Tag Archives: Intentional Living

Still Waiting {a Review}

*This post contains affiliate links.

I have to admit something, I wanted to be on the release team for Still Waiting because of it’s cover. That’s right the cover. But this book is so much more than just a gorgeous cover. The book was fantastic, for lack of a better word. Still Waiting chronicles Ann’s own struggles with waiting for a resolution, a healing, that doesn’t seem to come…and maybe never will.Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Ann parallels her story with that of the Bleeding Woman in the Bible; how her life became turned upside down, how she struggled with shame and being ostracized, and in desperation took a great risk of faith. How her leap of faith resulted in her healing, and how sometimes, healing doesn’t come.

Ann does a beautiful job of personalizing the story of the bleeding woman, who is only briefly mentioned in passing of a greater story. Through the story she shows just how flawed we are, how desperately we needed a savior from ourselves, and still need one now.

It is not our strength which God will work with most, but our weaknesses, and we are at our weakest when we are waiting.

We all know that, but embracing it is an entirely different thing. It’s not socially acceptable to admit that we are weak, that we are failing, that we are less than what we appear to be.

And yet God seems to embrace weakness — value it, even. In fact, in Jesus we see the valuing of our frailty — of our flesh — with heavenly fervor. He became human. (p. 38)

Digging deep into her own pain and struggles and anger and frustration with herself and her still waiting, Ann’s words embrace the scary truth, that it’s hard to wait. Physically painful even. But even there, in the waiting, Jesus is still with us, still caring for us in our pain and need. Even that is hard though, knowing that Jesus is with us in the waiting, when all the waiting would end with just one word from Him. Ann beautifully describes her struggle with God’s unwillingness to end her waiting.

We are all waiting for something.

And honestly once we’re done waiting for one thing, it’s inevitable that something else will soon pop up for us to be waiting for…that’s life. Ann’s words and story can touch and heal all of us in whatever we are waiting for, whether it’s physical healing, a hard situation, infertility, or any number of other things.

For me, the sign of a good (non-fiction) book is the number of pages that end up dog-eared and marked up; this book delivers. Her writing is beautiful and engaging. She strikes the perfect balance between story writing and information, making every page of this book enjoyable to read.

You can order Still Waiting from Amazon.com and any other book retailer.

 


Ann Swindell is an author and a speaker who has written for CT Women, Relevant, Deeply Rooted, Darling, the Gospel Coalition, and (in)courage. She holds an MA in writing and an MFA in creative nonfiction writing, and she makes her home in the Midwest with her husband and daughter. Connect with her online at annswindell.com.

 

***You can read my disclosure policy here. I received the above book for free, to review, but it was honestly so good that I’ve bought several copies to pass along ;-)

Box Day! Our 2017-2018 Homeschool Curriculum

What we are using for our 2017-2018 Homeschool Year

It’s Box Day! Our 2017-2018 homeschool curriculum has arrived!  The kids, or maybe it’s just me, have been excited awaiting the arrival of the last of our books for next year. This next year is going to be completely different, because the triplets start. I’m not going to lie, it scares the crap out of me, but we’re going to do. We’re getting ready, they’re excited, and we’re moving forward.

It took me a while to figure out just WHAT we were going to do this year. There’s not many blogs out there chronicling the antics of homeschooling triplets, especially not from the start. Most of the homeschooling families that I know of with triplets started once their kids already knew their numbers and letters.

Being that I’m not sure of the HOW of homeschooling triplets I really didn’t want to overwhelm myself and be setup for failure. I really wanted this first year to get our feet under us and figure what homeschooling triplets looks like. That said I wasn’t sure I wanted to move on to the next core (which would be D) in Sonlight.

I’m taking a different approach.

When I officially started homeschooling Avelyn (the year she turned 6) she already knew her letters and numbers, thanks to ABCMouse.com; the triplets aren’t there yet. They just turned 5 in December, so they wouldn’t even be beginning Kindergarten until the Fall, so I’m not concerned that they’re behind.

I decided that wouldn’t be progressing to Core D; we’re actually going to go backwards. Avelyn has already done Core B and C (Ave has always been on the young range for the recommended ages for each core), but she never did Core A. Some of the books we already had and some we still needed to order.

