Book Reviews with Mama Muse Me

Intentions for Today 

Read books. Contemplate God. Think deeply, quietly in the moments that this life stage allows. Find the beauty in life. Don’t deny the imperfections, but focus on what is good. Don’t get caught up in the constant images or the tearing down of others. Do what you can to bring joy to others, to change what you can change. Fill your own heart so that you have something to give to those you love. Share what your heart, mind, and soul have discovered on this journey.

Welcome to Book Reviews with Mama Muse Me.

Here are two of my favorite book reviews so far this year: Whisper by Mark Batterson and Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller.

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Sweet Potato Soul by Jenne Claiborne is based on a blog by the same name. The site has a ton of recipes that are worth checking out. I am not vegan, but I am looking for ways to bring more veggies into my family’s diet. I like country cooking, so I thought the combination of soul food and healthy, easy vegan recipes sounded appealing. Claiborne shares some interesting history of foods in the south, including the African influences on soul food. I have already tried two of the recipes this weekend: her sweet potato pie smoothie (delicious!) and her “bacon” made from thin-sliced eggplant dipped in flavors of soy sauce, liquid smoke, paprika, and maple syrup (decent; not as good as bacon, obviously, but the health factor made this pretty enjoyable. I felt a lot better after I ate it than I typically feel after a couple of slices of regular bacon because this is not greasy. Plus, I could pretend like I was eating a ridiculous amount of “bacon,” which was kind of fun, lol. Don’t judge). I think I am going to try her tempeh bacon, which uses a similar flavoring technique to see which one I like best. I definitely recommend this book for people who want to try some new methods of bringing vegetables into their meals. I received this book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review.

9780310760658-1488509011Easter Love Letters from God is beautifully written and illustrated. I like the “love letters from God” that actually fold open. It’s neat that the child can write his or her name in the blank. Even though this book appeals to me, I have not been able to get my son interested in it yet. He goes nuts for the Gobi picture book or the Night Night Train, but I think it might be another year or two before he gets into this one. I see this as a keepsake, so that is okay. I recommend this book as one that will communicate God’s personal love for your child and teach stories from the Bible at the same time. This book was sent by Book Look Bloggers in return for my honest review.

More reviews are coming soon!

xoxo Teresa

 

 

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Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson (Review)

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The first Christian book that I kicked off my 2018 by reading was Whisper: How to Hear the Voice of God by Mark Batterson. Mark is the pastor of National Community Church in D.C., the church affiliated with Ebenezers Coffee House (which I am now intrigued to visit the next time I’m in D.C.). Interestingly, one of the spots where Mark says he often hears God speak to him is the rooftop of the coffee house.

I believe this book is ideal for someone who is sincere about seeking God, someone who believes God still speaks to his people today. Mark says scripture is always our touchstone for communication with God, and the other ways that He communicates with us will line up with the Bible as well. The ways that God actively communicates are through scriptures, desires, doors (opportunities or lack of them in different areas), dreams, people, promptings, and pain. A prayer that could change your life right now is found in 1 Samuel 3:9, “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening.”

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Mark asserts that God can communicate to believers in a whisper that they can discern, even though it is not within our normal range of human hearing (the book explains it in much more scientific and spiritual depth than I can here, but stay with me!). A whisper is the use of breath without vocal chords, which is significant because God used his own breath to create Adam. God’s spoken word is what first brought the entire universe into being. God spoke the universe into existence when He said, “Let there be light.” Mark writes, “What we see today, He once said. His voice is around us all the time” (page 26).

“Some Hebrew scholars believe that the name of God, Yahweh – or without the vowels, YHWH — is synonymous with the sound of breath. On one hand, the name is too sacred to pronounce. On the other hand, it’s whispered with each and every breath we take.” (page 32)

You have to get quiet to hear the whisper. You have to slow down and allow room for God’s presence. If you want your words to have power, spend time in God’s presence through prayer.

Mark also asserts that there might be certain places where it seems like we hear from God more, and I agree with that. I have two specific places in my own life where I hear from God; in both locations, I am usually being quiet, and at times, I ask him questions in prayer that I wait to hear Him respond to. I do not always hear, but many times I do. Usually, I will hear a sentence or two, but other times it’s just a single word or even a person’s name.

When I decided to sponsor a child in Mexico earlier this summer, I was prompted because I kept hearing Him repeat the child’s name to me in the type of whisper that Mark writes about. After I sponsored the child, God confirmed that I understood with another whisper that included some other information for me. Since then, He has spoken to me about other situations and given me people’s names for different reasons. I am pretty sure that not every Christian necessarily experiences this type of whisper because I was in my 30s before I started experiencing it myself, even though I grew up in church and asked Christ into my heart at a young age. I also will say I am not perfect by any means; I mess up constantly, but I am willing to seek Him. I am quiet by nature, so that probably helps. I am someone who loves to read and think, so He speaks to me in a way that I can hear. Of course, there are times when I think, “Did I really hear that?” In that case, I just ask if it was Him. One time, an answer He gave me made so little sense to me (with my limited understanding) that I thought I was hearing wrong – but then a week later, what He communicated was affirmed with a text message from someone.

“But our ability to acquire language by speaking and listening is unique among God’s creation. As such, I believe it’s one dimension of the image of God. So to grow in the likeness of God is to steward language better, both in terms of speaking and listening.” page 61

One way to discern the voice of God, beyond prayer and reading scriptures, is an ancient Benedictine practice called Lectio divina. Mark describes it as follows:

“It involves four steps, or stages: reading, meditating, praying, and contemplating. Lectio divina has been likened to a meal, and I like that metaphor. Reading is taking the first bite. Unfortunately, that’s where most people stop. The second step, meditation, is chewing on words and phrases. Instead of dissecting the word, we let the word dissect us. The third step, prayer, is savoring the word. When was the last time you read the Bible for pure enjoyment? It’s prayer that turns discipline into desire; “have to” becomes “get to.” And the fourth step, contemplation, is digesting the Word and absorbing its nutrients. That’s how the Word gets from our head into our heart. I wish that hearing the voice of God was as easy as reading, but it’s not. It requires meditating, praying, and contemplating. Ironically, it’s only as we slow ourselves down that the Holy Spirit quickens us.” p. 74-75

After all of this, the next step of obedience is also required. Mark writes, “The Bible calls us to be ‘a peculiar people.’ So why are we trying to be normal? If uniqueness is God’s gift to us, then individuation is our gift back to Him. And it starts with hearing and heeding the voice of desire [to know God and do his will]. And when God’s voice is the loudest voice in our lives, we can dare to be different” (page 93). Saying that I can hear the whisper of God might make some people think I’m weird, but I am saying it because I believe it is true.

My One Word Resolution for 2018 is delight. I wrote about why I picked that word in another post – but I was floored when I realized there was an entire chapter of the book dealing with desires and delight. In fact, one sub heading was Pure Delight. The chapter even begins with the verse I picked for my resolution (Psalm 37:4).

Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

In the Pure Delight section, Batterson writes about a girl who waited years to have a dog; when she finally got the dog, she started sobbing uncontrollably with joy. For him, that is an illustration of pure delight.

 “Seven times in the book of Genesis, God steps back from the canvas of his creation and admires His handiwork and sees that it is good. It’s the Almighty’s first reaction to His creation. It’s the first recorded emotion that God expresses. The word good comes from the Hebrew word tob. It’s joy unspeakable. It’s pure delight. That first emotion sets the tone, sets the bar. God delights in what He does, and He wants nothing less for us. He wants us to delight in His creation. He wants us to delight in one another. And above all, he wants us to delight ourselves in Him.” p. 79

I started my year by asking God what it means to delight in Him. We are only a month into 2018, and He is already providing so much for me to consider.

“How much do you enjoy God? Enjoy His Word? Enjoy His presence? Sure, spiritual disciplines usually start out as disciplines. But sooner or later those disciplines turn into desires if you delight yourself in the Lord.” p. 79

When we delight ourselves in the Lord, he will give us the desire to do what He calls us to do, even if it’s difficult. Apostle Paul identified three traits that Christians should have in their tasks: generous, diligent, and cheerful. Mark writes, “Diligence means delighting in what we do. And when we do that, everything we do is transformed into an act of worship” (page 84).

Mark recalls times that God has let him know that some things happening in his life were the result of the prayers of his grandfather, Elmer, who died when Mark was six years old. Even though his grandfather died, the prayers did not die. He writes, “We are the beneficiaries of prayers we know nothing about. God was working long before we arrived on the scene, and He’s using us to set up the next generation. We tend to think right here, right now. God is thinking nations and generations” (page 153).

