Tuesday, December 20, 2016

book review: "waiting for wonder" by marlo schalesky

It's easy to believe in God when a promise is new and fresh, bubbling with life. It's hard when the years pass and nothing changes. It's hard to keep praying, keep hoping, keep believing. It's hard when those you love betray you, when desperation strikes, when your own plans backfire, and still God does not fill the emptiness. But what if this God of the waiting room is calling us to more?"

I was really excited to read this book! It was earlier this year that God showed me something about Abraham and Sarah. For the longest time, I've looked at Sarah as an example of what not to do. She ran ahead of God and looked what happen. I don't want to be like Sarah. But then God showed me something. He showed me that Abraham and Sarah's story is a story about His faithfulness. Even when Sarah messed up, because God keeps His promises, He still blessed the descendants that came from Ishmael...because God promised to make Abraham's descendants great. That's just amazing to me! So, when I saw this book come along to review, I knew I wanted to be a part. And as I'm going through a season of waiting myself, this was a "right time, right place" book for me.
Waiting for Wonder is a book to take your time with and highlight and make notes as you read. I like the parts in each chapter that tell Sarah's story from her possible point of view. I like all the backstory Marlo provides to the time period of Sarah, giving me a better understanding of her life and what it meant for her to be barren. I love how Marlo points out that God chose Sarah because she was barren. "The biblical account affirms that God looks barrenness in the face and makes his promise anyway. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say he promises because. From the beginning of Sarai's "chosenness" God chose the impossible, he chose to transform, he chose the redemption of her shame, and ours. He did not call a fertile woman to birth a nation. He chose a barren one...on purpose." Marlo talks about how not only did Sarah run ahead of God by giving Hagar to Abraham but Abraham also took matters into his own hands when he lied to Pharaoh that Sarah was his sister. He was basically throwing the promise of a son away in order to spare his life. But God stepped in. "This is a God who is not thwarted by the betrayals, mistakes, fears, or hurtful actions of others. Others may create difficult circumstances in our lives. We may even create the difficult circumstances ourselves. But none of that can derail God's promises. God can make things right." There is so much more I can say about this book! I like the personal stories Marlo includes (especially the one about the balloon!) to help illustrate her points. This is one of those books I know I'll go back to when I need reminders about God's faithfulness and His perfect timing. 

I received a copy of this book from Litfuse Publicity for my honest review. You can enter the giveaway by clicking here!

Friday, October 14, 2016

book review: "alabama irish" by james russell lingerfelt

Brian was raised on "the wrong side of the tracks" in inner-city Alabama. Now, at nineteen, with a troubled past and juvenile record, Brian struggles to earn a living and find a life purpose. When he journeys to New York on a chance trip, Brian meets and falls in love with Shannon; a bright eyed, aspiring actress from California.

Brian returns to Alabama stirred by Shannon's courage and passion for life. With a new zest and reason for living, Brian is determined to turn himself into a man worthy of her love. Unable to afford college, Brian discovers the Os Guinness Scholarship, which provides free tuition to Pepperdine University for Irish students who desire to train for Ireland's ministry. With some innovative thinking, Brian fakes his Irish citizenry, accepts the scholarship, and moves to Southern California to attend school and pursue Shannon. 

However, when Brian visits Alabama, all the lies come crashing down and Brian comes face to face with a past he thought was finished. Now, Brian must make a choice: lose Shannon by spinning more lies and choosing vengeance in hopes of putting his past to rest. Or choose honesty and forgiveness and embrace a new life with the only woman he ever loved.
Alabama Irish was an book I found myself quickly pulled into, curious as to how Brian's story would turn out. It wasn't until I was over halfway through the book that I made the connection that Brian's friend, Finn, and his girlfriend, Eden, are from another story, The Mason Jar. I've not read many books that are told from a male perspective - or written by a male - but I enjoyed it. I think Brian's story is very relatable. He came from a less than ideal situation and was determined to do something about it. This is a book about love, fighting for what you want, not giving up, and learning to forgive. I think, in some way, all of us are broken. We all have something we're going through or been through and it's overcoming those things that make us stronger. It's these things that also make us who we are. I think one of my favorite parts of the story is when Shannon has read Brian's journal. She comes to see him and tells him she loves him. Shannon tells him that several times, knowing he needs to hear it more than once. Two broken people come together to help heal each other. I like how their story ends. That they both get to travel together - and part of that involves visiting Ireland. I think Brian is a realistic character. Sometimes you read a story and it's great but you know people aren't that put together. Brian has baggage and some anger he's holding onto. My heart broke for him and also Paul when Brian went to visit him at his home. How both men were hurting and Paul let Brian hit him again and again. It's like that saying: hurt people hurt people. I'd like to think if the story would have went into more detail that somehow Brian would have made his way back to Paul and told him he forgave him. So they could both start to heal from that awful night. Alabama Irish is one of the few books I've read where I'm satisfied with the ending. All the things Brian needed to overcome were addressed. He ended up with Shannon, got a job at the school that helped change his life, was going to counseling, working on his Master's degree and letting his story help at-risk youth who were in a similar situation. Overall, a good read with a happy ending!

