Someday (Baxter #13)

Someday (Sunrise, #3)Someday by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Dayne and Katy Matthews are under intense pressure from their careers and from the press. Now, they’re going to be separated from each other for ten weeks, and rumors of infidelity are swirling as the tabloids look for the slightest sense of trouble in their marriage. Will their marriage survive?

The Flanigan family feels a deep loss as the children try to navigate their high school lives without CKT. They also have seen the detrimental effects of not having the CKT program in their friends’ lives. Will they be able to pull together? Will CKT come back to their hometown? Will their friends continue down the wrong paths that they set out on?

John is considering marriage. He wants to marry Elaine, but has difficulty letting go of his house and his life with Elizabeth. Will he continue on with Elaine or retreat to his memories of Elizabeth?

Someday is a good theme for this book. Someday Katy and Dayne will have a normal life. Someday John will be able to move on from his past and ask Elaine to be his wife. Someday Ashley will heal from the death of little Sarah. Someday all this will happen. However, much of the book is spent waiting and in pain.

Having said that, this is a book I really enjoyed. It’s a book that has a lot of turmoil and pain, but it is also a book that had a strong message for me. I was reminded that life is only as fun as I make it, and that I can choose to find joy in every day of my life and of all of my circumstances. I can choose how to respond to life and to the people in it, and I can choose grace, forgiveness and love. Several of the characters in this book need to make these kind of choices, and it’s interesting to see them play out in different ways.

Here are my thoughts on the major point of view characters. There may be some spoilers included, so read on at your own risk.

John: He’s thinking about marrying Elaine. In fact, he thinks this is the right move and even buys an engagement ring. However, he finds as he makes plans to build a life with Elaine, that he is having difficulty putting aside the pain and pushing on to the future with Elaine. He’s not even sure if building a future with her is the right thing to do. I get it. I do get it. I love that he finally realizes by the end that he has room in his heart for both his memories of Elizabeth and his new life with Elaine.

Dayne: He’s trying to walk the straight and narrow and stay away from even the hint of impropriety in the 10 long weeks that he’s away from Katy. However, a picture implicates him in having an affair with his co-star, and even though it is not him in the picture, no one believes him, including Katy. He spends much of the rest of the book attempting to overcome this crisis and to show his wife how true his devotion is to her and to their marriage. He receives some help from his friend Bob, and after spending time with him (and reading through some letters that Elizabeth wrote), he comes through big time in the husbands trying to fix their marriage department. It’s truly a beautiful thing.

Ashley: She’s healing and mourning the loss of her baby. She’s trying to find the good that Sarah’s short life caused. There are so many miracles happening with her relationship with Brooke, her acceptance of Elaine, and with the new pregnancy center that she’s helping to establish in Sarah’s name. Yet, there are still miracles that she’s hoping for, and some healing to come. Her story is very poignant in this part of the series, and I’ve enjoyed seeing her develop as a character in recent books.

Katy: She’s back to annoying me. In this book, Katy chooses to spend time doing her own thing, instead of being a good and supportive wife. She goes off to make her own movie, spending ten weeks in London. She gets completely disconnected from Dayne, believes the worst about him from the tabloids, and nearly decides that the right thing to do was to end her marriage. I found myself really frustrated with her.

Jenny: She is a friend and confidant of Bailey’s teenage drama. She’s a supportive wife and is busy raising her own children. There are two places in the book where she really shines. First, she reminds Katy that the distance and strain in her and Dayne’s marriage is self-inflicted. She caused her own troubles. Second, after hearing about Bailey’s friend’s abortion, she is burdened with the need to re-open the pregnancy crisis center. This leads to a beautiful story arc for Brooke, and I’m really enjoying.

Brooke: Brooke repents of her sins in regarding life so lightly. She repents of her sins in recommending abortion for patients and becomes highly involved in opening a pregnancy crisis center in town. Even better, we see some really tender scenes of her with some of her young patients. She really shines in these scenes.

Randi: Sometimes it’s good to get inside the head of an antagonist. It’s delightful to see here some of the motivations of rebellion and of not feeling loved that led Randi into being the person that she is. We also get to see her repent of her ways and ask God for forgiveness of her sins. We see through her that Jesus completely changes all that he touches.

