This Month's Featured Resources...

Revolutionary WarScrap Crafting Lego History Latin Calendar

Wednesday, October 18

Saving Sight!

A Health PSA....

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) isn't something that most of us concern ourselves with.  We simply assume that our sight, like our hearing and other faculties, will there.  Having faced some major health changes in the past couple of years, I can safely tell you that _nothing_ is assured!

Every year nearly 10 million Americans go blind due to AMD or Age-related Macular Degeneration. The exciting news is that a cure is in sight! The Foundation Fighting Blindness, a non-profit organization, has provided funding for research on cures for blindness, specifically AMD, since 1971.

In fact, with the research FFB has already made possible, treatments to stop and in some cases even reverse retinal disease is a reality. This is great news for people over 55 and their families. With AMD it is nearly impossible for grandparents to enjoy the little things in life such as playing games, watching movies and reading to their grandchildren.

However, due to innovative research, those things are once again possible for many people…but, we need to continue this outreach, support additional research and find cures. This is why our campaign focus is on ‘Driving Research & SAVING SIGHT!’.
By helping us, you are saving the sight of potentially millions of afflicted people every year!

A Musical Adventure & Giveaway!


If you've followed our blog for any length of time, then you've come to recognize (via song titles and FB memes) that we're really into music around here.  "Where words fail; music speaks."  #truth  My kids may not get terribly excited about doing another Bible study, but they're all about getting up and groovin'!

Live SoulFULL is a music-driven, gospel-centered, interactive Bible study that’s all about how God fulfills your deepest needs. It’s a fun, yet challenging way to help you build a strong, confident faith in knowing God as the Giver and Filler of life.

Each song and corresponding chapter work together to walk you through the Bible’s answers to some of life’s biggest questions.

Recorded by award-winning Nashville musicians, the music ranges from up-tempo, roll-the-
window-down grooves to passionate, heart-stirring ballads. As you listen, read, and learn, you will discover the fulfillment and joy that Jesus offers in the midst of everyday life.

Live SoulFULL Includes:

  • 11 Chapter study book
  • 13-song CD
  • Download code for digital copy of album

  • Open up the first chapter, and we'll study together about how to live a life full of love, joy, and SOUL!  The accompanying song, 'Soulful,' is upbeat and favorite kind of uplifting music. 
  • The second chapter covers verses and text about how we can know that God is real.  The accompanying song, 'Masterpiece,' is much slower and peaceful, designed to soothe and encourage.
  • In the third chapter, we cover God's plan for the world as we listen to 'History,' the song du chapter.  Personally, my favorite, of the first three songs, is the first one...but I like to dance.  😍

Get Social & Enter the Giveaway!

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Monday, October 16

October : Opt Out

October – Opt Out

It’s hard to keep a clear mind when we’re constantly being bombarded with stuff!  This month, your challenge is to get off junk mail lists, clear the clutter in your house, and simplify.

Now, I know that for some folks, it can be stressful just to think about parting with possessions, but it can be done.  Not only is it good for your mind, but it’s good for your body, too.  A clutter-free home helps to build a calm space that has less dust, dirt, and allergens.

Clearing the Clutter
If you have things that you're on the 
fence about parting with, put them in a box and put that box up for a year.  If you haven't needed, or even thought of, those items during that time, then it's probably safe to toss them.  But they're still there for that year, if you decide that you do need them.

To not get overwhelmed, just do one room at a time.  
As you're sorting, consider these three categories :

Strategies for Refusing the Clutter :
  1. Buy less :  The less you consume, the less you pay for, and the less you have to find a place to store / maintain / clean.  In this sense, less is more.
  2. Eco-purge :  Don't just toss items....donate the things in good condition, and re-purpose or recycle the rest!  (Clothing in poor condition makes for great cleaning rags.)
  3. It's a process :  Life happens.  Stuff happens.  Recognize that you may purge now, and need to purge again later.  Letting go is a process.  Just remember that having less possessions doesn't mean you are deprived.  It benefits you and the nature around you.
  4. Watch "The Story of Stuff" below.  It will change the way you look at purchases!

Now that the Clutter’s Gone….Clean the House!
I’m not saying to turn all Martha Stewart and keep a picture of perfection.  After all, I have a hard time believing that anything magazine-worthy can house a truly active, and happy, family.  In fact, if you have children who haven’t been involved in your new healthy habits, now is the time to get them involved in your changes!!

Home Economics - Real World Style
About twice a year, spring and fall, we do a deep cleaning and de-cluttering.  It's a light week of school - mostly the three Rs with the emphasis on home economics.  Our children need to learn housekeeping skills, whether they be girls or boys.  If we take the time to teach them properly, then we can effectively work ourselves out of a job one day...and I don't know about you, but sitting back and watching them do the housework while I read a book sounds lovely.

It's a lot of up-front work, but it gives us a chance to bond over our dislike of cleaning the toilets.  It also allows me to teach them that we all have to do things in life that we don't like, because everyone relies on everyone else to do their part.  (And sometimes, that part is "math lesson.") 