Our Homeschool Curriculum with Triplets

Here’s the breakdown or our homeschool curriculum

Math

Avelyn will continue on with Math-U-See, she will be in Beta after this year. The triplets are actually going to start in Horizon K; the reason for this is that they have no connection between visual numbers (1, 2, 3, etc) and actual quantities. They know how to count and they know quantities, but the actual numbers are arbitrary. Math-U-See Primer is just a bit beyond them. Horizon K looked like it gave them a good foundation for learning the number associations.

Science

Avelyn loved Science A last year and B this year from Sonlight, but we never did any of the science experiments…I’d like to talk to a parent that actually does the experiments on a regular basis. I still haven’t quite figured out what I’m doing with science yet. A friend of mine is interested in doing a science co-op so I might just supplement that with other books that we’ve found. Whatever we do, all the kids will be doing the same thing.

History

All of the kids will be doing Sonlight’s Core A, which is an Introduction to World Cultures and History. Yes, Avelyn has done Core B and C, which were more in depth, but I don’t think she’ll be hurting for History. The wonderful thing about Sonlight is all of the FANTASTIC read-alouds and books that are included. We have quite a few from the last two cores that we haven’t managed to finish (they include so many more books than can be read in a year).

Reading and Writing

These will each be done on their individual levels. Avelyn will continue with Explode the Code and A Reason for Handwriting, the triplets will begin with Before the Code and A Reason for Handwriting K. I am planning on adding in whatever things we need, such as ABCMouse.com. Also, we have a ton of Beginning Readers books for all of the kids to work through.

Bible

Sonlight does a great job of incorporating Bible readings, theology, and studies in their curriculum! Unfortunately, I do a REALLY bad job of keeping on top of these things as they’re dictated in the Instructor’s Guides. Really bad. Now before you’re ready to throw me under the bus, we do some of our own storybook bibles and devotionals. Right now though, I have an EXTENSIVE collection of books that I want to work through with the kids. I’d much rather save my money and use what we already have.

~*~*~*~*~

Most of our curriculum is from Sonlight, the rest of it I purchase through CBD.com (Christian Book Distributor) or directly through the program (ie Math-U-See). I think we’ve done well with Sonlight and have enjoyed their structure as well as the books they use. I don’t have endless hours to pull together curriculum and plan everything out myself. I give those who do a TON of credit. I just can’t.

Our Homeschool Curriculum

This year I was trying to save money. I ended up spending $350 on what we purchased through Sonlight (the picture on the left above), and an additional $250 from CBD (on the right) for our Explode the Code and math books.  I still need to purchase Avie’s math and handwriting. I will wait until the fall to do that, but it shouldn’t be more than another $75.

For this year, I’m significantly under what we spent last year with purchasing a full prepackaged curriculum. Since I wasn’t buying a Core from Sonlight I was able to save quite a bit of money by only purchasing the books that I couldn’t get cheaper elsewhere. Some of the books we already had, some of them were significantly less buying them used. It worked out well.

Where are you in your homeschool journey?

A Lenten Dare: Finding God’s Gifts in the Everyday

A Lenten Dare Finding God's Gifts in the Everyday

We’re so often concerned with the self denial aspect of Lent, that we completely forget about what the purpose of that self denial is: To draw us closer to God. What if there was a way to draw us closer to God, without our feeling resentful that we’re missing out on caffeine and chocolate? There is.

Intentionally seeking and finding God’s gifts in the everyday.

A Lenten Dare Finding God's Gifts in the EverydaySix years ago, I read Ann Voskamp’s One Thousands Gifts. During the reading of it I had decided to take up Ann’s challenge of counting the gifts that I received from my heavenly father. The timing perfectly coinciding with the beginning of Lent. What if, rather than giving something up for Lent, I took something on. Did something that ACTUALLY drew me closer to God, rather than filled me with resentment.

Every day I challenged myself to find 25 things that were gifts from God. Sometimes they were big huge things. Sometimes they were just little mundane things (more me grasping for filling 25 spaces). All were gifts. At the end of Lent I had a list of 1000 gifts.

“Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves
and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23

We focus so hard on the denying ourselves part that we completely ignore the later: FOLLOW ME.

All the self denial in the world amounts to nothing, if we don’t follow Him.

That dare took me on a journey: A journey of seeking and seeing God and His gifts to me, in the everyday. I got more out of Lent that year than I ever did before. In the taking of time was the giving from God, showing me just how abundantly He has blessed me.

