Monday, March 19, 2018

Books With Bean ~ The Mysterious Benedict Society

Books with bean, book reviews by teens, The Mysterious Benedict Society

Title: The Mysterious Benedict Society 

Author: Trenton Lee Stewart 

Published: March 7, 2007

Genre: Middle Grade, Mystery, Adventure, Science Fiction

Summary: When orphan Reynie Muldoon sees an advertisement looking for gifted children he immediately wants to find out what it is about. When he goes to find out he ends up completing a series of tests. After completing two tests he is joined by two other children, Kate and Sticky, and after going through two physical tests they are taken to meet a man named Mr. Benedict. There they are joined by another girl named Constance. Mr. Benedict tells the children that they are in grave danger and that they only way to figure out how to stop it is to undercover as students at an island boarding school called the Learning Institute for the Very Enlightened where the source of the trouble is coming from. The children all agree to go but when they get there they find that things are even more complicated then they thought and they may be too late to stop what is coming.

What I liked about it: The characters are all unique and fun and because of this almost anyone can relate to them. They story is so interesting and I know as a kid when I first read it (Goodness, was it really almost a decade ago? Now I feel old and grown up! Not really, but still) I loved reading a book about kids my age solving problems and doing puzzles and word games which have always interested me. They are friends but it shows that you don’t always get along even with your best friends but you still stick together because together with friends you can do anything. I also love that it shows that family is important even if you aren't flesh and blood family. All the kids at the beginning of the book are alone but by the end they all have families and are loved and taken care of. 

Language: None

Romance: None

Violence: None

Magic: None

Recommended Age: It is a good book and while it will keep even older kids interested it is simple enough that I think 9 or 10 is plenty old enough to read it!

Books with Bean, book reviews by teens, Mysterious Benedict Society

Saturday, March 17, 2018

A Light on the Hill ~ A Bethany House book review

Connilyn Cossette, Christian fiction, historical fiction, Bethany House publishers

Seven years after the fall of Jericho, Moriyah still struggles with her identity. Just before the city fell she was branded as a prostitute for the temple of Ashtoreth. Although she was innocent of any wrong doing, her innocence being the main reason the High Priestess had ordered her captured and branded, many of the fellow Hebrews she now lives amongst do not believe her to be pure of heart, or body.

Thus continue the struggles of Moriyah, the main character in Connilyn Cossette’s newest book, A Light on the Hill. This is the first book in the new Cities of Refuge series. This book continues the storyline of the Nation of Israel and their settlement of Canaan that marked the close of Mrs. Cossette’s Out From Egypt trilogy. For fans of Biblical or historical fiction this should go on your must-read list. I was once again amazed at the ease with which she brings to life the daily struggles faced by the Nation of Israel as they work to claim the Promised Land. I appreciate the work it must require to understand both the social customs of the day and the delicacy it takes to work a fictional story around the inerrancy of the Scriptures.

While the outward storyline of this book is the settling of the Promised Land and the institution of the cities of refuge to which an accidental murdered could flee for a merciful trial, the themes interwoven in the story go much deeper. While an accidental poisoning is the impetus that sends Moriyah running to a city of refuge, we learn so much more about how the struggles of having an idolatrous brand on her face have affected not only her daily life, but her inner self-worth as well. This brings the book to an entirely new level of depth and recommendation in my sight. In the church so many of our older teen girls and younger women have struggled with finding their true identity in Christ. This book points the reader to finding their identity in who God has made them, not as the world has defined them. As they cry, laugh, and empathize alongside Moriyah’s struggles, my hope is that this fictional book will point them to the healing that only God can give. 

The story of God’s faithfulness to the Nation of Israel is wonderfully portrayed in A Light on the Hill. The redemption of Moriyah’s character - both in her own eyes, and the eyes of the Hebrews around her - is masterfully portrayed with both heartache and grace. When Moriyah learns that God and God alone must be her salvation, the years of fear and shame begin to peel away to reveal a heart filled with hope for the future and greater compassion towards others and their own trials.

I highly recommend A Light on the Hill for readers ages 16 and up, whether they are Christians or not. For those who do not yet have an intimate knowledge of God, it is a gentle introduction to His workings. For those who know Christ, or are searching, this book can be a strong reminder that He alone gives us our true worth, He gives us much grace, and He has a plan for each of us to follow to bring Him glory.

Pick up your own copy of A Light on the Hill from Bethany House or your local bookstore.

Connect with Connilyn Cossette

Habakkuk 1:5

Scripture Writing, Habukkuk 1:5, hand lettering

Ok, Let's start from the beginning. This verse was God's response to Habakkuk's cry for help - he saw the violence all around his country and was asking God to intervene. God did intervene, but He told Habakkuk it would not happen as Habakkuk wanted, rather God was going to use another nation to clear the land, a people not His own, and then He would punish them for all of the destruction they had done for so long. I don't think that is the answer that Habakkuk was expecting. Why would God use a lost nation?

