Priceless the Movie

One of my favorite music groups for the last few years has been for King & Country, a Christian group led by two brothers, Joel and Luke Smallbone. Last year, they had a concert less than an hour away from where I live, and it happened to be on my birthday, so of course my family and I had to go! 🙂 At the concert, they talked about their movie Priceless that came out in theaters in October, and is now out on DVD and streaming. Joel Smallbone is the lead actor, and some of the other Smallbone brothers helped with the writing, producing, and directing of the movie. Here’s the description of the movie from their website:

“Inspired by true events, PRICELESS is a powerful drama/thriller about James Stevens who was, at one time, a good man with a great life — but that was then and this is now. 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. But when he discovers what he is delivering is actually who, he is compelled to save two beautiful and frightened sisters who are unaware of the danger that awaits them.

Can love, strength, and faith redefine his past and change the course of his future? This unlikely hero risks it all to save these women, confront the forces that oppose him and ultimately discover the life he was meant to live.”

We rented the movie on iTunes while my sister was home for spring break, and my whole family watched it together. It was really powerful and eye-opening, showing how real human trafficking is and how easy it can be for girls to get caught up in it. In the case of this movie, the two sisters thought they were coming to America to work as waitresses or maids to help support their family. The movie does a good job of showing the internal conflict of James, the main character. At first, he didn’t want to acknowledge what was happening; he just wanted to keep his head down and take care of his own daughter, even if it meant doing something a little shady to make the money he needed to support her. As the movie goes on, he realized that he needed to do something to help the girls he had befriended, but he didn’t know what he could do. Luckily, with the help of a new friend, James found the courage to take a stand and try to rescue the girls he unwittingly delivered to their captors, even when it put his own life in danger. This struggle that he faced put his life on a new path and showed him his purpose: rescuing more girls like the ones who changed his life.

This is a really good movie: the story, music, and acting are all very well done. It wouldn’t be appropriate for young children, but is definitely good for young adults or for parents to watch with their teenagers. If you want more information before you watch the movie, you can read Focus on the Family’s review here. This isn’t a fun topic, but I think it’s an important movie to watch. If you want more information about how you can help, go to http://pricelessmovement.com/.

What I Read in February

At the beginning of February, I was really excited for the books I had on my to-read list! Two of my favorite authors released new books on January 31st, so those two are the first ones I listed below. I didn’t read as much as I did in January, but so far I’m still on track to finish 100 books this year!

