Friday, February 23, 2018

{Review} Whole Heart by Passion (CD)

Yes, Lord, walking in the way of Your truth we wait eagerly for You, 
for Your name and Your renown are the desire of our hearts. 
~Isaiah 26:8

The newest album from the Passion movement - Whole Heart - is being released today.

What is the Passion movement? Passion started in 1995 and is based on the verse from Isaiah that I posted above. Their mission is to reach young people ages 18-25 and create a revival in that age group. Their stated goal on their website is to lead people towards "renewed intimacy with God."

Lead by Louie & Shelley Giglio, Passion holds conferences and has musicians such as Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman lead the worship. The music has moved beyond the conferences and into churches around the globe. 

Their newest album was recorded live at the latest Passion Conference and features artists such as Crowder and Kristian Stanfill. Some of the songs may be ones you've heard before like "God, You're So Good" or "Great are You Lord" or they may be brand new like "Ghost" which features Crowder or "All My Hope" which is another new one by Crowder. 

Your love it comes with no conditions
You give us Your whole heart
My hope is in the blood of Jesus
I know who I am because of who You are

I had the opportunity to get a sneak peak at the album. I've been listening to it now for the last couple of weeks and it's been fantastic. It's full of wonderful worship songs. And since it was recorded live some are longer than a typical song you might hear on the radio (four go over five minutes along). I can only imagine what it must have been to be there live during this recording. 

I love going to live worship concerts. I always feel like it's a small taste of heaven. 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Favorite Homeschool Resources for the Elementary Age

Now that my children are almost grown and gone...okay not really. However, my youngest is now 14 and will be starting high school in the fall. While it may seem like yesterday that they were all gathered round the table working on their lessons, it's been years since that's happened. More often than not these days they disappear to their rooms to work in relative peace and quiet while I putter around doing household chores and working on my own thing. 

This morning I started thinking about all the great things we used to use when my boys were small to teach and learn together. These are still things I recommend to folks today when they ask me for my favorites. I do have more, but these are my top five in no particular order. 

Now in all honesty, I tried Five in a Row (FIAR) when my oldest was about six or seven and really didn't like it. This was also when I had first started homeschooling so I was still in the "must-do-everything-listed" mode. Once I broke through that to homeschool freedom and tried this again with my youngest when he was about six, I loved it! The base for each unit is a well-written classic children's book. Some of our favorites were Make Way for Ducklings (culminated with a trip to Boston to ride the Swan Boats and see the statues) and Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel. It's called Five in a Row because you read the same book each day and then do activities based on it from math to social studies to science, picking and choosing of course which ones to complete. There is also a Before Five in a Row series for preschoolers and a Beyond Five in a Row for children ages 8-12. The base series is geared towards children ages 4-8. I only wished we had started it sooner.

This mainstay of homeshooling history has been around since 2001. I started using it with my oldest. Occasionally over the years I thought about switching, sold off my sets, and bought something new only to sell off the new and go back to Story of the World (STOW). It's a great series for young learners as it gives an overview of world history in bit-sized pieces. I always recommend getting the corresponding activity guide as well and not just the story book. The guide gives all kinds of great support for each chapter. It includes things like narration questions, lists of corresponding literature, maps (my boys loved these), and well, activities to make it hands-on learning. They also have the storybooks on audio. True confession, one year I borrowed all four volumes on audio from the library and we listened to them while we ran errands. That was our history for that year!


This was a source I used once my boys knew how to read to some degree. It's a great way to teach phonics and reading comprehension. Although, I never used Beyond the Code with my kids, it's one of those great resources I didn't discover until after my boys were too old for it! However, the Explode the Code series is excellent.  The books are numbered and should be done in order. Don't get tripped up by the 1/2 numbered books, ex. 1-1/2, 2-1/2. Do book 1 and if your child is still struggling with what was taught, then do book 1-1/2. If they grasp the concepts well, move right to book 2. The 1/2 books are for extra practice. We used some and others we skipped. I typically had my kiddos do a couple pages a day. And since I was more concerned with them learning to read the actual words, I would typically cover the photos so they couldn't guess the answer. That's what worked best for us. So how did I teach them to read so we could get to this point? 

This book was pivotal in my homeschooling. I started home educating my kids with my oldest when he was only five. He had some developmental delays so we were waiting to start him in "real" school until he was six. I took this bonus year to try out this homeschooling thing and see if it would work for us. This was in 2001 and most people I talked to used How to Teach Your Child to Read in 100EZ Lessons. I found that book to be anything but easy! I thought I had to use all of it - the reading and the writing portion. Did I mention my son was five with developmental delays? Yeah, every single lesson had one or both of us in tears. Thankfully I had a very wise homeschooling mentor who spoke some profound words to me one day, "You don't have to do all it. Don't do the writing then." Really? That was definitely life-changing, but the book still wasn't working. Then I had another great friend who offered to lend me a copy of this book. I used it to teach all three of my boys to read. It's easy and simple. That's what I love about it.

