Monday, December 9

Awakening Faith - a Review

Awakening Faith is a book of devotions to last the entire year. It is drawn from the writings of our early church fathers, sharing timeless messages for our lives today.

I chose the book to give as a gift, but now I'm going to need a new copy. This beautiful book is an excellent start to each day."Awakening Faith, Daily Devotions from the Early Church" was compiled by James Stuart Bell, and it contains 366 devotional readings. 

Each day's reading is one page long and centers on a singular theme. A bible verse is shared and a relevant selection from the writings of a church father. The back of the book contains a section with more details about these heroes of the faith, as well as a scripture index. Much of the writing came from a time of persecution and controversies, a time when theology mattered. As the book's introduction points out: "the objectivity and certainy of Christian truths, particularly truths about Jesus Christ, are a unifying feature in this volume." Each entry is brief, but powerful. This book is a treasure, sharing nourishing words from 68 pillars of the faith, including Augustine, Origen, Boniface, Polycarp, and so many more.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

It has been a fabulous first week of Christmas School. Using Advent Idea Box, we have studied the Advent Wreath and Calendar, the Nutcracker, the history of Christmas Cards, and Christmas

On Monday, we studied the Advent Wreath and Norway. Tuesday, we studied the Advent Calendar and Germany. We've always done a paper calendar before, but we began a huge project this year. This Calendar tree spans the entire top of our coffee table and all four children have learned how to sew on buttons. Now we are learning the blanket stitch. It's a nice project to work on during our evening Advent readings. It will take us several years to create ornaments to go on the calendar, most likely, but it will make good memories along the way.

We also studied the history of the Christmas Card and the United Kingdom. We tried listening to an audio version of the first Doctor Who Christmas special while doing it, but it was too weird. This was a fun, messy day. 
 Next, we studied The Nutcracker and Russia. The boys and I had to travel for dentist appointments, so Chris taught the girls one of their favorite Christmas School days. It was a fabulous Daddy-day. Our original Nutcracker on the left, was created by both of the boys a few years ago. This year, each girl wanted to make her own Nutcracker. 

Christmas trees and Latvia were interesting to study. This year, we added a section on Christmas Tree Farming to the website. It's a little family daydream of ours to start a Christmas tree farm, complete with cabin and cocoa. 

The snow came on Thursday and it has been a blast! 

Friday morning, this is the dawn that I woke up to. 
It was a perfect, quiet morning to drink coffee and listen to the snow and ice in the leaves. It was loud enough to hear through the windows. The kids enjoy sleeping in during these cold, Christmas School mornings. I enjoy the time to reflect. 

Christmas is supposed to be a time to celebrate Christ's birth, but I can't help but think of His death. All of those prophecies foretelling His birth...they are surrounded by prophecies foretelling His death. We've read so many verses of fulfilled prophecy this week and I am overwhelmed at what He's done for me, a sinner.

I'd love to tell you that the kids are feeling the full meaning of Christmas and Christ's coming this year, but they are pretty much just focused on snow. 

Their thoughts are overwhelmed with the joy of burying each other (can you see where Joel is buried?) and building forts. 


Friday, December 6

Humility by David Bobb - a book review

"Humility" combines history and character into an excellent lesson for all of us. Though the title alludes to the influence in American history, the book itself goes deeper, describing the influences on early American founders. Socrates, Homer, Machievelli, and many more are all discussed regarding both positive and negative lessons in humility and right thinking.

I chose this book for my 13 year old son. We are studying American history this year and humility is a good lesson for any teen boy to study. The writing is a bit lofty for a 13 year old, but he has worked his way through it slowly and drawn wisdom from it.

Part I focuses on the concept of humble thinking and the complications surrounding it.

Part II primarily shares character sketches, with details of the following individuals:

  • George Washington
  • James Madison
  • Abigail Adams
  • Abraham Lincoln
  • Fredrick Douglass

Part III turns the focus to our modern age, the Age of Arrogance.

I found it challenging and helpful. Though only 209 pages, it is not a quick read, demanding that you stop and ponder and challenging you to apply the lessons taught.

An Unlikely Biography of America's Greatest Virtue

By David Bobb 

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the® 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 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Thursday, November 21

Getting Crafty with Craftsy

***The following is a sponsored post***
Sponsored posts are chosen by me, only when I find a product or vendor I think will be of interest to my readers. All content reflects my honest opinion.

I first heard of Craftsy through an ad in my facebook feed. I have quite a few crafty friends, so I was surprised I'd never heard of it before. The ad that attracted my attention was a yarn sale. I drool over good yarn, but it isn't something I've budgeted for. Every now and then I find a good sale though, and I indulge in the good stuff. Washable wool. Yum.

I ordered my insanely cheap sale yarn and it arrived just a few days later. I was holding my breath, certain that at that price it couldn't be as good as described. I was pleasantly surprised to find nice yarn. My son has requested a sweater out of it. I'm terrified to try such a big project, but that's a post for another day. Bottom line: I now watch carefully for Craftsy yarn sales.

There was quite a bit more website to explore, but I was there for yarn and didn't pay much attention. Recently though, I approached Craftsy to sign up for an affiliate sidebar link. They sent me a description of some of the features they offer. I had no idea.

