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Category Archives: Books I Love

A Flash Sale I Hope Awakens the Healthy Living Monster

Healthy living. I’ve been wanting to rightfully claim it as my own for several years. The trouble is, I lack motivation to get off my hiney and start it. Mostly because, well, I hate exercise. I just like the end of it, when it’s all over.

When lazy stands in the way of healthy, it's a spiritual thing.

In my mind, there are few things nicer than a well-deserved shower. I love being all sweaty after I’ve worked really hard at something and then taking a shower because I need to.

It’s why I called myself a wannabe runner for all those years. It’s also why I gave up sugar, dairy, grains, legumes, gluten and comfortable eating for 30 days last June when I took on the challenge of The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom.

Because healthy is better. But exercise and conscientious eating have never been huge priorities for me. I mean, I love knowing I’m doing what I can to treat my body well. But my lack of discipline (translation: laziness) stands in the way. It’s a spiritual thing. One God is slowly moving foundations of my life to get me to change.

So today I did some research. And I found this exercise program called the Thrive90 Fitness Plan.

The main founder of it (Tony DiLorenzo) does a podcast with his wife, which I sometimes listen to. It’s about marriage, and I love that — a cool couple talking about and helping people have more intimate and committed marriages. So I’ve heard of him, and I know he’s a super-into-exercise kind of guy.

Well, he developed the Thrive90 plan. It includes 90 days of workouts and a bit of nutritional guidance kind of stuff. So — I could feasibly work out in my own house and take major steps towards more healthy living. And the best part is, each workout is no more than 30 minutes long.

(Did I ever tell you about that time my man and I started P90X but found the sometimes hour-and-a-half workouts rather overwhelming as we tried to keep up? I’m pretty sure I never told you. Because it felt more like a joke than an attempt at healthy living. My man stuck with it. He did awesome! But I thought it was ridiculous that anyone would expect me to spend that much time working out EVERY DAY FOR 90 DAYS. I told you I hate exercising, right? So I blamed Tony Horton and gave up.)

Yes, with the Thrive90, I will still have to get off my butt for 30 minutes, but that’s much less intimidating than AN HOUR AND A HALF!! Can you feel me?

So this workout program normally costs $47, which is actually not a bad deal. But I’m going to visit and help show Jesus’ love to orphans on the other side of the world in six weeks, and every $47 we have laying around needs to go toward that trip. Know what I mean?

That brings us to the actual reason I’m telling you about this Thrive90 thing today. As exciting as it is to know that healthy living is a possibility for me because of Tony DiLorenzo and his friend, this is even better! (Also, what is it with the name Tony and 90 days of working out?)

See, there’s this company called Ultimate Bundles. They put together tons of books and resources and then sell them a few times each year for like fractions of what each would cost separately.

So today and tomorrow (December 28 and 29), they are running a Flash Sale and calling it The Ultimate Healthy Living Bundle. And the Healthy Living topics are more than just the exercise stuff. There are resources on Paleo Living, Allergy-free Eating, Real Food, Healthy Kids, Homesteading, Home Remedies, and Natural Home stuff.

It includes over 90 ebooks and resources and classes, (hello, Thrive90 Fitness Plan), and it only costs $29.97! Um, so basically even if I buy it and only use the Thrive90, I save money. Hello, no-brainer.

Here are the other fitness and healthy eating resources it includes —

The other cool thing is that I’m an affiliate, so if you decide you want to join my quest to not hate exercising (yes, please!), you can buy the whole bundle and help me earn $11.99 for every bundle I help sell. That will greatly help me go on my trip. (I promise to tell you more very soon!) And it won’t cost you any extra dollars or cents. Just click this banner.

You can find out more about the bundle and all that’s included by clicking here. I truly think you will find the whole thing to be a super great deal! But it only lasts until tomorrow night. So you might want to hurry.

How Playdates With God Can Feed Our Souls {Day 6 : A Book Review}

I’ve heard the call a hundred times.

God’s quiet call to come and just be. To enjoy what He has for me today. To quiet myself and wait. To notice the moment and read it like an invitation from God Himself . . .

Come and listen and sit with Me a bit. Let’s dance together. Let’s do this life thing the right way — together.

Yes, I know it well.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAStill, how many times have I ignored it? How many times have I brushed off the nudges of God for the busy self-importance I’ve convinced myself I deserve? More times than I care to admit, I’m afraid.

If only I would stop, and tend to the moments God offers with joy. If only I would see the holy in the moments that I discipline myself to attend to. (Playdates With God: Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World, p 170) 

That’s what author Laura Boggess writes in her refreshing and challenging memoir, Playdates With God : Having a Childlike Faith in a Grown-up World.

