I'm one of those book nerds that walks into a bookstore, closes her eyes, takes a deep breath, and imagines all the stories trapped inside the covers surrounding me. I can smell the fresh covers and my eyes dance with happiness as I run my fingers along the spines of each treasure.
Okay, I'll stop before you decide I'm too weird to read any further.
I'm slightly obsessed with books. Ask anyone. Or just take a look at my bedroom that is being overrun with books everywhere.
I've been reading for as long as I can remember and over the years I've definitely had my share of reading books that inspire, encourage, and challenge me. Because I know it can be hard to find good, godly material for young ladies to read today, I've decided to compile a short list of 20 books I would recommend. And also because the lovely Grace suggested this fun topic. :)
Since I couldn't narrow it down to five, ten, or even fifteen, you get the joy of 20 suggestions. And here they are:
Not Abandoned, by MacKenzie Morganthal.
Hold up, I promise there is no bias here! Not Abandoned is inspiring, suspenseful, and life-changing. Although the author and I are related, I would recommend this book either way. The story of girls trapped in the dark world of human trafficking, and their sister's journey to se them free, it is intriguing and uplifting, as there is a positive message weaved throughout. Seriously order it:
Recommended for ages 13+ because of the subject matter.
You're Made for a God-Sized Dream: Opening the Door to All God Has for You, by Holley Gerth.
This was the first book that I read by Holley Gerth, and oh my, was it amazing. Not only did this book push me to realize that my God-sized dream was publishing my first book I Dare You, but it also inspired me to take hold of all God had for me. I've read it more than once and definitely recommend it. If you're especially wondering about the purpose or meaning for your life, read this book.
The Divine Dance: If the world is your stage, who are you performing for? by Shannon Kubiak Primicerio.
I read this book for the first time when I was like 11 or 12. I've read it so many times it's all marked up and worn out, haha. This book is about living for an audience of One. Every word is carefully written to draw you in and inspire you to dance only for your King. Get it and read it.
Get Lost: Your Guide to Finding True Love, by Dannah Gresh. I've read Dannah's other books, "And the Bride Wore White," and "The Secret of the Lord," which are also both fantastic. But this one made an especially profound impact on me as a young teenager. In a world so focused with finding "the one" and "true love," Dannah presents a fresh, truthful look at what love is and how you can find the love of your life in God. Totally worth a read.
Kisses from Katie: A Story of Relentless Love and Redemption, by Katie Davis.
Ah, yes, this one. Kisses from Katie changed my life in so many ways. I've read it oh, let's see, five or six times? Too many to count really. Every time I open the pages I almost can feel the red dirt soil of Uganda beneath my feet (yes, I'm dramatic). Uganda is my heart and soul...my deepest dream. Hearing Katie's stories, reading her encouragement, hearing about this beautiful country, it was all amazing. Just, please, get a copy of this book.
Daring to Hope: Finding God's Goodness in the Broken and the Beautiful, by Katie Davis Majors.
Cheers for another book by Katie! This book...oh, my heart. <3 I was blessed to be on the launch team for this book and read it early, which was so fun. Every word was like reading a masterpiece. This book is for anyone who has endured a tragedy, felt the pain of loss, or been heart broken (which includes everyone at some point). This book encourages you to keep hoping in the God who never disappoints even when hope is hard. Read it!
One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are, by Ann Voskamp.
Ann is the writer I've always dreamed of being. Her words are like art that touch the deepest places of your soul and make you feel something that normal words don't. She's an artist with words. She's one of the best. She's amazing. One Thousand Gifts is about the miracle of thanksgiving in the midst of every day, mundane, or heart-breaking moments. Every word of this book was worth buying it.
The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life, by Ann Voskamp.
Ann definitely did not disappoint with this next book. Every page, every word, captivated me. I cried throughout reading as I felt the emotion of each phrase. This book is about living broken. So many of us try to hide our scars, hide our brokenness. This book is about letting them show and how when we give to others, our lives are changed. Ah, I loved every moment of reading this book.
Before You Meet Prince Charming: A Guide to Radiant Purity, by Sarah Mally.
My mom read this book with my sister and I right before we became teenagers. Since then, I've read it a few more times. Sarah's writing is godly, encouraging, and true. I've also done her Bright Lights curriculum which is also fantastic. This book is about (obviously) purity, and the joy of waiting for God's perfect timing for love. I find it's also encouraging that the book was written from the perspective of a single young lady.
Be The Change: Your Guide to Freeing Slaves and Changing the World, by Zach Hunter.
Take one look at the subtitle and you may understand why I'm slightly obsessed with this book. ;) I was thirteen when I first read Zach's book (which he wrote as a young teenager, by the way) and it changed my life then, by awakening me to the epidemic of slavery in the world around us. I loved this book and have read it several times since. Although I always recommend this book, unfortunately, I'm unable to stand behind some of his beliefs today.
Authentic Beauty: the Shaping of a Set-Apart Young Woman, by Leslie Ludy.
Leslie was one of my favorite authors as a young teenager when I was thirteen and fourteen. Her book Set-Apart Femininity is also very good. I loved this book and the way Leslie talked about being a princess (that's my thing, ya know) loved by our true Prince. This book is about living beautiful on the inside and experiencing the romance of your life with the King of the universe. Definitely check it out.
Will Our Generation Speak: A Call to Be Bold with the Gospel, by Grace Mally.
This book ignites the passion in you to spread the Gospel around you. So many young people today have become apathetic about spreading the Gospel. We seem to forget that everyone is going to die and a lot of people are going to die and go to hell if we don't tell them about the Gospel. This book is all about sharing the Gospel and gives practical tips on how to do so, as well as relatable stories of other young people sharing the Gospel around them.
Do Hard Things: A Teenage Rebellion Against Low Expectations by Alex and Brett Harris.
This was another book that changed my life when I was thirteen. This book is inspiring, challenging, and vital to young people in this generation. So many teenagers are growing up without any direction or passion, waiting until they're "older" to do something with their life and be more mature. This book reminds them that we are called to so much more. Love this book.
My Life His Mission: A Six Week Challenge to Change the World, by Kim P. Davis.
