Sunday, September 24, 2017

Becoming MomStrong by Heidi St. John ~ A Tyndale book review

Heidi St. John, mom books,Christian parenting, Tyndale publishing

Finally, someone has put into words what I've been thinking about for so long: we need a clarion call to come back to God and His Word for all aspects of this beautifully deep and challenging journey called motherhood. We needed someone to speak the truth in love about guarding our families and our faith against the onslaught of the world, and Heidi St. John has unashamedly listened to God's calling to write a book of encouragement and challenge for moms. Real encouragement for every mom, not just new moms or old moms, birth moms or adoptive moms ~ all moms.

Last Tuesday, September 19th, 2017, Tyndale House Publishers released Heidi St John's newest book: Becoming MomStrong: How to fight with all that is in you for your family & your faith. As a part of the Tyndale Blog Network I was graciously sent one of the first copies off the press before the release date so I could read it and share with you just a little about the heart that Heidi has for other moms.

MomStrong moms know that authentic living doesn't need a platform; it is the platform. Our children see the real mom.  - pg. 132

If you have ever heard Heidi speak at a conference, or listened to one of her podcasts you will know that she is authentic: real. She is not afraid to share the good and the bad of motherhood. Even those days you thought would be perfect, but forgot to plug in the crock-pot! Heidi knows that God's grace is big enough to cover our failures and lead us to His paths of righteousness. 

Reading MomStrong I've laughed, and I've cried, but mostly I have been encouraged. Encouraged to continue to fight, with God's strength, for my faith, and my family.

I first heard Heidi speak at a homeschool conference in early 2014, and I've read two of her other books, both geared towards homeschooling moms, but this book is different. 

Becoming MomStrong is about the entire journey of motherhood, whether your children are educated at home, or at school down the street. Heidi is writing from her big heart full of God's grace and sharing with you things God has taught her along her own motherhood journey. 

When I first started reading Becoming MomStrong,  my husband Kurt leaned over to see what the book was and commented "Don't you think you should know all that by now, our youngest is 17 ?" 

Yes, and no. 

While there was no startling revelation in the book that I had not heard somewhere along this motherhood journey of my own, there was something here just for me. This book takes the best of the advice I have heard over the years from so many seasoned moms, adds Heidi's own quirky sense of humor, and wraps it all up in God's love and points us continually back to the source of our comfort, strength, and wisdom: God Himself. Whether you are a mother to a newborn, or even if your children have all left the nest for college or careers, you will find encouragement in these pages as Heidi shares from her own experiences, and reminds us that we are in this sisterhood of moms together, and together, God makes us strong. 

Heidi St John, MomStrong, Christian parenting

The rest of this review is going to be different from my usual style. This book is so much more than just a book on parenting, it is book on living an authentic, humble, God-focused life so our children can learn from us to trust God in all aspects of living that I want to give you a short summary, and then share a few of the quotes from Becoming MomStrong that I was prompted by the Holy Spirit to write down to remind myself of the truth of a mom focused on God.

The details: Becoming MomStrong is a 260 page paperback book from Tyndale House Publishers. It is also available as an E-book or as a hardcover book, depending on your preference. I always prefer a printed book to an E-book. Reading on a tablet is not relaxing or enjoyable for me long term, plus, it is easier to flip pages in a paperback to where you might have underlined something profound...says Carol as she whistles to herself ... LOL!

Becoming MomStrong is divided into 15 chapters that cover everything from Good News - Your Kids Came with a Manual to Big Girls Do Cry. Each chapter builds upon the themes that MomStrong moms go to God for forgiveness, peace, and strength - each and every day, that motherhood is a journey with seasons, and that nothing, NOTHING is too hard for God! If you are a Christian mom and cannot afford the $13 to buy yourself a copy, then ask your library to buy one, ask your church to buy a copy, or ask your own mom to get it for you for your birthday or Christmas. Moms need to hear these encouraging words, they need reminded that they are masterpieces made by God, that He has a plan, and that their dreams and their days DO matter to Him!

Now, just a few of the tidbits I gleaned from Becoming MomStrong. I cannot put them all, because it is Heidi's book, not mine. I can however say a big THANK YOU to Heidi St. John for making the sacrifices necessary to get this important message into print. It blessed me. It will bless you!

