Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Kingdom Family Devotional by Tony and Jonathan Evans (Book Review)

The family virtues–based devotional provides 52 separate topics, one for each week of the year, and five devotionals within each topic that will guide devotional times Monday through Friday. This is a wonderful way to build a spiritually strong family week by week, day after day—a perfect way to head into the weekend. Topics range from the basics of the faith—such as salvation, spiritual warfare, prayer, forgiveness, and discipleship—to essentials of living as followers of Christ: money, prayer, family, friends, and priorities. The subject matter is simplified so even young children can grasp important concepts. This is a perfect resource for busy families.

After reading Kingdom Woman by Tony Evans and Crystal Evans Hurst and hearing Tony Evans speak on several podcasts, I was familiar with his Kingdom Agenda philosophy which teaches that God has a comprehensive rule over every aspect of our lives which is demonstrated through the individuals, families, churches and society as a whole. (for more on this visit This philosophy really resonated with me and made me excited to read the rest of the books of his, especially his Kingdom series so I was happy to receive this book in exchange for my honest review. 

I am so happy we have this book! Neither Matt nor I grew up doing any sort of devotional time with our families and as fairly new Christians, we are always looking for resources to grow our own faith and help our boys grow theirs. This book is wonderful for the whole family with weekly themes which are then approached in a variety of ways through the week. With 260 easy to lead family devotions, this book will last a whole year if used as the authors planned for it to be used with one devotion every day Monday through Friday. Each Friday's devotion includes an activity which can be used just on Friday or which sometimes leads to more family fun and learning through the weekend. 

We are still working our way through all the wonderful devotions and are eager to see what comes up next. I would highly recommend this title to any family looking to dive a little deeper in family devotions with little to no preparation required. 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ten Things of Thankful Finding the Beauty Edition

  A friend of mine recently posted online about taking the time to find the beauty in every day which sounds a lot like finding the things to be thankful for. So this week, I looked for the beautiful in the everyday. As a homemaker/stay-at-home-mom/child caregiver/homeschool mom, a lot of my life is taken up in the mundane daily chores of running a home. There are always dishes to be done, food to be prepared, diapers to change and laundry to be done among other things so it can take some effort to find the beauty in each day.

Some days it can feel like these two will never get along and then something as simple as climbing the same tree gets them working together and smiling. 

Hiking with two year olds is an adventure for sure, he's perfectly happy as long as he chooses each turn we take. Not so much when his brother gets to be the leader.

These guys tend to make every outing in the woods into a survivalist game. Here they are reading the symbols on the tree and preparing for whatever may come. 

A simple afternoon in our backyard is a beautiful thing for sure. Especially since we have generous neighbors who let us share the toys they have in the yard for their kiddos. (and we share our toys with their kiddos, of course)

He was perfectly content with a mere 2 inches of water. He had enough to splash and cool off in. 

I've never seen lily pads in person before so this was really cool. 

I love flowers and I notice them everywhere. I'm already planning what to add around our yard next year. Most of these were spotted while walking in the neighborhood or at a park. 

Davis has been re-reading several of his favorite series' lately as he has finished everything published by his favorite authors, so we asked for a few recommendations to get him started on something new. This is the stack after he put several back, and it includes a couple he's re-reading. Our children's librarians are amazing, they came up with these and several others in a matter of about 5 minutes. 

This boy loves water. Any body of water, he's hooked. 

And this one loves to take the hard path because it's more fun. 

Ten Things of Thankful

Friday, August 4, 2017

Gospel Centered Mom Book Tour

I’m so excited to be a part of Brooke McGlothlin’s Gospel Centered Mom book tour! This post was inspired by the book. 
In Gospel Centered Mom, Brooke shares how our entire approach to motherhood shifts when we stop chasing our vision of a perfect family and start full-out pursuing God. With a vulnerability that is both refreshing and instructive, Brooke encourages moms to embrace the idea that what we believe always influences what we do.

Since becoming a mom, I have struggled with finding my purpose and coming to terms with the idea that I was called to be "just a mom" even if only for this season of life. Add to that struggle other life struggles and the fact that my husband and I have been blessed with 2 strong-willed boys and there are days and even weeks when I just want to give up.  

As I have begun to delve deeper into my study of scripture, I have found more solace and strength for this difficult journey but hadn't figured out a way to really apply what I had learned to everyday life. It was a situation where I would feel comforted and inspired while I was doing my daily Bible reading but not long after the kids got up for the day I'd find myself just as frustrated and at a loss about what to do about it.

Then along came this opportunity, to read and be a part of the book launch tour for Gospel Centered Mom by Brooke McGlothlin. I have read some of her articles before and found them inspiring so I jumped at the chance, especially after reading the book description. 

