Monday, February 29, 2016

The Berenstain Bears' Easter Blessings

I have been enjoying a little blog break these last few weeks. Baby is due on the 5th, so the countdown is on! I have been soaking up these last few days with my family and going to a million doctor appointments.

Today I thought I would share a quick review of a book we have been enjoying. I loved The Berenstain Bears growing up and it has been a pleasure to review a few of their newer faith based books. You can see a few of their other books here and here.

This little board book is a nice read and perfect for little hands. It fits right into the classic Berenstain style. The colors are bright and illustrations look similar to what they did when I was a child.

In this book the Bear family is celebrating Easter. First they enjoy a special Easter breakfast. Then Gran and Gramps show up to walk to church. As a family they stroll to church and "count their Easter blessings". They are thankful for their home and family but also all the people who help out in Bear county (doctors, nurses, farmers, police and firefighters). When they arrive at church, Preacher Brown emphasizes the greatest thing they have to be thankful for-- Jesus Christ risen from the grave!

It is a simple story that can be used to spark conversations about the things we are thankful for. Easter is a special time to "count your blessings". I think that it's an important practice for everyday of the week too! Every night as we tuck in our children we talk about the things that we are thankful for and the special blessings of the day. I liked that this book can inspire other families to make their own habits of thankfulness-- but most importantly the book focused on our greatest gift of all- Jesus.

I received this book from Worthy Publishing in exchange for me honest review.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Risen by Angela Hunt

 I was instantly intrigued when I read what this book was about. I love finding new and different books and this one totally fit the bill. Risen, by Angela Hunt is,

"The Story of the Resurrection as You've Never Seen It Before

Epic in scope, yet deeply personal, this novelization offers a unique perspective on the story of the resurrection. Roman Tribune Clavius is assigned by Pilate to keep the radical followers of the recently executed Yeshua from stealing the body and inciting revolution. When the body goes missing despite his precautions, Clavius must hunt it down.

His investigation leads him from the halls of Herod Antipas to the Garden of Gethsemane and brings him in touch with believer and doubter alike. But as the body still remains missing, Clavius commits to a quest for the truth--and answers that will not only shake his life but echo throughout all of history."

Really this is two stories wound together. Clavius, the Roman Tribune who is investigating a missing body case-- and Rachel a widowed Jew who is searching for truth of her own.

Clavius is a hardened man who deals in death daily. He is very good at his job and has been trained to think and operate in very tough conditions. When he sees Jesus on the cross, he sees another criminal paying for his crimes. He doesn't delight in any of it, but thoroughly believes that Rome is always right.

When the body of Jesus goes missing Clavius must lead the investigation. This was a really interesting section of the book. Clavius explores many different avenues as to what happened to the body. He investigates the tomb, questions the guards on duty and searches other graves. The pressure to find the body is intense and he sweeps the city for anybody who might be able to tell him about this Jesus. He interrogates believers, even some whose names you will recognize. Clavius eventually learns quite a bit in his investigations, and has to make his own decisions about what to do with the evidence.

Rachel, a widowed Jew also encounters Jesus. She sees him on his way to Golgatha. She is working hard to support herself baking bread and selling it. Rachel is harboring a forbidden romance that is causing her a crisis of faith. Her brief encounter with Jesus sets in motion her own investigations.

I really enjoyed reading from both the Roman and Jewish standpoint. How they experienced and dealt with Jesus was as different as their cultures. You can really feel the heightened tensions between Rome and the Jews that surrounded and led up to the death of Jesus.

Obviously, this is a fictionalized account. I thought Angela did a fairly good job of keeping things accurate and Biblical. Just remember that not everything said here is going to be fact. I thought this book did what Bodie and Brock Thoene do so well in their books. Risen brings to life a time-period that can sometimes be hard to imagine. While things may not be totally accurate, just reading the story gets one thinking!

