Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Happenings

Long post warning -- with tons of photos!!!

Last week, my amazing friend Rebecca flew in from NM and stayed several beautiful days with us!

We did the typical fun stuff to do around Chattanooga - ride the historic carousal, explore Coolidge Park, and get Italian Ices!

The most exciting part was our little trek to Pigeon Forge! We had a blast exploring The Incredible Christmas Place!!! It was positively...incredible! If you are into Christmas, it is definitely the place to go! 

It was so...delightful! And romantic!


I am so excited by all the super fun ornaments and decorations we purchased! Rebecca even bought us a first Christmas ornament with two little snowman and snowflakes and hot chocolate! So adorable!

We had a blast at Dolly Parton's new Lumberjack Adventure! It was on a decidedly smaller arena scale than Dixie Stampede, but it was super fun with tons of talent, lots of lumberjack adventure, an awesome mill, some real tear-jerking moments, and awesome Christmas spotlights -- such as the real meaning of Christmas (Jesus), sparkling elves who danced key moments from the Nutcracker (swoon) and a slang-bang finish! 

We got to go shopping -- a favorite activity we always enjoyed together back in NM. Of course we had to visit my happy place - Bath and Body Works. :)

Rebecca made us take this in-store photo. Oh, wait. There were no objections. ;) 

It was hard to say goodbye to Rebecca. But she left us with lots of fun memories and this awesome little Gingerbread Latte lotion. I am so in love with the new holiday tea from Teavena and my birthday gift from Sephora. Seriously. That lipstick is amazing...

(You did know that you can get a birthday gift from Sephora, right?)

Speaking of birthday... I turned 25 the day before Thanksgiving! Sheesh, I am getting SO old. But it was worth it. Not only did I receive many, many sweet wishes from my friends all around the world (looking at y'all who represented India, Cambodia, Philippines, USA, Canada, and England), but my hubby made it such a special day. It was strange and hard without my family since this is my first year without them, but I cannot get over how thoroughly Samuel spoiled me.

From breakfast in bed to watching a tear jerking Christmas movie to chicken marsala and tiramisu at Olive Garden, Samuel made my birthday very, very special. He even made me a cake, picked out the most amazing peanut butter cup ice cream, and brought me lilies. And he bought me the coat of my dreams, boatloads of chocolate, and the sweet singing Christmas cardinal I really, really wanted from Cracker Barrel. He is the best. I feel so very blessed and loved. 

Which brings us to our first Thanksgiving as a married couple. It was a holiday of firsts - first away from my family for the holidays, first as a married couple, first in Chattanooga, and first working at the Chattanooga Rescue Mission. 

I am just so proud of all hubby's hard work at the Chattanooga Rescue Mission. All of the staff and volunteers were amazing, but this handsome man is my favorite. I am so blessed to be married to a man who works his entire Thanksgiving day and night to honor God's call. Not a whole lot of men would give up all their holidays to serve others. The best part is, he works super hard all the time -- Thanksgiving or not -- to make all of the shelter guests feel welcome and be well fed. I really do believe I have the best husband in the whole wide world.

Please, share in the comments about your Thanksgiving and the joys the Lord has brought into your life lately.

I hope y'all had a very blessed Thanksgiving!
Read More

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

My November Ipsy Glam Bag Review

Okay, friends! As promised, here is my November Ipsy Glam Bag review!

I was actually much happier with this month's bag than last month's. I liked last month's bag, but this bag was wonderful. Again, as with last month, I love how all of the products that are sent to me are based on my skin tones, hair color, and preferences. Another bonus is that I can review my products and get points for doing so, which I can redeem for additional products. 

I ended up updating my preferences so that I don't get makeup brushes anymore. I don't really need them and I'd much rather receive actual products. 

So here goes! My reviews of all my glam bag goodies!

Eyeko Skinny Liquid Eyeliner! This was really nice. I liked it better than last month's eye liner, primarily because the brush was not as stiff. It's smudge-proof and perfect for that winged look.

Benefit Cosmetics POREfessional primer. This was great for those t-zone spots that get shiny. It definitely minimized my pores. I loved getting primer, since it's one of those more expensive products I don't really buy. 

