Sunday, April 5, 2020

Join Me in Praying for Wayward Children This Easter...




When I first had children I was not familiar with St. Ambrose, St. Monica, and St. Augustine were. Now, they are becoming my go-to intercessors.

Why?

I have a wayward child.

Yes. Despite a long-standing desire and effort to raise children that know and love God, I have a child that is rejecting our faith.

It breaks my heart.

Truly.

Little has ever broken my heart more, and, as I head into my first Easter ever with a child that shuns our faith, it hurts more and more each day.

Luckily, I know that I am not alone.

Many mothers have faced this before. Many face it now. And more will face it in the future.

It is a hard cross to carry, but is not one that we have to carry alone.

God is with us. And, so are intercessors like St. Ambrose, St. Monica, and St. Augustine.

If you don't know much about these, let me explain their connectedness to wayward children in a nutshell:

St. Monica was the mother of a difficult child named Augustine. For over fifteen years, she cried countless tears and prayed prayer after prayer for his conversion, and, once, when she complained to St. Ambrose about Augustine, St. Ambrose told her, "Speak less to Augustine about God and more to God about Augustine."

St. Monica took this advice, persisted in her prayer, and, eventually her prayers - and the friendship that Augustine and Ambrose struck up - paid off. With God's grace and mercy, Augustine not only converted, but became a saint and doctor of the church.

One wayward child - three incredible saints close to the mind and heart for God that can intercede for us.

So it is that I, though heartbroken, am encouraged.

I know that wayward children can return to God. I know I am not alone. I know powerful intercessors are in heaven and that grace abounds.

I also understand three lessons and am taking them to heart. Perhaps, if you have a wayward child, you might be convicted by these lessons, too:

1. Pray. Persistently pray. More than you talk to your child about God, talk to God about your child. Your prayers are heard and your persistence won't go unrewarded. Our God is one of grace and mercy. Our God is bigger than our problems.

2. Pray for an "Ambrose".  Perhaps frustration, misunderstanding, and more have built so much of a barrier between you and your child that your child can no longer hear truth from you. It happens.

Don't fight it. Instead of shouting yourself hoarse without being heard, use your voice to pray for an "Ambrose" to enter your child's life. 

Pray 
that God will bring a person of faith into your child's life who your child can hear with greater openness than your child hears you. 

Pray that just as God sent Ambrose to Augustine, He will send
your child someone with the right combination of connection, heart, and motive to move your child back to God. It can happen. St. Augustine is proof!

3. Ask for intercession for your child.  St. Monica knows our heartache. St. Ambrose knows how to reach wayward ones. St. Augustine knows the magnificent glory of conversion.Ask them to pray for your wayward child.

Pray words like these:


St. Ambrose, St. Monica, and St. Augustine, please intercede for my child.

St. Ambrose, you know the way to a wayward child's heart. You nudged St. Augustine's heart towards God. Please intercede for my child. Please ask the Lord Jesus to soften my child's heart and to prompt someone like you to take interest in my child, to reach out and be heard by my child, to lead my child toward God.
 

St. Monica, you know the heartbreak I feel.  You understand the hurting, hopeless despair that befalls a mother when her child rejects our loving God. You know the longing for a child to return wholeheartedly to Christ in His Church. Please, help me. Please help me persevere in prayer as you did. Please intercede, begging the Lord to send me the grace to love my child fully through this difficult period and to draw my child toward God in whatever ways I can - and, if I cannot - to send someone who can.

Please, dear St. Monica, intercede that like your beloved Augustine, my child may come to know our loving God. 

St. Augustine, you know what it is like to reject God, and you know what it is like to turn away from that rejection - to repent, and, then embrace God fully. Please intercede for my child. Please ask our Lord to send as much grace as is necessary for my child to hear God's call and to answer it. 
 

This time is difficult and sometimes seems impossible to deal with, but with Christ, all things are possible, I know. You, dear Saints, know this, too. Thank you for your intercession.


St. Ambrose, St. Monica, and St. Augustine, pray for my child and for all wayward children.

Lord in Heaven, draw us to you.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Have You Read the Easter Storybook? { A Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor compensated in any other way.




If you're looking for a picture book to read together with your family next Lent or one to read during the 50 days of Eastertide, The Easter Storybook: 40 Bible Stories Showing Who Jesus Is from David C. Cook could be a good choice.




The Easter Storybook: 40 Bible Stories Showing Who Jesus Is by Laura Richie with illustrations by Ian Dale is a sweet 92-page hardback picture book that aims to show the beauty, love, and grace of Jesus as our Rescuer, Redeemer, and Friend.

