Porch Swing Girl by Taylor Bennett – A Book Review

Aloha! No, I don’t live in Hawaii, but I did just finish a book set in Hawaii! Porch Swing Girl, the debut novel by teenage author Taylor Bennett, was recently released and delivered to my house on Tuesday, at which point I promptly read it. I’ve been anxiously anticipating reading Taylor’s book, so I’m excited to share my thoughts with you!

What if friendship cost you everything?

Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.

With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.

But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged.
Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to
help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted,
Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket
home. And time is running out.


I have three words for this book: Transported to Hawaii.

Don’t worry, I won’t end the book review there. 😉 I have plenty more to say, but I thought that would be a good place to start. Because reading Porch Swing Girl did just that: it transported me to Hawaii. Taylor painted vivid pictures of Hawaii and its culture while keeping the story moving at the perfect pace, and I loved every minute of it.

Porch Swing Girl is written in present tense. (“I walk to the store” as opposed to “I walked to the store”.) But to be honest, I didn’t realize until several pages in that it was in present tense form (which has, in the past, distracted me because I’m so used to past tense). That’s how smooth Taylor’s writing is, and that impressed me.

I thought all the characters were all very well-written and relatable; they definitely were not flat or boring! Olive, having so recently lost her mother, was dealing with a lot and I could easily sympathize with how being stuck in Hawaii would not feel like a vacation. I loved Jazz–both her name and her personality. I liked Brander too. He could be either sweet or serious, although sometimes he acted like a dork! 😉

Maybe I don’t read enough or try enough new authors, but I haven’t found many books like this one in the young adult market. Because honestly, Porch Swing Girl is exactly the type of book I want more of. It’s Young Adult. It’s clean. It’s contemporary. Funny, sad, sweet, and serious, it’s relatable. It has a Christian message that doesn’t bash you over the head with the Bible, but isn’t so minuscule you have to use a magnifying glass to find it. I really liked that, how the characters included God in the everyday.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story and enjoyed spending an hour or so reading to finish it up. 😀 I haven’t had time to read the chapter excerpt of book two, Sand Castle Dreams, that’s included at the back of the book but if it’s anything like this one I am sure I will enjoy it. 🙂 (There’s also a cookie recipe in there, too!) I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

So to wrap things up–have an interest in Hawaii? Love a good, clean, YA contemporary? Are you a fan of Robin Jones Gunn? Because if so, I highly recommend Porch Swing Girl. I really think you’ll enjoy it.

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When Looking to God for Guidance…

A couple of months ago I asked the Lord, “Okay God, what’s the next step for me?” He had asked me to write a book, so I wrote it. He told me the next step was to edit it, so I did. At the time, I wasn’t sure what my next plan of action was. So…now what?

I needed to ask God for some guidance, an age old question that comes in many different forms: “So, God, what’s next?” or “How do I handle this situation, Lord?” or even, “I’m not sure what to do/say…help!” I opened up my Bible and began to look for verses–and I found a bunch!

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” Jeremiah 29:11-13

But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find him if you seek him with all your heart and with all your soul. Deuteronomy 4:29

God promises that when we seek Him with all of our hearts we will find Him. We seek Him by praying and reading the Bible to get to know who He is. God desires to have a relationship with us, and if we desire to have a relationship with Him, He won’t hide. We’ll find Him.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

I don’t want to live in a constant state or worry, fear, or anxiety over what I should do next. God doesn’t want us to either! He wants us to live in an attitude of thanksgiving and to present our requests to Him in every situation. He wants to hear from us! God wants us to exchange our worries for His peace.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. James 1:5

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7

When we ask God we’re showing (and acknowledging) that we are dependent on Him. “Hey, God, I don’t know what to do and I need You to show me.” God will give us wisdom when we ask Him for it.

In the morning, Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly. Psalm 5:3

Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord. Psalm 27:14

Sometimes we don’t get our answers right away and we need to wait. Sometimes it feels like God is taking forever. I love how Psalm 5:3 says “I lay my requests before you and wait expectantly.” According to the Google dictionary, expectantly means to wait “with an excited feeling that something is about to happen, especially something good.” Why would we wait in expectation if we knew God wasn’t going to answer? No, we wait expectantly because we know God will answer. It might not be instantaneous, but “be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” He will.

For this God is our God for ever and ever; he will be our guide even to the end. Psalm 48:14

Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will have a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” Isaiah 30:21

This is what the Lord says—your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.” Isaiah 48:17

These are some of God’s precious promises to us. And His promises, no matter how many promises He has made, are “Yes” in Christ! (2 Corinthians 1:20) God will lead!

