You Talk Too Much!

you_talk_too_muchOur children, with the exception of one, are very outgoing. They talk easily amongst their friends, family, and even with new acquaintances. Even the one who is seriously shy often opens up after a few moments. They like to talk about what they are learning and ask others what they are being taught. Our children will generally carry on a conversation with just about anyone, anywhere, on almost any topic. While we encourage our children to share, it’s also important they learn to listen.

One of the subtle arts of parenting is teaching our children proper communication. Yes, to share. But also to listen. Learning when to speak and when to remain silent can be a challenge. One some of us adults – myself included – are still learning to master. Perhaps we could all use a refresh in this area?

Learning to Listen First – Speaking is the easy part. Speaking well harder. Not talking and listening would be the biggest challenge. Listening not for an opening during which we can finally speak, but genuinely caring what the other person is saying and giving them the entirely of our mind. Oh, to perfect this step alone would be a dream.

Learning to Ask Questions  Often the best way to open doors of communication is not by telling, but by asking. By seeking information from others we encourage them to talk with us and share their lives.

Learning to Identify Those Who Will Receive – Let’s face it, not everyone wants the entirety of our plans for summer vacation. Nor should they. Some are not ready to hear our fantastic homeschool adventures. And not every possible debate needs our input. We need to weigh our words; identifying what should be shared when, and with whom. It’s not a matter of other people not caring, as much as our caring to give people what God has directed in His timing.

Learning When to Speak – Equally challenging is knowing when to finally open our mouths. May the Lord give us wisdom and grace!

Learning How to Speak – Sometimes sharing can be done with pride, a smug attitude, or a sense of “knowing all about it”. It can also be harsh or bitter. We want our words to be kind and humble always.

Learning When Someone Wants Help – Confession. I like to help. It’s taken me some time to realize not everyone who is expressing frustration or anxiety really wants constructive input. Sometimes they just need a listening ear. May we be that which is needed most.

Thank God for close friends who make communication easy. We are incredibly blessed by those few who allow us to vent when needed, either when upset or ridiculously excited. We never have to weigh my words, calculate if we’ve spoken too much, or worry about interrupting. And our friends know they can count on us, too!

When addressing the rest of the world, may we err on the side of caution more than not; choosing our few words with care and giving those we meet Jesus. It’s more important they see Him and hear of His good deeds than anything we could possibly offer. When in doubt, we follow this sage advice, “Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise;…”

“When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent.”
~ Proverbs 10:19

Your Turn!: This does beg the question… How much talking is too much?

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Why Aren’t My Kids Doing That?

Why_Arent_My_Kids_Doing_ThatDo you want a recipe for disaster? Come on, you know you’re a tad curious. Here you go… Take a well-intentioned and involved parent. Give them social media, opportunity to compare themselves to lovely but very active friends, and kids who enjoy doing things. Heap on a bit of nagging guilt they aren’t doing enough, and then set them loose. Before long said parent will start asking themselves the inevitable question, “Why aren’t my kids doing that?” And there you go!

I’ll be the first to admit I am totally speaking to myself on this matter. I enjoy being active. I hate the notion of missing out on an incredible opportunity. I want my kids to be able to do everything and anything their little hearts desire. Well, maybe not everything, but everything good. There in lies the trouble. How do I determine what is good for my children? Not everything is black and white. This isn’t necessarily a moral issue, but one of wisdom. Just because Johnny is in basketball doesn’t mean my little man needs this. Or wants this. Or that we can afford it. Or that we have the time. There is much to be considered. The same goes for homeschooling. That curriculum – field trip, academic course, college prep class, etc. – highly recommended by my community might be lovely, just not for us.

Before we bury ourselves under mounds of guilt or stress our families, perhaps the better question to ask would be whether or not our kids should be doing that. Whatever that is. Instead, we often spend too much of our time comparing ourselves to others and attempting to add yet another thing to our ever-growing list of to-do’s. And should we discover we can’t do that then parental guilt sets in.

