Saturday, December 15, 2012

(in)spired deals review

Click here for info about (in)courage's (in)spired deals

I love Christmas time. Though battling crowds and traffic while searching for those "just right" gifts can sometimes threaten to steal some of that joy, it's still one of my favorite times of the year. I love finding cute paper to wrap my gifts and getting excited when I know I've found the "perfect" gift for someone! This is my first year teaching and we've welcomed December with making glitter snowflakes and cinnamon ornaments. I've hung up a jingle bell wreath and another jingle bell on my door, hearing the soft tinkle of the bell whenever a kiddo comes in. 

And I'm excited to add Dayspring's Redeemed Fabric Wreath to my classroom! I took it to school the other day and laid it on my desk, not quite sure where I would hang it. One of my first graders saw it, asking "You brought more Christmas stuff?" Yes, I did (smile). I love the colors of the wreath and have every intention of leaving it up beyond Christmas. When I pulled it out of the box, my creativity was immediately stirred up; I want to make one for the spring!

To me, redeemed can't be summed up in a word. It's living a life that embraces the forgiveness I've found in God. It's looking at others as He would. It's being His hands and feet to those who are hurting. It's me loving my first grade kiddos, investing into their lives the best I can. It's showing compassion and mercy to others and letting God to shine through me.

I received my fabric wreath for my honest review as part of (in)courage's (in)spired deals program.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

recipe: peppermint pattie brownies

One of my goals while on Christmas break is do some major baking! These brownies are at the top of the list! They're from the amazing Jessica at How Sweet It Is. Enjoy!


1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup chocolate chips
peppermint pattie layer
2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons evaporated milk
1/4 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
3.5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
2.5 tablespoons heavy cream



"Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8x8 baking pan with butter or nonstick spray. In a large bowl, combine melted butter with sugar and vanilla extract, whisking until combined and almost smooth. Whisk in each egg one at a time, stirring until a smooth batter forms. Add in flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt, stirring until combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Spread batter in the 8x8 baking dish and bake for 25-30 minutes until set. Remove and let cool. While brownies are cooling, add powdered sugar, butter, milk, vegetable oil, vanilla and peppermint extracts to the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat until smooth and creamy. Pour over brownies and spread in an even layer with a spoon or spatula. Place in the refrigerator until set, about 30 minutes. To make ganache, heat heavy cream until warm and pour it over chopped chocolate. Stir for a few minutes until totally combined, smooth and creamy. Spread over the top of the peppermint layer or cut brownies first and spoon over top. I love these refrigerated!"
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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

book review: "short-straw bride" by karen witemeyer

"No one steps on Archer land. Not if they value their life. But when Meredith Hayes overhears a lethal plot to burn the Archer brothers off their ranch, a twelve-year-old debt compels her to take the risk. 

Fourteen years of constant vigilance hardens a man. Yet when Travis Archer confronts a female trespasser with the same vivid blue eyes as the courageous young girl he once aided, he can't bring himself to send her away. And when an act of sacrifice leaves her injured and her reputation in shreds, gratitude and guilt send him riding to her rescue once again. 

Four brothers. Four straws. One bride. Despite the fact that Travis is no longer the gallant youth Meredith once dreamed about, she determines to stand by his side against the enemy that threatens them both. But will love ever be hers? Or will Travis always see her merely as a short-straw bride?"

Karen Witemeyer is on my list of favorite authors and she didn't disappoint me with this newest book! I enjoyed getting to know Travis and Meredith and reading those awkwardly cute moments they shared :) This is a great light read and I finished it with a smile, my way for determining if I enjoyed the book or not. 

I received a review copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers for my honest review. You can learn more about this book and Karen's others from her website
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Friday, November 16, 2012

book review: "Bible detective" by peter martin

"Young detectives will never tire of this picture-search puzzle book. Readers can pore over 17 cleverly illustrated scenes of Bible events to find the answers to the questions posed on each page. Some puzzles involve looking for details of everyday life, others highlight things that happened in the Bible stories--offering hours of fun to readers as they search for the answers.

