Saturday, October 15, 2016

To Have and To Hold - My Review

Receiving a review copy of To Have and To Hold was a blessing. I caught a cold, and the book provided much enjoyment during my recovery. Here is my review!

To Have and to Hold: Three Autumn Love StoriesTo Have and to Hold: Three Autumn Love Stories by Betsy St. Amant
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

5 stars. Best for 16+.

This is a collection of three autumn love novellas. Each one is fun, unique, and a pleasure to read.

Love Takes the Cake: Betsy St. Amant

Back Cover Synopsis: Charlotte Cantrell is always the baker; never the bride. When Will, a regular at Charlotte’s bakery, catches her attention, she can only hope that he is the reliable man this single mother has always hoped to find. The problem is that he’s regularly stopping in to buy cookies for another girl. But when Charlotte is hired to bake a host of wedding goodies for a difficult bride and finds out Will is the best man, she has the perfect opportunity to get to know him better—and find out how serious Will is about this other girl in his life.

This story definitely made me a little hungry. It was interesting to delve into Will's past and uncover his semi-dark secrets. Charlotte's past was also intriguing and an all-too real predicament of today's world. I found both characters real, yet likeable and interesting. This was definitely the darkest of the novellas, if such a word may be used. It was real, a bit raw, and had a great ending.

The Perfect Arrangement: Katie Ganshert

Back Cover Synopsis: Amelia Woods is a small-town wallflower and the proud owner of Forget-Me-Nots, a quaint flower shop. Her love life has always been a bit lackluster—until she ends up in an embarrassing fender-bender with handsome Nate Gallagher. Meanwhile, Amelia’s younger brother, William, has proposed to his girlfriend. Amelia would be excited except she has evidence that the fiancĂ©e is not who she says she is. It seems Nate is the only one available for any advice-giving, and he’s good at it—and pretty fun to talk to, too. As Amelia works to craft the perfect flower arrangements for other people, she begins to wonder if real love is better than the dream. And if it is, will Nate still be interested when he learns who she is?

Two words. NATE GALLAGHER. Oh my word, I liked him so much! He was amazing. Not only was the premise of a flour shop beautiful, but the exchange of emails and embarrassing situations between Nate and Amelia was way too fun. There was some maddening tension, lots of classic movie quotes, laughable predicaments, and the best ending ever. This was definitely my favorite of the three stories.

Love in the Details: Becky Wade

Back Cover Synopsis: When Josh returns to his hometown of Martinsburg, Texas, to help his best friend get married, he didn’t intend to run into church wedding coordinator—and ex-girlfriend—Holly. He can’t help but pine after the girl he never got over. Holly broke up with Josh years ago in an attempt to ensure his future success. But she loved him then and still loves him now. As she helps him plan his best friend’s wedding, she longs to be with Josh but doesn’t feel worthy of his big-time lifestyle when she is more comfortable in her small-town world. Will Josh and Holly be able to keep things as they are when their true feelings threaten to surface at every turn?

Sweet. This story was just sweet. And satisfying. Of course, Holly's lack of communication drove my nuts sometimes, but hey. It's what made the story just a bid maddening (in the best way possible.) This one was definitely the sweetest (did I mention that it is sweet?!).

All three stories are amazingly fun and delightful for an autumn day. Recommended for romance, chick-lit, and sweet romance fans.

View all my reviews

Have you read it? Have you read any books by these three authors? If so, which is your favorite?
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Thursday, October 13, 2016

My Ipsy Glam Bag Review

Hey y'all!

I realize it's been a little while since I've been on the blog. And for good reason. I've been busy. Any of you been busy? (Bwahahahaha. Of course you have.) I have a whole lot of updates to make, but, first things first. 

Today I'm doing something a little different.

Ever heard of Ipsy?

Basically, it's a get makeup and/or beauty supplies in your mailbox once a month thing. It's customized to your specific desires, your hair and skin shades, etc. 

I am experimenting to see if doing the Glam Bag saves me money on makeup. I HATE it when I buy a product and find out that it didn't match my skin or color preferences as well as I thought it would. Additionally, a lot of even the cheap products cost $4-5 each. Since I'm only paying $10 a month for 5 products, I'm hoping it will save me money in the long run. I guess we'll see, won't we?

Here's what the company has to say about themselves:

Michelle Phan has inspired countless women around the world through her beauty video tutorials on YouTube. Every day, the question Michelle gets asked the most is: "What are the right products for me?"  
With infinite beauty product combinations in the marketplace, choosing the best items for your needs can be a challenge! That was why Michelle created ipsy. Michelle and her team of stylists have selected products they love, for you to try. 
Each month, subscribers will receive a beautiful Glam Bag with deluxe samples and full-sized beauty products. Members can watch and play along with the stylists with the same products that they are using. All for only $10 a month. 
So go ahead, take the beauty quiz, get your first Glam Bag, watch the videos, and create your own!

