Families Again
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Wednesday, 9 March 2011
Once Upon a Time There was Reading Kingdom.
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Homeschool Product Review


Once upon a time there was a little boy named Jacob. When he was a baby his parents jokingly but affectionately would call him their little Jacobite. And so it was that soon his name was shortened and they simply called him "Bite".

Bite was a curious little boy who was into everything. He loved to discover and learn about the world around him. However, little Bite had to rely on others for his information for the poor fellow had never learned to read. He would discover something new, find someone who wasn't too busy to ignore a young lad, and listen intently as they answered his many questions. Unfortunately, Bite was very talkative and folks would soon tire of his investigating. So, they would wearily return to their work and half-heartedly continue to talk to him. I say "talk" because often they didn't even listen to poor Bite and they would just answer him with the first thing that came to mind.

One day he was relaying all of the information that he learned (or thought he had learned) about stars to his dear father when his father stopped him with an incredulous look on his face.

"Now who told you that gibberish?" asked his father.

"Why, old Fred did when he was tending the cows this afternoon." answered Bite.

"Bite" his father said with a sigh, "You simply can't go on relying on others for your information. You never know what foolishness they will give you."

"Then what shall I do father? Sometimes I see new things and get so I excited that I feel like I shall bust if I don't learn more about them."

"You have to learn about things for yourself." answered the patient father.

"But how do I do that?" asked the very impatient boy.

"Well, you can observe the new thing. Perhaps even draw a picture of it and start a notebook. And you could always..." suddenly the father stopped talking and looked away.

"Always what, Father?"

Quickly the father embraced his young son. "Oh son," he cried. "I suppose it's time for you to learn how to read. You are growing up so fast. I've been wanting to keep you my baby forever. But, alas, you must grow up and I must teach you. Only, I haven't the time right now. Perhaps next year when you turn five I will have more time."

Sadly the boy walked away. "I must learn how to read. I must!" he thought. "But how?"

He thought about it all that evening. Through supper and devotions. Through prayer time and the nightly tucking in to bed. He thought about it as he was falling asleep and was soon dreaming about it as well.

And his dream went something like this:


"Bite. Oh Bite." Came the soothing voice from outside his open window.

Bite was at once awake and, since, as you well know, he was a very curious boy, he was up at once and leaning on the windowsill to see who was calling him. 

"Who is it?" he called. "Who is calling my name?"

At first he thought it was his father, but the voice was much to soft and sweet to be a male voice.

"It is I...Brenda." returned the kind voice. "I am the person who passes out assignments for the TOS Homeschool Crew and I have chosen you to receive a special assignment. One that will change your life forever."

"For," said Brenda, "with this wonderful thing you will learn how to read!"

"Oh, sweet and kind Brenda, this is what I have been thinking and dreaming about all evening!" exclaimed Bite, "But, how did you know?"

"I knew because God told me to give it to you." answered Brenda. "You see, I pray about what children should receive each of my special assignments."

Then Brenda went on, "But beware, oh chosen one, learning to read does not happen over night. You must learn many things and must be diligent with you efforts. Some tasks may seem tedious to you, but if you do not accomplish them you will not be able to read well. You must be patient, my little one. That is something that I know is very difficult for you to do."

Although faced with that warning, Bite was still very excited. "When can I begin, Brenda?" he asked anxiously.

"Soon, oh young one, soon." "But," said the voice, "remember, Bite, you must be diligent and work hard."

And with that the voice was gone.


Soon, to his disappointment, the boy woke up. I say "disappointment" because he then knew it was only a dream. Or was it? You see, soon after breakfast, his father checked his email and was very excited to see that he was getting a wonderful new assignment from...you guessed it...the TOS Homeschool Crew! He and Bite were going to get to review an online reading program called "Reading Kingdom".

When his father told him about this, Bite was wide eyed and quickly told his father about his dream.

"I knew this was going to happen father!" he excitedly said, "Kind Brenda told me!"

His father just laughed, but in he mind he wondered about the dream.

After the quick registration process was over, Father was ready for Bite to start. First came the "Keyboard and Mouse Training". Father explained to Bite that Reading Kingdom was done on the computer and the program recommended that Bite practice using the mouse and the keyboard to make sure that he was used to using it. Although some children may think this was fun, Bite, of course, was anxious to get on with the reading part. He remembered, however, that Brenda said some parts might be tedious, but he must remain diligent. So, he faithfully went through this optional training for a few sessions until Father was sure that he could handle the keyboard and mouse well.

