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?

Monday, April 10, 2017

I Used to Be Embarrassed of my Testimony

I used to feel embarrassed of my testimony.

It’s the typical childhood story. I was extremely blessed to have parents that both loved the Lord and each other fiercely. I was in church at 8 days old, and asked Jesus into my heart when I was six at an Awana meeting.

My transformation as a six-year-old was deep and real, at least as much as it could have been at that time, and I truly believe that I went from death to life at a very, very young age. I was passionate and bold, sharing Jesus with anything that moved and continuing to read my Bible and grow into my teenage years.

This used to be where I stopped telling my story, shrugged my shoulders, and said “Welp, that’s it.”

I was embarrassed because my fellow youth group and college ministry friends had dramatic changes and emotional movements where Christ came in and turned their lives 180 degrees around, and I had this simple, quiet story of a six year old who just loved Jesus with her entire heart. And no matter how many of those friends said, “Be happy you didn’t do the things I did,” I felt like somehow I was cheated out of a cooler story.

As a seventeen year old, I had a wonderful youth pastor who asked his high school leadership team to live out the truth of 1 Peter 3:15, “Always be ready to give a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.” Before each youth sermon, he would give one of us a few minutes’ notice before we had to get up in front of our 150+ youth group to tell our Jesus story.

I remember the first time he asked me to give my testimony. I was so confused. I told him that surely someone else’s story would be better, or get more responses…but nevertheless, he asked me to get up on stage, and said,

“Just say what God is telling you now.”

I closed my eyes, opened my mouth, and let the Lord speak. I can’t remember exactly what I was going through at the time, but I was able to speak to some of the very struggles my fellow believers were going through.

Since then, I have looked at a testimony as not just the story of how I came to know Jesus as a little girl...but what He has done to bring Himself glory in my life. Each time, my story is just a little different.

I am reading through the Bible this year, and God is speaking so many truths and promises over me about my identity as a daughter in Christ and His ability to overcome my fears and anxieties.
God is also showing me that having questions and doubts doesn’t mean that I’m not a child of God. It’s okay to acknowledge my questions and doubts and bring them to the spiritual figures I trust and ask for insight and counsel.

Life is hard. Change is hard. I’m in a time of my life when things are uncertain and unable to be planned out (but isn’t life always?), and it is essential to trust in God. And most of the time, I don’t.

God keeps bringing me to this place, at the bottom of myself, where all I see is dust, dirt, and grime, and He sweeps away those layers to show me beauty. 

I am still journeying, and God is good.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

March Book Review

Another month has come and gone, which means another month of reading has come and gone. And with it...April has arrived. 

My reading has been much, much less this month, due to a reading slump. And for April, I will be focusing more on my writing (which is okay, since I’m almost halfway to my year’s reading goal, and it’s only April).

So without further ado… March’s books!

  1. Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson, 120 pages
  2. Jesus Is by Judah Smith, 168 pages
  3. The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang, 355 pages
Total Pages: 643 pages

It’s hard to pick a “favorite book” this month, because my book count is waaaay down, and all three of these books are drastically different. Last weeks post (here) was mostly focused on Jesus Is, so I’ll go ahead and talk a little bit about Jade Chang and The Wangs vs. The World.

My book club has been focusing on reading books from all around the world, and The Wangs vs. The World is a fictional book about a Chinese immigrant who makes it rich in the makeup industry, marries and has children, and later falls from fame and wealth. The story is set in the year 2008, right around the time of President Obama’s election, and switches perspective between family members as the massive loss of money affects each individual. 

If you’re super conservative and never like to see curse words or sexual references in a book, don’t pick this one up. In my opinion, the language was mild, and didn’t take away from the point of the book. 

It was really interesting to read about not only the elite culture in America, but also the views and standpoints from an Asian American family.

 The outlook and mindset that the older generation of Chinese Americans has also intrigued me, as the father figure in the book is very focused on heritage, land, and wealth. This book kept me captivated from the first page to the last page and man...isn’t the cover gorgeous? I love it.

I don’t want to give much more away, so if you’re interested, just pick it up and give it a chance. 

Currently Reading:
  1. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
  2. Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey

Up Next:
  1. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  2. Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Happy reading!