We don't switch out the clothes each season because I keep everything in their closet and drawers.  All seasons.  Oklahoma's weather switches often enough that it's prudent to keep everything handy.  Plus, they have enough space.  We don't need eighty changes of clothing per person.  Enough to get through two weeks is more than enough.  The same rule applies to toys : you only need what you can play with.....except - I seriously think that the Legos are procreating in the middle of the night!

I created a worksheet for them to use as we clean the house.  It lays out exactly what needs to be done (no, they can't do it all yet) and how it should be done.  Details that you and I would take for granted are spelled out (eg, remove items from counter before wiping).  After a while, most children will take pride in helping to keep the house tidy.

If you're ready to get started de-cluttering your home, here is a beginner's worksheet from Home Storage Solutions.  It says September on it, but will work for any month - just start with Day 1.  

The Lure of Souvenirs & Mementos

As we've travelled more, and begun collecting, my husband and I have talked about the option of choosing memories, consumables, and photographs as our souvenirs.  Right now, we tend to purchase consumables - artisanal foods from factory tours, activity books from a museum that we use for school, or postcards to mail to family members.  But we often find that the experience itself, and the photos and memories of it, are more satisfying.

Mementos, on the other hand, can be a hard thing to don't want to part with them, but they're not really something that you use either.  Where do you put trophies, artwork, certificates, and such?  One suggestion is to get a revolving picture frame (replace the artwork every week or two).  Another option is to get a plastic tub for each child, label it with the child's name, and put it in the basement or attic.  You can store mementos in these bins and pull them out for reminiscing.

Sunday, October 15

Spirits in the Material World (Police)

Broken into kids' and adult books, every one of these fresh-from-the-publisher books has a spiritual connection...

Kid's Reads

The Delusion (Laura Gallier) (older kids)
By March of Owen Edmonds’s senior year, eleven students at Masonville High School have committed suicide. Amid the media frenzy and chaos, Owen tries to remain levelheaded―until he endures his own near-death experience and wakes to a distressing new reality.  The people around him suddenly appear to be shackled and enslaved.  Owen frantically seeks a cure for what he thinks are crazed hallucinations, but his delusions become even more sinister. An army of hideous, towering beings, unseen by anyone but Owen, are preying on his girlfriend and classmates, provoking them to self-destruction.  Owen eventually arrives at a mind-bending conclusion: he’s not imagining the evil―everyone else is blind to its reality. He must warn and rescue those he loves . . . but this proves to be no simple mission. Will he be able to convince anyone to believe him before it’s too late?  Owen’s heart-pounding journey through truth and delusion will force him to reconsider everything he believes. He both longs for and fears the answers to questions that are quickly becoming too dangerous to ignore.

I would recommend this book for older teens or adults.  There is some use of language and the content is not appropriate for younger teens.  This isn't your average Christian book, either - it's more like faith-based horror.  It will grip you and drag you along (possibly through one, long, sleepless night to finish it in one reading) through the main characters' point of view.  It will absolutely leave you looking at the world through fresh eyes, seeing the shackles and chains everywhere in society.  It would make a fabulous book for a young adult book club, as it would spur on conversations about modern society, relationships, mental health, and more...really meaty conversations that can be difficult to start without something like this book prompting them.  Honestly, if you're a weenie like me, then I wouldn't recommend reading it right before bed (unless nightmares are your thing) because it's gripping, engaging, and fast-paced...and more than a little disconcerting. 

May the Faith Be With You - Bible (Zondervan)
Life in the Spirit isn’t about cushioned pews and easy living—it’s about adventure, risk, daring, and the pursuit of wisdom. It’s about letting the awesome power of God work through you to do things you never thought possible.  In this brand-new full-text Bible, you’ll learn the highest, truest, and most rewarding way to a life of wisdom, apprenticing with the Ultimate Master himself—Jesus Christ.  Features include:  24 full-color pages of content on the marvel of God’s creation and the meaning of faith, vibrant outer space imagery, compelling, metallic-embellished cover, and the complete text of the New International Reader's Version (NIrV) of the Bible.

Geared toward 6-10 year olds, but appropriate for any youth who enjoys Star Wars, this is an NIV Reader's translation of the Bible.  There are three sections, Master Moment, Ways of Wisdom, and Use the Force.  Each tells Bible stories, answers questions children may have, and provides opportunity for further thinking and / or discussion.  I like that it incorporates the Star Wars theme - not referencing the movie or anything, but using the phrases such as "Use the Force."  It gets my boys just a little more excited about reading it.  (Though, my oldest was looking for the "Use the Schwartz" section...tweens.)  The first section covers your Biblical basics (Heaven & Hell); the second covers questions about Christianity (because whose kid doesn't have questions?); and the third covers using Christian principles in everyday life.  If you're looking for a gift for a Star Wars fan, this could be the answer.

May the Faith Be With You - Bedtime Devotions (Susan Collins Thoms)
May the Faith Be With You: Bedtime Prayers is filled with colorful, space-themed art and fifteen simple prayers for children to read with their parents at bedtime or anytime. This padded cover board book even glows in the dark!