This was the first book about missions that I read after I received my call to missions in Africa. This is another one of those books I've read so many times that it's worn out and marked up. This book provides you with real-life stories of young people serving the Lord and changing their world. Every page is super inspiring and it also includes journaling space/questions to apply what you learn.
Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely, by Lysa TerKeurst.
This book came into my life last year in the middle of a season where I felt extremely left out, lonely, and rejected. But it couldn't have come at a better time. Each word made sense, connected with my heart, and encouraged me to live in God's love for me, even when my feelings told me differently. Excellent book and would definitely recommend it.
A Young Woman's Walk with God: Growing More Like Jesus, by Elizabeth George.
I've read all of Elizabeth's books for young women, but this one was my favorite. I read it as a young teenager, and it was especially encouraging. This book takes you through the fruits of the Spirit and encourages you to live more like Jesus every day. It also includes journaling space and questions to help you reflect on what you learned in each chapter.
Millie's Grand Adventure: Book Six in the Millie Keith Series, by Martha Finley.
Although you really, really should read all of the series from the beginning (yes, read them in order), I'm highlighting this one from the series because it's my favorite. Growing up the Millie Keith series was my favorite. I read every book in the series at least four times, but this one I probably read six times. Not only does this series have fun stories, but it also teaches encouraging, and uplifting messages.
The Coronation, by Livy Jarmusch.
This book, oh my goodness. Livy is such a dear friend and I promise I'm not biased with this book either. I loved every moment of my adventure in Tarsurella, throughout these pages. You quickly get wrapped up in the lives of each character, but my personal favorite is Vanessa Bennett. You may remember her from a character interview I did here on the blog. This story is a treasure and if you love suspense, humor, a touch of romance, and uplifting messages: get this book!
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All Glorious Within: Journeying as the King's Daughter, by Tiffany Schlichter.
I know the Schlichter family through the Bible Bee, and I first read All Glorious Within when I was fifteen. This book is an encouragement to young girls to live as a daughter of the King and let their lives glorify Him. Tiffany is very relatable and encouraging in her writing. I love this book.
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A Trophy in My Heart: Learning, Speaking, & Living God's Word, by Brittany Schlichter.
It was an honor and joy to compete alongside Brittany in the National Bible Bee and her book was a tremendous encouragement to me throughout my years with the Bible Bee. She not only shares her experience with the first-ever Bible Bee in 2009, but she also encourages readers to learn, speak, and live God's Word in their own lives. Even if you don't do Bible Bee, it's definitely still worth reading. :)
Well, there you have it! My top 20 book recommendations for girls! Of course, there are so many more I could've listed here.
Have you read any of these books? What are some of your own recommendations? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
Sometimes I like to make the joke that I must have been born with a book in my hand.
If I think I've been writing for as long as I can remember, I've been reading for even longer. Reading is like an escape and refuge for me. I'm slightly a book nerd. And not ashamed of it.
Although I'm twenty now (seriously), I still know exactly how hard it is to be a Christian teenager in today's world. And sometimes it's so nice to just have someone else to encourage you along the way. When I was a young teenager I discovered just exactly how hard it is to find clean, godly writing material to read. Because of this, I founded my own magazine, The King's Princess, when I was fifteen.
However, over the years God has also brought dozens of encouraging, godly authors, magazines editors, and writers into my path. Today I wanted to take a moment to highlight four magazines that you, as a Christian young lady, should totally check out.
1) Crown of Beauty Magazine. Although Crown of Beauty no longer prints new magazine issues, you are still able to access all of the old issues right on their website! I interned with Crown of Beauty for several months and it was amazing. The founder, Livy Jarmusch, puts out godly, clean material for young Christian girls that is totally uplifting, fun, and inspirational. Although she no longer publishes Crown of Beauty issues, she still writes godly fiction. If you're interested in checking her writing out, visit her blog: www.livylynnblog.com.
2) Christ's Light Magazine. This is a brand new magazine for young ladies, but oh my goodness, I already know you need to be subscribed to it. (Like, please, go subscribe) Christ's Light is a free, bi-monthly e-magazine published by my dear friend, Olivia Bell. Olivia puts together fun, beautiful, easy-to-read, godly magazine issues that capture your attention. Her articles are super inspiring and I just love everything about this magazine. I also have the absolute honor of being a columnist for the mag. Although she doesn't have a website, if you would like to subscribe, please fill out the contact form here on my site and I'll be sure to forward it on to Olivia.
3) Every Girl's Adventure. A free, quarterly e-magazine run by the beautiful and wonderful, Bethany Smith. <3 This magazine is for--like it says--every girl. Much like me, Bethany was tired of not being able to find good magazines to read that talked about anything else besides crushes, Hollywood, and things like that. She wanted to give Christian young girls a better alternative. Every Girl's Adventure includes modest fashion tips for the fashion loving girl, and outdoorsy related articles for the adventure-loving girl. Whatever you're interested in, Every Girl's Adventure has it.
4) Guard Your Heart Magazine. This free monthly e-magazine is published by some more wonderful friends of mine! It was founded by the incredible Beth Hale, along with her sisters. Guard Your Heart inspires young Christian girls to walk in a way that is worthy of their identity in Christ and encourages them with fun and exciting articles. Definitely worth subscribing to and you can do so by checking out their website!
I hope you find these to be helpful and encouraging as you connect with other Christian young ladies seeking to serve God with all of their hearts as well. And of course...
My magazine, The King's Princess, was founded in 2013. This ministry God has given me has never ceased to amaze and humble me. I don't deserve this place of serving Him by serving His daughters, but I'm so grateful. If you'd like to subscribe, I'd love to have you visit my website for the magazine and join our princess family. <3
Do you have any suggestions for godly Christian magazines for girls? Share your suggestions in the comments below!
When I was a pre-teen/young teenager, I felt very lonely.
At that time I didn't have many friends my age who I truly connected with. I have always been different than most people my age (think fourteen-year-old homeschooler who believes she can change the world and wants to talk about ending human trafficking, not boys or the latest style trends). On top of that I was a crazy extrovert who was more sociable than a lot of my public schooled friends (shocking, right?).
