Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Josh in Kindergarten

Since we are homeschooling, it was an easy decision to start Josh in Kindergarten.  His birthday is August 31, which is the cut-off date for children planning to attend public or private school.  If we were sending him off to school, the decision would have been much more difficult for us.  Since we were doing school at home, and Josh had many signs of readiness (he was beyond ready), it made sense to start school.  When we sit down to do school each day, I usually start with Zeke.  This gives Josh a good warm-up for his lesson.  Some things that I ask Zeke, Josh is able to race Zeke to answer.  This challenges them both--although sometimes Zeke gets a little flustered when his little brother can answer faster than he can.  (This does NOT mean that Josh is smarter than Zeke.  The questions that are easy enough for Josh to answer are a basic review for Zeke, meant to catch first graders who did not learn everything well in kindergarten.  Zeke certainly does not fall into that category; I know he knows the answers.  It DOES mean that Zeke doesn't perform as well under pressure.)  What I love about Josh is his enthusiasm to learn and persist through new things.  Sometimes it is challenging for me to find challenging material for him, though.  He often will sit and write random letters (in print, because he hasn't learned all his cursive letters yet) on notebook paper, then try to sound them out.  When it's really difficult, he will bring his paper to me and ask me what it says.  If you can tell me what 'UUFUET' says (in all short-vowel sounds), you are doing better than I!  Yesterday it dawned on me that it wouldn't hurt to skip him ahead a few lessons (58 or so) and give him his first reader book.  While he reads slower than he may if we got there by working through all 58 lessons left to go, what surprised me the most was his persistence.  The curriculum starts out slowly with this book and my other kindergartners always found it tiresome to struggle through their first words.  He read the entire book before I caught him and took the following video as he read the last page!

video

Now, I'm not claiming that my smart little man is a child prodigy.  But I do recognize his gift of love for learning!  Thanks for letting me have a proud mommy moment.  As I sit here waiting for this video to upload, he is reading the same book again completely by his own desire and will.  He is already reading much faster.  Way to go, Josh!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Book Review: Which None Can Shut

I devoured this new book, "Which None Can Shut", by Reema Goode.  (Names in the book have been changed for security reasons).  Reema and her husband, Mike, are missionaries in an Arab country.  Their country is listed as a "restricted nation" by Voice of the Martyrs.  According to VOM, "this includes countries where government policy or practice prevents Christians from obtaining Bibles or other Christian literature.  Also included are countries with government sanctioned circumstances or anti-Christian laws that lead to Christians being harassed, imprisoned, killed or deprived of possessions or liberties because of their witness."  So there you have the same background that I had for Reema's missionary calling to this Muslim nation!  And with that, I cracked open the book.

I was pleasantly surprised by the joy, the hope, and the encouragement I was met with immediately.  Reema points out that often what we see in the media about the Islamic World seems quite depressing.  It is easy to question if God is even working there or if he hears the prayers of Christians around the world.  She writes that with this book, she wants to zoom in on their little community in their small town and show  the "incredibly creative, diverse, unexpected, and thrilling ways in which God is reaching [their] neighbors with the Gospel of Jesus Christ."  And the result is a wonderful collection of uplifting stories that will motivate and challenge your heart.  Reema doesn't negate the danger.  She writes, "we do not deny that the Muslim World is often a dangerous place.  Where we live, leading a local to Christ is a punishable crime."  Yet there is a whole chapter devoted to the blessings of raising their children in this country as well (because you know my momma-heart was asking the hard questions of how you could raise children under that threat)!  She writes honestly about fears that she has experienced, but it is always contrasted with the hope she has in Christ--she always writes about how God has delivered her from those fears (or from dangerous situations).  I read one account of how Reema confronted a man who was verbally attacking her, she said, "All my life I've believed the Bible is God's Word.  I've read it many times and never found anything wrong in it.  Everything it prophesies comes true.  The principles in it work...I've actually seen answers to my prayers."  I thought to myself, "Have I seen answers to my prayers?  Can I write an account of the work and miracles that God is doing in my life? Could I also boldly stand up for my faith?"

The book is not long, only 165 pages, and the chapters are easily digestible.  The stories are well-written and enjoyable.  I laughed out loud at times and even brushed a way a tear of joy at one point.  The stirring in my heart could not be denied and I am thankful for this opportunity to share the book with you--I want to SHOUT for JOY from my tiny corner of the blogosphere that GOD IS AT WORK in Arabia!  Read the book and rejoice with Reema and Mike and other believers.  Find a way to support the missionaries there in prayer and financially.  Who knows how God may use YOU?!

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers for review.  I was not asked to write a positive review.  The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Found that picture!

When I wrote my review for "Outlive Your Life" by Max Lucado, I said that somewhere I have a picture...well, I found it.

Here I am, with 3 other girls, 15 years ago in Louisville, KY, on the side of a pool.  Which one do you think is me?  Micah, Eden, and Zeke guessed correctly, much to my surprise!


Don't you love how the picture is not centered well?  Oh the days before digital cameras were a common thing!  It was quite funny that we all showed up to the pool with reading material by the same author!  We were all part of a summer missions trip (9-10 weeks in 1995) with the Kentucky Baptist Convention, most likely part of the Long Run Baptist Association.  Sadly, I can no longer remember for sure who the other girls were.  The books we were reading were: Six Hours One Friday, And the Angels Were Silent, and No Wonder They Called Him the Savior.

