July 15, 2013

"Is that pleasing to God?"

"Is this pleasing to God?" This is the question I find myself asking myself as I make choices or evaluate what I have done. Being a black and white rule follower, I've asked myself this question my entire life. But recently I've changed my question.  In asking the Lord to make his Grace evident in my every day, the Lord showed me that this question puts the focus in the wrong place for me. It leaves me wondering all the time if I'm being pleasing. The focus is on me and my actions. The problem is that when the answer is yes, then I end up feeling good and even (gasp!) prideful. If not, well, then I feel shameful and guilty. Well, neither feeling good about myself nor hanging my head in shame are the Lord's best for me!
As I raise my children and talk regularly with them about their behavior, I don't want to raise them with this habit of self-evaluation in Christ's eyes. I want them to rest in the grace of God. His mercy and His best for us. I don't want the focus to be on us and our performance.
I want the focus to be on Him. He knows my heart, and thankfully loves me anyway. He sees me covered in His blood, and I am learning that He's not sitting on His throne evaluating every action of mine. He. Loves. Me. And He wants me to know and share that love in every moment He gives me on this earth. He wants to focus on Him and His grace and mercy for us. So that's my new question: "Is what I'm doing sharing the love, grace and mercy of Christ?"

May 31, 2013

YWAM Heroes of History Stories {Review}

We were privileged to review this Heroes of History Book Set this month. We've studied US History this year, so this has fit in perfectly! From their website:
Heroes of History is a unique biography series that brings the shaping of history to life with the remarkable true stories of fascinating men and women who changed the course of history.

The stories of Heroes of History are told in an engaging narrative format, where related history, geography, government, and science topics come to life and make a lasting impression. This is a premier biography line for the entire family.

This set includes:
Jacob, a 5th grader, read Abraham Lincoln on his own and we read some of the others as family read-alouds.  We do a lot of reading, and both of my kids have enjoyed them! We all enjoyed the content, and the vocabulary was at a perfect level for my kids to understand well. We've read many other biographies and will certainly choose these again!

As a part of this review, I get to give away a copy to one of my readers! Just enter using the Rafflecopter form now and June 6 EST, and I'll choose a random winner on June 7. *Winner must be a US resident.* a Rafflecopter giveaway

I was given this book set to review in exchange for my honest opinion.

May 22, 2013

Year of the Staycation - Across the USA

Yesterday I posted about activities to do in my area, and I was only one of many bloggers who participated in this! Here are the links to all of the "Year of the Staycation" posts:

Mid Atlantic

NW (or all), Connecticut :: Parenting Miracles
Boston (or all), Massachusetts :: Maven of Savin
Central, New Jersey :: Our Good LIfe
Adirondak Mountains and Central, New York :: For This Season
Buffalo/Niagara Falls, New York :: Ann's Entitled Life
Syracuse, New York :: I am THAT lady
Erie, Pennsylvania :: Growing Kids Ministry
Greater Harrisburg, Pennsylvania :: Family Balance Sheet
Hershey, Pennsylvania :: Good Deal Mama
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania :: Beyond the Cover
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania :: The Coupon "High"
Poconos, Pennsylvania :: Bucktown Bargains
Scranton, Pennsylvania :: Bucktown Bargains


Des Moines, Iowa :: Make the best of everything
Aurora, Illinois :: A Savings WOW!
Central, Illinois :: The Homeschool Scientist
Chicago, Illinois :: Chicagoland Homeschool Network
Naperville, Illinois :: The Sensible Mom
Schaumburg, Illinois :: Ravings By Rae
Fort Wayne, Indiana :: Simplified Saving
Indianapolis, Indiana (Metro Area) :: In Good Cents
Muncie, Indiana (Central IN) :: the daisyhead
Northern Indiana :: So Dough Savvy
Kansas City Area :: Kansas City Mamas
Metro Detroit, Michigan :: Saving Dollars and Sense
Grand Rapids, Michigan :: Give Me Neither
Oakland County, Michigan :: Bargain Shopper Mom
Minneapolis, Minnesota :: Creative Couponing
Rural Minnesota (either Southern our Lake Country) :: Mommysavers.com
St. Cloud, Minnesota :: Frugal Finders
Kansas City, Missouri/Kansas :: Kosher on a Budget
Springfield, Missouri :: Getting Freedom
Cincinnati, Ohio :: Family Friendly Cincinnati
Columbus, Ohio :: Cleverly Simple
Dayton, Ohio :: Savings Lifestyle: Dayton
Mansfield, Ohio :: The Traveling Praters
NE Ohio :: Raising Lifelong Learners
Northeast Ohio (Canton, Akron, Cleveland) :: Sisters Shopping on a Shoestring
Black Hills, South Dakota :: Little House Living
South Dakota :: Moms Mustard Seeds
Oshkosh, Wisconsin :: Adventures of a Stay at Home Mom


