What I Learned This Fall

I’m really excited to be linking up with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned series today! I have read and really enjoyed her books and her blog, and I’ve always loved that she wrote a monthly post with a list of things she learned that month. It’s a quarterly series now, so today is the day for What We Learned in Fall 2016. Here’s my list of 5 things I learned this fall.

What I Learned: Fall 2016 | Grace to Grow Blog

  1. I think I will like blogging…if I can learn discipline and consistency. It’s fun to think of an idea for a post, put it into words, design a graphic, and then see my own words on the Internet. I haven’t been as consistent as I should be…I do enjoy blogging, but sometimes I enjoy things (like reading) more! 😉 This is definitely an area I want to learn to be more disciplined in.
  2. I miss being in school! That probably sounds strange, but my college years were really fun. I studied from home, and I earned almost all of my credits through exams like the CLEP and DSST. I loved always being able to learn new subjects, studying on my own, and only having to take a test instead of sitting through classes and writing papers. It gave me a lot of freedom to set my own schedule and experience a lot of life outside of a traditional school setting. Now that I have two jobs, I miss being able to set my own schedule and “work from home.”
  3. The election results aren’t as important as I think they are. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been happy either way, but this was the first year I really put effort into getting a candidate elected in the primary, and it was disappointing that it didn’t work out. Then I was left with two options that I seriously disliked. I don’t know how the next four years are going to go for our country, but I know that God has used this election season to teach me to rely on Him more and on my actions, votes, and favorite candidates less. That’s a lesson I’ll always need to learn, over and over throughout my life, no matter who the President is. I’ve also started to realize more and more how important it is to listen to and truly care about people whose opinions are different than mine. Now that I don’t have a political party or favorite presidential candidate, it’s harder for me to look at life as my side against theirs. I’m still not the best at listening and being understanding, but I think this fall has been a turning point in my life.
  4. A little Christmas before Thanksgiving can be a good thing. I’ve been listening to Christmas music and watching Hallmark Christmas movies for the last few weeks. Some people may think that’s too soon, but I’ve decided that life is short, and if celebrating Christmas brings me joy, I’m going to do it!
  5. It’s way too easy to buy books on Kindle. I’ve mostly stuck with paperback books in the past, and I still usually prefer to hold an actual book in my hands. But sometimes it’s really convenient to find a book, buy it, and be able to read it instantly, without having to go to the store or wait for it to be shipped. Plus, I’ve been getting emails every day with Kindle deals, so most of the books I buy are between $0.99 and $2.99, sometimes a little more if I really like the author, and I’ve found myself buying more this fall than I used to. My general rule of thumb is that I don’t buy a book on Kindle if it’s cheaper to buy the paperback used on Amazon. Ultimately, it’s nice that having books on Kindle makes it easier for me to read more. Anything that lets me read more is a good thing in my book! 😉

So there you have it…5 things I’ve learned this fall. It’s been a good season, and I’m looking forward to Christmas and the winter season coming up.

What have you learned this fall?

The Meaning of Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you are able to have a day of rest and celebration with your friends and family. We are spending today with my mom’s family and tomorrow with my dad’s family (although I have to work until 3pm tomorrow 🙁 ) But today is a day for rest and reflection, and thanking God for all the ways he has blessed us this year.

This morning, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw that someone had posted part of Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation from 1863, when Thanksgiving was first established as the last Thursday in November. I looked it up and read the whole thing, and I was struck by the fact that he wrote it during the Civil War. If there was ever a time when it would be hard to be thankful, that would be the time. But still, even during the darkest period in our country’s history, we were blessed with a President who pointed us back to God and reminded us why it’s so important to be thankful.

He listed the blessings from the growth of freedom we had experienced since the beginning of our nation, and then reminded the people that “…No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

We may not be in the middle of a civil war today, but there is plenty of strife and struggle and suffering in the world, in our country, and maybe even in your own life. Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation reminds us that there is more to Thanksgiving than eating turkey, watching football, and spending time with our family. Those are all good things, and we should enjoy them when we can. But Thanksgiving is also a day to thank God for His blessings, ask for His forgiveness, and ask for His help when life gets hard. It’s an opportunity to humble ourselves, ask Him to heal us, ask Him to bring us closer to Him, and to thank Him for fulfilling His purposes for us, even when we can’t see the purpose yet. I don’t know about you, but that’s a reminder I needed today.

What are you doing to celebrate Thanksgiving?

What I Read in October

What I Read in October | Grace to Grow Blog

October turned out to be a good month for reading! My birthday was at the end of September, so I spent October reading all the books I bought with the Amazon gift card my grandmother gave me 😉 I read 10 books in all, so I’m not going to take the time to write a lot about each of them, but here are some quick recaps.

