The Big Book of Laugh-Out-Loud Jokes for Kids By Rob Elliott

I have been looking for a book like this for years! I wish it had been available when my kids were young but all is not lost, I get to enjoy it with my grandkids This is a really bargain with it being 3 jokes books in on: Laugh Out Loud Jokes for Kids,
Zoolarious Animal Jokes for Kids, and Knock-Knock Jokes for Kids.
It is such a wonderful collection of good clean jokes for kids to enjoy. Kids love silly jokes: they can’t get enough of them! Even teens and older adults will get laugh too.
The book will be enjoyed over and over by the children because they never tire of telling the same jokes over and over. I get tickled because they laugh just as hard or harder than they did the first time!
While it is great for the kids to read, I have endless possibilities to use it also. It will be wonderful for working with my grandchildren’s classes at school. These would be great for lunch box notes, surprise notes to leave around the house and even making Valentines. I want make a family dinner jar for interaction at meals!
A great gift for children or a great resource of teachers, parents, and grandparents!
I received this book free from Baker publishing I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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An Amish Miracle by By Beth Wiseman, Ruth Reid, Mary Ellis

When I began my review of this book I didn’t realize it was by three different authors! In fact, I didn’t know until I started the second one. At first I was disappointed because I thought the first story had ended and I was so involved in the characters. I was very happy when I realized the original characters were still a part and at some points a little more of their story unfolded in next novellas. Minor characters from the preceding stories became the main ones in the succeeding ones. They all lived together in a small Amish community in Paradise, Pennsylvania. I assumed with 3 different authors and three different styles, the stories connection would be somewhat disjointed. To my surprise they weren’t! They flowed beautifully together! The book’s three novellas are: Always in My Heart, Always His Providence, and Always Beautiful.
Always in My Heart tells the story of Hope Bowman a young happily married woman with 4 daughters. She longs for a son. After being raped as a teenager, she was forced by her harsh father to give up her first born, a son. She believed the sin of giving him up was why God did not give them a son. After years of carrying her burden she confesses it to her husband. For the first time in years she feels freedom and forgiveness. Her anxious heart is calmed and she turns everything over to God and prays for His will to be done. He works in Hope’s life in a mighty and unexpected way.
Always His Providence begins with the seemly impossible situation a young widow finds herself in. Ruth Hostetler will lose her farm in less than a month if she cannot come up with the back taxes. Her only source of income is selling eggs and even that is threatened. Her pride prevents her from letting her community know she needs help. If she loses her beloved home she must move far away from her friends to live with an aunt. My heart broke for her and I could feel her frustration and hopelessness. At the same time I was frustrated with her for trying to do things in her own strength! In spite of Ruth’s stubbornness, the Lord solves her dilemma in unanticipated ways.
Always Beautiful finds eighteen year Becky Byler facing a problem many young girls deal with, being overweight. She has no friends other than Elam. He is her best friend and has his own physical challenge. Becky feels very self-conscious and alone. So much so she even considers suicide by jumping into the waters of a rampant creek. She prays for God to work a miracle in her life. Much to her joy, she is able to overcome her temptation with food and the pounds begin to fall away. Everything she thought she wanted begins to happen. She loves the way she looks, and the most handsome man in the community, Matt, is dating her, but something still isn’t right. God does work a miracle but not as she envisioned it. He shows her where her true happiness lies.
There are so many spiritual lessons in each novella I would love to share, but then my review would be a spoiler! I even had scriptures pop into my head as I read. One lesson I can share is that we always try to second guess how God will solve our problems. Sometimes we even work out a plan for Him, based on our limited vision. If we only trust Him He will not only take care of us, but also astonish us with His answers! I loved the recipes in the back of the book that were mentioned in the stories! I am still amazed the three different authors wrote this!

One Widow to Another By Miraim Neff

My husband has been dead 7 months now. I have been reading many books on being a widow. All are different and offer diverse perspectives. I found this book very helpful. Mrs. Neff has already gone down the road of “widowhood” and does an excellent job of lighting the way for others. She very clearly and thoroughly shows you what you might experience, challenges and pitfalls alike. I felt like she was taking me by the hand and walking with me.
Becoming a widow is something you cannot prepare for; there is no learning curve. The moment your spouse dies you are confronted with learning as you go. There is no right way or wrong way to grieve, it is very personal, but we all have common denominators we will face.
I found being a widow very confusing. There wasn’t a file I could neatly tuck it into and predict or control what I faced, emotionally or physically. Mrs. Neff’s book brought me not only reassurance but also encouragement in these dark moments. She helped me realize I wasn’t as alone as I felt. Others had gone through this and survived; she herself had made it.
She showed me there were choices I could make in this new life I had not chosen. One was realizing who in my life I could turn to and depends on to give me guidance and support. She gave me sound advice about finances, that of course drastically change when I was suddenly alone. She covered so many things that I would not have thought of in this fog I am walking through.
Unlike many books this one dared to approach some positive changes that would come into my life. Yes, positive! I know that is hard to even fathom when you are in such pain. She does not ignore the agony and heartache you are experiencing, as she does talk about it, neither is she negative and morose. Her approach is positive and upbeat without being offensive to a freshly broken heart.
I found help in glimpsing into the future even though I am not ready to venture there now. Mrs. Neff reminds us the importance of reaching out to others and comforting them as we have been comforted as the Bible speaks of in, 2 Corinthians 1:4, “Who comforted us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.”
One of the things I appreciated most of all and made the book so relevant to me was the strong Biblical thread that ran through it. As a Christian that is the only way I am able to approach anything is through God’s Word. My book has many dog eared pages for me to refer back to the parts that were especially helpful. I highly recommend this to any woman who has lost her spouse. Thank you, Mrs. Neff, for this work of the heart.
I received this book free from the publisher Moody Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Everyday Confetti by Karen Ehman and Glynis Whtiwer

