Monday, March 30, 2015

A Heart's Disguise {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

Lately, I seem to have a thing for reading books that involve the main character losing a parent.  Though in A Heart's Disguise, by Colleen Coble, Sarah's father is dying.  It hasn't happened yet.

This title is the first in the six-book Journey of the Heart series.  These short (very short!) books can be read in a sitting or two.  Even for normal people.  Since I can read almost anything in a single sitting.

From the publisher:
In the aftermath of the Civil War, a young woman searches for her lost love at the edge of the West.

The Civil War has destroyed Sarah Montgomery's marriage before it's even begun.

After Sarah receives word that her fiancé, Rand Campbell, has been killed fighting for the Union, her brothers and ailing father persuade her to pledge herself to Ben Croftner---despite her strong misgivings. But when Sarah finds out that Rand is in fact alive---and that Ben Croftner knew it---she indignantly breaks off the engagement and goes in search of Rand.

But Ben Croftner does not take rejection lightly---and a single woman with a sick father makes an easy target. When Sarah is abducted by her treacherous fiancé, Rand finally comes to her aid . . . only to reveal that he has been posted at Fort Laramie, Wyoming, and intends to take her there as his wife.

But could Sarah leave her dying father's side for the love of her life? And what plans are forming in the jealous heart of Ben Croftner?

I've been fascinated lately by post-Civil War times, and the fact that this book is set right after the end of the war intrigues me.

Colleen Coble writes realistic characters, though I have to say that after this first title, I don't really like anyone in the story.  Since A Heart's Obsession just arrived in my home, I know I'll be reading to find out what happens next.  I'm hoping I'll start to warm up to at least some of the people in this one.

I'm sure I will.  Sarah has serious potential.  She seems to care a lot about the welfare of her family and the folks around her.

I am looking forward to reading the next installment.

In the midst of end-of-war celebrations, Sarah discovers her betrothed was keeping a devastating secret in Colleen Coble's A Heart's Disguise. Will Sarah leave her dying father’s side for the only man she’s ever loved? And what plans are forming in the jealous heart of Ben Croftner?

Celebrate book one in Colleen's A Journey of the Heart series by entering to win a Kindle Fire and RSVPing to her May 5th author chat party!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Fire
  • A copy of A Heart's Disguise
  • A copy of A Heart's Obsession (blog tour coming in April)
  • A copy of The Inn at Ocean's Edge (blog tour coming in April)
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on May 7th. Winner will be announced May 8th on Colleen's website. Plus be sure to clear your calendar on the evening of May 5th because Colleen is hosting an author chat party on Facebook to celebrate her A Journey of the Heart series and the release of The Inn at Ocean's Edge! RSVP here!


RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on May 5th!

Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Burning down the house

Thirty-three years ago, I awoke to some weird banging sounds.  After listening for awhile, I heard footsteps overhead and knew Dad was up.  A couple minutes later, he was pounding on my bedroom door and telling me to "Get the hell out!"

That wasn't language I ever remember hearing from him before, and I was a bit taken aback.  I sat there and tried to process what was going on, and realized the house was on fire.  I sat there, looking at my window, with "We're putting this window in as a fire escape" echoing through my memory.  The window well was filled with snow, though, and I rationalized that Dad just came down the stairs, so going up them seemed logical.

The steps were HOT on my feet.  Mom was at the top, and had tossed a coat to Mark, and she tossed one to me.  Then the smoke detector went off, which upset my 4-year-old brother.  I grabbed him, and told Mom that I had my brothers and we were going next door to call the fire department.  I really don't know if she heard me -- she was hollering down the stairs at Dad -- but with one brother on my hip, and the other one next to me, we headed out, barefoot, through the snow.

Mark's scoutmaster lived next door, and we rang the doorbell once (because we didn't want to wake everyone).  This would have been about 5:40 in the morning.  Mr. and Mrs. Feil peered out the window, and when they saw us, they sprung into action.  By the time Mr. Feil had opened the door, Mrs. Feil was on the phone with the operator, had given them her address, our names, and told the operator that we lived one house south of her.