October New Releases: Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren and A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck

I was really excited about these new books by two of my favorite authors! Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren was everything I’ve come to expect from her: true-to-life characters with real, raw, struggles and problems; exciting action and adventure; a variety of multi-faced relationships; and sweet romance. A Royal Christmas Wedding was the fourth book in Rachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding Series, and it incorporated a lot of the characters from the previous books in the series, which I love! It’s a sweet story about a royal and an everyday American girl reconnecting and falling in love (obviously), and who doesn’t love a Christmas wedding?!?

From the Raleigh Harmon series by Sibella Giorello: The Rivers Run Dry (#2), The Clouds Roll Away (#3), The Stars Shine Bright (#4), and The Waves Break Gray (#6)

I think I mentioned last month that I read the fifth book in this series several months ago, and I was hooked! I had to find out the rest of the story (or stories), and I wasn’t disappointed. Raleigh Harmon is a great heroine, and while her story does involve romance, it definitely isn’t typical or predictable. Her relationship with her mom has always been rocky, and her work as an FBI agent and then (spoiler alert!) as a private-geologist-but-still-crime-fighter feels gritty and raw and real. I feel like I can’t quite put into words why I love this series so much, but I do!

From the Wings of the Nightingale series by Sarah Sundin: On Distant Shores (#2) and In Perfect Time (#3)

I’m not a big fan of most historical fiction, but I make an exception for Sarah Sundin! Her stories don’t feel dull or boring like some historical novels can, but they are rich with adventure, romance, and World War II drama. The Wings of the Nightingale series follows three flight nurses who were pioneers in their fields during WWII. I really enjoyed reading about all the places they went and things they saw, and getting more of a “first-hand” account of life on the front lines. This series really brings history to life!

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful by Susan May Warren (part of the Candy Cane Kisses Christmas novella collection):

I’ll admit it, I only bought this novella collection because of Susan May Warren, and I haven’t read any of the other stories (yet) 😉 Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful picks up where her Montana Fire series left off, and tells a story of healing, courage, and love for two of the smokejumpers we met in that series. Definitely worth buying the whole collection!

Destination Wedding by Jenn Faulk:

I first started reading Jenn Faulk’s books during my free trial of Kindle Unlimited, and I’ve gotten to enjoy her characters and her style of writing. This book gets into a second generation of characters; the bride and groom at the destination wedding were very young children in one of her previous books. It was fun catching up with them and their parents, and since you already know this book is about a wedding, there was also a sweet side story about the bride’s brother and the groom’s sister. Jenn Faulk is such a prolific author, she writes books almost faster than I can read them! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

What have you been reading lately? Any favorites I should know about? 🙂

When Your Soul Needs Christmas

When Your Soul Needs Christmas | Grace to Grow Blog

I told myself I wouldn’t do it.

I said I wouldn’t listen to Christmas music until November, maybe not until Thanksgiving. But somehow I found myself listening to the new Pentatonix Christmas album six days before the end of October. How did I get here? What have I done??

Okay, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but there are a lot of people out there who can’t stand the thought of listening to Christmas music too soon. Usually, I’m one of those people who wants to save traditions until the appropriate time. I’m afraid that if I don’t, they will lose some of their meaning and I won’t appreciate them as much. But for the last couple of years, I’ve been a little easier on myself when it comes to Christmas music.

There are a lot of things throughout the year that can weigh on our spirits, from mundane life to real trials. This year, we’ve just been through a lot as a nation, culminating in our election and the ensuing riots last week. I’ve had kind of a rough year personally, and maybe you have too, but Christmas is a time of year when we can stop and reset, when we can let the meaning of Christmas lighten our spirits. We can let the love, joy, and peace of the season soften our hearts and refresh us for the new year. Most importantly, it reminds us of the love God showed us when He sent His message of hope, joy, and peace through His son, a baby boy who would grow up to save us from our sins and the struggles of this world.

I’ve realized that I don’t want to relegate Christmas to just a month or two out of the year. No, I’m not going to leave my tree up all year (I love traditions, after all!), but this year, I need Christmas a little early. I don’t know what’s going on in your life, but maybe you need Christmas a little early too. So turn on the music if you want to, and let it sink into your mind and heart. Let God fill you with His peace and hope. Let the simple pleasures of Christmas, whether it be the music, the cheesy Hallmark movies, the lights, the red Starbucks cups ;), and especially time with family and friends, bring joy to your soul.

Election Day Thoughts

Election Day Thoughts || Grace to Grow Blog

I don’t know about you, but I am so glad this day is finally here. This campaign season is finally over, and not a moment too soon.