The movie that this book is based off of will be out in February-- you can see the trailer here--

I received this book in exchange for my honest review from Bethany House.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

An Insiders Guide to Praying for the World by Brian C. Stiller

 A few years back I picked up a book about praying for the specific needs for other countries. It had big colored pictures and maps. Over the years I have no idea what I did with that book! I really liked the idea of having something like that though, and thought this book would make a great replacement.

My initial idea was to use it during our family devotional time. My son has a huge heart for prayer and I want to encourage that! When I started reading An Insider Guide to Praying for the World I quickly realized that this specific resource wasn't the right fit for that (my son is 5).

What I found instead was just the resource I needed to spark a desire to pray for these countries. I obviously want to pray for the world. I want to life these countries up in prayer, but I often just feel sort of lost when doing so. I loved that this book spelled out the specific needs each country has.

What set this book apart for me were the first-hand stories that Stiller told. His "Dispatch" section connects the reader to the country personally.

Contained within the book are 52-chapters that can be used as a personal devotional (one chapter a week for a year, if you wish). For the most part these chapters are focused on a specific country. There are a few chapters that bring in other topics, such as, Persecution and Martyrdom, Prison Ministries and The Pope. Each chapter is fairly short, usually about 5 or 6 pages. At the start of each chapter is a map or sometimes a photo from the country. A brief history is included with location, population and religion. Stiller then jumps into his "dispatch" which contains a personal story from the country. Next there is a scripture, itemized list of things to pray for and a specific prayer for the country.

For me, this book has been a great and inspiring resource. I cannot wait to use it throughout the year. Thanks to Bethany House for a copy to review.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Always Watching by Lynette Eason

 Romantic Suspense isn't a genre that generally appeals to me. Every so often though, I enjoy reading something a little different then my regular fare. I picked this book up for a change, and boy, Lynette Eason doesn't disappoint in the suspense or the romance.

Our leading man, Wade Savage, has been receiving presents. They start small, things he has mentioned on his radio talk show. When the gifts get more personal and specific Wade and his father grow worried. Wade's father Bruce hires him a body-guard for extra protection.

It turns out the body-guard is much needed because Wade is put in a life-threatening position and his body-guard is compromised. Olivia, the leader of the body-guard agency must now step-up and protect Wade.

This book is pretty much non-stop suspense from the start of the book. Their are small lulls where we learn more of the back-story that each character has. I enjoyed learning about each characters past and these clues helped me sort of guess who the stalker was. Eason includes a lot of twists and turns and keeps the reader guessing.

I enjoyed the exploration of the main character's faith, and how events in their past shaped that faith. Then, how they manifested their relationship with God during the trials at hand. The romance is not a huge part of the book but rather woven around the larger story. I really enjoyed the addition of Wade's pre-teen daughter Amy. I thought that her character added a really different element to the story.

This was a fun and suspense filled read. There were parts that felt a little tedious to me because it was so much drama. Oh-- look- another crazy thing is happening to Wade. For the most part I enjoyed it but at times it was hard to get into the mood to pick it up.

If you like action packed shows- turn off the TV and pick up this book instead.

I received a copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my review. 

Monday, February 8, 2016

GaiaKids Bronchial Wellness

Every winter our family gets sick at least once. We all get a miserable cough and spend weeks recovering. As our family has grown it seems like we just cycle through the same crud. One little cold can linger from person to person for an entire month. This year my family has mostly avoided getting sick. It is seriously a much needed miracle. I am so thankful for our families well-being throughout my pregnancy.

There is still plenty of time for illness to strike, so we have been taking counter measures. Both of my kids have been taking the Bronchial Wellness herbal supplement from Gaia Herbs.

I feel like I am constantly hearing about cough syrup products being recalled. My pediatrician has warned me against them and other mom's have expressed concerns at their safety. I like the idea of having a product like this proactively promoting wellness in my children. We love to get out of the house and go on adventures. The weather keeps us indoors enough, we don't need illness shutting us in too.

My kids actually enjoy the taste, thanks to lemon and myrtle essential oils. There is no wincing and dread as they take it. It is so much easier to be consistent giving it to them when their is no battle. They are both taking one teaspoon twice a day. For kids older than 6 the dosage is 1 teaspoon up to 4 times a day.