So. There you have it.

And today, I'm reviewing the items that came in my bag.

I really, really liked this product: Indi Beauty Buttercream Antioxidant Lip Scrub. My lips get pretty worn out with all the different lips colors I like to try. 

Oh, and kissing. I do a lot of that. Just saying. 

So this was perfect for me. Not only did it do the job by gently exfoliating away the dead skin, it moisturized and even tasted good! The perfect pre-lipstick treatment. 

And then there was Hot Mama blush. I must admit, I was a little disappointed by the size. However, the color and texture was perfect for my skin tones. 

I really liked the essence cosmetics waterproof eye liner pen. The tip was super durable and very stiff, which will take some getting used to for me. However, it was a great matte black, perfect for a sweeping cat eye. This was one of the better products for me. 

I was not so into this Lottie London eye shadow brush. Not that there was anything wrong with it - it's a good brush. I just already have several brushes. I updated my preferences to exclude brushes and makeup tools in the future. 

Ah. I love this! This Beaute Basics Satin Taupe Eye Shadow is perfect for my eye color and there is a lot of it! It will definitely last me a while. It has a nice sparkle, went on easily, and didn't crumble everywhere. 
And then... The bag itself. I am so not into the icky-ness of Halloween and am kind of annoyed by the fact that the bag was so heavily centered on evil. Additionally, the whole website (like other makeup websites) is really centering on Halloween right now. But, if they end up being as passionate about Thanksgiving and Christmas, I will not complain. I'm already looking forward to all of their Thanksgiving makeup tips next month!

So there you have my review.

Overall, I was pleased and am pretty sure I saved money. The eye liner, eye shadow, and exfoliate would have been anywhere from at least $5-8 each if I had bought them individually. So I'm satisfied.

I'll be reviewing my bags every month for as long as I do it to document the outcome. I hope you enjoyed today's review and are looking forward to next month's post as well!

Have you tried Ipsy? What are your thoughts? If you wish to sign up, you can do so HERE!
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Friday, September 16, 2016

What to Expect As a Ministry Wife

Today, we have my Aunt Toni on the blog! She shared an article she wrote with me and I wanted to share it with you!

What to expect as a “ministry” wife...

Expect to become your husband’s dearest friend

Yes, your bond is great, but serving a flock together and going through trials together continually deepens your bond… Or it has the opposite effect of pulling you apart - fight against that one! Expect others to come to you with complaints about your husband, but never listen to them. Always direct them straight to him. If it’s a sin issue on his part, they need to work it out anyway, so it doesn’t do them any good to tell you about it. Make sure everyone knows that you are loyal to your husband even though he is a sinner and makes mistakes. They will learn not to “cross” you because of your unity. In his darkest times of hurt, you will be there to encourage him and he will encourage you.

Expect trials

It is normal to have trials, and they are mostly because of the people you serve.  Expect bad attitudes, grumbling, complaining, bickering among the sheep. Sometimes you will even have those sheep who betray you and “stab you in the back”. It is hurtful, it is painful, but  God can be your strength and your solid rock. People (especially sheep) can be fickle, but we cannot put our trust in people, because they let us down. God and His Word will stand forever. Expect some that “leave” the church (wherever you may be) will come grumbling and telling you all about it. Never be a part of gossip and always direct them to the elders so they can work out their differences. If they refuse, it tells you that really all they wanted to do was grumble and gossip, and not do things the proper way as stated in Matthew 18 (this is a good passage for handling disputes).  Some who leave will want to remain friends, some will decide they want to “move on”. That one hurts, but as I said the other day, some will turn the other way when they run into you at WalMart - not because they hate you, but because they like to avoid the truth, and you are a reminder of the truth…. (Most people who leave do not leave in Biblically correct manner - they just leave! Some do, but very few, sadly.)

Expect blessings.

The ministry brings many blessings. Some of the sheep are more mature than others… these are the ones who usually bestow us with blessings. And even some of the “young” sheep can be so sweet and thoughtful… it will amaze you. God meets our needs continually, and it is mostly through loving, caring, and giving sheep. Sometimes it is through strangers, and sometimes through fellow ministry workers. God is good and He always finds a way to take care of us!

Expect to be in the ministry for a “marathon”, not a “sprint”. 

Most assistant pastors and youth pastors burn out in 18 months-2 yrs. Why? Because they pour their hearts and souls into the people they love and get little in return. They exhaust themselves and their families by sacrificing so much, that they forget they are human and they need to rest too.  It is vitally important to prioritize, take time for your husband, take time for your children, and pace yourself so that you can be prepared to serve as long as God has you serving. I like to pour myself into everything, so sometimes it is hard to step back and let someone else take things over, but then I remember that there is joy in serving, and if I am willing to share, then they can experience part of those blessings also. Take a break and slow down from time to time, but never quit….always stick by your hubby and the calling God has put on him.

