Category Archives: Family

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Book Review & a Giveaway: Brave Beauty

At an age when girls are beginning to make some of their own decisions, they need a friend to come alongside and give encouragement. Lynn Cowell has written Brave Beauty: Finding the Fearless You with 8 – 12 year olds in mind, and provides a calm voice for the tumultuous growing up years. Brave Beauty is a devotional, a short story compilation and a journal, wrapped up into one great resource.
Lynn Cowell is a mom of three who is passionate about helping others find confidence in God’s unfailing love. She brings fresh insights to stories from the Bible, telling them in ways preteens and adults alike can relate. Lynn puts her thoughts into words that draw the reader into character-building values.

Brave Beauty incorporates quizzes and questions to prompt brainstorming and introspection in the process of self-discovery. A Topical Index makes it easy to come back to favorite issues, and projects to tackle include writing a note, sitting with a new friend at lunch, ways to be brave, planting seeds, making bath salts, starting a gratitude journal, taking action steps and thinking about dreams to pursue.
In our world of easy access to news via social media, what child is immune to fear, the comparison trap or bullying? Lynn’s voice provides a safe haven to talk about the issues at hand, and reassurance of a God who sees and hears. She describes what a Brave Beauty Girl does to treat people with dignity and kindness. Lynn tackles self-esteem issues, reinforcing self-worth, defeating insecurity, and embracing courage and bravery.

I am a fan of this book! It speaks to me as an adult who also faces life-tests, and reminds me to cling to the One who helps me be brave. Isn’t that the best kind of gift we can give to the preteens in our lives?
Enter the drawing! I am giving away a gift pack of Brave Beauty and the NIV Faithgirlz Backpack Bible, courtesy of Zonderkidz Publishers, to one reader in the continental United States. Leave a comment on my blog (at the top of this post, under the title) and answer this question, “How have you taught 1 Timothy 4:12 to the preteens in your life?” You will be entered into the drawing to be held six days from today, September 27. For an extra chance to win the drawing, leave a comment on my review of the NIV Faithgirlz Backpack Bible!
Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The BlogAbout Network book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

How I’m Planning to Adjust My Budget As I Enter the Workforce

Do you have a student who is graduating? Maybe this insight will be of benefit! ~ Sally

Guest Post by Lauren Davidson, a 20-something Millennial building a career

As a soon-to-be college graduate, the idea of earning my first paycheck is both exciting and daunting. It means freedom — and responsibility. While I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to do more things, to have more cash flow, and to not rely on my parents for money, it is a major transition in my life, moving forward in search of my calling. I am moving into my adult life — and I need a budget to match.

The idea of budgeting may seem outdated, especially to those of us who grew up in the age of the internet and apps for everything. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be hard or old-fashioned. Apps like Mint and LearnVest make it easy to figure out how much money you have coming into your accounts — and how much you’re spending. I’m setting up Mint on my phone before graduation, to start the process of learning how to budget — setting myself up for success before I even begin work.

Once I know how much money I’ll have coming in each month, the real fun can begin. It will be time to figure out how much I could spend. First, the necessities: housing, utilities, student loans and other unavoidable expenses. I put together a list of everything that I absolutely have to pay, starting with my student loans. I already figured out if I had private or federal student loans, and whether I have a grace period for these loans (the 6-month period of time between graduation and when you start paying the loans). Although I do have a grace period on some of my loans, I will go ahead and make interest payments on those loans during that time — doing this can substantially cut down on the total amount owed overall. This is a good move, since student loans are my largest form of debt right now. Did you know that the average graduate borrower leaves college with upwards of $28,000 in student debt?

Knowing how much of my budget will be devoted to necessities, I’ll have a better understanding of how much money is left each month. I’ll allocate money for other necessities like groceries and entertainment, and then devote a chunk of money towards savings and retirement. The key for me is to automate both my savings and retirement, which is a painless way to make sure that I am putting away enough to meet my savings and retirement goals. I have learned that the key to a successful retirement is to start saving early — and to put away as much as I can afford each month. By figuring out my budget early on and setting up my account to automatically deposit money each month, I’m making the choice early on to prioritize my retirement savings.

I also took the time to figure out my big picture goals. It can be difficult to know where you want to be in a few years, financially speaking, when you’re just trying to get started in your career. By sitting down and coming up with a list of what I want to achieve, I’ll be able to set up a game plan for success. For me, the most important thing is to pay off my student loans, so I’ll craft my budget around finding extra money each month to put towards my monthly payments.