She uses the beautiful, deeply thought-out words of her heart to paint pictures of playdates with the Author of Life. She urges us to live in the wonder of any given moment, to let God command the time and trust Him to show us the sacred.

What might happen if you and I would actually seek out the wonder and the playfulness of children as we approach God in the everyday?

I would venture to say we’d find the kind of nourishment our souls need in the deepest way.

Laura’s story begins with a challenge to meet God weekly. To schedule playdates with God in order to know Him more deeply, love Him more intimately, and live more fully in the wonder that is relationship with Almighty God.

The book comes out tomorrow, but you can order it today. I got to read it early so I could tell you about it here. 🙂 (Woot! Woot!) And I’m telling you it did not disappoint. In fact, it spoke to the parts of me that want to find the kind of nourishment we’re looking for in these 31 days of October.

(Seriously. How perfect is that?)

Because finding our souls’ food from the One Who made them and knows what we need can be more than just sitting quietly, Bibles open, pen in hand. Sometimes it’s jumping on a trampoline wondering at the awesomeness the God Who let you be right here. Right now.

Truly, what if we quieted ourselves enough to let God lure us in to play with Him regularly?

Didn’t He make us each unique? What might happen if we let Him lead us in the way we were made and feed us with that? What if God wants to meet us at our favorite place doing what we love to do most? What if that’s re-finishing a dresser or planting some flowers or twirling on top of mountain like Maria Von Trapp?

And what if we actually looked for God inside those moments? What if we met Him right inside the play?

It’s a question worth asking if we want nourishment for our souls. A question I’m so glad Laura Boggess asked when she started her adventure to find God in the right now.

Speaking of questions, what might it look like for you to meet God on a playdate? What would you do together?

I think I would go on a photo expedition at the OARDC or somewhere outside where we’d listen for the birds and try to find the tree that displays the most fall colors in its leaves. (Hmmm… I think I may have just planned my next playdate with God.)


**Laura’s book is on amazon right here.  (It’s an affiliate link, so if you use it, you’ll help me get some coffee cash *at no extra cost to you*. So thanks.)

You can find Laura at her website, www.lauraboggess.com. You can also follow her on Twitter: @LauraBoggess and on Instagram: @LauraBoggess. Seriously, you should check her out. She’s really great!

Are you new to our challenge to Nourish Our Souls during the month of October? Welcome! Here’s where we’ve been so far on our journey:


Day 1 – A 31-Day Challenge to Nourish Your Soul

Day 2 – How to Know When Your Soul is Hangry

Day 3 – What to Do When You Know You Need Better Water

Day 4 – How I Fed My Soul This Week

Day 5 – What God Says About How to be Happy

When You Worry You’ve Messed Up Your Kids and It’s Too Late To Fix Things {Guest Post by Lisa-Jo Baker}

I sat in Starbucks that day I let my mama soul bleed out through my fingers as I told you part of my story. The ugly insecure, doubt-I-can-do-this-motherhood-thing-sometimes part that screws up and doesn’t know what it’s doing. Then I introduced you to my friend and the words God is using to speak truth to that weary soul of mine.

But today, I get to introduce her to you in a whole new way. And. I am so. excited. Because, in honor of Mother’s Day week, today, I have the honor of welcoming my friend Lisa-Jo Baker to this little place I call home on the web. I can’t wait for you to see first-hand how real and amazing her words and her work are. But, even more, I can’t wait for you to be encouraged in your deepest parts.

by Lisa-Jo Baker

The thing is, we wonder all the time if we’re doing this motherhood thing right.


Every night once the kids are in bed I try to ignore the annoying voice in my head that screeches through the list of things I should have done better. Every night. I can’t seem to turn it off. Especially when I’m surrounded by the daily mount doom of school paper work, projects and permission forms.

I’ve talked to other moms about it and they tell me it’s normal. But it doesn’t make it any easier.

Some days it seems to me that motherhood is a series of getting things wrong and trying again. Every day. Forever. On repeat.

It’s a lesson in how utterly imperfect you are and how bad your temper can scare you.

It’s a never ending, vividly imagined list of all the ways you could possibly mess up a tiny human.

Some nights I lie in bed and it’s hard to breathe. I used to think newborn sleeplessness was the worst. But I’m graduating into elementary school panic and that age has awoken a host of new worries.

Because now they can remember how bad I messed up.

This thought terrifies me. I’m guessing some of you are living in that reality right now. The one where she’s in her room and you’re at the computer wishing you could get a take-back.