I guess Habakkuk needed to learn the same lesson we need to learn, that God's ways are bigger than we can comprehend. God's plan may not make sense to us, but it will accomplish His will in His timing.

Does this verse still have a place in our lives today? I think yes. God is still intimately involved in our lives. He has a plan to work, and if we are aware of His working, we will be amazed.

Recently we had a women's conference at our church. God showed up in a big way and touched so many of our hearts with a lot of grace and healing. He showed me a path to follow. He removed the cloud of grief that had been surrounding my heart for far too long and reminded me that He STILL does amazing things!

I want to be amazed at the workings of God - daily, hourly, always. 

Be on the lookout for God to do amazing things in your life. Just remember the lesson from Habakkuk - it may not look like you were expecting, but God is still there, still in charge, still working out His will.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Where, Oh where have you been?

Do you ever have those times when it seems like your life should be a Dr Seuss story? Where everything just keeps marching along to an unstoppable beat even when you are trying to get off of the ride? Yeah, it's been a little like that around here for the past three or four weeks. 

I am thankful that we have had such great opportunities recently, it has just been a little more full of a calendar than I like. It is definitely time to find some margin again! 

There are a lot of great things to tell you about... which if you're following us on Instagram you've seen some previews of: the NFL Combine in Indianapolis, the Women's conference this past weekend, the hikes to enjoy the brief snatches of spring in between the snow showers. But rather than try to fit it all in one or two posts and short-change you on some awesome things God has been teaching me, I'll be back to posting much more regularly over the next two weeks. I've even got a great guest post coming up next week about friendship that I know will get you thinking. 

Thank you for stopping by these past two weeks when it has been a little quiet here on the blog! It is always encouraging to find out that you - our wonderful readers- have not only stopped by, but shared your favorite posts with your friends. :) Apparently many of you have been thinking about where your Rome is. If you haven't read that post yet... it is worth a short detour.

So many of you have asked if I would share a little more about what causes me to choose a particular verse to hand-letter. I'll be making the effort to do that more often this Spring. 

In the meantime, let me tell you a little story...

Last week, for some unknown-to-me reason, I felt compelled to read the book of Nahum. I know, minor prophets are not usually my thing either, but it is good to read the entire Bible and I knew it had been while since I'd read this short book. So I started reading and kept coming back to verse 3 of the first chapter. I think a lot of us just focus on the first phrase "the Lord is slow to anger and great in power..." and then we wander through the rest of the book and check the box- done! But there was something more there, the second part of the verse states that "the Lord will not leave the guilty unpunished." Hmm... Perhaps you're recently been in a struggle over something - a job situation, a money issue, or wrongful accusations, then I guess you might notice that part too and be thankful to know that God sees every little detail of our lives and He is keeping track of what happens. Unless, of course, you were the guilty one - then maybe that is a part of the verse you want to avoid because it hits too close to home. But what do you make of the second half of the verse? 

"His way is in the whirlwind and the storm, and clouds are the dust of His feet."

This is the part that made me pause. God's way is in the whirlwind and the storm. This struck me anew - God often does not do things in the gentle way I would choose to do them. He makes His presence, and His plan known - powerfully! That is probably why what we term natural disasters are what the insurance companies call "acts of God." He does His work with power, and where many can see it and stand in awe! He allows many trials to come into our lives to refine us, but He never ever leaves us! He is not only IN the storm, often He IS the storm.

Has God brought a storm through your life recently? Do you feel as though you are always caught in a whirlwind? Instead of trying to get out of the storm, perhaps we should instead turn to the maker of the storm, the only One who can hold us safe in whatever comes our way- God Almighty. It is time to stop running away from the powerful things God wants to do in our lives and instead start running into His plans. He is there waiting for us to realize just how strong and mighty He is. God is waiting for us to pray big prayers, let go of the things of this world, and watch in awe as he is doing a new thing in our lives and in our hearts. 

This past year my life has been one doozy of a storm. So many difficult things to live through, and yet, such peace as I've never known before. God's way has definitely been to use the whirlwind and the storm to show His power - but He has allowed me to be still and know He is God. Psalm 46:10 

Though the trials God has been faithful, through the losses of one kind He has poured out blessing beyond belief in other areas of my life. And then, this past weekend, He reminded me that grief is a temporary thing - even when it seems overwhelming. There will be no crying in heaven, and this body is just a temporary home for my soul. Someday, probably in another 40 or so years, this earthly life for me will end but my eternal life will be just getting started. During a time of great loss it is hard to think about yourself in light of eternity, yet not so hard to know your loved one, if they are a Christian, is in eternity. I wonder why our perspectives are so different during intense grief? 

