Coconut Oil: A Giveaway

Monday, June 30, 2014

Today I'm partnering with Tropical Traditions to give you a chance to WIN some of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil!

As you already know, I'm very excited about this product and this company. I've never received an order that I wasn't happy with and they are always giving their customers great deals.

If you're new to coconut oil or Tropical Traditions, you can learn more about their products by clicking HERE. If you're still not sure, you can get some ideas about using coconut oil by clicking HERE.

What you might not realize about Tropical Traditions Gold Label line is that their coconut oil comes from small family farms where the coconuts are raised and processed by hand.

Enter the giveaway and be sure to check back on July 14th because that's when I'll be announcing the winner!

* Disclaimer: Tropical Traditions provided me with a free sample of this product to review, and I was under no obligation to review it if I so chose. Nor was I under any obligation to write a positive review or sponsor a product giveaway in return for the free product.  If you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you.

Two Days in June

Friday, June 27, 2014

When I was 9 years old my Mom forced me to go to vacation Bible school even though I begged and begged her not to make me go. Before that week was over I found myself realizing that I was in desperate need of God's forgiveness. That regular day in June became a super significant day in my life. After all, it was the day that I was born again. God knew me and called me to an eternity of knowing Him.

Many years have gone by. I've owned several Bibles, I've taught Vacation Bible School, I've read countless books, and poured over the Word. Ever since I got saved I've wanted to do one thing: Figure out the Bible and be changed by it. In many ways, it HAS changed me. God gave me a taste of Himself and I've always asked Him to KEEP me thirsty and to use His Word to lead me through my days.

Still, if I'm being honest, I have always known that SOMETHING has been missing. I may be a student of God's Word and I may be seeking to live by that Word, but I can't say that I really, really KNOW the Word.

I am 23 now and another regular day in June has become significant. This time, I read a 160 page book that taught me HOW to begin combating the problem of not really knowing the Word of God. This little book is called "Women of the Word: How to Study the Bible With Both Our Hearts and Our Minds". I finished reading it in one day and promptly spent one morning and one evening taking down everything that I had learned on a few pieces of paper.

In 160 pages on another regular day in June, Jen Wilkin laid out the tools and the processes that are necessary for me to truly KNOW the Word of God. Jen invites her readers to diligently work at being students of the Word in order to get to know God, Himself.

I don't think it's possible for me to give you enough reasons as to why you MUST read this book right away. You'll just have to trust me. This is book is unique. I have studied under a lot of teachers and none of them have given me such a step by step process as to HOW to ACTUALLY study the Bible. However, when Jen says she's writing a "how to", she means that she's writing a HOW TO! Jen's process will be with me for the rest of my life.

Even though those two June days were years apart, God made both of them life changing. I needed to be born again and I needed to be taught how to seek Him. I needed to know that the Bible is about God. I needed to know that when I go to the Bible I ought to be going there to behold Him.

Is Jen's way the ONLY way? No...But I will tell you this, Jen's way is concise, it is freeing, and it is effective. In "Women of the Word" you will have the opportunity to discover that "something" that is missing from your life as a Christian.

If you're like most women I know, you DO want to know God's Word and be changed by it, but you just don't know where to begin....Jen's book will take you by the hand!

You will learn to study the Bible with Purpose, Perspective, Process, Patience, and Prayer. There's even a chapter that lays out the steps one by one so that you can begin a study right away.

I've got a notebook loaded and I'm all set to begin a study of 1 Peter in order to see what it has to tell me about who God is and how He reigns and rules over everything. By God's grace I'm hoping to see how 1 Peter relates to all the other pages of Scripture. As I learn more about God, my view of myself will most certainly be affected and I will be called to respond with specific courses of action.

When fall rolls around I'm hoping that I will be well on my way to Comprehending, Interpreting, and Applying these 66 books that God has given to His people. And you know what else? I hope that you'll be joining me!

Women of the Word is scheduled to release in July. Go pre-order your copy today by clicking HERE!

 * I was provided with a review copy of this book by Crossway. All thoughts are my own honest opinion.

The Circle: Throwback Thursday

Thursday, June 26, 2014

When Kiki announced this month's theme for The Circle, I didn't quite know what to expect...When I found out that she was hoping we would share old pictures and links to some of our favorite posts, I was excited to go do some digging!

Today you get a flood of pictures from the early 90's (they're not dated, so that's all I can say about that) and a few from the last few years.

Doing "work" with my Ghiddu. I feel like this is a perfect picture of our times together.
With my Mom and brother at some kind of aquarium.
With my brother at the beach.
I just really liked this one...
September 2007
August 2009

February 2011
And now for a few links to some of my favorite posts from over the years...

There's No Place Like Home 2010

On Conversations Near and Far 2010

Drinking From the Fountain of Living Water 2011

Let's Go Fly A Kite   2012

Kitchen Privileges 2012

What 23 Years Looks Like 2013

In Its Time

So Many Things...Or "How many times is she going to say coconut oil?"

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I recently received a quart of coconut oil from Tropical Traditions and I have been so excited to share this company with you! My guess is that you all have probably heard of the WONDER that is coconut oil. People are using it for EVERYTHING.