When you get down to it, new mothers and veteran mothers are basically the same. We all have the same struggles and insecurities. The only difference is that veteran moms have the gift of perspective. -pg. 56

Through the power of the Holy Spirit, you can refuse to let your past rob you and your family of the future God has for you. -pg. 116

Transformation happens when we allow God's truth to shine onto our suffering. It's what we do with suffering that ends up having an impact in this world. -pg. 126

God knows the hearts of tired mothers intimately because He works the night shift with us. -pg. 179

I wrestle to acknowledge my need for rest. - pg. 180

The bottom line, precious mom, is that your kids don't need you to be perfect. They need you to be present. -pg. 227

Don't let the enemy use your failure as a roadblock to the future God has planned for you... press on towards the prize of eternity. -pg. 253

God knew I needed to read Becoming MomStrong. He sent it at just the right time. He answered a prayer to pull me out of the pit I was in. It has been a hard year for me, one of my dearest friends lost her battle with cancer this summer, this thing called motherhood has entered a new season in my life, as our oldest began college, and our youngest started her senior year of high school, not to mention the everyday struggles that accompany life, but when I  look up - I see Him all around me, in every situation, leading me, and reminding me that I too can become MomStrong! So in answer to Kurt's question: Yes! I needed this book. You just might need it too. :)

I received a complimentary copy of Becoming MomStrong from Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this according to FTC regulations. No other compensation was provided.

Isaiah 1:17

Scripture Writing, Isaiah 1:17

Monday, September 18, 2017

Books With Bean ~ Peter Pan

This is the second installment in Arlene's Books with Bean series. Find her review of Pride and Prejudice here.

Books with Bean, Peter Pan, book reviews by teens

Peter Pan

Author: J. M. Berrie   
Published: 1813   
Genre: Children’s Fantasy  

Summery & What I liked about it: The classic children’s tale is well known, Peter is the boy who never grew up. The story has been adapted and retold many times with one of the most famous versions being the 1953 animated Disney version. But when I saw the book at the library booksale I decided to get it to see just how the original story went, after all Disney movies are good, but being for children they can be quite different from the original stories. 
I found however that in the case of Peter Pan the movie was quite actuate, Peter really was quite the annoying character. He is full of himself and selfish, but that comes from the fact that since he hasn't grown up he doesn't understand anything more deeply then his simplistic child like mind can understand. 
However I think that in spite of this there is much to be learned from the story especially about growing up. As someone who read this the first time as a teenager and being “Grown up” to some degree it was interesting to read Berrie’s representation of the innocence and the naiveté of childhood in Peter. Because while Peter is definitely a child and his actions reflect that, Berrie also shows us that those same actions are also seen in other characters, even ones that are considered “Grown Up”.

Language: none that I can remember as I write this

Romance: Wendy does have a small infatuation with Peter  but it is not a major part of the story.

Violence: Peter has a sword fight with captain hook but nothing gory.

Magic: There is magic in Neverland of course, there are fairies, mermaids and the magic than keeps people from growing old. I view it more as the magic of childhood then anything that might be considered heavy or questionable.

Recommended Age: I would recommend this as a book that is best read a few times as you grow up. Once as a smaller kid sometime between 8-10 and then maybe again every few years. Even if you never read it as a kid I would still recommend it to read if you are older.

Books with Bean, Peter Pan, book reviews by teens

Friday, September 15, 2017

Character lessons from the Powwow ~ Part 1

character lessons, godly influences, prayers, humility

Experiencing a different culture in-depth is one of our favorite parts of attending  Native American Pow Wows. Our younger daughter and I recently attended a small Inner-tribal Pow Wow near our home. We have been here many times before, and always enjoy the opportunity. As I sat watching the pageantry and grace of the various dancers in their regalia, God started nudging me to listen more closely to what was being said by the emcee and other speakers between the dances. There were four character lessons that were repeated throughout the day. Today I want to share with you just the first one, and how God is using it to remind me that He wants it to be a character trait of our family and homeschool.

We are honored to be asked to do something

The character trait of humility is one that I need to remember to cultivate both for myself and for my children. We have worked in our family to eliminate the word pride from our vocabulary because pride brings glory to man, while humility brings glory to God. Feeling honored when someone asks you to do something shows humility. You do not expect the honor, it is given to you.

The first time this was mentioned at the Pow Wow was when one of the elders of the northern drum was asked to pray to open the ceremonies. He said he was honored to have been asked. He remembered growing up and hearing other elders pray before a Pow Wow would begin. He ended his prayer "In Jesus' name." A simple, heartfelt prayer for God the Father to bless the weekend, and also to bless any who were there who needed to know Him and His peace. He had not lost his culture when he accepted Jesus, he had enlarged it, and God had honored his faithfulness.

Heart check: how often do I feel honored when I am asked to do something instead of annoyed? 

Mom, can you tie my shoe? 

Honey, can you call the bank for me today? 

Can you help serve at our event?  