Some trust in chariots and some trust in horses, but we trust in the name of the Lord our God. Psalm 20:7

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

People place their trust in a lot of different things: other people, money, themselves. We need to place our trust in God, who “does not change like the shifting shadows.” (James 1:17)

When times are good and we are flourishing, we need to trust God:

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. For what you have done I will always praise you in the presence of your faithful people. And I will hope in your name, for your name is good. Psalm 52:8-9

When times are rough and we are being refined like silver, we need to trust God:

For you, God, tested us; you refined us like silver. You brought us into prison and laid burdens on our backs. You let the people ride over our heads; we went through fire and water, but you brought us into a place of abundance. Psalm 66:10-12

God will do what He says, because He is faithful.

God is not a human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Numbers 23:19

For the word of the Lord is right and true; he is faithful in all he does. Psalm 33:4

Trust God for your today, but also trust Him for your tomorrow. No matter what you are seeking guidance for, He will lead you. He is leading you. God takes care of the flowers of the field and the birds in the sky, and He says, “Are you not much more valuable than they?” (Matthew 6:25-34) God will take care of His children.

This God of ours, He is faithful. He bestows wisdom upon those who ask. He is trustworthy. He will not lead us astray; He is our guide, even to the end. He is a God of peace. He is a God of love. Continue to seek Him and cling to His promises. He will answer.

God will guide.

The Selcouth Award

Today’s post is a bookish one. Imagine that, a book post on a bookworm’s blog. Ha! I’ve been tagged by my buddy Sarah @ Forever Aspiring Writer to take part in The Selcouth Award. Selcouth, by definition, means strange, unusual, or rare. They’re supposed to be off-the-wall questions about books, writing, or anything literary. 🙂

Here we go!

1) What is one book you would love to see made into a movie that hasn’t been yet?

First of all, we need to establish that if a book is going to be made into a movie, then it should be true to the book. It’s my belief, as I’m sure many of you bookworms would agree, that if a book is good enough to be movie-material in the first place, then there’s no need to change things. 😉 (I’m very passionate about this.) That being said, I should get off my soapbox and answer the question.

I can think of a few. God’s Smuggler by Brother Andrew. (All these links go to Goodreads so you can read what they are about, if you feel so inclined.) I’ve mentioned this book before, but it’s the true story of how Brother Andrew smuggled Bibles behind the Iron Curtain. It’s an amazing book full of God-things. 🙂 If you’ve enjoyed The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom, then you should give this one a go.

Wonderland Creek by Lynn Austin. I love Lynn’s books and can think of several that would make a good movie…I also think I should reread this book soon. Candle in the Darkness would be another good movie. And finally, I agree with my mum when she said that The Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson would make an interesting movie!

2) Have you ever created a character for your story that’s based off you?

Well, there’s Emma from my book, Kozmo and Kiki – A Superhero Story. There was Emma from A Baseball Mystery, before she was renamed to Leana. So I guess you could say the answer to this question would be…yes! And yes, I have also based a character off of me without naming them after me…haha.

3) What is a genre you haven’t written a story in yet, but that you might like to try?

I’ve had this idea for an adventure/fantasy book for years now. I haven’t done anything with it beyond a Pinterest inspiration board, a cover I made in the Paint program, and a file containing my scribblings. It’s not a genre I usually ever read or write, so it tackling it would be a whole new world for me. Maybe someday…maybe not…we’ll see!

4) Name one genre which you just don’t like?

I’m not sure because I haven’t really explored many genres beyond the ones I already read (contemporary, historical fiction, some biblical fiction). Maybe I should expand my horizons?…or not… 😉

5) Have you ever read a book you disliked SO much, yet still read it to the end?

I was reading a series that I really enjoyed, but when I got to the last book…I was so disappointed! I didn’t like it at all. I can’t remember if I read it all or if I skimmed it. Because if I don’t like a book, yet don’t want to give up on it completely, I’ll flip through pages and scan them. I’ve done that a few times before. I haven’t always been like this, but now if I don’t like a book or can’t get into it, I don’t finish it and find a book that I do enjoy–otherwise it’s just a waste of my time.

6) Have you ever joined NaNoWriMo and if not, do you ever plan to?

(National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a 30-day challenge in November to write a 50,000 word book from beginning to end.) I attempted NaNo in 2013 with a friend of mine. The key word there is attempted. I sorely underestimated how hard it was to write 1,667 words a day! I was totally stressed and not enjoying it anymore, so I quit on Day 17.

One of the reasons NaNo didn’t work out for me is that I am an edit-as-I-go kind of writer. I write a few paragraphs or a page before I go back and revise and edit until I’m relatively happy with it. If a scene doesn’t feel right, I stay there until I can address the issue and fix it. Call it the perfectionist in me, but I don’t like to move on if I’m not happy with what I’ve written so far. Unfortunately for me, there’s no time for that during NaNoWriMo. 🙂

Another one of the reasons NaNo didn’t work for me was my lack of plotting. My novel was about a teenage girl whose family, due to unfortunate circumstances, moves to the country to live on a farm and her struggles to adjust. I was so focused on researching things for the farm that I neglected to plan out my actual story. Hahaha…you really need a plan and a good plot line for NaNo. Learned that the hard way!