As with most good things, I heard about coconut oil from my Mom. When I was 17 she quit buying Crisco. She was way ahead of game....She started using coconut oil in her cooking and as a lotion and was always encouraging me to TRY IT. I am always way behind the game. Over the last few years I've started trying it out myself, so now I can finally join in the chorus of people saying that it is amazing stuff.

I use Coconut Oil  for so many things. I use it:

In my cooking. Basically, I either sub it for butter or use half butter and half coconut oil. In most of my cooking,  I prefer to use Expeller Pressed Coconut Oil which doesn't taste or smell like coconut. I especially love using it in my waffles!

On my hair. It makes a great moisturizer on damp hair. Just take a little dab and run it through your hair, avoiding your scalp area (so that your hair doesn't get too greasy) and then comb through your hair and style as usual.

On my hands, feet, and nails. Coconut oil makes your skin so soft. I love following a sugar scrub with some coconut oil. It even softens the callous that I get from writing!

On my teeth. My Mom strikes again. She threw a small container of "tooth paste" that is mostly made up of coconut oil into my stocking at Christmas. I finally tried it earlier this year and after about a week I decided that I love it.

These are just a FEW of the things you can do with coconut oil! Everyone seems to be researching its benefits and testing out its usefulness.

We always get our coconut oil from Tropical Traditions and even though they gifted me with this quart, I chose to do this review because they are a company that I personally trust! I trust this company because:

*We have never received a batch of oil from Tropical Traditions that we were unsatisfied with. The product is always quality and the shipments have never been damaged.

*We have never felt like the prices at Tropical Traditions are too high.

*We have always enjoyed the sales and special prices that Tropical Traditions regularly offers.

You may not realize it, but there are two varieties of coconut oil: Virgin Coconut Oil smells and tastes like coconut and Expeller Pressed Coconut Oil which does not. This was an important discovery for me because I am not the biggest fan of coconut, but I really like using this oil. 

Tropical Traditions offers both kinds in several types of packaging and quantities. Be sure to check out their website and stay tuned for a GIVEAWAY that I'll be hosting very soon!

In the meantime, I feel like I should tell you that they are offering some really great sales right now! You can Buy 1 Quart of their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil and get 1 FREE by clicking HERE.
If you are a first time customer, you will also receive a free copy of their book "Virgin Coconut Oil".

*This post was sponsored by Tropical Traditions. All thoughts are my own honest opinion. 

* If you order by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from Tropical Traditions in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you.

Considering Jesus When...

Monday, June 23, 2014

On Friday I wrote about the time my vacuum cleaner taught me to consider Jesus.

Today I want to take the process of considering Jesus a little bit deeper.

Over the last few weeks the temperatures dropped where I live. The skies got dark and moody and we got a fair amount of rain. Do you know what people did? They responded IMMEDIATELY with coats and sweaters and quite a few grumbles. I noticed one woman trudging home from the post office with a slight scowl on her face and a stoop to her back and she pressed on against the weather.

Do you know what I did? I reminded myself that we are in the season that is known as summer. Because of this I can be assured that even though the temperature dropped way down and the sun has been replaced by rain, "summer" will return shortly.

Do you know why I can be sure of this?

Because of verses Daniel 2:21:

"Blessed be the name of God forever and ever to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings..."

Now I am aware that season probably doesn't mean "winter, spring, summer, fall", but it does refer to God's reign and rule over EVERYTHING including time and "winter, spring, summer, fall".

I can be sure that summer will return in the same way that I can be sure that the sun will set tonight and rise tomorrow morning. Just like everything else, the seasons are in God's hand.

Just like the vacuum cleaner, this unexpected weather and people's reactions to it forced me to do one thing: consider Jesus. 

I could have joined the humdrum line of people going on about the weather or I could let that weather remind me that God rules and reigns.

How about a negative example? 

When I get super hungry my sin almost always comes out. I get short tempered, easily aggravated,  and rude. Those sins were all there and I gladly go through life sucking up more reasons to react that way and shoving them into the vacuum cleaner bag of my soul for later. When I get hungry I rip that bag out and sprinkle little bits of it on everyone around me. (Ask them....)

The first time I sense that sin bubbling inside of me, do you know what I should do?

Consider Jesus.

He is faithful. He calls me to be like Him and He even prays that God would make me like Him.

Even if I don't get to eat for days (which I know won't be the case), my sin needs to be submitted to Him.  I need to put off what comes naturally to me and put on what comes naturally to Him. And I can!

Do you know why I can be sure of this?

Because of Scriptures like Colossians 3:8-17:

"But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its Creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free: but Christ is all, an in all. 

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another, and if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him."

On Friday, I mentioned that before we can ever consider Jesus we must be about the business of getting to KNOW Jesus as He really is, by means of the Bible.

He is all and He is in all of God's people and all of God's people are called to do everything in His name giving thanks to God through Him. 

When the weather is crummy. When we are hungry. When we think of telling someone off. When we grow anxious. We are called to consider Jesus.

When the weather is nice. When our soul seems clean. When we are at a table with all of our favorite people. When we think of the ones we love. When we are perfectly at peace. We are called to consider Jesus.

May we gather ourselves around God's Word in order to behold Him as He makes Himself known.

May that gathering lead us to we consider Jesus always.

Would you tell us about what God has been teaching you about who He is lately!

Would you tell us about a time you've recently considered Jesus and gave thanks to God?