Reagan: Her children are quite the handful. She’s lonely in her marriage and feels unloved. She finds herself growing closer to a fireman and allowing herself to separate from her husband. Her husband soon ends the separation by coming home, and she learns that he has truly been unfaithful to her. Things are not happily ever after, and their marriage is still a mess. However, for now they are back together.

Luke: He’s unhappy in his marriage. He attempts to escape it by long work trips and flirtations with other women. He finds himself making out with Dayne’s costar and allowing Dayne to take the fall when the photos are published in the tabloids. He doesn’t feel much guilt about the whole thing until he reads some letters that his mother wrote. He feels crushed with guilt and pain and returns home to attempt to make things work with his wife. We don’t know if they will work, but they are currently together, and for now, it’s enough.

Bailey: She’s pained by a friend’s abortion. She misses Cody. She has other boys on her mind, including Tim Reed. She misses CKT and prays that it will come back to town. In other words, she’s a complete mess and I roll my eyes at her teenage drama.

Cody: He misses the Flanigans, especially Bailey. He’s adjusting to life in the army, and he has a near brush with death. He realizes that God is looking out for him. His portion of this book is small, but sweet and good.

Kari: She’s still an emotional center in this family as she hosts her sisters for dinners and builds relationships with each of them. She’s incredibly sweet as she flits through the book, just holding one or two perspective scenes.

Landon: He compliments Ashley’s craziness so well. His perspective scenes are sweet, showing him at work and with his father-in-law. He’s a true rock and a husband any woman would love to have.

All in all, I loved this book and was very excited about it. Looking forward to reading future entries in this series!

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Sunday Sharing

Welcome to Sunday sharing! Here’s where I share my favorite articles, quotes and videos that I have encountered this week!

First up this week, I have the article The Danger of Entertaining Lies. This was powerful to me as I often allow myself to be defeated and self-condemning over my own sin and ways that I fall short (even though I know that I can never match up to Christ’s example). It’s important to remember that Satan takes “what’s true and twists it slightly, posing as a voice of reason and sense.” Powerful stuff!

I also really liked this article from Tim Challies titled There But for the Grace of God Go I.  It’s a phrase that we like to repeat, a way of reminding ourselves that we’re all sinners.  However, in our sanctification and spiritual warfare, I really draw power and encouragement from these sentences: “God does not confer scandal-busting grace each morning that I just sit back and receive, hoping it is enough to defeat the day’s sin. Rather, he calls upon me to receive his grace and to be obedient to his Word. He gives the grace to obey. This is not a grace I receive passively, but a grace I act on and act out.”

Because I am not a Calvinist, I do not see eye to eye with the conclusions in this Myth of Influence article.  However, I totally get and agree with the essential message and the deplorable examples that Godfrey uses in this article. My favorite quote: For a long time, I have felt that the cause of biblical Christianity has been undermined in our time by sincere people who engage in unbiblical activities for the sake of “being an influence.” The sad and ironic result of those actions has been harm to the cause of Christ and little or no positive influence has actually occurred. The myth of influence seduces Christians into believing that by compromising important theological truths more people can be influenced for Christ.  This is an important article and I found it on my mind often as I engaged recently in a Facebook conversation about Super Bowl entertainment that made have to face the realization that the left has won “the culture war.”

I have been continuing my journey through Ray Stedman’s Expository Studies in 2 Corinthians. This week, I’ve been reading the chapters of the book devoted to 2 Corinthians 3, and I found a quote that related to 3:6 that really stood out to me.  The quote is:

The external law invariably kills motivation. Many of us never seem to learn that lesson. We are constantly trying to order people around, make them do things out of pressure, little realizing that the law is absolutely the kiss of death to all sense of desire and motivation within someone.

As a home educator, I have seen this truth play out in the life of my second-born child so completely that I do want to take some time and write an entire blog post relating to this quote and to 2 Corinthians 3:6. It’s going to have to wait for another day though, and I wanted to share this quote with you this week.

Have a great week, and happy reading!!

Summer (Baxter #12)

Summer (Sunrise, #2)Summer by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Dayne and Katy are married! They are excited to be on their honeymoon, and Dayne thinks he has the solution for all their celebrity problems. Instead of starring in his next movie with a Hollywood A-lister, he can star with Katy instead. However, working together and taking part in a reality show puts a spotlight on their marriage that is becoming more and more difficult for them to handle.