Because of these things I felt distant and disconnected from my peers. I craved a deeper connection than what I was being offered.
And while that wasn't a bad thing, my thinking that a deeper friendship would satisfy me was a bad thing.
I thought that if I had at least just one friend who was as deep and passionate as I was, then I wouldn't be lonely anymore.
I made friendship all about me.
And the truth is that friendship isn't really just about me at all.
Friendship is more about what we give to it, instead of what we get from it. This is totally opposite thinking from a world that claims everything is about us and how we feel.
When we shift our thinking about friendship, things change. Instead of thinking, "I really wish they were more like me," or "I really wish she would think about my feelings right now," let's change our thought patterns. Instead ask ourselves, "How can I serve my friend today?" or "What ways can I be there for my friend?"
God didn't create friendship to satisfy you, because He wants to use friendship to grow you.
Placing all of our hope in a friendship to complete us and make us happy will only hurt us in the end. We are only made to be complete in Christ.
Friendship is a beautiful gift. I look around at the friends God has blessed me with now and I'm humbled and amazed by these beautiful, wonderful women I call "friend."
However, friendship is also a gift I must give away. A gift I must extend to someone else. I have to be the friend I want to have. My goal in friendship should be to serve, give, and love unconditionally.
In Proverbs 27:17 it says: "As iron sharpens iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend."
Just as a godly, sweet friendship encourages and challenges us to pursue more of Jesus, we must also be willing to become a friend that encourages and challenges someone else to pursue more of Jesus.
If you're feeling lonely today, look around you at the people God has placed in your life. Who can you reach out to today and be a friend? Who can you serve and give love to?
You'll be amazed at the things God will do, when you give the gift of friendship.
To everything there is a season.
It's a constant struggle between what is and what I think should be. It's a battle between normality and a constant state of change. For nothing really stays the same in an ever changing world, where even the seasons come and go faster than I could ever imagine.
Sure, I make my plans. I set my goals. I was born a planner who has planned out her entire life.
"By the time this gets here, I will be there." Or, "When I grow up, I will do this and that."
But life is so much different than you or I imagine as children. For that certain time gets here and we aren't anywhere near where we thought we would be. Or we look around and here we are, all grown up, and we still haven't accomplished that goal or dream we always thought we would.
Life is change.
And sometimes I wish it wasn't.
A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
So I can mourn for what I think should be, but isn't. I grow bitter towards the changing seasons. Because just as our world turns from the bright, vibrant colors of summer into the darker, cooler winds of winter, so our lives change seasons too. We grow up. We become caught up in the fast pace of life, until we look around and we're so far from what we always wanted. Sometimes it's by our own doing. And sometimes...sometimes it's just life.
I cry out. I beg God for answers why. Because I don't understand why life can't just be what I always imagined it would. I don't understand why dreams can't always come true, or people can't always stay, or seasons have to change.
A time of war, and a time of peace.
So I fight against what I have no control over.
Perhaps, I wouldn't call it that. I might call it, "keeping busy” or “distraction.”
But I’m fighting it.
Instead of looking around at the darker colors of autumn and admiring their beauty too, I get bitter about losing the vibrant colors of summer.
I angrily wipe away my tears over things that I wish could be different and I shake my fist towards heaven.
"Why have things turned out this way?" I demand an answer. "Why has the beauty faded?"
Ah, yes. The beauty.
It's easy for you and I to see the beauty of the springtime and summertime colors. The vibrant hues of pink or blue. We laugh and rejoice in it. This is how beauty should be, we convince ourselves.
And when life's beauty turns out to be different than we imagined?
We push it away. It's not how we want it and we want the beauty to be our way. We don't want to find beauty here in the grey ash colors of winter. We don't want to find beauty in something we never wanted to come.
Maybe in doing this, we're missing something...
Perhaps we're missing the beauty God intended for us all along.
I ponder this. Could it be?
Could it be that there is a different kind of beauty in the changing seasons than I ever knew? For if winter never came I would never get to jump into piles of perfect white snow and laugh at the cold on my skin. If winter never came I would never learn to search with anticipation for the blossoming buds of springtime flowers.
Yes, life does not always turn out how I imagined it would once upon a time.
Life changes and the seasons come and go faster than I would sometimes like.
Life is different.
But different doesn't mean less beautiful. Different doesn't mean worthless.
It's simply a different kind of beautiful than I imagined it would be.
Life is beautiful. A different kind of beautiful, but so very beautiful.
God whispers it to me in every changing season. Look for My beauty here. Look for the beauty I want to give you in this place.
And His different is so much more beautiful than anything I ever had planned.
He has made everything beautiful in His time.
The first book I read by Holley Gerth was "You Were Made for a God-Sized Dream" (which was amazing, and if you haven't read it, please do).
Her book not only encouraged my heart, but it also inspired me to pursue my God-sized dream of publishing a book. (I released I Dare You two years after reading Holley's book)
Since then I have read all of Holley's books and when I got accepted to the launch team for her newest book, Fiercehearted, I was thrilled.
Fiercehearted is a lot different than Holley's other books, but different in an awesome way. I might even go as far as to say it's my favorite book from Holley yet. (Which is saying a lot)
Her book, once again, inspired my heart.
I have always loved Holley's writing style because she writes as a friend, not as an author. If you don't understand what I mean by that, let me explain. Some writers write a book and you can tell from reading it that they're writing more to fans. And while this is good too, I love Holley's style best because she writes like she's writing to a dear friend, not a fan she doesn't know.
You instantly fall in love with Holley's funny, sweet, and touching stories that she shares throughout Fiercehearted. For me, I related to so many of the lessons she shared throughout the book.
Holley encourages those who read her book to love, no matter how much it hurts, and I think I appreciated that message the most throughout reading.
I would recommend Fiercehearted to anyone who desires to be brave, to love and live a different way. But I also recommend it to those who don't desire that, because this book will change you.
Thank you, Holley, for another wonderful book! ♥
Fiercehearted became available on October 3rd and you can visit Holley's website to see where you can purchase it! www.fiercehearted.com
Sometimes I ignore the miracle of the everyday.
