2018 Reading Wrap Up!

We are nearing the end of the year, which means that its time to go over all the books I read in 2018.  This is such fun for me, getting to reflect of all of the books that entered my life in the last year and I love getting to share them with all of you!  Hopefully you will find some books that you might want to pick up for yourself in the coming year!

Without further ado...

1. Number of books read 


2. Number of rereads 

Just one.  Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets!

3. Most read genre 

Just by a quick overview I would say fantasy but I also read a lot of mysteries this year as well.

4. The best book you read in 2017 

Without a doubt this goes to Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.  My oldest brother had read it and told me it was the best book he ever read.  He gave it to me and I devoured it in two days.  This is a retelling of the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche.  C.S. Lewis rearranges this myth to create an allegorical representation of the relationship between the one true God and man.  I've said it a thousand times and I'll say it again.  This book wrecked me and I think I will spend a lifetime rereading it!

My honorable mention has to be Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend.  This is a middle grade novel that I read back in the fall and I absolutely loved it!  This is such a whimsical and charm filled adventure and it's just so good.  It gave me almost the same feeling as reading Harry Potter, which is a win in my book!  I can't recommend this enough!

5. What's a book you were excited about and thought you were really going to love but didn't 

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson.  This is a mystery novel that I had heard so much about.  I was really intrigued so I picked it up.  I ended up not really liking it.  I thought it was really slow and it didn't hold my interest.  I am really hard on Mysteries though because I want to be gripped.  If a mystery doesn't have me flying though the pages then it doesn't really work for me.

6. Most surprising book that you read

The Rock, the Road, and the Rabbi by Kathie Lee Gifford.  I am going to be honest.  I picked this book up because I had traveled to Israel at the end of 2017 and absolutely fell in love.  I wanted to read this book so I could relive my time there and of course this book definitely did that for me.  What really surprised me though was the commentary provided by Rabbi Jason Sobel.  He shared so many eye opening realities within scripture that I have never studied before.  I love the way both He and Kathie Lee really shed light of God's redemptive work in Israel:  Prophecies coming to pass and promises being met.  It makes me so giddy to see what God is going to do further.  I believe we are living in exciting times and Israel plays the most important role in that!

7. Best series you started in 2018  

Hands down Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend.  I keep hearing that this series is going to be a long one and I am hear for it!

8. Best series ender you read in 2018 

This one wins by default because it was the only series ender I read this year.  Always and Forever, Lara Jean by Jenny Han.  Contemporaries don't tend to be my favorite but I thought I would give this series a try because I had heard so many great things about it.  In the end I really enjoyed it!  I thought it was super cute and by the end of the series I kind of got sad that I wasn't going to be with these characters anymore, which to me is a true hallmark of a good book!

9. Favorite new author you discovered in 2018 

Stuart Turton!  I read The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which I actually believe is his debut novel.  Now this was a mystery that kept me interested!  This was such a fun read and I definitely did not guess the outcome!  I really hope that Stuart Turton keeps writing books because I will surely be reading them!

10. The most action packed, thrilling, unputable down book of the year

I will give this to The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle.  This book was so intricate and there was always something new to discover.  I loved it's mansion setting and the whole cast of characters.  It was a good time!

11. A book that you read in 2018 that you will most likely reread 

I know I already mentioned this but without a doubt, Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis.  But I will also say that I have already thought about rereading Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson.  I read this book in an extreme time of need and her words were so inspirational in lifting me out of a place of anxiety.  I think it will be a reread for me throughout my life.  Especially as my family and I enter into different seasons of calling.  I always want to say "Yes" to whatever God has called us to no matter how scary or difficult it may seem.  Like I said, Sadie's words really inspire boldness!

12. Favorite book cover of a book you read in 2018 

Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin.  The author of this book also did the cover art and illustrations throughout and these illustrations are seriously stunning!  They are so whimsical and dreamy.  It's without a doubt one of the most beautiful books I own!

13. Most memorable character of 2018 

Morrigan Crow from Nevermoor.  I loved reading about this character!  She is strong, smart, loyal, unique, and adventurous.  I cannot wait to continue following her journey!

14. Most beautifully written book of 2018

Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

15. Most thought provoking book

Till We Have Faces.  Sorry guys....just read it!

16. A book that you can't believe you waited until 2018 to read 

I would have to go with the Battlefield of the Mind by Joyce Meyer.  This was another book that I read when I was going through a bout anxiety.  I wish I would have read it sooner.  It's definitely one of those books that hits you right in the face with conviction.  Joyce Meyer really knows how to shed light on truth in a no nonsense way.  It's definitely what I needed in that season of my life but I honestly wish I would have read it sooner!

17. Favorite quote from a book you read in 2018

"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.  You are yourself the answer.  Before your face questions die away.  What other answer would suffice?  Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words." 

-C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

18. Favorite non-romantic relationship in a book you read in 2018 

Most definitely the relationship between Morrigan Crow and Jupiter North in Nevermoor.  I don't know how to explain this without giving too much away but at the beginning of the book you see that Morrigan has a rather strained relationship with her biological father.  Jupiter North ends up taking Morrigan to a magical city called Nevermoor because he has chosen her to compete in a prestigious competition in which the winners earn the right to enter into an organization called the Wondrous Society.  Throughout the story you really see Jupiter North become like a father figure to Morrigan and his mentorship towards her is so pure and authentic.  He truly believed in her when no one else would.

I also have to go with Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, and Helen Burns from My Plain Jane.  They are a hilarious dynamic trio.  I was laughing constantly during this read!

