6 Things I learned in September

Hurray! I made it three months in a row, sharing what I learned this month with you. This is so fun and keeps me on my toes, looking up and out for new things to discover and experience.

Here are some of the things that have made me smile…and maybe a little smarter. :)

What I learned in September

  1. You can find beauty in unexpected places. Like flowers bursting from a pole. Surrounded by wire. On a major street. In the big city.
  2. Music albums I’m excited to tell you about
  3. Sunlight is a good disinfectant. No wonder my mom loves to dry clothes outside so much!
  4. All ready to greet the arrival of fall, my hair colour for September is a violet-based red combination.  A beautiful, rich, shiny shade that brightens me up and puts a healthy glow-smile on my face. The down side is red hair dye fades quickly and has a tendency to go brassy. But I’m still smiling because I learned intermittently washing with conditioner instead of shampoo will not only preserve the colour but keep hair luxuriously soft and moisture-infused.
  5. New foods I tried & love
  6. Two new quick and easy oven recipes to warm up to as the days ahead begin to chill down
    • The lovely lady ahead of me at the grocery check-out taught me plantains turn into dessert simply by baking them for 40-45 minutes.
    • While visiting a friend she showed me how to make a mouth-watering fish entree by tossing scallops and shrimp doused with lemon, white wine and oil olive with some parsley and dash of seasoning, in the oven. In about an hour, it’s ready to serve…and enjoy!

Yes, sharing what we learn is so much fun and enlightening. Celebrating what we learned in September with this link-up hosted by Emily P. Freeman.

Change is on its way…all the way to God’s Next Best Thing for you!

Girl meets Change Cover - Kristen StrongYou could probably hear my squeal of delight for miles around when I got the news about being selected to join Girl Meets Change Launch Team! Was over the moon, thrilled to bits, over the opportunity to give back to Kristen Strong for the times her words brought me joy, encouragement, lessons, inspiration and laughter. Oh, and just think, how many more people will now hear about and be blessed by her first book. Pure bliss I tell you.

I couldn’t wait till today, launch day, to tell you all about this practical, uplifting book. Because change affects us all.

Because sometimes change takes us by storm. Sometimes by surprise. Often it takes us to hard, painful places marked by grief, loneliness or confusion. Wherever change takes you, from pink slips to divorce papers; negative pregnancy tests to positive cancer diagnosis, Girl Meets Change will guide you through acknowledging, accepting, then adapting till you reach the point where thriving becomes your faith-full destin(y)nation. Not in spite of change, but because of it.

If you were sitting next to me while I read the book, you’d hear a lot of “wow!” in between tears from triumphant, touching stories or sweet reminders of the everlasting, unchanging love of my heavenly Father who is always for me. While I took 21 pages of notes!

Because of this transforming book, I will never see limitations in the same way – or the word “bravo.” I picked up what a God-timistic attitude looks like and the gift of dropping expectations. I see windowless rooms – real and figurative – in a whole new light. Above all was grasping how God uses change and loss as stepping stones to the next best thing He has in store for me. That change is not in the way of God’s plan for us but on the way.

Big thank to Elton Baretto for this photo of Northern Ireland. <3

Big thank you to Elton Baretto for this photo of Northern Ireland!

This book is filled with a wealth of hope-filled, encouraging truths you’ll want to hang on to and hold dear. Delivered with a warm, me-too and not you-do style. Reading Girl Meets Change was like sitting in a comfy couch having a conversation with Kristen over dessert and our favourite warm beverage. While we chat like long-time friends, she shares her own struggles and stories, loops them together with stories from other’s experiences, stories from the Bible, and God’s Word, to richly resonate like a beautifully orchestrated symphony of words to live by. Then we wrap up each chapter-visit with the powerful prayer that completes the chapter.

Do I recommend Girl Meets Change? Yes, oh yes! With all my heart. I believe Kristen’s first book will quickly become a best-seller that will spark a movement where we embrace change, with all the blessings we find in it, to bless others. Where the change that comes to us changes us to change the world. For the better.

I’m also happy to announce the Girl Meets Change landing page  is all set up to welcome you with more about the book, testimonials, gorgeous graphics and click to tweets to inspire and share.

More great news: if you purchase Girl Meets Change today through the end of the month you will receive the companion guide absolutely FREE! So, pick up your copy today and be doubly blessed ASAP!

Oh, and one more thing, you gotta check out this most fun, creative, helpful quiz ever which includes a outcome-tailored excerpt after completion. You may even want to take it before you start reading and again when once you’re done.

Girl Meets Change Quiz graphic - Kristen Strong

8 Things I Learned in August

What I Learned in August 2015

When you start looking for it, there is so much life has to teach us. Simple things. Big things. Fun things. Things we learn from each other. That doubles the joy of what we learn. So you can imagine how happy I am to connect you with Emily P. Freeman‘s monthly “what we learned this month” link-up and invite you to join in. Contribute with your post or hop on board in the comments.