  1. Happily Ever Ashten by Erynn Mangum (book 3 in the Carrington Springs series) — I’ve loved all of Erynn Mangum’s books that I’ve read, and this one was no exception! They’re all funny, sweet, and clean, and the way she writes about the heroine growing in her relationship with God always feels authentic, not preachy. This book was the third one in a series about three friends, so it was fun to catch up with the girls from the last two books and to finally see what happened with their third friend, Ashten. She’s in the middle of a busy summer working at her family’s restaurant and helping her two friends plan their weddings, wondering about her purpose in the middle of it all, and learning to trust God when her life isn’t turning out the way she imagined and when love doesn’t look like she thought it would. I think this was my favorite book in the series!
  2. Rescue Me by Susan May Warren (book 2 in the Montana Rescue series) — This is the second book in the newest series by one of my all-time favorite authors. Deputy Sam Brooks’ life is orderly and structured; his girlfriend’s sister, Willow’s, life has been anything but. Her adventurous spirit and love for the kids in her youth group led to her take the group on a hike, and Sam went along to help chaperone. Neither of them imagined that the situation would take a dangerous turn, forcing them to learn to rely on God and each other to make it through. Through it all, they learned that no matter how many mistakes we make and how many times we fail, God has proven that He will stop at nothing to rescue us, and He will always be there for us when we need Him the most.
  3. The Inn at Ocean’s Edge and Twilight at Blueberry Barrens by Colleen Coble (books 2 and 3 in the Sunset Cove series) — I found these books on sale, one in paperback and the other on Kindle, and since they take place in my home state of Maine of course I had to read them! 😉 These are books 2 and 3 in the series; I didn’t notice anything that made me wish I had read the first book first, but you should definitely read the second before the third. They’re classified as suspense, and they both have very unique plots and twists you would never see coming! I thought the characters were very well-developed, and both books included important spiritual lessons about our identity in Christ and finding our worth in Him. It can be kind of funny sometimes to read books about Maine written by someone “from away,” but Colleen Coble did a great job representing our state!
  4. From the Start by Melissa Tagg (book 1 in the Walker Family series) — This was a fun read I found on Kindle Unlimited! Kate and Colton are both struggling in their careers, with Kate wanting to do something more meaningful than writing TV movie scripts, and with Colton recently injured and no longer able to play in the NFL. They both find themselves in Kate’s small hometown when a tornado brings her back and her brother, Colton’s friend, talks him in to visiting while he figures out what to do next. It just so happens that Kate and her family need someone to help rebuild her dad’s museum, and Colton needs someone to write his book…but their relationship ended up meaning more to both of them than just business, and taught them about God’s purpose for them in the struggles they’d faced. Overall, I really enjoyed this book, and I’m going to look for more books by this author!
  5. Buried Secrets by Irene Hannon (book 1 in the Men of Valor series) — I’ve always enjoyed Irene Hannon’s suspense books, and this was as good as I expected! In this story, a small-town police chief and county detective work together to solve the mystery of remains found buried out in the country. It was written in a unique way; you as the reader know who the killer is the whole time, but it’s still really interesting to watch the main characters figure it out. It’s a fast-paced mystery without being gory or graphic, with likeable characters who are facing challenges in their personal lives as well. This is a great book if you like Christian suspense!
  6. Courage to Soar by Simone Biles — I loved watching Simone Biles compete in gymnastics at the Rio Olympics last summer, so I was excited to read her book! It was fun to read her story and find out what led her to gymnastics and ultimately the Olympics. She had a rough couple of years at the beginning of her childhood, until her grandparents adopted her when she was a toddler. Becoming an elite gymnast takes an enormous amount of hard work and dedication, and having a supportive family was so important to her success, encouraging her in her setbacks and celebrating with her in her victories. Being able to read about the “behind the scenes” of her life helps you to see that even though she was born with a lot of God-given talent, it took a lot of work to become one of the greatest gymnasts of all time. She faced a lot of struggles and setbacks, even a few short years before her historic Olympic performance, but her faith and her family got her through and brought her to where she is today. This book is geared more towards younger readers, but anyone can read it and be inspired!

I have some fun new fiction books I’m looking forward to reading in March, including a new release from one of my favorite authors (When Tides Turn by Sarah Sundin), but I’m also working on reading more non-fiction. A couple of the books I’ve started on are Fervent by Priscilla Shirer and To Live is Christ to Die is Gain by Matt Chandler. Hopefully I’ll finish those this month and can tell you about them in next month’s post! 🙂

What have you been reading lately?

5 Reasons Sisters are Awesome Best Friends

My sister and I have always been best friends, pretty much since she was born. The older I’ve gotten, the more I’ve realized how unique the relationship between sisters is, and the more I’ve come to appreciate having my sister as my best friend! Here are five of the many reasons having a sister is awesome 🙂

5 Reasons Sisters are Awesome Best Friends
Photo credit: Unsplash
  1. You’re always together. Especially when you’re growing up, so much of your daily lives are lived together. That also means you have more opportunities to get upset with each other, but you have to learn how to deal with conflict and how to get along, because she’s still going to be there tomorrow! But the best part about doing everything together is that you have a friend with you all the time, whether you’re going to school, church, events, or just living your life.
  2. She understands you. Sisters know you better than anyone, and they understand your dreams, fears, and motivations. You grew up together, probably in the same house with the same parents and a lot of the same experiences, so you understand each other in a way no one else can.
  3. You can be yourself around her. You don’t have to worry about what she thinks of you; she’s your sister, you can’t scare her away! Even if you do or say something silly, she’ll be right there to laugh with you, not look down on you or think you’re really strange.
  4. You can talk about anything. She’s the person you know won’t judge you, and she’s the one who best understands where you’re coming from. You know you can trust her to listen and give good advice, and you can be a listening ear for her too.
  5. She’ll always be there. You know you can count on her throughout all the changes and stages in your life. Other friendships may come and go, but sisters are friends for life!