With lots to find, this kind of picture book is particularly great for reluctant readers and visual learners, helping all children get an overview of the Bible's history and content as they super-sleuth their way through the book. Warning: may be addictive!"

I remember these books from when I was little so I was excited for the opportunity to review this! It brought back memories and the illustrations are super cute! I think adults would enjoy this just as much as little ones!

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

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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

super great blogs!

I wanted to share some great teaching blogs I've found over the last few weeks! I'm amazed at the teachers out there who not only have such great ideas but take the time to share them!

Castles and Crayons

Rowdy in Room 300
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Monday, October 1, 2012

book review: "the trouble with cowboys" by denise hunter

"Only one pair of boots—and the cowboy wearing them—can get Annie out of the mess she’s in.

Annie Wilkerson is Moose Creek’s premiere horse trainer and equine columnist for Montana Living. Money is tight as she tries to put her kid-sister through college and provide for her young nephew. When Annie’s column is cancelled, she’s given first shot at a new lovelorn column—and she can’t afford to turn it down. Only problem is . . . Annie’s never been in love.

Always resourceful, she reluctantly strikes a deal with the town’s smooth-talking ladies’ man Dylan Taylor: She’ll work with his ailing horse, Braveheart, if he’ll help her answer the reader letters.

Working closely with Dylan is harder than Annie imagined, and she quickly realizes she may have misjudged him. But her unwavering conviction that cowboys are nothing but trouble has kept her heart safe for years. And she can’t risk getting hurt now.
The more Annie tries to control things, the more they fall apart. Her feelings are spinning out of control, and her sister’s antics are making life increasingly more difficult. Annie knows she needs to turn the reins over to God, but surrender has never come easily.

When Dylan reveals his feelings for her, Annie doesn’t know what to trust—her head or her heart. The trouble with this cowboy is that he might just be exactly what she needs."

Denise won me over with The Convenient Groom and I've been a fan ever since! I've read the other books in her Big Sky Romance series and this one did not disappoint! It was fun to see Dylan on the other side of the situation he gave Travis such a hard time about in The Accidental Bride. I also like how the books can stand alone. It's been a while since I've read the other two in the series and even though those characters have small roles in the story, I didn't feel I was enjoying the story any less. The Trouble with Cowboys is a light, finish-in-a-weekend read that pulls you in and leaves you with a smile on your face.

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. You can buy the book and read other reviews in the blog tour.   

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Saturday, September 29, 2012

happy fall and a yummy recipe :)

I miss blogging! I feel like it's been soooo long since I've posted anything! I'm going to try and do better with that. I'm learning with my new job that it's all about balance. I could easily stay late at school and bring things home to work on until going to bed and then repeat that routine each day but I would then be speeding toward Burned Out Blvd. :) So this is the beginning of me taking a break from checking papers and planning lessons and everything else...

Fall is my favorite season! I absolutely love the cooler weather and the color of the leaves and the smell of fireplaces! To celebrate, here's a cozy, fall-ish recipe

  • 1/2 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small clove garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried)
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh oregano (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 8 ounces mozzarella cheese, thinly sliced
  • 8 slices white bread (6 slices if your bread is on the larger side)
  • 1 large clove garlic, peeled and halved (for rubbing on the outsides of the bread)
  • Butter
  1. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, olive oil, garlic, basil, oregano, salt, and black pepper. Refrigerate for at least an hour (or up to 24 hours) to allow the flavors to develop.
  2. Lay down the bread slices and, using a butter knife, spread the ricotta mixture evenly on each piece. The ricotta mixture should coat the insides of both pieces of bread. Note: If you’re using large pieces of bread, you may want to make more of the ricotta mixture, or only make two or three sandwiches instead of four).
  3. Lay the mozzarella slices evenly on every other piece of bread (one side of each sandwich). Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and close the sandwiches by place both cheesy insides together.
  4. Rub the outsides of the sandwiches with the cut side of the garlic clove, then butter both sides generously.
  5. In a large frying pan over medium-low heat, cook the sandwiches, flipping often, until they’re golden-brown on the outside and the cheese is melted inside, about 10 minutes.
  6. Serve immediately.