Learning how to budget fresh out of college can be challenging — but it is very doable with a little planning and preparation.

Guest Post by Lauren Davidson, a Senior at the University of Pennsylvania, double majoring in Communications and English.

Book Review: God’s Easter Miracles

Author, Lee Ann Mancini and Illustrator, Dan Sharp have done it again, in creating adorable caricatures that are relatable and entertaining. In God’s Easter Miracles, sea creatures in vibrant colors tell a story in the saga of the Sea Kids.

Easter has come to the coralhood. The Sea Kids are looking forward to the egg hunt after church. One Sea Kid, Paul, is sad because he didn’t find an egg marked for the special prize. Jimmy has a dilemma when he is asked to share one of his eggs. All of the Sea Kids face a crisis when Brian’s brother is in a boating accident. How will they respond?

God’s Easter Miracles provides a story arc, problem solving for children, learning practical ways to care for others, and what it means to be a follower of Jesus. It even has a hidden symbol that adds a puzzle to solve. I am delighted to recommend this gem to parents, grands, and all who love children. It tackles tough topics like autism, trauma, and the way God answers prayers, with sensitivity and compassion. And it opens the door for conversations with the little ones in your life, as you read about Jimmy the seahorse, Lenny the manatee, and all of the Sea Kids at Beneath the Sea Play Park. This is a book that extends beyond a holiday, to year-round faith-building fun!


Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: A Wife’s Secret to Happiness #wifestylin

In A Wife’s Secret to Happiness, author Jen Weaver says God longs to give eleven specific blessings to your life and marriage. She explores those gifts by sometimes tackling controversial issues in our culture today… submission, respect, interdependence and busyness, among others. I guarantee this book will make you squirm. Even as I celebrate my 30th anniversary this year, I find multiple areas in A Wife’s Secret to Happiness that challenge me to keep growing as a wife.

Jen Weaver is a millennial who is reaching out to her generation with a genuine love for Jesus and His Word. She’s a wife and mom working to flesh out the principles of God’s love in the context of her marriage, and she does so with refreshing transparency.

All girls walk down the aisle toward marital bliss, but few find the happily ever after. Jen proposes that we are looking instead, for unity, provision, safety, intimacy and partnership.

“Submission is divine empowerment that culture has confused and the enemy has contorted to mean oppression.” Jen uses the story of Naaman to illustrate her point. Naaman had leprosy and was told by the man of God to go and wash in the waters of the River Jordan. But Naaman was a person of influence who felt he was above following orders. When he submitted to the directions, he received the healing. Jen uses Naaman’s story, and others like him, to help us understand the blessings we receive when we do things God’s way. And really, that is the whole point, that following God’s plan is the way we find self-worth and confidence, instead of expecting our husbands to define who we are.

“Your man is part of God’s generosity in your life- the human heart to love you like Christ loves the church. Even if he falters, he is still part of God’s provision. Your man is not the ultimate provider. God is.”  Do you see how this is a heart issue? We’ve been chasing happiness instead of chasing God. He wants to meet our needs. He wants a relationship with each of us!

Jen says we are warriors, “doing mighty things in our families and marriages.” Just as Queen Esther filled a unique position and function as King Xerxes’ wife. She didn’t “usurp her husband’s authority or throw his stupidity in his face. She seeks the Lord and proves her character is of great worth.”

Jen brings up hard issues, and they’re hard to implement. But she also raises an important question. What does it mean to honor my husband?

Buy this book and explore the nuances in your own relationship with your husband. Look at the quizzes and online bonus tools. You just may be inspired to get a renewed perspective on your marriage, too!

I am giving away a copy of A Wife’s Secret to Happiness, courtesy of Leafwood Publishers, to one reader in the continental United States. Leave a comment on my blog (at the top of this post, under the title) about one of the ways you honor your marriage, and you will be entered into the drawing to be held on Saturday morning, March 25.

Join the #wifestylin movement!


Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through The BlogAbout Network book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Book Review: A Servant Like Jesus

A Servant Like Jesus is a delightful book, and a wonderful introduction to a series that “builds a strong, foundational relationship with Jesus.” It models friendship, servanthood and compassion through a story with endearing characters. Charlie is shy, Willie & Tina have to learn how to share, and Bernie needs a friend when he gets hurt. The Sea Kids all respond differently to their first day of school. Some eager, some fearful, but all enter the unknown together. They learn an important lesson about helping others and how it also helps them overcome their own fears.

