Five on Friday

Happy Friday!! It’s a rainy day here, but I love rainy fall days. Even though it’s dark and cloudy outside, there are still bright spots in life. Here are five things I’m excited about today!


  1. We had some beautiful weather last week! It was sunny and warm, with the colors of autumn everywhere. I have dozens of pictures of the fall foliage on my phone; I want to bottle it up and enjoy the beautiful colors all year!
  2. Last week, I got new books in the mail from two of my favorite authors: Wild Montana Skies, the first book in a new series by Susan May Warren, and A Royal Christmas Wedding, the fourth book in the Royal Wedding series by Rachel Hauck. I’ve already finished Wild Montana Skies and loved it, and I’m excited to jump into A Royal Christmas Wedding!
  3. Speaking of Christmas…it’s now less than two months away! Sure, maybe that’s a little early to be celebrating, but that means Thanksgiving is less than a month away, and I just love the whole season. I love buying and making presents, the music, the Christmas program at our church, and just the atmosphere in general. It’s never too early to start celebrating the real meaning of Christmas, anyway 😉
  4. This weekend is my sister’s fall break from college, and I get to drive down and visit her! I’m excited to go on a little road trip and get to spend a few days with her.
  5. There is a Chick-fil-A opening next week only an hour and a half away from where I live! It’s the first one in my state and my family is so excited 😉 We love going to CFA when we’re on vacation “down south,” so it’s going to be nice to have one so much closer to home! There was also a story in the news last week about plans for a second one about an hour in the other direction from our house, so hopefully there will be one even closer someday 😉

What do you have to celebrate on this fine Friday? 🙂

DIY Pumpkin Spice Candles

DIY Pumpkin Spice Candles || Grace to Grow Blog

I absolutely love candles; there’s just something so peaceful and homey about having a candle burning. I love to browse the different scents and styles when I’m shopping somewhere like Hobby Lobby, T.J. Maxx, or Christmas Tree Shop, and I’m always drawn to the ones in mason jar-like containers. The problem is that they can be expensive! So I decided to try to make some of my own.

I already had some 4-ounce jelly jars that I thought would be a cute size for candles, and I also picked up a couple of 8-ounce jars. The candle wax was on sale at Hobby Lobby last week, so I got a 2-lb. bag of soy wax flakes, along with a spiced pumpkin fragrance oil and some red and yellow dye, to make orange candles.


The first step is to melt the wax. I started with one pound of wax flakes, because I read online to use half an ounce of fragrance oil per pound of wax. I wasn’t sure how many candles that would make, but I thought that was a good place to start.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Candles || Grace to Grow Blog

Next, melt the wax in a double boiler. I wanted to have a way to pour the wax, so I made my own “double boiler” by putting this old glass measuring cup in a pot of water on the stove. Heat the wax to 180*F, and make sure to stir it occasionally. A candy thermometer is a great way to keep an eye on the temperature!

DIY Pumpkin Spice Candles || Grace to Grow Blog

Once the wax reaches 180*F, remove it from the heat and add the dye. I was hoping for a medium orange, but I didn’t know how the ratio of red to yellow would end up looking, so I ended up using too much red. Luckily the candles still looked orange when they cooled, but a very reddish orange! Then, once the wax has cooled to 175*F, add the fragrance oil. I used about half an ounce in this batch.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Candles || Grace to Grow Blog
It looks pretty red, but the color will change as it cools.

Now, let the wax cool to 120*F before pouring it into the jars. While you’re waiting, get the wicks and jars ready. Other tutorials online said to wrap the wick around a pencil or toothpick to help keep it in place, but my wicks were pre-cut and not long enough to wrap around anything. So I just set them in the bottom of the jars, and held them with one hand while I poured the wax with the other. Then I could still move them around before the wax hardened.

