Saturday, December 30, 2017

What I Read: December 2017

I can't believe it's the end of the last month of 2017. Wow. Here's what I've been busy reading...

The Angel Tree (Daphine Benedis-Grab)

Every year, the tree goes up in the middle of the town. Everyone knows how it works. You tie a slip of paper with a wish on it to a branch on the tree. Someone takes it down, and by Christmas, your wish has come true. No one knows who is behind the miracle tree. But four kids are about to find out. They set of on a journey to solve the mystery and thank the person behind the angel tree. This is a fun book for all ages!

The Attributes of God (A.W. Pink)

This was a school assignment for this semester. It was a little bit above my reading level at times, but it really stretched my vocabulary and my understanding of God. I think sometimes I'm tempted to "put God in a box", and try to make him fit my own idea of what he should be like, so this was a good book to read to challenge my understanding of him. Pink discusses 17 attributes of God, from the sufficiency of God to the love of God to the mercy of God to the wrath of God. I highly recommend  this book.

Waiting Here for You (Louie Giglio)

This was a nice short advent devotional that I read this December. Each day had a passage from the Bible to read, a thought from the author, a song, and a prayer. It was easy to read and a good way to focus my attention on God throughout the Christmas Season.

A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (Mark Twain)
connecticut yankee 
 This was another book assigned for school. It was absolutely entertaining! A man from the late 1800s gets randomly placed in the time of King Arthur. He is appalled at the way society runs with the feudal system, slavery, lords with absolute power, the church with absolute power, and no hygiene. He pretends to have magical power, even more than Merlin, and gains the respect of the King. He becomes the King's most trusted official, called "The Boss" and begins to "reform" the kingdom  by bringing in modern conveniences. He performs "magical" feats that actually come down to using his head and then playing it up as magic. In the last half of the book he decides to dress as a peasant and see life from their side. The King decides to go with him. Both of them nearly blow their cover several times, and are taken as slaves. Eventually they escape and return home. "The Boss" continues over the next three years to make Medieval England into a "modern society." He marries and they have a child. Then, all of the sudden, the modern society goes down the drain. The Boss is mad, and he fights back. This starts a full-out war. The Boss and his followers are victorious. Although the book was amusing and comical, the final three chapters or so were rather confusing, and, in my opinion, unnecessary.

The Captive Maiden (Melanie Dickerson)

Image result for the captive maiden
Based off the fairytale of Cinderella, Gisela is an orphan mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters. She finds her way to a tournament where she meets Valten, and the two fall in love. Her stepmother tries to sell her to a slimebag named Ruexner and locks her in her bedroom. She finds her way out and makes it the banquet following the final day of the tournament. In a desperate attempt, her stepsisters help Ruexner kidnap Gisela, but Valten follows. Gisela and Valten have quite a time of it trying to escape from Ruexner, but they finally succeed, express their love for each other, get married, and live happily ever after.

What did you read this month? This year? Click here to view all my book reviews!

Bookshelves and their treasure. by the Picsees (www.thepicsees.com) Books cute pixies reading


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Top 5 Christmas Songs this year

Hello!
I've been listening to a ton of music lately. And, not surprising, I've found some songs I want to listen to over and over. Now, this list is not in order from best to worst, or worst to best, it's just 5 Christmas songs I really love.

1. How many Kings by Downhere
This is a lyric video so that you can really focus on the words.




2. O Come O Come Emmanuel
This song was originally in Latin, but was translated somewhere along the line. Here is a video of my favorite arrangement, by the Piano Guys.


Here is a version with words.

3. Angels We Have Heard on High (arrangement by the Piano Guys)
You have to watch this one. Don't just turn it on while doing the dishes. These guys have way too much fun with their music. Also, I never knew a piano could make that many different sounds.



4. Strange Way to Save the World by 4 Him



5. Charlie Brown Christmas Medley by the Piano Guys
Sensing a theme? Yes, I love Piano and Cello music.




Hope you enjoyed some Christmas music!
If you want one more fun (and short) song, check out this link. 