7) At roughly what age did you start writing your first book (if you have written a book)?

I wrote my first book, The Tryouts, when I was twelve. My main character was Sally Johnson, her best friend, Ann Summers, and I thought it was pure gold. (I also saw no need to go through and edit it after I finished the first draft because I was convinced it was perfect.) I remember Googling about publishing, and I may or may not have added “Have The Tryouts Published” to my Christmas list…

8) Have you ever gone back over your blog and been so embarrassed about a post that you’ve deleted it?

No, I’ve never deleted a post out of embarrassment! The only thing that really sticks out to me is a certain blurry, out-of-focus picture that I used in one of my early-days review posts… *cringe*

EOS Lip Balm

9) Name an author whose books you just can’t get into?

I really just can’t get into Karen Kingsbury. (Sorry to disappoint, all you Karen Kingsbury fans!!) I’ve read four books by her and I think she’s a good writer, but I didn’t fall in love.

10) What author do you think you have read more books by than any other author?

I have read forty-five books by Robin Jones Gunn, author of the two best-selling series, Christy Miller and Sisterchicks. Robin is my favorite author! I fell in love with Christy Miller because they were relatable, had a sweet romance thread, and were full of Jesus. 🙂 I’ve been hooked ever since.

11) Have you ever spoiled the ending of a book for someone while they’re still reading it?

I hope not! I hate spoilers, in movies or books! I try to be conscious of who may not have seen or read a book when talking about things, but sometimes I slip, and if I’ve ever spoiled anything, then I’m sorry!

12) Favourite literary couple?

I’m not good at favorites and I’ve been staring at this question, and the next one, for thirteen minutes short of forever. I try to keep my answers interesting and not say the same thing twice, but I’m going to ignore that rule for a moment. 😉 My favorite literary couple is Christy and Todd from, you guessed it, Christy Miller. 🙂

13) Favourite literary friendship?

I received Lynn Austin’s newest book Where We Belong for Christmas and loooooved it! It’s about two sisters, Flora and Rebecca, as they go on adventures. I love how they look out for and take care of each other. ❤

Okay, now it’s your turn. I want to know:

What is one book you would LOVE to see made into a movie? What is YOUR favorite literary couple or friendship?

Until the next time, folks!

Emma xo

2018… A Brand New Year

As I’m writing this it is almost time for a new year to be rolling in. Man…2018 already? When I look back at ’17 I see a year full of change, where seasons of my life ended and new ones began.

In 2016 I had a list of goals for the year, which I wrote on a piece of copy paper and taped above the light switch in my room so I would be sure to see it every day. It came down when 2016 rolled to close, and was replaced by a poem-type snippet I wrote. I don’t think I want to take it down and replace it. I think it applies to me now more than ever, and so I’ll carry it through 2018. It goes as follows…

Today I will trust

Boldly proclaim in Jesus’ name

Follow His guidance, for God will lead me along

Fear will not live where Love has won

That poem sums up everything that God has been trying to teach me in 2017. He’s taught me a lot about trusting His plan for my life even when our timelines don’t match up. As I’ve grown closer to the Lord, I desire to be a beacon for Christ and share the good news of the gospel with people; to be bold for Christ. It’s hard and sometimes I don’t understand where God is taking me, but I want to follow His lead. And most of all, I do not want to live in fear. Jesus defeated fear. I do not have to be afraid. I can rest in Christ, secure in His love for me.

I don’t know what 2018 holds or what God is going to bring my way, but as the plaque hanging above my desk reads, If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.

So what word am I going to carry into the new year, besides my poem? Not entirely sure, but there is one word that has been resonating in my heart lately. Love. My mom bought me a key chain for my birthday a couple of years ago, which I love. It has two words on it: Choose Love. In 2018 I want to love unconditionally; my family, friends, those I interact with at work, and those I meet in everyday life. In 2018 I want to show people the love of Christ through my words, my actions, and my life.

And now, it’s finally here. Happy 2018, everyone. May the Lord bless you and keep you. May He make His face shine upon you and bring you peace. And may you love the Lord your God above all else.

Blessings and love, Emma. xo

Panda vs. Snowman

Hey all! I saw a partial clip of this video on Facebook this morning, and I thought it was too cute not to share with all of you. So no matter how your day has been going, good or bad, I hope that this brings a smile to your face! 🙂 It doesn’t get much cuter than a panda bear playing with a giant snowman.

Happy Monday!

Emma xo

Gift of Grace

The words, “Are you ready to order or do you need a minute?” have become a common phrase on my lips. In other words, I am a waitress. Last month I began my training, which lasted four days before I was assigned a section of my own. Intimidating? Yes. New and weird? Definitely. There always seems to be an hour where things get hectic. It’s then when, in the midst of the craziness I think, “What on earth am I doing here?!” But then things slow down, and I realize that despite the craziness…I like it.