Do-overs and doughnuts seem to be the bread and butter of parenting.



But last year I heard a story that’s crawled under my ribcage and offered some hope.

I heard my favorite author of books about boys tell the story of a father who’d messed up. Messed up good and proper for years. Messed up more than just missing a few soccer games and home work assignments. He’d missed life. For years. Until his three girls were grown and were growing families of their own, reinventing the word.

They’d taken for granted the fact that he’d checked out of their lives.

And that’s when he decided to check back in.

When bridges, doors, and expectations had all been burned, that dad whose kids had outgrown him came back for another try.



Trying again is always awkward. It’s so uncomfortable to keep trying to find new ways to say I love you. And I’m sorry.

He called all three of his daughters and asked if he could come and visit them. They were surprised. A lot surprised. They wanted to know what kind of agenda he was expecting. And he said he just wanted to come and be part of their routine. To fit into the nooks and crannies of their lives so he could understand how they looked from the inside.

And the women were skeptical. But they opened their doors anyway and their dad, he showed up throughout the year, paying them each a visit. And true to his word he tagged along for everything. He was there for breakfast and car pool and pick up. He watched homework get done and games get squabbled over. He came to sports matches and helped make the macaroni.

He quieted himself so he could hear what was going on in the big, wide world of his daughters’ lives.

He was present.

He was interested.

And a parent like that is hard to resist; hard to write off.


This dad, he gives me hope because he should have been too late. But instead his girls, they were fascinated by how fascinating he found them.

And on the last night of their do-over weeks together he would take his daughters out to dinner. And over dessert he would ask them each a question.

He asked his grown up, no longer wearing pig-tails, raising-kids-themselves daughters,

“What do you dream?”


I was standing in the very back row of the over-crowded hotel conference room and you could have heard a pin drop as 200 moms let that question run around their heads.

In the midst of all our every day to-dos it’s rare to have someone ask about dreams that may have been lost in a thousand miles of car pool.

He wasn’t too late. It turns out that this dad arrived in time to remind his daughters of a time when they dreamed wild and free as only children can.

You’re not too late either.

No matter how hard you fought or slammed that door or disagreed or stormed out or said things you wish you could take back. No matter if you threw his math book across the room or if she declared you the worst mom, like, ever.

You’re only too late once you give up going back for another do-over.

You’re only too late if you stop trying again.

Too late isn’t too late until you walk out and don’t walk back in again.

You’re only too late if you’ve run out of tomorrows.

So tonight, I will set my alarm and get up ready for fresh donuts. Or Cheerios as the case may be.

And do-overs.

Definitely do-overs.


{To see the video reminder of why all mothers are braver than they know, click here}.


This guest post comes with love from Lisa-Jo Baker to our community in celebration of Mother’s Day.

If you haven’t already – treat yourself, your mom, your sister, your BFF or your grandma to a copy of her new book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected About Being a Mom.  

No matter what stage you’re in when it comes to motherhood, we promise it will encourage. And remind you that you are braver than you think.

How Motherhood Surprised Me {and a Book You Must Read}

**This post contains affiliate links.

Surprised by Motherhood

We hung out a lot before kids. Back when our husbands and our houses and our careers and schooling were the whole of our lives.

We led college students together. Taught a class at church and hung out a lot. Mostly on Friday nights with pizza and The Matrix and whatever else presented itself to our group.

Then she and her husband finished their graduate work and moved to Ukraine for more study and life while my man and I stuck around and started a family.


Just before we moved to Paris for a four-month stint, Lisa-Jo came for a visit. We sat on the floor of the play-room surrounded by my two kids and too many toys as she told me the stuff that might help me transition to life overseas.

She also told me she was going to be a mom. The surprise of which was not lost on me. Since I’d known her, she’d sworn she would never be one of those.

But now, eight years later, my friend Lisa-Jo Baker has birthed three children and a book, Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom.
Each of which will no doubt change the world in their own ways. Because God is alive in that woman, and He uses her words to speak life and courage into moms all over the world.

Even me.


See, I’m not an insecure person. I mean, I used to be. Then God convinced me His was the only approval I needed. So I plugged my nose and dove off that cliff of real faith that trusted what He said about me and lived accordingly.

Full-on real life, no looking back or wondering if I was good enough or had what I needed to do whatever He’d show me to do from day to day.

Then I had a baby.

And somehow that baby introduced me to an entirely new level of insecurity.