Matt Hammitt on Disappointment

Remember a few years ago when I first started my blog (if you've been reading that long...otherwise, you can always go back and check the archives)?  Friends of ours, Steph and Sal Gonzalez were patiently waiting the birth of their son, Jaden.  He was expected to be born with the congenital heart defect known as hypo-plastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).  Watching their experience through their blog (and occasionally in person) was quite an experience!  Recently I heard from our local radio station, Spirit 92.9, that the lead singer of Sanctus Real (Matt Hammitt) and his wife (Sarah) were expecting a baby boy with HLHS.  I have been following their blog ever since.  (Bowen's Heart)

Their blog is exceptional.  Matt wrote a post recently titled "Disappointment" and I wanted to share an excerpt.

Writing about being at  Family Life Weekend to Remember, Matt wrote:
One night in the middle of a seminar, the speaker looked at us with eyes that drew our attention and paused. He lifted his hand up over his head as though he was placing it on something tall and said, “These are your expectations.” He then lowered his hand below his waist and said, “This is reality…and everything in between is disappointment.”

This illustration has not only helped Sarah and I with unrealistic expectations of one another that used to cause conflict in our marriage, but is helping us day to day as we patiently wait and pray at Bowen’s bedside. Now, there’s nothing wrong with having faith, hoping for the best, or being optimistic, but we have to be careful not to live in constant disappointment with the reality in which God has placed us while we pray for great things to unfold. And great things ARE unfolding for every believer, whether we see it now or later.
And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.”– Revelation 21:5
I certainly know that I struggle with disappointment at times.  We all do.  It is a balance.  May you be encouraged today by these thoughts!

This is a song that Matt wrote that I love (and he has had much to say about):



Since their experience with Bowen, Matt has been writing a special album of songs just for Bowen and their family. He has posted some of the songs on his blog. They are incredible! Here's a great one: http://bowensheart.com/2010/09/12/bowens-first-surgery/

Friday, September 24, 2010

What Our Days Look Like Now

For several years now, I have enjoyed being able to sleep in until 7 a.m.  Even when some daycare children arrive at 6 a.m., Mitch gets up to let them in and I stay warm in bed.  Now Mitch needs to be out the door at 7 a.m.  While I *could* technically still sleep in until almost 7, it makes sooooo much more sense for me to get up at 6 a.m.  It is nice to shower once in a while! 

Usually some of the kids are doing their schoolwork before 7 a.m.  Yesterday even Zeke was asking to do his work early...so we got started before breakfast!  Breakfast is between 7 and 8 a.m.  Caleb is breakfast helper.  That means he helps prepare and serve breakfast, and he has to do the dishes afterward.  He usually takes more time than necessary to do the dishes.  2 daycare kids get on the bus at 8:20ish to go to school.  Then we are in a holding pattern.  The preschoolers play and have fun and the oldest 3 kids work on their schoolwork.  At 10 a.m. we have a snack break.  Usually by this time some of the kids are done with their schoolwork.  This means that they typically begin asking me if they can have "screen time".  I try to hold off on it as long as possible. 

Sometime after 11 Micah begins working on lunch with my help.  Lunch is at 12, Micah helps serve and cleans up afterward.  By 1:30 I have three 1-year olds and one 2-year old down for a 2-hour nap.  Sometimes, even Malachi will go down for a nap (if I will lay down with him).  At this point--ahhhhhh, blissful peace and quiet--I get school done with Zeke and Josh if we haven't done it already. 

At 3:30 kids start going home.  The afternoon usually moves pretty fast, but I am usually pretty tired by that time of day.  It is a difficult time for me--and always good for me to not have anything important planned.  Some days I have no trouble moving to get supper ready, and other days I struggle to get motivated.  By the time supper is finished and cleaned up, there is almost no time left for anything else.  I often think I would like to watch a movie in the evenings, but there is no time.  The kids head to bed at 8 p.m. and I've been going soon after 9 most nights.

I think the most difficult thing ahead in our schedules now is things like doctor appointments.  Mitch most likely won't be home before 4:15-4:30 p.m., so I will have to get a sub.  Pregnancy typically means a once-per-month appointment.  Plus there are regular appointments for children too.  So I have some planning ahead to do. 

Speaking of doctor appointments, I had my first on Tuesday morning.  Stepping on the scale was the worst part.  It is safe to say that I gained any weight that I had lost due to my overactive blood-thirsty spleen squishing my stomach.  :)  I was quite surprised to see the number that I saw on the scale!  Let's just say that for being only 10 weeks pregnant, this is the FIRST time I have been that weight this early in a pregnancy.  Not that it's terrible or anything, but I KNOW what comes next and how I typically gain weight as I go along!  Yeah, my normally high metabolism must be at a complete stand-still.  ;)  We tried to hear the baby's heartbeat, but we couldn't find it.  I was a tad discouraged because when I was pg with Eden (12 years ago exactly), we heard her heartbeat at only 9 weeks pg.  It will be ok, though.  I also gave vials and vials of blood and that left me feeling a little woozy later in the afternoon.  If I didn't already say it before, I will say that my LMP (last menstrual period) is exactly the same day as it was when I was pg with Eden.  That's kind of neat for me.  My "official" estimated due date is April 18.  The baby is now considered a "fetus" instead of an embryo, and it has ALL of its body parts...now all it has to do is grow.  And it is definitely growing.  It should be close to the size of my thumb (or roughly 1.5 inches).  Cool!! 