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Saturday, September 15, 2012

book giveaway: andrea boeshaar books

I've been a little MIA lately but it's been for a great reason. I have a teaching job! I was hired the last week of July to teach first grade. So while it's been a complete answer to prayer for this job, it's also taking all of my time right now. I've heard the "staying late after school and bringing things home to work on" does get better so I'm hoping that to be true :) I'll be sharing some great blogs I've come across that are full of amazing (and free) resources for your classroom. I'm putting the book review part of this blog on temporary hold since free time to read is rare right now. I've managed to collect some great recipes over the last few weeks so I'll be posting those (yum!). And because I've been away, I'm making up for it by giving away three books this month! Three bloggers will each receive a book! To enter, just leave me an email address and a comment, telling me which you'd like (U.S. only this time). Winners will be drawn at random using Giveaway will end Sunday, September 30 at 8:00 p.m. (ET). 

What I'm giving away:

*Giveaways with the above logo are books that aren't new but still in really good condition.

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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

book review: "over the edge" by mary connealy

"Seth Kincaid survived a fire in a cave, but he's never been the same. He was always a reckless youth, but now he's gone over the edge. He ran off to the Civil War and came back crazier than ever.

After the war, nearly dead from his injuries, it appears Seth got married. Oh, he's got a lot of excuses, but his wife isn't happy to find out Seth doesn't remember her. Callie has searched, prayed, and worried. Now she's come to the Kincaid family's ranch in Colorado to find her lost husband.

Callie isn't a long-suffering woman. Once she knows her husband is alive, she wants to kill him. She's not even close to forgiving him for abandoning her.

Then more trouble shows up in the form of a secret Seth's pa kept for years. The Kincaid brothers might lose their ranch if they can't sort things out. It's enough to drive a man insane--but somehow it's all making Seth see things more clearly. And now that he knows what he wants, no one better stand in his way."

Overall, this was a good read. This was the first book I've read by Mary Connealy and the third book in her "The Kincaid Brides" series. Even though I've not read the first two books, I didn't feel like I was unable to enjoy the story. I didn't feel completely caught up in the story but it was a good, light read. I liked how different the brothers were but how they came together when Seth needed them. Connealy added some action to keep things interesting along with some romance; both blending quite nicely. 

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

You can read other reviews in the tour as well as buy the book.
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Thursday, August 16, 2012

book review: "shakespeare's lady" by alexa schnee

About the book: "Emilia Bassano is one of the most dazzling ladies at court when she meets the little-known playwright William Shakespeare and, despite everything, they fall in love. But the course of true love never did run smooth, and the Virgin Queen does not take lightly to her ladies straying. These star-crossed lovers must fight for their love - and, eventually, their lives." 

My thoughts: First, I'm amazed Shakespeare's Lady was written by an 18 year old! I applaud Alexa for that accomplishment! For the review, I thought the book was ok. Though I had a hard time really feeling a part of the story, I think Alexa did a great job with the details of the time period and painting a picture of life for a woman in Queen Elizabeth's court. Overall, great job for the historical aspect but the rest fell a little short for me. 

You can learn more about the book from Alexa's website as well as get info on her next book. 

I received a copy of this book from PR by the Book for my honest review.

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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

book review: "call of a coward" by marcia moston

"The problem with promising God you’ll follow Him wherever He leads is that you just might have to go.

I suspect it would be easier if you were certain of His calling - like stepping out the door and seeing the lilac bush on fire and hearing a voice commanding you. But when it's your husband who is delivering the message - well, that leaves a little room for wonder.

At least that's how I felt when my husband rocked my comfortable middle-class afternoon with his belief God was calling us to pack up and move to a Mayan village in Guatemala."