There were days when it was easy to think of 25 gifts (both good and bad days). There were days when I struggled to think of 5 gifts, praying for God to open my eyes to what I knew was staring me in the face. On those days He knew I was desperate for His presence. That I needed to see His gifts and feel His love; and He was faithful, always revealing His heart for me. I truly believe that if you open your eyes to His gifts you will see them. They are all there, just waiting: Seek and ye shall find!

Our brains have an incredible way of rewiring themselves. The more we seek, the more we will find. We can move from being people who “know” that we are blessed, to people who know just HOW we are blessed. How much greater can our faith be in a loving and caring God, when we are wholly aware of His presence in our lives?! When we’ve trained our minds to seek His gifts not just when everything is “coming up roses”, but also when things aren’t going according to our plan?

This dare is not meant to create a list of favorites or special moments. But to be a conscious recognition of all the ways in which God bestows His gifts during and through ALL circumstances: Reminding us of His constant goodness, grace, and generosity. It’s meant to really make us think, to make us aware of the world around us, to make us aware of God’s His presence and His love.

This Lent I dare you.

Can you find 25 gifts each day of Lent? Or even just 5? Ask the Lord to open your eyes and heart to His goodness. You can following along on Instagram with me as I share my discoveries this Lent (@JessicaM.White)

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh
down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
James 1:17

How I Afford My Very Expensive Habit

How I afford my very expensive book habit without spending a penny

I have to confess something: I have a potentially VERY expensive habit. I’ve tried to kick it, I’ve tried just being OK with it, but it’s not going anywhere. Now, I just need to deal with it, because nothing seems to be able to put this thing behind me. I love…LOVE….LOVE books. I can’t NOT read them or buy them. The newest Christian non-fiction? Gotta have it. That highly recommended children’s book? It’s in my amazon cart before we finish talking. That book from the library that I really liked? Bought it already. It’s bad.

How I afford my very expensive book habit without spending a penny

I’m scared to figure out just how much I actually spend a year on books (outside of school books) because, quite frankly, the number would probably kill my husband. Fortunately, I haven’t figured out how to itemize my Amazon order history to do this.

But there is HOPE!

This is how I afford my very expensive book habit.

I’ve come up with somewhat of a solution that seems to be helping, at least a bit. Here it is: DON’T PAY FOR THEM! That’s it, very simple. Now, before you freak out that I’m suggesting that you steal books (whether it’s socially acceptable or not, I can assure you it is still illegal). There are several ways to get your books for free; these are the two methods I use.

Method 1: Review Them

This method used to be available only to bloggers, but in recent years, since social media has overwhelmed the blog and e-readers have become so popular, many publishers and authors have opened their reviews to anyone. Some do require that you have a certain sized following or a website on which to post your reviews, some don’t. I’ve had a lot of luck with getting really fantastic books simply by reading and writing a review.

I’ve worked with the following:

 

Method 2: Buy Them

I know I said that I’ve managed to not have to pay for most of my books. This is true. But there are ways to buy books, without having to foot the bill yourself.

Introducing….cash back bonuses!

Chances are your credit card has a cash back bonus option. Find out and use what you earn for book purchases. I have an Amazon Prime visa, which means I get 5% cash back on every purchase I make on Amazon, and 1-3% on purchases made elsewhere. Being that I rely pretty heavily on Amazon and my Subscribe and Save (we do live almost an hour away from any chain stores), that’s a hefty chunk of change every month. Sometimes I do have to force my self to wait a month or two to make a purchase, but that’s really OK.

Look into Click-Thru Cash Back Websites.How I afford my very expensive book habit

I’ve had a ton of luck with click thru websites! There are several out there, but the ones I’ve had the most luck with are the following (these are my referral links):

  • Ebates.com – I’ve earned $344.77 since I’ve had an account with them a couple of years ago (I use this for almost ALL of my online purchases)
  • Ibotta (smartphone App) – $31.65 since November 2016 (I use this for any of my purchases on iTunes and more specifically for grocery shopping)
  • SwagBucks – Another really well known one…I haven’t focused too much energy on them though
  • TopCashback – Just found out about them, but all the reviews say they’re fantastic, better than Ebates

My recommendation on this method is pick one that works great for you and stick with it. Yes, you could go through all of them, but you’re more likely to forget to use your links and it will take you longer to save up your earnings. However, I do recommend that you cross reference who is giving the most cashback on certain websites, especially when you’re making a big purchase (when I wrote this up I checked Lands’ End…ebates was 2%, TopCashback was 4%; Lowes was 2.5% on Ebates, 5% on TopCashBack – so definitely do your research).

