Movie Monday: Finding Father Christmas

Movie Monday

Based on the book by popular author, Robin Jones Gunn, Finding Father Christmas takes us into the life of Miranda, a real estate agent who struggles each year with the Christmas season because her mom died suddenly during that time 20 years ago.

Miranda never knew who her dad was, but when some of her mother’s belongings are discovered at the theater where she performed, Miranda finds some clues. One of the clues, a photograph, takes her to a small Vermont town. Could the photo hold the key to who her father is?

Staying at an inn and seeking the help of the handsome son of the inn’s owners, Miranda embarks on a search for not only her father, but also a search for a the kind of Christmas she’s always dreamed of. Can those longings she’s held in her heart since she was a little girl and lost her mom be realized? Will Miranda disrupt the lives of an unsuspecting family with her discovery?

Finding Father Christmas is a heartfelt story of hope and love. It’s a story of realizing that people who are giving and kindhearted truly do exist in a world, where we so often hear otherwise. It’s the perfect movie for the snowy winter days preceding Christmas.

[Possible spoiler alert] There is no objectionable material in Finding Father Christmas, and I recommend it for tweens and above. However, as a Christian reviewer and a mom myself, I do need to bring up the fact that there is the question of Miranda’s mother’s and father’s relationship and how it intersects with the relationships of others and the fact that they were not married. These are not details that are dwelt upon in the movie, but they are excellent discussion topics for families.

Erin Krakow (When Calls the Heart) and Niall Matter both give commanding performances. All in all, I recommend Hallmark’s Finding Father Christmas and give it a Christmasy 4.5 stars out of five. 🙂

 

 

 

 

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5 ways to be your “sweet self”

5 ways

From as far back as I can remember, my mom has always used the saying, “just be your sweet self.”

Whether in day-to-day life or dealing with a difficult situation, my mom reminded my siblings and me that being our sweet selves was, in essence, treating others as we would like to be treated and loving our neighbor. Even when someone was unkind, our response was not to be one of retaliation or revenge, but of kindness.

1 Corinthians 13 4a

Easier said than done, to be sure. It’s not always easy to be our “sweet self” to the difficult people we encounter in our daily lives. It’s a continual growing process made possible only with constant prayer and the help of the Holy Spirit.

Here  are five ways to practice being your “sweet self”:

  • Seek to bless others. Pray each morning for a chance to bless someone else – and watch God provide the opportunity!
  • Give the benefit of the doubt. We’ve all jumped to conclusions about another’s thought life or motives. But no one knows for sure what someone else is thinking, or what their true heart motive is. So…when in doubt, give the benefit of the doubt. Think the best of people.
  • Be polite. “Please,” and “thank you” are no longer used as often as they should be. Seek to use good manners, no matter what your age. (And teach your children to do the same!)
  • Live in the moment. Time passes quickly, and we can never recapture those lost moments again. Live in the moment – take the time for that hug from your husband. Spend time with your children. Visit that elderly neighbor who struggles with loneliness. Spend time in the Word and in worship of our Savior.

dad and daughter.jpg

  • Strive to be worthy of your calling. One of my favorite verses and one of the prayers of my heart is Ephesians 4:1. Paul is admonishing us to “live a life worthy of the calling you have received.” If you are seeking to honor God in all that you say and do, you will have an easier time being your “sweet self”.

Ephesians 4 1

What are some ways you practice being your “sweet self”?

 

 

Movie Monday – Unbroken: Path to Redemption

Movie Monday

Due to popular demand, Movie Monday is back! This week, I’m reviewing a movie that was recently shown in theaters across the country. Based on the book by Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken: Path to Redemption is the true story of Louis Zamperini, the patriot, World War II hero, and Olympian, and shows us a glimpse into how no one is beyond God’s amazing redemption.

First off, if you haven’t had the opportunity to see this movie, I would highly recommend it. Estimated release date for DVD and Amazon video is in December.