My recollection of stepping through that door (onto a nice warm floor) was Mrs. Feil demanding "What?!" and I said "fire" which she repeated to the operator.  Mrs. Feil said, "The kids are here," to the operator, then asked me if my parents were out.  "I don't know," was all I could answer.  I don't remember exactly what she told the operator, but she communicated that "Glenn and Nadine are still inside" last we knew.

We heard sirens.

From downtown, and from the north Fargo station.   They kept getting closer, but it didn't see that way at all.  The records say they were there in 3 minutes. It sure seemed longer to me.

We watched from a window, at least Mark & I did.  We did see Mom & Dad come out (after they heard the sirens, and they stopped trying to call for help from the house).  And the fire department arrived, headed in... and then headed back out and ran around back.

We learned later that a fireman had fallen through the stairs.  You know, the stairs that were hot as I came up them?  And the ones that Dad still had to cover after my brothers & I had left?  Yeah, those stairs.

The most horrifying part, though, was later, when they pulled my baby brother's mattress out through the big windows in his room.  With a huge, smoking hole in the middle of it.

Apparently, that mattress started the rumor that a kid had died in the fire.

At some point, fortunately before "the boys next door" woke up, another neighbor brought over some clothes that might fit Mark & I.  I didn't have shoes, but at least I was no longer in skimpy purple pajamas that said, "Hug me" on the front, and "I cuddle" on the back.

Mark and I went to school that day, with me walking in shoes that were two sizes too small.  I had my gym shoes at school, so I was able to change when I got there.  And my health teacher used me as an example of the whole 'hierarchy of needs' thing... saying something about how I wasn't too concerned about self-actualization when I didn't know where I'd be sleeping that night.

The house was a total loss.  That night, we moved into a hotel, carrying everything we owned in about four shopping bags.  And almost all of that had been given to us that day (toothbrushes and such from Mrs. Sorenson) or purchased at J. C. Penney's using vouchers from the Red Cross.

The fireman was treated and released that morning, apparently suffering a broken arm.  We don't know that for sure.
That was the start of a few life changing months for my family.  Mom's cancer diagnosis would come while we were living in temporary, rented housing.  We'd be back in our rebuilt house for the majority of her 3+ years of chemo.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Explore Dinosaur National Monument {a Moms of Master Books review}

We absolutely love the Awesome Science series in this house, so we were thrilled to get the chance to review Explore Dinosaur National Monument with Noah Justice.

One thing that is simply fabulous about this series is Noah Justice, the teen guide for these videos.  He is entertaining and informative, and since he is in the same age range as my boys, he doesn't intimidate any of my kids.

New titles that are out right now also includes Explore the Mammoth Site with Noah Justice.  Yeah.  We're getting it.

But back to this DVD.

This video focuses on the huge dinosaur find in western Colorado and eastern Utah.  Obviously, dinosaurs are the main focus of this DVD, answering questions about what kinds of dinosaurs are found, and what rock layers are they in.

The Awesome Science DVDs so far have focused mostly on geology, and clearly this one addresses geology as well.  But there is also a fair amount of biology as the dinosaurs are discussed.

Normally, before I review an Awesome Science DVD, we watch it three to four times.  Since we've been out of town most of the month for my mother's funeral, we only watched this once so far.  That means I'm not giving as many details as I'd like.

You can watch the trailer though, to get an idea as to what you are in for:

Like all of the other videos in this series, the footage is fantastic.  Noah packs a lot of information into these 30 minute videos.  And you absolutely have to watch the bloopers.

Go see what other Moms of Master Books have to say about Awesome Science: Explore Dinosaur National Monument.

There is a Facebook party coming up on Monday, March 30 at 7:00 pm Central Time, where you could win cool prizes -- and discuss the DVD too. 

Disclaimer:   I received this DVD for free from New Leaf Publishing Group as part of the Moms of Master Books program.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received complimentary products does not guarantee a favorable review.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Harvest of Hope {a Bethany House Blogger review}

I enjoy reading books that are set in North Dakota, so even though this is the second book in a series, I jumped at the chance to review it.

A Harvest of Hope by Lauraine Snelling was a lot of fun, and it was easy enough to step into the series at book number 2.  It felt fairly obvious that I had missed part of the story, but this novel does stand alone in spite of that.