Last week I had a table with two older women who had a boatload of questions about our menu and our food. Because of their numerous questions, I was under the impression that this was their first time dining at our restaurant. I did my best to answer their questions, but if I didn’t know, I found someone who did. Nevertheless, the whole process was very confusing. It didn’t help that the older of the two ladies was hard of hearing.

In addition to this, my other four tables were full of customers as well, keeping me busy with coffee refills, desserts, and check backs–“Can I get you anything else tonight?” I had just finished delivering another table’s order, onion rings and sandwiches, when the women, whose orders it had taken me several minutes to sort out, flagged me down.

“They’re getting their food already when they were seated after us?” she questioned, confusion and frustration on her face.

I froze. Oh no. I remembered using the computer to check prices for them, but never sending their order to the cooks. “I–I am so sorry,” I stumbled. “I forgot to punch your order in, but–but I’ll do that right now.”

Of course they were upset. I told my manager what had happened and he ended up comping the whole meal for them. “Apologize profusely,” he told me. “They’re not happy at all.” I felt horrible. If this was their first time eating there, I had ruined the experience.

I brought out their pie and no sooner had I set the plates down when the older of the two women pushed a folded $5 bill into my hand. I shook my head as I tried to give it back and tell them no,  I didn’t deserve it–but they wouldn’t listen. She held her hand up as if to say, “the matter is closed and I don’t want to hear any more about it.” All I could do was mumble a thank you and move on. As I cleared my other tables, the word grace echoed in my heart, along with its definition:

An undeserved gift.

It got me to thinking. If I didn’t deserve the $5 tip because of my mistake, how much more do I not deserve the salvation Jesus bought for me at Calvary because of my sin? I’m the sinner, yet instead of giving me what I deserve, Jesus came to earth to atone for what I’ve done. He paid the death penalty for my sin even though He is holy and perfect. Yet that’s not the end. Christ defeated death when He rose from the grave three days later. He’s alive! And having paid the penalty for our sins, God gave us all a gift. Redemption. Salvation. New life.

Grace.

He was delivered over to death for our sins, and raised to life for our justification. (Romans 4:25)

It humbled me, to be sure. Not only as a waitress, but as a child of God. The truth was renewed in my heart: He has freely given me what I don’t deserve. That’s just how good and loving God is! Because of this, I am brand new and whole, and I have a renewed relationship with Christ.

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has gone, the new has come. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

God made an exchange: our sin for His righteousness. It’s not fair–it’s love. Pure, unconditional, full-of-grace love that never, ever fails.

God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions–it is by grace you have been saved. (Ephesians 2:4-5)

I could try my best to fix the problem in order to be “good enough” for God, but even my best efforts are like “filthy rags”.

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf and our sin blows us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

Not only do I not have to try to be “good enough”, God gives salvation as a gift. It’s not something we earn, it is something we are given out of God’s great love for me, for you, for everyone.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

If we could earn our salvation and our way into heaven, we would be the ones receiving the glory. “Hey, guess what guys! I was good enough for God! I did it!” That’s what Paul means when he says “not by works, so that no one can boast.” If we boast, we should boast in the Lord! “God saved me! God is so good!” The focus shifts from us in all our imperfection, whose best efforts are like “filthy rags” to the One Who is worthy to be praised.  To the God Who spoke the universe into existence and used mud to heal a blind man’s eyes. To the God Whose love and faithfulness lasts forever and ever.

The thing about a gift is that, though it’s there for the taking, it’s not really yours until you accept it. You can stare at the person holding the present out to you all you want, but until you take hold of it and grasp it for yourself, it’s not doing you any good.

God is holding out a gift of grace to you. It’s a gift wrapped in new life, and once you accept it and open up the package, you will see everything that’s inside. There’s forgiveness, redemption, peace, love, freedom, joy…God’s Holy Spirit that comes to dwell within our hearts.

But that’s not even the best part. The best part of God’s free gift is that we will get to spend eternity with Him in the most beautiful place. Heaven. Where the streets are the purest form of gold, and a gate is made of a single pearl. Where we will be able to walk, hand in hand, side by side, with the most beautiful, loving, wonderful Man in the whole universe.

God won’t make you accept His gift, but He hopes with all His heart that you will. He loves you, wants to be with you, and is holding His arms open wide for you.  No matter what you have done or do, God won’t withhold His forgiveness if you ask Him for it.

I promise you that any of the sinful things you say or do can be forgiven, no matter how terrible those things are. (Mark 3:28)

All it takes is surrendering. Admit you are a sinner in need of a Savior; lay it all down at Jesus’ feet. Believe in what Jesus did for you on the cross. Invite Him into your heart, and into every aspect of your life.

