Friday, March 24, 2017

Litfuse Review: Unchained

Recently, I had the pleasure of reading Unchained written by Noel Jesse Heikkinen and published by David C. Cook. This book is a must read for anyone who wonders if they will ever measure up, if they will ever stop disappointing God, if they will ever be free of their past, if they will be stained by their sins forever, if people will always judge them, or if they will ever indeed be truly free!

From the moment I started reading Unchained by Noel Jesse Heikkinen, I was hooked. I found my life story laid bare on the pages before me in Kate's story. "God must be at least a little bit disappointed with me," Kate laments. Noel expounds; "Disappointment is what she had come to expect. Dads can do that to a little girl, as can teachers, coaches, spouses, and schoolyard bullies." For years, I thought I wasn't "good enough." I thought God must be disappointed in me. People in my life had told me I wasn't enough and that I was worthless. This colored how I thought God viewed me. When I learned to see God for who He truly is and His love as unconditional, it was indeed freeing. When we totally surrender, those chains are gone and we can live with abandon for Him. This is the premise of Unchained.

Unchained - The Premise:

The key verse referred to throughout Unchained is "For freedom Christ has set us free." (ESV) Yet, are we truly free? Have we learned to leave our past, our sins, our fears, our worries at the feet of God? Or, do we carry them around our necks like heavy chains weighing us down and tripping us up causing us to stumble over and over again? Unchained talks about the various traps that can keep us enslaved and how we can be truly free. "Chains have become so much a part of our daily existence that we don't even know we are weighed down." I certainly didn't realize it. One of the points is that NOTHING is greater nor more important than God. We cannot allow manmade rules or tasks to take precedence over God and His presence in our life. We were created for a love relationship with Him and not a guilt ridden judgement. God wants us to be free. It is why He sent His Son. "So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed." John 8:36 (NIV)

Noel Jesse Heikkinen - Author:

Noel can't remember a time he wasn't in church. He grew up knowing who Jesus was. Yet, Noel like so many of us, if we are truly honest, is a follower of Jesus who knows what it is like to stumble along life's path. He knows what it is like to falter and make mistakes or as he aptly states it to go "sideways for a season."

Noel is married to Grace. Together they are parents to Emma (the only girl and college student), Jesse and Ethan (both high school students), and Cole (a junior high student). 

Noel serves as one of the Pastors at Riverview Church in Lansing, Michigan, where they believe in a team ministry approach. They also have four other venues, including one at Michigan State University. Noel is also involved in leadership capacities with Reliant Missions and Act 29.

Where to Purchase Unchained:

David C. Cook


Barnes and Noble



Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Words of Hope: March Monthly Blog Link - Up - The Gifts of Christian Fellowship and Intercession

Thirty years ago, God took my family on the beginning of our faith journey. We collectively decided we wanted to find a church that would foster a personal relationship with God. We didn't want a church to merely attend on Sundays or to say prayers by rote. We wanted a faith that was alive every day. What we found was a church nestled in the middle of the country fields and a babbling stream where God became real, relationships were built, and we learned how to praise and worship. It is the church where I learned all of the old hymns and praise choruses that I now sing with my son. It is the church where I learned to serve Christ, where I accepted Christ as Savior and was baptized by submersion. It is the church where some of my closest friendships were formed.

Friends of the heart truly do make the journey better. I have been having an extremely difficult week. I'm an extreme medical mess again without any answers on the horizon. The level of stress in our house is ready to boil over. My strength is gone. My faith is intact but I need a power boost. What do you do when life is difficult? Me, I call, text, or email my wise owls, my go-to people, my dearest friends. One of these friends has been in my life for the past thirty years since we met at that country church. She affectionately calls me her Red Hot Mess. Although she lives in Texas and I live in Pennsylvania, we know that the other will always be there. We are sisters of the heart brought together by our faith and God's love. I have another friend who lives in Tennessee. We don't talk every day but God knew we were kindred spirits and brought us together. We are both single moms raising special boys. We both live with daily pain from chronic illness. She loves my aunt's gelato and I just love my aunt. We know that the other will always be there. When I am in need of prayer or feeling overwhelmed by life, I reach out to these two lovely ladies.

