9 recently-released Movies for your next family night

Every Friday, the Zeller family can be found popping enormous bowls of popcorn and watching a family movie for family night.

As a family who guards their eyes against many of the typical Hollywood-fare movies, we are constantly on the hunt for clean movies. People ask me frequently if there are such movies – movies that are well-done, clean, and void of language, sexuality, and gratuitous violence.

My answer? Yes! There are many, many good movies out there that fit this criteria.

How do I know? Because our entertainment center is chock full of such movies. And as one who has reviewed dozens of movies, I am always on the lookout for movies to add to my list of family-approved movies.

Below are nine recently-released movies for your next family night in no particular order:

  1. Fixer Upper – All-right, so who doesn’t love Chip and Joanna Gaines? Two seasons have been recently released on DVD; and four seasons have been released for download. Step inside the world of the Gaines family where they complete amazing “before” and “after” houses for everyday families.
  2. Wish for ChristmasAlthough a Christmas movie, this one is excellent to watch any time of the year. A mix of humor and drama, this also includes a great lesson of putting others before ourselves. wish for Christmas
  3. Priceless – Are you a fan of the music duo For King & Country? Then you may recognize the lead actor in this phenomenal film, Joel Smallbone. The movie (appropriate for those 13 and older) is a well-done drama about a woman and her sister unknowingly trapped in the sex trafficking trade. Will they be rescued in time? priceless
  4. Coffee Shop – Remember the awesome series, Sue Thomas, F.B.Eye? The producers of that series have just released this new drama (complete with some humor and romance). A coffee shop owner is about to lose her shop. What happens when love enters the picture? coffee shop
  5. The Wild Brothers Series – The Wild Family serve as missionaries in New Guinea. Come along as they share their experiences. The graphics are phenomenal, the message superb, and the family awesome. Perfect for all ages! wild brothers
  6. The Jungle Book – This new version has incredible graphics. There are a few scary scenes that will likely be frightening for the youngest of viewers.
  7. Love Finds You in Valentine – Having a girls’ night with your daughters? Love Finds You in Valentine is just the ticket with its touch of drama and romance. When a city girl inherits a farm, will she decide to keep it?
  8. Karen Kingsbury’s The Bridge – With two DVDs depicting characters’ lives within a seven-year time span, viewers almost feel as though they are friends with the main characters, who go through trials and tribulations. An excellent movie of love, faith, and hope.
  9. The Peanuts Movie – Really, who doesn’t love the Peanuts? I remember reading my big thick Peanuts book as a child. While some newer renditions of movies tend to disappoint, The Peanuts Movie does just the opposite. A movie for all ages, it’s perfect for family night.

What are some family-friendly movies your family enjoys?

13 ways to help someone going through a difficult time

When my husband had open heart surgery a year-and-a-half ago, we found out quickly who are true friends were. Our immediate and extended family stood by our side, even through the numerous complications my husband faced (and continues to face). Friends, some whom we didn’t even know very well, were the first to “step up to the plate” when a need arose.

So many people blessed us during that time that we will be forever grateful.

How can you help someone going through a difficult time?

  1. Pray. And not only praying for the person in need, but also praying with them. Take a moment and lift up that person and their needs to the Lord. Several people did this for us, whether in person or by telephone, and it meant a lot.praying-3
  2. Make contact. I was surprised when I heard from a few people long after the surgery that they didn’t want to “bother us” while we were going through our difficult time. The worst thing you can do for someone going through a difficult time is to avoid contact. This is when they need you the most.
  3. Investigate. How can you help? Do they need meals? Grocery delivery? Kids taken to an extra-curricular activity? The car filled up with gas for their next doctor’s appointment?groceries
  4. Be specific. Instead of saying, “let me know if you need anything,” which leaves the person in need an easy-way-out of not asking, say, “what can I do to help?” Or “I’m going grocery shopping later today. What can I pick up for you?”
  5. Check in often. One of our dearest friends checked in a couple times a week just to let us know she was thinking about us and continuing to pray. A quick text or phone call means a lot, as does a traditionally-mailed card.telephone-call
  6. Don’t make it about you. This isn’t the time to place the guilt on the person in need because they aren’t able to have lunch with you as often as you’d like.
  7. Don’t stop caring. How many times do we stop helping someone going through a lengthy crisis long before they stop needing our help? Be there for the long haul.
  8. Think of the little things. We hear a lot about the mowing of yards or the shoveling of driveways. But what about the little things? Picking up their mail or newspaper while they are out of town overnight at the hospital, for instance. A friend of ours offered to water our newly-planted trees. That gesture was such a blessing to us.mail
  9. Be mindful of those with chronic illness. Three family members of mine suffer from chronic illness. It’s a day-to-day never-ending struggle with intense pain for each of them. Be there for them, even if they just need to talk.
  10. Don’t give unsolicited advice. Or pressure them into a supposed “cure-all” for their circumstance or illness. I.e., “If you would only take these special supplements, you would be cured of your heart issue.”
  11. Offer some respite. Know a newly-divorced mom? Offer to babysit her children while she tends to important matters. Know an exhausted caregiver? Offer to assist where needed.
  12. Be a listening ear through the grief. Know someone who has recently lost a loved one? Be a listening ear through the sadness and the memories.SONY DSC
  13. Help monetarily. If you know the person in need has accumulated numerous medical bills or is off work for any length of time, a small donation is always welcome.