I received a free copy of this book from James Russell Lingerfelt for my honest review. You can learn more about Alabama Irish by clicking here.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

movie review: "voiceless"

"Jesse Dean is a recently discharged soldier who had a rough upbringing, but because of his wife, found God and now is totally devoted to his faith.
He and wife move to Philadelphia so he can take a new job as an outreach leader at an old church whose membership has been declining. As everything is going well and as he starts connecting to the community, he discovers there's an abortion clinic directly across the street from the church.
He goes to the pastor and to several others in the church and tries to get their help to no avail. One day something tragic and personal happens to him while he's going about his everyday routine. He comes to the point that he begins to take action himself. He gets involved but the more involved he gets, the more resistance he gets from those in church and community. His wife, who thinks his actions will get him fired or land him in jail, also comes against him.
Finally, it comes down to him having to make a choice: is he going to take the easy way out and back off, which is what everyone wants him to do, or will he face a major confrontation which will require him to put everything on the line…not just his job, but his freedom and marriage as well.
This film encourages people to stand up for what they know is right, particularly as it pertains to taking God's truths into society to address social issues. It addresses the spirit of retreat as it pertains to engaging the culture that has developed within the Church."

This is a fabulous movie! I feel like Christian movies tend to get a bad wrap for different reasons but this movie, though tackling a heavy subject, is well done and pulls you in from the start! I like what Jesse says at the beginning of the movie and feel it sums up his journey. "I've never questioned where God is leading me, even if it's a little uncomfortable." And what Pastor Gil tells him when Jesse shares his concerns about the abortion clinic. He tells Jesse, "there's nothing you can do." I think we all sometimes can feel helpless at not knowing where to begin when it comes to helping others or wanting to help fight a grand-scale issue (i.e., homelessness, poverty, human trafficking, etc.). But Jesse does something about what's bothering him. He takes action. And he's immediately met with opposition. Another line from the movie I like is what he says to Pastor Gil as the opposition is heating up. When the pastor wants him to be quiet. "It isn't about activism. This is about being a voice for the voiceless. About speaking up for those who can't speak for themselves." I think one of the biggest take aways for me is the impact of one person. That one person can do something. Towards the end of the movie when Jesse is faced with being arrested should he go back to the abortion clinic, I was reminded of Exodus 14:14: "The LORD will fight for you; you need only to be still." Just when he was willing to make that sacrifice for what he believed in, an army of people showed up to take his place. People he had impacted; people he had helped. I think this movie is a beautiful story of being God's hands and feet to help those who are hurting. 

You can learn more about the movie by clicking here and see where it's playing. 

I received a free link to watch this movie from Icon Media Group for my honest review.

Friday, July 1, 2016

book review: "dwelling places" by lucinda secrest mcdowell

What if a thriving, active faith were as simple as reading one word a day?

Do you long for serenity and refuge, peace and hope? Are you seeking a deeper spiritual life through a closer relationship with God?

If you're tired of dwelling in busyness and noise, then perhaps one word a day can change your life. Award-winning author Lucinda Secrest McDowell knows that if you spend time each day turning on God's Word for wisdom and guidance, your faith can flourish and grow.

Through short and inspiring readings, McDowell unpacks a single word - such as mercy, beauty, gratitude, or grace - to reveal a biblical blessing or challenge relevant to where you are. Full of stories and illustrations to empower you to live the word you have just read, each devotional ends with a benediction, written as if God were speaking directly to you.

These "dwelling places" that offer the joy of God's promise and presence cover four seasons: fall, Advent, Lent, and summer. Whether in the midst of busy holiday schedules, holy days, ordinary moments, or changing seasons, a deeper faith can be as simple as a single word.

