Friday, December 31, 2010

Fit Mommy Friday Challenge - the Final Check In

 Okay, so forever ago, I set the following five goals:
  • Daily:  I will move.  Every day.  Meaning something actually active.  Preferably outside.
  • Daily:  I will drink water.  More than just a sip or two after brushing my teeth (which right now, I confess, is all the WATER I get some many days).  I am not setting myself up to totally fail by committing to 8 8 oz glasses a day or anything, but I plan to be drinking a significant amount by the end of the year.  And NO MOUNTAIN DEW unless I am on a 1,000 mile road trip, or I have a migraine.  (I am NOT, however, giving up coffee.)
  • Daily:  My physical clutter is really wearing away at me on an emotional level.  So every weekday that I am actually home long enough to do anything (which is most days), I will do SOMETHING to declutter my world.  Starting with making sure the living room is picked up so I can workout inside (it's a bit lego-covered at the moment!)
  • Daily:  I will eat sensibly.  With two birthdays, Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm not swearing off desserts or special foods.  But I am going to get back to eating the way I have in the past when I have successfully lost weight -- predominantly healthy, with planned "treats"including a day here or there that is PLANNED to be a bit more indulgent than normal.  I know I lose weight better when I have planned splurges.
  • And working out:  again, I am in pretty bad condition at the moment, so I'm trying not to prescribe just what this will look like.  But a minimum of every other day, I will do something that I consider to be a "work out" -- my hope is that by the end of the challenge, I'll be capable of some type of a three days of workouts, one day off type of a schedule, or even two on, one off... I'd love to get back to my FIRM videos, or to doing Couch Potato to 5K...  I want to be able to be hiking with my Boy Scouts without worrying that they are going to have a first aid victim...
  • Oh, and I WILL check in every Friday/Saturday.
How did I do?  Well....
  • I moved. Daily.  Frequently outside
  • I drastically increased my water consumption.  And I pretty much didn't drink Mountain Dew.  The couple that I had were 1) because of a migraine, and 2) one night coming home when I was really, really desperately in need of caffeine in order to get home.
  • Decluttering -- I did a pretty decent job of this too.  Maybe not quite every day I was home, but most.
  • I did eat sensibly.  I didn't go crazy.  No dessert on Thanksgiving even.
  • Working out... I blew this.  
  • Checking in... you know, the easiest thing on the list?  Blew this one too.
End result though is that I feel a lot better, my clothes are a lot looser, I'm no longer addicted to Mountain Dew, so it was a very good challenge.

Fix It Grammar

So between comments and emails, I wanted to expand a bit on what I wrote yesterday. 

Fix-It Grammar include five different stories that progress in difficulty.  The idea is that four days a week for 33 weeks, the child fixes one passage from the story.  That passage contains a vocabulary word, and some grammar errors.  The child copies the story passage, fixing grammar and punctuation.  The child also looks up the vocabulary word and writes out the definition that fits how the word is used in this passage.  Some weeks focus on things like subject/verb agreement.  Some focus on frequently misused words.

Since my kids are using IEW's writing program, they also get the opportunity to identify sentence openers and dress-ups.

Fix-It Grammar comes as a book, and a set of pdf files of the student pages.  So one purchase, and I'm set for all my kids for up to five years. 

I decided that one of the benefits of this method is going to be the interaction between my boys (now, Richard & Trina will do it together down the road) about the grammar issues.  So rather than try to pick the right level for each child, we are starting at the beginning and working straight through.  That means:
  1. Tom Sawyer, intended for grades 3-6, will be done by my kids in grades 4, 6 and 8.
  2. Frog Prince, intended for grades 4-8, will be done my my guys in grades 5, 7, and 9.
  3. The Little Mermaid, intended for grades 6-9, will be done by my kids in grades 6, 8 and 10.
  4. The King and the Discommodious Pea, intended for grades 7-10, will be done by children in grades 7, 9 and 11.
  5. Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, intended for grades 9-12, will be used by my boys in grades 8, 10 and 12.
  6. And then I repeat the cycle, starting with Tom Sawyer for my 4th and 6th graders, and probably skipping a year in there somewhere so that Trina will be older when she gets to the final story.
This puts Connor as being "too old" by a year for stories 2, 3 and 4, and by two years for story 1.  The only story he gets "right" is the final one.  William is solidly in the grade range all the way through.  And Thomas is at the younger end of the recommended grade range for all but the last year.

Or, as I still have at least two days to decide, I may skip Tom Sawyer and start all three with Frog Prince.  But that would mean skipping a year later, or having Thomas always too young.  I think I'd prefer to err on the side of my kids being "too old" for this.

This program definitely is not in the "too expensive" camp.  For $30, it is a program I'm currently planning to use every year for the next decade, with two or three children at a time.  Additional costs will be a printout of the student pages, a notebook for each child each year, and probably a couple extra dry erase pens per year.  

Disclaimer: I purchased this product myself, and have not actually USED it yet with my children.  I've read the introductory material, and read a pretty good chunk of the work for the first story.  My oldest has looked over some of the material and has signed on for doing this.  But seeing as my kids haven't used it yet, take everything I say with that in mind.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

My Favorite Homeschool Vendors: Institute for Excellence in Writing

I kind of missed doing this yesterday.  With dentist appointments and other errands, it was just a busy, busy day.

So, today, I want to talk about why IEW (Institute for Excellence in Writing) makes my list of favorite homeschool companies.

I was first truly introduced to IEW when I signed up to attend a mom's "class" using Teaching the Classics.  IEW doesn't produce this product, but they do sell it.  I left that six week "class" convinced that yes, even I could tackle literature analysis.  I also left feeling warm fuzzy thoughts about IEW in general.

Teaching the Classics (I later purchased the DVDs so I could watch them with my kids) is about teaching the teacher how to teach.  Literature, in this case.  Adam Andrews is funny, obviously knowledgeable, and he makes me feel like I can do this.  I left my class with a notebook, which was adequate for implementing the ideas I had learned.  But I did find that I really wanted access to seeing it again, which is why I picked up the DVDs three years later.  On my wishlist is the Worldview Supplement for Teaching the Classics, which I'm sure will also be excellent.

A few months after that class -- in fact, the day before Trina was born -- I made my first "real" purchase of IEW materials.  I purchased Linguistic Development Through Poetry Memorization.  Lengthy title.  Fabulous program.  I debated it, as it seemed so expensive.  But reading through the intro material on my hospital bed (!) and then watching the DVD at home... well, I was convinced that this was worth every penny.