The publisher described the book this way:
Just a few short weeks into her year-long training at the Blessing Hospital, Miriam Hastings is called home to Chicago, where her mother is gravely ill. With siblings to care for, Miriam pleads to be allowed to finish her training in Chicago. Her nursing supervisor grants her a brief reprieve but extracts a promise that Miriam will return to Blessing and fulfill her one-year commitment.

While in Chicago, Miriam has tried to get Trygve Knutson and Blessing out of her mind, but his letters make that impossible. Trygve is busy building a house, hoping he can convince Miriam to return to North Dakota and marry him. Torn between Trygve's love and her family's needs, she doesn't know what to do.

When Miriam finally returns to Blessing, she buries herself in her work. But no matter how hard she tries to put it off, she has some life-changing decisions to make about her future, her family... and the man who is never far from her thoughts.

What will it take to convince her to stay?

My thoughts:

First off, the above description seems to be mostly of the first book in the series.  A Harvest of Hope pretty much opens with Miriam heading back to Blessing, North Dakota to fulfill her nursing commitment.

Of course, she is heading back after her mother has died.  Because I just needed to be reading about an adult coping with the loss of her mother right now.

But back to the review here.  I have read other books by Lauraine Snelling, and she does a good job of writing North Dakota.  One thing I loved with this particular book is that the names really brought me back to people I knew in my childhood.  While Trygve isn't a name I know at all (nor am I completely convinced I can pronounce it), many of the other members of his family have names that remind me of that older generation.  Names like Hjelmer, Kaaren, Lars, Elmira, Katja, and Linnea. 

The writing is solid, and the plot isn't exactly predictable.  There are some completely unexpected twists and turns, and I found myself really caring about Miriam and especially for the widows.  There were many in the story who had experienced fairly recent loss, and in spite of my flippant tone above, it was a good thing for me to be reading about how these characters were dealing with the death of a parent, a spouse, or another relative.

I just would rather have read all of that a couple weeks from now instead of right after my mother died. 

I'm going to be looking for book number 1 in this series.

Disclosure:  Bethany House provided me with a complimentary copy of this book for review purposes.  No other compensation was received, and all opinions are my own.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Action Bible {a Family Christian Blogger review and giveaway}

This kid.

He's growing up on me.  He recently decided to get baptized (one week from today is when that will happen) and he's been plowing through AWANA materials, trying to get all four T&T books done in the two and a half years he'll be part of the program.

He just had a birthday on Thursday, and he's now 11.

That sounds so old.

When shopping for clothing to wear to his grandma's funeral (because his pants literally came to just below his knees!) he went for the shirt you see here (Grandma would love it, it's so bright!) and he had to have a bow tie ("Bow ties are cool!") to go with it.

He still loves comics though.

And while there was a bit of hesitation about the whole idea of the Bible being a big, long comic strip, he quickly came around.

Whenever he sits down to read The Action Bible, he immediately shares the story with anyone who will listen.  The whole graphic novel thing definitely draws him in and keeps him reading.

Now, this isn't a Bible you can use to study your AWANA verses.  It probably isn't the best choice for following along with the sermon at church.  But as a Bible to "just read" it definitely has huge appeal.

It isn't just comics.  There are maps that fit in so that you want to look at them.  There are sometimes little scroll backgrounds with a Bible verse, or the Ten Commandments, or other things that are being set off as special.

One thing I really love is that this isn't just another story Bible, with the usual 'Top Ten Greatest Old Testament Hits' approach.  This covers all kinds of biblical text, not just the usual ones.  I see references to every book of the Bible except Song of Solomon. I can live with that.  I'm not sure I want to see Song of Solomon as a graphic novel.  Just saying.

I was skeptical, I'll admit it, but I really do love this Bible.  The 'action hero' aspect helps make the stories memorable, and I suspect that this familiarity will serve the kids well when they next encounter the "real" text.

I have a $25 Appreciation Certificate to Family Christian to give away.  You can use that to purchase of your own copy of The Action Bible (which is only $18.89 right now), or anything else you want.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book and an appreciation certificate for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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, March 20, 2015

By Your Side {a Tyndale House Blog Network review}

In the past, I've really enjoyed reading books by Candace Calvert.  She's a former ER Nurse, and she writes about what she knows -- medical dramas involving emergency rooms.

