Sunday, December 29, 2013

My Top 13 Reads of 2013

This year I read about 35 books. Here are my top 13 reads of 2013 (not in any particular order).
You can click on the titles to read my reviews or to get more information about the books. What are some of  your favorite books this year?  Please share.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Top Ten Highlights from 2013

We are thankful for what God has done for us, in us, and through us this past year and are excited for what He has prepared for us in 2014!

1. Alyssa was awarded a full 4 year AFROTC scholarship (Type 7).
2. Josiah made 87 out of 100 free-throws (in February)!
3. Eric and I celebrated our 22nd anniversary in September. We had a sweet weekend getaway at the beach (Lincoln City). Actually, this year we managed to have 2 beach getaways. We also had a memorable time at Salishan Spa & Golf Resort at the beginning of April. So thankful for God's unexpected blessings! For some (unknown) reason, all their premier rooms were all booked (even though we made a reservation in advance a few months prior) so they upgraded us to one of their suites, the most romantic suite Salishan has to offer (with an in-room Jacuzzi and more :)). We had so much fun! This was our first time ever being alone as a couple away overnight since we have had children. Feeling like newly weds ♥!

4. Isaiah raised $ 1,550 for Steps for Life this year.
5. It was fun for us to watch Monsters University 3D, Planes, and Frozen at the theater (free advance screenings for review). 
6. I got a new pair of eyeglasses in June. I like its purple rim :). And in Oct., I got a haircut for the first time in years.

7. This summer, our family signed up for membership at YMCA.
8. Our family had a blast at Mt. Hood Ski Bowl Adventure Park on August 12th. Scenic Sky Chairs. 1/2 Mile Alpine Slide (numerous times). Human Hamster Ball (Zorb Ball). 9 Hole Mini Golf. Summer Tube Hill. Bungee Trampoline.
9. Alyssa became a freshman at OSU and a first year cadet in Air Force ROTC. She attended a Cru girls' Bible study on campus this last term and she hopes to become involved with Valor, which is the campus partnership of Cru's military ministry, this upcoming term.

10. Josiah took his first PSAT (just for experience) in October.

This year, we didn't send out any Christmas cards; we sent an ecard, instead :).

May the joy, peace, love, and hope of CHRISTmas stay with you and your loved ones throughout the coming year!

Celebrate Christ continually,
The Liljequists

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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Book Review: The God Puzzle by Valerie Ackermann

About the book: The God Puzzle is a colorful, easy to use tool to help you communicate to your child the rich truths about God, His ways, His will and His love. The God Puzzle will help you address doctrinal themes of the Christian faith in a kid friendly way, present Bible lessons in an interactive way that will hold the child's attention and deliver quality teaching with no preparation needed. 75% of children leave the church when they leave home. Something isn't working. Sunday School isn't doing it all. Kids need answers, good ones. And they need them from you, the parent. This book enables you to give them simple, clear answers.

About the Author: Valerie Ackermann has a BA in Theology and has been a full time Children's Ministry Director at Parkwood Community Church in California for over 10 years. She is also a weekly Sunday school teacher, wife, and busy mom of two boys ages 9 and 11. She has hands-on experience as a children's ministry professional, teaching and leading children of all ages. Growing up in a Christian family in the small town of Saskatchewan Canada, she has wonderful memories of knowing God from an early age. She has a passion for kids to know the deep truths of God.

Find out more at LeadMeToGod.com.

My Review:
What's the most important and most loving thing we can do for our children? I believe it is leading them to Christ. But how? It's obvious that we should be praying for them & with them and reading the Bible to them. Having a Biblically sound resource can be quite helpful in getting good discussions started, answering questions, and explaining. The God Puzzle is a wonderful tool to help parents teach their children about God & the Christian faith and instill into them a solid foundation of Biblical truths. The book consists of 36 lessons which start from "Who is God?" to "What are we Looking Forward to?" The author shows how the Bible fits together from beginning to end as one redemption story that points to Jesus Christ as our Savior/Deliverer/Redeemer.

The lessons are filled with fun activities (such as matching, crosswords, drawing, and filling in blanks) and Bible references (yes, children get to learn from God's Word itself). Each one includes "Get the Facts" (how different puzzle pieces fit together), "Read It" (read what God's Word says), "Talk about It" (questions for discussion), and "Talk to God about It" (this is where your child can write down his/her thoughts in a prayer letter back to God). The book covers creation, sin, sacrifices, salvation, the New Covenant, the Trinity, worship, baptism, communion, spiritual gifts, missions, and more. At the end of the book, you will find Appendix 1: Books and Divisions of the Bible, Appendix 2: The Names of God, and Appendix 3: Where Do I Read in the Bible when I'm Feeling____?. The book is vibrantly colorful and easy to use (no preparation time required). I really appreciate the correct theology and how the author makes it approachable and understandable for kids. I'm using this book with my 12 year old son who enjoys puzzles :). I highly recommend this book to all who have children from ages 7 to 12.


~ I received a free copy of this book via Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review. You can find more reviews of this book here.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Book Review: How Did They Do That? by Deborah Tompkins Johnson


About the Author

Deborah works full-time as a regional government affairs manager for a major U.S. energy company. Prior to joining the utility industry, Deborah worked as a radio news director, television reporter, anchor and talk show host.

