Friday, December 16, 2011

Blogging for Books: The Canary List

The Canary List by Sigmund Brouwer

From the back cover:
Protected by the dark of night, Jaimie Piper runs. But is anywhere safe when Evil is hunting you?
She’s just a twelve year-old girl, bumped around between foster homes and relegated to school classes for challenged kids, those lagging in their test scores or with behavioral issues. But her real problem is that she can sense something the other kids can’t—something dark. Something compelling her to run for her life.
All Crockett Grey wants is to mark the anniversary of his daughter’s death alone.
But when his student Jaimie comes to him, terrified, her need for protection collides with his grief, and a tangled web of bizarre events sends them both spiraling toward destruction.

Crockett’s one hope of getting his life back is to uncover the mysterious secrets of Jaimie’s past and her strange gift. It isn’t long before his discoveries lead him to a darker conspiracy, secrets guarded by the highest seat of power in the world—the Vatican.

My Thoughts:

This was a VERY, VERY good book.  The first chapter or two were pretty spooky.  I love to read in bed at night and I was afraid after reading those chapters that I wouldn't be able to sleep.  However, the book became more mystery/suspense after those first few chapters and less spooky.  Once I started reading I could hardly put it down until I got to the end.

If you are a fan of The DaVinci Code or the National Treasure movies, you'll love the political and religious intrigue in these books.  You'll see the dark side of those who are so desperate for power, they will do anything to get it. 

The characters in this book are wonderful.  Brouwer creates main characters who are horribly flawed - all by circumstances out of their control.  And I love every flaw they have.  Brouwer also did a great job of not tying up every loose end in the book.  For the most part, the big questions are answered; however, he leaves a lot of things up to the imagination of the reader.  I think this would be a great book club book because I would love to have people to discuss all those loose ends with. 

I highly recommend this book.

5 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

All About Me: Christmas Edition

OK, so this might be 6th gradish, but I just couldn't resist.

I saw this list on Taylor's blog and decided I'd throw my answers out there too. 

1. Egg Nog or Hot Chocolate? Neither - don't like egg nog and I'm allergic to chocolate (shocking - I know).  But I do love apple cider!

2. Does Santa wrap presents or just sit them under the tree? Santa sits them under the tree.  They are the only unwrapped presents.  That's how we know they are from him.

3. Colored lights on tree/house or white? White on the tree.  White and blue on the house.

4. Do you hang mistletoe? No.

5. When do you put your decorations up? The Saturday after Thanksgiving, after I've recovered from Black Friday shopping.

6. What is your favorite holiday dish? I don't know that we have a lot of foods are solely made at Christmas.  But I do love anything with cinnamon in it - cinnamon bread, cinnamon rolls, etc.

7. Favorite Holiday memory as a child? I loved our Advent calendar.  It was a fabric tree that we would pin wooden ornaments onto.  The ornament for the 24th was Santa.  The three of us kids would have to take turns pinning Santa on, so you only got to do it once every 3 years, but it was SOOOO exciting when it was your year.

8. When and how did you learn the truth about Santa? Sad to say, but I don't think I ever believed in Santa.  I always knew it was my parents.

9. Do you open a gift on Christmas Eve? We celebrate on Christmas Eve with Tim's extended family so we open several gifts on Christmas Eve with them.  But all the gifts to our immediate family (me, Tim and the kids) must be opened on Christmas Day.

10. How do you decorate your Christmas tree? It's prelit - Wahoo! So we just add ornaments.  I usually let the kids do most of the decorating.  There's really no theme, just things we've collected over the years.  The kids each have a little tree in their rooms that they decorate any way they want to.

11. Snow! Love it or Dread it? Love the looks of it.  Don't like having to walk or drive in it.

12. Can you ice skate? Yes, I was blessed with the gift of balance.  My husband was not.

13. Do you remember your favorite gift? No.

14. What’s the most important thing about the Holidays for you? Spending time with my family.  I also love watching the kids open up their gifts.

15. What is your favorite Holiday Dessert? Once again - I like anything with cinnamon in it.

16. What is your favorite holiday tradition? I like it all.  I like decorating the house.  I like helping the kids do their Advent calendars.  I like going to houses of our extended families and hanging out with them.  I just like it all.

