Friday, December 5, 2008

Christmas Books

Christmas Books

Each year at Christmas I choose a new book to be unwrapped and read on Christmas Eve. One year I thought it would be fun to unwrap a new game instead of a book. The kids were very vocal in their disappointment--they love having their Dad read them a new story each year.

Over the years some of our favorites include Max Lucado's Alabaster's Song, The Crippled Lamb, and Jacob's Gift. There is also Susan Wojciechowski's The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey and Ruth Bell Graham's One Wintry Night. The last few years we've read The Legend of the Christmas Tree by Rick Osborne and The Legend of the Candy Cane by Lori Walburg. I'm looking forward to reading all the blog carnival posts on Christmas reading as I have yet to chose a book for this year.

For family devotions we are reading Jotham's Journey by Arnold Ytreeide. From youngest to oldest, the kids are enjoying this Advent mystery adventure.
441745: Jotham"s Journey: A Storybook for AdventJotham's Journey: A Storybook for Advent

Personally, I'm not reading any books related to the season. Maybe next year I'll have my act together enough to read a Christmas devotion. Currently I'm reading Susan Hunt's Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women. I just finished Ann Platz's great book, Queen Esther's Reflection, also dealing with mentoring.
77197: Spiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring WomenSpiritual Mothering: The Titus 2 Model for Women Mentoring Women

By Susan Hunt / Crossway Books & Bibles

Hunt knows what women need-each other. Using Scripture and true stories from a Presbyterian congregation, Hunt demonstrates the model of the "mothering mandate" in Titus 2:1-5 and encourages you to develop and strengthen the bonds between older and younger women in your life.

90128: Queen Esther"s Reflection: A Portrait of Grace, Courage, and Excellence

Queen Esther's Reflection: A Portrait of Grace, Courage, and Excellence
By Ann Platz / New Hope Publishers
Discover how to transform your home, marriage, and work into a royal anointing! Platz uses the story of Queen Esther to explore spiritual beauty. You'll learn how to grow in excellence, graciousness, and humility; experience fasting and prayer; prepare for ministry to others; and more. An ideal mentoring resource. Includes study questions.

Christmas Music Favorites

Christmas Music Favorites

We have several family Christmas traditions and two of them are collecting Christmas music and books. (I'll have another blog later today on Christmas books.) At the start of the Christmas season we begin listening to our new music along with old favorites. On Christmas Eve the children unwrap a new Christmas book that we read together after dinner.

This year things have been hectic and I have not purchased our new music but plan to get Casting Crown's Peace on Earth CD. You can watch a live version of I Heard the Bells on Christmas from the album at MMCW.

Our Christmas listening is eclectic to say the least. I enjoy unique Christmas CDS such as A Walton Christmas. This CD is a compilation of Christmas songs sung on the TV series The Walton's. Of course, it ends with the memorable family goodnights--goodnight Jim Bob.

Another favorite is A Christmas TV Dinner. It is another smorgasbord of songs taken from classic TV shows. Songs include Gene Autry & The Melody Ranch Gang singing Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer, the Brady kids singing Silent Night and my favorite--Ben, Little Joe, and Hoss Cartwright (from Bonanza) singing Merry Christmas, Neighbor. Both A Walton Christmas and A Christmas TV Dinner were bought years ago at Big Lots for around $3.

My all-time favorite is the instrumental Christmas in the Smoky Mountains featuring authentic Appalachian instruments. I love the sound of the dulcimer on this cd. The arrangements to uplifting songs such as O Come, All Ye Faithful and Good Christian Men, Rejoice is beautiful.

While it is not a Christmas CD, my family's favorite listening right now is New Life Worship's Counting on God CD by Integrity. New Life Church as been through some deep valleys over the last two years. Many of you will recall the fall of their former pastor Ted Haggard. Just a year later the church faced tradegy once more when an armed gunman came onto their campus and opened fire, killing two teenage sisters. This CD is a response to what this congregration has walked through and their confidence and declaration of their faith in Christ.

So, what's your favorite Christmas listening? I'd love to hear!
By the way, this post is part of a blog carnival hosted by Molly at I'm new to all of this blogging business but this is a fun way to see chat via blogging on specific topics. If you would like to join, click on Molly's link and you'll see the box to enter your blog address!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Black Friday

Christmas Shopping for Girls

Last year the number one requested item by our daughter was a Hannah Montana wig. By Christmas afternoon the wig was matted and frizzed beyond repair but our little rock star was bopping her way around the house in sheer delight. Hannah Montana is still a favorite of my daughter, but the real life actress Miley Cyrus has fallen from my graces as someone I want my daughter role-playing.