19.  A book that made you cry in 2018

This is strange for me because it does NOT take much to make me cry, like ever!  That includes books but this year I can really only remember crying during two different books.  Till We Have Faces, obvi!  and also, Live Fearless by Sadie Robertson.  I was going through a lot while reading this and her words were just so encouraging.  I knew that God was using her to call me towards a place of peace and for that....tears were shed.

20.  What are your reading goals for 2019? 

I love setting reading goals.  It's fun for me, especially when I pile up new books on my shelf but I also know that I will just end up reading what I am interested in at the time so I usually don't put too much pressure on myself!

1.  My first reading goal is always to read 20 books.  For the past several years I have always exceeded this goal but I keep it lower so that I don't feel any pressure.

2.  First and foremost the book I am determined to finish is Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy.  This was a goal I had for this year and sadly I didn't start it until a couple of days ago.  This book is a monster so I know I won't finish it by the end of this month but most likely in January.  I LOVE this story so much.  I have seen the absolutely stunning film (with Keira Knightley) several times and I just can't get enough of it.  So I am excited to finish the book!


4.  Another big priority is of course Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend, the sequel to Nevermoor!

5. The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien (I say this year after year...will this be the year?)

6.  I would love to read more mystery.  Like good classic mysteries that have a lot of support already behind them.  I haven't read a lot of Agatha Christie or any of Arthur Conan Doyle.  I think those would be good places to start!

So there is my 2018 reading year in a nutshell.  It's so fun to look back and see what I have been reading all at once.  I am so looking forward to yet another year ahead filled with lots of books!  What are you currently reading?  What are some of your all time favorite books and authors?  I would love to hear your suggestions! 

Hadessah Turns Two!

Wow guys!  Our baby bear, Hadessah is two!  It gets overused, I know but as a mother, how do you come up with anything different:  WHERE IS THE TIME GOING?!  I just want to be able to kiss these squishy two year old cheeks forever but I know that won't be the case.  So I think I am just going to just have to be super mindful during year two (and all the years) I want to soak it all in!

What to say about Hadessah?  What not to say about Hadessah?  She is our passionate girl.  She knows what she wants and when she wants it, which results in a lot of screaming.  There are some hard days I won't lie but I love her passion.  It will take stewarding as she grows but I know without a doubt that Hadessah will be able to do hard things.  I know that she will be persistent in her mission and always, always stand firm in what she believes.  I can sense it now and I pray that God would bring that to fruition in her life.  He is SO good, I know He will!

Over the last several weeks she has been a talking machine.  Like more than ever!  Just this morning we were reading a book together and she was looking at a picture of a dog wearing a hat.  I said to her, "Hadessah do you like that doggy's hat?"  She said, "It's so beautiful!"  I was amazed.  It put the biggest smile on my face!

We keep our Birthdays pretty simple in our household.  If we can, we will get together with close family but nothing ever too fancy.  That may change in the future but this year we had cake with just the four of us.  My mom used to always make our birthday cakes growing up and I always so appreciated that.  She knew how to make our birthdays special so I knew that when I had kids I wanted to do the same.

This year, since Hadessah is our December baby I wanted to do a Nutcracker themed cake.  I don't have a lot of piping skills so I opted for the sweetest cupcake toppers.  I ordered them from Paper Source and I think they were perfect!

I started this tradition where I would write out things that I want to remember about my kids as they are now.  It's going to be so fun to look back on as the years go by.  

The things I want to remember most about Hadessah right now are... 

1.  Her insatiable appetite for trying new things.  She especially looks up to her big sister and two of her new favorite phrases have become "I ty, I ty!"  and "watch, watch!" 
She loves to get our attention so she can show us how she can jump off the first step of the stairs or do a somersault off the couch.  It's so darn cute!  And I love getting to see her grow into this new confidence.  I am always so torn as a mother because on one hand it's so heartbreaking as they get older but on the other hand it's my biggest joy to watch them grow! 

2.  How funny she thinks she is.  I know it's still early on but I think Hadessah is destined for a quick wit.  She is always laughing at herself and trying to make everyone else around her laugh too.  It's the sweetest thing to watch! 

Uggggghhhhh I just love her SO MUCH!  What a blessing she is to our family! 

I am so looking forward to the years to come with our Hadessah girl!  

My Favorite Christmas Recipes!

I love making up sweet treats all year round but there is something about the Christmas season that makes it all extra special!  There's nothing like creating festive desserts for everyone you love.

So in the spirit of Christmas and full bellies I decided to round up some of my favorite recipes!

1. White Peppermint Oreo Bark 

My absolute favorite treat around this time of year is PEPPERMINT.  Give me all of it!  Peppermint mochas, peppermint ice cream, peppermint cookies, peppermint cake, and best of all peppermint bark.  It's literally the best ever!  I recently found a recipe here that I love.  It was super easy and it made plenty so there will be lots left over for friends and family.

2.  Nutella Hot Chocolate

Last year I came up with my own version of Nutella hot chocolate.  You can find that blog post here.  This hot chocolate is so rich and creamy and the perfect way to indulge while watching a Christmas movie or decorating the tree.  And who can ever say no to Nutella?

3.  Linzer Cookies 

My husband would probably call me old fashioned for this but I LOVE linzer cookies!  I love cookies with any sort of almond base and the melt in your mouth texture paired with sweet jam is just too good!  These are definitely tricky and a little bit time consuming to make but 100% worth the effort.  And their pretty too!  Check out the recipe here!