17. What tops your tree? An angel.

18. Which do you prefer giving or receiving? I love to give gifts, but, hey, I like to receive them as well. 

19. Candy Canes: Yuck or Yum? Yum, I like peppermint, but only in small amounts.

20. Favorite Christmas show? Movie? Miracle on 34th Street - the original one.

21. Saddest Christmas Song? OK, I was going to put The Christmas Shoes one, but then I heard this one this morning.  Most depressing Christmas song ever - hands down.  (Warning: If you visit the YouTube link, be sure to have tissues on hand!)

22. What is your favorite Christmas song? Mary Did You Know?

OK, Now it's your turn.  How would you fill out this list?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Letter from Santa

My kids got these in the mail yesterday.

In case you can't read them, they are letters from Santa.

Only I never signed up for any letters from Santa.

All I did was help my kids send out their letter to Santa, addressed to "Santa, North Pole."

Guess where these came from?

North Pole, Alaska.

And the return address was "US Postal Service."

All I can think is that some nice person up in Alaska sends letters back out to kids who send letters to Santa.  My children's names were handwritten on the letter, as was Santa's name. The address on the envelope was handwritten as well.  That took a little bit of time.

So, nameless postal person up in Alaska, THANK YOU!!!!  You made my kids' year by sending them their own letter from Santa.

What about you?  Did your kids send out a Santa letter this year?  Did you get one back?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Unsolved Mystery

I have to apologize.

I didn't mean to become just a book review blog.

However, I've really not been myself for about a month now.  I started having bad abdominal pains 2 weeks before Thanksgiving.  They are on my left side which, apparently, baffles doctors, because you don't have many organs on the left side.

After a battery of tests, they've determined that there is nothing they can find wrong with my reproductive organs - at least the ones I have left.  So, it's on to the GI doctor for me.  It took 2 weeks to get in to see him, but I've been told that's pretty good.  Some people have to wait months.  Guess that's the up side of being in pain.

Anyway, that appointment is later this week and until I figure out what's wrong, I've been doing a lot of resting and taking pain pills. 

I have been advised not to exercise until we solve this, so it's now been a month since I've seen the gym.  That's hard for me.  Exercise has always been my stress-reliever. 

So I haven't really had a lot to blog about. 

Maybe I should use my downtime to figure out blog topics...

Or I could just read more books and review them on here.

Either way, I just pray this is resolved soon.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Booksneeze: Smitten

Smitten By Colleen Coble, Kristin Billerbeck, Denise Hunter, & Diann Hunt 

The unthinkable happens to the sleepy, little town of Smitten, Vermont.  Smitten Lumber, the town's paper mill and main employer, announces that it is closing.  Unable to bear the thought of their town dying, four single friends get together and devise a way to capitalize on the town's name and keep Smitten in business.  

Bold Natalie, trendy Julia, prim and proper Shelby and athletic Reese persuade the town leaders to turn Smitten into the romantic, honeymoon getaway of the Northeast.  While transforming the town, each woman must deal with her own insecurities and, hopefully, find love along the way.

My Thoughts:

The set-up of this book was so unique and interesting to me.  It's divided into four sections, each one being it's own little novella.  Each section is about one of the four friends and is written by a different author (several of them being my favorite authors, I might add).  Each author put a little bit of her personality into their character (as told in the interview with the authors at the end of the book).  Also each section is written about a different season within the year it takes to transform the town.

I've never read a book that is distinctly written by four authors.  As I was reading, I could tell the different styles of each author, but the book flowed together really well.  It was really one main story line - the transformation of this little town and the people in it - but with separate little story lines within it.  The authors and editor did a really good job of making it work together.

As for each individual story line, I thought they were pretty predicable.  What you wanted to happen, happened.  But that was OK.  Sometimes it's good to read great romantic stories that turn out just like you want them to and that don't require a lot of thought on the part of the reader.  

Having the plot develop in a shorter story or novella, could mean that characters aren't fully developed.  However, that was not the case in this book.  I thought each of the four friends had very distinct personalities that show up in each of the four stories.

This was a quick read and would be great for cold winter nights when all you want to do is cozy up next to the fire.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

The Kindle version of Smitten was provided to me by Booksneeze in exchange for a review.  All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Hungry anyone?

Bet you thought this post was going to be about food.

It's not.

It's about an awesome book I just read.

Have you heard of this book?
A good friend of mine suggested I read it. 
When I read the description, I was very skeptical. 

