Sunday, March 29, 2015

Easter Stories: Classic Tales for the Holy Season GIVEAWAY

Easter time is upon us and while most of the world wants to focus on Easter pictures, the Easter bunny, Easter baskets, egg hunts, etc. sometimes we get so caught up in all the world places emphasis on at Easter that we forget the true meaning of Easter.  Don't get me wrong, when our kids were younger, we did all of those things but we always made the true focus of Easter about what is supposed to be about...Jesus! That's one reason we were happy to see the book Easter Stories:  Classic Tales for the Holy Season arrive at our house.  
About the Book:  Everyone who believes Easter is about more than Easter egg hunts will be grateful for this new anthology of short stories that illumine the true meaning of the season.  Selected for their spiritual value and literary quality, these classic tales capture the spirit of Holy Week and Easter in a way that will captivate readers of all ages.  Parents and grandparents will find that children love to hear these stories read aloud, year after year.  Easter Stories includes time-honored favorites from world-famous storytellers such as C.S. Lewis, Leo Tolstoy, Oscar Wilde as well as many you've never heard before.  
While I really enjoyed reading these short stories, I have to admit, I was a little skeptical that our children would enjoy them the way I was.  Having done mission work in Russia and Siberia, one of my favorite stories was "The Case of Rachoff" written by Karl Josef Friedrich.  We decided to use this book as the start of our homeschooling each morning.  I would read a story (or a portion of a story if they were longer) and then we would discuss it as a family.  Much to my surprise, the kids were immediately captivated by these stories and when we would read a portion of the story, their suspense would be so great for the next day to come so they could hear the continuation of the stories.  Two of their favorites were "The Church of the Washing Feet" and "A Dust Rag for Easter Eggs".  

Scattered throughout this 373 page book are beautiful illustrations of original woodcuts.  These pages are so intricately designed it feels like you could almost reach down and feel the texture.  This book could be used not only at Easter time but all throughout the year as the stories are beautiful reminders of our Christian faith.  

Easter Stories:  Classic Tales for the Holy Season is available for purchase through various retailers.  I am blessed to be able to give one of my readers their very own copy of this wonderful book!  For your chance to win, simply enter on the form below:
Disclaimer:  In accordance with the FTC's 16 CFR, Part 255:  "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising", many thanks to Propeller Consulting LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I received no monetary compensation for this review/giveaway.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.  Only one entry per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor in the last 30 days or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification. 

The Hobbit: The Battle of the 5 Armies DVD GIVEAWAY

I have to admit, we are big fans of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies.  In fact, the last 3 years, our anniversary celebration has been to go to dinner and then see the new Hobbit movie since they released just before our anniversary each year.  This year, we were blessed to get to go see The Battle of the Five Armies with friends from church too.  That is why I'm super thrilled to be giving you the chance to win your very own BluRay copy of The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies!  
From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Peter Jackson comes "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies," the third in a trilogy of films adapting the enduringly popular masterpiece The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien. "The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies" brings to an epic conclusion the adventures of Bilbo Baggins, Thorin Oakenshield and the Company of Dwarves. Having reclaimed their homeland from the Dragon Smaug, the Company has unwittingly unleashed a deadly force into the world.
Special Features on the Blu-Ray combo pack include: 
• New Zealand: Home of Middle-earth Part 3
• Recruiting the Five Armies
• Completing Middle-earth: A Six-Part Saga
• Completing Middle-earth: A Seventeen-Year Journey
• The Last Goodbye: Behind the Scenes
• Music Video
• Trailers
They have created a really fun app called "The Hobbit App".  Come on, haven't we all dreamed of being a hobbit and this cool app gives you the chance to find out if you are as brave as Bilbo, you can learn facts about MiddleEarth and explore the interactive map, and watch the official trailer!
According to this app, "I'm Cautious"....not as brave as Bilbo!  Which is so true because I am all for defense and standing up for what's right but let's make sure we have all the facts and the best game plan...ha!  You can purchase The Hobbit:  The Battle of the Five Armies for $24.96 from Amazon. Warner Bros. and PartnersHub have graciously offered one of my readers their very own copy of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies on BluRay!  For your chance to win, enter on the form below:
Disclaimer: Each household is only eligible to win One (1) Blu-Ray DVD Movie for The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Armies via blog reviews and giveaways. Only one entrant per mailing address per giveaway. If you have won the same prize on another blog, you will not be eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification. No monetary compensation was received for this giveaway.  PartnersHub is supplying the prize for this giveaway and is responsible for shipment to winner.  

