Sunday, November 27, 2011

First Sunday of Advent Ideas

Today marks the beginning of the Advent season an I am so excited about some of the things we are doing this year to celebrate the birth of our Saviour. 

For the first Sunday in Advent our theme was "preparation".  We discussed the meaning of Advent and the symbolism of the wreath.  Before we lit the first candle we turned off all the lights and sat in darkness.  We talked about how before Christ came, the world was in darkness.  There was no hope.  Then God sent His son to be the Light of the world.  We lit the first candle to remind us that we must prepare our hearts for His coming.  The verses that we read were found in Isaiah 9:2,6-7 and Romans 15:4.  Our Bible verse/thought for the entire week is found in Isaiah 40:3,5 and says "The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for your God;...and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed..."

We made a Christmas chain of red and greens to help us count down the days till Christmas.  On each individual chain I wrote a verse to include with our Advent devotions.  The first weeks chains will all go with our theme of preparation, the second week - love, third week - joy, and the fourth week - God's love.  In past years we wrote names of people that needed prayer on each chain.  You could do either way or include both on your chain.

Our next thing we discussed is fasting.  To make the remembrance of the birth of our Saviour more meaningful I am encouraging our family to fast during the coming weeks before Christmas as part of our  preparation of our hearts to worship God.  In Matthew 6:16 says "when ye fast" NOT "if ye fast" and the same in Matthew 6:6 "when thou prayest" NOT "if thou prayest".  Fasting and praying is a significant part of Christian life.  Remember when you fast that it does not always have to be from food.  Other ideas can be television, computer, music, etc.  What you choose and when you choose is between you and God.

We also decided to give a gift to Jesus.  I wrapped up a small box and cut a hole in it.  This box will sit on our dining room table.  We are going to fill it with pennies, nickles, dimes, quarters, and dollars.  A few days before Christmas we are going to open it, count our money and decide where we want to give our gift.  Maybe and orphanage, a love offering to a minister, a needy family or a ministry.

Each night as we gather for our advent devotions we are going to take time to give God praise.  To examine every part of our days to see God's fingerprints and share the blessings that God has given us with each other.

Tomorrow we will be reading in Titus 2:13, Tuesday we'll read Isaiah 25:9, Wednesday will be Genesis 49:18, Thursday will be Psalm 33:20-22, Friday we'll read Isaiah 26:8, and Saturday we'll read Isaiah 33:2 All the verses this week are on preparations, waiting, hoping and trusting. 

Last year a lady from our homeschool group recommended a book called Celebrating the Christian Year by Martha Zimmerman and a lot of the ideas came from this great book.  If you are looking to make Christ more a part of the all your holidays this is the perfect book for you!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Weekend

I hope you all enjoyed your Thanksgiving and black Friday.    We had a very blessed Thanksgiving Day with lots of delicious food and family time.  I have so much to thank God for, not just on Thanksgiving Day, but every day! 

Thanksgiving night my mom and I geared up for a little black Friday shopping.  I really like going at midnight versus 5:00 a.m.  After all I am a night owl and would be awake anyway. :)  I did not have a whole lot to get but I really enjoy getting out with the crowds!  I find it exciting! (weird huh)  Of course, it depends greatly on the moods of your fellow shoppers and this years was great.  It seemed like the whole atmosphere of the store I was in was that of joy and Christmas spirit.  I didn't see nor experience any pushing, yelling or bad behavior so all in all it was a great trip!  And I spent less than $50.  Not bad huh?!?  I can officially say I am done with my Christmas shopping and it is not even December yet!  Of course, I have a few packages that I am waiting to be delivered, but the shopping is done!  So for the rest of the Christmas season I can sit back, relax, enjoy my family and reflect on the real reason for the season. 

Tonight we had our annual Christmas tree trimming party where my family and my sisters family come together and decorate my mom's Christmas tree.  We have more yummy food, listen to Christmas music, take lots of pictures and decorate the tree!  I just love traditions and this is one of my favorite!

I'm already preparing some of our Advent activities (it starts Sunday ya know) and this year we are going to celebrate St. Nicholas day on December 6'th.  I have some great ideas for that day!  Don't worry, I'll share everything with you along the way.  So stay tuned for some Advent and Christmas posts coming soon!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

When the Heart Cries by Cindy Woodsmall

It's official...Cindy Woodsmall is hereby my new favorite Author.  Once again she has captivated me with another Amish romance/fiction book.  When the Heart Cries is the 1'st book of the Sister's of the Quilt series and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series. 

Hannah Lapp is a 17 year old spirited, slightly rebellious, naive Amish girl who has decided to follow her heart and not be baptised.  She longs to be the wife of Mennonite Paul Wadell.   Although her parents do not know of their relationship, she accepts Paul's marriage proposal.  Hannah tends to act on impulse and creates situations for herself that although are innocent, do not look right to the religious elders and end up costing her dearly.  Her younger sister Sarah is very jealous of Hannah and spreads terrible rumors about Hannah around their community.  On top of that her brother Luke blames Hannah for the accident that injured him and his fiance.  But all that pales in comparison to the real tragedy that strikes Hannah's life.