Expect Satan to work against you and your hubby! 

Take time for being in God’s word, even if it is just a short time daily. This is one I have struggled with.  I am an excellent reader, but it is not my favorite thing to do. I don’t enjoy just sitting with my coffee  (LOL, I don’t like coffee) and reading my Bible on the back porch. Actually, I prefer to read a little before I go to bed, but when I’m studying, I prefer using the computer programs. So…whatever works for you. Everyone is different. Don’t feel pressured to do someone else’s method. Believe me, I have tried and failed many times. The point is to be in God’s word, hide it in your heart, and it will sustain you and help you counsel others in the correct biblical way!

Expect to experience  the joy. 

Living in a fish bowl has its down sides, dealing with unpleasant situations will wear on you, and you will have sleepless nights due to stress and drama. BUT….if you remind yourself of God’s goodness,  keep doing what He has called you to do, and never forget where He has brought you from, and the reasons why He called you to “this” task, you will experience JOY… of being right where God called you, doing right what He called you to do.  Remember it is always the safest and the most blessed when you are in the center of His will!

Are any of you readers in full-time Christian service? Do you have any thoughts to add? Please share!
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Friday, September 9, 2016

The Top 10 Things You Should Know While Reading Amish Fiction

Update. A few reader friends have pointed out that there are some works of Amish fiction which portray the Amish belief system as erroneous. So grateful for this!

As an author, I get the unique opportunity to hear of new releases sometimes even before the general public does. It's exciting. It's fun. And I've noticed a big trend among readers and authors. 

It's Amish fiction.

Okay, so I've read a few Amish fiction novels and  enjoyed them. I even watched The Shunning. (Did it irk anyone else that she dumped the bishop at the alter? I mean, know your own mind way before then. Please. Moving on....)

The genre is fascinating. The Amish are fascinating. They live in a manner very different from most of us and are often shrouded in something like mystery. Books about the Amish pique our interest, often because they involve words such as shunning, confession, Gott, denki, and rumspringa

But, unlike most historical or true-to-life fiction, Amish belief systems are not necessarily portrayed in a negative light (as would be sacrificing to the Roman goddess Venus or practicing polygamy in Mormonism.) Instead, Amish belief systems are portrayed as good, clean, wholesome, and as just a different branch of Christianity.

Um, there is no super nice way to say this. That has the potential to be dangerous. 

It's easy to get people to believe a half or partial truth. I am not in any danger of sacrificing a child to Molech. Why? Because it's horrific. And, in Christian books, it's portrayed as evil, ungodly, and anti-Christian. But what about the Amish belief (in some communities) that it is better to let your unborn child and/or mother die during delivery rather then seek outside help? What about their practices of "pain-pulling", "powpowing", and other superstitious ideas? Might we start questioning what we believe or get confused about doctrine? We can, if we're not careful. It can happen to any of us. Hear or read something long enough and you just might start to believe it.

Because so many books paint the Amish as just another branch of Christianity, major problems in their doctrines and ideology get swept under the rug.

Books can and do indoctrinate us. I am not saying that reading Amish novels are wrong. (I have read a few and enjoyed them.) But it is only wise to know what they believe and have our guard up, since most authors will not portray the Amish as anything but "Christian." Here are the top 10 things you should keep in mind while reading Amish fiction.