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Hawk Nelson "Diamonds" CD & GIVEAWAY

Our family listens to Christian music about 90% of the time.  We keep our car radio's tuned to the local Christian station, our Pandora stations are all set to Christian music, and we enjoy Christian music.  We were already familiar with the Contemporary Christian band Hawk Nelson so we were excited to have the chance to preview their newest album, Diamonds!
Yesterday, March 17, Hawk Nelson's latest album "Diamonds" became available and this is one you will want to grab either on iTunes or at your local store.  Check out what Hawk Nelson's frontman Jon Steingard has to stay about their newest album: 
"Reflecting on how God uses those times of trial to shape us into something stronger and more beautiful gave the band the idea for Hawk Nelson’s new album title. “I feel like a diamond was a great metaphor for that. It’s strong. It reflects light. It doesn’t have any light of its own, but it reflects the light that it receives. There are so many aspects to the idea of a diamond that are indicative of the way God shapes us.”
There are 10 tracts on this new album too:
Drops In the Ocean (current radio single)
Just Getting Started (featured on FOX's American Idol)
Live Like You're Loved
Sold Out
Thank God For Something
Count on You
Made to Live
Straight Line
Only You

My Thoughts:  Most of the songs on this album are pretty energetic and upbeat.  You will find yourself listening to some of the songs over and over because of the great message behind the music.  For example, I loved the title tract "Diamonds" because it is so true that God is constantly refining us and making diamonds out of us.  Honestly, I think this song is one of the best ones on the entire CD.  "Live Like You're Loved" is also a great song with a powerful message.  How many times do we live in defeat or feel unloved?  Yet, because of Christ, we are free and we are loved more than we will ever know even though sometimes it is hard to remember that and believe it.  Our kids love the song "Thank God for Something" and we often hear them singing it in their rooms while they are playing. This is a solid album that is encouraging, toe-tapping, energetic Christian music.  This would make a great gift for personal use or to give to someone, a wonderful gift for a youth pastor or children's minister, or to add to a music library at a school or university.

You can purchase Hawk Nelson's "Diamond" CD either on MP3 download for $8.99 or on Audio CD for $9.99 using the (affiliate) links below.

The guys at Hawk Nelson and the awesome folks at Merge PR want to bless one of my readers with their very own copy of their new CD, "Diamonds".  For your chance to win, simply enter on the form below:
Disclaimer:  I was given the above mentioned music from Merge PR.  No monetary compensation was received.  The opinions expressed here reflect my own personal thoughts and opinions. Your results and experiences may vary from mine.  The link to the music on Amazon is my affiliate link and I will receive a small commission when you purchase through this link.  The giveaway is hosted by Merge PR and your prize will ship directly from their company.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

Moms of MasterBooks: The Mineral Book (Review)

A few years ago, our now 13 year old daughter, developed a keen interest in learning about minerals and gems.  She started heavily researching these topics and quickly became fascinated with all she was learning.  She went on "rock hunts", started "rock/mineral collections", and spent hours identifying what she found.  While her excitement had wained somewhat over the last year for minerals, when The Mineral Book arrived at our house a couple of weeks ago, she gained a new excitement and was the first one to scoop it up and start reading it.  
The Mineral Book is part of the best-selling Wonders of Creation series.  It has been developed for multi-level teaching and is filled with full-color pictures and illustrations.  It was created to make mineralogy accessible to beginners, students, and hobbyists.  This book will help you learn about the order and beauty of minerals, find out the properties of minerals, where minerals are found, and how they can be used.  All of this is intertwined with fun facts and the book includes a 24-inch full-color poster that you can take out.  
Have you ever had to read through a book first to figure out what would be appropriate to read/teach your child because you wanted them to really understand what they were learning?  Well, The Wonders of Creation series takes all the "guess work" out of using their books.  The entire book is divided into 3 levels.  Every reader should examine the text on the off-white background.  More skilled readers can also read the green section and advanced readers may read through all 3 sections.  So you don't have to "guess" what would be appropriate for your child, you can simply follow the colors and they can learn/read on their level.  
Our kids all enjoyed this book so much.  I really believe the full-color pictures helped with their interest (especially for the younger ones).  They were amazed at all the facts and fun things they learned about minerals with this book.  They especially loved learning about their birthstones (the picture above is my husband's birthstone and the kids loved educating him on his birthstone).  This book has already triggered 2 great studies from what they read so far.  They spent several days learning about the Gold Rush and the "49ers" and then they wanted to learn all about the breastplate of judgment in Exodus 28 and the priest clothing!  So, not only does this book educate them about minerals but it also opens their curiosity up to other great studies too.     
One of my favorite aspects of the Wonders of Creation series it the emphasis of how it relates what the students are learning to the Bible.  Not only are they learning the scientific backing of minerals but they are also learning how minerals are a gift from God.  In our home, we love being able to not only teach our children the "science" behind topics but also the Creator behind them and teach them Biblically as well.  We are thankful for companies like MasterBooks and New Leaf Publishing Group that give us the right tools to be able to do this.  