4.  Yule Log 

Okay, I will admit I have never attempted to make a yule log cake before but this is giving me all of the Great British Baking Show vibes.  If you are feeling festive and daring try this recipe here!

5.   Puppy Chow

Honestly, what is Christmas without puppy chow?  It's so simple to make and there is always plenty to go around to all your family three times over.  We are traveling this Christmas so I'm thinking of making a big batch for our plane ride.  On a scale of 1 to 10 how "mom life" is bringing a huge bag of homemade puppy chow through security so that you don't have to buy expensive snacks on the other side?  Haha!  I don't know, you tell me!  Recipe here! 

6.  No Bake Cookies 

OMG these are some of my favorite cookies of all time!  They remind me so much of me growing up because I remember making them all the time.  Now that I think of it I haven't made any in a long time and I think I am going to have to remedy that!  Easiest recipe found here.

7.  Peanut Butter Balls 

Speaking of no-bake I was on the phone with my mom last night and she was in the middle of making peanut butter balls.  They sounded so good and they also remind me of Christmas parties growing up so I had to add them to the list!  I love this recipe here that used rice crispy for a little crunch.  You could also use crunchy peanut butter!

Well guys that's all I have for today!  I really hope this helped inspire you to get baking and I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season!

2018 Christmas Gift Wrapping Guide!

Tis' the season for gift wrapping!

Okay, I know that's a little bit dramatic but I seriously LOVE wrapping gifts.  I find it so much fun and it so satisfies my OCD.  But really it's just one of the ways that I can put an extra special spin on things each Christmas season.

I love going out and matching different wrapping papers together with things like ribbons and tags to put together a theme.  So like I do every year I thought I would share with you what I came up with!

This year I was really looking for something that matched my girls' personalities and I think I nailed it...Santa riding a unicorn.  Yeah, nailed it!  I mean, seriously how cute is this paper?  I love how it captures the traditional colors of Christmas like red and green but then it throws in pink as well.  It's such a fun and unexpected combination!  

I always like to pick out at least two different papers to add variety.  Right now I am really into using plain brown paper.  I think it adds a really nice contrast.  This year I added decorations using stickers.   It was a lot of fun to play around with these and I love how it turned out! 

Now on to my favorite part:  ribbon!  I wanted to match the playful element of the Santa wrapping paper and this pom-pom ribbon works perfectly!  And of course the red and white striped ribbon worked really great as well.  I think these combinations turned out to be super whimsical.   

So I have to admit, I scoured the internet and could not find this unicorn paper!  So what I did was pull together some things that were really similar.  Just click on the italicized words for links! 

1.  Paper:  I love all these options from Meri Meri

2.  Tags:  These Santa and Reindeer tags are really similar to the stickers that I used.  I also couldn't help but share these cute Nutcracker tags as well! 

3.  Ribbon:  The sweetest pom-pom ribbon here.  Striped ribbon here!  This would be a really fun option too from Target!

4. Greenery:  For a finishing touch I just added some greenery that I cut from the trees outside my house! 

Well I hope you guys enjoyed this years gift wrapping guide!  I suggest adding a peppermint mocha from Starbucks and lots Christmas music to help get you even more in the spirit! 

I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas season! 

2018 Christmas Gift Guide For Little Girls!

Hi everyone!  Can you believe Christmas is only four weeks away?!  This year we are spending our Christmas in Michigan with Bryan's side of the family and we seriously can't wait.  Although it will be the first time either of our girls have flown on a plane soooo pray for us haha!

When it comes to Christmas gifts for our girls we typically stick to three presents for each, which doesn't seem like a whole lot but it works for our family.  BUT with one of our girls also having a December birthday I've decided to start doing my Christmas shopping in July.  Yes, July!  I know it sounds crazy but being on a budget I like to think ahead.  Plus it 100% takes the stress off of things when Christmas does finally come around.  I just want to be able to enjoy the season without any added financial burden.

But if you aren't quite as crazy as me you might still have some shopping to do.  So I thought I would compile some of the things that I have collected for my girls over the last several months.  Maybe it will give you some ideas for your own girls!

Shopping early is definitely convenient but also really tough.  Sometimes I have a hard time not giving these things to them right then and there.  So I am really looking forward to seeing them open their gifts this year!

1.  I wanted to get both my girls some sort of plushy this year.  They both love pretending with them plus I thought they would be something fun that they could both bring on the plane on the way home.  Hadessah is into babies right now.  Feeding them, putting them to bed, etc.  I thought this was a unique spin on your average baby doll.  I think she will be pretty happy to unwrap this one.

2.  This ballerina flamingo 100% matches Ezrah's personality.  It's pink, girly, and sparkly.  Perfect fit.

3.  Ezrah is getting to the point where we occasionally give her money for doing things around the house.  Just a dollar here and there so she can go pick out her own treat.  Of course she likes to be like mommy and put it in a purse.  So when I saw this sweet unicorn purse I thought it would be perfect for her.

4.  This is one thing that I am so excited about.  I really want to encourage our girls to write letters.  I am hoping that it will become really important to them, kind of like a family tradition.  This grandparent pen pal kit is going to be so much fun.  Included are all of these fun activities, which are designed in a way where you have to send things back and fourth.  For example there is a game of tic-tac-toe.  It has to be sent back and fourth until there is a winner.  How sweet is that?  I love that it encourages correspondence!

