Monday, October 28, 2013

Audrey Bunny---PRECIOUS Children's Book!

*Congratulations to Emily W. and thanks to all of you for stopping by and entering!*

Up for review and giveaway is a precious, precious (yes, that needed to be doubled!) book for young children!

Do you have flaws that you try to hide from the world? Do you think those flaws make you less than or not lovable? Maybe they are physical flaws or even just parts of you that you don't want to share with others out of fear they won't love you.

Sweet little Audrey Bunny definitely thought that was true about her. She watched her bunny friends be chosen by children to take home at the toy store, time and time again, while she was overlooked.  She thought it was because she had a visible mark that made her less than desirable. When she was chosen, she thought it was because the little girl failed to see her imperfections.  Day after day, she worked tirelessly to hide them from her.  Until THAT day, the day that she dreaded.  The day that she knew she would no longer be loved.  Oh, but sweet little Audrey learns a valuable lesson that we all need to soak in....whether we are 4, 7, 47 or any age!

God loves us and we have value.  Our flaws and imperfections don't make us unworthy.  Audrey heard some sweet, empowering words that I think we all long to hear in our own lives...

"I chose you, Audrey, and I love you more than you could ever know."

Sweet book.  Beautifully illustrated.  Powerful lesson.  Every time I picked it up I was reminded of all those years ago when I fell in love with The Velveteen Rabbit and the joy it was to share that classic with each of my children.  "Audrey Bunny" is one of those books that you will want to keep in your collection to make sweet memories with your precious little ones and the message is such an incredibly IMPORTANT one!

My youngest was reading this book to me (LOVE those moments!) and I had to slip away to get the three babies/toddlers to sleep before they melted down.  When I returned to continue with him, he had continued reading it and left THIS outside my door.

That is as close as you will ever get to TWO thumbs up from a 7 year old boy!!!! Especially a boy that wasn't actually asked to pick up a pencil and WRITE. Especially when said boy HATES to write at this stage in life!  :)

Enter to win a copy for a special little one in your life (or tuck it away for a Christmas present!).  One reader (US or Canada) will be chosen at random on 11/7/2013 to win one copy.  Simply comment on this post or the facebook link!  Be sure to leave an email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.  

From the publisher:

About Audrey Bunny
From best-selling women’s author Angie Smith (I Will Carry You, Mended) comes this sweet children’s book about a stuffed animal named Audrey Bunny who fears her imperfections make her unworthy of a little girl’s love. She'll learn the truth soon enough, and young readers will learn that everyone is special and wonderfully made by God.

[Also included]: The Parent Connection (last page of the book) shares discussion questions and activities reinforcing God's love for us.

Angie Smith is the wife of Todd Smith (lead singer of Dove Award winning group Selah), best-selling author of MendedI Will Carry You, and What Women Fear, and one of the most popular speakers and blog writers in the country. She holds a Master’s degree in Developmental Psychology from Vanderbilt University and lives with her husband and daughters in Nashville, TN.

Written by: Angie Smith
Publisher: B&H Publishing
Hardcover with jacket:  32 pages 

Stay Connected

*"Disclosure of Materials Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."*

Thursday, October 24, 2013


Well, here comes one of those introspective, honest, and a bit vulnerable posts.  Been waiting to write this one, but life with Littles and my three kids don't leave much time to actually sit down and write more than a few complete sentences without completely depleting brain cells! (Though I wouldn't change this life for the world!).

Something about changing seasons and especially fall leave me in a reflective mode.  It tends to remind me of how quickly time passes, has me looking back, evaluating the here and now, and gazing ahead to the future.  Something about everything changing from green to beautiful colors...and then eventually falling to the ground and looking barren.  Something about the hot weather, turning to crisp amazing fall weather...and then to the bitter cold. (Something about watching the snowflakes fall most of this day in October has really had me in a introspective mood.  Even though it's far too warm to stick and it's really just flurries, the reminder of what is to come.....argh!)

Lately I've been thinking about how my own parenting has evolved and changed through the seasons.

Maybe it's been the realization of how rapidly time is flying by.