  • 1. The Amish do not believe faith automatically guarantees salvation. They don't believe that anyone can know for sure that they are saved. Such assurance is considered arrogance. This belief is in direct conflict with Scripture, which states "These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God." - 1 John 5:13. They also reject eternal security.
  • 2. The Amish do not believe in evangelizing. Not only do the Amish feel no obligation to evangelize, they rarely accept converts into their orders. Apparently, the Great Commission is unimportant to them. Ignoring the Lord's final command to us is rather serious.
  • 3. The Amish live under oral tradition (called the Ordnung.) Oral tradition governs the lives of the Amish. It's a code of conduct that was created over the generations and varies from one community to the next. It's confusing in that the Ordnung is not considered the law of God, yet, when an Amish man or woman is baptized into the church, they must promise to never break the Ordnung. If they do, they will be excommunicated. The Amish themselves say that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between the laws of God and the laws of their order. Does this sound familiar to the Jews? It should. And Jesus had a to say about adding to the Bible, establishing laws not found in His Word, and oppressing people with man-made rules.
  • 4. The Amish believe in a works salvation. Heaven is a place for the saved (although no one can really know if he/she were saved until they get there). The saved happen to be those who both believe in Christ and follow the church's rules. The unsaved are those who reject Christ and live as they wish to. We know that the Bible says "by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast." - Ephesians 2:8-9. It's confusing because the Amish profess to believe in salvation through grace, yet, they also teach that God weighs their obedience against their disobedience to see who enters heaven.
  • 5. The Amish practice Rumspringa. Rumspringa is where an unbaptized young adult is allowed to leave the Amish community and experience being "English" for a while. The ideas is that it gives young people the chance to see whether they really want to be baptized Amish or whether they prefer the "world". Yes, Rumspringa is the backdrop for a lot of Amish books. But nowhere in the Bible do I see it said that a person ought to experience Jesus, then go out and freely sin before making a final choice. That's not how it works. You don't put on, take off, and put on Jesus. Further still, this is part of their works-based and anti-eternal security religion. If you chose not to come back, the chances of you seeing your family again are slim. Because, after all, how can you possibly be one of the ones who earn their way to heaven unless you are baptized into the Amish church? You are a stumbling block and a pollution. Aren't you glad that's not the way Jesus treated sinners?
  • 6. The Amish believe in baptismal regeneration. Confusing, no? Let's get this straight. They believe salvation is by grace, but you cannot know for sure that you are saved, you have to keep the laws of the church, there is no salvation outside of the Amish church, and you have to be baptized. So whatever happened to "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved?"
  • 7. The Amish teach that modern living displeases God. Okay, yes, they have one thing right. They are grateful with little. That's something we can all work on. But, still, adding to God's Word is sin. Teaching that any modern amenities or conveniences displease God is clearly adding to God's Word (as well as contributing to their man-made works salvation system.) Not to mention, a lot of ideas really do border on foolishness. It's a sin worthy of shunning to drive a car - but not to be driven in a car. Confusing, no?
  • 8. The Amish teach that the church has received the authority from God to interpret His will. In other words, submission to the church is submission to God. In order to be right with God, do what the bishop tells you to do - from how to plant your fields to how long your skirt should be. This has often led to abuse. Bishops have been known to violently threaten congregants who dare to question his authority.  (It should be noted that this kind of circumstance is in the minority, yet, the thinking the provokes abuse is still there.) While pastors and ministerial leaders are an authority to be respected and honored, no one has the right to wield unquestionable power over entire congregations. We have the Holy Spirit within us and we are Believer-Priests. We are to be like the Bereans, searching the Scriptures out for ourselves - not submitting blindly to a bishop so we can go to heaven. 
  • 9. Some Amish practice powwowwing. While this seems to be a dying practice, some Amish still practice powowwing. Quoting a source on Old Order Amish health care, "it is used in physical and spiritual healing, particularly when dealing with minor ailments, skin diseases, and culturally-defined illnesses. Performed by various techniques, such as the use of magical words and charms, or the gift of "electric" in the hand treating ailments by rubbing and massaging." However, there is some controversy with this, as some consider it linked to witchcraft. A lot of it goes back to the prevailing Amish belief that God causes all things and that only substances He created (of the earth) may be used to help the pain or ailments He allowed. They believe that the body can and will heal itself. If it doesn't? Then it must be the will of God. This is why some Amish men refuse to take their laboring wives to the hospital when something goes wrong and, therefore, lose their wife and unborn child. 
On a side note... You don't think people get be convinced to believe any of these ideas? Think again. I've met some who believe in quite a few of the points under #9, including refusing to go to the hospital during labor in the name of "trusting God's will." 

  • 10. The Amish have some great ideals and principles. The Amish practice a lot of great Biblical principles, such as respecting the elderly, working hard, humility, and more. While it's sad that many of these principles are enforced to work one's way to heaven, we can all definitely learn a lot from them. The ability to live off of what you have and be content is incredible.
Amish fiction can be a great way to learn about another time in history or even about the Amish today. However, keep in mind that they generally are not portrayed as the anything but a different denomination of Christianity - rather than being border-line cult. Not all Amish orders are the same, and I believe that some Amish have truly found salvation in Jesus Christ. However, the majority are laboring under a work-based salvation and have entrapped themselves in a set of man-made rules similar to the Jews in order to please God. None of this is written to be hateful or anti-Amish, but simply to remind us all that sound doctrine does matter.

I hope and pray for Amish revival under evangelism, as has happened in the past. It would be wonderful if the Lord would raise up a missionary or evangelist to them, wouldn't it? 

What do you know about the Amish? Do you have a favorite Amish recipe? What is your favorite Amish book? Share in the comments!
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Thursday, September 8, 2016

The Spirit of the Lord

Confession time. I went through some extreme trials during the last few months before we moved. But it's wasn't without its silver lining.

A subject God has been awakening in my heart for the last few years has been fully ignited and is now not just a mere subject to me, but a passion. 

And it involves the Spirit of the Lord.