Friday, March 24, 2017

Who We Are: Righteous

Let me just say that I am one to feel intense guilt when I skip a day of Jesus time. I feel like a total failure. I get on my knees to apologize over and over for not measuring up so that I can be “right with God” again.
“So just as sin ruled over all people and brought them to death, now God’s wonderful grace rules instead, giving us right standing with God and resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
-Romans 5:21
Let’s look at the verse above. Seems like a pretty basic evangelical principle, right? Works don’t get us to Jesus. Grace does.
While this doesn’t give us free reign to sin, it does mean that sin and grace can’t rule over sin simultaneously. Grace overrules and overrides sin.

I am a people-pleaser. I seek approval for EVERYTHING. My life decisions. My food choices. My workout routines. My relationships.
I’ve learned that I can’t always rely on people’s opinions or approvals...because humans are fickle, and where some may think I’m right, others will think I’m wrong.

So, looking at Romans 5:21 above, we see that we are given a “right standing with God”...and we didn’t even have to work for it.
By human standards, this doesn’t make sense!
Today, you may have lost some battles against your sins...but yesterday, you had a quiet time and helped someone in need. You think, “God can’t possibly look at me the same today as He did yesterday!”

I often think God is upset with me when I sin or when I’m less consistent with my quiet time. But although He does desire for me to live a sinless life to glorify Him, while He does desire to spend time with me--He doesn’t love me less when I fall short.
It’s so hard to live in this truth of a grace-ruled life! Satan distracts us with feelings of guilt and unworthiness, and the world distracts us constantly with images and advertisements of pleasure.

But this grace-filled life frees us, because our works don’t determine God’s love for us. Grace covers our sin totally and completely. It doesn’t determine our salvation or our identity.

“For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace.
-Galatians 5:4

Yes, sin is bad, and we shouldn’t indulge in something that doesn’t glorify God. But according to this verse, sin isn’t the thing that cuts us off from Jesus. What cuts us off from Him is trying to be justified by the law.

Hear me out.
This doesn’t mean that sin is a free for all, since we are covered by grace. Those who live a grace-covered life will have less of a desire to sin and more of a desire to please God.
It means that those that trust in their works and good deeds...their service projects and mission trips... to get in right standing with God are the ones that are far away from Him.

A lot of times, I live like staying away from sin is what makes me better than other people. It’s what keeps me in good standing with God. But actually, this is what separates me from Jesus.

We can’t trust both Jesus and our good works for our salvation. We just can’t.
Either we trust in grace, or we don’t.
Either Jesus’ work on the cross was sufficient, or it wasn’t.

When we try to earn God’s favor with our cheap and fickle actions, it makes grace look so much less valuable. 
Grace is a gift...God’s Riches At Christ’s Expense.
We don’t have to maintain our holiness by good works once we're a part of God’s family.

Does doing good make us more righteous in God’s eyes? No!

Righteousness is a part of our identity once we are followers of Christ.
It’s not a character trait that we can gain or lose. It is an integral part of our identity. Our actions can’t change our identity.
Righteous is not what we are. It's who we are.


In one of my small groups, we read the book Jesus Is _____. Find a New Way to Be Human by Judah Smith.
Using the video study and participant’s guide, we spent the last eight weeks going through verse studies and personal questions about who Jesus is and who He is to me. If I’m being totally honest, much of the day-to-day study and questions in the books seemed to “easy” and juvenile, but the group questions raised some great discussion in our group, and some of chapter 8 inspired this blog post.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Novel Sneak Peek Part 2

George Mascadona stood on the Western Banks of the Mississippi River under the great steel arch in St. Louis, Missouri. The river glowed red with fire, reflecting the city on the east side of the great river, and likely every city beyond.
The flames glowed in his crisp blue eyes, reflecting the spark inside him. The second civil war in the United States had come to an end, and he had won. He had led the West to victory. It was just a matter of time before he was elected the first leader of the new nation.

The United States already had its height of power and strength as a nation of fifty strong states...over three hundred years of successes and liberties. But for the last hundred or so years, some rebels in the science field started trying to take away some of the freedoms from Americans.

