Run for God 5K: Completed!

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Well, today was the big day. The graduation, if you will, of a twelve-week journey to improve my physical, mental, and spiritual fitness. If you remember, I had joined a ladies’ Bible study that was following the Run for God 5K program. I was a little concerned about having the race today. I had traveled the week of Thanksgiving and had fallen behind on training, and the training that I had been doing was mostly on flat ground. However, I’m happy to report that I was able to finish the 5K and beat the goals I had set for myself. I got a great sense of accomplishment by crossing that finish line, but I’d have to say my favorite part of the race was going back to run or walk others to the finish line as well. I found it a privilege to see so many people attain feats they thought were simply impossible just mere weeks ago. There were just so many warm and wonderful memories that were made today that will be forever etched in my memory. Here are just a few:

-The encouraging words of our group leader were inspirational. She has always been so encouraging and kind. I can’t imagine the countless hours she’s put into this endeavor.
-The funny “Over the Hill” balloon that marked the top of the monster hill that we made into our warmup was great comic relief for my nerves.
-The beautiful vistas, upbeat Gospel music on my phone, and time of talking to God along the way was renewing to my spirit.
-The encouraging words of people I’ve met from church and more that I didn’t even know along the race path kept me going.
-The beautiful lady from Sunday School who has been experiencing health problems who sat on a park bench in cold and windy weather to cheer everyone on was in the exact spot that I didn’t think I had any more to give. Her encouragement and presence helped me to keep going.
-The pastor’s wife who jumped in near the finish line to show me the way and kept encouraging me to keep going was the last push I needed to continue.
-The young man who so graciously asked if I would like a bottle of water at the end was just the refreshment I needed to recover from the race.
-The cheering and encouraging words of everyone I saw was so heart-warming.
-The final crossing of the finish line as we all sang hymns was truly up-lifting.
-The shirt, the medal, gifts, certificate, and letter were all a great surprise to celebrate our accomplishments.

So, I guess the word of the day would be encouragement. I have made so many new friendships and am so thankful to God for that opportunity. He has guided my steps throughout this journey, and I know He will be with me always since He said He would in his Word. Oh, what a comforting thought! Thanks be to God.

Book Review and Giveaway: “This Means War” by Stephen Kendrick and Alex Kendrick with Troy Schmidt

9781433688706

This Means War is a self-described strategic prayer journal. It is targeted to preteen and teen boys. The authors do an excellent job appealing to their audience. The use of camo, the soldier theme, and short sections are engaging to this age group. I found it particularly interesting that they used the Twitter format to make a point about their prayer life in one section. I love the relevancy of the examples they use. There are plenty of spaces and opportunities for interaction through the book’s directed questions that relate to that chapter’s lesson.

The book teaches the reader about prayer life and how to improve it. The subject matter spans a lot of areas of the boy’s life, including family, church, school, etc. There is a clear presentation of the Gospel included. It also provides a breakdown of the Lord’s Prayer. The book concludes with the last sections devoted to common questions posed about prayer.

Being a huge fan of the movie War Room, I got this book for my son. I don’t think he’s been this excited about a book in a long time. His eyes lit up just from seeing the camo paint-slattered cover. He quickly flipped through the pages and declared it to be “Awesome!” He has since carried it to church and school to show it to his friends. Needless to say, he loves it!

This would a great journal for all boys. I highly recommend it based on the content and excitement it stirred in my son about such an important subject.

I received this book for free from B&H Publishing in exchange for an honest review as part of their Lifeway Bloggers Program. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

I’ve got some great news for you! The publisher has graciously provided me with an extra copy to give away here. In order to be entered into the drawing, comment on this post or subscribe using the box to the right of this post for two entries into the drawing (current subscribers will be entered already). I will hold the random drawing on Wednesday, November 18th. The winner will be contacted via email. You’ll have 24 hours to contact me, or I’ll draw another name.

UPDATE: The giveaway closed last night, and I’d like to congratulate Denise on winning the book. I’d love to thank those who so kindly commented and those who subscribed. It was great to see the interest from this giveaway, and I hope to do another in the future.

Book Review: “You First – Journal Your Way to Your Best Life” by Lea Michele

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You First is a journal that leads the reader in a journey of exploration of the following four aspects of their lives: you, ambition, relationships, and happiness. The book poses open-ended questions in each section that are thought-provoking and are intended to probe the thoughts and feelings surrounding the subcategories of each of the aforementioned aspects. Those subcategories are:

You – roots, fitness, diet and nutrition
Ambition – goals, role models, mind-expanding challenges
Relationships – friendships, romantic relationships, colleagues
Happiness – hobbies, charity and giving back, gratitude

As you can see, the book covers a lot of material. It has a beautiful purple color scheme. Particular emphasis is placed on writing goals and dreams down so as to be intentional about reaching them.