Maybe it's been the conversations with so many friends and family members talking about their own seasons of life, struggles and victories. How many of them are also changing their own perspectives and impacting their families in great ways.

Maybe it's been that we are entering new seasons in our own lives.

It's partly been multiple discussions about grace and talking about what we want for our own families (as in what values matter most, memories we want them to have, and hopes we have for our children).

It's partly been how much heart and soul I pour into every little child that comes into our home for care.  Whether it's just as a back up when a regular sitter isn't available, for a temporary season while families are navigating difficult seasons, or whether it's the ones that are here on a regular basis.  Investing in them so deeply has caused me to reflect and pull inward. I NEVER want to see a little one JUST as a paycheck, even for one single day.  The day that happens...the day that I don't feel like I'm offering a ministry of my door will be locked.  Guaranteed.

It's partly looking ahead to the adventure that we are preparing for and seeking God's provision for in regards to where we see our entire family serving on another continent in the next year or two.  (Lord, please don't let it be any longer than that!! PLEASE!).

It's partly looking back to how much of an impact being part of Jill Savage's book launch team for "No More Perfect Moms" had on my heart and looking forward with anticipation in the months ahead as the second book in the series (No More Perfect with Dr. Kathy Koch who writes AMAZING books about parenting) is in the works.  Preparing my heart to be ready to participate again has left me "thinking" and reflecting.

I look back and just see mountains of regrets.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm not wallowing in pity or sinking in conviction.  I'm just honestly looking back.

I see the things I do with my many "littles" and the mom I am now....and look at the mom I was so many years ago.  I'm different, but in a much better way.

Part of the change comes from unchangeable circumstances.

For a couple of years, I was clinically depressed.  I was in the early years of Lupus that was seldom under control.  I didn't like who I became while taking the meds to control the symptoms.  When I didn't take the meds, I couldn't function physically as a mother.  I had very little support outside of my husband since we live hundreds of miles from family and we often moved before developing friendships. Those days were insanely difficult and no one really knew the depth outside our doors. Financially we greatly struggled, either from circumstances out of our control or from our own stupid mistakes or sinful actions (yes, I said that.....I do believe it's sinful when you are spending money outside the will of God on things you don't need when you've been convicted of it and continue to do so).  Life WAS hard.....


So much could have been different...IF...

I weren't so uptight.

So full of pride.  SO full of pride.  That needs repeating.

I had reached out for help OR accepted help when offered instead of claiming I had it under control.

I had looked to Him FIRST instead of LAST.

I had embraced GRACE more often.  Either accepting it or offering it.

Looked to God to fill in the "holes" in my heart instead of expecting my husband or children to fill those up.

Really embraced each season of life and understood that what I did mattered instead of listening to the lies of the world that motherhood wasn't "enough".

Let go of my self-imposed expectations and lowered the unattainable bar I had set.

Just lived in that one day.....instead of wasting so much worrying about the next day or regretting the previous one.

If I had not let bitterness, frustrations, lack of forgiveness, jealousy, etc... take root.

I'm far from perfect.  I'm far from the woman I want to be.  Yet, I'm reminded I'm not who I was and God is far from finished with my yet.

I am happy that our home overflows with joy.  I am happy that God is at work in EVERY single one of us and the results are more visible every day.

I AM thankful that I am getting a chance to do things with the Littles in our home.  They (ours AND the Littles) exhaust me AND bring me to the brink of losing my sanity.  YET.... I've never been happier and full of zest.  I've never been more relaxed and a "yes" mom (that goes back to Jill's book).  I'm learning by default how to balance things better and what things to let go.  I'm getting a second chance at doing the fun things I wish I had done more of years ago with me. We create a mess EVERY single day---but the memories are worth it. Yes, I do feel regrets that I didn't say yes to the mess more often or yes to more spontaneity, BUT I am still here doing it with my kids today.  They are going to have memories of a home that was full of love and fun....even if it did take me a few years longer than I wish to get in that way of living life.

I am thankful that through many years of home education that I learned there is a difference in homeschooling and doing school-at-home and that by not following a specific set of "rules"---we've been able to embrace learning, thrive, and grow together.