You haven't complained yet, but I know there are no pictures AGAIN.  I will work on that.  I promise.  The weather has been less than cooperative and I haven't been in the mood.  But I will work on that!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

(Another) First Day of School


What an exciting day!  Mitch had his first day at Royalton Elementary.  He did not spend his day with his new class, however.  He spent today and will spend most of the next two days observing one of the other 5th grade classrooms.  Though he saw a few of his students throughout the day, and heard excited whispers of "That's our new teacher", he said he will step in and be officially introduced tomorrow afternoon.  He will spend the last half of Friday with his class and they will have a good-bye party for their substitute teacher.  He said that overall it was a great day and he really enjoys the school, the staff, and the environment.  It sounds like this is going to be a great year!

Things went well on the home front too.  Micah was pushing a few of my buttons.  This is something that has frequently happened in the past.  He steps up and tries to fill in Dad's shoes by exercising authority he does not have.  This is always a difficult situation for me.  My nature is to respond in anger, rather than deal with the heart issues that are going on.  But we survived today and I feel quite prepared to give it another good try tomorrow!  Schoolwork got done, and daycare kids were happy and healthy and went home safely at the end of the day.  :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Movie Review: The Least Among You

The Least Among You is a new movie by Lionsgate productions.  The movie stars Louis Gosset Jr (as Samuel Benton) and Cedric Sanders (as Richard Kelly).  It is inspired by a true story.  Set in 1965 following the Watts riot, Richard is wrongfully accused of attacking a police officer.  In a plea bargain, he agrees to attend an all-white theological seminary (the goal of the seminary's president is to break down racial boundaries) for at least 2 semesters and maintain a 3.5 gpa.  Richard comes up against many struggles along the way.  He not only has to deal with racism and pressures from the President to bring unity to the student body, but "life" stuff as well...to top it off, he strongly questions his beliefs and faith.  Is faith just a religious practice, something we do, or is it something more?  What is the purpose of studying theology?  What good does it do a pastor to know Greek or Hebrew?

The movie is rated PG-13, and rightly so.  This movie would not be appropriate for my younger set.  Not only is the racial theme a little tense at times (which is necessary), but there is violence, blood, alcohol consumption, and lots of cigarettes.  I don't want these to be a negative cast on the movie however--the presentation of these elements certainly reflects the culture and the times (and we know that the 1960's were quite "colorful").

Overall I enjoyed the movie, and I would like to watch it again so that some of the ideas presented can sink in a little more.  I will admit that I'm a bit of an independent ("Indy") film junkie.  I love movies like this that dare to take on Hollywood and wrestle with presenting the Gospel, at the sacrifice of low budgets.  I love to be able to support these film makers, in hopes that we can see more movies like this.  Yes, it's not a blockbuster and that's true, but it certainly fills my appetite for wholesome, thought-provoking, and spiritually sound movies!

Some other movies from Lionsgate that I have enjoyed:
Bella
No Greater Love
I Am David
The Miracle Maker: The Story of Jesus
Joshua

Perhaps on another post I can put more of my favorite indy movies that I've seen via netflix!

Thomas Nelson book publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this movie as part of the Book Sneeze blog program.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, September 20, 2010

Interview Update

MITCH GOT THE JOB!!!

Praise and honor belong to God for making this happen. Thank you so much for covering us in prayer! The school called back this afternoon to offer Mitch the position. We are so excited and thankful that the waiting part is now over. Poor Mitch says his tummy just doesn't feel well at all after all this stress. :) I can't express how thankful we are for the wonderful support we have received from everyone. It is taking a while to sink in--but my excitement is growing by the minute.  His first day is Wednesday.  How convenient--my first doctor appointment is Tuesday morning and I was a *little* worried about needing to find a sub for daycare.  :)  He will not have to do any teaching this week, but will just be observing and learning the ropes.  How exciting!!!

I will continue to do daycare at home.  I care for 4 daycare children during the day, and 3 of them take long afternoon naps.  This summer was sort of a "dry run" for us--Mitch worked at NorthCrest while I did daycare alone to see how I could handle it.  Micah, Eden, and Caleb do their schoolwork on the computer during the mornings and usually don't have any trouble getting done.  Switched-On Schoolhouse (SOS) continues to be a perfect fit for our family.  Zeke and Josh do their schoolwork with me at the table as soon after lunch as possible.  I have each child listen in while I give the other one their lesson.  This way Josh is being stretched to learn a little faster, and Zeke is reinforcing what he already knows.  It goes really fast and I'm usually done with my part in an hour.  I know from experience that as the school year progresses the work will be a little longer and require more of my time.  I am teaching the older children now to help me with some things like listening to these guys do their reading.  I am also cutting out some of the parts of the lesson which I thought were too important to skip in previous years.  (Hey--if Josh can already read one-vowel words like 'cat', there's no sense in me making up little games so that he can learn to tell the difference between an 'a' and an 'e').  I never thought I could manage all this, but really the key here that has made a huge difference has been SOS.  And while the older kids certainly have their needs, don't underestimate how much they help me during the day!  They are great helpers.  :)

Three Songs

Here are three songs that we frequently sing in church that I love.  Usually by the time I get home I can't remember what we have sung that day, so I wrote myself a note.  :)


"You are the Light" by Steve Fee
If you go watch this one on youtube, it has the lyrics in the info section. The chorus is pretty simple and says "You are the light, the light of the world, and we shine you, Lord." I love songs that are simple and easy for the younger kids to pick up and sing along!


"Remembrance" (Communion song) by Matt Redman
It was great to sing this one while the communion elements were being passed around. It has the lyrics on the video, but one of my favorite lines says "By your mercy we come to your table, by your grace you are making us faithful." A great reminder that even though I am not perfect now, God is always working on me.


