2016 Reading Challenge

So I joined this reading challenge for 2016. It actually runs from December 10, 2015 to the end of December 2016.  It has a few different levels that you can choose from, the easiest being 13 books for the year and the hardest being 104 books for the year! So I am listing the reading challenge below. I like that it is not specific book titles and is just suggestions on the kind of book.  I also like that is broke down into different commitment levels. I plan on trying for The Committed Reader which is 52 books in a year.  So far in 2015 I have read at least 56 books and am working on 2 others. I am sure I will finish at least one of them this next week.  And in 2014 I also read 56 books. So I really feel like I will be able to hit The Committed Reader goal.  I will probably not go straight down the list in numerical order but instead will read the ones that really interest me and mark them off as I go.  I plan to keep track of my books on GoodReads but will also try and update my blog and even review some of the books for you. If you want to join me you can find the links at the end of this post! And let me know in the comments!

I will place a check mark in front of the commitment when I have completed it. If you see a book listed but no check mark, that just means that I plan to read that book to fulfill that commitment.

The Light Reader
_ 1. A book about Christian living
_ 2. A biography
_ 3. A classic novel
_ 4. A book someone tells you “changed my life”- Humility by Andrew Murray
_ 5. A commentary on a book of the Bible
_ 6. A book about theology
_ 7. A book with the word “gospel” in the title or subtitle
_ 8. A book your pastor recommends
_ 9. A book more than 100 years old
√ 10. A book for children- In Search of the Great White Tiger by Sheila Walsh (March 2016)
_ 11. A mystery or detective novel
_ 12. A book published in 2016
_ 13. A book about a current issue-

The Avid Reader
_ 14. A book written by a Puritan- Communion with God by John Owen
_ 15. A book recommended by a family member
√ 16. A book by or about a missionary- God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew (February 2016)
_ 17. A novel that won the Pulitzer Prize- Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
_ 18. A book written by an Anglican- The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
_ 19. A book with at least 400 pages
_ 20. A book by C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien- Tales from the Perilous Realm by J.R.R Tolkien
√ 21. A book that has a fruit of the Spirit in the title- Count it All Joy by David Jeremiah (January 2016)
_ 22. A book with a great cover
_ 23. A book on the current New York Times list of bestsellers
_ 24. A book about church history
_ 25. A graphic novel
_ 26. A book of poetry

The Committed Reader
_ 27. A book from a theological viewpoint you disagree with
_ 28. A book written by an author with initials in their name-
√ 29. A book that won a ECPA Christian Book Award- Fervent by Priscilla Shirer (July 2016)
_ 30. A book about worldview
_ 31. A play by William Shakespeare
_ 32. A humorous book
√ 33. A book based on a true story- The Witness Wore Read by Rebecca Musser (July 2016)
_ 34. A book written by Jane Austen- Pride and Prejudice
_ 35. A book by or about Martin Luther
_ 36. A book with 100 pages or less
_ 37. A book with a one-word title
_ 38. A book about money or finance
√ 39. A novel set in a country that is not your own- The Golden Braid by Melanie Dickerson (July 17 2016)
_ 40. A book about music
_ 41. A memoir
√ 42. A book about joy or happiness- Happiness by Randy Alcorn (February 2016)
√ 43. A book by a female author- Wild Obedience by Katie Orr (May 2016)
_ 44. A book whose title comes from a Bible verse
_ 45. A book you have started but never finished
_ 46. A self-improvement book
_ 47. A book by David McCullough
_ 48. A book you own but have never read
√ 49. A book about abortion- Abortion: A Rational Look at An Emotional Issue by R.C. Sproul (February 2016)
_ 50. A book targeted at the other gender
_ 51. A book by a speaker at a conference you have attended
_ 52. A book written by someone of a different ethnicity than you

