Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Year in Blogging: 2015

Last year I started what I think will be a fun little tradition around here—a round-up of the top ten blog posts from the year. It's always fun to see what people are interested in reading... from home before-and-afters, to deep thoughts, to stories about Loverboy. So just in case you didn't get to see these the first time around, why not grab a drink, cozy up on the couch, and catch up!? Or hey, I won't judge you for reading a second time. ;)


2015 Top Ten Posts

Have a Happy New Year everyone! I'm so grateful for each of you!

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

16 Books to Read in 2016

The new year is right around the corner, and with it come lots of high hopes, big dreams, and good intentions. I used to fight it, but now I don't, because who ever said those were bad things? Add in a little bit of discipline and follow-through and they're great things!

So as I've been thinking about 2016, one of the things that stands out in my mind is how I'd really like to read more. We've been eye guzzling a whole lot of TV lately and picking up a book to read (and maybe actually learn!) sounds rather refreshing. Plus, I always have a huge list of books I want to read, or am in the middle of, and it's about time I did something about it!

So here's a list I've compiled of 16 books that I'd either like to read or finish in 2016. I know, it's pretty optimistic, but I can at least start somewhere rather than give up before I even start, right? Plus, 16 in '16 just sounds so nice. :) Take a look and let me know if you've read any, or if you have any to add to my list! All images and descriptions are taken from Amazon. Here's to reading more in 2016!

Christian Living

Best-selling author Jen Hatmaker is convinced life can be lovely and fun and courageous and kind. She reveals with humor and style how Jesus' embarrassing grace is the key to dealing with life's biggest challenge: people. The majority of our joys, struggles, thrills, and heartbreaks relate to people, beginning with ourselves and then the people we came from, married, birthed, live by, go to church with, don't like, don't understand, fear, compare ourselves to, and judge.

Every day we experience the uncertainty, risks, and emotional exposure that define what it means to be vulnerable or to dare greatly. Based on twelve years of pioneering research, Dr. Brené Brown dispels the cultural myth that vulnerability is weakness and argues that it is, in truth, our most accurate measure of courage.

"Church is not a meeting you attend or a place you enter," write pastors Tim Chester and Steve Timmis. "It's an identity that is ours in Christ. An identity that shapes the whole of life so that life and mission become 'total church.'" With that as their premise, they emphasize two overarching principles to govern the practice of church and mission: being gospel-centered and being community-centered. When these principles take precedence, say the authors, the truth of the Word is upheld, the mission of the gospel is carried out, and the priority of relationships is practiced in radical ways.
Just like you, Ann Voskamp hungers to live her one life well. Forget the bucket lists that have us escaping our everyday lives for exotic experiences. 'How,' Ann wondered, 'do we find joy in the midst of deadlines, debt, drama, and daily duties? What does the Christ-life really look like when your days are gritty, long--and sometimes even dark? How is God even here?' In One Thousand Gifts, Ann invites you to embrace everyday blessings and embark on the transformative spiritual discipline of chronicling God's gifts.

You and Me Forever by Francis & Lisa Chan
Marriage is great, but it's not forever. It's until death do us part. Then come eternal rewards or regrets depending on how we spent our lives. In his latest book, Francis Chan joins together with his wife Lisa to address the question many couples wonder at the altar: How do I have a great marriage? Setting aside typical topics on marriage, Francis and Lisa dive into Scripture to understand what it means to have a relationship that satisfies the deepest parts of our souls.

Foreign to Familiar is a splendidly written, well researched work on cultures. Anyone traveling abroad should not leave home without this valuable resource! Sarah's love and sensitivity for people of all nations will touch your heart. This book creates within us a greater appreciation for our extended families around the world and an increased desire to better understand them.


Peter Scazzero learned the hard way: you can't be spiritually mature while remaining emotionally immature. Even though he was a pastor of a growing church, he did what most people do: Avoid conflict in the name of Christianity - Ignore his anger, sadness, and fear - Use God to run from God - Live without boundaries. Eventually God awakened him to a biblical integration of emotional health, a relationship with Jesus, and the classic practices of contemplative spirituality.

How We Love by Milan Yerkovich
In How We Love, relationship experts Milan and Kay Yerkovich draw on the powerful tool of attachment theory to show how your early life experiences created an “intimacy imprint”–an underlying blueprint that shapes your behavior, beliefs, and expectations of all relationships, especially your marriage. They identify four types of injured imprints that combine in marriage to trap couples in a repetitive dance of pain. 

Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands by Paul David Tripp
In many ways, the church today has more consumers than committed participants. We see church merely as an event we attend or an organization we belong to, rather than as a calling that shapes our entire life. God’s plan is that through the faithful ministry of every part, the whole body will grow to maturity in Christ. This is a comprehensive treatment of how God uses people as tools of change in the lives of others, people who themselves are in need of change.