5.  Books of course are always included on the list.  Hadessah especially, absolutely loves books right now.  I definitely think she is going to be a reader like me!  I couldn't pass up this story about Jane Austen.

6.  I was recently putting together a puzzle, which I haven't done in years!  It was 1000 pieces and way more challenging than I had anticipated but I had a lot of fun.  Anyways, the whole time I was putting it together Ezrah couldn't resist asking to help.  I think 1000 pieces is still a little bit outside her age range but I found one that I think she will love!  It's such a sweet illustration and on the back of each piece has the country name in several different translations.  Education and fun all in one!

7.  We bought this kitchen set for Ezrah last year although Hadessah plays with it a lot too.  I just wanted to include it because not only is it the most adorable thing you have ever seen but it will last and last.  Our girls absolutely love it and I can see them playing with it for many years to come.  Hopefully one of them will pass it on to one of their kids one day too.  I would say it's defiantly worth the investment.

Well, that's it for my 2018 Christmas gift guide!  I really hope this helped you in some way.  I had a lot of fun putting it together!

Wishing you all the merriest Christmas ever!

Small Business Saturday: Why I Love Shopping Small Business and Why You Should Too!

We are finally past Halloween, which means that its time to start thinking CHRISTMAS!  I know that this is increasingly becoming an unpopular thing, to start celebrating Christmas so early but I personally just have no problem celebrating for two whole months.  I have always loved, loved Christmas so I like to get in as much as I can.

And no, of course I haven't forgotten about Thanksgiving.  I'm excited for that too!  Here's how it looks in my book:

October 31:  Halloween
November 1 - November 21:  Christmas
November 22:  Thanksgiving
November 23 - December 31:  Christmas

With Christmas approaching I know we all start thinking about gift shopping and of course that means Black Friday, which is also quickly approaching.  I have honestly never been a Black Friday shopper.  It all just seems a little too crazy for me.  I could just never really get behind it but what I can get behind is definitely Small Business Saturday.

I LOVE small businesses.  They are truly hidden gems among big box retailers and Amazon.  Don't get me wrong an Amazon package is surely not an uncommon site on my doorstep but there is something about independent retailers that are just truly special.  So I try to seek them out as often as possible.

One of the things I love most about Small Businesses is their owners attention to detail.  They are often so carefully and methodically curated.  And it could be the old marketing student in me but I so appreciate beautiful displays put together with the most attentive creativity.  When it's done right its like you are walking into an experience and not just a boring shopping trip.  (my enneagram number is almost a dead tie between 4&7.  I find myself trying to make everything into an experience a lot.  as with all of the numbers on the test, it can be a great strength and a great weakness haha!)

I think the thing I love most though, is the unique selection of products, that curated inventory.  I love being able to find things that aren't so easily found anywhere else (that number 4 coming out: the individualist)

I know that small businesses are typically a little bit more expensive.  They kind of have to be in order to remain competitive but they are also offering you something special and most likely higher quality.

Just as an example:  in the context of gift shopping for my children, privately owned toy stores are some of my absolute favorite places to look, even though it will cost more.  

I would say that we aren't really even a "toy" family.  Of course we love toys but our girls' rooms aren't bursting with them.  And that's just because we rarely buy them throughout the year aside from Christmas and birthdays and also because I can be extremely selective.  I like this idea of having less things but things with more significance.  When you have less you will find your little ones playing with the same things over and over again.  As ironic as it may seem I feel like their imaginations have room to grow off of less.  I also have this vision of the toys our daughters play with turning into heirlooms that they can one day pass on to their own families.  This is why I go for things that are more carefully crafted.  Of course there are exceptions to all of this but I guess my main point is that through small businesses especially I don't mind spending a little more on things that are special and that will last.

This is why Small Business Saturday is the better choice over Black Friday!  These owners work extremely hard all year round to stay competitive to other retailers who are quadruple the size of them.  These owners are artists and creatives who think beyond the basic money grab mentality of capitalism and for that I believe they should be rewarded.  Of course they need to earn a living but they do it with intentionality.  They have both their passion and their customers in mind.

Plus on Small Business Saturdays most businesses will run some kind of sale, which is really great for local shoppers because it's not something that many can afford to do very often throughout the year.

In honor of Small Business Saturday I decided that I would round up some of my favorite independent retailers.  Bear in mind that these are of course places from my region of the country and since they are one of a kind you won't be able to stop by unless you are in the area.  But I wanted to share them nonetheless just in case you ever ARE in the area.  And at the very least, hopefully they will inspire you to go out searching for your own small businesses and lend them your support! 

1. French Toast Baby in Spokane, Washington 

Hands down my number one favorite shop is this one (pictured above).  They carry children's toys, books, stationary, party supplies, and candy.  This shop has entered into all of my girly pastel dreams and brought them to life.  I honestly just want my house to look like this shop.  If you are ever in the area you HAVE to stop by!

Instagram here!

2. Captain Little in Olympia, Washington

This is a toy store that I used to go to all the time when we lived in Olympia.  It's magical and I feel just like a kid again when I'm in there.  This is where I discovered the beloved toy brand, Maileg, which is popular in our household.  We recently visited some friends back in Olympia and while we were there I made sure to take a special trip! 

Instagram here! 

3. Compass Rose in Olympia, Washington

Compass Rose is definitely an eclectic shop.  It has everything from stationary, to jewelry, to books, to kitchenware, to sweets.  It's the perfect place to find a unique gift because they have so many different things to choose from.  I especially love their mug selection!