Enjoy Life!

This resource is free and easy to use. Don't get so caught up in the curriculum that you forget to explore the world around you. Go outside to play. Go on as many field trips as you can manage. Take time to just enjoy each other. Read books. Climb the mountains. See the sites. The best thing I did when my boys were small was to go on as many adventures as we could. Use the time in the car to listen to quality audio books. We used to listen to Adventures in Odyssey, Jonathan Park, Christian Heroes: Then & Now, Lamplighter Theater, and The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty. In fact, my boys still listen to quite a few of these! 

Find those resources that help make learning at home more of a joy than a chore. If something doesn't fit or feel right, look for something better or different. The biggest benefit of homeschooling is customizing an education that fits your family. Enjoy!

Disclaimer: There are no affiliate links included. I'm just sharing some of my favorite resources. 

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

What Makes a Marriage Last?

A friend recently posted a link on Facebook that talks about the high cost of weddings in recent years. In fact, according to the article, the average cost is $35,000! That simply blows my mind. I'm pretty sure my hubby and I didn't even make that much money the first year we were married. 

July 17, 1993

Almost 25 years ago we said 'I do.' We planned the wedding in two mere months. It was simple out of necessity since we were determined to be married and quickly! We didn't have time to create anything elaborate. Although, my fabulous mother-in-law did create my wedding dress. Yes, in two months I was crazy enough to ask my sweet mother-in-law to sew my wedding dress and she did. She'll tell you that she had nightmares the stitches would fall out and it would come apart at the wedding. I can tell you it's still hanging, in one piece, in my closet all these years later. 

And not only was I crazy enough to have my dress made, but all four bridesmaids and the maid of honor had theirs sewn as well. My aunt made two of them and was sewing in zippers the night before. I was just too naive and in love to realize the task I was asking having never sewed a single article of clothing together in my life. 

The wedding party - it started out much smaller...

We used all the connections we had to create our special day. We heard of a friend-of-a-friend who was just starting out doing photographer and we were able to book her for our wedding. A friend's dad had some video equipment and offered to do a video for us. My parents both worked part-time at the local YMCA so we were able to get their function room for free. We had a potluck meal for the reception asking close friends and family to make items to share. Some of my friends moms manned it so the food would stay replenished. My mother-in-law had a friend who made cakes and offered to do one for a very reasonable cost. I bought "fill-in-the-blank" wedding invitations and hand wrote all one hundred we sent out. My mother worked her regular job next to a florist who gave her an amazing deal on the flowers. The list could go on and on. 

All told we spent about one thousand dollars on our small wedding which included the cost of our wedding rings. They were made by my hubby's uncle who is a jeweler. We had about seventy-five people who ended up being able to come on such short notice. We were wed by my childhood pastor in a small church in a town near where I had grown up. My uncle drove us to the reception in his convertible. 

I never once regretted our low cost option. After all, the important thing to remember is that the ceremony doesn't make the wedding. It's what comes after. It's the hard work you put in daily to ensure that your marriage survives all the things life throws at you. Children. Work. Money conflict. Illness. Deaths. You name it. 

When two imperfectly, sinful, selfish people get married (look deep, we all have these tendencies) and have the "perfect" wedding, what are they left with when it's all over? A divorce in less than ten years most likely. 

It's what happens beyond the ceremony that counts. It's the ability to say "I'm sorry. Will you forgive me" readily and easily. It's the "I love yous" said with the utmost sincerity. It's picking up the socks left on the floor for the umpteenth time without saying anything sarcastic. It's praising your spouse, when they aren't there, to other people instead of complaining about the petty annoyances. And trust me, most of them are petty annoyances. 

And the most important thing to remember? God. Remember the imperfectly, sinful, and selfish part we all have? The only way to overcome our innate sinful nature is to bring God into the mix. 

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
If either of them falls down,
    one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
    and has no one to help them up.
Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm.
    But how can one keep warm alone?
Though one may be overpowered,
    two can defend themselves.
A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
-Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

God is the one that makes the imperfect perfect, the selfish more giving, and the sinful forgiven. When God is first and foremost in your relationship, you begin to see things in a different light. A light that helps you to be all those things we strive for on a daily basis. It doesn't mean we won't mess up. Trust me, I can say after all these years that you will mess up, sometimes badly. However, you will find it easier and easier to make amends each time. And it's those hard times that shape us and grow our relationships. Don't shy away from them. Lean in and learn from them. Learn how to love each other better because in the end, it's not the ceremony that counts the most, it's all the years lived well after the event.