To learn more specifically about the whisper and the other ways God communicates, pick up the book. In the meantime, there are some good resources at markbatterson.com/whisper. I received this book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review; considering all of the detail I’ve given you in this post, I think you can understand the sincerity of this review. Here’s a final thought that stuck with me.

“Don’t let the voice of condemnation keep you from worshipping God; sing over it. If your worship is based on your performance, you’re not really worshipping God anyway. That kind of worship is a form of self-worship because it’s based on what you do rather than who God is.” (page 182)

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire,

and lighten with celestial fire.

Thou the anointing Spirit art,

who dost they sevenfold gifts impart.

 –from the Book of Common Prayer

 

 

Have a blessed week.  Teresa

My First Book of 2018 — Caroline: Little House, Revisited

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I was blown away by my first book of 2018, Caroline: Little House, Revisited by Sarah Miller. I remember having a boxed set of Little House books when I was a girl. I immersed myself in the stories and connected with them because I grew up on a farm; I knew what it meant to have a garden, raise animals, help on a hay wagon, and take walks across the family land. When I got a little older, I definitely remember gathering around the television to watch Michael Landon as Pa Ingalls (my heart still does a little flip flop when I picture him). I loved the Caroline character on the series too, but as a girl, I had never really considered the prairie from Caroline’s perspective. As an adult woman, it was such a pleasure to find that perspective in Caroline: Little House, Revisited.

I checked this book out because it was being recommended on a lot of library and indie bookseller lists, and it far exceeded what I had even imagined could be said about Caroline Ingalls’ perspective. This book was incredibly vivid in its sensory details of food

 

preparation, how the work of Ma and Pa Ingalls was so harmoniously entwined, and how the family survived everything from wolf packs to a prairie fire. By the end, it blew my mind that the family was able to withstand so much, do everything right for survival, and yet be denied their dream in the end based on something out of their control that was not an attack, illness, or natural disaster. The need, love, and respect that Charles and Caroline had for one another stands out so beautifully in this novel. I also love how Caroline is portrayed as a woman of strength, intelligence, and faith; how she quotes and references Bible verses as she encounters hardships and delights in her daily life is lovely. The book is honest about her longings and her shortcomings; she makes staying composed in any situation a priority, which is hard for me to imagine in today’s society that tends to overreact to much lesser threats than wolf packs and crossing a frozen river in a covered wagon. On one hand, the reader’s heart is so aligned the prairie spirit of the Ingalls family, but on the other hand, the presence of the Native Americans whose land was ultimately being claimed by “deals” for western expansion also looms over the story of pioneer spirit. The nuances of conscience are captured well.

ingalls-family-circa-1891I can tell Sarah Miller immersed herself in the research for her book. I am a historical fiction addict (as you will remember if you read my review of The Austen Escape in my last post), and this book brought me into an experience that truly felt real. Realizing that I have a relative who looked almost exactly like me who lived during the same time frame as the Ingalls stories also creates a pretty strong pull in my heart toward this genre. Sarah Miller, you are making an incredible contribution to the historical fiction genre!

quotation-maya-angelou-we-delight-in-the-beauty-of-the-butterfly-but-rarely-36-62-76As a side note, my One Word Resolution for 2018 is delight — to find delight in the small daily moments that are beautiful — and this book had forms of the word delight (delighted, delightful) all over the place in it! Delight is not necessarily a common word, so I had a “wow” moment a few times. I think Caroline Ingalls, as a character in the book, was a woman who could find delight in the small surprises that life provided. The Bible verse that I chose for my year was Psalm 37:4-5 “Delight thyself also in the Lord: and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart. Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him; and he shall bring it to pass.” I started my year by asking the question: what exactly does it mean to delight in the Lord? How can I do that? What does it really mean to delight in Him? How is delight different from joy? Is there a nuance? I am sure these answers will continue to unfold with the coming year.

A Few Delight Quotes from the Book

 

Caroline’s breath caught. For a moment she thought the baby had given a little flutter, but it was only a quick beat of delight at (Charles’) compliment. p.61

With a flourish Caroline twisted her wrists and Jacob’s ladder appeared in a mosaic of red triangles between her hands. The girls’ mouths popped open in delight. p. 98

A thrill went through her, of delight and dread as she understood. It could only be one thing. “Oh Charles,” she gasped, aghast at the expense, “you didn’t.” She laid it back down on the table, fearful now of damaging what must be inside. “Open it,” he insisted. Caroline untied the string and folded back the paper. Eight panes of window glass. p.280

Now I’m about to kick my historical fiction reading geekdom up a notch when I tell you what else I did when I was reading this book. Caroline cooked hasty pudding for the family, so I started looking up recipes. I found two different versions and cooked them both! My husband and I ate hasty pudding for breakfast most of the days that it took me to read this book. Here is version one and version two that I tried because, of course, it is not enough to just read historical fiction. I have to be immersed in it (wink). I thought both versions of the pudding were good. I think version one tasted better, but version two was probably a little healthier and also closer to the version that the Ingalls would have eaten.

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Happy reading, and happy new year!

xoxo Teresa

Five Books I Loved in 2017

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As 2017 draws to a close, I am typing beside the still-twinkling Christmas tree. I flipped through my Project Life photo album earlier this week and thought about how much fun, growth, challenge, and change a year has held for my family. Then, like any bookish person, I started looking back on my favorite books that I’ve read this past year. Here are the books that I simply enjoyed the most.

Best Fiction Book

The Austen Escape by Katherine Reay I just finished reading this book today on the Kindle Paperwhite my husband bought me for Christmas. Yes, it was worthy of being the first book for my e-reader!

34460584Synopsis: After years of following her best friend’s lead, Mary Davies finds a whimsical trip back to Austen’s Regency England paves the way towards a new future. Mary Davies lives and works in Austin, Texas, as an industrial engineer. She has an orderly and productive life, a job and colleagues that she enjoys—particularly a certain adorable, intelligent, and hilarious consultant. Yet, something is missing for Mary. When her estranged and emotionally fragile childhood friend Isabel Dwyer offers Mary a two-week stay in a gorgeous manor house in Bath, Mary reluctantly agrees to come along, in hopes that the holiday will shake up her quiet life in just the right ways. She gets more than she bargained for when Isabel loses her memory and fully believes that she lives in Regency England; she becomes dependent on a household of strangers to take care of Isabel until she wakes up.

My thoughts: it was so much fun to pretend that I was at an estate in Bath along with the main character, getting to wear the fancy dresses, drink the tea, dance to piano music, and, of course, have the romance that is a must in a Jane Austen-inspired world. Honestly, I would absolutely love to go to a place like that in real life (perhaps sans the friend with amnesia, lol). Like Austen, Reay explores personality and relationships in an insightful way; so many of our actions are about our own needs and our urges to protect ourselves rather than the person the actions might be directed toward. The world painted in this novel was vivid, and I felt like I was experiencing it. This is the third Reay novel (along with Lizzy and Jane and A Portrait of Emily Price) that I have read, and this one was my favorite by far. It made me want to go back and re-read some Austen. One thing that Reay does consistently in her writing that I really like is she gives her female characters interesting careers that they really care about; Mary in this novel is an engineer who creates technology innovations — such a neat science-driven character to drop into prim-and-proper Regency England. I received this novel from Book Look Bloggers in return for my honest review. I am going to seek out her other two novels to read in 2018.

Best Memoir

Talking As Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham I started 2017 with this book. Remember the Gilmore Girls mania of 2016 that continued into the new year? I adore Lauren Graham, and I thought her book was hilarious.

 

image9“I still find that, in general, having a plan is, well, a good plan. But when my carefully laid plan laughed at me, rather than clutch at it too tightly I just made a new one, even if it was one that didn’t immediately make sense. In blindly trying a different path, I accidentally found one that worked better. So don’t let your plan have the last laugh, but laugh last when your plan laughs, and when your plan has the last laugh, laugh back, laughing!” — Lauren Graham

Must-Read Christian Book

Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to Be Noticed by Sara Hagerty I highly recommend this book, along with Start with Amen by Beth Guckenberger. Read them both!

