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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Thursday, November 26, 2015


 I've been a blogger slacker. Ever since July, life has been moving at a crazy pace! It's been good...but busy. But I guess life is always busy, right? It's just about prioritizing what matters most and letting other things sit on the back burner for the moment. And that's where blogging has been for me. In July I went on my third missions trip to Guatemala and as soon as we got back, I was running full speed preparing for another year teaching kindergarten. And then it was all of the back to school things and commitments at church...and it's now almost December. I've managed a few book reviews here and there but want to do better! I'm trying to do better with managing my time - I'm working on it :)

Another thing I'm working on is being more thankful. I have a habit of thanking God when I get in my car after work each day. Thanking Him for my job. Thanking Him when the day goes well...and even when it doesn't. But I'm wanting to be more specific. The worship leader at my church encouraged us, in those moments when things aren't going as we want, to stop and name things you're thankful for. So Monday and Tuesday that's what I did. When I left work each day, I named five things I was thankful for that day. Monday was hard. It wasn't the best day so coming up with five things stretched me a little. But then Tuesday was much easier. I found myself thinking through the day of what I could include in my five things. 

With it being Thanksgiving, it's easy to have the thankful mindset but this is something I want to continue year long.

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Wednesday, November 25, 2015

book review: "the golden braid" by melanie dickerson

Rapunzel can throw a knife better than any man. She paints beautiful flowering vines on the walls of her plaster houses. She sings so sweetly she can coax even a beast to sleep. But there are two things she is afraid her mother might never allow her to do: learn to read and marry.

Fiercely devoted to Rapunzel, her mother is suspicious of every man who so much as looks at her daughter and warns her that no man can be trusted. After a young village farmer asks for Rapunzel's hand in marriage, Mother decided to move them once again - this time, to the large city of Hagenheim. 

The journey proves treacherous, and after being rescued by a knight - Sir Gerek - Rapunzel in turn rescues him farther down the road. As a result, Sir Gerek agrees to repay his debt to Rapunzel by teaching her to read. Could there be more to this knight than his arrogance and desire to marry for riches and position?

What a great read! I like how Melanie tied in things that are familiar to me about the story of Rapunzel (all thanks to Disney) but she put her own spin on it. This was a story full of action, humor, suspense and a splash of romance. I think every girl likes a good fairy tale and this book made Rapunzel's story possible. I loved Rapunzel's learn to read and find her freedom. She and Gerek made me laugh - especially when he was teaching her to read and was anything but happy about it. They fell in love without even realizing it. Melanie did a great job of telling this story - I liked how all the little details came together. How the book Gerek let Rapunzel borrow is what led him to finding her. How the scar on her hand ultimately led to her discovering the truth about her parents. Just a good read that will leave you believing in fairy tales :)

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

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Monday, October 5, 2015

book review: "the methuselah project" by rick barry

Shot down over Nazi Germany in 1943, Roger Greene becomes both a prisoner and an unwilling guinea pig in a bizarre experiment. Seventy years later, Roger still appears as youthful as that day he crash-landed - and he's still a prisoner. Nearly insane from his long captivity, Roger finds his only hope in an old Bible.

Not until present day time does Roger finally escape from the secret society running the Methuselah Project. When he does, the modern world has become a fast-paced, perplexing place. His only option is to accept the help of Katherine Mueller - crack shot, go-getter, and attractive to boot. Can he convince her of the truth of his crazy story? And can he continue to trust her when he finds out she works for the very organization he's trying to flee? 

I found the plot for this story interesting! I liked the way the story jumped back and forth between Katherine and Roger, telling each of their stories until they meet. It took me a little while to get into the story but after that, I wanted to keep reading to see what would happen next! I found myself holding my breath as I read of Roger's first attempt at escape only to be returned to his prison. And then as he discovered what had happened to the world since his capture, I can't imagine how overwhelmed he must have felt. In a way, Roger reminded me of Captain America; even his personality. I love the way he found God and He became Roger's stabilizing force through his time at the Kossler Estate. This was a story of action, faith and a dash of romance. A good read!

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

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Tuesday, September 15, 2015

book review: "the finishing school" by valerie woerner

In today's world, our pursuit of a life well lived gets squeezed out by the silliest of things: binging on Netflix or ice cream shopping trips for things we don't need, bad habits we can't seem to get a handle on and so much more. Valerie has been there despite knowing what she wanted for her life. Actually do it though? That's the real challenge.