About ten years ago, God graced me with the gift of an older half-brother. I won the lottery when he came into my life. Now only had God heard the prayers of a little girl years before she was even born and uttered the words but He had given me a brother who loves Him and serves Him as well as a wonderful sister-in-law who has a beautiful spirit that lives for Christ and a precious nephew and niece. Wow! My sister-in-law has become a source of comfort and joy and another person I can turn to for prayer. Blessings!

No discussion on fellowship and prayer would be complete without mentioning my Messianic Jewish sister. This dear woman will literally knock on Heaven's door on my behalf asking God to hear our cries. I love her for it! I know that if I have a need she will be fervently praying, interceding on my behalf. I think praying for others, interceding on their behalf, is one of the greatest gifts we can give to them. Most often, it is a gift they may never even know about but the benefits can be eternally gratifying. When we heed the Holy Spirit's tug upon our hearts, God is able to work in and through us because we are being obedient. We are showing our love for Him and for our brothers and sisters in Christ. That is the main purpose for which God created us: to have a loving relationship with Him and with each other.

Let us fellowship, one with another, and with God. Let us build each other up with encouragement and through prayer and intercession. Let us be there for one another during tough times and to celebrate the good times.

Father God, We praise you for the gifts of friends and Christian fellowship. We thank you for the opportunity to come to you any time in prayer not only for ourselves but also for our friends and loved ones. Father God, be our Guide. Grant us Your wisdom and discernment as we serve you today and always. Be our strength, especially when we are weak. Let Your light and love shine through us and in us. In Jesus's Name, Amen!

God's Writer Girl - Words of Hope



Homeschool Review Crew: Virtual Fridge Art Project

Welcome to the newest feature on God's Writer Girl's Blog: The Virtual Fridge. Some of my fellow Homeschool Review Crew members host a weekly post that showcases their child's/children's artwork.

My son has a very creative, imaginative side. He loves to draw. One of the things he enjoys drawing the most are various creatures. All of his monsters are friendly and help him protect his family. He gives each monster a special talent. I'm hoping to talk him into sharing some of his creations on our Virtual Fridge in the near future. I'm just honored that he likes to share them with me. He tells me all about each creation: why he chose certain colors, why he chose that particular name for that specific creature, and why he gave it those exact talents and abilities. I feel blessed!

This week, my son sculpted a turtle for a homeschool art project. It wasn't an feat as he doesn't like organized art projects. He doesn't necessarily like following instructions for art. He'd rather just create. Yet, he did a great job! I'm proud of him for persevering! You can read more about our project on our review of Creating a Masterpiece.

Please stop by and check out the Virtual Fridge host sites: my friend Kym at Homeschool Coffee Break, my friend Chareen at Every Bed of Roses, and This Day Has Great Potential. You can also see some other amazing work by homeschool children featured at the link-up. Be encouragers of these young minds and talents!

Homeschool Review Crew Review: Creating a Masterpiece

Recently, my son and I had the opportunity to review the monthly plan of online art instructions from Creating a Masterpiece. I made the mistake of signing up for this review without first talking to my son. I looked through the product samples online and was intrigued by what I saw. Sadly, my son, who has diagnoses of ADHD and high-functioning Autism, wasn't on the same page. As is typical for children on the Autism Spectrum, he ONLY wants to learn about things HE DEEMS important. He enjoys art but he wants to draw WHAT HE wants the WAY HE wants. He doesn't want to follow step by step instructions. He doesn't see a need to learn from the masters. Sigh!  😞  I truly did NOT see this reaction coming. Typically, I choose the curriculum and he works on the lessons with prompting and redirecting. He isn't an independent learner as he doesn't see learning as a priority and gets off-track easily.