When I’m tempted to travel this path of destruction, may the Lord remind me of these few things:

He Hears – Not my complaining mind you. (Although He is too often forced to hear me groan.) The Lord hears my heart! He knows my anxiety stems from a desire to minister to my babies and give them what is best.

He Understands – That disappointment and stress I’m feeling seems overwhelming, but He knows what I’m going through. He also understands better than I what is best for my children.

I Cannot Do it All, Nor Am I Being Asked To – This post is not being written by Supergirl, no matter how much I’d like it to be so. I need to stop expecting to function at ridiculous levels of busy and wearing that badge of honor. Then remember the Lord isn’t asking this of me either.

I Am Me – Simple, right? I wish! There are times I have to force myself to remember this. I am not you any more than you are me. Or that family down the street with the perfect lawn. Nor the homeschool family in the community who seems to be excelling with flying colors. I am not them. I am me. And all God asks is that I be what He wants.

There is a Time for Everything – Just because we aren’t doing that right now, doesn’t mean we won’t ever do it. It needs to be in God’s timing or I don’t want to move. God’s timing is always best.

This Has No Power Over Me – That nagging guilt? The stress of doing everything for all my people? I don’t have to claim it or keep it. By the power and the grace of God, I have the ability to hand those over to Him and let them go.

That recipe I shared with you? Ditch it. Trust me on this. It will leave a bitter taste in your mouth, have you feeling empty afterwards, and rob you of all joy. Instead may we learn to appreciate the wide world of ideas which surround us for what they are, possibility. Let us admire one another’s adventures, yet remain confident in our own. And above all, seek first the kingdom of God. He’ll add whatever else is needed.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.”
~ Colossians 3:23

Your Turn!: What is one opportunity you’re glad you took advantage of this year?

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Does Your Child Have a Mentor?

Does_Your_Child_Have_a_MentorI was flattered, truly. Here was a mama entrusting her daughter to my care, asking me to mentor through the process of becoming engaged and married. Unfortunately, what followed was less mentoring and more a mom looking for me to back her up on everything she said. As my own daughters approach adulthood, these memories come to mind and I find myself asking a few pertinent questions. Does my child need a mentor, and how do I go about getting one?

I am by no means a “young mom” any longer but this doesn’t mean I have it all down or that I don’t need guidance from time-to-time. So today I hope you’ll help me out. Because the truth is my experience with mentors is slim. Slim to none. I grew up in a generation that thought older people had nothing to teach us, and the older generation was fed up with us and left us to our own devices. Even within the church, I confess I’ve never had an older lady mentor me. I wish I had.

I always thought mentors were people the Lord naturally brought into your life. People you admired, respected, and thought could teach you something. It didn’t need to be one person who fit the bill. We could obtain mentors for various aspects of growth and learning. One might show us how to be a better wife, while another seemed to have the parenting thing down. We might respect someone’s business and wish to glean from their wealth of knowledge. What mattered most was that our mentors be wise, patient, willing, and Godly.

So here I stand. – Okay, sit. – Wondering what your thoughts are on helping our children find appropriate mentors….

  • Did you have a mentor growing up?
  • If so, how did you find your mentor?
  • Do you consider your parents mentors?
  • Do you have a mentor now?
  • Did you approach your mentor, seeking them out, or did the Lord naturally bring you together?
  • Do you feel your children need outside mentors? (Assuming they look to you first.)
  • Have your growing children expressed a desire for a mentor or naturally found one?
  • How can we facilitate Biblical mentoring for our children?
  • Is it our responsibility to find our children a mentor or their own?
  • What should we be looking for in a good mentor?
  • Should our mentors be older than we are, or merely more experienced?

There are so many fascinating aspects to this discussion, and we look forward to hearing all your helpful thoughts. While it’s obvious we don’t have all the answers to this topic, we’re confident in this… God knows what our children need even more than we do, and will provide if only we ask.

“Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another.”
Proverbs 27:17

Your Turn!: Please share your thoughts on this topic, and help others who are seeking answers!