I had tried to review Marcia's book last year through Kregel's program but the opportunity fell through because it was picked up by Thomas Nelson! And then last month Marcia sent me an email, asking if I would still be interested in reviewing her book! She had my info on file from last year and was following up. So I was super excited to have the chance to read this book! 

Though I didn’t leave the country (whereas she went to Guatemala) and it was only for a week (whereas she stayed for six months), I was still able to relate on a very small scale to Marcia's experience. I can’t imagine the thoughts she must’ve had when preparing for the trip (and upon arriving in Guatemala) and I enjoyed her humor sprinkled through the story. She talked about the need to pray for the food: "A blithely spoken, "Lord, bless this food" came to mean a seriously earnest, "Kill it, purify it, and give me the grace to eat it." The whole time Marcia and her family were in Guatemala, she saw how God took care of them. But her faith was also stretched. "The downside of a miracle is the predicament required to precipitate it. That's also the very place where faith grows." It encouraged my own faith to read how God worked in her life.  Marcia is currently working on a second book, Going South - the God of My Mistakes.

You can learn more about the book from Marcia's website.

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Monday, August 13, 2012

book review: "live to give" by austin gutwein

"Want to do something for God but don’t know what? Want to help others but don’t know who? Want to know what it is you’re really good at doing? Your gifts may feel small and insignificant. But God can use them to work a miracle!

Inspired by the biblical story of the feeding of the 5,000, "Live to Give" delivers a message of hope that we all have something to give. Written in the down-to-earth, candid voice of the gifted young man who as a kid founded a relief ministry that has saved and improved countless lives in Africa, "Live to Give" is the message that every teen needs to hear: You are more special than you know, and you can do big things.

Jesus proved that no gift is too small when He used five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of thousands. And if no gift is too small, too ordinary, or too random, there is no limit to what the youth of today can accomplish!

A teenage philanthropist who has built a high school, two medical clinics, and a dormitory in Africa—all before the age of 16—Austin Gutwein shares how to take what may seem like the simplest of talents, gifts, and interests and use them for something Jesus can useto move mountains."

I've read Austin's first book, Take Your Best Shot and was excited at the chance to read his second one! This book is geared for the teen/tween audience but I still enjoyed it. He encourages kids to let God use them and embrace that the talents each has (what he compares to the unique lunch they take to school) because it's what makes each of us different. It's an overall good read and I liked that it wasn't too topic heavy or hard to read through.   

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. You can learn more about the book and read other reviews in the tour

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Saturday, August 11, 2012

book review: "wrecked" by jeff goins

Wrecked is about God changing you. It’s about more than going on a mission trip but what happens when you return home. “Change always happens when you come down from the clouds and deal with the messiness of life. When you turn a mission trip into a lifestyle. When you walk past someone who is poor and in pain and actually turn around. Real transformation happens when you commit.”

I really liked reading this book after coming back from a mission trip. Something I have a hard time with is that transition from what all happened on the trip and re-adjusting to the life I had put on hold for a week. This book helped with figuring that out for me. You’re wrecked when not just by going on a mission trip but by looking around you for those you can reach out to. “If we are willing to dig deep, to find Calcutta in our own backyards, we will find the poor. But we will also find God. And He may just open our eyes, so that we can see the need and not soon forget. So that we can hear their cries and not grow deaf. So that we can smell the stench of human need and awaken our hearts to compassion.”

I received a review copy of this book from Jeff. You can learn more about the book by visiting his site

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

book review: "why we're not emergent" by kevin deyoung & ted kluck

"The Emergent Church is a strong voice in today's Christian community. And they're talking about good things: caring for the poor, peace for all men, loving Jesus. They're doing church a new way, not content to fit the mold. Again, all good. But there's more to the movement than that. Much more.

Kevin and Ted are two guys who, demographically, should be all over this movement. But they're not. And Why We're Not Emergent gives you the solid reasons why. From both a theological and an on-the-street perspective, Kevin and Ted diagnose the emerging church. They pull apart interviews, articles, books, and blogs, helping you see for yourself what it's all about" (source).

