Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Finding a Life Verse

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At the beginning of the year, I wrote a blog about the fact that God had given me a word for the year - "Intentionality." I have been doing my best to live my life according to that word. What I have found, is that it is not that easy to live with intention in today's society! Life is so fast paced at times, that you lose track of your goal if you're not careful. It is easy to get sucked into the flow, even if that flow is going the opposite direction!

It's a lot like this: My middle daughter that is currently 16 is learning how to drive. What we have noticed about her is that she drives toward everything she looks at. For her to stay on track and between the dotted lines, she has to intentionally focus on the road in front of her! The same has been true of me this year....the same is true of us as Christians!

In our Christian Education class we are going through the book Simplify, by Bill Hybels. In it he talks about how a life verse can help you stay focused on the task at hand, as well as keep you eternity minded!
He says, "A life verse is a short passage of Scripture that serves a s a rallying cry to guide and focus the current season in your life, or your life as a whole. Carefully chosen after prayerful consideration a life verse resonates with you in a personal way and serves as a lighthouse that continually guides you back to God's mission and vision for your life."
Even though the Bible never states that you must have a life verse, I have been praying about what my life verse should be. The goal once you find a verse in the Word of God that speaks to you about your current season of life/or whole life mission is to commit it to memory and use it as an anchor when things start to get very unintentional!

So after spending some time in prayer and looking at lots of different verses, I have chosen my life verse. Granted it may change....or I may even add another to it later, but I feel that this summarizes where I am right now in this season of my life. My life verse is: 1 Corinthians 15:58 - "My dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain."

I know that as I commit this to memory and hide God's Word in my heart, it will not return void. His Word always produces fruit, and I am thankful that His Word also helps us walk through this sinful world with intention. That is when we can make a difference and impact the Kingdom of God for eternity!!!!

I would love to hear some of your life verses. Respond in the comments with the verses that have impacted your life: either throughout your entire life, or ones that have impacted you for a season!!

Thursday, May 21, 2015 Exploring Ephesus Review -TOS Crew Review

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One of my favorite subjects is history. I love learning new (old) things. I love digging into a topic, or event and finding out all the small details and tidbits that make that particular thing even more unique and special to me. That is why I am so thankful for the opportunity to review the documentary Exploring Ephesus, by The only thing that could be better than watching this amazing film, would be taking a trip to Turkey yourself!

Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Andy Jackson greet you at the beginning of the film in Smyrna right on the coast of the Aegean Sea and drive to Ephesus. The sights are breathtaking along the way as you can imagine that Jesus as well as His disciples walked this same area thousands of years ago!

Ephesus was a stop on Paul's second and third missionary journey as he traveled throughout the Roman province of Asia spreading the message of Jesus Christ and Him crucified. Taking a look at the Bible through these two historians was wonderful for me!

Ephesus was the location for the great Artemis temple as well as the location for the temple dedicated to Domitian. In reading scripture you get a vague sense of the godlessness that was abounding in that area, but to really think about it while they are walking the vast ruins of these ancient temples really added a new level to my understanding of scripture.
The apostles were up against great odds, much like we are today, only for them it would mean sacrificing their lives to bring the Truth to those who did not know.

Dr. Wilson and Dr. Jackson relayed a story that happened in Ephesus. You can find it in Acts 19:23-41
Here is a little bit :23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. :24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. :25 He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: "You know, my friends that we receive a good income from this business. :26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. :27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty." :28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!" :29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia, and all of them rushed into the theater together. :30 Paul wanted to appear before the crowd, but the disciples would not let him. :31 Even some of the officials of the province, friends of Paul, sent him a message begging him not to venture into the theater. :32 The assembly was in confusion: Some were shouting one thing, some another. Most of the people did not even know why they were there.

I know that I have read this story before through my normal Bible reading, but seeing the theater and witnessing the city ruins......understanding the mindset of the day and the society in which the apostles lived in, really helped me understand this set of scriptures differently than I ever have before. I found myself watching it for the second time before I even realized it! The second time watch it with your Bible in your hand!

Below you will see the earliest fresco painting of the apostle Paul. Churches in Ephesus either met in small groups in people's homes or in caves. This painting was found on the wall of a cave and it is Paul. I am sharing this because I love the fact that this was added to the DVD. To see what he looked like helps me to really put some perspective to my thoughts. He was a normal person just like you and me. A normal person who did extraordinary things.....because he obeyed!

