Making the World More Beautiful | The Help Experiment

Every once in a while you have the chance to be part of something that is changing the world. You connect with a group of people who are dreaming, building and changing lives in the process.

It’s encouraging.

It’s inspiring.





And it makes me want to continue to do all I can to change the world.

There’s something amazing to community. Connecting with people you may not know in person (yet), but already have a bond because y’all are on the same page.

Enter in The Help Experiment.

Help Experiment

I don’t even know if I can fully explain how incredible this group is. A group of people who want to change the world by simply offering different ways to help others. No fees, no strings, just living out a beautiful thing called love. Loving people where they are at and helping them in any ways they can.





From a home cooked meal, to help with a logo and branding, to travel help, to proofreading college papers (I would have been ALL over that in grad school); I’m not kidding when I say there are endless possibilities.

The Vision of The Help Experiment is this: “We are a collective of individuals joining together to help others. We do it because we can, we do it because we should, and we do it because we think… you would too.”

I know, most people don’t help for “free.” We surrounded, no attacked, daily by a world that says the only person you should care about is yourself. But I’m pretty sure if people dug deep, looked at their own hearts, they could admit that isn’t true. Life is meant to be more beautiful than that.

So now we’re spreading the word. We’re getting others to join in. So I invite you to join the group. Right now we’re connected through Facebook, but soon we’ll be beyond that.

Join me. Join my amazing friends. Be part of an incredible community.

Spread kindness.





Hope.

Love.

Because those are the things that change the world.

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Deep in the Heart of Trouble | Deeanne Gist

“Are you packing a pistol right now?”

That quote, right there, is one reason I really enjoyed Deep in the Heart of Trouble by the wonderful Deeanne Gist. Was this a girl asking a guy? Nope, this question was asked of our lead Essie. I won’t give you her answer, but it made me laugh. I get asked if I’m packing heat all the time!

Another reason I liked this book? I needed – not wanted – a sequel to Courting Trouble where we first met the Spreckelmeyer clan. In Courting Trouble we encounter 30 year old Essie who is determined she will find herself a husband. The story is full of character’s mistakes, reality of what can happen when we let our guard down, how easy it is to compromise, dealing with the consequences and how beautiful grace can be. Even with that, when it ended, I thought “boo! That didn’t end how I wanted.” But then the wonderful word known as sequel appeared. In!

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In Deep in the Heart of Trouble we find ourselves four years after the end of the first book.

Texas bloomer girl Essie Spreckelmeyer (Courting Trouble) is still just trying to maintain her balance. The president of the local velocipede club has had her fair share of pratfalls, but her present situation is unusually perilous. Running her father’s oil company in this male-dominated boomtown was difficult enough before arrival of handsome, headstrong Tony Morgan.

I’m such a fan of Gist’s book and this one was no different. She’s so funny! I enjoyed the maturity of each of the characters and how they grew as people and to each other. Toss in a little mystery & intrigue and you got yourself a winning combination. Plus the changes the main characters go through aren’t over dramatic, cheesy or unbelievable. So yes, I shall continue to read through all of her books, because they are fantastic!

I’ll end with one more funny quote:
“There were only three reasons a woman’s name should ever appear in the Corsicana newspaper: being born, getting married, and keeling over dead. To provoke a full article not just in Corsicana Weekly but in newspapers scattered across the country was nothing short of appalling.”

Do you enjoy Gist’s novels or this time period? Have you read this one? What’s your favorite historical read and author?

P.S. I don’t really get asked if I’m carrying a weapon, just in case you weren’t sure if I was joking.

An Open Letter to Teenage Girls

To all the teenager girls out there, this letter is for you.

After reading about the recent horrible and tragic suicide of a 12-year old girl and follow-up articles about how much worse bullying has become (especially with the internet), my heart is so heavy for you guys. What you battle is an ugly and awful monster. Plus I’m auntie to two of the most precious and beautiful little girls in the world and can’t even begin to fathom that they would experience such pain that would lead them to think suicide is the only answer. Like I said, stories like these break my heart.

While I don’t know everything, my life experiences (31 years in the making) has lent me some wisdom. This is what I know.