416nes2z6tl-_sx326_bo1204203200_Every heart longs to be seen and understood. Yet most of our lives are unwitnessed. We spend our days working, driving, parenting. We sometimes spend whole seasons feeling unnoticed and unappreciated. So how do we find contentment when we feel so hidden? In Unseen, Sara Hagerty suggests that this is exactly what God intended. He is the only One who truly knows us. He is the only One who understands the value of the unseen in our lives. When this truth seeps into our souls, we realize that only when we hide ourselves in God can we give ourselves to others in true freedom—and know the joy of a deeper relationship with the God who sees us. Our culture applauds what we can produce, what we can show, what we can upload to social media. Only when we give all of ourselves to God—unedited, abandoned, apparently wasteful in its lack of productivity—can we live out who God created us to be. Through an eloquent exploration of both personal and biblical story, Hagerty calls us to offer every unseen minute of our lives to God. God is in the secret places of our lives that no one else witnesses. But we’ve not been relegated to these places. We’ve been invited. We may be “wasting” ourselves in a hidden corner today: The cubicle on the fourth floor. The hospital bedside of an elderly parent. The laundry room. But these are the places God uses to meet us with a radical love. These are the places that produce the kind of unhinged love in us that gives everything at His feet, whether or not anyone else ever proclaims our name, whether or not anyone else ever sees. God’s invitation is not just for a season or a day. It is the question of our lives: “When no one else applauds you, when it makes no sense, when you see no results—will you waste your love on Me?” (from http://www.sarahagerty.net/unseen)

This book spoke to me on so many levels. This year I began really hearing from God during some quiet moments and prayers, even concerning some of the “mundane” parts of life like basement renovations. I have drawn closer to Him over the past few years, largely because being a stay at home mom for a couple of years gave me a lot of hidden time with Him. Knowing that books are my love language (wink), God sent a lot of free books my way for me to review on my blog, and He spoke to me through those books. Even though I asked Christ into my heart when I was young, I feel like I have gone from thinking about God on intellectual terms first (the creator, C.S. Lewis-style analysis, realizing how far I fall short without grace) to talking about God in terms of relationship (praying with much more ease, seeking his still small voice, knowing He loves me by His grace, seeking His will). I think my experience as a mom has shown me so much of God’s love in a hidden place; growth happens in the hidden places. Now I am back in the work force as a teacher, and this book is a reminder to draw close to God and continue those quiet times that might seem like a “waste” to people who measure value in a different way than God does. It is also my reminder, when I feel judged or unsure, to turn to God in hidden moments. In many ways, I feel like this blog is a “hidden place” for my writing; my first career was writing for newspapers that certainly gave a more steady readership, but newspapers are not really a steady career option nowadays. Somehow, I feel that God will continue to use my writing and creativity in ways that I have not even considered. In truth, there are times I wish my writing were not so hidden, but then again, I also feel like I can be somewhat vulnerable here. From a worldly view, I should feel embarrassed to go from writing professionally to writing on a small blog. At times, I have felt that. Yet, Hagerty writes about where embarrassment really comes from — and it’s not from seeing the way God sees. If you had told me ten years ago that I would be blogging about Christian books for enjoyment, I would have been pretty surprised.

Best Lifestyle Book

at-home-with-madame-chic-1At Home with Madame Chic by Jennifer L. Scott was published a couple years ago, but I just read it this summer. The pages of my book are dog-eared for her recipes and hints. I even adapted a game mentioned in her book (villagers versus werewolves) as a reward game in my classroom (a mash-up of what the game description sounds like, plus the thumbs-up seven-up game), and students love it. I am all about living in a way that incorporates beauty into every day life. Jennifer has a fantastic YouTube channel called The Daily Connoisseur that is full of insightful commentary and tips.

Best Travel Book

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At Home in the World by Tsh Oxenreider is a book I have mentioned several times on my blog. Her book is about a family that decided to “live the life you’ve imagined,” as Thoreau would have said, rather than the life that’s expected. I experienced cultures and places that I have only imagined from the comfort of my couch in this book. I pictured what it would be like to walk down the sidewalk in Hong Kong or snorkel around the Great Barrier Reef with my guys. The book definitely captured my imagination and allowed me to vicariously experience family travel around the world.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Any recommendations?

♥♥ Teresa

Image Credit: I found the graphic for the top of my post at Bustle on Instagram.

 

The Gift of Experiences: Five Memorable Moments You Might Consider Gifting a Young Family

Want to give a memorable gift? Consider giving an experience this Christmas. My mom gave us a season of theater tickets one year, and it was definitely a hit. Yes, we had to wait through the winter to use our gift, but the anticipation itself was fun — and seeing all the musicals that summer made a lot of great date nights for us. Here are a few experiences I would recommend:

  1. Tickets to Diggerland USA. Diggerland is a theme park in New Jersey that my son absolutely adored when I reviewed it on Mama Muse Me a few years ago. It’s a decent drive from Philadelphia, New York, or D.C., and it offers the wow-factor of riding and operating all kinds of construction equipment. Want to be the favorite grandma, dad, or auntie this year (wink)? There is a pretty awesome discount sale coming up on the Diggerland website from Dec. 15-18. The ticket sale price is $24.95 (versus $36.95). Annual passes will be $49.95 (versus $64.95).
  2. Tickets to Dutch Wonderland. The top of the Dutch Wonderland site has a link to several ticket deals that could be used toward summer admission. Another option is to gift Dutch Winter Wonderland tickets that can still be used a few days after Christmas. I just reviewed Dutch Winter Wonderland in Lancaster, Pa., on my blog. I have a promo code that will make your Winter Wonderland visit only $9.99 per ticket online (mamamusemehsblog18) when you visit the Dutch Wonderland site.
  3. Tickets to ride on Thomas Train. Day Out with Thomas is another experience that has been memorable for our family, and the event goes on in lots of different states across the country, as well as in Canada. I don’t see tickets posted for 2018 on the site yet, but you could put a picture of Thomas in a card with a little promise note for when the dates do become available.
  4. Paw Patrol Live. We went to Paw Patrol Live last year and thought it was fantastic. I see tickets for 2018 on the website now.
  5. Something for Mommy and Daddy. The grown-ups need a break too. A spa day, theater or concert tickets, or admission to a winery with a gift card toward a bottle of wine are just a few ideas that popped into my mind. I would gladly take all of the above! I’m the book nerd who is still waiting on someone to gift me a Book of the Month Club membership, lol. If you want to go even more affordable, some popcorn and a Redbox e-gift card would be low-maintenance but still fun.

Have you ever had an experience gifted to you? What do you think about the trend?

Happy Holidays from Teresa!

An Evening of Snow, Rides, and Twinkling Lights at Dutch Winter Wonderland in Lancaster, Pa.

20171209_18095520171209_173427It all started when my son woke up on Saturday morning and informed us, “If you throw an ice cube in the potty, it will snow.” About 20 minutes after he threw in the ice cube, sure enough, the flurries started. “I did it! I did it!” he shouted as he galloped around the house.

My husband and I gave each other a glance. We were planning on taking him to Dutch Winter Wonderland that day, and we were debating whether or not to make the drive in the snow. We cranked up some Christmas music, started decorating the tree, and looked out the window as the snow continued to swirl. As you can see from the photos (spoiler alert), we did decide to make the drive — and I am glad we did because it was a really, really beautiful evening. Here is a glimpse of our Dutch Winter Wonderland experience that was truly magical for our little guy.

 

I wrote about Dutch Wonderland in Lancaster, Pa., when my family visited earlier this summer. The seasonal contrast is pretty neat.

 

 

I love that the cow is wearing a scarf. One perk to visiting at this time of the year is that the tickets cost much less (online promocode for $9.99 per person: mamamusemehsblog18). Another perk is that the park is not crowded. Just get out the snow suits and fleece, and you’re all set. If it’s snowing, I would recommend calling when the park normally opens to make sure Dutch Winter Wonderland is still operating as scheduled. I was really surprised the rides were running in the snow, but I thought it was pretty awesome. I also give kudos to the staff. They worked really hard to make sure the sidewalks were not too slippery, and everyone was really friendly in the cold weather.

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Creating traditions around the holidays is one of the best parts about having a young family. If you live within a driving distance of Lancaster, maybe this could become a new tradition for you. Check out the Dutch Wonderland site for dates, times, and details. Happy Holidays!

♥ Teresa from Mama Muse Me

My family received free admission in return for my honest review post.