Each of the 40 stories in the book - which trace Jesus' footsteps from his boyhood time in the temple to His Ascension - is written and illustrated in such a way that a 4-8 year old can understand and remember while an older child or adult can remain engaged.



At the beginning of each story, a day, title, reference to the Bible, and quote from the Bible are listed.


Then, text brings Bible stories to life with child-friendly writing which includes some embedded commentary and insights.



An example of the way the author includes the truths of Bible stories at a level appropriate for a variety of ages was pointed out by my children when we read the story "Jesus Offers Grace".  This story explains that "a woman was dragged in front of the crowd" and announced to be "a bad sinner." It does not, however, speak of adultery as a actual Bible story where Jesus tells those without sin to cast the first stone does.

My children, having heard the real Bible story multiple times at Mass, asked why the author left out details, and, then, when I asked them why they thought she did, had the "Oh..." moment of realizing that adults, older children, and children who are familiar with the content of actual Bible stories can fill in details themselves while younger children can understand the story without being tripped p by such concepts as adultery, which they might not be ready for.




Likewise, my children, who are ages 9-14, noted how the author seemed to add some background and commentary to stories. For example, in "The Good Samaritan", she offers simple details about the typical relationship between Jews and Samaratins and about the good Samaritan's choice to love.




The stories, therefore, unfold with enough simplicity for children to understand, enough embedded commentary for them to connect dots, and enough interest to help readers and listeners to recognize the purpose and spiritual significance of each event from Jesus' life that is told.


At the end of each story's text, a simple question is offered for thought and conversation.

Accompanying each story is a full page, brightly colored illustration to capture and engage attention and enhance interest in the stories.

My children and I have, of course, been reading our way through this book as a part of our Lenten practices and are finding that, although we are familiar with each of the Bible stories retold for young children in the book, we can appreciate how they are told and illustrated.  


I am also wishing I had this book when my children were younger, because I think it would have been a gentle and lovely introduction to Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. (Some of the picture books we read when my children were younger were definitely not as gentle when dealing with Jesus' death, especially.) Thus, I recommend it, especially, to those with young children or grandchildren and to those with sensitive young ones.

Further, I recommend 
The Easter Storybook: 40 Bible Stories Showing Who Jesus Is to those whose attention may have been diverted during Lent - especially with recent world events - as a way to refocus on Jesus as alight for the nations  our Rescuer, so filled with love and mercy.

Truly, our Lord has not abandoned us. He loves us and will draw us closer to each other and to Him this Easter season and forever!

Learn More

Over 40 Homeschool Review Crew families received this delightful picture book for review. See what each family thought by clicking through the review links on the Homeschool Review Crew website


You can also connect on social media with David C. Cooke, a publisher of music, books, Bible studies and more for children and adults, whose The Action Bible Anytime Devotions book I recently reviewed.


Happy reading!  May your Holy Week and Eastertide be blessed and beautiful!


Sunday, March 29, 2020

Make Passion Pizza Toast {Living the Liturgical Year}


Training Happy Hearts

If you'd like an easy, meaningful, meat-free meal for a Friday during Lent or for Passion/Palm Sunday, how about trying Passion Pizza Toast?

So long as you have some bread, cheese (or dairy-free subsitute), and sauce in your fridge and pantry, Passion Pizza Toast makes for a super simple way to help children live the liturgical year, recalling the story of Christ's Passion as the pizzas are made.


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When we made them last year, we simply looked at what we had in the fridge:

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Then, set to work making our pizzas, talking through the events of the Passion of the Christ and of Holy Week. Jesus - the Bread of Life - entered Jerusalem on a donkey. (Take your piece of bread.)


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People covered the roads with palms.

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The very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and strewed them on the road. The crowds preceding him and those following kept crying out and saying:

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"Hosanna to the Son of David;
blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest."

Matthew 21:8-9


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Jesus and the disciples ate the Last Supper together. (Have children retell all the parts of the story that they know.) After they ate, Jesus went to the Garden of Gestheme and prayed. While there, he cried tears of blood. (Put some sauce, tomatoes,or other red item on.)

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Jesus was arrested, taken to Pontius Pilate... and was made to carry a cross. (Have children narrate more of what they know of the story before placing down ingredients in a cross shape.)

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They nailed Jesus to a cross.  (Add more red sauce or ingredients.)


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A centurion pierced Jesus' side with a spear, the fifth of Jesus' wounds.


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Pause for a moment of silence and pray, "My Jesus, mercy," or another appropriate prayer.
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Jesus died for our sins - a sacrifice of love. (Add white cheese as a symbol of Christs pure love.)