If humility is winning in my character, I can feel honored that these people trust me enough to do these things well for them. If humility is not present, I just get discouraged or annoyed that they would be asking for help again. We cannot expect our children to grow up and learn the character trait of humility if they never see it in our own lives.

If we are homeschooling because we think we already know everything, and this particular teaching style or curriculum is the only and best way to teach our children, then we are operating from a place of pride, not humility. This home education journey takes a lot of hard work, a lot of prayer, and a huge dependence upon God to lead us. Understanding our need for God humbles us. Better to be humble than prideful.

If this is your first year homeschooling and you have not yet had a day when you cry out to God for His help right this very moment, let me assure, it will come soon enough. Parenting takes time, and so does education. If your goal is to equip your children with Godly character, there will be struggles along the way. Some struggles will be small, others will be huge, but they will all be real. This goal of ours, to train our children to walk in the footsteps of Jesus is more important than which math book they use or whether or not they ever learn to diagram a sentence. This is training them up for the life eternal. Remember Jesus’ words in Mark 8:36? “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his soul?” (ESV) 

The next time you are tempted to feel annoyed because so many people are asking you to do something, check your heart. Let God remind you to be humble, to remember this is an opportunity to serve Him by serving others. May you feel honored when asked to do something for others.

Next time, character lesson #2

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Unauthorized from Chara Games ~ a Crew Review

strategy games, history, board games
Do you enjoy playing strategy games? Are you wanting a game for your teens to play with their friends that does not last 3 hours? Are you looking for a fun pocket-sized game that can entertain a large group of people? Then let us introduce you to Unauthorized from Chara Games! We received Unauthorized, a strategy card game for 6-12 players ages 12 and up to review for the Homeschool Review Crew.

There is a bit of a learning curve while playing Unauthorized with new people, but it is worth the effort. Since the entire game only takes about 30-45 minutes to play, it is easy to play more than one game in a sitting. We found that with a larger number of players it ran 45 minutes, while playing with only 6 players was nearer the 30 minute mark. The game is recommended for ages 12 and up, but could be played with mixed ages as well. I think it would work best with ages 10 and up, as there is a lot of strategy involved. While there is an exception to play with only 5 players, one of them playing two hands' worth of cards, we found it worked much better, and was more fun, if you had at least 6 players. 

Unauthorized is a social deduction card game, based upon the experiences of the underground church.   In the game, each player assumes a role, either for the church, for the state, or as a neutral player, depending which of the role cards they are dealt. Play begins with each person having seven experience cards which will tell the neutral players if they are either for the church or for the state, all depending on how the cards are dealt. The pastor (there is always at least one) begins with all church cards (green experience cards) while the police begin with all state cards (red experience cards.) Inside the rule book you will find a handy chart telling you how many pastor and how many police cards to use based upon the total number of players. As the game progresses, you will use your cards to try to influence others and win them to your side of the struggle. There are also wild cards which give you more options.

Christian board games, history, strategy

During our favorite afternoon game of Unauthorized, the girls had friends over and there were a total of 8 players, so there was one pastor, two police, and five neutral players. The goal is to sway the players with different loyalities over to your side by how you play your own cards during the four short rounds of the game. Each of the Role cards includes a special role power that they can exercise to influence others, of course, if you are imprisoned, who you can influence is limited. When the girls played with their friends, the policemen decided to use the public execution option... and it backfired on them ... the player they "executed" used her final words to sway two players for the church.

history, strategy, board games

There is an  instructional video on Chara's website that helps you understand the basics of setup and beginning play for Unauthorized. I would suggest watching it once, playing the first time, and then watching the video again. Once you have played a few times it gets easier and the game flows better.

We had a question about the fourth and final round. I contacted Patrick at Chara Games, and got the information I needed. If you end up with questions, use the Contact Us tab on Chara's website. They are really good about quick responses and giving more details if needed.

So how interesting is Unauthorized? The eight teens played the entire way through and I did not see anyone pick up their phone. There was a LOT of laughter, and smiling, and scheming, and laughter. Definitely one to get and play with your friends. Or, get it and invite over some new people!

This is the third game we have been blessed to review from Chara Games. You can read our reviews of Three Seeds and Commissioned to learn more about the first two games. These are all quality games that have found a place on our game shelf for game night. I wonder what they are working on next?

Connect with Chara Games on Facebook or Twitter.

