Saturday, April 30, 2016

Big Picture Interactive 52-Week Bible Story Devotional

I love when a book pleasantly surprises me. I was not expecting a whole lot from this devotional honestly. But this is anything but your average kids book.

The Big Picture Interactive 52-Week Bible Story Devotional (aka the longest book title ever) is a 52 week study that uses an app to bring the stories to life. I downloaded the app easily on my phone in just a few moments.

The first page of each week is a devotion that deals with the text being covered. I have really enjoyed these. Everyone in our family gets something out of them. They are easy enough to be understood by my five and three year-olds, but deep enough to touch the parent. It's really special when a kids book can speak into adult lives too.

The illustration that you see on the right is part of the interactive aspect. The app uses the camera on your phone to turn the images into digital-pop-ups. Basically, with the app open, you hold the phone like you are going to take a picture of the illustration. Then, the image comes to life! They pop-up on your phone and become 3-d. It's hard to explain, but it's really fun. My husband and I played around with it after the kids went to bed for longer than I care to admit.

The second page of the devotion has numerous different aspects--

Read It- The scriptural references for that weeks story.

Christ Connection- How the story reveals more about Jesus, his deity and redemptive power.

Watch It- This QR code is scanned in the app. Then you can watch a video that brings the story to life. These were really well done and fun. A narrator tells the story while kids in costume act out the story. My kids LOVE watching these.

Live Big- This section has activities you can do throughout the week to "live out" the scripture. Often these are to write, do something or brainstorm.

Big Picture Questions- In this section there are three questions that relate to the story. These really made my kids think. Some of the questions were a little complex for my kids to answer, but they were good ones to go through together.

Dear God- Finally there is a prayer that bring together all the aspects of the Bible story and devotion. 

This is such a fun and interactive devotional. My kids genuinely enjoy getting into it. I try to limit the technology that we use in our lives. They don't get to watch a lot of TV or play on phones or tablets much. I really don't want them to grow up glued to a screen. With that said, the technology utilized in this devotional has enhanced my kids understanding of the stories and helped them remember them better. I have really enjoyed adding this book to our morning devotional time!

I received a copy of this book from B&H in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, April 25, 2016

King's Folly

 I just finished King's Folly last night, and at 560 pages, it took me a bit to get through! Jill Williamson's epic fantasy release was an enjoyable, complex read.

There is a lot going on in this book, but I will try to summarize the core plot as concisely as possible--

The five realms are coming apart- earthquakes and volcanoes, gigantic sinkholes and the sea rising to overtake the land. Natural disaster are absolutely destroying their continent. In Armania, the throne is looking for its next heir, tearing apart the royal family and the people. Wilek and Trevn, two of the kings sons do their best to investigate the destruction of their kingdom and keep their corrupt brother Janek from being declared heir.    

This book is pretty dark in some places. The author paints a picture of a very evil, idolatrous culture. There are a lot of similarities to the Old Testament, child sacrifice, rampant sexuality, concubines, worshiping false gods and more. The author never takes it to a super graphic place or glorifies these things, instead she gives us a picture of a people who have lost their way.

There are a lot of characters in this book. However, given its size I felt like the author had a lot of time to develop and give most of them complexity. There were a few characters that I felt were a little one note and not very interesting, in particular Wilek's betrothed Lady Zeroah. I wish the author had done more with her. On a whole though, the characters were interesting. The court drama and politics of the book could have gotten really boring if the characters had been lacking.

The book is full of mystery and it was fun to try and figure out what was going to happen. I would say this book is a great read for fans of epic fantasy. Be prepared for a few mature themes, but the author took care to address those things appropriately. If you love books with complicated and intricate storylines like me, this won will keep your interest. There is a sequel to this book coming out sometimes next year. I hope to read the next in the series and discover what happens next.  

I received this book in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

The Torchlighters- Robert Jermain Thomas Story

Buy Christian Movies on | Torchlighters The Robert Jermain Thomas Story DVD
The rains and stormy weather have returned to our coastal home. Last night the weather was just terrible and we needed something to do indoors. I made some popcorn and we watched the newest release from one of our favorite Christian children's movies-- The Torchlighters. Torchlighters is produced by International Films, The Voice of the Martyrs, and Christian History Institute. Each of their DVDs tell the story of a real hero or heroine of the Christian faith. They are animated cartoons but they do not skirt the truth of what actually happened. They are entertaining and interesting but also factual and educational. I find myself learning along with the kids.