Five on Friday

Happy Friday! 🙂 I know I’ve been a little absent here on the blog lately…not exactly keeping up with my goal of posting twice a week. So while I’m working on some posts for next week, I thought I would share with you five things I’m loving this week!

1. We’ve had some serious winter weather for the last two weeks, but the last couple of days have been sunny and in the 40s-50s! It’s so nice to go outside without a winter coat, and to know that spring is just around the corner. It’s been a bright spot in the middle of winter…because I’m sure we’ll be back to our normal snowy and cold soon!

2. My latest favorite song is Love Broke Thru by TobyMac. So good!

3. My fun adventure this month was driving down to visit my sister at college a couple of weeks ago. It was so fun to spend the weekend with her, get to know her friends, and go to a few of her classes. Now she’ll be home in a little over a week for spring break!

4. I’m making progress on my embroidery project! This is the third out of six designs I’m embroidering, and then my plan is to make them into a wall hanging. I’m much better at embroidering than sewing, so we’ll see how that goes!

5. I know this isn’t a unique sentiment, but I absolutely love Fixer Upper. I love seeing the transformations in the homes Chip and Joanna work on for their clients, but I think what sets their show apart from other home improvement shows is seeing their relationship play out, how well they work together and how they seem to have a lot of fun doing it. Reading their book and knowing a little more of their life story makes the show even more fun to watch!

What’s been making you happy/inspiring you lately?

You Are Loved

It’s Valentine’s Day…a holiday almost everyone loves or hates. If today is a hard day for you, or even if you do have a Valentine this year, I just wanted to remind you how much you are loved. No matter who you are or what you do, you are loved unconditionally, relentlessly, sacrificially, and completely by the God who created you and sent His Son to redeem you and prove to you how much He loves you. Whatever your relationship status is, I hope these verses encourage you today!

“…But you are a God of forgiveness, gracious and merciful, slow to become angry, and rich in unfailing love….” — Nehemiah 9:17

“I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love, for you have seen my troubles, and you care about the anguish of my soul..” — Psalm 31:7

“Let your unfailing love surround us, LORD, for our hope is in you alone.” — Psalm 33:22

“‘For the mountains may move and the hills disappear, but even then my faithful love for you will remain. My covenant of blessing will never be broken,’ says the LORD, who has mercy on you.” — Isaiah 54:10

“Long ago the LORD said to Israel: ‘I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself.'” — Jeremiah 31:3

‘”For the LORD your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs.’” — Zephaniah 3:17

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” — John 13:34-35

“I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in His love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” — John 15:9-13

“But God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners.” — Romans 5:8

“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” — Romans 8:38-39

“Owe nothing to anyone—except for your obligation to love one another. If you love your neighbor, you will fulfill the requirements of God’s law.” — Romans 13:8

“And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep his love is. May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.” — Ephesians 3:18-19

“This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins. Dear friends, since God loved us that much, we surely ought to love each other. No one has ever seen God. But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us.” — 1 John 4:10-12

 

What I Read in January

I’ve really been on a roll reading this year! It helps to have a Kindle Unlimited subscription 😉 (thanks, Dad and Mom!). At least half of the books I read in January were Kindle Unlimited books. I also read a few other books I’ve been wanting to read for a while! So let’s jump right in and see what I read last month.