Hey Honey Good Morning Honey Silk Facial Serum. Aaaaaaagh! THIS! I love facial care products, so this was perfect. It goes on so smooth and smells so beautifully of honey! Note: will not work for those allergic to honey. Perfect for priming your face before makeup.

theBalm Cosmetics Mad Lash Mascara. Okay, so I LOVE mascara. And I've tried a bunch of brands. The brush on this one was amazing. Just a few strokes and my lashes were super full without being clumpy or heavy. 

The bag itself was soooooo cute this month! It's like the constellations - only in makeup and brushes shapes! And the zipper has a star on it!

Ciate London Liquid Velvet Matte Liquid Lipstick. I really liked this. It does feel like liquid velvet. It dried well, but my lips didn't feel either dry or sticky. It is soft, a beautiful matte, and totally kissable. ;) I would have preferred a softer color, but hey. It's almost winter and bright red lips are totally do-able during the holidays. This is one I'd probably buy more colors in. 

So, what do you think?! You can sign up for your own Ipsy Glam Bag for only $10 total a month. 

Doing my math on how much just regular drugstore makeup costs, I'd say that this is totally worth it if you are trying to get higher quality makeup on a budget. I'm not even close to running out of last month's products. All of this stuff is high quality and will last me a while, even though the products are small sized. It's definitely been fun to try out so many goodies while saving money. And it's so much fun to expect my cute little pink package in the mail each month. 

Do you enjoy makeup? How about facial care products? What product stood out as something YOU would like to try? Share in the comments!

Read More

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Because...Christmas Is A-Coming!

Are any of you excited that Thanksgiving is coming?! 

I sure am. Hubby and I will be volunteering at the mission on Thanksgiving Day itself. And the day before is *ahem* my birthday. The big 25. I am getting so old...


Hopefully I will have a lot of photos to share in the next week or so. In the mean time, are you looking for books to give to some wonderful friend or family member for Christmas?! If you want a signed edition of one of my titles, now is the time to order! 

Swing by my Amazon author page to check out the book synopsis(es?) and reviews. 

Don't hesitate to comment with your questions! I'd be glad to answer them all! You can also swing by my Facebook page to ask questions. 

I have some author friends I'd like to share with y'all too! Their books are AMAZING. You will not be disappointed by checking them out. 

Erynn's Paige Alder series is so much fun! Check it out! And check out all her books on her Amazon page

I love all of Sarah Varland's books. Check them out

Are you buying books for Christmas? 

Read More

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fall Photoshoot

We had a fun photo shoot with a friend, and I thought I'd share a few of the photos! 

One of the goals was to obtain a new author head shot. So, viola!

That's not all of them, so maybe I'll share more later! 

Which was your favorite? Are you going to get any fall photos taken? 

Read More

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

For the Broken Among Us...

So I have been talking to those I reach out to (mentor, disciple, love - whatever it's called) a lot about vulnerability and being real. About not pretending to have it all together. About being honest about weaknesses, sin, struggles.




Yes, I'm doing better about getting real, but I still have a long way to go.

Part of the problem with helping others is that you often have to reveal a little something about your own past, your own problems, your own struggles. The purpose for this post is not for me to obtain sympathy. But, in order for this post to help others, it may just have to involve me getting a tad real. Just love me anyway. 

This post is for the broken among us.

A few months ago, I had my heart completely broken.

You'd think I'd be over it, right? You'd think that little things wouldn't keep coming up to remind me of how badly I was hurt - and still hurt. You'd think that a few months would be enough time to "move on." You'd think that there still wouldn't be that knife in my chest - a knife that randomly twists or stabs anytime it's randomly reminded of circumstances that broke me.

Not in this case.

I assume I'm not alone. Judging by the people the Lord has allowed me to reach out to lately, I'd say that quite a few people are going through tough times. No, I am not alone. And neither are you.

The problem is finding a balance of seeking healing without pushing ourselves too heavily to heal quickly and just get over it. 

Let's be honest. There are some things you just can't "get over." Memories are too deeply etched, pain is too deep, wounds are too raw to just be brushed aside. We can't expect to heal quickly. Not after months or even years of pain - in whatever form it came: misunderstandings, loss, abuse, estranged relationships, death, physical ailments, gossip, or separations.