Here’s what I learned in August to get things rolling:

  1. Signature+ app is a quick, easy way to add text to photos
  2. Designed my first album cover using Canva. Had such fun making it for my “rock star” guitar-playing friend…and he liked it!
  3. Listening to music for an hour every day can reduce chronic pain by up to 21% and depression by up to 25%
  4. Music I discovered and love:
  5. Picked up some wonderful simple summer party decor ideas from The Nesting Place author Myquillyn Smith
  6. Grooved pavement helps fresh asphalt adhere to it
  7. It takes 28 days for concrete to cure
  8. Found it helpful to start a draft for “what I learned this month.” That way there’s a space ready to drop “scribbles” of what I’m learning as I go along.

What I Learned in July

It Happens Once in a Blue Moon 2015 Graphic

Blue Moon in Toronto July 2015

Hey, guess what? I discovered during a heat wave green cooking bananas will ripen nicely into a natural sweetness in just a few days.

And you know what else? I go bananas for learning and trying new things so am delighted to share the bunch of things that branched out, ripe for the picking, in the month of July.

1.  Apple Music is my new best friend. How can I refuse to hang out with that app-ortunity when it keeps showering me with gifts of nostalgic oldies and introducing me to musical treasures I’ve never knew existed. Like pop-rock band Sidewalk Prophets. Such enormous talent wrapped in faith-full inspiration!

2. If you put batteries in the freezer they last longer.

3. Blue moon isn’t blue. It’s when you have two full moons in the same month.

4. Pre-ordered Simply Tuesday and got a lovely surprise. A sample is now available on iBooks. We can start reading it right away before it releases on August 18.  Ahhhh, life is good!

Also signed up for the video series anticipating the book launch where author Emily P. Freeman taught me that holding an empty vessel like a bowl or cup when we pray opens us up to hear and receive from God.

5. Foods I tried for the first time and liked:

  1. Coconut water – it really is refreshing and hydrating,
  2. Jalapeno Pringles
  3. Tim Hortons Cafe Mocha
  4. Oranges from South Africa

Got another treat for you. Not in July, but a few months ago, I found out Emily P. Freeman hosts a link-up to what we’ve learned each month. I have enjoyed them immensely and am a bit smarter for it too. Such a wealth of information from some truly amazing people. Click here to get a sweet taste of what I mean.

So many lives at stake and time was running out…

SabotagedSo many lives at stake and time was running out. Like it wasn’t enough her cousin Meg was held hostage by whom and where completely unknown. With the threat to her uncle holding the key, Kirra Jacobs, along with unexpected companion Reef McKenna, race against unspeakable evil to intercept the disastrous plot that would seriously damage the environment and snuff out the lives of countless innocent victims. Aided by friends and family, they brave the extreme arctic climate, during the Iditarod Sled Dog Race Uncle Frank was competing in, to rescue his daughter and trip up the planned sabotage.

Laid in the backdrop of awe-inspiring Alaskan winter and carried by a true to life cast of characters that draw you into the story-line, Sabotaged takes you on an edge of your seat adventure packed with fast-paced suspense, surprise twists, and courageous risk-taking. At times I got so wrapped up in the action, sweet touch of romance and powerful family devotion, I actually had to remind myself “This is fiction. Not something going on in real life.”

Utter genius how this novel is spine-chilling and heart-warming. At the same time. Dani Pettrey crafted a tangled mystery to solve spun with yarns of captivating intrigue, strong, durable love, and tight-knit faith. You will gain insight into arctic conditions, the Iditarod, and the mining industry while coming face to face with what it’s like to be a rape victim, the black sheep in need of a trustful second chance and the lengths (and depths) people are willing to go for love and passion.

Precious to me how I felt God’s presence guiding, healing, and redeeming through the faith of characters fleshed out of Dani Pettrey’s imagination. So touched by their humble, trusting prayers I even found myself bowing my head as they lifted their petitions to the God who cries when His children hurt. And watches over them always. Even in the most horrifying, dangerous places.

Sabotaged is the riveting conclusion to the Alaskan Courage Series that got me hopelessly hooked. One of the first things I did after finishing this book was start at the beginning with Submerged. Just couldn’t tear myself away. So glad I didn’t have to.

Disclosure: Many thanks to Bethany House  for generously providing a complimentary copy of Sabotaged in exchange for this unbiased review.