DIY Pumpkin Spice Candles || Grace to Grow Blog
Sorry about the mess 🙂

Save a little wax and leave a little space in your jars for later. Let the candles cool for 30 minutes or so, and when they start to harden, they may start to sink a little in the middle. Use a toothpick to poke a few holes near the wick to let the air bubbles escape, then reheat the remaining wax to 175*F. Then top off your candles and let them set! I let mine set overnight before trimming the wicks and putting the covers on. One pound of wax ended up making one 8-ounce candle and three 4-ounce candles.

This was a really fun project, and homemade candles would make great Christmas gifts! I can’t wait to make some more candles and try some holiday scents 🙂

DIY Pumpkin Spice Candles || Grace to Grow Blog

Let the Dead Things Go

Let the Dead Things Go || Grace to Grow Blog

I saw this quote on Pinterest the other day, and it really made me think. When fall rolls around, everyone celebrates the return of cooler weather and the leaves changing color. But really, the leaves only turn beautiful colors because they’re dying, and the cooler weather is a sign of the cold, dark winter to come.

It sounds a little depressing to think about it that way, but I think there’s an important lesson to learn from the autumn season. Yes, things are changing, but that’s part of life. How we respond is up to us. The trees respond by turning brilliant, beautiful colors and bringing us joy. They have to let go of their leaves and die a little during the winter so they can rest, regroup, and grow again in the spring.

The same is true for us. There are things in our lives that have died through no fault of our own, or things that we need to consciously choose to release. It could be the loss of a job, the ending of a friendship, the death of a long-held dream or the expectations we had for our lives, or any change that makes us uncomfortable. Maybe there are things we need to choose to let go of: bad habits, pride, anger, bitterness. Whatever it may be, these things can weigh us down physically, emotionally, or spiritually. Paul talked about this in Hebrews 12:1-2:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Change is hard, whether it’s thrust upon us or something that we recognize we need to let go so we can run our race better. Whenever you find yourself in a fall season of your life, remember the beauty of the changing leaves. If we face those changes with grace and trust in God, a fall season can be a catalyst for rest in the winter and new growth in the spring. Don’t be afraid to let go of the dead things in your life; let God’s glory and beauty shine through you, just like He shows His glory in the beauty of the autumn leaves.

What I Read in September, Part Two // Susan May Warren Edition

I read so many books in September, I had to split them up into two posts! Half of them happened to be by the same author: Susan May Warren, one of my top three favorite authors of all time. She’s one of those authors whose new books I’ll always buy as soon as they come out, because I know I’ll love them! In September, I read the last book in the Montana Fire trilogy that came out this summer, and the first three books in the Deep Haven series that my grandmother gave me for my birthday.

What I Read in September, Susan May Warren Edition || Grace to Grow Blog

Burnin’ For You – Montana Fire trilogy #3

Plot: He’s loved her for years . . .Smoke jumper Reuben Marshall is harboring a deep regret—a split-second decision that cost the life of his crew boss in a fire. It’s a grief that has paralyzed him, kept him from moving forward. It’s mistakes, and regrets like this that keep him from pursuing his long-burning interest in Gilly Priest, their pretty, petite pilot. Not only is she not interested in dating a teammate, but she’s also the preacher’s daughter. And while Reuben’s not the chiefest of sinners, he’s no saint. Reuben feels like a buffalo next to her and worse, can’t seem to string two words together when she’s in his radar. He’ll just have to love her from afar…

Her dark secret keeps her from trusting . . .Gilly Priest has worked hard to carve out her niche as a female bomber pilot in the dangerous world of firefighting. Sure she’s small, but she’s made up for her stature in courage, grit, and the tenacity to face danger other pilots wouldn’t dare to confront. And yes, she’s noticed handsome Reuben Marshall—who wouldn’t? Dependable and strong, he takes up most of the space in the room. But Gilly’s dark secret won’t allow her close enough to talk to him, let alone let herself fall for him.

A race to rescue the people they love . . .When their smokejumper plane goes down in the northwestern Montana mountains, wounding their team, Gilly and Reuben are the only ones able to hike out to find help. But when their rescue mission turns out to be a fight for their lives against the terrain, a saboteur, and a forest fire, they discover they’ll have to put aside their fears and learn to trust each other. But will trust lead to igniting something they both long for…and fear? And can they save their team before tragedy strikes—again?