When I requested to review By Your Side, I expected it to be a great, action-packed romantic drama.  And it was.

I didn't expect to have my own mixed-up emotional responses to events unfolding in this fictional emergency room. 

First, let's hear the description of the book from the publisher:
ER nurse Macy Wynn learned essential, gritty lessons in the California foster care system: land on your feet and trust no one. She’s finally located the fellow foster child she loves like a sister, but the girl’s in deep trouble. Macy’s determined to help, no matter what it takes. Her motto is to “make it happen” in any situation life throws at her—even when she butts heads with an idealistic cop.

Deputy Fletcher Holt believes in a higher plan, the fair outcome—and his ability to handle that by himself if necessary. Now he’s been yanked from Houston, his mother is battling cancer, and he’s attracted to a strong-willed nurse who could be the target of a brutal sniper.

When everything goes wrong, where do they put their trust?

My thoughts:

Calvert definitely writes like she knows emergency rooms, not that I've ever worked in one.  But it just seems so realistic and authentic (though in that keep the action going drama sense of things too).

Especially the itty-bitty subplot that involves an adult child bringing Mom in to the ER, and things escalating during the drive to the hospital.  Spoiler:  the mom dies.

She dies in a handful of scenes that sounded incredibly similar to the scenes my dad had just described to me.  Sudden.  Unexpected.  Nobody got the chance to say good-bye.

It was eerie.  And very hard to read.  Because I wanted this mom to have a better outcome than my mom just had. 

You could say I got a bit obsessive about this itty-bitty subplot.

Of course, the fact that Fletcher Holt (the main male character) is facing the probably death of his mother too.  She's got cancer, and that is why Fletcher is in Sacramento instead of home in Texas.  He's taken a job to be near Mom in what could be her final days.

Yes, that part of the plot got to me too.

For the rest of the world, though, those of you who aren't likely to even notice that this story includes a whole lot of loss of mothers and mother figures, this would probably be a totally different experience.

I love the characters, and the twists and turns in the plot did keep me guessing.

Had I read this book sometime other than a week and a half after suddenly losing my mother, I probably would have really enjoyed it.  As it was, I still did enjoy it, but it was difficult to read at times.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I've always really liked Max Lucado.  It seems that everyone does, so that doesn't make me unique.  When I heard he had a new fiction book coming out, and especially when I heard it had something to do with coffee, I definitely wanted in on that.

Miracle at the Higher Grounds Café was a wonderful book for me to read this past week.

Here's how the publisher describes the book:
Chelsea Chambers is on her own. After a public split from her NFL superstar husband, Chelsea takes a bold step out of the limelight and behind the counter of the Higher Grounds Café, an old-fashioned coffee shop in dire need of reinvention. But when her courage, expert planning, and out-of-this-world cupcakes fail to pay the bills, this newly single mom finds herself desperate for help. Better yet, a miracle.

Then a curious stranger lands at Chelsea's door, and with him, an even more curious string of events. Soon, customers are flocking to the Higher Grounds Café, and not just for the cupcakes and cappuccino. They've come for the internet connection to the divine. Now the café has become the go-to place for people in search of answers to life's biggest questions.

When a catastrophe strikes and her ex comes calling, Chelsea begins to wonder if the whole universe is conspiring against her quest to make it on her own. After a shocking discovery opens her eyes to the unseen world around her, Chelsea finds the courage to ask, and heaven answers in a most unexpected way.

My thoughts:

This was a fun, fairly upbeat book.  Some tough stuff happens, but the tone overall is pretty optimistic and encouraging.  I have no idea where I stand on things like whether or not we have guardian angels, but I generally enjoy stories that involve them.

The story does require some suspension of disbelief, but it does make some really great points.  You know, like the big question asked over and over -- if you could ask God any one question, what would you ask?

I think that is the one area where I could relate to Chelsea.  I wouldn't necessarily come up with a question, but I sure would enjoy seeing what other people are asking and hearing.

You can see what others had to say at the Litfuse Blog Tour page!