What ways have you extended help to someone in need? Have you ever been on the receiving end of extraordinary kindness while going through a difficult time?

A bit more expensive (but still reasonable!) pieces of exercise equipment

Last week, I posted about 7 inexpensive pieces of equipment to jump start your workout.

Today, we’ll look at some more expensive (but still reasonable!) pieces of exercise equipment to enhance your workout.

1. A Bosu ball. I first used a Bosu ball at the gym during a weight training class and fell in love with it immediately. Easy on the back and neck and super-effective for situps and planks, a Bosu ball is a bit pricey, but worth every cent.

bosu-ball

2. A BodyBar. I have personally found the BodyBar so much easier and more versatile than hand-weights. Prices vary based on the weight. I purchased mine directly from the BodyBar website.

3. A fitness tracker. The preferences for fitness trackers are varied and range in price from economy to super-expensive. Fitness trackers can do everything from calorie count, heartrate, to steps taken, to logging in different exercises. I absolutely love the Fitbit Surge my husband surprised me with last year for my birthday.

A more economical way to count your steps would be a run-of-the-mill pedometer. Another option is the variety of fitness apps available today. While I have not used it personally, I have heard good things about myfitnesspal.

What types of equipment have you found useful for your home gym?

 

**Please be sure to check with your physician before starting any new exercise program or varying your current workout.

7 inexpensive pieces of exercise equipment to jump start your workout

Getting into shape doesn’t have to be expensive. Below are seven inexpensive pieces of exercise equipment to jump start your workout.**

1. Resistance loop bands. Need to work your upper and lower body? Resistance bands are excellent and versatile for just this purpose. Allergic to latex? I found some bands by LIV Active in different strengths that are latex free and perfect for shoulders, upper arms, and even leg exercises.

2. Hula hoop. A great way to whittle your waist…crank the music and hula hoop to your heart’s delight! Hula hoops come in both weighted varieties and non-weighted varieties. While the weighted hula hoop works well for many, I don’t use mine much because it has caused bruising. Rather, I have found my cheap lightweight Walmart hula hoop a useful piece of equipment to integrate into my workout.

hula-hoops

3. Jump rope.Want a good cardio workout, but can’t get outside for a run? Try jump roping. Again, these come in weighted varieties, but even a standard is more than sufficient and offers heart-healthy benefits, strengthens the body, and burns calories. A portable piece of exercise equipment, it can go anywhere tucked in a purse or suitcase. My daughters and I recently headed out to the driveway and tested out our new double jump rope. With a daughter turning each end, I was thrilled to discover that I could still do double-Dutch and remember the songs from my childhood days on the playground.

jumpropes-2

4. Water bottles. Don’t have hand weights? Try out two standard 16.9 ounce water bottles for an easy upper body workout.

5. A chair. Speaking of upper body workouts, tricep dips on a chair can work wonders for that flabby under-part of the arm that’s traditionally difficult to tone. An informative way to do tricep dips correctly with a chair can be found here.

6. A dog leash. Stretching is critical to a well-rounded workout to avoid injury. Using a dog leash to stretch the calf muscles after exercise is easy and effective. Details on how to stretch properly with a leash can be found here.

7. An effective playlist. All right, so I added this one in because as one who has taught a variety of aerobic workouts at three different gyms, I know for certain that no workout is quite as powerful and sufficient without the right tunes. Seven of my must-have songs on my downloaded playlist at present are Set it on Fire – Citizen Way, Sold Out – Hawk Nelson, On my Own – Ashes Remain, The Difference – Jonah 33, Restart – Newsboys, and This is Not a Test – TobyMac among about 500 other songs! 🙂

Join me next week, and we’ll look at some more expensive (but still reasonable!) pieces of exercise equipment to enhance your workout.