I am thankful that we are seeing the fruits of a marriage truly rooted in Christ.  Not just in words, but in action.  Thankful that a marriage that was at rock bottom has been restored beyond what either of us imagined.  God reached in and saved us.  Literally.

I may not know exactly what God is doing in our lives or how He is going to provide the way for the desires we have in our hearts to be in Africa....but I know that HE IS AT WORK.  He is shaping us and so much of the "hard" part of our lives has driven us to this point by preparing us for what He wants us to do.  We've seen the broken restored.  We've been at the bottom when we've had no choice but to reach up and rely on Him. All in preparation.  All so we can be molded, changed, and equipped.  All to learn more of Him and let go of more of ourselves.

I look back and have regrets, but they don't destroy me like they once did.  They just serve as a reminder (though sometimes painfully just as all scars do) that you live, you learn, and you adapt.  Change where you need to.  Never let go of things that matter---even if everyone else in the world seems to be.  Dream big.  Look to Him. Learn from the past, but don't let it rob you of today's joy and blessings.  Even if today is hard (which many times it is), hold steadfast to His hand and keep your eyes and heart focused on Him.

Most of all I'm learning to just relax and be who He designed me to be----and I do like who she is becoming! Even if it's a painful journey along the way or if it keeps taking longer than I want it do because there are so many layers needing to be stripped away! Even if I have to learn some lessons over and over because I didn't get it the first time!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


I'm a book reader to say the least (even though I've slowed down in the last several weeks from a daily book to a book every 2-3 days!). Besides actually reading scripture and memorizing it, reading excellent Christian books is a key way to keep my heart in check and connected to God.  Just like worship music, it's a life line for me!

I was recently offered the opportunity to review "One Way LOVE:  Inexhaustable Grace for an Exhausted World" by Tullian Tchividjian (yes I looked at that three times to make sure I spelled it correctly!).  I almost skipped this one.  Life was a little busy (ha...8 kids in the home with 5 two and under will do that to you!) AND I was afraid this book on grace would not be one I would want to embrace.  However, it was encouraged that if there was ANY slightly interest in reviewing this one to jump in because it was life-changing.  So glad I did!

Being honest and open, I was nervous about a book on grace because I was so afraid that it would be one that would use grace as a license to "do what you want" or would cheapen the COST of grace.  That thought process is PREVALENT in so much of society and even in many modern churches and I didn't want to read a book pushing that way of thinking.  However, my husband had heard an interview talking about the book the very same day and he came in the door telling me about it (not knowing I had just agreed to review it!).

As I read the reviews and testimonials from many top names and the fact that Tullian is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham, I knew that I did NEED to give the book a chance and read it with an open mind.

My take:  READ IT.  SOAK it in!  It has a powerful message.  That is saying a LOT coming from this very conservative woman!

He hands down has written the best book I've ever read on the topic of grace and what it actually means. Grace truly is ONE way love and he does a phenomenal job of explaining that.  Though I didn't 100% fully agree with every last statement, there was WELL more than enough that I did agree with and was happy to hear explained.  Many things were even out of my comfort zone.  Most of all, what he did a GREAT job about was explaining the purpose of grace and the value of the Law.  He fully explains how we must take the focus of ourselves and fully put our focus on what Christ did and His love.  We do not earn His love more by aiming for perfection and living out the letter of the law, nor does He love us less because we fail miserably.  There IS freedom in that.  He even explains that when we truly understand grace, we actually value the law more because we understand just what an amazing gift Christ has given us!

Though I know I could write page after page of things that really stood out, I really just want to encourage you to READ it.  This is one of those books that I'm going to be going back to again and again and trying to soak more and more in.  It's one of those books that you need to wrestle with yourself instead of just accepting someone else's opinion.  It's beautiful.  It's DEEP.  It causes you to THINK and it causes you above all else to be even more thankful for what Christ did on the cross.  To see just how much He truly loves ONE way, without condition and what that means to you personally!  It can truly be a life-changing book---even if you don't agree with every last statement! You will find freedom and healing from past failings if you read it with the intention of letting it change you.  Powerful book.