And it has been.  So let's address cost here.  On the one hand, IEW makes and sells expensive stuff.  The Poetry Memorization program is $65.  But it is totally non-consumable, and it is meant to be used over a few years.  There are four levels in this program, which could correspond to four years of work.  So... for $65, I have four years of EASY TO IMPLEMENT poetry memorization work for each of my five kids.  That's $3.25 per year.  And I could sell it when we're done and get back a big chunk of what I put into it.

That doesn't even factor in the "teacher training" provided.  The DVD is fantastic.  Nurturing Competent Communicators.  Isn't that a great title?  It goes through a whole lot of great stuff... why read aloud?  Why memorize poetry?  I'm thrilled to own this.

Then there is the ease of use.  IEW has chosen 19 poems per level, and they are a great mix of poems I would have chosen (you know, when I find a couple of weeks to do nothing but comb poetry books and create my own program) and poems I never would have picked to memorize.  A combination of short ones and long ones.  A mix of serious and funny.  And all of them are recorded.  So poetry memorization is simply a matter of listening to the CD regularly (daily!)  Yes.  It really is that easy.

And what is fun is that even my two year old (who is now six) was memorizing the poems.  And he still knows them.  All for $13 per student for my five kids.

The next part of IEW I discovered was their mp3s.  I was able to see Andrew Pudewa at a homeschool conference, and I totally fell in love.  Pudewa "gets" boys (and I have four of them).  He gets reluctant learners (got some of them too).  He gets gifted kids.  I started collecting his talks, and I'm pretty sure I've never been disappointed in a single one.  Every time I listen to him, I am re-inspired and totally motivated.  Talks I own:
  • Nurturing Competent Communicators -- have this on mp3 and DVD.  He makes a case for reading aloud and memorization, as a means of putting sophisticated language patterns into kids' heads.
  • Reaching Reluctant Writers -- oh, yeah, awesome talk
  • Teaching and Evaluating Writing
  • The Four Language Arts
  • Humor and Other Motivators in Teaching
  • Developing the Essayist
  • Four Deadly Errors
  • ...and more
You can listen to some of these for free, and IEW is currently doing a 12 Days of Christmas promotion where today they are giving away the mp3 of The Four Language Arts.

It was only after all of this that I was finally truly introduced to their writing materials.  I was able to borrow Teaching Writing: Structure and Style from a friend. I watched it, was totally sold on the IEW methodology, and I purchased a theme writing unit -- Ancient History.

I found that more difficult to do than I expected.  Partially, because I keep having products to review that distract me.  But moreso, I think, because I really needed to watch TWSS again and absorb the information more completely.  I'm sure people who "get" writing (not like me!) would do better with these though.

Last summer, I found an awesome price on a used Student Writing Intensive set (Level B, for 6-8th graders) and we started working through that.  Oh, how incredibly easy!  But then review products came up and we dropped the ball.  Again. 

Just a month or so ago, I was totally blessed to be chosen to review TWSS and the SWI Level C (high school).  I've been working my way through TWSS again, and it makes so much more sense on a second viewing.  I'm totally understanding where I was derailed with the theme schedule.  And Level C is a better place for Connor to be working, so I think we are less likely to get derailed in the first place.  Plus, now it is a review product, so we HAVE to keep on track.  (Watch for my review in May!)

For William and Thomas, who are going to be studying the middle ages in our new school year, I am seriously looking at purchasing the Medieval History theme-based set. Something that ties into their history is going to be easier for me to implement now.

We are also going to be starting Fix-It Grammar in January.  I'm having Connor, William and Thomas work through the first "year" of the program, even though Connor probably should be starting with a later level.  I know my limitations, and I know I need to do something that all three can handle.  (Note: because of questions, I followed up with more info on this here.)

Overall, what I love about IEW is that the materials tend to work for a variety of ages, and they focus so much on teaching ME.  They reinforce a lot of the things I believe about education -- reading aloud is critically important, and learning to communicate is incredibly valuable, to name two.

Their materials hold their value incredibly well, so if you use something and won't need to do it again, you can sell it for a huge percentage of what you paid for it.  That says two things to me... first, the fact that the materials are that in demand speaks volumes about their quality.  Second, when you can resell it (after using it) for 80% of what you paid, the total investment drops dramatically, making IEW even more affordable.

Edited to add:  I didn't even get into my kids' reactions to IEW.  They absolutely adore Andrew Pudewa.  For a long time, he was known as "The Ooey Gooey Guy" (the first poem in level one, which Andrew reads on the CD, starts... "Ooey Gooey was a worm, a mighty worm was he...") though now they think of him as the funny writing dude.  When I listen to one of his mp3s, I inevitably will hear someone say, "I hear a familiar voice," and I get a request to turn up the volume. 

The kids are more than willing to listen to what he says and make their dad watch their favorite parts of the writing DVDs.  I never get complaints about "having" to watch an IEW DVD, and I usually don't get complaints about doing the assignments either.

I want one of everything. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Book Review: The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster

There is a rumor going around that I'm going to be getting a Nook for my birthday, and to say I'm excited is an understatement.  So when I was poking around at Booksneeze, and saw that I could get The Jesus Inquest by Charles Foster in a format I could read on the Nook, I had to see how that would work.  I do have the Barnes & Noble eReader software installed on my Mac, and I'm thrilled to say it worked smoothly.

The most frustrating part, sometimes, of reviewing books is waiting for them to show up.  Now, apparently, at least sometimes, that will no longer be an issue.  But on to the review...

A description of the book, from the publisher:
An unbiased examination and compelling courtroom presentation revealing the undeniable facts of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Intelligent, fair, and remarkably compelling, The Jesus Inquest argues the case both for and against the resurrection of Christ. Point-by-point, Foster, in turn as both barrister X and Y, leaves no theological stone or dissenter's rock unturned as he digs for answers and the truth. In the end he is more convinced that Jesus is real, that He did rise again, and that He lives to offer forgiveness and hope to all who come to Him.
Each chapter is set up in basically the same way.  Relevant scripture for the chapter's topic is quoted.  Common ground between Barrister X and Barrister Y is established, if there is any.  Barrister X makes his case against Christianity.  Barrister Y makes his case for Christianity. Next chapter.

This was both a challenging book to read, and a fairly easy book to read.  The author does a very good job of presenting X's side of things, though I'm sure many atheist/agnostic/skeptics would disagree about that.  Some of the arguments made me very uncomfortable.  Barrister Y does a good job as well, rebutting X's points, making points of his own, but totally willing to concede that X makes a good case sometimes.

I've read a few similar types of books before, and one thing I really did appreciate about Foster's book is that he doesn't go making it look like the "X" position is totally without merit.  Many of the arguments X uses are ones I have heard, and X does a pretty convincing job of presenting them.  Most of those are countered very effectively by Y.  (I like those best!)

