Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"Coming Home for Christmas" Review & Giveaway

*Congratulations to msmissy02! She was chosen as the winner of this giveaway!*

Oh Christmas...

It's becoming that time of year again.

Having lost my Daddy on Christmas after a very short battle with aggressive cancer almost three years ago sure has made Christmas feel so different. To say it's a difficult time of year is like saying I only "like" chocolate.

Though getting in the holiday spirit has been a STRUGGLE, but one we "forced" for the sake of our children, I'm finding this year that I can NOT wait for Christmas to come.  It's not because the pain is any less or the memories any's just....time.  Time to embrace the now and create new memories.  Part of it is because we know that this may be our last Christmas "here"...meaning we don't know where God will have us next year in the process of moving forward in our calling to serve in the foreign mission field.  Part of it is just knowing that time is limited with our families and we need to EMBRACE the season.

Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to watch and review "Coming Home for Christmas" (Norman Rockwell Presents). So, I broke every old rule of no "Christmas" before Thanksgiving.  Let's just say, I might NOW be guilty of having started listening to Christmas music and have already decided to start decorating early this year (except someone needs to tell me how to keep 5 kids 2 and under away from them....ha!!!).

Is there anything better about kicking off the season than enjoying a "feel good" Christmas movie!? "Coming Home For Christmas" was just what I needed to boost that spirit up a notch more! It's one of those "Hallmark Channel" type movies that so many of us women just LOVE! :) A perfect movie to snuggle up with some hot chocolate and popcorn! Hey---and if after watching it you find yourself pulling out the Christmas tunes and twinkle lights----don't worry----you aren't alone! :)

The narration at the end of the movie actually was quite powerful, even if the movie didn't seem so real to life possible (like many holiday movies!). "Family really should be friends.  Friends really should be family. We all---each and every one---want a place to go home to!" and we should "grow and expand as a family to include and accept others".  Whoa...powerful truth right there! Though family division and hard feelings aren't wrapped up in 90 minutes in real life, it is a reminder that there is hope and that others also have less than picture perfect relationships!

Ready for a movie night?  Alone? With Family? With a friend? With a spouse?  I have one copy of "Coming Home for Christmas" to give a way to one reader (US and Canada only).  To enter, leave a comment with your favorite Christmas movie AND your email address so I can contact if you are selected.  Winner will be chosen at random.  Entries must be received before noon 11/28/2013 CST. 

After their parents separate, two estranged sisters who haven't been on speaking terms reunite in hopes that having a family Christmas all together for the first time in years will bring their Mom and Dad close again. They plan to do this in their old family home... the only problem is someone else lives there now.
The DVD includes a limited edition Norman Rockwell print!
Who is Norman Rockwell?  Rockwell was famous for his famous American culture illustrations and artwork. He was born in the late 1800’s and died in the mid 1900’s. 

Director: Vanessa Parise
Cast: George Canyon (Christmas Miracle, Dawn Rider, Man of Steel), Aaron Pritchett, Britt McKillip (Dead Like Me), Carly McKillip (Hot Rod)
Available at Walmart 
Soundtrack also available featuring holiday songs performed by George Canyon
*"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."*

Sunday, November 17, 2013

The Sparkle Box---review and MUST enter Give-a-Way

"Give-a-way closed.  Congratulations to "Glogirl".  I'll be contacting you today!"

I was so disappointed last year when I missed out on the opportunity to review this book, so I was quite overjoyed when the opportunity came up this year! I truly might have been jumping up and down when I got the confirmation email.

Before I ever got the chance to read this one for myself and share it with our family and "Littles", our 7 year old saw it on my night stand was intrigued enough to grab it and read it for himself without prompting.  His response was, "Mom, I hope that Sparkle book is for a review because you need to tell families about it and I hope we are going to be doing it.  We always do these kind of things and I think it will be neat to write them down and leave them for a gift for Jesus.  Can we go ahead and put Operation Christmas Child in it?"

If you've never entered one of my give-a-ways and have children/grandchildren, this is the perfect chance to start.  It's a GREAT one!

The book he is talking about is:

About The Sparkle Box - A Gift with the Power to Change Christmas 
Sam is so excited about Christmas! He's thinking about his Christmas list, looking forward to holiday parties, and puzzling over one very mysterious gift: a sparkly box sitting on the mantel. In the midst of the festivities, Sam and his family participate in various acts of kindness to others. On Christmas morning, when Sam finally opens the Sparkle Box, he finds only slips of paper that record the family's good deeds. Sam's mom explains that the things that they've been doing are, in fact, a gift for Jesus, for Jesus said that whatever we do for those in need, we do for Him.

