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Tuesday, March 15, 2016

book review: "i want it all" by gwen smith

The Bible tells us that God is able to do above and beyond what we can ask for or imagine. So why do we rarely dream big dreams, think big thoughts or expect God to do great things through us?
Gwen Smith knows how easy it is to dismiss God's plan with thoughts such as, I can't make a big difference for God because I'm just an ordinary woman with an ordinary life. Yet God created us to join Him in doing amazing work in the world. He created us to live with abundant joy, courage, and influence - but not the joy, courage, and influence of the world. He offers grace for each failure, love to shatter hate, and peace that soothes our turmoil. He gives us comfort, guidance, wisdom, rest, power, and significance. Every blessing God has for us is ours for the taking.

This is a book that is so timely for me! Life is busy right now (but when is it not?) and I'm juggling everything but at the same time, wanting more of God. I don't want to ever be too busy for God. Gwen got me hooked right from the beginning: "I want more. I want to live beyond ordinary. I want revival. Authentic soul-level revival. I want a maxed-out faith in Jesus that believes big things of God and waits in great expectation for how He is going to show up and show off on Main Street each day."I love this! She so adequately sums up what I want.
Gwen shares from her life - the funny and the painful. She talks about wanting God even when things are hard or we're scared. "We tremble. God says, "Do not fear." We wander. Grace calls us out by name. We wane in the heat of the firestorms. Love shields us from the flames. We struggle in the streams and are swayed by the currents. God reaches for shaky hands, grips us with comfort, and assures us that we are not alone."
Each chapter ends with some reflection questions to get you thinking and get more from each chapter. This is a book to take your time with and really let it sink in! Because we're in a fight and we need to be ready for battle every day. I really like what Gwen says about the need for the Holy Spirit. "I need the Spirit of God because the battles are fierce. Are you whispering, "Amen?" We simply cannot go into a gunfight with plastic knives in our hands. If I want to live with all the power that the Lord has for me, then I have to invite the Holy Spirit to lead. Every. Single. Day."
I really enjoyed this book and how it encouraged my faith! Gwen challenged me to have that daily expectation that God is going to do something! I want to always be looking for His hand in things and having the confidence that He's at work! And trust Him in all things. Such a great read! There's also a video for the book that captures the theme of the book and it's read by Gwen. 

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

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

book review: "the peaceful wife" by april cassidy

In today's workplace, women are often rewarded for having type A personalities: driven, demanding, ambitious, and strong. Yet when it comes to their marriages, those same traits can backfire. After all, no one goes into marriage hoping for a promotion. What is a wife to do?

April Cassidy knows the struggle firsthand. She thought she was a great Christian wife and begged God to make her passive husband into a more loving, involved, godly leader. Instead, God opened her eyes to changes that she needed to make, such as laying down her desire for control and offering genuine, unconditional respect - not just love - to her husband.

Cassidy's conclusions may be as startling to readers as they were to her, but she and many others have learned to reorient their lives to biblical commands - resulting in healthier, happier marriages. In the end, you'll find The Peaceful Wife a powerful path to God's design for women to live in full submission to Christ as Lord.  

I wanted to read this book even though I'm not married. I'm a firm believer in preparing for my future husband. A few years ago I came across the book, Praying for Your Future Husband by Tricia Goyer and Robin Jones Gunn. It really changed the way I looked at this time of being single. My prayers changed from praying for a husband to praying specifically for him, that God would be working in his life, getting him ready for me. As I began praying for him, I started seeing changes in my own life. God began working in me while I was praying for the man I'll one day meet. I choose to enjoy being single but I want to use this time to become the wife my future husband will need. April's book has been a big help in that! The biggest take away from this book is being respectful. "My level of respect and biblical submission toward my husband is a direct indication of my level of reverence for and submission to Jesus Christ." That statement is so powerful to me! And what's just as powerful is the result of a woman who respects her husband: "Husbands tend to eventually respond to a wife's radiant faith by becoming better, more responsible, more trustworthy men. As a husband feels the weight of his wife's beautiful feminine trust, faith, admiration, and cooperation with his leadership, he is most encouraged and motivated to become more and more the man God calls him to be." So as a wife learns to respect her husband, it moves him closer to who God wants him to be. I love how vulnerable April was by sharing her own shortcomings and how she's striving to do better. I like the ways she includes to show respect just to get you thinking. I enjoyed this book - it helped me not only see the importance of wives respecting their husbands but the need for it! This is a book to really slow down and read, letting the words sink in. And I like how she includes her husband's thoughts as well. Being able to hear a man's perspective in all of this is helpful - since men and women think so differently. "A wife's obedience to God motivates her husband like nothing else can to open his heart to want to hear and obey God."

