Monday, December 30, 2013

Redeeming Mondays with Writing Prompts

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Mondays have never really bothered me. Hey, don't get me wrong, I love Fridays and the weekends, but I consider myself a lover of Mondays, too. I like getting back on schedule and being productive. As a homeschooling mom, being fond of Mondays is a plus. However, it can kinda dampen your spirit just a bit when your kids approach Mondays like zombies who've eaten slugs for breakfast.


I know I shouldn't let other people's behavior/attitude affect my own, but when 3 expressionless, unenthusiastic kids are staring back at me, I feel as if Dementors are sucking the cheer right out of my soul. Okay, so I am a tad dramatic. :)

When the Writing Prompt light bulb struck, I thought my kids would balk at first and think it a terrible idea. But, I was WRONG! They loved it and look forward to it every Monday. In fact, when I first introduced the idea, they were disappointed that they had to wait a whole week for the next writing prompt!

Here's how Monday Writing Prompts work for us:
  • After Bible time and our read-aloud, I reveal the writing prompt topic for the day.
  • My kids write the topic on their papers and then write whatever they want as long as it relates to the topic.
  • They write for about 15 minutes and have to stop when I say times up. I try and give a one minute heads up.
  • They take turns reading out loud what they wrote. I do not grade their papers, but they do file them in a folder.
*Here's the real kicker - I have to participate, too! This makes it super fun, especially for the kids.

I can't tell you how wonderful this addition is to our Monday homeschool routine. Mondays have been redeemed! I am amazed at how creative and different each child's writing is. I will treasure these writings way more than any school assignment, and honestly, without the stress of grammar and grades, their creativity just soars.

I love how their personalities shine through their writings as well. I favor personal narratives, my oldest has written fiction and even a poem, my middle child always adds in humor, and my youngest likes to describe things.

Making my kids wait an entire week builds anticipation which keeps their interest levels high. To spice up writing prompt time even more, I let the kids take turns picking topics. And the one picking the topic CAN'T tell what it is until everyone has their pencil in hand ready to write.

Topics we've come up with so far:
  • Apples (mom)
  • Bucket List (mom)
  • Snow (Oldest son -14)
  • Christmas Desserts (Middle son - almost 12)
  • LEGOS (youngest daughter - 8)
In another post, I am hoping to share some samples of our writing. :)

If you need to spice up your homeschool Mondays, I highly recommend Writing Prompts!!!!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Homeschool Christmas Tea Party

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Little girls and tea parties just go together, however, I consider myself a bit crazy in the head for planning a homeschool tea party in December. It turned out so beautifully,though, and the girls had such fun. Thank you to my awesome friend for hosting the tea party at her house and thank you to all the moms who brought such yummy tea party foods and helped with crafts. So glad to be sharing this homeschool journey with you all. :)
Mother and daughter before the tea party. I was so happy that I was able to buy Shiloh a fancy dress for the occasion. The dresses at Target were pretty and reasonably priced. :)

The table was set to perfection! The girls couldn't wait to sit down and enjoy the food. They were so patient and well mannered. This was Shiloh's first time to taste specialty tea - she chose a blueberry flavor.

The girls were treated to Etiquette 101 in the form of multiple choice questions, some of the answers being quite humorous. And, of course, the girls took some time out for free play. The girls who were so quiet at the table definitely let their hair down during this time! ;)

Each girl made an ornament to take home. Hopefully, every year when they hang up their ornaments they'll remember the lovely tea party.

The girls really seemed to enjoy themselves. It made all the stress of planning entirely worth it. Lots of mother/daughter memories made for sure.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Is For Sinners!

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I am pleased to have my very talented husband as a guest poster today! Be blessed as he shares what to do when chaos crushes your high expectations for Christmas.

Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior. Titus 3:5-6

I love Christmas.  I mean, I really love Christmas.  My most cherished childhood memories all revolve around Christmases spent in a light brown, stucco bungalow at 444 Angelus in Memphis, TN.  When it comes to how Christmas ought to look and feel and taste and sound, my sweet grandparents set the bar extremely high!  

With each approaching Christmas season, the fondness of Christmases past flood my mind, and I'm determined to recapture some of that Memphis magic!  In my mind, if things are done just right, Christmas can be perfect and maybe - just maybe - I'll feel a little bit of the wonder once again. 

And so, I resolve to make it happen!
I resolve to get my shopping done early, while at the same time resolving not to focus on the giving and receiving of gifts. I resolve to not overspend, yet I resolve to be generous. I resolve to make time for everyone, while also resolving to make sure not to overextend myself. 

I resolve to allow for moments of sacred intimacy with my Maker and quiet reflection upon the indescribable gift He gave, but then... 

Before I know it, Christmas has come and gone in a whirlwind of packages and bows, casseroles and cookies, receipts and returns, carols and conflicts. 

Nothing fits right. Nothing works right. Nothing hooks up without a $20 doohickey from Radio Shack. 

Nothing bridges the disconnect caused by time and distance.  Nothing eases the strain of that relationship that no longer fits any of the traditional molds. Nothing hushes the whispered thoughts that I don't belong, and worse, that I'm unworthy of belonging. 

Nothing satisfies. 

And I'm left with feelings of disappointment and guilt...and maybe even shame. 

How dare I be ungrateful for the crummy gifts I got! How dare I be insensitive to the time demanded of me by my hyper-extended families! How dare I become obsessed with my decorating and schedules and parties and giving and getting and eating and eating and eating! How dare I forget Jesus during the celebration of His birth! 

If I might be so brave as to confess to you, a couple of days ago I was beginning to feel all of the aforementioned bad stuff, wondering why my best-laid plans were failing, why relationships are so complicated, and why I couldn't be a "good Christian" for Jesus on His birthday when it hit me: 

That's why He came - that's what Christmas is all about! Because we needed Him to come down and do what we could not, not even for one day out of the year! 

So the next time I mess it up big time, the next time I sin, the next time Christmas isn't everything it ought to be, the next time I let the events of the season overshadow the emergence of the Savior, I'm not going to burden myself or anyone else with false guilt or unrealistic expectations. I'll just go to God, and then I'll thank Him for Christmas, when He accomplished everything I couldn't and paved the way for reconciliation with Him through the gift of His Son.  

If you have an extra moment, feel free to download the song "Every Knee" written and performed by my husband. You can also follow him on SoundCloud.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Merry Christmas!

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To my wonderful family, amazing friends, and dear readers: MERRY CHRISTMAS!

May the One through whom everything was made shine His light in your life and give true peace that passes understanding this blessed holiday season! Praise God for sending the Word who became flesh and made His dwelling among us, a bunch of messy sinners. Praise God that we can be reconciled to our Heavenly Father through Christ's sacrifice. Amen!

Friday, December 13, 2013

Will the Journey Ever End?

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We've waited a whole year for this!! Another Hobbit field trip. And this time two lovely ladies were added to the mix. :)

What a fun time we had! If you'd like to trace our Hobbit/LOTR Journey to the very beginning, like when Mullin and Lincoln were just little tykes, click here.

Until the next movie . . .

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Looking for an Inexpensive Santa Beard?

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Just a quick tip: if you are looking for a Santa beard and don't want to break the bank, my middle son found one at The Dollar Store. :) It has an elastic band for securing to your face, and it fits my son well. He says the mustache "hair" makes his nose itch a little, but what beard wouldn't? All in all, it was a win purchase for some holiday dress-up fun!

