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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Blind Steps of Faith

I struggle with wanting to know the will of God and the purpose driving the storms, struggles, and trials we go through. I have had great teaching regarding these issues, but sometimes my heart still doesn’t get it. The deep desires that reside there don’t understand why they aren’t being met, why they have been ignored, pushed aside. They feel abandoned, left to die a painful death. However, this is not true.

My desires are seen by a loving, faithful, ever-present God and Savior. I never have to fear that my God-given desires (i.e. to be in community with others, to be a mother, to have a happy, healthy marriage) are being ignored or pushed aside. God cares deeply, and I need to allow my heart to rest in that.

Now, this truth doesn’t answer all the questions I have in the middle of a storm. It’s difficult to go through hurt and pain, hurricanes of suffering and seemingly never-ending waits without answers or some small understanding of what is being accomplished. It is natural to look up to heaven and wonder, ask, plead for answers, but we can’t demand them. We were never promised answers. In fact, there are painful experiences and tumultuous storms for which the reasons will never be clear this side of heaven. We act as though we deserve an answer. WE deserve to know what God is up to, why He is putting us through this. But we can’t demand that kind of explanation from such a Huge, Other, Big, Powerful God. However, we are promised presence. And God’s presence always exudes love, grace, and truth.

My pastor at Community Bible Church is incredible. God has truly gifted him with a passion and ability to speak and teach. A month ago, he preached a sermon called ‘Love in the Storm.’ I encourage you to listen to it. It was from Mark 4:35-41.

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat.(Z) There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”(AA)

41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

As I have been listening to this message again today, I ran into a quote that I know I need to keep hearing.

“Look, you got a choice. You’re going to go through the storm. Yes? You’ve got a choice. You can row and fight and bail and scream and yell and holler and accuse, often to no avail. Or you can just say, ‘You know what, this isn’t about the storm, it’s about Jesus.’ It’s about crawling up next to Him and saying, ‘I trust You.’ “

Storms are that simple. They are about you and Jesus. Will we trust Him? Even when it hurts? When it doesn’t make sense? When it is scary?

I want to…so badly. He is trust-worthy!

So as I walk through these months and continue to try to get pregnant, I will trust Jesus. Do I understand? No. But I do trust Him.

 

God didn't bring you...

Hold tight to the truth that God cares deeply about you, even in the midst of a storm!

Love,

Elise

 

Groans of the Heart

Today is one of those days when there are no words.
No words I want to speak to others, no words to cry out to God, no words to put to my feelings.

Thankfully, there are truths I can believe about God, even when I don’t know what He’s doing in my life, and I don’t know what will come out of my trials and waiting.

Today, I am trying my best to meditate on things that are worthy of praise, one of the good things to think about from Philippians 4:8. God never changes, so no matter how I feel or my circumstances, He is worthy of praise.

So here is a list of things that are worthy of praise which I have compiled today:

1) Nothing can separate me from God! (Rom. 8:39)
2) My life is not pointless, it has purpose and direction, even if I can’t see it yet.
3) One day, all these struggles and frustrations will pass away and God’s glory will be ever before me in heaven.
4) My life is being worked out and planned specifically for me, my heart, and my passion.
5) I have been perfected through Christ so my sin and failures are no longer seen to condemn me.
6) That I don’t walk this path alone, I have a BIG God, an amazing husband, a supportive family, and a loving Community Group who will walk through the storms right by my side.
7) If God has provided for the birds of the air and the wildflowers in the fields, how much more will He provide for me, His Beloved.
8) That God is ‘other’ and beyond my comprehension. If He were comprehensible I would not be saved from my sin, that small of a god couldn’t save an entire race.
9) That I am welcomed into God’s court, not as a servant, but as a Daughter and Princess.
10) That our emotions are not overlooked, they are known to a Mighty and Feeling God. He feels our hurts and pains!

God deserves all the glory and praise, no matter what is going on in my life!
There is a beautiful song by Mandisa called ‘Broken Hallelujah’ and it fits how I feel right now. I hope it speaks to you as well.

(This is a post written on Monday reflecting on my continued period of waiting to get pregnant.)

Through a Child’s Eyes

On Wednesday, I took on the third word in Philippians 4:8 that Paul encourages us to think about, just.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.

I decided to think about how all people are created in God’s likeness and how no one I come into contact with on a regular basis is ‘out to get me.’ I struggle with feeling things a bit too much and tend to take statements and complaints personally, so I decided that I would reverse my thinking for a day (to hopefully begin a full reverse to my usual line of thinking).

Today, it is time to mediate on something pure. The first thing I thought about regarding this word was the innocence you see in children. For the most part, the way they view the world is pure, unjaded, and uninfluenced. That’s why they say the craziest things, sometimes embarrass their parents because they blurt out who knows what, and why Jesus encourages us to have a faith like that.