For five years she wrote inspirational and book commentary columns for newspapers in northern Virginia.

Deborah serves on boards of directors for community, education and leadership organizations.

My Review:
Have you ever wondered how successful people do what they do to get to the point where they are :)? The author interviewed 12 successful people in various fields and from different backgrounds such as a songwriter, actor, teacher, minister, dancer, soldier, governor, and entrepreneurs. They share their career highlights, triumphs, and challenges. I'm glad that they boldly share how their faith in God/their relationship with God/their reliance on God has helped and influenced them. You will find valuable insights and practical advice throughout the whole book. Certain decisions and choices lead to certain consequences. You will see again and again how crucial it is to seek God and to make wise decisions.

Each profile is very interesting. I've always enjoyed reading biographies and autobiographies so this is like reading mini-biographies :). One of my favorites from the book is the centenarian teacher, Ruth Haymon! Wish all teachers were like her! Topics covered in the book include work ethic, leadership, accountability, persistence/perseverance, integrity, the importance of education, among many others. I really like the WOW (Words of Wisdom) and What Can YOU Do Now? sections at the end of each profile. There's also blank space at the bottom of those pages for readers to write down their notes, thoughts, steps to take, or how they can apply what they learn in their own lives. Don't ever give up your dreams/passion that God put in your hearts! Keep pursuing God's will and God's purpose for your lives! Check out this encouraging read filled with nuggets of wisdom! It would make a great Christmas gift for high school and/or college students, especially those who have aspirations for the same occupations mentioned in the book.

~ I received a free copy of this book via The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Book Review: Daily Reflections on the Names of God by Ava Pennington


I collect devotionals :)! So happy to add this new one to my collection. I think Daily Reflections on the Names of God is now one of my favorite devotionals. This devotional book covers 122 names of God. In the Bible, names are very important. They often reflect the characteristic attributes about the persons. Even more so, God reveals His character by referring to Himself by different Names. He wants us to know and understand Who He is, what He does, how He relates to His children, and how we should relate to Him.

Who is God to you? Elohim (Creator God). El Shaddai (The All-Sufficient God/God Almighty). Abba (Father). You may be familiar with these. But God is so much more! He is also the Jealous God (El Qanna), the God Who Sees (El Roi), the Lord Our Peace (Yahweh Shalom), the Lord Who Heals (Yahweh Rapha), the Lord Our Righteousness (Yahweh Tsidkenu), and more. The author offers 3 devotionals for each name. The first one ("look up") explains why God describes Himself the way He does. The second one ("look in") focuses on how the particular name applies to our lives and affects our relationship with God. The third one ("look out") talks about how we can apply what we know about God to how we treat others. At the beginning of each day's devotional, you will find a Bible passage's reference and a verse. Each devotional concludes with a prayer and questions to help us reflect upon how we can apply what we learn in our daily lives.

I enjoyed all the Biblical truths, Godly insights, and thought-provoking questions. Prepare to ponder God's attributes in fresh ways, grow closer to God, and experience Him more intimately! It will enrich your understanding of Who God is, will strengthen your faith in Him, and will deepen your relationship with Him. Check out this refreshing read! It would also make a wonderful Christmas gift for any believers in your lives!

"Pursuing good works to fulfill our own agendas results in right actions done for self-serving motives." (from page 30)

"Jesus understood that real peace does not ignore conflict. True peace addresses the cause of the problem to remove it permanently. For us to have peace with God, Jesus dealt with the problem of our sin with finality and in the most violent way possible." (from page 61)

"When our goal is to be as inoffensive as possible by keeping quiet about our Savior, then He is the One we will offend! We are to live in a way that refreshes and soothes; we cannot do that by being lukewarm." (from page 342)


~ I received a free copy of this book via The Book Club Network in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

30 Days of Thankfulness 2013

For the month of November, I posted on Facebook daily what I was thankful for. I'd like to be able to look back someday so I'm reposting all of my 30 thankful status here.

1. I'm thankful for the peace that Yahweh Shalom gives me! The Lord is Peace. He is the Source of true peace. When I fix my thoughts on the power of God, the promises of God, & the purposes of God and give thanks continually for His presence, provision, & protection, His peace guards my heart and mind. I pray. I trust. I rest. Inner peace.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:6-7

"Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." ~Jesus (John 14:27)


2. I'm thankful for the complete, irrevocable, and eternal forgiveness I have in Christ. My past, present, and future sins are all forgiven.

"In Him (Jesus Christ) we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that He lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding." Ephesians 1:7-8


3. I'm thankful for JESUS CHRIST, my Lord, Savior, Redeemer, Rescuer, Advocate, and Best Friend Who loves me and gave His life up for me so that I may live! He washed away all my sins and shame. I know that my Redeemer lives! It's all about Him. May my life, words, attitudes, and actions always honor & glorify Jesus and point people to Him!

"Thanks be to God, Who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:25

"For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty (futile) way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect." 1 Peter 1:18-19

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20


4. I'm thankful for my Christ-centered, mission-minded, joy-filled, grace-saturated, God-dependent family that majors in unconditional love, kindness, forgiveness, and encouragement ! God gives me the best family for me . I'm blessed beyond words.