My thoughts: This conclusion to the Montana Fire trilogy was so good! Susan May Warren does a great job of mixing drama, adventure, and romance in her books, and this one was no exception. I loved getting to know Gilly and Reuben and seeing how their love story grew as they faced their fears and sacrificed to save their friends. Not your typical or predictable love story…you won’t regret the time spent reading it!

Happily Ever After – Deep Haven Series #1

Plot: Mona Reynolds knows exactly whom she wants to marry. The only problem is, he isn’t real.

Mona’s dream is about to come true. With the help of her best friend, Liza, she’s transforming an old Victorian house in the lovely lakeside town of Deep Haven into the Footstep of Heaven Bookstore and Coffee Shop. If only she could swing a hammer. Luckily for Mona, Joe Michaels — a handsome, mysterious handyman — agrees to help in exchange for rent in the apartment above her garage. But when disaster threatens her dream, Mona turns to her handyman for more than just household solutions and finds that some fairy tales have surprise endings. . . .

My thoughts: This book is an introduction to Deep Haven, Minnesota, which is also where Warren’s more recent Christiansen Family series takes place. I love that it’s about a woman starting a bookstore — that sounds like so much fun! Still, it’s not without its struggles, as Mona soon discovers. Enter Joe, the handyman with secrets that could change everything. This story is really well-written, with great characters and a plot twist that I didn’t see coming at first.

Tying the Knot – Deep Haven Series #2

Plot: EMT Anne Lundstrom is running from her past. But it’s about to catch up. She thought she’d escaped it when she moved out of the city and into the quiet town of Deep Haven. She certainly never expected to get roped into helping Noah Standing Bear run his summer camp for inner-city kids. Yet Noah has a charisma she can’t ignore, and romance is in the air. But when the very danger she was trying to escape threatens her peaceful haven―and her life―Anne must find the courage to face her fears and embrace the one man who can help her understand her past.

My thoughts: I loved the first book in the series, but I thought this one was even better! Anne moves to Deep Haven from the city, not realizing that a chance encounter from her past is about to change the rest of her life. This is a great story about how God can use our lives when we’re willing to trust Him with our fears and open our eyes to something beyond our own dreams and plans.

The Perfect Match – Deep Haven Series #3

Plot: Ellie Karlson is new to Deep Haven. As the town’s interim fire chief, she is determined to lead the local macho fire crew in spite of their misconceptions about her. But when someone begins setting deadly fires, Ellie faces the biggest challenge of her life. Especially when sparks fly with one of the volunteers on her crew: Pastor Dan Matthews. As Ellie battles to do her job and win the respect of her crew, she finds that there is one fire she can’t fight―the one Dan has set in her heart.

My thoughts: Pastor Dan and Ellie are characters you can’t help but root for, even when they seem to be at odds with each other. Ellie has a tough job to do as Deep Haven’s fire chief, and the men on her crew don’t all appreciate having a woman in charge. Dan was skeptical too at first, but he soon becomes her friend and confidante. They learn to see and love each other for who they are, rather than their preconceived ideas of how the other should act. It turns out to be a story with plenty of danger and mystery, but a sweet and touching ending.

If you’ve never read Susan May Warren’s books, now is a great time to start! I just noticed that this ebook, the prequel to her upcoming Montana Rescue series, is free on Kindle right now.  You can download that and then pre-order the first book in the new series, Wild Montana Skies, that’s coming out next Tuesday. (This post is not sponsored in any way; I just love her books!) I know I can’t wait to read my copy as soon as it comes in the mail! 

Have you read any of Susan May Warren’s books? Who are some of your favorite authors?

What I Read in September // Part One

One of my goals for September was to read four books. I didn’t read any non-fiction like I intended to, but I did end up doubling my goal and reading eight books! I wanted to write a recap and quick review of all the books I read, but I’m going to split them into two posts so I don’t overload you with one long post (although this one may still be a little long 😉 ). Here are the first four books I read in September.