It was this day, in February of the new century, that George saw the end they had been fighting for. The entirety of Eastern America flamed before him. In just a few hours, it would be a wasteland.

George did not smile as he looked over the glowing red river. He didn’t delight in the fire, or the screaming, or the destruction of all the old American history. He didn’t rejoice in the lives lost for his cause. He wiped a tear from his eye and dusted the ash out of his white-blonde hair.

George turned to his troops, who looked to him expectantly. In just a few days’ time, they would vote him as president of their new country. They would vote that the country be named Mascadona, after the name of their fearless leader in the war, and their very first president. But their fight was not over yet.
They had wiped out the life-scientists in their quest for freedom, but science still defied them. Science had ruled the United States for so long, and it wouldn’t be long before more life scientists rose up from the best and brightest children in the schools. 

At first, President Mascadona cared little about the threat of scientists. The new life scientists were so few and far between, that they were mostly laughed out of the spotlight. But over time, they began gaining in numbers, and something needed to be done.
Slowly, trusted members of the president’s cabinet began to work on a plan to keep science undiscovered and the scientists at bay. Ideas were bounced around for months before the president himself came up with the perfect idea to stop science in its tracks.

A university, high in the mountains, that was only for the best and the brightest in all of the country. A school where these students would prepare for their jobs as government agents, or so they would be told. An elaborate plan fell into place. The perfect island in the middle of a lake in the mountains of Wyoming became the secret location for the school. The parents would send their gifted children to this school, knowing full well that they would go on to become top secret government agents, and that they would never be able to see their children again.

To the public, and to the children’s families, the children were being rewarded for their brilliance in school. In reality, one small factor would change the course of each student’s future, ensure the comfort of Mascadona, and continue the dreary fate of the life scientists.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Cleanse Me, Oh God

Dear Treasured Reader,

This weekend I went away to the mountains of North Carolina for a women’s retreat with my church. Due to the fact that I have recently had a personal spiritual awakening of sorts, I was fully expectant for God to speak to me, and received that blessing in full.

Without going into detail on every single lesson (which I would love to), I’ll just say this: the theme was transformation, and day one was transformation of the mind. And man, did it hit me hard!

Those of you that know me know that I have struggled with anxiety for the last couple of years of my life...and as previously mentioned (in the blog post here), although I went to a Christian college, served on ministry teams, and went on mission trips, I was in a spiritual drought for a long time. I knew that I had a relationship with God and that He was there, it just didn’t feel like He was talking to me.

Well, turns out the majority of my frustration during that drought went back to the way I chose to think. Yes, it’s true that the enemy can plant thoughts into my mind. But I was the one who chose to stew on them and dwell in them. I was the one who let my anxiety consume me and affect the way I thought about everything and everyone.

But the main thing that hit me this weekend, during the very first session on transforming my mind, was this:
I cannot be mad at God for not speaking. Not when I’m the one that has my Bible closed.
When I opened my eyes a few months ago and started pouring through scripture, God spoke. His Word is the main way that He speaks to us! I knew that God was speaking to me more, but I thought that it was just because He decided that my drought was over.

Nope. God was there the whole time, waiting for me to listen to Him. He was sitting expectantly. He wasn’t just sitting there for five years, watching me struggle and cry. He was waiting for me to listen. 

I’ll be honest, when I walked away from that lesson Friday night, I was on a cloud. I was rejoicing in God and praying about how to revolutionize my thought life and live in freedom from anxiety.

Turns out, Satan didn’t like that too much, and a few hours later, in the middle of the night, I was awake and struggling through an anxiety attack, worrying about the future and work and home and church...

In the wee hours of the morning, I cried out to God to forgive me for giving into my anxiety, for letting myself go there, and I prayed scripture until I fell asleep.

The next night, after another wonderful session, the prayer team at the retreat came around and prayed for each of us silently. We were supposed to write our biggest struggle on a card so they would know what to pray for, so I asked my prayer warrior to pray for my anxiety.

As she laid her hands on my shoulders and prayed silently, God brought a scripture to mind: Psalm 51. It’s the Psalm that David wrote after he had an affair with Bathsheba and killed her husband.

