Books I’ve Been Reading…

I love to read, but I struggle with trying new authors. I am nervous that I will start a book, but then not jive with the story line or the author’s style. Then I have to choose whether I finish the story for closure or just not know how the story ends – and that is a hard choice to make. I could struggle through writing I don’t relate to, or leave the ending  out there just hanging and unfinished.

book quote
image from here

So, I went on Pinterest and scrolled through different pins of book recommendations. I wrote down the ones that sounded interesting based on the description and the pinner’s comments about why they liked the book. Maybe if you are like me and struggle with branching out in the book area, this list of books I have read recently will help you try some new authors.

1. Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet

hotel on the corner of bitter and sweet

“Set during one of the most conflicted and volatile times in American history, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is an extraordinary story of commitment and enduring hope. In Henry and Keiko, Jamie Ford has created an unforgettable duo whose story teaches us of the power of forgiveness and the human heart.” (from the Amazon book description)

What I loved about this books is that it took me to a part of American history that I wasn’t very familiar with and wove a beautiful story in it. It bounces back and forth between the past and the present, but does so with clarity. I devoured this book!

2. Wonder

wonder

“August Pullman was born with a facial difference that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting 5th grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid–but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face. Told from Auggie’s point of view, but soon switches to include his classmates, his sister, her boyfriend, and others, these perspectives converge in a portrait of one community’s struggle with empathy, compassion, and acceptance.” (from the Amazon book description)

I adored this book. Since it is a children’s book, it was an easy read, but brought me to tears none the less. It is a beautiful story of friendship, looking beyond appearances, and the resilience and strength of children. READ THIS and your kids should read it too! (The movie is coming out soon too!)

3. The Fill-In Boyfriend

the fill-in boyfriend

“When Gia Montgomery’s boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable…convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.
The problem is that days after prom, she can’t stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship?
Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Kasie West’s talent shines in this tale of one girl’s unexpected quest to find love…and possibly herself.” (from the Amazon book description)

This was a wonderful young adult book. I find that many love stories in the young adult section can be inappropriate in regards to sexual content and language. Kasie West’s writing is clean, which I loved! This would make a good vacation read while lounging on the beach or on the porch in the mountains! I also read her other books By Your Side and The Distance Between Us which were good teen love stories without all the unnecessary stuff as well!

4. Lunch in Paris

lunch in paris

“In Paris for a weekend visit, Elizabeth Bard sat down to lunch with a handsome Frenchman–and never went home again.
Was it love at first sight? Or was it the way her knife slid effortlessly through her pavé au poivre, the steak’s pink juices puddling into the buttery pepper sauce? Lunch in Paris is a memoir about a young American woman caught up in two passionate love affairs–one with her new beau, Gwendal, the other with French cuisine. Peppered with mouth-watering recipes for summer ratatouille, swordfish tartare and molten chocolate cakes, Lunch in Paris is a story of falling in love, redefining success and discovering what it truly means to be at home. In the delicious tradition of memoirs like A Year in Provence and Under the Tuscan Sun, this book is the perfect treat for anyone who has dreamed that lunch in Paris could change their life.” (from the Amazon book description)

This book was a fun look at how cross-cultural love can be an amazing, though challenging adventure. It touches on love, career struggles, and the marvelous thing that is French cuisine. If you have never eaten French food, you certainly will want to find some (or cook some) after reading this book. She also has another book out called Picnic in Provence, but I haven’t had a chance to read it yet. It is on my list though!

5. After the War is Over

after the war is over

“After four years as a military nurse, Charlotte Brown is ready to leave behind the devastation of the Great War. The daughter of a vicar, she has always been determined to dedicate her life to helping others. Moving to busy Liverpool, she throws herself into her work with those most in need, only tearing herself away for the lively dinners she enjoys with the women at her boarding house.
As Britain seethes with unrest and post-war euphoria flattens into bitter disappointment, Charlotte must confront long-held insecurities to find her true voice . . . and the courage to decide if the life she has created is the one she truly wants.” (from the Amazon book description)

Historical fiction is by far one of my favorite genres to read. This book was no exception. It discusses class issues, the devastation of the war, and PTSD. If you like stories set against a historical backdrop, Jennifer Robson’s book is for you. I couldn’t put this one down!