A little about Gaia,
"Gaia Herbs cultivates health and well-being by stewarding sustainable relationships between plants and people. They offer more than 200 liquid extracts, functional powders, teas, and patented Liquid Phyto-Caps™, each formulated to do what’s best for your body—and for nature. Gaia uses only organic methods on their farms, and that same organic approach continues through manufacturing. Part of their seed-to-shelf commitment is the industry’s only traceability platform, MeetYourHerbs®. This dedication to purity, integrity & potency ensures the safety and efficacy of their products. Take control of your own well-being and experience the Gaia difference."
What makes Gaia's kid products different is that they were formulated by pediatric naturopath Dr. Mary Bove. In the line there are 10 alcohol-free herbal formulas that deliver herbal support with kid friendly tastes. This particular supplement uses honey for tasty and soothing support for the upper respiratory system, and the formula contains no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, and no high fructose corn syrup-- whoop whoop.

I had heard of Gaia's products for adults, but I didn't realize that they carried products for kids. The actually have a whole kids line, you can see the rest of the products here. I really want to try the GaiaKids Defense Herbal drops, formulated to respond to immune stressers and they aid in healthy digestion!

I loved using the Meet your Herbs platform from Gaia to learn more about what was at work here. There is so much information about the herbs, science and farming that go into each product. The Bronchial Wellness formula takes advantage the power of--

Plantain-- In modern times, plantain has been used to support healthy levels of inflammation both internally as an extract and externally, as a topical agent. Topically, the leaves, or extracts of the leaves are often used to sooth irritated skin. Its ability to support inflammatory pathways in the body often directly impacts the epithelial tissues, such as in the respiratory, digestive and urinary systems. Because plantain naturally contains mucilage, and has moist cooling properties, it has an inherent ability to support mucous membrane health by soothing occasional irritation.

Helichrysum--It is highly concentrated in essential oils. Many of the studies done on herbal products are actually not conducted on the whole plant, rather on isolated fractions obtained from the whole plant. Such is the case with Helichrysum. Many of the constituents from the distilled oil have been studied. Research worldwide is being directed towards finding natural antioxidants of plant origin. This essential oil has an amazing 1,700 ORAC score, making it one of the most potent antioxidant oils known. It has been traditionally used to sooth bronchial irritation.

Grindelia--Today Grindelia continues to be used in herbal therapies to support the respiratory system and assist in the normal production and elimination of mucous. It also provides soothing support to an irritated respiratory tract. Plants in the grindelia genus leave in the mouth a bitter, acrid sensation, which persists for some time and is accompanied or followed by a flow of saliva.

Looking for more information on Gaia? You can connect with them on Facebook and Instagram. I received this sample via Green Mom's Meet. If you love natural products you can sign up for their Mom Ambassador program. It's a ton of fun and they are always very generous with their products! 

 I received this product for free from the sponsor of the Moms Meet program, May Media Group LLC, who received it directly from the manufacturer. As a Moms Meet blogger, I agree to use this product and post my opinion on my blog. My opinions do not necessarily reflect the opinions of May Media Group LLC or the manufacturer of this product.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

The Lifegiving Home-- Creating A Place of Belonging and Becoming by Sally and Sarah Clarkson

 Over the years I have read a few of Sally Clarkson's books. Her wisdom and advice has really meant a lot to me. I love reading about the rich home environment that she and her husband crafted for their children. I have often wanted to peek into their home and see some of the practical things she did. The Lifegiving Home is just that. Month by month she explores a central theme for creating a life-giving home and then goes into detail about the ways in which they did that.

Home is a place that has always had strong connotations for me. Whether that was my family home growing up, or the home I live in now. I am a classic introvert and home is where I recharge.  To me home means a refuge where I am free to be me, I am safe, I can fully relax and I can make mistakes. Home is where there is true comfort.

I want to give my children strong, positive feelings about their home, too. I hope that this is a landing place for them. The selfish part of my mom-heart wants them to desire to come home when they are grown. Whether they live down the road or across the world, I hope this is a place they want to return to visit. For these young years, I feel like home is the perfect laboratory for growth. I hope we can discover together what it means to be part of the Holeman family.