Lessons From My Vacuum

Friday, June 20, 2014

 I got out the vacuum cleaner this morning. If I'm honest, I enjoy cleaning.

As I pushed that vacuum around the floor with no music playing, no little feet getting in my way, and only one Lego to bend over and pick up, I started THINKING.

There I was sucking up dust and hair and grass and the tiniest pieces of garbage that are basically invisible. Eventually all that junk will be enough to fill up the entire vacuum bag. We take that bag and throw it into the trash can to be hauled far away. If I'm honest, I don't check that bag as often as I should. I usually check the bag ONLY when the vacuum isn't sucking like it should or when the red indication bar can't get pushed out any further.

I usually only check the vacuum bag when there's an unavoidable problem. 

There wasn't a problem today. The vacuum worked fine, my floor is clean, and I enjoyed the fifteen minutes or so that it took me to get the job done.

Today my vacuum cleaner taught me something...

It caused me to ask myself this question: How much little, tiny, practically invisible garbage am I sucking up each day?

I am CONSTANTLY sucking up stuff and shoving it deep inside, into the vacuum bag of my soul. And just like my actual vacuum bag, I don't check the bag of my soul all that often.

As I thought about all of the junk that I shove into the vacuum bag of my soul, I realized something else...

We don't have to wait until the bag is full to deal with it. In fact, we SHOULDN'T wait for it to be full or for an unavoidable problem to force us to figure out what's going on. 

Vacuuming is a very necessary chore. We want our floors to be clean.

Do you know what else I want?

I want my soul to be clean. I know that I'm going to be sucking stuff up and shoving it deep inside but I don't want to leave it there for later.

What if we took those harsh words and that pain and that fleeting thought and that worry and that selfish desire and consciously dealt with them immediately?

What if we DIDN'T wait for the bag to be full?

What if we APPLIED Scriptures like Hebrews 3?

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called 'today', that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end." Hebrews 3:12-14

Hebrews 3 begins with the words, "Therefore, holy brothers, you who share in a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him..."

What would it look like if went through our days considering Jesus?

One thing is for sure, we'll have to KNOW Jesus in order to consider Him. As we truly know Him, I think considering Him will become natural.

At the beginning of the year, I chose GATHER as my "word"...One of my focuses has been gathering myself around God's Word and gathering for myself an increasing knowledge of God.

I want to KNOW God as He really is and I've seen that I must go to His Word in order to LOOK for Him there. His Word is all about who He is and as I know Him I am confident that I WILL consider Him.

May we NOT wait. May we make a study of His Word and watch as our delight and obedience and considering increase because we have come to KNOW Him! 

May even our vacuums remind us to CONSIDER Jesus! 

May the vacuum bags of our souls not be neglected but checked and emptied and cleaned often by the very hope that is ours in this Jesus. 

Unlike my vacuum, my very own soul adds plenty of its own garbage to the bag of trash...I cannot afford to let a single DAY go by without reminding it of my calling and emptying it of the ick that it clings to.

 Ladies, we have some cleaning to do!

Summer Stack 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Compiling reading lists is one of my favorite things to do! I thought I'd share MY list of possibilities just in case any of you are looking for things to read this summer.

I'll add a few comments about each book after I'm finished with it.

The ones in bold will be ones I'm reading now and I'll tell you what I'm thinking so far.

Also note that each title is a link to the goodreads profile of each book! 


"Jacob Have I Loved" by Katherine Paterson (YA)// I had a hard time getting into this book. I think there was just too much talking going on for my taste. The last twenty pages or so brought everything together nicely and almost changed my mind about the book. A conversation in these last pages between Louise and her Mother were part of what me give it a second chance. It goes something like this:

 Louise's Mother tells her about why she came to the island of Rass in the first place, "I had some notion that I would find myself here, as a poet, of course, but it wasn't just that." '

Louise says "And did you find yourself here on this little island?"

Her Mother replies while scrubbing away at something, "I found very quickly,"...."I found there was nothing much to find." (June 14, 2014)

"I've Got You Under My Skin" by Mary Higgins Clark//I am always on the look out for Mary Higgins Clark's new releases. This one was particularly enjoyable! I missed the mark and didn't truly figure out whodunnit until she made it glaringly obvious. (June 7, 2014)

"The Fight" by Luke Wordley//See my full review HERE. This book may be about boxing, but it's also about so much more! There's faith and discipleship and hard times and characters that are realer than real. It's a good one! (June 12, 2014)

"Navigating Early" by Clare Vanderpool (YA)//This was a GREAT book! I finished it with the thought, "Now, THAT was a novel!" It's the bigger picture of this book that proves to be enjoyable. The night before I finished it, I watched "The Soloist" and together these book reminded me of what it is like when people carry the burden of life not going as they had hoped or planned. (June 22, 2014)

"Saving Sailor" by Renee Riva// This was a little cheesy...I read the sequel to it (Taking Tuscany) years ago and have always been curious about the back story. I have been "saving" this book for years, but I finally decided that this summer felt like the perfect time to dig in. (July 5, 2014)

"To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee //This is my Mom's favorite book and I finally know why! Due to her raves about it and the fact that it is a classic and has been on our shelf almost as far back as I can remember, I have started this book countless times. Every single time, I thought I knew what I was in for and I just couldn't get into it. Last weekend I got sick and needed something to read...I ended up settling on To Kill A Mockingbird even though it wasn't part of this summer's stack. By Wednesday afternoon I was hooked! I'm not sure why I could never get into it all the other tines I started it.