What I Read in January | Grace to Grow Blog

  • I didn’t keep track of which ones I read in December or January, but since Christmas I’ve read at least 15 books by Jenn Faulk through Kindle Unlimited. I’ve talked before about how much I love her books, so I’m not going to take the time to describe them all, but I really enjoyed them! Her books alone are a good reason to subscribe to Kindle Unlimited, but I’m excited to see what else I find this year 🙂

  • A Memory Between Us and Blue Skies Tomorrow (Books 2 and 3 of the Wings of Glory series by Sarah Sundin) | I’ve said before how much I love Sarah Sundin’s books, and these two were no exception! These were the conclusion of her first WWII historical romance series, about three pilots who were brothers. Blue Skies Tomorrow was my favorite book of hers so far! I really loved the main characters and felt like I was rooting for them the whole time, as they each faced struggles that drew them together, then forced them apart, then drew them back together again as they grew in their faith. The last quarter or so of the book really kept me on the edge of my seat! 😉 I know that sounds kind of vague, but it was a really good story that makes you think and sticks with you for a while.

  • A Perfect Ambition (Book 1 of the Worthington Destiny series by Dr. Kevin Leman and Jeff Nesbit) | This was another book I found on Kindle Unlimited. It’s the first in a series about the 3 Worthington children, who are descendants of one of the richest families in America, going back multiple generations. One is an assistant attorney general, one is the head of the family’s stock holdings, and one is a entrepreneur who is passionate about the environment. In this book, a crisis happens that brings all three siblings together and changes the direction of their lives. It was pretty interesting, but it didn’t really have the typical plot structure of conflict, climax and resolution, so I didn’t think it was really a satisfying story. I guess I’ll need to read all three books to really get the point, and I might someday, but I’m not rushing out to buy them. If they were on Kindle Unlimited too, that would be another story 🙂

  • Nothing but Trouble, Double Trouble, and Licensed for Trouble (Books 1-3 of the PJ Sugar series by Susan May Warren) | Susan May Warren is one of my favorite authors, and I love that her different series cover so many different genres! These three books had a little mystery, a little comedy, and a little romance. They aren’t your typical Christian romance novels though; you have to read all three books to really get all of PJ’s story. She was known as the town troublemaker growing up, and these books tell her story of coming back to her hometown after 10 years as a nomad with many different jobs. She really struggled to find her place and her purpose in life, and to learn how to see herself the way God sees her rather than how she thinks everyone else sees her. Her new career as a private investigator makes for fun reading, too! She gets herself into quite the scrapes sometimes 🙂

I’m guessing I probably read about 8 of those 15 Jenn Faulk books in January, so that puts me at 14 books total so far this year. A little more than 10% of my goal of 100 books this year, so I think that’s a good start! I’ve never really kept track of the books I’ve read before, so this year I’m keeping a list in my new bullet journal. It’s really fun to watch the list of completed books grow! I also got new books from two of my favorite authors on January 31st, so look for reviews of those as part of my “What I Read in February” post.

What have you been reading? Found any good books lately? 🙂

3 Awesome Pro-Life Organizations

I have always been pro-life. I have always believed that abortion is wrong and made sure I voted for pro-life political candidates. But in the last couple of years, I’ve started to become even more saddened by abortion, both for the babies who will never live and for the mothers who felt pressured or guilted into getting an abortion, and who will live with the consequences for the rest of their lives. I’ve started to realize that it’s not enough to say I’m pro-life, but that I need to be pro-active: I need to do something about it! I’m still not completely sure what that will look like for me, but I wanted to share with you some pro-life organizations who do a great job taking care of moms and babies. These are just a few groups that I know of and that I’ve supported, but I know there are many more great groups out there!

3 Awesome Pro-Life Organizations | Grace to Grow Blog

— CareNet | CareNet is a nationwide network of pregnancy centers. Here’s more about their vision and mission:

Vision – Care Net envisions a culture where women and men faced with pregnancy decisions are transformed by the gospel of Jesus Christ and empowered to choose life for their unborn children and abundant life for their families.   