Inside Out by Larry Crabb
If you want a more vital union with God, a richer relationship with others, and a deeper sense of personal wholeness, learn how to look inside yourself and discover how God works real, liberating change when you live from the inside out. Inside Out is an essential tool for personal discipleship, counseling, and encouragement. 

Trafficking & Justice

Renting Lacy by Linda Smith
The average age of entry into prostitution in America is 13 years old. Forced into a life they never chose, manipulated, abused and tortured at the hands of the pimps who control them, our country's children are sold on the streets, on the internet and at truck stops across America every night. They arent bad kids who made bad choices. They are victims of child sex trafficking. They come from our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches, and sometimes our own homes. Author Linda Smith brings to life characters based on real stories and interviews with teen survivors.

The White Umbrella by Mary Frances Bowley
Sex trafficking. We hear about it on the nightly news and in special interest stories from around the world, but it occurs daily in communities all around us. Every year, thousands of young women are forced into sexual exploitation. Most are under the age of 18. The damage this causes to their emotions and souls is immeasurable. But they are not without hope. The White Umbrella tells stories of survivors as well as those who came alongside to help them to recovery. It describes the pain and the strength of these young women and those who held the “white umbrella” of protection and purity over them on the road to restoration.
The Locust Effect by Gary A. Haugen
While the world has made encouraging strides in the fight against global poverty, the hidden plague of everyday violence silently undermines our best efforts to help the poor. Common violence like rape, forced labor, illegal detention, land theft, and police abuse has become routine and relentless. Gary A. Haugen and Victor Boutros offer a searing account of how we got here and what it will take to end the plague. The Locust Effect is a gripping journey into the streets and slums where fear is a daily reality for billions of the world's poorest, where safety is secured only for those with money, and where much of our well-intended aid is lost in the daily chaos of violence. 

When Helping Hurts by Steve Corbett & Brian Fikkert
Poverty is much more than simply a lack of material resources, and it takes much more than donations and handouts to solve it. When Helping Hurts shows how some alleviation efforts, failing to consider the complexities of poverty, have actually (and unintentionally) done more harm than good. Focusing on both North American and Majority World contexts, When Helping Hurts provides proven strategies for effective poverty alleviation, catalyzing the idea that sustainable change comes not from the outside in, but from the inside out. 

C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce is a classic Christian allegorical tale about a bus ride from hell to heaven. An extraordinary meditation upon good and evil, grace and judgment, Lewis’s revolutionary idea in theThe Great Divorce is that the gates of Hell are locked from the inside. Using his extraordinary descriptive powers, Lewis’ The Great Divorce will change the way we think about good and evil. 

Mark of the Lion Series by Francine Rivers
#1 A Voice in the Wind: Torn by her love for a handsome aristocrat, a young slave girl clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance from the forces of decadent Rome. 
#2 An Echo in the Darkness: Turning away from the opulence of Rome, Marcus is led by a whispering voice from the past into a journey that could set him free from the darkness of his soul. 
#3 As Sure As the Dawn: Atretes. German warrior. Revered gladiator. He won his freedom through his fierceness . . . but his life is about to change forever.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

On Feeling Inadequate

Lately I've been feeling rather inadequate. Inadequate to be a loving wife. Inadequate to lead ministry. Inadequate to follow Christ well. And it's pretty easy to get down on myself, until God's Word shines light into the darkness and I see that feeling inadequate is actually a really, really good thing when you have a more-than-adequate God. Check it out—Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. (2 Corinthians 3:5) 

I really like how one commentary sums it up: There is nothing in us that allows us to claim that we are capable of doing this work. In other words, I can never claim the glory because there is nothing in me that makes me capable, except Christ working in me... so Christ always gets the glory. And there is never any reason that I should believe that I can do life on my own. There is never any reason to believe that I don't need God working in me, that I don't need His ever-present power and strength.

God is writing the story of my life—and I'm so grateful that He is. Because if I was writing it I would always be confident and adequate and capable—never lacking anything. I would be able to do it all on my own. But then I wouldn't ever have to rely and depend on Christ. His strength would never be made perfect in my weakness. He would never get the glory. And a story like that—it honestly doesn't sound like a very good story. In fact, a story without an all-powerful God working His power through weak, inadequate human beings wouldn't even be a story worth reading. 

So next time you find yourself feeling inadequate, rather than beating yourself up over it, why not invite God to work through your inadequacies? Why not ask Him to show up in big ways and be your all-sufficient power? Acknowledge that His strength is made perfect in your weaknesses, and allow Him to get the glory for any work in your life—because He's the one who did the work in the first place, and He will continue it on until completion. What a good God we serve!