From publisher:

About One Way Love
Real life is long on law and short on grace—the demands never stop, the failures pile up, and fear sets in. Life requires many things from us—a stable marriage, successful children, a certain quality of life. Anyone living inside the guilt, anxiety, and uncertainty of daily life knows that the weight of life is heavy. We are all in need of some relief.
Bestselling author Tullian Tchividjian is convinced our world needs a fresh encounter with grace.

About the Author
William Graham Tullian Tchividjian (pronounced cha-vi-jin) is the Senior Pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Ft. Lauderdale, Fl. A Florida native, Tullian is the grandson of Billy and Ruth Graham. He is a visiting professor of theology at Reformed Theological Seminary, and a contributing editor to Leadership JournalHe is an ordained minister in Presbyterian Church of America. He is the author of six books; including the best seller, Jesus + Nothing = Everything  that won Christianity Today’s 2011 book of the year. He travels extensively, speaking at conferences throughout the U.S.

Enter to win a copy of this book (but don't hesitate to purchase it  if you aren't the winner!).  One reader (US or Canada) will be chosen at random on 10/24/13.  Simply comment on this post or the facebook link to enter.  PLEASE be sure to include an email contact.  Two recent winners of different give-a-ways were not able to be contacted because they left no contact information!  Don't let that happen to you!!!!

*"Disclosure of Materials Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."*

Another Unexpected Lesson From.....Cowboy boots?

Back from a short blogging break.  Can hardly wait to share with you what was going on during this temporary break soon!

Later this week I'll also have a MUST read book up for review and giveaway.

But for now...

It's been over two weeks since the beautiful (in countless ways) wedding of my little brother.  Definitely not only just a beautiful wedding, but a precious couple starting out.

The wedding and reception took place back home on my parent's gorgeous farm in the middle of the hills of Tennessee. God's perfect little backdrop, especially as the sun was beginning to go down and the twinkling lots of the reception tent were beginning to glow. The outdoor theme was made perfect with the wedding invitation suggestions of wearing cowboy boots.


Despite growing up in the south in farm country, I had NEVER owned a pair or even worn a pair.  Not to say I didn't want to.  I just never had.

Several months before the wedding, my daughter and I bought our first pairs.  My husband LOVED the fact that I now had a pair and often "bugged" me about getting them out and wearing them. He even made me promise that I'd make sure he was able to spin me around on the dance floor after the wedding in them (though I did fulfill that promise GLADLY---it was actually barefoot!).

Though I loved them, after countless hours on my feet being constantly on the go that day, those boots HURT! They fit, but oh my goodness did they hurt. I didn't think much about it other than they were heels and pointy.....and had been on MANY hours and especially after some serious activity levels over the previous days on my joints affected by lupus.  I just went on about it and once the majority of the guests left I kicked them off and got back to work.

A couple of times through the next week, I joked around with my husband and daughter that my big toes STILL didn't quite have feeling back in them.  Still didn't think much about it.  Just noted that man those boots really must have done a number on my feet!

It wasn't until earlier this week that I noticed that nails on my big toes were DRAMATICALLY bruised. Because my toes were painted in a really bright red color, I didn't notice it until the paint started chipping off and I hadn't had time to redo them.  When I finally did remove all the polish, it was a shock to see how bruised they were and how I had been completely unaware of what was really hiding under the surface.  I was aware it was there, but I didn't really think about it being that big of a deal. (I can only imagine what they looked like the first week before they started to fade!).

As we were looking at those bruises that had been hidden and ignored last night, I couldn't help but think about something similar.


Hidden and ignored in our lives.

Just like the bruises hidden under the red polish----sin can be lurking in our hearts.  Hidden from the world.


It's there.

Causing pain.  Causing discomfort.  Keeping us in a state of turmoil.  Preventing us from fully coming into God's presence.

Just like I went on with life with my toes being sore but not really stopping to investigate why they were STILL sore after so many days, we can do that with life.