Geared at 4-8 year old children, and particularly those who might be into Star Wars, this book is a nice bedtime read aloud.  Older children might be able to tackle some of the tough words in it, especially with the help of the rhyme scheme, but I would recommend this as a family time where mom or dad reads the prayer aloud and then you briefly discuss.  Each prayer has a Bible verse to accompany it.  Also, another pretty neat feature is that the pages (this is a board book) glow in the dark!  If you're into Star Wars, this is a great addition to your book collection.  If you're not into Star Wars, no worries...there aren't actually any references to the movie - it's just the cover that conjures up the theme.

Indescribable : Devotions for Kids about God & Science (Louie Giglio)
It’s impossible to out-imagine God. He orchestrates time, creates light, and speaks things into existence—from the largest stars to the smallest starfish. God is a powerful, purposeful, personal, unparalleled Creator.  Psalm 19:1 says, “The heavens tell the glory of God. And the skies announce what his hands have made.”  Indescribable displays the majesty of creation with scientific findings, photography, and original illustrations. These 100 devotions encourage awe at God’s creativity with an in-depth look at  • Space, Galaxies, Planets, and Stars   • Earth, Geology, Oceans, and Weather   • Animals—from Hummingbirds to Dinosaurs   • Our Minds, Bodies, and Imaginations   Each devotion features a Be Amazed” section with fascinating facts, hands-on activities, and a closing prayer. Based on Louie Giglio’s popular messages “Indescribable” and “How Great Is Our God,” Indescribable: 100 Devotions About God & Science will help kids discover the incredible creation of our indescribable God.

I really like how this bring faith and science together.  Our children are very much into science, and asking 'why?' about everything, and this book tries to answer that question.  It also teaches some basic science in the process.  The devotions are like mini-lessons, with facts about the topic du jour (only 100; not 365) and related Bible verses.  Perfect for younger children, but also for kids who might have reached that age where they're having a hard time just accepting God and are looking for deeper..."proof" is not the word I want, but if you have teens, you'll know what I mean.  

Adult Fiction
Across the Blue (Carrie Turansky)
Isabella Grayson, the eldest daughter of a wealthy, English newspaper magnate, longs to become a journalist, but her parents don't approve. They want her to marry well and help them gain a higher standing in society. After she writes an anonymous letter to the editor that impresses her father, her parents reluctantly agree she can write a series of articles about aviation and the race to fly across the English Channel, but only if she promises to accept a marriage proposal within the year. When James Drake, an aspiring aviator, crashes his flying machine at the Grayson's new estate, Bella is intrigued. James is determined to be the first to fly across the Channel and win the prize Mr. Grayson's newspaper is offering. He hopes it will help him secure a government contract to build airplanes and redeem a terrible family secret. James wants to win Bella's heart, but his background and lack of social standing make it unlikely her parents would approve. If he fails to achieve his dream, how will he win the love and respect he is seeking? Will Bella's faith and support help him find the strength and courage he needs when unexpected events turn their world upside down?

This is a stand alone title, set in war time England.  One of the first things I like about it is that I can love the story, but not have to worry about picking up the next two books in the (typical) trilogy - so then I can move on to another great story!  The author has done a fabulous job of creating the setting so that you feel you're right there with the main characters.  It is full of mystery and romance, and the religion is presented in undertones, rather than being overbearing.  God's love is shown through the characters' belief, strength, and hope.  For any lover of historical romances, this book will whisk you away with its captivating drama!  

Christmas at Carnton (Tamera Alexander)
Amid war and the fading dream of the Confederacy, a wounded soldier and a destitute widow discover the true meaning of Christmas - and of sacrificial love.  Recently widowed, Aletta Prescott struggles to hold life together for herself and her six-year old son. With the bank threatening to evict, she discovers an advertisement for the Women's Relief Society auction and applies for a position - only to discover it's been filled. Then a chance meeting with a wounded soldier offers another opportunity - and friendship. But can Aletta trust this man?  Captain Jake Winston, a revered Confederate sharpshooter, suffered a head wound at the Battle of Chickamauga. When doctors deliver their diagnosis, Jake fears losing not only his greatest skill but his very identity. As he heals, Jake is ordered to assist with a local Women's Relief Society auction. He respectfully objects. Kowtowing to a bunch of "crinolines" isn't his idea of soldiering. But orders are orders, and he soon discovers this group of ladies - one, in particular - is far more than he bargained for.  Set against the backdrop and history of the Carnton Plantation in Franklin, Tennessee, Christmas at Carnton is a story of hope renewed and faith restored at Christmas.

This nearly-full-length novella is a prequel to the other Civil War books.  The author spent a lot of time doing historical research to make you feel like you are right there in the story; and as most of it is accurate, you'll be learning something, too!  Carnton Plantation is an actual historical site that is still open to tours today, in Tennessee.  Themes of strength and trust feature largely throughout the story, as we follow the lead character's journey through the holiday season and her personal struggles, and watch her find peace.  The book is not a necessary read for the other Civil War books, but it fits nicely with the ones that have already been released and sets things up well for another few stories.  As an added bonus, there are holiday baking recipes at the end of the book!  