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Once the story has been told, toast the pizzas, pray, and eat. While waiting, read portions of the Passion of Christ from the Bible or a storybook or ask children to sit and pray in silence.

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Serve with a side salad with "five wounds" for an extra boost of nutrition.

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May the last leg of your journey through Lent be blessed and may Christ have mercy on us all.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Discover the Real Life of Daniel Boone {A YWAM Publishing Heroes of History Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 


For years now, my children and I have enjoyed coming together to read selections from the Heroes of History series by YWAM PublishingWe've delighted in the way these living history books immerse us in narratives about key historical figures, weaving important names, dates, and facts into engaging and memorable stories that highlight timeless lessons and virtues while teaching history.

We regularly find ourselves referring back to the books we reviewed about George WashingtonJohn AdamsBen Franklin, and Milton Hershey, so were excited when we were offered the chance to review another title in the 
Heroes of History series and spent some time debating which book to select. My youngest son ended up deciding for us: Daniel Boone: Fronteirsman!


My Youngest Loved Reading about Daniel Boone with Heroes of History!


As soon as our copy of Daniel Boone: Fronteirsman came in the mail, my youngest grabbed it and began reading it.


So much for doing it as a family read together, I thought.  This kid wants this book to be his.

Thus, considering that my older two children were busy readying for Speech and Debate tournaments on top of their regular life and learning pursuits and that my youngest obviously did not want to wait for together times to read 
Daniel Boone: Fronteirsman, I went with it.  Daniel Boone: Fronteirsman became my youngest son's solo assigned reading and history - and, boy, did he like it!This is what he had to say when I asked him to dictate to me for this review:


Daniel Boone is a softcover Heroes of History biography by Janet and Geoff Benge. It is 212+ pages long and includes a map, 19 chapters, and a bibliography. 
The book tells about the life of Daniel Boone, and I really liked it! It was entertaining. I was interesting to read about his life. 
I liked his adventurous personality, his persistence with settling Kentucky, and how he was role model to other people. 
I read the book on my own every day for 15'-30'. I liked it so much that sometimes I read it for a couple hours and had to get told stop to go to bed. This is one of the first long chapter books I have ever read completely on my own!
I recommend it to others!


From early chapters, when my son reported to me about how "Daniel Boone was escaping the Shawnees who were Indians that he had been living with, then went back to his childhood when he got smallpox and started hunting with a slingshot..." then how "Daniel Boone did many mischievous things such as putting more gun powder in a gun after his dad had loaded it and, so, almost killing a guy and accidentally killing his father's horse when coming back from sneaking off to a hunting trip... and he was in a battle at Fort Duquesne in the French and Indian War." to the day my son finished the book and told me how much he had enjoyed it and wished it was not over, 
Daniel Boone: Fronteirsman provided a wonderfully engaging read for my nine-year-old.


My 14-year-old and 12-year-old are not deciding which of them will read it next now that their Speech and Debate commitments are over for the year - and I hope to find time to read it, too.




We also received a digital
 Study Guide  to go with the book.

The guide is chock full of ideas for a complete unit study with a fact sheet, maps, timeline, and a wide variety of questions, prompts, and suggestions.



Since my youngest son was so eager to just read the book, I did not ask him to complete any of the suggested activities, but did find the discussion questions helpful when he chatted to me about the book since quickly reading the chapter-by-chapter questions clued me in to some of the details of the story so that I could better engage my son in conversation.


With my older son, I am considering asking him to use portions of the Unit Study to guide a more in depth study. If I do so, there sure are a plethora of ideas and activities to choose from!

I truly appreciate how the study guide can work for just as well for families that seek inspiration or a few activities as it can for those that seek in depth, unit study learning. The flexibility of it is fantastic!


Learn More


Christian Heroes {YWAM Publishing Review}

Seventy-five Homeschool Review Crew families selected from the Heroes of History and Christian Heroes: Then & Now series.  Click on through to find reviews of different titles.




You can also connect on social media:


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Get Outside to Experience of Sermon Full of Love



In this time of pandemic, there is much that is out of our hands, much that causes concern There are questions, constraints, challenges...

But, there are also blessings.

So many blessings.

This week, I have recognized some of those blessings when getting outside with my family.



Then, today, I came across these words which struck me:


Let all creation help you to praise God. Give yourself the rest you need. When you are walking alone, listen to the sermon preached to you by the flowers, the trees, the shrubs, the sky, the sun and the whole world. Notice how they preach to you a sermon full of love, of praise of God, and how they invite you to proclaim the greatness of the one who has given them being.

 ~ST. PAUL OF THE CROSS

Indeed, during this time we are called to praise God... to give ourselves rest when needed... to listen... to notice... to accept an invitation to proclaim the greatness of God.