Sometimes, though, X makes some great points and Y really doesn't have a lot to say, besides something like: "X makes a good case here.  I agree.  This is messy.  If I were the one writing the gospels, I'd have been really tempted to leave this out as it sure would have been less confusing that way."

But I think that is what I really ended up liking the most about this book.  Foster does not just use arguments that Christians can easily knock down.  He includes arguments against Christianity that are complex and thought through.  Many of which can, upon reflection, be disputed.  But some really come down to -- if these people (the Gospel writers and later scribes copying the writings) were making things up, don't you think they would have cleaned some of these discrepancies up a bit?

I do recommend this book.  I plan to read it through again, as I know I'll get more out of it on a second read-through.

Disclaimer:  As Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson.  No other compensation was received.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My Favorite Homeschool Vendors: Sonlight

Okay, so I decided to post about a few of my favorite homeschooling companies, just to close out 2010.  And probably my absolute favorite homeschool vendor is Sonlight, so I have to start with them.

When I first started looking into homeschooling, about a dozen years ago, I had no idea that there was anything out there besides your basic textbooks, and that wasn't something I wanted.  What I wanted to do with my kids (all two of them at that point) was to read.  A lot.  To learn history by reading biographies and historical fiction.  To learn science by reading biographies and lots and lots of great non-fiction titles.  To spend time at historical sites.  To play with magnifying glasses, batteries and magnets.

I assumed that what I'd have to do was to find a good math program, find a grammar book and a spelling workbook, and probably something that gave me ideas for how to teach reading... and otherwise make up everything myself.

Then I went to a homeschool conference and discovered Sonlight.  They had Basic 3 (the first half of American history) on display... and I fell in love.  There are a lot of things to love about Sonlight, and things to not love, too.  The obvious stuff for me is that they use a lot of biography and historical fiction.  But there are other things:
  • It isn't US history every year.  
  • They teach multiple points of view.  When learning about the Revolutionary War, for instance, you hear about the patriots (the only point of view I ever heard), but also the colonists who were loyal to England.  You also get some perspective from Canadians, the British government, and ordinary British citizens.  You even get the perspective of France.
  • Most of the money spent on the curriculum is for real books.  Real books that can be read again, and again, and again.
  • My kids know that there are good books that aren't Sonlight books.  But when we read a book that starts slow, they will ask:  "Is this a Sonlight book?"  Because if it is, they assume that it is going to get better.  Once in a great while they are disappointed.
  • Sonlight cares about missionaries, from a variety of faith backgrounds.  They care about church history.   Prior to Sonlight, I didn't know enough about either one to try to create my own "thing" to teach from.
At this point, we have used Sonlight up through Core 6 (first half of world history for older kids) and Connor will be starting Core 7 (pictured below) in another week or so.  It no longer works for us to do one core for everyone, and my middle guys have made decisions to do something else for now.

Of course, Sonlight is more than just the history packages.  Their Mathtacular videos are fabulous.  Their science programs are good and about the only thing I've found for elementary levels that really push biographies.  I'm really excited about some of the options they have been introducing for high school -- Economics, Psychology...

After a decade or so of using Sonlight, some things I definitely can say about my children:
  • they love a good story
  • they are generally pretty quick to look for another side when they hear pretty much anything
  • they have a decent grasp of missions works
  • they realize that history did not begin in 1492
I hope that we will be able to continue to make Sonlight work for us for many more years, because I especially appreciate how Sonlight makes me think instead of telling me what to think.

Disclaimer: I was not obligated in any way to write this post and received absolutely nothing for doing so.  All products mentioned were purchased by my family.  Although I can fantasize about reviewing Mathtacular 4 or Core 100, can't I?

Monday, December 27, 2010

2011 Homeschool Plans

We officially school from January to October, so for us, a new school year is "officially" beginning next week.  What that means, in reality, is that we are going to be changing some things around.  I'm not going to rehash everything we are doing, mostly focus on what is changing (or has recently changed).

Bible: well, we'll be working through the Bible in 90 Days challenge, starting Monday.  The three big guys are all doing an age-appropriate reading plan.  So am I.  I have not yet decided about the little two.  Connor is also working through a review product -- The Life of Christ.  I'm impressed with it, though we really aren't very far into it.  I wish I had another week before the review was due.

History:  Connor will be starting up with Sonlight Core 7 (the second half of world history) after finishing up the last bit of Core 6.  William and Thomas (and Richard and Katrina, for that matter) are going to be doing Illuminations 2 (I reviewed Illuminations 1 last year).  This is the Middle Ages, which is a bit frustrating (since Connor will be doing Renaissance through the present... but Mom is finding it easier to keep up as I finally learn more history myself)

Writing: Connor will be working through IEW's Student Writing Intensive C.  Jury is still out for the younger ones.  I think that I will have them doing SWI B.  I think.  I'm really, really tempted to order the medieval theme one from IEW though.  I'm not sure I can handle two SWI levels at once.

Math: We're kind of all over the map for math right now.  We're reviewing some great stuff, so that will take priority for the moment. Virtual Nerd, TenMarks, Times Alive.  But we are also still working with some other great online programs:  IXL and Mathletics.  And Connor is doing an online geometry course.  And...  well, maybe that is about it at the moment.  I'm hoping to get Thomas and Richard back into Math Mammoth once the math reviews slow down though.

That may be it as far as big changes.  Some little ones -- the little kids are doing Spanish, Connor is doing computer programming, Connor is wanting to do more science (we'll see), William will be doing some geology alongside his General Science, and we're seriously looking at something like 4H.  Okay, that last one could be a big change.

How about you?  Changing anything up for 2011?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Bible in 90 Days: starting in a week!

Some of you may remember reading my check-ins this past summer/fall as the boys and I read (okay, listened) to the Bible over the course of 90 days.  This experience was pretty amazing.  I've read through the Bible before.  My kids have listened to the entire Bible a couple times before.  But wow, going through it at this pace really gave the stories new meaning.

Well, Amy of Mom's Toolbox is starting up again.  January 3 is the big day, and the 90 days goes through April 2.  Signup is at this link.

I posted a month or so ago that I had signed on to be a mentor (which means you can request me when you sign up!  Eeek!)  And that I had decided not to read myself this time, but to have my kids reading following the various teen/tween/kid schedules found here.  That means I'll be listening to William read 1-2 chapters a day, and Thomas read a chapter a day.  And I may read to Richard and Trina.

Well, I changed my mind.  I'm going to read too.  For one thing, I signed up (for free) with YouVersionand they have a reading plan for the 90 Day Bible.  I plan to start that on January 3.  This way, I can read online, or read on my iTouch... and mark off what I've read as I read it, so I don't have to struggle to keep track (just to keep ON track!)  If you sign up at YouVersion, look for me and friend me.  I'm brink7 there.