What if I really don’t know what I’m doing? They said I would just instinctively know my own baby’s cry, but what if I don’t? Or, even worse, what if I do and it doesn’t make my heart jump to attention like I know it should because I love her so much? What if I don’t love her enough? What if loving her isn’t enough?

She wouldn’t eat those first few days, so I wondered what I was doing wrong. What if she never eats? What if my body wasn’t made for this nursing thing and I don’t know when to just give-in and feed her a bottle? What if I feed her a bottle and I screw up her life forever because I haven’t nursed her for that first year like all those books say I should do, and what if she gets sick every week for the rest of her life because I deprived her of my breast milk and the immunities it gives?

By the time that baby was three, she was convinced she knew more than me. And she was starting to convince me. She could question my motives with one three-letter word and have me spiraling to the depths of motherhood hell in three seconds flat. All because I couldn’t tell her why she needed to wear the blue shirt instead of the green one.

At five, that baby had me yelling at the top of my lungs one day in order to prove that I had not been yelling at her. “Stop yelling at me” she had said. And that spun me into a red-faced, blood-curdling yell that the neighbors probably heard even with the windows closed and the acre in between us. “I am NOT yelling!” I screamed. “THIS is YELLING!”

Not my shining moment.

When her sister came along, my insecurity grew. Because I didn’t know how to do siblings and rivalry and can’t we all just get along? And why do I still not know what I’m doing?!?


I’ve had a few moments of motherhood greatness to be sure, but somehow in my brain they’ve been overshadowed by those insecure shaky times that live right there at the tip of the file marked “The Kind Of Mom I Actually Am”.

I’ve read books by James Dobson and Kendra Smiley and Lisa Welchel that have helped me find principles and ideas for dealing with my children.

But until my friend Lisa-Jo wrote Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom, I have not really learned how to deal with me and my mommy insecurity.

When I read Lisa-Jo’s words, I feel the camaraderie, and I know I’m not the only one. And the surprises of my own insecurity and every other surprise that motherhood has presented feel somehow okay.

Her words spark hope that God is using to actually convince me that maybe I do have what it takes to grow these little people and show them how to really live.

Maybe you can relate?

If you’re a mom, I would be willing to bet you can. I’m guessing you know what it’s like to feel like you don’t have what it takes to be a mom.

Or maybe you’re a dad who’s trying to figure out why your wife struggles so much with this motherhood thing.

Or maybe you have a mom with whom you’ve always struggled.

May I suggest you take Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom and let God use Lisa-Jo’s words to encourage you where you are in this journey. Wherever that might be.

You can click this link: Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom and order it right on Amazon. Or at Christian Books with this link: Surprised by Motherhood

Or, if you prefer the audio version, click this one: Surprised by Motherhood: Everything I Never Expected about Being a Mom

God’s Kind of Beautiful and a Free E-book You Simply Must Read

I have always been uncomfortable around needy people. At least around the people I define as needy.

Like the lady I passed in Paris every time I went with my kids to the post office. She sat outside in her black covering and held a picture of a baby, telling people about her daughter and asking could they help.

And the man with no legs who would sit propped up against the wall with a bowl for donated coins and a look of I-hate-that-I’m-here despondence.

Or the lady outside Walmart holding the sign that tells me she needs food. And the man standing there two days later. He lost his job and his house and his pride.

And then there’s the man who approached me on my way home the other day in the middle of the marketplace. He held papers in his hand that looked like brochures. I made the mistake of smiling at him, so he handed me a paper which said something like I have a daughter and a wife and I need food. Can you please buy me some?


The little Christmas Dorf stood about 40 feet away from us where crepes and bratwurst and Gluhwein abound. I only had a few Euro coins in my bag, ones for which I had been considering a different assignment. Like maybe flowers for the dinner table. Or Lebkuchen for the family.

So I told him I had nothing.

My heart beats shamefully fast even now as I recall those moments of uncomfortable dishonesty. Shameful.

I walked home without stopping for the previously considered items. Walked home wondering if I had just denied Jesus a crepe. And how could I have done that?

I thought my heart had been changed a few weeks back. Changed for the way I would deal with uncomfortable need. I had believed that, because God had been working in my heart to show me His kind of beautiful, I had arrived at the end and would suddenly be privy to all kinds of how-to-love-homeless-and-needy people.

I guess I was wrong.

Not wrong about God’s working. No doubt He is. But wrong that I had arrived.

You see, I read this book a few months ago by Jeff Goins. And it got me thinking about letting God wreck me for the things I don’t want to see or interact with. Like homeless beggars without legs. And foreign men with copies of a letter describing their need and could I please help?