Ashley and Kari are both pregnant, and they dream of their babies being closer than siblings and of sharing everything together. Yet, an ultrasound reveals that there is something wrong with one of the babies. The sisters pray for a miracle and try to get ready for the unthinkable. They all must struggle with God and with their feelings as they attempt to learn the lessons that God has for them in this storm.

The Flanigans are attempting to stay connected with their daughter Bailey, but she’s deep in the midst of adolescent turmoil and emotional drama. He friendship with Cody Coleman continues to get deeper, leaving her wondering where things are going from here. However, Cody enlists in the army, and will spend the summer saying good-bye to both the Flanigan family and to Bailey.

This is a beautiful and emotionally wrenching book. I actually spent a large part of the last hundred pages reading through my sobs and found myself challenged by the way I pray and with my relationship with God as a result of this story. That’s what I’m looking for in any book that I read, so to find it here has been a great thrill and pleasure. This is easily among the top three of the Baxter books I’ve read so far (Probably #2 to Reunion).

As always, I like to track the point-of-view characters, and there are a lot of them in this book, so this may take a little bit of reading to track down. There are spoilers ahead, so stop reading now if you don’t want to learn more of the story’s plot line.

Katy: She starts off the book as a newlywed, on her honeymoon with her husband. She is full of optimism for the future, excited to start working on a movie with him, and willing to sacrifice some of there privacy with the press in the hopes of gaining some peace. Yet, things don’t work out the way we imagine that they will. The constant scrutiny of the press, along with the environment of a movie set are deeply detrimental to her marriage. In fact, the marriage is so troubled that, even though there is a little hope at the end of the book, it is hard to see what the way forward is going to be for Dayne and Katy. It’s a stressful time for her, and so sad because of how hopeful things were in the beginning of the book. It looked like she’d found her happily ever after, and now she’s in a deeply uncertain place.

Ashley: I cried buckets of tears for her with this book. She is the one who’s baby has a fatal birth defect. She chooses to just focus on enjoying her pregnancy and praying for a miracle. She later realizes that the miracle isn’t going to come, and she questions why God is allowing this tragedy to take place in her life. She is filled with joy at her pregnancy, sadness at her baby’s death, and love from God because of the way her family rallies around her. It’s a beautiful story, and so sad.

Jenny: She’s in this book to shepherd over Bailey. She works with her daughter as a friend and a parent, and when her daughter’s friend has an unexpected pregnancy, she’s also a force for trying to save that baby from abortion and to help that friend’s mother understand what’s going on. It’s a thankless job, and we don’t know what happened with the friend and the mother by the end of the book, so I’m hoping to have some updates in the next book.

John: John’s falling in love! His relationship with Elaine has grown so much and it’s such a joy to see how much of a help and a rock that Elaine is for him in this book. His story is such a sweet story, and he’s such a wonderful supporting character that I love his presence in this book!

Dayne: He is, of course, having some marriage problems with Katy in this book. Some of them are self-caused as he allows himself to be overly involved in supporting his friend Randi Wells during her divorce (without communicating about it with Katy). His initial response to everything is to close himself off emotionally and act as if everything is okay. That’s just not going to cut it in some of these situations.

Landon: Despite his pain at his baby’s fatal diagnosis, he is Ashley’s rock. He is there to be her emotional shoulder and friend. He helps keep her involved with her family and takes care of the boys at times when Ashley is not emotionally able to. He also has the sweetest scene in the book as he explains to Cole that Cole’s baby sister is very sick and is going to die. It’s just a perfect scene from a very honorable husband and father.

Bailey: She’s not as caught up in “boy drama” in this book. She’s focusing on CKT and on her studies. Yet, she finds herself with a terrible crush on Cody Coleman, and is overwhelmed at the idea that he’s leaving to join the army. Young love! She also has a friend who has been a strong Christian up till this point, but finds herself with an unplanned pregnancy. Hopefully, Bailey will learn from her friend’s mistake.