It’s easy to see why A Servant Like Jesus is winner of The Mom’s Choice Award, Illumination Book Awards, Readers’ Favorite Illustration Award, International Book Awards Finalist, IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award and President’s Book Awards Winner. The author, Lee Ann Mancini has found a way to help kids relate to Jesus. And illustrator, Dan Sharp brings images that leap off the page into your child’s imagination! The colors are welcoming. The illustrations are fun, playful, full of detail and include a treasure hunt in the sea.

Get your copy now at GLM Publishing, and save during the holiday season! Take 50% OFF when you use the code: SEAKIDS16. This is a book you’ll read again and again… I can’t wait to dive into it with my own grandchildren!


Disclosure of Material: I received this book free from the publisher through the book review program, which requires an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Nest

How does she do it, that Momma bird? She makes a home for her babies that is tightly knit. It rests on the ledge of my windowsill like a little castle on top of a mountain. Twigs, feathers and all manner of layers are woven together to create a safe haven. We startle Momma Bird every time we walk into the room, so I took to leaving the blinds closed. I wanted her to know we wouldn’t harm her brood.
We stick together, us Mommas. We find ways to help each other as we bring our babies into the world. We protect and feed our babies and we provide a safe haven for them, all in the hopes that one day they will discover their own wings.

It’s a tricky thing, this process of letting go. You raise your brood to be independent thinkers, yet when they achieve that, they no longer need Momma anymore. Or, so I thought. In the same weekend we watched our daughter march across the platform to get her diploma, she reminded me of words of wisdom from my own Mom. And I knew for a fact that you never outgrow your need for your Mom.

When All You Can Do Is Pray

Praying woman hands
Praying woman hands

Ever feel so helpless that you can think of nothing else to do to help a situation, except to pray? I’m task-oriented, and that means a task gives me purpose. But, what if my greatest purpose is to pray? Prayer is hard work. It is a discipline that harnesses the mind and will and channels it to seek God’s will. So, instead of prayer being the last resort, it becomes my first choice. 

Scripture is a great tool for prayer. It mobilizes and empowers prayers. For example, which prayers are more effective?
A. “Lord, bless Nate today.”
B. “Lord, enable Nate to know how wide and long and high and deep the love of Christ is, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge.” (Ephesians 3:18-19)
A. “Lord, be with Kenzie today.”
B. “Lord, may Kenzie know the truth of Your Word today and be reminded that You will never leave her or forsake her.” (Hebrews 13:5b)
A. “Lord, protect Anna today.”
B. “Lord, may Anna find refuge in You today. Carry her safely in Your everlasting arms. Destroy any evil intended for her.” (Deuteronomy 33:27)
In every A example, I am asking good things for my family. But the B examples help me to feel I’ve really been specific and gone to bat for them. One of the places I learned to be very specific in prayer was through Moms In Prayer, International. Moms In Prayer organizes moms to pray for their children and schools. And they have equipped countless families to build a strong foundation in God’s Word. It helped ours through some tough times, as well. Check out their website for more prayer tips.
As author, Mary DeMuth prompts, May I pray for you today?
“May the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which He has called you, the riches of His glorious inheritance in the saints, and His incomparably great power for us who believe.” (Ephesians 1:17-19a) Amen.             In the comments section (located under the title), tell me what Scripture you will use to infuse your prayers today!

Book Review: Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love

Raising Big Kids

Did you get an eye-roll with a “whatever,” today? Then you might be the parent of a tween or teen. And you might have realized by this point in your child’s life, that there is no perfect formula for parenting. However, Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love comes pretty close to being a near-perfect parenting manual. Cleverly disguised as a book for parents to glean skills in child-rearing, it actually teaches us to be better adults.

Raising Big Kids with Supernatural Love is packed with tools, examples and suggestions for a way to role-play the various hats we wear as parents. The authors, Lori Wildenberg and Becky Danielson bring their collective experience with their own families, as well as examples gleaned through conducting parenting classes. Wildenberg and Danielson are co-founders of 1 Corinthians 13 Parenting, and authors of three parenting books. They are licensed parent-family educators, certified teachers, and moms of six between them. Their writing style is straight forward, as they advocate parents can engage with the teen’s world in a healthy and growing relationship.