I knew my son's projects, in all likelihood, would not look like the sample products, like the one pictured above. He tries his best and that is ALL I require. I want him to try new things and to give life his best effort. Art simply is not one of his gifts. I get that. While I think some children are gifted in art and have a natural talent, like the girl pictured above, my son has had years of Occupational Therapy to help improve his fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial reasoning. However, practice does improve skills. If I could just get him past his resistance to actually work on the lessons, it would be a win for everyone, especially if I could maintain my sanity in the process. I was determined.

Did I mention I was determined? 😃 Creating a Masterpiece has a Beginner's Level followed by Levels 1 through 5 as well as a special Art in History Level. The Beginner's Level is the easiest. These lessons can be completed in an hour if your child is a focused and thorough worker. Levels 1 through 5 take anywhere from three to seven lessons to complete with each lesson taking approximately an hour each. Each lesson starts by going over the supplies needed for that specific project. Parents may want to watch this portion prior to the day they decide to start a project to ensure they have the needed supply or your child might be disappointed if they can't start or complete a project because you don't have the correct items. Most of the products used are those specifically designated for art classes and projects and not home crafts. The likelihood that you'll have extra supplies around the house that you can grab and use in these projects is very slim.

I'd say it took my son two hours to complete his project. Yes, I was successful in getting him to complete a subject. More to follow on that. However, we had to take breaks during our project when he would become frustrated or our project would NOT have been completed. The project he agreed to work on was broken down into four video lessons. This was a huge plus for two reasons. First, we could use these short clips and then take our breaks. In addition, we could rewind when he wasn't clear on the directions and pause when he was working so the video didn't continue without him. That would have frustrated him otherwise.

We looked over the Beginner Level projects together. I already had one in mind but knew I needed his agreement. One of the projects is to create a turtle out of clay. My son loves Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As I have mentioned before, it truly helps with children who have a diagnosis of Autism if you can relate an undesired task to something they enjoy. My son agreed that he could make his own Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. SUCCESS! Yes, this would require some adaptation to the curriculum but this isn't the first time I've adjusted curriculum and Creating a Masterpiece made it a breeze. During the video sessions, she encouraged the children to use their creativity and imagination to make the project their own creation.

Another adaptation came when we got to the supply portion. The project called for Quick Dry Earthen Clay. Water is needed to smooth the clay and adhere the pieces and this makes the pieces feel slimy. Now, children with a diagnosis of Autism often have sensory processing issues. Feeling slimy clay would turn my son off to completing this project faster than a light switch pitches a room into darkness. Instead, we used Crayola's Model Magic. This allowed my son to mold his project himself although he wasn't overly thrilled with the smell. He followed the video directions making his own modifications to his creation until he was pleased with it.

Here is his project: in stages of work in progress through completion.

Perseverance Pays Off!!

I am THRILLED with the outcome for several reasons. He is happy with his product. He COMPLETED something he had previously been UNWILLING to do! There were NO meltdowns once he started the project! The curriculum made it easy to modify the project and the materials (at least for this specific project). My son earned some self-confidence by completing this project. My son worked on Occupational therapy skills: fine motor skills, hand-eye coordination, and spatial reasoning. He also learned problem solving skills when the clay became thin and would get a hole. He learned that his attitude impacts how the project will go. He is learning skills that will transpose over into everyday life. For example, we won't necessarily always excel at every task placed before us but when we give it our best effort we can be pleased that we at least made an attempt.

You can learn more about Creating a Masterpiece by visiting their Facebook page.

Please take a moment to stop by the Homeschool Review Crew website and peruse the other member sites to not only read about their experiences with Creating a Masterpiece but to see the art masterpieces their children have created. In fact, I strongly urge you to check out some of the other reviews so you can get a broader perspective on Creating a Masterpiece, how the curriculum worked for other families, how other children were able to be creative with the video sessions, and what the other parents perspective were.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Homeschool Review Crew Review: Bessie's Pillow

My son and I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing the book Bessie's Pillow written by Linda Bress Silbert and published by Strong Learning, Inc. Bessie's Pillow is a true story based on the immigration and life journey in America of Linda's grandmother, "Boshka" Bessie Markman Dreizen.