Scout is grand. Atticus reminds me of my Mom. Calpurnia is familiar. Jem is every person I grew up with.

The stories and lessons and small town stereotypes are all so familiar. It feels like the story of America - growing up, realizing her foolishness, and yet, needing children to lead the way.

I'm only sad that I waited so long to learn from Harper Lee and to enjoy the stories that she thought up before so many others were even ready. (July 13, 2014)

"A Cup of Friendship" by Deborah Rodriguez - also titled "The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul"// I really wanted to like this book! I had to put it down because of the language and content. It was a work of fiction drawn from Rodriguez's own experiences owning a coffee shop (which I believe was in Kabul). That part was great even if it was a little depressing to read about life in the Middle East. I got a taste of life in Kabul which is really why I wanted to read the book. It turned out that the rest of it just wasn't for me. You win some, you lose some! (July 2014)

"Summer of the Gypsy Moths" by Sara Pennypacker (YA)// The plot of this novel was pretty far fetched, but if you can get past that, you'll really enjoy it. I've been talking about "Great-Aunt Louise" as if she was my great-aunt and Pennypacker likes the kinds of details I do. I picked this book up because it was set on Cape Cod. Now that it's over I'm wishing that there were more books in the series! Who knew following a couple of 11 yr. old girls through a few weeks of their summer with a HUGE secret to keep could be so entertaining? (July 3, 2014)

"Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library" by Chris Grabenstein (YA) // EXCELLENT book! I read this one in ONE day because I couldn't put it down. As I've mentioned in another post, this book is Willy Wonka meets The Westing Game meets something I can't quite put my finger on. Grabenstein had some great lines in this book as well as an intriguing plot that keeps his readers trying to solve the puzzles before the kids in the story. It may be YA, but I really enjoyed it. There was a bit of juvenille humor (jokes about underwear, bodily noises, etc.)...Thankfully, once the real story got rolling, there wasn't room for any of that! I loved Mr. Lemoncello! He is one of those quirky older men who love being weird but think they are perfectly normal. Pick this book up and you'll be on your way to going back to your own childhood to revisit some of your favorite books and memories. Enjoy the puzzles along the way! (July 26, 2014)

"The Last Tycoon" by F. Scott Fitzgerald // This last and unfinished novel by Fitzgerald didn't really disappoint even though it basically went nowhere. There is something about the way he SEES and TELLS things that I just love. (July 28, 2014)

"The Outsiders" by S.E. Hinton// I was in between library shipments but needed a good book to read, so I decided to re-read one of my favorites from jr. high. Now I'm ready to back through the other Hinton books that I read all those years ago. If it's really true that a 17 year old GIRL wrote this book, I am impressed. The way kids see things for what they really are...beyond the struggles and the pain and the's nothing short of amazing. (July 31, 2014)

"Murder at the Mikado" Julianna Deering// I received a review copy of this from the publisher, but I just couldn't get into it. The back and forth between Drew and his fiance was just too much for me. He was sneaky. She didn't like it. They worked out it. But then they realized they really hadn't. The mystery seemed to take a back burner which was disappointing to me. There were about 150 pages that were SOLID and had me ALMOST changing my mind about this book. (August 6, 2014) 

"Dangerous Passage" by Lisa Harris// Harris has a way with mysteries! Even though I usually finish her books within a few days, it's not because I want to get them over with. In this book you're looking at a string of murders in Atlanta that are all tied together by a simple magnolia tattoo. Your suspicions will be raised. You'll think you have it all figured out. If you're like me, you'll keep reading and realize that you're ready for even more! You should know that this is the first book in Harris' "Southern Crimes" series. (August 11, 2014)

"Tidewater Inn" by Colleen Coble//I really wanted to love this book. The plot was really good, but it was super slow. If you like Coble, you should probably give this book a chance, just don't do what I did and set your expectations too high. Set in North Carolina's Outer Banks, this book really does have a bit of EVERYTHING. Coble beat me with the mystery that she included in this one. Even though I was suspicious of the one who turned out to be guilty, I didn't zero in on them on my own.  (August 17, 2014)

"Glory Be" by Augusta Scattergood (YA)// It turns out that this book was written for a pretty young audience. It's set during "Freedom Summer" (the summer of 1964) and tells about the events in one town from the perspective of an 11 yr. old girl. I've always enjoyed studying the history of Civil Rights in America, but this was one book that didn't do much for me personally. Young readers may enjoy this story that leaves out the most gruesome of details, yet still gets across the foolishness that has colored this country for far too long. (September 4, 2014)

"The Witness" by Dee Henderson//Aside from Mary Higgins Clark, Dee Henderson is my favorite mystery writer. I first read "The Witness" when I was 15. I remember sitting out on my back deck that summer reading this book every chance that I got. It's a book that has stayed with me. I figured this summer would be the perfect time to read it again and I wasn't wrong! I needed  a good novel to tie up my summer reading, so I chose this one even though it wasn't part of my original list. (September 4, 2014)

Two that I probably won't get to:
"The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak (YA)
"Gone With the Wind" by Margaret Mitchell