After gobbling up all the non-fiction and self-help books her donut-filled belly could handle, she decided it was time to put her knowledge to use and start actually living it out. The result has been a refining process that has drawn her closer to God and produced the sweetest fruit in her life. You will hear about Valerie's journey filled with failures and victories and find practical tips to apply to your own pursuit of holiness. You will find homework at the end of each chapter that includes a worksheet to put real change in motion for your life as well as recommended books to further study those topics that really test you.

I really. liked. this. book! In the first chapter, Valerie gives suggestions for how to use the book: either read the book all the way through, slowing down and meditating on chapters that are applicable to you or spread the book over the course of a year. This is a book I definitely plan on slowing down to read, so I can reflect and get the most out of it! I like what Valerie says about the book: "My hope is that you will be encouraged in these pages to live out your faith and that people would see your fruit. This doesn't mean seeking after perfection. It simply means that we look different than we did last year because of God's work in our lives. I think when unbelievers can see our walk - trips and falls and all - that speaks to them too. Let's be genuine and authentic as we pursue Christ and point to His glory." I feel like this sums up the entire book. And that's what I want. To not go throughout life without changing but to continually strive to be who God wants me to be...and to be more like Him. One of the biggest take-aways for me is fighting distractions. "Our distractions don't just keep us from a productive day. They can also hinder us from something the Lord is calling us to do." Ouch. I'm trying to be more intentional and focused after reading this book. Making a weekly to-do list, really focusing on what I need to get done...and then doing it! I'm busy - I have my job, church commitments and then my family all vying for my attention. Valerie did a great job of encouraging me but also challenging me. 

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

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Thursday, September 10, 2015

book review: "gather around the amish table" by lucy leid

This cookbook offers favorite family recipes and charming stories from Amish and Mennonite cooks. Bake the pecan rolls that taste best after an ice-skating party, or try the hoagies that a community sold to help an Amish family with hospital bills. Discover the cocoa cupcakes with instructions to "stir by hand" that one young cook took literally, or whip up the whoopie pies that one Amish woman took to market in her horse and buggy.

Gather your family around the table to sample the delightful flavors and comforting traditions of the plain people. In the words of one cookbook contributor: "Bake someone happy!"

I love the idea of things centering around food; of having friends or family over on a weeknight to celebrate the normal. I think this cookbook is perfect for that! The pictures of the Amish community are beautiful and I love the stories attached with the recipes. There are certain recipes I make that have memories associated with them. I like what Lucy says in the "Compiler's Note": "It's one of the blessings of life to share ourselves with each other." That's so true. I love the simplicity of the recipes. Life is busy right now (as I'm sure everyone can relate to) but I want to make time for the simple. To find enjoyment in biting into a fresh, homemade blueberry muffin or doughnut. There are so many recipes in this book! Breads, soups, sandwiches, cookies, desserts - just to name a few. I haven't had the chance to try any recipes but I will be! At the top of my list are pumpkin cookies, brown sugar oatmeal cookies, Huntington chicken - they all sound delicious! The recipes in the book are easy to read and follow. I'm looking forward to making these recipes, knowing I'm tapping into some Amish history.

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

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Tuesday, September 1, 2015

media review: "intersect" by rob peabody and chris rogers

Follow the journey of five individuals as they tell authentic stories of circumstances that have forced them to examine how God might fit into their lives. Within each story there will be a point where the viewer's own personal story intersects and an opportunity to discover where God's story converges. 

Starting spiritual conversations with those outside of church is viewed as a worthy, yet arduous and intimidating task. Intersect was created as an easy-to-use resource, perfect for sharing with co-workers, friends, neighbors, and family to enter into meaningful conversations. Each film is accompanied by thought-provoking questions to designed to encourage each participant to examine the world in which they live and the life they're pursuing, always ending with a conversation on how Jesus intersects the current topic.

Allow this powerful new film resource to engage those you are in relationship with, and then propel them forward in their next step with Jesus.

Intersect tells the story of five people and each story focuses on a different topic:
1. Expectations
How do we handle the unexpected things that we encounter in life?
2. Rest
In the long pursuit of your dreams and desires, do you find yourself feeling empty, dry and exhausted?
3. Disappointment
What do you do when you realize the life you are living isn't the life you were hoping for?
4. Trust
What if God is not against us, but actually for us?
5. Control
Are we actually in control of our lives or are our lives in control of us?