"Rejoice with your family in the beautiful land of life!" ~Albert Einstein

"O Lord my God, I will give You thanks forever." Psalm 30:12b


5. I'm thankful for God's provision. God has faithfully provided for me and will always provide for what I need. He already provided my greatest need, the need for a substitute to pay for the penalty for my sin and die in my place. He provided His one and only Son, Jesus Christ!

"God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work." 2 Corinthians 9:8

"My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of His glory in Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

6. I'm thankful for God's gift of music. Music can be powerful, meaningful, worshipful, insightful, inspiring, encouraging, or soul-stirring. It can trigger our memories, speak to our heart, cheer us up, make us want to dance, refresh us, remind us of God's goodness, etc. I enjoy listening to music. In our family, we have 2 composers, 4 piano players, and one very grateful fan, me . I'm thankful that God cares about the heart of His worshipers, not the voice :). I love to sing to the Lord.

"Come, let us sing for joy to the Lord; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before Him with thanksgiving and extol Him with music and song." Psalm 95:1-2
"Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds." 1 Chronicles 16:9
"Beautiful music is the art of the prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul; it is one of the most magnificent and delightful presents God has given us." ~Martin Luther

7. I'm thankful for my husband who is also my best friend and spiritual mentor. He loves me unconditionally, selflessly, sacrificially...and makes me feel loved. He still thinks I'm the best (the truth is he's the best even though he doesn't agree!), enjoys spending time with me, makes me laugh, values my opinions, opens the doors for me, says "Please" and "Thank you", kisses me like there's no tomorrow ...the list goes on. More importantly, he loves God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength! I thank God for allowing Eric and me to walk together as husband and wife on this life's journey. What a blessed wife I am!

8. I'm thankful for simple joys in life. Laughing so hard that my belly aches or my eyes are watery...holding hands with my beloved hubby... discussing with my kids about God's Word...spending my quiet time with my Heavenly Father...having great conversations...serving others...making others smile and laugh...singing Shout To The Lord with gusto...playing games with family and friends...playing basketball with my boys...Skyping with my daughter... cooking & eating Thai food...baking cookies...taking pictures/capturing moments... admiring gorgeous sunsets...sipping coffee in front of the wood stove...reading insightful books...being around thoughtful & thankful people.........

"Always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." Ephesians 5:20


9. I'm thankful for God's steadfast, unshakable, & everlasting lovingkindness ! I'm so loved by God Almighty, the Creator of the Universe! You are, too! I'm thankful that God graciously sends me daily love notes, making His presence known to me in a personal way.

"Because of the Lord's great love we are not consumed, for His compassions (mercies) never fail (cease). They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness." Lamentations 3:22-23

"Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever
." Psalm 136:1, 26


10. I'm thankful for the Body of Christ near and far... all around the world. I'm thankful for the beautiful bond we share--the bond of Christ--which can never be broken. I'm blessed to know so many brothers and sisters in Christ in real life and via Facebook (you know who you are :)).

"May the God Who gives endurance and encouragement give you a spirit of unity among yourselves as you follow Christ Jesus so that with one heart and mouth you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Romans 15:5-6

Today is International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. Please join me and others in praying for our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world who suffer persecution because of their faith in Jesus Christ.

"Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering." Hebrews 13:3


11. I'm thankful to be living in America, Land of the Free and Home of the Brave. I'm thankful for all who have ever served and sacrificed for this country.

12. I'm thankful that my sons are best buddies. They practically can read each other's mind . They've always shared one bedroom and they still want to at age 15 and 12 (even though we now have a spare bedroom since Alyssa is in college). They talk about everything under the sun. They play together and love to make each other laugh.

"How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity!" Psalm 133:1


13. I'm thankful for homeschooling. This is our 15th year of homeschooling and God has sustained and blessed us through it all. I'm also thankful that my kids are thankful for homeschooling. Those who homeschool their kids would know what I mean :).


14. I'm thankful for Skype . I'm glad I'm able to talk with and "see" Alyssa who is in college...via Skype. I miss her!!!


15. I'm thankful for the privilege of prayer. I'm so glad that God never gets tired of listening to me . I'm also thankful for people who pray for me and my loved ones.

"This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us." 1 John 5:14

"I love the Lord, for He heard my voice; He heard my cry for mercy. Because He turned His ear to me, I will call on Him as long as I live." Psalm 116:1-2

P.S. Please pray for my daughter. Here's her prayer request: "I'd really appreciate prayers for my PFA (physical fitness assessment), which is on the 19th, to go well. I'll be running with an injury so please pray that it won't get significantly worse as well. Thank you so much!"


16. I'm thankful for our family's devotion time. We sing hymns/praise songs, read & discuss God's Word, and pray together. Christ is the Head of our family and we desire Him to be the Center of our lives and our family always.

17.
I'm thankful for the gift of God's unconditional, undeserved, and unending grace. I am daily dependent on God's grace and it still amazes me. His grace is always sufficient for me. I'm forever grateful that I've been saved not by works but by His grace alone.