In Max Lucado's new fiction release, Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe, he asks, If you could ask God anything, what would you ask—and how would he answer? When a catastrophe strikes and her ex comes calling, Chelsea begins to wonder if the whole universe is conspiring against her quest to make it on her own. After a shocking discovery opens her eyes to the unseen world around her, Chelsea finds the courage to ask, and heaven answers in a most unexpected way.

Join Max in celebrating the release of his new fiction book by entering his iPad giveaway and RSVPing to his Coffee with Max webcast!


One grand prize winner will receive:
  • An iPad Mini
  • A copy of Miracle at the Higher Grounds Cafe
Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on March 23rd. Winner will be announced March 24th on the Litfuse blog. Then tune in later on the 24th for his Coffee with Max webcast. RSVP here!



Disclaimer:  I received this book through LitFuse Blog Tour.  No other compensation was received.  All opinions expressed in this review are my own.  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

FreedomProject Education {a Schoolhouse Review Crew review}

Freedom Project Education Review
We love online learning in my household, especially live classes.  It has been fun to try out a Family Class from FreedomProject Education.  They provide a wide variety of courses for all grade levels, and these courses are coming from a solidly Judeo-Christian point of view.  As  an accredited classical academy, they offer regular courses that have tests and projects and all that normal "school" stuff.  In addition,  they also offer Family Courses.

The course, Mother, Should I Trust the Government? was perfectly timed for us, as we've recently been finishing up high school government.  This course is only offered once a year, and we certainly enjoyed it.  You can check out all of their 2015 Family courses and see if one captures your interest. I know we'd love to take the How to Think class, but the kids are taking a real, live, in-person class on Mondays at the moment, so that doesn't work.

The Family Courses meet once a week for two hours, and there is little to no homework.  You can all sit and watch the course together, which is what we normally did.  I mirrored my laptop screen onto the television, so we could all see it.

Like many other online classes we've taken, everything happens through a "meeting" program, where you can see and hear the instructor, you have the ability to chat, the instructor can put slides or images or whatever up on the screen, and all of that makes the class very easy to follow.

Freedom Project Education Review

The book:

Our course, Mother, Should I Trust the Government? is based on a book by that name, written by Jake Jacobs, Ph.D.  He is also who taught the course.

Reading the book was the only homework given during the course, which sounds like the usual case for the Family Courses.  The book is under 200 pages, and has a light almost-like-we're-chatting-over-dinner tone to it.  The eight chapters include:
  • The Acts of a Government That Could Not Be Trusted (mainly covering the 1760s to early 1770s)
  • 1776 -- Declaring a War for Life & Liberty (Declaration of Independence)
  • A Constitutional Federal Republic Under God (Articles of Confederation and Constitution)
  • Government Power -- From Whiskey to Free Speech (early presidencies, Washington, Adams, Jefferson, Madison)
  • Slavery & Death by Federal & State Governments (mostly covering pre-Civil War years through reconstruction)
  • 1913 to Today -- Progressivism versus Our Federal Republic 
  • Conclusion -- Keeping Our American Republic (mostly about what is going on today)
  • No Labels (a bit of a call to action)
That would be a fairly good outline of the course as well.

So on to the class itself.

Here's a screen shot I did one day, mostly because the kids loved the quote.  Dr. Jacobs is lecturing from the left corner, and you can see the attendance and chat box beneath him.

So in the interest of full disclosure here, life has been a bit crazy.  I planned to attend all of the classes, but life had other ideas.  There was a surprise trip to California, a lack of internet, and then Mom died.  All of that adds up to -- I was actually in the room during maybe three sessions.  Connor (17), William (16) and Thomas (14) attended a couple more than that, and they have watched recordings as well.

I am very grateful for the recordings.

So from here on out, the words are mostly Connor's, and he is the "I" involved.

I think it was a very enlightening course, and I certainly like the fact that he supplies so many additional resources, and varied resources too.  We checked a number of those out from the library, and we will be finding more.  I loved that it gave me an excuse to watch Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (again) and Amazing Grace (again).  "But Mom, it's for school!"

It was especially nice to have more information on the period right after the Revolutionary War and the Constitution.  Pretty much every government or history course I've taken jumps from Washington became president and stepped down like Cincinnatus, and then jumps forward a couple of decades to the Louisiana Purchase or something.  Learning what Adams and Jefferson did in their presidencies, and Madison too, was mostly new information.