This year shopping for a nine year-old in an environment where little girls are bombarded with siren calls to dress, play, and act like adults is a challenge but not impossible. If you have a young daughter you know exactly what I mean--adult style clothing, dolls that look like prostitutes, and music that is still adult even if a child is singing it.

This morning I hopped online to my favorite girl site-- Today's Black Monday sales include free shipping on all orders plus an additional 10% off sale items. I was thrilled to pick up both the Molly and Samantha Mystery Party games. Similar to a dinner theatre, it is made for girls and perfect for birthday parties or any get together. At $4.50 each it was a bargain I could not pass up.

Another great item was the American Girl Mystery Puzzle. This is actually four 300 hundred piece puzzles that have glow-in the dark clues to solve a mystery.

If you have little girls, the Mini Magnetic doll sets at $5 are a steal. Perfect for Christmas but don't rule out putting up for birthday presents too. These make great travel games.

American Girl dvds have free shipping today too--including the new Kit Kittridge movie. Family friendly, all AG movies have a good plot that everyone can enjoy. My boys liked the Kit Kittridge movie which deals with a family facing the challenges of the Great Depression.

American Girl products can be pricey so sales like this are worth taking advantage of for Christmas and future presents. If you are looking for dolls that will inspire play and learning you may want to look at the doll and book sets. Dress-up is never so much fun as when girls and dolls can dress alike--American Girl has this done this right. Clothing is age appropriate for dolls and girls.

Going on and on like this about girl gifts would lead one to think I do not have three boys. My two younger boys are easy to buy for--they want the same of everything they see. My teen is another story all together. Toys for a 15 year-old are costly to say the least. American Eagle Outfitters has free shipping on all orders today with some great sales on sunglasses, necklaces, hats, jeans, and shirts.

What are your favorite Black Friday sales sites? Pass them along--I'd love to hear about them and of course take advantage of more sales tonight!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Living Authentically

I read a thought provoking article this week entitled The Culture War is Over: Thank God! Author Jud White made a challenging statement--we have lost the culture war and maybe it's a good thing. A good thing? White's premise is it's time to focus on living as Christ-followers in place of just labeling ourselves Christian.

The buzz word now-a-days is authenticity, but as White explains it's all about God's truth in our lives. How do you view God's truth? Are we teaching, sharing, extending it with love to unbelievers? George Barna in his book UnChristian shares shocking statistics that leave modern day Christianity looking less appealing than used car salesmen.

George Barna's results reveal that Christians have cheapened Christianity to church membership, denominational loyalty, and superficial Christianity. Just a tad harsh I think. Or, is it?

It would be easier to declare all this hog-wash if it wasn't that Barna's findings are based on research with those who do not call themselves Christian. That's right, unbelievers think of us in this light. Sobering statistics show that we are effectively losing the 18 to 41 age groups because of our lack of authenticity/truth.

We can blame it on culture. We can blame it on humanism. We can blame it on the mega church. We can even blame it on flaky believers reducing the Word to a feel good gospel that does not recognize the truth of hell. The fact is this is a sign of our times. Our enemy -- the Devil, Lucifer, Satan, angel of light, wolf in sheep's clothing, serpent, great deceiver--however you choose to address our adversary has been hard at work within our society. It's easier to blame losing the culture war on something or someone than to face the truth -- our authenticity before the world.

Living a life of authenticity begins with me. My life will not be judged according to what my society or culture thought was truth. I will face God based on the truth I know, share, and live according to God's Word. It comes down to me, God, and a relationship with Truth--Jesus Christ.

My late pastor, John Colbaugh, a gifted storyteller, had a way of taking a simple illustration and bringing it to life in light of God's Word. Here is one of his stories that illustrates our responsibility:

When we get to the end of our days and we're in line to stand before God we'll each be holding a paper bag. Some bags will be filled to overflowing, others will hold a few items. Still others will be empty. What do you want your bag to be-- filled or empty? I want my bag to be empty--completely empty. I want to stand in line with it thrown over my shoulder. When I stand before God I want to say here's my empty bag--I used every last gift and talent for You. I want to know that I held nothing back--I lived fully in Christ.