**Please be sure to check with your physician before starting any new exercise program or varying your current workout.

quick and easy delicious crock-pot chili (gluten free)

We’ve had extremely cold weather this year, so what better meal than a crock pot of chili? Here’s the quick and easy directions for a delicious dinner of crock-pot chili – one of our personal family favorites:

chiliThe night before: wash, then soak 2 1/2 cups of pinto beans according to directions on package. If you forget to soak them the night before, no problem. Simply wash the beans, then boil them until softened the day of the meal.

Brown a package of hamburger meat.

Combine the hamburger meat and the softened pinto beans in the crock pot. Add two cans of Hunt’s Dinner Starters seasoned Tomato Sauce for Chili.

Add two cans of water and stir.

Turn your crock-pot to low and let simmer throughout the day, stirring on occasion.

For side dishes: fresh spinach or tossed salad and homemade cornbread. 🙂

Enjoy!

*Note: Since my husband is Celiac, this is a safe meal for him. At the time of this posting, my research concluded that Hunt’s Dinner Starters Seasoned Tomato Sauce for Chili was gluten free. If you have a food allergy, always double check the label and call the company (or find their website online) to determine if the product is gluten free.

We use The Cravings Place Grandma’s Unsweetened Cornbread Mix (gluten free, wheat free, nut free, dairy free) for the cornbread. We add honey to the mix (per package directions) to sweeten.

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Tweetables

Quick and easy delicious gluten free crock-pot chili recipe (click to tweet)

Perfect dinner idea for a cold day! (click to tweet)

What’s for dinner? (click to tweet)

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Don’t Miss this Upcoming Conference for Women of All Ages!

photoI’m super excited to share with you about a conference coming to the Southeast for MOMS, MENTORS, and MINISTRY LEADERS!

It’s BETTER TOGETHER, a conference by The M.O.M. Initiative and it’s for women of ALL ages and in ALL seasons.

It’s a conference for you!

Being a mama isn’t easy and kids don’t come with instructions… and sometimes we just need to step away from things to refuel and be refreshed.

And being a ministry leader can be daunting, and at times, we need to just get away and get our batteries recharged and gain a fresh new perspective that will fire us up to keep on keepin’ on!

SOMETIMES…we just need a weekend to laugh together, cry together, and discover you’re not alone in your journey. BETTER TOGETHER is a weekend to connect with women just like you….moms, wives, single moms, moms in blended families, divorced moms, moms of teens, moms of toddlers, grandmas and ministry leaders.

With powerful keynotes from moms and ministry leaders just like you, and over 40 breakout sessions that are taught by experienced leaders and include a wide range of topics such as:

  • When Motherhood Should Come with a Training Manual
  • You Can’t Be 1/2 a Mom (for moms in blended families)
  • Social Media Wise Parents
  • Bully Proof
  • Balancing Life and Ministry
  • Fight for Your Family
  • The Making of a Mom
  • Lord, Help My Marriage
  • Building a Top Notch Team
  • Reaching the Hard to Reach Child

And MANY MORE BREAKOUTS that will meet you right where you are!

You’ll experience an amazing time of worship with The Journey Worship Band, you’ll learn, you’ll share, you’ll grow in Christ… and as a mother… and as a mentor… and ministry leader.

Expect to have fun, meet other moms, find hope and encouragement, and laugh…a lot!

  • Great worship with the live band
  • Lots of giveaways!
  • Late Night Bash with the M.O.M.s on Friday night!
  • Lots of opportunities to shop in the Exhibit Hall!
  • 15 Minutes with M.O.M. appointments where you can meet a M.O.M. and chat about what is on your heart
  • Lots of breakout sessions (over 40) to help you in your mom journey, your mentor journey or your ministry journey!
  • Panel Talk on Saturday with some of YOUR questions answered by the M.O.M. team!

Here’s the details:

When: July 31st – August 2nd, 2014

Where: Trinity Baptist Church, Jacksonville, Florida

How Much: Only $49 ($39 for tickets purchased before 12/1/13 & groups of 10 or more)

How: CLICK HERE TO REGISTER NOW!

More Info: Click here for more information

Seating is limited so you will want to get your tickets now and invite your friends!

You’ll be empowered, encouraged, refreshed and refueled…ready to fulfill your God-given calling with the confidence of knowing you don’t have to take your mom journey alone.

Don’t miss THE Southeast’s MOM conference of the year, BETTER TOGETHER by The M.O.M. Initiative…

Because we are ALL better together!

Interview and Giveaway with Author Deb Raney – 3 book giveaway!

I’m super excited to welcome Author Deb Raney to my blog and she is giving away, not one, not two, but THREE books. Yes, you read correctly! Deb is giving away a copy of each of the three books in her Hanover Falls Series.