Where We Belong (Lynn Austin)

In the city of Chicago in 1892, the rules for Victorian women are strict, their roles limited. But sisters Rebecca and Flora Hawes are not typical Victorian ladies. Their love of adventure and their desire to use their God-given talents has brought them to the Sinai Desert--and into a sandstorm. Accompanied by Soren Petersen, their somber young butler, and Kate Rafferty, a street urchin who is learning to be their ladies' maid, the two women are on a quest to find an important biblical manuscript. As the journey becomes more dangerous and uncertain, the four travelers sift through memories of their past, recalling the events that shaped them and the circumstances that brought them to this time and place.

Written from multiple perspectives, this book follows sisters on their journey in the Sinai Desert.  It is based in historical fact, and it includes real events (such as the Chicago Fire) that make it feel more realistic.  Though told from various time frames, it flows easily and you won't get lost reading it.  It is an adventure story, focused on faith, compassion, and strength.  The sisters are very different, but each one brings something unique to the story.  They end up travelling the world together, bringing home an ancient Biblical manuscript, but also bringing home a renewed sense of character and faith.  Given the setting (late 19th century), they led remarkable lives!
The Chilbury Ladies' Choir (Jennifer Ryan)
As England becomes enmeshed in the early days of World War II and the men are away fighting, the women of Chilbury village forge an uncommon bond. They defy the Vicar’s stuffy edict to close the choir and instead “carry on singing,” resurrecting themselves as the Chilbury Ladies’ Choir. We come to know the home-front struggles of five unforgettable choir members: a timid widow devastated when her only son goes to fight; the older daughter of a local scion drawn to a mysterious artist; her younger sister pining over an impossible crush; a Jewish refugee from Czechoslovakia hiding a family secret; and a conniving midwife plotting to outrun her seedy past. An enchanting ensemble story that shuttles from village intrigue to romance to the heartbreaking matters of life and death, Jennifer Ryan’s debut novel thrillingly illuminates the true strength of the women on the home front in a village of indomitable spirit.

Through diaries, newspaper articles, and letters, the characters of this novel spring to life in wartime England. The men are gone, and the vicar wants to shut down the choir, but it's something that the women have left and can cling to for joy and love. (This is a big theme of the book.) There are a lot characters, and it takes a bit at first to really get the hang of each characters' voice, but once you do, it's not an issue at all. There were some shocking actions in the story, but it's war and survival is also key. Overall, they're human, they're women, and they're the silent warriors of their own community. A good WWII themed read from the homefront.

Blue Ridge Sunrise (Denise Hunter)
When Zoe returns home with her daughter and boyfriend Kyle, she finds that she’s the only person in town who doesn’t expect her to give up the life she’s established far away from Copper Creek. Everyone believes she was born to run the orchard, but how can she make it her home after so many years?  Cruz Huntley never quite got over his first love, Zoe Collins, the little sister of his best friend Brady. Not when she cheated on him during their “break,” not when she took off to parts unknown with good-for-nothing Kyle Jenkins, and not even now—five years later.  As life-changing decisions and a history with Cruz hang over Zoe’s head, tensions rise between her and Kyle. Even as she comes to terms with the shifting relationships in her life, Zoe still isn’t sure if she can remain in Copper Creek with her new responsibilities . . . and her first love.

There have been some Denise Hunter books, such as Snowflakes Falling, that I really enjoyed, but lately, it's been not so much, including this book.  I enjoyed the setting - it was well formed and very descriptive, making you feel like you were right in the middle of Appalachia.  The characters were somewhat developed and the story ending was fairly apparent from early on.  I'm not much for the whole "I kept your baby a secret from you" storyline, which was a big black mark, but some people enjoy that.  This is the beginning of a new series, however, and it will be interesting to see how the supporting characters from this book are developed and play out in the next two books.

Adult Non-Fiction

Coloring Christmas Devotions (Thomas Nelson)

Enjoy all the best parts of the Christmas season as you spend time reflecting on God’s greatest gift for His children: the birth of Jesus. This unique coloring book also includes devotions perfect for the season. Take a few minutes out of the busyness of Christmas to spend time in devotional thought, while relaxing through stress-free coloring.  With inspirational devotions on one side and a festive Christmas scene to color on the opposite page, Coloring Christmas Devotions will be a welcome part of your holiday celebrations. Take a few quiet moments to yourself to reflect on the reason behind the festivities as you read through the Scripture verses and devotions and color the pen-and-ink illustrations.  This coloring book is unique with a trim size that is easy to fit into a purse or bag, an embellished cover, perforated pages, and a low price point.  A beautiful gift or a fun treat for yourself, Coloring Christmas Devotions will help you focus your heart on the true meaning of Christmas.