There is so much valuable and interesting information in this book that honestly, we haven't read it all.  We are taking our time and working through it slowly so the kids can research more and do further studies in areas they are interested in as we read it together.  This will be a great resource and reference book for years to come too!  
Disclaimer:  I was given the above mentioned book as a Moms of MasterBooks Review Team Member.  No monetary compensation was received.  The opinions expressed here reflect my own personal thoughts and opinions. Your results and experiences may vary from mine.  The link to the book on Amazon is my affiliate link and I will receive a small commission when you purchase through this link.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Young Living Oils

I am very excited to let you know that I am now a Young Living Distributor!  We have been using essential oils in our home for over a year and we LOVE them.  To give you a few testimonials:

1)  My husband has severe cluster migraines.  The neurologist had him on 2 prescription medications for them. He started using a mixture of M-Grain, Peppermint, Lavender and Frankincense and he has faster response time and better results with essential oils than he ever had with his prescription medications.  He is now completely off the prescription meds and just using essential oils to treat his cluster migraines. 

2)  Our son has severe Dyslexia and we use Brain Power and Clarity to help him with his mental focus and memory.  We have seen a huge difference with these oils and in fact, if he forgets to put them on in the morning and we start homeschooling without them, he will say "Oops, I forgot to put on my oils!" so even he  can tell a difference with them.  

3) With the winter time, comes lots of colds/flu/earaches/sore throats and one of my favorite oils is R.C. which combats all these issues.  We often diffuse it in the house to combat airborne pathogens and germs.  
For a limited time, Young Living is offering a HUGE savings on their Premium Starter Kit.  They are including a Dewdrop Diffuser (which has a retail value of $154) in the Premium Starter Kit.  Best of all, the Premium Starter Kit is only $150 so you are getting a huge savings right off the bat!  
With the Premium Starter Kit, you will receive all the following items:
  *  Dewdrop Diffuser
  *  Everyday Oils Collection (10 bottles of the most versatile essential oils)
  * A 5mL bottle of Citrus Fresh oil 
  *  Product guides & samples
  *  Samples of 5 most commonly used oils
  *  (2) sample packets of Ningxia Red drink 
  *  A roller ball fitment and lid
..................  ALL FOR $150.00!!!!!!!!!

PLUS.....if you sign-up and purchase this Premium Starter Kit on my team, I will include a FREE Essential Oils Starter Guide.  This is "must have" book to help you learn how to effectively use essential oils.  

Members of my team will have access to a private Facebook group just for Young Living Oils, 24/7 support from me to help you with questions you may have, as well as educational videos and classes.  

1.  Head over to the Young Living page here and fill out your information.

2. Be sure the “Wholesale Member” option is checked so that you don’t end up paying retail prices.

3. Be sure the “sponsor ID” and “enroller id” say 2504640 (so that I can send you your freebies!)

4. If you do not feel comfortable putting in your social security number (this is only for tax purposes if you decide to turn this into a business) then you can get an EIN from the IRS in just a few seconds here and use that number instead (the IRS just needs to be able to connect some number with you for tax purposes).   They need a Social Security Number or an EIN because if you make $600 or more per year selling Young Living products, you will receive a 1099 form in the mail (which is required by law). Young Living will never share this info with anyone.

5. Select which starter kit you want to get. My recommendation would be the Premium Starter Kit (and that’s the one where you get all of the freebies!) Those are the oils that I use almost every single day! You can get the kit that’s $150, or you can get a kit for $160 with an even nicer essential oil diffuser! 

6. I’d recommend skipping the Step 3 (Optional) part of the sign-up process. I’ll send over an email with more details on that part of things after you sign up (if you’re going to be purchasing products monthly then it’s a great program that will give you credit back with each order and save you on shipping costs).

7. Go through the checkout process.

8. After you sign up, send an email to letting me know that you signed up so you can get the freebies I am offering to my team members!  