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When Our Children’s Anger Feels Personal

When_Our_Children's_Anger_Feels_PersonalShe just snapped at me. Why did she snap at me? As I walked by her room, all I did was poke my head in the doorway and ask if she needed anything. Instead of the cheerful response I was hoping for, I received a scowl and a short reply. Now, I’m nursing hurt feelings and wondering why my child’s anger feels personal.

Am I the only one who takes their children’s outbursts to heart? Please tell me I’m not alone. It’s difficult enough managing feelings of guilt when I know I’ve stepped out-of-bounds, but even more of a challenge when I’m left scratching my head wondering what has gone wrong. What’s a parent to do?

We Need to Pray – First, foremost, and always. I pray for myself and how I should handle this. My child, so they are willing to hear. I pray for wisdom, to know when to speak and when to remain quiet. That the Lord’s will be done and relationships restored. Reading Scripture is also key. The Word allows God to speak to my heart and direct my steps.

Emotions Have Nothing to do With This – How I feel about this situation is not important. Yes, I am hurt, but I need to step back from the pain and evaluate the situation for what it truly is. A lesson, a spiritual battle, an opportunity to disciple my child, or a character training moment. I want the emotion to run clean through me, so there is nothing left but Christ and what He wants for our family.

This Isn’t About Us – Often, I hoist my children’s choices upon my own shoulders and this is wrong. They are their own people with freewill. While I am responsible for discipling and training my children, I cannot dictate their every move or be held accountable for their actions; they have to choose to do right. Their guilt is not my own. Instead of making this about me, I need to redirect my thinking towards drawing my children closer to the Lord and what He wants to do in their lives.

What’s Really Going On? – Poor behavior is without excuse and should be dealt with. There will be consequences for stepping out of line. But before we can determine appropriate ramifications or restore relationships, I want to understand what is happening with my child. Sometimes the action is unintentional; they were interrupted while finishing a project and acted without thinking. They are hungry or tired. Other times there are deeper issues at work. When the Lord opens the door, we communicate and start moving towards resolution.

Our Responsibility – While I am not directly accountable for my children’s poor choices, I do have a responsibility to fulfilling my role as a parent. I need to ask myself if I am discipling and training the way God has commanded, and whether or not I am being as involved as I should be. Then am I able to move forward with confidence.

I love my children. I enjoy seeing their happy faces light up as we’re having fun and learning new things. So when they are having a hard day or a tough moment it breaks my heart. Especially when they choose to take it out on me. Through the guiding of the Holy Spirit and a large dose of prayer, I’m learning to step back and remove myself from the equation. This isn’t about how I feel. What’s important is understanding my child and guiding them toward a righteous relationship with their Father.

May He be magnified and glorified in us and through us, as long as we have breath.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath,
But a harsh word stirs up anger.
The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge,
but the mouth of the fool gushes folly.
The eyes of the Lord are everywhere,
keeping watch on the wicked and the good.
The soothing tongue is a tree of life,
but a perverse tongue crushes the spirit.”
~ Proverbs 15:1-4

Your Turn!: What is your favorite way of “Tying Strings” with your children?

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It’s Okay to Be Tired

Its_Okay_to_be_TiredLike all of you, I tend to be a busy person. From the moment I get up till the moment I force myself into bed, I am on the go. I pride myself on how much I can accomplish in a single day, and tend to judge our overall success based on this factor. Pride can be a challenge. It’s no wonder there are times I feel downright exhausted. So why does it surprise me when I get to that point, and at what point had I started viewing my being tired as a weakness?

I want to choose to look at being tired in a positive light.

First, I have put in a solid day of ministry and fun; no matter how that manifests itself. Whether we are doing a little learning at home, going on nature hikes, spending the day on an art project, or simply baking cookies; being a mom and an educator is hard work. When we add outside factors into the mix, it’s no wonder where all that energy goes. I have definitely earned that tired!

Second, the Lord is telling me it is time to take it easy. My Father is gently reminding me I cannot do all things; I need rest to refresh my body, soul, and mind. A moment, or two, of relaxation does not make me negligent. It is a subtle reminder I am human and need a break.