Beautifully illustrated, this book would be the perfect gift for someone who loves coloring or someone who might need to downshift a bit and get into coloring.  The pictures are of winter and Christmasy scenes, and they are done on a thick paper that won't bleed through (if you use markers).  Each has a devotion and verse that pertains to Christmas and the depicted scene.  It also include Christmas stories and prayers.  It is about 7" square, so a nice size to carry in your purse for waiting rooms or other similar places.

Church of the Small Things (Melanie Shankle)

Is my ordinary, everyday life actually significant? Is it okay to be fulfilled by the simple acts of raising kids, working in an office, and cooking chicken for dinner? It’s been said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.” The pressure of that can be staggering as we spend our days looking for that big thing that promises to take our breath away. Meanwhile, we lose sight of the small significance of fully living with every breath we take. Melanie Shankle, New York Times bestselling author and writer at The Big Mama Blog tackles these questions head on in her fourth book, Church of the Small Things. Easygoing and relatable, she speaks directly to the heart of women of all ages who are longing to find significance and meaning in the normal, sometimes mundane world of driving carpool to soccer practice, attending class on their college campus, cooking meals for their family, or taking care of a sick loved one. The million little pieces that make a life aren’t necessarily glamorous or far-reaching. But God uses some of the smallest, most ordinary acts of faithfulness—and sometimes they look a whole lot like packing lunch. Through humorous stories told in her signature style, full of Frito pie, best friends, the love of her Me-Ma and Pa-Pa, the unexpected grace that comes when we quit trying to measure up, and a little of the best TV has to offer, Melanie helps women embrace what it means to live a simple, yet incredibly meaningful life and how to find all the beauty and laughter that lies right beneath the surface of every moment.

Out of all the books I read this week (and I usually read ten or more each week), this was definitely my favorite! I laughed out loud so many times with the was like we were girlfriends catching up over some coffee. She keeps it very real, but any woman of a certain age (which would be 'oh so still very young!") will be able to relate to all of these stories, beginning with her youth and progressing through the stages of parenthood. I look forward to seeing what she comes out with next, and may have just found my new go-to inspirational author!

The Cottage Kitchen (Marie Forsberg)
Share in a gorgeous, thoughtful life in the 
charming English countryside with The Cottage Kitchen, a cookbook of recipes and stories by Norwegian-born photographer and tastemaker Marie Forsberg.

Now, you're probably trying to figure out the spiritual connection of a cookbook, but I think that all food has a spiritual base....if you use whole foods and really connect with your food as you're preparing it with love for your family, then it takes on that quality.  This beautiful hardcover book is filled with stunning photographs of the English countryside and the people that live there.  The book is divided into five sections : winter, spring, summer, autumn, and afternoon tea (because, after all, it's England).  Each of those sections is further divided into starters & sides, mains, desserts, and drinks & jams.  The book itself is only part cookbook, with the other half being a memoir - and the memories are just as beautifully written as the photographs found beside the text.  Being as how it is currently autumn, we dug into that section and found some mouthwatering dishes just begging to be prepared!  I do like how this book is divided into the seasons, featuring the produce that is currently in-season and thus fostering a more natural approach to cooking.

Nourished (Lisa Huber)

A noted entrepreneur, food writer, and recipe developer serves up an evocative adventure story about her quest to find healing, meaning, and a place at the table.  Hunger comes to us in many forms, writes Lia Huber—we long to be satisfied not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. Nourished invites readers on Huber’s world-roaming search to find the necessary ingredients to nurture all three. She begins her quest with an Anthony Bourdain moment in a Guatemalan village: she's slipping fresh vegetables into a communal pot of soup she's cooking up for chronically undernourished children. Village grannies look on disapprovingly... until the kids come back for more.   From there, Huber takes readers to the Greek island of Corfu, where she learns the joys of simple food and the power of unconditional love; to a Costa Rican jungle house (by way of an 8,000-mile road trip), where she finds hope and healing; and finally to California's wine country, where she steps into the person she was meant to be and discovers her calling to nourish others.

Honestly, I much preferred the cooking portion of this book to the narrative portion.  I felt that the author was a bit flighty and made a lot of poor choices, but got lucky.  The descriptions of travel destinations, and the wonderful food encountered and inspired by them, were the best part of this.  It reminded me of one of those Travel Network tv shows...the one where the host goes to foreign countries and tries foods.  But he at least has a focus...the author here seems...ditzy.  This would be a good book for anyone, especially a foodie, who wants to travel vicariously.

Grace for Amateurs (Lily Burana)
Lily Burana was in crisis. Desperate for rescue from her depression and anxiety, the punk-rock-girl-turned-writer feared she would die. She was down to her remedy of last resort: faith.  A lapsed believer who had drifted away from the church and into a life on the margins during her young adult years, Lily had long believed that Christianity had nothing to offer her. Then an unmistakable sign from above led to her unexpected decision to let God in—just a little bit. But how could she come to terms with a religion she had dismissed as hostile and intolerant?  In this collection of linked essays that chronicle her spiritual recovery, Lily explores what it means to embrace “a faith of surprisingly Jesus-y shape.” Lily navigates her own unique path toward a trusting relationship with God as she addresses topics as diverse as coming out as Christian to your non-Christian friends, the intersection of faith and motherhood, and what it means to confront your history of mental illness and trauma. Whether recounting her history as a “baby Goth,” extolling the healing power of glitter, or wrestling with God for control over her life, Lily proves that you don’t need to have a flawless faith in order to experience God’s grace in action.  “Grace for Amateurs is that rare Christian book packed with humor, depth, kindness, intelligence, and inclusion. If you yearn to return to the heart of faith—boundless, agenda-less love—sit down with Burana. She’ll make you laugh and restore your hope.”