Call/Text:  (956) 254-3404

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Blessing of a Bible

 When I graduated high school, 20 years ago, the elders at the church I grew up attending gave each graduate a Bible.  They all signed it and it went off to college with me.  It was an New Kings James Version Study Bible and it became my one and only Bible.  I wrote notes from sermons, Bible studies, and college Bible classes in it.  I've highlighted in it and even asked friends to underline their favorite verses and highlight them so every time I read that verse I could pray for them, etc. Friends from all over the world have written in my Bible. It's filled with quotes I love, challenging thoughts, and even notes from friends. I've carried in on mission trips to Russia, Siberia, Peru, and Mexico and used it to witness to many people over the years.  About 6 years ago, the binding had come off completely and David sent it away to be re-bound with a genuine leather cover.  It was like having a new Bible but it was still my Bible on the inside of a brand new cover.  Now, 6 years later, the Bible is worn out again.  It is the Bible I use for studying at home, preparing to teach Sunday school, study for Discipleship with our students, do my morning and nightly devotionals with, it goes everywhere I go and it's just worn out.  We checked into having it re-bound (again) but they said I would lose about 1/4 inch more of the pages and I've already got some of my notes that are hard to read from it being re-bound the first time.  So, I made the hard decision to keep this Bible for home use only.  No more taking it to church, carrying it on trips, etc. and y'all that was really hard for me. 

You see, I know how blessed we are to have the Bible in our language.  In fact, most of us have multiple Bibles in our homes.  We've been to numerous places where they don't have a Bible in their native language or where Bible aren't available to the people for various reasons.  It has always challenged me to make the most of the blessing we have for having a Bible!  Have you ever seen the video of the Kimyal New Testament being delivered to the village in Indonesia?  If not, check it out here.  That video will convict you to do more with your Bible than keep it in on a shelf or on a table for "looks".

So, a couple of weeks ago, had their "Dollar Days" sale.  We bought a couple of DVD's for student ministry and David bought me a new Bible!  I had been looking for several months "debating" over which one I wanted.  I finally had decided on the Gaither Homecoming Bible and ChristianBook had it on sale for $10.00!  There are several reasons I chose this particular Bible:
  *  It was a New Kings James Version.  While I am not a KJV only person, I really love the New King James Version.  I do use to reference other versions but I love reading from and studying out of the NKJV.
  *  I grew up loving the Gaither Homecoming Series.  My Uncle Don & Aunt Charlotte introduced me to their music as a child and I loved it ever since.  I've seen the Homecoming concerts in person many times and still enjoy Southern Gospel music.
  *  I was a music major in college and I've always enjoyed learning the stories behind the great hymns we sing.  This Bible is filled with the inspiration behind 25 Gaither songs, the stories behind 50 of the world's most popular hymns and gospel songs, devotional articles by Homecoming artists, quotes from the greats of the faith, poetry, and inspiring articles by the Gaithers.
One of the biggest challenges for me was not getting another study Bible.  I have become very addicted to my study Bible notes and frequently reference them for studying and teaching.  However, I felt very convicted this time around to not get a study Bible. I wanted to not be tempted to look down at the notes for an explanation of the verse I was reading. Instead, I want to just read the scriptures as they are, meditate on them, and let the Lord give me insight and wisdom into His Word.  Not to say, I won't use reference books and commentaries sometimes when studying but for the most part, I want to just read His Word....instead of always reading the study notes with it!
So, I'm really excited to start using my new Bible.  It seems so fresh and the pages are so untouched. I know within a few months, it will already have lots of marking, notes, and highlights though.  I'm thankful to live in a country where I can have the Bible in my own language at my fingertips anytime I want to read it.  I can read it and openly display it in my home without fear of persecution or imprisonment.  I pray that I never take my Bible forgranted and that the Lord will continue to reveal Himself and His ways to me through scripture.  



Monday, February 9, 2015

Aunt Charlotte: Remembering a Life Well Lived

Earlier last week, I got a call I never expected to receive.  My Aunt Charlotte was in ICU on a ventilator and the outlook was grim.  The next 2 days were filled with prayers, interceding for the Lord to do His will and give us peace with whatever His will may be and on Thursday morning, the Lord chose to take my Aunt Charlotte home with Him.  One of my cousin's lifelong friends flew me round-trip to Atlanta using her SkyMiles so that I could be there with the family during this time.  You see, my Aunt Charlotte wasn't just an aunt.  She was my spiritual mentor in every way and we were extremely close.  As my Uncle Don (her husband) said at her graveside service "she was a 79 lb. giant"!  