"For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." Ephesians 2:8-9

"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God." Romans 5:1-2

18.
I'm thankful that God allows me to experience Him intimately and see His fingerprints on my life and the lives of others over and over again. Today is one of those days with "Wow! Thank You, Lord, for that!" moments. He cares even about the little details of my days. Praise Yahweh Rohi (The Lord Is My Shepherd)! He leads me, guides me, and refreshes my soul. His presence makes all the difference in the world! I can and I will testify of His goodness, faithfulness, power, love, grace, and mercy forever. The more I know God, the more I love Him and the more grateful I am for Him. The more I love Him and the more grateful I am for Him, the more I want to know Him and to make Him known.

"Surely Your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever." Psalm 23:6

"Now to Him Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." Ephesians 3:20-21

19.
I'm thankful for God's Word in which I take delight. I ardently cherish God's Love Letter to me. I'm excited to read it each day...to hear His whispers of love, hope, and encouragement. I don't want to miss out on anything :)! I'm thankful for my nourishing Daily Bread and guiding Light.

"Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path." Psalm 119:105
"Man does not live on bread alone but on every Word that comes from the mouth of the Lord." Deuteronomy 8:3b


20. I'm thankful for our home sweet home...a modest house with a million dollar view :). It's actually not our house; it's God's. I'm thankful that He allows us to use this home to offer hospitality to people.

"Unless the Lord builds the house, its builders labor in vain." Psalm 127:1
"Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." 1 Peter 4:9

21.
I'm thankful that this month I have less pain-filled days than usual. Praise Yahweh Rapha (The Lord Who Heals)!

22.
I'm thankful that my sons are thoughtful and responsible. In the morning, they bring in firewood & make fire in our woodstove and diligently do their homschool work...sometimes even before I get up (like today) :).

23.
I'm thankful for insightful books that drive me to dig deeper in God's Word...that inspire and challenge me. I'm thankful that I never run out of great books to read (since I'm a book reviewer besides having a mini library at home :)). I enjoy receiving books/packages in the mail...it's like having Christmas presents delivered here pretty much every week :).

24.
I'm thankful for the occasional bursts of energy and strength God has graciously given me between my debilitating pain episodes. Praise El Sali (God My Strength)!

"I love You, O Lord, my Strength. The Lord is my Rock, my Fortress and my Deliverer; my God is my Rock, in Whom I take refuge, my Shield and the Horn of my Salvation, my Stronghold." Psalm 18:1

"The Lord is my Strength and my Shield; my heart trusts in Him, and He helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise Him." Psalm 28:7

"You are my Strength, I sing praise to You; You, God, are my Fortress, my God on Whom I can rely." Psalm 59:17

25.
I'm thankful for opportunities to take my family to free advance screenings of Disney's movies (I'm one of their review bloggers). Tonight we enjoyed Frozen :)!

26.
I'm thankful for my mother-in-love, Juanita. She is one of the kindest, most generous, & most loving people I've ever met. Her love for Jesus is always obvious. I'm very blessed to have her in my life!

27.
I'm thankful for my delightful daughter, Alyssa ! So thankful that she's home!!! I'm spoiling her with all her favorite foods :).

28.
I'm thankful for God's bountiful blessings...abundance of family love...abundance of helping hands...abundance of delicious food...abundance of laughter and fun! Also thankful that I probably won't have to cook again until next week (due to an abundance of leftovers) :). Another thing...I'm thankful for thankful people.

29.
I'm thankful for my sister-in-love, Annette. She is patient and kind...lovely in every way! She is my "adopted" sister and one of my dearest sisters in Christ! Also thankful for the early birthday gifts she gave me :)! She is always sweet and thoughtful.

30.
I'm thankful for God's protection. So thankful that He watches over my family and me...over our daughter when she is away at college.

"He will not let your foot slip--He Who watches over you will not slumber... The Lord will keep you from all harm--He will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore." Psalm 121:3, 7-8


Happy Thanksliving
:)! Thanksgiving doesn't have to end and in fact, it should never end.
May our every day be a day of thanksgiving! We have so much to be thankful for! May our hearts always be overflowing with gratitude! May our lives continually be Thank-You cards to God!

Book Review: The One Year Book of Amish Peace by Tricia Goyer

I've always admired the Amish's simple way of living. I'm quite happy to add The One Year Book of Amish Peace to my devotional collection. Are you struggling with busyness? Do you find it hard to slow down and just be still before God? Are you being bombarded with online information, social media, and million other distractions :)? This book will help encourage you to set a slower pace of life and take time to spend with God and to enjoy His blessings each day. Simple joys are truly the best! Simple peace, too :)! Jesus is our Peace and He shows us that we can always find joy and contentment in Him and in the simple things He blesses us with. There are 365 devotions; each is only one page long. Each devotion starts with a Bible verse and ends with a prayer. It helps keep my heart and mind focused on God and His Word. I also enjoy learning more about the Amish, including their customs and their proverbs. Their proverbs are wise and witty.  A few of my favorites are "True Thanksgiving is thanks-living," "Patience is a quality most needed when it is exhausted," "There are no degrees of honesty." The author also includes one recipe for each season. I like the one for summer the best :). Want peace? Check this one year devotional out and let it draw you closer to God each and every day!

"You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in You." Isaiah 26:3

*You all are invited to the Amish Peace Facebook Party on December 4th! Hope to see you there!