What I Read in September, Part One || Grace to Grow Blog

Just a Kiss by Denise Hunter

Plot: Watching the love of his life fall for his brother was enough to send Riley straight to boot camp. But over a year later, he’s officially a marine, and Beau and Paige are no longer an item. When Riley’s tour in Afghanistan is up, he intends to confess his feelings to Paige and win his best friend’s heart once and for all.

But all that changes when an IED takes the life of a comrade and leaves Riley an amputee. Now he’s heading home, injured and troubled. His plans to win Paige are a distant dream. She deserves so much more than the man that’s left. All he can do now is put some healthy distance between them. But upon his return he discovers his family has arranged for him to stay with Paige.

Paige is a nurturer at heart and happy to take care of her best buddy. By all appearances Riley is adjusting miraculously well to his disability. But as the days pass, Paige begins to see that the smiles and laughter are just a mask for the pain he’s hiding. To make matters worse, her job is in serious jeopardy. The animal shelter that she’s poured her heart into has lost its funding, and she has three months to come up with the money needed to save it.

As the weeks wear on, Paige’s feelings for Riley begin to shift into uncharted territory. Why is she suddenly noticing his arm muscles and the way his lips curl at the corners? Will she be able to deny her feelings for another Callahan brother? And will Riley let his heart heal so he can let Paige in?

My thoughts: This was a good ending to the Summer Harbor series. It was nice to catch up with the characters from the previous two books and finally find out the answer to the “Paige and Riley” question that had been hinted at in the other books. The characters and the story are well-developed, and your heart aches for Riley as he struggles with the aftereffects of his time in Afghanistan. It was a little more predictable than the other books in the series, but it’s still an enjoyable read.

Sins of the Past by Dee Henderson, Dani Pettrey, and Lynette Eason

Plot: In Dee Henderson’s “Missing,” a Wyoming sheriff is called to Chicago when his elderly mother goes missing. Paired with a savvy Chicago cop, the two realize her disappearance is no accident, and a race against the clock begins.

Dani Pettrey returns to Alaska with “Shadowed,” introducing readers to the parents of her beloved McKenna clan. Adventure, romance, and danger collide when a young fisherman nets the body of an open-water swimming competitor who may actually be a possible Russian defector.

Lynette Eason’s “Blackout” delivers the story of a woman once implicated in a robbery gone wrong. The loot has never been found–but her memory of that night has always been unreliable. Can she remember enough to find her way to safety when the true culprit comes after her?

My thoughts: Usually I’m not crazy about novellas, because there usually isn’t enough time to develop the story well. This book proved me wrong, though! I bought it primarily because I like everything by Dee Henderson, and I wanted to find out what happened in the prequel to Dani Pettrey’s Alaskan Courage series. Dee Henderson’s “Missing” was written in her typical style, including well thought out details and fascinating plot twists. It provided a good set-up for a new series, too! Dani Pettrey’s “Shadowed” kept me turning pages too, with an intriguing plot and a sweet romance. “Blackout” by Lynette Eason seemed a little far-fetched to me, but still worth the read.

Stones Cry Out by Sibella Giorello

Plot: When nobody talks… the stones cry out.

In the searing heat of a Virginia summer, two men plummet from a roof top to th sidewalk below. The victims are a white police officer and a young black man with a troubled past. Hundreds of people were at the scene, and yet nobody saw what happened. But when FBI agent Raleigh Harmon is assigned the case, she realizes they’re just not talking.

The Bureau wants a quick verdict, with or without the truth. And with tight-lipped witnesses, Raleigh has to rely on her training in forensic geology to uncover the facts. Working through her connections among the city’s most powerful families, along with trolling Richmond’s underbelly, Raleigh wants to see justice prevail. But can she solve the case before the city’s growing unrest rages out of control? And will her choices bring down everyone involved—including herself?