The Obsessed Reader
_ 53. A book published by The Banner of Truth
_ 54. A book about the Reformation
_ 55. A book written by a first-time author
_ 56. A biography of a world leader
_ 57. A book used as a seminary textbook
_ 58. A book about food
_ 59. A book about productivity
_ 60. A book about relationships or friendship
_ 61. A book about parenting
_ 62. A book about philosophy
_ 63. A book about art
_ 64. A book with magic
_ 65. A book about prayer
_ 66. A book about marriage
_ 67. A book about a hobby
_ 68. A book of comics
_ 69. A book about the Second World War- Evidence Not Seen by Darlene Deibler Rose
_ 70. A book about sports
√ 71. A book by or about a pastor’s wife- You Can Still Wear Cute Shoes by Lisa McKay (February 2016)
_ 72. A book about suffering
_ 73. A book by your favorite author
_ 74. A book you have read before
_ 75. A book about homosexuality
_ 76. A Christian novel
_ 77. A book about psychology
_ 78. A book about the natural world
_ 79. A book by or about Charles Dickens
_ 80. A novel longer than 400 pages
_ 81. A historical book
_ 82. A book about the Bible
_ 83. A book about a country or city
_ 84. A book about astronomy
_ 85. A book with an ugly cover
_ 86. A book by or about a martyr
√ 87. A book by a woman conference speaker- The Best Yes by Lisa Terkeurst (February 17 2016)
_ 88. A book by or about the church fathers
_ 89. A book about language
_ 90. A book by or about a Russian
_ 91. A book about leadership
_ 92. A book about public speaking
_ 93. A book by Francis Schaeffer
_ 94. A book by a Presbyterian
_ 95. A book about science
_ 96. A book about revival
_ 97. A book about writing
_ 98. A book about evangelism
_ 99. A book about ancient history
_ 100. A book about preaching
_ 101. A book about the church
_ 102. A book about adoption
_ 103. A photo essay book
_ 104. A book written in the twentieth century

Extra Credit
_ 105. A book from a library
_ 106. A book about business
_ 107. A book by an author less than 30
_ 108. A book published by a UK-based publisher
_ 109. A book you borrow

Reading Challenge on Challies.com

Reading Challenge group on GoodReads


Friday Finds 9/18

Well, I have been telling myself for a while now that I really need to start blogging on a consistent basis again. But that hasn’t been working out to well for me.  Actually I have several posts in draft mode, I just never got around to publishing them.  So I figured what better way to get back in the swing of things than doing a fun and easy post! So here is the new installment of Friday Finds- where I bring to you free and cheap, but mostly free, stuff I have found on the internet! Enjoy! And just remember that freebies can disappear or change in a heartbeat, so if they are no longer available I am sorry!

Books- *I have not read all of these books so I can not vouch for them personally.  Also remember that books on Amazon can change price without warning, so double check the price before clicking to buy and grab the free ones while you can!

The Place of Voices– Deep in a remote jungle, amid long-forgotten ancient ruins, three unlikely time travelers collide. In the shadows, a relentless evil presence lurks, threatening to lead them astray. Will they triumph over their adversary or be trapped in his web of lies? Sometimes it takes a journey through time to learn the true meaning of sacrifice.

Summer’s Fury– Meet Summer Percy she lost the only family she had, no work to be found for her in Pennsylvania and her meager savings is almost finished.

Thicker Than Blood– Two estranged sisters, one a rare book dealer, the other a cattle rancher, meet again after fifteen years. *I have read this book and enjoyed! So did the other members of my book club.

When The Smoke Clears– After a brush with death due to equipment failure, smokejumper Alexia Allen is ordered to take time off while the incident is under investigation. She makes a last-minute decision to recuperate at her mother’s home and attend her high school reunion. Yet trouble seems to be following her, and within hours of arriving home she is confronted with murder, arson–and a handsome detective.

Who Murdered Mister Malone– Nothing exciting ever happens in the small town of Belhaven, Michigan. Nothing that is, until a body was found in the woods behind the local elementary school. With the entire town in an uproar, “Garden Girl” Gloria Rutherford makes it her personal mission to find the killer or killers and solve the mystery with some help from her friends. *I also read this book with my book club and enjoyed it.