It seemed to me that he did a good job of not making people seem bigger than life or like the devil incarnate.  He covers the good and the bad.  The discussion is also really accessible for anyone, I think.  He's not throwing around obscure terms and academic jargon, he's using real language or defining terms as he goes.  That was one concern I had with this course was that it would be too intellectual and not accessible to normal people.  He kept it light and easy to follow.

Due to the political nature of this whole subject, I'd worry about him superimposing his political viewpoints upon those of the founding fathers.  I suppose he did a little bit, as we certainly all have our biases, but he clearly explained the opinions of people he agreed with and those he disagreed with.

I do think he relied a bit too much on us having a grasp of Wisconsin politics in his examples, but since he lives there, I suppose that is only natural.

The live courses were great.  Mom kept telling me to tone it down, but it was fun to be interacting on the discussions that Dr. Jacobs would get started, and it was interesting to see how everyone else responded. 

The recorded sessions have been good too, especially as we simply could not have made some of those sessions.  It was frustrating to not be able to answer questions or comment when watching the recordings, but it was also really nice to not watch the "small talk" that happens at the beginning.

Overall, this was a great course, and I'd enjoy taking another class from Dr. Jacobs.

There were thirty Crew families taking this class, so definitely go look at some of the other reviews!

Freedom Project Education Review

Crew Disclaimer

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Patriots, Redcoats & Spies {a BookLook Blogger review}

We are about to start studying American history again (it has been a few years!) so I jumped at the chance to check out a new book, Patriots, Redcoats & Spies, by Robert J. Skead and Robert A. Skead.

The plan was for me to read a couple of chapters aloud, and then see if the 9- and 10-year-olds would pick it up to finish it.

Plans change.  But first, here is what the publisher had to say:
When Revolutionary War Patriot Lamberton Clark is shot by British soldiers while on a mission for the Continental Army, he has only two hopes of getting the secret message he’s carrying to General George Washington: his 14-year-old twin boys John and Ambrose. Upon discovering that their father is a spy in the Culper Spy Ring, the boys accept their mission without a clue about what they may be up against. They set off from Connecticut to New Jersey to find General Washington, but the road to the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army is full of obstacles; including the man who shot their father who is hot on their trail.
Right now, I'm staying with Dad, helping him (I hope) start to adjust to life without Mom.  My kids are 1,000 miles away.  So I read the book myself, just so I could get the review done and feel like I've accomplished something.

This may be targeting kids, but it really is a great story.  The 14-year-old twins are a whole lot of fun, and their interactions remind me of how my brothers and I behaved, and it reminds me of my kids.  Arguing, one-upping each other, disagreeing in general -- until something really matters and we absolutely have each others back.

One thing that was really fascinating was reading the information after the story, telling about real events.  The main Dad character -- Lamberton Clark -- really did fight in the Revolutionary War, the Culper Spy Ring was real, etc.

The story is action packed, and the chapters are fairly short, at roughly 8-9 pages each.  That should keep my elementary children interested and I can see them whipping through the book.  I will be watching for the next installment.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers book review bloggers 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 10, 2015

Stealing From God {a Tyndale House Blog Network review}

I recently finished reading Stealing From God, by Frank Turek.  This was not a book to sit down and read in one sitting, so I took it in much smaller bites -- ten minutes here, fifteen there.

It was great to think about it in between those reading sessions.

From the publisher:

If you think atheists have reason, evidence, and science on their side, think again! Award-winning author Dr. Frank Turek (I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist) will show you how atheists steal reason, evidence, science, and other arguments from God in trying to make their case for atheism. If that sounds contradictory, it’s because it is! Atheists can’t make their case without appealing to realities only theism can explain. In an engaging and memorable way, Stealing from God exposes these intellectual crimes atheists are committing and then provides four powerful reasons for why Christianity is true.
My thoughts:

After the death of my mother two weeks ago, I keep thinking there are sections of this book I ought to read again.  One of the very first pages I dog-eared so I'd find it again has to do with pain and suffering.  Turek says:
What would you become if you got everything you wanted every time?  If that happened to me, I would become even more selfish than I already am.  Self-centeredness grows the more it's fed.
 Why God would let bad things happen to those who believe in him isn't the only topic in the book, of course.  It's the one that stands out to me at the moment though.  As I read the book, I really loved the chapters on Science (Science Doesn't Say Anything, Scientists Do) and The Four-Point Case for Mere Christianity

My teens are going to be picking this book up and reading it as well.  If they don't, I'll be assigning it to them.