Kari: Kari only has one or two perspective scenes in the book. It’s just enough to let us know that she’s suffering some intense guilt over the fact that her daughter is healthy and that Ashley’s is dying. We also learn that she’s really taking the role of peacemaker as far as siblings go in the family, and that is a role that suits her very well.

Brooke: Brooke is the biggest realist of the all the siblings in this book, but Brooke has a problem. She counsels Ashley to get an abortion, thinking that would be easier on Ashley and Landon, but it reveals the value that she places healthy lives above God’s sovereign hand. It causes a rift in her and Ashley’s relationship for a time, but I think both Ashley and Brooke understand the bigger picture by the end. I also think that Brooke’s learned that God is the creator and sustainer of life in a way that she didn’t understand before this tragedy.

Luke: Luke also only has a few perspective scenes in the book. He feels for Ashley. His marriage is not paradise and has its own turmoil and issues. I’m pulling for him, but I really admit that sometimes I struggle with the attitudes that he has toward Reagan in their marriage. He is just not my favorite character.

So, that’s it for this book. It’s an excellent one, and it’s a must read for the Baxter series. It’s also an excellent book for helping with some perspective when God doesn’t answer our prayers the way that we wish he would.

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Sunrise (Baxter #11)

Sunrise (Sunrise, #1)Sunrise by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Katy and Dayne are preparing for their wedding. They’re determined to keep it a secret from the paparazzi, and they have a plan. Will they be able to keep things a secret? Will their wedding be a huge photo event?

Meanwhile, the Flanigan family is struggling with their young boarder, Cody. He is the star receiver on the high school football team, and loves to party. After an alcohol overdose, Cody is in the hospital fighting for his life. Will he change his ways or will alcohol control his life forever?

This was a fun book to read. It is beginning to transition some focus to the Flanigan family, but it is totally a Baxter book and story. The wedding planning and wedding for Dayne and Katy are fun, and I am loving John’s storyline right now. Here are some quick thoughts on each of the point of view characters:

Katy: She shines here in the wedding planning and merging her life with Dayne. Her future is unclear, but whatever it is will have Dayne as a major part of it. She’s come a long way from the character that I found so annoying and not in control of her own mind in the first few books that I saw her in.

John: He has finally accepted that Elaine is a part of his life. He is finally ready to move on, and he is beginning some tentative steps to make Elaine a part of his life. It’s sweet and romantic, and I have completely enjoyed this story arc.

Bailey: She’s really jealous of the time that her parents are spending dealing with Cody’s problems. She’s a good girl, but she doesn’t understand how boys are and she could get herself into quite a lot of trouble if she isn’t careful. Here she deals with a smooth talker, and it takes her quite some time to realize that his sweet words aren’t true.

Jenny: Jenny is struggling a little in this book. She thinks things with Bailey are more under control than they really are. She worries over the possibility that they might move with Jim’s coaching career, and she feels a growing distance with Bailey that bothers her.

Jim: He has to make some tough decisions with his players and with the culture of alcohol abuse that is going on beneath his watch. He worries about how it will affect his job, but he has a history that includes a tragedy with alcohol that he really must share with his players to try to keep them from undergoing the same heartache.

Dayne: He’s got plans for a wedding, plans for having his wife act with him and a joy at seeing his life so normal. He loves being a part of the Baxter family, and his emotional stability in this novel is a huge payoff that readers of this series have been waiting for.

Ashley: She’s here, but she’s not a huge player. She is shown in scenes of motherhood, as a supportive friend, and is excited over a surprise bit of good news towards the end of the book.

So, that about does it for this book. It is not one with a whole lot of drama in it, and other than Cody’s overdose and Dayne and Katy’s wedding, the plot does not really advance. Still it’s a very fun and satisfying read!

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Sunday Sharing

Welcome to Sunday sharing!  Here’s where I share my favorite articles, quotes and videos that I have encountered this week!

One of the most convicting articles I read this week was The Joys of Obligation. I often find myself saying that I want to be involved in people’s lives, but then, I find myself trying to keep my relationships with those who are in my life at a very shallow, surface level.  For me, the most convicting sentences from this article are: “We want to see one another on Sunday mornings, exchange pleasantries, and head on our way, without getting too mixed up in someone else’s issues. The truth is that many of us behave as if the Christian life is all about our private relationship with God, and has nothing to do with our relationships with other people.”  I’m praying to become a little less self-centered and more centered on loving the actual people that I love.