Today I’m delighted to doubly bless you with this introduction to new favourite author Dani Pettrey and link up with long-time favourite blogger, author and friend Holley Gerth for some encouraging Coffee for Your Heart. Together.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

My #CoffeeforYourHeart Playlist

A little while ago I started building a “Coffee for Your Heart” music playlist. I named it after Holley Gerth’s blog moniker since it has become synonymous with encouragement. Which is exactly what the collection was created for. As I come across a track that might encourage someone, I save it for when someone may need to be uplifted, comforted, or affirmed.

Coffee for Your Heart Playlist CD

The other day, it occurred to me that maybe people might appreciate a peek at that list to spread encouragement in their circles too. Would you like a sample of what I’ve been compiling? Perhaps there’s even a song that will speak to your heart and be just what you need to hear.

This selection is, of course, just a small beginning. When we share, things grow and get better. So, I invite you to join in this music mission. Would love to hear about songs you believe will bring hope, healing, joy and peace; melodies that soothe and help people carry on with renewed courage and strength.

Here are some of the titles I hope will touch and bless others. Can’t wait to hear yours!

  1. In Your Hands by Unspoken
  2. Voice of Truth by Casting Crowns
  3. What Faith Can Do by Kutless
  4. The Words I Would Say by Sidewalk Poets
  5. You Shine by Brian Doerkson
  6. Don’t Give Up by Sanctus Real
  7. Walk by Faith by Jeremy Camp
  8. Verge of a Miracle by Rich Mullins
  9. Stronger by Mandisa
  10. Fighter by Jamie Grace
  11. Flawless by Mercy Me
  12. Carry You by Amy Grant
  13. All You Got by Michael Tait
  14. God is Watching over You by Phil Joel
  15. Beyond Me by Toby Mac

…and two bonus tracks to pick you up and make make you smile out loud.

16. God is Bigger by VeggieTales
17. Cartoons by Chris Rice

Holley’s words are always encouraging music to my heart. So delighted to link up at her place with you today for a cup or two of refreshing Coffee for Your Heart together. See you there!

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image

The day I met Jesus

The Day I Met Jesus Cover - Frank Viola & Mary DeMuth What if you could step into the pages of history and experience first-hand the effect Jesus had on people while He walked the earth? That’s exactly what you can count on throughout The Day I Met Jesus. The authors transport you into the first century latched onto stories of five broken women and their encounter with the Lord of healing, redemption. and grace.

Your journey takes off with biblical narratives written as diary entries from an adulteress caught in the act, prostitute who loved extravagantly, multiple divorcée currently living in sin, defiled, isolated patient with an incessant flow of blood, and a friend who was one of Jesus’s much-loved disciples.

Each one masterfully prepares the scene where we get to live in their skin; see things though their eyes, feel what they felt. Their first-person account brings you to a better understanding of who they were and what their lives must have been like. Each word pointing to that moment in time that changed everything, setting the stage for us to eavesdrop on their transforming encounter with Jesus. Words that paint, in living colour, what it means to be loved, forgiven, restored, healed. As we slip into their shoes, we detect footprints of someone we know much like them and catch glimpses of ourselves. Their stories, though experienced long ago, contain a timeless universality that seamlessly joins past events to present relevance.

As I came to know those women from their perspective, I was eager to overlay their memoirs onto the Sacred Text that immediately follows. Comparing their reflections with the Gospel made what took place more real, vivid and meaningful. Even more so with the Walking it Out section that concludes the chapter. That’s where it’s our turn to meet Jesus. Where the authors zoom in on more insights and finer details of the culture, lifestyle and beliefs at the time of Christ. They also put together the Talking it Over questions at back of the book to help us interact with the biblical narrative on our own or in a group setting,

The Day I Met Jesus reveals how there is so much than what meets the eye. Things I never thought of before. Like how was it the accusers just happened to catch that woman in adultery? That Mary of Bethany who brazenly sat at Jesus’s feet, boldly poured expensive perfume over His feet, quietly held back defending herself against disapproval. It was a real eye-opener when the authors pointed out the unlikelihood the Samaritan woman, marred with a stained reputation, would be taken seriously when she returned to her village telling people about her exchange with Jesus. Yet, they followed her back to see for themselves and were subsequently converted. Clearly, they noticed something different about her.

I loved the way this book captures how the Jesus who touched the lives of those women wants to do the same for you and me. Forgiveness, grace, acceptance and boundless love are ours. Today. Here and now. Sins, mistakes, hurts washed away to make room for life redeemed and free. Shame is wiped away and new life springs forth. Once we  meet Jesus, our lives will never be the same again. Just like the five women.

I met Jesus in a new and powerful way through this book. I think you will too.

I meet Jesus a lot in the words of Holley Gerth and am delighted to link us up today to share some encouraging Coffee for Your Heart together.

Disclosure – Many thanks to BakerBooks for the complimentary copy of the book in exchange for this unbiased review.

Thank you  Holley Gerth
for the Coffee for Your Heart image