If you declare with your mouth “Jesus is Lord” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. (Romans 10:9-10)

That’s all it takes. To believe, and to act on that belief. And when you do, God sends the Holy Spirit to live in your heart where He changes you from the inside out. From there, you are adopted into God’s family. A precious and most definitely loved child of the King. 

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Jesus Christ from the dead, He will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you. (Romans 8:11)

God decided in advance to adopt us into His own family by bringing us to Himself through Jesus Christ. This is what He wanted to do, and it gave Him great pleasure. (Ephesians 1:5)

But to all who believed in Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

God is willing to make each and every one of us new. He yearns to. And God, well, God doesn’t treat us as our sins deserve. He loves us more than that.

The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse nor will He harbor His anger forever; He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:8-12)

God wants us all to know how wide and long and high and deep His love is. So wide, so long, so high, so deep, that Christ died for each and every once of us so He could give us a life on earth, forgiven and in renewed relationship with the Father.

So He could give us a life forever, with Him in Heaven.

A gift of grace.

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The Sunshine Blogger Award

Hey all! 😀

I’ve been nominated by the lovely Sarah over at Forever Aspiring Writer to answer some fun questions. ~Thank you~ Sarah!

~ Sarah’s Questions to Emma ~

1) If you could have any animal in the world as a pet, which would you choose?

My first thought was a river otter, because I think that they are super cute. I love how playful they are. I also love manatees. I learned about them a few years ago. They are so docile and I think they’re absolutely adorable. If I had a manatee I would name it Barbara (Barbara Manatee from VeggieTales, anyone?) Or an elephant…they’re cute too. 😀

2) Out of everything you’ve ever written (stories, poems, songs, anything) what is your favorite?

My favorite is definitely Mrs. Willows, the novel I have been working on for half of forever. At least that’s what it feels like; I guess in reality it’s only been on-and-off for three or so years. It’s been on my mind so much lately–maybe because I only have a few more chapters until completion–that I may or may not be talking about it quite often. I wonder if my family is sick of hearing about it yet. (Sorry?)

Poem-wise, however, my favorite is Beautiful to Me, and I really like Take My Hand. (Both of which are also songs.) If you click on the title you can read them on my story blog. 🙂

3) Do you have a personal goal of how many followers you want for your blog and if so, how many?

Well I was thrilled to hit thirty followers…and now I have eighty-seven?? I get giddy with excitement every time I receive a new follower email. I don’t have many goals when it comes to blogging, so I’d never given this much thought. But 100 would be kind of cool. Triple digits. 100 people like what I have to say enough to get my posts delivered to their email?! Yeah, that would be neat. 🙂

♥~♥~♥ Shout out to all my followers: Thank you!!! ♥~♥~♥

4) What’s been your biggest blogging mistake?

On one of my first posts I used a blurry picture. It was horrible. I cringe when I come across it. What was I thinking when I gave that the A-OK to be posted? Several times I’ve considered retaking the picture and exchanging them.  I should have just used a stock photo!!! But hey. I was young. Inexperienced. What did I know? I’ve come a long way since then.

5) What is your favorite genre to read?

Christian fiction. From there it branches off into several other genres, as I’ve read westerns, contemporaries, historical fiction, Biblical, romances…. I loved Lynn Austin’s book Waves of Mercy. It was a story of past mistakes and redemption, of lost love and renewed hope. A story in which their pain was my pain–their joy, my joy. It was really quite fabulous. Waves of Mercy is the first book I had ever read in present tense. That took some getting used to, but once I did I got into it and was really able to connect with the characters.

I’m also a fan of Neta Jackson. I’ve read three series of hers: The Yada Yada Prayer Group, House of Hope, and SouledOut Sisters. They are so well written, and I’ve learned a lot from those books. They are written in a “parallel universe” where all the stories interrelate, so it’s fun to see characters I knew from Yada Yada show up in the House of Hope series.

6) What drink are you most likely to order at a cafe?

At a cafe? Hot chocolate. I love hot chocolate. I’ve mentioned this to a couple of people, but you know how there are wine tastings? What about hot chocolate tastings? I mean, not everyone is 21 and likes to drink wine. Everyone loves hot chocolate. There could be triple chocolate hot chocolate, toasted marshmallow hot chocolate, peppermint hot chocolate (not that I would go for that but some people would love it).

On a whim I searched for it and found one in Boston! Except I am not in Boston. Maybe you are not in Boston either, but want to taste delicious hot chocolate. To ease all your disappointment, I will share with you how to make the best hot chocolate with those Swiss Miss packets. I learned this from my Gramps. Instead of water, use milk. Instead of one packet of hot chocolate, use one and a half. Stir, sip, and enjoy. You’re welcome.

Back to the hot chocolate tastings…. Maybe this will be my next business venture. I can see it now…Emma’s World Renowned Hot Chocolate Tastings ~ 50 Different Varieties! I’ll see you when I’m a millionaire, hosting hot chocolate tastings around the country. Ciao!

