Tuesday, July 26, 2016

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: I Love You Just Because


Do you have a family with a mix of skin and/or hair colors? Do you have children who are as different from you as the night is from the day (whether they are biological or adopted)? Do you have a disabled child who often feels out of place because of his/her differences? If YES to any of these questions, then I LOVE YOU JUST BECAUSE, by Donna Keith, would be a good book for you to get. Basically, it is good for ANY family that has young children who simply need to know you love them for who they are.

This book is the 3rd in a series of board books inspired by the interracial family of the author's daughter. I love the adorable illustrations, and the Bible verses included on each page. Not only can  it help your little ones understand it is okay to look and/or act differently than the others in your family, it also teaches them what God's Word says.

Here's an example from one of the pages in this book:

"I know my brothers think that fish are quite a special treat.
To me, they're yucky," Panda says. "I want bamboo to eat!"
"Bamboo it is," says Mama, "for the panda we adore.
It's part of who you are and makes us love you even more."

Christ accepted you, so you should accept each other.
This will bring glory to God. ~ Romans 15:7

If you want to remind your kids you love them "just because you're you," this is a cute book to pick up and read with them as you snuggle on the couch.

Enter below for your chance to win a copy of this book. Entries accepted until Saturday, July 30, 2016, at 8:00 p.m. CST. One entry per mailing address. 



“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

People Out There

 The word of the week is LIGHT
: something that makes vision possible : a particular illumination : something that enlightens or informs

It was 1:30 in the morning, and I had insomnia. I’m not exactly sure why I couldn't sleep. Maybe it was due to the stresses of college, or to the fact that I had been questioning my existence in this world. It was a common pity party for me during that time. So, as I sat and sulked on the bed in my small Chicago dorm room, I looked out the window and noticed Franklin Square in the distance.


Not a very pretty sight, really, compared to other parts of Chicago; but maybe that was a good thing. It helped me focus my attention on the darker corners of the city, the parts that needed more light; and as I began to think and pray about why I was there in that dark city, my heart was redirected off of myself and onto others. I looked out at the darkness, then saw the small lights shining in the distance. The reason for my existence became more clear as I  realized, as Christians, WE are the light of the world. We need to be shining our lights brightly to help illuminate the darkness.

THAT is why I was there.
In fact, that is why we are ALL here - to shine our lights for the glory of God.

Here is what I wrote about that night...

PEOPLE OUT THERE
By: Victoria (McIntosh) Stankus, April 6, 1989

There are people out there.
Real people.
Lonely people.

It is dark out tonight.
Dark in many ways.
There are a few lights shining brightly in the distance.
The light is so small compared to the darkness.

The American flag flies freely on top of Franklin Square.
It symbolizes the freedom of the people.
But, yet, they are not free.

There are people out there.
Real people.
Lonely people.
People who need Jesus.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Worth More Than the Birds



The word of the week is WORTH
:  to the fullest extent of one's value or ability

As children of God, we are much more worthy (valuable) to Him than the birds are. So, if He provides for the needs of the birds, why would He not provide for us?

Here’s another story from my brother, Daniel, about God’s provision for our family. This one took place in Manito, IL. Dan and Dad were home doing dishes while the ladies were out of the house for awhile. Here is the story in Dan’s words:

Dad was washing, I was drying. The phone rang, and because Dad’s hands were wet he asked me to answer the phone. WDUK (Havana Duck Radio station) was on the line and said they were doing a game and randomly called numbers. They said the money pot grows until someone answers right. The previous contestants answered wrong, so the pot was something like $25.00. They asked a question, and if I got it right, they’d send me a check.
The question was, “In Alice in Wonderland there was a card that ruled the underworld. What was that card?”
I didn’t know, so I answered in a questioning way, “Was it the Queen of Hearts?”

They said I was right and, after I hung up the phone, Dad started laughing because he said someone was pranking me. But a week or two later, I got a check in the mail from WDUK, and I signed it, gave it to mom, and she bought supper for us that night. If I remember right, this was one of those times Dad was in-between checks again, and the groceries got us through until his next check.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Out of the Blue - solo Piano Music by Cory Lavine


Do you like piano music that has a mix of a classical and contemporary feel to it? If so, then you will enjoy Out of the Blue by CORY LAVINE. I have the CD and have been enjoying listening to the imaginative and peaceful music composed by Cory.

