Saturday, July 4, 2015


I stepped outside, after we got back from our trip to North Dakota, and snapped this photo.  Beautiful double-rainbow in the sky.

Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him, “Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your offspring after you, 10 and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the livestock, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark; it is for every beast of the earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” 12 And God said, “This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: 13 I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. 14 When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, 15 I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16 When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth.”

Genesis 9:8-16 

Friday, July 3, 2015

The Wonder of You {a Tyndale House Blog Network review}

If you have read my blog for any length of time, you know I am a huge fan of Susan May Warren.  I particularly love anything she writes that is set in Deep Haven, MN.  And I have truly loved reading the Christiansen Family Novel series.

So I am thrilled to have the chance to review The Wonder of You, which is the fifth book in this series.

This is totally my favorite of the bunch.

Each of these titles focuses on a different Christiansen sibling.  The Wonder of You is mostly about the baby of the family, Amelia. 

Let's just go for the publisher's description here:
Mortified after her semester abroad is cut short, Amelia Christiansen returns to Deep Haven, certain she isn’t brave enough for the adventures she’s dreamed of. The last thing she expects is for the man who broke her heart to cross the Atlantic and beg forgiveness.

Heir to a European hotel dynasty, Roark St. John has trekked from one exotic locale to another, haunted by tragedy and the expectations that accompany his last name. Amelia is the first woman to give him a reason to stop running. He’ll do anything for a second chance—even contend with Amelia’s old flame, who is intent on sending Roark packing.

While one surprise after another leaves Amelia reeling, Roark’s continued presence only highlights the questions pursuing her. Like him, is she running from the life God has called her to? Could finding her new place mean leaving home behind?
The last book ended with Roark St. John showing up at the Christiansen's home, and Amelia's siblings ran him off.  Everyone assumes that is the end of it, but Roark didn't see his relationship with Amelia as a fling, and he is determined to win her back.

Meanwhile, Amelia has gone back to dating her high school beau, Seth, the man everyone expects she will marry. 

When Roark makes it clear that he is in Deep Haven for the foreseeable future, things get interesting.  Amelia doesn't know what she wants, with two very good men both quite interested in her.

My thoughts:

What I really love about this particular series is watching Mom and Dad in their responses to their adult children.  Also, what is happening in the lives of the other siblings is always a part of the story here too.  Derek and Ivy (Take a Chance on Me) are expecting a baby.  Eden and Jace (It Had to be You) are married and not a huge part of this story.  Grace and Max (When I Fall in Love) are struggling after having eloped.  Casper and Raina (Always on my Mind) are apart, as Casper is out looking for Owen, who will be the focus of You're the One that I Want.

It isn't just the family, though, as various folks around town were the subject of many of Susie's other Deep Haven novels.  At this point, for me, it is like catching up with old friends.

This book is different though.  Both of Amelia's suitors are upstanding, likeable fellows, and as you go along, it is easy to see her ending up with either of them.  At many points in the book, I could imagine it ending either way, and I knew I could feel satisfied with the outcome whichever way it went.

As always, Susan May Warren weaves some amazing Christian messages into the book, if you take the time to think about them -- or to read the author's note and questions at the back.  A big focus in this book is failure -- failing yourself, failing God.  And dealing with the self-doubt that comes when you can't forgive yourself for not being perfect.

I highly recommend this story, and the entire series.

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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

7 Family Ministry Essentials {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

I'm interested in families and their relationships with the church, so I decided to review 7 Family Ministry Essentials: A Strategy for Culture Change in Children's and Student Ministries by Michelle Anthony and Megan Marshman.

I didn't really know what I was getting into here.  I was thinking this was a book addressed to families, but instead, it is a book addressed to ministry leaders, particularly those in children's ministry.

About the book:
With decades of ministry experience, Michelle Anthony and Megan Marshman capture the guiding essentials of life-changing family ministry.

