Thursday, September 30, 2010


With a new season now upon us and an almost new month, I wanted to take a few seconds to share something that isn't a book review or an amazing recipe :-) While there are seasons in nature, we also experience seasons in our lives. Maybe it's the start of a new career or new relationships. Maybe it's moving somewhere new. Whatever it is, we go through times in our lives when one chapter is finished and another begins. A fresh page is waiting to be written on - life to be lived. So I'm encouraging any who come across this to enjoy life - find something each day to be thankful for. I love fall and am excited that it actually feels like it (we had a some 90 degree weather last week - was not happy about that :-). I love the colors of the leaves as they change and hearing the crunch when I step on them. It just seems to say to me, "it's fall!" So I'm wishing you all a "Happy Fall" - be it literally or if you're embarking on something new.

Monday, September 27, 2010

book review: "the vigilante's bride" by yvonne harris

Emily McCarthy is traveling to Montana to marry a man she’s never met. At eighteen, the orphanage where she was staying needs her room to house some young Indian girls. Emily is left with few other options so she boards a train in response to the newspaper ad for a bride the director of the orphanage accepted on her behalf. On the last leg of her journey the stagecoach she’s riding in is robbed, her taken along with $1,000.

Luke Sullivan is going after what’s rightfully his. The money belonged to his father but he was cheated out of it by the man Emily is expected to marry. Taking her with him wasn’t part of his plan. When he found out where she was going, he decided he needed to protect her so he whisked her away, riding into the night. Though he thought he was helping, Emily is outraged Luke would kidnap her. She’s sees him as a thief and not to be trusted. He takes her to the orphanage where he was raised and still lives until he can figure out what to do with her.

Trouble comes when Bart Axel, Emily’s fiancĂ©, comes looking for her. The man orders her to come with him – giving her the chance to see the kind of man he is and making her inwardly grateful Luke kidnapped her. Luke tells the man to leave, giving him the amount of money he paid for Emily and he stomps out, spewing veiled threats every step of the way.

Luke begins to feel things aren’t quite right when the number of cattle he oversees for the orphanage is dwindling. Since cattle equal money, their livelihood is at stake as well as the future of the orphanage. When he finds out Bart is behind the disappearances, he knows he has to do something. Tension continues to escalate until finally Bart dies in a stampede by the cattle he had taken from Luke. Through it all, Luke and Emily forge a friendship as they work to uncover who’s behind the missing cattle. When she puts her life in potential danger, Luke realizes his feelings for her are more than friendly. In the final pages of the story he asks her to marry him and she accepts.

I enjoy Christian Romance and this didn’t disappoint. There were times when I felt the story was more about Luke than Emily (and maybe that’s the way Harris wanted it to be). I wasn’t completely swept away into the story but I still enjoyed it. There were some humorous moments I laughed out loud at and it was overall a good read.

* I received a copy of the book from Bethany House and was not required to write a positive review.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

book review: "power thoughts" by joyce meyer

In the Introduction to her book, Meyer makes a statement that sums up the importance for taking control of our thought life. She says, “I firmly believe that each thing we do in life gives us experience for the next thing we will do and that our thoughtful planning is perfected by God as we place our trust in Him.” She further says “It is impossible to change our lives unless and until we change our thoughts.”

Meyer shares twelve “power thoughts” for us to grab hold of and meditate on in order to give our mind a mental make-over. These are:
1. I can do whatever I need to do in life through Christ.
2. God loves me unconditionally!
3. I will not live in fear.
4. I am difficult to offend.
5. I love people and enjoy helping them.
6. I trust God completely; there is no need to worry!
7. I am content and emotionally stable.
8. God meets all my needs abundantly.
9. I pursue peace with God, myself, and others.
10. I live in the present and enjoy each moment.
11. I am disciplined and self-controlled.
12. I put God first in my life.

I really liked this book. I like the way Meyer has written it so you can break up each “power thought” and study one a week. I definitely want to re-read the book, getting all I can out of it. At the end of each “power thought” she also includes a list of relevant scriptures. Scattered throughout the chapters are questions for you to answer, encouraging us to evaluate our current thought life and what we can do to change it. One thing she said that spoke to me as I’m in a season of waiting is that “Satan often works through or takes advantage of our weaknesses at the precise time God is trying to promote us or lead us to take a step of faith that will advance His Kingdom or move us closer to fulfilling our destinies.”

* I received an ARC of this book from Faith Words and was not required to write a positive review.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

recipe: devil's food marshmallow cake

I was in an Oreo mood and googled recipes that involve the cookie sandwich. This is from the Nabisco website and wow, it was yummy.

1 package devil's food cake mix
20 Oreos
3 cups Cool Whip
2 1/2 cups mini-marshmallows

Prepare cake batter and bake in 2 (9-inch) round cake pans as directed on box. Cool completely. Coarsely chop 12 of the Oreos. Add to 2 cups of Cool Whip in large bowl with 1 1/2 cups of the marshmallows; stir gently until well blended. Place 1 of the cake layers on serving plate; spread with the Cool Whip topping mixture. Cover with the second cake layer. Frost with remaining 1 cup Cool Whip. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with the remaining 8 Oreos, halved, and the remaining 1 cup marshmallows just before serving.