When I saw Karen Ehman’s name on this book I KNEW it would be great, but it was better than that, it is outstanding! How wish this had been published when my girls were little! I tried very hard to make holidays special, but wracked my brain to find ways to make the many days in between them fun. This book was just what I needed! All is not lost because now I can use the ideas with my grandchildren.
This book’s celebrations did not require a lot of extra purchases and expense to carry them out. That is a plus for any family in this day and time. I especially liked that the throughout the book there was a Christian emphasis on family times spent together. The ideas were not only unique but very creative. Just the stuff great memories are made of.
Regular holidays are of course represented, with new traditions, games, and crafts. Many unusual calendar days not typically celebrated are included. There are sections on daily and weekly moments such as meal times, family night, sibling’s night, name day, spiritual miles stones, and reaching out to others in hard times. There is also a chapter on ways to keep connected with your children from the young to those heading to college.
I liked that it was divided into seasons where I can easily find what is appropriate for that time of year. The recipes are excellent, not a lot of fuss and things everyone would like, but delicious! Throughout the books are quotes, spiritual insights, and experiences of other women. This book is a keeper, and one you will want to use over and over!
I received this book free from Baker Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

99 Stories from the Bible By Juliet David; illustrated by Elina Ellis

I am always on looking for quality children’s Bible Story books. Not only for my grandchildren and to use in church nursery, but also I think they are one of the best baby gifts you can give. There are many qualities I look for in a book and this has all of them and a few extra.
One is well made and sturdy to hold up to little hands touching and handling, not only for the present, but for years to come. Some of my children’s Bible story books were passed down to their children. 99 stories from the Bible is both. It is a well-made book and a good value.
Secondly, for the book to be enjoyed and hold the child’s attention, it has to be very colorful with quality illustrations. This book also checks both of those boxes. The characters are not only cute but entertaining. Their bulbous noses and tiny eyes are different than most illustrations in this type of book and bring a fun factor into the pictures.
Most Bible story books have just a few stories, but I was impressed this one had 99! Even though it contained so many it was not big and cumbersome. The Old and New Testament stories are just one to two pages each, just enough for little minds to grasp. While the stories may be short they do an excellent job to sharing the very basic facts of the biblical accounts.
While this is for preschool age children, as they grow older it would be a wonderful learning to read Bible story book for the beginning reader. How proud they would be at their accomplishment and it would be yet another way to instill God’s Word in their hearts. This would be a great baby gift (one for grandparents too), birthday gift, and to keep in the church nursery.
I received this book free from the publisher Kregel Publishers. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