The beard could also work for dressing up as an old Hobbit or Gandalf for the upcoming movie, The Desolation of Smaug! Only 2 more days and we will be taking a "field trip" to see it. :D

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

December Makes Me Tired

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The 11 months of anticipation always makes me forget how December nearly drains the life out of me. The decorating, shopping, planning, wrapping, baking, merry-making, and all other holiday-related happiness ON TOP of regular mom life - laundry, cooking, cleaning, homeschooling, errand-running, working a sort-of-part-time job, spending time with children, and spending time with hubby - well, it all makes me wish I could pull a Rip Van Winkle.

One minute, I'm soaring over the moon with extreme Christmas cheer, and the next minute I'm crashing in the corner with some serious bah humbug blues. I have to say, though, that this year I am handling the stress of the holiday season so much better than in past years. I truly am mellowing even if it isn't as fast as some would like. ;)

Really, I DO love everything Christmassy! What's not to LOVE about glitter, lights, tinsel, and tons of sweets? Sometimes all of the holiday hoopla gets to be too much.

And when that happens . . .

I know it's time to get away with a steamy cup of Christmas Cocoa, turn up some sweet Christmas music (the real kind, not the fluffy rockin' around the Christmas tree kind), and dwell on the sacred meaning of the season. No better way to revive and refresh my spirit which leads to worship instead of weariness. Worship Way is a far better place to stay than Wits' End!

December makes me tired, but Jesus gives me strength.

Praise God for Emmanuel, our true source of peace, love, joy, and goodwill toward men.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Adorenaments ~ A Christmas Tradition

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For 10 Christmases now we've been enjoying Adorenaments, a Family Christmas Keepsake from FamilyLife. My oldest was 4 years old when we started the Adorenaments tradition, thanks to one of his grandmas. He's 14 now. *Sigh* The time really does fly by THAT fast!

What are Adorenaments exactly?

Our Adorenaments Keepsake includes 12 beautifully illustrated ornaments that each represent a particular name of Jesus. Each ornament contains Scripture and a story pertaining to a name of Jesus.
A soft cover devotional book is also included. There are 12 devotions - one to go along with each ornament. A Keepsake boardbook, like the one shown in the above picture, comes with the set so you can display and store your ornaments.

Adorenaments (the old version) celebrate 12 names of Christ: Immanuel, The Door, The True Vine, The Giver of Living Water, The Light of the World, and more. It's a great way for you and your kids to really focus on the true meaning of Christmas and why we celebrate this holiday. It also shows that Jesus is far more than just a cute, little baby in a manger surrounded by cows, sheep, donkeys, and wise men.

I usually bring out the Adorenaments around the first of December and use them during our morning devotions. We do one ornament per day, and my kids take turns picking the ornaments (we go in order), reading the Scripture, and hanging them on our Memory Tree. I also read the accompanying devotion from the book.

My kids look forward to it every year. If you'd like to start this tradition in your family, too, check out the links below. The first one is the old one - the one we have. The second is the newer version which is a bit different.


Adorenaments work for us!
Linked to WFMW

*affiliate links included in this post.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Personal Testimonies of Faith ~ Teela

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This testimony happens to be very special to me. It's my mom's. :)

I remember my mom telling me one time that before she came to know Christ as her personal Lord and Savior, two Christian women and their families lived on either side of her. I am so thankful for the two women God strategically placed in my mom's life during a time when she stood at a crossroad. I am thankful for their presence, their prayers, and the part they played in leading her to Christ.

I am thankful, too, for the domino effect, as it was primarily my mom who God used to lead me into a saving relationship with Jesus. :)

Teela's Testimony
I was raised Lutheran. My father was raised Lutheran and my mother was raised Catholic. She became Lutheran when they married. My parents were very active in church. My father was Sunday School superintendent, my mother sang in the choir, and they started a "couples club" at the Lutheran church we went to in Waterloo, Wisconsin.
We always went to church, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School every summer, and we were in the Christmas plays. We prayed as a family at every meal and before bed. Our mealtime prayer was "Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us be blessed." Our nighttime prayer was "Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take." We also said the Lord's prayer every night.
When I was 26 years old, I fell away from church for a while. When my oldest daughter was a year old, I started taking her to Grace Community, a non-denominational church. I thought I was a Christian growing up because of all the things we DID. But it was at Grace Community Church in June 1978 that I came to know Jesus in a very personal way.
I traded my religion in for a relationship.
I learned that it wasn't performance and rituals that made a person a Christian but a relationship with Jesus. Jesus became a part of my heart that day. That has made all the difference in my life. Jesus is my Lord and Savior, he's my best friend, and he's the lover of my soul.
He died for me that I might live, and I now have eternal salvation through Jesus Christ, praise God!