"Idols of the Heart"by Elyse Fitzpatrick// So far, so good. This was recommended reading from Behold Your God, so I knew it would be helpful. I've not read Fitzpatrick before, but I'll be back for more. UPDATED: I ended up NOT finishing this one. Fitzpatrick did something that made me very uncomfortable when she would embellish portions of Scripture in order to talk about what details MIGHT be included in order to help us relate to them. (June 18, 2014)

"Women of the Word" by Jen Wilkin//Wilkin is a teacher at The Village Church who packs a punch with the sweetest of voices. I am pretty confident that this will be my very favorite book of 2014! It is already on the "shelf" of the most influential books I have read in my LIFETIME. The purpose of this book is to TEACH women why they should study the Bible and give them a hands on approach as to HOW they should study the Bible. Stay tuned for my full review of this book!(June 14,  2014)

"I Never Had It Made" by Jackie Robinson, Alfred Duckett // This got added to my summer stack because my friend Shauna was reading it and I decided to join her! I love a good autobiography (I read this on the kindle and I'm not quite sure, but I think Robinson told his story to Duckett who wrote it. Or maybe Robinson wrote it and Duckett helped? All I know is that Robinson did a lot of writing, but he also admitted that Duckett was a popular ghostwriter.). ANYWAY. I got a look into Robinson's life, baseball in "the good old days", and the Civil Rights movement. Robinson was front and center and did a lot of mixing with all kinds of people. He had a lot to say.

I was sad to hear the way that he expressed himself towards the end of the book. It tasted a little bitter. The rest of the book seemed to be a very good representation of America at the time and what it would take to change and what SHOULD have change. Robinson gave so very much and he accomplished a lot.

However much you think you know, pick up this book and you'll learn a lot! (July 7, 2014)

"Grace for the Good Girl" by Emily Freeman// This book was due back to the library before I finished it. I turned it in, but not without plans to check it out again sometime. Freeman is the contemporary female writer that I admire most. She brings living in communion with God to each piece she writes in a way that I only wish I could. I'm eager to find out the rest of her story. (July 2014)

"Good: The Joy of Christian Manhood and Womanhood" free ebook compiled by Desiring God // I was expecting more from this book than it delivered. Each chapter was very well written, but since they were all written by different people, they didn't flow very well. If you go into knowing these things, it will probably be a very helpful read for those of us who are curious about God's plan for complementarian lifestyles. (July 2014)

"One Thing: Developing a Passion for the Beauty of God" by Sam Storms// This is my first experience with Sam Storms. I can't wait to read more of his works! There were so many key, life changing sentences in this book and I finally have an idea as to where to begin with reading Jonathan Edwards. This book was the perfect book to finish out the summer with because it gave my soul more of God to dwell on and to contemplate as we move closer and closer to winter. (September 3, 2014)


"The Mysterious Howling"by Maryrose Wood  //Wood put together a cute story. It reminds me of the Series of Unfortunate Events without all of the misfortune. We enjoyed reading about a very young governess overcoming the task of helping three "incorrigibles" learn to behave as they should. The nursery is a fun place to be and reading about a completely fictitious account was very entertaining. It's a series that we'll be coming back to! (July 2, 2014)

"As Ever, Gordy" by Mary Downing Hahn  //This book disappointed me...Gordy was as rotten as ever and not very eager to continue doing right. On top of that he becomes infatuated with Elizabeth. The first two books in the series were worth the read, but this one was just too much. (June 28, 2014)

ADDED: "The Hidden Gallery" by Maryrose Wood

What are you reading?

What are some books in your summer stack?

When Boxing is Discipleship

Monday, June 16, 2014

The Fight was written by Luke Wordley, a man who lives in the south of England. His aim with this book is to supply young men with quality fiction. That said, I didn't count on being able to really enjoy the book myself.You can imagine my surprise when I found myself HOOKED!

Wordley follows Sam Pennington's struggle with life and faith in a way that is so real. He creates characters who seem like they could live next door. Sam may be the main character, but I found myself focused on Jerry Ambrose. Here is a man whose life is aimed at knowing God and making God known. Jerry is a trainer at a boxing club but he is also a devoted Christian who seeks to use boxing as a way to develop discipleship relationships with the men in his ring. Jerry's passion makes him the perfect hero, but Wordley made sure to make him human by giving Jerry his own sin to fight.
The Fight is about more than boxing...The Fight is about life. The Fight is about what happens when boxing brings people together and they decide to really listen to one another. Faith in God takes center stage.
In short, this is a book worth reading!
The one caution I have is that I don't know that I would be able to recommend this book to very young men. Without offering a spoiler, I can say that there is one passing reference to marital relations and several threats regarding rape. I know that compared to most books, that's nothing, but I can't not mention it in my review.
In addition to receiving a review copy of this book, I had the opportunity to interview the author! I would like to thank Mr. Worldey for his efforts in writing quality fiction and for stepping away from his writing desk to take the time to do interviews and interact with his readers.

Questions About The Book
Victoria @ Through * For * By: "I enjoyed the unique way that this book was able to cover so much time. What made you decide to write The Fight in 'parts'?"

Luke Wordley: I believe we are all on a journey, especially in relation to faith. Even if we have a Damascene moment, there is always a back-story that precedes it. To reflect Sam’s journey particularly, the story needed to cover a significant passage of time. I’m also a believer in moving a story forward!

Victoria: "The Fight features some long term discipleship type relationships that are very refreshing. What has been your personal experience with one on one discipleship?"