I have never, for the millions of books I've read, ever wanted to meet an author so much after reading something.  This book resonated with me in a way that nothing else of this genre has before, and I highly recommend it to (a) those who don't fit into the box, don't even want to fit in the box, but want to come to terms with their faith, (b) those who aren't sure where they fit at all, and (c) those who do fit into the box who want to reach out to others.  I recommend it to the last group because this book was written from the trenches...and it seems that people just don't really understand the trenches unless they've lived through them.  This book is detailed, and will give a realistic view to those who haven't been there.

Saving a Sick America (Michael Brown)
America is at a tipping point, and never has this been more apparent than right now. We are in danger of losing our spiritual and moral heritage, making many believe that we have fallen beyond the point of recovery. This book is here to say, that, yes, we have fallen. In fact, fallen much further than we realize, but that our country’s best days are ahead—with the help of a radical, moral, and cultural revolution, beginning with the church. This book is a manual for the revolution.  On all fronts, Americans are talking about the need for revolution, arguing from the left and the right that “the status quo must go!” This book comes at just the right time, as people are wondering what in the world has happened to our country—from the homes to the college campuses, from the inner cities to the White House, from our national debt to the material found on our computers and TV screens. In clear, compelling prose, Brown covers topics ranging from the sexualization of pop culture to the dumbing down of our schools to the undermining of family structures to a pervasive culture of entitlement, while pointing consistently to the Bible’s solution to these issues. A radical call for reformation written with sobriety and hope, Saving a Sick America provides the inspiration and guidance necessary for a moral and cultural revolution.

This book grabs your attention right from the start - in the first chapter, a man has waken up in modern-day America (he fell asleep back in the 60's) and cannot believe how much the country has changed.  He is appalled at the lack of a moral compass and the level of argument among citizens.  He wonders, "How did we get here?"  The author goes on to compare American culture to a body with cancer...if it's not treated with something strong, and quickly, the country will succumb and pass.  He offers up religion as the country's chemotherapy.  He postulates that these dark times are perfect for a moral, and religious, awakening.  This is the time for Christians to rise and reclaim control of the moral compass, rather than sitting back apathetically.  He encourages strong, passionate, and powerful actions - so that everyone might be awakened in time to save ourselves.

The Beautiful Word for Christmas (Mary DeMuth)
Read the Christmas story like never before with favorite scriptures hand-lettered and illustrated. Celebrate the wondrous birth of Christ with 31 devotionals that will point each day to the Savior.  Savor the season with The Beautiful Word for Christmas.  This book includes:  23 Bible passages illustrated in full color, 31 timely devotions written especially for the Christmas season, and activities to bring the heart of the season home.

With a devotion for all thirty-one days in December, this book will take you past Christmas and get you ready for the New Year! Each day begins with a short Bible verse and ends with a prayer. The illustrations are so beautiful and engaging, you'll want to leave this one out where company can pick it up and flip through it. The devotions are short - one to two minutes long - and would be appropriate for family gathering time or your morning 'alone' time. As the title indicates, they are all Christmas-themed, and will help to re-center your spirit on the true purpose of the season. In a world where holiday shopping begins in October and runs through January, this is a good book to settle in with and get back to the basics.

There are eight basic human emotions that all people experience--hurt, guilt/shame, anger, anxiety, sorrow, fear, happiness, and love. We might believe we make sense of our lives by thinking through our experiences, but neuroscience shows that the part of our brains that processes emotions is many times faster than the part where logic and reason hold sway. It's the way God created us, but if we do not develop wisdom for handling our feelings, we may find that our emotions continue to get the best of us.  Thankfully, the Bible is full of guidance about our emotions. With keen insight into human psychology and a gift for drawing wisdom for life from Scripture, Dr. Mark Baker shows readers how they can find comfort and promote emotional health in their lives. Anyone experiencing distress in their relationships or struggling with overwhelming emotions or even traumatic events will find clear biblical help and healing, leading them to a happier, more fulfilled life.

This book is not just for those who are currently struggling with loss or grief, but also for those who might have some lingering issues from years (even decades) ago that still need to be resolved.  The text uses examples of real-life struggles, beginning with the question "Why does God allow pain?" and going into everything from regular, everyday struggles to deep, soul-wrenching loss.  Baker uses scripture and theology to help the reader accept the circumstances, choose their reactions to them, and move forward in a positive way.  Each unit focuses on a human emotion, including both negative (hurt, anger, shame, guilt, sorrow, and fear) and positive ones (love and happiness).  As the other bookend, the last chapter is about "How God Heals."  A well-written guide for those dealing with tough times.