What I’m Into: Late Autumn 2017 Edition

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TRAVELS: My family went to see the Mandisa and Danny Gokey Rise Out of the Dark Tour at a beautiful venue near Washington, D.C. Both Mandisa and Danny’s latest albums are inspirational for me, and they have psyched me up many mornings on my way to work. Seeing Mandisa and Danny Gokey in person was a highlight of my November. I just asked my son what he thought of the concert, and he confirmed, “It was cool, mommy.” 🙂 The current albums pair so well together that it is obviously a God thing. They both started out on American Idol, and it is pretty neat to see where their journey has taken them — and how God has enabled them to use their hardest times as a testimony. One of my favorite memories from the evening was seeing my son dance along, while clinging tightly to the stuffed dog he made at the Build-a-Bear Workshop earlier that day. My other favorite part was being able to clap and sing along with so many other people who appreciated the music too; I liked hearing the voices around me rise. The atmosphere of the entire sanctuary was amazing. My husband said he enjoyed Danny Gokey’s delivery of Mary, Did You Know? the best. We got a chuckle out of seeing one person at the concert videoing with several different devices, journaling in a notebook, singing, dancing, and clapping (mega multi-tasking fan, haha). We all kept looking over to see what she would do next; she was having a great time. That evening was the first time I’d ever heard Jasmine Murray (another American Idol contestant), who was one of the opening singers, and I plan to seek out more of her music. Her song, Fearless, was fantastic.

LISTENING: Besides all of the music I just mentioned, I also have the new Kelly Clarkson album playing. I like it (I love Kelly Clarkson in general), but I do wish the songs had more pauses so that the listener could think about the emotion and take in the meaning of the songs. It seems like the fast vocals are driving the songs, and the instrumental part is a little generic. The album is really upbeat and fun though. I think Kelly Clarkson could take the R&B sound even further; if the instrumentals had leaned more toward R&B than pop, it would have been awesome. I would love to see her release a purely R&B album, sans pop, sometime. Her article in Redbook magazine had me thinking the album would sound more R&B than it did, but I thought the article captured her spirit and everything about her that is inspiring. On another note, I am really disappointed in the new Taylor Swift album. Why, Taylor, why?

thumbnail_26006WATCHING: I lucked into finding Paris Can Wait in the Redbox. Part of what makes it so special is that it was written and directed by Eleanor Coppola, wife of Francis Ford Coppola, who filmed The Godfather. Eleanor is in her eighties, and this was her first time directing a film that was not a documentary. The film itself is full of scenes about food and flowers (no, it’s not an action flick, lol), and I thought it was full of charm. It made me feel like I was in France, eating decadent food, smelling the flowers, and getting the grand tour from a Frenchman. I am still a little torn about the ending (I don’t want to spoil it), but I did like how Diane Lane gave the camera a little wink at the end.

READING: I am in the process of reading Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World That Loves to Be Noticed by Sara Hagerty. This book is full of paradigm-shifting truths that I am going to be considering for awhile. I plan on writing more about what I learned when I finish the whole book. In a lot of ways, I feel like God has kept me in “hidden” seasons, and there have been times I’ve wondered why. I feel like Sara does a good job at explaining what could really be happening in those times that we feel hidden, especially those times when people or events in our lives lead us to ask, in contrast to outside judgements, “How does God see me?”

LIKING: The sequined hoodies and jackets that I’m seeing would look really cute for the holidays. I’m also asking Santa Hubby for a Kindle Paperwhite this year.

THINKING AHEAD: I’ve already rolled out sugar cookie shapes and frozen them so that we can bake and decorate them whenever we are ready during the Christmas season. That makes it a little more relaxing than trying to do all of the dough making, cookie “cuttering,” baking, and icing at once.

As the holiday season quickly approaches, let me wish you an early Merry Christmas!

♥ Teresa

Bible Journaling with the ESV Illuminated Bible

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The ESV Illuminated Bible is a really beautiful choice for Bible Journaling. It has wide margins that are ideal for Bible Journaling. Some of the margins are blank, but others have gold illustrations that are really lovely for journaling when you do not want to start from scratch.

I love how the gold ink looks, and I like how the style is inspired by the historical tradition of illuminated manuscripts. To learn a little bit about illuminated manuscripts, click here. An art museum near me is having an exhibition of illuminated manuscripts that date back to the 13th through 16th centuries, so I am lucky enough to see some examples of this tradition in person right now. I wish I could take photos of the exhibition to share on my blog, but photography is not allowed (which makes sense, considering how old the pages and scrolls are).

This Bible places the full ESV text alongside over 500 elegantly hand-lettered gold ink illustrations by renowned artist Dana Tanamachi. Even without your own Bible Journaling, it is already a work of art in itself. This version is large, compared to some of the smaller journaling Bibles that are easy to fit in a purse and take on the go, but I highly recommend it. Several students in my Bible Journaling Club where I teach still need Journaling Bibles, so I passed this one along to a student as soon as I received it. Honestly, I would have liked to keep it for myself, but I think this Bible is now in the hands of someone who will really appreciate it.

I can give away one copy of the ESV Illuminated Bible. If you are interested in being entered into the drawing, email me at mamamuseme@gmail.com with your full name and address. I will email you back if you win.

Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255 (Guidelines Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising): Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway. Choice of winners and opinions are 100 percent my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation. I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review post. Only one entrance per mailing address, per giveaway. I found the photo illustration for my post here.

 

What I’m Into: Fall 2017 Edition

 

20171021_142424.jpgTRAVELS: I took a road trip to North Carolina earlier this month and stopped by Nest Fest because I thought it would be a beautiful event, and I was pretty curious about it. I wanted to get my copy of At Home in the World signed by Tsh Oxenreider too. I handed Tsh my book to sign, had our pictures taken together, and almost walked away before it hit me: I hadn’t told her how much I appreciate what she does and how meaningful her work is! I’m glad I did remember to say it, though. This is what happens when a shy, introverted person tries to get a book signed in a bustling line of people, lol. Anne Bogel’s table was really busy, and I have an audio version of her book, so I didn’t make it to her table — but I definitely did the “ah, that’s what she looks like in real life” glance of a fan. After the book signing, I walked around to the different tents and RVs filled with home decor and crafts with my son. My little guy, who is naturally curious and pretty well-behaved, was really good company. He enjoyed listening to the music, checking out the free-roaming rooster, and assessing the RVs. When we got home, he loved unboxing the craft kit we bought from the adorable Crowned Sparrow Co. and helping me make a little piece of art to hang on his bedroom wall.

ONE FOR THE BUCKET LIST: I rented a pontoon with my family and spent a gorgeous fall day on a huge lake. When I reserved the pontoon, I had no idea it would be so clean and pretty, with comfortable leather seats. Driving a boat safely is a little less easy-breezy than you might imagine (you do have to know some rules, lol). We watched the videos and passed the test to get our temporary boating license, and our only real fail of the day was when one side of our anchor rope blew back into the propeller and left us stranded for about 20 minutes. We will know to watch for that next time. Seeing the autumn leaves from a pontoon is, frankly, pretty awesome.

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LISTENING: Right now, I like the old school country sound of Midland. I’m looking forward to Taylor Swift’s new album. I’m also playing the original “Camelot” on vinyl a lot because the Kennedys were such fans of it. In the words of King Arthur, “Don’t let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief, shining moment, that was known as Camelot.” I guess I’m longing for the peace, integrity, and chivalry.

YUM FACTOR: Artigiano Vino Rosso Cheese (It’s made in Wisconsin, soaked in red wine, and freakin’ delicious.)

MY STORE: Torrid, thank you for existing for the curvy ladies who want to dress in a way that’s fun. I get so many compliments on my clothes. They’re even selling a Luke’s Diner (Gilmore Girls) shirt right now that was a must-have for me.

PRAYER REQUEST: I started a Bible Journaling Club at the school where I teach, so please pray for the students who show up at it. Some do not go to church, and some do not identify as Christians. The students like to paint and draw, so the art aspect intrigues them. It is an incredible opportunity, and I am in awe of how God has already worked on behalf of our club.

MY SHORT PRAYER: Light the path. Make the way straight. Direct my steps, Lord.

Happy Fall!

