23 January 2015

*Vanishing Grace* {a book review}

Award-winning writer Philip Yancey's latest book, Vanishing Grace, is my first non-fiction read of the new year.  And, wow.  What a read.

His subtitle was what drew me in, wanting to find out more about this book: what ever happened to the Good News?

In this book, Yancey explores why the Christian Church stirs up such negative feelings these days.  That's a question that I've often wondered myself and I was very interested to see what his research revealed.

In reading this book I have certainly been convicted.  Not necessarily because I have personally done things that "turn non-believers off from the Gospel", but because I am guilty by association with others who also claim my same beliefs and who have been very offensive at times.

I don't like that evangelical Christians are mostly known for that they are "against" rather than what they are "for".  It frustrates me that American Christians especially will get all up in arms about some Christian "celebrity" being "persecuted" in our media but the same do nothing to help share the Good News to a dying world.  We will often be happy to sign a petition to keep an offensive show off the air and share all about it on Facebook but when faced with the responsibility of feeding the hungry in our own community we turn a blind eye.  No wonder unbelievers are often turned off by our words.  They can seem contradictory and even meaningless in light of our lack of action to move beyond our own personal comfort zone.

This book explores all of that and much, much more.  Yancey looks at how believers can become dispensers of grace and how evangelical Christians can reinvent that title, making it into something that is true to it's name: "glad tidings" or "good news"

This book is certainly challenging and, like I mentioned before, convicting.  Especially when it talks about Christians and politics.

 I for one want to effective as a Christ-follower.  I want to share God's grace with everyone I come into contact with, to share living water with a thirsty world.

So I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and put this book on your 2015 reading list.

You can find this book at your local bookstores or on Amazon.

Disclaimer: I received this book from Book Look Bloggers in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.  No other compensation was received.  

I review for BookLook Bloggers

05 January 2015

What's For Dinner... {January 5th}

It's a new year and it's time to get back into the swing of routine with my weekly dinner plans.


I love getting back into routine after the craziness of the holidays and I'm keeping things fairly simple around here this week.  

Here's what's cooking this week:

Monday:  Baked Potato Bar with Salad

Tuesday:  Chicken & Dumplings

Wednesday:  Tostadas

Thursday:  Beef & Noodles

Friday:  {date night}

Saturday:  Snacks/Leftovers

This post is linked to Menu Plan Monday at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

01 January 2015

A Great Way to Start a New Year!

Happy New Year to you!!

I hope you have a wonderful first day of the first month of this fresh slate we're blessed with each year.

While any time is a good time to read the Bible, January 1st is an obvious choice to begin to read the Bible through in a year.  And a great way to do that is by using the You Version app on your smart phone, tablet, or computer!

I used this reading plan for the first time last year and loved it!  I could pick up my phone anywhere and have my reading plan at my fingertips.  And as a person who loves to see progress on my 'to do' lists, I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the little graph each day showing me my reading progress for the year:)

Another benefit to this app is that you can choose different styles of reading plans.  Last year I chose the chronological plan and absolutely loved it.  It was so interesting to see exactly where all of those prophets fit into the timeline of the Old Testament!  You can also choose different translations to read.  This year I have decided to read with the Amplified version since I have never read that version through.

Of course, there is always the traditional way of reading your Bible through--with a hard copy and a reading plan chart (or by simply reading about 6 chapters a day).  Reading it is the important thing!

Happy reading!

23 December 2014

Christmas Open House 2014

Welcome!  Come on in!

I've enjoyed decorating this year~more so than some years.  
Not that I had new decor--I've used my old faves--but I've felt a little
more relaxed about it this year and that's made things much more 
enjoyable for me.  

Thanks for dropping by for this virtual home tour!  
I wish I could actually share some cookies with you :) 

Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

22 December 2014

Christmas Is Almost Here!

our family Christmas trees

We have been having so much fun this Christmas season that I just haven't had a lot of time to be around here.  I'm sure you understand though.  Have you been 'hustling and bustling' or are you feeling merry?  We've been doing a little of both here.

We have made an effort to simplify a little more this December.  Or at least take the time to enjoy the season more.  We've said "no" to some activities and we've scaled back the gift buying.  But I am having more fun with my family this year than in previous years and it makes my heart happy.

Since we began our homeschooling journey--and I realized how hectic it gets in December and how the kiddos' ability to concentrate on school work flies out the window--we generally take off the entire month of December.  This year though we took a late vacation in the month of November so I just couldn't justify taking off the whole month.  So we schooled the first two weeks of the month.  And it was okay.  The kids did fairly well staying the course.  I did simplify our schedule and we also incorporated some different Christmas-themed lessons.  That helped.

So when our last day of lessons came I realized there were exactly twelve days until Christmas.  And, of course, I was inspired.

I thought it would be fun to call it "The 12 Days of Christmas" and have a fun holiday activity for the kids to look forward to each day (my son does better with a little structure).  Most things were already planned so it wasn't like I had to really stop and think up new things.  But having a plan for something fun made each day feel special.