The One Year Book of Amish Peace Simple Things Facebook Party Tricia Goyer Tyndale
Pin to Win Today - 11/14 - 11/30!
The One Year Book of Amish Peace Tricia Goyer Tyndale

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Movie Review: Frozen in 3D

FROZEN(In 3D)
DISNEY
Website: Disney.com/Frozen

Genre:                                     Animated Comedy/Adventure
Rating:                                    PG
Voice Cast:                              Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk, CiarĂ¡n Hinds
Directors:                                 Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee
Producer:                                 Peter Del Vecho
Screenplay by:                        Jennifer Lee

The film is directed by Chris Buck (“Tarzan,” “Surf’s Up”) and Jennifer Lee (screenwriter, “Wreck-It Ralph”), who also wrote the screenplay. It is produced by Peter Del Vecho (“Winnie the Pooh,” “The Princess and the Frog”). Featuring original songs from Tony® winner Robert Lopez (“The Book of Mormon,” “Avenue Q”) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (“In Transit,” “Winnie the Pooh”), and an original score by Christophe Beck (“The Muppets,” Oscar®-winning short “Paperman”), “Frozen” hits theaters in 3D on Nov. 27, 2013.


MY REVIEW:
Frozen turned out to be better than I expected. It's a tale of two sisters, Elsa and Anna, who are princesses in the kingdom of Arendelle. Elsa was born with a special power: she has the ability to create ice and snow. This special power could be seen as a blessing (she can create most spectacular ice sculptures or wonderful fluffy white snow just by waving her hands) or a curse (whatever she touches with her bare hands becomes frozen). When her icy power traps her kingdom in frozen condition during summer and she flees, Anna teams up with an ice salesman, Kristoff and his loyal reindeer Sven to find Elsa, hoping to convince her to help their beloved kingdom. Along the way, they meet a funny, friendly snowman named Olaf. My family and I really enjoyed this movie. We laughed out loud quite a bit. We also love the music and songs in Frozen. Remarkable animation! I'm glad that the movie does not put much emphasis on magic but instead, it focuses on love vs. fear. True love is sacrificial love. Fear freezes and isolates us while love frees and bonds us. The film highlights the beautiful relationship between sisters! We definitely want to get a DVD of this one to add to our Disney collections :)!



















~Special thanks to Allied-THA Marketing for the opportunity to attend an advance screening of Disney's Frozen for free in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

DVD Review: When Calls the Heart



When Calls The Heart
DVD Price:                                           $19.98 U.S.
Release Date:                                       November 19th, 2013

Total Running Time:                              89 minutes


Michael Landon Jr. – Director:
  Michael Landon Jr., son of the late television legend Michael Landon, has been in the film business for over 25 years. With two of the highest rated films in the history of the Hallmark channel, and several top ten releases targeted to the Christian market, Michael has become known for creating heartfelt, inspiring films that connect to the family.  He has developed and/or produced, directed, and written screenplays for Fox, CBS, NBC, Disney, Sony, Lifetime, and others.
  


My Review:
When Calls the Heart
is a beautiful, heartwarming Hallmark movie directed by Michael Landon, Jr., based on the book by Janette Oke (my mother-in-law's favorite author).
It is the story of a 22 year old cultured and pampered young teacher in 1910, Elizabeth Thatcher, who received her first teaching post in a coal mining town in the Western Frontier. She struggles with her fears and doubts but at the same time desperately wants to prove to her family that she could survive on her own. Her sister, Julie, doesn't make it any easier, either. The discovery of her aunt's secret diary helps unlock Elizabeth's own courage and determination to leave the comfort of her home and face the adventures and obstacles ahead. Her aunt (also named Elizabeth) was a teacher in a prairie town who had her own struggles and fell in love with a Royal Canadian Mountie. Using her aunt's diary as her guide, inspiration, and encouragement, the young Elizabeth took a step of faith to follow her dream, escorted by Edward, a Royal Canadian Mountie who is her childhood friend.

I enjoyed the movie and I'm glad that it is made into a television series (coming out in 2014). I really like the old-fashioned love story that involves chivalry and gentlemanliness :). The movie is also about overcoming fears, seeing purpose of pain and hardship, trusting God, using your God-given gifts to make a difference in the world, and discovering that "assuming" is to be avoided. Remarkable performances by the cast. Elegant and graceful costumes (modest, too). The special features on the DVD include cool deleted scenes, trailer, and exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the making of the movie. Check out this wonderful family film! 
          




~I received a free copy of this DVD via Edify Media, Inc. in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Noah's Trailer

I'm excited about this new movie, "Noah" starring Russell Crowe, Sir Anthony Hopkins, Jennifer Connelly and Emma Watson. I hope it's Biblically accurate. Check out the trailer below!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Book Review: The Little Book of Great Dates by Dr. Greg and Erin Smalley


Do you and your husband have regular scheduled dates? My husband and I don't but wish we could :). However, we're thankful that this year we have had 2 different weekend getaways at the beach. We had a fabulous time! The Little Book of Great Dates is filled with 52 fun, creative ideas for affordable dates to help strengthen your marriage. It's a beautiful gift book--little in size but great in content! It aims to help couples be intentional about deepening their relationship, connect with each other more intimately and more frequently, know each other better, enjoy new, exciting activities together, and discover that dating your spouse is tons of fun. Think of dates as investments with great benefits for your marriage relationship.

