Tuesday, September 5, 2017

August Book Review

Wow, August was quite the reading month! With premarital counseling for our upcoming marriage, Financial Peace University, book club selections, and small group...it was a huge month, totaling just under 2,000 pages read and 13 books!

  1. Fervent by Priscilla Shirer (208 Pages)
  2. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates (152 Pages)
  3. Sherlock Holmes: A Scandal in Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (85 Pages)
  4. You Can’t Touch My Hair: And Other Things I Still Have to Explain by Phoebe Robinson (285 Pages)
  5. Sherlock Holmes: The Red-Headed League by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (63 Pages)
  6. Sherlock Holmes: The Boscombe Valley Mystery by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (52 Pages)
  7. Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts by Les and Leslie Parrott (160 Pages)
  8. Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts: Women’s Workbook by Leslie Parrott (96 Pages)
  9. Sherlock Holmes: A Case of Identity by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (76 Pages)
  10. The Complete Guide to Money by Dave Ramsey (330 Pages)
  11. Financial Peace University by Dave Ramsey (386 Pages)
  12. Sherlock Holmes: The Adventure of the Five Orange Pips by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (40 Pages)
  13. Sherlock Holmes: The Man with the Twisted Lip by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (90 pages)

Total: 1,987 Pages

At the beginning of the year, I was planning on finishing the book I’ve been working on for a few years...but due to wedding planning, it looks like that is going to be my 2018 resolution as well!

My goal for 2017 was to read 30 books and write most of my own. This month broke the year’s record with 34 books read in 2017, and instead of setting a new goal, I’m planning on just relaxing and seeing where it ends up on December 31.

So for August, my favorite book was:

The Complete Guide to Money by Dave Ramsey

Going through the Dave Ramsey curriculum and reading his books this month was extremely enlightening, not only for what my fiance and I need to do for our future, but also for the current monetary and financial status of our nation and of those around me. In a culture that thrives on debt and credit, it’s encouraging to see that it’s possible to live a life free of financial strain and stress.

Dave Ramsey writes very similarly to how he speaks, so it is easy to read and follow. I’m not a math or a numbers person, but the way he explains things like getting out of debt, negotiating sales, buying a home, and saving for retirement is very easy to understand. He gives practical steps on how to get from having little money to being free to live well, save for retirement, and give generously. He is straight to the point and no nonsense, while also being very encouraging.

I highly recommend any of Dave Ramsey’s work to anyone wanting to secure their financial future!

Monday, August 7, 2017

Summer Book Review

After a lengthy blogging break for summer, I’m back with this summer’s book review! With my recent engagement, most of my reading time has been occupied with premarital books and Financial Peace University (which I highly recommend!)...not to mention wedding planning! But I’ve managed to squeeze in a few more books this summer. 

The totals are in! From June and July, the titles I finished are as follows: 

  1. Dear Jane: Wise Counsel from Ms. Austen and Friends by Potter Orfali (224 pages)
This little, graduation gift sized book is a small one I bought for my desk at work. It takes reader questions and puts it into a question and answer format, answered only with Jane Austen quotes. Very funny, and in fact, insightful!
  1. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan (288 pages)
I listened to this gem on audio during my morning and evening commute, and there were several times when I would sit in my car on my lunch break just to get more of this story! It’s a captivating story about the mystery of a fictional 24-hour bookstore in San Fransisco and how they used Google’s technology to decode ancient texts. Ari Fliakos narrates (one of the narrators from Jodi Picoult’s Small Great Things), and his smooth voice takes you into the world of the book. Loved it!
  1. Who Am I? Identity in Christ by Jerry Bridges (95 pages)
I read this book for a women’s mentoring group, and although it’s very textbook-like, it offered a lot of wisdom straight from scripture about who we are in Christ. My biggest takeaway was that God sees us just as He sees Christ once we are His. I can never do anything to make him love me any more or any less.
  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (499 pages)
Wow, if you’ve read any books on economics, you know that it can be super hard to get through! I am so glad I pushed through and finished this beast. Although economics and psychology are not necessarily my interests, this book was an interesting dive into how our brains work, both consciously and subconsciously. If you’re into psychology and how the brain works, pick this one up!
  1. What is the Bible?: How an Ancient Library of Poems, Letters, and Stories Can Transform the Way You Think and Feel About Everything by Rob Bell (336 pages)
Although I don’t agree with some things that Rob Bell teaches, this book was very interesting and changed the way I look at scripture. In the first half of the book, Bell dives into some Old Testament stories and breaks them down by looking at not only the language that was used in the story, but also the culture and traditions of the time. Did you know that because Ruth was a Moabite (descended from the line of Lot, Abraham’s nephew), and Boaz was descended from Abraham, that when Ruth and Boaz met, fell in love, and got married, it symbolized Lot finally being reunited with Abraham? That’s pretty cool if you ask me. It has challenged me to look deeper into the stories I’ve known so well my whole life and research those cultural elements.
  1. A Place of Quiet Rest: Finding Intimacy With God Through a Daily Devotional Life by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (267 pages)
Another book from my women’s mentoring group, DeMoss’ exploration of a daily quiet time, specifically before your day starts, was both encouraging and convicting. I’m one that has always struggled to wake up early or get out of bed before the very last second, and although I’m nowhere near where I need to be, it has challenged me to be more vigilant about keeping that appointment with the Lord and having a daily, morning quiet time.
  1. Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (304 pages)
I also listened to Trevor Noah read his own memoir on audio, and it was striking. I would highly recommend listening to this on audio. There is something so powerful about listening to someone tell their own story! Noah is an excellent storyteller, and he often speaks in the native African languages. Born half-white in South Africa, Noah explores race, culture, and faith in an extremely captivating and powerful way. Highly recommend!