Teresa

 

My Latest Round of Book Reviews

Blue Ridge Sunrise by Denise Hunter

The first half of this fiction book reads like any other fiction book, not really one of the Christian genre, until about half way through the book. It’s not Urban Cowboy level dysfunction, but the characters are human. Around the middle of the book, characters start having realizations about how they are not making good decisions in their lives apart from God’s guidance; in that way, I think Denise Hunter does something new and interesting in the Christian fiction market, instead of starting with innocent characters. Some people will like it, and some will probably be upset by it. It’s a book about grace, about the role that control and independence play in our lives, and about how a family that is seemingly broken can come together. I like the idea of the grandma character, who leaves her peach orchard to the main character, Zoe, in her will, in an effort to bring Zoe back to her roots. I also like the imagery of Zoe as a lion, wild and untamed when she was younger. If you enjoy an enduring love story and watch Hallmark movies, you will probably like this book. Unfortunately, I kept thinking about Cruz Ramirez from the Cars 3 movie every time I saw Cruz’s name in the book — which took away some of the romance for me (haha, mom fail). The constant emotional dissection for every character does make the book feel like a therapy session at times, and certain plot elements seemed a bit contrived (I don’t want to give away too much of the book by going into detail on this point), but I thought it was a redeeming story overall. I can easily see this book as a Hallmark movie.

Staying Stylish: Cultivating a Confident Look, Style, and Attitude by Candace Cameron Bure

This hardcover book is filled with Candace’s tips on style, packing a suitcase, skincare, spiritual wellness, and other daily practices. I thought the photos were beautiful, even though I would have liked to see some more truly candid shots rather than so many shots that looked posed and edited. Her tip to organize your suitcase by items was a pretty good one (rather than by outfit, just in case you want to mix and match). I had heard a lot of the fashion advice before, but I thought it was pretty neat that she shared the brand of skincare she uses (Lancer Method). When she recommended books, I thought it was really neat that she has read A Million Little Ways by Emily Freeman. I would like to read some of the other books she recommends. Just the fact that Candace will take a journal and a Christian book along with her when she’s traveling makes me like her even more than I already did. I grew up with her as DJ Tanner, and I’ve watched some of the new Fuller House episodes on Netflix. I think this book would be an excellent gift for teenage girls and for women who grew up watching Full House.

NIV, The Sola Scriptura Bible Project: The Complete Collection

240_360_book-2394-coverIn the same spirit of Bible reading in the early church, the NIV Sola Scriptura Bible Project removes chapter and verse numbers, red letters, and cross references found in modern Bibles. The Old Testament is arranged according to traditional Hebrew ordering, and the New Testament is reorganized, placing each of the four Gospels as sectional heads. The printing job on the four books is absolutely beautiful, and I feel such deep appreciation that I was sent this version of the Bible for free in return for an honest review. I have this version of the scriptures setting on top of my bookshelf, and the four hardcover cloth books look wonderful decoratively — but they won’t just be a decoration. These will serve as a reading experience for the NIV scriptures. Today, I sat down and read the first 42 pages of the Torah volume. It is pretty neat to read Genesis without numbers or cross-references getting in the way. Of course, it is important to have  chapters and verses listed in your regular Bible so that the scriptures can be studied and referenced more easily, but the reading experience with NIV Sola Scriptura is excellent. Obviously, the original writers of the scriptures did not put chapter and verse numbers in their texts. “The present system of chapter divisions was devised in the thirteenth century, and our present verse divisions weren’t added until the sixteenth,” the preface explains. As a person who loves to read, I am completely on board with this version of the Bible. I think it is an incredible idea, and I’m glad to own and read the Bible this way. This might even help me finally read the entire Bible from cover to cover, as I have wanted to do for a long time. I love it when Christians think outside the box and still stay true to God’s original message. As a side note, this set weighs about eight pounds; that’s more than my son weighed when he was born (lol).

30 Days to Peace

This hard cover journal is full of prompts focused on peace — how you define it, how you find it, colors that remind you of it, and so forth. I like the idea. I am going to keep this journal for the next month leading into the Christmas season, as a writing practice for Advent.

Everyday Watercolor: Learn to Paint Watercolor in 30 Days by Jenna Rainey

This book is easy to understand. It gives suggestions for the best supplies, but it does not overwhelm you with the suggestions. Some how-to books go so over the top on the recommended supply list that it becomes intimidating to move forward, but I think the recommendations listed here are do-able. I want to learn how to watercolor, so I think I am going to ask for the supplies for Christmas. The techniques could come in handy for Bible Journaling or as a way to bring a little more creative expression into my life in general. The steps seem easy to follow for a beginner who wants to build skills. I think the illustrations in the book are lovely.

Noelle by Greg Kincaid

This book is a quick read to get you in the holiday spirit, especially if you’re a dog person. It’s the fourth installment of novels about the McCray family of Kansas. I’m a newbie to the series, but it works fine as an independent read. The dog on the cover looks a little bit like mine, so I couldn’t resist. If you’re looking for a novel for the holidays, I recommend this one. Curl up with a quilt, your slippers, some hot cocoa, and your own dog by your side.

Be the Gift by Ann Voskamp

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I have not read Ann’s other two books that probably influenced this one, but One Thousand Gifts is on my reading list. Her latest book, Be the Gift, is full of spiritual truth, but it is not something to read when you want to just feel lighthearted and move on with your day. The feeling of sadness and sacrifice — and the quiet joy that comes in the midst of those when you focus on giving and thanksgiving — is prevalent. The feeling of sadness stuck with me in a way that made my heart ache for the tragedy that the writer has experienced in her own life. The Christian walk is often about self-sacrifice and joy in the midst of sadness. Rather than comforted, I felt uncomfortable (which is not necessarily bad, as the Christian life is not entirely comfortable if you are really following Christ). Part of “being the gift” in a hurting world is the willingness to minister to people who are going through hard times, to inconvenience yourself, to walk through the sadness with them, to give when others would take, to stay when others would pull away. At this current stage of my life, I find myself often putting the needs of others around me ahead of my own, which feels pretty draining sometimes, to be honest. I understand what Ann is saying, so I find myself going to Christ and praying, “Fill me so that I can keep doing what you are asking. Fill me so that I can do a better job at this life You would have me lead. Light my way. Guide my steps. Make the path straight.” Without thanksgiving, it is impossible to keep the mindset necessary to journey through hard times. Communion with Christ comes through thanksgiving and through sharing in — and accepting, with thanks — his sacrifice. This is how we have a strength that those who are not Christians might find hard to understand. This book is about turning your brokenness into abundance.

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Finding Gobi: The Amazing True Story by Dion Leonard

I am a person who adores dogs; a dog story gets me right in the heart every time, and this story is no exception. Gobi, the cute little dog on the cover, starts running after Leonard as he competes in a marathon across the desert of China. Leonard and Gobi form a major bond, joined by their journey across sand and rivers, and Leonard is heart-broken to have to leave Gobi after the race. He begins a quest to bring Gobi home to Scotland with him, but international laws and cultural views about dogs create many obstacles. Leonard even takes a sabbatical from his job for six months in order to complete the logistics necessary to make Gobi a part of his life. The story is heart-warming, even though I found myself wondering how Leonard did not give up as the challenges seemed to stack against him. This really is a story about the lengths someone will go to for love. Since it is a young readers’ edition, the sentence structure is not necessarily compelling on an adult level, but the story itself is very compelling. I am now passing the book around to my students at school. I told them about Gobi and showed them the pictures, and many of them want to read this book. I told them we could make it into a little book club and talk about the book as students finish it. There are a few blank pages toward the back, so I told them to write each other short notes about what they thought of the book. I read some other reviews from people who wished this book stopped at the end of the race, but the story really is not complete if you stop after the race. Gobi pursues Leonard during the race, but then Leonard must pursue Gobi to complete the circle. Even though this book does not have an overt Christian message, it makes me think about how Christ pursues the church, and we pursue Him in return. Gobi: A Little Dog with a Big Heart is a children’s picture book, also by Dion Leonard. It has a ton of charm, and the writing easily holds a child’s attention. There’s something about a dog making friends with a marathon runner and going on a race together that really appeals to a child. The true story appeals to me as an adult too, especially because I am a dog lover. When I finished reading the book, my son said, “That was cool!”

 

 

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The Life-Changing Manga of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

I thought this book was really cute and gave me some ideas that I will apply in my own home. I have not read the original book that this manga was based upon, but you would have to be living under a rock to not already know about the concept of “sparking joy” that Kondo has popularized. I liked how the visual element of the manga made her folding methods really easy to understand. I plan on going through my clothes and books in the way that she describes and eventually tackling everything else in the order that she recommends. I already tend to be somewhat minimalist about what I’m willing to bring into my home; I don’t need every new gadget. My home is already joyful and functional, but her method can help me hone those areas even more. Some of her ideas sound a little silly, but I might try them anyway (no promises, lol). In the manga, the chaos of the poor main character is pretty exaggerated, and the story line is funny in its obvious direction; the character will start dating her handsome neighbor (who already knows how to be tidy) as soon as the poor gal figures out the magic of tidying up, of course.