Walking home on a country road the day her and Paul became engaged she is assaulted by a man and the "unthinkable" happens.  You'll read about her struggles to cope with what has happened to her, plus the reactions and condemnation brought on by her family, friends and community.   One by one it seems like everyone in her life turn their backs on her, but God proves time and time again that He will not leave her and will carry her through.

I literally stayed up till 5:00 a.m. reading this book.  I could not set it down.  Cindy Woodsmall gets the point across in this book that things are not always as they appear and that we should not be quick to judge or spread gossip.  Your sure to love it!!

**This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, November 18, 2011

How Great is Our God

I absolutely love this world edition of How great is Our God by Chris Tomlin!  Hearing people from all around the world sing praises to God in their own language gives me chills!  I hope you love it as much as I do!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

An Amish Wedding - Book Review

Three best-selling authors.  Three possible brides.  Three separate tales.  They come together for an Amish wedding.

"The Perfect Secret" by Kelly Long

Rose Bender has recently become engaged to handsome but somber Luke Raber. She agrees out of a sense of duty and a willingness to settle for solid friendship as a basis for the engagement. But as she watches her friend's excitement over her soon-to-be wedding, Rose wonders if there shouldn't be more to her relationship with Luke. She begins to examine Luke and his life more closely and is amazed when she stumbles upon an exciting, secret side of him that engages her mind and heart.

"The Perfect Match" by Kathleen Fuller

Naomi Fisher has had great success at matchmaking her family members and friends. Now with her sister's wedding right around the corner, Naomi wonders why she's able to find husbands for her friends and family, but not one for herself.  When Chester's cousin shows up there's an immediate attractions between them - as well as an obstacle that may just as immediately derail their blossoming love.

"A Perfect Plan" by Beth Wiseman

Priscilla King has been planning to marry Chester Lapp since she was sixteen years old, and when Chester proposes on Priscilla's nineteenth birthday, wedding plans begin immediately. What wasn't planned was all the problems the couple encounters as their big day approaches. A house disaster, a ruined wedding dress, and a sick attendant all make the couple wonder if God's sending them signs to call things off.

My Thoughts

The Perfect Secret + The Perfect Match + The Perfect Plan = The Perfect Book 

I really enjoyed this book.  You get 3 stories in one book.  All three stories are written by different authors, but each story is connected.  Each story is about a different girl, but they are all three friends and they all face challenges as their wedding day approaches.  My favorite of the 3 stories was The Perfect Secret by far!  This is a great book if you love Amish romance!   

***This book was provided to me by the publisher through in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Yo-Yo Christmas Tree Garland

 For as long as I can remember we have strung popcorn for our Christmas tree.  This is a tradition my family did when I was a child and a tradition that I carried over into my adult life and began with my own family.  I remember as a child, gathering in the family room with big bowls of popcorn and stringing garland while we watched our favorite television show.  Of course, I also remember that my dad ate more than he strung. lol

There was one year with me and my kids will never forget.  I had just popped the popcorn over the stove when I hear  "it's back on"  I can't even remember now what we were watching (this was before dvr's entered our life).  So I grab the pan of popcorn and run to the family room and lay it on the floor.  Me and the kids continue to string.  Quite a while later I go to move the pan and it was STUCK!!!  I did not think about it being hot when I sat it down and it melted to the carpet!  What a mess I had.  I was in a panic and the kids were laughing, then I began laughing...and well...the carpet got a hair cut that night. hehe!

This year I decided to do something different and make yo-yo Christmas tree garland.  It was a lot of work, but I absolutely love the way it looks.  My daughter helped, but my son refused to pick up a needle and thread. Ha!  I didn't push it either. ;)  He was a little bummed about the no popcorn thing but since the last few years I have been doing most of the stringing it was not to hard to convince that this was the way to go.  Who knows, next year we may go back to the old tradition of popcorn garland, but for this year I am enjoying the beauty of my yo-yo tree!

I used two different sizes of yo-yo's.  I also chose not to go with Christmas material.  I went with reds and whites!  It reminds me of candy canes!

 Now I think I'll make a matching yo-yo Christmas Tree skirt!

Why NOT me Lord???

There have been times in my life, through the trials of my life, that I have asked the Lord with tears running down my face..."Why Me Lord??"  I am fairly confident that I am not the only christian who has ever asked this of the Lord.  

The other day I read something and it got me to thinking.  It was 4 simple words..."Why NOT me Lord?"  What if I began to ask that question of the Lord? 

What if.....when I see a homeless person, instead of just feeling sorry for them, I ask the Lord why NOT me?  Is there something I can do for this person to show them to your Sheltering Arms?

What if.....when I see a lonely elderly person with the hardships of their life evident by their bent over back, wrinkled face, graying hair and crippled hands, ask of the Lord, Why NOT me?  How can I ease their burden and show them that you are the Healer of both body and soul?

What if....when I see a young women who is broken from a failing marriage ask of the Lord, Why NOT me?  How can I encourage this women and share with her that she is never alone if she has You?

What if....when I see a teenager who clearly hates their life, their family, their school, ask of the Lord, Why NOT me?  How can I show this young person that You are Love?