"Our God" by Chris Tomlin
The first time I heard this song I wasn't quite sure I liked it. I don't know exactly what bothered me. But it is also an easy song for the younger kids to learn, and there is certainly nothing wrong about singing these lyrics! "Our God is greater, our God is stronger, God, you are higher than any other." Now when I listen to it, all the problems or things I am struggling with just seem to melt away. This is a great "pep" song and a good reminder that God is all powerful. It is good to sing about the attributes of God and place the focus on Him and away from me! "And if our God is for us, then who could ever stop us, and if our God is with us, then what could stand against?" (Romans 8:31)

Second Interview

Sorry to leave you hanging and not update all weekend.  We were pretty busy.  In spite of feeling like he did a poor job at his interview on Friday morning, the school called back on Sunday night and asked Mitch to come in for a second interview.  So he will be going in for that interview this morning at 11 a.m.  He was feeling discouraged on Friday, but a friend called to let us know that the school had called SCCS to check Mitch's references on Friday afternoon and that gave us hope to ride through the weekend on.  The job now lies between Mitch and one other applicant.  May God's will be done!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Job Interview (Please Pray)

Mitch has his job interview at 8:30 cst this morning.  Please pray for him!  He is very nervous.  Pray that he will be calm and confident and know the right things to say.  I am so thankful that Mitch has the opportunity to even interview for this position.  I hope they see what a stellar teacher he is.  :)  He has been given a great gift by God and I'm so thankful he is seeking to use it in a classroom.  May God be glorified!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

DIY Camera Lens Repair

I am ashamed to admit that a couple months ago I dropped my camera.  Here is what happened:  it was dark out.  I noticed someone had moved my camera bag to a new location.  I had previously left the camera in the bag, unzipped, on a picnic table, and it was moved to the deck to avoid sprinklers.  Ok...no big deal.  I incorrectly assumed (without even really thinking about it) that the person who had moved it had zipped it shut in order to do so.  So I grabbed the bag and turned to walk away, as my D80 dropped from the bag to the concrete only a couple feet below.  Sadly, the damage was done.  Thankfully it wasn't as bad as it could have been. 

The body of the camera has a small amount of damage, and the door hinge to the battery was half broken.  It still closed and held the battery in, however when I opened it, it would fall off.  The worst damage was done to my 18-55mm VR lens.  The plastic mount (why in the world do ANY Nikon lenses have plastic mounts!!!) was broken.  I could use the lens on the camera, but if it was jostled even a tiny bit, it would fall off.  This was a sad thing for me.  So I looked into buying a new/used lens.  Even though this is a cheaper "kit" lens, it still runs over $100 (and more like $150) on ebay.  I don't throw around that kind of cash, so buying a new lens was absolutely out of the question. 

So then I looked into self-repair.  I found instructions on this website: Fun With Stuff.  It looked easy enough, so I bravely ordered the part.  While I was at it (and paying shipping anyway), I went ahead and ordered a new battery door cover as well.  I did not order directly from Nikon, and I sort of wish I had now...the place I ordered from had the lens mount back-ordered.  They had to wait until they got it in stock (from Nikon, ironically), then ship it out to me.  Live and learn! 

So after over a month of waiting, my new mount (and battery cover) arrived in the mail today.  I nervously started the project, but it took me less than 20 minutes to complete.  In fact, I think it took me longer to write about it, than it did to fix my lens!  For me the hardest part was worrying that I was going to break the cable (then what would I do?) and even though he said to pay attention where the long plastic comes from when I removed the old mount, I still didn't pay good enough attention.  So I made the best logical guess, and when I put it all back together I only loosely tightened the screws at first until I knew for sure it was right and I didn't need to take it apart again. 

All in all, the total repairs (for both parts) cost less than $40, which is not too bad.  The lens is a fantastic lens, and I look forward to using it for years to come.  I did read some reviews that claimed the lens wasn't worth repairing...I believe those people have NO idea what they're talking about.  It absolutely was worth repairing, and I'm glad I took the chance and did it!  In the future, I hope my fingers aren't as buttery and I don't ever, ever drop my camera again!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Sunday Preachin'

This post is especially for my overseas friends.  :)  Every Sunday our pastor's sermons are taped and made available online.  You can listen to the audio, or even watch the video.  This past week the pastor did the sermon a little differently.  Typically a service begins with announcements, music, and the culminates with a 30-40 minute sermon given by the pastor.  Instead, he spoke for about 15 minutes at a time, then we sang a song, then he preached again.  The benefit is that all the great music we enjoy is also on the videos!  When exchange students visit American churches, they usually find the music the most fascinating.  It's true that the entire service is very different...in fact, there is a lot of diversity in American churches as well and our church is different than many others even in our own community.  Some students say it is like attending a concert or they nickname it "karaoke church" because as we sing the words are projected on large screens.  :)  Ok...so this was this week's sermon, complete with the sermon AND the great music we enjoy every week, in two parts because it was a long service...maybe you will see why we love our church so much (though you can't see the great friends and fellowship we enjoy before and after service):


What is the Gospel Part 1 from Calvary Community Church on Vimeo.


What is the Gospel Part 2 from Calvary Community Church on Vimeo.

Yes, it's really long...but it's really GREAT! :) Just in case you're in a hurry, there are two parts that I love especially.  In the first video, right about 16 minute mark, Pastor Matthew is talking about how to tell if you are a legalist, and he does a great job singing a parody of "Jesus Paid It All" called "The Hymn of the Legalist". This one was so memorable that several of my kids can sing it after only hearing it once. I just hope they understand the peril that lies therein. In the second video, right about 17 minutes, Pastor Matthew introduces Desmond who sings a great hip-hop song for us...lots of fun, but lots of truth!  (The words are on the screen to help you know what he is saying).