And then I read another book.

Graffiti: Scribbles From Different Sides of the Street by Alene Snodgrass. It was the perfect follow-up for the wrecking God had begun. The finding my way in the midst of uncomfortable need in this world. The kind of need you find on the streets in the middle of homeless communities and inner city projects.

It’s a book about finding the uncomfortable and then asking God what He wants me to do inside of it.

It’s about looking for the beautiful inside of what I deem, well, not at all pretty. And asking God how I might help make it even more His kind of beautiful.

It kind of rocked my world. Or at least the way I think about my world.

God has been using it to transform the way I look at things that I used to deem ugly.

The e-book releases officially next Monday (November 26) for $3.99. But right now you can get it for free! It’s only 44 short pages, and well worth every minute you will spend reading it.

Especially as Christmas time hits and the greed of consumerism threatens to turn God-come-to-earth into how-much-stuff-can-I-get.

It’s the perfect way to enter Quiet Christmas. Offering God your heart and asking what He might want you to change to help make a difference.

Because, as Alene so beautifully points out, different is beautiful. And, really, the only way to make a difference is to be different ourselves.

Book Review: You’re Already Amazing

It arrived in my mailbox three weeks ago, this book. I’d signed up to review it, and it came right on time.

You’re Already Amazing: Embracing Who You Are, Becoming All God Created You to Be, by Holley Gerth. “Wow!” I thought, “pretty big promise for 193 pages.” I mean, really, anyone who reads this is to believe that she is already amazing by the end of the book? Really? Already amazing?

I finally sat down with the book a few days later, ready to conquer the read. But the conquer turned into a deep conversation with God about how He had made me, what He has made me to do and how very pleased He is with me. Yes, even me!

From Chapter One, I felt like Holley invited me into her life for the express purpose of truly encouraging me. You know, the kind that doesn’t just make you feel good about yourself, but the kind that emboldens and empowers you to do something. Yeah, I can honestly say that God has used Holley Gerth’s true encouragement to embolden me to be who God made me and to enjoy it, too. To embrace it. To trust that He is using me, even in the right now, even in the I-haven’t-showered-and-my-kids-are-driving-me-nuts-and-I-have-no-idea-what-I’m-gonna’-make-for-dinner days. God used Holley’s words to show me the places that Jesus shines through me, even when I feel like the only shine I project is the sweaty forehead kind.

A book and a workbook sort of all wrapped up in one, You’re Already Amazing walks the reader through different sorts of self-discovery. Remember those Seventeen Magazine quizzes we used to take to find out important things about ourselves like how our sock color predicted who we were going to marry? Man, I used to love those things! Didn’t you? Well, Holley has sprinkled little self-discovery quizzes (she calls them tools) throughout the book that help us figure out some things that are actually important. Like how we approach emotions, where God has us right now and what He might be doing in the midst of it, how we relate socially, and what kinds of things emotionally energize / spend us. The thing about these quizzes is not necessarily the scoring (remember skewing the answers according to the “what it means” part just so it would say you were going to marry the hot football star?). Rather, the tools throughout the book help us see more clearly through God’s eyes so that we might realize the specific purpose for which God has created us. So we can be more intentional “about how God wants (us) to express love through (our) live(s).” (p 134)

And in the discovery, I found God repeating over and over and over again the truth that He made me for a specific purpose. Nobody else in all of life is exactly like me. So I can quit chasing my dreams in relation to others’ successes. I can stop wondering if I’m going to make a difference in the world, because I have been made into a new creation and I have Jesus Christ, God Himself, living in me making everything I do shine for Him. He is using me to make Himself famous in a completely different way than He is using anyone else.

You’re already enough because Jesus is enough in you. You’re loved, accepted, set free to live your LIFE to the fullest. (p137)

And that sentence, my friend, sums up You’re Already Amazing. Because Creator God makes us new through Jesus Christ, we are FREE to live. Really and truly live. Just as He made us to live.

It’s a great book for all women, I believe. Because all of us struggle with questions about what God wants us to do. Each of us wonders at some point or another why He has us where He does and exactly how it lines up with His plan. And so, I highly recommend You’re Already Amazing. Holley’s writing style draws the reader in from Chapter One and all the way through. The truth she writes challenges in easy but bold ways so that we find ourselves wanting more truth, more tools to help us know how God is using us in His plan.

And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Seventeen Magazines to catch up on…

p.s. You can find Holley Gerth’s sweet, easy to read and at the same time very true words regularly here and here. And the book is on sale here right now for $9 (in case you haven’t yet clicked the link at the top).