While I so desire these things, I also find myself a little intimidated by the work involved. I often feel like my home is just not enough. Our home is small, often feels cramped and we have limited financial resources. On top of that, I lack self-discipline in keeping positive habits going. I found it encouraging that the Clarkson's moved 17 times, 6 times internationally. They lived in all manner of homes, even the home of her mother-in-law. Sally didn't have perfect circumstances or millions of dollars. Creating a life-giving home is not dependent on your home itself. I love this quote from the book-

"Nothing is required for the making of home except a heart that loves God, an imagination fired by His Spirit and hands ready to create. And, well, a bit of courage too." (p.20)

Over time the Clarkson's developed a lot of family rituals and traditions. My advice is not to get bogged down or discouraged if you feel these are not feasible in your home. Sally and Sarah both encourage the reader to explore what makes one's own family special and mindfully incorporate these things. Sally, her husband and children were all unique parts of a formula that produced her exact home environment. This book is a great inspiration to explore what makes your family unique-- and, how to use these things to bring honor to God and life in your home. As Sally says-- "Never allow these ides to burden you" (p.32)

Part One of the book focuses on "thinking about home." Sally and Sarah both delve into what makes home so special and sacred. They give a nice foundation for why the reader should care about cultivating their home at all. You can immediately tell that this is a topic they are passionate about and have spent many hours contemplating.

Part Two goes chapter by chapter through the months. Beginning with January, each month has a theme- for example in January it is Creating a Framework for Home; Rhythms, Routines and Rituals. Sally and Sarah take turns writing different chapters. The author of each chapter lays out the broad idea behind the theme presented. Next is the "In Our Home" section, where the practical ways that these ideas were implemented in the Clarkson house is fleshed out.

Some of the idea in the "In Our Home" section I don't see working for our family in this season, or maybe not for us at all. I loved the broader principals that surrounded them though. For instance, the Clarkson's had a dedicated tea time on Sunday afternoon. This formal tea was complete with china and a special baked good. Personally, I love this idea and can see our family doing something similar. However, I can see this not working in some homes. Sally acknowledges this and encourages the reader to "consider instituting other family rituals that serve the same purpose in your family... The point is to carve out time and make it special-- different, set apart and beautiful." (p.91) So, while every idea may not be an across the board fit for your own family, get creative. Again, mindfully examining your own family and using Sally's ideas as a springboard.

My advice is to read this book slowly and take the time to contemplate these ideas. I read with a pen in hand. Each time an idea or quote jumped out at me, I underlined it. I know that this is a book I will be re-reading in the years to come. Truly, this book has really inspired me and convicted me of some areas I need to strengthen. It really renewed my vision for the home I want to create for my family. Sometimes in the craziness of everyday life, I really lose sight of that. I want to simply survive the day. However, I want more for my families life than just survival. I want to create a home where my children learn to love God with their whole hearts. I want to create a home that knits us together tight. I want my home to be a lifegiving home!

I received a copy of the book from Tyndale in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Buried in Books-- February's Review Schedule

Just catching up on a few books over here....
Maybe more than a few.
Maybe 6 books and one that's coming in the mail soon.

I am currently working my way through The Lifegiving Home by Sally and Sarah Clarkson. I am so enjoying it. I know I have 6 other books to read and review, but I am really trying to take my time and savor this one. It is just so rich. I always keep a pen nearby because I am marking this one up. I am looking forward to finishing and writing a review for it!

Next in line is Always Watching by Lynette Eason, An Insiders Guide to Praying for the World by Brian C. Stiller, The Prophetess by Jill Eileen Smith, Risen by Angela Hunt, The Bee Friendly Garden by Kate Frey and Gretchen Lebuhn, and finally, I Will Follow Jesus Bible Storybook by Judah & Chelsea Smith

Whew! February is going to be a busy month around here on Midnight Mom. Excited to share these great reads with you.