One of the best things about any of the click thru websites is that they very often they will give you cashback for any friends you refer that sign on….which can add up quickly. Another fantastic thing is that just because you’re going to a brick and mortar store don’t assume that you can’t get a cashback. Most major chains offer in-store pick up. Use a click thru website to place your order, get the cashback and very often the websites offer their own coupon or discount codes.

Where To Start

I know this is a lot of information and a lot of methods to sift through, but start somewhere. I recommend signing up for an account with Ebates.com or TopCashback for your online purchases, and start following your favorite authors on social media. Before too long you should start seeing the results of a little bit of effort.

Don’t limit yourself to books with this either! Think of all the things you could be putting extra money toward, without spending a penny more than you are already:

  • Vacations
  • Clothes
  • Christmas and Birthday Gifts
  • Groceries
  • Memberships (gym, book, website, etc)
  • Fabric
  • Coffee
  • Ministries, Charities, and Missions
  • THE SKY IS THE LIMIT! Use your imagination.

Happy Birthday, Laura!
Sharing a Love of Laura Ingalls Widler with Your Little Ones

Today marks the 150th birthday of my first literary love, Laura Ingalls Wilder. I can’t tell you the definitive moment that I met Laura or fell in love with her spunky ways, because she has always been there. Before I was born my mom was already introducing me to Laura, through the Little House on the Prairie TV Show. It was a staple in our house; Matthew just bought me the complete series on AppleTV for Christmas.

sharing a love of laura ingalls wilder with my little ones has always been important.

Once we had moved to our own little house in the big woods of upstate New York she became even more real to me. Our winters were spent being warmed by the wood stove, the harsh realities of having to chip through ice and trudge through snow to keep ourselves and animals fed and warm. One of my absolute most favorite memories from my childhood is cozying up on the couch with my mom, hearing the storms raging outside, the fire glowing and having her read Little House on the Prairie to us.

My first “dress like your favorite author day” consisted of my donning the longest dress I had, an apron, my (very in-style) ankle books, and a saffron yellow bonnet. I still have that bonnet: My own Laura and Mary play with it now.

Sharing a Love of Laura Ingalls Wilder with your little ones

I could harp on about all the reason why Laura is stilled loved after so many years, how her story harkens to a “simpler time” in American history, but those things have all been said before. For me, it’s quite simply the story of a little girl who had a love for life and a taste for adventure.

Sharing a Love of Laura Ingalls Wilder with your little ones

She wasn’t perfect, she tried to do what she was supposed, but sometimes that just wasn’t easy or even possible. She had a fierce love for her Pa and her sisters, a tender love for her Ma and home, and such a passionate, self-giving love for Almonzo. She was brave. She was self-sufficient. She was willing to do the hard work. She embodied everything I wanted to be as I was growing up.

Sharing a Love of Laura with Your Little Ones

(The following does contain affiliate links, which means that I get a small commission off any purchases made through the link, at no extra cost to you. You can read my disclosure policy here.)

Avelyn has been fully indoctrinated into the world of Little House, and it was because of some fantastic books. I had wanted to start reading the books once she turned 5, but she had no desire to sit through lengthy pages with very few pictures. While searching for home school books a few years ago I happened to stumble across another series of books called My First Little House Books.Sharing a Love of Laura Ingalls Wilder with your little ones

They are picture books based on Laura’s own stories and illustrated in the exact style of Garth Williams. They have become some of our favorites to read. There are even a couple of stories about Almonzo, which we particularly love since he was born and raised in New York.

Another way to introduce your little ones is through the television series based on the books. What’s wonderful about them is that there isn’t anything in them that you need to shield your children from. There’s no surprises or inappropriate content, and it’s a show that almost everyone will love (my husband usually falls asleep during them).

While I’ve heard it mentioned in several podcasts, I’ve never looked into the audiobooks read by Cherry Jones. The experts say they’re fantastic and the best part is today the first two books about Laura (books 1 and 3) are marked down to $9.18 each.  You can be sure that I’ve added them to my amazon shopping cart.

The absolute best way to share Laura and her family with anyone is to simply read to them. Read the stories in whatever way you can that your children enjoy. The stories will stick with them and forever be something they remember, if only because you spent time with them.