In a time when we’re worried about being politically correct, the authors hold a high standard for child-rearing. They tackle tough issues like cyber bullying, peer pressure and sexual activity, and lay out a guide to providing a safe and secure home in a shifting culture. Their reliance on Scripture and prayer is refreshing, as they provide practical tips for conversations with teens and a desire to reach their hearts. I love the emphasis on character development and the encouragement to persevere, when you’d rather throw in the towel.

I wish I would have had this book when my own were teens. It reassures that times of failure are when we are most teachable, and we can develop character traits that will benefit our kids their whole lives. It provides a way to navigate the murky waters of expectations and miscommunication. And it is an encouraging and empowering book that is an important part of every parent’s arsenal!


Disclosure of Material: I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher through the The Blog Spot Network book review program in exchange for a fair and honest review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s CFR Title 16, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

What Drew me to my Spouse?

Heart at the human hands
Heart at the human hands

In the early days, I was attracted to Roy’s curls at the base of his neck, and the way he kept his mustache and beard so well trimmed. He was ambitious, maintaining four part-time jobs in order to put himself through school. And he had a thirst to follow God, in every arena of life.

Through the years I’ve watched him hurdle obstacles that seemed insurmountable. And circumstances that felt unredeemable. Yet he did it hanging onto God’s promises, and trusting the Lord to see us through.

Now we are grandparents. In this season of life, I am so grateful for the memories that have become building blocks. They are a foundation of trust, faithfulness and perseverance. I am grateful for his loyal companionship in spite of the times I’ve acted in a manner that was less than attractive.

I’ve learned to give instead of always expecting more.

I’ve learned to respect, even when I didn’t understand.

And I’ve learned to appreciate the days we have together, for there is no guarantee of tomorrow.

On this Valentine’s Day, celebrate your spouse with words of affirmation. Remind him that he is still your hero. He needs to know you are still in his corner, because the world has a way of tearing you apart.


How have you learned to appreciate your spouse more over the years?

Welcome to Momhood

I am a bad mom.
There. I’ve said it. I’ve laid it all on the table.
I have two adult children and I still try to make life all better for them.
Wasn’t I supposed to let go of that role when they were in elementary school? I bandaged the cuts and brushed off their knees, with a kiss to make it all better.
bandaged knee
When did I adopt the role that said, “I have to keep everyone happy”? I scurry around trying to be the peace-maker and hand-holder and all of that scurrying leaves me empty and scarred. As moms, do we enable our kids to grow, when we are the go-to person in their lives? Where is the fine line between being an enabler and being a springboard to launch them into adulthood? In their book, The Cure for the “Perfect” Life, Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory point out that “we live with the illusion that we have some measure of control over how other people behave. We’re like a three-year-old kid strapped into his car seat and using his Fisher-Price steering wheel, absolutely certain that he’s the one driving the car.
It’s crazy feeling that we have all the responsibility for other people’s lives, with none of the authority to make a difference.” (p. 171)
I gave up that authority with each birthday we celebrated. My children entered the pre-teen years with an earnest desire to make their own decisions. They went through the teens with independence as their motto. Letting go actually began the day I gave birth and gave them opportunity to breathe on their own. Why then, do I strive to take back control and seek to guide them still? Isn’t that something I label creatively as nurturing? When I hide my controlling tendencies in nice sounding terms, it makes me sound like a “good” mom. Yet, my whole job description as a parent is to prepare my kids to make their own decisions. And that cannot happen when I second-guess their judgment. Is there a better way for me to show them love? Lipp & Gregory say, “there is a love that goes deeper than hurting when others hurt- it’s the kind of love that allows those we love to be in pain so they can become the kind of people God has designed them to be.” (p. 175)
Now, I am the last person to want to leave someone else in pain. I am a people-pleaser with a capital P. But if I understand that I am not to rescue others from their problems, maybe I will embrace their journey to the Throne of Mercy by getting out of the way. And that is the best way to be an enabler.
I don’t have this all figured out. I’m sure I will regress and fall back into patterns of habit that are within my comfort zone. So here are two questions I will ask:
“1. Is this the best solution for them?
2. Is this the best solution for me?” (The Cure for the “Perfect” Life, p. 178)
Lipp & Gregory explain, one way to advocate healthy self-care is to tell myself, disappointment isn’t deadly.

When I release my kids to experience pain, they are empowered to reach out to God as their own Rescuer.
Here is my question for you:
How have you learned to release your adult children to the consequences of their own choices?
Originally published September 3, 2014 at sallyswords