How I Used the Product:
I watched this movie (more than once) with my kids. I also watched all the additional bonus features that the DVD had to offer.
* The Book of Ephesians (Commentary)
* The Seven Churches (Commentary)
* Lessons for Today
* Trailer
* Music Video
My Bottom Line:
I loved watching this documentary. It was well done and enjoyable. I found the historians, Dr. Mark Wilson and Dr. Andy Jackson very intelligent and easy to understand. I loved watching it with my kids. I know they didn't get the same things I did out of it, but they too enjoyed it. As I said at the beginning, I LOVE history! This for me wasn't long enough. I found that I was wanting more! With that being said, really the only way to get more out of a trip to Ephesus would be to travel there yourself. This is a must see movie and a helpful accessory to your study. I sure hope they make more!!!

YouTube: Review

Friday, May 15, 2015

Just How Strong Are You

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I am going to say something here that is a long time coming! In fact, when my family reads this they will probably be unable to believe it.....the truth is.....I come from a long line of stubborn people!  (Sorry dad!!  ha ha!) There I said it, I (can be) stubborn!   haha!  My Italian grandparents had a term for it, testa dura (hard headed)

I have met people that wear their stubbornness like a badge of honor. I have been guilty of it myself touting my Italian heritage like it is reasonable excuse for relying on my own strength. Sometimes we may even start to feel that we are strong enough to handle whatever it is that is thrown at us! After a major surgery this statement came from my own mouth, "I know the doctor told me to stay put, but I will be there even if it is by sheer stubbornness alone!" OUCH!

Don't get me wrong, sometimes the stubbornness isn't destructive, that is when we call it perseverance! Perseverance and stubbornness are different for me in this way. When I am being stubborn, I am relying on my own strength. When I am being perseverant, I am relying on the strength that comes from God.  So the big difference has to do with the heart!!

This morning as I was reading my Bible I read this verse in Isaiah 40.

28. "Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and His understanding no one can fathom.
29. He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power  of the weak.
30. Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall,
31. but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint."
How wonderful!  You see we don't have to rely on our own strength!  I don't have to rely on my own strength!!!  I like how this set of verses starts off..... I mean, don't you know? Haven't you heard?  God is everlasting and never grows tired! He gives strength to the weary and increases the strength of those who are tired!  I LOVE THAT!!!!
So honestly, it doesn't matter how strong you think you cannot handle things on your own! What's even better, you don't have to!  Verse 30 says, "Even youths grow tired and weary and young men stumble and fall."  You see, we are all in the same boat. No matter what age you are we all need to have our strength renewed from time to time, and that renewal can only be found in Christ!! Then verse 31 sums it up by saying, "But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not faint."  What I love about this verse is this, as we continue to place our hope in the Lord, he continues to renew our strength!!!  We are continually renewed!!!  This is not a one time deal, as we live our life for Christ, He continually renews our strength - physically and emotionally!
So, my prayer is that I never forget to put my trust and hope in the Lord, because that is when I am truly the strongest!

Saturday, May 9, 2015

It Builds Character!

We have had a saying in our house that my girls have never really appreciated. Whenever they have been required to do something that they don't really want to do, we tell them that "It Builds Character."  It is a phrase that each of them has grown up hearing, so it has become kind of a catch phrase in our house...whenever we tell our girls now to do something and we begin to tell them why, they say, "I know, I know, builds character."

We may laugh about it, but I am glad that they are starting to understand the need to do things, even when they aren't our favorite! That is a necessary part of our physical life, but it is also a very necessary part of our spiritual life as well. Discipline is hard. It requires us to do things that we don't necessarily want to do, but as we do what is right, our character is developed to resemble God more and more closely.

As I was reading through Ezekiel, I came across a devotion in my Bible at Ezekial 36:27. That verse says: "And I will put my Spirit on you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws."
The Power of a Praying Woman Bible - Stormie O'Martian

"We all have to do things we don't want to. Even in the best of jobs, there are still parts that we don't enjoy. When we do things we don't like simply because we know we need to do them, it builds character in us, makes us disciplined, and forms us into leaders God can trust. Besides, there's always a price to pay when we forsake the things we need to do in order to do only the things we feel like doing.

When we ask for it, He will give us the discipline we need in order to do all the tasks that are distasteful to us. When God asks us to do something, He also promises to equip us to carry it out.

God has promised to put His Spirit within you. Wherever you go and whatever tasks are before you, you have the pledge of His powerful guidance. But you have to be continually tapping into Him. You have to be in constant communication with Him in order to be plugged into His power. You have to be moving in the Spirit in order to do all He has for you to do."