We get busy.  We get wrapped up in the circumstances of life and don't have time to spend with God asking Him to reveal our sin, purify us and give us the strength to do what is right.



We just don't want to.

It's not always easy to do the right thing.  It's hard to let go of bitterness, offer forgiveness, or say no to self.  I know that sometimes I think it's easier to just hold on to those deeply hidden sins than to actually deal with them.  Sometimes it's easier to hold on to that grudge or anger than to deal with it.  Maybe I'd rather not admit my own fault in a situation.  Maybe I just want to hold onto those sinful behaviors because I feel justified in my own emotions.  Maybe I'm just too selfish and want things my own way.  Maybe I'm not fully willing to give something over to God or maybe I don't trust Him enough in my actions.

Whatever it is....

No matter how hidden.  No matter how many coats of nail polish may have hidden the bruises, no matter how well we think we have hidden our sins from the world.

They are still there.

They are still needing the mercy of Christ to reach in with redemption and grace.  Sin, no matter how deeply we think we have hidden it or even how openly we display it, harms and destroys.  It eats us apart. It negatively affects others.  It blocks us from enjoying the fullness of God's goodness in our lives.  It blinds us.  We can walk in it so deeply and so long that we can begin to ignore the warning signs of our conscious and the Holy Spirit's promptings.

 Just like those pointy boots may have looked good on the outside, they were killing my feet on the inside.  They were forcing my toes in a position they weren't used to and weren't designed for.  Sin does the same thing.  It forces our hearts into a position that it wasn't designed for.  When put under the blood of Christ, it's gone.  It's forgiven.  We're made pure again in His sight. He paid the price.  His mercy and grace replace the condemnation and pay the debt.  Then we are free to operate under His wings and walk in His steps.....

Not cramped.  Not broken and bruised.  No dying on the inside while the world sees us comfortable on the outside.

Just another powerful lesson learned from the most unexpected moments.  From a simple pair of boots.  Point taken (ha....from pointy boots!).

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! (review and giveaway)

I have a precious little book to share with you and the opportunity to give one away to a reader.(Simply just comment on this post or the facebook sure to leave an email address so I can contact you if you are the winner.  One winner will be chosen by at the end of 10/10).

My take:
One word for this book: ADORABLE! 

My kids and my littles that I provide care for all love to read/be read to.  I put this little book out and watched to see if they were drawn to it and YES they were!  My older "little" absolutely loved it.  He kept coming back to it again and again.  His favorite part was finding the monkey on every page and showing it to me.  I love little books that are engaging!  I especially ADORE books that are sturdy (and can REALLY be loved....haha!) and have a SUPER message.  Though my actual children are finally old enough that getting to church and MAKING it through a service is no longer an issue, I absolutely remember the stress those days brought.  It was HARD! (Be sure to hang on to the end for some great tips about children and worship!) I know from working with small children at church and from my littles that this is a HUGE battle for many parents.  This little book is a great tool to encourage little ones to transition into church settings.  Most of all---just don't give up!

From the publisher:
Rufus and Ryan Go To Church!
In Rufus and Ryan Go to Church!, four-year-old Ryan explains to his stuffed monkey, Rufus, what is happening as they attend church on Sunday morning. He lets Rufus know when it’s time to sing and to pray and to be quiet. Author Kathleen Bostrom brings a delightfully light touch to the text as she provides an introduction to an experience that most children are exposed to long before they understand why. And children everywhere will relate to the idea of explaining their surroundings to their favorite companions as they go about their daily activities.
This is just one of the first titles in a new series of inspirational books for preschoolers.

About the Rufus and Ryan
Rufus and Ryan is a new series of books for preschoolers, featuring Ryan, an energetic little boy, and his stuffed monkey Rufus. Basic Christian and church concepts serve as the foundation of the series, with an additional focus on character traits and development. The text is presented in young Ryan’s voice as he teaches Rufus about the concepts he is learning himself. Each story is about 150 words, using age-appropriate vocabulary and themes.
Also available now, Rufus and Ryan Say Their Prayers

About the Author
Kathleen Long Bostrom is a published children’s author in both the Christian and trade markets. She has a Master’s in Christian Education and a Doctorate of Ministry in Preaching, and she has worked in children’s ministry for many years. Kathy and her husband, Greg, have three grown children and live in Illinois. 
About the Illustrator 
Rebecca Thornburgh began illustrating children’s books full-time in 1996 and today has almost 100 books to her name. Rebecca’s vibrant watercolors have been showcased in previous Ideals titles, including the new edition of The Story of Christmas. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and two daughters.