Back in the early 90's, Cory toured with Young American Showcase along with my husband's brother. It was Cory's FIRST MUSIC JOB/MINISTRY, where he helped encourage teens to say no to alcohol and drugs, and to also say yes to Christ. Years later, he ended up in Nashville, where he composed Out of the Blue, his debut album. It is a collection of songs he composed shortly after he had an encounter with someone while working as a bellman. This person encouraged him not to forget why he originally moved to Nashville. After that, Cory was inspired to pursue music again and things started happening from there.

You can listen to Cory's album online here

If you like what you hear, click below to sign up for Cory's newsletter and you will receive a 20% coupon for any purchase on his website. Cory has MP3 downloads and/or physical copies of his CD available for sale. He has also been giving away one CD each month to one of his subscribers, so be sure to sign up here if you want to be included in future drawings:

http://corylavine.us1.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=c4e96a33f7e26bbc16639fc5b&id=acde756a16

Thanks for your hard work, Cory, and for blessing us with your music.


Sunday, July 10, 2016

God Provides for the Needs of His Children



The word of the week is PROVIDE
: to make (something) available : to supply (something that is wanted or needed) : to give something wanted or needed to (someone or something) : to supply (someone or something) with something

Following the event that happened in LAST WEEK’S POST, there was a period of 4 days when there continued to be very little food in our cupboards. If you remember, my parents were doing deputation work for CEF ministries and did not receive a regular paycheck. Their income was provided by the support of other Christians, and some weeks were financially leaner than others; but, through faith, God supplied for my family’s needs in miraculous ways during that time.

On day one, we all sat down for supper and were getting ready to eat what was left in our cupboards - some crackers with butter on them (and my sister thinks there might have been a little bit of popcorn as well). We all held hands and Dad prayed just like we always did, thanking God for our meal. Then, he also asked God to provide for our needs. My brother remembers Dad telling us to enjoy our meal, because we didn’t know where the next one would come from. Then, there was a knock on the door. Upon answering the door, no one was there. However, a sack of groceries was left there anonymously. We were all so excited to see how God had provided so quickly. We had enough food for a good meal that night, as well as some leftovers for breakfast the next morning.

Day 2 - At breakfast, we all prayed again before us three kids left for school, asking God, in faith, to provide for our needs. Later that afternoon, some friends of ours called and said they had made too much supper, so they asked us to come over and join them. Of course, we said yes, and had a nice meal with our friends that night.

Day 3 - We all prayed again before leaving for school. That afternoon, my brother and sister received a small check for a paper route job they had. It was maybe around $6.00, which was worth a lot more 40 years ago than it is now. My dad gave the check to them and asked what they wanted to do with it. They said, “Let’s go to McDonald’s!” So, that was our meal for that night.

Day 4 - I’m sure we all prayed again that morning. Later that day, an income check arrived for the amount of $1000. It was enough to provide for our family’s needs for the following month.

God is good, and always promises to supply the needs of His children. Not always what we WANT, but exactly what we NEED.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: The Life We Never Expected [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

Christians, in particular, can feel like we ought not to vent our emotions at God; we prefer tidy prayers like "God, we don't understand, but we trust you" to the chaotic, confused, howling prayers we find in the Psalms. But those songs are in the Bible because we are supposed to express ourselves that way. "How long, O Lord? Will You forget us forever? What are you doing? Can't you see we're in agony down here, banging our fists against our tear-soaked pillows and eating dust for dinner? If you ever loved us, O God, come and fix things! Now!" If God is big enough to be worth yelling at about your situation, He is big enough to take your pain, hear your lament, and somehow use it to comfort you in the confusion. ~ Found on page 54 of The Life We Never Expected  by Andrew and Rachel Wilson
This is a book I am sure I could have benefited from when my daughter was first diagnosed with autism.  Andrew and Rachel Wilson, who have two children diagnosed with regressive autism, discuss fighting for joy, thriving in the midst of trials, grief, healing, prayer, and more. Through it all, they point readers to Christ, the One who promises to make all things new.

If you are a parent of a special needs child, this is a great book to pick up. It is a book of short reflections that reveal the real thoughts and real feelings of the authors. They use their own experiences to help others process the various stages that come with parenting a special needs child.

BUT... even if you don't have a child with a disability, this book can be good for you, too! It is actually good for ANYONE, because it covers things like loss, hope, contentment, and joy. Plus, the chapters are short and easy to read, which is a good thing for all of us busy people.

Enter below for a chance to win a copy of this book. Entries will be accepted until Saturday, July 9, 2016, at 8:00 p.m. CST. One entry per mailing address.


Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller / FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.