These seven essentials for children and student leaders emphasize:

1. Empowering families to take spiritual leadership in the home
2. Forming lifetime faith that transcends childhood beliefs
3. Teaching Scripture as the ultimate authority of truth
4. Understanding the role of the Holy Spirit to teach and transform
5. Engaging every generation in the gospel of God's redemptive story
6. Making God central in every biblical narrative and daily living
7. Participating in community with like-minded ministry leaders

7 Family Ministry Essentials will energize and equip you with the practical steps, inspirational stories, and biblical foundation you need as you lead those in your ministry.
I don't normally talk a lot about the authors, but for this title, I think it is important to know where the writers are coming from.  They have impressive credentials for writing about this topic:
DR. MICHELLE ANTHONY is the vice president and publisher of learning resources at David C Cook and a popular speaker in the area of family ministry. She is the author of Spiritual Parenting, The Big God Story, and Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family. Michelle has graduate degrees in Christian education, Bible and theology as well as over twenty-five years of family ministry experience. Michelle and her husband, Michael are the parents of two adult children and live in Colorado.

MEGAN MARSHMAN is the director of student resources and production for David C Cook and has led and challenged thousands of students in their faith at Hume Lake Christian Camps. With a master's degree in organizational leadership from Azusa Pacific University, Megan speaks nationally at churches, conferences, and university chapels. She and her husband, Randy, live in Long Beach, California.
My thoughts:

I really like where this book is coming from.  One thing I've struggled with is the idea that parents are commanded to be responsible for raising their children in spiritual matters, but too often they don't step forward to do that -- and the church has been more than happy to step into that vacuum and assume responsibility.

But that isn't an entirely bad thing either, where parents simply will not do any of that training.

A better way seems to be proposed in this book though.  The church can still teach, mold, train -- but they can do things in a way that encourages parents to be involved.  One idea early in the book was instead of sending take-home papers with the kids after the lesson, why not send materials home with the kids the week before, so the parents who want to be involved can be going through the materials for the upcoming week?

Good information here, even if the book was not what I was expecting.

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

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

Monday, June 29, 2015

To Win Her Favor {a Family Christian review and giveaway} #FCBlogger

I've had a crazy busy couple of weeks.  Mostly, we've been going through my mom's personal stuff and trying to figure out what to do with it.

That always means I need to do some decompressing by reading.  So I was thrilled to receive To Win Her Favor by Tamara Alexander while I was at Dad's.  I ended up staying up until 3:30 one morning, because I simply did not want to put it down.

From the publisher:
An Irish-born son far from home, Cullen McGrath left a once prosperous life in England because of a horse racing scandal that nearly ruined him. He's come to Nashville for a fresh start, hoping to buy land and start a farm, all while determined to stay as far away from thoroughbred racing as possible. But starting over proves harder than he'd wagered, especially when Maggie Linden's father makes him an offer he shouldn't accept yet cannot possibly refuse.

Maggie is certain that her mare, Bourbon Belle, can take the top purse in the annual Drayton Stakes at Nashville's racetrack--the richest race run in America. Maggie only needs the chance to prove it. To give her that chance, and to save Linden Downs from being sold to the highest bidder, Maggie's father--aging, yet wily as ever--makes a barter. His agreement includes one tiny, troublesome detail--Maggie must marry a man she's never met. A man she never would have chosen for herself.

Cullen and Maggie need each other in order to achieve their dreams. But their stubborn, wounded hearts--and the escalating violence from a "secret society" responsible for lynchings and midnight raids--may prove too much for even two determined souls.
I loved this book.  I didn't necessarily expect to, as I'm not at all a fan of horse racing and know almost nothing about it.  One of my favorite time periods to read about is roughly the 1870s and 1880s, particularly stories taking place on the Plains.  This story is just a bit earlier than that, taking place in the South.  Something about it just clicked for me.

One thing is that I took an immediate liking to almost all of the main characters.  I especially loved the relationship between Maggie's father and Cullen, and was really wishing more of their interaction was included.  Cullen's relationships with the former slaves were pretty fabulous as well.

I did like Maggie also, especially watching her change her opinions on so many issues.

Great book, and I am so glad I read it!  I am so grateful to Family Christian for this opportunity!

I have a $25 Family Christian Appreciation Certificate  to give away! You can use that to purchase To Win Her Favor, or anything else you wish.

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.”

Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God {a BookLook Blogger review}

On my vacation, I picked up The Good, the Bad, and the Grace of God by Jep and Jessica Robertson to read.  I expected it to be something I could read a chapter or two at a time.


Read half the book one night, and finished it the next.

From the publisher:
A Moving Story of Redemption and Second Chances

Jep Robertson, the youngest son of Duck Commander Phil Robertson, and his wife, Jessica, open up about their personal trials, their early years together, and the challenges that might have destroyed them both had the grace of God not intervened. Jep describes being molested as a child and his reluctance to tell anyone until only a few years ago, his downward spiral into drug and alcohol abuse, and the eventual intervention of his family. Jessica shares about the difficult failure of her first marriage while still a teenager and the hurt that came along with it, much of it from the church. Her insecurities spun out of control as she wondered whether she would ever be good enough or pretty enough. This book is their love story but, more importantly, their love story for God.

“We are desperate to let people know that no matter what you’ve done; no matter what you’ve lived through, you can come out of it. You can be washed clean. You are redeemed."

My thoughts:

I don't know what I expected.  We do watch Duck Dynasty some, and I've seen assorted interviews or public statements made by various Robertson family members.  I know I saw something that led me to suspect that Jep Robertson had followed in his father's footsteps a bit as far as addiction or something.  But I really didn't know a lot of details, and certainly didn't know much about the background of his wife, Jessica.

I loved how the story was told.  Chapters alternated between Jess and Jep, starting with where they first met (a hair salon), then going back through their childhoods and moving chronologically at that point to somewhere near the present.  It was fun to see their different takes on some of the same events.

One thing I really appreciated was how open Jessica was about her insecurities and her feelings of inadequacy.  I know that is something I struggle with too, and probably a lot of women do, but nobody really talks about it.  Or at least not the pretty, blonde, thin women.  It's usually people more like me.  "If I lost 50 pounds, then I'd feel good about myself."  Only with reading this from Jessica, I realize that weight isn't the cure for insecurity either.

Bottom line is that this book made these two celebrities far more real and human, and I couldn't put the book down.

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.”

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

You mean I have to PLAN our Homeschool High School?!?

People who have known me since the kids were all little find this confession shocking, I know.  But when it comes to planning for homeschooling, I'm pretty much a do the next thing until something else comes along type.

I don't plan well.

I don't have pretty little schedules that show what each kid will be doing to earn the perfect number of credits by the time they graduate.  In fact, well, yeah, I just suck at planning.

Fortunately for you, most of the folks doing this Homeschooling High School blog hop are far more together and on the ball, so you can read their posts.

But if you are a lot more seat-of-their-pants in your approach, maybe I'll say something worth hearing.

So, for lame-planners like me, how in the world do we pull off high school?

Here is my approach:

  1. I schedule a teacher-student meeting with each of my high school students sometime during the summer, and usually also the last week of December/first week of January.  Now that there are three of them, I start with the oldest and work my way down.
  2. I print out some forms and we go filling things in.  What courses have they completed since we last met?  What is in progress?
  3. We chat about what they want to be learning and what courses they would like to take.
  4. We make sure things add up to some semblance of 'this will look okay on a transcript' before we consider ourselves done.
  5. We talk about other stuff.
Let's talk at least a little for specifics.  I use the High School Planner from The Old Schoolhouse (available with a membership!) and print out a handful of pages that I think we might use.  You can see those above.

I try to actually get just the individual student off somewhere with no siblings.  We've done Starbucks, we've done some restaurants.  Usually, though, I boot folks out of the dining room and we do it there.

That's what I did with Connor a couple of weeks ago.

He and I had a really good session, filling in a lot of information on pretty much all of the sheets I show above.  He has to whittle down what he wants to do, and we now have a plan for his senior year.

Today, I did the same with William.  That worked out a bit differently.  He's heading into his sophomore year and he'd be happy if he could just take 8 credits of history each year from here on out.

We had to work at getting more into his next year plan, but I'm pretty happy with what we did figure out today.  Algebra, English, Medieval history, Russian history, Physics, Latin, Driver's Ed, PE, and Art History.

I still have to sit down with Thomas and figure out things for him, but I have to work on some details for William first.  Like the art history.  I don't have the first clue what I'll do there.