Instagram here!

4. Always More Shop (Online)

I have been following Audrey Roloff's blog for years and have always been so inspired by her heart for the Lord.  So when I found out that she was opening up a shop I was onboard.  Her shop sells things like sweatshirts, hats, tops, and jewelry all inspired by her life mantra "always more" which derives from Ephesians 3:20 found in scripture.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to the power that is at work within us."

In Christ there is always more.

If you have never checked out Audrey's blog I highly suggest that you do!  Her heart bursts for the Lord and you will never leave without feeling encouraged.  She also runs another blog with her husband called Beating 50 Percent so if you are married or thinking about getting married it's a great resource.

Back to her clothing line though.  Everything has this casual comfy feel.  Anything you buy you can just throw on and go and still look cute while carrying truth.  I have one of her dad hats and I literally wear that thing every single day to drop off and pick up my daughter from school.  It's my favorite thing ever and I love supporting her ministry!

Instagram here! Website here! Audrey's Blog here!

5. Inklings Bookshop in Yakima, Washington

This is a new discovery for me since we just moved to the area but I absolutely LOVE this bookstore.  I could spend an hour or two just looking around.  They carry most new books so you can definitely get your hands on recent releases but they also carry special editions.  For example if I find a bookstore that carries any number of the Penguin Clothbound Classics I'm sold and this shop has a generous selection!  They also carry a lot of Rifle Paper Co. products, which is another favorite of mine!

Website here!

6. Pretty in Paint in Medford, Oregon

If you (or anyone you know) are into the farmhouse esthetic then this is the place for you!  Pretty in Paint sells the most beautiful up-cycled furniture that will give you all the vintage feels.  I bought one of my daughter's dressers from here and we love it!  I also came across my beloved butter dish that looks almost exactly like one I was eyeing at Anthropologie but only for a fraction of the price!

And I also found out that they will ship anything that you find on their Instagram account, which is amazing!

Instagram here!

7. Paddington Station in Ashland, Oregon

Every time I visit my parents I always try to make a trip to Ashland.  It's one of the most charming little towns in all of Oregon!  They have so many amazing small businesses but my favorite is Paddington Station.  This shop is full of the most unique finds in all kinds of categories.  I love browsing their book section because I always find things I have never heard of before!

Website here!

Well I could probably go on forever but for now this my top seven favorite small businesses!  I love small businesses for so many reasons and I really hope that this post inspired you in some way to go out in your own city to discover new retailers.  It's so much fun and a great way to support your community!

Oh!  And I am wishing all a wonderful Thanksgiving.  I hope your bellies get so full that you have to undo your pants!

Did God Really Say?

I don't think I ever went into great detail about my life as of lately here on the blog but over the past nine months I have developed rather severe anxiety, which has especially escalated over the past two months.  This anxiety that has recently plagued me comes in the form of hypochondria.  Nine months ago, almost overnight I just started to question everything about my health.  Any terminal illness you could come could come up with, you name it and I have diagnosed myself with it.  It has compelled me to take two trips to the ER, two trips to urgent care, and several trips to see my primary care doctor and each time I have left with resolvable concerns but nothing life threatening.  But still I return home questioning my vitals.  I consistently check things like my weight, breathing, and other things about my body to see if I can see any abnormalities (EVEN THOUGH I AM NOT A DOCTOR!) and I am constantly seeking reassurance from my family and friends.  OH! and don't even get me started on my googling symptoms.....

It's almost embarrassing to share but I'm just being honest.  It has become quite weighty, a burden that I was never meant to carry.

fear has washed over me.

Even though it has become difficult for my mind to tell myself that my body is healthy I can pinpoint why this was brought on.  As a wife and a mother it has become really easy for me to imagine my family having to go on with life without me.  It terrifies me because my husband and two daughters are my team and I want to be a part of this team for a very long time.  The more nights that my husband Bryan and I lay awake late at night talking about our vision for our families future we feel more and more like the Lord is calling us into a specific purpose.  We feel like He has laid certain desires on our hearts and you know what?  To me, they are SO exciting!  I am giddy for our family to serve the Lord through these desires but wait, what if I never make it there?

que the panic 

It's really funny because over these past nine months or so even though I have been so full of this anxiety and fear, not once have I felt like God has stopped speaking to me.  Every prayer in which I have cried out in fear I have felt the Lord tenderly whisper, "I know the plans I have for you."  and each time, these desires continued to circulate within my heart.  I knew without a doubt that they were from the Lord.

I was struck even deeper a few weeks ago when my mother asked a family friend of ours to pray over me.  I was sitting in my dads office at his church and this wise woman walked in and laid hands on me and began praying over me.  My tears became uncontrollable because I knew that she was spirit filled and I was just in awe that once again my God had chased me down.

Once she was done praying over me my mother left the two of us alone so that we could talk.  I opened up to her about everything that I was experiencing and I tried to best explain my biggest fear: God giving me passion, desire, and vision and then stripping it all away.  Is God going to place all of these things just beyond my reach and the snatch them right before they enter my grasp?  

She responded by telling me that she firmly believes that God does in fact have a plan for my life and the life of my family, which really confirmed what God had already been speaking over me.  I think that God knew that I needed her, that I needed this confirmation from someone who hadn't been witnessing first hand this anxiety that I was experiencing day to day.  There was no bias or frustration, her word for me came in the pure form of love and faith.  Sometimes it takes an act of someone else's faith for us to act on our own.  I am so thankful for community and for others willing to lift up others!