Christmas Planner– now is the time to start planning and organizing the upcoming holiday! I know it seems early but really it will be here before you know it!

Turkey- Free pattern for you to color, print or stitch! Create a cute colored printable or print in b&w and let your kids color their own turkey! Or you can print it out and then use embroidery floss and stitch a cute little turkey on fabric to frame or turn into a pillow! So many options!

Water Color Turkey Printable
Turkey Coloring Page
Turkey Free Stitchable


Pumpkin Butter


I LOVE pumpkin! It is my favorite season! I know that is a well used joke but it is so true. Fall really is my favorite season- the cool weather, changing leaves, the smells and of course pumpkin everything! I tried pumpkin butter for the first time last week and loved it but didn’t want to pay the price the little store was asking! So glad I found this recipe and it cooks in your crock pot, so thats a win-win! She even has free labels you can print if you want to give it as a gift!

Sunday Inspirations~ Blessings

So, as it usually happens with me when I commit to doing something on an ongoing basis I start to struggle.  And I know this is only the second of these posts, but in general I have made a committment to update my blog more often than once every couple of months. My blog started out as a place that I could go and type out and vent my frustrations.  Most of them I didn’t actually post, they were private and if posted could have hurt me and others.  But believe me some of them I really wanted to post so that they would hurt others. Because I was hurting.

So today I really struggled with what to write about for my Sunday inspirations post.  I want these to not only be an encouragement and blessing to you but I want them to be that to me as well.  I like to use my blog as a journal of my growth in my relationships~ with my husband, my kids, my friends, my church and most importantly with Christ.  I can look at my blog and see where things didn’t always look good or go the way I wanted them to and I can see how I responded and how I grew.  And it’s not always good. But even in the bad times and the times of backward growth, I can see that God was there. Always. No exceptions.

So while I struggled to write this post I knew what I wanted to write about.  My main struggle was how much do I share, how deep do I go.  You see, I am relatively a private person; I don’t like to share my struggles, downfalls, or sin with people.  Some of it is because I have been hurt. I have had my struggles, downfalls, and my sin used against me; spread around like dandelions in the wind for everyone to see.  And it is hard to get past that.  But I know I need to. I need to share and I need to be real and honest with those around me.  Its how relationships are built and maintained; its how you know I really care for you and the same for me.

So here is my inspiration for today~ Blessings

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. ” James 1:2-3

How do you count it all joy when you are facing the trials that life throws at you?  I don’t have all the answers and I am sure there are times that I fail at showing joy through my trials.  But I think the main way to do so is to stay focused on the fact that Christ is in control at all times!  There is nothing that ever takes Him by surprise! And I am so glad for that.  Ok, so here is the song that has really made me start thinking about this and wanting to share with you.

I have fallen in love with this song that I was first introduced to by my sister, Ashlee.  I have sat and listened to it at least a hundred times and I have probably cried through at least 90% of them.  The lyrics just reach in and touch something in me, something that knows the truth behind them in my own life.  The chorus is probably the part that really gets me every time.

Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears?
What if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near?
What if trials of this life
Are Your mercies in disguise?

I know that I am not the only one that has experienced trials or testing in my life.  And I know there are those out there that have suffered far more and far worse than I have.  But I know that raindrops do conceal blessings, healing does come through tears and all those sleepless nights have helped me draw closer and rely on Christ more.  And those trials, the things I really don’t want to go through or like, they have been God’s great mercy in disguise.  I can not tell you of the things I have prayed for and wanted so bad that He has kept from me only later for me to realized that they would have been disastrous if He had allowed me to have them!  I am so glad that God knows the outcome of every situation in my life and allows me to experience certain things to keep from other things.  I heard it said once, just because it is a good thing doesn’t mean it is a God thing!  How true that is!

What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst
This world can’t satisfy?