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Christmas Books

As you know, I really like reading. Christmas time is my favorite time of year for many reasons, but one of those reasons is that I have time to read!! Below is a list of some favorite books our family has, for both kids and grownups.

Favorite Christmas Picture Books

Charlie and the Christmas Kitty (Ree Drummond)

This is a funny and cute book about Charlie the Ranch Dog. He just sits back and watches as his owners get ready for Christmas. Then, on Christmas day, he wakes up to see a kitten that has arrived on the ranch. At first, Charlie is upset, but then he learns how to get along. The book is written from Charlie's perspective, and it is SOOOO funny!

The Crippled Lamb (Max Lucado)

 This has been one of my favorite Christmas books for years. It is a sweet story about a crippled lamb that gets left behind at the stable when the rest of the sheep go out to graze. Because of that, he gets to witness the birth of the savior, and even keep him warm for the night.

Tiny Baby Jesus (Dandi Daley Mackall)

 This book is a poem about baby Jesus and looking ahead to when he would grow up and what he would do as a man. I love this book for the pictures!

The Legend of the Candy Cane (Lori Walburg)

A man moves into town, and buys the old deserted shop. Over the next few weeks, the townspeople make guesses about what he could be making while he hammers and saws in the shop. Finally, one curious little girl can't stand it any longer, and she knocks on the door and asks if she can help. She finds out that he is a candy store owner! As she helps him unpack the candies, she uncovers one she has never seen. The candy store owner tells her the story of the candy cane and all it signifies.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Dr. Suess)

Another classic in our family, read multiple times every year. The Grinch is a nasty fellow who hates Christmas. One year, he can't stand it anymore and decides to steal everything about Christmas to try to put an end to the holiday. But in a turn of events, it is the Grinch's heart that is changed by the end of the book.

The Christmas Miracle of Jonathan Toomey (Susan Wojciechowski)

Oh, this is a good one. It is a must-read every Christmas Season. Jonathan Toomey is an gruff, grumpy woodcarver who never smiles. One day, he meets a widow and her son. They ask him to carve a nativity set for them. Slowly, over the next few weeks, as the little boy watches, Jonathan Tommey's hard heart is softened.

Humphrey's First Christmas (Carol Heyer)

This book is SOOOOO funny!!! It is about a camel who wants to be comfortable and "dragged" on a journey by his master to a little town called Bethlehem. He meets the baby Jesus and his attitude is changed. This book is really fun to read aloud!

Favorite Christmas Chapter Books

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever (Barbara Robinson)

There is this family named the Herdmans. They are nasty and never go to church. All the other kids hate them. Then, somehow, they end up at the Christmas pageant rehearsal...and steal all the parts. The nastiest, meanest kids you know are now playing the parts of Mary, Joseph, angels, shepherds, wise men... Read along as the Herdman family makes this year's Christmas pageant the BEST EVER. (note: My sister (who hates to read) is reading this to the other sister AND recommended it to a friend!)

The Angel Tree (Daphne Benedis Grab)

Every year, the tree goes up in the middle of the town. Everyone knows how it works. You tie a slip of paper with a wish on it to a branch on the tree. Someone takes it down, and by Christmas, your wish has come true. No one knows who is behind the miracle tree. But four kids are about to find out. They set of on a journey to solve the mystery and thank the person behind the angel tree.

The Family Under the Bridge (Natalie Savage Carlson)

I know, this isn't actually a "Christmas Book", but it takes place at Christmas time. This book is about a hobo who lives under a bridge. One day, he meets a family with a few young children. The hobo hates children, but he ends up taking care of them and falling in love with them.


Favorite Advent Devotionals

Come Let Us Adore Him (Paul Tripp)

We have been reading this one just about every morning as a family. This devotional looks at the Christmas story in a different way every morning. Warning: It is also very convicting at times.

Waiting Here For You (Louie Giglio)

I've been reading this one every night before bed. Each day is a nice and short devotional with a short Bible passage to read, a thought from the author, a song to meditate on, and a prayer. It takes like 5 minutes or less to go through each day.