The Lord has really been showing me that it is not what people say that defines them. It is what they do. It's what they believe in principle, in action, in daily living, not just in words or a show in church. It's being real. Raw. Sold out to God in daily life, not in a fleshly show that rears its head where there is an audience. It's in the private, little acts of kindness, graciousness, and true religion. 

True religion. As in, keeping oneself unspotted from the world's spirit of gossip, lies, perpetual hypocrisy, violence, bitterness, and backstabbing. (James 1:27)

In other words, true religion before God will involve a relationship with God, manifesting itself in a spirit of Christ-likeness. Not perfection, obviously, but in a spirit that is genuinely allowing Christ to flow, in a spirit that breathes grace and peace, in a spirit that demonstrates true charity. 

To be candid, it's nothing short of a dishonor when someone claims a denomination or a church name...only to live a lifestyle that is at complete opposition to the holy fundamentals and principles the church upholds. 

I'll use my own denomination (for lack of a better term) as an example. I'm Baptist. Folks in my circles are known for their strong stand on Scripture, their soundness of doctrine, their upright convictions. And, unfortunately, some Baptist circles are also known for a spirit of (dare I say it?) unkindness. Legalism. Gossip. And, in some cases, a lifestyle of hypocrisy, living one thing on a Sunday and another in the home.

Borrowing from Paul here... My brethren, these things shouldn't be.

I love theology and studying doctrine as much as anybody. I'm a Faith Bible Institute graduate married to a Bible college graduate with a Bachelor of Missions. I love doctrine. But, honestly, it can be way too easy to walk in the letter instead of the spirit of the law. (And I'm writing to myself as much as anybody.)

The simple truth is that we all can get hung up on doctrines or deep theological questions (which are good) and completely forget the spirit of the Lord.

So, not to throw out doctrine, but simply to ask: Where is the spirit of the Lord? Because, if we are fighting among ourselves and losing our vision to reach a lost world for Christ, our crisp Sunday attire and perfect doctrinal statement are clearly doing little good.

That would be an ouch for me. Maybe not you, but definitely for me. 

The spirit of the Lord brings powerful, beautiful things into people's lives. And, every once in a while, it's good to do a little check up. Is His spirit present?

The spirit of the Lord is:
  • Freedom. Oh, I LOVE this one! "...and where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." -2 Corinthians 3:17. If God is ruling and reigning, there won't be battles over control. An artificial authority isn't going to try to dictate your life to you. You won't try to control someone else's life. There will be freedom - freedom in the finished work of Christ, from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:2), from chains of addiction and abuse, from dictatorship, from manipulation. Remember, it was our God who brought the Israelite slaves out of Egypt. It was our God who said "...the Spirit of the Lord God is upon me; because the LORD hath appointed me to preach good tidings unto the meek; he hath sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound..."  
  • Love. One of the fruits of the Spirit is love! Charity. Read 1 Corinthians 13. That is the spirit of the Lord!
  • Respect. When you have the spirit of the Lord, you have a  fear (respect) for the Lord. And respect for the Lord will naturally flow out toward those He died for. There will be respect for individual decisions, for different opinions (provided they are not directly contrary to Scripture), for each person as a person.
  • Truth. "But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth..." -John 16:13. Lies, half-truths, and deceit cannot abide where the Spirit of the Lord is present. 
Obviously, those are just a few characteristics that are present when the Lord's Spirit is also present. But they are, oh, so important!

I suppose the whole nature of this post is to leave the thoughts given to us in the book of James. "What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? ...shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works." Let's live out the doctrine we say we have. (Easy to say but hard to do, right?!)

Additionally, we become like those we hang out with. When choosing friends, a new church, or a ministerial position, it's good to make sure the disposition(s) in questions match the doctrine. A doctrinal statement can be squeaky clean and perfect, but if the Spirit of the Lord is missing, something is wrong. No one person or place or ministry is perfect, but those who love the Lord and want to help you love the Lord better will produce the fruit of the Spirit. 

Have you thought of any characteristics that are present when the Lord's Spirit is? Share your thoughts in the comments! And, before I go, don't forget that Grace Triumphant is only $2.99 on Kindle! Download it now before the sale is over!

Adios Until Next Time!
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Thursday, September 1, 2016

Adventures in...Tennessee!

As you know if you have been following me on Facebook... We've moved! To Tennessee! My hubby has a new job and ministerial training here, and we've had such an emotional roller coaster with goodbyes (I'm the first girl out of my family to move out of the state) and getting settled into our new home!

Here is an excerpt from my Facebook diary...