Continue reading

9 Years Later

Today is August 29, 2014.  Do you remember where you were 9 years ago today. Sadly enough, I don’t.  But I am sure that there are thousands of people that do remember where they were and what they were doing.  Those are the people of New Orleans, Louisiana and the surrounding areas.

Here is a link that gives a statistical snapshot for New Orleans 8 years after Hurricane Katrina.

Here is part of the Wikipedia entry about Hurricane Katrina.

Hurricane Katrina of the 2005 Atlantic hurricane season was the costliest hurricane, as well as one of the five deadliest in the history of the United States.[3] Among recorded hurricanes, it was the sixth strongest overall and the third strongest to make a landfall in the United States. Hurricane Katrina formed over the Bahamas on August 23, 2005, and crossed southern Florida as a moderate Category 1 hurricane, causing some deaths and flooding there before strengthening rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico. The storm weakened before making its second landfall as a Category 3 storm on the morning of Monday, August 29 in southeast Louisiana. It caused severe destruction along the Gulf coast from central Florida to Texas, much of it due to the storm surge. The most severe loss of life and property damage occurred in New OrleansLouisiana, which flooded as the levee system catastrophically failed, in many cases hours after the storm had moved inland.[4] The federal flood protectionsystem in New Orleans failed at more than fifty spots. Nearly every levee in metro New Orleans was breached as Hurricane Katrina passed just east of the city limits. Eventually 80% of the city became flooded and also large tracts of neighboring parishes, and the floodwaters lingered for weeks.[4] At least 1,836 people combined lost their lives in the actual hurricane and in the subsequent floods, making it the deadliest U.S. hurricane since the 1928 Okeechobee Hurricane. The storm is estimated to have been responsible for $81.2 billion (2005 U.S. dollars) in damage, making it the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history.

The failure of the New Orleans flood protection system prompted a congressional investigation into the Army Corps of Engineers, which by statute has sole responsibility for it. Other congressional investigations were launched into response of the federal, state and local governments, resulting in the resignation of Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael D. Brown. Conversely, the National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service were widely commended for accurate forecasts and abundant lead time.[5] Three years later, thousands of displaced residents in Mississippi and Louisiana were still living in trailers.

NASA Image

NASA Image

It is 3 years later and thousands are still living in trailers or half-finished homes.  In the summer of 2007, I along with my husband and daughter, had the privilege of going to Slidell, Louisiana.  Slidell sits northeast of New Orleans across Lake Pontchartrain.   While there we held a Vacation Bible School for the children in a neighborhood that was hard hit.  We also then were able to travel into New Orleans to the Lower Ninth Ward to see first hand the destruction that was caused by the Hurricane and the work that still needed to be done there.  We also were able to do work at a few different sites in the area, cleaning up yards, helping people, and other such work.

A destroyed home

A destroyed home

Finished weed eating a yard.

Finished weed eating a yard.

Rebuilt levee, one that initially failed

Rebuilt levee, one that initially failed

This is the only park in a 25 mile radius.




Construction on the I-10 Twin Span Bridge

Construction on the I-10 Twin Span Bridge


Sunflowers in Lower Ninth Ward New Orleans

Sunflowers in Lower Ninth Ward New Orleans

Rebuilt levee, one that initially failed

Rebuilt levee, one that initially failed

DSCF1871 DSCF1888 DSCF1887 DSCF1885

A destroyed home

A destroyed home

Menu Planning

Here are some of my menu plans.  As you will notice by the pictures, i went from a monthly plan all on one page to a 2 week plan on a page.  I still plan for a month at a time usually but occasionally I will only do 2 weeks.  Although I plan for a month at a time, I do my menu plan shopping every 2 weeks.  Planning a month at a time helps me save money by knowing what to buy in bulk and buying items that I need when they are on sale even I don’t need it for another week or two.  Unless it is a super deal, I don’t normally “stock up” on things because honestly buying them and letting them sit and not using them doesn’t really save you money.  And how many times have you bought several of something, taken them to your panty/storage area and then forgot you had them so you bought more the next shopping trip? Yep, I was doing that.  So to combat that I only buy about 5 of most non-perishables, unless there is a great deal or if it is a seasonal item (like at Aldi).