I really like how the focus for each reading is simply one word. Each devotion is only two pages but those two pages are so powerful! One of my favorite readings is on the word "sea." McDowell quotes Anne Morrow Lindbergh: "For it is not merely the trivial which clutters our lives but the important as well." That's so true! How often are we busy with truly important things? I feel like that's the goal of this book: to be intentional but also purposeful with each reading. Packing a lot of information in just two pages. This same reading uses one of my favorite verses: "Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you'll receive your life. I'll show you how to take a real rest" (Matthew 11:28-30). I wrote in the margin the rest of that passage: "Walk with me and work with me - watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace." I love that phrase rhythms of grace. What caught my eye with this book is that it's broken up into seasons. The only disadvantage to the book is that there's only 130 different readings so there's not enough for each day of the year but it's still a great resource! Dwelling Places is a great way to start each day!

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

You can also enter a giveaway by clicking here!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

recipe: better than anything oreo cake

This dessert. Oh, it turned out pretty perfect! I like it for several reasons. One is that it only takes a handful of ingredients. Two, it was fairly simple to make. Three, it tasted really good! I've made it twice and followed the recipe as is. But I'm thinking next time it might be fun to add some chopped Reese Cups to the top and less Oreo. I feel like the Oreo makes it really sweet - maybe it's the cream. I did a layer of Oreo before the whip and also on top so I might scale back the next time and just use around ten Oreos or so. Regardless, this is an easy recipe and tastes REALLY good! You can look at the full recipe from Nikki at Chef In Training by clicking here.

What you need:
  • 1 box German chocolate cake mix, and all ingredients it requires
  • 1 (14 oz) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 (16 oz) jar hot fudge
  • 1 (8 oz.) tub cool whip, thawed to room temperature
  • 15 Oreos, crushed/chopped
What to do:
  1. Bake cake according to directions in a 9x13 pan.
  2. Let cake cool for about 5 minutes.
  3. Poke holes in cake with the handle end of a wooden spoon.
  4. While cake is still warm, slowly pour over sweetened condensed milk over the top making sure some gets in all the holes of the cake.
  5. Heat Jar of Hot Fudge until runny and hot. Make sure it is melted to a point that it will pour easily. Pour over top of cake, making sure some gets in all the holes of cake.
  6. Let cake cool completely then spread thawed cool whip over the top.
  7. Sprinkle crushed/chopped Oreos over the top of Cool Whip.
  8. Store in fridge until ready to eat. Store any leftovers in fridge.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

God is with you

I came across these verses last night and wanted a visual. So I found a picture of the Promised Land and added the verses (thanks Pic Monkey!). In Deuteronomy 11, God is giving the Israelites some instructions before they go into the Promised Land. He's already given the ten commandments and the rest of Deuteronomy is God laying out guidelines, if you will, of what the Israelites are to do after they cross the Jordan. But these are the words that stood out to me. I was thinking of it in terms of God's word. When it says, "place these words on your heart. Get them deep inside you," I thought about holding onto a verse that really speaks to you in a specific time in your life. Maybe it's a verse about peace or strength or healing. But you cling to that verse, you get it deep inside you and you don't let go. That verse gives you strength because you're about to get your breakthrough. You're about to cross your own Jordan River! And at the beginning of the book of Joshua, God tells the people to be strong. Three times in chapter one He says those words. He knew what the people would face. And then He says, " not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go" (v. 9). No matter what we face, no matter how we're feeling, God is always with us. Always.

Monday, June 13, 2016

book review: "my fringe hours" by jessica n. turner

Make time for you - every day

Do you want to learn how to make time for the things you love, deepen friendships, and take better care of yourself? Begin a journey of self-discovery as you explore your passions and overcome obstacles in this meaningful book. You'll come away refreshed, invigorated, and excited to live a more creative and fulfilled life.

I know I'm not the only one who feels like I just don't have enough time. Don't have enough time for work, church commitments, friends and then just time for me.  Right? This book is a great way to figure out how to make it work! I like what Jessica says on the first page: "Now, please understand, this is not a time-management book because My Fringe Hours is not about doing more. It's about discovering ways to help you be more creative and live more fulfilled." And I think that's the key. Throughout the book, Jessica gives nine principles to help you make the twenty-four hours we each have be more productive and purposeful. She talks about how often, we are our own worst enemy, feeling guilty for not being able to get everything done and/or taking time for ourselves. She talks about finding balance between the things that need to get done and what things could possibly be cut out. There are lots of hands-on activities such as a scale to fill out, listing the things you wish you had time for on one side and all the current things you're doing on the other. It's a great visual to let see what could be removed to allow time for some of the things you'd like to do. I really enjoyed this book! It's a quick read and I like all of the "my turn" activities that are throughout to help me apply what I'm reading. I highlighted the entire last page with Jessica's Final Reflections because it really does sum up the whole book:
My prayer is that as you make time for yourself, you will grow more confident in who you are and experience deeper satisfaction with how you spend your time. I believe that as you pursue the practice of self-care, your life will become defined by gratitude and joy - not because you've done it all perfectly but because you've realized what God knew all along: that you are a unique and one-of-a-kind treasure. And this world needs you - the best possible you. So go ahead. Sign up for that knitting class. Take a long run. Pull out that journal and start filling its blank pages. Make yourself a priority. Invest time in the you that God made you to be. Because you are worth it. This is your new beginning - and it's going to be beautiful.