Total: 7 books and 2,013 pages! 

The winner, and my favorite of the summer is…. 
Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan! 

Have a wonderful week, and happy reading!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Big Question

After two months off for summer: the blog is back! And big things have happened.

We're engaged!

Here's our story:

They Met

Jordan and Emily met when they were both hired on the BrookwoodKiDs staff at Brookwood Church in January of 2016. Through working together and seeing each other daily, it wasn't long before they realized how much they liked each other. After keeping quiet about their feelings for a few months, they finally started hanging out in groups of friends and realized that they wanted to be together.

Their first date was on a rainy night in August of 2016, with fajitas for two at Chuy's in Greenville and a game of Dutch Blitz while watching the Summer Olympics.

Jordan and Emily share a love for Jesus and adventure, and have made travel goals for their future together. They plan to visit all 47 South Carolina State Parks, as well as all 50 states, before they turn 50!

The Big Question

When you know, you know! Jordan and Emily knew early in their relationship that this was it. In May of 2017, Jordan secretly met with Emily's family to ask permission for her hand in marriage. Emily had no idea!

For the month of June, Jordan planned a whole month of fun Saturdays for the two of them. The first surprise Saturday was a beach day at Folly Beach, complete with kite flying, hunting for shark teeth, and dining at restaurants from Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. The second Saturday was a morning at the Greenville Saturday market, an afternoon at the zoo, and a fancy dinner before seeing the Lion King at the Peace Center!

For the third Saturday in June, Jordan had another surprise planned. But a few nights before our mystery trip, he received a phone call from his best friend, informing him that they had four free tickets to the Biltmore! Jordan expressed his desire to go with them, so he "moved" our plans to the next week so we could go.

Little did Emily know that Jordan had actually purchased those Biltmore tickets a month before, along with an engagement ring!

After a wonderful day with great friends exploring the Biltmore with an audio tour, the four of them took a stroll through the gardens and up onto the South Terrace. While posing for a photo with the house in the background, Jordan knelt down behind Emily, surprising her with the five words that changed both of their lives forever: "Will you marry me, Emily?"

Of course, she said yes, and they celebrated with their friends and Emily's family with dinner at the nearby Chili's.

Jordan and Emily are thrilled to start their life together with an intimate, small wedding at Table Rock State Park (checking another park off the list!) on October 8, 2017.

For more about us and our story, visit our wedding website here.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Why My Goals Are Always High (Even If My Results Are Not)

Two weeks ago, I posted about starting the #BoutofBooks readathon. I love Bout of Books because I can set my own pace, allowing me to participate even in the busiest of times. You can read about my #BoutofBooks goals here.

...as you can see, my goals were pretty hefty. And how much did I end up reading, you ask?

...about 200 pages of ONE book.

Yep. 200 pages. That's it.

At first, I was a little disappointed in myself, and this disappointment prompted me to ask myself questions about my goals, why I set them, and why I have such high expectations of myself.

At times, I can expect too much of myself and set goals with an unhealthy mindset. I tell myself that if I don't complete my self-imposed outrageous standards, I am not good enough, not smart enough, or not fit enough.

Through my post-#BoutofBooks introspection, I told myself what I'm now telling you:

Be honest with yourself while you set your sights high.

Are you setting goals because you hate who you see in the mirror and feel like you're not enough? That's okay. Take a step back and be easy on yourself for a moment. God created you exactly how you are for a reason.

So...why do I set such high goals? Why set goals at all...especially when half of the time, I can't even reach them?

I set goals because I choose to strive to achieve things to the best of my ability.
I overshoot my prospective goals because I want to believe that even if life is busy and things get in the way, I can always reach further.
My goals are always to be more... to read more, learn more, know Jesus more...to be more organized, to be a better worker, employee, daughter, sister, granddaughter, friend, and girlfriend.

This is not because I believe I'm not good enough...but rather, because I believe in my own potential. I don't set goals to be better because I hate who I am now...I set lofty goals because I believe in my ability to be the full and well-rounded woman God created me to be.

I read more to expand my mind and invite God to show Himself to me in ways I never dreamed of before.
I work hard...not to gain status, but to gain knowledge and wisdom.
I study the Bible so I can learn about who Jesus is, rather than being focused on my own shortcomings.