Mission – Acknowledging that every human life begins at conception and is worthy of protection, Care Net offers compassion, hope, and help to anyone considering abortion by presenting them with realistic alternatives and Christ-centered support through our life-affirming network of pregnancy centers, organizations, and individuals.

There’s a CareNet pregnancy center in the area where I live, and I learned about them through several churches in the area. They do baby bottle fundraising drives, where churches pass out baby bottles for the congregation to fill up with change or cash. It’s a great way to get churches involved, and I’m glad my church participates! Pregnancy centers are definitely on the front lines of the pro-life movement, and CareNet is a great example of that.

— Embrace Grace | Embrace Grace is another great way for churches to get involved with promoting a culture of life! Here’s how they describe what they do:

WHAT WE DO:

Embrace Grace, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization formed for the purpose of providing emotional, practical and spiritual support for single, young women and their families who find themselves in an unintended pregnancy. The primary goal of Embrace Grace is to empower churches across the nation to be a safe and non-judging place for the girls to run to when they find out they are pregnant, instead of the last place they are welcomed because of shame and guilt. 

WHY WE EXIST: 

Most churches advocate life and discourage women from getting abortions, but once a brave and courageous girl chooses life, a lot of times the church then steps away and has nothing to offer her for support at that point. She is then left with nine months of being scared, worried and feeling alone. She journeys into a season of being a single mom without direction and guidance from a spiritual family. This is where the Body of Christ can minister to women who are desperately searching for a Savior. This is where we can speak into their lives and hearts that will have an impact for generations to come! 

I love the heart behind their ministry and how they equip local churches to make a difference in their communities. More than just saying we’re pro-life, we need to be pro-love. Our message means nothing unless we actually do something to help the women facing unplanned pregnancies.

Save the Storks | I first learned about Save the Storks from a friend of friend, who used to work for my college but now works for Save the Storks. They work with pregnancy centers in a variety of ways, but the most unique way is through mobile pregnancy centers called Stork Buses: “Our [mobile medical units] allow pregnancy resource centers to operate anywhere abortion-vulnerable women are likely to be – outside of abortion clinics, on university campuses, and at public events. These mobile pregnancy centers minimize the distance and roadblocks between women who most need the help of a pregnancy resource center. We believe going mobile is one of the most effective strategies for reaching women contemplating abortion. We’ve seen it profoundly expand the reach and increase the impact of pregnancy centers all over the nation.” They have 20 buses on the road and 20 more in production, and they’ve helped to save over 1,000 babies. This is a really unique and effective way to reach mothers and babies! They also sell some awesome t-shirts and accessories, and even their own coffee!

If you know of any other great pro-life organizations, please share them in the comments! I would love to learn more about other pro-life ministries and help them however I can. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

What it Means to be a Woman

This weekend, there was a lot of news made by the Women’s March in Washington D.C. I hadn’t heard much about it until it happened, but I knew it was supposed to be a protest against President Trump and in support of women’s rights. After hearing some of the coverage, I have some thoughts I want to share about how I view womanhood and femininity a little differently than the media would lead you to believe most women do.

What it Means to be a Woman | Grace to Grow Blog

Watching that rally would make you think that being a woman means being mean, rude, and vulgar. It would make you think it means supporting a woman’s “right to choose” to kill the child in her womb, to discard the unique gift we have that men don’t: the ability to bring new life into the world. It would make you think it means believing that screaming and yelling and getting angry will change things. But to me, that’s not at all what it means to be a woman.

Being a woman means being an image-bearer of God, made to complement and work alongside men. It means loving and encouraging our families. It means bringing joy and beauty to the lives of the people we love. It means serving the people around us, showing compassion and empathy. It means teaching our daughters how to be ladies and teaching our sons how to be gentlemen. It means standing up and speaking out about the things that matter, but with love and truth, not anger and lies. It means protecting the vulnerable; the children in foster care, the unborn babies, and the young, scared mothers who think they have no choice but to abort their baby. It means reaching out and showing love, especially to the people we don’t agree with, even starting with the women who marched in Washington, many of whom are genuinely hurt and afraid. As women, we have the potential to greatly impact the world around us with the unique feminine traits God has given us, but only if we act out of love.