We can't expect to heal from weeks, months, even years of brokenness in a day.

But how do we heal without letting brokenness define us? 

Some people are really good about being honest, having their cry, talking their problems through, etc. If you are one of those people, keep it up. You'll heal faster than those of us who keep everything bottled up inside.

Like, em, me. 

I'm that person who smiles and goes through her day with as much outer confidence as she can muster - and is inside scared, insecure, and really, really needing to talk to someone. I'm the person who acts like everything is fine when I'm in public, then goes home and cries alone and has nightmares. 

Tell me I'm not alone. 

From what I know of a lot of my friends, you are right there with me. Acting confident when you're broken. Smiling when you're crying inside. That's all great for being the self-possessed, non emotional, put together man or woman a lot of us want to be. But I'm pretty sure it's not the best for actually healing after a hard time.

So here is what the Lord has been showing me about being real. About healing. About leaning on Him. Maybe it will help you. (And please be sure to share what the Lord has shown YOU in the comments. It may help someone.)

  • Remind yourself that you are a child of the King. Satan wants nothing better than to destroy our self-image. He wants us to see ourselves as worthless, broken, helpless, and meaningless. And he likes to get other people to see us that way too, which doesn't help. I have to keep reminding myself that it doesn't matter how other people see me. Being hurt has made me very insecure lately, particularly about how other people view me. But, honestly, it doesn't matter what people think. If I am striving to be filled with the Holy Spirit and letting Jesus lead in my life, it shouldn't matter. We have to do our best and leave the rest up to God. We have to recognize that we are precious, beloved, and cherished in His heart and eyes. 
  • Have a set time to deal with your pain. I have a literal pouring-out time with God. Once a day, I pour out absolutely everything about how I am hurting, how circumstances have been so unfair, how sometimes I can't feel that He even cares (even though the logical part of my brain knows that He does.) And then I move on with my day (okay, most of the time.) Pain and broken-heartedness cannot control our entire day. Sometimes it does, but, for the most part, we need to be really conscious to go on with our day and not simmer in our emotions. If we have a conscious, set-apart time where we try to deal with how we are feeling, we are more likely to have a good rest of the day. It enables us to not just brush aside our pain, but to deal with it and then keep moving
  • Focus on others. There's a whole lot of truth here. Focusing on blessing others is therapeutic. Yes, it's a biblical command too, but it really does help with brokenness. Just in general, I love to give gifts and write notes. I have found that stepping up my giving really helps with healing. Our actions often precede our emotions. Choosing to give a gift, write an encouraging note, volunteer some time to help someone, etc. is the first part of choosing joy. The action comes first, the emotion second. 
  • Recognize that even warriors need to rest. I love the song "The Warrior Is a Child" by Twila Paris. Even strong people who are used to always being there for others and always being the courageous one need to rest. Deep inside our armor, we're just children - fragile and needing to be loved and comforted. There is no shame in taking the time to heal, to mend, to trust, to love again.
  • Choose to trust/love. If your pain happened to be betrayal, trusting people again can be very, very hard. If your pain happened to be loss (death or otherwise), loving people can be very, very hard. In either circumstance, you knowingly open yourself up to pain and suffering all over again. It's scary, it's hard, and it takes courage, but choose to trust and love people. It's worth it. Life is too short to be paranoid about who is going to love you back. No, not everyone deserves or should have a front-seat in your life. Discernment about relationships is vital. But we can all love without throwing wisdom out the window.
  • Remember that God does see and He is there. I've lost count of the times I've asked God if He really was watching, if He really did see what was happening, if He really did care about my pain. Presumptuous, I know. But, in the heat of heartache, it's hard to really feel that God is with us. Quite simply, we can't rest on our emotions. We have to choose to believe that His Word is true and that His promises are true. He sees everything. He feels our pain. He has been there - He was rejected, suffered loss, abandoned, betrayed, and hurt too. And He promised never to leave us. 

Maybe some of this will help someone. I hope so. I truly hope so. If nothing else, just know that you are not alone if you are broken. You are not alone if you are hurting. God is there. And so are others.

What advice do you have for someone going through a hard time? How have you survived brokenness in your life? 
Read More

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?
Read More

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!
Read More

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!
Read More