I should give a word of caution. Taking a day off now and again, or needing to get a few more hours of sleep in the evening is not the same as feeling tired day after day. Trust me, I’ve been there. There is a significant difference. When we notice a trend toward a continual tired, it is time to take the matter seriously. Don’t put it off. Go see a doctor and deal with the issue. This is too important to ignore.

Being tired is not a weakness, no matter what my pride is trying to tell me. Being tired does not mean I am being lazy, or that I am lacking. Being tired is not a sign that I am failing. When friends ask if I’m a little tired they are not being mean or unkind; they simply care and notice I am probably pushing myself to an unhealthy limit.

While it is true there are certainly constructive ways to reduce the amount of things being done and streamline our routine, the fact is there are weeks which just hull me out completely, leaving me tired. It’s life. It’s to be expected and that’s okay. The issue isn’t whether or not we will get tired, but how we handle these moments. We shouldn’t see being tired as a weakness, but a natural occurrence and an opportunity to take a breath. Being tired is a sign of a job well done, even if the job is serious playtime. It’s a time to enjoy well-earned rest and allow the Lord to renew our spirit.

Of course, taking the occasional nap might not hurt either.

I will refresh the weary and satisfy the faint.”
~ Jeremiah 31:25

Your Turn!: When was the last time you took a nap?

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All I Want for Christmas Is… (Part II)

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_IsAs far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

It’s there on the tip of my tongue. My internal critic has made an appearance, and she has a desire to express her displeasure with this particular moment. The lights are not as grand as last year; the weather is not crisp enough for her seasonal pleasure; and perhaps that cocoa wasn’t quite as rich as she prefers. Following my desire for a grateful heart, the second item on my Christmas Wish List is a tongue which speaks kindness.

I’m all for expressing opinions and sharing ideas. But there comes a point when “expressing myself” has now launched into complaining. I think, if we’re honest with one another, we all know when we’ve crossed this line. Observation becomes finding fault. I am not speaking with the intent of edification, sharing in the moment, or even learning a lesson. I am unhappy with something – or someone – and I am using this as an opportunity to unleash my inner critic.

Outside of the fact that this does literally no good, it is actually causing harm. I am allowing a root of bitterness to have a place in my heart which will bond to other areas of displeasure already allowed to find a foothold, and before I know it I am a sharp-tongued mama who has nothing pleasant to say. Speaking of this mom, what is this teaching my children? If I am being critical, my children will mimic this trait and develop into adults who have formed this bad habit.

Often it is not what we say, but how we say it. Thus, I might point out that the hot cocoa could use a tad more chocolate, but it in a manner which expresses thanks for what I have been given while playfully addressing my addiction to the cocoa bean. And in those moments when there is absolutely no way to make what I feel like saying palatable for other people’s ears, this is the perfect moment to say a prayer and ask the Lord to minister to the condition of my heart.

As we move quickly through this Christmas season, my desire is to not only be grateful for what I have, but to purposefully choose kindness. I want my tone to be kind, my words to be sweet, and the intention of my heart pure. While we move through the hustle and bustle of the season, these “gifts” will only enhance our celebrations. They also bring the added benefit of remaining with us throughout the year to come as we continue on in our homeschooling and parenting adventures.

“She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.”
~ Proverbs 31:26

Your Turn!: Which does your palate prefer: white, milk, semi-sweet, or dark chocolate?

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All I Want For Christmas Is…

All_I_Want_For_Christmas_IsAs far as I’m concerned I don’t need a single present under the tree or even a piece of coal in my stocking. While both are appreciated, my soul is set on a few other goodies. Not necessarily things to be wrapped, but much-needed gifts. Join us during the month of December as we explore several blessings we’d love to receive this Christmas.

…..

