Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Review: Laura Story's Open Hands Album

#OpenHands #FlyBy
Laura Story's music inspires and comforts. We hear it on the radio, and sing it in church services. Her new album, Open Hands, is no different.

We were already fans of Laura Story's contemporary Christian music style, and my family has been enjoying this latest album. Each of her songs speaks of the rich depths of a relationship with Christ, and His Steadfast Love. Open Hands describes the continual act of surrendering our life and dreams to God's will. Every Word You Breathe is a reminder to seek God's voice, to listen and cling to His Word each day.

I love how she works classic hymns into For the Love of my King and Awake My Soul. She keeps the hymn portion classic, inserting her modern verses between the hymn. It flows together so well. As a mother, my heart resonates with Give You Faith, a prayer that our children will have their own faith in God and a relationship with Him.

The entire Open Hands album is beautiful, uplifting, and so easy to listen to. If you're already familiar with Laura Story's music, you will want this CD. If the video I shared was the first time you'd heard her sing, and you enjoyed it, you'll love the rest of the album, as well. We're loving it! Now that I've had it to myself for a week, my daughter is raising her hand for her turn.

Stay up-to-date on Laura Story's music by following her on social media:

April E.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Review: Tightropes and Teeter-Totters by Lisa Pennington

Tightropes and Teeter-Totters: Finding Balance in the Ups and Downs of Life.
Balance. In an attempt to find balance in my own life, I'd decided to review less books, take on fewer outside commitments, and try to bring my focus back to my cluttered home and busy family. But then I saw that book, written by a fellow homeschool mom of 9, and knew I had to take on just one more book review. Because ... maybe Lisa Pennington had found the secret to balance in the hectic life of parenting and homeschooling a large family.

I wasn't prepared for the ouch that accompanied some of Lisa's chapters. She writes truthfully, like the good friend who will tell you something negative that you need to hear, but softens it with a hug and genuine encouragement.

Lisa has developed an acronym from the word Balance that she uses to address many aspects of a woman's life: her home, her marriage, her children, her job, her ministry, and her friendships. Using these steps to examine each area that is out of balance, she provides a framework for getting life back in balance. I desperately need to get several areas of my life back in balance, and it's so helpful to have a game plan laid out.

Yes, if you read Tightropes and Teeter-Totters, you might say ouch a time or two. But you will also be encouraged to re-prioritize, take steps to change, and to persevere.

Learn more about Lisa Pennington and purchase a copy.

April E.


Thursday, January 19, 2017

Review: NIV Journal the Word Bible by Zondervan

I didn't really need another Bible, but I couldn't resist the beautiful botanical print on this cloth-covered hardcover Bible. It's so pretty and well-made. If botanical print isn't your preference, it is also available in other covers. Mostly, I am extremely thankful for the lightly-lined margins which give me so much room for taking notes in church or adding my own thoughts on Bible passages.

The NIV Journal the Word Bible doesn't have any other special features. There are no maps, no commentary, no glossary or concordance. It's simply the Scripture and some small footnotes at the bottom of each page. This allows the Bible to remain reasonably sized, despite the extra space allotted for note-taking. The hardcover Bible measures approximately 8 inches by 6.5 inches, and is 1.5 inches thick. It's still perfectly sized for carrying with you to church.

The Scripture text is printed in a single column rather than the usual double-columns per page. I know the purpose was actually to make room for the note-taking section, but I like this format much better.  It reads more like a normal book this way, rather than going down each page twice before switching pages.

Although I enjoy art, I have found it hard to try to create art in my Bible. Personally, I want the ability to erase and try again that this paper quality doesn't really allow. I also never want my artwork to make the Scripture itself unreadable. So, I can't really attest to how well this particular Bible would work for the art-journaling trend.

I can however tell you that if you always find yourself taking prolific notes on the pastor's sermon or writing notes, dates, thoughts in the margins of your Bible, the NIV Journal The Word Bible is perfect! There is plenty of room for word definitions, sermon notes, and more. You'll be able to look back on lessons learned over the years, and leave a legacy for your children in this beautiful Bible filled with your handwritten notes. A beautiful legacy!

April E.

Book Review: The Kill Fee by Fiona Veitch Smith

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

Who can resist a book that mixes a female reporter sleuth, the roaring twenties, and the Russian Revolution? Not me.

I thoroughly enjoyed The Kill Fee. Not knowing the identity of the man in the bear skin coat, but following his actions, kept me intrigued. As the mystery unfolded, I found myself not too surprised by his identity, but definitely surprised by twists the story took with other characters. I stayed up late three different nights reading this book. By the third night, I was completely drawn into the mystery and finished more than half the book in one night. One very late night.

Although I enjoy Poppy Denby as a character, I'm not as invested in her romance with Daniel as I thought I would be. Throughout The Kill Fee, she is worrying that Daniel might expect her to give up her career to care for his children. That actually kind of bothered me, and almost made me feel like the story would be better without any potential romance for her. The romance felt like an add-on to this story, anyway. The book could have rolled along satisfactorily without it.