Disclaimer:   I received this book for free from Tyndale House Publishers.  No other compensation was received.  The fact that I received a complimentary product does not guarantee a favorable review.

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Devotionals for Teens

The past couple of weeks, I've had the amazing opportunity to be reviewing a series of fantastic devotionals for teens, courtesy of Family Christian!   These are billed as "a 30-day devotional" for each grade (7th through 12th), but what we are finding is that we like these much better as a school-year devotional.

To do that, we are doing one "day" per week, which gives us 30 weeks of material.  What is fabulous about that is that for my older boys, especially, it gives them more time to really work at the "Act" portion of the study.  But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Lars Rood has written a series of devotionals based on grade levels, and I was privileged to work with almost all of those titles.  These studies are set up so they are similar to each other from year to year, but the tone, content, and focus change from year to year.

Thomas is working with 7th Grade: Growing Your Faith.  This is split into three sections of ten lessons each.  This book is talking to the kids about the process of becoming an adult, now that they are, or are about to be, teens.  The first section is on owning and shaping your faith, and talks about doubts or not being able to answer questions.  The second section focuses on shaping your thoughts, and I really love this part.  As these new teens start having the chance to make independent decisions, it is so wonderful to do something that helps them to be a bit more aware of how those choices, how those thoughts, can impact their life.  The final section has to do with shaping the "whole you" and addresses some puberty issues, along with a lot of other concepts.

Each lesson includes a reading of about a page, a Think About section with some questions to answer, a God Thought section with a scripture reading suggestion, and an Activate section with an activity.

The activities tend to be pretty easy to do on your own.  One in the middle section has him going around and counting up all the ways he can access media in the house, which I think is a bit mind-blowing.  Then he is to pray about how he uses those devices.

The high school devotionals are a bit longer.  You still have a reading to do, followed by a Think About section with questions to answer.  Then there is a The World Thinks section, which points out what popular culture has to say about the issues being address, which is always a contrast to what the Bible has to say.

Then there is the Act section (similar to Activate in the 7th grade book), and this is the section that made my kids petition to do the study over 30 weeks instead of 30 days.  Many of these activities are meant to be done over multiple days or even weeks, or some just require a bit of planning.  One towards the end of the Freshman book has them finding a ministry that cares for people in your town, and going with a group to help there for an afternoon.  They are to be asking people why they are doing what they do.  My older two were afraid that if they tried to do this at the 30 day pace, they would definitely end up skimping on the Act activities.

The final section is just a Read section that includes a scripture reference (or two or three).

The high school books do gradually get more mature.

What we LOVE about these books is that each assignment can be done fairly quickly.  The devotional part is pretty short and the tone is great.  My kids don't feel talked down to at all.  The questions make for great discussion.  The Bible readings are usually fairly short.

The only possibly time-consuming part is the "Act" section.  Because we homeschool, some of the Act sections aren't totally applicable as written, but most of the more "school-based" activities can be adjusted fairly easily.

The kids unanimously feel that the books target their grade/age very well, and they all want to continue on to the next book.

I have a $50 Appreciation Certificate to give away.  That would allow you to purchase all of these titles and still have money left over.

Do you want to win?

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received these books and an appreciation certificate for a giveaway, free from Family Christian Stores through the Family Christian Blogger program.  I was not required to write a positive review, and any affiliate relationship does not impact my opinions. 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, March 1, 2015

Yesterday, I was THAT Mom

You know the Mom I mean.  You see her in the grocery store snapping at her kids.  Or at a park with her kids with her eyes glued to her iPhone.

And you think some variation of "Don't miss this, Mom!" or even worse, "Why have them if you aren't going to pay attention to them?!"

I'll confess I've had those thoughts, though usually not from just one moment of observation.  After yesterday, I'm going to be even slower to leap to conclusions.

See, I haven't blogged about it yet, but my mom died this week.  I got the call on my birthday, though she didn't actually die until the next morning.