Here is a bit about this awesome series:
An unlikely group of people are drawn together to cope with the tragic aftermath of a fatal fire at a downtown homeless shelter in Hanover Falls, Missouri. Four widows, one widower, a battalion chief, and a son of one of the heroic firefighters—a rookie fireman himself—struggle to make sense of their broken lives in the midst of discovering the mystery surrounding the fire that destroyed their dreams and their futures.
 
Doesn’t this sound like a series to be added to your TBR list? And now, let’s take a minute and meet the author behind the books…
Thank you for being with us today, Deb. It is such an honor to have you here discussing with my readers your latest series. Speaking of which, what was your inspiration behind your Hanover Falls Series? A few years ago, my husband placed a newspaper clipping beside my plate at breakfast one morning, the story of nine firefighters who died in a tragic blaze in South Carolina. “I think there’s something worth exploring here,” he said. I began thinking how the tragedy would change the lives of those firefighters’ families, yet how they would pull together, because the firefighting world is a “family” unto itself, and before long, the Hanover Falls series was putting itself together in my mind. My niece is married to a firefighter whose family has a proud history of serving as firefighters and my nephew-in-law was an invaluable resource to me, sharing stories and details about the world of firefighting, and loaning me his training manuals for most of the three years I was writing these books.

I love hearing the inspiration behind books, Deb! Do you have a favorite book in the series? A favorite character? I am learning that I’m a little fickle when it comes to books. At one time, I would have said that Almost Forever, the first book in the series, was my favorite, but with After All (book 3) just released with a nice review from Publishers Weekly and readers responding so favorably, now I’m leaning toward After All as my favorite. I really love my “middle child” Forever After, too! Fickle, I tell you!

I completely understand! I can never answer that question when I’m asked to choose which book I like most in my Montana Skies Series. Speaking of books, what is your favorite verse in the Bible and why? For several years now, I’ve thought I really should change my “favorite verse” because it seems like my verse is everyone’s favorite verse: Romans 8:28. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. And yet, that verse has been so foundational in my life that I want to shout it from the rooftops. It’s wonderful to know that even when I can’t see anything good in a certain circumstance, God’s intention for me is good. And everything that happens to me serves HIS purpose for my life. That’s a truth you can live by!

That is such a great verse!  And now, for my favorite question… if you were suddenly given one million dollars, what charity would you like to found and why? I don’t suppose I could talk you into letting me found the Deborah Raney Travel Through Europe Fund, could I? Well, in that case, I would want to fund a charity that provides workers to rebuild Haiti. My parents served on the board of an organization that supported a girls’ home in Haiti, and for more than a quarter of a century, they spent a week or two every winter working at that orphanage. Twice my family and I were scheduled to go with my Dad to spend time at the girls’ home near Port au Prince (I was researching my novel, Over the Waters, set in Haiti) but both times the trip was cancelled at the last minute due to unrest in Haiti. But because of my parents, I have a heart for the country and people of Haiti. What amazes me is how much an American dollar can accomplish in that poverty-stricken nation. We have so much and are so often discontent. They have so little, and seem always to be smiling. There’s a lesson there!

What a wonderful idea for a ministry – and I loved learning about your parents and their ministry to Haiti. Lastly, where can readers connect with you?

http://www.deborahraney.com

https://www.facebook.com/deborah.raney

https://twitter.com/authordebraney

http://novelgarden.blogspot.com

Thank you again for being here, Deb. You are truly an inspiration!

Deborah’s first novel, A Vow to Cherish, inspired the World Wide Pictures film of the same title and launched her writing career after 20 happy years as a stay-at-home mom. Her books have won numerous awards including the RITA, National Readers Choice Award, HOLT Medallion, the Carol Award, and have twice been Christy Award finalists. Deb’s 23rd novel will release from Howard/Simon & Schuster Spring 2013. She and her husband, Ken Raney, enjoy the wildflowers and native grasses in the Kansas prairie garden in their large backyard. They also love traveling together to teach at conferences, and to visit four children and four small grandchildren who all live much too far away.

And now, readers, here’s your chance to win all THREE books in Deb’s Hanover Fall’s Series! All you have to do is leave an encouraging comment for Deborah. A winner will be chosen at random. Sorry this giveaway is open to U.S. residents only. If you are a subscriber to this blog, you will receive two entries.  The contest ends on October 25, 2012.

Also, stay tuned as I will be announcing the winners of Lisa Buffaloe’s book Nadia’s Hope and Darlene Franklin’s book A Bride’s Rogue in Roma, Texas tomorrow.