GOD’S ROAD TRIP by Narita Roady

The New Year means different things to us each year depending on what is happening in our life. Sometimes we find it exciting and joyful because there is a new baby, marriage, a new home or a new job. Other times we find it frightening and painful because we face the death of a loved one, a divorce, a job loss, a home, material possessions, financial disasters, an empty nest, or the loss of health. Either way, whatever our outlooks, we are all starting on a journey into the unknown. One that God Himself is sending us on. If you are reading this then you are still here and have 365 unchartered days before you. The years that start with hope and promise are, what can I say; they are wonderful! But those that begin with pain and heartache, now those are another story. Mine as you know is the latter as are many of yours for whatever trials you are facing in 2014. These are the ones I want to focus on. I am reminded of Abraham in Genesis 12:1. “Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee”
God sent him on a journey and he didn’t have a clue where he was going or what he was supposed to do. He was leaving all that was familiar to him, his home, much of his possessions and his family. In Abraham’s day family meant everything. No one moved across the country to get a job. They were very close knit groups. He was saying goodbye to all that was comfortable and secure to him. This was no small task considering Abraham did this as a senior citizen! He was 75 years old! So Abram departed, as the LORD had spoken unto him; and Lot went with him: and Abram was seventy and five years old when he departed out of Haran” Genesis 12:4
Now you might be saying, “Yes, but he had a choice. He could say “no” to God.” He could have told God, “I don’t think so. I am too old, too tired, too set in my ways. . .” I am sure he could have come up with excuses just like all of us do. That ability originates with the “carnality package” we all come equipped with. So while to an extent, Abraham could have told God “no”. The reality is a true follower of God, you really “can’t” tell Him “no.” He went willingly with no hesitation and we should too. “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:” John 10:4, 27
Here we are like Abraham heading out on a journey that we have no idea where we are going, what is going to happen, and what will be expected of us. Considering the fact that we are beginning wounded from some adversity from last year can make the trip rather frightening. The unknown always is. We know “who” fear comes from yet it can still get a grip on our hearts. “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” 2 Timothy 1:7
One fear we have is being alone. I understand this one well. I am 60 years old and this is the first time in my life I have ever been alone. We can be surrounded by people and still feel alone. Troubles have a way of isolating us. My Heavenly Father is not sending me on my way this year with just a pat on the head. He is coming with me every step of the way, every moment of the day. As a matter of fact He is ahead of me, as He knows every detail. The unknown is only unknown to me! “And the LORD, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed.” Deuteronomy 31:8 He promises me no matter what I “feel” He is with me, forever.
We may fear being in financial or material need. For almost 42 years I looked to Jerry to provide for me. After his death the fear came, “Who will take care of me now?” The electrical impulses of my brain had not even finished sending the message when I realized: all I needed had always come from God, even though he worked through Jerry. God provided for us in all ways. “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?” Matthew 6:25, 30
God is telling us, “I have you covered. Your needs will be met.” I can honestly say I have never done without what I truly need. Yes, I have done with less, much less, but never deprived of my basic needs. I think a close examination would reveal this is true for all of us.
Venturing into the unknown makes us feel vulnerable and exposed, like all the boogey bears and monsters under the bed are out to get you. I can relate to the fear of being unprotected. With Jerry by my side, I never was afraid of the noises in the night, walking in a dark parking lot, or being harmed by anyone. I knew he would always protect me, but my ultimate protection then and now comes from God. Bumps in the night that make my dog growl, need not be a concern because the Lord watches over me all through the night. “I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep: for thou, LORD, only makest me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:8
Where ever I go, whatever I do, He has special heavenly escorts guarding me.
“For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.” Psalm 91:11
The New Year will challenge us with new decisions and choices we must make. This can be quite intimidating. I know it is for me. There has not been one major decision since we married, that Jerry did not guide and help me with. I won’t lie; it’s been scary with just the few I have had to make thus far. “Will I make the right one? Is there anything I am overlooking? How will I know for sure what to do?” It’s very simple; all I have to do is ask God for wisdom! “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” James 1:5 How wonderful that God cares about all concerns in my life, from the smallest to the largest! He longs to give me direction in every step I take, and all He asks is that I trust Him completely. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Proverbs 3:5-6
As you enter this New Year, are you still hurting and stinging from your losses this past year? Is your heart filled with dread wondering; “What else will happen? What other heartaches will I face? What other sacrifices will I be required to make?” God’s promises can answer each and every one of our concerns.
I need not be afraid of anything the future holds.
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? “ Psalm 27:1
When I do fall into fear’s vicious trap, the Lord will rescue me.
“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Psalm 34:4
Should I find myself weak and wounded from the battle, and I don’t think I can make it, the Lord will strengthen me.
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. Isaiah 41:10
Even in the moments I succumb to the enemy’s lies and wonder if God has deserted me, leaving me to be destroyed, He assures me this cannot happen.
Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the LORD thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee. Deuteronomy 31:6
No matter how my circumstances appear, my Heavenly Father only wants to bless me and bring about the best for me. I may not understand His ways but His plans for me are perfect.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Jeremiah 29:11
Is your world turned upside down right now? Mine is. But we serve a God who specializes in turning worlds right side up. We cannot check the “I do not want to participate box” as much as we would like to. He has lessons for us to learn and growth for us to accomplish. My small earthly mind cannot comprehend His purposes that fit into eternity, not this small wisp of time we call life.
In all my tears and distress, He speaks to me. (Narita) “Be still, and know that I am God:” Psalm 46:10a Great loss requires us to learn to trust Him in a greater way; many times, a way that we could never have conceived had we not lost something so dear. I know I must develop a new and even closer relationship with Him. One I never could have, had I not lost my earthly companion. I do not have the victory yet. No, I am deep in the midst of my battle now. I will not pretend. I am brokenhearted and faint. I am simply sharing my “spiritual weapons” the Lord has given me. I am fighting the good fight and I wait upon the Lord as He commands.
“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.” Psalm 27:14
My heartfelt prayers go to each of you that have entered this New Year with devastating losses. I pray His strength and comfort for each of you, and awareness of His loving presence. He will see us through.
Published in the Oklahoma Baptist Newspaper, January, 2014