I liked the alternating point of view of Kevin and Ted. Ted's humorous, shorter chapters balanced out Kevin's deeper, longer ones. There's a lot to take in and I'll admit that some of it was lost on me. This is not a book to rush through but to take your time with. I had never heard of the Emergent movement until this book. While I'm familiar with several of those involved in the movement, I didn't realize there was a term for what they believe. Rob Bell is the biggest name but I've read books by Donald Miller, Erwin McManus and Leonard Sweet. And though the latter three don't seem to be on the same end of the Emergent spectrum as Rob Bell, it all still worries me. This book was published in 2008, before Rob's book Love Wins was published, making this spotlight shined through Why We're Not Emergent on what they believe all the more important. Because honestly, it's a little scary. To read how they choose to ignore key things from the Bible worries me. I know this one book doesn't cover everything - a fact that the authors point out. But they've done their research and it shows. A big difference is how we view the Bible. The Emergent church feels "the Bible is not the voice of God from heaven and certainly not the foundation. Rather, the Bible spurs us on to new ways of imagining and learning." Whereas "we mean the Bible settles our disputes. The Bible tells us what is true. Our thinking about God, ourselves, and the Word should start with the Bible and never contradict the Bible." This is just one example of what the Emergent church believes. While the book was a little heavy for me, I think it a great resource for someone wanting to know why the Emergent church is not the Evangelical church. There are some major differences and especially for a new Christian, it might seem confusing. Overall, a good and enlightening read.

You can learn more about the book from the website. Thank you to Dan King for the chance to win this book!
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Sunday, August 5, 2012

giveaway: "call of a coward" by marcia moston

So we've wrapped up last month with missions and this month I'm focusing on posting some book reviews. My review stack is still pretty steep but I'm getting there and excited to share with ya'll what I've been reading. This month's giveaway is Call of a Coward by Marcia Moston. The review is scheduled for later this month but this is the official giveaway for the book! To enter, just leave a comment and an email address for me to contact you. Contest ends Friday, August 31 at 8:00 p.m. (EST). 
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Thursday, August 2, 2012

book review: "the stars shine bright" by sibella giorello

July was all about missions and this month is all about me finally posting some book reviews! I love reviewing books because it gives me the chance to discover new-to-me authors I might not hear about otherwise and read titles that wouldn't normally catch my eye. As well as reading books by authors I already like :)

So we're kicking off August with the newest book in the Raleigh Harmon series, The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello.

About the book: "After the FBI suspends her for bending its rules, Special Agent Raleigh Harmon is looking for a chance to redeem her career and re-start her life.

But when the Bureau offers her an undercover assignment, she's forced to take on a double-life. Sent to a thoroughbred horse track, Raleigh's supposed to find out who's fixing the races. But when horses start dying and her own life is threatened, she realizes something bigger—and more sinister—is ruining Emerald Downs. 

And she's never felt more alone. 

Her sole contact with the FBI is Special Agent Jack Stephanson, a guy who jumps from jerk to genuine friend on any given day. And Raleigh's family support is out of the question. For one, they're off-limits while she's undercover, and her mother stopped speaking to her after a psychotic breakdown sent her to a mental hospital. To add insult to isolation, Raleigh's fiance keeps demanding they start their life together—now—precisely when she's being ordered not to be herself. 

With only days left before the track closes for the season, Raleigh races to stop the killing and find out who's behind it and why, all the while dealing with her fiance and trying to figure out if Jack is friend or foe—or something more" (source). 