I believe that now more than ever before, it is time for us as Christians to dig in! It is time for us to stand up and do what is right even when it is hard. It is time for us to be what we call ourselves!!!!  If we call ourselves Christians (defined: to be Christ-like) then we should be just that. A true representation of our Lord and Savior. We should be willing to do the hard thing and turn away from the desires of our flesh and follow after the Spirit. It is time for us as Christians to follow the Lords decrees and be careful to keep His laws!!

Successful Homeschooling Made Easy: Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course Review - TOS Crew

Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Review

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Thank you for supporting my blog and homeschool!
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This year is the first full year that I have homeschooled my children "traditionally." For 2.5 years they did public school online from home and that seemed to work for a little bit, but then I noticed that we were running into the same problems we did at "brick and mortar" schools so we pulled them out. I was pretty scared at first and felt like my head was swimming. My daughters were in 6th grade and 9th grade at the time, and I was so worried that I was going to mess something up. I am so thankful for the opportunity to review the  Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Course by Successful Homeschooling Made Easy.  This online course will take you through the homeschooling process step by step and show you what to do at every turn. It has really helped me look at things in a more methodical manner.   I don't know about you, but there were times I felt overwhelmed at the magnitude of choices, by the time commitment, etc. That is where this course comes in.
This course covers so many helpful things like:
  • How to work out your vision for your school and plan your goals.
  • How to make a schedule.
  • How to handle obstacles.
  • How to write lesson plans.
  • How to get your housework done while homeschooling.
  • How to  keep records.
  • How to be efficient as you homeschool.
  • And much, much more!!

Stephanie Walmsley has done a great job putting together this 26 week course to help homeschooling families through the process while avoiding burnout! I am fairly new at the homeschooling process, but I believe this course would be helpful for any homeschooling veteran out there that needs some fresh ideas or eyes. The goal of Stephanie is stress free homeschooling, which I know is my goal as well. She lays out the steps methodically from start to finish and helps you apply it to your homeschool. She also shares stories from other homeschooling families that are easy to relate to. This Homeschool 101 course is top notch and a pertinent tool for any homeschool family.

About the product:

Successful Homeschooling Made Easy ReviewYou will receive an email with a new lesson, in pdf format each week. Feel free to print out the lesson like I did. Then you can put it in a binder and refer back to it easily.  I know some of you may be more tech savvy than I am, you techies can definitely save the lessons in a folder in your email and refer back with a click. :-) 
There is homework with each lesson. No sighs!! That is what makes this course so wonderful! It doesn't just tell you about being successful, it helps you walk out the steps to successful homeschooling! For instance, the first lesson is about making a schedule that works for you and your family. This is so helpful because she walks you through it in such a way that you are able to avoid the pitfalls of "wishful thinking." The very first schedule I made when we first started homeschooling had to be scrapped by week 2 because of wishful thinking!!  Some of you may know exactly what I'm talking about!! :-)
She also asks some questions with each lesson that help you dig into you and your plans for your homeschool. She helps you take a look at some practical things like:
Your homeschool goals, your outside commitments, and if you are taking care of yourself.
Some of these questions are easy to answer, and you will find (like I did) that some may be a little more difficult. That is wonderful, growth is always good!

My Bottom Line:

I loved this product. I found it inspirational and more helpful that I ever imagined!! No matter how long you've been homeschooling, I am confident that you will find helpful tips, and fresh ideas as you work through each lesson. This course helped me define a better structure for our homeschool and find joy in the journey. Stephanie recommended some great books throughout the course and I found those helpful and encouraging as well.

Successful Homeschooling Made Easy Review

Monday, May 4, 2015

Real Life Press: The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance Review - TOS Crew