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Patrick!

Patrick celebrated his 18th birthday in Germany today.  We got to skype with him yesterday morning.  It was a little funny because our day was just beginning--Kathi was heading out the door to school, kids were arriving for daycare, and we were in the middle of breakfast chaos--and on a different side of the world, Patrick had just finished school for the day (he is 7 hours ahead of us) and looked like he was relaxing.  He was getting ready to go to the store with his Oma and he hoped to make "American" chocolate chip cookies when they got home.  About a month ago we sent him a package and surprised him by including a cake mix and frosting, so he could also have his favorite American birthday cake.  :)  We also planned on making a cake to celebrate here.  When I got up this morning, Mitch surprised me by having it already baking in the oven.  We waited until after supper to celebrate, when it wasn't technically Patrick's birthday in Germany anymore, but that doesn't matter...he just gets an extra-long birthday!  :) 



Here is the video we made for you, Patrick.  We love you!  "May the good Lord bless you and keep you the whole year through!"

video

((Kathi has a pretty busy schedule, and Tuesday nights are volleyball game nights, so she will have to enjoy cake on her own when she gets home.))

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review: Immanuel's Veins

Be forewarned that my review will contain spoiler warnings, so you may want to read carefully!

I received a copy of Immanuel's Veins, by Tedd Dekker, with great anticipation and curiosity.  First of all, the book information came with no real synopsis, only a sketch.  I knew it was a fantasy-adventure type novel with a great love story.  I couldn't wait to dig in!  The book includes pages of short reviews, people who wrote of being enraptured by the story, so I waited until a weekend when I had plenty of time so it would be ok if I got all caught up in reading.

Then one day I received a note from the publisher giving me extra resources for writing my review.  I watched this compelling video, and my excitement grew:



Now, let me say if you think that you would like to read this book, then stop reading my review right now.  The rest will spoil the story for you!

Right away in Chapter 1 we are introduced to the hero of the story.  Something very bad happened for me.  I didn't fall in love with him.  In fact, I was put off by the dialogue that was so casual and sensual between he and his best friend.  In Chapter 2 I had the rousing suspicion that I was reading a vampire story.  Ugh.  Yes, dear friends, that's what it is.  I know our culture is crazed with Twilight and other related stories, but I am just not into the whole vampire thing.  In fact, I find it repulsive.  So, not loving the characters, and now completely turned off by the entire plot of the book, I found the rest of the book cumbersome and detached...I had to make myself get through it.  :(

In this book, the vampires are the bad guys and our warrior hero is the good guy.  He and his best friend are sent from Russia to protect a royal mother and her twin daughters living at a summer castle in Moldavia, nestled at the base of the Carpathian mountains.  They are regretting having to leave the glory of the Russo-Turkish War to "babysit" these girls, however they are bidden to do the will of Her Majesty.  The hero, Toma, is desperately loyal to the empress of Russia, Catherine the Great.  The empress has admonished Toma not to fall in love with either of the twins while he is there.  What does he do right away?  He falls in love with Lucine.  So much for loyalty and service.  The thought here is that true love supersedes duty and service.  However he spends most of the rest of his story painfully hiding his love, never telling Lucine of his love, until it is too late.  Someone else loves Lucine, and wishes to marry her.  You can guess it is a vampire, and not just any vampire but the leader.  He takes her and makes her his vampire bride, and the book culminates with Toma's quest to redeem Lucine and rescue her from the living dead.

The hook in this story is supposed to be Toma's sacrifice of his own life for the redemption of Lucine.  It is a reflection of what Christ has done for us.  Because Dekker purposefully aims to present the Gospel through his story, I feel that I must address that subject in my review.  Toma is not a Christian, it is clear from the first chapter.  In desperation to save Lucine, he rushes to the local priest to ask for help.  The priest asks Toma if he is a Christian, to which Toma replies "Yes."  The priest then reveals that Toma cannot possibly be a Christian because he is not a member of the church.  This is good and bad--good, because MANY people wrongly believe as Toma that they are Christians (likewise that they are "good people").  It is bad because the priest says Toma is not a Christian because Toma is not a member of the church (neither am I a member of the Catholic church, however I AM a Christian)...a flawed logic.  Toma desperately asks how he is to become a Christian.  The priest replies with a long list of things that Toma needs to do to earn salvation (living a good life, giving alms to the poor, etc).  Toma has no time to earn salvation based on works--he needs salvation instantly (which is what we have when we repent--turn from our sins--and trust in the saving work of Jesus on the cross).  Toma is given a "blood book" by a strange character we met in the first chapter named Thomas, presumably an angel.  Upon reading this book, Toma realizes that salvation is found through the cross alone--in the blood of Jesus poured out for us.  (Strong references here to the practice of communion--and the Gospel of John chapter 6 is a great place to start reading).  Armed with this new information, Toma sets out to vanquish the vampires and redeem Lucine.  Thomas pleads with Toma to "be his twin"...implying that Toma should be as Jesus.  While that is the call of all Christians, I wonder if this calling isn't just a little defiled by the whole "vampire" theme?  Perhaps I'm just too picky.

If you enjoy vampire thrillers, then you will probably enjoy this book, and that's a good thing.  It's just a story, after all.  I didn't love the characters, but that is just my personality.  I think when I picked up this book I was hoping for something a little more like Frank Peretti.  Unfortunately, it was a little too worldly and sensual for my tastes.