Overall, it is a nice journal. There are certain sections which don’t apply to me. However, I agree with with the author most definitely that the ability to reach goals can be directly related to one’s ability to articulate what the goal actually is and how it can be attained, at least in part. If you’re looking for direction on the areas the book covers, this could be a useful book.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “Your Best Destiny” by Wintley Phipps with James Lund

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Your Best Destiny is an inspiring book that encourages the reader to be the person that God intended them to be. Throughout the book are stories of unexpected circumstances behind famous people, stories from the author’s personal experiences, and stories from people who could be the neighbor next door that allow the reader to relate to what the author identifies as the eight essential pillars of our ethos. These pillars include belief, virtue, wisdom, self-control, perseverance, sacredness, kindness, and love. A separate chapter is dedicated to each of these pillars and is nicely organized. I really enjoyed the stories in that some were easily relatable to my life and others were glimpses into other’s lives that helped to illuminate how that particular pillar could help me live a life more like the one God would have me to live. More than the entertaining stories, I loved that the entire book was focused on God and Christian principles. The end of each chapter details the prerequisites and by-products of each pillar by defining and describing each piece in detail. The end of the chapter also includes thought-provoking questions. The book also provides an exclusive access code to the online personal assessment tool that accompanies the text.

I really enjoyed this book and its’ interesting and thought-provoking stories. It forced me to consider how I was doing in each area that the author discussed. The book is a good tool for anyone interested in improving themselves by trying to be the best person they can be, that is to be the person God wants them to be.

I received this book for free from Tyndale Momentum in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Book Review: “Doodletopia Cartoons” by Christopher Hart

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I have to admit that I am a horrible artist. I sometimes even have hard time drawing stick figures! Thankfully, my children show more of their grandmother’s artistic abilities. So I got this book for them. You can imagine my surprise when I picked it up to try to draw one of the pictures. While it was far from perfect, it was really easy and fun to try to duplicate the artwork. The book is peppered with funny descriptions and helpful tips to keep you on course. The author uses several different ways to help the reader improve on their drawing skills, divided into the following chapters:

1. Warm Up – In this section, you replicate some basic figures by following duplicative pictures that progressively add more details.
2. Fill in the Silhouette – Mr. Hart draws the outline for you and you add the details.
3. Draw the Other Half – This uses half-drawn pictures to help you work on symmetry.
4. Select Different Expressions – Examples of different expressions are provided for you to duplicate changing the emotional feel of the character.
5. Choose and Design the Animals – This is interesting in that a basic form is drawn, and the finishing details show how that form can be made into different animals.
6. Dress Up Your Cartoons – This is similar to chapter five in that the basic figure can be completely transformed by drawing different clothes for them.
7. Finish the Funny Couples – This is useful because one of the couple is drawn for you, and you have to complete the other person to tell your story.
8. Write in Cartoon Calligraphy – This chapter teaches several styles of lettering that can be used not only in cartoons, but also in other areas such as scrapbooking.
9. Draw Ridiculous Inventions – This is probably the most creative chapter where you can create unusual contraptions.
10. Complete the Cartoons – As the ending of the book, you are encouraged to finish up a half-done cartoon scene your way.

I like that you can draw directly in the book. I also appreciate that the pages aren’t visually crowded. I think Mr. Hart did a wonderful job with this book. It would be a good resource for budding artists, young and old.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “More for Girls Only! Devotions” by Carolyn Larsen and illustrated by Colonel Moutarde

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I got this devotion book for my daughter. Since she is a new Christian, I was searching for an age-appropriate devotional that would be interesting, fun, and insightful. This definitely fits the bill. She loved it! It is girly in every way, even the text and pictures are pink! Each devotion contains the following: story based on Bible concepts, quiz with scoring interpretation, ideas on how to apply the story and related Bible verse to the girl’s life, and listing of related Bible verses and quotes from both religious and secular authors. My daughter’s favorites were the story and quiz. Oh, how girls seem to love quizzes! In this case, they are used as a tool to make the reader think a little deeper. Also, the quiz seems like a less threatening way to ask those questions. The devotions aren’t dated, which also offers flexibility. I think this would be a great addition to any girl’s library!

I received this book for free from Tyndale Publishers in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Running Update

So, it’s been a while since I gave you all an update on my running adventures. Our Run for God class is in it’s sixth week, and I’m beginning to love running. It’s amazing how quickly my body has adapted to it. I can remember gasping for air and my muscles crying out in pain that first night. I’d be remiss not to tell you that we were only running for 60 seconds at a time that night. As the weeks have ticked by, we have increased the running times in the run/walk ratios. Although I haven’t really lost any significant amount of weight (primarily due to poor food choices), I have noticed that I am becoming more fit.

For the most part, I have begrudgingly strapped on my running shoes and gotten it done because that’s what the app told me to do that day. To be honest, I only joined the Bible study at church for the actual study of the Bible and for the fellowship. The idea that we would be running was just a bonus since I needed to make a step towards better fitness.

My thoughts of running before this class were that running is only for fitness. I remember being confused on what God had to do with running anyway when I joined the class. However, those thoughts have changed over time. I’ve learned that running can not only be good for my physical body, but it can also be a time of spiritual strengthening. After running the first couple of times during the first week of the class, my knees were absolutely killing me. I felt so discouraged because I need to get healthy, but the thing I was doing to reach that goal was causing new pain. I then began to pray that God would help me with my knees. I’m thankful to report that I don’t have knee pain anymore. The absence of knee pain is only the beginning of positive effects I’m noticing such as better moods, self-image, and increased time with God.