If I’m being honest, for most of my life I think I didn’t identify with this Psalm because I didn’t think I had committed a “huge” sin that needed to be forgiven. I just did the normal stuff. But as I read the words of Psalm 51, I offered it as my own prayer to God, asking for forgiveness for being a slave to my anxiety, for not trusting Him with my future.
I prayed these words to God from the depths of my heart as the woman prayed over me, my tears falling on the pages of Psalm 51 and staining them with mascara.

“Purify me with hyssop, and I will be clean; wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” 
-Psalm 51:7

When I am pressed and anxious and stressed, I want God’s word to come to mind. This is why I am starting this week by memorizing Luke 12:29-31.

Dear friend, are you worried about your future?

I want to lovingly tell you that this, too, is sin. You don’t have to have an affair, murder, steal, or lie to break God’s heart. Not trusting Him fully breaks His heart too.

Go ahead and pick up your own Bible today.
Are you having a hard time hearing Him? If so, may I ask you...is your Bible open?
Is scripture the first thing that comes to mind when you’re pressed or stressed?
Are you seeking? For a while, I know I wasn’t. You are not alone.

Let’s journey towards Him together. Let’s open our Bibles and seek His face.

A Fellow Journeyman

Monday, March 6, 2017

Novel Sneak Peek

Everyone has moments that seem to stand still in time.

A first kiss. A historic change. A tragedy.

My moment was this.

A scarlet trail followed behind me in the snow as I limped into the dark forest. Pulling myself into the embrace of the trees, I attempted to slow my heartbeat and let my eyes adjust to the blackness of the night.

Around me, in the trees, were the rest of the survivors. Our ashen faces followed the rivers of blood down the mountain to our lost home. I focused in on the faces around me, the faces of my fellow students, or at least the ones who were left. Some had tear stains on their dirty cheeks; others were tending their fresh wounds.

We had to work together to survive. No one else could be trusted anymore.

Monday, February 27, 2017

The February Book Review

Books, books, and more books!
I was so occupied with the Whole30 on my blog in January that I forgot to do a wrap up post for the books I read in January.
Most of those books are included in the #BoutOfBooks post that you can find here. The first two books on this list are actually from the end of January!

The lineup for the end of January/all of February:

  • Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (End of January) 328 pages
  • Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari (End of January) 288 pages
  • All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (February) 530 pages
  • You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott (February) 345 pages
  • The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Used to Be and Embracing Who You Are by Brene Brown (February) 138 pages

Total Page Count: 1,629
Page Count for 2017 (so far): 3,007

And the winner is….nonfiction this time!

My favorite book out of those above was Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection: Letting Go of Who You Used to Be and Embracing Who You Are.
I truly believe that everyone should read this book. I read it with a group of friends as part of a book club, and I can honestly say that each one of us, in all of our personality and background differences, stopped and reflected on why we feel the way we do about ourselves and our relationships with others.
Being perfect and pleasing everyone is impossible. We all know that.
That’s why “nobody’s perfect” is a common saying, and we strive to live our lives as inoffensively as possible. This book outlines feelings and emotions such as shame, regret, and guilt and explains why we feel them so that we can take those emotions captive and control the way we view life and, ultimately, ourselves.

One of the things I love about Brene Brown is that the whole book is actually quite biblical, even though she isn’t labeled as a Christian author.
In our group, we talked about how if you take most of her points one step further, they are based on the principles that are outlined for us in the Bible.
Example: We don’t need to allow guilt and shame to control our view of ourselves...because God has already taken that guilt and shame, and we are free in Christ.
It was a really interesting read that caused me to take a deep look inside myself and realize that I don’t have to be perfect or please everyone.

Especially as a Christian...my life should be offensive to some people. That isn’t saying that I am to be rude or that I rub my Christianity in others’ faces and shove it disrespectfully down their throats. I am saying that my life should reflect Christ, and that others should be able to see Christ through my life.
And...well...Jesus was kind of offensive sometimes! He lived in complete opposition to His own culture, and He challenged others to do the same. He challenges US to do the same! 

I can’t compromise who I am...and Whose I am...just to make someone else happy.