One more closing thought.  The publisher asked me to answer this question:  What is true sacrificial love?  True sacrificial love is what Jesus did on the cross.  It wasn't just the painful death of crucifixion--it was bearing the full cup of God's wrath.  A cup that was meant for me.  A cup that I cannot even begin to imagine.  Far worse than a beating and death.  He took that cup from me, and He bore it to the cross.  And He rose again!! He conquered sin and death.  He endured the wrath of Hell so that I could live in glory.  To Him be the glory!  Any "good" that I do in my life is a reflection of what Christ has done on the cross.  It is by His grace that I am able to do *anything* good.  That is sacrificial love.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze.com <http://BookSneeze.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Family Update

This one is a long time coming!  So long, in fact, that now I can't remember what all I need to tell you.  :)

I will be 9 weeks pregnant tomorrow, and today has been one of my sickest days.  I had high hopes I would get things done today (since it's a Saturday), but I've accomplished nothing.  :(  And the weather outside is perfect and beautiful.  Sad!!  Overall this pregnancy I have felt very similar to the last time I was pregnant.  Nauseous, but not throwing up.  Cold chills followed by hot flashes.  Tired.  Unmotivated.  One symptom that I *think* is new (my memory fails) is I have had some cramping and persistent diarrhea, which I think could possibly be related to having no gall bladder this time.  (???)  I'm sure that modifying my diet would be an important step to curing it, and I think that I may finally be reaching a point where I will break my will and cave to a healthier diet.  Activity helps me feel better when I can convince myself to be up and moving around.  Standing in my sewing room thinking about working or sitting at the computer doing "work" make me sick.  If I can survive the next 4 weeks, then I'll be happy.  LOL  My first doctor appointment isn't until I am 10 weeks along, so I have over a week to wait patiently for that.  I have no concerns, though pregnancy is always filled with unknowns.  I cling to the God who knows.

I managed to get everyone started back to school this week.  Josh begs to do school twice a day, and was sorely disappointed when I told him that we do not do school on Saturday and Sunday.  He wasn't happy about that!  I love this positive attitude toward learning and I wish it would persist always.  I insisted that he could certainly continue to practice his cursive i's all weekend long.  Caleb was very glad to finally be back to school.  He loves his Bible class the most.  Such enthusiasm!  Zeke had a really bad attitude on the second day of school (following a stinky attitude on the first day), so we had to spend a good deal of time correcting his attitude.  I insisted that he has no more important job to do than his school work, and he needs to do his BEST work with a cheerful heart.  Thankfully after some prayer his attitude completely turned around.

Mitch got a call for an interview.  This would be a great school--in a small district, farming community, teaching 5th grade.  His interview is next Friday (17th) morning at 8:30 am.  Please be praying for him and our family.  If it is God's will for him to have this job, then let the doors open!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Book Review: Outlive Your Life

Max Lucado rocks my world.  I just finished reading his new book, "Outlive Your Life".  I only started this book on Wednesday afternoon.  I hoped it would hold my attention enough to finish it by today.  I was not disappointed!

I want to back up here just a little.  I've been a fan of Max Lucado ever since I picked up my first book by him some 15 years ago.  I have a picture that I really really wanted to include on this blog post, but it's currently inaccessible in the far corner of my crawl space (naughty, I know, to have my pictures stored in the crawl space).  It is me and 2 or 3 other young college girls some 15 years ago sitting on the side of a swimming pool, all with a Max Lucado book in front of our faces.  I don't remember which one now that I was reading, but it was most likely one of these three:  No Wonder They Call Him the Savior, God Came Near, or Six Hours One Friday.  I remember being completely swept away by Lucado's vivid writing style.  His books challenged me to draw near to my Savior.

Outlive Your Life follows in kind behind my early favorites.  Lucado brings home difficult statistics and issues in the world today, reminds us we are called to do something about it, then shows us how we can.  He paints beautiful word pictures, tells stories that grip our hearts, and gently calls us to action.  In fact, immediately after reading Chapter 10, "Stand Up for the Have-Nots", I felt compelled to come to my computer and write a blog post about Compassion International.  Sponsoring a child is a very easy way to put insight into action after reading this book!  And before you think that simple things (such as $38/month) don't save the world, read on to Chapter 16, "That's Jesus Playing That Fiddle"!  Lucado reminds us of Jesus' words:  "For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’"  (Matthew 25:35-36 ESV)  And points out that those verses do NOT say that "I was sick and you healed me."  In simple things we serve Jesus.  I really could go on and on trying to grasp all that this book encompasses, but I would fall short.  I can only say: read it.  This one is a must-read.  And it's easy.  The back of the book includes a "Discussion and Action Guide" which makes the book easily accommodated to small groups. 

Earlier today Micah and I had a conflict.  He had been angry with his brother, and subsequently hurt him both with words and physically.  As I corrected Micah, he was at first unrepentant and shifted his anger towards me.  He was certainly not respectful nor submissive.  It was a battle!  In fact, I finally had to retreat to my room and pray.  I assigned him a few Bible verses to read, then I asked him the question "How does the Bible have the power to bring about true, lasting change in our lives?"  Micah's answer came as "I can read God's word, and pray, and ask God to help me."  Later I was reading Chapter 15, "Pray First, Pray Most" and I felt that Micah needed to hear the message on prayer and repentance.  I called him over and asked him if he would rather read it himself, or listen as I read to him.  He said listen...so we sat, shoulder-to-shoulder, and I read.  I stopped where I felt it appropriate, and he asked me to continue...he said, "But what does this part say?"  So I continued on, finishing the entire chapter.  Then he said, "Why can't I read this book?"  I told him he certainly can.  He said as he jumped up from the couch to finish with lunch, "Max Lucado is a VERY good author!"  My heart rejoiced.  He said, "Maybe I should write a report, Mom."  I told him if he wants to, I would be happy to publish it for him.  :)

I highly recommend this book with one admonition:  Do not read it and remain unchanged.  Do not read it and do nothing, remaining complacent as you are.  Do something.  Change the world.