One of my very favorite photos of Mom

It was sudden.

It was unexpected.

I'm still shell-shocked.  Or numb.  Or completely overwhelmed. 

That depends on the moment you ask.

Yesterday, I had some running to do.  Richard and Trina each had $50 to spend at Family Christian for their birthdays, and there was a big sale on everything in the kids' department.  That meant they went along, which was a good thing.  But we had to hit a grocery store, and the bank, and get crickets for the gecko, and I don't even remember what else.

I melted down in the parking lot at church (we stopped there first) because the stupid truck wouldn't go into the right gear, and then I started spinning the wheels, and the kids are giggling and telling me, "Mom, everyone is staring at you!"

Not my best moment.  This is a family blog, so I'm not going to repeat what I said to someone who walked over to me.  At least I know him, and he knows I was just a wee bit out of character.

At Family Christian, the kids are bringing me adorable things like a Lego-like Noah's Ark and asking me how much that will be after the 30% off, and instead of rattling off an answer, I just stare at it and try to remember how to multiply.  That wasn't so bad -- math anxiety doesn't make you a bad mother.

Then we went to grab some lunch, because I knew they needed to eat something real.  On the Border.  So while we are waiting for a table, I'm on the phone -- ignoring my children -- trying to figure out if the van has been rented.

Once we are seated, I'm on my iPad, checking email.  Responding to my cousin who is expressing shock and condolences and letting me know that he'll be picking up his parents (Mom's sister) at the airport and driving them up to Fargo.  Responding to someone else that no, we still don't know for sure on the funeral because we still don't know when/if they are going to get Mom out of Texas and back to North Dakota.  Finding that no, I don't have a car rental confirmation in my email.

Of course, I called Dad to let him know that my aunt and uncle are coming.  And I had to call to try to straighten out the reservation.  And I checked Facebook and responded to some condolences.  And somewhere in there, I helped my kids make decisions about what to eat and I looked at my menu too.

Oh, and -- I confess -- I spent a bit of time just chatting on FB with a friend.

What I didn't do is pay any attention to my kids.  At all. 

My eyes were stuck on my iPad, my ear was stuck to my cell phone, and while I can tell you what they ate, I honestly have no idea if it was good.  Well, I assume so, as Trina declared this is her new favorite restaurant.  I did hear that.

I also heard the two of them chatting about how this was the best day ever and they were having such a good time.


I wondered, briefly, what people around us thought.  But honestly, I was just doing my best to get through the moment that I can't say I much cared. 

The grocery store too, I wondered briefly what people thought.  There I was buying cases of Mountain Dew, cans of Pringles (the world's most disgusting snack food ever, in my opinion), beef jerkey, granola bars, fruit snacks, string cheese, sandwich meat, sliced cheese, bread... and I'm pretty sure that covers the contents of my cart. 

I let the kids push the cart, which they weren't exactly doing in a nice, calm fashion.  They never ran into anyone, I will say that.  But I'll also say, I'm not sure how. 

And I'm standing in front of the cheese display, just staring at it, trying to remember why I'm there.

I'm sure someone at Super Target was thinking I don't deserve to have kids and I'm letting them run out of control.  And, of course, what kind of person buys so much JUNK?  And snaps at the kids too.

On the other hand, there was some older guy I had noticed from a ways off, who looked a lot like me -- you know, the weight of the world on his shoulders, and like he wasn't quite sure what he was doing.  He stopped his cart at one point, turned around, marched over to my goofing-off kids, and said, "Grocery shopping is serious business.  You are not supposed to be having this much fun."  He winked at me, and grinned when the kids giggled.

So maybe not everyone was thinking I'm a horrible mom.

And the bottom line is, my kids know that I'm just a wee bit stressed this week, and they understand.  They are trying not to make random noises when I tell them I'm at a breaking point, and they are enjoying jumping in snowdrifts in the parking lot, or savoring a good meal.  Their opinions are the ones that matter.

I already was pretty good at telling myself -- when I'd see someone like the me of yesterday -- that all I'm seeing is a snapshot, a sound bite.  That I have no idea what is going on in their life.

Yesterday really brought that into focus for me. 

Take the next step.  Do the next thing.