Rufus and Ryan Go to Church! 
Written by: Kathleen Long Bostrom 
Illustrated by: Rebecca Thornburgh
Publisher: Ideals Books
Board book
Available at

Also included with this book review was some great tips for children and worship that are too good not to share! 

(Don't forget to enter for a chance to win a copy for your little one or little one that you love!)


1.         Attend a child-friendly church.

A church that invites children to attend worship, that has a children’s time during worship or a service in which children are included, will not mind the noise and commotion that comes with having young children in worship.

2.         Bring your child to church on a day other than Sunday morning.

Call the church office and make an appointment with a pastor, Christian education director, or church school teacher. Go on a tour of the church facility, and locate the Sunday school rooms and bathrooms as well as the sanctuary. Let your child explore the sanctuary, see how it feels to sit in the pew, and leaf through the Bibles and hymnbooks. Look behind the pulpit, Communion table, and baptismal font, and explain the use of these.

3.         Take home a worship bulletin and go through the service at home.

Show your child that there are times to sit, to stand (and in some places, to kneel), to sing, to pray, and to listen. If the Lord’s Prayer is used, write down the words and let your child practice at home. Prepare offering envelopes and let your child put money in the envelope, and explain why the offering is important.

4.         Play “Let’s go to church” at home.

Practicing the worship service at home will help your child feel more comfortable with what happens in worship.

5.         Read the Bible and pray at home.

Purchase an age-appropriate Bible for your child and read the stories. Let your child handle the Bible and encourage questions. You can explain that the Bible is where we learn God’s story, and how we are part of that story. If you let prayer be a part of your everyday life, not just something you do at church, your child will understand its importance.

6.         Sit near an aisle or in a place where you can make an exit if needed.

If your child needs to go to the bathroom, or is feeling overly stimulated or having a disruptive day, don’t be embarrassed. Walk your child out of the sanctuary until she can work off a little energy, and then come back in. This is much easier if you don’t have to crawl across a row of other people in the pew!


7.         Be prepared with a worship notebook or bag.

Many churches provide materials for children to use during worship, but if not, bring your own supplies. Colored pencils can be used to mark the parts of worship in the bulletin as you go through them one by one. Get to church a few minutes in advance and use a bookmark to mark the hymns that will be sung that day. Have some coloring pages from a Bible coloring book for your child to color, or some blank pages for doodling. This is not disrespectful, and can help your child listen more attentively. Have the words of the Lord’s Prayer printed on a page for the child to follow, if he or she is of reading age. Let your child draw a picture of the anthem or hymns being sung, or the sermon, and give this to the choir director or pastor afterwards.

8.         Teach basic church etiquette.

Speak to people before and after worship, and teach your child how to shake hands and greet others.  If your child is shy, don’t force it, but practice at home and let your child see you greeting others. Let the child put the hymnbook and Bible away after use, and be sure to take your bulletin with you, rather than leaving it in the pew. Meeting other people and taking care of the church facility helps a child feel that “This is my church!”

9.         Get to know the pastor.

Pastors of child-friendly churches love to get to know the children of the church. Introduce your child to the pastor after worship, and participate in other church activities so that the pastor becomes a friend and not a scary adult.

10.       Don’t give up!

It may take awhile for your child to become comfortable in worship, and to learn how to sit quietly. The best way for this to happen is to attend worship on a regular basis. There may be days when it doesn’t go well, but don’t let this stop you from coming the following week. Practice makes perfect!

*Disclosure of Materials Connection: I received one or more of the products or services mentioned above for free in the hope that I would mention it on my blog. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."