6. Counting by 7s

counting by 7s

“Willow Chance is a twelve-year-old genius, obsessed with nature and diagnosing medical conditions, who finds it comforting to count by 7s. It has never been easy for her to connect with anyone other than her adoptive parents, but that hasn’t kept her from leading a quietly happy life . . . until now.” (from the Amazon book description)

In this beautiful book, whose characters are kids who are amazingly talented and gifted, but struggle to fit in with their peers, you see how one girl who is exceptionally smart deals with grief and finally finds ways to connect with those around her. Once again, this was an easy read since it is a children’s book, but I loved it!

7. Two by Two

two by two

“At 32, Russell Green has it all: a stunning wife, a lovable six year-old daughter, a successful career as an advertising executive and an expansive home in Charlotte. He is living the dream, and his marriage to the bewitching Vivian is the center of that. But underneath the shiny surface of this perfect existence, fault lines are beginning to appear…and no one is more surprised than Russ when he finds every aspect of the life he took for granted turned upside down.” (from the Amazon book description)

Nicolas Sparks never fails to deliver a surprising story with relatable characters and situations. I adored this story about work, relationships, parenthood, and family. If you have never read Spark’s books, give him a try!

8. Talking as Fast as I Can

talking as fast as I can

“In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.” (from the Amazon book description)

I listened to this audio book on my drive to and from family vacation. It was neat to hear Lauren Graham read the book, and it felt like we were chatting over big cups of coffee. This is perfect for a road trip or a long flight. Her wit and delivery are just as evident in this book as they are in Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. By the way, if you haven’t seen these shows, do so now. I’ll wait while you binge watch them. You’ll thank me later.

9. Once and For All

once and for all

“Is it really better to have loved and lost? Louna’s summer job is to help brides plan their perfect day, even though she stopped believing in happily-ever-after when her first love ended tragically. But charming girl-magnet Ambrose isn’t about to be discouraged now that he’s met the one he really wants. Maybe Louna’s second chance is standing right in front of her.
Sarah Dessen’s many fans will adore this latest novel, a richly satisfying, enormously entertaining story with humor, romance, and an ending that is so much more than happily-ever-after.” (from the Amazon book description)

Sarah Dessen is one of my favorite authors. I have read every one of her books (except her first two which I didn’t prefer). I have also read most of them many, many times. I love her style and the way her characters struggle with things the rest of us have encountered. This one dealt with school shootings, divorce, and how losing love makes us jaded sometimes. If you have never read Sarah Dessen’s books, you should!

10. When God Doesn’t Fix It

when god doesn't fix it

“Worship leader and recording artist Laura Story’s life took an unexpected turn when her husband, Martin, was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Their lives would never be the same. Yes, with God all things are possible. But the devastating news was that no cure existed to restore Martin’s short-term memory, eyesight, and other complications. The fairy-tale life Laura had dreamed of was no longer possible. And yet in struggling with God about how to live with broken dreams, Laura has found joy and a deeper intimacy with Jesus.” (from the Amazon book description)

I just started this one, but the Kindle version is still on sale on Amazon for $1.99, so I wanted to share it with you. I feel that this is one of the hardest parts of the Christian life, enduring struggles and trusting God even when your earthly circumstances don’t change.

I’d love to hear what are you reading! Share in the comments below!
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Kicking and Screaming

As I was nursing my son to sleep last night, I was praying for him. That he would grow up to know Christ, that he would have ears to listen to the wise ones in his life, that he would eventually outgrow this stage of tantrums. As I spoke that last phrase in my head, my eyes filled with tears. As God gently nudged me, I had this thought.

How often have I thrown myself down and kicked and screamed when it came to my walk with God?

As I began reflecting on the events that can cause my young son to melt down or act out, I saw some comparisons in my own life.

Example 1: Joseph loves being outside. He loves swinging and sliding. He will walk around and dig in leaves and dirt. Usually, he melts down when I bring him inside. He desperately wants to be roaming around and doing his own thing.

How often have I fallen down, digging in my heels, as God is trying to take me on a journey with Him? How often have I screamed and cried about changes in life that will ultimately bring me to the next part of my life with Christ?

 

Example 2: Joseph loves to eat, and typically meals aren’t a huge issue. But every once in awhile, he doesn’t really care for what we offer him. As you can imagine, this usually results in him spitting it out or throwing it off his tray. After a few tries, he will start waving his hands to make sure we can’t get the spoon to his mouth.

How often have I ignored, spat out, rejected, or waved off God’s truth because it was too hard to swallow? Too bitter and difficult to taste? Too offensive? How often have I complained about what blessings I do have because I wanted different or bigger ones?

 

Example 3: Joseph loves to investigate the bathrooms. He pulls down the hand towels, flushes the toilet, and inevitably, he wants to carry around the plunger. Naturally, I don’t want him running around with the cesspool of bacteria that surely resides on the plunger. Often, when I refuse to let him carry it around, he fusses and flops down on the ground.

