Friday, December 31, 2010

A Book Review & Give-a-way!!

As most of you know, I am very passionate about supporting and connecting military spouses.  Even more than supporting and connecting them, I want to see them (us) encouraged biblically as we face the ups and downs of the military lifestyle.  Since becoming a military spouse in 2001, I have always been on the search for books, bible studies and organizations that focus on just that: encouraging military spouses biblically.  Through those searches I was very fortunate to come across Wives of Faith during our 2nd deployment in 2008.  And now nearly 3 years later, Wives of Faith continues to offer everything I am looking for and so much more.  Through my involvement with Wives of Faith, I have come to "know" Sara Horn (the founder) as my depolyment buddy (as we are both in deployments right now),  as a very Godly woman, as a loving and supportive wife, and as an outstanding mom.  On top of all those things, she is also very passionate about military spouses.   Because of this, she has written a new book, "Tour of Duty, Preparing Our Hearts For Deployment"  I was asked to review the book and was given a free copy of the book.  Since I was so excited about this book, I went out and purchased my own copy of it on the day Lifeway released it.  ;)  So, I am offering a copy of this book to one lucky reader (details about that at the end of this post)

So on to the review of "Tour of Duty: Preparing Our Hearts For Deployment" by Sara Horn

This book is broken into seven chapters.  It can be read individually or as a group study that would last eight weeks (which is what I will be doing) 

The Chapters are:
1. The Road Less Traveled
2. Walking on Water
3.  Embracing the Detours
4.  The Desert of Enough
5.  Mountain for One
6.  Facing The Giants
7.  This Is Your Time

Each chapter includes helpful hints/tips, great insight, scripture, and bible stories that reminds us of God's promises.  The chapters also include questions to really make you process further what you just read. 

Not only are the chapters full of great scripture and practical, positive insight, there is also an "Extra Help" section in the back of the book.  The "Extra Helps" include "The Emotional and Spiritual Stages of Deployment" developed by Sara, a section for Churches as they minister to military families, and extra resources for the military spouse. 

In addition to the "Extra Helps", there is also a whole section devoted to leaders called "The Leader's Guide"  I love this!  Since I will be hosting a bible study for military wives using this book, I was very interested in what this section held.  Let me say, I am not disappointed.  The Leaders Guide is also divided up just like the chapters and provides tips and discussion ideas for the leaders. 

So, just to sum up my review:  This study is excellent for connecting military spouses who share in common the experience of deployment.  It is a wonderful opportunity to discuss experiences with each other and come out of the study learning how to lean on God more (and less on ourselves) and ultimately to know that our hope is in Christ alone. 

I am looking forward to the study I am having using this book.  There are 7 of us in study so far.  We start on Jan. 7.  I hope to provide a deeper review for you once I complete the study with the group.  If you are in my area and would like to join us, I would LOVE to have you!  Please email me at jessicacrow at bellsouth dot net.  =)

Now, for the give-a-way...if you would like to win a FREE copy of this book, please just leave me a comment below.  You can win it for yourself, for a family member, or a friend...just leave me a comment letting me know you would like to win =)  Since, it is a Holiday weekend, I am leaving the give-a-way open until Monday, Jan. 3 at 8pm central time.  I will announce the winner at that time.  If your not the lucky winner, I do hope you will get yourself a copy will not be disappointed.  The book can be purchased at Lifeway stores or at

Hope  everyone has a blessed and safe New Years!


Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Part 3

Finally, the post of our Christmas morning. 
This was not our first Christmas apart (thank you deployment) and even though Jason could not physically be there with us, I was determined to keep it as normal for the kids as possible.  This was no easy task, I was not in the Christmas spirit very much this year...I tried...really I was just not the same.  I am thankful for in-laws (I mean Santa's helpers)  who put gifts together for me and delivered the finished products.  (and when you see the doll house below, you will understand that it was not an easy task)  I stayed up well past 1am wrapping gifts, setting things up, and just getting ready for the next know the next morning that way came way too early ;)  (gotta love Christmas morning excitement)  So enough of my "talking" below are pictures of Christmas morning. 

Jack made the adroable place mat at school.  He was so excited to use it.

First stop of the morning is to check the stockings. 

The kids started off slowly, taking things out one at a time....

Then quickly decided, forget this...just dump it =)

Before heading down to the basement (where Santa leaves the goodies) the kids wanted to check to see if Santa ate his cookies and drank milk.  Of course "he" did.

The kids making their way down the stairs.  I love the look of suprise on their faces.  (Jack is holding a camera that he uses to take pictures of things so he can share them with daddy)

Jack's gifts...looks like Santa left a bike, but what else could there be???

Madeline's gifts...hmmm...I spot a jeep and a doll house...wonder what is wrapped???