Or maybe it's not so much that I ignore it, as it is that I miss it. I miss it in the midst of a schedule always on the go and a to-do list that ever demands my attention. Perhaps I've even set it up this way for a reason. Constantly filling my life with tasks and goals so that every day becomes a little less, well...ordinary.
And that's when I miss it.
You see, every day has the potential to be your best day ever.
It doesn't need to be filled to the brim with dishes in the morning, coffee at noon with that friend you haven't seen in months, art class at four, and Bible study in the evening. Oh, and don't forget the project due by midnight and the emails that have been sitting in your inbox for, oh, five months.
A beautiful day does not always mean a full day. Sometimes the most beautiful days, the ones we remember most, are the ones that weren't all that crazy busy.
And sometimes, we miss our best days by trying so hard to make them our best days. Do you know what I'm saying, friend?
Right here in this moment, I want you to breathe. I want you to take in a deep breath and let out. Then I want you to look around at the world surrounding you. Do you notice the way the birds tilt their heads as they sing and the way the sun likes to play peek-a-boo behind the clouds? It's beautiful.
Now I want you to look at the calendar and notice what today is.
I stare at this round box on my calendar and I choose to look at it differently.
This is my 20th October 5th.
This is the 20th October 5th I've had and because I'm not guaranteed so many years, I don't even know how many more October 5th's I will have. But I have this one.
Friend, this may be your 15th, your 25th, or your 55th October 5th. But whatever it is for you, you don't know how many of them you will have left. All you are guaranteed is this one, right now.
Isn't it an amazing way to look at life? Every day of this year has been my 20th time living that specific date. I can either make it amazing or let it be just another average, everyday date on the calendar.
I don't need to fill the day with a to-do list the size of the Grand Canyon. Of course, there are seasons of busy and days for the crazy to-do list. But, I also need to remember there are seasons for the here and now, and seasons for the still and quiet.
Today is all you have right now. Today could be the best day of your life. Today holds more possibility than yesterday.
And I think that makes today pretty ridiculously, unbelievably...amazing.
I was about fourteen years old when I held a book in my hands for the first time that was written by a young woman halfway across the world from me.
When I picked up "Kisses from Katie" and read the words, my heart did a little bit of a happy dance. Since that time, Katie Davis Majors has been an inspiration and influential person in my life. Not only do I look up to her as a writer, but I look up to her and admire her for her strong faith and dedication to the God who relentlessly loves each of us.
Uganda was given a piece of my heart when I was eleven years old. God was asking me if I would give up everything to serve Him there one day. And it's funny now, nine years later, that I still have not gone to Uganda. Will I someday? Absolutely, unless God changes my path. But for now, my heart will always love Uganda, even though I've never stepped foot there.
Maybe that's why I connected so well with "Kisses from Katie." Maybe that's why I will shamelessly tell you I read that book about five or six times over.
And maybe that's why I was just a tad bit giddy with excitement when I got accepted to the launch team for Katie Davis Major's brand new book, "Daring to Hope."
Yet this book entered my life and changed my heart in a way I wasn't expecting.
Just like with "Kisses from Katie," I picked up this book and could not stop reading.
Every beautiful word she wrote, every gripping story she told, it all resonated with my heart. Katie is like an artist of words and "Daring to Hope," is her masterpiece.
The thing I probably loved most about this book is that Katie is very real and honest. She doesn't hide her feelings. In perfect honesty, she shared the way she questioned God when hard things happened. And I related to that. Because sometimes I question God too. Why would You let this illness go unhealed, God, if You are good? Why would You take away this dream, if You have a good plan for my life?
Sometimes if we believe the lies these questions feed us, we will lose our hope. We will stop hoping because we learn that hoping hurts.
Yet Katie assures us through her book that no matter what you are facing, God is a good God and He is safe to put your hope in.
Katie writes about deep pain and suffering and yet the beauty that she found in those places of hurt. I connect there, her words are real to me. And that's what I love. Because no matter what you've been through, Katie's words will dare you to hope again.
Would I recommend this book to others? Absolutely, 100%, please, I beg you, get this book.
Katie, thank you for writing "Daring to Hope." Thank you for serving Jesus passionately. Sending much love and support your way! <3
Daring to Hope, the brand new release from Katie Davis Majors is available TODAY!!! Have you gotten your copy yet?? Comment below and tell me if you did! <3 If not, you can order it now! You won't want to miss it. :)
And do you know something else super exciting? (I know, it's hard to top this book release!) Katie is doing a US book signing tour this fall! Check out the dates below and see if she's coming to a city near YOU!
October 7th - Nashville: Book Signing at Lifeway. Details here.
October 8th - Garden Grove (So Cal): Katie Davis Majors Speaking at Shepherd's Grove Church. Details here.
October 10th - Dallas/Fort Worth Area: Katie Davis Majors in Studio at LifeToday with James Robison. Details here.
October 11th - Colorado Springs: Katie Davis Majors at Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel. Details here.
Whew, it's October already?!
Cue the pumpkin spice everything (that I'm not even really into), apple pies (yes, please), the changing leaves and cooling temperatures.
Despite my bittersweet feelings towards leaving summer, I am looking forward to wearing sweaters and boots, baking pumpkin pies, and going to fall festivals, and maybe even a corn maze or two.
But with the brand new start of October comes the realization that September came and went faster than I could imagine. And September was filled to the brim with writing!
First of all, can I just take a minute and say...God is good, y'all. Yeah, life is hard. But God is good. And that doesn't mean life isn't hard, it just means that the hard stuff will never change who God is.
With that said, I am so humbled at the ways God showed His faithfulness to me throughout September. He provided me with incredible writing opportunities that blew my mind. I am so grateful.
And because I am so blessed to have all of you special blog friends, I wanted to get the chance to share all of my recent guest articles with you as well! So I've compiled links to most of my September guest posts and hope you will enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them. <3
The Rebelution: "Don't Let Your Feelings Control You"
Project Inspired: "9 Ways to Make a Difference This School Year"
The Modern Abolitionist Blog: "I Dare You"
Kaitlyn Bouchillon's Blog: "When Your Prayers Go (Seemingly) Unanswered"
Truly Beautiful Ministries: "Interview"
Christ Centered Girls: "Holding Onto Hope"
Lane of Roses: "We Don't Have to Be Strong (Daily Devotion)" (I became a writing ambassador for Lane of Roses last month and this devotion I wrote for them will be posted October 4th, so check back for it!)