Sunday, July 3, 2016

A Grateful Child Who Believed

The word of the week is BELIEVE
: to accept or regard (something) as true : to accept the truth of what is said by (someone)

When I was a little girl, around the age of 5, my family lived in Mankato, MN, where my parents were serving with CEF (Child Evangelism Fellowship). They were doing deputation work (appointed to represent the ministries of CEF to others) and did not receive a regular paycheck. Their income was provided by the support of other Christians, and some weeks were financially leaner than others.

One morning, during one of our leanest weeks, our cupboards were almost bare. All we had was three or four pieces of bread, some butter, some crackers, and maybe a little bit of milk.  My brother, Daniel, had asked for cinnamon toast for breakfast. (He and I both loved it while growing up - it was a mixture of cinnamon and white sugar sprinkled over buttered toast). So, my mom toasted the last few pieces of bread and slathered some butter on them. One for Dan, one for me, and one for our sister, Judy. Mom told us to go down to the kitchen and each take one piece of toast. Dan was the first one down. With anticipation, he looked at the toast carefully to see which piece had the most cinnamon on it and, of course, he took that piece. He remembers it tasting great, just like cinnamon toast should taste. He wanted to tell Mom "thank you" for the delicious toast, so he went upstairs to find her. He heard her crying through her bedroom door, and, after knocking, was told by our dad to stay out; so he spoke through the door and said, “Mom, thanks for the cinnamon toast! It was delicious!” When Mom heard what he said, she was even more upset and cried harder. Dan did not understand what was going on. Later, our dad questioned him, asking him why he said that to mom. Dan didn’t understand his question at first, so Dad clarified, asking, “Why did you say thanks for the cinnamon toast? There wasn’t any cinnamon on it.” Apparently, we were out of cinnamon/sugar, so Mom had only buttered the toast; but, Dan had believed he was getting cinnamon toast for breakfast because that is what he had asked for. He sincerely told our Dad the toast looked and tasted like it had cinnamon on it. He was grateful for it, and wanted to thank Mom.

To this day, Dan still says it was the best tasting cinnamon toast he has ever had. Some would say it was just his mind working overtime, allowing him to taste what he wanted to taste. But, I have the belief it was a mighty God who, in his mysterious ways, somehow added the flavoring for a grateful child who believed.

If only we could all believe in that same way.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

REVIEW & GIVEAWAY: Would A Worm Go On A Walk? [GIVEAWAY CLOSED]

For ages:  4-7

“Would a worm go on a walk, if you could lead him down the street? Would he wear his tiny tennies, if he had four worm-sized feet? Would a worm go on a walk? NO! No matter how he tries, worms weren't made for walking, and they don't like EXERCISE.” 

These are the beginning lines of the humorous and imaginative picture book, Would A Worm Go On A Walk? by Hannah C. Hall. With creative poetry, and the adorable illustrations by Bill Bolton, this sweet book will teach young children that animals are uniquely created by a loving and wise God. None of them are the same, and they are not like people, but God created them to be just the way they are. He also created people, which is His most special creation, to be just the way WE are. He loves all of His creations and, as it says in Genesis 1:31, "God saw all that he had made, and it was very good."

This would be a fun addition to anyone's home library. I don't have young children anymore, but I read this book to my teen-aged special needs daughter, and she enjoyed it. She and I both smiled at the illustrations, and laughed at the silly lines. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Hannah C. Hall is the author of best-selling children’s books, including God Bless You and Good Night and God Bless Our Christmas, as well as an award-winning blog, HannahCHall.com. Hannah lives in Prairie Grove, AK with her husband, Josh, a worship pastor, and their four children.

For a chance to win a copy of this book, please fill out the entry form below. Entries will be accepted until Saturday, July 2, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. CST. One entry per mailing address. 


-------------------------------------------------------------
Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post. Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway. If you have won a prize from our sponsor, Propeller / FlyBy Promotions, in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win. Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again. Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

10 Ways to Find Strength in the Lord

When I am praying for someone who is going through a difficult time, I often pray, “Lord, give them the strength they need to make it through this time.” While this prayer is good, and God understands what I'm asking, I have come to believe there is a better way to pray for them. I was reading some verses recently, and realized that, if we are Believers in Jesus Christ, we already have the strength we need to get us through the difficult times, because the LORD is our strength. But, just like King David in the verse below, sometimes we need to FIND that strength.
1 Samuel 30:6 - David was greatly distressed because the men were talking of stoning him; each one was bitter in spirit because of his sons and daughters. But David found strength in the LORD his God. (NIV)
Instead of praying for God to give someone strength, I have now started asking, “Lord please help them FIND the strength they have (or can have) in You.” When we lose sight of our strength, the troubles of this world can easily discourage us and weigh us down. It is one of Satan’s tactics of silencing our witness for the Lord. So, when we are discouraged, we may need to change focus in order to FIND our strength once again.  