 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast. ~Ephesians 2:8-9

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Homemade Biscuits ~ Biscuits Supreme

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I love my old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook, copyright 1996. I have a few go-to, tried-and-true recipes from there, and you can tell by their frayed, stained pages. One of the yummy recipes I make over and over again is Biscuits Supreme.

Original Recipe

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 TBSP baking powder
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) of real butter cut into small pieces
  • 2/3 cup milk

Stir together first 5 ingredients. Cut in 1/2 cup butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center, and add 2/3 cup milk all at once. Stir until moistened.

Turn dough onto lightly floured surface. Quickly knead dough by gently folding and pressing dough 10-12 strokes or until nearly smooth. Pat or lightly roll dough to 1/2" thickness. Cut dough with a floured 2 1/2" biscuit cutter.

Place biscuits 1 inch apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake in 450° oven for 10 -12 minutes or until golden. Remove biscuits from baking sheet and serve hot. Makes about 10 biscuits.

Over the years, I have tried different things in order to perfect them to my liking and to make them more healthy. So, following are some tips to try that have worked for me.
Brandi Raae's Biscuit Tips
  • Flour - I like to mix different flours. For example, I might use 1 cup King Arthur's All-Purpose Flour and 1 cup King Arthur's Whole Wheat Flour. Sometimes, if I have any on hand, I might use coconut flour, rice flour, almond flour, buckwheat, or whatever. I've used lots of different combinations, however, using at least one cup all-purpose flour helps biscuits with lightness and fluffiness. :)
  • Sweetness - I often substitute white sugar with raw honey. I use 2 tsp. honey and add it to the milk instead of stirring it into the dry ingredients.
  • Butter - I always use real butter, but the recipe says you can use shortening if you want.
  • Flaxseed - I like to add ground flaxseed or ground wheat germ when I have it on hand. I probably add about 2 TBSP to the dry ingredients.
  • Cutting in butter - You know what, I usually use my hands for this stage. ;)
  • Kneading dough - I knead dough a few times before taking it out of the bowl or it's too messy. I make sure it is one solid chunk before setting it on the counter.
  • Cutting out biscuits - After I pat and roll out dough, I just use a small Tupperware cup to cut them out, and I don't flour it first.
  • Baking - I set my oven to 425° and bake for about 10 minutes. I don't like the outside to be too crusty.
  • Serving - We love ours with butter and jam or honey. :)
If the biscuits don't turn out the first time, try again! I've been making them for a LONG time, and truly, once you learn you'll be able to whip them up in no time flat.

Linked to Try a New Recipe Tuesday, Works for Me Wednesday


Thursday, November 28, 2013

Photo Booth Props ~ Thanksgiving 2013

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Spice up any family get-together or party with Photo Booth Props!

I had no idea these were all the rage until I began searching for photo props for a girls' tea party. When I saw these Thanksgiving photo booth props, I knew they'd be perfect for having some fun with all the cousins. I also found mustaches, lips, crowns, hats, beards, and more while scouring the internet. I even made a couple of my own on Pic Monkey. :) I can't wait to do this again for Christmas!!

Pre Photo Booth Prop Fun

Thanksgiving at Dad's this year. Desert weather permits all the high-energy children to eat and play outside. I guess that's one plus. :)

Here begins the photo booth prop fun . . .

Even the adults got in on the fun!