The first Sibella Giorello book I read was the fifth one in the Raleigh Harmon series, The Mountains Bow Down, when the Kindle version was on sale this summer. When I saw that this first book in the series was free on Kindle, I downloaded it right away! The plot is very relevant to current events, and I love the main character, Raleigh. She has a lot of trouble in her past and present that she has to deal with, but she still manages to be one of the most tenacious agents in the FBI. She refuses to give up on justice, even when she’s up against numerous forces trying to stop her. She’s a complex and relatable character; you can’t help but root for her. The focus on geology in crime-solving is fascinating, too; it’s not something that’s glamorous enough to be put on TV very often, but it brings a realistic dimension to the book. If you like suspense and mystery, or just Christian fiction in general, give this book a try!

Priceless by Joel Smallbone and Luke Smallbone with Nancy Rue

Plot: James Stevens was, at one time, a good man with a great life. After the tragic death of his wife and losing custody of his little girl, James is at the darkest crossroad of his life. Angry, desperate, and unable to hold down a steady job, he agrees to drive a box truck on a shady, one-time trip cross country for cash — no questions asked. When he discovers what he is delivering is actually a who, the questions in his mind begin haunting him mercilessly. James becomes an unlikely hero who must fight to save the lives of two young women and finds himself falling in love with one of them.

Can love, strength, and faith redefine his past and change the course of his future?

My thoughts: This book is based on the movie by the same name, produced by and featuring the Smallbone brothers of the band for KING & COUNTRY (they have a song out called Priceless too!), that is coming out in theaters this weekend. It’s a really intense book that deals with several difficult topics: death, drugs, jail, custody issues, and human trafficking. They handle these topics well though, and while it’s not appropriate for children, it’s not overly graphic or disturbing. It really sheds light on the issue of human trafficking and how girls can get into that situation, and you really feel for James, the main character, as he faces many difficult choices and opportunities to do the right thing. This is a well-written, thought-provoking book, and I’m sure the movie will be just as good.

What books have you read lately? Look for part 2 of my September reads later this week!

October Goals

I can’t believe it’s October already! September seemed to fly by. That’s okay with me though; I love October, and we’re one month closer to Thanksgiving and Christmas! So now that it’s a new month, it’s time to set some new goals.

October Goals | Grace to Grow Blog

First, let’s see how I did with my September goals:

  1. Blog at least three times a week. I accomplished this for the first three weeks of September, but then I had my birthday and came down with a sinus infection, so I didn’t pay as much attention to the blog. Still, I’m happy with how I did my first month blogging!
  2. Read four books (at least two non-fiction). This goal was sort of accomplished…I ended up reading eight books, but none of them were non-fiction. I’m going to count that as a win though, because I read double the number of books I wanted to. Look for a post later this week on all the books I read!
  3. Set up a budget. I totally failed on this one, and I don’t even have a good reason. Time just got away from me, I guess!
  4. Movie/coffee with a friend. Done! We went to see The Light Between Oceans (it was good but sad; now I want to read the book!) and went out for coffee after. It was nice to catch up!
  5. Send a package to my sister at college. I sent it last week, and she got it this week! She called and said it made her day, so I think that’s a win 😉

Now, on to my goals for October:

  1. Write at least two blog posts per week. I want to get in the habit of writing consistently, but I’m moving my goal down from three to two posts per week. Last month I had daily inspiration from the Blog-tember prompts, so I’m giving myself grace this month since I have to come up with my own topics to write about 😉
  2. Read five books (two non-fiction). I’m going to try this one again! I still have plenty of non-fiction books to choose from.
  3. Set up a budget. This really shouldn’t take too long, so I need to just sit down and get it done.
  4. Work on a machine embroidery project. My dad does screen printing and vinyl as a hobby/small side business, and last winter he bought an embroidery machine. I want to learn how to use it better and try some new projects. I would love to be able to use the embroidery machine in some kind of business someday, but I have a lot to learn first!
  5. Plan a trip to see my sister. My friend and I might take a road trip to visit my sister at college, and I might fly down to see her around Thanksgiving. Nothing is set in stone, but I’m hoping to take at least one of those two trips!

Let’s hope I do better with my goals this month than I did last month! I’ll let you know in November 😉