Those women made the news last weekend because they’re angry and upset. And you know what? I’m upset about some things too, and I’m glad we live in a country where we can talk about those things and then do something. I’m upset that tens of millions of babies have been killed over the last few decades, before they even had a chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. I’m upset that a lot of their mothers felt trapped, like they had no choice. Some people celebrate these things as “women’s rights.” But what about the rights of the girls who never got the chance to become women? What about the mothers who were told the lie that it wasn’t really a baby, that they would be better off without the burden of a child anyway, and that no one cared enough about them to help them raise new life, that the only help available was to help their unborn children die? So yes, I’m upset. But mostly I’m upset with myself for not doing more to change things. Because you know what? Protesting doesn’t change anything. Screaming hatred for our new president doesn’t change anything. Only love, God’s love, has the power to truly change hearts and minds and souls. Only love can change things, and love, like faith, is a verb. It requires action, putting yourself out there, giving of yourself.

So whatever it is that upsets you, that makes you angry, don’t just protest, make a sign, post on Facebook, and go on your merry way. I’m all too guilty of that sometimes too, but I want to change. Whatever your issue is, go out there and fight for what you believe in. Start small; don’t worry about doing some grand gesture. Do what you can with what you have, where you are, but just do something. I’m reminding myself of this too. Because what it really means to be a woman? is to show love through action. Take the love and passion God has given you and use it to help support and encourage the people He’s called you to.

2017 Goals + Word of the Year

Well, it’s taken me long enough, but I think I’ve finally decided on some goals for this year. I haven’t quite planned out all the steps I’ll need to take to accomplish them, but I’m headed in the right direction!

I’ve never really had “word of the year” before. I follow a lot of bloggers who pick a word to define how they want to live that year, but this is the first year I’ve tried to pick one for myself. It may change, but here’s what I have right now: discipline. That doesn’t sound very fun or exciting, I know! But it encompasses a lot of the goals I’ve set for this year. My main, overarching goal for the year is to create habits (while I’m still fairly young) to set myself up for success later in life, and I will definitely need discipline to do that. Then maybe next year, my word can be more fun 🙂

So, here are my goals for the year:

Spiritual:

  1. Set aside time to consistently read the Bible (possibly using She Reads Truth, especially during Lent, Advent, etc.).
  2. Read Fervent by Priscilla Shirer.
  3. Use my Val Marie Paper prayer journal. This is the one I have.

Physical:

  1. Commit to eating healthier (probably the Trim Healthy Mama plan).
  2. Drink more water! Work up to a gallon per day.
  3. Exercise regularly (find something I can stick with).
  4. Develop an evening routine and consistent times to go to bed/wake up.

Personal:

  1. Stick to my EveryDollar budget (save money for the future!).
  2. Read 100 books. That sounds like a lot, but I’m a fast reader and I got a Kindle Unlimited subscription for Christmas 🙂 I also want to read more nonfiction…maybe 1 out of every 5 books I read.
  3. Learn how to get the most out my bullet journal and update it regularly. I just started a bullet journal at the beginning of the year, and I’m still figuring out how to use it, what things to put in it, and what things I can leave out.

Business/Career:

  1. Blog regularly (2-3 times per week).
  2. Start a Facebook page for my blog and promote it more on social media.
  3. Interact more with other bloggers (commenting on posts, etc.).
  4. Take a blogging course. I’ve been looking at some free video courses on Skillshare and Building a Framework by Abby Lawson of Just a Girl and Her Blog. If you have any suggestions, let me know!
  5. Research some career possibilities I’m interested and figure out what the next steps would be (going back to school, etc.).

Well there you have it! My goals for 2017, which are written at the front of my bullet journal so hopefully I won’t forget 😉

What are your goals for 2017?