What I've been doing recently...

Studying. Lots and lots of studying for the LSAT which I'm taking June 6th. Surprisingly, I'm really not that nervous. My practice scores have been good, and I always finish with time to spare. No worries.

But to enjoy myself, I've been doing this...reading. Lots of YA, sci-fi, dystopia. It's my guilty pleasure... but yet nothing lives up to Hunger Games. I've been better with reviewing books I've read though.


My Treasure Boxes

These are my most precious treasure boxes. They are bursting open with thousands of golden words, and they're gone far too quickly.
But hopefully, some parts of them are lasting.

I have 3 books on the go right now. I can't help but read; I inhale books too easily, and they captivate me.

I have always been a slacker when it comes to devotionals. I've barely completed any of the (numerous) ones I've bought. But this time, I'm determined. I need a change, I crave a change. Change is coming my way.
This is one of the "it" Christian books out right now. I have a good friend who has been sharing her list on Facebook for a while now, and she's shared this book with many others in turn. When I saw it was only $5 on my Kindle, I couldn't resist.

Ann Voskamp is a beautiful writer. Every paragraph reads like prose with stunning imagery. And in this book she weaves the story of how she was dared to list one thousand gifts God has blessed her with, and she has now inspired so many people to do the exact same thing.

Devotions for Dating Couples
J and I just started going through this book this week. I'd been looking for something we could do together for a while now and this one caught my eye for several reasons.

Each day is a short little devotional, only a couple pages long. This is perfect for the two of us because I'm always reading multiple books at a time, and he isn't a big fan of reading. This way neither of us feels overwhelmed by it.

My second reason is that Ben Young and Dr. Samuel Adams base this book on building a stronger relationship for each individual with God first and foremost. As well, it's meant for serious couples who are looking towards marriage in the future.

Most of the reviews I read suggested this book as a good way for a couple to build a spiritual foundation together. It's one of the few out there that is written for dating couples, rather than engaged or married couples.

Lastly, it easily fits into our schedules. Monday through Friday is meant to be done on your own, while Saturday has time to discuss what you've studied throughout the week. There is no reading for Sunday, as the authors encourage couples to go to church together then. This is great for us, since we're fairly long distance right now.

Espresso with Esther
Finally, I'm going through my own study on the book of Esther. Esther has always been one of my favourite biblical characters, and her story intrigues me. This is probably obvious from the way this blog has been themed around the topics brought up in this book.

Sandra Glahn has a collection of Bible study books called the Coffee Cup Series. They're meant to be smaller books that you can fit in easily to your schedule, either as an individual or in a group. Its a small, spiral-bound book with a nice cover so it can easily fit into your bag to be carried around. As well, she includes Scripture passages in the book itself.

I'm hoping to post some reviews of these books once I'm actually finished with them.


Goodreads Giveaways

I love to read.

So much that I practically inhale books at times. I can easily read a book or two in a day, if I have the time.

When I then discovered Goodreads I was thrilled. It took me a little while to get used to the navigation of the site, but I was quickly able to start adding books to my "shelves". I love how easy it is for me to now search for new books, especially based off of ones I've already read and enjoyed.

But by far one of my favourite parts of the Goodreads site is their giveaways. Authors and publishers use this to help promote their new books, but the best part is that it translates into FREE BOOKS for Goodreads users. I've entered quite a few, and in less than a year I've won three books. It's so simple to do- if you have a Goodreads account all you have to do is select which ones you would like to enter on the Goodreads Giveaway page. Then later on if you win, you'll receive an e-mail from Goodreads.

One thing to note is that Goodreads does not mail out the books, the publisher or author is responsible for this. It does take a few weeks to have them shipped, but I haven't had any issues with it.


"Ever Grateful"

I should probably first clarify that Dayspring has become my new addiction. I love just about everything they have on there.

I've been drooling over these dishes for weeks.

I love the entire collection; but I have been seriously contemplating purchasing the place settings for weeks. (Hopefully while they're still on sale!)

The picture shows the collection with taupe; they also have a pretty green called "Wasabi".

What I love most about Dayspring's home decor are the wonderful little "reminder"  messages beautifully crafted into their designs. We are so fortunate here to have access to anything we could possibly need (and more!) and I love the idea of eating off plates that say so.


Review: One Time Blind & Conversation Starters for Teens

I've been a leader in my church's teen youth group for 2 years now.