I'm so excited to see what else God has in store for the coming month.
Happy October, friends! Thank you for being such faithful readers. All my love <3
To God be the glory!
I'd love to hear how your September went! What are you most looking forward to about October? Do you have anything special on your fall bucket list?
I have always loved fairytales.
I mean who doesn’t love a good story that includes princesses, knights in shining armor, drama, and a good old fashioned, “Happily ever after”?
And I think it’s safe to say that, from the time we were little children, we’ve known how every fairytale begins.
Once upon a time…
After all, the great Disney classics start this way. It signals the beginning of a new story, something new and great and mysterious.
But maybe why this part of the story is so memorable is that it is, in a way, predictable.
“Once upon a time, there was a beautiful princess...”
Predictable and easy, right?
It’s the beginning of the story, but it’s the easy part that most people already know and understand.
But the middle and the ending--the future—of the story? Well, that part seems just a little bit scarier. Reminds me a little bit of life too. Because when I’m living in the middle of my story? That’s the part I don’t know yet. The “happily ever after,” hasn’t come yet and I’m sometimes not sure if it ever will.
Maybe that’s why I love the “once upon a time” so much. It’s certain.
But real life? The reality of the story?
It’s not so certain.
Life can change as quickly as you can blink your eyes. A phone call from the doctor with your test results. A knock on your door from an unexpected visitor. An overdue payment letter in the mail. These things can disrupt your happy “once upon a time” as quickly as they can affect your “happily ever after.” They are the unexpected that flip your normal upside down.
And when that happens?
We wonder where to turn. Where can we go that will be safe and certain through the midst of all the messy middle parts of our story?
One of my favorite Bible verses from Hebrews 13:8 (NKJV) says this:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”
I find comfort in this. When my future is changing and uncertain, I can know that the One holding my future isn’t changing. He is staying the same. His heart towards me is staying the same. His love for me is staying the same. And His plan for my life is most definitely staying the same.
Maybe it won’t look like what I wanted. Maybe it won’t be what I prayed for.
But it will be good.
Because every story He writes is good. Not easy, but good. Because He is good. It will be better than the grandest fairytale you’ve ever read. Sweeter than the happiest of ever after’s.
Dear one, when life feels upside down and uncertain, know that you can trust the One who wrote, “Once upon a time,” into your story, and believe that He is bringing you to your “Happily ever after” with Him.
Trust your Author.
Hi friends! Today here in my little space of the internet, I have an author interview with Miss Lydia Howe who just released her new book, "Where Dandelions Grow." Sit back, enjoy a virtual cupcake or two and read through the short conversation that we had...
Bella: Welcome to my blog, Lydia! I’m excited to have you joining us here today. To start off, please share with the readers just a little bit more about yourself.
Lydia: Thank you, Bella! It’s a privilege to be on your blog. Ah, what do I say about myself? If I could start any fashion trend, it would be to wear sparkly socks with dress flats. Since that doesn’t seem likely to become popular, I limit myself to dressing like that for special occasions - like book releases. Even though I’m twenty-five (or will be next week), I’m a little girl at heart: Dancing in the rain, enjoying cotton candy, sleeping on the floor (makes life like one continuous sleepover, plus I don't have to make a bed), and dreaming of one day owning a pet skunk called Charlie Kate. When I’m acting a bit more grown up I work at a coffee shop, dedicatedly write/edit, and read and review gobs of books. Sundays are my favorite days of the week because then I get to hang out with my church family and help with the 3rd and 4th grade Sunday school class. Mondays are my second favorite days of the week because there’s nothing more fun than a whole week just waiting to be filled with accomplishments.
Bella: Have you always wanted to be a writer? Why is being a writer important to you?
Lydia: I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I was seven or eight. Being a writer is super important to me. Growing up I remember it being hard to find good, interesting books and I decided way back then to change that when I grew up. It’s really special to me to get to use my imagination to help entertain others.
Bella: What has been your most embarrassing writing moment?
Lydia: I have a friend who sometimes texts me when he catches a typo in my online writing. A couple of years ago he sent me a text with the correct spelling of a word and he said: “You don’t even want to know what you made the sentence say by using the wrong word.” So, I quickly corrected my mistake and took my friend at his word and didn’t look at the wrong word I’d used. I decided I really didn’t want to know what I’d mistakenly posted, but I figured it was probably pretty embarrassing.
Bella: When did you first get the inspiration for your book, Where Dandelions Grow, and why was it important for you to write?
Lydia: As a little girl I did everything I could with my cousin Alexa. We were close in age, and although we were very different personality-wise, we had a ton of fun together. I originally wrote the book for her high school graduation. The book took so long to get to this point though, that she’s now already graduated from college and is married. Working on this book again has been a great reminder of the wonderful bonds between cousins.
Bella: If you could become any one of the characters from your book, who would you choose?
Lydia: Probably Mrs. Reed. She’s the kind of character I’d be delighted to know in real life.
Bella: Thank you for joining us here on the blog today, Lydia! God’s blessings on your new book! ♥
Lydia: Thank you so much for having me, Bella!
About the Author:
Lydia Howe (aka Aidyl Ewoh) is a twenty-something adventurous author who is partial to hiking in the mountains of Asia and South America, building life-size models of dinosaurs, taking road trips across Europe, visiting friends in Africa, growing up in a barn and everything in-between. She currently works in a coffee shop during the day and concocts stories by night. Find her online at her Blog, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, Instagram, and Google+
Links for the book:
Goodreads Link: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35969327-where-dandelions-grow?from_search=true
I’ve never been one to handle pain very well.
Papercut? Yeah, I’ll cry like a baby.
Stubbed toe? I’ll whine for several minutes.
Sore throat? I’ll sulk in bed until it goes away.
But even though my pain tolerance is low, there is one pain that I’ve had to learn to live with since I was young.