7) What’s your favorite color to wear?

Anything with color, and anything bright. As long as it’s not yellow. I look awful in yellow. A few years ago I had a yellow shirt that looked good on me, but it was a very specific shade of yellow, and I haven’t found another one since. I will wear neutrals, but I prefer the happy colors.

8) Stripes or spots?

I went shopping with my friend two months ago and found the cutest striped shirt ever. The front of it is white with green stripes, and the back is green with white stripes. Soooo cuteeee! So I’d choose stripes. I can’t remember ever wearing a polka-dotted shirt actually. Maybe when I was little?

9) Have you ever traveled out of your country?

No, but that does not mean I don’t want to. You can blame that on my wallet. I would love to travel to Europe. I want to climb all the steps on the Eiffel Tower. I know, I know–there’s a lot of steps. And we don’t have to mention the fact that I have this thing with heights (remember when I went ziplining?). But it’s all part of the experience.

After I would take the elevator down and eat in the restaurant that is apparently in the Tower. Which might be interesting, seeing as how it costs at least € 87 to dine there. (Google tells me that is equivalent to $104 American dollars. That might end up being my only meal for the whole trip. O_O)

I also think Australia would be cool, mate. I want to see a kangaroo.

I would be satisfied with seeing the ocean and palm trees and picking an orange off an orange tree, though, all of which can be accomplished here in our great U.S. of A.

10) What’s the longest phone conversation you’ve ever had?

Two hours? It’s rare that I talk on the telephone for extended periods of time. I know for sure that I have talked for an hour.

Someone ask me about the longest letter I’ve ever received! That was a sight to behold; a true masterpiece. All one piece of paper, it measured 8.25 inches wide and 18 feet 9 inches long. I’m not even joking. She rolled it up on a dowel and shipped it in one of those tube mailers. It was amazing.

11) Has anyone ever said you look like a certain celebrity?

When I was a baby people told my mom I could be a Gerber Baby. I think that’s as close to celebrity look-alike I’ve gotten.


As usual, it’s now time to nominate some new blogs for the award and to write up some questions for them. (Psst, if you do it, comment the link below so I can come a-visitin’ and read what you have to say.)

Zielle ~ My Homeschool Notebook

Julia ~ Pencils and Paper

Sunny ~ Everything Fun Under the Sun

Sassafras ~ Treasured Friendships with a Flair 

Sarah ~ The Life of a Homeschooler

Questions

  1. What inspired you to start a blog, and how did you come up with your blog’s title?
  2. Can you do a cartwheel?
  3. If you could live in any fictional story world you wanted to, what would you choose? (i.g. Star Wars, Ella Enchanted, Zootopia…)
  4. Would you consider yourself good in the kitchen?
  5. What is something (new hobby, skill, etc.) that you would love to learn?
  6. Do you have any advice you would give to beginning bloggers to make their blog the best it can be?
  7. What was your favorite childhood story? What is your favorite story now?
  8. Do you have a favorite Bible verse right now? Why is it your favorite?
  9. If you could have a super power, what would you choose and why?
  10. You can only have one meal – one main dish, two sides, and one dessert – for the rest of your life. What is it?
  11. Do you like to have your picture taken?

That’s all for this post, but I’m always up for discussion in the comments. So I’m curious: how would you answer some of the questions I was asked? (For example, stripes or spots? has anyone told you that you look like a celebrity?)

Lots of love,

Em xo

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An Unexpected Adventure – A Guest Post

Hey all! Emma here. I am here with a GUEST on the blog today! My brother Ethan, whom I so frequently refer to as The Bro in my posts, has agreed to share his latest adventure with you all today. This is something I have been hoping to do for a long time, so I am very excited. So without further ado, may I present…


An Unexpected Adventure – by Ethan


Once upon a time, I was bored. And by bored, I mean pretty much every day I have off. Since my hobbies consist of metal detecting, an adventure, or fishing of some sort, there’s not many times I can fulfill my desires because I cannot yet drive and I must rely on someone else to take me.

So with the help of Google Maps I found a pond and it’s the only body of water within feasible bike riding distance. So without hesitation I packed my equipment and fishing pole into my backpack. Luckily the fishing pole broke down into two pieces so it could be transferred safely. I rode like the wind with high hopes that I may have just found a fishing hole.

Once I arrived I realized what I had found. It was, in fact, a hole. What Google Maps did not tell me was that it was a retention pond from the gobs of parking lots surrounding me. My enthusiasm shrank as I was preparing my tackle and readying my pole. This wasn’t quite the paradise I was hoping for.

Though there were fish that I saw, I was targeting bass and as I gazed across the two acre retention pond I realized that the depth was slightly lacking. (Depth is usually a good thing with bass fishing.)