Here's a run-down of our days so far:

1st day: we went to a local student Christmas production featuring songs and dance
2nd day: watch "The Santa Clause"
3rd day: make 'ninjabread' cookies (with this cute kit)
4th day: make gingerbread houses
5th day: went caroling at an assisted living home
6th day: put up lights outside (yes, we were a little late)
7th day: go ice skating
8th day: make Christmas cut-out sugar cookies
9th day: decorate sugar cookies and watch "Christmas With the Kranks"

Yet to come:

10th day {today!}:  dinner at Patti's 1880 Settlement/looking at lights
11th day: Christmas candlelight service at our church
12th day:  Christmas Eve with the family at our house (the kids have prepared a special program)

I'm thinking this is a great new family tradition for us that we just might carry on next year!

I'd love to hear about your family's special traditions~and did you create any new ones this year?

18 December 2014

Inscribed Studies {a review}

I was pretty excited recently to have the opportunity to review the new set of books from InScribed Studies.  I have to admit that I was not at all familiar with InScribed Studies, but I was intrigued by these titles and subtitles.  I occasionally lead Bible studies for women at our church and am often overwhelmed--and underwhelmed--by the studies find.  So I was excited to check these out ...and I was not disappointed!

Just RISE UP! by Sarah Francis Martin is an incredible study focused on 'a call to make Jesus famous'.  Sarah writes in such a disarming and easy tone and shares from a very personal place.  She dives deep into Psalm 145 as she tackles topics like living a life of praise, having a kingdom perspective, humility, influence, and more.  Sarah challenges her readers to allow this study to be a 'catalyst toward meaningful conversations between you and the Lord'.  

I absolutely love how she has designed this book to guide you into those 'meaningful conversations'.  Each chapter contains five different journal prompts that are chock-full of meaty questions that go way below the surface.  Also included at the end of the journal prompts are prayer prompts to further encourage your time our Heavenly Father. 

Inseparable by Ashley Linne is a wonderful study all about 'who I am, was, and will be in Christ'.  This is an incredible study through the book of Romans.  Ashley actually has chapter/verses from Romans printed out right into her chapters, truly encouraging the reader to dig deeper into God's Word.  At the end of each chapter there is a section titled 'Step into the Story' where you are encouraged in five areas: prayer, the big picture, context, the original audience, and standout moments.  There are also great additional resources in the appendix.  

I love that Ashley looks at the Scriptures both from the original audience's point of view and also applies the Biblical truths to our lives today.  This is a great book for a new believer, but also wonderful for the mature Christian as well.  We all must remember and know our identity in Christ.  

Barren Among the Fruitful by Amanda Hope Haley is one deeply, heartfelt book that so many women can identify with.  It tackles the heartbreaking subject of infertility.  

My husband and I struggled with infertility for several years early in our marriage and I so wish I could have had a book like this to comfort my aching soul.  Infertility is not always a topic that is easy for people to share about.  It often seems shameful or just too painful to bring up.  When you do meet someone you can talk to it is such a relief and balm for your soul.  

In this study Amanda tackles some tough stuff and includes much in the way of practical advice as well as hope and encouragement to the reader.  I love that she titled her chapters with all of the cliche things that people often thoughtlessly say to those who are struggling with infertility.  Throughout each chapter there are also the stories of so many others sharing their own journey.  At the end of each chapter there are several thought-provoking questions for the reader.  


I have to say I am thoroughly impressed and excited to have found this incredible series by inScribed.  I am looking forward to sharing these book with the women in my life--at my church and even in my homeschool group--as I have the opportunity.  

If you are looking for a new study for yourself or possibly to lead others in, this would be a wonderful place to begin.  I would highly recommend checking out their website to see what all they have to offer!  

I review for BookLook Bloggers

Disclaimer: I received these book from BookLook Blogger in exchange for my honest and unbiased opinion.  No other compensation was received.  

16 December 2014

Tasty Tuesdays {easy shepherd's pie}

Hey there!  Just popping in on the Tasty Tuesday to share a quick and easy version of Shepherd's Pie--and a fantastic way to use up roast beef leftovers! 

I started making it in this way when I got tired of using my roast leftovers for beef-veggie soup and wanted to make something different with them.  This has been a hit with the whole family!

Step 1: Arrange your (leftover/cooked) roast beef 
in the bottom of a deep-dish pie pan.
I like to make sure mine is chopped or shredded into bite-sized pieces.  

Step 2: Arrange your (leftover/roasted) carrots on top of the beef.
I also cut these into smallish pieces.

Step 3: Arrange roasted or sauteed onions on top of the carrots.
I supposed you could skip this step if you don't like onions, 
but I can't even imagine that!
(I do keep my onions in large pieces so they can be easily removed from my onion-hating son's plate though).

Step 4: Pour over about 1/2 to 3/4 cup beef broth.  
If you add more than this it will bubble over while baking 
and make a mess in your oven.
Don't ask how I know that.

Step 5: Spread a nice, even, thick layer of mashed potatoes 
on top of it all.  Make sure to go all the way to the edge.  
You can used leftovers for this or simply make a fresh batch 
(this will take about 5-6 medium potatoes) 
in the usual way (seasoned and all).  

Step 6: Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes 
or until the potatoes begin to get
those pretty browned edges.  
Then dig in and enjoy!