"Finally", thought Bite, "I will now get to learn how to read."

But, alas, Bite was sadly mistaken. He didn't understand that there are many skills that he must learn in order to read well. He took a Skills Survey and found that he had difficulty sequencing letters and still couldn't easily find some letters on the keyboard. His father explained that sequencing was very important when you learned to read. If you couldn't sequence the letters you would read the words incorrectly. The word "cat" might become "tac" and who ever heard of a tac lapping milk from a bowl?


Bite, who was always a logical thinker, then realized how important sequencing was, and, although he earnestly wanted to read, he found "Letter Land" and "Seeing Sequences" fun. Oh, it took him a while to learn how to listen patiently while the computer voice told him what to do. Sometimes he would type a letter when he was supposed to click something on the screen or click when he was supposed to type, but eventually he got used to it. He remembered that Brenda said to be diligent, so even during a family crisis and a bout with the flu he worked hard. Sometimes Father had to sit by him to guide him, but, often Father would let him work on his own.

Bite was patient and diligent indeed, for he knew that soon he would take another Skills Survey and be ready for the first of five Reading Kingdom Levels. His father had told him that in each level he would learn actual words and read actual books! In level one itself he would learn 36 new words (63 if you included variants like adding s or ing to the words) and he would read 6 books. The information on the Reading Kingdom website said that at first he would learn simple words and phrases like a kid and Here are some toys but soon he would be reading larger sentences such as:

One of the things in the sky is the moon. The moon does not look the same all the time.

There was a baby bullfrog. He was also very bullheaded. He liked to go to places on his own and did not stay with his mother.

Father said that the second sentence reminded him a lot of Bite. Bite, indeed, was very bullheaded and liked to go and explore places on his own. This made Bite laugh and made him want to learn to read all the more.

Bite was very happy with Reading Kingdom and longed to thank kind Brenda for sending it to him. When he asked his father how he could do so, his father told him that he would personally thank Brenda, but that the best thanks would be for him to tell his friends all about this wonderful website called "Reading Kingdom". So that is exactly what Bite did. He told them how fun it was and that it was reasonably priced for only $19.99 a month with no monthly minimum, or $199.99 for a whole year, and, you can try Reading Kingdom for 30 days for free by clicking here (or on any one of the hi-lighted links above)! He also told them about the very neat Reading Kingdom newsletter that they could sign up for. Finally, he told them that Brenda had given this wonderful assignment to many other TOS Homeschool Crew members and they could find what they thought about Reading Kingdom by clicking here.

Bite was indeed a very happy homeschooler. He learned to read, and lived happily ever after.

The story you have just read is true. The names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Oh, all right, the story is about me and my youngest son Jacob, who we indeed call "Bite". And, the story is only half true. What's true and what's not true? That, my dear readers, I will leave to your imagination Wink!

As a member of the TOS Homeschool Crew I was given a free one year subscription to Reading Kingdom in order to try out and review on my blog.


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Posted by tink38570 at 1:28 PM CST
Updated: Wednesday, 9 March 2011 10:16 PM CST
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Monday, 7 March 2011
Have you met Yvone?
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Compassion International

A few weeks ago I announced that we had decided to correspondence sponsor another child with Compassion International. Niyonsenga Yvone from Rwanda is our first girl. We haven't gotten our first letter from her yet, but, because of prayer and the love that God has already given us for her, she has become a part of our family.

I periodically check out different websites to look for inspiration for my blog. If you have been reading Families Again for any length of time, you already know that YouTube is the place that I get most of the videos that I use from. Today I was checking out videos from Compassion International and, to my great delight, one of the most recent videos added was one about Rwanda, where Yvone is from.

So, without further adieu, here is Rebecca Saint James talking about Compassion's work in this African country.


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Posted by tink38570 at 10:18 PM CST
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Saturday, 5 March 2011
It's A Mystery!
Mood:  incredulous
Topic: Book Reviews

What's the big mystery? I can't tell you...yet! You'll have to wait to find out. This, however, should give you a big clue!

Key To The Kingdom Trailer from Marc Percy on Vimeo.


