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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!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

book review: "the beautiful pretender" by melanie dickerson

The Margrave of Thornbeck has to find a bride. Fast. He invites ten noble born ladies who meet the king's approval to be his guests at Thornbeck Castle for two weeks, a time to test these ladies and reveal their true character.

Avelina has only two instructions: keep her true identity a secret and make sure the margrave doesn't select her as his bride. Since the latter seems unlikely, she concentrates on not getting caught. No one must know she is merely a maidservant, sent by the Earl of Plimmwald to stand in for his daughter, Dorothea. 

Despite Avelina's best attempts at diverting attention from herself, the margrave has taken notice. And try as she might, she can't deny her own growing feelings. But something else is afoot in the castle. Something sinister that could have far worse - far deadlier - consequences. 

I was so excited to read this book because Beauty and the Beast is my absolute favorite fairy tale! I'm a huge fan of Melanie Dickerson and loved The Golden Braid. This book was full of action, twists, humor and romance. This was a book I had a hard time putting down because I wanted to keep reading, needing to know what happened next! I liked Avelina and how Reinhart was drawn to her, not because of her name but her character. When she wanted the orphans to have something to eat or wasn't constantly demanding his attention. It reminds me of Proverbs 31:30: "Charm is deceitful and beauty is fleeting, but a woman who fears the LORD will be praised." I love how Melanie can take the basis of a fairy tale and breathe new life into it. She does a fantastic job of incorporating pieces of what we know (like not going in the West Wing or Reinhart being gruff and grumpy and rescuing Avelina from the wolves) but adding more to it. This was such a great read!

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.

Monday, May 16, 2016

finish strong

Things have been crazy busy lately...but that's life, right? Blogging has been shoved to the top shelf, abandoned to collect dust. But I'm blowing off the dust and bringing it back! Things are starting to slow down for me...for now. I'm finally realizing that life will always be busy and I just have to learn how to juggle it all. I've got some posts in mind that I'm excited about and am preparing some books reviews for later this week. I'm focusing on finishing strong with the things I'm wrapping up and excited about a change of pace :) Stay tuned!post signature

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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