How often have I screamed and cried because I felt God was taking something away from me I had a right to? Perhaps He is taking something away that won’t be best for me in the long run or taking something away to give me something better.

As I reflect on these, I am reminded about a man of God who had to deal with all of these issues. Abraham was asked to leave his home country and go to a place God would show him. (Genesis 12) He was given God’s covenant-which promised many children and land among other things-when he had no heir and was living in a foreign country. (Genesis 17) He was asked to give up Issac, his only son and the fulfillment of God’s covenant. (Genesis 22)

In Hebrews, he is honored because of his great faith and trust in God.

 8By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going.

17 By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was in the act of offering up his only son, 18 of whom it was said, “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 19 He considered that God was able even to raise him from the dead, from which, figuratively speaking, he did receive him back.

I want Abraham’s faith. Faith that stands up instead of melting when asked to do the hard stuff of life.

c.s. lewis quote-far better

Incomprehensible…is a good thing.

(This was a post I wrote in July after a sermon at Community Bible Church called God: Part 1. It is actually something we are talking about with the middle schoolers about all year long. God…what we do know about him, and embracing what we cannot know about him.)

I was challenged this past Sunday (July 27) about the box we tend to put God in. We feel more comfortable with a God we can understand, a God we can control, a God we can predict. The scary, amazing thing is that we will never be able to impress these ideals on God because no box will contain Him.

We will continually be frustrated and annoyed if we keep trying to define God on our terms and with our limits. We need to open our boxes and allow our mind to be blown by the amazingness that is our God.

No matter how much time we spend studying and learning about God, we will never grasp everything about who He is. In fact, the speaker at church suggested that there are attributes and traits of God that we don’t even have words for. I had never considered that before. In heaven for eternity, we will be learning new things about our amazing God!

To be honest, the fact that I can’t fully comprehend God has never really bothered my heart, it has actually comforted it. If I understood all of who God was, if I knew how His mind worked, if I could wrap my mind around His ways, I could not be saved by Him. If I could comprehend Him, He could not step in and rescue my soul from the pit.

Think about it…when you’re trapped in a house on fire, when you are in a wreck, when you suffer a heart attack, it isn’t someone inside the house, inside the car, or beside you when the pain starts who typically steps in and saves you. It is someone outside the situation who has the ability, skills, peace, and knowledge to save you from danger and death.

It is no different with God. For human sinners to be saved, there must be a being who isn’t bound by our sin, knowledge, time, or abilities. He must be more powerful than death, stronger than sin, and more complex than us.

So, instead of shaking our fist at a God who doesn’t work on our timetable, who won’t give us two weeks notice, and who brings storms our way sometimes, we should take a new approach and let God out of our restricting boxes. All those boxes do is limit our faith and our ability to trust. It doesn’t give us control of God.

We should start marveling at how much we don’t understand about God. We should allow ourselves the freedom to admit we don’t know everything about Him. And that it’s ok for that to be the answer to a question. “I don’t know.”

The speaker at church encouraged us to read Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer.
I should be getting a copy soon and I will share what mind blowing quotes and thoughts God brings out of the book for me.

a.w. tozer quote

What is something you’ve never fully understood about God? Does it bother you? Is your faith limited by the size box you have closed God into?

Rain…it’s a beautiful sound.

I woke up this morning and was just lounging around in bed. Then, I heard it start. Rain, falling gently, watering the earth. Rain has always been one of my favorite things. I love the sound it makes as it hits rooftops and runs down gutters. I love that smell about five minutes before it starts.

jumping in the rain

So, I told Phillip I was going to sit outside and listen to the rain.

Here I sit as the clock moves to 7 am, watching the world come alive as it is watered. The birds are having breakfast- cardinal, titmouse, sparrow, mourning dove, and chickadee. They are calling to one another after a quiet evening. The grass is receiving the rain like a welcome gift. I placed my tomato plants out so they can enjoy the drops as well.

Whenever I think about rain, I am reminded that it is part of God’s covenant promise. In Genesis, God floods the entire Earth because it was filled with wicked people who only did what was right in their own eyes. The only righteous man God found during this time was Noah whom He saved, along with the animals, on the ark Noah built. After closing Noah and his family and the animals inside, God flooded the entire Earth with 40 days of heavy rain. When the clouds lifted, there was no land to be seen. After many days, the ark came to rest on a mountaintop and when the land was dry, Noah, his family, and the animals descended out of the boat. God made a covenant with Noah there.