Luke: When I came to faith at 19 years old, my Church student minister took me under his wing. I also have two male Christian friends in particular who I hugely respect and have been a great example to me of living out your faith. I have really enjoyed mentoring lads in various youth groups I have been involved in. It can be discouraging at times, when they get sucked into worldly lifestyles, but has been a huge privilege too.  
Victoria: "Jerry seemed to have a hands off approach in starting a relationship with Sam. Is that an approach you would encourage Christians to use as they attempt to build relationships with those outside the faith?"

Luke: I think you have to follow God’s leading, even if it is sometimes against our own desire. And we must be sensitive to those we’re trying to build relationships with. You generally don’t make friends by being all over them. It has to be based on love and friendship. I would imagine there is nothing more off-putting to someone without an active faith to feel they are someone’s project.

I also think as Christians, because of our shared faith, we can sometimes
get to a deeper level of friendship and openness much quicker than with
other folk. So we must bear this in mind and be patient.  

Victoria: "My next question is a little strange, but I am genuinely curious...Throughout your book, the characters use the word "flippin". Is that a common word among the English?"

Luke: Fairly common. “Flippin’” is mild slang. I had no idea that we had so many uniquely English colloquialisms in the UK – until working with my publisher to prepare the book for the American market! It was actually quite an effort to find words which work for both an English and American audience. For example, a public housing complex in the UK is a “Council Estate”. So living
on an “estate” over here is generally associated with living in a fairly deprived setting. I understand in The States that living on an “estate” means you are living in a privileged area, which changed the story completely. So we had things like that to iron out too. There, I’ve done it again. Is “iron out” (the creases) an expression over there? I never realized I used so many sayings!

Questions About Luke Wordley's Faith

Victoria: "In the 'about the author' section [of The Fight], you mentioned your own struggles. Would you share a few specific ways your breakdown influenced this book? "

Luke: No problem. I believe the best fiction nearly always has some truth and personal experience behind it. I wrote the first third of The Fight when I was just 25 years old, travelling with my wife around Asia and Australasia. As you know, the opening portion of the book centres upon a character called Sam – an angst ridden, testosterone-charged teenager. It wasn’t so many years since I had been a teenager myself, so writing Sam’s story was relatively easy.
Our travelling came to an end and we returned to the UK to volunteer for a small international development charity. Within a few months we found ourselves running it and the manuscript was put away. God blessed the work and organisation amazingly and before long we were supporting projects in more than 40 countries around the world. It was a privilege to be able to help improve and sometimes save lives, and we threw everything into it. But with the inexperience of youth, I didn’t pace myself. I over-committed to projects, didn’t take enough time off, didn’t look after myself physically or spiritually. And it became very, very stressful.

I hung on for a year, but from a 32-year old at the top of my game I became a wreck – wracked with anxiety and insomnia, addicted to caffeine and increasingly erratic in my decision-making and work relationships. The crash came. And it wasn’t pretty. Depression, a crisis of faith and a sense of personal failure followed the inevitable resignation from my job.

By God’s grace, and the wonderful support of my wife, I was slowly restored to health and normal life once more. About a year later, I felt prompted to get my manuscript out again – untouched for seven years. I was amazed to find that I had stopped writing just at the point that my other main
character, Jerry – a Christian in his 30s - suffers a depressive episode and crisis of faith. I began typing again, with an authenticity and insight that I would never have achieved seven years earlier.

Victoria: "You also shared that you came to faith in your early twenties out of a strongly antireligious viewpoint. As a young man, what changed your mind? Was there any one person who played a crucial role in your conversion?"

Luke: Up until that time, I had only experienced “organized religion”  rather than a living vibrant faith. My experience of church had been, frankly incredibly boring and seemingly irrelevant. Meeting Christians at University with a living, breathing, Spirit-filled faith blew my mind. I also met my future wife on the day I made a commitment, so it was a good day all round! Although we didn’t start dating for quite a while, she was, and continues to be, one of the biggest Christian influences in my life.

Questions About Luke Wordley's Writing:

Victoria: "Would you tell us about your journey writing The Fight?"

Luke: I’ve covered some of my personal journey above, but in terms of actual writing, it has been a steep learning curve too. I’ve discovered I’m not someone who can write in short bursts, or at odd times of day like when the children are finally down in the evening. I heard Davis Bunn once say that
when he started out, he would write anywhere – even in the back of taxis! I just couldn’t do that. I have to dedicate a whole morning or afternoon to writing, which I was lucky enough to be able to do.
I generally spend the first hour reviewing and editing what I wrote last time, and then settle on the “scene” I plan to write next. I am quite a visual person so I imagine the scene almost like a film and then type like crazy as it plays in my head. I have been blessed with many positive comments about my relatively short chapter structure, which keeps the story moving and tempts readers to read “just one more chapter!”. I’d like to say it was planned, but in reality, each chapter just represents one sessions work. There are 60 odd chapters, so I wrote the novel in 60 sessions, more or less.

What took me a lot longer was the editing process. I was completely untrained when I started writing. The first mistake I fell into was the concern of how I could possibly write enough to fill a whole book! So I over-told the story, explaining the plot and the emotions of my characters in far too much detail. By the time I had finished the 1st draft of The Fight, it totaled 150,000 words – almost twice as long as (I subsequently found out) a debut novel should be! It was also irritating to the reader, as
I hadn’t given them space to imagine the story for themselves. So I then had to take a red pen to my manuscript, which was very, very painful, and much
harder to do than writing it in the first place!     