*Just want to say here that normally we only do 3 gifts at Christmas...why???  Because Jesus was brought 3 gifts and I believe that if 3 gifts were enough for Jesus, then 3 is perfect for us.  That is just my thoughts and why we do it...that is all.  =)  This year though I went a little overboard and did more than 3 ( 5 to be exact) for no other reason than I wanted to.  This year has been very difficult for the kids and I just wanted to give them a little extra.  Now I know that "things" can not fill a void...I know that...but I just wanted to give them a little extra.  ;) 
We were very fortunate that Skype was working and Jason was able to watch the kids open their gifts.  All I wanted for Christmas was for Jason to be able to be a part of our morning some how and he did.  For that I am so grateful! 

Not only was he able to watch us open presents, we were also able to watch him open the gifts that we sent to him.  It was such a good moment that we were able to share just the 4 of us.  Wondering what Jason got?  I did a lot of brainstorming about this...have to get really creative when it comes to sending gifts to deployed troops.  I let the kids choose their own gifts to send Jason.  Madeline chose vampire teeth.  Jackson chose a glow stick (that he went ahead and broke so it would be glowing, ha) The kids also wrapped the gifts themselves.  It Jason a little effort to get through all the tape to open the gifts...but the laughs he had were great!  So glad we could make him laugh.  I sent him a calendar full of pictures (and important dates he should not forget)  I also framed some family pictures for him to sit out and look at....and I had some pictures of just me taken that I sent to him =)

On Christmas day, both our families come over to watch the kids open gifts and to eat breakfast.  This year I asked everyone to wait till 10 to come over and do brunch instead.  I knew that we needed to be just us 4 for a little while and it worked out great. 

Jackson checking out his stuff.

Jack and Madi looking at the doll house.  Jack said "I wonder how Santa got this in the house?"  very carefully son, very carefully

Showing off a new gift!

Of all her gifts, this was and is her fave.

After opening gifts from Santa, the kids had another special package to open..this time from daddy!

Jason made each of us a card...they are so sweet!  Here is Madi holding her card.

And Jack with his card.

Madi showing her gift from daddy...wonder what it is???

hmm...what could it be Jack???

It's a daddy doll!  YAY!   The kids love these and sleep with them every night.

So after opening all the gifts, it was almost time for family to arrive and to eat brunch. 
This is the dining room table set up and ready.  You can see the snow starting to come down if you look out the window.

The kitchen table with all the food set up.

After brunch, it was time to open gifts from Meme (my mom)
Jackson by his gifts from Meme.

Madeline with her gifts from Meme.

The kids giving Meme a hug.

Uncle Zach (Jason's brother) showing one of his gifts.  The kids enjoy picking out presents.  This gift is from is a pen.  Jack got him glow in the dark necklaces...too funny!

By this time it was early afternoon and the snow was coming down really good and sticking. 
Snow had been falling a couple hours at this time and was still falling.  It was so beautiful!

View from our NEW back deck (our deck was finished in Sept.-I need to show before and after pics of that)

Madeline taking a ride in her new jeep...pops making sure she does not get stuck.

By evening we had close to a couple inches of snow on the ground.  It was so beautiful and still falling.  This is our first ever white Christmas.  I hated that Jason missed it though. 
I love how the snow looked at night with the christmas lights turned on. 

I hope that everyone had a very Merry Christmas!

I have a book review and give-a-way coming up tomorrow...I am excited about this book so be sure to check back.  =)


Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Part 2

After visiting with my grandmothers (the kiddos great-grandmothers) it was time for the kids to visit with their grandparents. 

On Christmas eve we have Christmas with my dad, step-mom, and my 2 younger brothers.  The kids always love going to visit them.  Below are some pictures from our visit:
Madi with her gift...she is actually playing with this right now as I am blogging.
Jack loves his newest blaster.

The kids with 2 of my 3 brothers Chase and Kevin.  We sure did miss Uncle Jeremy being there.
The kiddos with granddaddy (my dad)

Me with my "step-mom"  We always joke that calling her "step-mom" sounds so evil. 

Me with my dad

After we left my dads, the kids went home to find gifts from Uncle Jeremy.
Thank you Uncle Jeremy for our gifts!

We usually do presents with my in-laws on Christmas night, BUT for the first time in over 100 yrs (I think) We had a white Christmas!  We had around 2 inches of snow on the ground at our house and roads were closing so we could not leave.  Now I know you readers who are much further north than us are probably chuckling that 2 inches of snow would close roads, but it did.  We are not equipped for such weather in the south.  Seriously, one mention of the "s" word and everyone runs to the store for milk and bread and the weather man stays on's quiet funny =)  The snow was so beautiful (check blog tomorrow for part 3 for pics of snow) But true to Bama weather, we will have temps close to upper 60s by end of week...gotta love it.   So anyway, since we could not go on Christmas night, we postponed the dinner a couple nights.   Below are a few pics of that:
The kids waiting by the tree waiting to get into the gifts.