Unauthorized {Chara Games Reviews}

Crew Disclaimer

2 Corinthians 3:18

2 Corinthians 3:18, Scripture Writing

Friday, September 8, 2017


This week's writing prompt from Kate is: work

work, five minute friday writing prompt

What work have you done this week? This week we started back to school - well, Arlene went back to her books for her senior year of high school, so I guess that's as close to back to school as we home schoolers get. :)

Work, a necessity in life, and something we can choose to either enjoy or regret. I want to choose to work with joy, to do my best, as in service to God. I want to find contentment in my work, whether that is in writing, in mothering, in working outside of the home, or just cleaning off my desk. While I know it is difficult to change my attitude on my own, I know that God can change my attitude about work. I often pray for the help I need to appreciate being able to work. 

If you are struggling in your workplace, wherever that is, ask God to help you appreciate your position, and to do your work with joy. Life can be rough, but God is big enough and loving enough to want us to find joy in all of our lives.

Work: today I wrote a newspaper column, I shopped for groceries, and I spent time editing photos. Tomorrow will hold something new, may I be ready, willing, and with God's help: able - for whatever work I find to do!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Books With Bean ~ Pride and Prejudice

book reviews for children, book reviews by teens, books with bean

Books, books, books, there are so many out there these days and books as a whole are amazing. Why you may ask? Well because in this world of new and modern and science there is still a lot of power in the written word good bad or otherwise.

Now I know the point of my mom’s blog is to encourage others and give a little helpful advice so I thought I would do some book reviews. Yes I know we do a lot of reviews but not like the others, these are just books that I like that I wanted to share about because they were fun. 

My mom gets this question a lot and I know others do too: 

Does anyone know what are good books for my kid to read? They are (insert age) and in (insert grade), but their reading level is (insert level much higher then their grade) and I can’t seem to find anything that is good and clean that they haven't already read.

Well as someone who has been reading for a long time and loves books and words I thought I would help all you moms (and others) by sharing books that I have read that I liked. My hope that this will help you find at least one book that you (or your kid) will like. 
So welcome to Books with Bean (it is a family nickname don’t ask)

So how am I picking the books to share? Well there are a lot I have read that I like so I am going to start at the top shelf of my personal book collection and go from there once we are done with that I will move on to books I have borrowed from friends and the Library. My collection is arranged in alphabetical order by author last name however not all my books fit on this shelf so if I find one around my room that I like I might post it next even if we are past that section of the alphabet or not quite to it yet. (or I might get a new book from somewhere while I am doing theses reviews and so put it in out of order).

A note on my collection is that I have been collecting books since I was little so while I won’t be doing any picture book reviews there will be books in here from elementary age on up. 

Also these books will be everything from old classics to more modern books that have come out within the past few years. I have read many books not all of which I liked. These will only be positive reviews of the good ones. If your kid looks at a new book and your not sure about it feel free to comment on a post and ask me if I have read it. If I haven’t written about it I either did not like it (for language, scenes, or maybe some there reason like it simply wasn’t my style) or I simply haven’t gotten to it yet. If I did not like it because of one of the aforementioned subjects I will let you know my reasons for not posting a review of it in reply to your question.

Some things I will include in my reviews. Author Name, Date published, what I liked about the book, etc.

I will be noting what I thought about the amounts of Language, romance, and violence. Because while I have always considered my mother in the middle of the scale between really strict to really not caring what I read about, I know others are a little more cautious about what they let their kids read. 

Also with fantasy books I will be noting how Magic is used and dealt with in the book as I know this is also something a lot of parents are cautious about.

I will also be including what age I think is good for the reader to be before they read it. Of course this is a general thing as I know some kids are more mature and it is up to the parent to decide when their kids is ready to read certain things, however I will always include why I think the age I put is appropriate for the book.

Anyway I think that is long enough for an introduction so I will stop with this introduction now and get on to the first book.

book reviews by teens, Pride and Prejudice, books with bean

Pride and Prejudice

Author: Jane Austen   Published: 1813   Genre: Romance

It is a truth universally acknowledged that this is a good book and it is one a lot of people know (that paired with the fact that is the first one on my shelf) so I thought I would start with it. 

Summery & What I liked about it: (This is probably going to sound like many other reviews you have heard about it but I am writing it anyway) There is something so ageless about this book, the way it deals with human emotion and thoughts is so unique and amazing that I don’t think it will ever be unpopular. Most of you probably know the plot line so I won’t bother to summarize it here for you. 
I loved the style of the writing, there is something about old books written when they take place that makes them special and somehow more entertaining then almost any historical fiction written that is set during that time. I have read several regency historical fiction books but as good as they were, none of them (despite similar plot lines) will ever beat Jane. 
Lizzy and her look on human life is interesting and it shows us timeless concepts that people are still trying to learn today. The wording is amazing and so is the world that it is set in. Ok so I guess this isn't really telling you much about the book itself but this is my first time so this going to be a bit less cohesive then my later ones.