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Posted by tink38570 at 9:05 PM CST
Updated: Saturday, 5 March 2011 9:09 PM CST
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Friday, 4 March 2011
Iris-Trophy of Grace - A First Wild Card Blog Tour Book
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Book Reviews

I have to admit. My mind is reeling from the fantastic books that I have recently gotten to review from First Wild Card. I am presently reading one that is phenomenal, and have recently finished another fantastic book - the one being reviewed here - Iris-Trophy of Grace. I can't tell you about the book that I am presently reading, but I can tell you about this one.

Iris-Trophy of Grace is one of the most inspiring books that I have ever read. It will shatter any of the prejudices that you may have toward your fellow man. I won't go into much detail, because the details are given below. I can tell you, however, that if you want to enrich your life and ministry you must read this book.

If you have read many of my First Wild Card book reviews, you will notice that I normally don't say a lot about the books. We aren't required to write a long review like I write for the TOS Homeschool Crew. In fact, we aren't required to write anything at all if we don't want to. All we have to do is copy an paste the information about the books that we receive. The fact that I am writing this much about Iris-Trophy of Grace, should tell you that I was really impressed by it. All of the information on the book is given below. Read it, but don't hesitate - order the book today. You won't be disappointed. Happy Reading!


It is time for a FIRST Wild Card Tour book review! If you wish to join the FIRST blog alliance, just click the button. We are a group of reviewers who tour Christian books. A Wild Card post includes a brief bio of the author and a full chapter from each book toured. The reason it is called a FIRST Wild Card Tour is that you never know if the book will be fiction, non~fiction, for young, or for old...or for somewhere in between! Enjoy your free peek into the book!

You never know when I might play a wild card on you!

Today's Wild Card author is:

and the book:

Iris: Trophy of Grace

CrossHouse Publishing (September 15, 2010)

***Special thanks to Jennifer Nelson, PR Specialist, Hannibal Books for sending me a review copy.***


Ron Owens--born in Canada, son of missionary parents to Europe--has multifaceted ministries. These include teaching, preaching, and music ministry in North America and beyond. He has authored other books and articles and has composed, recorded, and had published many songs in collaboration with his wife, Patricia. The Owens have one son, Jeff, a daughter-in-law, Jessica, and two grandson, Ethan and Evan.

Visit the author's website.


Iris Urrey was raised in a middle-class Christian home, but she was rebellious almost from the start. Running away at the age of thirteen, she became involved with drugs and prostitution, and at seventeen was arrested for armed robbery. Once released from prison, she continued down a path of self-destruction. From numerous abortions to using heroin, to managing a topless bar, Iris turned from God's calling again and again.

But God, who in eternity past had devised a plan for this "incorrigible" rebel, didn't give up on Iris. He had work for her to do, and would one day turn this "incorrigible" rebel into one of His beautiful trophies of grace.

Product Details:

List Price: $14.95
Paperback: 194 pages
Publisher: CrossHouse Publishing (September 15, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1934749915
ISBN-13: 978-1934749913



This is the story of one of God’s children who truly understands the meaning of what John Newton wrote many years ago, “I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see.” Though reared in a Christian home and being expected to do all the things that a “church family” child should do, rebellion was simmering just below the surface. At the age of thirteen it erupted—Iris Urrey ran away from home. This was but the beginning of a life that would become increasingly involved in drugs, prostitution and other criminal activities. Being arrested, jailed and released, had become routine for this teenager until, at the age of seventeen, she was arrested for armed robbery. With her history of drugs and crime, the authorities worked the system and were able to hold her over until her 18th birthday so she could be tried as an adult.

“So what,” was her attitude. “If this is to be part of the life I’ve chosen to live—no big deal.” Iris found herself heading down the wide road that leads to destruction and she couldn’t get off. She was unable to resist temptation, she was living only for the moment, without any thought of her future. A casual observer would have written her off. “No hope for that girl.” But God was not a casual observer. He had already written the future chapters of Iris’ life; chapters that she would never have thought to write herself; chapters she would never have even dared to dream.

Years in prison, solitary confinements, released back into society to immediately return to the lifestyle that had led to her incarceration, she was headed toward the same tragic ending so many of her friends would meet. But this was not to be for Iris Urrey. Pursuing her, every step of the way, in and out of prison, in the middle of heroine highs and robberies, was her Creator, who in eternity past had devised a plan that would eventually turn this “incorrigible rebel” into one of His beautiful trophies of grace. As hard as she tried, she could not hide from Him. He was always there.