These five topics are things that anyone can identify with, no matter where you're at in life. One thing that stood out to me in the video is that when we face hard times, "God isn't the thing to run from but the thing to run to. His promise isn't about an easy ride but a safe arrival." I like how each story wraps up with a gently push toward God and the fact that He's with us, regardless of what we may face. The study guide includes discussion questions and scriptures to accompany each topic. When we go through hard times, sometimes people blame God. But as several people in the DVD said, God is the one thing we can hold onto during those hard times. I think about James in the video. His wife divorced him after two years of marriage. He said he wouldn't trade the experience because of what he learned about God as a result. All of us struggle with having unmet expectations, being so busy trying to achieve things that we fail to rest, feeling disappointment when dreams fall apart, trusting God and giving God control of everything. All of these topics are interconnected in some way. I like that each video is short yet thought provoking. Intersect is a great small group resource. One other thing said in the video: "I'm for you. I'm with you. Keep going."  God is the one cheering us on." And we all need a reminder of that.

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

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

book review: "until my name is known" by sonya contreras

The time: 2450 BC
The place: Old Kingdom of Egypt
Pharaoh is god. 
His people worship him. 
Israel's God arrives. 
He challenges Pharaoh. 
His power touches all. 
They must change. 
Some don't concede. They suffer. 
Others yield. They find freedom. 
Until My Name Is Known brings all to see the one true God. 
Read it to see Him. 

I like to read fiction stories that bring to life the Bible. To take stories I've grown up hearing and tell them in a new way. Even though I know the story of the Israelites leaving Egypt, I found myself unable to put this book down. I was drawn to the characters and how the Hebrews chose to trust God. And it was trusting God that was the theme through this book - and what happened to those who didn't trust. Before Moses left to return to Egypt, Zipporah struggled with a God who require such a mission of her husband. "You trust this God too much." She told Moses. "I trust this God too little. Or I wouldn't question." And I find myself in the same place today: trusting God completely. Without question. No matter what. During the plagues, some of the Hebrews had a hard time equating the destruction of the plagues with a loving God. Aaron asked one of them, "Will anyone seek God, if he doesn't know he needs God? Pain drives us to God or away from Him. We need Him, Mack. Pain makes us seek Him more than anything else." I like how this book has given me a fresh perspective on this familiar story. All through the book, the Egyptians realize more and more how incapable their gods are. With each plague, God specifically targets each of their gods, showing their lack of power. The chief high priest keeps saying how jealous the Hebrews' God is, not sharing His power. It makes me wonder if any of the Egyptians, seeing God's hand, chose to worship Him? If they realized He was the true God. This is a great book to encourage your faith and remind you of God's faithfulness. One of the Hebrews, as they're leaving Egypt, things about Joseph's bones that they're taking with them. "Joseph's bones lay hidden with Moses' possessions. God heard the desire of a man and granted it four hundred and twenty years later. If he ever doubted God caring about the details, he would remember this." I think that's one of the main things I took from this story: God is faithful. Always. 

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

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Sunday, July 12, 2015

book review: "summer's list" by anita higman

Life hadn't been easy for Summer Snow. In acts of selflessness - caring for her ailing parents and running her grandmother's bookstore - she had forfeited her youth and dreams for the needs of others. And the only shots she had at love…didn't' work out. She had the bookstore, she had her beloved granny, but she was missing something - or someone.

Opportunity strikes when Granny sends Summer on an unexpected adventure with one Martin Langtree, a kind and quirky young man from Summer's past. With Laney the Chihuahua along for the ride, a childhood friendship is rekindled, a romance is sparked, and mysteries are solved in one magical Texas summer. Will Summer strike out on love again, or will things finally go her way?

I couldn't put this book down! It was such a sweet story that it didn't take me long to get swept away in Summer's adventure. It was such a great story - a story of forgiveness, letting go, heartbreak, and love. Anita did a great job of bringing everything together in the end and I finished it, happy with the characters and their story. I've grown up loving to read and spending hours in the library so I immediately connected with Summer and her love of her granny's bookstore. And the friendship between Martin and Summer was so sweet. I love how they were able to pick up where they left off when Summer knocked on his door twenty years later. I wanted to cry when Granny passed away and at the pain Summer felt. But then I laughed aloud when Martin told Summer he had burned the soup and they would have to either eat cat food or go out somewhere. I enjoyed his honesty and how special he made Summer feel. This was just a fun and sweet book. A great summer read!