I'm getting excited about this.  And I know I have some friends doing this too.  Jennifer at a glimpse of our life.  Dawn at Guiding Light Homeschool.  Tristan at Our Busy Homeschool.  I know I've seen at least a couple more, but that's all I'm finding right this moment.

Anyone care to join me?  I'll add your link to the post if I know about it.  That will help me cruise over to try to encourage you.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: Love

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
Love by Lauraine Snelling When asked to write a Christmas message, one of my first thoughts was Do I climb up on my soapbox regarding changing the words in Christmas songs, using only holiday, etc. I thought about it and decided no. After all, they’re only words and what difference does a word make---really make after all?

Then I kept on thinking. If they’re only words… But we as writers know the power of words, as do readers. When the wrong word is used, it jars, while the right word can be most powerful. Take one highly overused and under practiced word---Love. Four letters is all. We toss it around so glibly, saying love ya and luv and love. But think about the power in I love you. Three of the most precious words in our language when put together. Those of us who write romances or books with romance in them, understand the power when one of our characters tells another, I love you. As humans we can never hear that enough or too much.

Christmas is about love. The greatest love story ever told, that of God for us humans, and it never changes. Customs change, politics change, the years change but God’s love never, ever does. At Christmas we are invited to share that love, to give it away, to pass it around. To find wonder again and joy in simple acts of love. We make contact with people we might never see or talk with through the year. That says I love you. We buy and make gifts to give, we reach out to strangers in need, we try to make sure everyone has a special dinner and every child a present. By giving, we receive.

So, let’s use the power words, but more so, put feet on those words and pass the love around. Let’s look for and find the wonder, the joy and the peace, maybe in small bits and pieces and perhaps in an avalanche of blessings. Make your days brighter with the simple gift of a smile, a kind word, a touch, for every single one that you give away, will come back to you multiplied. As you give, so shall you receive. Merry Christmas my friends. May we all recognize our blessings----and let an attitude of gratitude permeate this holiday and every day. With love and joy on this day, Lauraine!
About Lauraine: Lauraine Snelling is the award-winning author of more than sixty books, with sales of over 2 million copies. She also writes for a wide range of magazines, and helps others reach their writing dreams by teaching at writer’s conferences across the country. Lauraine and her husband, Wayne, have two grown sons, and live in the Tehachapi Mountains with a cockatiel named Bidley, and a watchdog Basset named Chewy. For more information please visit Lauraine's website:
A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day! 12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Friday, December 24, 2010

Fit Mommy Friday Challenge Check-In


Okay, nobody fall over from shock!  It is Friday, and I am doing my Fit Mommy Friday check-in.  Week 9.  Of 10.  I cannot believe this is almost over.

No real workouts.  It is tough with company...  But I have been moving.  I have been eating sensibly.  I have been drinking my water.   I did some decluttering.  I'm feeling better about a lot of things.  I stay comfortable in my jeans all day long instead of wishing I could get some sweats.

Anyway, it is Christmas, and I'm going back to it...

12 Pearls of Christmas: An Unforgettable Gift

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
An Unforgettable Gift by Karen O'Connor On Christmas morning, 1912, in Paducah, Kentucky, fourteen-year-old Charlie Flowers and his three brothers and two sisters huddled in their beds, fully dressed, trying to keep warm as the wind howled outside their small frame house.      

It was a desperate time for the family. Earlier that year the children's father had died. And their mother had not found work. The coal had run out and there was little money––none for gifts. Their scrawny tree with decorations made from scraps of colored paper had been given to them the night before by a local merchant.

"Can't sell this one," the man said with a nod of his head before handing it over to the eager children.  
To pass the time, the siblings joked and shouted stories from their bedrooms across the hallway from one another. Then suddenly a racket from the alley at the rear of the house broke into their games.      
"Charlie," his mother called, "would you see what's going on out there?"    

Charlie pulled on his shoes, grabbed a thick overcoat from the hook by the door, and ran out back.
There stood a man in a wagon bent over a load of coal, shoveling it into the shed as fast as he could.      
"Hey Mister, we didn't order any coal," Charlie shouted. "You're delivering it to the wrong house."      
"Your name's Flowers, isn't it?" the man asked, still shoveling.       

Charlie nodded yes.     

"Well then, there's no mistake.  I've been asked to deliver this to your family on Christmas morning." He looked the awe-struck boy square in the eye. "And I'm under strict orders not to tell who sent it," he teased.      

Charlie ran into the house, his coattail flapping in the cold morning wind.  He could hardly wait to tell his mother and brothers and sisters. God had provided––just as he had on that first Christmas morning so long ago when He sent his only son to a needy world.      

Charlie Flowers died in 1994 at age 96. And right up to the last year of his life, not a Christmas went by that he didn't tell the story of that sub-zero Christmas morning of his boyhood when two men gave his family an unforgettable gift.      

It wasn't the coal that was remembered or cherished, Charlie often said––welcome as it was––but rather what two men brought to his desperate family. One, for his gift of recognizing their great need and taking the time to do something about it. And the other, for being willing to give up part of his own Christmas morning to deliver it.      

That gift of so long ago has continued to warm the Flowers family from one generation to another, as Charlie's son––my husband, Charles––calls to mind these two unknown men each Christmas morning and whispers a prayer of thanks.
About Karen: Karen O'Connor is an award-winning author and writing mentor living in Watsonville, California with her husband, Charles Flowers. Karen’s latest book is 365 Reasons Why Gettin’ Old Ain’t So Bad (Harvest House 2010). For more information, please visit Karen on the web at
A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day! 12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Thursday, December 23, 2010

12 Pearls of Christmas: Just Give Me Christmas This Year!

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
All I Want for Christmas… Is to be able to have Christmas this Year by Melissa Mashburn This is a simple request, isn’t it? In the previous years, we had great big bountiful Christmases with our family. Gifts, goodies and general Christmas cheer but this year it was different. The year before has been chock full of disappointments, failing businesses and severe cutbacks for our family. 

Sitting with my husband one night we hammered out the bare minimum that we could spend that year for Christmas and even still the total was four hundred dollars. It does not sound like a whole lot compared to what we’ve spent on Christmas before, but this year it could have been four thousand dollars because we just did not have it.

We prayed, I cried, we prayed some more and decided that we would cut back anything else that we could that year so we could have Christmas for our kids. We did not know how we would make this happen, but we knew that we needed to step forward in faith that it would happen.  

Answer this question: Does the God who lavishly provides you with his own presence, his Holy Spirit, working things in your lives you could never do for yourselves, does he do these things because of your strenuous moral striving or because you trust him to do them in you? Don't these things happen among you just as they happened with Abraham? He believed God, and that act of belief was turned into a life that was right with God. Galatians 3:5 the Message

Not even two days later, we hear a knock on our front door. We open the door to see some friends of ours from church. With tears in their eyes, they handed us an envelope and said that the felt they needed to give us this. We opened the envelope and inside there was four hundred dollars cash.

