Friday, July 1, 2016

book review: "dwelling places" by lucinda secrest mcdowell

What if a thriving, active faith were as simple as reading one word a day?

Do you long for serenity and refuge, peace and hope? Are you seeking a deeper spiritual life through a closer relationship with God?

If you're tired of dwelling in busyness and noise, then perhaps one word a day can change your life. Award-winning author Lucinda Secrest McDowell knows that if you spend time each day turning on God's Word for wisdom and guidance, your faith can flourish and grow.

Through short and inspiring readings, McDowell unpacks a single word - such as mercy, beauty, gratitude, or grace - to reveal a biblical blessing or challenge relevant to where you are. Full of stories and illustrations to empower you to live the word you have just read, each devotional ends with a benediction, written as if God were speaking directly to you.

These "dwelling places" that offer the joy of God's promise and presence cover four seasons: fall, Advent, Lent, and summer. Whether in the midst of busy holiday schedules, holy days, ordinary moments, or changing seasons, a deeper faith can be as simple as a single word.

I really like how the focus for each reading is simply one word. Each devotion is only two pages but those two pages are so powerful! One of my favorite readings is on the word "sea." McDowell quotes Anne Morrow Lindbergh: "For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well." That's so true! How often are we busy with truly important things? I feel like that's the goal of this book: to be intentional but also purposeful with each reading. Packing a lot of information in just two pages. This same reading uses one of my favorite verses: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll receive your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest" (Matthew 11:28-30). I wrote in the margin the rest of that passage: "Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." I love that phrase rhythms of grace. What caught my eye with this book is that it's broken up into seasons. The only disadvantage to the book is that there's only 130 different readings so there's not enough for each day of the year but it's still a great resource! Dwelling Places is a great way to start each day!

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. You can read other reviews in the book tour by clicking here.

You can also enter a giveaway by clicking here!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

recipe: better than anything oreo cake

This dessert. Oh, it turned out pretty perfect! I like it for several reasons. One is that it only takes a handful of ingredients. Two, it was fairly simple to make. Three, it tasted really good! I've made it twice and followed the recipe as is. But I'm thinking next time it might be fun to add some chopped Reese Cups to the top and less Oreo. I feel like the Oreo makes it really sweet - maybe it's the cream. I did a layer of Oreo before the whip and also on top so I might scale back the next time and just use around ten Oreos or so. Regardless, this is an easy recipe and tastes REALLY good! You can look at the full recipe from Nikki at Chef In Training by clicking here.

What you need:
  • 1 box German chocolate cake mix, and all ingredients it requires
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (16 oz) jar hot fudge
  • 1 (8 oz.) tub cool whip, thawed to room temperature
  • 15 Oreos, crushed/chopped
What to do:
  1. Bake cake according to directions in a 9x13 pan.
  2. Let cake cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Poke holes in cake with the handle end of a wooden spoon.
  4. While cake is still warm, slowly pour over sweetened condensed milk over the top making sure some gets in all the holes of the cake.
  5. Heat Jar of Hot Fudge until runny and hot. Make sure it is melted to a point that it will pour easily. Pour over top of cake, making sure some gets in all the holes of cake.
  6. Let cake cool completely then spread thawed cool whip over the top.
  7. Sprinkle crushed/chopped Oreos over the top of Cool Whip.
  8. Store in fridge until ready to eat. Store any leftovers in fridge.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

God is with you

I came across these verses last night and wanted a visual. So I found a picture of the Promised Land and added the verses (thanks Pic Monkey!). In Deuteronomy 11, God is giving the Israelites some instructions before they go into the Promised Land. He's already given the ten commandments and the rest of Deuteronomy is God laying out guidelines, if you will, of what the Israelites are to do after they cross the Jordan. But these are the words that stood out to me. I was thinking of it in terms of God's word. When it says, "place these words on your heart. Get them deep inside you," I thought about holding onto a verse that really speaks to you in a specific time in your life. Maybe it's a verse about peace or strength or healing. But you cling to that verse, you get it deep inside you and you don't let go. That verse gives you strength because you're about to get your breakthrough. You're about to cross your own Jordan River! And at the beginning of the book of Joshua, God tells the people to be strong. Three times in chapter one He says those words. He knew what the people would face. And then He says, " not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (v. 9). No matter what we face, no matter how we're feeling, God is always with us. Always.

Monday, June 13, 2016

book review: "my fringe hours" by jessica n. turner

Make time for you - every day

Do you want to learn how to make time for the things you love, deepen friendships, and take better care of yourself? Begin a journey of self-discovery as you explore your passions and overcome obstacles in this meaningful book. You'll come away refreshed, invigorated, and excited to live a more creative and fulfilled life.