Phoenix, Arizona :: Mom Endeavors
Scottsdale, Arizona :: Saving For Someday
Tucson, Arizona :: Desert Chica Ramblings
Colorado Springs, Colorado :: The Greenbacks Gal
Denver, Colorado :: Bargain Blessings
Helena, Montana :: The WiC Project
Omaha, Nebraska :: Mom Endeavors
Reno, Nevada - Lake Tahoe (Northern Nevada) :: Saving in Nevada


Fresno, California (Central Valley) :: NerdFamily Blog
Los Angeles, California :: Savings.com
San Diego, California :: Good Cheap Eats
San Diego, California :: Life as MOM
Portland, Oregon :: Frugal Living NW
Seattle, Washington :: Thrifty NW Mom

South Atlantic

Arkansas :: Discovering Arkansas
Washington, DC :: Kidventurous
Clearwater Beach, Florida :: Bargain Briana
Jacksonville, Florida :: Saving The Family Money
Southwest Florida (Ft. Myers area) :: Chaos Is Bliss
St. Augustine, Florida :: Simply St. Augustine
Tallahassee, Florida :: SwagGrabber
Atlanta, Georgia (metro area) :: Hodgepodge
Atlanta, Georgia (metro area) :: The Couponing Couple
Annapolis, Maryland :: The Happy Housewife
Hagerstown, Maryland :: Cheryl Pitt
Asheville, North Carolina :: Paradise Praises
Charlotte, North Carolina :: from our front porch lookin' in...
Raleigh/Southeastern, North Carolina :: Upside Down Homeschooling
Upstate South Carolina :: The Tween & Me
Charlottesville, Virginia :: How to Have it All
Richmond, Virginia :: Teachers of Good Things
Smithfield, Virginia :: Walking in High Cotton
Virginia Beach, Virginia :: The Coupon Challenge

South Central

Coastal Alabama :: Meet Penny
Huntsville, Alabama :: The Traveling Praters
Northern Kentucky :: Simply Sherryl
Chattanooga, Tennessee :: Living Chic on the Cheap
East Tennessee (Smoky Mountains, Knoxville) :: Finding Joy on the Journey
Nashville, Tennessee :: Montessori Tidbits
Arlington, Texas :: Grocery Shop For FREE
Austin, Texas (Hill Country) :: Ponder the Path
College Station, Texas :: How to Homeschool My Child
Dallas, Texas :: Surviving The Stores
East Dallas, Texas :: Funky Faith Girl
Fort Worth, Texas :: Coupons & Freebies Mom
Houston, Texas :: MomsToolbox
Houston, Texas :: MyLitter
Katy, Texas :: Moms Confession
McAllen, Texas (Rio Grande Valley) :: iLoveMy5Kids
San Antonio, Texas :: Melissa's Bargains

Staycation in the Knoxville Area

We're not planning a family vacation this year, but we still want to make memories. Knowing that thousands of other families are in this boat, we're all teaming up to give you ideas for your area!!  If you're like I am, you'll want to visit the host website for all the information anyway, so I've linked to site for specific information and only included a short summary here that includes our favorite family friendly characteristics. Almost everything I've listed is FREE, and I've noted where that is not the case. If you're in the Knoxville or surrounding area, here are some of the things we're going to do this summer:

In Knoxville
Ijams Nature Center is a wildlife sanctuary on the Tennessee River that offers tons of fun! Nature trails, lots of wildlife to view, picnic areas, a river boardwalk, and so much more! Here is Ijams' MUST SEE list! (A few activities require a rental fee, but admission and the majority of the activities are free.)

The Knoxville Zoo is a beautiful zoo that includes a large kids area for when the little ones need to be free to roam, play and even get wet! (Not free. Group Rates are available.)