Friday, November 17, 2017

{Review} Alpha / Omega by Kutless


I can remember listening to Kutless well over ten years ago which makes sense since they've been around since 2001. One of the first songs I remember hearing was called Strong Tower.

You are my strong tower
A shelter over me
Beautiful and mighty
Everlasting King
You are my strong tower
Fortress when I'm weak
Your name is true and holy
And your face is all I see

At the beginning of August for the last twenty plus years there has been a multi-day Christian musical festival in a neighboring state. The last year it was four days was in 2012 and that was the year I was able to see Kutless live. Their show did not disappoint although I remember the sound was off for those of us in the press pit watching.


Lead Sing Jon Micah Sumrall

Their newest album Alpha / Omega just released last Friday. It contains ten songs, some brand new, some covers, and they have even included a remix of Strong Tower. As always they stay true to their roots of a little bit of rock and a whole lot of Jesus. 

I truly appreciate what Jon Micah had to say about what keeps them motivated to continue making music. 

"We really believe that music can make a difference in people's lives," 
shares Jon Micah Sumrall. "Music is an incredibly powerful tool that can
break down walls and allows us to communicate a message of hope to people 
who may not listen otherwise. We are still recording and performing
because we really do believe it makes a difference. We hear stories all the time
from people who share with us how a concert or a song has radically impacted
their life, and it's these types of testimonies that keep us going year after year."

I love music and I believe fully in what Jon Micah says about its ability to impact lives around us. It truly is a gift from God. 

In 2012 Kutless formed EOTA Ministries (End Of The Age) in order to expand the ability to bring Christ to those around the globe. EOTA is a non-profit organization that helps Kutless hold large, free outreach events and concerts. They have been able to do to in places like the Ukraine and Belarus where thousands have turned their life to Christ as a result. 

Kutless is more than just a band singing music to honor the Lord. They are walking the walk through EOTA Ministries. 


Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Friday, October 6, 2017

{Review} Jeremy Camp - The Answer

I have a been a fan of Jeremy Camp's now for some time. His music is fantastic and he is wonderful in concert as well. I appreciate his heart when he is at a live show as you can see his love for Christ simply shining through.

His newest album is called The Answer. And honestly, he has it so right with those two words. The answer is always, always "Jesus." He is the one who will fix it every time - without fail. While we may not like the answer He gives, it's always the right one. And the chorus to the title song goes like this:

I know the answer
to every question
The one solution
to every fear
I know my help
and where it comes from
Jesus, He is the answer.

The first track on the album "Word of Life" has been out on the radio for awhile now. It's a great "sing along" with another set of fantastic and truthful lyrics.

Word of life
Speak to my weary heart
Strengthen my broken parts
Lead me to your open arms

Work of truth
Illuminate all these lies
The enemy speaks inside
In freedom I will rise

Cause you called me out from the grave
So I can live like I've been changed
There is a new song in my soul
And it begins
When I breathe in
Your Word of Life

I love hearing from artists about what inspire their songs. Jeremy co-wrote all but the last track on this album. Having seen him in concert, he's one of the few artists that actually brings a Bible on stage with him and shares directly from scripture. Like I said earlier, you can see he has a heart for God. 

This is one album that my boys and I have been listening to over and over again since we received the CD in the mail for this review. It hasn't gotten old yet! We love it all. 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

{Review} If We Make it Home by Christina Suzann Nelson

I'm going to simply begin with this...I loved this book. Loved it. I can't remember the last time I have read a book that I could identify so closely with the characters. More on that in a moment. 

If We Make It Home is the first novel of Christina Suzann Nelson. It is set in the Pacific Northwest (a place I'd love to visit someday) and it follows the lives of four college friends twenty-five years after graduation. 

Ireland is now a jaded college professor who is facing a serious allegation at work. It was best for her to take some time away and evaluate her life while she allowed rumors to die down. Victoria is a successful speaker who has taught women how to be the perfect wife and mother. She then realizes she may have her career crash down around her because she didn't listen to her own advice. Then there is Jenna, the character that I most closely related to for rather obvious reasons. She's a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom of triplets (okay, maybe not that part). Her babies have now left home and she finds herself in limbo trying to figure out this whole empty-nest thing. And lastly there is Hope, a friend they all had fond memories of but who sadly had passed away from cancer only a year before. (The back cover states she's died, so this isn't a spoiler.)