Friday, December 18, 2015

5 Tips for Success (from the successful)

In a recent Relevant article titled "What I Wish I Knew When I Was 27" ten entrepreneurs, go-getters, and leaders shared pieces of wisdom and advice for their 27 year old selves. Seeing as 27 isn't too far away for me, I soaked up their words and wanted to share some of my favorites with you.

"God is far more interested in doing a work in you before He does anything through you. Nothing is wasted. He is always preparing you for what He has prepared for you." —Christine Caine

"Forget the numbers in your work and focus on the net value. The Internet age may try to sell you something different, but don’t ever forget that viral is closely associated with sickness. ... And whatever you do, make it a regular practice to retreat to the “back side of the wilderness.” Because when you do not need to be seen or heard—you can see and hear in desperately needed ways." —Ann Voskamp

"Your identity is hidden with Christ in God. Lean on Him—and work to be excellent at whatever He puts in your heart, no matter how outrageous or crazy it feels." —John Sowers

"Don’t be in a hurry. Slow down and allow God to develop a deep trust in Him. The key to living in over your head, called beyond your capacity, is to trust God with all of your heart. Trust is required for long-term health and sustainability in all you are called to." —Banning Liebscher

"We lift up success in America because of the American Dream. That’s not a bad thing, but if not submitted to Christ, it will poison you." —Tyler Merrick

Make sure to check out the rest of the article. It's good stuff. Then, once you're sufficiently inspired, get after it (whatever your "it" may be!).

Monday, December 14, 2015

Interior Inspiration: 3 Helpful Posts for Styling Your Home

Happy Monday, folks! Although the rain outside would suggest otherwise, it feels like the Christmas season is in full-swing around here. This week we'll be visiting Macy's showroom, as well as hosting a Christmas party for our small group and attending Holidazzle. And before you know it, Christmas will be here! Yippee!

Alright, enough with the Christmas rabbit trail since that's not what this post is about, I think I'm just a little high on Christmas cheer. Today I wanted to share with you 3 posts from around the internet that I have found helpful as I've worked on making our house a home. I hope you enjoy, and be sure to comment if you have found any helpful home posts lately!

I love this post that shares 3 ways to style an Ikea Kallax shelf. I think my personal favorite is the nightstand... if only I had that much space on the side of my bed.

This post featuring 10 room-sized rugs for under $200 is helpful. I also love for their affordable huge rugs.

These 25 tips to make a small room look bigger might be just what you need if you're experiencing cramped apartment living.

Have a wonderful week, friends! Don't forget to slow down a bit in the next couple weeks and remember the reason for the season. I'm thinking of possibly doing some kind of technology fast... whether for an event, a whole day, or longer, I'm not sure. I just feel like it might be good to not be so glued to my phone so much. Any ideas? Shoot them my way!

Monday, December 7, 2015

The Faces of Sex Trafficking

As we've been talking with people about our upcoming anti-trafficking trip to SE Asia, there have been questions about what trafficking looks like and what it will be like in Thailand and Cambodia. Inspired by a friend's poem about the world's forgotten girls, I wanted to share some fictional (but realistic) trafficking scenarios. Many of the details of these fictional stories come from the lives of real girls from all over the world.


She's 7 years old. Living in Cambodia. Sold by her parents to provide a better lifestyle for them—a tv, schooling for her brothers. Sold again and again while her father sits playing checkers and smoking with his friends.

She's 11 years old. Living in Minneapolis. Grew up in the system, always abused, never loved. Runs away from home and has nowhere to go. It's winter and she won't last long on the streets. A man offers shelter and food. But at a cost. She has nowhere else to turn.

She's 13 years old. Living in Thailand. Moves to the big city to provide for her family in the village. Told she will only have to dance. It's always more than dancing. But this is what she must do to honor her family.

She's 14 years old. Living in the Bronx. Comes from a line of prostitutes. It's all she's seen, all she knows. Dad's out of the picture, mom's blacked out. The fridge is empty. She knows a fast way to make a buck. Once she's in, there's no getting out.

She's 16 years old. Living in Romania. An orphan, forgotten, ignored. Until him. He loves her, he says. He tells her of a modeling job. It will make her famous. She dares to hope. But she finds out all too quickly that this isn't modeling. He owns her. He who loved her. He who gave her hope.

She's 19 years old. Living in rural Wisconsin. Lower class and always in need. Used by her uncle, her neighbor, her boyfriends. Seeking a way out. She hears of a friend who made it big in Vegas. Why not get paid for something that was always taken? Once she realizes she's trapped, it's too late.

She's vulnerable. She's looking for love. She's doing what she thinks she needs to. She's abused. She's tricked. She's a victim. Whether the chains are physical or not, they are there. The fear, the threats, the poverty, the psychological abuse, they're real. They hold her there. She may have "chosen" this life, but did she really have a choice?

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