"I've lived here in TN for one week. One exciting, terrifying week, in which I've been over-the-top welcomed and blessed by the sweetest people ever, survived without green chile (I am barely hanging on to dear life, people), ate pizza that was not Dions (apparently Dominoes do exist), and discovered I need a translator. 'Cause, bless your hearts, I can't understand a word y'all is sayin'! I also discovered I need to stop pronouncing all street names in Spanish. It's been great! I can't wait to see what the next week holds!" --excerpt from The Diary of a Transplanted New Mexican.

Samuel and I went exploring! We had a great deal of fun checking out the water front and historical points!

Cool walking bridge, no?

Dreamy sigh... From me. Moving on...

This was SO not one of my better picture days. But, here I am, in front of the camera for the usual social media documentation and the like. 

Green. Water. Oh, the bliss...

And, we discovered the historical carousal with the hand-carved animals. This was Samuel's very first time on a carousal. Oh, the terror. Seriously, though, despite riding a fish away from a hungry-looking ostrich, he did pretty well.

Doesn't everybody high-five a statue?

My man with a lion at the fountain. Epic.

I felt all Norman Rockwell-ish with this shot. I don't know. The boat, the bridge, the water, the hill *cough, cough, er, mountain*, etc...

In other news, our apartment is so beautiful! And decorations are coming along quite well! More photos coming soon. And possibly a video of our little place!

And...drum roll...here is the latest pic of her highness, my beautiful niece!

Until next time! What has been keeping y'all busy?
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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Of Babies, Hiking, and Adventure

Phew! Where does the time go?! Life is just flying by...

My husband filled a pulpit in Kansas about two weeks ago. And he let me fulfill a long-time dream by stopping by the Gateway Arch when we drove through St. Louis! (Yes, I did have to get up early, but it was worth it.) We didn't go inside, but we did see the outside! 

This man. I love him. And he is a stud. *Fan girl moment*

We had a fun get-together with my grandparents. It is probably the last time we'll all be together for a while. :( I am trying not to cry perpetually, but it is soooo tough. (Oh, did I mention that we are moving?! More details soon!!!)

Me and my grandma. I love her. 

All of ladies. I love them all. 

Me and my mom. <3 Most folks think she is my sister...

Trumpets, drum roll, fanfare... Me and Princess Rachael. :) I wuv her so much.

We went hiking at the East Fork in the Jemez (pronounced with an "h" for my non-Spanish friends...) Samuel had never been and I simply had to go one last time before we move. 

Our little tradition is the wild flowers pictured. Samuel puts them in my hair every time we hike. I love it! We got caught in the rain (love, love, love!). I'm grateful for a prepared hubby who had ponchos and a gentlemanly one who made sure I got the best one...

Rachael's baby dedication at Gospel Light Baptist Church was such a joy. I love every opportunity to be with my wonderful family. 

That's about it for now. Anything new with y'all? Did you read my post on the home? Don't forget to leave your thoughts! 

I am currently working on a post about the Spirit of the Lord. In your mind, what kind of an environment, disposition, etc. demonstrate that the Spirit of the Lord is present? Leave me your thoughts! Verses welcome! 

Until Next Time...

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Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Importance of Our Home as a Haven (+Resources!)

The home is a topic I've spent a lot of years studying. As a girl, my mom and grandma taught me all the basics of hospitality, cooking, cleaning, being a hostess, etc. I was given dozens of books to read. And then, one day, I began to apply what I had learned to the room I shared with my sister. Now I'm applying it to my own home. 

At the end of this post, I'm going to briefly share a recent personal experience about why I am writing on this subject. Take note: the home is more important than we often realize.

I just wanted to share with you why the home is a haven...and offer a few resources! Enjoy! Please be sure to share YOUR ideas in the comments!


In the crazy bustle of activity and events we call life, home is often an overlooked principle. Notice I say principle because, yes, the very essence of the word home is a principle. Home is not necessarily a place. It is an atmosphere. 

Home is - or should be - a haven.

A haven of rest, love, laughter, and peace. A place to heal from wounds. A place to find refreshment from the busy life we lead outside. It should be a hospitable for the hurting, a resting place for the weary, and a beacon of light to the lost. 

As Emilie Barnes says in her book Simple Secrets to a Beautiful Home, "...if you are like the women I meet...you long for a home that is warm and welcoming, comfortable and freeing - a place where you can express the uniqueness of your God-given talents and nurture relationships with people you love. You are hungry for a home - and a life - that reflects your personality and renews your soul."

Most of us, deep down, hunger for the atmosphere of home.

Unfortunately, with the world being as it is, the home is being attacked as never before. And I don't just mean the foundation of the home (our faith). I mean the home itself and everything that goes into making its atmosphere what it is.

As Christians, we should be different. We are to be set apart, different from the world, and different from its customs. This should include our dwelling place.

Two Scenes...

Picture yourself walking up to a house. As you approach, you notice the broken toys, trash, shoes, and tools covering the walkway. It's not the usual evidence you see for children having happily played for. No, it's decidedly run-down and littered. 