Shocked, stunned and with tears flowing down our face we just sat there in a state of crying and laughing at what God had done. We never shared with anyone that year what we needed, how bad it was, what was going on or what that number was for us to have Christmas for the kids, but God knew.

“And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.”  2 Corinthians 9:8 NLT

He took a willing servant, led them to our front door and changed Christmas for us that year. After many years of being in full time ministry we knew that God would provide, but when He shows up just at the right moment, you know that it was all a part of His plan to show how much He loves, provides and cares for His people.  

Father God, thank you that after all the years of serving and loving you in ministry that you continue to teach, guide, love, shepherd and care for us.  You, Father, are abundantly gracious and kind, thank you for showing up for us at just the right moment every time, forgive us when we forget that.  In Jesus name, Amen.
About Melissa: Melissa is the founder of the blog Mel’s World Ministry, co-founder of the Praise and Coffee Nights Ministry with Sue Cramer, Kids Ministry Director at her church.  Just last year she launched a new weekly series called Godly Gals ~ Real Women, Real Life, Real Faith where we meet new women each week who are “Taking their everyday, ordinary lives and placing it as their offering to God.” Romans 12:1 the Message. You can find her on twitter and at her blog. She loves encouraging women to live with an authentic faith by being transparent, renewed and transformed. ~ Romans 12:2.
A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day! 12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Random blathering

Nothing that is big enough to make a blog post itself, but a bunch of great stuff happening --
  • Kids all had eye appointments yesterday.  Four of the five are great.  Connor needs new glasses, including new frames.  Can't afford to do that until January.  
  • Eye doctor asked Richard what he wants to be when he grows up.  "A Christian," was Richard's immediate response.  Without skipping a beat, the eye doctor replied, "You don't have to grow up to be that.  I bet you are already.  Does Jesus live in your heart?"  Reminds me there definitely is a reason we go to this doctor. (And Richard's answer was "yes.")
  • We had a screw-up at the bank.  In the process of investigating it, the teller informs me that it involved a payment to Compassion.  She overrode the charges because of who the payment was to.  (Mix-up is fixed, money is moved, balance is what it should be now.) I'm very grateful it wasn't a gas purchase or something that was the final straw, as that saved us a $25 charge.
  • One of my Boy Scouts got his 2010 merit badge cards signed off.  Tracking and Carpentry.  Other Boy Scout still needs to do that.  The Scout Shop confirmed that they just need to finish it in 2010, they don't have to get the advancement person to register it in December.  YAY.  Still have some work to do to get this to go through.
  • Thomas earned his Webelos badge this month, thanks to his den leader pushing some stuff through.  Den leader went to the Scout Shop to make sure to get the special 100th Anniversary badges for the kids who have earned it.  YAY!
  • Went to see Voyage of the Dawn Treader with six boys and a girl.  It was a blast.  I think this is my favorite Narnia movie now.  The Dawn Treader itself was absolutely beautiful.
  • I'm in a position with reviews right now where I am doing a LOT (just check my sidebar, yikes!) but it is amazing how absolutely perfect almost everything on that list is.  I'm overwhelmed sometimes by how incredibly fortunate we've been in this whole "review gig."
  • I won a giveaway yesterday for an Bible/Art DVD.  I'm so excited.  I really hoped to get this.
  • I was part of a group gift to some special people.  It is so cool to make someone else cry...  :)  

What's the Best Thing About Christmas?

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
What’s the best thing about Christmas? by Maureen Lang The answer to that question will undoubtedly be different depending on the age and the faith of the person being asked. Most children will say it’s all about the gifts. Adults, even if they secretly still enjoy the gifts, will probably strive to sound more mature and say the holiday is all about friends and family. Still others might say it’s about tradition, or memories or the music or even the special food we connect to this time of year. The scrooges among us might say this season is just another marketing gimmick, or materialism gone awry. The faithful will say it’s all about Jesus, a reminder of why He shed the glory of Heaven to step into human skin and frailty.

I’m not here to defend or attack any answer to this question, but rather to ponder those possible answers.  

Gifts: They touch us in personal ways, as tangible evidence of someone else’s thought and affection. Even if we don’t get exactly what we hoped, there’s something to be said about the thought behind a gift being the important part. Why wouldn’t gifts be an important and valid part of this holiday in which we celebrate God’s gift of salvation?  

Holiday Gatherings: Parties might be a lot of work, forcing some out of their comfort zone, but at the core they’re all about human connection. Isn’t that what most people want?  

Traditions and memories: They remind us of the past, of who we are, with the hope that even as we look forward to an unknown future we still hold some things worthy enough to repeat every year. We might find ourselves letting go of some traditions, or we might want to start some new ones.  

The music: This is the only time of the year when even secular radio stations welcome songs about a baby born in Bethlehem. As a nation we may be getting stringent about separation of church as state, but the lines blur just a bit with old favorites that reflect this season.
Scrooges: The holiday season is probably a time to endure rather than enjoy, but even the scroogiest-scrooge might admit the lights of the season are pretty to behold. They’re free to look at, after all.

As for the food, the busyness, the expense and all the other things that make up this season: keep in mind that it’s all temporary. This, too, shall pass. Until next year, of course.  

I’ll leave you with this thought: we are all made in God’s image, whether we believe that or not. Part of that image is the ability to give—and to receive. So here’s my thought for the day: stop a moment and dwell on all the gifts of the season. From the little mementos that say we haven’t forgotten someone or been forgotten by others, to the costliest gift of all: what God did for us in the form of Christ. As you enjoy the sounds, the sights, the scents and the tastes of this season, may your only trouble be in choosing just one thing among so many best things about Christmas.
About Maureen: Maureen Lang is the author of ten books, her most recent from Tyndale House is The Great War Series which are full of romance, adventure and spiritual journeys. She lives in the Midwest with her husband, two sons and their lovable Labrador Retriever. For more information please visit Maureen at her website,
A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day! 12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Taking Christmas Photos

So, because of Shutterfly, we're actually going to be sending out cards this year.  Okay, so they likely will not be mailed until after Christmas... but still...

So Dale got the kids bundled up in their new Christmas sweaters and hats, all made by my mom.  Though Richard's hat seems to have vanished as it isn't in the pictures anywhere.

The results?  None of these are what went on the card, by the way.  I'll save that for another post...

12 Pearls of Christmas: Good News

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
Good News! by Deb Kalmbach The first Christmas card of the season arrived in my mailbox way back in August. How could anyone be that organized? Then I noticed my friend, Nita, had sent me a card I had written to her more than 20 years ago!   