I hadn't even finished the first chapter when I decided this was a book I would be reading several times to really let the knowledge sink in. As I hit chapter 9 I found myself highlighting multiple sentences on each page. My boys are strong willed and I know that will serve them well later in life but it can make for a frustrating parenting experience, and Brooke understands that as she has a strong willed boy herself. Her advice is spot on, learn to fight with them and for them rather than against them. 

I can't even begin to describe how helpful this book has been and I imagine it would be helpful to all parents, not just parents of boys or strong willed children. It helps you to realign your thinking to an eternal perspective rather than focusing solely on the here and now. It's so easy to get lost in the day in and day out of motherhood and lose sight of the end goals, this book inspires and challenges moms to look up and see the bigger picture. 

I'm still processing all the wonderful insights in this book and will be reading it again over the next few weeks more slowly to glean every bit I can from it. I would highly recommend it to every mom! 

As you learn to anchor your life in the Gospel, you’ll find increased freedompurpose, and joy in motherhood. Get Brooke McGlothlin’s new book at Gospel Centered Mom Book

Monday, July 24, 2017

Ten Things of Thankful

It's been a couple weeks since I've taken the time to write about things I'm thankful for and I find I've missed it. There is always a lot to be thankful for but taking the time to write about it makes me think about it more and therefore appreciate it more.

I am always thankful for public libraries, since both Matt and I love to read and now our boys are devouring books we would definitely go broke if we had to actually purchase all the books we go through.

Without our public libraries, homeschooling would be much harder. I was able to borrow our history curriculum (for the beginning of the year at least) from neighboring libraries.

It's not just about the books though, both boys participate in a variety of programs at different libraries nearby. These programs include story times, sensory play times, book clubs, science groups, and many more.

And this summer, our favorite local library has baby chicks! We were lucky enough to be there one day last week when the first of them hatched so we got to watch the process and it was amazing.

This past week, Davis was able to attend a free 3 day camp at the Apple Store near us where he learned about videography and how to create his own movies using the iMovie app. He had a lot of fun and learned a lot so hopefully we'll begin adding new youtube videos soon. (Check out the new we already have here)

This week, Davis is attending a Vacation Bible School at a nearby church. He's attended the same one for several years now and it's always really big and a lot of fun. As a bonus, quite a few of our friends bring their kids to the same VBS so he usually has a few friends there, even if they're not in the same group.

I love having the opportunity to work with the kids at our church. There's something so fulfilling about teaching the next generation of believers and we get to do some really fun lessons. I teach a cooking workshop and this past week we were working on the story of Jonah. The way they tied the food into the story was really cool.

All the photos in this post were shared on my Instagram account within the last couple weeks, follow me there to see more pictures of our daily adventures.

Ten Things of Thankful

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Thankful Things Vacation Edition (With Lots of Pictures)

This was the first week back to work for Matt after two weeks of vacation. I've also begun caring for a friend's 3 month old son since she returned to work a few weeks ago so it's been a busy few weeks. I am thankful for Matt's vacation and all the fun family time we were able to have while he was home.

We've did several nature hikes.

And spent a lot of time at the nearby playgrounds.

We also went swimming at the local pond for the first time this summer.

Two weeks ago, we spent an afternoon/evening with Matt's sister Stacey, her husband Steve and their son Patrick. It's always fun spending time with them but this time there was a special reason for getting together, Patrick left a few days later for boot camp as he has joined the Army National Guard.

I'm also thankful for our church family and the wonderful things we get to do together to bring God's word to our local community. On the last Sunday in June, we had our Sunday service outside at a local park. It was such a great experience.

I got to teach the elementary school group and we had a lot of fun learning about how Jesus called his Disciples to become fishers of men. We played a couple of fun games after reading the corresponding section of Scripture (Luke 5:1-11) and it felt almost like a mini Vacation Bible School.

I'm so excited to do this all again at the end of July and I can't wait to see what we come up with to do with the kids.

Ten Things of Thankful

Monday, June 12, 2017

Thankful Things With a Bonus List From Davis

As always, there is so much to be thankful for.

We're having a heat wave! The last few weeks have been on the cooler side for this time of year which wouldn't be so bad but it's been raining a lot too so it's wet and chilly which means it's not really comfortable to be outside for long stretches of time. At least, that's how I feel.  The boys would be outside in pretty much any weather, which I'd love if they were both old enough to be outside without me, lol.

Even on days when it's pouring all day long, Davis and Tyrion manage to find ways to stay occupied without screens.