The story takes place sometime in the future.  North America has fallen in a great war and a new country, Panem, has emerged.  Panem keeps it's subjects under control by fear and by the annual Hunger Games.  Once a year, each of the 12 districts of Panem must randomly choose a boy and a girl between the ages of 12 and 18 and send them to the capital to compete in the Hunger Games.  The 24 children are put into an arena and are forced to fight each other to the death.  The winner receives numerous rewards including food for their district for a year.  Oh and all this is televised live to the nation with mandatory viewing.

Can you see why I was skeptical?  It doesn't really sound like the feel-good book of the year, does it?  So it was with much trepidation that I started reading the book.

It was fan-tast-ic!!  I couldn't put it down!!

It was SO good.  It's listed as a book for 7th graders and up, but I was totally engrossed in it.  The characters and settings are so rich and full.  It's the kind of book that you can see the action going on in your head as you read it.  I can't tell you too much about the story or I'll give away the good stuff.  Needless to say, I highly recommend the book. 

If you happen to have Amazon Prime and own a Kindle, you can "rent" this book for free.  Just search for it on your Kindle and choose the "Borrow for free" option.  I will warn you, though, this book is part of a trilogy and you can only rent one free book a month.  I'm waiting anxiously for Dec. 1 so I can go rent the second book.  I'll probably have to buy the third book because I don't think I'll be able to wait until Jan. 1 to get that one!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Holiday Recap

How was your Thanksgiving week?

My family had the whole week off!
No school...
No work...
No evening activities...

It was very,VERY nice.

We enjoyed playing games (a little TurkeyFoot dominoes at Thanksgiving, anyone?), watching videos, going to see the Muppets movie in the theater (very cute!) and spending lots of good, quality time with extended family.

Oh, yeah, we did a little Black Friday shopping too ;).
I will admit, we were some of those crazy people waiting outside Target in the cold for an hour until it opened at midnight.  Did I mention it was cold????  As in 27 degrees cold!

But, it was worth it.  Target was so organized and calm.  There was no pushing, no mad or mean people.  And there were TONS of helpful sales people - yes, even at midnight on Black Friday.  And, best of all, we got everything on our list.  I can't tell you what we got on here because it might involve Christmas presents for family members and those family members just might be reading this.  Don't worry, you'll like it ;).

I hope you had a wonderful holiday weekend as well.  Now we can all go full swing into Christmas,

Another Year Older

Happy Birthday, Sweetie.
I love you!!!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Blogging for Books: Life, in Spite of Me

Life, in Spite of Me by Kristen Anderson

(from Amazon) She wanted to die. God had other plans.
Overwhelmed by wave after wave of emotional trauma, Kristen Anderson no longer wanted to live. One January night, determined to end her pain once and for all, the seventeen-year-old lay across train tracks not far from her home and waited to die.

Instead of peace, she found herself immersed in a whole new nightmare.

Before the engineer could bring the train to a stop, thirty-three freight cars passed over her at fifty-five miles per hour. After the train stopped and Kristen realized she was still alive, she looked around—and saw her legs ten feet away.

Surviving her suicide attempt but losing her legs launched Kristen into an even deeper battle with depression and suicidal thoughts, as well as unrelenting physical pain—all from the seat of a wheelchair. But in the midst of her darkest days, Kristen discovered the way to real life and a purpose for living.

My Thoughts:

Wow!  I have discovered I really love reading memoirs - true life accounts of how someone is surviving in this life.  And talk about a survivor!  At age 17, Kristen didn't want to survive; she wanted to die.  She made a split-second decision to lay across the train tracks and end her life.  In her memories of that night, she remembers the train trying to suck her up into it but something supernaturally pushed her down on that track and kept her from dying.  She didn't know God at that time in her life, but through her struggles and recovery, she met him and realized it was his hand on her that night.  I get goosebumps just thinking of that now.

This book is very real.  Kristen does not gloss over any of her feelings or over any of her realities.  She was a severely depressed teenager who was misdiagnosed and not taken seriously by several doctors.  She offers great insight into what teenage depression looks like and how it can end, if parents and doctors don't take it seriously. 

But there is light at the end of the tunnel.  Kristen also shows how God can take a broken life - physically, mentally and spiritually - and transform it for his glory.  Kristen's full-time job now is talking to teenagers struggling with depression and suicidal thoughts, taking them seriously and showing them a better way in life.

Life, in Spite of Me is honest, gritty and inspiring.  I thought it was wonderful!