All of that to say...here is the book cover. You should go get it and read it now. It is wonderful, challenging, and totally changed my perspective on how I view myself.

Currently Reading:
Jesus Is by Judah Smith
The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
Nature by Ralph Waldo Emerson
I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Next Up:
Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey
The Wangs vs. The World by Jade Chang

PS: I’ll be writing a blog sometime this year about the intersection of Feminism and Christianity. If anyone has any resources to throw my way, please let me know!

Until next week!

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Why I Used to Hate the #EndItMovement

Today USED to be my least favorite day of the year. The day of the year that social media is covered in red ❌s.

As a modern day abolitionist, I've been volunteering in rescue homes for victims of human trafficking for the last eight years.
The girls and women that this crime affects are real people and faces to me.

It used to infuriate me that each year people would draw a red ❌ on their hands and call themselves good for the rest of the year.

So here's a challenge to you supporting the end it movement today, and a challenge to myself as well:

Don't let today lose its momentum.

-Find a local organization that fights human trafficking daily and join hands with them. If you're in Greenville, I have three different organizations that I can direct you to.

-Pray that God moves in your community.

-Don't support trafficking by watching porn.
Yes, those girls and women in those pictures and videos are victims, and if you disagree or want to argue with me, feel free. I would be happy to help you understand how serious the porn issue really is.
Several of my friends from the rescue facilities were grown women who found out that porn videos had been made of them, and they don't even remember it. Their pimps/boyfriends drugged them so severely that they can't even remember the video being made.
Sometimes the women in the videos are forced to do terrible things because their safety is threatened. There is so much going on that you can't see. If you're struggling with this concept, please ask questions. Ask your pastor, visit fightthenewdrug.org, send me a message or a comment. This is a serious issue, and it's important to take it seriously.

Today doesn't make me angry anymore, because I see that the red ❌ is a symbol of solidarity in a movement that needs to keep going all year. Now I thank God for it and praise Him for bringing awareness to a sensitive issue.

Challenge yourself. Keep the momentum moving.

❌ #enditmovement

Monday, February 20, 2017

To Christians Who Feel Far From God

Dear Hurting Friend,

I have been where you have been.

You’ve known Jesus for a while now, maybe even for your whole life. Maybe you’ve even been mostly obedient...attending church on Sundays, even serving in the kids area or the youth group.

Your coworkers and schoolmates may even know that you’re a Christian. You may have even invited them to come with you to a church event. You listen to Christian radio, you don’t participate in the “crazy sins,” and you know all of the right answers.

In fact, you even know that God actually is with you, and that He hasn’t left you. You may even be in a leadership role at your church or ministry, helping other people meet Jesus.

But inside you feel numb. God hasn’t spoken clearly to your heart in months. Or like me, maybe even years.

You’re afraid to reach out to a fellow leader or church pastor because you feel like they’ll think you’re not good enough, or not a Christian.

I mean, it’s not that you don’t believe in God. It’s that it’s been a long, long time since you feel like He’s made Himself clear. You may have been calling out to Him for months, and it seems like there’s no answer.

Consider my example:

In middle and high school, I learned to be outspoken about my faith, and I was (nearly) fearless when it came to talking about Jesus. I look back at that young girl now, and I envy her boldness in sharing the gospel. I envy how little she cared about what others thought.

To be totally honest, until recently, the last time I heard God clearly speak to me was my freshman year in college. Those who know me, or have followed this blog, may gasp and think: but she was in ministry!

Yep, that is true. After my bold high school years, I went to a Christian university (which I loved); I spent two of my college summers doing missions with human trafficking victims (one overseas, one in the US); I’ve been volunteering with anti-trafficking ministries since 2009; I was in leadership roles in college ministries and Good News Clubs, and for goodness’ sake, I graduated college and started working at a church!

And yet, for nearly five years, I cried out to God to speak, to make Himself known, and it felt like all I could hear in response was radio silence.
I knew from the church’s teachings and from my own desperate faith that Jesus was there, that He was listening to me and hearing me. But for some reason, I didn’t feel like I could hear His voice. 
I still routinely read my Bible and went to church. I did all of the things I was supposed to do, but gradually I started to realize that I just felt numb.