But this is not only a story of grace and redemption, it is the story of a world-wide ministry that has found this longest serving Mission Service Corps Volunteer with the Southern Baptist North American Mission Board, sitting beside top military brass at a NATO function one day, then serving tea and cookies to German prostitutes on a cold wintry afternoon, the next. It is the story of perseverance in the face of obstacles placed in her way by well-meaning fellow believers who sometimes had difficulty in accepting her non-traditional approaches to reaching the disenfranchised. Through discouragements and failures, through losses and gains, this unconventional “saint” pressed on, and still presses on, by faith, toward the prize of her high calling in Christ Jesus.

Finally, this book is more than a history of Iris, it addresses many of life’s issues that are common to us all, and in her unique way, Iris provides answers out of her own personal experiences. The impact she has had on countless lives over the years is affirmed in the tributes and testimonies recorded in these pages.

—Ron Owens

January, 2010


My life’s message is faith. That’s why I am excited to have my story follow Bro. Manley Beasley’s biography because he is the person God brought into my life when I was a very young believer, to teach me and show me by his life what living by faith really is.

A lot of people talk and preach the faith life but they don’t practice it because it’s a lot easier to just talk about it. The walk of faith is a choice. There are times that I get in the flesh and begin worrying about tomorrow, especially when we are facing major financial challenges. All I know to do then is to confess it to the Lord and go back to trusting Him with tomorrow.

If God can take someone like us—me and Blue—not educated and not smart like a lot of people think is important or necessary to accomplish anything, and use us however He’s been able to, it has to be Him doing it. When you look at our lives there is absolutely no explanation for how far we’ve come. When it comes to finances, which is so much a part of life, you can’t say we’ve been good managers or that we’ve figured out how to do things, or that we’ve made good investments. I admit that we’ve tried several “tent-making” things on the side, in order to help our ministry, and though that may be alright for others to do, we found that while everyone else was making money, we were going in the hole. So, we’ve learned, sometimes the hard way, that the Lord is going to honor our faith and nothing else. It hasn’t been easy because we’ve been led through some very deep valleys and we’ve had to climb some high mountains, but we can testify that He has never failed to see us through.

We’ve traveled around the world without any visible means of income. We have never had our way paid for any of our overseas trips. All the times we worked with Bro. Manley we had to trust the Lord for our own finances. One of my early learning experiences was when he said he would like me to go on a mission trip to Alaska. I had not been saved that long and was still crawling in the kind of faith walk Bro. Manley taught, but I thought I’d try to trust the Lord for the money to make the trip.

I was directing the girl’s home in Houston, Texas at that time, and with all I was having to trust the Lord for there, I began wondering if I would really get to go to Alaska. Then one day a lady brought me a pair of “long-handles” (thermal underwear) with little pink bows on them. If they had been “long-handles” for men I wouldn’t have thought anything about it, but those pink bows? It suddenly dawned on me that I would never wear “long-handles” in Houston, so I called Bro. Manley immediately and shouted into the phone, “I’m going to Alaska.” He asked: “How do you know, sister?” He probably thought I was going to say, “I’m really hoping to go,” like I had told him at other times. He would always answer, “Well, you’re not going because it’s going to take more than hope.” This time I said: “Bro. Manley, I don’t need ‘long-handles’ in Houston!” I went to Alaska.

I pray that this book will be a help and encouragement to you in your own walk of faith and that, as you read about my early years when I was running away from God, you will see how faithful He was, even then, to not let me destroy myself. Most people had given up on me, but God didn’t. I am living proof that, “…He who hath begun a good work in you (and in me) will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6). Amen!

—Iris Blue

January, 2010

Part One




“Those who rebel against the light;

They do not know its ways

or abide in its paths.”

(Job 24:13)


Texas Department of Corrections,

Goree Unit, Huntsville

“But Mama’s not going to be able to come way up here to Goree”

It’s about a ninety minute drive north on Interstate 45 from the south side of Houston to Huntsville, Texas—ninety minutes from the Harris County Courthouse to the Goree Unit of the Texas Department of Corrections. She had just been sentenced, shackled by handcuffs and leg irons and pushed into a paddy wagon. Now, convicted felon, Iris Urrey, would have 90 minutes to reflect on what had been happening during the nine months since her arrest for armed robbery. There was one thing for certain; she was glad the Harris County Jail experience was behind her.