On Saturday night, I was thinking of skipping the scheduled run because I was busy feeling sorry for myself because my child had become sick (forcing us to cancel a special date night with my husband). I guess that disappointment fueled my run. I ran the longest distance in the shortest time I’d had by far without feeling bad. A bonus was that it was literally as if my mood had been completely changed.

A question posed from a recent class was why I run. My answer used to be just to get in shape. That’s still part of it, but I’ve also learned that my runs can be a great time to talk with God. I’ve changed my secular playlist to some great Gospel music and find myself worshiping God while I run. I’ve been able to talk about the Run for God program with friends that don’t attend church. Also, our class leader said something a couple of weeks ago when asked that question. She said something to the effect that one of her reasons was because God had given her legs to run with. Oh, how I’m so guilty of taking things like that for granted and aren’t careful to be grateful for that privilege. I pray I can be more intentional on being more thankful. I’m excited to see the changes that are still to come through this Bible study!

Book Review: “Instant Happy Journal” by Karen Salmansohn

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What a fun book! It is so colorful, and each page is unique. The pages are not dated which I love in case I don’t get a chance to write on a certain day. I don’t feel like I have to play catch-up. The book also has a lovely yellow ribbon to mark your place. I also just love the premise of the book: a journal to remind me each day to be grateful and happy in a very intentional way. The prompts cover everything from how I feel at a moment in time, to memories that make me smile, to dreams about my future. I also love that the prompt is something that can be done quickly, if necessary. Just even having a prompt each day helps me to be more faithful in writing my thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, the vastness of a blank page overwhelms me when I have just a few minutes to spare. The result is that I usually don’t bother with writing down my feelings. This really helps with that and keeps my thoughts centered on good things. The book encourages and inspires me to think positively. Sometimes I tend to focus on the negative and the things I think are going wrong. I believe if you can push through those negative feelings and concentrate on the good that surrounds you, it lifts your mood. Just as Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” I think it will be fun to review the journal when I’m done and maybe it’ll be an inspirational window into my thoughts for my kids years from now. I love this journal and plan to add several copies to my buying list for Christmas and birthday gifts!

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review. 

Book Review: “She’s Almost a Teenager” by Peter and Heather Larson and David and Claudia Arp

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She’s Almost A Teenager is an intriguing book that implores parents to be intentional and proactive in discussing the upcoming minefield of issues in their daughter’s teen years when they are tweens. The book is divided into chapters that covers many different areas: academics, faith, boys, money, tech, and friends. The book also includes some bonus material for projects that focuses on goal-setting and organization around adding responsibilities and rights as your child gets older. Peppered throughout the book are boxes called “Arp Adage” which help to focus the reader on tips and ideas on applying the book. Finally, each chapter ends with a list of questions to be used as conversation starters with your tween which summarize the chapter. I like that the questions are in one place for quick reference.

I enjoyed this book. I’ll point out that while it is written for the parents of a tween girl, some of the discussions and advice would do well for tween boys with some adaption. The authors used an excellent analogy for the teen years in which they compared it to be like belaying a rock climb. The parent needs to slowly let out more “rope” to allow the child to have new experiences, more responsibility, and rights. However, the parent should always be there to catch them if they start to fall. Even if a fall isn’t imminent, the parent can be there to give advice on what the next move should be. The book also does a good job of showing that the change from tween to teen isn’t something that simply occurs on the child’s thirteen birthday. Instead, this transition should be looked at as a period of ever-increasing incremental responsibility and maturity. I also like that the authors focus on making plans for all facets of the child’s life: spiritually, academically, relationally, physically, and financially. I highly recommend this book to the any parent of a tween girl.

I received this book for free from Bethany House in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.

Book Review: “5 in 5” by Michael Symon and Douglas Trattner

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Michael Symon’s 5 in 5 For Every Season promises a lot. Given a well-stocked pantry, Symon provides recipes that only require five ingredients and can cooked very quickly, usually in around five minutes. In his book, gone are the complicated, tedious recipes that have ingredient lists a mile long that I have found to be the norm of celebrity chef cookbooks. Instead, he’s featured recipes for good food that is tasty, simple, and quick. The book is divided into seasonal recipes which will also be helpful in lowering the cost of the dish since a lot of grocery store specials can be found on items in abundance. I found it quite interesting how I was drawn to different seasons more than others since the recipes were grouped in this interesting way. The book has vibrant, uncomplicated pictures of most of the recipes. He gives an extensive example, in list form, of what a well-stocked pantry looks like. I was pleased to see that I had most of what he listed. You see, I love fresh, healthy food that doesn’t require tons of ingredients that I don’t already have on hand or will use more than once. The recipes have a good mix of foods for both simple and sophisticate palates. My only criticism of the book is that it does not provide nutritional facts for the recipes. Overall, I really liked this cookbook. I’m looking forward to trying more of these recipes.

I received this book for free from BloggingforBooks.org’s Blogger Program in exchange for an honest review. I was not obligated to write a positive review.