The Sunshphere is not really an all day attraction, but if you live in the area, a trip to the Sunsphere and Court of Flags Fountains area would at least wear the kids out having fun! The observation deck of the Sunsphere boasts a 360 degree view of Knoxville, and the water fountain area is always a hit for my children!

The Women's Basketball Hall of Fame is located in downtown Knoxville.  We're not sports enthusiasts here, but I didn't want to neglect those of you who are! (This is not free, but all tickets are under $8.)

Smoky Mountains
The list of free things to do in the Smoky Mountains is obviously very long, so I'm just including a few of our family friendly favorites.

Cades Cove is a beautiful spot for wildlife viewing and Smoky Mountain scenery, but our favorite thing to see is the homes, churches and even a working grist mill built in the early 1800s. My kids thoroughly enjoyed seeing their Little House on the Prairie books come to life. (Not the right location, I know, but it worked for us!)

Clingman's Dome is the highest point in the Smoky Mountains and Tennessee, and if your kids are like mine, they love things that are the highest, fastest, biggest, ... you get the idea!  You can also see three states from the observation tower at the top! (Take a jacket, even if you might not think you want one.) Because of their proximity to one another, we also do Newfound Gap on the same day.

Laurel Falls is a 2.6 round trip mile hike that culminates at a beautiful waterfall. One of our favorite parts is that you can get in the water! (Don't think swimming, think wading.) It's paved and taking a stroller is possible, though it's not flat at all, so I'd recommend a backpack for your little one instead.

Sugarlands Visitor Center is a newly renovated visitor center including a gift shop, movie, and an area full of Smoky Mountain wildlife on display. But what we love is the FREE ranger led programs they offer! (Did you know the Smoky Mountains is the Salamander Capital of the world?!)

Surrounding Area
The Children's Museum of Oak Ridge is a modest museum that opened in an old junior high school in 1973. You'll definitely want to check out their site for all they have to offer but I have two favorite things about this museum: they have a LOT of exhibits so you can go there over and over again, and the best part: they want your kids to touch almost all of it! Tell me that's not worth going for! (Tickets cost up to $7.)

Wetlands Waterpark is one place we've not been but are going this summer, probably more than once! It's a smaller waterpark than the large theme parks offer, but I like that because I'm less likely to lose my kids! There are slides that all kids can ride and a few larger slides for children 48" and taller. My favorite part about this park is that you still get all the waterslide fun without that unaffordable cost of the larger parks.

February 24, 2013

Titus 2:1 Conference! I get to go!

I'm so looking forward to the Titus 2:1 Conference. I'm so excited about going to the conference thanks to my sponsor, Heidi St. John (The Busy Homeschool Mom)!  But I'd be lying if I said that the flight, airport-people-watching time and silent, beautiful hotel room aren't part of the fun for me too!  
In short, from the conference page:
The 2:1 Conference is a faith based conference for homeschooling parents who blog (not just about homeschooling), or are otherwise interested in social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Anyone who reads here knows I've gone AWOL since I started working part time in August... because being on the computer for work comes before pleasure! I do thoroughly miss the therapy I get when I share stories about our family though. And I have a several month long God story that I have to get down on "paper" before too long, because it's still getting better! 

So... on to the reason for this post! An introduction of myself to the other Titus 2:1 attendees:

1) How long have I been blogging? 
(Hold on while I go look...) About 6 years.

Seven years.

Which is harder?
Oh my goodness... HOMESCHOOLING!

2) If I was a superhero, what would be my homeschool super power?
Being able to teach well that which comes with difficulty to each of my children.

3) If I could go anywhere, besides the 2:1 Conference, where would be my dream "mom-cation?"
A house right on a gulf coast beach with my family - and someone to prepare our food. :)

4. What do I hope to "get out" of the 2:1 Conference?
I'm looking forward to being refreshed and encouraged, and coming home with a toolbox full of ideas to serve and support others more effectively as they run their homeschooling race! I'm the Community Manager for Five in a Row and the Social Media Assistant for Heidi St. John. It's a blessing that I get to read, edit, post, and create homeschooling encouragement every day. The Lord must have known how badly I needed it myself!

Can't wait to meet you all!!

~ Melissa