This Torchlighters: The Robert Jermain Thomas Story is the newest in the series. I was excited to watch this with the kids because I had never actually heard of him. He was a missionary to China and Korea in the mid-nineteenth century. He risks everything to smuggle Bibles into Korea.

The episode is about 30 minutes and recommended for children 8-10. I was a little hesitant to watch it with our 5 year-old, but I'm glad we did! There are a few intense moments, but it is an intense story. I want my children to know and understand the sacrifice that these heroes of the faith made. It is part of our Christian heritage and history. Some elements of the story needed explanation, especially the political/trade element. I'm pretty sure most of that went totally over my sons head, even with explanation. However the core message really stuck.

My son was deeply moved by the story. The story really emphasizes that the Bible is our treasure. This inspired a great conversation with my son about the Bible, and how many have risked their lives to distribute, acquire and translate Bibles throughout history. We are incredibly blessed to have numerous Bibles laying around the house and the freedom to read them. Any resource, be it a book or DVD that inspires great conversation and learning is a winner in our house! I have recently heard great things about the Theo series as well. They are fun animated stories that teach theology to children. I hope to pick those up eventually as well.

I received this dvd from FishFlix in exchange for my honest review.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Bee-Friendly Garden

Image result for the bee friendly garden

The weather has turned warmer here on the Oregon Coast. In fact,  we have had a few days that have been summer-hot. Nothing turns my mind towards the garden like those first warm days of spring. It slowly overtakes all my thoughts and soon I have trays of seedlings in every window and plants shoved in every corner of the garden.

Naturally, this was the perfect time to pick up The Bee-Friendly Garden by Kate Frey and Gretchen LeBuhn. Kate is an amazing garden designer and Gretchen a bee expert. They are the perfect team to write this book!

This book shares how tweaking your garden in a few ways can vastly benefit the bees. Not only can you help save the bees, but a bee friendly garden is a beautiful garden as well. Some of the benefits of a bee-friendly garden include-

· contain a gorgeous variety of flowers
· bloom continuously throughout the seasons
· are organic, pesticide-free, and ecologically sustainable
· develop healthy and fertile soil
· attract birds, butterflies, and other beneficial insects
· increase the quantity of your fruit and vegetable harvest
· improve the quality, flavor, and size of your produce

The book itself is seriously gorgeous and a pleasure to flip through. The pictures really inspired me and gave me a vision of what my garden could look like. I love the idea of adding a few bee-friendly flowers to attract pollinators to my veggies.

I received a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


Sometime I just don't want to go. I love getting out and having adventures with my family- but going all the time really drains me. My husband loves to go and do anything. On the weekends he can handle a few hours inside and then he wants to get out and do something. We are so different. Home is my sanctuary, my place. It take a lot of time before cabin fever sets in. I'm pretty much a classic introvert- needing quiet moments to recharge and think. Home time fills me up but it drains my husband. He loves people and interaction, adventure and busyness. It's the same way with social situations. I enjoy having people over and meeting new people-- to a point. Too much and it drains me, while for my husband it fills him up.

So when it comes to "what shall we do on our day of rest?" I think, "lets spend a family day at home" and he thinks, "lets get out of this place!" It use to really bother me. In fact we have had so many arguments over this topic. Me always wondering, what's so bad about me and our home that you can't stand to be here? Why do you constantly have to be around other people, aren't I enough? And him wondering why I got burnt out on social-commitments so easily and why meeting and interacting with new people is such a herculean feat for me.

We constantly fell into that same trap- accusing one another of being weak, dysfunctional and even sinful when what we really are is different. Really different.  Certainly, there are times when both of our personalities can take these traits too far- and we do need a little push to be more balanced. I have learned over the years that I can let things like this tear our marriage down or build it up. I still find myself thinking at times that things would be so much easier if he was more like me. I am so thankful that the Lord brought us together though. These differences, while they don't make life easier, they have made our marriage and ourselves stronger in the long run. My husband has encouraged me to live life outside my comfort zone and I have grown so much because of that.

So now when he asks me to go, I say yes-- mostly. I try not to think about all the chores I need to do around the house, the books that I could be reading or the many tasks left undone. Instead, I pack a picnic lunch and head to the beach with my people. Other times when I am feeling really stressed or over-taxed, my husband generously offers to take the kids somewhere so I can recharge.

