Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Review of Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles by Paul David Tripp

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

"In the midst of folding laundry, coordinating carpool schedules, and breaking up fights, many parents get lost. Feeling pressure to do everything “right” and raise up “good” children, it’s easy to lose sight of our ultimate purpose as parents in the quest for practical tips and guaranteed formulas." (inside cover of Parenting by Paul David Tripp)
That book description had my attention. I've been through a series of "formulas" in my parenting career, trying to find the right mix of strictness, rules, grace, emotional connections, key words, and discipline tools to achieve well-behaved children with a heart for God. I've swung one direction, and then the other direction. Sigh. The one thing I've learned is - there is no formula.

Paul David Tripp has been watching others struggle in this same way - putting methods before relationship - and often failing to achieve the results they hoped for. That's why he decided to write Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family, though he hadn't planned to write another parenting book after his book, Age of Opportunity

Parenting isn't just a list of tricks of the trade to get your children to behave. It helps you to see their heart, see your own heart, and build a Biblical, godly relationship with your children that will help point your children toward God. It's hard reading at times. It's not just a "feel good" book. It's not a funny book. It's a challenging book, and it can be life-changing if you read it and apply it.

One thing I've realized from my own life, and reading this book definitely confirmed, is that the biggest key to parenting our children is going to be prayer. We must be in prayer for wisdom, in prayer for our children's spiritual lives, and in prayer for ourselves. Parenting isn't just about educating and providing for our children. It isn't just about raising them to support themselves. It is about their eternal future, and there is a spiritual battle involved.

"Parenting is being willing to expend your time, gifts, energies, and resources in a daily battle of worship as God's tool in the lives of your children. It's never just about food, friends, Facebook, homework, sleep-time, clothes, household rules, or sibling squabbles. Those things are struggles because there is a deeper war going on inside the hearts of your children. Every struggle in these areas is an opportunity that is given to you by a God of amazing grace to get at those deeper issues for the sake of the redemption, rescue, and transformation of your children. And God will give you everything you need to engage yourself in that deeper war." (Parenting, page 162)
Just wow! If you're tired of trying formulas, and swinging back and forth on the parenting method bandwagons, you need to read Parenting by Paul Tripp. There is so much more at stake, and there is no instant formula. There is only God's grace, God's wisdom, and a heart committed to serving Him and leading your children wisely.

April E.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Fall Family Fun ... in Photos!

We've had a busy fall so far, and I haven't taken much time to blog. To make up for that a bit, I wanted to share a few of our favorite pictures.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

Happy Fall Y'all!

April E.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Review and Giveaway - Life Creative: Inspiration for Today's Renaissance Mom

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

I posted that photo when I was just a few pages into Life Creative. I had no idea how meaningful this book was actually going to be for me. It has been ages since I read a book that made me cry, but the words of Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart touched me so deeply that I was moved to tears more than once. Two words appeared on the chalkboard in my room - Poeima and Avodah - both explained beautifully by the authors, each speaking hope into my life.

Although Life Creative is a book primarily intended to encourage women to flourish in the creativity God has given them, it is also uplifting in other ways. Each woman's individual worth as one of God's creations and one of His daughters (for those who have accepted His gift of salvation) is repeatedly affirmed. We are all God's poeima - His workmanship, His masterpiece, His poem. Each type of creative gift is recognized and valued, and women are encouraged to embrace their creative gifts and worship through them. Worship is explained as being avodah - work, worship, and service - all combined together.

Every single chapter of Life Creative spoke to me and encouraged me. I was encouraged to value my creativity, to nurture it, and to use it to bless others - first in my home, then in my community, and maybe someday in the world. In His timing, led by Him, and used by Him. This was particularly meaningful to me, since I've been struggling with feeling stifled. I've felt as if my creative side has been left behind and I have no time to indulge in those gifts right now. I've wondered if my voice was heard, if God had any use for me. Life Creative reassured me that my voice, my art has value. That even pouring out my art in my home has value. God sees, my family sees, and it is my act of worship. Every day.

I completely recommend Life Creative for every mom who either feels as if her creativity MUST find a release, or feels as if she isn't creative at all. Wendy and Kelli have written such an uplifting book for every mom.

Now, for the giveaway!

Is there room for creativity and children in a mother's life? Learn how to balance home, art, and family in Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart's new book, Life Creative. In this Pinterest age of handcrafted children’s parties, Instagram photos of beautifully decorated homes, and blogs filled with poetry and prose, it is clear that we are in the midst of a brand new artistic renaissance. Life Creative paints the stories of moms, just like you, who are fitting their inspired lives into the everyday, ordinary places of motherhood.

Join Wendy, Kelli, and other moms in celebrating the beauty of being a creative mom by entering to win the Called to Be Creative Giveaway (details below) and by attending their author chat party on October 27!


One grand prize winner will receive:


Enter today by clicking the icon below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on 10/27. The winner will be announced at the Life Creative Facebook party. RSVP for a chance to connect with Wendy, Kelli, and other creative moms, as well as for a chance to win other prizes!