Unbroken_Poster (2).jpg

I personally couldn’t wait for the release of this movie into theaters. So when our small local theater decided to show it, I rounded up the gang, and we made a family night out of it. Complete with a big bag of buttered popcorn (yes, it’s one of my weaknesses, and yes, I did eat the entire bag, but we’ll just let that be our secret!). 😉

The movie opens with Louis Zamperini returning home after being presumed dead during World War II. We see the loving and close-knit family that rejoices when he walks through the door. Finally, all is well.

Or is it?

Little by little, we are shown how being a tortured prisoner of war affected Louis. Nightmares, flashbacks, alcoholism…will he ever be able to forget the affliction he faced at the hands of enemy?

He is given a break from his speaking circuit and heads to the beaches of Florida. It is there that he meets Cynthia. They have a whirlwind romance before marrying shortly after meeting. What will Cynthia do when she discovers the “real” Louis? A lost man with a severe alcohol problem?

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will say that this movie is ultimately the story of God’s love for us. He never gives up on us, no matter how far we stray. He stands there always, with arms wide open, welcoming us. Through Jesus, we have the assurance of forgiveness and the hope of eternal life with Him.

It’s also a story of true love between husband and wife. Marriage isn’t always easy. But by the grace of God, true love does triumph.

There was one instance of minor foul language and some cleavage. Other than that, this is a clean movie. Because there are “memories” of the severe torture (nothing graphic) Louis experienced, this is definitely not a movie for young children. However, for teens and adults, it’s a memorable movie that begs for a second viewing.

Pureflix has created another phenomenal movie complete with forgiveness, redemption, and love; I’m proud to give this a strong nine-stars out of ten.

Below is the trailer:

Join me a couple Mondays every month (in addition to my regular weekly blog posts) for movie reviews, from new releases to old favorites, from a Christian point of view.

Have you seen Unbroken: Path to Redemption? What were your thoughts?

 

 

 

the importance of friendship

friendshipSome of us have had friends since we were toddlers. Long, abiding friendships that started while we were still in diapers and continued throughout school, through marriages, and starting our own families. But just as precious are those friendships that we found later in life where it feels as though we have known each other our entire lives because we “just clicked.”

So, why is friendship important?

Life is hard. In today’s world, we face a myriad of difficulties from illness to job loss. One of the many blessings the Lord gives us is the blessing of friends. Someone to come alongside us when times are tough. Someone to be there for us, and to pray for and with us.

But it’s not only friendship, but quality friendship that matters. Proverbs 18:24 has much to say about that very topic.

Proverbs 18 24

What exactly is an unreliable friend? Here are some qualifications of being unreliable:

undependable, deceptive, untrustworthy, capricious, false, unstable, and fickle.

Not good qualities for a friend. Proverbs 18:24 tells us that if we have friends that exhibit those traits, we are in danger of coming to ruin. However, on the flipside is a friend who is loyal, steadfast, devoted, faith, constant, abiding, and true. We should also strive to be this type of friend to our friends.

In addition, Proverbs 27:9 tells us that a sweet friendship refreshes the soul. Proverbs 27 9In these days of busyness, chaos, difficult times, and so many unknowns, refreshment of the soul is more than welcome.

So, what are some qualities of a good friend?

  • They are avid prayer warriors and aren’t afraid to pray for and with you wherever and whenever necessary.
  • They are an ardent cheerleader and support you, even if your dreams are a bit crazy at times.
  • They gently tell you in the kindness and humility if necessary if there’s something amiss that you need to address.
  • They promote an evenly-matched (or close-to-evenly-matched) friendship (as we all have times when we are the more “needy” one). Meaning they are there for you and you are there for them and it’s not one-sided.
  • They are a good listener. We’ve all been around those folks that only talk about themselves or their problems. All. The. Time. Good friends talk as well as listen.
  • They have integrity. Nothing is worse than discovering a close friend has betrayed you.
  • They stand up for you in times of battle. When the bully is knocking down your door, your close friend is there to take on the enemy with you.
  • They help you strive to be your best self. In Proverbs 27:17, we are reminded that iron sharpens iron. A quality friend rejoices with you when you rejoice, and weeps with you when you weep (Romans 12:15). They spur you on and offer encouragement.Proverbs 27 17

Most of us have several friends and acquaintances, but who do we call in those times of need – those times of struggle – those times when no one else quite “gets us”? Those are the friends that God placed in our lives as gifts.