I set goals to embrace my imperfection, to see my flaws, and to motivate myself to change.

Monday, May 8, 2017

#BoutofBooks 19! The Week Long, Set Your Own Goals Readathon

It's readathon time again!

I love Bout of Books because it's easy to set your own goals and try to accomplish them. The goal is just to make reading a priority! If you have a busy week, you just make it your goal to read when you can.

I, for one, have a pretty busy schedule with my new paralegal job, book club, small group, and getting ready to visit my Missouri family next week! But my goal is to read instead of Netflix this week, and use my lunch breaks and free nights to finish a couple of books I've been moving slowly through. 

I will get tons of reading done next week on my trip (16 hour drive there and 16 hours back!) so I'll be blogging about some ARCs and some other books that will be coming out this summer, so stay tuned!

For Bout of Books, here is my reading list:

  1. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman
  2. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  3. Salt Houses by Hala Alyan
And, if I get to it, my next conquered book will be I Am Malala.

Sometimes, even if books are great, they're just harder to get through during busy seasons of life. That's why I like to do these readathons, participate with the online reader community, and crush it! 

If you would like to participate in Bout of Books with me, here's some more info about it!

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly @ Reading the Paranormal. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 8th and runs through Sunday, May 14th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 19 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. 
- From the Bout of Books team

Join me! Sign up here: boutofbooks.blogspot.com

Monday, May 1, 2017

#UltimateOutsider: State Park Number Four

I crossed another SC State Park off the list last Saturday!

(After a week's hiatus for writing/reading, we are back!)

Number Four is:

Croft State Park!

Good for easy hiking, horseback riding, and biking, as well as kayaking/canoeing!

This park looked like loads of fun for those of you out there who have horses, and although it was super windy, our kayaking adventure was tons of fun!

We were in a bit of a hurry at the end of our afternoon, so we didn't spend as much time here as we would have liked. So although we did get our stamp for our challenge, we will definitely go back soon! We definitely want to get a real feel for each park instead of just getting a stamp and moving on.

Here are some pictures of our adventure last Saturday!

Adventure is out there! More parks soon! 

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Ultimate Outsider Challenge

I'm using April as a novel writing month, so I've been so busy that I forgot to blog this week!
Just dropping in to inform you all of my new challenge!

I have decided to do the Ultimate Outsider Challenge with the South Carolina State Parks. The objective is to visit all 47 parks...and there is no time limit!

Since starting the challenge in February, I have visited three parks. Excitement!

Here are some of the best pictures:

Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville
(Trails, Boat Rentals, Camping, Historic Ruins)

Landsford Canal State Park, Catawba
(Trails, Boat Rentals, Historic Ruins)

Oconee State Park; Mountain Rest, SC
(Trails, Overlooks, Waterfalls, Wildlife, Boat Rentals, Camping)

Here is a list of all 47 parks!

Aiken State Park, Windsor
Andrew Jackson State Park, Lancaster
Baker Creek State Park, McCormick
Barnwell State Park, Blackville
Caesars Head State Park, Cleveland
Calhoun Falls State Park, Calhoun Falls
Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site, Charleston
Cheraw State Park, Cheraw
Chester State Park, Chester
Colleton State Park, Walterboro
Colonial Dorchester State Historic Site, Summerville
Croft State Park, Spartanburg
Devils Fork State Park, Salem
Dreher Island State Park, Prosperity
Edisto Beach State Park, Edisto Island
Givhans Ferry State Park, Ridgeville
Goodale State Park, Camden
H. Cooper Black Jr. Memorial Field Trial and Recreation Area, Cheraw
Hamilton Branch State Park, Plum Branch
Hampton Plantation State Historic Site, McClellanville
Hickory Knob State Resort Park, McCormick
Hunting Island State Park, Hunting Island
Huntington Beach State Park, Murrells Inlet
Jones Gap State Park, Marietta
Keowee-Toxaway State Park, Sunset
Kings Mountain State Park, Blacksburg
Lake Greenwood State Park, Ninety Six
Lake Hartwell State Park, Fair Play
Lake Warren State Park, Hampton
Lake Wateree State Park, Winnsboro
Landsford Canal State Park, Catawba (x)
Lee State Park, Bishopville
Little Pee Dee State Park, Dillon
Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, Clinton
Myrtle Beach State Park, Myrtle Beach
Oconee State Park, Mountain Rest (x)
Oconee Station State Historic Site, Walhalla
Paris Mountain State Park, Greenville (x)
Poinsett State Park, Wedgefield
Redcliffe Plantation State Historic Site, Beech Island
Rivers Bridge State Historic Site, Ehrhardt
Rose Hill Plantation State Historic Site, Union
Saddlers Creek State Park, Anderson
Santee State Park, Santee
Sesquicentennial State Park, Columbia
Table Rock State Park, Pickens
Woods Bay State Park, Olanta

More to follow! How long do you think it will take?