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I received an electronic copy of this book free with the Blogging for Book program.  All opinions are my own.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Booksneeze: The Realms Thereunder

The Realms Thereunder - Ross Lawhead

(from the back cover)  A homeless man is stalked by a pale, wraith-like creature with a mouthful of needle-sharp teeth.  Maimed animals and a host of suicides cluster around a mountain in Scotland.  And deep beneath the cobbled streets of Oxford, a malicious hoard besieges a hidden city.

Freya Reynolds is a university student with a touch of OCD and an obsession with myth and folklore.  Daniel Tully is living rough on the streets of Oxford, waging a secret war against an enemy only he can identify.  Years ago, they found themselves in a world few know is real.  They have since gone their separate ways and tried to put that adventure behind them.

But the mythical world is now bleeding into our reality - a dark spiritual evil that is manifesting itself in forgotten corners fo the British Isles.  Alex Simpson is a Scottish police officer who specializes in hunting mythical creatures.  Together, they must confront the past, the present and points beyond to defeat the ultimate thread to humanity.

Nothing they've seen so far prepares them for what The Realms Thereunder.

My Thoughts

OK, I must start this review by pointing out that I'm not really a fan of fantasy.  Why I picked this book to review, I don't know.  That being said, even thought I didn't like the genre, I stuck it out and read every word.

The story jumps around in time a lot.  In the beginning of book, there are two time periods - the present where Freya Reynolds is a college student at Oxford and Daniel Tully is homeless and living on the streets, and eight years ago where the two were, unknowingly, lured into a secret underground world.  Then as the book progressed, Daniel and Freya are separated in the present to, really, two other time periods.  So then, you have three separate storylines going, along with trying to remember the original one.  To me, that was very confusing.  I constantly had to go back in the book to refresh myself on what had just happened in that time period (3 chapters ago!). 

My other complaint with the book is the storyline (at least the one from eight years ago), seemed all to familiar.  Two children whisked to a secret world where it's the good wizard and his forces battling that bad wizard and his forces.  The bad wizard must be destroyed but only a brave child with a pure heart can rid the world of evil.  Sound like anything familiar?  A little Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, anyone?

The book really doesn't resolve any of the conflicts within it.  It's almost more of an intro into the next book, which, I have to say, I won't be reading.

I give this book 2 out of 5 stars.

I read this book as part of the Booksneeze program for bloggers.  All opinions are my own.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Scouting for Fun

Boy Scouts is a wonderful organization and our local Pack is great.  There are fun activities scheduled almost every week.

An added bonus?  David is not the only one who can join in the fun.  Siblings are (almost) always invited!

Here are some things we've done so far:
The Bike Rodeo

Halloween Dress-up/Fun Night (much candy was received)

 Cub Scout Day at our local State Park.  Their first archery lessons.

There has also been a magic show and a scrapbooking night.  Coming up this week is a trip to the fire station.

Boys can start Cub Scouts (as a Tiger Cub) in the first grade.  If you have a first grade boy and you haven't already, go check out your local Boy Scouts for great (cheap) fun for all!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

My little Tiger

This year, David is finally old enough to join Boy Scouts.  His daddy is an Eagle Scout and his Papaw has held many positions in his local Boy Scout troop over the years, so this is an important time for him. 

He is my little Tiger Cub and I'm so proud of him.

Monday, October 31, 2011


Can you guess what they all are?

Swagbucks Codes all Day!!

Do you use Swagbucks?

No??  Why not?

Swagbucks is a search engine that allows you to earn points, called Swagbucks.  When you have earned enough points, you can trade them in for great prizes, like Amazon gift cards.

Don't believe me?  So far my husband and I have earned over $250 in Amazon gift cards in just the last 6 months.  We will be using that nice little chunk of change to help buy some Christmas gifts this year.

If you haven't joined, today is a great day to join!
If you already swag with us, check out this announcement from the folks at Swagbucks.

This week will be a can't miss at Swagbucks, as they run not one but TWO big days of codes! It all starts on Halloween Monday, with a series of Trick-or-Treat code hunts throughout the day. Then, on Thursday, it's another Swag Code Extravaganza - 60 Swag Bucks worth of codes being released throughout the day, plus special promotions, announcements and more! Be sure to go to the Swagbucks Blog at 7am Pacific Time Monday to join in the fun!

Start your Swagbucks journey today!!