Jotham's Journey, Bartholomew's Passage, Tabitha's Travels, and Ishtar's Odyssey (Arnold Ytreeide)

While these are technically Advent devotionals, we always read them as just a regular chapter book. These 4 books are all connected to each other. They are the story of 9-10 year old children and their journey to the side of the Messiah. They are suspense filled and funny. If you read them as a devotional, each day's chapter is accompanied by a bible passage and thought that connects to the chapter.

Do you have any books to add to this list? Let me know in the comments below! Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Loyalty Makes You Family

Sorry, everyone, it's been a while since I've posted...I'm working on a end of semester post, but it won't be ready for a couple more days. For today, I'm going to be sharing a short story that I wrote a while back. I used this quote as a story prompt:

*Side note; I'm super excited to post this
picture because it is my second successful use of
a photo-editing software. And the first time
I've put words on a photo with it. :) 

Jane threw herself on her bed and burst into tears. It had been the worst day of her life. Her room-mate was out of town for the week, and her family was across the country…sleeping. There was no one to talk to, but Jane needed help…wait...she opened her eyes and reached for her phone. She dialed and waited. 
            Tommie picked up the phone. “Hello, Jane.”
            “Do you have a moment?” Jane asked, her voice quavering.
            “Sure, sis. What’s up? Are you okay?”
            “No,” Jane admitted. “I lost my job, failed my English class, and broke up.”
            Tommie was silent for a moment. “I’m coming to the college. Meet me at the gym.”
            “Thank you,” Jane whispered. She hung up and lay back on the bed for a moment, thinking about how thankful she was that Tommie lived nearby. 
            Her relationship with Tommie hadn’t always been this way. In fact, they had been arch enemies when they were growing up. She clearly remembered yelling at him, “I hate you” after he had broken her doll…on purpose. She had always tried to outdo him. If he won a baseball game, she HAD to be the star of her next dance recital. If he got an A in math, she had to get an A+. And he was always trying to one-up her. If she cleaned half her room, he tried to clean his whole room. He told all her secrets, and in turn, she made up evil stories about him. He ruined her garden one year, and she stole his wallet.
            But now, when there was nowhere else to turn, he was the one she called on for help.
            And this wasn’t the first time.
            It all started four years ago, in her senior year of high school, when her school had a prom. And EVERYONE was going. All Jane’s friends had been invited, but she was still the loner without a date. Three days before the prom, things looked hopeless. All the other girls were teasing her. Tommie picked up a sobbing sister from school that day. He wasn’t supposed to pick her up, mom was. But mom had got stuck in traffic, so there he was, picking up his sister. It turned out to be for the best.
            After driving a sobbing sister down the road for a few minutes, Tommie pulled over to the side of the road and insisted that Jane tell him everything. Though she resisted at first, Jane ended up telling him the whole story on the way home. He was sympathetic and quickly came up with an alternative. The day of the prom, the two of them enjoyed a nice dinner out together. 
            And when she didn’t get accepted by the college she wanted to go for, he was there as a listening ear. He drove her to visit several colleges and helped her find her social security number for the application. 
            To be sure, he had reciprocated his help. 
            He had asked her for advice when he started dating. She had helped him choose a suit for the big wedding day. She had celebrated when he had been drafted by the Padres right out of college. She had come to his major-league debut a few months later when the rest of the family was too busy. And she had been there for him when he and his wife lost their first baby.
            Now, when her world was once again crumbling down around her, he was there for her with a hug and encouragement. 

            And an extra ticket for tonight’s baseball game. 

Sunday, November 26, 2017

What I Read- November 2017

Hello Friends! 
Here is what I read this month..enjoy!

Anna of Byzantium (Tracy Barrett)

rating: 4 stars

This book went along with what we were studying in History. It is set in late Roman empire/early dark ages in the kingdom of Byzantium, which I believe is near modern turkey. It is based off a true story, but very much fictionalized. 
Anna is a princess, the oldest in a family of girls. She will inherit the throne from her father, the emperor. But then, one day, a baby boy is born. 
Slowly, bit by bit, Anna's Grandmother helps John (Anna's brother) to wrench the throne from Anna's hand, sending her eventually to live in a convent for the rest of her life.