Memories rushed back as I read the words penned in my familiar handwriting. It was Christmas, 1991, and my world had unraveled. I could almost pretend everything was all right at this most wonderful time of the year—but not that year.   

My husband Randy’s drinking problem had escalated to the point where his job and career were on the line. He had already been through two alcohol treatment programs and managed to stay sober for short periods of time. Then he slipped back into old, familiar patterns. His ongoing relapses were a crushing disappointment for our family.   

I had looked forward to Christmas Eve and our family traditions; making homemade lasagna, singing carols around the piano, attending the candlelight service at church, and then coming home to open one token Christmas Eve present.        

“Randy, are you ready to crank out the pasta?” I called to him over the Christmas music I was playing to lift my spirits.   

I peered into the living room to see what was keeping him. My heart froze. Randy sat on the couch, trance-like, watching a basketball game while sipping a drink.   

No, not on Christmas Eve, I screamed inwardly. I felt like I was suffocating. Usually Randy pulled himself together but it didn’t happen that night. He drank vodka all evening while I finished holiday preparations on autopilot. None of us felt like eating lasagna or celebrating.   

Only a few days earlier, I had written these words on the Christmas card to my friend, Nita. I don’t know God’s plans, his timing or his ways in accomplishing his purposes, but I am learning to trust him. He is faithful!   

I suspect Nita kept my card all those years because she saw a small seed of faith and it encouraged her heart. I didn’t know it at the time, but it would be eight more Christmas seasons before Randy experienced the miraculous breakthrough of finding freedom from alcoholism.   

As I read the card I had written so long ago, I felt awed by God’s faithfulness to us—even when our situation looked completely hopeless.   

You may be facing great difficulty as the holidays approach. The last thing you feel like is celebrating. And that’s O.K. The Good News of Christmas isn’t about picture perfect holidays where our homes are decorated a la Martha Stewart and tables are laden with holiday delicacies. Your days may not be merry and bright. You may be grieving the loss of a loved one or the loss of a relationship through divorce or estrangement. Your world has unraveled.

That’s exactly why the message of Christmas is Good News. The Savior is born! The One who came to set you free, to give you peace and hope and help beyond anything you could ever imagine is as near as your next breath. Today you might not be able to see how God’s purposes are unfolding for your future, but you can be assured that He is working all things for good in your life. A twenty year-old Christmas card came on a summer day as an unexpected gift and gentle reminder of God’s presence—especially in the worst of times.
About Deb: Deb Kalmbach is the coauthor of Because I Said Forever: Embracing Hope in a Not-So- Perfect Marriage and the author of a book for children, Corey’s Dad Drinks Too Much. She has contributed to The New Women’s Devotional Bible, Pearl Girls: Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace, and other anthologies. She is a vibrant and engaging speaker who gives hope and practical solutions to those who struggle with difficult relationships. Deb and her husband, Randy, live in a tiny town in Eastern Washington. Visit Deb at:, or on Facebook and Twitter.
A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day! 12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Monday, December 20, 2010

Blogoversary Giveaway Winners!

Okay, so I tried to do this last night, but my brain was just friend and I couldn't count.  So I slept, and did the drawing this morning.

First, there are 57 comments.  One is a congratulations from an international reader, and one is from me.  That leaves 55. gave me a result of #2 -- so the first winner is:
Michelle Smith said...
I follow you through Networked Blogs, too. :)
Michelle chose the Grill and Broil set, which means the next lucky number is going to receive the Baking spices.

I eliminated all of Michelle's entries, which left me with 48.  Plugging a 1-48 range into, it gave me #6 -- so the Baking winner is:
Tess said...
We are friends using BlogFrog
This time, the early bird definitely came out ahead...

These will be mailed out tomorrow!

Congratulations, both of you!!

Homeschooling in Colorado

Another blog cruise... the final one for 2010, and this week's question:

What are the laws and requirements where you live, and how do you handle them?

Okay, so basically -- for kids who have not been truant in a public school setting or anything like that -- the laws in Colorado state that (this is not complete, but it is the basics, go to the link if you want to see the actual text):
  1. We have to do no less than 172 days of instruction, averaging four instructional contact hours per day.
  2. We have to provide a notice of intent at least 14 days before our school year begins, and continue to provide that each year.
  3. The child is to be evaluated in grades 3, 5, 7, 9 and 11.  The results need to be submitted.
  4. We have to maintain records.
  5. We have to provide instruction in some general (and basic) subjects, including reading, writing, speaking, math, history, civics, literature, science and the US Constitution.
What this means to me is that every December, I need to type up a form, listing names and ages of my kids, stating we're homeschooling and will do at least 172 days averaging 4 hours, sign it and turn it in.  I choose to submit to my school district, but I am not required to choose them.  Our school year runs January through October.  We could set that to be pretty much anything we want.

I have to teach them subjects I would have taught them anyway.

I have to keep a calendar, x-ing off days that we do school, until we hit 172.  I have to keep copies of their standardized tests.  I have to keep immunization records.  I'd pretty much do the last two regardless, it's just the busy-work of a stupid calendar that I have to add to my life.

And in grades 3, 5 and 7 (so far), I administer a standardized test.  Until this year, we've done the CAT/5.  This year, we took the Iowa.  I have to submit those results somewhere.  Again, we choose to submit them in our school district, but we don't have to.  And standardized tests are not required.  We could also do an evaluation, but Dale wanted us doing the standardized tests every couple of years even before we knew it was required by law.

Overall, I do not feel Colorado's laws are terribly restrictive.  The Notice of Intent is NOT me asking the school for permission, but me informing them that my kids are not truant.  It literally takes more time to print than it does to type.  There is very little information required.

We exceed 172x4 instructional hours per year, easily.  That's never been an issue.

The standardized tests bother me though.  I'm stuck with a nationally normed test, which means I can't do things like submit an SAT score.  I'm stuck with paying for ridiculous tests that don't give me any useful information at all.  I already know that they suck at spelling.  And 99th percentile in math doesn't help me at all... are they still making progress?  Or are they 'merely' staying ahead for their grade?  I want to do something that actually TELLS me something.

But really.  If five stupid tests over the course of 13 years of education, and an annual "hey, we're still homeschooling!" letter (and x's on a calendar) is what it takes to keep things legal and above board, well, I can do that.  I'm thrilled I don't have to prove I'm competent, I'm beyond thrilled I don't have to submit course plans, and I love that nobody gives me permission. 

To read about homeschooling laws elsewhere, check out the Blog Cruise post on Tuesday morning!  Click the graphic above to get there!