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

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

go to all the world

I'm preparing for a third trip to Guatemala. I'm beyond excited but as I'm mentally and spiritually preparing, I'm thinking of the contrasts. Part of my goal this summer was to exercise more. I've been doing well. How many magazines at the checkout offer tips to lose weight or show off one celebrity or another who has dropped her baby weight? Yet in other countries, getting in shape is not even a concern. When you see the lack others have and how truly blessed we are, it changes you. It's frustrating to see how we live in excess when others have so little. And I know there are people who need to hear about Jesus in this country; a missions trip could take place right down the street as easily as in another country. But when you meet a little girl and find out she's never even heard of Jesus, you realize the need of taking the gospel to the whole world. Everything is about balance. Not becoming so focused on going to other places that we neglect ministering to those we encounter every day. But at the same time, not thinking someone else will travel to the rest of the world to share Jesus' love. It's simple but complicated at the same time. But it all comes down to just...loving others. I recently bought the newest Hillsong United album, Empires. I like every song but right now am listening to "Street Called Mercy." That's what I think it comes down to: "You are all I want. You are all I need. Every breath I take is a breath to say I am Yours now forever." Having such a desire for God that He's the focus. And then letting others see that so they'll want it too. 

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

book review: "picture perfect love" by melissa mcclone

Photographer Jenna Harrison wants every bride and groom to look picture perfect on their special day, putting her heart into every wedding to give the couple memorable images of their love. But her own heart is still broken, the unworn wedding dress hanging in her closet a reminder that relationships aren't always as perfect as they look through her camera lens. But Jenna has faith that she will find true love. Until then, she must be patient and trust in God's plan and His perfect timing.

Attorney Ashton Vance is the one that got away. When an embarrassing Photoshopped picture put an end to his political aspirations, he blamed Jenna. So what if the photo led to his being offered a dream job and changing his life for the better? Jenna betrayed his trust, and two years later, Ashton's heart still hasn't recovered.

It was me. His younger sister's three words turn Ashton's world upside down. He must ask Jenna's forgiveness, but can he risk his heart a second time? Even if Jenna can forgive him, dare he hope for a second chance at her love?

This was a fun, easy read. I liked the characters and the setting for the story. I also connected with Jenna and the process she went through after breaking up with Ash. She had to discover who she was independent of him. She grew closer to God and it's the very thing that Ash noticed about her. And wanted it too. Despite having her heart broken and trust betrayed, Jenna didn't put her life on hold. She also realized without having gone through her breakup, she wouldn't be the person she was. "Before, when I wasn't with you, I wasn't like the way I am now…You were my catalyst for change. For finding Pastor Dan and his church. For falling in love with God. I can't believe I'm telling you this, but being dumped at the altar was the best thing that ever happened to me." When Ash just so happened to come back into her life, he had to get to know the new Jenna. It wasn't until bringing Jenna back into his life that he realized how unfulfilling it was. He realized he didn't enjoy his job and his faith had grown cold. Jenna woke Ash up and I like that. It was easy to fall into this story and hope Ash and Jenna would find a way to make it work. There's a great balance of humor, romance, and unexpectedness. The perfect weekend read!

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

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Thursday, June 11, 2015

book review: "fifty shades of they" by ed young

Who are they? You're only as great as your relationships. Show me your friends and I will show you your future. There is immeasurable growth and success to be found when you're surrounded with the right "they."

Do you have the right they in your life? Fifty Shades of They gives you fifty simple, yet profound insights that will help any relationship thrive, from friendship to business partnerships to marriages. Based on biblical standards and the teaching of Ed Young, this book is written for anyone looking to give new life to their relationships.

Relationships are so important in our lives because they play such big roles in the decisions we make and don't make. I wanted to read this book because of the catchy title and then when I saw what it was about, I knew it was something I needed to read! This was an easy yet insightful read. The chapters are short, also making it easy but giving the opportunity to really let each "shade" sink in. And I like how the book seemed to get deeper the farther I read. I feel like I kept thinking during the last half of the book, "oh, I've never thought of that!" I like Shade Forty-Eight: Pray. "The right "they" will pray, and pray continually, because they want their relationship with God to grow and thrive. They will also continually pray for you, because they want our relationship with God to grow and thrive." I think about the friends I have in my life who I know will pray for me when I ask and those relationships are so special. This book also makes me look at my own life, challenging me to be the right kind of "they" for others. Ed makes so many great points all throughout the book. Shade twenty-six is about marriage. And really, the whole book is a good list of qualities to look for in a spouse! Someone who is committed, who prays, encourages you, doesn't keep secrets, is consistent, know how to laugh, etc. This is a book full of practical advice, making it clear on the kind of people you should surround yourself with. 