A Daring Sacrifice (Jody Hedlund)

a daring sacrifice

rating: 4 stars 

I must say, that as much as I love a Christian Romance book every once in a while, the love at first sight in this particular series has begun to get on my nerves. I know that is not the way it happens in real life...
Anyway, this is about a girl named Juliana Wessex who was once a princess, who would inherit her father's land. But her uncle stole the land from her father, sending Juliana to live as a peasant. In her efforts to protect and care for the band of peasants that she lives with, she becomes known as the Cloaked Bandit because of her stealing. 
One day, she meets Lord Colin. When they were children, Colin had insulted Juliana's red hair, and Juliana has never forgiven him. But when she is injured, Colin takes her back to his castle and cares for her...and the two fall in love. I don't want to spoil the story for you...but they do end up getting married and living happily ever after. :) 
I rate it 4 stars instead of 5 only because I'm tired of the love at first sight. 

The Vow (Jody Hedlund)


the vow

rating: 5 stars

This broke my usual rule of one romance book a month...but it was only 7 chapters and not really romance. 
The Vow is the prequel to An Uncertain Choice. (which I read last month)
It give the background story to Rosemarie's story in and Uncertain choice. Rosemarie is in love with someone, until her parents die and she uncovers a vow her parents made saying that she would be sent to a convent at her 18th birthday. The book leaves off on a sad note, that all her hopes and dreams had been dashed. It also leaves us with some hope, as her guardian tells her he will look into the vow and see if there is a way out...and the rest of the story is told in An Uncertain Choice. 
It was nice to have the background story. :) 

In closing.....

reading quote

Friday, November 17, 2017

Favorite Song: Amazing Grace A Capella

I love the hymn Amazing Grace. John Newton was a former slave trader who had his life turned
Photo by Olivia Snow on Unsplash
around by God. He experienced God's grace and then wrote a song about that grace. This is on my list of top 5 favorite hymns.
Anyway, a friend passed this arrangement on and it is absolutely beautiful.
Amazing Grace (A Capella)
by Peter Hollens and Home Free




Like I already said, I love this hymn, and this is by far my favorite arrangement of this song. Have
Photo by David Beale on Unsplash
you ever had something make you feel so happy that you wanted to cry? That's what I felt like when I first heard this song. I had a lump in my throat by the third verse. :) I can't tell you how many times I've watched this video over the last few weeks.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash






Bible verse for this song...
"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." -Ephesians 2:8-9



Thursday, November 16, 2017

Favorite Song: Death Was Arrested

Photo by Dori Drabek on Unsplash
Ah! I missed a day. :(
Oh well, I'll just pick up where I left off. Today's song is

Death Was Arrested 
By NorthPoint Inside Out 




This goes along with the song I shared on Monday, Chain Breaker. God has broken our chains and also arrested death. Death has no power over us. Jesus is victorious over sin, so we don't need to fear it...we are FREE!
Photo by Marcus Cramer on Unsplash

Bible verse for this song:
"'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
'O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?'
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."
--1 Corinthians 15:54-57

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Favorite Song: Hello My Name Is

Another Favorite Song of mine is
from Pixabay


Hello My Name Is
by Matthew West




Sometimes, especially for teenagers, its hard to remember that our identity does not lie in what other people think of us. Instead, our value and identity lies in Christ. God is our Father, and we are his children, brothers (and sisters) of Jesus Christ.
Photo by Sabine van Straaten on Unsplash


Bible verse for this song:
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure."
--1 John 3:1-3

Monday, November 13, 2017

Favorite Song: Chain Breaker

Hello, I'm back! :)
Photo by freestocks.org on Unsplash
Just like I promised yesterday, I'm posting another favorite song.
Chain Breaker
Zach Williams 