In 1906, eighteen-year-old Boshka Markman leaves everything familiar and the family she holds dear, her Tateh (Father), Mamaleh (Mother), and four younger brothers behind in Glubokoye, Lithuania in a section where all of the Jews in that area are forced to live. Life for Jews in Lithuania is dangerous and unpredictable, which is why Boshka's father has saved money to send her to America where she can have a new life...a good life. Boshka rides aboard a train to Hamburg, Germany where she boards a steamship where she will be a first class passenger for the long journey to America.

Once in America, Boshka is given a more Americanized name: Bessie. Bessie's life journey will take her into the harsh working conditions of the factories and the tenements of the Lower East Side of New York City where living conditions were deplorable, overcrowded, and rampant with disease. Communicable diseases such as scarlet fever, rheumatic fever, and polio were real threats during the era in which Bessie lived. There were no vaccines against these diseases then. Bessie would see the first "horseless carriages" arrive and change the way travel occurred. Bessie would have loved ones fight during World War I and she would experience the Great Depression.

Events that our generations have only read about come to life through the pages of Bessie's Pillow. This book is an excellent read. Bessie is a dynamic character. She has spirit and perseveres through hardships with the grace of God. Her love for life and her family becomes evident as the story unfolds. It is a story that will capture you from the beginning and hold you captive until the end.

I would recommend this book to all readers ages twelve to adult. In fact, I've informed my mother that she needs to read it now that I have finished writing my review. It portrays a vivid and accurate portrait of immigration and Americanization during the early 1900's. Seeing the journey through Bessie's eyes opens a world of historic events of dates and people listed in text books and breathes life into them and helps students become invested in the outcome.

Bessie's Pillow can be utilized for Geography lessons as you find, research, and discuss the various towns and countries mentioned in the book, Language Arts lessons as you read and analyze the text and perhaps present a book report, and History (both World and American) with the various events that span decades. The last section of the book is filled with information about historical people and places that can also be used in your lessons.

The author and publishing house have also created additional resources to help facilitate the learning experience. One of these resources is a Teacher's Guide filled with instruction for use in Social Studies/History and Language Arts classes. The other is an interactive website filled with useful information and links to websites on people and events from Bessie's lifetime. The site is called Bessie's America and is filled with information on Presidents, Immigration, Transportation, the Tenements, the Statue of Liberty, Famous People, Communicable Diseases, Women's Suffrage, Children Workers and Poor Working Conditions, Panama Canal, Silent Films, and the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Most of you know that my son has a diagnosis of high-functioning Autism. For this reason, we read every book out loud together. This way, I am certain he is actually reading the entire book and that he understands what he is reading as he is not good at asking for assistance. One issue that children on the Autism Spectrum struggle with is perspective. What you and I perceive may not be the way my son perceives the same material. He is also very passionate about wrongs committed against others. For example, Bessie's Pillow talks about unfair working conditions, unfair treatment of different cultural and religious groups, and Woman's Suffrage. These are all issues that my son sees as unjust, and rightfully so. However, he cannot move past the unfairness to the next part of the book. His focus becomes the unfairness. Therefore, I have to paraphrase these sections so he knows there was injustice but not upset him to the point that he loses focus of the entire story. I've learned how to modify lessons over the years to meet my child's needs.

What elements of the story did my child enjoy? He liked the fact that she rode a steam engine (train). He liked that her husband bought a car like Lizzie from cars and he is rather certain it had a horn like the cars his great grandmother remembers from her childhood (she was born in 1925) and has told him about. He liked that God was mentioned in the book because God is very important. He also liked hearing about the various Jewish customs because our Aunt Ona is Jewish and he remembers celebrating a Jewish Seder with her. His favorite thing is that the book mentioned Teddy Roosevelt. Since Robin Williams portrayed Theodore Roosevelt in the Night at the Museum movies, he has liked our former President.