Gift List

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
Gift List by Tricia Goyer I've been thinking lately how hard it must be for Oprah to Christmas shop. I mean if you were on her "gift list" wouldn't you expect something really, really good? The woman gives away cars and trips to Australia on her television show for goodness sake! It seems by the end of Christmas Day her friends and family would look at the pile of presents and think, "Is that it?" I mean if you knew there was billions of dollars she could spend on you, would you ever feel satisfied?

Sometimes I think we approach God the same way. We look around at our home, our family, our job, our free time and we still aren't satisfied. We wish our body looked better, our clothes were more in style, our husband was more considerate and our kids were more ... well, like the perfect little people we picture in our mind. Our careers don't excel as quickly as we think they should and people don't give us the attention we feel we deserve. We're tired and anxious and the to-do list seems to be tacked to our hearts for all the pain it causes.

Often, we look around and don't speak the words out loud, but think them just the same. "Is that it?" I mean, You're the God of the universe and You have all things in Your hands and under Your control. Couldn't you provide a little more money to help those bills disappear or make me a bit more content with the man I've chosen to spend my life with? And I thought Oprah had it tough.

Is there ever a time when God doesn't hear the murmurs? Again, not with our mouths but in our heart.

I've been guilty of this--of not being satisfied with the gifts I've been given. Yes, there will always be more to want, but today--at this moment--I'm satisfied. And I look to Him with a grateful heart and whisper, "Thank you, it is enough. More than enough."
About Tricia: Tricia Goyer is the author of twenty-six books including Songbird Under a German Moon, The Swiss Courier, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. She won Historical Novel of the Year in 2005 and 2006 from ACFW, and was honored with the Writer of the Year award from Mt. Hermon Writer's Conference in 2003. Tricia's book Life Interrupted was a finalist for the Gold Medallion in 2005. In addition to her novels, Tricia writes non-fiction books and magazine articles for publications like MomSense and Thriving Family. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences, and has been a workshop presenter at the MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) International Conventions. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife. For more information, please visit
A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day! 12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fit Mommy Friday Challenge Check-In

Yeah, another weekend totally got away from me and I didn't check in.  It is now week 8 of the Fit Mommy Friday 10-week challenge...

My excuse?  My generous, wonderful boys gave me whatever stupid bug they had picked up.  So Thursday and Friday, I mostly slept.  Yesterday, I mostly sat with my own box of Puffs.  And today, I had to run to town to get a tire fixed, and get some groceries.  Like $.99 gallons of milk.

Anyway, in spite of feeling like death warmed over, I did fairly okay on my goals over the past couple of weeks.  I've been drinking lots of water.  I did have two Mountain Dews though.  The first one was totally legit.  I had a splitting headache and nothing was touching it, which generally means a migraine.  I had to take kids into town, so we stopped at the post office partway in (which is in a grocery store) and I mailed packages... and bought a Dew.  It did the trick and the headache went away.

The other one was today.  I probably did too much, being out and about without really eating much, and it was getting late and I was just feeling blah, and I definitely needed caffeine.  I chose a CAN of Mountain Dew.  A CAN.  I would normally have purchased at least a 16 oz bottle, so a can is progress.  Anyway, I found it to be sickeningly sweet.  Didn't notice that on Tuesday, which is probably good.  So today, well, I wonder if I am even going to want it now.  It did make me feel better about driving though.  Enough of a caffeine/sugar rush to get me home.

I did work out twice.  Well, sort of.  The first time, I only got about halfway through and started feeling really lightheaded.  The second time, I really took it easy.

I've been walking a lot more.  Especially when we head in town.  I've been parking in the furthest reaches of the parking lot (when that is safe!) and briskly walking in and out of the store.  I've been walking outside at home.

And I've been really working at decluttering.  Not that the house looks like it right now (3 days sick, one day gone... yeah, it's a mess!)

And.... my jeans are falling off me.  I even wore a smaller size one day this week.  They were way too tight... but with a sweater, I think they were okay.  They fit well in the legs and rear, it was the waist that didn't work.

I'm close.  Really close...

Book Review: Heaven is for Real

I recently had the opportunity to review the audiobook Heaven is for Real written by Todd Burpo and read by Dean Gallagher.  Approximately 4 1/2 hours long, it was a pretty quick listen.  Gallagher does an amazing job as reader, and I would completely forget that I wasn't listening to Colton's dad's voice, just to his words.  Part of that is the writing style, too.  Burpo writes like a dad, just talking to you about what happened in his family.

A description of the book, subtitled "A Little Boy's Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back," from the publisher:

“Do you remember the hospital, Colton?” Sonja said. “Yes, mommy, I remember,” he said. “That’s where the angels sang to me.”

When Colton Burpo made it through an emergency appendectomy, his family was overjoyed at his miraculous survival. What they weren’t expecting, though, was the story that emerged in the months that followed—a story as beautiful as it was extraordinary, detailing their little boy’s trip to heaven and back. Colton, not yet four years old, told his parents he left his body during the surgery–and authenticated that claim by describing exactly what his parents were doing in another part of the hospital while he was being operated on. He talked of visiting heaven and relayed stories told to him by people he met there whom he had never met in life, sharing events that happened even before he was born. He also astonished his parents with descriptions and obscure details about heaven that matched the Bible exactly, though he had not yet learned to read. With disarming innocence and the plainspoken boldness of a child, Colton tells of meeting long-departed family members. He describes Jesus, the angels, how “really, really big” God is, and how much God loves us. Retold by his father, but using Colton’s uniquely simple words,
Heaven is for Real offers a glimpse of the world that awaits us, where as Colton says, “Nobody is old and nobody wears glasses.”
I had read some reviews of the book, so I was intrigued, but skeptical.  Listening to the book convinced me that this did seem possible.  And listening to Colton talk about meeting his sister in heaven made me absolutely bawl.  Colton's mom had suffered a miscarriage that Colton did not know about.  As I listened to Colton's dad describe the conversation between Colton and his mom when he talks about meeting the "baby who died in your tummy" I was there.  I have no idea how she managed to hold it together and not break down sobbing.  I don't think I could have done it.

I enjoyed this book.  Did Colton actually visit heaven?  Take a listen and decide for yourself...

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this audiobook free from Oasis Audio as part of their Review Program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Hurting Near Christmas? 10 Tips to Hope Again

Welcome to the 12 Pearls of Christmas! Enjoy these Christmas "Pearls of Wisdom"! Please follow along through Christmas day as each post shares heartfelt stories of how God has touched a life during this most wonderful time of the year. AND BEST OF ALL ... there's also a giveaway!!!! Fill out the quick form at the link located at the bottom of this post to be entered to win a PEARL NECKLACE, BRACELET AND EARRINGS!  Pearls - a tangible reminder of God's grace to us all.
Hurting Near Christmas? 10 Tips to Hope Again by Stacie Ruth Stoelting Feel sad this Christmas? Hey, I know the feeling. In fact, many programs have interviewed me to share about it! Last year, I tried particularly hard to share stories and tips on how to cope with grief during the holidays: I wrote a feature for, Coping with Grief at Christmas, visited and counseled grieving people, etc.