My wandering friend,

I know you read this and deeply identify. You feel my hurt and confusion. And we both know, it doesn’t make much of a difference if I just tell you, “Just wait and keep seeking God. He is here. This dry spell will be over soon.”

First of all, I don’t know if the dry spell will be over soon. I can’t promise you that. And I know that if you’re like I was only a month ago, you have already told yourself to just wait and keep seeking. You’ve already told yourself that God is still here.

I want you to ponder a few questions that helped me. Be honest with yourself and think (and pray) about them.

1. What is at the core of your prayers?

Are you praying for yourself? Are you thanking God for the blessings that He has given you, even the small things?
Remember God’s faithfulness in your life, your friends, your family, your job, the opportunity to go to school...and thank Him for it.
It is 100% okay to ask God for things. It's healthy to tell Him how you’re feeling and ask for what you want or need. But are your prayers purely selfish? Are you just trying to use God to feel better or get what you want?
In my case, I realized that my numbness had caused me to start praying less and less. Eventually, I would only pray briefly before routinely reading my Bible or teaching a lesson at church. I didn’t thank God for much, other than food before meals, and mostly prayed for myself. I rarely even prayed for others. I rarely asked forgiveness for my “small” sins (all sins are equal in the sight of God, by the way...Romans 3:23).
It’s important to realize, that praying even when we don’t know what to say is important (Romans 8:26-27). Praying for other people is also an important step in getting the focus off of yourself and onto someone else...which glorifies God and puts the focus on Him (Ephesians 6:18, Matthew 5:44).

2. When you pray for yourself, what do you ask for?

Do you ask for a promotion, for a new job, for a good grade, or for a boyfriend? Do you ask for specific things?
Like I said above, it is definitely okay to ask God for these things. 
But instead of giving God a list of demands and being upset when they aren’t met the way you want them to be...pray for God to show you what HE wants for you.
He knows what you need even better than you do, and you’ll look back at this time later and see exactly why God did the things He did (Psalm 37:4).

3. Who do you reach out to first when you have a problem...a good friend, or God?
Pretty self-explanatory...talk to God about your hurts and frustrations before picking up the phone and calling a friend.
Don't be afraid to reach out to a fellow leader or church pastor. Chances are...they've experienced these times of spiritual drought too. 

4. If you’re feeling numb or burnt out while reading the Bible, have you talked to God about it?

This was a big one for me. I still tried to have a quiet time, but after feeling numb for a while, I really had no desire to read the Bible. I made the excuse of having no time (which is a total lie because I read seven other books just for fun in January, and watched A LOT of Netflix).
About a month ago I started asking God to give me a passion for His Word, and to reveal Himself in the Bible. And He did. I wanted to read the Bible at work and on my lunch breaks, and could not get enough (Psalm 37:4, Matthew 7:7).

I started praying that God would help wake me up earlier in the mornings so I could spend time with Him before work (in case you didn’t know...I am NOT a morning person. I’m the girl who has to leave the house at 8am and consistently gets up at 7:50).

The very next morning, I was awakened by my chirping smoke detector at 7am. I was angry, smashed it with a broom, went back to sleep (WHY), got up at 7:50, and reported it to maintenance at my apartment complex. They reported later that evening that nothing was wrong with it.

The next morning, it woke me up at 6:30. I smashed it and went back to sleep. There was nothing wrong with it after I reported it to maintenance, and they replaced the entire system just to be sure.

AGAIN, the third morning, it woke me up at 5:30. I don’t know how I didn’t see that this wasn’t God trying to get me up...I went back to sleep and realized on my way to work that hey...there’s nothing wrong with the system. This is probably God answering my prayer in a really annoying way, because he has a sense of humor.

So the fourth day that it went off, I got up (admittedly still a little late), I spent some time with God. And the smoke detector hasn’t chirped since!

It’s a funny story, but the point is...if you want more of a passion for the Bible, if you want to desire God’s Word, ask God, and be looking for His answer.