I remember my days as a child playing outside for long hours, imagining hidden worlds and alter egos. I remember the pure joy of riding a bike with no hands, dancing with abandon, and giggling with friends.  As I’ve grown up, I’ve lost a little bit of that, but I don’t want to.

15 Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them. And when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 17 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. (Luke 18:15-17)

So, today I will be thinking about the pure joy of baby laughter, little girl twirling, and the excitement of seeing things for the first time.

picture found at sherrisreadingjubilee.blogspot.com

 sherrisreadingjubilee.blogspot.com

Much Love,

Elise

Insecurity- worst friend EVER

INSECURITY…

I have recently been thinking about this subject a lot. How it affects me, my relationships, my job, my reactions, my interpretation of things, my emotions. The list goes on and on.

It’s why I constantly question whether my emotions are ok, my outfits look good enough, my walk with Christ stacks up to “such and such’s” walk with Christ, whether my friends really like me, whether my husband loves me after I’ve been balling and when I’m wearing sweatpants, and ultimately whether Christ loves me.

Here’s the kicker…when I allow insecurity to infiltrate aspects of my life, especially my walk with Christ, I am right where Satan wants me…beaten down and full of questions regarding everything. Even straight up truths that you know in your head are fact suddenly develop huge question marks behind them.

And these ludicrous thoughts seem to fly in from nowhere.
An unanswered text from a friend escalates to a question about whether she likes me or not.
A lack of encouragement at work becomes an assumption that I don’t deserve it or that my employers don’t like me.

It messes everything up! So I’ve decided that I’m through. Satan has NO control regarding my life. While it will take some time to root out all the underlying issues that dredge up my feelings of insecurity, I am not afraid to get down and dirty and yank out those lies.

What’s helping right now is So Long, Insecurity by Beth Moore.  I bought the book when it first came out because I know that because of my disposition I struggle with this. It had been while since I had addressed the issue, and I never quite made it to the end of the book, so I figured now was a good time to revisit it.

Something else that is really helping right now is my husband as well as my community group all of whom are quick to correct me when I speak a lie out loud and put me back in the correct line of thinking.  Because insecurity is so deeply rooted in your unconscious thoughts, you don’t realize how far down they go until you have someone in your life who will look at you after you say something false and tell you “NO! That’s not who you are!”  It is so encouraging that I’m not walking this, or any other struggle alone.

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My husband actually had me write down qualities or traits that I love about myself. It’s awkward for me to say “I’m good at ________.” mostly because deep down I don’t believe I’m good at anything, which is a LIE. So speaking them to myself and now sharing them with others is a exercise to correct the lies I have believed.

So I wanted to share that list with you.
I am thoughtful.
I am open.
I am relational.
I am a good cook.
I am detail-oriented.
I am creative.
I am a joy seeker.
I am loving.
I am an engaged listener.
I have a good memory.
I am a snappy dresser.
I am a book lover.
I am organized.
I am quick to seek wisdom.
I am a truth seeker.

That last one is what I am on a mission to become all the time with a vengeance. I won’t allow Satan to steal the life and gifts God has given me.
NO WAY!

So…how are you gifted? What trait do you love about yourself? Do you believe you have good traits? You do…and I’d love to know what they are! Comment below to share!

Much Love,

Elise

Monday Musings…your fears

Well, this is an interesting post for me because fear is probably one of my biggest struggles in my Christian walk. I have always had fear (in some form) even when I was a child. For instance, after seeing a Monk episode I thought someone might shoot me through my bedroom window, se we put up pieces of paper so they wouldn’t be able to see in. Also, around the same age, I saw a few seconds of The Mask, the part where it attached to his face. After that, I remember many nights that I fell asleep with my head completely under the covers because I thought a mask would come down from the ceiling in the middle of the night and attach to my face.

While I am still somewhat afraid of the dark, there are a few bigger fears that I’m trying to work on with the Lord.

Here are a few of my biggest fears:
1) Fear that I won’t be able to get pregnant and if I do, I will lose the baby in miscarriage
2) Fear of failure (yes, I’m a bit of a perfectionist)
3) Fear of provision (financially)

I have recently learned (and internalized) through reading 1000 Gifts that my worry and anxiety about things ARE rooted in fear. That was a bit difficult for me to swallow at first, but it makes sense.

Fear = Disbelief, the absence of trust

If I am fearful, I am not believing in who God is, Someone who cares about my life and is actively involved in it.
If I am fearful, it means I don’t trust God with that particular area of my life. I am not living in the truth that God is good and sovereign.

It’s not easy, but I’m working on it!

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.