Then irony hit: Near Christmas, two people I loved died within two days (December 15-16, 2009).

Are you or a loved one hurting during the holidays? I relate. But let me encourage you: Jesus remains faithful! As real as my pain, He met my needs and comforted me with peace unexplainable. I’m serious. He’s real.

Before I continue with tips, let me share this: If you feel suicidal, contact an emergency counseling service like the New Life Call Center at 1-800-NEW-LIFE(639-5433).  

10 Tips for Hurting Hearts to Hope and Cope at Christmastime

  1. Realize and internalize it: God still loves you and wants to hear from you. He wants you to know that there is a Way out of your pit of despair. The Way is Jesus.   
  2. Sometimes, our suffering causes us to forget His. Understand He understands you. He suffered more than any of us when we bore the weight of every sin and pain on the cross! In fact, Is. 53:3 describes Jesus: “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.” Think of it: He took your punishment and pain on the cross. He was your capital punishment Substitute! And your Deliverer -your Rescuer- wants to hear from you. His heart hurts with yours. Will you pour your heart out to Him now? He’ll pour His love in where the fear previously resided. Let Jesus inside. Do you know Jesus on a personal, one-to-One basis?  Visit here to learn why Jesus was born to die and how to be born again. (Hey, Jesus said it: "You must be born again.") 
  3. Rather than mere gifts, make a Christmas prayer list of other hurting people. Then pray for them and request prayer for yourself, too. Contact your church. Tap into ministries (including that offer extra prayer support. And feel free to join my prayer e-group at or on Facebook by clicking here. 
  4. End the Christmas comparison game. Don't compare your Christmas to your neighbor's. Don't compare your Christmas to past celebrations. 
  5. Center on the Savior! This year, trade a superficial Christmas for a real one. Deepen your appreciation for the true Christmas: the arrival of Jesus Christ to banish the effects of sin and death! 
  6. Whatever your loss or pain, open up and let God be your Gain. Maybe your pain comes from another cause: a divorce, a devastating diagnosis, a job loss...the list extends. God offers to be your Counselor, your Father, your Healer, your Provider. Let Him answer your heart’s cry. 
  7. Love on people. Even if you don’t “feel” like it, prayerfully do something for someone else who is hurting. 
  8. Remember: Feelings change. God doesn't. Loved ones' deaths never kill His love for you. God's immeasurable, unconditional love still flows to you! When you know Jesus, you know eternal love and security. Nothing separates you from His love! “For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39, ESV). 
  9. Realize the reality of the sudden reunion. Holidays exacerbate the feeling of long separation from our loved ones in Heaven. Does it feel like it will take forever for you to see your loved one in Heaven? Be encouraged: Jesus IS coming again and it will be a time you don't expect! So the fact that you feel like it won't happen soon is a good thing!  Once reunited, it will feel like no time transpired. All sadness will be entirely removed! 
  10. When Jesus comes back to earth, it will be a celebration greater than any previous Christmas you've ever experienced! 
For believers, losses hurt but never win. We will celebrate Jesus together -and it will be glorious "for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith" (I John 5:4, NIV). In that Day, all believers will be able to jubilantly say, “Merry Christmas to all and to all the true Light!”

Additional Help: Ready for some practical tips for coping with grief at Christmastime? Here’s one: Rearrange furniture to reduce absence reminders. To read this tip and others found in another of my’s articles: “Coping with Grief at Christmas", visit

Going thru a rough time? Join Stacie Ruth’s prayer group at
About Stacie: Stacie Ruth knows pain, but she also knows Jesus! After Stacie Ruth met Jesus, her life blossomed with true joy and purpose. Life’s blows hurt her, but Jesus heals and strengthens her. Now an author, actress, and recording artist, she laughs at the irony and praises God, who uses unlikely herself.  Discover why she's written a book at age 15, sung/spoken for the 43rd President, been pictured in major media (i.e. The New York Times, USA Today), and keynoted conferences since she was a teenager. To watch video clips, worship Jesus with music from her album, or get in touch with her ministry for women, visit
A three strand pearl necklace will be given away on New Year's Day. All you need to do to have a chance of winning is {FILL OUT THIS QUICK ENTRY FORM}. The winner will be announced on the Pearl Girls Blog ( on New Years Day! 12 Pearls of Christmas Series and contest sponsored by Pearl Girls®. For more information, please visit

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Book Review: Voices of the Faithful

I seem to be on a kick, looking for that perfect daily devotional or something.  So I welcomed the chance to check out Voices of the Faithful with Beth Moore.  Moore wrote the introductions for each month, and the introduction to the book... but the daily devotions were written by missionaries from around the world.

From the publisher:
"A willingness to go is all they have in common," says Beth Moore, speaking of her friends on the front lines who are spreading the gospel around the world and with whom she collaborated to create this book. This brilliant, 366-day devotional features incredible stories of God's faithfulness in the face of uncertainty and danger, written by hundreds of missionaries worldwide.
With a foreword by International Mission Board president Jerry Rankin and an introduction by Beth, this volume also includes advice on how to hear God's voice, pray for missionaries, and understand the church's and individual's role in missions.
I love this book.  Each month is organized into a theme.  December is Christmas Around the World, and Beth's introduction makes you think about what it would be like to celebrate Christmas in some of the places these missionaries serve, with nobody around who sees Christmas as special.  The individual devotions are touching and real.  I truly look forward to reading this each day.

Having used Sonlight curriculum, with its emphasis on missionaries, for most of the last decade, some of the things mentioned in Beth's comments (or in other reviews) don't really apply to me.  My family definitely knows that missionaries are real people and an incredibly varied lot.  And we've had plenty of opportunities to discuss and pray for them and the communities they serve.  I can see where this would be a fabulous introduction to the whole idea of missions, though.  And for me, it is a daily uplifting reminder of the work that is being done worldwide.

My plan for the book was to read a chunk, write this review, and then shelve it until January 1. However, I'm continuing to read.  And next December, I expect to be looking for Voices of the Faithful, Book 2.  I could request to review it, but I think I'll leave that for someone else right now.

I'm also seriously considering reading it aloud next time we do Sonlight Core 5.

Disclaimer:  As Booksneeze Blogger, I did receive this book for free from Thomas Nelson.  No other compensation was received.  For more about my take on reviews, visit my blog post here.