Victoria:"How did you go about getting this, your first novel, published?"

Luke: I self-published The Fight in 2012. Christian fiction in the UK is a tiny genre, so the options for traditional publishing are very limited. I therefore decided quite early that I would self-publish. I did it in a very professional way, which took a lot of time, effort and money. It was relatively successful. The book sold 1,000 copies, which is quite a lot for over here in the UK, and I gave another 1,000 copies to prison ministry in the UK (see my website). Nevertheless, I was still heavily out of pocket. 
What self-publication did allow me though was to retain control over my work and generate a track record of positive reviews and sales to showcase to American publishers. I got a huge break when a successful American author I met kindly read my book and then strongly recommended it to Chip Macgregor - a leading American agent. He put me on to Tyndale and the rest, as they say, is history (Is that another English saying?)

Victoria: "What has this journey taught you? What would you say to aspiring authors?"

Luke: Two things. Technically, the editing process is just as important as writing your book in the first place. Never finish writing the first draft, and then think it is ready to fire off to agents, publishers etc. This is a sure-fire route to rejection. Secondly, work out why you want to write. Be passionate about it. My passion/motivation for writing is to write stories that encourage people in their walk with God, wherever they are on that path. Forget about the dream of making money from your writing, and just make the book as good as it can be. To use a sporting analogy, leave nothing on the pitch in terms of effort and endeavor.

For Readers of The Fight

Victoria: "What are some final words that you have for the men (young and old) who are
reading your book?"

Luke: I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think. I’d love to hear from you!

How's that for a great book, with a very real back story to add to your summer reading list? 

You can pick up your copy of "The Fight" by clicking HERE.

* I was provided with a review copy of this book by Tyndale. All thoughts are my own honest opinion.

Down South: A Cook Book

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Down South is a cook book compiled by Donald Link. Link has created something that is so much more than recipes and how tos. Down South is a story of the south complete with pictures of food, people, and places.

He begins each section with memories and stories of life in and out of the kitchens of the south. Most of the recipes are also accompanied by an explanation, a memory, or suggestions for what to serve alongside of them. 

The recipes in this book have less of a "down home Grandma's kitchen" feel and more of a "cultured palate" feel. I expected things like biscuits, grits, fried chicken, country fried steak, beans, coleslaw, macaroni and cheese, collards, corn bread, sweet tea, banana pudding, and pecan pie. You will find of a few of those recipes in this book, but they'll call for things like gruyere cheese, creole mustard, and fish collars. You'll even find a recipe for frog legs!

I won't be making everything, but I've got quite a list of recipes to work my way through! Even though Link clearly doesn't cook like my Grandma, I trust that we do have some common ground.

Here's a list of a few of the recipes I'm eager to try out:

Uruguayan Spicy Baked Cheese (p.40)

Parmesan Bacon Gougeres (p.51)

Alabama White BBQ Sauce (p.71)

Grilled Ham Steak with Charred Blood Oranges (p.81)

Monday Red Beans and Rice (p.133)

Mississippi Mud Pie (p.242)

Grab your copy HERE and discover Link's version of southern cooking for yourself!

What are three (or some) of your favorite southern dishes?

P.S. Things are going to be a bit heavy on the books
over the next week or so. I guess I'm proving to myself
that my summer hobbies revolve around books & gardens.
Hopefully you don't mind too much! :)  

* I was provided with a review copy of this book by Blogging for Books. All thoughts are my own honest opinion.

What I Learned in May

Friday, June 13, 2014

May 18, 2014
May 5, 2014

May 11, 2014

May was such a good month this year! There was a lot of sunshine. Most everything in my gardens came right back to life. We celebrated my sister's 16th birthday. Mother's Day went perfectly with an awesome brunch and then a trip to see The Wizard of Oz. I started walking more just because I have the time for it. We made our first trip to the ranch for 2104 and I got a weekend with Heidi and her family. I've been reading books with my brother and sister and May's pick was The Westing Game. We read the book, attempted to solve the mystery, and then watched the movie.

There's the recap for you! And now...As for what I learned in May.

* I learned that I want and need to really WRITE...After not writing from my heart for a while and then picking it back up, I was reminded how nice it is. Those posts are the reason that I started this blog.

* I learned that EB White wrote more than children's books and I am excited to dig in. I can't remember how I originally found this out...But over the last month I've read  his essays "Here is New York", "Farewell to the Model T", and "From Sea to Shining Sea". On Wednesday I discovered two more titles by him at the library. I'm saving them for this fall...But, his was the first chapter book I ever read and I'm excited to learn from him!

* Thanks to The Westing Game, I learned to spell guarantee and restaurant and I can also pronounce restauranteur without too much trouble. 

* I learned that R. Kelly is my Mom's age. Mind = blown! In my head he is like perpetually 30....Turns out, he's aging just like the rest of us. Imagine that!