Muslim (Hank Hanegraaff)

For all the debate over Islam and its growing presence in the world, one thing is often overlooked: Islam is not a religion in the sanitized Western sense. It is, in contrast, an all-encompassing sociopolitical legal matrix that has bred a worldview antagonistic to anything but itself. While there may be millions of peaceful and tolerant Muslims, many of them our neighbors, Islam itself is hardly peaceful and tolerant. Islam is the only significant religious system in the history of the human race with a sociopolitical structure of laws that mandate violence against the infidel. The current narrative is that to tell the truth in this regard is tantamount to radicalizing Muslims and exacerbating hostilities that may otherwise lie dormant. A common refrain has reverberated throughout the West: “Islam is not our enemy.” As well-intentioned as this mantra may be, it is a potentially dangerous stance once someone understands Islam in full. Despite its incoherence, Islam—one billion six hundred million strong and growing—is poised to fill the vacuum left by a Western culture slouching inexorably towards Gomorrah. Demographics alone are alarming. While polygamist Muslims boast a robust birth rate, native Westerners are moving rapidly toward self-extinction. Filling the void are multiplied millions of Muslims who have no intention of assimilating into Western culture. Equally grave is the specter of global Islamic jihadism now exacting mass genocide on Christians in the East and ever-multiplying terrorist attacks throughout the West. We are also witnessing the co-belligerency of fantastically wealthy Saudis spending multiplied billions of dollars exporting virulent Wahhabism to the West. Worse still, Western governments, academic institutions, and media outlets seem bent on exporting a false narrative respecting the religious animus animating global Islamic jihadism. In MUSLIM: What You Need to Know about the World’s Fastest Growing Religion, Hanegraaff not only outlines the problems in accessible and memorable fashion, but moves toward potential solutions in the clash of civilizations. 

With all of the 'stuff' going on around the world these days, I was intrigued to learn more about the 'religion' that's wreaking so much havoc.  I got a lot more than I bargained for!  What I learned was that Islam isn't a religion like you and I would think of's more of a political system, and they're a bunch of bullies, and always have been.  Now that that's out of the way...  It was a thought-provoking book.  There was a lot of history, which we like, and I learned that very little of what I thought was true really is.  What I couldn't understand is how such a violent religion could explode so wildly - it doesn't compute.  One aspect of this book that I thought was well-done was how different religions and cultures could work to create an environment of peace.  It's complicated, but it's worth the read.

The mountains can seem like heaven on earth—the peace, the freshness, the grandeur. Devotions from the Mountains invites you to spend a quiet moment in reflection each day, finding peace and drawing closer to God—the Creator of heaven and earth. Inside you’ll find 90 inspirational readings, Scripture verses, prayers, and breathtaking imagery of God’s mountain handiwork sculpted and brought to life by His hand. Lift your eyes to the mountains. Be refreshed and inspired at our amazing God who is more majestic than the mountains and yet cares for every detail of your life.
I was attracted to this book because of its beautiful cover and because it was about the mountains...which reminds me of home.  All of the devotions have a mountain theme, and it's a great gift for any lover of nature and beauty.  Each day begins with a Biblical passage, goes on to the short devotion, and then ends with a prayer.  There are also interesting facts and tidbits about the mountains!  The beautiful glossy full-color pages, hardcover spine, and built in bookmark round out the book's beauty, making it a nice gift option - even to yourself!  I can't always get to the mountains, but I can open the pages and immerse myself for a few moments...

I received some of these books in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.

Thursday, October 12

Lights (Journey)