The ones we are blessed to have.

 

 

 

the importance of compassion

Compassion

I recently saw a quote that discussed how we are at times frustrated with someone for the things they cannot do (as in someone struggling with dementia, chronic pain, paralysis, or other debilitating struggle)…if we are that frustrated with them, how must it be for them knowing they can’t do the things they could once do, or would love to do?

It’s message was clear. We need to have compassion.

Our world is full of pain. Broken bodies, broken relationships, broken lives. How can we come alongside someone who is struggling?

In the past couple of weeks, I have heard from people struggling with the following:

Severe debilitating pain;

A son addicted to meth;

An uncle with Parkinson’s and dementia;

A cancer diagnosis;

A caregiver whose days are filled with exhaustion and concern for the loved ones in her care;

An older couple with marriage problems;

Someone suffering the loss of a loved one;

A missionary dealing with the aftermaths of a tsunami;

And the list goes on…

God calls us to be compassionate toward those who are struggling, no matter what those struggles may be. While we may not exactly understand the hardships others face, we can be a listening ear, a gentle voice, and a prayer warrior for those who need us most.

Zechariah 7 9

So, how can you show compassion?

  1. Offer prayer support. Don’t only offer to pray for someone, but actual pray at that time with that person. It wasn’t long ago that my daughters and I stood in our local Walmart and prayed with a woman and her husband after they’d received the news that he had cancer.
  2. Have a listening ear. When someone is going through a hard time, just having someone listen is crucial.
  3. Be engaged. How many times do we catch ourselves saying, “if you need anything, please let me know.” That’s a nice gesture, but how about saying instead, “what is it I can do to help you?” And then be sure to do it.
  4. Don’t offer a million “fixes.” A woman I know who has severe chronic pain says the most difficult thing is when well-meaning people tell her if she’d just take “this” supplement or “do this or that exercise”, she’d be healed. Those who are going through a tough time don’t need suggestions. They need us to be there.
  5. Be patient. If someone you know is struggling with something that is big to them, but you can’t understand the severity of it, be patient. We never know how things affect others.
  6. Put yourself in their shoes.

 

The God we serve is a God of compassion and mercy.  As we strive to be more like Jesus everyday, let’s strive to be more compassionate toward those in need of our tender care.

Romans 12 15

 

8 things I want my daughters to know

mom and daughter

As the mother of two daughters, there seems to be such a short time in which to teach them all the things they will need to know by the time they reach adulthood. Will I succeed in teaching them everything? No. But I can focus on teaching them these important truths.

Focus on the things that are eternal. Material items, popularity, sports, homework, stress…these are things that will waste away. It is so easy to get caught up in the stresses of life – and there are many. But I hope you will remember that the only things that truly matter are those things that are eternal. Faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ is eternal. Sharing about Him to our loved ones and friends can plant the seeds for their eternal life.

The grass withers and the flowers fall but the word of our God endures forever.~Isaiah 40:8

God’s love is unconditional. Ask just about anyone and they will tell you they have experienced a time when someone stopped liking/loving them because of something they did or said. In a world where love is fickle, God’s love is unconditional and never changes. Nothing you can do can make Him love you any more than He already does. And nothing you can do can make Him love you any less.

For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Romans 8:38-39

Your lovingkindness, O LORD, extends to the heavens, Your faithfulness reaches to the skies~ Psalm 36:5

Jesus understands. He’s been there. Jesus knows and cares for every detail of our lives. He, too, has had a friend betray him. He has been on the receiving end of lies, has experienced loneliness, and has been tempted. But no matter who lets you down, there is One who never will. He promises NEVER to leave us nor forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5).