* I learned that Blue Raspberry Lemonade Kool Aid reminds me of summer and the last day of 2nd Grade. I had some on the 16th and immediately I got all nostalgic. You see...It was the last day of 2nd Grade and the cafeteria was decorated with all things ocean. My Mom was dishing out blue Kool Aid from a fish bowl with plastic fish frozen in ice floating in it and I decided that it was my favorite Kool Aid ever. Turns out that 17 years later that blue Kool Aid still tastes like summer in a glass!

* I also learned not to talk to strangers in the McDonald's play area. I now have a Grandpa's phone number and the invitation to go square dancing anytime....WHY am I so friendly? You're welcome for the laugh!

What did YOU learn in May?

Summer Is

Monday, June 09, 2014

May 23, 2013
It's June. People are graduating and getting married and starting jobs and planning vacations. Soon schools will be empty while parks and pools will be buzzing with families who are excited to just be together.

Summer is so very many kinds of wonderful. It's the season that most of us find easy to praise God for giving us.

Summer is beach towels hanging to dry after long days spent in the sun by the water.

Summer is shopping carts loaded with chips and buns and melons in preparation for cook outs with friends.

Summer is Sunday afternoons spent lounging around in the shade or napping in air conditioned houses.

Summer is for adventures and memories and vacations. Everything just feels different during the three months that come right in the middle of the year.

Two months from now most of us will be celebrating the fact that fall is o the way in. We'll be looking forward to fires and football and sweaters and routine.

May we really enjoy the fact that right now, summer IS.

May the tanned skinned, the yard games, the sound of lawn mowers, the freckles, and the ice in our drinks remind us to use these slower months as a time to reflect on the LIFE that God gives to His people.

What are some ways that you would finish the sentence that begins with: Summer is... ?

A Bit of Earth

Friday, June 06, 2014

This post could have so many titles..."I'm so Excited"..."How Does Your Garden Grow"...Basically, I've got a ton of pictures to share with you from different corners of my yard.

My gardening hobby started years ago when I used to help my Grandma in her garden. It continued when I would help my neighbor Bobby weed hers. We moved and I found myself attempting to keep up a small rose garden. Years went by and a little old lady named Alice needed help picking up some leaves. Those leaves were the beginning of a beautiful friendship and pretty much everything I really know about gardening.

 In 2008 I filled my first flower pots. In 2009 I planted my first flower garden. In 2010 I grew my first cucumbers. And I just keep adding things to it...

For two years I've been waiting patiently to see my peonies and clematis finally bloom.

Bush Beans

Sugar Snap Peas
I'm getting excited about having fresh vegetables straight from my garden again. The other day as I was checking on each little sprout, I realized that I was actually getting giddy just thinking about that first cucumber!

Clematis blooming for the first time.
Roses are some of my favorites. Eventually I'd love to really know what I'm doing when it comes to helping them to do their thing.

Morning Glories
Cutting Garden

“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”In her eagerness she did not realize how queer the words would sound and that they were not the ones she had meant to say. Mr. Craven looked quite startled.
“Earth!” he repeated. “What do you mean?”

“To plant seeds in–to make things grow–to see them come alive,” Mary faltered.

He gazed at her a moment and then passed his hand quickly over his eyes.“Do you–care about gardens so much,” he said slowly.
“I didn’t know about them in India,” said Mary. “I was always ill and tired and it was too hot. I sometimes made littlebeds in the sand and stuck flowers in them. But here it is different.”

Mr. Craven got up and began to walk slowly across the room.“A bit of earth,” he said to himself, and Mary thought that somehow she must have reminded him of something. When he stopped and spoke to her his dark eyes looked almost soft and kind.
“You can have as much earth as you want,” he said. “You remind me of some one else who loved the earth and things that grow. When you see a bit of earth you want," with something like a smile, “take it, child, and make it come alive.” - The Secret Garden

A bit of earth can be quite exciting! Everything starts so rough and so small. By mid-July the first harvests are happening and everything is beautiful and hearty.

How does YOUR garden grow?

Currently pt. 2

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

June 2, 2014

June is already off to a great start! I spent the weekend at Heidi's after having her daughter stay with me last week. My gardens are starting to look great. I could just go on and on! 

Currently I am...
cooking: breakfast foods (sausage gravy and biscuits, pancakes, waffles, etc.) and sandwiches (grilled cheese, blt, tuna fish) and fruit (so far just strawberries, bananas, pineapples, and grapes...I'm looking forward to the first watermelon).

watching: O=n Sunday I started a movie on Netflix called "Last Love".  I've watched it in like five 20 minute increments (weird, I know) and I'm looking forward to finishing it!

some fun day trips throughout the course of the summer. Living history exhibits are my favorite but I'm up for just about anything.

Mary Higgins Clark's new release "I've Got You Under My Skin", Elyse Fitzpatrick's "Idols of the Heart", Katherine Paterson's "Jacob Have I Loved", and John Gardner's "The Art of Fiction".

wearing: I've transitioned into all of my comfortable shorts whenever I'm home with nowhere to go. I've been wearing them since junior high and they're faded and a little ratty but they're my summer uniform for working around the house.

Go see what Jenna and Anne are up to and link up with your own currently post!

Summer Time in a Glass

Monday, June 02, 2014

Yesterday I decided that it officially feels like summer is really, really here! I am so excited about so many things...

Today I'm guest posting over at Amy's blog Lovely Does It.

Be sure to check out my post where I share the RECIPE for my very favorite Lemonade

When you pop over there, be sure to tell me about your favorite summer time drink.