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Of Mess and Moxie: Wrangling Delight out of this Wild and Glorious Life by Jen Hatmaker

The direction Hatmaker is taking with this book is not as strong as the message she had in For the Love or Seven. I had high hopes for Of Mess and Moxie because I had read and enjoyed her last book (plus I had seen her current book featured in Redbook), but this collection of essays did not resonate with me. The title sounded intriguing, but I felt like the essays were not really cohesive, and the recipes seemed random (including variations on a couple recipes I have already seen in another Christian essay collection). Honestly, I will still try the recipes anyway, and I bet they will be good. I read two books this summer that had a pretty big spiritual impact for me (Start with Amen and He Calls You Beautiful), so my bar was set pretty high for Christian writing. I feel like a lot of the ideas that Hatmaker addressed have already been covered very well by Christian writers in recent years. I did think her “how to” sections were hilarious; for me, that was the best part of the book. Humor is definitely her strong suit.

 

I received all of these books in return for my honest review from Book Look Bloggers and Blogging for Books.

Five Reasons for Gratitude

I’m sitting on my swing with my laptop and pretty French coffee cup, looking at the trees and listening to the birds sing. Life is so far from perfect, but I do know that I am very blessed today. Some of my favorite memories from this summer have been going to Dutch Wonderland, a day trip to the ocean, and an afternoon at the lake. As I’m reflecting this Friday morning, here are five reasons for gratitude.

  1. Being called a “daughter” of Christ. I grew up in church but never heard the phrasing “daughter of Christ” consistently until this summer. It has shown up over and over in my life, like God is trying to tell me, “yes, I mean YOU.” I have struggled with a feeling of belonging for awhile. I grew up in a little country community where everyone knew everyone; people knew me, my parents, and sometimes even stories about my great-great grandparents. Then the housing boom happened. Now I rarely know people when I go places. Some of the roads are semi-scary to drive on because they were never meant to have this kind of population on them, and there is a drug epidemic in a place that used to feel like Mayberry. On top of that, these past ten years have brought changes (and a lot of hurt, to be honest) from some people that I thought would be constants in my life. When I married my husband, he already owned a house in an area where people enjoy a lifestyle, complete with the golf course, that I have trouble connecting with, and I have never really bought into (or lets be honest, ever had the money for) that way of living. I love nature that we can see from the backyard and the beautiful family we have built inside of the house though. Add the job losses that both my husband and I went through during the down economic times, and it is easy to see where things that I had “counted on” and things that I thought brought me worth were very, very temporary. I also found that I disagreed with many Christians around me during the presidential election. Yet, God calls me his daughter. That is a constant. That is unchanging. That is a beautiful thing. Strangely enough, God really started to call this idea to my attention when I decided to sponsor an orphan in another country. Really, he kept telling me he wanted me to do it in his still, quiet voice and was specific about the little girl’s name. After I said “yes” to him for something that he was asking me so clearly to do, He started pointing out how I am a daughter, not an orphan in his eyes too.
  2. The ancestor who looked so much like me that it’s uncanny.  Margret Dunham (1858-1924)Around the time that I was embracing the phrase of being a “daughter of Christ” this summer, I saw this picture of an ancestor for the first time. I did a double and triple-take because she looked so much like me. I showed the picture to my husband just to make sure I wasn’t exaggerating, and he said it looks like me dressed up in old fashioned clothes. I could see my own eye shape, eyebrows, mouth, hair — my face — in this woman named Margret who was a child during the Civil War. How’s that for connection?
  3. Finding beauty in the Song of Songs. Also called the Song of Solomon, this book of the Bible was forbidden by the ancients for anyone under 30, according to He Calls You Beautiful by Dee Brestin (p.28). Fortunately, I am past that mark (wink). In the past, I had heard of the Song as a tribute to marriage and the sensuality of that bond, but Brestin’s book illuminates the Song as so much more than that. I opened my Bible and read the entire Song aloud before I started reading Brestin’s book, and what I was first struck by was the sheer beauty of the words. Being a person who loves the written and spoken word, I was in awe. This is beautiful, I thought. I highly encourage you to read Song of Songs aloud if you never have and then pick up a book like He Calls You Beautiful to help bring its message into focus. Brestin writes of the many similarities between the couple in the Song in relation to Christ and his church. The man in the Song is a Shepherd-King, and he pursues, waits, goes away, and returns to his beloved. The Song is not an allegory, where everything is literally a parallel symbol of something else, but it is full of allusions. Brestin writes: “I believe the primary focus of the Song, as with every other book in the Bible, is the relationship between God and his people. But whether you see the primary focus as a husband and wife or as Jesus and His bride, I know you will be blessed by seeing both” (p.28). I received a copy of the book from Blogging for Books in return for my honest review, and I highly recommend it. I plan on reading it more than once.

    I believe you will be greatly refreshed to see that you are more cherished than you dared to dream. The Song will help press that truth into your heart, for it is one thing to be told that God rejoices over us as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, but it is quite another to see it. — Dee Brestin

    4. Learning my Happiness Style. I took the Happiness Style Quiz on Jennifer Dukes Lee’s site and learned that I am primarily a thinker, closely followed by being an experiencer. This makes a lot of sense to me because, for me, my “happy place” truly is reading books and thinking about life. Yet, I am also the person who gets lost in the beauty of a sunset, who really likes to experience art, music, travel, nature, and the taste of homemade Amish rootbeer on a summer day. The experiencer looks for happiness in moments rather than in a store. I feel like I have been “explained.” Other happiness styles include the relater, the giver, and the doer. I read The Happiness Dare for some more explanation of each style. I think this gives me an interesting, new way to look at myself and the people around me.

    5. The little surprise. I am getting ready to set up my classroom and start another year in the wonderful, wacky world of Language Arts, and I have had one thing on my mind: a little coffee brewer. I could picture myself making coffee and brewing hot tea during my planning period. I could literally taste the hot tea. I don’t really like sharing a communal Keurig because you never know if it’s being descaled and cleaned as well as you’d hope (maybe I’m the only one who thinks about that stuff…). I thought about buying a little one-cup brewer for my room. I thought about it a lot. Then I went to an Alzheimer’s fundraiser concert, and I won the exact brewer I was thinking about in a drawing. Yay for that!

Hope you are having a great month. If you have any thoughts, email me at mamamuseme@gmail.com. Please continue to pray for my healing after a leg surgery that did not go as smoothly as I had hoped earlier this summer. If you have made it this far on this long blog post, I really, really appreciate you!

xoxo Teresa

Linking up with High Five for Friday and Tell His Story.

 

Dutch Wonderland Amusement Park in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country: A Great Day Trip from Washington, D.C. or a Fun-Filled Stop for Your East Coast Vacation

I have vivid memories of visiting Dutch Wonderland in Pennsylvania’s Amish Country when I was a little girl. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of introducing my son to the theme park for the first time.

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It’s a short day trip from the Washington, D.C. or Philadelphia area, and it’s well worth the drive if you have little ones around ages 3 to 10. Opened in the 1960s, the park still has a really neat mix of vintage attractions along with its modern rides. Dutch Wonderland is a “kingdom for kids,” starting with its huge castle-shaped entrance and its cast of characters that roam the park, and continuing with its rides that will make kids feel like a prince or princess for a day.

 

This park really is amazing for younger kids who aren’t quite big enough to ride at regular amusement park. At 38 inches tall, my four-year-old son could ride almost all of the rides (he needed to be accompanied by an adult sometimes). Honestly, I wasn’t sure what he would think because he was still a little afraid of the car ride at Chuck E Cheese a couple months ago. I didn’t need to worry at all, though, because he dove right into the fun and wasn’t afraid of any of the rides – including ones that went fast or high.

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This was my favorite ride.

Let me bring you along with us for the day. We entered the park about a half-hour after it opened and went straight for the little hand-cranked riding trains. Since it was still early, the line was short enough that my son got on different trains and went around four times without having to wait. He had been on hand-cranked trains at Strasburg Railroad before, so he felt comfortable with those already. From there, we went on the monster trucks several times, the frog ride that takes kids up in the air and bounces them around a little a few times, and the monorail (which my son called “the air train”) to get a view of the entire kingdom.