You continue walking up to the door. But the door scarcely opens before you become overwhelmed with a sense of chaos. Noise - and not joyful ones - issue out from the house,  instantly overwhelming your ears and spirit.

You step inside. All of your senses are bombarded. The TV is flashing images and blaring noise. Dirt, garbage, toys, and paper litter the entry and living room. The odor of unwashed laundry and filth strike your nostrils. Children are hollering; those who are quiet don't bother to look up from their cellular devices or video games. Dogs are barking and rush around the house. Everyone has apparently forgotten their inside voice - or can no longer use it, simply because the other noises of TV, radio, video games, hollering, and barking make it impossible to speak in a normal tone of voice and still be heard.

You try to find a place to sit, but it is nearly impossible amidst the worn out boots blocking your path, the stack of papers heaped on the sofa, and the cats stretching themselves over the little remaining space. You've just arrived and, already, your senses are bombarded with chaos and your spirit is overwhelmed with anything but peace. 

This is the fourth, the sixth, the tenth time you've been there. And it's always like this. Nothing is unusual. It's all a very typical scene. And you sit there, struggling to feel Christ's presence. Because - didn't I mention this? - it's a Christian home.

Unfortunately, the scene I just described is a real one for many Christian living places today. 

No, it's not always that extreme. But, sometimes, even in a clean house, Christ's presence is somehow missing. 

Picture yourself walking up to another home. You smile at the squirt guns and baby buggy on the front lawn. Children have clearly been playing there. But it's not an unwelcome sight. The area is clearly taken care of and it's obvious that the children have simply been enjoying themselves.

The door is opened. You step inside. The first sensation that strikes you is the smiles. The mother of the home looks tired, true, but she is smiling. The younger children are crowded around her and excitedly usher you into the house. The oldest son smiles and waves in passing. 

What is that scent? As you are drawn to a seat in the tidy living room, you close your eyes and breath in the freshness. Someone has been doing laundry. A hint of vanilla and lavender lighten on your senses. When you open your eyes, you see a lit candle. It's next to a pile of music books, true, but you barely see the them. That little glow of light steals the attention from the one or two piles of unfinished school papers and brings a touch of peace to your heart.

Somewhere, soft music is playing. It's not too loud and brings an air of peace, even when the baby whimpers and the new puppy sets up a howl when he sees you. It's not a magazine perfect house, but it's clean and as tidy as one could expect with a home full of children. 

You feel welcomed. Whether it's in the gentle smiles, the moderated voices, the lit candles, the music, the Scriptures littering the walls (both on paintings and on the colored pictures on the refrigerators ), or love you can simply feel, you know that you are welcomed. You know that you are loved - if for no other reason than that this family loves Jesus.

The Witness of the Home

In our fast-paced culture today, the witness of the home is often a sadly neglected facet of our Christianity. However, it should not be this way.

Our homes should reflect the power, love, peace, and strength as as Christian claim to possess through the Holy Spirit. How can we claim the peace and love of Jesus if we live our daily lives in chaos and conflict?

Christianity becomes real in the home. We are no longer on our best behavior, in our best clothes as we are on Sunday. We are real. We are genuine. This is real life. And this is our opportunity to show the world that we are different - and not just on Sundays.

Hospitality is a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate Christ-like love and sacrifice. However, it will become impossible if our dwelling place is chaotic, cluttered, and the center of bickering and disorder. It's rather difficult to find the peace of Christ in an environment overrun by arguments, shouting, clutter, and disorder. Our God is a God of order, of love, of peace, of beauty. And the way we live our lives is an unspoken testimony to Him and how He has changed us and made us different from the world.

In a world full of chaos, war, and sin, the witness of a haven-like home will speak volumes. 

Finding Balance...In the Home-Tone

All of us need quiet, calm, and peace. It is essential to procuring rest for our souls in this crazy world. But... We still do live in the crazy world.

Creating a haven of rest in one's home does not involve perfection. If anything, perfection can create a sense of unrest and chaos just as much as disorder can. The secret is balance and a desire for everyone's good. If Better Homes and Gardens is our goal, we might as well throw the idea of a haven out of the proverbial window. 

Why? Because perfectionism looks at the exterior. A haven of peace looks at the heart.

One can definitely create a child-friendly home that is still a haven of rest. The haven homemaker looks for ways to create a peaceful, loving, safe environment - not necessarily a 100% clean one. Life happens. Folks need to feel comfortable in their home. Therefore, it's about a tone, not a magazine cover. 

It's the tone of the home that makes quick decisions when things go awry. 