Okay, so there are several things that this song reminds me of. First, the story of Paul and Silas in prison, when there was an earthquake, and the jail doors opened and their chains fell off (for the whole story, see Acts 16). For me personally, this song reminds me that the chains of death no longer have any hold over me.
Photo by Kaley Dykstra on Unsplash


A verse that goes with this song:
"Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death,
prisoners in affliction and in irons,
for they had rebelled against the words of God,
and spurned the counsel of the Most High.
So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor;
they fell down, with none to help.
Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,
and burst their bonds apart.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
For he shatters the doors of bronze
and cuts in two the bars of iron."
--Psalm 107:10-16


Sunday, November 12, 2017

Favorite Song: Blessings

Photo by Matheus Ferrero on Unsplash
Hello Friends (and Family)!

I've been listening to a lot of music this semester. This week I'm going to share one favorite song each day with you.

Today, I'm sharing
Blessings 
by Laura Story




I've listened to this song over and over...and over. I love the words to this song. And I'm bummed that this video does not have the lyrics...so here is a link to the lyrics.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash
Photo by Axel Antas-Bergkvist on Unsplash

I like the encouragement to trust God no matter what. And I also like the truth that God works in and through the hard things in our lives, and that these hard things are actually part of his plan.

Bible verse to go with this song:
"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." --James 1:2-4

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ninja Dad Frog

Put me down! Put me down! I insist, put me down!

glass frog 1
Picture Source

Sorry if I scared you. I know, you didn't see me there. But I must stay on my leaf! 

glass frog 2
Picture source
Let's start this the right way. My name is Aristotle. I'm a glass frog. I live in the jungles of the earth. No, I'm not made out of glass. I just look like it. It actually is great defense. You see, other critters look right through me. Consider yourself, for example. You didn't see me there and picked me up. But there is another reason that I look like I'm made out of glass. And that's why I insisted that you put me on my leaf. See, I'm a father.


eggs
Picture source

Those are my tadpoles. These are some of the ones that are almost ready to hatch. If a predator comes to eat them, they can fend for themselves and get out of the situation alive...most of the time. But if the predator, let's say a wasp, for example, comes for one of the newest tadpoles...They meet my wrath.
See, I trick them into thinking that I am the newest batch of eggs. 



glass frog 3
Picture source
The wasp wants dinner, and the newest eggs are most vulnerable. So, thinking that I am the newest batch of eggs, he comes at me to feast on the tadpoles. Bet he didn't see this coming!


(Turn off the sound for the video. The song accompanying is weird. It's cooler to watch it without sound).

Whew! Safe for another day. Ninja dad to the rescue!


glass frog 4
Picture source


Wednesday, November 8, 2017

God's Not Dead-- Movie Review

Warning: Spoilers ahead. If you have not seen the movie God's Not Dead and are planning to see it, do not read any further! 

Image result for god's not dead

Movie Summary:
Josh Wheaton
Josh Wheaton is a first semester freshman at a big university. He signs up to take a philosophy class. In the first class, Professor Radisson tells the students that they can skip one-third of the class and get an A on that section if they will only sign a paper saying that God is Dead. Students quickly do just that...except for Josh. He is a Christian and he can't sign the paper. Professor Radisson agrees to a debate. Josh gets the last 20 minutes of the next three classes to present his case that God is in fact ALIVE. His girlfriend Kara tells him that it is not worth it and tells him to give up. But Josh continues with the debate...and Kara breaks up with him.

Meanwhile, Amy is a young news reporter. She has a boyfriend and life is mostly great...but she is searching for more in her life. Then she finds out that she has cancer and it is spreading rapidly...and she is dying. When she tells her boyfriend, he ends the relationship.

AyishaAyisha is a Muslim girl at the University. Her father is very traditional, and makes her wear a headdress in public. She has been hiding her faith for a year. One day, her father finds out about her faith, beats her, and throws her out of the house. (This scene is a real tear jerker).



Mina is a Christian. She is the young and beautiful wife of Professor Radisson. Radisson is fine until the topic of Mina's faith comes up. Then he gets verbally abusive. Mina feels that she is unequally yoked and doesn't know what to do.