 

He “milked” the cow that squirts water out of its udder, which I remember doing as a girl, and then he drove the remote controlled cars a bunch of times. The RC cars do take tokens, so have a few extra dollars with you if your child is into that.  At that point, we were hot and hungry, so we checked out the food options. The buffet was air conditioned, which is a plus, but it was also pretty pricey, so we decided on Nathan’s Hotdogs, just to the right hand side once you’re inside the park, instead. We thought the hotdogs, fries, and lemonade were yummy and reasonably priced for amusement park food. Usually, we do eat healthier than that, but hey, it is fun to splurge sometimes. For families that have food concerns, there are healthier choices too.

 

Just past the Nathan’s Stand was a face-painting area, and my son wanted to look like Marshall the Fire Dog. Ta-da! He was so proud to look like Marshall. After that, he rode the merry-go-round a bunch of times. Then we hopped on my favorite ride of the day that made us fly around like Super Man. For a kid’s ride, I thought it went pretty high and fast. It was awesome. Carson wanted to ride it again, but I told him mommy would lose my lunch if we did it again (lol).  Around that time, a princess and a wizard stopped to chat with Carson, which was a good distraction.

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From there, we went to the big slide, little construction diggers, a roller coaster, the vintage Turnpike Cars (such a cool attraction), and a boat ride that paralleled the Turnpike cars. It was late afternoon at that point, so my husband and I sat on a shady bench and watched Carson bike around a track many, many times.

20170722_171446We stopped to take a photo at the giant pretzel, which I feel like my family did when I was young too. My son rode the whip ride a bunch of times, and then we saw the Badland Bears show, which I also am pretty sure my family watched when I was a girl. The automated bear band sings country and bluegrass songs like “Country Roads” and “Grandma’s Featherbed.”

Next up was the airplane ride, the space shuttles, and the water park. Daddy bought Carson the plastic toy boat that he had been obsessing about so that he could play with it on the water tables. Carson got splashed in the face, and his cute Marshall face paint ended up looking more like he was a zombie who had been doing some greasy mechanical work under a car by the time he was done playing. Fortunately, my son could not see his own face. It was about a half hour before the park was going to close, so we walked back toward the entrance and ended the day by buying a couple of photo keychains to keep the memories with us.

It might sound cheesy, but I really will cherish all of the smiles and laughs from that day. Even with a couple of rides closed for roller coaster construction, there was plenty to keep us busy for nine hours. We collapsed into our vehicle, and both Carson and my husband were asleep within minutes of being on the highway toward home.

Dutch Wonderland generously gave our family free admission to the park, and we spent our own money once we were inside the park. To help you budget if you decide to go, meals, face-painting, driving the RC cars, drinks, a toy boat for the water park, sunglasses, and souvenir keychains added up to about $70 for us. You can use the discount code MamaMuseMeSBlog16 to save a few dollars on admission if you order tickets online. Thank you, Dutch Wonderland, for a wonderful family experience.

 

 

 

 

Start with Amen

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So be it.

That’s amen.

When you start a prayer with amen — so be it — you are saying that God is in control, and you’re agreeing with him that he will do what is best before the prayer even starts. That is not an easy posture, to admit that you’re not in control, but it is a beautiful form of worship. It shows trust that God has your ultimate good in mind, even if his will is not the easiest path to take. Honestly, it might not be the easy path — but he is up to something eternally good, even when we cannot seem to see it this side of heaven.

Amen “was the congregational response of affirmation or agreement in both Hebrew and Greek gatherings” in the Bible, the “expression of praise to the Lord,” and “the confirmation of a blessing,” according to Start with Amen by Beth Guckenberger (p. 189).

♥ Amen

When someone embraces this word and uses it with the solemnity it deserves, there is a sense of settle that follows. I accept. I affirm. I praise. I bless. It testifies in two syllables to the conviction that God’s way is best. We might not always understand his ways, and certainly we might not always like them, but we can always be confident of them.  (Start with Amen p.189)

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Lamentations 3:21

In Start with Amen, Beth Guckenberger quotes a staggering statistic that out of 2 billion children in the world today, 1 billion have been abused — assaulted physically, verbally, emotionally, or sexually. As an educator, I think about my own students when I hear this, and my heart breaks. I think about children in other countries who are orphans. My heart is stirred: what more can I do to share God’s love with those who have not felt it? Guckenberger also writes about the “orphan spirit” that shows up in believers, those who think they can somehow earn his love through works and those who lack spiritual confidence. In the book’s prologue, she writes:

As for me? I am to live and love like a daughter [of God], talk like a daughter. I am to invite and extend myself and risk . . . I am to root myself in his identity and not gorge myself on counterfeit affections. I am then to testify every chance I get: freedom is found in forfeiting my own way. Amen.

As I was reading this book, God spoke to me specifically and deeply. As I asked questions of Him, He answered and let me know that His presence was there. Acts 2:26 showed up twice in my day and felt significant both times. I saw the verse in A Homemade Year by Jerusalem Jackson Greer (a neat book, I might add) and then again in Start with Amen. God seemed to be telling me to pay attention to it.

Acts 2:26 (The Message)

I’ve pitched my tent in the land of hope.

I had a surgery on my leg over a week ago, and I am having some type of very bad post-surgery allergic reaction that the doctor has never seen before. It looks like I have burns and welts all over my leg. I am praying, and I know others are praying for me too. I feel like I am in a land of unknowns right now, and obviously it is not an easy thing to go through. I wanted to be outside with my son, enjoying this beautiful time of the year instead of in a place full of unknowns. I know I am not in control of this situation, but I am trusting that God will take care of me (amen♥). I started reading Start with Amen the day after my surgery. It is challenging me and comforting me at the same time.

xoxo Teresa

*I received Start with Amen from Book Look Bloggers in return for my honest review. I found the photo at the top of my post here (not an affiliate link).

Travel, Tunes, and Reads

I’m going to be collaborating with Dutch Wonderland in Pennsylvania for a travel feature on my blog later this summer, so I’m excited for that. If you’re going there, here is a link for a discount especially for my blog readers. The promo code is MamaMuseMeSBlog16.

For a short list of what I’m loving so far this summer, it would have to be the new Mandisa “Out of the Dark” album that leaves me in such a joyful mood, really neat looking temporary tattoos from tattly.com that I plan on wearing all summer, and my new Keen hiking shoes that are working out great on the trails.

I just finished reading The Hopefuls by Jennifer Close, and I thought it was a great fictional peek at Washington, D.C. I took a little day trip to the Spy Museum in D.C. and bought the book not long after that. My family is going full throttle at summer already, with an outdoor concert and a beautiful day at the lake already checked off the bucket list.

Hope your summer is off to a fun start too! If you’re curious about the Mandisa album, you can listen to most of it on YouTube right now.

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I am checking out Positive Discipline: Tools for Teachers by Jane Nelsen and Kelly Gfroerer, sent to me by Blogging for Books in return for my honest review. It has tips for modeling kind and firm leadership in the classroom, keeping students intrinsically motivated (very important), improving self-regulation, and more. I have heard most of this in my education classes and trainings, but it’s good to have a refresher.

♥Teresa

A Place I Felt At Home in the World

athome-smIn celebration of the release of her new book, At Home in the World, about a year spent traveling around the world with her family of five, Tsh Oxenreider is challenging readers to share where they have felt most at home in the world. Before I tell you my place, let me share how much I have been looking forward to reading this book. I went to the travel section of Barnes and Noble the day her book was released this week and immediately bought a copy. I want to support her work because I believe in her message of simplicity, a global perspective, and Christianity that is rooted in Christ’s teachings — not skewed by a political view, not superficial. I listen to her podcast regularly and consider her to be a great influence toward a life lived with intention and reflection.

My travels have taken me abroad to the high-energy sidewalks of London, to a misty fjord of Tadoussac to see whales, to the mountains of Alberta to slide down a waterfall, and to the Caribbean, where the snorkeling was a stunning show of colors and sea life. One trip closer to home that really stands out to me was Asheville, NC, because our week was filled with wonderful live music, food, friendly people, and an evening spent at an outdoor spa hot tub. I’ve only ever had one bad travel experience — on our honeymoon — when our travel agent sent us to St. Thomas, in a spot that ended up being over-priced and sketchy, but we made the best of that.

When I think of where I feel most at home in the world, I would probably pick my cozy red living room chair, curled up with a book and a cup of hot tea, with my Sheltie at my side and my son playing with his Thomas trains on the floor. That would be closely followed by a walk on my family’s farm where I grew up or a hike in the beautiful forest trails near the house where we live now. Hiking with my Sheltie and breathing the fresh air as the trees stretch high above brings such a connection to the land, to God’s creative hand, and to myself. With this view of the world, valuing simplicity and nature, is it any wonder that my husband and I are great admirers of Henry David Thoreau?