I strapped on a fake minnow and cast it out. It is my go-to bait. Within minutes a bass had started following my lure up to the shore, where I was standing. And then I knew. I had found my heaven on earth.

A few months later…

Once again here I am, bored, on my day off. I had already begged my parents and sister to take me fishing. With no surprise, they said no. Even though my paradise was an answer to prayers, it felt as though the challenge had left because the pond was so small. But as it was my only choice, I packed my tackle into my backpack. I returned to the pond in hopes of catching a bass worthy of mentioning.

I had walked around and fished half the pond with no success, when finally, I was able to outsmart one of the bass and haul it in. It was no trophy, being sixteen inches and two and a half pounds, and it only partially fulfilled my craving for fishing. I released the bass when another fish came up out of nowhere.

I quickly changed my lure for another presentation when I heard rustling in the leaves. I had seen a bird earlier so I glanced over my shoulder, but the foliage was too thick to see anything. I was having difficulty changing lures and again I heard rustling in the leaves next to me. I wasn’t prepared for what I saw.

It was a skunk.

Among the many expeditions I have undertaken, never once have I encountered a skunk so close. It was five feet away, under a bush. I was startled by the white-striped mammal and immediately I dropped my pole and, faster than a bolt of lightning, ran along the trail. I thought it inevitable that I would be taking a bath in tomato juice but to my surprise he didn’t spray. I stopped about thirty feet later, to make sure I was out of range. I had never felt so hunted in my life as I realized it was following me. I yelled and threw a branch near it to try and scare it away, but my attempts were futile. It kept walking along the same path as I, with its own signature waddle.

This saying has never been more true to me: Between a rock and a hard place. On one side there was the retention pond I hoped never to enter. On the other, an eight foot chain link fence, lined with barbed wire. I was truly trapped. With one way to go and the path not wide enough to go around the skunk, I had to simply retreat farther down the trail. It seemed that nothing would stop this juggernaut. (And the definition of juggernaut would be, a massive force, not to be persuaded, moved, or stopped.)

Having retreated all the way, I finally got to the point where it was wide enough to hide in the bushes, hoping it would pass. As I stood in the bushes, not only had the skunk lost sight of me, but I lost sight of it. Thinking I had outsmarted it and it would walk by, I stood there for a while. I couldn’t help but entertain thoughts of the furry ninja sneaking up and ferociously attacking me. With every passing moment I expected to get a closer look at this animal, but it didn’t happen.

Once I realized it wasn’t coming I stepped back out onto the trail. I crept up to where I last saw it and it had vanished. With my experience in the woods I had not forgotten to look up. Yes, up–into the trees. It was no surprise that it hadn’t ventured upward, but I wanted to check, just to make sure. Better safe than sorry.

With further investigation I stumbled upon a hole in the ground. It was in fact the only hiding place that the skunk could be. I deemed it wise to end my investigation there, as provoking the skunk any more, might have resulted in a foul stench on the ride home. I placed a stick over the hole so that I’d know if it crept out again. I hustled to where I’d ended my fishing expedition and packed up. The stick had not been moved, and I made it safely back to the bike, and headed home.

The moral of the story would be: There’s always the chance of adventure in anything that you do, even if you’ve done it over and over again for months.


Thank you Ethan for being a guest on my blog! I hope y’all enjoyed the post. We had a lot of fun putting it together! If anyone has any questions or comments, comment below and Ethan will answer for you. 😉 Ciao! ❤

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Faith Over Fear

I am in a new season of life, and it’s scary. I am not a person who is overly fond of change. I’ve grown quite comfortable in my little bubble. The past week and a half, and especially the past three or four days, have been hard. God is leading me on a path that I hadn’t planned on taking. I’ve prayed–my parents have prayed–my friends have prayed–that God would lead me and make His way clear. And He has.

It still hasn’t been easy for me. Too often I have been swimming in fear. Everything has happened so quickly, much faster than I had ever expected. I was letting myself get worked up over all the unknowns, the things that could happen. Allowing myself to dwell on “I don’t want to do this. I am not going to be good at it. I can’t do it.” Was I putting on my belt of truth? No, I wasn’t. I was believing a lie instead of God’s truth, and it was keeping me in a place of discouragement and overwhelming fear. Where was my hope? My joy? It was gone, because I was too busy focusing on fear. But what has God said, over and over again?

Do not be afraid. I am with you. Do not be dismayed, I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Is. 41:10)

Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified or discouraged, for I am the Lord your God. (Josh. 1:9)

When you go through deep waters, I will be with you. (Is. 43:2)

I have not given you a spirit of fear, but of power, love, and a sound mind. (2 Tim. 1:7)

Surely, I am with you always, to the very end of the age. (Matt. 28:20) 

I will never leave you nor forsake you. (Duet. 31:6)

Let me fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Me, so you may overflow with hope in the Holy Spirit. (Rom. 15:13)

I am always with you. I hold you by your right hand. (Ps. 73:23)

My joy is your strength. (Ne. 8:10)

Take captive all your thoughts and make them obedient to Me. (2 Cor. 10:5)

YES!!!!!!!!!!