Things are different for you then when I was your age, but I remember them well. It’s awkward, it’s uncertain and it’s a learning stage. But no matter what the “cool” crowd acts like, says or does, they don’t have it all together. They have plenty insecurities. I know life seems like a hot mess (and to be honest, sometimes it really is) and if you aren’t the coolest kid at school or have all the boys falling for you, then something must be wrong with you. That if other girls pick on you and try to bully you, then they’re right and you deserve it.

But you know what? THEY ARE WRONG.

I don’t know you personally, but I bet you are amazing. You are unique and you are beautiful. Maybe you love to paint, maybe you love to sing, maybe you love sports, maybe you love Star Wars and Harry Potter (what! what!). Maybe you want to write or teach when you’re older. Maybe you want to serve our country in the military or maybe you want to be a soccer superstar. Whatever it is you love – hold on to that, because that’s one of the things that makes you, well, you!

No really, you truly are unique. There’s a purpose only you, and you alone can fill. You know like Frodo or Harry (if you think the nerdfest references are going to stop, you, my friend, are wrong ;) ). There’s a story being written, a beautiful incredible story and your role is just as important as my role, your parent’s role, the President’s role and anyone else you know.

Do you see that? Can you feel it? Oh friend! Don’t let anyone, anyone, tell you otherwise. Don’t believe the lies that attack you every day. I know it’s hard – they come from the radio, the TV, the internet and people. You know what you should do? Punch them in the face (well not the actual people – let’s all be law-abiding citizens k?). Just go all Samwise-Gamgee-against-the-Orcs on those lies.

And you know what? The people who have changed the world aren’t the one who bully people to feel better about themselves. Sadly, there will always be people who try to make themselves feel better by knocking others down. But keep fighting, keep pushing through, following your dreams and know that you are someone special. God made you that way and I promise He doesn’t make mistakes. And when you realize that, your heart, your soul, your everything will experience the most beautiful thing ever known and your life will never be the same.

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Copyright Jamie Lapeyrolerie

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The Captive Maiden | Melanie Dickerson

Much like Marissa Meyer does a fabulous job with fairy tales set in futuristic/sci-fi times in The Lunar Chronicles, Melanie Dickerson brings to life classic fairy tales with the same intrigue, twists and captivating writing. Only her backdrop? Centuries past. And you know how I feel about all things historical!

You’ll find her latest (releasing next month on November 19th!), The Captive Maiden, has a very Cinderella vibe, but with a touch of Ivanhoe and twists of her own.

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Happily Ever After …Or Happily Nevermore? Gisela’s childhood was filled with laughter and visits from nobles such as the duke and his young son. But since her father’s death, each day has been filled with nothing but servitude to her stepmother. So when Gisela learns the duke’s son, Valten—the boy she has daydreamed about for years—is throwing a ball in hopes of finding a wife, she vows to find a way to attend, even if it’s only for a taste of a life she’ll never have. To her surprise, she catches Valten’s eye. Though he is rough around the edges, Gisela finds Valten has completely captured her heart. But other forces are bent on keeping the two from falling further in love, putting Gisela in more danger than she ever imagined.

I thought it was such a sweet tale and for those who love fairy tales, you’ll love this one too! I kinda need to go and watch Disney’s Cinderella now. What I really appreciate about Melanie’s writing is they are stories I’d gladly let young girls and teenagers read. Bringing to life such a classic story isn’t an easy task, but she does it with ease. Young women will be reminded that some things are worth the wait, worth fighting for and even when life tries to say otherwise, they are valued.

The good news too is you don’t have to be YA to enjoy this YA. I enjoyed it myself! It releases next month, so be sure to pre-order it today!

(Thank you Zondervan for the advanced review copy in exchange for my honest review!)

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Harvest of Gold | Tessa Afshar

“Nehemiah rolled up a parchment and tapped its end against his palm. “Because I believe I was called to this. What do you think destiny is? A smooth path that never jostles you? No. When you walk in your destiny, you will crash and fall more times than you can count. But the secret is to hold on to God’s vision for your life—and for the lives of those He puts under your charge. No matter how many times you fall, crash, and fail, you get up. You get up and face your obstacles.”

Continuing with the story of Sarah and Darius, Harvest of Gold, by the incredible story teller Tessa Afshar, takes us back into the days of Artaxerxes and one of the greatest empires the world has ever known: the Persian Empire.