What if....when I see the little child who gets yelled at because their parents don't care, ask of the Lord, Why NOT me?  How can I show this child that it is loved and that you are Hope?

What if....when I hear about the country that has Christians being persecuted, ask of the Lord, Why NOT me?  How can I help those that are standing strong for you and encourage them in their knowing that you are Life?

What if....when I hear about those that are going hungry, ask of the Lord, Why NOT me?  How can I feed them and show them that you are the real Sustenance of life?

What if.....I simply ask Why NOT me Lord?

Monday, November 14, 2011

Valley of Dreams by Lauraine Snelling

Cassie Lockwood is the star of a Wild West Show owned by her father and 'uncle Jason'.  She is a trick rider and sharp shooter right up there with Annie Oakley.  After Cassie's father dies she finds that her uncle Jason has made some bad investments and the show is bankrupt and closing down.  With a handful of money, a couple friends from the show, some livestock and a dream, she heads to the land that her father so often talked about.  Will they get there before winter and will her father's Valley of Dreams turn out to be what he said it was??

One of my favorite series is written by Lauraine Snelling.  I love her stories about the Bjorkland family and the town of Blessing.   I was super excited when I seen she was starting a new series.  When I began Valley of Dreams it instantly captivated my attention but about half way through I struggled with it.  I found it lacking in adventure/excitement and everything was drawn out.  Then I got to the last couple chapters and found I was once again captivated by it.  As the book drew to an end I was so enthralled that I was sad that it came to an end and that I will have to wait for the next book in the series to find out more.  I do feel that it was probably so drawn out in an effort to establish the characters, history, story line, etc. but it definitely needed a little more oomph in the middle.   This series definitely has potential.  I am already looking forward to the next book...if it just wasn't for that saggy middle.  I'm hoping the next book in the series is packed full of excitement!  After all when you have a character that is compared to Annie Oakley what more can you hope for!

***This book was provided to me by the author in exchange for my honest review.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Three Trees A Traditional Folktale

There is not much sweeter in life than snuggling up with your little ones and reading them a good book.  Those of you with small children know that sometimes it takes a special book to capture their attention.  I believe that The Three Trees by Elena Pasquali is just that book.  

The tale is of three forest trees that dream of what they will one day become. 
One dreams of becoming a royal throne; one of being a ship that can withstand any storm; and one longs to stay in the forest and grow as tall as tall can be. When they are felled, it seems their dreams are over. But as each tree is crafted into a new item--a manger, a fishing boat, and a rugged cross--it becomes clear that through the role they play in one important life their hopes are more than fulfilled.

The story book is beautifully illustrated and will sure to keep the child that is yet to learn to read captivated by the colorful pictures that tell a story in themselves.   The story is perfect for Easter, Christmas and all year long.  It's a story that you and your children will enjoy again and again!  And with Christmas just around the corner it would make the perfect gift for all the "littles" in your life!
**This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Behind the Veils of Yemen by Audra Grace Shelby

How an American Woman
Risked Her Life, Family and Faith
to Bring Jesus to Muslim Women

With only prayer and a faith that always seemed too small, Audra Grace Shelby departed with her husband and children on a one-way flight to Yemen...deep into the heart of conservative Islam.
With honesty and passion, she shares her harrowing journey as a Christian woman thrust into a culture dangerously different from her own.  From the friendships she forged, to her gnawing doubt and fear, to her offers of hope when her new freinds' religion failed them, she gives us glimpses of a world most have never seen:  behind the veils of real Muslim women-and how the grace of God touches lives in the midst of an Islamic stronghold.

I really enjoyed reading Behind the Veils of Yemen.  It was different than most of the books I read and it was a welcoming change.  I found it very interesting to learn about a culture/religion that I know little about.  Audra Grace Shelby tells her story in a very personal way.  You journey with her through the ups and the downs and see that even missionaries struggle with their faith at times.  Her family suffers many trials and sicknesses but they remain true to God and He carries them through the good and the bad.  

I give this book 4 stars!

**This book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for my review.

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Christmas Singing by Cindy Woodsmall

After she finds her childhood sweetheart Gideon with an Englischer women, Mattie, with a broken heart leaves her home town of Apple Ridge to move to Ohio where she starts a new life and pursues her dream and starts her own business...Mattie Cakes.  She finds joy in designing edible creations to help people make memories on the special days of their lives.  She also is now in a "safe" relationship with Sol.  After tragedy strikes Mattie is forced to move back to Apple Ridge.

Now, back in Apple Ridge she comes face to face with Gideon.  She finally learns the truth of what really happened.  Will she forgive Gideon of the lies and meet him at the Christmas Singing or will she remain with Sol and travel back to Ohio for the Christmas Singing there?

I absolutely LOVED this book!   It is a short book and a fast read.  I finished it in one day.  Once I started I couldn't put it down.  Cindy Woodsmall has a way of portraying the characters in her books in such a way were you can instantly connect with them.   I loved the character of Mattie and Gideon pulled at my heart strings.  This is the perfect book to read on a cold day with a cup of hot chocolate all cozied up under a blanket.  You're sure to love it too!

***This book was provided to me by Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for my honest review.