I embellished a little and now that I've made it once, my mind is coming up with all kinds of other ideas. Before adding the Oreos and marshmallows to the top, I drizzled some chocolate Magic Shell and let it harden. You could also use colored marshmallows or tint your Cool Whip. I also thought of adding mini-chocolate chips to the middle layer of Cool Whip, Oreos and marshmallows. They could also be sprinkled on the top as well. You could also use the 3 ingredients from the middle and cover the sides of the cake with it. I like being able to see all 3 layers but that's just another idea. The cake was a major hit and super easy: win-win :-)

Monday, September 13, 2010

book review: "immanuel's veins" by ted dekker

Toma Nicolescu and Alek Cardei are assigned to protect Kesia Cantemir and her twin daughters, Lucine and Natasha. The two men arrive at the Cantemir estate in Moldavia to find the women celebrating by hosting a Summer Ball of Delights. Shortly after their arrival, Toma’s filled with unease at the presence of a handful of Russians. These guests stand out from the rest, dressed in all black with the women wearing tight-fitting and rather revealing clothing. Alek’s immediately transfixed by Natasha, deciding she will soon become another of his conquests. Toma is taken by Lucine but because of his loyalty to Catherine the Great, he keeps his interest to himself. At her mother’s prodding, Lucine shows Toma around her home but it’s when they return to the dining room that Toma’s unease returns. They walk in to find Natasha on the floor, her face bloody. Alek threatens to kill the man responsible – one of the Russians who claims he merely kissed her and she fainted. The tension continues to escalate and when the Russian lunges for Alek, Toma shoots him dead.

Natasha soon wakes up, claiming she’s more than fine and admits she did welcome the Russian’s kiss. It’s soon after that she begins going to the home of Vlad van Valerik, where the Russians are all residing. She returns each morning, face pale and lips red. Alek, in an attempt to protect her, goes with her one night. It’s then that they are both sneaking out each evening. Toma is furious Alek doesn’t see the danger in this so he goes to the castle to retrieve them both. Once there he’s unsure what to think. Everyone is merely reclining on chairs or lazily talking with each other, no threat in sight. It’s then that he is offered some of their wine.

Lucine discovers Toma with one of the Russian women and shoving aside the growing affection for him, accepts van Valerik’s offer of marriage. He asks to not only kiss her but to bite her lip. “It’s not a bite as much as a sharing. A mixing of blood. A seal of love between two people. This wins the heart, not merely the drinking of the blood.” Pain begins to flow throughout her and she is scared at what’s happening. Vlad smacks her when she voices her fear. Natasha finds her, telling her when she wakes she’ll feel better. His “kiss” begins Lucine’s transformation into what Vlad is: a half-blood Nephilim, the children conceived from the union of fallen angels and humans. Toma is outraged that Lucine would even consider marriage to Vlad and is arrested for accusing the duke of being possessed. The only way for him to win back Lucine is to convince her of his love – to be her Immanuel. As he battles Vlad but is losing horribly, death imminent, he cries out for the woman he’s doing this for. “Lucine! Oh, God! Lucine, Lucine, Lucine…” These were the guttural groans of a dying man clinging to the last thing that was more precious than life itself. To love.” Lucine is restored by falling into the fountain of water that is now mixed with Toma’s blood. His blood brought her back to life.

This was my first Ted Dekker read. I’ve always wanted to read his work but could never decide where to start. I liked the overall message of the book but it was a little hard to get into at first. I found myself not quite sure what was happening and waiting for everything to fit together – which it finally did. The book tackles the theme of sacrificial love and the question has been posed, “what is sacrificial love?” To me, it means giving entirely of oneself, not expecting anything in return. It’s completely selfless. The ultimate example of this would be Jesus’ death on the cross – He paid the highest price for sin so that we wouldn’t have to. I think as selfish humans, it’s hard for us to fully understand His sacrifice. We try to love others is our own flawed way but we still fall short. Sacrificial love gives and gives, not stopping because of a bad mood or hurtful word. It loves…for the sake of love itself even when we’re so undeserving of it.

Click here to see a video trailer for the book. And Thomas Nelson is letting me share something else with those who read this. If you'd like to win a "Spread the Love" t-shirt, leave me a comment on this post. Contest will end on September 17 at midnight.
* I received an advanced copy of this book from Thomas Nelson Publishers and was not required to write a positive review.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

thank you

Today is National Day of Encouragement and to celebrate the day, (in)courage gave away a bundle of cards from DaySpring. All that was required was to send the cards to friends and then blog about it. For me, that was too easy to pass up. So I looked through the cards, deciding which ones fit which of my friends. One I mailed to a senior at my church. As a youth leader, you become close to the kids you work with each week and she was one of those I've developed a close relationship with. So when she moved out of the state last month, I was a little bummed. She promised all of us it's only for a year and then she'll be back for college but that didn't make her leaving any easier. So I mailed her one of the cards, just letting her know I'm thinking about her. My hope is that she opens the card and smiles, having a tangible reminder that she's missed terribly. I want to bring her a smile just as she's given me countless reasons to smile :-)