So, these were some (not all, just some) of my thoughts as I was reading in Nahum. The next morning Arlene and I were getting ready to go to the sewing group at our church. It had snowed overnight - just a bit - not an actual storm, but that morning the sunlight was intense under the lingering clouds. Knowing that if the storm came again - He would be there - we set off. As I was driving I noticed this little church we pass on our way and I asked Arlene to grab my phone and take a picture. It seemed too fitting of a shot to miss, especially after the way the verse in Nahum had struck a chord in my heart. The dark clouds were rolling on by - just like they do in a storm - and yet, the church was bathed in sunlight. There was calm. The church steeple was illuminated by the sunshine - just like our hearts can be illuminated by the Son-shine of Jesus!

It comforted me to see the visual reminder of the spiritual lesson God had put in my heart the night before. A church building is just that - a building. But what happens inside and around a healthy church - the way God's children follow His leading to do His work and show His mercy and grace to others - that is a daily miracle! That is God's power at work - saving one life after another for eternity.

That night when we got home I started reading in Habakkuk. But you'll need to stop back by on Saturday to learn more about that one.  ;)

Know that you are loved by a mighty God - whose way is in the whirlwind and the storm!

If you are at the beginning of your homeschool journey, you might enjoy this week's Homeschool Blog Link-up where several posts are focusing on how to homeschool with babies and toddlers underfoot.

Nahum 1:15

Scripture Writing, Nahum 1:15, Hand lettering

Monday, March 12, 2018

Books With Bean ~ The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Books With Bean, book reviews by teens, The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Title: The Invention of Hugo Cabret

Author: Brian Selznick

Published: January 30th, 2007

Genre:  Historical Fiction

Summary: Hugo is a young boy working in the Paris train station winding the many clocks that passengers use to tell the time. He was helping his uncle, but his uncle recently died. However the head of the station does not know this and hasn't checked in on their apartment in the station to find out. Each day Hugo winds the many clocks as he was taught hoping that no one comes and finds out that he is alone. Besides working on the clocks, Hugo works to fix a machine that his father used to bring home from the museum where he worked when Hugo was younger. Not being able to cash his uncle's checks Hugo has no money for parts to fix the machine. He realizes however that the old man who runs the station toy shop has just the sort of gears and peices to fix his machine. When he attempts to take a toy mouse however the old man catches Hugo and takes his tools and the notebook where he had been keeping all his notes on the machine. Hugo follows the old man to his house in an attempt to get the notebook back. He fails to do this but meets a girl named Isabelle who is about his age who lives there who tells his that she will make sure the old man does not destroy the notebook.
The next day he goes back to the toy booth and the old man shows Hugo ashes that he says are Hugo’s book, however Isabelle tells Hugo that his book is safe. He and Isabelle wander the station and while in the book shop meet a friend of Isabelle’s who promises to let them into the movie theater later. Hugo is hesitant to go at first knowing it will delay his work. 
The old man who Isabelle calls Papa Georges decides to make Hugo work to get his notebook back and sets him to work at cleaning his shop. Hugo is not happy especially as this means he is unable to work on the clocks. Later Hugo and Isabelle go to the theater only to find out that Isabelle’s friend has been fired for sneaking people in, they sneak in anyway but are soon kicked out. Back at the station the station inspector has begun to notice the clocks delays and almost catches Hugo. Isabelle asked Hugo where he lived but he doesn’t tell her fearing someone will come for him and take him away. However when she trips Hugo realizes that on her necklace is the key for winding up his machine and finding out what it does so he comes up with a plan to get her necklace. He gets it the next day when he hugs Isabelle after she tells him she found his notebook. She is mad but when she calms down they put the key into Hugo’s machine and it begins to move.

What I liked about it: The book is very different from a lot of other books in that half of the story is told in drawings. Not just illustrations that show the words but drawings that fill in for text. These beautiful drawings let the imagination figure out it’s own 1,000 words for each picture while not letting you loose track of where the story is going. It makes the book special and unique and unlike anything else you will ever read (that is unless you read his other books done in the same style) I love the story itself and the amazing drawings. (which I have not complimented three times but they are that good)

Language: None

Romance: None

Violence: Hugo’s father dies in a fire and his uncle drowns but it is not described beyond that.

Magic: None and yet so much. There is no actual magic but one of the characters is an early filmmaker and if you ever watch his movies (which I highly recommend) the things he was able to do over 100 years ago with the moving picture will seem like magic. If you do want to see them a lot of them are public domain and can be found online.

Recommended Age: 10 or 11, the story is good but not overly complicated and can be read at any age really.

Books With Bean, book reviews by teens, The Invention of Hugo Cabret