Written by Jill Hardie
Illustrated by Christine Kornacki
Available now!
Hardcover with jacket, 10 x 10, 32 pages, with a fold-out sparkle box included!

ages 4 to 8 
Author Bio
Author Jill Hardie and her family began placing a gift for Jesus under their Christmas tree as a way of bringing more meaning to the holiday.  The first time they opened His gift, the commercialism of the season melted away and they felt a profound joy and peace.  Jill hopes that The Sparkle Box will spark a new Christmas tradition, bringing light into thousands of lives.  
llustrator Bio
At a very early age, Christine Kornacki developed a love for painting and bringing stories to life.  After receiving a BFA in illustration from the University of Hartford, her dreams of illustrating children's books began to take shape.  She spends her days painting in her studio, which adjoins a charming cafe in New Haven, Connecticut.  
Of all the books, movies, and family friendly materials that I've reviewed, I honestly think this is my absolute favorite.  It's one of those that we are going to treat as a special family heirloom and start some amazing traditions with.  As our family begins to transition in our calling to the foreign mission field and as we begin to rethink what "things" are special to us and what things we will let go, I already know that this one is one that we will cherish and keep with us for each holiday season. 
Our family is BIG on random acts of kindness and finding as many opportunities as possible to serve and make a difference.  It's just part of who we are and the way we are trying to raise our children to have a view of the world OUTSIDE of themselves.  During the holiday season, we do try to increase that focus even more and this little books is PRICELESS! If you are looking for a way to share the holidays with your children in a way that helps them think about others and bring the spotlight of focus on CHRIST----this book is an AMAZING tool.  I must also say, the illustrations are AMAZING.  My husband and I just sat here looking at each page in awe.  Seriously, even before we "do" the sparkle box----the book itself is FANTASTIC. 
I mean really,  when the first page of a book is KNOW it's going to be a great book!

What is the sparkle box?  It's simply just writing down your gifts to Jesus throughout the year or holiday season and then opening up the box and "giving" them to Jesus on Christmas day.  What can you give of yourself or what acts of service can you do to be the hands and feet of Jesus?  What can you do to show someone else His love?  The thoughts and possibilities are endless. 
We LOVE random acts of kindness. 
 They can be simple: some ideas that are our favorite are giving individual flowers to those we see often but are overlooked (the checkout lady at the gas station was our favorite so far (which we've witnessed her burst into tears when receiving it and her normal daily scowl is replaced by a smile every single time one of the kids come back in the store many months after the fact), followed closely by our mail carrier that in the summer eats her lunch on the grass a few houses down from us a couple of times a week (she gently placed her flower across her picnic blanket and her smile was contagious).  Handing out bubbles to kids at the playground has been another favorite that even our youngest enjoyed doing.  Leaving stacks of quarters and individual snacks on the washing machines in the laundrymat was one of my "simple", but favorite ones. There was a time that we went several months without a washing machine and had to frequent one of our laundrymats. I always seemed to be running out of coins and my kids were often cranky because they were wanting snacks from the machines and I didn't have coins to spare.  When our kids make holiday themed crafts throughout the year, we often make extras and have them hang them on the doorknob of senior citizens that live next to us.  Little things make a big difference in ways we don't often realize. 
Our kids are growing up with knowing their father will be the first to stop and help someone in need and the last one to leave when cleaning up after a project.  Our kids are growing up with their eyes opened to ways to share of themselves. 
Some projects are MUCH bigger---supporting missionaries and families in crisis in tangible ways has been a recurring theme.  Finding ways to help with orphans and vulnerable children is TOP priority.  Our 16 year old is currently involved in giving everything she has to a project of her own free will---she's seeking to provide new toys for children in foster care this season and has her heart set on a HUGE goal.  Even if she doesn't reach her goal of FIVE HUNDRED toys----she has made a HUGE dent and her commitment has taught us MANY things.  As we work together to fundraise and ask God to open doors for us as we prepare to move ahead in our desire to serve vulnerable children in Africa----our eyes are constantly open to looking outside ourselves. 
In this society, it's VERY easy to lose this focus during the holidays.  It's EASY to fall into step with the hustle and bustle, stress, and "wants".  It's VERY easy....
The Sparkle Box---is an incredible way to, STOP, slow down, and refocus. 
Our gifts to Jesus don't make Him love us more.  Our gifts of service to others ("works") don't save us.  BUT...
They do change our hearts.
They do open doors to be the "light of the world".
They do remind us that "whatever you did for one of the did for me."
This holiday season (Thanksgiving and Christmas), start some new traditions.  Put your focus on giving instead of receiving.  Give of yourselves.  Give of your time.  Give of your heart. 
To win a copy of THE SPARKLE BOX (US or Canada), comment with an idea of how you can give of yourself this season.  I'd love to hear new ideas and things that we might can also do! ONE winner will be chosen at random to receive a copy of this AMAZING book that will become a family treasure. Contest will end on 11/26/2013 (Happy 39th Birthday to me....yikes!!!!!) MAKE sure you leave an email so I can contact you if you are the winner!!!! THAT'S CRUCIAL! ;) 
For now, I think I'll go help my little guy write out his first slip to put inside for Operation Christmas Child...
*"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."*