How do we FIND our strength in the Lord? 
Here are 10 ways:
1.  By trusting in Him, and not in our own understanding of things.
Proverbs 3:5 - Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (ESV)

2.  By believing that all things work out for the best for those who love God.
Romans 8:28 - And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
3. By waiting for the Lord.
Psalm 27:14 - Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD! 

4.  By praising Him. Even when things are hard. Why? Because He is our God and is worthy of our praise. Praising him, with our words and with our songs, helps us to focus on HIM and on the love and care He has shown us.
Psalm 145:3 - Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom.

5.  By thinking about the things that are worthy of praise. Refuse to dwell on the negatives.
Philippians 4:8 - Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
6.  By giving thanks. You don’t have to like your circumstances, but you can choose to focus on the positive things surrounding them, and to be grateful to God for His unconditional love and care for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 - give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

7. By giving your burdens/anxiety to the Lord. Let Him carry them. You have to CHOOSE to do this. He won’t carry them for you unless you place them on His shoulders first.
1 Peter 5:7 - Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
8. By setting your mind on the things above. By realizing this is not your permanent home.
Colossians 3:2 - Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.

9.  By persevering, realizing our sufferings are helping us to grow in our Christian walk.
Romans 5:3-5 - but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
10.  By running the race set before us, looking forward to the finish line.
Hebrews 12:1-2 - Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.

A few more verses about our strength in the Lord:
Philippians 4:13 - I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

Isaiah 40:29 - He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.

Isaiah 40:30-31 -  Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 46:1 - ...God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Isaiah 12:2 - “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and will not be afraid; for the LORD GOD is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation.”



Sunday, June 19, 2016

My Treasure Box


The word of the week is TREASURE
: something that is very special, important, or valuable


On my 8th birthday, I received a special gift from my dad (and I believe my brother might have helped with it, too). He made me my very own keepsake box with a hinged lid and a LOCK. It was the neatest thing. I was able to hide my special "treasures" in my box and didn’t have to worry about my friends or family taking them out without my permission. All these years later, I still have this box; and, inside of it, are some of the things from my childhood that I thought were worth keeping.
  • My name tag from one Summer when I was at Camp Good News - the Christian camp our family attended and worked at in Minnesota 
  • The tool I used to make latch-hook rugs
  • My first pair of glasses that I never liked wearing
  • A game of Jacks I played with on the front sidewalk
  • A harmonica I tried learning how to play
  • Some friendship pins that were given to me (It was the "thing to do" back then for your friends)
  • A souvenir pin from my first commercial flight - it was when Mom and I went to Washington state for my Uncle Ed's wedding.  
  • A favorite comb I used
  • A pencil collection
  • A raccoon tail I purchased as a souvenir when we went on vacation in Minnesota
  • Bubblegum trading cards from Star Wars, E.T., Gremlins, and 21 Jump Street 
  • My kindergarten hand print that hung on my wall for many years
  • My key and key chain collection 
  • The handmade wooden microphone I always loved to sing into (another gift from my dad, also for my 8th birthday)
These are sweet little treasures that I stored up as a kid. They are fun mementos to have and to look at once in awhile; but, when I think about it, I realize my true treasures are not material things (although I would find it really hard to get along well without my computer these days!), but the things that mean the most to me now are my faith in the Lord (which I hope is evident for all to see), my family, and also my memories.

I am thankful I have this memory of my dad giving this box to me. But, more than that, I am thankful  for the time he took to MAKE this box (and other little things) for me. I know he did similar things for my brother and sister. He always tried to make time for us. Even when he had a busy work schedule, we knew he would be there for us if we needed him. I am thankful for the way he took time to encourage us, prayed with us (and for us), and taught us about God’s Word and how to live our lives in a way that really matters. He taught us that life on earth is short, so we need to spend our time wisely; he taught us how to have fun and to be flexible when things don’t go as planned; and he taught us that no one is perfect, but we CAN be forgiven.

Thank you for all the things you have taught me, Dad. Thank you for your love. YOU are a treasure to me.

Happy Father's Day to you, and to all the other dads out there who are reading this!