Are you living fully in Christ? Are you using all you have for the glory of God? Authentic Christians live a life focused on 'living dead to self, alive in Christ.' Our mission is to serve those in need -- reaching out and sharing the gospel one lost soul at a time. Saying the culture war is lost is not a bad thing. It means just like White said that we must put our focus on the true priority--living out the Gospel. As our world changes we need to recall Paul's words to the Philippians, "Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." (Philippians 1:27)

Is the world ready for this? I think so. A few months back my church did something unheard of in today's modern church. They went street witnessing. Nothing fancy, no door prizes or free food. No music, puppets, or street drama. Just a small group (15 to 30) for five days spreading out across town. Two Muslim young men were saved at an outlet mall, a man working on a car asked Jesus into his heart after a 14 year-old shared the gospel. A 90 year-old woman prayed the sinner's prayer for the first time in her life. Not one person, not two, but over 500 men, women, boys, and girls were saved in a six day period in August by just sharing the gospel. And, they were all saved outside the church walls.

It's past time to put away masks and living with one foot in the world. We must move past the thinking that says church work is within the walls of the church on selected days of the week. The world recognizes a fake and we should not fool ourselves. It really doesn't take a research group to tell us that we need to get back to basics. Unbelievers need to meet a Savior who has all the answers. We know Him. The culture war to me was lost when we began trying to become more like the world than just live out our lives as testimony. Unbelievers need to see a difference in our lives--in my life.

I'd like to encourage everyone to join me today in asking the Lord to reveal weakness and bring strength and truth to those areas. When I begin to look honestly at my own heart and submit to the Lord and the truth of His Word, then unbelievers will see the light in my life. It will not be a culture war but a revival of God's love. A revolution!

What is in your bag? What has the Lord gave you to share authentically with unbelievers and influence a culture / nation / world for Christ? When we share, teach, preach, and live the truth we become authentic. It's time to empty our bags and live alive in Christ!

Following is a simple video on building relationships and living out our faith.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Thrifty Thursday

Blessed to Be a Blessing
Tonight at church I listened as a sweet sister in Christ shared how someone is providing her family with a Thanksgiving dinner. A man came to where her family is living and said the Lord impressed him to do this for her family. My friend is a stay-at-home mom whose husband lost his job about six months ago. The time since has been hard, but as she shared, God has meet every need and continues to be good. After losing their home and now living with another family her faith and trust in the Lord continues to shine as a testimony.

This week as we go into the home stretch to Thanksgiving it is the perfect time to purchase items to give to others in need. Dinner rolls, vegetables, baking supplies, and turkey are just a few of the foods that will be on sale. Invite a family facing hard times to Thanksgiving dinner and send them home with groceries. Try something fun such as leaving groceries on the front porch, ring the doorbell and run. Of course make sure they are home so the food doesn't sit out too long and melts or spoils.

It's easy to think about basics, but also include cookie and cake mixes, chips and such for a nice treat. Fresh vegetables and fruits are especially good. When money is tight fresh foods are often overlooked in exchange for cheaper canned goods. Find out what their favorite soft drink is and include it.

Another idea is to purchase some fall decorations for the family you will bless. Wal-Mart has marked all their fall decorations down by at least 50%. Pick up a beautiful wreath for less than $10 or maybe some fall napkins for $1. Little things such as napkins or seasonal paper dessert plates can add festive note.

Over on Mentoring Moments for Christian Women we have an Abundant Living page. Some call it being thrifty others may say frugal living. I think it is truly living in abundance. All we have comes from God. We are a blessed nation with riches that those in some countries can only imagine. I have always believed we are blessed to be a blessing financially in our communities and world. Living abundantly is about living within our means so we have resources to bless others.

This week be a blessing!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Thrifty Thursday ~ Keeping Coupons Organized

Keeping Coupons Organized
Kellie Renfroe

Most coupon organizers are too small and wear out quickly. Putting coupons in my purse makes a mess and I end up with a bottomless pit of crumbled coupons I can't find when needed. The manila file folder I used to keep coupons in was big, bulky, and ugly. What's a mom to do?

This summer friend Lori Lauth shared how she transferred all retail store coupons to a business card holder to keep in her purse. While I did not have a business card holder, my day timer did have an clear plastic page with a zip closure. Putting frequent shopper cards, restaurant coupons, and sale coupons in this quickly brought organization to my purse.

Next came the mountain of grocery coupons. Using a plastic accordion style file folder with velcro that I already had on hand gave my coupons a home of their own.

The tab dividers have been labeled for each of the coupon circulars found in the weekly newspaper. Smart Source, Red Plum, a tab for loose coupons, entertainment coupons, restaurant coupons, and the last tab is blank for current week sale flyers, scissors to cut out coupons, and weekly grocery list.

This is an old file folder bought at Wal-Mart about five years back for around $4.88. Now these types of folders can be found in decorative colors. I especially like the way it closes up--nothing falls out.