The one thing that stuck out to me the most during our conversation was that every time fear left my lips she countered with truth.  Truth always out lives fear.

"but what if God...." 

"That is not who God is.  That is not who God is.  That is not who God is.  Why are your trusting in things outside His character?" 

Wisdom in it's simplest form.  Thank you, Christle (if you are reading) for your wisdom, your love, and above all for your confident faith in our Jesus.  Thank you for sharing it all with me, God knew I needed you in that very moment.

I kept dwelling on her words and a few weeks later God lead me even deeper into a place of peace.  I had been studying in the book of Genesis for several days and on one particular day I was lead to Genesis 3:1 and I stopped in my tracks.

This is what it reads:

"Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made.  He said to the woman, 'Did God really say, 'You can't eat from any tree in the garden?'"

That's it.  That's all I read and then it was like this lightbulb went off in my heart.

Side note:  this is what I love about the Word of God.  It's amazing.  How many times have I read through Genesis in my lifetime?  A lot, and yet on the particular day God had something to say to me in a new way.  I am telling you, plain and simple, the Bible is living and breathing.  God is always waiting to speak to you through His word.  You just have to be willing to open it!

"Did God really say?"  I realized then that this was the voice I was listening to, a voice that takes what God says and contaminates it with doubt.  I let this voice fill me with anxiety because suddenly I was unsure that God was really speaking certain things over my life.  But God stopped me in my tracks and really challenged me.

Who's voice are you going to choose to listen to?

John 10:27 says this:  "My sheep hear my voice, I know them, and they follow me." I love this because it paints this beautiful picture of intimacy between us and our Father.  He knows us and if we know Him then we know His voice.  

Something about sheep is that they only listen to their master's voice.  Any other voice comes along and they ignore it because they are so in tune with their master.  Seriously.  Don't believe me?  Click here for proof.  It's absolutely amazing.  Not only do sheep know their master's voice but they also trust that their master's voice is true.  They know that their shepherd is for their good.

"Did God really say?"

This is a voice that has been around since the garden and somehow we fall so easily into its devious and calculating efforts.  But we have to remain diligent because that enemy voice just needs us to become fearful enough to give up on the things that God has really called us to.  That's really all it takes is fear.  It's fear that makes us believe that God isn't really who He said He is or that God isn't going to do what He said He would do.

But when we are bold in faith we can hear that voice of deceit and say, "That is not my Master's voice and I refuse to lift my eyes to it!"

"Did God really say?"

"Yes, God really did say..."

This is how we walk in freedom from anxiety and fear, we memorize our Master's voice and then we learn to ignore everything else.

He is good

He is for you

He has a plan for you

and what He says is true 

Tune into His voice, memorize it by getting in the Word and studying what is true.  Because when we start believing what God says...sweet, precious freedom lies just beyond.

"Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus, 
Just to take Him at His word 
Just to rest upon His promise, 
Just to know, "Thus saith the Lord!" 

My 2018 Fall Reading Picks!

It's no secret that I love to read, especially during the fall and winter!  There is just something so joyous about snuggling up with a good book while the air outside is cool and crisp.  What better way to celebrate the changing seasons with a super atmospheric book to give you all the fall and winter vibes?  As I do every year I put together five books that I think would be great to read alongside the sipping of your pumpkin spice latte!

1. Till We Have Faces by C.S. Lewis

This is a book that I will recommend ANY time of the year because I love it that much.  It is easily my favorite book I have read all year if not my favorite book of all time.

Till We Have Faces retells the classical myth of Cupid and Psyche and ultimately translates into allegory concerning the one True God and His relationship with man.  Although, personally I think that readers can come to many different interpretations involving all Divine Persons of the Trinity.

The retelling starts with the love between two sisters.  The older and uglier sister, Orual demonstrates a pure yet possessive love for her beautiful younger sister, Psyche.  Because of her great beauty Psyche is chosen to be a sacrifice to a monster known as the Shadowbrute.  Heartbroken, Orual is determined to give her sister a proper burial and so after the sacrifice she sets out to find her body but instead she finds a still living Psyche who tells Orual that the Shadowbrute is not a monster but a loving god who has taken her as his bride.  Orual is filled both with anger and jealousy as she becomes convinced that her sister was stolen from her.  Thus Orual sets out on a path that brings both destruction and redemption.

Guys, this book WRECKED me, in the best possible way!  C.S. Lewis is such a gorgeous storyteller and compels you to think deeply in ways you never thought possible.  I sobbed the entire last half and plan to reread it many more times throughout my coming years.  I cannot recommend it enough!

"I know now, Lord, why you utter no answer.  You are yourself the answer.  Before your face questions die away.  What other answer would suffice?  Only words, words; to be led out to battle against other words." 

-C.S. Lewis, Till We Have Faces

2. Snow & Rose by Emily Winfield Martin

I don't think there is anything more perfect for fall than a classic fairytale retelling and Snow & Rose is just that.  This is a retelling of Snow White and Red Rose and tells the story of two sisters who's father one day disappears into the enchanted woods just beyond their home.  While the two sisters try to navigate their broken hearts and their mother's sorrow they find themselves thrown into the mysteries of the enchanted wood and it's binding spells within.  Will they find a way to break it's curses?

This book is so incredibly charming and immersive especially because it contains illustrations.  The illustrations are beautiful and totally swoon worthy.  I promise you will not be disappointed!

"Snow and Rose didn't know they were living in a fairy tale-- people never do." 