I also encountered this theme in one of the Baxter books (I can’t remember which one) that I’ve been reading when I saw the quote: “You must take time to love the people God has put in your life.” Love takes time (and inconvenience), and I’m failing at it every day.

One of the books I’ve been reading is Ray Steadman’s Expository Studies in 2 Corinthians.  This week, I was reading about chapter 2 of 2 Corinthians, and I came across a gem from the book on forgiveness.  I decided that I would write the quote out here, even thought it’s a little lengthy. From what I can tell, this book is out of print, but used copies are easily obtained on Amazon. This is a little bit of exposition from 2 Corinthians 2:10 (and this book is full of gems like this one!).

Forgiveness, basically, is a promise that you make; it is a promise you make to three different individuals. This is true always, in every case of forgiveness. First, it is a promise that you make to the individual who has offended you and now has repented, in which you are saying to him or her, “I will not let my attitude toward you be governed any longer by this offense. It has been put aside. My treatment of you from here on will be as though this had never happened.” It is a promise you make never to bring it up again. In marriage many problems go on for years and years because we tend to go back and dig up all the past, an indication that it has never been forgiven. Some mates don’t get hysterical, they get historical! That is the problem, and it creates a problem.

Second, it is a promise not to pass it on to anyone else. When a matter is forgiven it is be forgotten. Now it may be that everyone knows it, because, as in this case in Corinth, it had been told to the whole church. But what it means is that no one throws it at the person again or holds it over his head or reminds him of it should any further difficulty occur. It is a promise to drop the matter, leave it in the past, and never bring it up to anyone again.

Third, and probably most important of all, it is a promise to yourself that when your memory goes back to the offense, as it will occasionally, you are not going to allow it to seize hold of your heart and make you angry all over again. The minute it comes back to remind you put it aside as something that belongs to the past; you are not going to dwell on it. It is a promise, therefore, to repeat your act of forgiveness, no matter how often the memory comes up. That is what forgiveness is; and Paul is ready to do this.

Love this book passage, and I want to come back to the idea of forgiveness and actually engage this passage and some other ideas I have floating about soon 🙂

Forever

Forever (Firstborn, #5)Forever by Karen Kingsbury

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It looks like things are finally coming together in Dayne and Katy’s life. They’re planning to get married, planning for a house in Bloomington, and trying to get closer to Dayne’s birth family. Just when everything seems to be perfect, a tragic accident occurs and suddenly, Dayne is struggling for his life. They need a miracle.

Meanwhile, Luke is having marriage trouble. In fact, he’s having trouble of every kind as he tries to adjust to the idea of having a brother, especially a brother who is so much more successful than he is. He struggles with jealousy, bitterness, and a feeling of loss from his mother being gone, and it spills over into all areas of his life.

Ultimately all must learn to pull together and to really love on each other in words, in acts and in prayer for each other.

This book is a much stronger entry into the Baxter series than the last book. I really loved seeing Dayne’s growing relationship with God, his entries into relationship with his family, and the way the family surrounds him to give him and Katy an act of love. As usual, here are my thoughts about each point-of-view character.

Katy: I’ve complained about her throughout the series. However, when times were hard in this book, she really shone. She realized that she loved Dayne more than her life in Bloomington. She found a strength in herself beyond caring about the tabloids. She found grace and love within herself as well as determination to get through no matter what. She’s someone who has realized what’s really important about life and has made adjustments in her actions and speech accordingly. That’s a really good thing.

Dayne: As I mentioned above, I really loved seeing his spiritual growth, knowing what’s going on in his head, and seeing his determination at whatever he puts his mind towards. He spends much of this book in a coma, and yet, his character is not diminished because of it. I’m really pulling for him and for the whole Baxter family, and I’ve enjoyed the journey through having him as the main character of the story over the past five novels.

Ashley: She’s another character who often annoys me, but really shines in this book. She puts all her effort into helping Dayne and Katy during their tough time, and she is able to really pull off an excellent act of pure love. It’s beautiful, and might be the best part of the book 🙂

Bailey: She’s a teenager, and she’s shifting back-and-forth between boys, wondering who she really “likes” and who really “likes” her. She’s also an actress in the kids’ theater group, but most of her role in this book is all caught up in her teenage feelings for different boys. Ugh. Reading this made me feel two things: (1) Old, (2) Like these days are coming up way too fast for my own children!!