The beginning of the book talks about why marital dating is so important. The rest of the book shows readers how to get it done. Some of my favorite ideas are #10 making the "cherish list" (a list of the things you value about your spouse); #12 viewing your dates as opportunities to invite God into your activities...to connect spiritually as a couple; for example, volunteering at a soup kitchen or a homeless shelter or going for a hike & admiring God's handiwork in nature; #13 reminiscing the early years of your relationship and revisiting the places you visited during your dating or courtship; #18 working on some house projects together to beautify your home and build happy memories at the same time; and #41 serving in your community together (the authors offer several ideas/activities for readers to choose from).  The book also covers date plans for special occasions such as anniversaries, birthdays, New Year's Eve, Christmas, and milestones. Want intimacy, excitement, and fun in your marriage? Need to rekindle your romance? Check out this book and then put the ideas into action! I'm looking forward to trying these ideas out with my beloved husband soon.

""Cherishing" is an attitude that involves recognizing your mate's inherent value. "Nourishing," on the other hand, is an action in which you treat your spouse in ways that show you value him or her." (p.33)



~Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Book Review: Just One More Thing Before You Leave Home by David Gudgel


Meet the authors: Dave & Bernice Gudgel are committed to walking intentionally with God and helping others do the same. Bernice has a degree in Psychology and has focused her adult life on raising three kids and leading various ministries in the church where people can connect with God and each other. Dave is a pastor and teaches for Walk Thru the Bible.

Learn more at: http://davidandbernice.com

MY REVIEW:
I wish I received this book sooner because I would have gone through it with my daughter before she left for college in September :). I definitely want to go through this book with my sons in a few years before they leave home. This book is a valuable guide to help young adults make wise decisions and be better prepared to live a productive life on their own with confidence and with integrity. It's an easy-to-read book. I enjoyed the conversational style; it seemed like I was just "listening" to some loving advice/insightful counsel from people who really care (I think it's because what they wrote was what they shared with their own children). Great stuff for discussions with your teenagers!

The authors cover 30 important topics and group them into 10 parts. The topics range from roommates, money management, priorities, car maintenance to drinking, gambling, pornography, and safety. At the end of each chapter, readers will find a takeaway point, relevant Bible verses, and thought-provoking questions. I really appreciate the Biblical worldview and practical application offered in this book. I also love the fact that the authors encourage readers to live for God, not self, and to be other-centered, not self-centered. I highly recommend this excellent book to all parents whose kids will be leaving home soon and to young adults who just start out on their own.


~I received a free copy of this book via Litfuse Publicity Group in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. To find more reviews of this book, visit here.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Review: NIV Homeschool Mom's Bible


I have homeschooled my kids for over 15 years. And I have used NIV Bibles for much longer than that. I was thrilled to receive this beautiful NIV (New International Version) Homeschool Mom's Bible to review. Are you a homeschool mom who feels exhausted or unmotivated or inadequate or ready to give up? Have you neglected spending time in God's Word? We, homeschool moms, get discouraged, stressed, or anxious from time to time. We desperately need consistent spiritual food for strength, stamina, encouragement, wisdom, and guidance. Let's take care of our soul first so that we'll be able to properly care for our children's spiritual well-being.

This Bible is designed specifically for you. It contains 365 daily devotions written by Janet Tatman, a veteran homeschooling mom with 25 years under her belt. She's one of those who has been there done that. Her messages will encourage & inspire you and will help you feel more confident & committed in your calling.
Each devotion starts with a Scripture passage and ends with a prayer. Each devotion is only one page long. These devotions are insightful and Biblically sound. I enjoyed reading them and could relate to what Janet talks about. You will be nodding your head or smiling while you read them because you likely share the same or similar experiences. I really appreciate the topical index in the back of the Bible. Conveniently, readers can find a topic that they are interested in or curious about or that is relevant to their current situation. There are various topics such as reason for homeschooling, weariness, priorities, perseverance, motivation, training children in faith, feeling overwhelmed, learning styles, reward for homeschooling, and more.

~I received a free copy of this Bible via Booksneeze in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Raise A Giant: Don't Be Bullied and Don't Be Bullies!