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In Harvest of Gold (Book 2) the scribe Sarah married Darius, and at times she feels as if she has married the Persian aristocracy, too. There is another point she did not count on in her marriage-Sarah has grown to love her husband. Sarah has wealth, property, honor, and power, but her husband’s love still seems unattainable.

Although his mother was an Israelite, Darius remains skeptical that his Jewish wife is the right choice for him, particularly when she conspires with her cousin Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Ordered to assist in the effort, the couple begins a journey to the homeland of his mother’s people. Will the road filled with danger, conflict, and surprising memories, help Darius to see the hand of God at work in his life-and even in his marriage?

A hidden message, treachery, opposition, and a God-given success, will lead to an unlikely bounty.

I love all of Tessa’s books. Her writing style, her research and her stories are wonderfully written and they keep you turning the pages. Harvest of Gold was no different: it makes me want to read the first one again. What an era of history she brings to life! The world run by an Empire, which we will probably never fully grasp, the politics, the uprisings, the contrast between rich and poor. oh man! I wouldn’t mind traveling back in time to see some of it. It’s such an intriguing backdrop to a story.

I think another aspect to a great novel is a great supporting cast. I loved the side characters in this one (especially Lysander and Roxanna). I hope more releases come out with some of these characters! Hint, hint :) . I want to story to continue because it’s such fantastic biblical fiction!

Plus, can we all give a shout out to the brilliant bolds that make up all of her covers? I love them! What do y’all think?

(Thank you Moody Publishers for the review copy!)

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Rebellious Heart | Jody Hedlund

Why did this book have to end? Why??? I didn’t want it to. Ever. I mentioned before I was trying to write this review and was having a hard time because I couldn’t think of how to describe such a fantastic book. It’s one of those books where you see it on your shelf, sigh and simply want to hug it and read it again. Not many books tug at my heart that way, but Rebellious Heart, Jody Hedlund’s upcoming release, is most definitely one of those.

In 1763 Massachusetts, Susanna Smith has grown up with everything she’s ever wanted, except one thing: an education. Because she’s a female, higher learning has been closed to her, but her quick mind and quicker tongue never back down from a challenge. She’s determined to put her status to good use, reaching out to the poor and deprived. And she knows when she marries well, she will be able to continue her work with the less fortunate.

Ben Ross grew up a farmer’s son and has nothing to his name but his Harvard education. A poor country lawyer, he doesn’t see how he’ll be able to fulfill his promise to make his father proud of him. When family friends introduce him to the Smith family, he’s drawn to quick-witted Susanna but knows her family expects her to marry well. When Susanna’s decision to help an innocent woman no matter the cost crosses with Ben’s growing disillusionment with their British rulers, the two find themselves bound together in what quickly becomes a very dangerous fight for justice.

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I started this book right before bed, telling myself “oh…I’ll just read for 30 minutes, you know to start the book.”

Lies.

Hours later, I was still up and couldn’t stop until I finished the book. (I didn’t check the clock to see when I finally finished because I didn’t want to see the damage done to my sleep i.e. the horrible realization I would be getting very few hours of sleep). But it was worth it because I didn’t want to have to go through a whole work day wondering what was going to happen next. I really should have known better. This is Jody Hedlund we’re talking about. The author who writes such gripping and heart-filled stories, they captivate you from the very beginning. I don’t say this about every author, but every book released from Jody is a winner.

Yep, I do believe A Rebellious Heart is my favorite of Hedlund’s novels. And trust me that’s saying something since I love every other one! This even gets the title of one of my favorite reads this year.

So yes, pick up this novel immediately and start reading (or if you read this before 9/12/13, you’ll have to wait until then, but pre-order it!). But don’t say I didn’t warn you if you lose sleep and keep wishing the story continued.

A couple weeks ago, I was able to host a fun giveaway, but no worries, there’s plenty of ones for you to still enter! Be sure to see other blogs hosting the Rebellious Heart 20 Book Giveaway!

Rebellious Heart is also part of the Fall Into Love Contest! Be sure to check them out and good luck. This is a book worth entering contests for!

(Thank you to Bethany House and Jody for the advanced reader copy!)

“I believe, I thought only of you.”

“If you will thank me,” he replied, “let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you, might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe, I thought only of you.”