 20+ Sparkling Diwali Crafts for Families
Diwali, also known as the Festival of Lights, is one of the largest Hindu festivals, lasting for five days. Choose one or several crafts for each day of this special occasion. Spending time with the family will brighten up your day and your home when you make these sparkling Diwali crafts.
1. Rangoli Designed T-shirt - Rangoli is an art pattern used by Hindu cultures during Diwali to bring good luck to families. Traditionally, these designs are made from colored rice and flour on the floors of Hindu homes. For this project, use permanent ink and sequins on a blank t-shirt. You can create your own DIY Rangoli stencil with a Styrofoam plate. Create matching t-shirts for the whole family.
2. Indian Inspired Stamps - Browse several designs and patterns used in the Indian culture. Using a hot glue gun, create several Indian inspired designs on a piece of cardboard or a block of wood. Dip it into colorful or glittery ink to use it as a stamp. Hands can also be stamped like a faux Henna tattoo.
3. Salt Dough Diya - This blogger has created the perfect salt dough recipe for your family to use while making your tea light candle, holding Diya. Once they dry, use paint, glitter and sequins to decorate in true Diwali fashion.
4. Ceramic Hand Dish - Using air dry clay, you and the family can create stunning dishes using your hands. These mimic the mid-century Hindu design and make a cute keepsake. You can add beads and sequins before the clay dries. After it dries, paint them your favorite colors.
5. Pistachio Shell Candle Holder - These candle holders are a lovely addition to any of your table top décor for Diwali. A little card board, pistachio shells, hot glue and gold spray paint transform into a beautiful candle holder that is sure to be hit with your older kids.
6. Decorated Thali Plates - This craft is easy to accomplish and represents the tradition of perfectly balancing the six flavors of an Indian meal. To recreate your own Thali (silver platter of food), you can use silver dollar store plates and decorate them with sequin stickers and doilies.
7. Firecracker Cards - This simple craft is a great way for the kids to include family that may live too far away to celebrate in person. Take blank cards and let the kids design their own Diwali fire crackers for the outside of the card. Use glitter pens and stickers for minimal cleanup.
8. Festival Gift Box - You can find plain cardboard gift boxes at dollar stores and craft shops. Have fun gluing swirly designs or the shapes of special animals in the Indian culture. This blogger has an elephant as the centerpiece of her gift box.  Glitter, jewels and sequins are great for filling in the designs made by your child. Fill it with treats for the family.
9. Dandiya Sticks with Bling - This blog shows how your family can give an upgrade to your Dandiya sticks for ultimate festival fun and dance. Wrap the sticks in golden ribbon and the decorative appliqué of your choice. At the end of this tutorial, there is an option to add a peacock feather to the stick that is wrapped in purple, green and blue ribbon.
10. Diwali Lanterns - This simple craft is easy for smaller children but leaves you with big results. Small and large lanterns can be made, depending on the size of paper that is used. For sturdier lanterns, use a poster board.  After cutting slits into the paper, glue together so that both sides meet. Add glitter and rhinestones to the exterior. Battery operated tea light candles can be used for the inside of the lantern.
11. Shubh Labh Hangings - The bells of Shubh, meaning “goodness,” and Labh, meaning “benefit,” are meant to bring your home good luck. Typically, you would see a hanging made completely out of brass. For your project, any colors and variety of bling can be used for the hanging.
In this tutorial, the foundation of the hanger is a small square mirror. Added to the mirror are beads and dangles. This blogger also uses stickers with the names of Shubh and Labh written in Hindi.
12. Painted Votives - This craft will keep the family busy for hours. Grab a bag full of votive candles, paint and glitter pens. Paint the tops of the candles in the colors of your choice. Once they dry, you can add festive designs onto the votives with the glitter pens. This is sure to get everyone in the festive spirit.
13. Milk Bottle Elephant - The Hindi deity Ganesh appears in the form of the elephant and represents wisdom. This milk jug tutorial is a fun way to celebrate wisdom and recycling in your home. Cut the bottom out of the container and use the handle as the trunk of the elephant. You will need paint, rhinestones, googly eyes and stickers to bring your Hindi elephant to life.
14. Flower Lights - The end result of the project leaves you with a simply radiant garland of flowers that can be hung on door frames and laid across countertops. Cupcake holders are cut into flowery designs and then layered over each individual light on a strand of Christmas lights. It is that easy and looks gorgeous.
15. Mandala Stones - Lay out a table cloth and set aside some time to paint stones with the kids. You can buy stones from a craft store or go for a walk and hunt out your own. You will need a fine-tipped paint brush and paint. There is a variety of Mandala patterns that you can copy onto your stones. These can also be used in your Rangoli once they dry!
16. Colored Salt for Rangoli - Creating your very own Rangoli is always a fun aspect of the Diwali celebration. Creating the colorful supplies you need for the Rangoli is part of that fun. Use a mixture of paint and salt to create a vibrant looking substance. Glue your pattern onto a paper plate and then add the colorful salt.
17. Samosas and Chutney - Invite friends over for an authentic Indian snack. Won Ton Wrappers are an easy way to get started with your Samosas. Fill them up and ask an adult to do the frying. Use your Chutney recipe as a dip for the Samosas.
18. Henna Hands - We have all seen the beautiful and intricate Henna tattoos. These are usually used during Indian festivals and weddings. Henna ink is made from crushed dried leaves.
You may want to try your own henna tattooing on the skin. If you want a less messy version for smaller kids, cut out hand prints and let them draw their own designs on the cut outs.
19. Doodh Peda - Use the recipe given in this tutorial to create a sweet Indian treat. This cookie-like dessert can be dressed up with sprinkles for this festive time of year. Lay these out on your Thali for little hands to grab throughout the evening.
20. Paper Cup Mango Hanger - Cut the rims off paper cups and cut leafy pattern into the sides. Paint the remainder of the cup green and then decorate with sparkle glue. Line the top of the cup with gold ribbon and beads. Stagger several of these onto a golden thread for a really cute Diwali hanger.
21. CD Scratch-Off Art - Repurpose your old CDs and DVDs to create votive candle holders or to use as decoration around the house. By painting the CD, you can scratch it off into your own Rangoli design. Add rhinestones and sticky beads along your design for a very pretty outcome.
Jordan loves miniature dolls houses, beaded jewelry, and spending time with her family. Creating crafts and memories is a family tradition she is instilling in her daughters. Sharing her crafts by blogging is new to her but something she is really enjoying!!!