5. Are you looking to see if God is moving?

If you feel like God’s not hearing you...if you’re asking for God to show Himself, to give you a passion for His Word, if you’re thanking Him even when He feels far off...if you’re doing all of the things above, consider this:
If you go back and read my story again, you’ll see how many times I said “I feel” or “it seemed.” It took a couple of “God moments” to get my attention (as seen by my smoke detector story above).
If you feel like you can’t see God...is it because you’re not really looking? 
When was the last time you watched a sunset and thought about who created it?

Ask God to show you Himself every day, and pay attention to the little things He does. The big things will  happen in His perfect timing, which is so much better than ours.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Like a Teacup

In this season of change and challenge, God has blessed me with seven fifth grade girls whose curiosity and silliness remind me what it’s like to be young and free and a child of the King.

I’ll be the first to admit that sometimes on a Sunday evening, after an exhausting day of nursery duty, church service, and tutoring, I’m not always in a great mood and ready to go on Sunday evenings...especially when the girls are sugared up and excited from their great weekends! But over the last few months, God has allowed each of them to worm their ways into my heart and change my views on my own life, and even my view of God!

Last night, God reminded me of a little analogy that I shared with the girls. We are going through the book of 1 Peter, and talking about how trials in life “refine” us.
The concept of being refined is not always an easy thing to describe to a fifth grader. In case you need a refresher, this is the verse that the study was referencing:

“These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold--though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world.” -1 Peter 1:7

These girls had many questions about what it means to be “tested and purified by fire.” At first, I tried to explain how gold becomes more pure and valuable when it is put through fire, which is true, but not easy to grasp as a child.

God brought to mind a little analogy about a teacup who went through kiln. Our conversation went a little like this:

Me: “When God refines us through the hard times in our lives, it’s a little bit like how a teacup is made. Have you guys seen someone make a teacup or a vase in a pottery class before?”
Commence all seven of them at once telling stories about how they have or haven’t seen pottery made before, or how their aunt/mom/cousin/sister’s friend’s mom’s sister did one once.
Me: “That’s awesome! So when you saw the piece of clay made into a teacup, did they put tea in it and drink?”
All: “No! It was still wet, they couldn’t use it!”
Me: “Do you know what they had to do before they could use it?”
Girl 1: “Well they have to put it in this thing with fire so it gets hard and sturdy.”
Girl 2: “They can’t use it until it goes through the fire!”
Radio silence.
All: “Ohhh! I get it!”
Me: “That’s right! So when we go through hard times, it is so God can use us to glorify Him.”

Not only was it so cool to see them get this concept, but God made it jump out to me again as well. I’ve heard this analogy a million times, but in this season of changes and challenges, it hit me like a ton of bricks. All of these changes, all of this season, is ultimately for good. God isn’t done with me yet!

The curiosity and silliness that I see in my little fifth graders reminds me that as a child of God, I still have a lot of growing to do. I have my own areas of curiosity that I’m exploring with God, and He treasures those, of all ages, that seek Him. Every single trial is for His glory. To expand His kingdom and glorify His name.

What a blessing it is to be a part of God’s Kingdom. He is moving!

Monday, February 6, 2017

On Exercising Your Inside

Lately, I’ve been in a little bit of a slump. Honestly, most of the people that I know feel the same way. I’m not in college anymore, I’m not married yet...it’s this middle ground that is constantly filled with doing. I’m off work...okay...what do I do? Clean? Read? Catch up with friends? Grocery shop? Update my work wardrobe? Work out? Eat better?

Well, honestly, I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off, battling sickness all week, trying to maintain a clean home, staying up on my book count, eating right and working out to get the body I think I need...but I was forgetting this one liiiiiiiiiittle thing that makes all the difference.

Yes, you know what I’m going to say.


At the beginning of 2017, I made a commitment to read the Bible all the way through for the first time this year. Cover to cover. And while I’m not completely on schedule, I’m doing much better than I have done in years past. Maybe because adult life actually forces me into a routine, maybe because every once in awhile I feel like I have to, I’m not sure.

But this week, something changed in me. I was reading my Bible during a break at work and thinking about how much easier life would be if I didn’t love sleep so much and could do this in the morning, and I was simultaneously reading the Bible, planning my weekly blog post, thinking about how I have to clean those dang makeup brushes, and wondering how long it’s been since I’ve vacuumed. The next thing I knew, I was three chapters into my Bible reading and I had no idea what I just read. I flipped a few pages back and started reading again, while simultaneously calculating how good I’ll actually need to feel after a sinus infection for it to be okay for me to work out again.

