. This recipe only made 36 cookies, so we plan to double it next time.

Review of the book: We Be Big

"We Be Big: The Mostly True Story of how Two Kids from Calhoun County, Alabama became Rick & Bubba" is the first book I have read and reviewed for the BookSneeze program. I chose it because autobiographies are one of my favorite genres, and this one did not disappoint. I had never heard of Rick Burgess and Bill "Bubba" Bussey before receiving this book. Now, I find myself often wishing that their radio show was broadcast in my area (Midwest).
This was a very entertaining and fast-paced book to read. I think my husband is going to enjoy it even more than I did since it seems like there aren't that many inspirational and humorous books written from the male viewpoint. Rick and Bubba start with stories from childhoods. They tell how each of them gravitated toward radio, how they were initially teamed together by their college Spanish teacher, how their lives intersected from time to time until they finally came together to become hosts of a hugely popular morning radio show in the South. They didn't hold back on including very personal and sometimes embarrasing moments in their lives.
I loved that the chapters are each written by just one of the men, from his own perspective in a very easy to read, conversational style. I also loved the wealth of photos that are included in the book. Most of all, though, I was touched and impressed with the faith, humor, and perseverence (through even the most terrible of circumstances) of these two men. Their story paints a picture of God's faithfulness toward all of us. By the end of the book, I really felt as though I knew them, and with they lived closer to my area so I could hear them on the radio.
I'm glad I read this book. I would recommend it to anyone, men especially. It is an inspirational and very enjoyable book.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255 : "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising

Friday, February 25, 2011

Free Christian books, anyone?

I found a terrific deal for people who love to read, and love a great deal, too. Booksneeze offers new releases from Thomas Nelson publishing company free to those who will read them and post reviews on their blog! I just ordered my first one, which looks like it will be a fun & interesting read. I can't wait to see how this works out, as I am slightly leary of 'free' offers. I'm posting a link to Booksneeze on my sidebar, if my tech-savvy daughter will show me how to do it.

We are snowed in at the moment. It would be a perfect day to settle into my favorite reading chair with some hot tea and a couple of cats to keep me warm, but I have to wait for the mailman to show up with the book first.

I hope everyone out there is staying safe and warm!
In His love,