Due to various circumstance, Ireland, Victoria, and Jenna find themselves back at their alma mater where they discover Hope has died. While in the cafe her daughter now runs, House of Hope, they meet Glenda. She's an older woman who takes groups of women into the wilderness to teach them survival skills. On a whim they all decide to go, as a tribute to Hope. 

Their trip soon turns "Gilligan Island-ish" when they find themselves lost, hurt and without a guide, while trying to find their way out of the forest Glenda had dropped them into. They have to learn to trust themselves and see if they can manage to find their way home again. 

This was a great first novel and one I enjoyed more than I thought I would when I first saw it offered. Jenna was definitely someone I related to on so many levels. The overall writing was wonderful. This is a book that I have continued to think about even weeks after finishing it. 

Nelson uses great detail to introduce the characters to us in the beginning and get us invested in them. Each main character tells the story from her point of view. Nelson writes each section from a first person point of view with the character's name as a heading in order to keep straight who is talking. I enjoyed this as she would often tell a scene from each of the characters point of view, giving us a broader sense of what was happening. 

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed this book and I look forward to reading more from this author.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. 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.

When History Comes Alive - Part I

I am a Yankee at heart. I have lived my entire life in the great state of Maine and I have no intention of ever leaving. I've always enjoyed history but the thing I love most about history are stories. I love hearing how people lived in the past and imaging what their lives must have been like. Historical biographies are a favorite of mine. 

During our time in Franklin, TN earlier this year, I decided to do some exploring. Being the planner that I am I had spent some time figuring out what there was to see in Franklin so I knew there were some historical houses in the area. Apparently a large battle was fought right in Franklin as part of the Civil War. The houses had peaked my interest and I decided to go check them out one afternoon. In hindsight, I wish I had taken the entire day. 

The first stop was the Carter House. When I pulled up it didn't seem all that impressive. There was a small visitor center where you purchased your ticket. I bought a "value ticket" which allowed me entrance to this house and the other two that are part of The Battle of Franklin Trust. I arrived about twenty minutes before 11 and was told I could wander the grounds, but to meet by the "red building" for the tour to start on the hour. 

After poking around the small store and museum area in the welcome center, I headed up the hill to the house. I passed one other person on my way. On a Wednesday in the middle of February, the place wasn't exactly hopping with tourists. 

The red building which was an office for the family. 
The building next to it is the smokehouse. 

The brick building in the foreground is the kitchen. 
The house can be seen behind it.

One thing that had fascinated me about the Carter House information was that the bullet holes from the battle were never fixed. And as I walked around looking at the outside of the homes, you could definitely see where they had been struck time and time again. 

At 11 am, I was approached by an older gentleman, my tour guide. My tour group consisted of just me. I spent the next hour with Mr. Bobby as he explained the history of Carter House to me and showed me around the inside of the home. Unfortunately, like most historical homes, no photography is allowed inside. 

Mr. Bobby kindly posed for me at the end of the tour.

Mr. Carter built his farm near the outskirts of town. He and his wife lived their with their eight children who survived past infancy (they had 12 total). He operated a business in town but became a farmer. He grew his farm into 288 acres. He even had a cotton gin which meant he was a rather wealthy man, until the evening of November 30, 1864 when the Battle of Franklin was fought on his doorstep. 

The Carter house family along with some of their slaves and their neighbors, the Lotz family, hid in the basement while the battle raged around them. What made this battle so intense and different is that it began at 4pm (the sun was already starting to set at this point) and went on into the night. The families stayed huddled in the dark basement throughout the intense battle. There are chairs lined up there now with a name tag attached to each also listing their age. Some of the children were as young as 18 months. 

Stairs to the basement

The Carter family was never the same after. One of their sons was in the Confederate Army and was killed in the battle. He hadn't seen his family in quite some time and was brought home to die. Mr. Carter didn't have the bullet holes fixed as a reminder to all who saw them. His farm never recovered and he soon sold it and moved away from Tennessee. 

Mr. Bobby shared that there was actually a hole in the sleeping ell that had a cannon ball hole in it. 

As a northern girl, I was also fascinated by the way the house was arranged. The main part of the house had servant quarters upstairs. There was a master bedroom on the main floor as well as a parlor. The basement held storage rooms but also the dining room. And the white ell area had two bedrooms. The interesting part was that the bedrooms were not connected on the inside of the house. You had to walk outside to get there. Of course, one wouldn't want to do this during a Maine winter, but the weather is definitely milder in Tennessee so apparently this was normal.

Two bedrooms off the porch

I enjoyed myself so much at the Carter House that I headed across the street to the Lotz House next.