Language: Um… I cant think of any right now.

Romance: Well being a romance book what can you expect except people falling in love. Yet despite that being on of the main themes I found it very clean, after all Miss Austen was keeping within what was appropriate to speak of at the time so this romance book (as opposed to a lot of the cheep romance books written today) is fairly clean. There is however the part with Mr. Wickham and Lydia. It is an interesting lesson and way that she writes about it is not too reveling in details and they do end up married. However it is not something that I would consider appropriate for younger children.

Violence: None that I can think of as I write this.

Recommended Age: I would say because of the wording and because of the more complex themes, as well as the part with Lydia and Wickham I would say 14+ for age. 
It is not that I think the wording itself to hard to understand for an avid younger reader, but I know as a girl who would watch the 2005 movie avidly with her mother whenever she got it from the library from a young age that there is a difference between complex, and more more formal old fashion wording and mature themes. My mother has had a copy of the book for as long as I can remember, but while I loved the movie I will admit that most it went over my head as a child. I will also admit that while I waited to be old enough for mom to let me read it, I tried, but as advanced of a reader as I was I just couldn't understand it. So for all these reasons I give it the 14+ for age.

How I Love Jesus

hand lettered songs, how I love Jesus

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Design Your Day ~ A Moody Publishing review

Design Your Day, Moody Publishing, goal setting, productivity help

Would you like to enjoy more of your life while still remaining a responsible adult, caring for your family, and exercising your faith? What if the solution actually lay in doing less each day, not more? What if I told you the answers you are looking for are found in a small, 140 page book by Claire Diaz-Ortiz from Moody Publishing?

I hope by now I have gotten your attention! We all have a desire to be more productive and accomplish more real work in less time, but we often lack the planning it takes to get there. In Claire Diaz-Ortiz’s newest book: Design Your Day she goes beyond the usual steps of telling the reader to be more productive - she shows us examples from her own life, and the lives of her friends, that illustrate the actual steps to making lasting changes in how we organize our lives.

Design Your Day: be more productive, set better goals, and live life on purpose is a refreshing change from the traditional productivity books widely available today. In her book, Mrs. Diaz-Ortiz shares practical ways to be more productive, while still leaving time to care for our families and our faith. This gem of a book is divided into two sections. Part One: Decide and Part Two: Organize. I recommend reading through the book twice in quick succession. The first time through will give you an idea of how your life might look different if you lived it on purpose instead of just drifting along. The second time through will take you longer as you work through each of the recommended exercises. They will help you find and define your goals and priorities for the season of life you are currently in.

I appreciated Claire’s reminder to look at your current season of life. Not every goal setting plan needs to start on January 1st, and not every goal needs to take an entire year to reach. If you are a Christian you are going to want to take time not only to think about your goals, but to pray over them as you refine your list. Claire’s words of encouragement shine particularly vibrantly in this aspect as she reminds the reader often that the reason we should want to be more productive with work is to be able to live a life of meaning, not just of accomplishments.

Design Your Day is as pertinent to a stay at home mom as it is to the President of a major corporation. Each step taken helps us to regain the best use of our working time so that the chaotic days become the exception and productive meaningful days become the rule. Working through the steps to be more productive while actually doing less each day causes the reader to evaluate how the techniques can be applied to their own work/life situation to create a win-win. 

If you feel like you are spinning your wheels and getting nowhere fast, this book is a lifeline. It can help you understand how to separate the list of what you currently spend all of your time on into things to keep, and things to either delegate or just stop doing altogether. We so often need a good friend to help us talk through this process of purging activities from our lives and this book reads as if you were sitting having a cup of coffee or tea with Claire in her own kitchen. Design Your Day is pinpointed accurate advice while still remaining conversational. It reminds us that is is possible to be productive, and still be a caring human being.

I was encouraged by the reminders to take the time necessary on each step, and yet to not drag your feet on the path to change. I do not like to be rushed while trying something new, and as a working and homeschooling mom I need to be able to adapt strategies to my reality. More than in any other time-management book I have read, this one focuses the reader on creating a plan that works in your own life, and not trying to superimpose the writer’s life plan over your own calendar.

In a world that keep telling us more, more, more, Design Your Day reminds us that less is ok. Less busyness, less failure. More meaning. 

As you take the steps one by one to reclaim your productive time, you are sure to find something special: joy. 

Design Your Day: be more productive, set better goals, and live life on purpose is available from Moody Publishing in either paperback or eBook formats. Visit their website for more details.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this product from Moody Publishing in exchange for an honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. All opinions are mine. I am disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.