Bullying seems to be an increasing problem in our society. I'm very thankful that my kids have not experienced it because we homeschool. However, because of technology and social media avenues, cyberbullying is a new widespread problem that can affect even homeschoolers. I know from the news and from my own experience that bullying can destroy self-esteem and lives. I'm glad to participate in the Green Giant "Raise a Giant" campaign and encourage parents to talk with their kids about bully-prevention.  
At Green Giant® we know it takes a lot more to raise a healthy child then just getting them to eat their vegetables. Kids these days live in a world that is bigger and scarier than the world we grew up in, and they need help and encouragement to navigate that world with confidence and pride.
Unfortunately one of the hardest things kids have to deal with is bullying. When a child is bullied by a peer it can turn his or her life into a daily gauntlet of fear and anxiety. That’s why Green Giant® is partnering with PACER’s National Bullying Prevention Center and We Day Minnesota to help parents Raise A Giant and put a stop to bullying in their community.
Help a child in your life have the courage to stand up to bullying. Visit www.raiseagiant.com to write an open letter encouraging them and and then share it with others to inspire them to do the same.
What Does it Mean To Be A Giant?
Being a giant isn’t about being the biggest or the best. Being a giant means standing up for others. It means lending a hand to those who are in trouble and speaking up for those who sometimes find it hard to speak up for themselves.
Studies show that an effective way to stop bullying is for kids to simply speak up and say, “That’s not okay” when they see bullying happening.
But asking kids to have the courage to stand up to bullying is a tall order and that’s why they need our help.
How Do You Raise A Giant?
We’re asking parents to write a letter to their kids telling them how special they are and encouraging them to be part of the bullying prevention solution by being a giant.
To get started, parents can visit our community at RaiseAGaint.com and read the letters others have written.
Help Us Spread The Word:
1. Write a letter to your kids about standing up to bullying and post it on your blog and at RaiseAGiant.com. See the included tip sheet for help getting started.
2. Encourage your community to write their own letters and post them at RaiseAGiant.com
3. Share the Raise a Giant Video, Infographic, and Tips For Talking To Your Kids About Bullying on your blog, Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter.
4. Change your Facebook profile picture to the Raise A Giant icon to show your support.
With your encouragement we can help all of our kids create a safer, happier world.
Here's my letter:
To My Children,

You are special because God made you special. You're fearfully and wonderfully made. Don't let anyone put you down or make you feel small ever. You know who you are in Christ; no one can take your identity, worth, and value away from you. I'm so proud of you...who God made you to be. What others say or do to you don't matter. It won't change who you are. You are children of God, loved, treasured, saved, and died for by the Creator of the universe.

People are created by God in His image. Love, value and respect everyone. Don't be bullied and don't be bullies. Always stand up for what's right no matter what. God is on your side. When you're on God's team, you're always a winner. With God's help, you can stand up tall and strong. You're more than conquerors through Christ Who loves you. God will give you courage, confidence, wisdom, strength, stamina, patience, and grace to face any adversities. Do to others as you would want them do to you.

Bullies often feel bad about themselves so they try to make others feel worse. And they feed on your fear. The more you are afraid of them, the more fun they have bullying you. If you stand up to them, they will learn to respect you. Love your enemies and be kind to them. Your kindness may shock them and turn them around. Bullies act tough and mean on the outside but inside they are weak, insecure, and desperate for unconditional love and acceptance. If you ever see someone else being bullied, I hope you will step in, speak up, and stop the bullying. Bullying is never okay. It's wrong to hurt others period. May you always depend on God and choose to do what is right in His eyes, come what may!

Loving you and praying for you daily,
Mom

~Disclosure: The information and prize pack have been provided by Green Giant® through MyBlogSpark.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway: One Way Love by Tullian Tchividjian




Written by: Tullian Tchividjian
Publisher: David C Cook
Paperback:  240 pages 
Release Date: October 1, 2013
$14.99

About the Author:
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. A Florida native, Tullian is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. He is a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a contributing editor to Leadership JournalHe is an ordained minister in Presbyterian Church of America. He is the author of six books; including the best seller, Jesus + Nothing = Everything  that won Christianity Today’s 2011 book of the year. He travels extensively, speaking at conferences throughout the U.S.

My Review:
"It is finished!" Jesus declared. Yet, why do so many of God's children still live a performance-driven life with fear, anxiety, heaviness, and exhaustion? The author thinks it's because they have lost sight of God's amazing grace. This book shines the spotlight on the magnitude of God's inexhaustible grace, His unconditional love. Tullian shares from his own personal experience how God's grace profoundly touched him and transformed him from being a prodigal son to being a preacher of the Gospel.

Many of us know what grace is about but we don't seem to live accordingly because we still feel too comfortable with or are addicted to the "do-do-do" mentality and conditional moralism. The author invites readers to live the grace way. Grace frees us to live an abundant life...to serve God and others...to love and forgive freely. Grace gives us freedom to fail without fear of failing and without feeling like a failure when we do fail!
The author explains the different jobs of the Law and of grace. He shows the effect of grace on identity, in relationships, in marriage, and in parenting. Grace changes lives! No one ever outgrows the need for God's grace. Tullian also explores the reasons why some people object to this one-way love.

I enjoyed reading this insightful and uplifting book. It's good to be reminded from time to time how beautiful and powerful God's grace really is. His grace is indeed sufficient for us. I highly recommend this refreshing read! You'll gain confidence and find rest in God's love and grace once again. Embrace grace...open the gift! You'll be surprised at how free, secure, and energetic you feel, ready to face whatever life may bring.


"The Bible is one long story of God meeting our rebellion with His rescue, our sin with His salvation, our guilt with His grace, our badness with His goodness. The overwhelming focus of the Bible is not the work of the redeemed but the work of the Redeemer." (p. 31)

"Grace is unconditional acceptance given to an undeserving person by an unobligated giver. It is one-way love." (p. 33)

"The Gospel of Jesus Christ announces that because Jesus was strong for you, you're free to be weak. Because Jesus won for you, you're free to lose. Because Jesus was Someone, you're free to be no one. Because Jesus was extraordinary, you're free to be ordinary. Because Jesus succeeded for you, you're free to fail." (p. 36)

"J. Gresham Machen counterintuitively notes that 'a low view of law always produces legalism; a high view of law makes a person a seeker after grace.'" (p. 96)

"The Gospel alone liberates us to live a life of scandalous generosity, unrestrained sacrifice, uncommon valor, and unbounded courage." (p. 189)



GIVEAWAY: You can win a copy of this book. Open only to residents in the US and Canada.