I’ve grown up with chronic migraines. Sometimes they’re worse than other times. Although I get headaches very frequently, my migraines are always so much worse and I have anywhere from one, to several a week. My headaches often affect my stomach as well, so because of that I have to stay away from certain headache medicines.
Growing up, we tried everything we could to figure out the causes of the migraines and to eliminate triggers. I remember spending hours in the grocery store as my ever patient and loving mom looked through every ingredient on the foods we would buy, double-checking that they didn’t include any of the trigger ingredients we had to avoid.
As I got older the triggers became much more difficult to figure out, as the migraines can occur just out of the blue.
I’ve struggled with this often. I’ve prayed fervently. My calling in life—what I believe to be my purpose—requires me to frequently sit at a computer screen as I pour my words into magazines, articles, blogs, and books. However, oftentimes the computer can intensify my migraines or trigger them. I have desperately wondered why. How can something that is my calling and my ministry cause me such physical pain?
The migraines can prevent me from writing for a few hours, to a few days. And I just don’t understand. Why, God?
Well, instead of a direct answer, He simply gave me this…
“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10 NKJV)
I’m puzzled over this.
I wonder…why would God choose grace as the simple answer? Not healing, not relief. Grace.
When Paul asked for the thorn to be removed, God didn’t even respond with, “Someday,” or, “Wait.”
He said, “My grace is sufficient.” My grace is enough for now. My grace is enough for your pain. My grace is all you need.
I’m still puzzled because I don’t understand. This is such a different answer than the one my flesh cries out for. Why would God not remove the thorn--why would He not remove my pain?--when healing is a good thing?
The answer that came to me was, maybe…
Maybe grace is the healing all along.
Perhaps, in seasons of physical suffering, our hearts are not always longing for a physical healing. But perhaps, our hearts are searching for an internal miracle. Something that will heal the deepest wounds in us, that physical healing can’t reach. And grace? Well, grace can be that miracle.
Then it occurred to me. Maybe I didn’t need perfect health to fulfill my calling after all. Maybe through the pain, He could be more glorified.
Maybe what the devil intended as harm, God just couldn’t wait to use for my greatest good. And I believe that. Yes, I believe it with all of my heart.
So, in typical Bella style, instead of staying away from my writing—my calling—to prevent or bring relief to my pain, I instead laugh in that old devil’s face and say, “Watch me change this world anyway.”
Because when the devil is fighting so hard to keep you from pursuing that calling God has given you, then you know--you know—that calling is big. That calling just might change your world.
Whether it’s physical or emotional pain you suffer from, His grace is sufficient. His grace is enough. His grace is the healing your soul looks for most.
Yet, God doesn’t just leave it at that.
When Paul pleaded with God to remove the thorn in his flesh (whatever that may have represented, physical or spiritual), God didn’t just leave him hanging and say, “Sorry, Paul, you’re on your own.”
He gave Paul His grace, and then He promised…
When you are weak, then I will be most strong in you.
His strength is made perfect in every physical, emotional, and spiritual weakness you have had to carry. At the places in your life you are most weak, God is ready to shower His rain of grace and make you most strong.
Because strength isn’t about perfection, relief, or painless living.
Not at all.
Strength is about doing His right thing, even in the pain.
So whatever that calling is He has given you, grasp onto His grace and push forward into what He’s beckoning you towards.
His strength will be enough for whatever lies ahead. I promise.
And He does too.
Who am I?
It’s the age-old question that everyone has asked themselves at some point in their lives. Perhaps we don’t always question it out loud. But in our hearts? Yes, our hearts can echo this question loudly.
I understand, because sometimes I wonder about my identity too.
Finding the truth about who you are in the midst of a culture that daily tries to tell you who they think you are, is a lot more complicated than it may seem. The world says that our identity is based off of what we’ve done or what has been done to us.
Did someone profess to love us and then break our heart? Then, we must be unlovable. Did we make a bad decision and it changed everything? Then, we are guilty. Have we been ignored or treated like we have no value? Then, surely we are worthless. These labels placed on us by others—and also by ourselves—begin to shape how we view our identity.
But if these things don’t define us, then what does? And if the world can’t tell us who we really are, then who can?
When we become children of God, by accepting His free gift of salvation, everything changes. Now our identity is shaped entirely by the One who created us, according to His grace.
Happy Monday, friends!
Today, I have a very special post for you. My dear friend, Olivia Bell has been so kind as to allow me to use her most recent article titled, "Dreams," as a guest post here on the blog. I was very touched by her words, and believe you will be too. I would love if you'd take a moment just to comment at the bottom and thank Olivia for sharing her heart with us today! :)
One more quick note: Olivia founded her own e-magazine for young ladies (as you'll read in the article), and if you would like to sign up to receive it, just please simply fill out the contact form below and I'll pass that on to her. :) You'll love the magazine, trust me!
(Olivia is also a columnist in my monthly e-magazine, The King's Princess, and if you want to subscribe to that, please click here.)
So without further ado, here is Olivia Bell's article...
We all have dreams that we hold onto tightly inside our hearts, dreams we cherish and think about every single day. I want to talk about those dreams because I am just like you; I had dreams in my heart that I wanted to make happen. But there was one little problem, or more like a big problem.
I thought I should wait.
I thought of my dreams; starting my own business, beginning a magazine to encourage and inspire Christian girls, and write my first Christian fiction novel. As I thought of these around the ages of 15 and 16, I thought, “I can’t do them now, I have to do school. I think I’ll just wait and do them once I graduate…” And so I didn’t make my dreams happen, I put them on the back burner with the thought of “someday” I’d make them happen. Now that I look back on it, why did I think that? Life is a gift, each day we have we cannot take for granted because we are never guaranteed a tomorrow. But still I waited.
Then something a friend said changed my whole outlook on my dreams.
She said something along the lines of, “Why waste your entire life thinking that ‘someday I will chase that dream of mine, someday I will do what I’ve always wanted to and feel called to do’, all the while wasting the years of your life until one day ‘someday’ is too late.” I felt as if she were speaking right to me in that article and it really hit home for me. She also mentioned that our youth is a gift; these years will not last forever. Look at David; he killed a giant with three stones in his youth!