I received a copy of this book from Shelton Interactive for my honest review. 

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Wednesday, June 10, 2015


I came across this verse this morning and the word expectation jumped out at me. I've begun to let me faith in believing for some things slack off as I've continued to pray and wait…and continued to pray and wait. But I need to change that. I need to expect God to answer my prayers because He hears us when we pray! I can't let how I feel or the waiting discourage me. I looked up the definition of expectation: a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future. I like that! I can be confident that God is working everything out; He's so faithful!

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Monday, June 8, 2015

this is your time

Another printable! I love the story of Esther. I had forgotten I'd made a similar printable a few months ago but the more I play around with the different fonts and graphics, the more creative I feel I'm becoming:) For those who stumble across this post, I just want to take a moment to encourage you. You were made for this time. You were put here for a purpose and are not an accident. God loves you - oh so much - and has great plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11)! 

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Sunday, June 7, 2015

be brave

I'm working on some things and this printable is the first step towards something God's put in me. I've shared before about brave being my personal theme for this year and it's only fitting that I start with that word. I had thought I wanted to open an Etsy shop at some point but as I continue to make that decision, I wanted to make this printable to encourage others to be brave as well :) 

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Saturday, May 30, 2015

my summer reading list

With it being summer, I want to do some reading! I have this bad habit of buying books before reading the ones I already have…thus my to-read pile never gets smaller. But I want to make a dent in that stack over the next few weeks. And part of that is finishing some that I've started - I have a bad habit of doing that as well :)

I've read Shauna's other book, Bittersweet and am excited about reading Cold Tangerines.  She tells all of these individual stories but they come together. She shares from her life - the ups and the downs - and it's that honesty that makes me like her writing. 

I've started Let's All Be Brave and like it so far! Each year I pick a word that is my theme and this year, my word is brave. 

I've read Praying for Your Future Husband twice already. I like that there's space to make notes and questions at the end of each chapter. It's interesting to see what I've already written and what my thoughts about each chapter are now. Each chapter has a different thing to pray about for your future husband - it's a really good book and I love that by praying for him, I'm preparing myself as well. 

Other People's Children is a book I'm reading for work. I'm reviewing Fifty Shades of They by Ed Young. It's about the importance of the right relationships in our lives. I've started T.L. Lowery's Walking in the Supernatural but am not very far into it. Whew! That's lots of reading but I'm looking forward to it! 
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Sunday, May 24, 2015

time to breathe

It's summer! I'm ready for some time to relax, do some diy projects, maybe try a few new recipes and just enjoy some time off! I'll be doing some work as well. I know some people think teachers have it made by being off in the summer but in a few weeks I'll be back in my classroom, working on getting it ready for my next group of kiddos. I'll be planning and going to some trainings so I can be an even better teacher next year. I love that I'm never done learning. In my classroom, we are "eager to learn" and I want to be an example of that to them. Saying all of that to say, even though I'm not at work in June and July, it doesn't mean I'm not working. But that's part of my job and I like the preparation. I like making fresh name tags and the chance to start over each year. 

So summer is my time to regroup. It's my chance to take a deep breath and have time for more than just work. One thing I want to focus on this summer is growing closer to God. You can't hear someone if you're too busy either talking yourself or constantly moving. Summer is a chance for me to slow down and be with the One who knows me better than anyone else. This was my second year teaching so I'm still adjusting to the constant-ness of the school year versus the downtime of summer but I want this summer to be productive. I don't want it to feel like I accomplished nothing. And I don't think it will be.  I think this summer is going to be the best yet! I've got some things planned but I also want to be open to the unexpected. It's going to be good :)