Matt is on vacation for the next 2 weeks! It's going to be great to have the opportunity to spend some time together as a family and for Matt to have some time to relax after months of working 7 days a week.

Between our local libraries and Amazon's Kindle Unlimited (affiliate link*) program, we have been able to keep up with our reading habits without spending a fortune! As a family of readers, this is huge for us, an inexpensive way to read is always a good find.

Family games are both fun and educational. Davis, Matt and I just started playing Words With Friends against each other. Matt and I had played before and Davis expressed an interest in learning Scrabble (which we have also done) so we added the app to Davis' tablet and Matt and I started playing games against him, each other and other friends and family members. It's been a bit frustrating for Davis at times but the fact that he can ask us for help when he's stuck and even just leave it be for a while if he's too frustrated is really helpful. He seems to do better with it than he would if we were all playing Scrabble as he can take a break in between moves to lessen the frustration.

Views like this are right across the street. It's so amazing to be reminded daily of the beauty in God's creation.

And Davis took both of these photos, he's getting to be quite the photographer lately.

Simple pleasures, like ice cream with the kids or cold brewed iced coffee with my hubby on a hot day.

Family movie afternoons and the opportunity to share some great movies with the boys. Today we watched Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. 

And for my last thankful, I'm thankful for Davis' Thankful List:

Library programs.


God and Jesus.



Ten Things of Thankful

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Sunday, June 4, 2017

Thankful Things

I'm starting to get back to writing and as I work on more posts, I'm reminded how much I have to be thankful for so I'm going to share a few of those things.

{1}. I have a very hardworking husband. For the past several months, Matt has worked 7 days a week in an effort to start saving more and paying off debts. It's been exhausting for both of us but it has helped us to get ahead and I'm happy to say that we have moved on from that challenging season as Matt worked his last weekend a few weeks ago.

{2} Beginning in about a week, I will be providing childcare for a friend's infant son when she returns to work full-time. She spent a day with the week before last to see how our boys would interact with the baby and they both love him. It's bound to be a lot of fun!

{3} Even while Matt was working so much, we were still able to find time for some great family time. Playing outside, going to church and just doing errands, it doesn't matter what we're doing as long as we're together it's more enjoyable.

{4} The last two weekends, we've been able to get out of the house and go hiking on some local trails. We all really enjoy spending time in nature so it's been wonderful to do that together.

{5} On our hike yesterday, we were able to take some really nice family pictures like this one I shared on Instagram.

{6} We started homeschooling Davis last month and though we started a bit more quickly than we had originally planned to, and we've had to adjust our expectations and adapt, it's been great and we're starting to find some routines that work for us.

{7} The public library has made it possible to homeschool Davis. Without the resources available through them, we'd be struggling a lot more with homeschooling. Between the books we're able to borrow (both physical and electronic), the amazing programs they have regularly for the kids and even just having someplace where we can go that isn't home so the kids can have a change of scenery on days when it's rainy or too hot to be outside.

{8} Very much related to the last item on this list is the semi-annual book sale that the library hosts as a fundraiser. We went to the sale on their $5 a bag day which means you pay $5 and fill the bag they give you with as many books as you can. We filled 4 bags with a wide variety of fiction and non-fiction. There were a large number of workbooks, science and history books that we will be incorporating into our curriculum for this year and next year as well as copies of classic novels that I love having around for all of us to read from time to time.

{9} Having both a chest freezer and a BJ's membership makes it possible to do one big grocery haul at the beginning of the month and save money by buying in bulk. Then we just have to go once a week for things like milk, bread, produce and coffee creamer. If anyone has any tips for organizing the chest freezer, I'd greatly appreciate them. Right now it's a bit of a jumble in there.

{10} I am super thankful that I have found motivation to write again. It's something I truly enjoy and I had lost the enthusiasm for it for a while but it's back and I hope to keep it going.

Ten Things of Thankful

Saturday, June 3, 2017

The Excellent Wife by Martha Peace (Book Review)

"Not only does it explain what God "requires" of a Christian wife, but it explaines clearly how to obey God's commandments in order to become that wife. Get it, read it and profit from it." Amazon book description for The Excellent Wife

This book has been mentioned as one of the best books on Biblical womanhood and as a must read for any Christian woman by many bloggers, podcasters and writers whom I have really enjoyed and learned from so I have had this book on my to read list for quite some time. This book wasn't available through my local public library system but I recently found an audio version through Christian Audio and was very excited to listen to it.

Unfortunately that enthusiasm didn't last. While I agree with many of the points that Martha makes in this book, the tone comes across as condescending and harsh at times. It is a challenging book and at first I thought it was just that I was having a hard time with the content because it was convicting me of things which I need to work on or improve but it was more than that. 