So, one day I decided something. I wasn’t going to wait until I finished school; I wasn’t going to wait until ‘someday’ to make my dreams come true. With the Lord, I was going to make my dreams come true right here and now and stop wasting my life waiting for that ‘someday’.
I started out on the journey of following the dreams that the Lord had laid on my heart. The Lord opened a door for me to start my own craft business called, “Olivia Rose Originals ~ A Beautifully Handmade Crafts Company”. I was thrilled to be able to share my creations with others and to see them enjoy the things I had made.
Then along came another dream.
After contributing to numerous Christian magazines over the years, I had cultivated my love of writing. I found that expressing my heart and thoughts on paper (or computer screen) was how I was best able to convey my messages. I loved the Christian magazines I read and contributed to, and in my heart a small dream was forming like a tiny flower bud in spring before it burst into a beautiful bloom.
I wanted to start my own magazine.
This dream came along probably about a year ago and I decided on the name of “Sisters of Salvation” for my magazine. I do not remember exactly what happened, but I think the same old familiar excuse arose not shortly after. I decided to wait until I finished school. But, even though I was putting off my dream, I think it was the Lord’s way of saying, “Not yet, wait for My perfect timing.” It wasn’t until May of this year when my mom mentioned that I should start my own magazine (she now says she always knew as I wrote all the articles for other magazines that I would start my own someday) that I felt the Lord saying it was the right time to start the magazine. And now look where He has taken me! When I was just starting to bring together my ideas and plan how I would distribute this magazine, I never knew that in just 2 issues I would have such an amazing team of columnists and photographers, along with a large group of subscribers in such a short period of time. “Christ’s Light Magazine ~Shining Bright in a Dark World” was born. The journey that the Lord has taken me on with this magazine has been such a wonderful one and hearing from my readers that they have been encouraged and inspired by it really makes my day every single time. I am so glad I followed the dream the Lord gave me of starting a magazine, because this magazine really is not mine at all. Jesus made it happen and it is His for Him to use for His ultimate glory and honor.
I had one more dream though. A dream of being published.
I have been writing a continual Christian fiction story for the magazine, “The King’s Princess” for around a year and a half now. I can’t believe the time has gone by so fast and that I am now on part 12 of the story that Lord placed on my heart to share. From the beginning of that story I had dreamed of one day combining and lengthening each part to form a novel, and it wasn’t until recently that I was inspired to put this dream into action by that same dear friend with the same words she had spoken before. Why was I waiting until I finished school? This friend is my role model, an author who writes books that touch my heart and soul in many more ways than one; she is the one who inspires me time and time again. I thought of her, having published her very first book at the age of 18, and I thought, “Why can I not do that? She didn’t keep her dreams bundled up until the day she finished school; she stepped out with Jesus and made her dream happen.” I knew in my heart Jesus wanted me to write a book, and my dear friend was just the right person to inspire me to make it happen. I am now in the process of lengthening and combining each part of my story into a Christian fiction novel that I am hoping and praying every day to be able to self-publish when it is finished. The Lord is making my dreams come true, and He used that dear friend to be His messenger to inspire me to step out and make them happen. I am forever grateful and thankful to Him for making my dreams come true and for bringing that friend into my life in the fall of 2015. She is my dearest friend and constant encouragement, she has never let adversity in her own life pull her down and crush her dreams. She has overcome a lot of things in her life, very hard things, things that would crush me, and how she has every single time trusted the Lord and overcome them has been the biggest inspiration to me. I look up to her, she is my source of inspiration and encouragement, she will never know how much she has affected my life and inspired me to dream with Jesus. My dear friend, you know who you are, I thank you for being you, the one and only you that the Lord brought into my life to inspire me to do big things for Him. I love you.
And now I am following Jesus on my biggest dream of all. A dream of becoming a missionary to the African country of Uganda. I know in my heart that the Lord has called me to be a missionary there, and I pray every single day about it. That same friend knows in her heart that the Lord has called her to Uganda as well, she has known from a very young age where as I have only known I am called there for about a year or so now. What are the “odds” that I would have just happened to find a friend who shares the same calling as I do? There are no “odds”; it was the Lord at work in my life working out His master plan. I pray, pray, and pray some more that soon my friend and I will be able to go and serve together in the beautiful country of Uganda. I know the Lord has big plans for us, but you know something else?
He has big plans for you, too.
So take those dreams you are holding in your heart that you know are from the Lord, take them and with Jesus make them happen! Don’t waste your life waiting for that ‘someday’, do it now—today. The Lord is only waiting for you to step out; will you take His hand and let Him lead you on that incredible journey?
Olivia Bell is The King’s Princess magazine columnist for the “Story Nook”, writing a continuation to her on-going book each month. She also has her own column entitled, “Serving the Lord from Craft Room to Kitchen” where monthly she shares a how-to craft tutorial from her own studio or a delicious recipe straight from her kitchen. She frequently publishes articles according to the magazine’s monthly theme, or to what the Lord is leading her to write.
Olivia is a young lady in her teens, residing in the Pacific North West. Some of her many interests include: reading God’s Word, reading and writing articles for Christian magazines, making creations for her small craft business, baking and cooking treats, photographing nature, writing letters to her many pen-pals and publishing her own, free bi-monthly Christian magazine for girls titled “Christ’s Light Magazine ~ Shining Bright In A Dark World”. To subscribe, please contact her below. She aspires to acclaim Christ’s glory and honor through everything she set’s her pen to.
This has always been one of my favorite words.
I would scribble it down on paper, using it to try out new letter art. Or I would buy notebooks and wall art that read that word. It was always just a pretty expression, a beautiful string of four letters. But there was also something special about them. I knew they were meant to always help me remember: Hope is my anchor.
Yet there are times now when I look at this word and I wonder how. I wonder why.
How can you have hope when everything is crashing around you?
Why should you hold onto hope when you don’t get what you prayed for?
I don’t understand. I don’t know how I can hold onto hope when things turn upside down.
I look around at a suffering world—a world where things most certainly aren’t as I think they should be—and I ask God why. Why so much pain?