God is great... all the time! Even in this time of
 pandemic.

Know that. Rest in that. Be at peace, and, if you can, get outside.

That is what I heard today, and I share it here in case it may help you pray, praise, and be at peace.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Make Devotions Easy with The Action Bible Anytime Devotions {A Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 

What do you get when you cross the allure of a comic-book style illustrations with relevant devotions?





The newest book in The Action Bible series offered by David C. Cook: The Action Bible Anytime Devotions 90 Ways to Help Kids Connect with God Anytime, Anywhere.

You may already be familiar the the first book in the series: 
The Action Bible. It is is a best-selling picture Bible which presents 215 comic-book style narratives in chronological order and has become a favorite Bible resource in many homes, including my own.

The way Sergio 
Cariello - a master illustrator who has worked for both Marvel Comics and DC Comics - brought the timeless Bible narrations to life for modern kids in The Action Bible just captures attention.




That same allure has been brought to 
The Action Bible Anytime Devotions - a slim, 200-page softcover devotional that can help you connect with God.


While far more text heavy than the comic-style Bible that preceded it, The Action Bible Anytime Devotions still invites kids in with its all-new original illustrations that engage kids in vivid scenes from Bible stories





Each 2-page, full-color spread contains Sergio's expert illustrations - along with a text devotion.




The text of the devotions always starts with a Bible verse, then a story of a real-world situation, followed by some key points, a suggested prayer, a suggested action to take, and a reference to where you can read further in the Bible or in The Action Bible.





There are 90 devotions in total, which are labeled with the general categories of Love, Courage, Hope, Trust, Faith, Kindness, Strength, and Service and deal with such things as honesty, anger, identity, temptation, bullying, and more. 

Thus, this devotional acts as an engaging tool to help today's kids (and their grown ups):



  • Learn God's Word.
  • Apply God's Word to life.
  • Relate to people from the Bible.
  • Pray.
  • Think, share, and act.
  • Dive deeper into the Bible.



Additionally, if you purchase the book as a gift, there is a space to include the name of the child, the name of the giver, and when the gift was presented.



There are also two pages addressed directly to parents and kids about how to use the book.



The only thing lacking, in my opinion, i
s a topical index, for, while the broad categories are marked in the table of contents and on the side of each devotional, it would be great if there were a index of more specific topics, Bible verses, etc., too. 

I say this because, sometimes when I was choosing which devotional to read to my children on a given night, the broad categories did not hone in enough on specific issues I hoped to address. Likewise, when my youngest was looking for thoughts and ideas related to "Kindness" he found that as we read the devotions labeled "Kindness" some seemed to be geared to other topics as well. Thus, we all feel a more detailed index would be helpful!




That aside, I've found The Action Bible Anytime Devotions a fruitful addition to our Lenten reading pile and have appreciated reading and discussing devotions in it during our evening read together times and, sometimes, as a part of our daily lessons.

The devotional is geared to kids ages 8-12, but I believe any age - young or old - can pray and grow with it.




My 14 year old said, "I like the illustrations."
 



My 9-year-old said, "I liked it. I like the way they told real-life stories and related them to the Bible and morals."




And, my 12-year-old said, "I like how it is connected with The Action Bible that they made. I also like how there were different parts to each devotional, such as the story, the Bible verse, and the take away. I'd recommend it to people who already have The Action Bible, people who want a devotional that they can do quickly, and to moms to read to their kids."

I agree with my daughter's recommendations. Kids who want quick, but solid devotions, parents who want  family devotional, and people who already own 
The Action Bible would all like this devotional. I'd also like to add that you do not need The Action Bible for this devotional to work for you and yours.  Using a traditional Bible along with it can work just as well.  All Bible verse references are included.



Learn More

Over 50 Homeschool Review Crew families tried out The Action Bible Anytime Devotions bookClick through to find links to all of the reviews.



David C. Cook offers a wide variety of products – music, books, curriculum, Bible studies, crafts and activities, family games and toys, and more. So, be sure to click over to the webpage if you are looking for new resources.

Also, you can connect on social media:



Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Learn Geography with the Continent Race {A Review}

Disclaimer: I received a FREE copy of this product through the HOMESCHOOL REVIEW CREW in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review nor was I compensated in any other way. 


I love a feel-good, true story, and the story of Byron's Games and the development of the Continent Race game sure is one of them! Thus, I was excited to check out
 Continent Race when my family had a chance to review it.



Want to know the story behind the Continenet Race game?


If you'd like to know the story, too, watch it here:



Super sweet, huh?