The one big thing that sticks out to me as being just plain wrong (in my opinion, but also backed up by other biblical teachings) is that women are only able to glorify God through service to their husbands.  Women and men were both created in the image of God to glorify Him.  Yes, Eve was created second to be a suitable helper to Adam but the Bible says, "Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals,[a] and over all the creatures that move along the ground." Genesis 1:26 NIV (emphasis added by me) 

We were created to work together with our husbands, to be partners and co-heirs of God's kingdom with them. And, yes, we are instructed in the Bible that wives are to be submissive to our husbands as they are the head of our household and God has given them that authority but they are not the ultimate authority, God alone has that position regardless of our gender or marital status. 

Saying that women are to bring glory to God only through serving and respecting our husbands is creating a slippery slope towards making out husband an idol and giving him a place in our lives and our hearts that should only belong to God.  

There are some positive things about this book as well.  Martha uses scripture as her basis and quotes it often alongside examples from her own life. I especially loved her description in the beginning of the book of her life before becoming a Christian and her response to some of the teachings that she herself is now telling women are so important. It helps to know that I am not the only one who struggles with things like being a submissive wife.

As I stated before, there are many points on which I agree with Martha. I do believe we are called to be submissive to our husbands but that we are not called to be silent doormats for our husbands. In this book, she gives many examples of how to respectfully approach our husbands when we disagree about something, how to talk to them about their own sin and even what to do when they aren't responsive to what we say but we believe they are sinning and it is something that needs to be dealt with. 

Another thing I really liked is the image in the beginning which shows the qualities of an excellent wife. I plan to print this out and add it to my journal so I will be regularly reminded of these qualities and work on them. 

For the most part I would say this was a good book though it was difficult as well. I think some of my difficulties with it lie in the fact that I was listening to the audio version.  I typically prefer physical books where I can underline and highlight and come back to things which are hard to swallow and the audio version doesn't allow for that. This particular audio version also wasn't formatted well, it was broken down into 7 parts, each about 70 minutes in length. This made it really hard to digest as there was a lot of information packed into each of those parts. I would have preferred to have it broken down further into chapters as the book is. Having the smaller sections would have made it easier to listen to a small chunk and then ruminate on that before jumping back in. 

I know this is probably a confusing review but I am honestly conflicted on my feelings about this book. I plan to purchase a copy of this book and possibly the accompanying study guide at some point in the future and go through it more thoroughly. I think this is a book that needs to be read a few times to get the most out of it and I would highly recommend reading it with an open mind and heart and an open Bible so you can verify for yourself that she is being true to what scripture says.

This is definitely a case where one needs to use their personal discernment while reading to know what is true and what is leading the reader slightly astray.  Most of the book is Biblically sound and gives wonderful information for wives but there are things that I disagreed with and will have to research further on my own.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Kenoza Lake: Merrill Trail Exploration

Matt, Davis, Tyrion and I all love to spend time outdoors so we typically spend a lot of time in the warmer months exploring local walking trails.  The problem is we tend to stick to the same familiar spaces and while it's still enjoyable, it's not nearly as exciting as exploring someplace new.  So our goal for this year is to explore more of the nearby trails.

This goal was inspired by a book Matt was given by a co-worker which has information on a variety of trails in Haverhill.  We plan to work our way through the book this year.

Kenoza Lake Trail Map

Last weekend we started this exploration process by trying out a new trail around our favorite lake. We've spent a lot of time on the trail around the Basin and on parts of the Castle Trail but it wasn't until we looked at the trail map in the book we received that we realized how many different trails there are around Kenoza Lake (and how long some are).

We decided to start off on the other side of the lake for a change of pace so we chose the Merrill Trail. We only finished part of it because it was pretty muddy and Tyrion was getting tired. We're definitely going to look into a backpack carrier for him for future hikes so if anyone has any advice on those it would be greatly appreciated.

Now on to the pictures because that's the best part.
A small brook near the lake. 
 This brook was actually across the street from the trail entrance, you never know where you'll find great little natural nooks to check out. 

The boys checking out the brook. 

One of many great views. 

Tyrion saying, "Come on guys!"
And they're off!

A view of the lake.

Matt took this one of Tyrion,
just before he threw the stick into the water.  

The lake from a different angle.

The boys were excited to find this wooden foot bridge. 

He wasn't a fan of the bugs. 

Tyrion was intrigued by the moss. 

Kingdom Family Devotional by Tony and Jonathan Evans (Book Review)

The family virtues–based devotional provides 52 separate topics, one for each week of the year, and five devotionals within each topic...