This has been kind of a tough election season for me. I worked really hard for one candidate in the primary, but he didn’t make it. But really, this has been a tough election season for all of us, hasn’t it? We are faced with two of the most disliked and untrustworthy candidates in our history. It’s a difficult choice for anyone, but especially for Christians. No one can dispute the fact that neither major party candidate is a good role model for our children, or that neither of them have the characteristics that make a moral and respectable leader. We have reached a new low, and I find myself in the position of not being able to vote for either one of them.

So where does that leave me, and the millions or at least thousands of other people who have serious problems with the candidates? Some people may decide that they have to vote for one candidate because they dislike the other one so much. Some people may decide not to vote at all, or to vote on every race except for president. Then some, like me, may decide to write in the name of a candidate they truly believe in (or vote third party if that’s an option in their state). What I have come to realize is that it’s a personal decision for each of us, between us and God, and it isn’t something we should allow to anger us or divide us. Whatever happens today, we will wake up tomorrow with our lives basically unchanged, at least for now. After the debates, the commercials, and the arguing are over, we will have to come together as a nation, with love and respect for our fellow believers and citizens, no matter who we voted for.

In the past, whenever I’ve heard someone say, “God’s in control,” or “Just trust God no matter what the outcome is,” I’ve agreed outwardly, but I’ve always inwardly thought those ideas were a cop-out. Honestly, I still do think some people use them as excuses not to get involved, but I’ve come to realize the truth in these statements even more this year. Yes, it’s important to be involved in the political process, to be informed and to vote for candidates who share our Biblical values, but God can work through anyone. That’s especially important to remember this year, when neither of the candidates are great options.

Something else I’ve wrestled with is that America’s happiness is not God’s priority. I do believe that our nation was founded on His principles and that He has blessed us greatly, but we can sometimes forget that His goal for us is sanctification as a church body and as individuals, not necessarily a return to our Constitutional principles or “making America great again.” God can use even a “bad” president to accomplish His purposes, for the nation or the church, to show us mercy or judgement, or to grow the church in the face of persecution. So while we have a responsibility to vote for the candidate we believe would make the best president, we don’t need to worry if they don’t win. After all, God is the one who raises up and brings down rulers and who gives them authority. We can trust that He knows what He’s doing.

So today, please go vote. Vote for a presidential candidate who shares your values, whether they are part of a major party, a third party, or even if you have to write them in. Remember what John Quincy Adams said: “Duty is ours; results are God’s.” Do your duty and vote, then leave the results in God’s hands, and trust that He will accomplish His purpose in us, through us, and for us. Then, no matter who wins, our duty is to pray for our new leaders, and for our country. That is the most important thing we can do.

November Goals

I can’t believe it’s November already! A lot more leaves have fallen off the trees, and it’s starting to feel more like winter is coming. It’s hard to believe that Thanksgiving is this month, and Christmas is next month. I feel like I have a lot to do to get ready for the holidays, and the fact that it’s November makes me feel like I don’t have much time! So this is a perfect time to check in on my goals for last month and the upcoming month.

November Goals || Grace to Grow Blog

Here are the goals I set for October:

  1. Write at least two blog posts per week. Out of four weeks in October, there were two weeks when I posted once and two weeks when I posted twice, so I almost accomplished this goal.
  2. Read five books (two non-fiction). I ended up reading 10 books, but none of them non-fiction. Oh well 🙂
  3. Set up a budget. I haven’t done this yet because I may be getting a second job, so that would change my numbers.
  4. Work on a machine embroidery project. Technically I did work on a project, but I didn’t finish it. I’ve been working on designs, so at least that’s a step in the right direction!
  5. Plan a trip to see my sister. I drove down to visit her last weekend for her fall break, and it was so much fun! I’m really glad I had the chance to go. I also bought a plane ticket that I got a really good deal on so I can fly down and drive back home with her before Thanksgiving break. I’m really excited for that trip!

Well, I only ended up fully accomplishing one goal…so I guess that means there’s room for improvement in November 😉

  1. Write at least two blog posts per week. I’m going to try this one again and work on doing better than I did last month!
  2. Read 8 books. I have a lot of new books that I got for my birthday, so I’m going to forget about the non-fiction books this month and just read for fun 🙂
  3. Set up a budget. I’m going to decide on a budget this month, no matter what happens with my job search. I’m going to need it with Christmas shopping coming up!
  4. Finish my machine embroidery project. This has been on my to-do list for a while, and I do enjoy working on it, so I need to make it a priority!
  5. Get a good start on buying/making Christmas presents. I know this isn’t an incredibly specific goal, but my general idea is that I want to at least figure out what I’m going to give to people, and then start shopping or making things. It’s so much more fun when it’s not last minute!

So there are my goals for November. Let’s hope I do a better job with these than I did with October’s!

What are your goals for November? Have you started Christmas shopping yet? 🙂