Real Life Press Review                                                       This post may contain affiliate links.
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"God says marriage is the primary relationship in the home, so naturally, it's the first relationship the enemy will try to tear down."  I was excited to receive a copy of the e-pub version "The Busy Homeschool Mom's Guide to Romance" by Real Life Press to review!  This easy to read book written by Heidi St. John is full of expert Biblical advice on how to nurture your marriage.
Too often, we women, define ourselves by the roles we play in life. As a homeschool mom, we can get all caught up in homeschooling, and forget to make room for anything else in our lives including our spouses and any bit of romance that might come with it! When that happens we can find ourselves coexisting more as roommates than husband and wife. Even though we each have a different role to play, we must stay connected! We must realize that our children also need the education of a healthy marriage, and we are the ones that should show it to them!
Heidi has been married to her husband since 1989, and has since made the decision to homeschool all their children. She shares openly and honestly about the pitfalls we can find ourselves in as we are trying to find our way on this journey we call life! She makes no bones about the fact that we must be relying on God for everything we need. A strong and healthy relationship with God will give us the wisdom and strength we need as we walk out the calling to be a homeschool mom! Heidi St. John does an excellent job of getting back to the basics with this book. You see, "our relationship with Christ is foundational to our very being. It is what sustains us." That is what this book is all about! 
She touches on five (5) steps to help nurture your relationship with your husband.
1.  Prefer your husband in all things - Make time for each other. Plan times to be together and always take phone calls from him, even if you can't take any other calls.
2. Communicate respect to your husband - You should highly regard your husband. The way that we behave from day to day with our husbands says a lot about our love for them.
3. Make time - Our calendars reflect our priorities. She mentions how important it is to pick curriculum with them in mind. If we pick a curriculum that is mentally exhausting, that will impact the time we spend with them in the evenings.
4. Be "That Girl" - Be the girl your husband married! As life happens, we sometimes lose sight of the spontaneous, funny, witty girl we once were when our husband fell in love with us. Even though we are busy, he still needs us to be that girl!
5. Revisit your romance - Don't get so busy that you don't do sweet things to get your husband's attention. If you used to put sticky notes in his briefcase, or get up and make that again! He will love it!
It is so important to have a vision for bringing romance back into your marriage. If you don't have one, ask the Lord to help, and He will! 
My Bottom Line:
I really enjoyed reading this book. Heidi St. John did a great job of writing like she was sitting across the table from me drinking coffee and sharing about her life. Once you get the book, you will want to read it several times to let the points sink in. I also enjoyed that she didn't give a lot of steps to success. Her goal was not to duplicate her method.  Her goal was to share what worked for her and to encourage us to seek the face of God so he can help our family be successful.
You can also follow Heidi and Real Life Press on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest!
Check out the link below to see more awesome reviews and products from Real Life Press
Real Life Press Review

Friday, May 1, 2015

A+ Interactive Math: Family Math Package Review - TOS Crew

A+ Interactive Math Review
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Thank you for supporting my blog and homeschool!
See my full Disclosure for more information.
I don't know about you, but as a homeschool mom to more than one child, I need to be mindful of that fact as I look at homeschool curriculum. I had the privilege of receiving free access to the Family Math Package, online from A+ Interactive Math to review. This online math curriculum is wonderful! The Family Math Package can accommodate up to ten (10) kids......EACH AT THEIR OWN LEVEL!

I know!!! It really does sound too good to be true! This multi-sensory homeschool math program is for your child no matter what level they are in.  What makes it even better, is that you can move them back and forth between different levels as their math skills deem necessary! I know that some people balk at online courses and feel that the hands on approach of physical books are superior. You must try the free one-month family package and see first hand the benefits of a program that grows with you!

The picture above is the screen that you will see when you log in. There is a quick tutorial button. Make sure to watch was very helpful.  What I want you to notice are the tabs that run along the top of the screen. What you see when you glance across are: MM Lessons, Lesson Plan, Printables, EBooks, Online Worksheets and Exams, Progress Tracking, and Help.
I love that each worksheet, and Exam can either be taken online or printed off for the student. When they are taken online you get the added benefit of AUTOMATIC GRADING!!!  Wow!! I love that part!!  Not only are you able to have the worksheets and exams automatically graded, but then it stores the grades in the "Progress Tracking" tab like the picture below.  LOVE! LOVE! LOVE!
Although the lesson videos are read aloud with important facts highlighted in the lesson, I love that there is a Curriculum Book under the "EBook" tab. We found that it was a very beneficial resource for us. The picture below has the Pre-Algebra Curriculum Book opened to the first lesson. It is a wonderful addition to the video lesson. At the end of each video lesson there is a Question & Answer tab that tests the comprehension of that lesson. When the student gets a question wrong it will take them back to the correct answer in the lesson and remind them what the correct answer is.

How We Used This Product:

I was only able to use this product with one student, but know how much this would benefit some of my friends with more children than I have. We used it everyday for several weeks and were able to move back and forth between math levels as needed. We loved that fact! She has struggled in math and so being able to look through the grade levels of math and find exactly what she needed to strengthen some of her math skills was a great thing for this homeschool mom!

We chose to use the online worksheet and exam method of quizzing and testing skills. I like that choice because then they are automatically graded and stored in the progress tracking section of the program. We are able to see what her grades are on the interactive portion of the video lessons, the worksheets and the exams.

My Bottom Line:

My girl working through Greatest Common Factor (GCF)
What is not to love about this product?! I found it very helpful with my student. My daughter would prefer that math was not a subject in school at all, but she seemed to enjoy using this product, and her grades showed it! This product is top notch and will be a wonderful benefit to any homeschool family, especially those with multiple children!   
Social Media Links:
A+ Interactive Math Review