Search & Win

Friday, October 21, 2011

Book Review: Growing up Amish

Growing up Amish, a memoir by Ira Wagler

One clear night at age 17, Ira Wagler packs a bag and leaves his Old Order Amish settlement to strike out in the "English" world.  In this memoir, Ira paints a vivid picture of life growing up as an Amish boy and as an Amish man.  The book chronicles Ira's decade long confusion as to whether to remain Amish or leave the church.  It culminates in his ultimate decision at age 26 to leave the order for good.

My Thoughts:

The description of this book just fascinated me.  Amish life is very much idealized in modern-day literature and film.  To find out from someone in that community what life is really like is like seeing into someone's secret hideaway.  Ira's down-to-earth writing reveals that Amish life is not always peaceful and serene.  Not everyone in that world is content with their lot in life.  In fact, in these memoirs, Ira is anything but content.  He struggles with the guilt of not continuing the Amish life as well as not really knowing how to live outside of the Amish community.

The writing is so real and in your face that you feel as if you are there in the situation.  It has almost a raw quality to it that just draws out the emotion of the author and lets the reader feel what he is feeling.  As a reader, your heart just breaks during Ira's struggles.  You want him to overcome, whether it's in finally embracing the Amish church or whether it's learning to live outside of it.  You just want him to succeed in life.  But then you realize that this is someone's real life and not a novel.  Heartaches happen, confusion happens.  But after 10 years of living between two worlds, clarity happens and Ira chooses his path.

I thought this was an excellent book.  It was well-written and engaging.  I would like to know what happened to Ira after the end of the book.  I feel like I need to know that he went on be happy, that he realized he made the right choice.  So, Ira, if you ever read this, feel free to comment and let us know that you are happy.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

I received a complementary Kindle version of this book for review by NetGalley.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Blogging for Books Review: The Scroll

The Scroll by Grant Jeffrey and Alton Gansky

Dr. David Chambers was a leading archeologist in the field of Biblical History when he walked away from it all.  After losing his faith and breaking up with his fiancee, David is ready to find a new research focus.  This is until Jewish friend and mentor, Abram Ben-Judah, offers him the dig of a lifetime, if only he'll return to his former field of expertise, the Bible.

My Thoughts:

I am kind of wishy-washy on this book.  Parts of it were great - exciting, informative, something new that's never been written about - while other parts just moved very slowly.  The story went from intense action scenes to a month-long gaps.  It just seemed kind of unbalanced to me.

I did enjoy the characters.  The authors did not portray every Christian as a perfect, goody-two-shoes kind of person.  They portrayed them as real, flawed people with real baggage and real issues to work through.  I thought that was one of the best aspects of the book.

There was a lot of Biblical Historical explanations in the book, which is great for readers who aren't that familiar with Biblical History.  I thought they were woven into the storyline pretty well. 

One of the overall themes of the book is the secrecy with which this dig had to take place.  I understand the politics involved, but I thought the security and espionage aspect of the story were a little overly dramatic.  It just didn't seem to all fit in the story well to me.

Overall, The Scroll is an easy-read with solid characters; however, I felt the story flow was somewhat lacking.

I give this book 4 out of 5 stars.

I received a complimentary copy of this book to review from the Blogging for Books program.  The opinions are my own.

Monday, October 17, 2011

First Ever Girl Scout Camping Trip

I did it!!

Me, the inside-loving mom who hasn't been camping in probably 25 years, braved the great outdoors and went with Julie and the Girl Scouts on a weekend camping trip.  I even slept in a cold, platform tent.  Well, "sleep" might be too strong of a word.  I stayed there in a sleeping bag on a cot anyway - didn't get much sleep.

I do have to admit that camp life moves at a much slower pace than I am used to.  Breakfast on Saturday took 2 hours to make.  We were STARVING by the time it was ready.  Then there was time for a fun, but windy Girl Scout Investiger ceremony.  The only problem with that is that it there were candles involved...and it was windy.  Candles and wind do not mix well.  But never fear, the ceremony continued despite the wind.  Then it was time for lunch.  Wait?  I thought we just had breakfast?  It did kind of feel that way.

But roasting hotdogs over the fire for lunch and topping it off with free Juicy Juice (thanks to a sampling event that I qualified for as a member of the Juicy Juice Bunch panel).  I left for a few hours in the afternoon to attend a good friend's baby shower.  While I was gone, there was pocketknife safety training.  Right after that, two girls cut their fingers.  The knives were then put away.  Guess they need to repeat that class.