Ok, so back to the menu. I used to use a blank monthly calendar for my planning but have since changed to a weekly calendar with 2 weeks on a page.  I have always used the free printables from hello cuteness! because they are free and cute! However, she no longer offers the monthly calendars as a freebie.  But you can still get the 2-up weekly meal planner as a freebie, just scroll down the page and look under the organization heading.  And if you would rather have a monthly calendar, all you have to do is use this Google search or do your own! Heck, you could even create your own if you would rather do that.  Or you can visit Crafted by Lindy, Live Craft Eat, or Dimensions of Wonder (only Jan and Feb so far).

So menu planning is really easy, or at least the way I do it.  I have a list (mostly in my head) of the things my family likes that I make.  I also have my recipe binder that has tried and true recipes and new ones too!  I typically do not make things that I absolutely know that my kids (or hubs) will not eat! It is a waste of my time, a waste of money and ends up causing tears and frustration. So why punish myself?  That does not mean that I do not make new things or make them try new things (or retry old things).  And typically they have to eat at least 2 bites of whatever if made, except green beans which cause my 5 year old to throw up. Don’t ask.  Also I repeat meals usually at least 2x a month, sometimes more if it is one we all really like. And you may notice I don’t list side dishes below and you sometimes won’t see them on my plans and that is only because I make whatever veggie/rice/pasta I have on hand or that will go with the meal. I serve a lot of salad, corn and potatoes.  You can put whatever things your family likes with the main course.  I will do another post that lists the main course and 2 sides that go with it as I did that a while back to help but rarely follow it now.  So, do you want to know some of the things I make? You do, well then here goes!

  1. Tacos (usually 3-4 times a month)
  2. Baked Chicken legs (really easy)
  3. Pork Roast (in my dutch oven on Sundays usually)
  4. Stromboli/Calzone (on Fridays, homemade using refrigerated dough)
  5. Cheeseburger Macaroni (semi-homemade and this one is a favorite of everyone so its made at least 3 times a month and very easy)
  6. Fish (tilapia or salmon,  my kids love fish)
  7. Chicken Bacon Ranch (another family favorite)
  8. Chicken and Rice
  9. Chicken and Noodles (usually once a month and on Sunday)
  10. Roast in my dutch oven (on Sunday)
  11. Beef Stroganoff (in my dutch oven)
  12. Chicken and Sausage Gumbo served with white rice
  13. Chicken Florentine Pasta (my kids even ate the spinach! lol!)
  14. Breakfast for Dinner (usually 2x a month and on Saturdays)
  15. Italian Beef Sandwiches
  16. Chicken Alfredo Roll-ups (this is a fave but kind of labor intensive because I make my own alfredo sauce)
  17. Chili (2x a month in the colder months)
  18. Italian layer Bake
  19. Tator Tot Casserole
  20. Shepherds Pie
  21. Cheeseburger Ring
  22. Santa Fe Chicken Rice Pilaf
  23. Chicken Enchilada Pasta
  24. Chicken Strips (homemade)
  25. Corn Beef and Cabbage (only on St. Pattys day)
  26. Pork and Sauerkraut (only on New Years)
  27. Pizza (sometimes homemade and sometimes take-out)
  28. Cheesy Chicken Burritos
  29. Spaghetti (but rarely, less than once a month as my hubby is not a fan)
  30. Salisbury Steak
  31. Patty Melts

As you can see that is a list of 31 main courses, which means I could cook something different every day of the month if I wanted to! But I don’t, I usually make the same thing at least twice a month.  Some of the items above I only make in the colder months, some are “holiday” meals and some I only make once every few months.  Also when I am planning out my menu’s I leave at least one day for dining out or take-out.  We budget for this, sometimes it is 2 days a month.  Also I try to work in leftovers so that I am not wasting food.  Or instead of leftovers, I will try to do recipes that will use up the meat and stuff from a previous meal.  Say one night we have a rotisserie chicken for dinner and don’t eat it all.  Well, I will take that chicken and pull all the leftover meat off the bone and then save it to use in my cheesy chicken burritos or chicken and noodles.  I also take this method into account when I am grocery shopping.  A lot of times I buy whole chickens and boil them in my stock pot for several hours.  I usually get at least 3 cups of meat plus at least 8 cups of homemade chicken broth!