John: He has a beautiful emotional range, and I have really enjoyed his role in all five of these books. I would never have wanted Kingsbury to kill off his wife, but he has really shone as he has dealt with that, with finding his child, and with navigating the waters of his life post-spousal death. I have been enjoying the budding relationship with Elaine, and despite a first blip in it this book, I am hoping that Kingsbury writes much, much more about them. I also nearly cry as he remembers his wife, re-reads her old letters and wishes that she was there to see their family now.

Luke: I just wanted to hang my head a few times at how spoiled he was acting this book. A new brother, and he’s so jealous that can’t stand it. He also feels like a failure because his life is not the way that he had always dreamed and he feels like less than a man as he still can’t provide for his wife and young children. He really pulls it together by the end of the book, but not before causing his wife and his whole family a ton of drama.

Jenny: She only has one or two point of view sections in the book. Mostly she’s there to provide a calmer, more adult perspective on Bailey’s teen drama. She’s enjoyable to read, and I always want to hear more from her view on life.

Reagan: There are problems between Reagan and Luke, and Reagan begins the book feeling like they’re all Luke’s fault. In fact, her life isn’t going the way she would like, and she feels like it’s Luke’s fault. She’s still holding grudges from when they got pregnant out of wedlock, and she doesn’t even realize it until things are bad enough between them that the word separation comes up. She has to realize that the downward direction of her marriage is not solely Luke’s fault but that she has a lot to learn and to atone for in the wrong way she has treated Luke. It’s a realization that I’ve had to make in my life, and it’s a good one.

That’s all for this Firstborn series of Baxter books. It’s a strong finish, enough to keep me reading on into the next series 🙂 I’m looking forward to hearing more adventures of the family. After all, Kingsbury hasn’t even gotten Dayne and Katy married yet!

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I Corinthians 16:13 Commercials

This year I have been teaching through First and Second Corinthians at my local Community Bible Study.  I teach middle school and high school homeschool students, and their average age is approximately 8th to 9th grade (and over half my class is male), so sometimes we need some activities to fill our two hours together.  Too much lecture and I lose them.

The best activities, however, are learning activities and I revel in finding a plan that truly works for the kids in my class.  A few weeks ago we studied the last chapter in I Corinthians, and I struggled to find an activity that would relate.  However, I hit upon something in the CBS teacher’s guide (for elementary-high school students) that was truly inspired, and I was able to use it in our class with great results.

In this activity, we examined I Corinthians 16:13.  This verse contains four commands that Paul gives the Corinthian church in his final charge.  Here it is in the KJV, but you can always look it up in your preferred version on Bible Gateway.

Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.

So, since there are four commands I had my co-teacher divide our class into four groups, and I assigned each group one of the the commands in this verse.

Each group had approximately 20 minutes (and they worked almost every minute of it) to create their own 30-60 commercial related to the verse.  They needed to convince the audience of the truth of the statement and find a way to complete this command in love.

To help get the students started, I had them begin to ask the following questions:

  • What’s the main idea of this phrase?
  • What are some slogans or jingles that would encourage someone to obey this phrase and do it in the light of love?
  • When is a time you need to remember this phrase?

After just a couple of minutes, three of the groups had already devised projects, and began creating products and storyboards to go along with their advertising. The focused on the fun and on the products and it turned out great! The students who had the phrase “Act like men” had a difficult time getting started, and I think it might have been due to the lack of emphasis that our culture places on the importance of manhood. However, they turned it around and wrote some striking text for a motivational spot as well.

We brought in a couple of impartial judges to judge, and while they loved all of the commercials, they found the be watchful one to be the best because of the catchy dance and “Be, be, be watchful” jingle that they sang! Even better, this opened the door to discussing true applications of the text with them as we would discuss what their commercial meant and how they could apply the message to their lives.

I thought, in case you decided to try this activity in your classroom, that I would show you the advertising that the young men and women in my class designed as some of the imagery for their commercials.  If you do try this, let me know in the comment box because I would love to see how this activity turned out for you!

commercial-storyboards