I came back in time for Hobo packs for dinner, along with more free Juicy Juice.  By that time, lack of sleep was catching up to both of us and we packed up and headed home.  Julie absolutely loved it and claims that she wants to camp "forever."  I'm just glad that I survived. 

I am a happy Juicy Juice Bunch panel member.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wash your hands!

Wash your hands!  Did you wash your hands?  OK, time for everyone to wash hands.

Do those words come out of your mouth multiple times a day?  They do from mine.  I come from a family full of allergies and asthma.  I, myself, have allergies and asthma and both of my kids have asthma.  So, for us, a common cold usually turns into bronchitis or a sinus infection.  And, believe me, those are no fun.  Since I have no desire to be sick for 2 weeks or to have sick kids to take care of, we take precautions in our family to minimize our germ exposure.

What practices do we employ?

1)  Wash, wash, wash.  Obviously we've taught our kids to wash their hands after going to the bathroom (although David has to be reminded of that frequently - he is a 6 year old boy, you know).  We also send everyone to the bathroom to wash before dinner nightly and before lunch on the weekends.  (Lunch during the week is at school for the kids and at work for Tim.  I don't know if they wash there.  Hopefully they do.  I wash here.)  But not only do we send them to wash, we teach them to wash.  We have taken the time to teach them about all the nooks and crannies in their hands that they need to wash - in between their fingers, all the way up to their wrists, fingernails, etc.  I firmly believe that a little time spent up front teaching your children the right way to do something really pays off in the long run.

I also have my kids wash their hands when they get home from school and church.  They are around so many other children in both of those places that I just know they are full of germs.

2)  Shots.  First of all, let me say that I'm whole-heartedly in agreement with vaccines.  I know there are a lot of people out there against them and that's fine.  You're welcome to your opinion; but for my family, vaccines are the way to go.  In 2007 my dad got the whooping cough from traveling internationally.  He got sick and was fully contagious during a week that we spent at the beach with him.  Tim and I both tested positive for being exposed to the virus, so we know our family had the potential to get it.  We immediately got booster DTaP shots and didn't get sick.  Our children also stayed healthy because they had been vaccinated against the whooping cough (pertussis) as babies.  David was just 2 at the time.  Since we are very prone to catching things that are going around, I'm fully convinced that if my kids had not been vaccinated, they would have caught pertussis. And pertussis in children that young is very serious, potentially deadly.  For that experience alone, I am an advocate of vaccinations.

Not only do we vaccinate for the "big" things, we vaccinate yearly for the flu.  Luckily, my children are able to take the flu mist and they don't have to endure the shot.  They complain about the bad taste after the mist, but it sure beats the pain of the shot (I would know since I get the shot every year).  Even my husband gets the flu vaccine even though he hardly ever gets sick.  He just loves us that much!

3)  Last but not least, we take daily vitamins.  I have to admit I get the name brand Flintstones ones because they taste better and I know there won't be any fights about taking them.  I also get the immune fighting version that had extra vitamin C.  I don't know if the vitamins really help them stay healthy, but I don't think they hurt either.

Sickness is bound to happen, but anything I can do to slow it down at my house is worth it! 

What about you?  How do you combat germs and viruses?

“I wrote this blog post while participating in the SocialMoms and Lysol blogging program, for a gift card worth $40. For more information on how you can participate, click here.”

Friday, September 30, 2011

I Imagined Myself There

Enjoyable!  Refreshing!  Fun!

Those are the first words that come to my head when I think about the Women of Faith conference that I got to attend last weekend.  Let me set the stage for you.

The Bobcats Arena in Charlotte is full of thousands of women (and about 3 guys) all singing, praising and listening as a panel of speakers tell us what God has done in their lives.

Let's back up a little bit now.  Earlier in the summer, I applied through Booksneeze to get 2 free tickets to the Women of Faith conference in Charlotte.  I got accepted.  Yay, me!  I picked Charlotte for the tickets because my brother and sister-in-law live there.  So, naturally, I invited my sis-in-law, Desha, to join me for the conference.  (And I had a free place to stay and some wonderful home-cooked dinners- wahoo!)

Desha could not make it to the first session on Friday, so I braved the drive downtown all by myself.  I do have to admit that I was pretty proud of making it down there with no wrong turns (although I did get honked at once on the interstate - oops).  I am NOT a city driver.  Rush hour in my town means 10 cars are at the traffic light, but I digress....