I've read the last two books in the series and was excited to have the chance to find out what happens next with Raleigh. Sibella had me guessing all the way to the end as to who was behind fixing the races. I keep hoping Raleigh will soften up a bit though. She isn't ready for marriage with DeMott and she's barely civil to Jack. I like the way he's constantly teasing her about the fact that he knows she's in love with him :) Sibella is very detailed when it comes to the geologic side of the story and some of that was lost on me but I still enjoyed it. I'm hoping Jack can win Raleigh over in the next book just because I like happy endings :)

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

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Wrapping up this month on missions, I hope there was something for everybody. The one thing I took away from my mission trip was the importance of hope. Hope is what keeps you going when things might be momentarily hard. Hope gives you the strength to try one more time. One moment that stands out to me was our last day in New York. We went to a park that afternoon and set up tables to give away water, sandwiches, chips and donated clothes. It was an area the Dream Center hadn’t done a lot of outreaches in but they wanted to. Shortly before we left, we had sidewalk chalk and got to work leaving our mark. I remember pausing at one point and watching the others. Some were drawing flowers and writing “we <3 NY” and other fun things. At the entrance to the park, one of the leaders had written “keep dreaming” and intersected the words “love” and “hope” to make a cross. One of the girls was drawing with two little girls who had walked up while some of our other students were playing with kids on the playground. It was one of those moments that you want to never forget. The picture for this post is the heart I made that day. This trip definitely left an impact on me. I don’t want to be too busy to love others. I want to love without expecting anything in return. Mission trips wake you up and make it hard to go back to how things were before. And I think that’s how it should be. 

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Saturday, July 28, 2012

saturday spotlight: blood:water mission

I think I first heard about Blood:Water Mission through Relevant magazine. I knew their goal was to provide clean water for those in Africa but that was the extent of my knowledge. But then I looked at their website and watched a video from the founder and oh my gosh, I could feel myself filling with the same hope they provide through clean water. The original goal was to give 1000 communities clean water. They said 1000 because they knew it would be all God's doing when they reached that number. And they have. It's been seven years since they first started and it's amazing what they've accomplished! They're giving hope and that's something we all need.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012


Soles4Souls came about when Wayne Elsey saw the devastation of the tsunami that hit Asia in 2004. He says he felt God telling him to do something about it. So he made some phone calls and 250,000 pairs of shoes were sent to those who had lost so much. And that's how it all started. The goal? To change the world, one pair of shoes at a time. Through the site you can find out how to host a shoe drive, donate money, go with Soles4Souls as they deliver shoes and watch a video about the organization. 
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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

"radical" by david platt

Radical is a book to challenge you. It's about moving away from comfortable Christianity and being stretched - my goal for the recent mission trip I went on. "In our quest for the extraordinary, we often overlook the importance of the ordinary, and I'm proposing that a radical lifestyle actually begins with an extraordinary commitment to ordinary practices that have marked Christians who have affected the world throughout history" (pg. 193).

I read Radical last year. It stirred me up and made me want to do more than just go about life as usual. It's a book to read more than once. You can learn more about the book as well as download banners for the book and and chapter resources for the book. 

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Saturday, July 21, 2012

saturday spotlight: reject apathy

Relevant is one of my favorite magazines. And it's from Relevant that Reject Apathy came to be. "At RELEVANT, we’ve recognized the movement of a generation restless to change the world. A generation anxious to use the abundance God has blessed them with to be a blessing to others. was borne out of that desire—a desire to live out true compassion and to embrace justice the right way. Reject Apathy is a voice for the movement—a place where like-minded world-changers can connect, dialogue and challenge one another as we work to affect change locally and globally" (source).

I'm not super familiar with the site but there's all kinds of resources and links. You can also look at the current magazine issue of Reject Apathy.
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Thursday, July 19, 2012

hot bread kitchen

"Hot Bread Kitchen preserves bread baking traditions from around the world while creating professional opportunities for foreign born and minority women." These words are on the back of their business card. While on my recent mission trip, a friend and I stopped by a tent Hot Bread Kitchen had set up along with other vendors in Union Square. Hearing the story behind the business - that they invest their profit into those who make the bread - was exciting for us because we felt we had something in common since we were there to help people as well. We were even more excited to find out we could order from their website after returning home :)
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