That’s when I caught myself.

If you have been reading anything I’ve been posting lately, you’ve been able to see that January was pretty busy for me, with completing the Whole30 food challenge and paying careful attention to what I eat, and what is healthiest for me. I think it is important to take care of the body that God has given me. And I stand by that.

What I realized was, planning out food for the Whole30 and trying to coordinate cleaning my apartment and working out and seeing friends, while completely breezing over my spiritual exercises (like my time with Jesus) is killing me…maybe not physically, but definitely spiritually and emotionally. There were times when I was a wreck, claiming I just couldn’t handle the stress of my life.

With each task I added to my list, at work or at home, I added a little more stress to my life. And instead of balancing tasks in a healthy manner, I was piling everything on at once.
Instead of pulling things off the top of the pile, and evenly distributing it throughout my week, I was putting off my time with God. Without seeking His wisdom in my life, nothing else even mattered.
Yes, cleaning my apartment is important, and it needs to happen. Yes, working out and eating right are both important and necessary for my physical health and well being.
But without “working out” my spiritual life, praying, being in tune with God, and reading the Bible, how would I even begin to go about the rest of my life?

All of that is to say this: in the craziness of your week, with all you have on your list…
Don’t forget Jesus. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

4 Recipes to Get You Through the Whole30

Four. More. Days.

For the last week, I've been dreaming of cheese every night. And although these last four weeks have been hard, I'm so thankful that I've done this Whole30. It's helped me realize some things about how I eat, and overall, I feel much more alert and well-rested.

Many of you have asked for some of my yummy Whole30 recipes, and let me assure you...these recipes are even great if you're not doing Whole30! They are a delicious and healthy way to add some great things to your recipe books.

Here we go!

These meatballs are savory and delicious, with so much flavor! When I first heard "thai curry" with "meatballs," I thought...no thanks! But these are so full of rich flavor. Definitely a recipe I will be using again even when I'm off of Whole30! If you're doing the Whole30, leave out the fish sauce, as it has some sugar in it. Click the recipe title above for the recipe.

This recipe may actually be my overall favorite of all of Whole30. It's also super easy, because it calls for chicken that is already cooked and shredded. I cooked 8 pounds of chicken breast at the beginning of the week, so shredding it and throwing it in a pan with a few other ingredients was no big deal. The creamy and flavorful sauce makes it feel like you're eating something decadent. It's SO GOOD. Click the recipe title above for the recipe!

In the cold winter months, is there anything better than the food that sticks to your bones? I subbed ground turkey for ground beef to make a leaner version of this, and used ghee in my potatoes instead of butter (also, omitting the Worcestershire sauce for Whole30 purposes). It was very filling and savory. Perfect for winter and healthy, too! Click the recipe title above for the recipe!

Buffalo Chicken Pineapple Bake
serves 4
This is a special recipe I made on my own this time around. It's very simple:

All you need is:
-One head of cauliflower
-Two cups of broccoli, sliced
-Two cups of pineapple, sliced
-Two cups of cooked shredded chicken
-Three tbsp. olive oil
-Buffalo sauce for drizzling (for Whole30, use Frank's or Tessemae)

1. Cut up the head of cauliflower into small, bite-sized pieces. In a food processor, grind the cauliflower until it resembles rice. (If you don't have a food processor, cut the head of cauliflower in half and use a cheese grater to grate the cauliflower into rice-sized pieces.

2. Place the riced cauliflower in a skillet with 1 tbsp. of olive oil; saute until slightly browned. Remove from heat.

3. Place shredded chicken, pineapple slices, and broccoli slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tbsp. of olive oil and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes.

4. After the chicken mixture has baked for 20-25 minutes, place one-fourth of the cauliflower rice onto a plate and top it with one-fourth of the chicken mixture. Drizzle with buffalo sauce and enjoy!

Note: In the picture below, we also added a cutie for extra sweetness.

Thank you for checking in this Monday for my Whole30 recipes! Have a wonderful week!