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

King's Faith

*Be sure to look for details at the end on how to enter to win a copy!*

"This" movie might have initially been watched just for review purposes, even though I was VERY excited about the topic.

"This" movie might initially have been for entertainment purposes.

However, "this" movie instead was...



Deep. Raw. Gut-wrenching. Heart breaking.


It's of redemption. It's the power of Christ and the power of faith. It's the power of making the right decision in the worst of moments.

The opening words of the movie immediately caught me so much that I had to go back and listen again and again...

"If you want to change. Stop listening to the same voice playing over and over in your head." He goes on to say that he has learned to quiet the voices, but the images are what keeps coming back.  Yet, it's good to have those images because they can remind us of where we don't want to go again.

I found such depth in those statements even before watching the movie and "seeing" the story unfold.  Many of us can find ourselves in that statement.  We want to make changes, but we keep listening to the same voices of doubt OR we want to make changes but the images of our pasts, disappointments, or countless other things keep us paralyzed in those moments.

Though this movie is rated PG-13, I still find it very powerful for upper Jr. High kids up.  It's rated that way due to gang activity, drugs, and some violence (though the scenes are "faded" so that it isn't as overpowering.)  I find the intensity similar to Courageous or To Save a Life....with it's real word themes.

The theme is redemption.  The theme is how the encouragement of incredible foster parents can make a difference in the lives of vulnerable/broken youth.  ("Kids in the system become your gang.  Your gang becomes your family.".....and that is such a sad reality that shouldn't be!....that's a pretty convicting statement!).  The theme is how a life can truly be changed when Christ takes over with deep roots.  The theme is "The impossible comes possible" and " Stand firm in your faith and anything is possible."

It is a hard movie to watch due to the fact that it is intense and that unfortunately it is a harsh reality.

With that said, I do HIGHLY encourage you to watch it.  It's AMAZING----seriously.  A great movie for families with older children, those that are fostering or considering it, or anyone with a general interest in movies that encourage you to be bold in your faith.

Eighteen foster homes. Nine arrests. One life-changing moment.
After Brendan King’s life spiraled to rock bottom, the teen found hope in a new relationship with Christ while serving time in a juvenile penitentiary. Recently released from prison, Brendan finds solace in the foster home of a couple struggling with suppressed grief.
As the city-bred teen enrolls at a suburban high school, he finds support from a group of believers. Yet the bonds of his old way of life—and the gang that wants to know where he hid their stash on a long-ago night—are strong. In his darkest moment, Brendan found faith. Now he must decide if it’s worth the price to hold on to it.
KING’S FAITH is produced by DiBella and Faith Street Film Partners LLC, a Rochester, NY-based collective of filmmakers, churches, investors, and supporters.   
KING’S FAITH stars Emmy Award winning actress Lynn Whitfield (The Women of Brewster Place, Madea’s Family Reunion), Crawford Wilson (Judging AmyZoey 101), Kayla Compton (Entourage), and James McDaniel (Malcolm XNYPD Blue).
KING’S FAITH features the themes of courage, forgiveness and overcoming your past highlighted with the important message of youth in foster care. The film prompts audiences to consider many of the questions they struggle with today: How can I stand firm in my faith when life’s challenges put me to the test?   Where do I turn when I feel paralyzed by loss and grief?  Can I find true forgiveness from my wrong choices?
Release Date: October 22, 2013
Run Time: 108 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG-13           
Suggested Retail Price: $14.99
Special Features: A 10-minute behind-the-scenes feature, commentary, discussion guide, Bible study clips affiliated with the LIVE IT OUT Bible Study
Watch the trailer/Visit the official website

*Enter to win a copy (US and Canada) simply by posting a comment on this blog or the facebook link.  MUST include an email address for entry to be valid...otherwise I can't contact the winner! Will end 11/12/13 (oh wow...I didn't realize a neat date like that was coming until I typed it out!).  Winner chosen at random.*

*"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."*