There is so much about this season which is wonderful. Cheerful music follows us wherever we go. Sweets and goodies are everywhere. Twinkling lights and trees are magical. Family comes together, and friends make a point of reconnecting. But, let’s face it, underneath all the glamour and sparkle lies a subtle message. You need this to be happy. You must have this to make Christmas complete. How can we call this Christmas if we aren’t participating in said activity? While none of these things are wrong, I want to be careful that my desire to have does not outweigh a heart of thanks for what is already received. This Christmas, the first item on my wish list is simply a grateful heart.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year. But it’s not magical because of the multitude of reasons listed above or the many I could have overwhelmed you with. Christmas is a miracle because of why we celebrate. The birth of our Savior. If we sift through all the shimmer floating on top and get to the gem inside, there lies our reason for the season. Jesus Christ. When I put aside what I see, hear, and smell – lovely as they might be – and focus on the real value of Christmas, I cannot help but be grateful. I am so loved by the Creator of the world that He sent His Son. I am cared for, redeemed, and have a place in heaven. I have been given health, family, friends, and a home. There is much to be thankful for.

Perhaps you might be thinking, “Of course you can be content with gratefulness, Cristina. I’ve seen your Instagram posts, after all. You can’t possibly know what I’m going through.” Oh, my friend, hear me out. While I do not know the details, I truly understand. My mother struggled as the only provider and single parent for years. Some Christmases the only reason we had a tree is because one was given; our presents were cute pencils and pads of paper. Even as an adult there have been years when the Dollar Tree has been my best friend and putting a roof over our children’s heads stretched us to almost breaking. Now, not every year was that rough; true. But one thing I’ve learned, both through my incredible mother and adulthood, is that how we choose to view our circumstances is a matter of the heart. Even when it might have seemed like we had “nothing”, we had everything. We learned to be content and grateful wherever the Lord had us because we had what we needed. Jesus Christ.

This Christmas, while enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds, my greatest desire is be filled with gratefulness. My heart is for the Lord to remove anything which prevents me from seeing His beauty and provision; leaving room only for Himself. May my life be overflowing with gratefulness so I may pour out His love to the world around me, continually singing His praise.

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”
~ Philippians 4:11-13

Your Turn!: What are you most thankful for this season?

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Making Room for Fun

Making_Room_For_FunI spend a great deal of time with my kids. We do all our learning together, we eat together, we clean together, we run errands together, and, on occasion, even sleep in the same room. Essentially, I spend almost twenty-four hours a day with my littles. Because we are together so often, I can mistake being together with having fun together. On occasion it might be beneficial to stop and reflect. Am I a fun mom?

There are times in life when it is important to be serious. Laughing at a funeral would be impolite, rude, and insensitive. There are also moments when you ought to be lighthearted and able to have fun. It’s important to find balance in all things. Raising kids and being a homeschooling parent is no cake walk. Sometimes I can become overwhelmed by responsibilities and needs. The moment a ‘break’ becomes available, my desire can often lean towards just wanting a moment to breathe… alone. While everyday won’t be a breeze, I do need to make a point of finding ways to be fun and silly; enjoying the sound of my children’s laughter and initiating a little joy into their lives.

Honestly, being at home and being ‘fun’ mom is hard for me. Everywhere I look, I see something which needs to be done: laundry, house keeping, dishes, cooking, yard work, home improvement, writing. You name it, I see it. Getting out of the house usually works best for me; this is where park days, Disneyland days, visits with friends, and more come into play. However, being out of the house every day just isn’t an option. This requires me to then be more creative in our home environment and make a conscious choice to overlook those things which keep catching my over-critical eye.  So we do chores, but we race to get them done. (Then have ice cream as a treat). We sing along with those playing the piano and have fun being silly. We take moments to stop and play card games, eat cookies, dance to fun songs, and plan upcoming events.

I am learning to look for ways to incorporate fun into their lives and be a source of fun, instead of standing by merely watching. It’s not enough for my children to grow up commending my parenting for its cleanliness and well-planned organization. – Although that would be nice. – I want my children to remember their youth fondly and be filled with awesome memories they can’t wait to recreate with their own family. While I won’t be a perfect parent, but then again who is, I would like to think they will look back and smile, remembering how much fun was stuffed into those all too short years we called childhood.