Aunt Charlotte not only proclaimed the gospel, she lived it out every day.  While she wasn't perfect, she relied on Jesus for every aspect of her life and made sure she was being a faithful witness for Him.  Now I am not a morning person, but every time I spent the night with Uncle Don & Aunt Charlotte (and I've spent LOTS of nights with them), when I would wake up, I would find them both in the living room reading their One Year Bible, Uncle Don might be preparing for a sermon or Aunt Charlotte preparing to teach a class or sometimes they would be discussing scripture together.  They didn't begin a single day without starting out in the Word and in prayer.  

Aunt Charlotte always had a journal going and sometimes she had several.  Around 10 years old, she gave me a prayer journal and taught me how to keep a prayer journal..something I still do today.  In 9th grade, she introduced me to Beth Moore Bible studies and we worked through "Living Beyond Yourself" together.  We also completed "Believing God" and "A Woman's Heart" together later.  To date, I've completed 9 Beth Moore Bible studies and have taught them in small groups at homes as well as in classes at church.  In 11th grade, she taught me how to study scripture using the Inductive Bible Study method (Kay Arthur) and most recently had given me information on Bible Study Fellowship. She loved God's Word, she loved studying and mediating on God's Word, and she was passionate about helping others to love and study God's Word too.  

She always wanted to take pictures every time family was together.  She loved capturing those moments and looking back at pictures.  She wasn't the greatest photographer and she took forever to finally snap the picture but laughter was abundant while you were posed waiting for her.  We all teased her about how long it took her and then when the pictures were developed, someone's head was cut off or someone was cut out of the picture (this was before the age of digital pictures).  Now we are so blessed with so many pictures, which today we treasure, because of her insisting pictures be made.  

Uncle Don & Aunt Charlotte had 2 children: a daughter, LaDana and a son, Lonnie.  She always treated me like another daughter.  When she was teaching at Greater Atlanta Christian School, he often gave me the same things she was doing with her students.  She took me shopping with her and LaDana, she taught me to cook quiche, she would buy me Christian CD's, devotionals, journals, and books from Family Christian bookstores, and most importantly she gave me wisdom and guidance truthfully...even when the truth hurt!

Uncle Don & Aunt Charlotte birthed in me a love for missions.  They were missionaries in Trinidad & Tobago (their children were born there) and later served in Russia, Siberia, and Aunt Charlotte went on numerous trips to China to smuggle Bibles to underground churches there.  I grew up loving to hear their stories, seeing items they brought back from these places, and watching Aunt Charlotte's face light up as she spoke of missions.  In 1997, the Lord opened a door for me to go to Voronezh, Russia with them.  Their son Lonnie went with us.  Instead of hearing their stories, I had the privilege of serving alongside them.  That trip forever changed me.  I came back understanding why Aunt Charlotte often cried when speaking of missions, why songs, videos, and stories moved her to tears.  I had fallen in love with missions, better understood their heart for reaching the lost, and clearly understood God's design for the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).  In 1998, I returned to Russia and went to Irkutsk, Siberia.  Today, David & I are in full-time mission work and ministry and Uncle Don and Aunt Charlotte are some of our best prayer warriors, encouragers, and supporters.  She always wanted to know every single detail of our lives and every conversation ended with her praying for us.  Her heart was drawn to reaching the nations and she did missions both locally and internationally.  Today, she leaves an impact on eastern and western hemispheres. 

While I am extremely sad about her passing, I do not mourn as those with no hope.  For I have hope and I know this is not a final goodbye..just a "see you later" as I will see her again in heaven.  While selfishly I still want her to be here with us to share life with, I know she has been made whole with no more sickness, no more coughing, no more pain and she is now experiencing heaven in all its glory.  I read this quote in a book recently and it applies perfectly to how I feel today: "There is beauty in our brokenness, there are patches of light that permeate this darkness and as II Corinthians 4:17 says 'an eternal glory that far outweighs them all."  So while we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and lean on Him to fill this great void Aunt Charlotte leaves behind, we rejoice that she has received her crown of righteousness and she is in heaven with our Savior.  

My Aunt Charlotte...a 79 pound giant for the Lord...who leaves behind an incredible legacy for us!  

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 
who comforts us in all our troubles, 
so that we can comfort those in any trouble 
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.  
For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ,
so also our comfort abounds through Christ."
II Corinthians 1:3-5 (NIV)