Elizabeth was too much embarrassed to say a word. After a short pause, her companion added, “You are too generous to trifle with me. If your feelings are still what they were last April, tell me so at once. My affections and wishes are unchanged, but one word from you will silence me on this subject forever.”
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

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Blame it on being introduced to Mr. John Thornton recently, but it inspired me to pull out one of the classics for this week’s quote.

I mean, just stop Mr. Darcy, just stop…

A Passion Redeemed | Julie Lessman

When people say they don’t like to read, I don’t get it. With series like The Daughters of Boston out there (by the ever awesome Julie Lessman), boring is the last thing to describe this series. A Passion Redeemed was no different.

After the first book, I quickly realized my summer reading list would immediately increase to include all of Lessman’s book. No jk-ing here, the only times I’ve stopped were because I had to finish ARCs (advanced reader copies) and book club. Other than that, I just keep downloading as fast as I can.

(This one won’t have as many spoilers as the first post, but it also includes more details than, say, the back of the cover. So please proceed with caution).

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Let’s just start off by saying, that for most of the book I still wanted to punch Charity in the face. I wanted to shake her and demand to know why she kept trying to force things, scheme, LIE. I mean was lying her favorite past time?? So there I was about 2/3rds in thinking there was no way I’d ever like her.

But then, as Lessman so perfectly does, things started to happen, you could sense and see genuine change in Charity’s character and finally, I mean FINALLY, I liked her.

Side note: Rigan is a horrible human being. Although other words would be more accurate, I’ll keep it at that.

I loved the deeper themes that were portrayed beautifully. Forgiveness, grace, love, passion. It’s not easy to have deeper themes in fiction without seeming cheesy or forced (especially when matters of faith are involved), but Lessman does it in a way that’s perfect.

I seriously love the O’Connor family. Love them!

I also love how the characters are in each book and then lead to the next one. I have a few more books left with this family, so can’t wait to dive in!

WORK IS IN THE WAY OF THESE IMPORTANT MATTERS!

For those of you who have read the series, do you like Mitch or Collin more? I know it’s hard, but I’m just curious! I’ll go first: I think my vote goes to Collin (but only slightly!!).

A Bride Most Begrudging | Deeanne Gist

I can’t help but smile when I think of this book. I loved it! Like, I’m going to actually purchase this one and I’m going to get her other books right quick, because Deeanne Gist had me from page one! My friend Liz recommended this one and since we read the same style books, I had no doubt her suggestion would work out. It did!

A Bride Most Begrudging is hilarious too. I kept laughing at both Constance and Drew. Oh, she is a fire cracker folks. But that made her all the more loveable. I loved the storyline, the characters and how it all worked out; although I may have teared up, yelled and sighed in the process. Plus such a fascinating time period! This history nerd was loving it!

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Any ship arriving from England means good news for Virginia colony farmers. The “tobacco brides” would be on board–eligible women seeking a better life in America, bartered for with barrels of tobacco from the fields.

Drew O’Connor isn’t stirred by news of a ship full of brides. Still broken-hearted from the loss of his beloved, he only wants a maid to tend his house and care for his young sister.

What he ends up with is a wife–a feisty redhead who claims she is Lady Constance Morrow, daughter of an Earl, brought to America against her will. And she want to go straight back to England as soon as she possibly can. She hasn’t the foggiest notion how to cook, she dares to argue with her poor husband, and spends more time working on mathematical equations than housework. What kind of a wife is that? Drew’s Christian forbearance is in for some testing.

Headstrong and intelligent, deeply moral but incredibly enticing, Constance turns what was supposed to be a marriage of convenience into something most inconvenient, indeed.

Seriously a great read and I look forward to more from Gist. I also learned this was Gist’s debut novel – what a way to kick things off! Have you read this one or any of Gist’s? What did you think?

Love is now Mingled with Grief

“The world is indeed full of peril and in it there are many dark places. But still there is much that is fair. And though in all lands, love is now mingled with grief, it still grows, perhaps, the greater.”
J.R.R. Tolkien
Lord of the Rings

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I bet you’re shocked to see a LOTR quote huh? It’s not like I talk about it every other second. I can’t help it, I love sheer brilliance. Plus even this quote about Middle Earth applies to today. Even if you haven’t read this one, what do you think?

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