Friday, September 10, 2010

book review: "outlive your life" by max lucado

Chapter one asks this question: “we are given a choice…an opportunity to make a big difference during a difficult time. What if we did? What if we rocked the world with hope? Infiltrated all corners with God’s love and life?” And that’s the question woven throughout the rest of the book. Lucado talks about how society has slowly evolved into a “as little social interaction as possible” world. You can pay bills online, speak to a automated system when you call tech support - “You can cycle through a day of business and never say hello.” This makes it hard for us to reach out to people when we never see them. He talks about the man in Acts who’s sitting at a gate, asking for money. Peter and John have nothing to offer except for one thing: “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). “Let’s be the people who stop at the gate. Let’s look at the hurting until we hurt with them. No hurrying past, turning away, or shifting of eyes. No pretending or glossing over. Let’s look at the face until we see the person.”

And while we’re called to help those who are hurting, we don’t need to have an audience when we do so either. “Bottom line: don’t make a theater production out of your faith. “Watch me! Watch me!” is a call used on the playground, not in God’s kingdom.” We need to be real with our faith instead of trying to put on a good show. “…when people enter a church to see God yet can’t see God because of the church, don’t think for a second that God doesn’t react.” We shouldn’t strive for anyone to see us when we feed the homeless or pray in church. God’s the only One who needs to see and He already does.

This was my first Max Lucado read but I really liked it. It’s a book that challenges you to stop living a comfortable faith. Why do we keep such an amazing thing like our salvation to ourselves? Why would we not want others to have this too? Lucado asks us to be active in our faith and actually strive to make a difference in the world. “Here’s a salute to a long life: goodness that outlives the grave, love that outlasts the final breath. May you live in such a way that your death is just the beginning of your life.”
*I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers and was not required to write a positive review.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

book review: "permission to speak freely" by anne jackson

Fear soaks into their bloodstream like a paralyzing virus and prevents them from taking a step in the beautiful, wonderful and difficult life in front of them. Fear wants to stop our stories.”

Anne begins her book with a glimpse into her childhood. She grew up as a preacher’s kid and as a result moved a lot as her father would pastor church after church. She had a hard time establishing real relationships and one memory stands out to her. She was in the fourth grade. She and two other girls were best friends and sealed the bond with a friendship necklace. One day the truth came out. While one pushed her down, the other tore her necklace off, telling her “we never wanted to be your best friend! Our parents made us!” Anne ran home, seeking refuge in her room where her mother found her. “I told her that Leigh and Amy hated me. That I hated moving and I missed my old friends and I hated deacons and school and my life and I hated the church. My mom quietly stroked my sweaty hair. I now think she was quiet because she kind of agreed with me.”

About twenty years late, Anne takes a job at a church but meets resistance when wanting to discuss certain topics on her blog. Since working for the church, her views could be associated with the church and therefore they had a say in what she could and couldn’t write about. Anne didn’t like that. “It had been so long since I had been in church, I forgot there were certain things that people were expected to keep quiet about. Like life…” In May 2008, Anne asked the question on her blog “what’s one thing you feel you can’t say in the church?” The response was huge. She tried to find a commonality amid the responses – something linking them all together and ultimately came up with brokenness. “We ultimately want to hide what’s broken, whether it occurs individually or in a community…”

I loved Anne’s honesty. She openly talks about the things she’s struggled with – depression, pornography, being abused when she was sixteen, and her belief in God. She talks about the Gift of Going Second. This is when by someone coming forward and admitting their struggle with something, others know it’s ok to say they’re dealing with the same thing. That’s the basic point of her book in my opinion. She’s giving all those who read it the Gift of Going Second. To know she’s been there and has been able to come through it. “And if you are the one who needs hope today, please take whatever you can of mine…”

Thursday, September 2, 2010

simple things

I think I've blogged about this before but I'm really trying to make an effort to find delight in the simple things. To not be so rushed going to work or running errands that I miss out on enjoying the feel of the sunshine or spotting that cute rabbit before it scampers off into the bushes (which for some reason gives me a "Bambi" flashback). I don't want to be so goal-focused that I forget to live in the now. What's prodded this is a little boy I met yesterday. I was filling in for a resource teacher and he was the last student of my day. He's in third grade and is autistic. After he finished his work he got on the computer (the teacher warned me he would go to the same site he always goes to...which he did) and printed off a picture of a Power Ranger (taking a bunny trail which makes reference to the Bambi comment I made a few lines ago...anywho, I remember the original Power Rangers and yes the fight scenes were unbelievably cheesy but man, you gotta love the classics :-). He then found some blank paper and proceeded to draw his own "armor" like one of the Power Ranger vehicles. He then taped the paper to his clothes, including paper "wings" on his back and then went back to class. I smiled as he left, being reminded again of how amazing an imagination is. I recently read somewhere that the toys kids have today don't require any imagination. The toys make all the sounds, not allowing the kids to come up with their own - as a result, they become bored with them. So here's my challenge for any who may read this: find ways to use your imagination. Remember what it was like to be a kid...