Much more than a yarn source. It offers patterns, projects, and online classes. It is a marketplace where independent designers can sell their patterns. It is also a supplies shop with great deals on yarn, fabric, and class kits.  The project section lets members share pictures of their latest craft successes. Lots of great ideas here! Though brand-new to me, Craftsy now has over two million members and offers something for just about everyone with categories including quilting, sewing, knitting, painting, photography, cooking, and more.
 Online classes are available on every imaginable craft topic. Here is a description from Craftsy:  
Craftsy classes are designed to have all the benefits of an in-person class, with none of the drawbacks. Available online and on-demand, you always have world-class instructors at the tip of your fingers. You can retake the class as many times as you want, and the 30-second repeat feature allows you to watch the same section over and over again until you get every technique just right.  Watching a Craftsy class is like having a first-row seat with some of the best instructors in the world. Even better, classes have a 100% money-back guarantee. 

Be sure to take advantage of the 23 FREE classes available. 

Tuesday, November 19

On being thankful in weakness

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. 
2 Corinthians 12:9 
Again and again, I have rejoiced and given thanks for His strength which sustained me during difficult times. Lost jobs, broken vehicles, illnesses...He taught us to trust Him wholeheartedly and to lean on His strength when we felt so weak.
It's easy to depend on Christ as my strength when I'm in the midst of a trial, but what about the times that I'm just being a slug? Is His power perfected in my weakness then?

He is glorified in my life when my circumstances say there is no way, yet He makes a way. Can He be glorified in my life when my weakness of character says I will accomplish mediocrity?

How can I boast and be thankful for those kinds of weaknesses? In this area, where I feel nothing but shame, God has been challenging my heart.

The next verse goes on to say this:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, 
in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. 
For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
2 Corinthians 12:10

Yes, it is easy to delight and be thankful in hard times - those times when I know He is growing perseverance and building trust in my life.  But I can't delight that I spent more time on facebook than in God's Word, that I spent an hour soaking in the bathtub instead of reading a bedtime story to the kids, or that I watched another episode of Doctor Who instead of catching up on laundry. This is my weakness. This inability to focus, this incessant pursuit of distractions, this is where I am truly weak. How can He be strong in this?

I am embarrassed that this is an area in which I am weak. I don't want to talk about it. But I am seeing discouraged moms around me who ache because they think they are the only one with children who fight, with a family that has suffered the pain that comes with pornography, with a messy house and sticky pencils in the couch cushions. God did not call us to pretend we had it all together. He didn't even call us to actually have it all together; that would negate our negate our need for Him. Instead, He called us to acknowledge our need for Him, to embrace His mercy, to offer our bodies as a living sacrifice. I can do that privately, but it doesn't help my sister in Christ if I pretend I never struggled. 

Whoever conceals their sins does not prosper, 
but the one who confesses and renounces them finds mercy
I have friends who have no idea what I'm talking about. They struggle against the habit of being busy, fighting their inner-nature to say "No" to over-activity. Some of us have an easier time than others in different areas of our lives. I don't tend to struggle with morality; God said no, so I don't. For others, this is a weak area that takes more than a shrug and an okay. I also have friends who struggle to gain weight. Ha! To me, that sounds like a wonderful problem to have, but to them it is a real problem. We all have our different areas and it's not always easy to imagine the other person's shoes. But chances are, if you are still reading, you continued because you identified with my use of the word "slug".

Let me clarify first that I know God is not putting His stamp of approval on my laziness. Rather, He's been revealing to me my need for His strength in this area. During this season, when I just want to focus on giving thanks to Him for His mercies and many blessings, He keeps interrupting my thoughts with these verses about my weakness.

I am not okay with my weakness; if I were, I couldn't really consider it a weakness. But I know that it is. Rather than delighting that I have a weakness, I delight that He is strong where I am weak. He reminds me again and again not to bury myself in condemnation for my failings, but to embrace His Mercy and let Him be glorified in my life in this area.

When a person who struggles with their temper becomes a peacemaker, it is not to his glory, but to Christ's. When a person who struggles with greed becomes generous, it is not to his glory, but to Christ's. When a slug becomes diligent, it is not to her glory, but to Christ's.

I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
Philippians 4:13

How can I do this thing? Through Him who strengthens me. Not through discovering how strong I am, but through discovering how strong He is.
It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.-Romans 9:16

I can strive and strive, berating myself when I fail, but if I were able to succeed through my strivings, it would be to my glory, not God's.  
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.-Romans 12:1

If my strivings don't get me there, then what can I do? I have to play some active part in changing this weakness, right? I come before Him penitent. I come to Him yielding.
He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,-Titus 3:5

I remember where my hope comes from. I remember that what I am really thankful for is His Mercy. I remember that I am renewed by Him. 

Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.-Hebrews 4:16

I remember that I need Him.

It is God who arms me with strength and keeps my way secure.-2 Samuel 22:33

I remember that I am weak, but He is strong .

The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.-Psalm 28:7

I remember the many times He has taught me trust Him in the hard times. I remember that I can trust Him in the easy (sometimes too easy) times.

My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.-Psalm 73:26

I remember that I may falter, but it is not my undoing. I may succeed, but it is not my success. 

I remember to thank Him in my weakness, that He is making me Holy by the washing of the Word. 

Visit the Crew Blog for more thoughts On Being Thankful.
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