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

*insert deep breath*

I've started another blog. It was a big step for me. But it was a step. I needed to do something to move forward in some desires God's stirring up in me. So this was the beginning. You can find out more by heading over there: Right now, I'm planning on posting on Mondays. I need to find a balance between that blog, this one and I actually have another one about teaching. Now that it's summer, I have the time to plan and figure it out. Someday is a word I try to avoid. So I've done something. I've taken a step forward and am excited to see what happens next!

Monday, May 30, 2016

what now?

I just got back from my sixth missions trip. The last three I've been on have been out of the country but this time we stayed within the States. There were reasons for this and because of this decision, we went to the site of my very first missions trip: the Los Angeles Dream Center. If you've never heard of it, it's an amazing place! The Dream Center reaches out to the city of Los Angeles through food trucks, medical care, cleaning up trash off the streets and parks, praying for those in the community, and visiting the homeless on Skid Row - all in an effort to show God's love. They also have a rehab program for those wanting to get their life back together. There are so many parts to what the Dream Center does. I was amazed again and again at the influence the Dream Center is making. So now that we're back home, I must face the question yet again that comes up after every trip: what do I do now? I was gone for a week and it was great but now what? This year I feel like it's a little more clearer for me. One of the biggest - and yet smallest - things we did on our trip at people. Something so simple has a HUGE impact! I want to notice people and not be so busy with what I need to do that I just walk by those who are hurting or in need or just need someone to listen to them. Do we have to go somewhere else in order to do mission work? No. There is work to do right where we are. So I'm going to get busy tilling the ground in my own mission field...until the next time I pack my suitcase :)

Thursday, May 19, 2016

book review: "through the shadows" by karen barnett

Two years ago, the building of San Francisco were shaken off their foundations and burned to the ground in the devastating earthquake and fire. As the city rebuilds brick by brick, new hope is rising. But Elizabeth King is also trying to rectify the rubble in her own life - and she's not sure anything will be able to erase her past. But she doesn't anticipate finding new love. 

Hoping to right her wrongs, Elizabeth commits herself to helping young girls escape brothels in Chinatown, one of the darkest sections of San Francisco.

When she meets rising attorney Charles McKinley, who desires to save the city from corruption, and has dashing good looks to boot, she can't help feeling hopeful. However, she soon realizes while many loved ones may not turn her away after discovering her secret, the man she loves will have no choice. Elizabeth's past bears great consequences for both their futures. 

What caught my attention with this book is the attention to human trafficking. I wasn't really aware of the prevalence of human trafficking until my first missions trip out of the country to Guatemala in 2013. Side note: I've since done a little research and also came across Christine Caine and the great work she does to stop it through her non-profit, the A21 Campaign. I liked this book. I had a little bit of hard time getting into it but I was soon pulled into the story. I want to be like Donaldina - passionate about her cause and not willing to let others get in her way! I laughed at the scene of her pulling the officer behind her, hat askew as she barreled into the judges office! And the ending was beautifully sweet. I love what Charles told Elizabeth; it's what I pray for in my future husband. "I want you beside me every day of my life. I want you to argue with me and keep me on my toes. I want you to spur me to greater actions on behalf of God's kingdom." I love that Elizabeth finally let God's grace be enough for her - that she was able to let go of her hurt and give it all to Him. Such a beautiful story of love and redemption!

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

You can also enter a giveaway by clicking here!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

book review: "the beautiful pretender" by melanie dickerson

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

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

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

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

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

You can also enter a giveaway by clicking here!
The Beautiful Pretender Melanie Dickerson

Monday, May 16, 2016

finish strong

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

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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

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

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

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

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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

book review: "the peaceful wife" by april cassidy

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

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

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

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

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

recipe: crockpot sausage and cheese tortellini

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

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

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Monday, January 11, 2016

book review: "philippians" by sue edwards

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

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

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

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

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Friday, January 1, 2016

hello 2016

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

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