Deadline: 10/31 at midnight (Pacific time)
To Enter: Leave a comment here with your email address. Please share what your favorite quote or Bible verse about God's love or God's grace is.
For Extra Entries (please leave a separate comment for each one that you do):
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~I received a free copy of this book via FlyBy Promotions Blogger Network in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Book Review: Whit's End Mealtime Devotions by John Avery Whittaker, Crystal Bowman, & Tricia Goyer


We are fans of Adventures in Odyssey. I've enjoyed using this devotional book with my sons. For us, it works better at bedtime rather than mealtime :). There are 90 devotions divided into 3 main categories: Any Day Mealtime Devotions, Holiday Devotions, and Theme Devotions. Each devotion includes Mealtime Prayer (a fresh & creative way to pray), Appetizer (a fun activity or an interesting question used as a conversation starter), Main Course (an object lesson), Table Talk (follow-up questions for discussions), & Vitamins and Minerals (Bible verse(s)). Each one is only a page long. Short and sweet!

If you're looking for ways to promote a quality family time and nourish your children spiritually at the same time, check this book out. You and your kids can enjoy these delicious "recipes" which lead to meaningful conversation at mealtime or anytime. These devotions are faith-building, engaging, and kids-friendly. Our family approves and recommends it.

~I received a free copy of this book via Tyndale House Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.


Monday, September 30, 2013

Book Review: Worship Walk by Gareth J Goossen


What does "worship" mean to you? When you hear the word "worship," do you only think of singing songs of praise in church? This book shows readers that worship is much more than music; worship should entwine every aspect of our life. It's meant to be an everyday activity...a consistent way of walking with our God, not reserved for just a Sunday schedule. Does your love and passion for God grow cold or distant? Do you feel like you're walking alone through drought and storm? It's time to soak in God's presence, really worship Him, and connect with Him intimately. The book covers the essence of worship, the cost of worship, the sacrifice of worship, and various ways to worship God in our daily walk with Him. From his wealth of experience, the author shares his insightful thoughts and offers practical ideas/steps for readers to try. He does a wonderful and thorough job at helping readers gain a right understanding of worship and develop a lifestyle of worshipping God, encompassing their hearts, attitudes, and actions.

Being quiet. Asking. Obeying. Confessing. Praying. Witnessing. Encouraging. Suffering. Giving. And many more topics. If you would like to know what worshipping God in spirit and in truth looks like, check Worship Walk out! This book is great for a small group study, book club, or individual study. May God use this book to renew our "first love" for Him and help us be true worshipers who never cease to worship our Lord Most High!

~I received a free copy of this book via The Book Club Network Inc. in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

PhotoHunt: Global


It's time for another weekly photo hunt, hosted by Sandi at The Saturday PhotoHunt. This week's theme is Global.

McDonald's is definitely a global establishment. Here Ronald McDonald is greeting customers in Thailand with the traditional "wai".

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

DVD Review: Season of A Lifetime


Faith. Family. Football. Season of A Lifetime is an inspirational documentary about Jeremy Williams, head football coach of Greenville Patriots high school team, who is determined to persevere through his terminal illness of ALS (aka Lou Gehrig's disease). ALS stands for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis. It's a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. The motor neurons (which control muscle movement) eventually die. There is no cure for ALS, "slow version of death". This film follows Jeremy Williams around as he leads and motivates his football team through a tough 2010 season, in the midst of his own battle with ALS.

Jeremy's faith in God has kept him going through all the storms of life. He also has a loving support from his family. He's married to his high-school sweetheart and they have one daughter and one son who is stricken with spina bifida. His players love and respect him not only as their coach but also as a caring father to them. Jeremy Williams inspires others to never give up...to not let adversity knock them down. He is definitely a true champion and hero who continues to trust God and do all things for God's glory. I admire his Godly perspective, integrity, and tenacity. I enjoyed this encouraging & inspiring film and highly recommend it. 

The Atlanta Journal Constitution recently asked Williams what he hoped the film would show. He responded, “That when things get tough, you can be tough and still love.” Williams’ wife added, “I really hope that people see that, no matter what they might face in life, that through Christ, they can not only get through it but also live a happy, joyful life.”
 
"In all my years of documenting lives and writing and researching about real people, I never met a man who didn't have a single enemy nor a cross word said about him,” said Cohen (the film's producer, director, and editor). “Jeremy is about as righteous a human being as God has ever put on this earth. He truly walks the talk!”
 
In 2010, the Williams family also received national attention when ABC’s “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” selected their family to receive a new home suited for his disability and his son’s spina bifida. In addition, his Greenville Patriots also received a new locker room the process. NFL player Michael Oher, whose story was documented in “The Blind Side,” also served as one of the volunteers to help build the home.
 
The 89-min DVD also includes special footage featuring images from Williams’ college days, footage of the 2009 Greenville football team and the “Extreme Makeover Home Edition” segment. For further information and to view the trailer please visit www.seasonofalifetime.tv


~Thanks to Edify Media, Inc for sending me a free copy of this DVD in exchange for my honest review!