THOSE are God’s promises to ME! To you! 2 Corinthians 1:20 says that for no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through Him the “amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God.

We don’t HAVE to be afraid. God is WITH us.

Do I believe it?

Yes. I do. Because I will CHOOSE to have faith over my fear. I will CHOOSE to believe that God is working out HIS purpose for my life. He is holding me, He is with me, He is so very near to me, even when I felt like He was far away. God is not limited by time, as we are. He is working ahead of us, preparing the way for us. He is not apart from this, where I am at right now. He is very much involved.

My God is an AWESOME God. I was losing sight of what truly mattered–Jesus. I was neglecting to keep my eyes focused on my King and Savior, my wonderful, beautiful, all-powerful Jesus. When I lost sight of Who God is, I began to stumble, just like Peter, when he was walking on water, began to sink when he looked away from the Lord. I became focused on my circumstances, and not the Author of my story.

I was neglecting to remember the TRUTH that has been hidden away in my heart. The truths that I do not have to be afraid. If my God is for me, who can be against me? My Jesus LOVES me! He wants what is best for me!

My Jesus. My Jesus loves me so much. He died on the cross to SAVE me. He turned the cross–a symbol of death–into a symbol of HOPE. What crazy, in-depth kind of love is that?!

And the most wonderful thing is, guys…He didn’t just do this for me…He did it for you.

Because everything that I have mentioned here, God’s great love for me, how He will never leave me, will always hold my hand…

Guys, this is all for you too. This is for everyone.

God loves YOU. He wants YOU to live in FAITH and not FEAR. He doesn’t want you to be crippled by fear, scared to move and afraid of what is going to happen next. True, we don’t know what is going to happen in life, but God does. God does. And if God knows, do we really have to? Isn’t it enough to trust? Because when I look back at my life, at those times where I thought There is no way this is going to work out, I see where God has done powerful and wonderful things.

There are verses in the Bible about Jesus refining us as silver is tried. (Ps. 66:10) What does that mean? I found this video on Facebook, which I will share at the bottom of the post for those interested. But the short version in words is, when silver is being refined, the refiner has to sit, keep an eye on it, and make sure that the fire is not too hot. And he knows the silver is done when he can see his reflection in it.

Wow.

What a beautiful word picture. When God says He is refining us like silver, He is saying that He is using the fires we walk through to make us more like Him. He’s using those scary, painful experiences for good. The hard times I went through made me more like Jesus. They brought me closer to Him, and I trust Jesus that He will continue doing that, if I continue to keep my eyes focused on Him and Who He is, and allow Him to do the work in my heart.

It’s easy to let fear have free reign. I know, because that’s what I’ve lived with for the past three days. It’s not fun. But when fear is bigger than your faith, go to God. Go to His Word. Cling to His promises. Look back on all that God has done, because He has done so much.

When I think back, I remember all the times God has healed.

I remember when God has provided.

I remember when God has redeemed friendships that I thought were gone.

I remember when God has closed one door, and me being so upset…because at the time, I had no idea what God was working on in the background. And now, I am so thankful, and have been so blessed…because He knew what was best.

I look back and see what God has done…

and I have faith.

That the God Who did all of that in my past, is doing the same thing in my present, and in my future.

I will choose to have

Faith

over

Fear.


 

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Music…Tuesday – August 15

For a period of approximately 3.614 seconds I was under the impression that today was Monday and therefore, I’d be right on point if I posted a Music Monday post. (It’s Tuesday!) So under the present circumstances of it being Tuesday and not Monday, may I present you with…

♫♪ Tuneful Tuesday! ♪♫

Beckah Shae

One of my favorite music artists is Beckah Shae. I love her meaningful, Scripture-filled lyrics. That’s probably the thing that I love most about Beckah; how so many of her songs are taken from Scripture. Especially her Scripture Snack albums, which are just Bible verses put to song. She has a beautiful voice and so much God-given talent in her songs and singing. Her latest album release was Mighty, which is my favorite album! The songs are all so happy, especially I’ll Be Alright. (the music video for that is so colorful and beautiful!)

Recently I’ve discovered that Beckah has been taking secular songs and rewriting them. Using the same tune and beat, she has been adapting non-Christian songs into Christian ones. And I have to say, I’m impressed! The lyrics are so powerful! I love it, and I could not resist sharing them with you.

Take your pick from the videos below. These are my top four favorites (so far). Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

“Stay” turned into “Pray”

“Shape of You” turned into “I Worship You”

“Scared to Be Lonely” turned into “Set Apart to Be Holy”

“Sorry Not Sorry” turned into “So Good, So, So Good”

May your week be filled with His love and blessings!

With love, Emma xoxo