  • When greasy dishes are overflowing, the tone is the little voice that prompts one to light a candle and dim the lighting, creating an environment of peace in a messy kitchen.
  • When it's near 4 o'clock and everyone is tired and hungry, the tone prompts one to turn on some light classical music to calm nerves and set an atmosphere of quiet.
  • When papers and music and mail are overflowing, the tone reminds you to find an attractive basket or box to neatly contain the clutter.
  • When toys are scattered all over the floor, the tone is what prompts you to remind the children to have the mid-afternoon clutter-clearing time.
  • When tension is strong and a fight is brewing, the tone reminds you to lower your voice and seek peace.

You see, creating a haven of rest is not about perfection. It's not about clutter never being present, about dishes never piling over, about chaos never ensuing. It's about creatively finding ways to calm the noise, contain the messes, and consciously do one's best to create peace in a very un-peaceful world.

Creating the Haven

One thing I love about being a homemaker is that I get to use my personal styles, tastes, and opinions to fashion my home. I also get to consult my husband, glean from his opinions, and create an atmosphere that suits us both. (After all, a haven is about making everyone feel comfortable and at peace!)

Everyone person is different. Therefore, there is no cookie cutter way to create a haven. Only you know what you want and what works best to create peace and a loving environment in your family. Only you know how to answer the questions: How Do I Make My Home a Haven? and Is My Home Reflecting the Light of Christ?

Still, I thought it would be fun to share a few tips. I've learned them from my mom, grandma, and two books -- Simple Secrets to a Beautiful Home and The Life Giving Home: Creating a Place of Belonging and Becoming. I've done a lot of experimenting and come up with my own ways to make our home a haven, but again, it's all about individual creativity!

(Oh, by the way... Creating a haven has nothing to do with spending money on the perfect decorations. You can use what you have or purchase items in a very thrifty manner. Since we're called into full-time Christian service, you can be sure that the Jones family is on a very tight budget! It's entirely possible to create haven on a very small income.)

  • Candles are a life saver! They provide fragrance, soft or romantic lighting, and set an atmosphere of calm. If you or hubby dislike having open flames, there are now many varieties of flameless candles that flicker and even have scent! Sprinkle them around your home - by the sink, in the living room, in the bathroom, and make sure there is one or two on your bedside table.
  • Invest in some good classical or worshipful CDs. Be sure to hit that play button in the early mornings or mid afternoon when life is sure to be crazy. 
  • Baskets are amazing. Whether they contain spiritual books for quiet moments or blankets for those cuddly nights, use 'em! Fill them with whatever makes for a peaceful home and scatter them around the house.
  • Think good scents. Whether it's candles, room spray, Wall Flowers, an essential oils diffuser, wax warmer, or regular oil warmer, make your home refreshing! This takes a little work if you are the mother of small boys or live on a farm, but it can be done!
  • Consider creative ways to hide clutter. The dollar stores often carry cute little collapsible fabric boxes and baskets. Why not have a cute receptacle for all of that mail, sheet music, books, keys, etc?
  • Establish an inside voice.
  • Establish a daily "clearing up" time. Clutter always brings chaos. Have a set time (just five to ten minutes in the middle of the day) where you set a timer and see how much you can get clean!
  • Like to bake? Fresh bread, pie, etc. naturally creates a touch of whimsy, plus they smell really good!
  • Make a conscious effort to turn off the TV if you are not actually watching it. Background noise and scenes of violence will very quickly destroy an atmosphere of security and peace.

Be Sure to Leave Your Own Ideas in the Comments!

Those are just a few of the ideas I've gleaned from reading, learning, and gaining experience. I love being a homemaker and am grateful that God has entrusted me with such an important task.

I'll be completely candid. Not too long ago, my home came under major attack. Everything my husband and I stand for came under attack. People who claim to be men of God tried to shred our marriage and get in between us...and we've only been married 5.5 months. This tells me a lot about how important the home environment of a Christian is. Whether you have experienced it or not (yet), godly homes are under attack - even by those who name the name of Christ. Satan is fighting hard to keep peace, godliness, and order from our homes. He doesn't want us to have loving, peaceful relationships in the beauty of a haven-like home. 


Perhaps it is because a home that mirrors Christianity is a more powerful witnessing/discipleship tool than we realize. 

Perhaps the way we live our lives reflects something to a lost and dying world. Perhaps peace in the home is a witness that we do follow the Prince of Peace.  Perhaps love in the home is a witness that we do follow the One who IS love. Perhaps things being done decently and in order reflect the God who established decency and order in the first place. 

It's up to each family how they want to establish an environment of peace and create that haven. But, however we decided to do things, it is wise to understand that we are under attack. Creating peace is never easy. But it is worth it...for our own sanity, for our walk with the Lord,  for our witness to a lost world, and to strengthen our ability to reach out to the hurting.

Leave your ideas in the comments! What books have you read? What tips have you learned? Please share!
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