Everyone really seemed to enjoy posing with the photo booth props. Try some at your next get-together - they worked for us!

What's really fun is to animate your photo booth prop photos! My hubby has an app for that. :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Fall Loveliness

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No tips to share or images to pin - just the reality of our life and some things I love about fall. Even in the desert, there's loveliness in the fall. It's not about the weather or the leaves showing their true colors; it's about family, faith, friends, and the fullness of life.

We're blessed.

Fall loveliness is . . .

our family's special pre-thanksgiving meal, my grandma's dishes, my mom's old plates mixed with my not-so-old plates, Mark's first smoked turkey that turned out divine, and apothecary jars from my hubby filled with fall-ish things as our autumn centerpiece. Even with a broken oven, our feast was wonderful, although we didn't get to eat that perfect-looking pumpkin pie. My oven broke right in the middle of baking it. :(

Fall loveliness is . . .

favorite fall food and drinks: hot corn and harvest apple cider!

Fall loveliness is . . .

is gathering with friends for crafting and chatting.

Fall loveliness is . . .

bright, beautiful pansies, soccer, and tree trimming.

Fall loveliness is . . .

a homeschool harvest party with festive food, fun crafts, and good friends.

What is fall loveliness for you?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Ornament Reveal

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Receiving new ornaments on Memory Tree decorating day is one of our family's FAVORITE Christmas traditions! Each year we give our kids a new ornament, and I absolutely love trying to find ones that are going to be special for each child.

This year, we gave Mullin Gandalf the Grey since he, and really all of us, are such HUGE Lord of the Rings fans. We gave Lincoln, our Rootbeer Fanatic, a root beer ornament, and we gave Shiloh a cute, little polar bear with a penguin because she adores animals with all of her heart.

It is my hope that when my kids are grown and gone and decorating their own trees with their families that all of the ornaments they've received over the years will bring back sweet memories of their childhood.
In the quiet and comfort of my own bedroom, I prepare for the special night of trimming our Memory Tree. I enjoy getting all of their ornaments out each November, carefully unwrapping each one, and lingering over the memories that each ornament brings to mind. Our kids have lots of ornaments, too, because grandparents have also been generous in the ornament-giving department. It's wonderful reliving so many memories of our kids' childhoods!  
Our Memory Tree houses all of our family's ornaments that have been given to us over the years by family and friends. Our kids have so many ornaments now that all of my hubby's and my ornaments don't even fit anymore. That's okay because one day it'll just be our ornaments on the Memory Tree again. And that will actually be kind of sad.
Hubby got me a heart ornament from World Market for our turquoise tree. He gave me a heart ornament last year, too. He has great taste and knows me well. Love having a husband that knows how to shop for his girl!!

This is also the night we all drink our first cup of Christmas Hot Cocoa. We used to save this drink for December 1st, but we sort of changed that tradition. :)

So blessed to be able to make such great memories with my family. What are your favorite family Christmas traditions?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Our Top Ten Schoolhouse Review Crew Products for 2013

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blueribbonaward2013smThe TOS 2013 Crew Year has come to a close. At the end of the year, Crew Members can vote for their favorite products. This year there were 38 categories, and 28 of the 86 companies received blue ribbon awards. If you'd like to see which products the Crew loved the most, visit The Schoolhouse Review Crew!

Well, I decided to write my own top 10 list to share with you all. As a Schoolhouse Review Crew Member, my family and I had the privilege of using and reviewing over 30 products this past year. Let me tell you, with all the reviewing, the year seems to FLY by!

I think I have been a part of The Old School House for about 4 years now, and it really has been such a blessing for our family. Here are our 2013 favorites . . .