“8 Then God said to Noah and to his sons with him: 9 “I now establish my covenant with you and with your descendants after you 10 and with every living creature that was with you—the birds, the livestock and all the wild animals, all those that came out of the ark with you—every living creature on earth. 11 I establish my covenant with you: Never again will all life be destroyed by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

God promised never to flood the earth again.
Even though the rainbow is technically the sign of God’s covenant, I remember this story when it rains too. I know that this rain will never wipe out everyone. There will be tragic storms that destroy neighborhoods and lives, and these events are no less sad. However, I do have hope because this rain will never wipe everything out. Instead, it will water and nourish the ground, the animals, and God’s people.

I love these beautiful promises in Isaiah 43: 1-3a:

“1 But now, this is what the Lord says—
he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel:
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have summoned you by name; you are mine.
2 When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you;
and when you pass through the rivers,
they will not sweep over you.
When you walk through the fire,
you will not be burned;
the flames will not set you ablaze.
3 For I am the Lord your God,
the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;”

Let your heart rest in this today.

Love,

Elise

The Games

I have always enjoyed the Olympic Games. I remember Michelle Kwan, Kristi Yamaguchi, Tara Lipinski, Michael Phelps, Shawn Johnston, Apollo Ono, and so many more. During the summer games, I am obsessed with gymnastics, swimming, and diving. During the winter games, I fall in love with figure skating,  slopestyle snowboarding (one of the new events this year), and the control these athletes have on snow and ice.

I enjoyed the first day of coverage on Thursday night.  It was exciting to watch the opening ceremonies. The hosting country shows off all they have contributed to the world and it is a culmination of artistry and history and showmanship. Then all these different cultures, countries, genders, and skills collide in a beautiful unity. Everyone marches in the parade of nations.

I can’t wait for tonight. It brings more short programs in figure skating for the team competition, ice dancing and women’s, men’s slopestyle finals, and more women’s moguls qualifiers.

sage-kotsenburg-2014-sochi-olympics-slopestyle-qualifying

Sage Kotsenburg, Team USA, captured mid-air in a great qualifying performance.

Everyone keeps commenting about the politics surrounding this Games, but I’m not very politically minded, so I just want to focus on these AMAZING athletes who have given their life for this moment!

If you have a moment tonight, check out these men and women who are sharing the joy and exhilaration of winter sports in the most amazing setting.

Much love,

Elise

Fashionable Fridays…A Glimpse of Fall

Here in the South, we have experienced a reprieve from the intense summer heat we’re known for a couple of days.

Whenever the weather cools off, I immediately starting thinking about scarves (mostly because I have an obsession with them), sweaters, boots, orange, burgundy, pumpkins, candles, Thanksgiving, crunchy leaves, and of course FOOTBALL.  But today I’m just focusing on a few of these loves of mine.

While “pinning” today (and a bit the past week), I found some lovely fall inspiration in fashion and food.

Fashion

Fall fashion seems to speak vibrant hues and comfortable, effortless style to me.

comfy sweater outfit

 

I’m loving these colors and the effortless style of the different textures. Boots are always good!

sweater and vest

 

I love the simplicity of color which allows the leopard print shows to pop.

color saturation

 

I love all the color in this outfit and the mixing of textures between the clutch, sweater, and scarf.

I also did a little online window shopping at J.Crew and Lilly Pulitzer. They have some cute stuff for the fall!

I am SOOOOO looking forward to being able to break out my collection of scarves once it cools down.  They add so much depth to an outfit.

 

Food

When I think of fall food, I think of sweet potatoes, pumpkins, cinnamon, apples, marshmellows…the sweets of fall are just so lovely.

sweet-potato-pie-l

Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmellow Meringue {here}

pumpkin snickerdoodles

 

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles {here}

Pumpkin poppers

 

Pumpkin Poppers {here}

Yum!  I can’t wait to try these out in a month or so!

 

What are you looking forward to when fall comes around?

Monday Musings…back to the blog challange

So, I am going to revisit my blog challenge that I never finished and use it as my topics for my Monday Musings.

This is the list that I will be completing, starting today:

-Letter to anyone
-Your fears
-5 things you lust after
-Shuffle on you iPod
-My family
-Favorite holiday
-How you want to grow closer to God
-Story of your life in 10 words
-Best worship time
-Favorite artist
-Someone you admire (that’s not famous)
-Why I married my husband
-What I’m looking forward to in the next 6 months

Check back in later today for my letter to “Long-Lost Friends.”