I just love the way Byron took the difficulties that he was facing (spending a month in a hospital) mixed in a passion of his (countries and flags) and creatively came up with a game that he, then, made a mission of sharing forward to help other children. What an inspiration to embrace setbacks and skills and to make all things work together for good! I think we can all learn from that.



A Simple, Yet Flexible Way to Learn Countries and Continents

We can also all learn from the Continent Race game itself!


The game is a simple, flexible, hands-on way to learn and review the names and locations of countries and continents. It contains 205 color-coded country cards with the names, capitals, and flags of countries on them, three Antarctica wild cards, five thick laminated continent list and map reference cards, a direction card, and one large world map reference that fold out board game style.  


These tools, of course, are used to play the game, which basically asks you to find strings of countries from different continents and to name them in order to win. 


They also make quality materials for reference or inspiration. (Reference in that you can look up country locations using the maps or the alphabetical lists on the continent cards and you can also find what each country's flag looks like with the country cards. Inspiration in that the story behind the game is a beautiful, inspiring one and that the flags on the country flags could inspire further learning, art projects, etc.)


What did my children think of the Continent Race?

I liked Continent Race both for the story behind it and as a simple, hands-on way of learning world geography.

And when I say learning, I mean for me, too! Despite the game being for 2+ players, ages 7+, I, as a nearly 50 year old mom and teacher, admittedly picked cards with names of countries I had never heard of and/or could not immediately locate the countries on maps! (Time to bone up on geography, Self. Thank you Bryon's Game for pointing that out and making an easy way that I can do so!)


As for my children, they all laughed and learned when playing the Continent Race game, but when I asked them about their thoughts for this review, some shared mixed feelings.






My 8-year-old son said:
I played Continent Race with my mom and siblings. The game with a board, continent maps, and country cards. These materials were all good quality.
To play the game, you draw country cards and try to match 2-4 to a continent. When you get matched cards for 3-5 continents, you win.
I thought the game was okay. I would recommend it to people who want to learn geography. 

My 12-year-old daughter said:
Continent Race was created by a six year old who loved countries and flags, was in the hospital, and wanted to help other kids learn and get well in the hospital. It is now a card and board game that anyone can play.

When we first got the game, I played it with my mom. We had fun trying to pronounce the country's names correctly.

Then, I played it more with my mom and brothers and, yet again, we had trouble pronouncing country names correctly.


Also, because we played the more advanced version, I learned my mom cannot shuffle cards well. I kept getting orange mystery cards!  
I also learned more about where each country was placed, especially because of the orange cards.


I would recommend this game to a homeschool mom or teacher that wants a versatile game that can be played with games of multiple ages. Young children can use the color-coded cards to play easily and older children can use the orange cards.
I thought the game was okay. We laughed while we played. 


My 14-year-old son said:
Continent Race is a geography game where you collect cards, call out country and continent names, and point at a map. To win, you have to collect 2-4 country cards from 3-5 continents. 
In the game box are cards for every country, maps for every continent, a world map, and directions. I could not believe they combined North and South America and ignored Antarctica, but my mother explained that they were basing it off the five rings of the Olympics. 
When I played the game, I easily won. The game was not exciting for me, because I like more engaging that include strategy or role playing and are not as based on the luck of the draw. This game was not mentally challenging to my intellect. However, I did find I did not know some of the countries that populate the earth. 
I would not recommend this game to people over the age of seven unless they are teaching children and need a game to review country names and locations.

Mind you, even if my 14-year-old said he does not recommend the game to anyone over seven years old, he was challenged to name and locate countries while playing it and even laughed some, too. So, don't let the teen attitude dissuade you from checking out the game. 





Instead, be aware that the Continent Race is a fairly straightforward game that may not engage those who like more complicated games, but that it is also a flexible, hands-on way to learn countries and continents. 

I can 100% testify each person in my family that played the Continent Race game laughed at times and thought or said at one point or another, "I have never...heard of that country before... Where is THAT country... Hand me that continent card, I have to see if this one is on it..." Yep, learning was happening and interaction were happening and - to me - that means success. 



Thank you, Byron and family, for using your setback to create something that would help kids in hospitals as well as homeschoolers, students, and families around the world. Well done!


Learn More





If you love Geography, be sure to pop on over to Byron's Game where you will find a blog with fun facts about countries and flags.

If you have trouble pronouncing the names of countries, you can learn pronunciations on Byron's Games website, too!

If you'd like to see what others thought of the 
Continent Race and or a Continents Stationary Kit by Byron's Games materials, pop on over to see 60 the Homeschool Review Crew reviews.

You can also connect with Bryon's Games on social media:




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