“There is nothing better for a person than that he should eat and drink and find enjoyment in his toil. This also, I saw, is from the hand of God,”
~ Ecclesiastes 2:24

Your Turn!: Are you purposeful in creating ‘fun time’, or do you wait for those moments to arise naturally?

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When Silence is Golden

When_Silence_is_GoldenA friend once commented that my house is frequently a “quiet zone”, meaning I don’t have constant noise running in the background. I don’t know that I had ever thought of this before, but she’s absolutely correct!

It’s not that we don’t listen to music or never have the television on while doing something else, it just isn’t a regular in our world. I doubt there was a lot of thought put into the decision, it just seemed like the natural course of events. The more I think on the topic, I confess there are some valid reasons for having our home be a “quiet zone”.

My children are easily distracted by outside noise (and so am I). One of the few downsides to being OCD, is that my brain functions on all cylinders all the time. Having additional noise entering my ears is overkill. My kids tend to function the same way. While we are homeschooling, we tend to keep the external noises to a minimum. Having a “quiet zone” during formal learning helps my kids’ brains to function better and focus on the task at hand.

My children use their own creativity. My children are very creative. They invent stories, write plays, internalize their lessons through play, and create their own games. If media was constantly being put in front of them or pumped into their heads, I wonder how much time they would spend being imaginative.

My children make their own noise! With four children running around my house (and frequently more), I don’t know that additional commotion is necessary. Even when they aren’t running around just being loud, they are often singing on their own or playing some type of instrument. Again, if music or television were constantly available, I wonder how much of their own noise I would be missing. I enjoy hearing them!

Yes, my family does listen to music. Yes, we do watch movies. It just isn’t round-the-clock. Our “quiet zone” of a house is the perfect place for us; where we can let our imaginations do the talking and our creativity soar.

Trust me, there are days (especially since my guy has recently rediscovered his love for his awesome electric guitar) that the sounds never seem to stop. There are times when my children purposefully pull out their favorite CD’s and spend the afternoon lying on their backs, staring at the ceiling. Even more frequently are the moments when we all get up and groove to a family favorite which happens to be playing on some device. Over all though, our house is pretty quiet. Which, to this mom, is golden!

“For God alone my soul waits in silence; from Him comes my salvation.”
~ Psalm 62:1

Your Turn!: What is your family’s favorite rendition of a film based off a book?

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Reading Books Before Watching Movies

Reading_Books_Before_Watching_MoviesWith the coming release of Murder on the Orient Express, a household policy is being resurrected. Before we can watch the movie, we need to read the book. Thus, as a family, we will be hunting down a copy from the local library and indulging in this ageless story.

While the kids will occasionally groan and complain about our movie/book policy, I believe they understand its importance. If they were to watch the movie first, it is highly doubtful the book would ever be read. Now that they “know the story”, why should they bother with spending hours reading it? If they read the books first, they will have a better understanding of the story and often appreciate the movie even more. There are no details that have been cut or unnecessary additions, it is enjoyed as the author intended.

While on occasion our children have liked the movie just as much as the book, I have yet to hear that they enjoy a movie more. They have always appreciated the books much more than the films.

In the past, one fun way we have helped encourage our children to read through their books is to reward them with a “special viewing” of the corresponding film. Once the book has been finished, the movie is rented and they are allowed to stay up later than the other kids and watch the film with mom and dad. Each child, in turn, is allowed the same privilege once a book has been completed. We have done this with the Narnia series, Bridge to Tarabithia, City of Ember, The Hunger Games, and several others!

Our children not only breeze through these books, but we then have the opportunity to critically think about each selection. How did the movie compare to the book? Which similarities or differences were noticed? Was there a lesson to be learned? While reading the books has been an essential part of our lives, watching the movies has definitely added something to our learning.

While I am sure we have neglected a few books along the way, we have been very faithful to our book policy. When we come across a new movie for our amusement, the question always arises, “Do we read the book before watching the film?” But, yes, of course!

“I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes”
~Psalm 101:3

Your Turn!: What is your family’s favorite rendition of a film based off a book?

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