To keep my coupons up to date I spend about 10 minutes weekly doing coupon housekeeping.
* I clip all the restaurant coupons from new circulars and put either in file folder or holder in my purse (if I know we will be visiting soon).
* Write the date on the front of the circular (found on its spine) and file. I put the current week circular at the front.
* Throw out all the junk pages in the new circular as I look through it. You know the pages--labels, dolls, support shoes.
* Throw out last week's grocery sale ads and put in new ones.

Keeping my coupons organized as been a source of frustration over the years as system after system failed. It seems I've finally hit on a keeper! The folder is kept in the mini van so it is always available. I get it out once a week to make out our grocery list.

If you are wondering why I write the date on the front of the circulars and even keep them intact instead of clipping favorite coupons then you need to visit Abundant Living at Mentoring Moments for Christian Women. I use an online site,, that matches up weekly sales with newspaper coupons. Besides deep discounts, items can even be had for free using this method. Another great site is The Grocery Game. Visit Abundant Living to learn more about this method of literally cutting your grocery bill in half.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Building our Home Library

Building our Home Library

We have relied heavily this year on our local library for books. When we began homeschooling in June I quickly realized our home library was lacking and needed to become focused on learning versus just for entertainment purposes. It has been a challenge to add quality books without spending a fortune. The Lord has truly been wonderful in opening doors of opportunity to attain good materials.

The best books we've purchased have come from our library. They consistently offer books for just a quarter that cover a wide spectrum of subjects. Just today I added the following books to our library:

* Zig: The Autobiography of Zig Ziglar (hardback)
* The Greatest Generation by Tom Brokaw (hardback).
* A Field Guide to Homeschooling by Christine M. Field (trade paper)
* The One Year Book of Devotions for Kids #2 (trade paper)

And our two great finds today:
* The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Trees
* The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Insects and Spiders

For $1.50 we added some good books.

My daughter found a spider this afternoon and proudly announced it was a termite according to our new field guide. Praise the Lord she was wrong on that one! The books are already a hit and the kids can't wait to get outside tomorrow and begin naming trees and bugs.

Our library also sells paperbacks by the bag for $1.00. Most of the books offered are of no interest to me. What I plan to do is buy a few bags and trade them in at a local used book store where I receive credit for half of the book's value. In exchange I can add to our library with books of substance without breaking the bank.

Lastly, tonight I visited which offers books lists for those building living libraries in the Charlotte Mason style of home educating. While we do not teach Charlotte Mason, I do appreciate the site and plan to use it to compile a list of books to add to our library.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Your Vote Counts!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Testimony Tuesday

Maker of Heaven & Earth

What has the Lord done in your life this week?

For me it has been seeing Him move mightily in the life of a single mom. My friend is one of my heroes. She has raised two teenagers who love the Lord with little in the way of worldly possessions. Living in a hotel for the last five or six years she has diligently taught her teens to have a cheerful attitude.

Depending on God for work, food, or rent is not an option. He is her survival.
How many of us can say the same?

Trouble comes our way and we begin thinking what we can sell, do, or move around to meet the need.
For this mother if God does not provide, it does not happen.

Over the last two years I've watched in awe as the Lord moved her out of a drug / prostitution infested hotel into one that is more like a small apartment. It is across the street from the high school and within walking distance of church. Without a car, she works daily and remains to this day one of the most joyous and hard-working people I know.

She is grateful for everything that passes through her hand. She is a faithful tither and giver.
She is the widow in the story of the widow's mite.

The last few months have been trying for her. With no money or insurance she has suffered from a bad tooth. Her health issue arose at a time when those who help her had no resources for this cost. It was frustrating to see her suffer and know it was out of our control. It was a God-only time for her and for those around her. Many have been in prayer for weeks crying out for her relief and provision. She was able to obtain antibiotics to help the infection, but soon they ran out.

Last week she walked into a dental office and asked if the dentist would see her with $50 in her purse.

Not only did he see her, but he pulled her tooth for $25! With the additional cost of x-rays ($50) they told her she could come back and pay the balance. The following day she received a call from the office staff saying they took up the money and covered the balance. Praise the Lord!

God's favor is not to be taken for granted.
He can move on the hearts of others to be the pipeline for His provision.

I am thankful to a real, working, and alive God who sees and meets our needs.
I am thankful for the opportunity to see this miracle unfold.

"I lift up my eyes to the hills--where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth." Psalms 121:1Following is a powerful song by Casting Crowns, Praise You in the Storm.

What's your praise report today? Send me your praise report!


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Oasis | Creative Commons Attribution- Noncommercial License | Dandy Dandilion Designed by Simply Fabulous Blogger Templates