Thomas Nelson book publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book as part of the Book Sneeze blog program.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Working on my next post

I set myself a pretty steep deadline for my next book review.  The book arrived in the mail yesterday afternoon, and I need to post my review (per the publisher's request), if possible, by tomorrow.  So about 48 hours.  And it's a non-fiction book.  :)  Usually I spend about 3 weeks on those.  :)  This is good for me!  I just finished a wonderful chapter titled "Stand Up for the Have-Nots."  I immediately wanted to post a video from Compassion International.  The book I'm reading touches on these staggering statistics many times.




We sponsor a child from Compassion.  His name is Julio.  I have mentioned him before--we have an ichthys fish on the back of our van with a Dominican Republic flag to represent him as part of our family.  I can't resist posting this video too because it is from the D.R.:



We have been sponsoring Julio for a few years now...I've lost track how many.  It was so cool when we "picked" Julio--one of the things that made us want to pick him is that his birthday is 7/19/97--only 8 days younger than Micah!  When we look at Micah, we can remember his "twin" brother many miles away in D.R.  I love receiving letters from Julio, and now that the older kids understand a little better they look forward to them, too.  On one wall of our dining room is a huge world map.  Surrounding the map are pictures of people our family is praying for, with a string and a tack going from each picture to the places where those people live all over the world.  It helps our children get a good sense of geography, and also helps them remember who to pray for each night when we prepare to eat supper.  Julio's picture is up there, too.  :)


Well, I still have 70-some more pages to read, so I've gotta scoot.  :)

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

First Day of School

Today was Kathi's first "real" day of school.  She went yesterday for a couple hours for orientation, but today was a full day, complete with her first quiz!


Today was also Josh's first day of Kindergarten.  What a fun day!!  It was so much fun that we did TWO lessons.  :) 


Zeke had his first day of 1st grade.  He also completed two lessons, even though he really didn't want to.  When I pulled out my camera, he buried his head and whined about "hating" school.  Poor guy.  I told him that tomorrow we will do school in the morning when he is not so tired.


His lessons today were super easy.  I know it will pick up quickly.


Micah played hookey and went fishing with his Grandpa Marc, who is visiting from Kentucky.  Eden also played hookey and went horseback riding (thanks, Pam!).  Poor Caleb is begging to start school but I'm not quite ready yet.  They have technically already started, but we've had an extended break.  Since Karen and Marc are visiting this week, it makes it a little hard to start school.  We will start soon enough.  We need a solution for where to set up Eden's computer, that's the only hitch right now.

Mitch has been in high gear applying for jobs.  What happens now is as the districts start school and see what their enrollments are, then they hire additional teachers if needed.  He has applied for 5 different full-time teaching positions and many more subbing positions.  We have no doubt that he'll work.  He anonymously placed a follow-up call today to one of the jobs and they said that they'll be calling for interviews very soon (with the warning that if he wanted to be considered, then he should hand in his application TODAY).  So it's not bad that we haven't heard anything yet.  Please continue to pray for us!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Book Review: No Girls Allowed

No Girls Allowed Devotions for Boys by Jayce O'Neal is a delightful new devotion book for boys ages 8-12.  Each devotion is 4 pages long.  The first two pages include a short story, prayer, and cartoon.  Each story typically describes situations that are familiar to boys and borrows lessons from characters boys are familiar with (ie: superheroes, athletic stars, popular movie characters, etc.).  The third page features a pencil activity (ie: word search, secret code, etc) that is age-appropriate and draws from the lesson.  These types of activities especially appeal to this age group.  The last page for each devotion includes a list of "Things to Do", a list of "Things to Remember", and a list of quotations--nuggets of wisdom--from famous people.

The devotions are well planned and captivating.  The information is easy to digest and the lessons are not only solid, but they are lessons that directly apply to what my boys in this age range are dealing with at this stage of life.  There is plenty to learn here!  Jayce O'Neal certainly knows boys well and what gets their attention.  Each devotion follows through completely from insight to action, and that is commendable.

There are 60 devotions, but there is no set plan on how often a devotion should be read (every day, one a week, etc).  This leaves the planning up to you.  And that is an important point--you (as the parent/grandparent/caregiver) should do some planning.  I do not expect to hand this book to my 9-year-old and have him complete all the activities at his own pace.  It is not a realistic expectation.  Nor do I need to sit by his side and complete each devotion with him.  But I can help him set goals, and check in with him to see how it is coming, and to see what he is learning.  Personally, I feel I would enjoy discussing the nuggets of wisdom presented at the end of each lesson (explaining who Winston Churchill is, for example), and encouraging him to choose a couple of things to do from the list.

I highly recommend this book for the young boys in your life!  I know I have a few boys here at my house that will get good use from it.  ;)  Also, if you follow the link above to amazon.com, you can read the first couple of devotions to see for yourself.