I wrote the following post on my blog a few years ago, but the theme of feeling at home in the world brought it to mind again. It connects two of my favorite writers — Lucy Maud Montgomery and Henry David Thoreau — with my travel experience of being engaged at Walden Pond.

“It gave a strange reality to the books 
of theirs which I have read 
to see those places where they 
once lived and labored.– L.M. Montgomery

440px-lmm_signed_photoI saw something in a blog recently that gave me a feeling of awe. The writer probably didn’t realize what she wrote would touch someone else so deeply – but she told me that one of my childhood dreams had partially come true five years ago.

I didn’t even realize it back then.

My dream reveals an early level of literary geekdom: I wanted to visit Prince Edward Island to walk in the steps of author L.M. Montgomery, who wrote the Anne of Green Gables stories, to make the stories come alive for me even more than they already had in the past.

When I was young, I loved Anne’s imagination, her dramatic way of speaking, how she had a best friend as true and loyal as Diana, how she yearned for stylish puffed sleeves, and how she was so oblivious to Gilbert’s love at first. As I grew older and kept returning to the books and movies, I saw the character of Anne as someone who was a role model — a writer, a teacher, a friend, someone whose love ran deep. Anne and Diana were real to me.

The blog said L.M. Montgomery made a literary pilgrimage in 1910 to Concord, Massachusetts — the spot where American greats including Thoreau, Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott once lived and wrote.

Montgomery wrote: “[Concord] is a most charming spot and I shall never forget the delightful drive we had around it. We saw the ‘Old Manse’ where Hawthorne lived during his honeymoon and where he wrote ‘Mosses from an Old Manse,’ the ‘Wayside’ where he also lived, the ‘Orchard House’ where Louisa Alcott wrote, and Emerson’s house.”

My mind immediately connected: L.M. Montgomery had been to Concord to visit literary spots; my husband and I were engaged there five years ago and visited those same spots after a very long drive from our hometown. My husband got down on one knee at the site of Thoreau’s cabin at Walden Pond, and later that day, we visited the Old Manse that L.M. Montgomery had also written about visiting. We ended up seeing the Alcott house and spending a lot of time in Boston, not too far from Concord.

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It was a romantic engagement that created lifelong memories way before I realized the new connection.

As I read the blog, the realization hit: I had probably walked in L.M. Montgomery’s footsteps without even realizing it. It wasn’t how I imagined it happening, but seeing my memories in this new light is inspiring.

I still want to visit Prince Edward Island someday. In the meantime, I think it’s amazing that my own feet have already travelled a little closer to the steps of L.M. Montgomery than I had realized. As a person of faith, I believe we can never fully know all of the connections that life has in store for us. I’m thankful for the sweet surprises that are revealed along the way, and I’m also thankful for the parts of the story that are yet to be known.

 

 

 

 

I hope life surprises you this week.

With love and blessings,

Teresa from Mama Muse Me

 

Wonderfully Made

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Psalm 139:14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.

In Jen Wilkin’s book None Like Him — which I highly recommend — she writes that the verses in Psalm 139 go far beyond body image. They are about the awe of God’s power and presence in general. Yet, as I read, I cannot help but see the verse in both aspects: a reminder that God created me wonderfully, and a reminder of God’s wonder that goes so far beyond me and my physical self.

On this Bible journaling page, I celebrated the idea of being wonderfully made. I used crayons to write out “wonderfully made” and then watercolored over the page. On the opposite side, I glued a photo of a time that I took on the physical challenge of walking 6 1/2 miles on the Appalachian Trail with a friend earlier this summer. It took us hours because it was very rocky. There were times when I had to slide down boulders because I am short. Other times, we could barely perceive the trail because everything around us was so rocky. The part we hiked was considered “moderate,” but it felt like a huge accomplishment. I don’t think I would do it again because it was not entirely pleasant, and I was just glad to not bust my face, haha. Yet, it was wonderful to be in nature, take on the challenge, and spend time with my friend. I felt like I was looking down most of the time to keep from tripping on rocks, so sometimes I had to pause just to look around and take in the beauty that was around us.

One step at a time . . .

Teresa

Staying Fully Present

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The verses for today’s Bible journaling entry inspired awe in me. The complete verses are at the bottom of this post if you would like to start your day with them as well. Something I have been considering and that God has been continually bringing to my attention this summer is the idea of how He is the only one who can be in more than one place at one time. I cannot expect perfection of myself because humans were created with limitations. To honor God, it is best to be fully present wherever you are placed at the moment, do your best, and trust God to handle the rest. I typed out some thoughts about that on my computer and used Mod Podge to glue the page into my journaling Bible. This is what I wrote:

Only God can be more than one place at one time — omnipresent. In honor to Him, I can be fully present where I am physically placed. I don’t need to be two places at once; I literally cannot be. I can bring my thoughts back to my present spot when I feel like I am not accomplishing enough, giving enough, or not as “in control” of a situation as I would like to be. I cannot be rested, recharging, nurturing others, and accomplishing a big to do list all at once, all the time. God created humans with this limitation, so I can trust that it is for my own good. I can be reassured that GOD IS EVERYWHERE I cannot be, and I can put the unknown into his hands.

These thoughts came to me after I read the book None Like Him: 10 Ways God is Different from Us (and Why That’s a Good Thing) by Jen Wilkin earlier this summer.

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Now, here are the verses that inspired me. Particularly, Psalm 139:7 reminds me God’s presence is everywhere.

Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,for his steadfast love endures forever.

Psalm 139:1-18 O Lord, you have searched me and known me!
2 You know when I sit down and when I rise up;
you discern my thoughts from afar.
3 You search out my path and my lying down
and are acquainted with all my ways.
4 Even before a word is on my tongue,
behold, O Lord, you know it altogether.
5 You hem me in, behind and before,
and lay your hand upon me.
6 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;
it is high; I cannot attain it.
7 Where shall I go from your Spirit?
Or where shall I flee from your presence?
8 If I ascend to heaven, you are there!
If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there!
9 If I take the wings of the morning
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
10 even there your hand shall lead me,
and your right hand shall hold me.
11 If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me,
and the light about me be night,”
12 even the darkness is not dark to you;
the night is bright as the day,
for darkness is as light with you.
13 For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts, O God!
How vast is the sum of them!
18 If I would count them, they are more than the sand.
I awake, and I am still with you.

Have a great week!

Teresa

Reflecting

I’ve enjoyed sharing my Bible journaling journey with you over the past four months. Hopefully you have been encouraged through the winter. It has been fun to express my faith in this way; Bible journaling has brought me comfort and challenged me at the same time.

As summer approaches, I’ve decided to take a break from my weekly Bible journaling posts. I want to enjoy the warm days with my son, cherish our time together, and Bible journal just for personal reflection as the spirit leads. I plan on writing some posts and doing book reviews over the summer, so you will still hear from me. In the meantime, looking back, here are a few of my favorites from the past four months.

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On a personal note, I am just wrapping up my master’s degree, so this summer will be a much needed break. After church yesterday, my family went out for Thai food and then saw a new Mucha exhibit at a local art gallery, which was definitely inspiring to me. My favorite piece in the exhibit was the magazine cover below. It depicts Literature as a woman in red and Journalism as the woman in white, with her writing supplies propped on a globe. What a beautiful concept.

1909 'Cover of 'The Literary Digest'

 

Have a lovely Monday!

Teresa

Fun Gospel Tracts for Kids

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I have been looking for simple ways to communicate the gospel to my very small Bible Journaling Club at school. When FlyBy Promotions provided the opportunity to review Let the Little Children Come gospel tracts, I realized this was a great chance to get a free resource for the club. The tracts are really creative — with 3D effects, pop-ups, and gospel story bracelets. I brought all of the tracts to the club, had the students gather around, spread out the tracts, and told the students to choose whatever they would like. They spent the rest of the club time looking at each other’s tracts and talking about them. I used the “wordless book” that was included to tell students about heaven (the gold page), sin (the black page), Jesus (red page), forgiveness (white page), and growth (green page). They really seemed to enjoy playing with the tracts, and I hope that they will sit down to read them more closely this evening. When everyone was leaving, I overheard one girl telling her friend not to “be greedy” by taking three tracts. It made me smile. I told her to go ahead and take three if she wanted three! You can visit this website to see how the animated tracts work.

I was provided with these tracts in return for my honest review.