Embracing each others differences has brought a lot of peace to this aspect or our relationship. Thank goodness he is not exactly like me because the balance we bring to each others lives is so important. We are different in so many ways, this being just a small example. These differences can either be a poison in our marriage, feeling my way is the "right" way and my spouse is flawed. Or we can let the Lord use these to refine us, make us stronger and develop empathy and appreciation for our spouse. I'm trying to choose the latter. Trying and sometimes failing, but trying all the same.

Would a Worm Go on a Walk? By Hannah C. Hall

 This bright and springy book is the newest release from Hannah C. Hall! Would a Worm Go on a Walk is such a fun read for littles! The suggested age range is 4-7, but my three-year-old loved this one too.

The book emphasizes God as the perfect creator, he made no mistakes when he made the world. Would a worm go on a walk? Would a possum like to polka? Would a penguin parachute? Nope. That's just not the way God made them. I love at the end of the book it's emphasized that God's greatest masterpiece is you. 

The book is so fun and silly it had my kids cracking up. The book is formatted in a way that sets kids up to interact with the book. After the first few pages my kids were answering back after the silly "would an animal do this" question. This book is great for one-on-one reading, but the size and interactive nature would make it great for Sunday School or any group setting.

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

Monday, April 4, 2016

Busy, Busy by Eileen Spinelli

Busy, Busy is Eileen Spinelli's newest release. You might recognize her name from a review I did of her book Thankful, last fall. Busy, Busy is a colorful board-book, perfect for babies, toddlers and preschool aged children. It's sweet and brightly colored with illustrations that engage my children. 

All the animals are busy, busy getting things done-- "Bear is busy by the river, fishing-- wishing for a catch. Duck is busy in the bushes waiting for her eggs to hatch." Even momma is busy getting things done, buts she is never to busy for her kids.
I have been reading this one with my three-year old especially. With a new baby in the house, it's a good reminder that even though things are crazy right now, I'm not too busy for her. I feel like I'm constantly trying to balance tasks and kids needs. This book is a good reminder for parents too, to set the task aside and give your kid a hug.. or look at their Lego creation for the millionth time.

I received this book form Worth Publishers in exchange for my honest review.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Pressing Pause

I think most moms can relate with the need to "press pause" in their lives. Breakfast is burning on the stove and you know that there is a questionable smell coming from a certain baby- the wrestling match in the living room has gone from innocent to dirty fighting and everybody is crying and yelling for mom. Basically, my morning. I have found that pausing is essential for me, unless I want to turn into grumpy mom, yelling mom, impatient mom or any combination therein.

Pressing Pause, by Karen Ehman and Ruth Schwenk seeks to give ladies a quite place to pause their day and draw near to God. Inside the gorgeous hardcover one will find 100 devotionals. At the beginning of each "quite moment" is a verse that is the jumping off point for the devotion. Following the verse is a short anecdotal story or lessened gleaned from the authors lives. There is a prayer and then a few questions to ponder about the topic presented. All of this can be read in a few short minutes.

I really liked the general idea of the book. Any mom can find a few quick seconds to read these. If you don't have time to write down your answers to the questions in the book, you can always think about them while loading dishes or folding laundry. The devotions contain a lot of encouragement for weary mom's to draw near to Jesus and practical advice on how to do so. I found some of the devotions lacking a bit of depth. There were a few topics that are just so well-worn in mom culture. I just found myself wanting more than another reminder to put the phone down.

The main thing I would say about this book-- If you find you can only carve out a few moments to press pause, don't pick up this book. Pick up your Bible instead. Spend that effort getting into the living word of God. These ladies have some good advice about drawing close to Jesus but why not meet with the Savior himself? Sure, there is scripture in the devotions but it's often one short verse. Honestly, when I find myself reading a book like this, I skim the verse and then dive into what the author is saying. It should be the other way around. That doesn't mean that this is a bad book-- It's a good read. But get into the Bible, and then pick this one up!

The book itself is really lovely and great quality. It exceeded my expectations in that facet. The thick hardcover has a beautiful watercolor design that is accented by the metallic-like purple. When the sun hits it just right it shines! It's just all-together well designed and would make an excellent gift- especially with mother's day coming up.

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