You can learn more about Bessie's Pillow and Strong Learning, Inc on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also learn more about Bessie's experience at Bessie's America.

Please take a moment to stop by the Homeschool Review Crew website to read additional reviews about Bessie's Pillow and see what my fellow Crew Members have to say.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Homeschool in Review End of February thru Beginning of March

Typically, I give you our week in review. However, it has been quite awhile since I last posted an update. The last week in February my mom and son became ill. We would later discover that my mom had bronchitis while my son tested positive for Influenza Type A despite getting his yearly Flu shot. We ended up taking him to the ER when his fever spiked to 106.2. Taking a child with a diagnosis on the Autism Spectrum to the ER is quite the experience and one we avoid whenever we can. Unfortunately, his usual doctor was out of the office. Any new procedure terrifies my poor boy. I have to explain everything and strongly encourage him. The nose swab to test for the Flu was pure torture to my poor boy. Now, you need to understand that my child looks absolutely normal. Despite having a fever so high, he was talking and joking with my mom and me as well. When the doctor came in, I tried to tell him about my son's diagnosis but he chose to ignore me. He kept asking my son questions, which my son didn't understand. Therefore, I'd have to reword every question and the doctor would already be on to the next one. *Sigh* My son already thinks the staff at our local ER are incompetent from watching them interact with me. This visit didn't improve his opinion. Thankfully, he is feeling much better as is my mom. In addition, my Immunologist and Family doctor took protective measures and managed to prevent me from getting ill as well, which is no small feat.

Twice this month, my son has attended educational series at Oakes Museum of Natural History at Messiah College. The first was with Curators Club 2 and was focused upon Forensics. It was a fascinating class. I learned new things as well, which will be featured in an upcoming blog post. Stay tuned to read more about Forensic Science and learn more about the programs at Oakes Museum. The second was a Homeschool Class on Giraffes, where my son learned about the different types of giraffe species, where they live, and why the giraffe populations are so endangered. He made a great keepsake booklet that has earned a place in our Homeschool Portfolio for the 2016-2017 School Year. Our only other fieldtrip was to tour Chocolate World in Hershey, PA. Surprisingly, they had changed some of the tour since our last ride through. Because we go to Hershey Medical Center often, we tend to tour Chocolate World at least once a year.

Speaking of Hershey Medical Center, I had a follow-up with my Rheumatologist. He will be following up with me again in May and is glad that I FINALLY have an appointment with a new Neuromuscular Specialist since mine left Hershey and I was left an orphan without a provider for awhile. I also saw my Immunologist, just yesterday, who is also glad that I have been assigned a Neuromuscular Specialist. Both of these physicians had good things to say about my newest team member, which is comforting. Both are also glad that I don't have long to wait to address some of these important concerns.

Today is a busy day. I started my IV infusion at 7 AM. After lunch, we will be heading back up to Hershey Medical Center so that I can have a Sleep Study. Then, home again in the morning for another round of infusions. Monday will finish my infusions for this month.

My son, mom, and I have been listening to and thoroughly enjoying the Audiobook version of Nate Donovan Revolutionary Spy (Crimson Cross Series Book One). I'm very glad I purchased this item and will be sharing a future post about it. So stay tuned. I will say that not only is this a great Language Arts resource but also an excellent American History Resource that has sparked some interesting conversations on our journeys.

This week's posts include:

This post is being linked up to my dear friend Kym's Homeschool Highlights link-up at Homeschool Coffee Break. Please stop by her post and see how her week went.

I am also linking up to Weekly Wrap-Up at Weird Unsocialized Homeschoolers.

I will also be linking up to Homeschool Blog and Tell at Homeschool Post.

Finally, I will be linking up to The Homeschool Nook Link-Up Party also hosted by a dear friend at This Chaotic Bliss. Please take a moment to stop by their site and read some of their posts as well.