-Emily Winfield Martin, Snow & Rose  

3. The Dollmaker of Krakow by R.M. Romero

I don't find myself picking up a whole lot of WWII fiction but in my opinion the best time to read it is during the fall and winter because it can be so atmospheric.  This book follows a doll named Karolina who lives in the land of the dolls.  One day her world is taken over by war and she is whisked away to another world experiencing it's own war, Krakow, Poland.  In Poland she befriends the man responsible for creating her, the Dollmaker.  Together, Karolina and the Dollmaker who posses magical abilities join together to help hide Jewish families being threatened by Nazi control.

This book is so heartbreaking and yet it's told with such magic and whimsy that you can't help but feel hope the entire time you are reading and in the end it is most definitely a story about hope!

"You can destroy a person, Karolina, but destroying their story is far more difficult.  No one is ever really lost as long as their story still exists." 

-R.M. Romero, The Dollmaker of Krakow 

4. The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

The last two books on my list are two that I have never read before but am looking forward to reading this season!  The first one is The Hazel Wood.  It follows a girl named Alice and one day after the death of her grandmother, a famous fairytale author her mother too goes missing.  Alice learns that her mother has been taken by a mysterious figure who claims to come from the fictional land found in her late grandmothers tales.  Alice teams up with her classmate Ellery and together they dive straight into the mysteries left behind by her grandmother in order to rescue her mother.

I love the idea of this book for fall because of the dark fairytale aspect.  I also love reading books about books or books about mysterious authors.  I'm thinking this one will be a lot of fun!

"Look until the leaves turn red, sew the worlds up with thread.  If your journey's left undone, fear the rising of the sun." 

-Melissa Albert, The Hazel Wood 

5. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Uprooted centers on a quiet village set in a valley surrounded by a dark and dangerous forest.  The village has secured protection from the forest by a wizard known as the Dragon.  However, the Dragon demands payment for his services every ten years.  Each decade the Dragon approaches the village and choses one young maiden to serve him.

No one knows the motives behind each choice the Dragon makes in choosing his servant but Angieszka was never suspected to be chosen.  However, this choosing, Angieska seems to be the target.

I have heard SO many great things about this book!  It just seems so adventurous and I am so excited to pick this one up!

"There was a song in this forest, too, but it was a savage song, whispering of madness and tearing and rage." 

-Naomi Novik, Uprooted 

Well those are my top five reading picks for fall I hope I have inspired you to pick up one or two of them.  Let me know if you have already read any of these!  I would love to hear your thoughts.  Wishing you the best fall reading season, see you next time! 

Back To School: My Favorite School Supply Picks!

one // two // three // four // five // six 

Oh my goodness you guys!  It's almost time for back to school and this year is especially emotional for me because it is the very first time that I am sending one of my kiddos to school.  I can't even believe where the time went but Ezrah is going into kindergarten!  I'm so torn because on one hand I am heartbroken that my babies are growing so fast but on the other hand I am so excited for Ezrah as she enters this new season of her life.  I have a feeling that she is going to be pretty nervous at first since I am a stay-at-home mom she isn't used to going to daycare or anything like that.  But I think that school will really grow on her.  I can't wait to hear all of her stories at the dinner table every night! 

I thought it would be so fun to scour the internet in order to put together all of my favorite finds for back to school.  I just love making everything just a little extra special when it comes to our girls, even if it's just school supplies.  I am going crazy over that cotton candy composition notebook!  

I know this was short and sweet but I hope this has inspired you in some way when it comes to your own little girlies heading back to school.  

Have the best weekend ever! 



I wrote a book!

Wow, those are words that I NEVER thought I would ever say but yes, for the past seven months I have been working on this project and I am finally finished!

Before we get too much further let me give you a little bit of back story:

About a year ago today I posted a story on my blog about a difficult time in my marriage (I will have that story linked here) and based off of my blog stats back then, this story had a far bigger impact than anything else I had ever shared before.  I knew it was going to be tough to write about but I am really glad that I did and I realized that there were a lot more people who could relate to it then I would have ever thought.

The thing about that story is that it briefly goes over a year of our marriage but the reality is that the entire first three years of our marriage was really, really difficult.  By the time year three rolled around I was so emotionally, mentally, and spiritually exhausted that I came really close to filing for divorce.  We were only 23 years old then and our marriage was nothing like how I dreamed it would be.  I felt like I needed to start fresh.

But over a year of intense prayer and spiritual growth, God completely healed our married and has blessed it beyond what I had ever dreamed.  Isn't it so amazing how God's best for us surpasses our own imaginations and expectations?!

Okay, so that's the short of it.  You will be able to read all about our marriage in detail (and I mean DETAIL!) when it get's published one day.

So now we can fast forward to a little after that blog post was written.  I started having this idea that I could write a book.  All I had was a title (to be revealed much later on) and it kept rolling around my head for months.  For most of the remainder of 2017 it stayed just that, an idea.

I am in no way qualified to write a book, outside the fact that I passionately love writing (I have been blogging since I was a senior in high school!) I don't have the proper degree, I certainly am no expert on grammar, and I know absolutely nothing about the publishing world.  And on top of that the longest thing I ever had to write was a ten page paper in college, about the history of fashion.  Coming up with 50,000 words to say seemed a little bit daunting and more than that, a little bit impossible.