Friday's day sessions were very laid back and casual.  That session (and all sessions) started with worship music from the Women of Faith praise team - 4 great women singers.  Then we heard from Dr. Henry Cloud and from Sheila Walsh.  The theme for the weekend was "Imagine" and I have to admit, Dr. Cloud did the best job of incorporating the theme into his talk.  He had us imagine a life of happiness and he talked about the necessary endings that must take place in our lives to achieve that goal.  As Christians we talk a lot about "joy" but not that much about "happiness," so I like that he chose that for his talk. 

The praise team

A box lunch was provided both days with our tickets.  The food was simple but very good.  It was nice to know that you didn't have to go find food somewhere else.  My only complaint was that if I wanted my daily lunchtime caffeine I had to pay the exorbitant arena concession prices for it, or sneak it in (you weren't supposed to bring in outside food or drink).  I won't tell you which I chose to do.

Friday evening brought with it all the bells and whistles.  The panelists all wore their best black and silver outfits complete with bling.  There were theater lights, entrance music and all that jazz.  We heard from Christian comedian Ken Davis that night.  He was HIL-AR-I-OUS!!!!!!  We were laughing so hard we cried.  His humor was definitely one the best parts of the weekend. 

But the absolutely best part of weekend?  Natalie Grant's concert on Friday night.  It was SO good!  That girl can hold a note out for 10 minutes!  My favorite was her singing "Your Great Name."  Besides the great music, she was so real with us, telling us about her struggles with infertility and motherhood.  That concert just really made my weekend.

 Natalie on stage

After getting some rest on Friday night, were back bright and early on Saturday morning.  We heard from Lisa Harper, Sheila Walsh (who is Scottish and has a wonderful accent), Nichole Johnson and Karen Kingsbury.  All of the speakers were engaging, but I was very excited about hearing author, Karen Kingsbury.  I have enjoyed her books for years now.  I tried to get her autograph but her line filled up quickly and was closed by the time I got out there.  Karen is not a regular Women of Faith speaker but only attends a few of the conferences.  So we were lucky to get to hear her.

Karen Kingsbury on stage
This is as close as I came to getting her autograph.

Saturday afternoon brought us another concert.  This time by Gospel Hip Hop singers, Mary Mary.  They are sisters but neither one of their names are Mary - go figure.  They got us up and moving.  I don't know about you, but I love to dance during lively concerts.  So my hips were shaking a little - even if I am Baptist.  After Mary, Mary, we heard from Luci Swindoll.  She is definitely an interesting character.  She's 79, never been married and very into doing her own thing.  She spoke from experience about how we need to enjoy life more, to step out and do something different with our lives. 

Mary Mary

All in all, it was a good conference and I enjoyed it.  Previous conferences that I had been to were very centered on Bible teaching, where you focus on one section of Scripture and unpack it to see the truths in it.  This was not like that.  This conference was more about the testimonies of the individual speakers and how God has worked through their lives.  In fact, after the first session, I didn't even bring my Bible.  I don't think that's a bad thing.  I just don't want someone to go to a Women of Faith conference thinking that it's an in-depth Bible study, because it's not. 

Since this is a review, I do have to mention both the ups and the downs.  So... I do have a few critiques of the conference, if that's what you want to call them that.  One is that the women who spoke all came from broken homes and had very broken childhoods.  Don't get me wrong, there's nothing wrong with that.  God healed them and used them.  But since I didn't have a broken home and I had a great childhood, it made it kind of hard to relate.  I think Karen Kingsbury and Luci Swindoll were the only two who didn't have something bad happen to them at age 5.  While I enjoyed hearing their stories and hearing how God has made something wonderful of their lives, I sometimes found it hard to apply any of that to me.

My second critique would be that the praise team felt a little over-polished to me.  Everything they did was very choreographed and very perfect.  I like that they were practiced and prepared, but it felt a little fake at times.  I hate to critique them that way because they sounded good, but it sounded like we were listening to a CD the whole time not to a live group of singers.

My last critique is of the lady taking pictures at the autograph table.  We were assured that a volunteer who was "great at taking pictures" would get a picture of us while Mary, Mary signed our programs.  Look at this picture.

Do you see me in there?  I'm not photoshopped.  That really is half of my head poking in there.  And Desha is there too, right next to me but completely out of the picture.  The "expert" was, apparently, not very good at taking pictures.  So I was a little disappointed in that.

Thank you, Booksneeze for the tickets and thank you Matt and Desha for the free place to stay and the good food.  I had a wonderful weekend.