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

burning bushes

Life is crazy busy but awesome right now! I'm wrapping up my second year teaching, preparing for another trip to Guatemala this summer and a lot of other things :) I'm ready for my schedule to slow down some this summer but really, it'll just be a different kind of busy. I felt God today in a way that hasn't happened too often. I don't know how to quite explain it but I'm just wanting to be open to whatever He is up to. I want to do a better job of not being too busy for God. Of not being so focused on what I need to do that I miss what He might be trying to do. I love the story of Moses and how it wasn't until he turned away from his path that he noticed the burning bush (Exodus 3). I don't want to miss any burning bushes in my life. A friend shared Steffany Gretzinger's "The Undoing" on Facebook the other day and it caught my attention. I started listening to her music tonight and wow, it's beautiful. There's a simplicity to it and it so worshipful. I think it's what I needed today. I like all of the songs but "Out of Hiding" might be my current favorite. I love how it talks about how God sees us and thinks of us.

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

He took my place

I watched this video this weekend…and was not prepared to become as emotional as I did. And even during my church service this morning it was as if I was finally understanding what a sacrifice Jesus made for us. As I get older and have more life experiences, I see God in different ways and need Him in different ways. So as I was watching the account of Barabbas, something finally occurred to me. I know Jesus died on the cross for us - that's something I learned when I was little. But I never thought about the fact that Jesus literally took Barabas' place on the cross. It should have been Barabbas hanging up there but it wasn't. It was Jesus. I know how Barabbas has been depicted in the movies but I then thought about what if that was how it really happened? What if Barabbas, so stunned by this sudden turn of events and his new freedom, followed the crowd to Golgotha? What if he saw a man who didn't deserve to be up there and realized He wasn't just a man? What if he realized there was way more to this than anyone else knew? I think the part that touched me the most was the guard's account. When he said most of those he crucified would fight and try to get away before the first nail was in place. But not Jesus. He willingly laid down. For us. Wow. It's so powerful. Happy Easter. 

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

book review: "enough already" by barbara l. roose

We've all wondered what might happen if we were a little prettier, skinnier, or more stylish. Sure, we frequently hear that "the inside matters most." But let's be honest: What's on the outside matters, too. We've all stood in front of a mirror and taken an inventory that never quite measures up. We've all questioned what we could have done differently.

In her new book, Barbara L. Roose shares biblical teaching and stories from her own ugly struggle with beauty. Writing with authenticity and vulnerability, she offers a friendly perspective and practical advice on how to
- see goodness, blessing, and purpose in every area of your body, no matter your size, shape or style;
- balance inner and outer beauty - and discover why God values both;
- and WIN your ugly struggle with beauty once and for all.

I love Barbara's honesty. Her candidness about her own struggles allows women to be honest with themselves. And Barbara's right. There is such a battle over women feeling confident and beautiful. I think about the Bruno Mars song, "Just the Way You Are." The lyrics are words that every girl craves for the right guy to feel about her. To think she's beautiful as is. But, sadly, we don't. I'm just as guilty. We are so hard on ourselves. But not with each other. "What fascinates me about women is that we would never criticize our friends the way that we harangue ourselves." Throughout the book Barbara shares her own personal stories and also the stories of others. She uses humor as well, making the truth a bit easier to handle. At the end of each chapter are both discussion questions and personal questions. Barbara talks about Satan's plan for us as women. "Satan's deepest desire is for you to be discouraged and to give up on ever believing that God created you beautiful." And that makes sense. When I'm feeling confident and have on that cute outfit with my hair looking super, I feel like I can take on the world. But then there's the day I didn't sleep well the night before and my outfit looked great in my head but not when I put it on. But I'm running late and don't have time to change. On those days I don't feel victorious at all. Barbara's book is for all those women who doubt their true beauty. Who feel like they aren't enough. It's for all of us. 

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

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Monday, March 30, 2015

book review: "more" by tammie head

People everywhere are looking for something more. They're in the grocery store aisle behind you, in the nail chair beside you, singing praise songs in front of you, and perhaps in the mirror staring back at you. People feel messy; plagued by looming feelings of ineffectiveness, indifference, depression, and purposelessness.

Does this sound like you?

What if more of God is actually what's missing from your life? Whether it's a messy life or a messy problem, it can become a walking miracle when we see God anew and wholly surrender to Him. 

You were made for more than surviving. Old stale religion never satisfies. Neither do the solutions the world has to offer. What all of us need is an encounter with God that sets our hearts ablaze. Tammie has seen this in her own life as well as in countless lives around her. Join her in More for a picture of how you can move from a life marked by messes to one that is truly miraculous. 