This book is also completely unsolicited by any publisher and I don't have this huge platform of followers when it comes to social media and the like.  Although I am so incredibly grateful for those of you who have stuck with me on my blog for all this time.  You mean the world to me!  But with that said, since I don't have this big platform I had this fear that I wouldn't be as appealing to publishers because books still have to sell!  I didn't want to do all this work just to be rejected.

*Oh, and did I mention I stay at home with two very energetic little girls?  Where on earth was I going to find the time to actually write an entire book?!

But then December rolled around and I felt this extreme calling wash over me.  God began to speak to me saying:  "Listen, I know your fears but I am asking you to be obedient in this, I will be with you every step of the way and make a path that only I am capable of.  Have faith in Me!"

It started with a sermon.  One Sunday at Church our Pastor was preaching on spiritual growth.  And as part of his message we were asked to take a survey and one of the questions on this survey was:  "are you dreaming God sized dreams?" I don't even remember how I answered but in the car on the way home I couldn't stop thinking about it.  And from then on I really started meditating on this idea that God is big enough to lead me into something and subsequently lead me through something.  And not just something but something BIG, something that would absolutely be impossible without Him.  (I wrote a blog post on this too, you can find that here)  And that is exactly what He did!  He called me to something and He got me through it (the first half, the second half....editing/publishing but I am remaining faithful in that too).  I will tell you, writing this book has been one of the most intimate experiences I have ever had with the Lord and I will always fondly cherish this time.  The reason is because my need for Him was severe.  Of course, not that that isn't true for everything in my life but this just felt uniquely special.  Everyday as I sat down to write it was kind of like "Ok, God I have nothing to say today, give me what you got!" and by the end of my writing sessions I would have 1,000 words written.  I am amazed at His faithfulness! It may even compel me to write more books in the future ;)

Now back to what happened after that sermon.  After I began to seriously consider God sized dreams and what that meant for me I just kept feeling like the Lord was speaking to me through other people.  I can't even tell you how many times I heard His voice pulling me through something someone would say to me or from something I would read.  It was like the littlest things would add just that much more weight to this pull I was feeling, like He was really trying to get me to tune into this.

Finally a woman that I have known since my childhood wrote the sweetest message on my Facebook about how she hoped that I would write a book one day.  Her encouragement was the tipping point.

That night I sat down at the dinner table with Bryan and told him that I was going to write a book.  I was going to do this.  I spent the next couple of weeks writing down some notes and a little bit of outline (this outline was so not professional but I at least wanted to get some ideas down first) and then in January I began writing.  There were a lot of tears and a lot of frustration but in the end I loved every minute of it!

I still need to take several weeks to go back and do some more editing before I start searching for an agent/publisher but the bones are complete and for that, I couldn't be more excited!

Ok, so I briefly went over what this book is going to be about and that is of course marriage but now I want to tell you what my heart is for this book.

Three years ago I was at a place in my life where I just wasn't happy in my marriage and I know I have already mentioned it before but I wanted a divorce and I became really great at hiding that.  Aside from my closest family you would never have known what was going through my heart at the time and I think that made me feel really alone.  And let me tell you what I mean by that because my family was a huge support during that time.

What I mean is that I would look around me desperate to find someone I could relate to and I couldn't.  I was desperate to find someone who was suffocating just like me but pushing through it.  I was looking for someone who had gone through hell and back in their marriage who was going to tell me that it was all going to be ok!

The reason I think that I wasn't finding what I was looking for was because 1. I was hiding mine own shame in my experience and 2.  I think that most of the time marital problems in general are kept very private.  It's not something that we are too keen on airing out for all the world to see.

A lot of us aren't willing to share hard experiences with one another out of fear that we will look like failures, which leaves us feeling alone.  We coil inward and we are left dashing for the nearest exit from our current circumstance instead of pushing through them because we haven't heard very many stories of hope.

This leads to a sad truth:  a lot of marriages that go through hell don't survive, they go through hell and then end in divorce.

but they don't have to 

This story is not a shiny penny.  It goes into the depths of shame, regret, anger, self pity, pride, jealousy, selfish intention, and failure on top of failure.  But I want to share it because what God did with it is beautiful and that's the best part.  His glory shines out of the ashes and His light will not be put out by a broken past.

there is healing waiting for those who seek it 

If there are people out there who are going to read this book and feel like their marriage isn't going to survive, through it I want to be able to come along side them and say, "listen, do not be distraught or discouraged.  Here is the story of a girl who was devastated by a broken marriage but here is the story of a God who is bigger, a God who is for you, a God who heals!  Look, He is making all things new!"

Three years ago all of the disfunction in our marriage came to a head and the resentment that I felt towards Bryan was harsh, it sunk its teeth in deep.  And if you would have asked to see the inner workings of my heart you probably would have concluded that I had chosen not to love him anymore.

But today, our marriage walks in complete freedom from that because it came face to face with freedom Himself.  Today I feel honored and privileged to be Bryan's wife.  He is my favorite person in the world, my favorite dad in the world, my confidant, my biggest support, my spiritual leader, my adventure partner, my life partner, the love of my life.

All things are new and I want to tell people about how we got to today, or rather the about the Who that got us to today! 

That is my heart for this 

One last thing.  Like I said earlier, I don't have any knowledge/experience in the publishing world or even the book selling world but I do believe that God is big enough to see me through all this.  But I am certainly going around a corner that I have never been around before so I would kindly ask for you to join me in prayer through this.  That God would go before and give me the strength that I need during each step in this process.  I would greatly appreciate that!

and I will be sure to keep you updated!