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.

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.

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