Tyndale House Publishers has provided me with a complimentary copy of this book.  I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 <http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Monday, September 06, 2010

The Wedding Photographer

Friends we have made through YFU, Scott and Sheila, just celebrated their daughter's wedding this past weekend.  Sheila asked me if I would come and take pictures.  I was sooooo nervous!  But it was exciting.  I took over 200 photos and I got a few good shots.  I lack any creative talent when it comes to posing photos.  I looked at tons of examples online before I left to get some ideas.  While I was there I kept asking everyone who was standing watching to give me ideas of what they have seen before.  That helped a ton.  All that left for me to do was figure out where to stand with the camera and what settings to use.  :)



{Scott, Sheila and kids}

The ceremony began at dusk.  It was beautiful!  What a very creative way to use the space.  I loved it.  



Saturday, September 04, 2010

Moms and Dads

Two fun videos produced by Church on the Move, one for Mother's Day and one for Father's Day (the Dad one is my personal favorite...but both definitely feature a talented group of individuals!):

Mommy Rhapsody from Church on the Move on Vimeo.


Dad Life from Church on the Move on Vimeo.

Blue-Eyed Girl

{Tirzah is a bundle of fun!}

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Changes

It's time for a change!

The weather is changing...cooler here now, especially for the upcoming weekend.  We were supposed to go camping this weekend, but those plans were sidelined...now seeing the weather forecast, I'm thankful.  I don't generally look forward to colder weather, but I do look forward to cooler nights.  For as cold as I am throughout the day, I get super hot in the middle of the night and fall/winter brings welcome relief!

Schedules are changing...summer vacation is coming to an end, and school will be starting on September 7th.  Kathi is looking forward to her first day at Apollo High School with great anticipation and excitement.  Josh is looking forward to starting Kindergarten.  Zeke isn't thrilled about starting 1st grade, but I showed him how easy the first lessons are, so then he just acted all silly about it.  I have two daycare children who will be going to school, too--yay--relief from the end-of-summer boredom!

Jobs are changing...tomorrow is Mitch's last day at NorthCrest, where he has been working all summer.  He was a lead counselor at the day camp for kids and also the bus driver.  He really seemed to enjoy his coworkers and getting out of the house each day.  I really enjoyed the extra paycheck.  Thank you, Honey!!  I <3 U.  So what now?  More daycare kids?  Not really...Mitch has applied for two open teaching positions in districts near here.  He applied a week ago, and we haven't heard anything yet.  :(  That doesn't appear to be a good sign, but we covet your prayers...if it is God's will for Mitch to have a full-time teaching position, then pray that the doors would open and Mitch would get a job offer.  We have been warned before how difficult it is to get a public school teaching position in this area, and now we are coming face-to-face with that reality.  We definitely need God to open the doors!  Mitch has also applied in many of the surrounding school districts to be a short-term substitute teacher.  It pays well, obviously not as well as a full-time salary, but promising.  Many people experienced as subs have told us that Mitch can fully expect to be called every day to sub starting around the middle of September/beginning of October.

Coming from someone who usually doesn't like change, I can honestly say I'm excited about the changes ahead! 

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Josh, officially 5 years old

I'm only one day late...sorry Josh!


5 years ago (yesterday) this cutie entered our lives.  I can't believe it's been 5 years already--it seems like just yesterday!  Mitch was sure he wanted to name him "Eleazar".  I was sure I didn't.  So we settled on Joshua Eleazar.  Besides, every Caleb needs a Joshua...right???  We love the way their eyes light up when we read the Bible stories of these favorite Old Testament heroes.  Oh what a delight Joshua has been in our family!!

Joshua is smart, good natured, and gets along well with others.  He has a great imagination.  He also seems to be a natural leader, though not always into good things, sometimes into bad.  But that's ok, we're focusing on the positives today.

When I asked Josh what he wanted for his birthday dinner (it is our tradition to have the child choose what they want for supper on their birthdays), he said "Turkey" and a bunch of other seemingly random things.  I was surprised.  I said, "But you don't even like turkey!"  He said, "I know, but somebody does."  :) He finally settled on hot dogs.  Unexpectedly, he got to go to work with his dad yesterday and had hot dogs for lunch.  Thinking quickly, I gave them a call and asked if he would want hot dogs or Little Caesar's Pizza for supper.  He said "hot dogs, baked beans, and watermelon."  So we stuck to our original menu--even though that meant hot dogs twice in one day.  I don't know how many he ate for lunch, but he ate 1 and 1/2 for supper!  As well as a fair amount of baked beans, watermelon, and leftover chocolate cake.

Josh is already reading some words and sounds.  He loves to draw random letters and sound them out.  It's really cute.  I think we'll have to speed kindergarten up for him a little...I am remembering from Zeke last year how slow A Beka Kindergarten is to get started.  If we were not homeschooling I am not sure what I would do with Josh.  He is technically old enough AND smart enough to start kindergarten this year in public school, but I think that we would regret it when we got to junior high/middle school.  I am excited to get started and so is he!

Josh and Zeke are pretty good buddies.  Josh and Malachi??  Not so much.  But it will get better as Chi gets older.  Eden is Josh's big buddy helper.  She helps him get dressed, put his clothes away, make his bed (in theory), get his food, and keep track of him when we are out. 


Josh's new favorite toy is his webkinz guinea pig.  He has this little stuffed guinea pig and plays games with his online virtual pet.  He named it "Pumpkin Sweet Theis".  He just started, so he's got a lot to learn.  He says his favorite color is red.  He would rather have his hair long than short.  He says he would love to have a baby kitty. 

WOW--five years old!  Another school-ager in my house!  I can hardly believe it!!