RSVP today and spread the word—tell your friends about the giveaway via social media and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 27th!

April E.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Review: Gratitude - A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

Gratitude: A Prayer and Praise Coloring Journal is a small hardcover book which has a cardboard style cover. Every two-page spread has a short devotional thought or prayer, a place for you to write your own response, and a design you can color. Some of the pages include pre-printed color, but almost every page leaves room for you to color a portion.

One thing I like about Gratitude is that the pages are small. The book itself is only 8 x 6 inches in size, so the coloring pages are also small. As a Mom, it's hard to find time for devotions, let alone journaling or coloring. The entries in Gratitude are all small enough that I can finish them in a short amount of time. The book is also small enough to toss into my purse (I have a big purse) to work on while waiting for kids to finish a practice or class.

I'm going to share a youtube video that another blogger (Happy Little Homemaker) created to show the inside of Gratitude. It's just 44 seconds long, and it's worth watching.

This really is a beautiful little book. The devotionals aren't the meatiest, but they are encouraging and they do focus our minds back on God. And in our chaotic, busy life, returning our focus to Him is very important.

April E.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Review: The Drawing Lesson by Mark Crilley

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

I was sure my children would love the graphic novel style of The Drawing Lesson. They read it, and enjoyed it. But my 10 year old daughter said it didn't really have lessons in it. She expected the step-by-step drawing lessons she has seen in most children's drawing books. Instead, The Drawing Lesson gives tips for improving your drawing, in the form of a story of a boy learning from an artist he meets in the park.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

Now that my children have taken an art class, they've heard these same drawing tips from their art teacher. Suddenly, the book has more meaning to them and they can see that the lessons are actually important for improving their ability to draw what they see. Now, when they read the book, they understand the lessons on white space better. This book reinforces what they're trying to understand in their art class.

Do not expect a step-by-step "draw a cat" lesson in The Drawing Lesson. The book is very helpful in teaching children how to look carefully at what they see, and draw what they see. My favorite part of the book actually happens on page 15, when the artist states that seeing what is wrong with your picture is 90% of the battle. Seeing what's wrong and being willing to erase it and fix it is key to improving as an artist. My children need that reminder because they look at a picture, see what's wrong, and then think they are bad artists. I've used this line to encourage them since reading the book.

The ONE thing I don't like about this book is the way the artist sometimes yells at David, the student. I realize it's probably for humor, or hyperbole, but it bothers me. That is the only thing I'd change about the book. Otherwise, it's a winner in our house.

April E.

Review: NIrV Minecrafters Bible

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

Yes, my son is a fan of the Minecraft game. All of my kids are, to be honest. I knew that this Minecrafters Bible would be right up my son's alley. He was so excited to receive it.

For the most part, this is a normal New International Reader's Version Bible. The main difference is that there are illustrations that resemble Minecraft creations. On the illustration of Noah's Ark, there is a short introduction/explanation of the Bible story, a Bible verse, and then a challenge. The challenge is to create a large two-level boat and bring two of every animal to it using food. For the story of Samson, the reader is challenged to create a large building with two tall pillars. For the nativity story, you are challenged to create a stable and a manger.

I love that the Minecrafters Bible encourages them to take what they're reading and re-create it in their game. This can also be a fun way for parents to interact with their children, taking their devotional time and expanding it in the game.

Mostly, this Bible just wins for its coolness factor. When my son takes it to church, the other kids ooh and ahh over its cover and illustrations.

The NIrV does make it easier for my son (now 8) to read the and understand the verses himself. He has asked to read his Bible before bed more often now than he ever did before. This is not a red-letter edition. So if it is very important to you to have Jesus' words in red, you won't find that in here.

This is a nice, hardcover Bible that will be getting lots of use in our home! My son gives it two thumbs-up, and so do I.

April E.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Review: Live on Forever by The Afters

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

I quietly turned on this album one afternoon, without any introduction or comment. Before the first song ended, my 12 year old asked me who it was. He loves it! My 15 year old son doesn't mind it, but he prefers metal rather than contemporary or alternative rock styles of music. My 8 year old son, 10 year old daughter and 17 year old daughter all enjoy the album, as well. Personally, The Afters haven't replace my favorite group, but I do enjoy the album.

A photo posted by April E (@elcloudapril) on

Live On Forever has ten songs on the album. My favorite of all the songs is "Wake Up My Heart", but "Eyes of A Believer"  and "Battles" are right up there next to it. The Afters' lyrics just speak to me.

"Stop my world, slow it down for a minute. Be my eyes, let me see why I'm in it. And wake up my heart, wake up my heart for You." ("Wake Up My Heart")

"Whatever battle may come, You know He's already won, (In the eyes) In the eyes of a believer." ("Eyes of a Believer")

"You’re going before me and oceans are parting. You’re fighting my battles. When my feet are failing and my heart is shaking, You’re fighting my battles"  ("Battles")

I love when I find God-honoring music that my children enjoy, especially my older children and teens. The Afters fit that perfectly! I think my sons have found their new bedtime CD, to play on repeat all night long! 

April E.