I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications for my honest review.
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Friday, January 22, 2016

recipe: crockpot sausage and cheese tortellini


I'm becoming a fan of crockpot recipes. I've made potato soup and have now tried a sausage tortellini soup! And oh, they're both pretty good! I like being able to put everything into the crockpot and then leave it alone. The only difference is that the tortellini I used wasn't frozen so it took about two and a half hours for it to fully cook. I also didn't realize I needed specific diced tomatoes so I had to season them myself. I just poured them into a bowl and added some Italian seasoning and a little garlic powder. This is definitely a recipe I'll be making again! You can click here for the full recipe.

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb. Italian Sausage
  • 20 oz. Frozen Three-Cheese Tortellini
  • 32 oz. Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • 2 Cans Diced Tomatoes
  • 8 oz. Cream Cheese
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese for topping
Putting this together is super easy! Brown your Italian sausage and put in the bottom of the crockpot. Then add the tortellini. Next add the tomatoes. Pour in the chicken broth. Last, add the cream cheese, cutting it into small pieces. Stir all the ingredients, making sure the tortellini is covered with liquid. If your tortellini isn't frozen, cook on low for about two and a half hours. Stir every hour, letting the soup cook uncovered the last thirty minutes. If the tortellini is frozen, refer to the original recipe.

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Monday, January 11, 2016

book review: "philippians" by sue edwards

Paul's brief letter to Philippi highlights what strengthens authentic connections - skills like trust, humility, appropriate self-sacrifice, and generosity. It also sheds light on how to overcome toxic connection-killers like envy, comparison, and a critical spirit. 

Join Sue Edwards on this inductive study of Philippians, where you will discover how to find and maintain beloved, organic, healthy community.

This is a great book study, allowing you to take a deeper look at Philippians. It's designed to be completed with a group but I think I would like to take it slower and work through it on my own. There are eight chapters in the book. The first chapter has you reading in Acts, giving you a little background on Paul and how he came to meet those in Philippi. And I think the first chapter might be my favorite. I highlighted things in the sidebars in the Digging Deeper sections included in the book. This chapter has more open-ended/thinking questions than it seems the other chapters do. More of relating what's going on to things in your own life. And maybe that's why this is for a group study - the personal connections in the first chapter would allow those in the group to get to know each other as they begin this study. In one of the Digging Deeper sections, the words really stuck with me. The subtitle for this book study is called, Discovering Joy Through Relationship. This book talks about the importance of relationship and the benefits of it. "This is a call to wake up to the fact that we can never realize the likeness of Christ by ourselves alone; we will never transform the world as individuals; we will never discover fullness of life in Christ if we stay solo. We are distinct as people of God because we were made to live in dependence on the head and interdependently with the diverse parts of the body...Community that is distinctively Christian will host the presence of God in the midst of it! It is God himself who makes community possible." I feel like this quote sums up why we need community in the church so much! I like that this book study can be used in different ways. In a group or not in a group. You can simply go through the questions in each chapter and then move on or take the time to read the Digging Deeper sections in the sidebars to get even more out of it. A great book study!

I received a copy of this book from Kregel Publications for my honest review.

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Friday, January 1, 2016

hello 2016


My 2015 was a really good year. It really was! So many things happened - a third trip to Guatemala, beginning my third year teaching, paying off my student loan, working with middle school girls at my church and a pretty great birthday! 2016 has barely gotten off the ground but I know it's going to be even better! Happy New Year!

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Thursday, December 24, 2015

spicebox review

My Spice VoxBox arrived the other day and was full of some great goodies! VoxBoxes are boxes full of free products for you to review. You can learn more by visiting their website.

Botanics Organic Hydrating Day cream
I like the day cream. I've been using it at night. It's not greasy and goes on easy. It smells good and leaves my skin feeling soft!