I know I'm not the only one who feels like I just don't have enough time. Don't have enough time for work, church commitments, friends and then just time for me.  Right? This book is a great way to figure out how to make it work! I like what Jessica says on the first page: "Now, please understand, this is not a time-management book because My Fringe Hours is not about doing more. It's about discovering ways to help you be more creative and live more fulfilled." And I think that's the key. Throughout the book, Jessica gives nine principles to help you make the twenty-four hours we each have be more productive and purposeful. She talks about how often, we are our own worst enemy, feeling guilty for not being able to get everything done and/or taking time for ourselves. She talks about finding balance between the things that need to get done and what things could possibly be cut out. There are lots of hands-on activities such as a scale to fill out, listing the things you wish you had time for on one side and all the current things you're doing on the other. It's a great visual to let see what could be removed to allow time for some of the things you'd like to do. I really enjoyed this book! It's a quick read and I like all of the "my turn" activities that are throughout to help me apply what I'm reading. I highlighted the entire last page with Jessica's Final Reflections because it really does sum up the whole book:
My prayer is that as you make time for yourself, you will grow more confident in who you are and experience deeper satisfaction with how you spend your time. I believe that as you pursue the practice of self-care, your life will become defined by gratitude and joy - not because you've done it all perfectly but because you've realized what God knew all along: that you are a unique and one-of-a-kind treasure. And this world needs you - the best possible you. So go ahead. Sign up for that knitting class. Take a long run. Pull out that journal and start filling its blank pages. Make yourself a priority. Invest time in the you that God made you to be. Because you are worth it. This is your new beginning - and it's going to be beautiful.

I received a copy of this book from Icon Media Group for my honest review.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

*insert deep breath*

I've started another blog. It was a big step for me. But it was a step. I needed to do something to move forward in some desires God's stirring up in me. So this was the beginning. You can find out more by heading over there: Right now, I'm planning on posting on Mondays. I need to find a balance between that blog, this one and I actually have another one about teaching. Now that it's summer, I have the time to plan and figure it out. Someday is a word I try to avoid. So I've done something. I've taken a step forward and am excited to see what happens next!

Monday, May 30, 2016

what now?

I just got back from my sixth missions trip. The last three I've been on have been out of the country but this time we stayed within the States. There were reasons for this and because of this decision, we went to the site of my very first missions trip: the Los Angeles Dream Center. If you've never heard of it, it's an amazing place! The Dream Center reaches out to the city of Los Angeles through food trucks, medical care, cleaning up trash off the streets and parks, praying for those in the community, and visiting the homeless on Skid Row - all in an effort to show God's love. They also have a rehab program for those wanting to get their life back together. There are so many parts to what the Dream Center does. I was amazed again and again at the influence the Dream Center is making. So now that we're back home, I must face the question yet again that comes up after every trip: what do I do now? I was gone for a week and it was great but now what? This year I feel like it's a little more clearer for me. One of the biggest - and yet smallest - things we did on our trip at people. Something so simple has a HUGE impact! I want to notice people and not be so busy with what I need to do that I just walk by those who are hurting or in need or just need someone to listen to them. Do we have to go somewhere else in order to do mission work? No. There is work to do right where we are. So I'm going to get busy tilling the ground in my own mission field...until the next time I pack my suitcase :)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

book review: "through the shadows" by karen barnett

Two years ago, the building of San Francisco were shaken off their foundations and burned to the ground in the devastating earthquake and fire. As the city rebuilds brick by brick, new hope is rising. But Elizabeth King is also trying to rectify the rubble in her own life - and she's not sure anything will be able to erase her past. But she doesn't anticipate finding new love. 

Hoping to right her wrongs, Elizabeth commits herself to helping young girls escape brothels in Chinatown, one of the darkest sections of San Francisco.

When she meets rising attorney Charles McKinley, who desires to save the city from corruption, and has dashing good looks to boot, she can't help feeling hopeful. However, she soon realizes while many loved ones may not turn her away after discovering her secret, the man she loves will have no choice. Elizabeth's past bears great consequences for both their futures. 

What caught my attention with this book is the attention to human trafficking. I wasn't really aware of the prevalence of human trafficking until my first missions trip out of the country to Guatemala in 2013. Side note: I've since done a little research and also came across Christine Caine and the great work she does to stop it through her non-profit, the A21 Campaign. I liked this book. I had a little bit of hard time getting into it but I was soon pulled into the story. I want to be like Donaldina - passionate about her cause and not willing to let others get in her way! I laughed at the scene of her pulling the officer behind her, hat askew as she barreled into the judges office! And the ending was beautifully sweet. I love what Charles told Elizabeth; it's what I pray for in my future husband. "I want you beside me every day of my life. I want you to argue with me and keep me on my toes. I want you to spur me to greater actions on behalf of God's kingdom." I love that Elizabeth finally let God's grace be enough for her - that she was able to let go of her hurt and give it all to Him. Such a beautiful story of love and redemption!

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. You can read other reviews in the book tour by clicking here.

You can also enter a giveaway by clicking here!