Hebrews 13 5

Where to find your value and self worth. It is so easy to attempt to find your self worth in others. That friend. That boyfriend. Your husband. Your parent. But your self worth comes only from One. If we  garner our value from another human being, we will always be disappointed.

In our looks-obsessed culture, we could tend to think our value comes from our hairstyle, clothes, or whether our figure matches that on the front of a magazine. But our value does not come from people or from any of those things. Our value and our beauty comes from within. I have known far to too many women (and men!) who appear attractive on the outside, but are far from attractive on the inside. I hope that you will seek to be the girl God made you to be – one who has the love of Jesus within and who seeks to share it with others by the way she lives.

Proverbs 31 30

Speaking of value, do you know how valuable you are to our Lord? He loves you so, so much. Enough to give His very life for you.

The value of prayer. How often do we say, “Well, the only thing we can do now is pray.” The only thing? How about the most important thing and the thing that should top our list? Prayer is powerful. It is effective. And it’s our way of communicating with the One who created us and wants a relationship with us.

James 5 16

God’s Word never changes. In any given day, especially in our quick-as-the-blink-of-an-eye culture, things change. Technology, the weather, fashion, styles, etc. But God’s Word is steadfast and never changes. We, as a culture, can try all we want to make God’s Word squeeze into our man-made box, but it will be futile. We should instead, with the help of the Holy Spirit, live as He commands by learning and living by the precious and timeless words of Scripture.

Give to God the unimportant things in your life, the important things in your life, and everything in between. Your future plans? Give it to the Lord. Your future husband? Give it to God. Surrender your life to Him and allow Him to use you for His glory. And He will.

Jeremiah 29 11

 

Aim to please only One. Live your life to please the One who matters. And everything else will fall into place.

 

 

 

what’s in a name?

what's in a name

When I went to vote in the primaries yesterday, one of the women at the voting table thought my name was Shirley.

Surely. Now, do I look like a Shirley? 🙂

It reminded of the time I was voting a few years ago and they thought my name was “Penny Dollar.” I’ve always been thankful I didn’t marry someone with the last name “Nickel,” “Dime,” or “Quarter.” But, I guess I never really thought about my last name being “Dollar.” I suppose I could blame inflation.

The most hilarious thing was that they announced loudly and for all at the voting precinct to hear, “Penny Dollar has voted!”

Yes, having a name like Penny is sure to garner interesting nicknames. In high school, a friend came up with the name (meant to be a sweet nickname, mind you) of Pinhead. It caught on and extended even to my family.

My fifth grade teacher (and one of my favorite teachers, I might add) never did realize my name was Penny. That entire year, I was known as Peggy! 🙂

My husband, Lon, has all sorts of misunderstandings about his name. We receive mail for Ian, Ron, Don, Ion, and Lom. I signed him up for the health fair blood draw and they had him written down as “Lawn.”

Speaking of silly names, I recently took a poll of funny real-life names. Here is a sampling of those submitted. Remember, these are all REAL names!

Anita Paycheck

Pilot Inspector

Ima Pigg

Dr. Paine (a real doctor – BTW, don’t think I want to go to him for treatment!)

dr. paine

Crystal Shanda Leer

Justin Other Mitchell (he was youngest in a long line of Mitchell children)

Dr. Relich (pronounced “Relish” and not to be confused with his relatives Dr. Mustard and Dr. Ketchup, LOL)

My Own

Dr. McClaws (a foot doctor)

Sunshine E. Day

Liberty Isabell

Justin Tyme

and the sibling groups:

Peanut Butter and Jelly

Lake Trout and Brook Trout (twins perhaps?)

One of the things I enjoy most about writing books is naming the characters. After all, I can’t let all those good names go to waste – names I would have used had I had 50 children!

I love nicknames, and no, I don’t even mind being called Shirley, Penny Dollar, or Pinhead once in awhile.

However, my favorite name? The name the Lord calls me – He calls me “His.”

What funny real-life names have you heard?