Dave and JudeReverend Dave is feeling like he is stuck in a rut...his job is just drudgery. He has a missionary friend (Reverend Jude) who is in town. The two of them are going to take a vacation together...but their car won't start and their departure gets delayed. Rev. Dave doesn't understand why this is happening and is frustrated with Rev. Jude's absolute faith no matter the circumstances.

Josh begins presenting his case in front of Professor Radisson and his fellow classmates. Professor Radisson tries to his hardest to poke holes in Josh's arguments, and apparently is succeeding. At the end of the last session, they leave it up to the class to decide...IS GOD DEAD? One by one, the class members stand up and say: "God is not dead."
God's not dead
Following being humiliated in front of his students, Professor Radisson is at the end of his rope. He knows his deceased mom would want him to turn to God. He sees an advertisement for a Newsboys God's Not Dead concert, and decides to go.

This is the same concert where Amy has gone to interview the Newsboys, where they share the gospel with her and lead her to Christ. This is also the same concert that Mina, Ayisha, Josh, and Martin (the Chinese student in his class), are attending.

On the way to the concert, Radisson is hit by a car. Though he is not killed instantly, it is obvious that he is going to die lying in the middle of the road. Because of their late start, Rev. Dave and Rev. Jude are at the scene of the accident. Rev. Dave gets the opportunity to share the gospel with this dying man and Radisson accepts it before he dies.

The movie ends with a challenge from Duck Dynasty Dad Willie Robertson to text everyone in your contacts with three simple words: GOD'S NOT DEAD.
text message

My Thoughts on the Movie: 

It was very thought provoking. It made me think about whether I would be able to stand up to a professor like Josh did. I absolutely believe that God is not Dead, but would I be able to stand up to it?

I thought that Josh's arguments at first were a little shaky and weak, but as the debates went on, his arguments got stronger and better. At the end, he touched on the topic of morality. If there is not a God, there is no reason to be moral. This was by far his strongest argument.

The thing I admire most about Josh is that he never gave up despite the opposition of his parents, his girlfriend, and threats from his professor. Professor Radisson told Josh that he would fail him if he kept up with the debate. Yet Josh still stood for his convictions. That is admirable.

The movie was a little fast paced. In all, the movie probably covered maybe two weeks. In that time, both Martin and Amy became believers. It was a little unrealistically fast.

Here is my favorite scene from God's Not Dead...and the climax of the movie.





GOD'S NOT DEAD!!

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Puppy Party!


My friend's dog had puppies last week, and my small group went to go see them. I took like 86 pictures...don't worry, I won't post them all!

Here is proud Mama Winnie. Way to go! Eleven puppies!

The puppies were absolutely adorable.
 This is Abed. He was the fourth puppy. 

Here is Eleven. Yup, that's her name. She was also puppy eleven.

Meet Kiki. Isn't he so cute??


My friend with the puppy named Gus Gus.

Abed again. 



Look! We lulled him to sleep! 

That's me with Troy. 

Keep Scrolling...There's lots more pictures!

Puppy Party!! 

That's Eleven with her tongue out!

This is Kevin. She's actually a girl. 

The one in the front is Sunny. Kevin is in the back


This is Sunny. Sound asleep. 

This is Darling. This is also one of my favorite photos.

This little guy is Dug.  

The puppies can't walk at this point. When they want to move, they kind of wiggle across the floor. I think that is what Dug is doing in the picture above. 


One of my friends with Kevin and Dug.

This is Boo.



Dog pile! This is Kevin, Kiki, Dug, Troy, and Sunny.

This is Troy. 

Last but not least, This is Blue. 

And you can't forget the picture of the puppy owner!!


In case you didn't catch it, their names are Kevin, Kiki, Blue, Abed, Sunny, Darling, Troy, Boo, Gus Gus, Dug, and Eleven. They are so small and soft! We were there for an hour and a half, I think, but we wanted to be there forever. :)
One more before you go...