Foot Petals
These wool inserts are made for boots and designed to offer support but also keep your toes warm! They're one size but on the back are small, medium and large guidelines. You just cut to the size you need and stick them in your boots! Super easy and super comfortable! I have a pair of boots I wear a lot but they don't offer much support. I put my Foot Petals in them and they're so much better! Now I can wear them when I am all my feet all day!

Sinful Colors Sinfulshine Nail Polish
I was sent Diamond in the Raw along with a top coat. I liked the metallic color and it lasted for about a week - I consider a week long lasting. Because it's glittery, removing it takes a little effort but I liked the color and how easy it went on. 

Good Health Veggie Straws
I tried these and maybe if I were to eat them again I might like them but I wasn't a fan. They didn't have a whole lot of flavor.  I was sent the Sea Salt flavor but there are other flavors to try.

SoapBox Shampoo and Conditioner
I like this shampoo and conditioner for two reasons. One is that it leaves my hair feeling soft but whenever you buy a SoapBox product, you provide clean water or soap to those in need. The only thing I didn't like is that the shampoo didn't lather well. I had to use quite a bit to feel like it was getting my hair clean. I like that it's gently on my hair and safe for color-treated hair. 

Yogi Tea
I was sent Sweet Tangerine and Vanilla Spice. The Sweet Tangerine was ok but I really liked the Vanilla Spice flavor! I added a little creamer to it and it was really good! Definitely a flavor I would buy! There are so many other flavors as well and some are available in Single Serve Cups. I want to try the Peppermint and their Chai teas. You can look at all the different teas and their purpose at Yogi's website.

Not Your Mother's Whip It Up Cream Styling Mousse
I've used Not Your Mother's products before but haven't tried the mousse until now. And I love it! It's whipped so a little goes a long way and it smells like vanilla cupcake! It doesn't leave my hair feeling sticky or heavy. I haven't been able to find it in stores so I've already ordered some from Amazon because it's that great!

 I received free samples of these products from Influenster for my honest review.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

book review: "the wedding chapel" by rachel hauck

For sixty years, the wedding chapel has stood silent and empty. Retired football hall-of-famer Jimmy "Coach" Westbrook built the chapel by hand, stone by stone, for his beautiful and beloved Collette Greer, whom he lost so many years ago. The chapel is a sanctuary for his memories, a monument to true love, and a testament to his survival of the deepest pain and loss.

Photographer Taylor Branson left her hometown of Heart's Bend, Tennessee, to make a new life for herself in New York. She had lots to run away from, not least of all a family history of broken promises and broken dreams. Love catches Taylor off guard when she falls for Jack Forester, a successful advertising executive, and their whirlwind romance leads to an elopement - then to second guesses. Jack, in spite of his very real love for Taylor, is battling his own demons and struggles to show her his true self and the depths of his love for her. 

Taking a photography assignment to Heart's Bend, Taylor is thrown back into a past of family secrets buried deep beneath the sands of time. When Taylor and Coach's journeys collide, they each rediscover the heartbeat of their own dreams as they learn that the love they long to hold is well worth the wait. 

I knew I had to read this book for two reasons. It's by Rachel Hauck - I love anything she writes - and it's set in my home state. This was such a great read! Because the story is being told from four different points of view, I had to really pay attention at first, trying to keep up with everything. The story also jumps from the past to the present. But I love how Taylor, Jack, Collette and Jimmy's stories intertwined! Rachel did a great job of spreading humor throughout the book. There were a few references to The Royal Wedding series which made me smile. I love the underlying theme of this book: it's never too late. Collette thought she would never see Jimmy again and had given up on that dream. Even when Collette walked back into her chapel, she still didn't believe she and Jimmy had a future together. She felt too much time had passed; she had made too many mistakes. Towards the end of the book, someone mentioned "love well." That was what stuck with me from How to Catch a Prince. Both Collette and Taylor had to figure out how to accomplish that. Taylor and Jack had huge hurdles to overcome because both had seen the effects of divorce and were afraid of opening up. But Jack, bless his heart, refused to give up on Taylor without a fight. I'd like to think their brokenness helped led to each others healing. This was such a beautiful story of love, forgiveness and pursuing what you want instead of letting it slip by. And oh, the chapel! I wish such a place actually existed! I can picture the beauty and peacefulness of it. Everything is quiet and you're able to feel God. Rachel did a great job not only with the characters but creating such beautiful visuals.

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review.

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