For me, the bottom line in successful high school planning is just to meet with them twice a year and assess where we are and what needs to happen.  So much stuff is really a question of doing the next thing (math) or of turning something they are excited about into a high school course.  That stuff I tend to already be doing, I just don't always realize it.

I do try to go with a college-prep type of course load.  We shoot for 4 years of English, math, science and social studies, plus 2 years of a foreign language, something for PE and fine arts, and some electives.

Homeschooling High School Blog Hop 2015

Fortunately for you, my Crewmates on this blog hop are mostly much better planners than I am, so you can probably actually learn something by reading their posts.  Go.  Check them out!

Meg from Adventures with Jude on Planning Your Homeschool High School

Chareen at Every Bed of Roses with thoughts on Planning to Homeschool through the High School Years

April from ElCloud Homeschool shares Homeschooling High School: Planning For High School

Michele at Family, Faith and Fridays shares Here's the Plan

Lisa at Golden Grasses says Don't Panic! Homeshcooling High School Blog Hop

Debbie at Debbie's Homeschool Corner Planning Out a High School Program

Gena over at I Choose Joy! shares her The Top Tip for Planning Homeschool High School

Kym at Homeschool Coffee Break shares on Planning and Preparing for Success

Tess from Circling Through This Life shares on Planning the High School Years

Erica over at Be The One shares Planning and Record Keeping for High School

Jennifer from A Glimpse of Our Life on Planning For Homeschooling Highschool

Carol over at Home Sweet Life on Making A Plan

Wendy at Life at Rossmont shares thoughts on Planning for High School

Cristi from Through the Calm and Through the Storm shares on Making High School Plans

Dawn Oaks at Double O Farms shares Planning for the High School Years

Leah from As We Walk Along the Road shares her thoughts on Making Plans for Homeschooling Through High School

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A Friend in Me {a Litfuse Blog Tour review}

For the past few weeks, I’ve been reading A Friend in Me by Pamela Havey Lau. Subtitled How to be a Safe Haven for Other Women, this is not exactly my normal reading material.

I have reached the point, though, where I really should be acting in a mentor role, an older woman role, and I am starting to have those opportunities. I thought this book would be a good way for me to be more intentional about those chances.

From the publisher:
Young women long for relational connection with women further ahead of them on the journey. Yet, without realizing it, many of us tend to distance ourselves from those in younger generations.

Can we really have close relationships with women who have different thoughts on church, different experiences with family, and different ways of talking about God? Where do we start?

In A Friend in Me, Pam Lau shows you how to be a safe place for the younger women in your life. She offers five patterns women need to internalize and practice for initiating relationships and talking about issues such as faith, forgiveness, sexuality, and vocation. Most significantly, she reminds you that there doesn't need to be a divide between generations of women. Together, we can have a global impact---and experience a deeper faith than we've ever known.

My thoughts:

I think this is a hugely important message, and I’m glad it is getting out there.

But I struggled with this book. And that probably proves how much I needed to be reading it. I don’t know.

There were parts that really resonated with me. The chapter on grief (The Power of Comfort), for instance.  Or the chapter on compassion. 

But a lot of it made me feel guilty and like I’m not trying hard enough or that I’d never be capable of being enough. It felt like all the pressure is on me to be discerning and non-judging so I can speak life into the younger women I encounter in my life. And I suppose this is written to the older women, but it just never felt like the younger women were expected to do anything in this relationship except to be there, soaking up the encouragement offered to them.

I feel cynical just writing that.

Maybe at a different point in my life I'd be better with this book.  Right now, I just feel stuck with a generation of older women who have always been far too busy to bother with anyone younger than themselves, and a generation of younger women who -- according to what I'm reading here -- expect me to be the one noticing when they need an older friend, and for me to always respond perfectly no matter what because otherwise I'm being judgmental.

Not that this totally tracks with my real life.  I have had some older women who are fantastic encouragers, and I do have some younger women who don't seem to think I'm solely responsible for a relationship.

I do think there is a lot of great insights in this book, and maybe revisiting it in another few months might be good for me.

Go see what others have to say about this book at the Litfuse Blog Tour page

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