My heart aches inside as I scroll through pictures of the destruction in Texas from the recent Hurricane Harvey. I feel heavy as I look through death tolls and areas of flooding. How can we have hope in this? I question.
I flip through the TV channels and watch as everyone talks anxiously about the hurricane getting ready to hit Florida in only a few short hours. I know people who have to evacuate and might lose their homes. I watch the TV screen as people rush to the stores to get supplies and try desperately to prepare for a storm that they can’t control. Can they find hope here?
My faith feels so small when looking at these things. These storms I can’t stop from killing innocent lives and destroying homes. What’s Your plan here, God? I want to ask.
Maybe…maybe that’s it.
We want to know His whole plan because clearly things aren’t going according to ours and we need an explanation. If He would only tell us why, we believe we will then understand. But how? For: “’My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ says the Lord. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.’” (Isaiah 55:8-9)
His ways, His thoughts, His plans…they’re all so much higher than my own. He can see the whole, grand tapestry when I can only see a small, simple piece of it.
Okay, yes, He has a plan, but…
There’s always that “but” because we so desperately want an answer when faced with such unimaginable grief.
After all: “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11)
One of the most commonly quoted verses in the Bible. God’s plans for us include good. They include hope. But how in all of this?
I still don’t understand. And then I look at Isaiah 43:2 and it tells me, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.”
Quickly reading it, my first thought is, “Great, so God’s telling us that those bad things won’t come near us and we won’t have to deal with them, so…why are we?”
But no. I read it again.
That’s not what He’s saying at all.
He says…when you pass through the waters…when you walk through the fire.
What? Where is the hope in this passage? What hope can all of the victims of these massive hurricanes hold onto?
And that’s when I see it.
The hope--the promise—it’s right there. It’s right there, shining beautiful in the midst of the pain…
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.
There it is.
I catch my breath as it hits me. Our hope is not that bad things will not happen. Our hope is not that we will be spared from the waters or the fire—all those things that threaten to break us inside. No.
Our hope is so much greater. Our hope is that even in the bad things happening around us, He is with us. Our hope is that He will never leave us. Our hope is that God has a good, good plan for our lives and, even when we don’t understand, nothing in this world can destroy that plan. This takes my breath away. The hope God is giving us has nothing to do with outside circumstances—things that change like the tides.
The hope God is giving to us is a steadfast hope. Some of the definitions or synonyms for steadfast are: firm and unwavering, reliable, constant, steady.
This hope does not change because our God, the author of our true hope and faith, does not change. (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 12:2) He is our Hope!
And that’s when we know.
Whatever comes our way, whatever struggle or pain lies ahead, we know we will be okay. We will come out unbroken because our God stands with us. He is working good in our story—even in the pain—and even if we don’t understand the purpose until heaven.
If you are a victim of Hurricane Harvey or Hurricane Irma, my heart aches for you. I can’t possibly understand what you’re going through, but I hope to encourage you by pointing you to the One who does understand. He understands every bit of your pain and looking at your pain, He weeps with you (John 11:33-35).
When you walk through the water or through the fire, take heart. He is with you. He will never let you go.
Hold onto your Hope, beloved.
*Florida, my prayers are with you tonight. God, give you strength. ♥
By far the best decision I ever made in my teenage years was to spend time in the Word of God.
I grew up in a Christian home, by the grace of God, and my mother always made Bible time a first priority in our household. Being homeschooled, Bible lessons were the first task of every day.
However, I believe that it is necessary and extremely vital to every young person's life to learn how to develop good Bible study habits on their own. It's important to create a quiet time between just you and God to actually study His Word and learn more about Him.
You can never expect to grow in a relationship, unless you invest in that relationship. If you don't invest in your relationship with God, you will not grow to be more like Him.
With that being said, the question remains: How do you study the Bible on your own? What does true Bible study mean? And where can you get tools to study on your own?
To help answer these questions, I've put together a small list of tools to help you.
1. Blue Letter Bible. If you get nothing else out of this post, at least notice this. Check out Blue Letter Bible. Like seriously, just do it. I discovered Blue Letter Bible my last year participating in the National Bible Bee (more about that later), and it is incredible. Although I used it for my study during the competition, I have continued to use BLB since in my own study, especially since I downloaded their app on my iPhone. BLB has access to so many different resources, Greek/Hebrew words and definitions, commentaries, etc. Check them out.
2. Bible Study Tools. This website resource is a great help because it has devotionals, blogs, reading plans, study tools. You name it and you can probably find it on Bible Study Tools! I use this resource a lot when studying topics for my books/articles.
3. Sermon Audio. Sermons are a great way to enhance your Bible study and help with your comprehension of what you're learning. I use Sermon Audio a lot, because you can search on the website whatever topic you're studying and it will bring up every sermon they have on that topic. Super easy to use and super fun too!
4. Commentaries. Very similar to sermons, but commentaries are more for those who prefer to read instead of listen. I love commentaries and my favorites are from Warren Wiersbe and John MacArthur. You can check out your local Christian bookstore or search online to find their commentaries.
5. YouVersion Bible app. I love this app! If you have a smart phone or other electronic device and want a great Bible app, download YouVersion. You can read the Bible in your version preference and even highlight your favorite parts. They have a "verse of the day," and you can make picture art with the verses too. My favorite part about the app however are their reading plans from some of the most popular Christian authors today.
6. Get connected. This may not necessarily be an exact resource, but it is a tool that you need in your spiritual walk and as you grow in your Bible study. In order to succeed in your resolve to develop daily spiritual disciplines, you are going to need to be connected with others seeking the same goals. Join a Bible study from your church, get your friends together for ice cream and Bible discussion, join an online Bible study community. Do whatever works best for you, but make sure you get connected with others so you have that accountability to keep pressing on.
7. The National Bible Bee. Of course, you knew it was coming. Could you really get through a post on Bible study from Isabella Morganthal and not hear about this? ;) Participating in the Bible Bee was not only influential, but also monumental in my walk with God during my teenage years. If you are between the ages of 7-18, get involved with the Bible Bee next summer and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.
Isabella Morganthal (20) is a homeschool high school graduate who loves Jesus with all of her heart. She is a drummer, writer, creative arts director, and modern-day abolitionist.