The Kill Fee is a good read; an intriguing, cozy mystery for reading under a warm blanket in these long winter months!

April E.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Review: Pray A To Z by Amelia Rhodes

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I requested Pray A to Z from Litfuse Publicity Group to read and review. I was pleasantly surprised. This small paperback book is full of prayers listed alphabetically, but it isn't just 26 prayers. There is more than one prayer for each letter of the of the alphabet, and the topics are listed clearly at the beginning of the book.

Each topical prayer fills one page of the book. It begins with a Scripture, a note of who you are praying for, and closes with a written prayer. You can pray the provided prayer word-for-word or use it as a launching pad for your own prayer.

The prayers are written broadly, so you could make it a blanket prayer for strangers within your community, but they also can be easily personalized to pray for specific individuals. I did this with the prayer for pregnancy, praying specifically for my daughter and another woman in my church.

There are topics in this book that I would never have thought to pray for. I think this works best when prayed through from start to finish, in order, as a systematic approach to changing your community. But, when God lays a specific need on your heart, you can also flip right to that prayer and lift it up to God.

I mostly see this book as a training tool. I can't imagine anyone not being changed as they pray through this book, and not being inspired to personalize these prayers. So let the book be used as a starting point, an inspiration, a checklist of needs ... and then let the Holy Spirit work through you as you become a prayer warrior for your community.

April E.


Are you ready to change your community, one prayer at a time? Learn how to organize your prayer requests topically and lay the burdens of your community at the feet of our Heavenly Father with the help of Amelia Rhodes' new book, Pray A to Z. Whether you are praying for a friend’s adoption journey, a neighbor’s bankruptcy, or a family member’s cancer, this book will give you Bible verses, prayer prompts, and prayer starts to guide you through praying for even the most difficult issues that affect the people you know and love. Perfect for either individual or group prayer, Pray A to Z will help you experience the peace that comes from communicating with God.

Learn more about Pray A to Z and how to pray for your community, and enter to win Amelia's Guide to Prayer Prize Pack to get you started.

One grand prize winner will receive:
Enter today by clicking the icon below, but hurry! The giveaway ends on December 20. The winner will be announced December 21 on Amelia's blog.


April E.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Review: The Low-Pressure Guide to Parenting Your Preschooler by Tim Sanford, M.A.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

I've been a mother for over 21 years. I have two adult children out of the home, and seven still at home. I just became a grandma. I still live with the idea that it's my job to make sure my kids turn out right, make the right choices, and grow up to be responsible adults who don't need too much therapy. I've lived my parenting life full of shoulds, oughts, and internal pressure to do everything right. I wish I'd read The Low-Pressure Guide to Parenting Your Preschooler  years ago.

It doesn't just apply to preschoolers. As I read the book, I could see how children at all their different ages needed the same things, and how I fall into the same parenting traps even after all these years. (Why do I suddenly feel so old writing this review?)

This book really does offer good parenting tips, excellent communication skills, as well as help reduce the pressure we put on ourselves as parents. It won't make your life instantly easier, because kids are still kids, and they will make bad choices. But, it can help you walk through the parenting journey without taking on problems that aren't really yours in the first place.

I did learn a lot about communication with children and I am working to make changes in how I parent ... even after 21 years of experience. It would make a great gift for a young mom in your life! I'm going to read it a second time, then pass it to my daughter so she can avoid some of the mistakes I've made.

April E.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Review: Amy Grant's New Tennessee Christmas CD

We love Christmas music at our house. We start listening to it long before Thanksgiving, and Amy Grant's Christmas albums have always been family favorites. So, I was excited to have the chance to review her new Christmas album: Tennessee Christmas. After all, it's been nearly 20 years since her last Christmas album was released.

Yes, the title song on the new album is a remake of her 1983 song, from A Christmas Album. Along with that familiar song, Amy sings some old familiar songs, as well as some original Christmas music. Some of the songs are co-written by Amy herself, and her friends and family join in the recording. The album includes some spoken thoughts from Amy between song, and it has an air of coziness, warmth, love, and friendship.

The new songs on the album are To Be Together, Melancholy Christmas, Still Can't Sleep, Another Merry Christmas, Christmas For You and Me, and December. These are all warm, mellow songs.

The old, familiar songs include Tennessee Christmas, White Christmas, Joy To The World, I've Got My Love To Keep You Warm, Baby It's Cold Outside, Christmas Don't Be Late, and O Come All Ye Faithful. This mix of carols and fun Christmas standards just sounds and feels like Christmas to me. 

My husband and I have this CD playing on repeat in our bedroom. It's perfect for bedtime, reading, and resting in general.

If you're a fan of Amy Grant's, or if you are just looking for some new Christmas music, listen to the videos. Tennessee Christmas would make a great stocking stuffer for someone you love, or yourself!

April E.