My little sweeties!

Madi showing off her newest dolls.

Jack was excited to get more figures!

The kids also got rollar skates!!!  They L-O-V-E-D them!! 

Both kids skated all over my in-laws house...they had so much fun!  we spent the entire afternoon yesterday outside so they could skate.  They really enjoy this!

Madi helping Granna cook dinner.  She loves to help in the kitchen.

The kids and Pops.  Pops always gives Jason and Jack a pocket knife every year at Christmas.  This is Jason's pocket knife.  The Bama Nat'l championship knife.  He is going to be so excited.  Hopefully Auburn will have the Nat'l Championship pocket knife next year ;)  WAR EAGLE! 

Tomorrow, I will post the pictures from our Christmas morning.  I decided to break this up in 3 parts so it would not be such an overload of pictures =)


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Christmas~Part 1

What a busy, busy time of the year it is.  I feel like we have been on the go this entire month...with dance recitals, Christmas programs, school parties, visiting family and of course the usual winter colds...whew...I am ready to slow down.  Even though we have been so busy that I often did not know whether I was coming or going most days, I am thankful for being so busy.  It definetly kept my mind occupied and not allow me to focus on Jason not being here for yet another Christmas.  Sure, I missed him (A LOT) sure it was lonely and sad, sure I was crazy busy, but I felt a very real and comforting peace through it all.  That does not mean I did not get sad or cry (cause I did).  It's just hard to put into words right now what I was feeling...have you ever felt sadness, comfort, peace, and joy all at the same time??? That is how I felt. That is the best way I know to describe it at this moment.
I am glad that we got to visit with our family.  Even though packing and traveling alone is not fun, I am so glad that we were able to do it.  (How is it that a 3 hour road trip turns into a 4 hour trip when 2 kids are in the car???)  (=

Our first stop was Christmas at my grandmother's.  Below are a few pictures from that visit:

 The kids with my grandmother (their great-grandmother)  They made a Kiss-Mas tree for everybody. 
 Here we are with my mom.

The kids, my grandmother, my mother, and me..I wonder if we will ever get to the point where we all look at the camera at the same time.

Jackson opening a present.

Madeline got a jewelry box.  As soon as she got home, she filled it with her doll's accessories (silly kid)

I managed to get in one picture with the little busy thing.

Speaking of being busy...we had the elf this year. The kids named him "Dan"  Dan likes to get into all kinds of trouble while we sleep.  The kids were afraid to leave him at the house alone, so he made the road trip with us.  We stayed the night at my grandmother's house and Dan had a little too much fun ;)  He found my grandmother's undergarments and hung them on the tree.  I wish I would have taken a video of the kids reactions to this.  When they found what Dan did, they both just stood there with the most serious look on their faces.  Then Jackson turned to me and said "Mommy, has mamaw seen this yet?"  Trying to hold back my laughing, I said "she sure did"  Jackson replied "Oh no mommy, I hope she is not mad.  Do you think she will let us come back to stay ever again?"  (he was so afraid that Dan caused so much trouble that mamaw was going to make us leave) HA!  (little does he know it was my grandmother who put the stuff on the tree)  I assured him that mamaw thought it was funny and was not mad.  He said ok, but still did not laugh.
After we left my grandmother's house, we headed over to my Mamaw Beth's house.  This was our first Christmas without my granddaddy and I was already feeling a lot of emotions about that.  It turned out to be a very precious time. 
Below are some pictures:

 The kids with cousin Michael.  These 3 had so much fun together the whole weekend. 

Sweet Jack sitting in my granddaddy's recliner...I have a lot of memories and pictures of him sitting in this chair holding the kids.  Sweet, sweet memories.  It was hard not seeing him sitting there.  Hard not watching him making the dressing.  Hard not hearing him bless the food.  But so comforting to know that he is celebrating this season with our maker in a way that I can only long for and look forward to one day.

The kids giving Mamaw Beth her Kiss-mas tree.  Mamaw Beth went out of her way to keep Christmas exactly as it always has been.  I am so thankful for that and so thankful for her.  I can not imagine how hard it must have been on her, but I know those same feelings of comfort and peace, and joy were with her too.  There is one story that I want to share about that day.  Mamaw Beth had lost one of a set of earrings that my granddaddy had given her.  She lost it back during the summer.  She looked and looked for that earring and did not ever find it.  Well, as we were all sitting around, one of the children found an earring on the floor by the couch.  Wouldn't you know it was the earring that Mamaw Beth lost back in the summer.  The same earring she had searched and searched for with no luck.  And there it was..just laying in the floor plain as day.  Just a little sign to let us know he was with me chills to think about it.

A big group picture, almost complete (minus my hubby, my brother, and my uncle and his family)  ;)

Stay tuned for Christmas parts 2 and 3 (ha, I know, what can I say I like to take pictures)