From the time they’d locked her up to the time she heard the judge sentence her to seven more years, Iris had had a running battle with the jail guards who tried to control her. She was constantly fighting. The truth was, she never backed down from a good fight, she looked for fights, and in her own words, “was so ornery that it was not long before they began putting me in the “hole.”

“This next place can’t be as bad as where I’ve been,” she thought, as the paddy wagon drove north on Interstate 45. She remembered how hard it had been to sleep in “the hole,” curling her 6' 3" body around the 4' square space that had no mat, no blanket and no pillow. Now, as they approached Huntsville and were turning on to Hwy 75 where the Goree women’s prison unit was located, Iris began wondering how often her Daddy would be willing to make the 150 mile roundtrip to visit her. The last thing he had said as he watched his daughter being led off in shackles, was; “I’ll be coming to see you as soon as I get the visitation schedule.” She figured he would at least try. He had never missed a visitation day during the nine months she’d been in the Harris County jail, though on many of those visits, when she was in segregation, he was not able to see her. That had not deterred him, however. Every week on visitation day Pat Urrey had been there with the exact items he was permitted to bring his daughter, including $18.00 every second visit. “But now…will he…?

Iris thought of her mother and how badly she had treated her. When she was in the Harris County jail, her mother, Mama, would ride the bus all the way across town to often be told that her daughter was in segregation and could not be seen. One time, as her mother was walking toward the jail, she heard Iris shouting through the bars of her 4th floor cell window asking her to go to Foleys to buy some crazy game and to pick up as many Edgar Casey books as she could find. Her mother walked 16 blocks, each way, to do what Iris had asked her to do. “But Mama’s not going to be able to come way up here to Goree.”

Her father had not let Iris’ mother attend the sentencing. He felt it would be too hard on her. He did, however, take her younger sister, Punkin,1 with him, hoping it would put a scare into his youngest daughter who was already following in her big sister’s footsteps. What Iris didn’t know was that her mother would live in denial for the next seven years, doing her best to keep what was happening to Iris a secret from her friends, her church, and even relatives. When asked what Iris was doing, she’d tell people that she had moved to San Antonio to work in the Coca Cola Bottling Company. They would not press her for more information as they all knew the truth. They had read about it in the newspapers.

Goree was at that time an all-female unit, originally established in the early 1900’s. Twenty years prior to Iris’ arrival it had become famous, from coast to coast, when eight women inmates, all under the age of thirty, put together a Country Western singing group that became known as The Goree Girls. Fort Worth radio station, WBAP, heard about them and arranged to use them on a public service program called, Thirty Minutes Behind the Walls. The Goree Girls2 became an overnight sensation as they were broadcast on the Ft. Worth clear channel station all across America. For the next three years, every Wednesday night from ten to ten-thirty, central time, the program averaged a weekly radio audience of over 7 million listeners, while in excess of 100,000 letters a year poured into the Goree prison office.

Who knows but that Iris might have fit in with the Goree Girls back then. She was born with a strong, beautiful, God-given singing voice, but now, as she was about to drive through the prison gate, she had no song to sing. She would not find the song she was born to sing for another nine years, and Goree was to become anything but a place of music for her.

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Posted by tink38570 at 10:56 PM CST
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Thursday, 3 March 2011
Thanks for all of your prayers!
Mood:  a-ok
Topic: Family

As most of you know, these past three weeks have been tough ones. It began when my elderly mother passed away on February 14. What a Valentine's Day my mother had. She got to spend it with my father and her Heavenly Father.

Soon after that we all came down with the flu. It was one of those cold system like flus where you are congested in the head and coughing a lot.

Finally, on February 18, Sarah's mom called and said that the Dr. was sending her to the hospital immediately with heart problems. After many tests and tries at various medications they finally decided to put a pacemaker in on February 25. Today she had her checkup and is doing fine. Sarah has been with her this whole time with the boys and I making a visit for a couple of days. The boys and I came home Tuesday morning and Sarah is coming home Saturday! Prayerfully, life will get back to a semblance of normal again.

Thanks again for your prayers and continued prayers for our family.


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Posted by tink38570 at 9:38 PM CST
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