I really liked this book! The title immediately caught my eye, causing me to think about my own life. Areas where I want more. More of God. More in my job. this life. I like how open and real Tammie is as she shares her story and how God is using her. She talks about how God wants us. "Indeed, the Gentlest Man of gentlemen simply bids us to, "Come." No matter what you've done, "Come." No matter what your messy state is, "Come." No matter how you've run, "Come."' There's a line in the book that I feel sums the whole thing up, "We were made for more." Tammie talks about the things that hold us back from accepting what God wants to give us. "I want you to know, the same Savior who walked into a synagogue two thousand years ago and openly declared He was the One sent "to proclaim that captives will be released, that the blind will see, that the oppressed will be set free, and that the time of the Lord's favor has come," hasn't ended His mission. He's still seeking. He's still liberating. He's still determined. Our problem is, we struggle connecting with Him long enough to receive it. God wants to teach us in a greater way how to crawl up into His arms of love." This book encouraged me and I love the chapter openers, like these:

Tammie talks about waking up to who God really is and letting that truth truly change our lives. She challenges the reader to want more of God and the life He has planned for each of us!

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

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Sunday, March 15, 2015

book review: "how to catch a prince" by rachel hauck

American heiress Corina Del Rey caught her prince once. But the tragedy of war kept her too long in a fog of grief. Now she's shifting her life forward, reigniting her career as a journalist. Still, nothing can relieve her of the secret and the love she carries in her soul. 

Prince Stephen of Brighton is one of the world's most eligible bachelor and a star rugby player, trying to make sense of his life. But his days in Afghanistan with the Royal Air Command have marked him forever. And he can't seem to shake their dark shadow. 

But when his brother, King Nathaniel, confronts him with a document the prince thought long buried and forgotten, Stephen is forced to face the pain of his past and the love he left behind.

With a little heavenly help, Prince Stephen and Corina embark on a journey of truth. But when the secrets are revealed, can they overcome and find love again?

I'm a fan of Rachel's books. I've read the other two books in The Royal Wedding Series and she didn't disappoint with this newest story. I think every girl dreams of being a princess and with Susanna, Regina and now Corina, I'm reminded of that childhood dream. I love that these are southern girls because it gives me that instant connection with them. When I reviewed Princess Ever After last year, I said there's at least one line in each of Rachel's books that seems just for me. This book was no exception. "Love well" was Corina's mission when she went to Brighton. She wanted to show Stephen how good they could be together and did her best to "love well." I love that phrase! To me, it's almost a kind of surrender. When Corina signed the annulment papers, she felt she was finally giving up on her marriage but she wasn't. She was loving well…and leaving the rest to God. I love the story of King Stephen I and Queen Magdalena. Of how brave she was. Each year I pick a word to be my focus for the year and this year my word is brave. I felt this story was timely for me in so many ways. The story was beautiful. I love how when Stephen was done fighting within himself, God was ready to meet him. When Corina thought it was all over and and had done all she could, Stephen showed up at her door. And at their wedding, I "ahh-ed" when Stephen asked Mr. Del Rey if he could be the one to present Corina to God. Oh my. How to Catch a Prince was such a sweet story of love, forgiveness and surrender. 

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

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Monday, March 9, 2015

it's your time

I love the story of Esther. I love her bravery and the way God used her. We talked about Esther last night in the small group I help with. And to serve as a reminder, I made this printable for each of the girls in our group. I put two on one piece of paper and backed it on cute patterned paper. I had no idea making chalkboard printables could be so fun! It's super easy and super cute! My word for this year is brave and Esther's story is such a great example of that. She had a choice and could have refused to save her people. But she said yes. That was her moment for God to use her in a big way. This is your time! If you'd like me to send you the pdf, just comment with your email address :)

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Friday, February 27, 2015

winter break, part 2

As a teacher, I'm off two weeks at the end of December and beginning of January. We call this Christmas break. Well, due to some unexpected snow, we had an additional winter break. A two week winter break! The snow is finally beginning to melt and the ice is thawing so we'll head back on Monday but the time off has been nice. I've had free time…to be productive but also be a little lazy. Some things I've done:

1. read (reviews coming soon!)

2. bake (chocolate dump cake - thank you Pinterest!)

3. arm knitting (though I'm still working on getting the hang of it)

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