Here are some pictures of my menus-

Photo on 2014-12-30 at 23.36 Photo on 2014-12-30 at 23.38 Photo on 2014-12-30 at 23.38 #2 Photo on 2014-12-30 at 23.39


Note- I will be back later this week with links to recipes and to a couple other planning posts.  Sorry it is late and I am tired! The hubby and I are kid-free this week (thank you mother-in-law!) and today we spent from lunch time until 10 pm out doing fun stuff–eating and movie and shopping! 

91 Day De-Clutter Challenge

Beginning this challenge this week!  Hopefully it will help me get rid of some stuff that we really don’t have room for or need!  Although our new house is bigger than the old house, we don’t have any where near the storage that the old house had!  Especially in the kitchen area!  Another area that is smaller is the basement, which is also supposed to be my craft room/business area and the laundry area!

Here is the assignments if you want to join is.  Click on the image and it will take you to the website.


I will be back later with pictures of todays challenge– the fridge and freezer! aahhh

The Hardest Thing

There are a lot of things that are hard about moving.

Physically, you have all the packing, loading, unloading and unpacking you have to do.  I am not sure how many boxes it took to pack our entire family but it was a lot.  It took 10 rolls of packing tape to seal all the boxes, that I do know.

Spiritually it is hard because you are going to a new church where you don’t really know “how” they do things.  That might sound silly (and really it kind of is) but at the same time you don’t want to make a major goof the first time you worship in your new church!  Plus it is a new environment and I know for me that makes it hard because I tend to take a bit to feel comfortable.  I know that has nothing to do with my new church family and is all on me and I am working on it.

I think however that moving is the hardest emotionally!  At least for me anyways.  And I will freely admit that at one time in my life this wouldn’t have been true.  I am not trying to brag on myself but in the past 4 years or so, I have really grown and come a long way in the personal relationship department!  For several years I was a loner and not a people person.  And really i still prefer to be alone and am not really a people person.  But God has really shown me how the walls I built around myself to protect my heart from being hurt were not only keeping people locked out but were keeping me locked in!  Wow!  I never really thought about it that way before.  And while it may still be easier to retreat within, I know that that is not what the Lord would have me to do.

So the hardest part of this entire move has been saying good-bye or see you later to those I have grown close to.  Not just for the fact that I am leaving but also in the fact that while I am very emotional person it was hard to show that emotion.  And that doesn’t happen to me very often.  So this past weekend, I had to hug and say good-bye to people I have only known for barely over 18 months but feel they have been in my life forever!  Some of them were no-nonsense ladies who told you like it was.  Some of them were ladies that always said hi and genuinely asked how you were doing.  Some of them were ladies that were quiet and kind of reserved and others were outgoing and loud!  And some of them always had a word of encouragement or were willing to do you a favor anytime.  And although they were all so different in their personalities, backgrounds, and experiences there were two things they all had in common~ they all loved Jesus with their whole beings and they loved others (and it showed)!  I am so thankful that I had the privilege to be loved by them and to love them all!

So the hardest thing about this move was not telling our kids, our family or our church family.  It wasn’t packing my entire house, loading the u-haul, unloading the u-haul or unpacking the contents of my old home into my new house (still working on that one!).  Nope, none of that was as hard as leaving behind the relationships that I (and my family) have built in the last 18 months.  It was leaving behind all the people who helped us to settle in and really consider Marion, Il our home in the short time we had been there.

And while we are looking forward to the new relationships and friendships that God has in store for us at our new church in Washington, Il, I will miss those we left behind!