In no particular order:

1. Apologia: Exploring Creation with Chemistry and Physics

2. Starter Chess Learning Kit

3. Homeschool Mom's Bible

4. Institute for Excellence in Writing: Teaching the Classics

5. See It And Say Flip Flop Spanish

6. The Art of Poetry

7. Time4Learning

8. Song School Spanish

9. Seed Sowers: Gospel Planting Adventures

10. News Flash: God's World News Magazine

It was definitely challenging choosing only ten products. I chose these products for lots of different reasons. I tried to think about the enthusiasm my children showed about each product and how it helped them with learning. I also tried to think about how convenient and easy-to-use the products were (and still are) for me as a homeschool parent.

And that's a wrap! I am enjoying the review break but am looking forward to next year. :)

How to Create Your Own Customized Word Search

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Y'all, I created a fall word search for a homeschool harvest party contest, and it was crazy easy.

I wanted to share it with you all because it would be fun to make word searches for all kinds of things: holidays, birthday parties, Sunday School lessons, contests, and the list could go on and on. I've already made a candy one and am definitely going to make a Christmas one very soon! My daughter has requested that I make a puppy one just for her - one with all the different breeds of dogs.

To make your own customized word searches, all you have to do is go to this website from A to Z Teacher Stuff. Enter the title of your word search, list of words (or you can choose a provided list), number of rows, number of columns, font style, etc. Once you are finished hit save settings, click create puzzle, and print as many sheets as you need.

It took me less than 10 minutes to create my fall word search, and it was a hit at the party! I have to brag: my 8-year-old daughter won! She beat several teen boys, too. And, NO, she didn't get to see the word search before the party. ;)

Have fun creating your word searches! Create them just for fun, hand out when kids are bored, or have a contest. My kids like to time themselves to see how long it takes to find all the words. Serious, endless fun here people. ;)

Word Search Category Ideas
  • Candy
  • Fall
  • Spring
  • Summer
  • Winter
  • Favorite Books
  • Favorite Movies
  • Favorite Toys
  • Favorite Foods
  • Christmas
  • Easter
  • Halloween
  • Independence Day
  • Thanksgiving
  • Valentine's Day
  • St. Patrick's Day
  • Presidents
  • States
  • Countries
  • Spelling Words
  • Other School Related Words
  • Colors
  • Flowers
  • Birthstones
  • Storybook Characters
  • Bible Characters
  • Godly Character Traits
  • Sports
  • Animals

Linked to WFMW

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Favorite Thanksgiving Dish ~ HOT CORN

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For our family, it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without this yummy side dish! Thanks to Cindy, my mother-in-law, who introduced me to it. This is one of the sides I've been bringing to Thanksgiving feasts while living in Arizona for the past 7 years.

It is SO yummy and SO easy!

Hot Corn

What you'll need:
  • 1 stick of real butter
  • 1 8 oz. package of cream cheese
  • 2 cans of Green Giant White Shoepeg Corn (This type of corn is important!)
  • 1 small can of chopped green chilies
What you'll do:

Melt butter and cream cheese together in the microwave in an oven safe dish. Stir until smooth. Add corn and green chilies. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Heat in a 350° oven for about 20 minutes or until heated through.


What is your favorite Thanksgiving dish?

Linked to Try a New Recipe Tuesday and Works for Me Wednesday.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Personal Testimonies of Faith ~ A Redneck Testimony

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This image is a little girly for this testimony, I know, but I just don't have time to make a different one. Imagine the background as camouflage and the flowers as ducks. ;)
So, pretty much the whole country loves Duck Dynasty. I have to admit here that it just isn't my favorite show. I'd really rather read a good book while the rest of my family watches it. I've watched enough of it to get a feel for all of the characters' personalities, and okay, they are pretty likable. It's just that the whole staged reality show thing isn't quite my style. What IS my style, though, is that this family in all their sweet, southern redneckness (and I say that fondly - I lived in Tennessee for over 21 years) unashamedly proclaims the true gospel message.
My hubby came across this testimony of Phil Robertson, and I thought it was worth sharing. If you haven't already watched it, go ahead and hit PLAY!

Other testimonies in this series:




Last Words


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