It has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have been blessed to have in my young life. It has also been one of the hardest; but now I can see just how rewarding it is.

I am so lucky to know these teens who call me friend, who call themselves my little sisters and share their burdens and good news with me.

Every few months we organize a youth service during the regular Sunday service as a way of getting involved with the rest of the church. They like to do skits, and it came upon me to organize the skit part of the service.

My favourite resource for this is by far One Time Blind. They create content which you can buy and use for your own purposes. I buy my skits from their website and the nice part is they also have videos of them performing the skits so you can see what you're buying before you pay for it. You can show these videos as well.

The skits are written concisely and effectively get their message across. They cover a wide range of topics which are especially applicable to teens, but are moving for adults as well. They range in length from about 3 minutes up to 10 minutes. They are humorous, but poignant as well. The last time we performed a skit, people were chuckling at the appropriate parts until the ending when a few gasps were heard at the revelation. The best part? These kids have seen these skits performed elsewhere and they stand out to them so they're excited to share this with others.

The skits are priced at $10.00 each for an electronic copy (another nice thing- no shipping costs!) but they have a bundle of 3 books with 34 skits total for $50 here. I highly recommend OTB's skits and am hoping to purchase this bundle myself fairly soon!

I recently just bought these Conversation Starters for Teens cards for my personal use as well. I love the questions they have on one side of the card; topics which stem from practical, real life issues to theological questions, to just general interest topics. On the back, they have a Bible verse on the same topic to help generate discussion. These are nice to have for youth workers looking for helpful ways to bring up topics for teens to discuss openly. And right now Dayspring has them on sale for $3.99!

I am always looking for new resources such as these, and I have been so pleased with these two that I thought I would share them. If you know of any others, please share them as well!

Compassion International

This is something I am very passionate about.

The areas I study in political science tend to have a focus on international relations and theory. Poverty is one of those topics that comes up a lot; especially when I had courses entirely dedicated to wealth and poverty, and human rights.

In February 2011, I took a trip to Peru during my spring break to do volunteer work. It was the most incredible trip I have ever taken, and I'll be sharing more about it I'm sure. I have never seen such absolute poverty.

We were fortunate to be able to bring bags and bags of donations, and we were even able to directly hand them to the families. The children came out of their houses as we walked through the mountains to hold our hands and chatter on in Spanish and Quechuan to us. Most of the children were barefoot, and dirty. They were wearing clothes that had clearly been brought from previous donors, but they were just worn out. The families brought us right into their homes, where the floors were mud and the walls were clay. They were lucky to have some sheet metal to act as a roof, but that couldn't keep out the rain. Their animals stayed right in the house with them (cows, chickens, etc.) and that's just how they lived.

Since then, this has been a huge burden on my heart. So I decided to do something about it. This is something so simple and easy to do, I encourage everyone to take part.

Compassion International works in numerous countries around the world and you can sponsor a child for $38 USD, or $41 CAD. Compared to some other organizations, this one is pricier. I chose to go with Compassion for a few reasons:

  1. their transparency; I believe Compassion is a reliable charity to work with, and allow themselves to be reviewed to ensure your money is actually helping people.
  2. their religious affiliation; For those who do not support this, I would recommend World Vision. But to me, the religious aspect does not need to be separated. I love that Compassion works with local churches and provides Christian education and church involvement for these children.
  3. their sponsor trips; Every year, Compassion organizes various trips for sponsors to volunteer in the country of their sponsor child, and to actually meet their sponsor child. This is fantastic! They are providing life-changing experiences, and I think that is just wonderful.
  4. a focus on development; they put the emphasis on actually accomplishing something more than writing letters. They say that they are about more than sponsorship, but actually assisting with child development.
Since I have been to Peru, I chose to sponsor a little girl from Peru near the area where I was working. After a few more days of visiting the Compassion website, I started to consider sponsoring a second child. A bit of number crunching later, and I realized this was something I could afford. The price of sponsoring a child is so worth it. I am aware that I have been well-blessed financially, but many of the things I buy are frivolous in the big picture.

Sanctus Real's song "Lead Me" says this "don't leave them hungry for love, chasing things that I could give up". That really inspires me. We have so much here that we can easily give up, in exchange to help those that really need it.

Compassion (US website) and Compassion Canada

Please note that if you choose to sponsor a child from the American website, and you live in Canada, Compassion will transfer your sponsorship of that child to Canada! I've done this for a few reasons: I started with the US website because I didn't realize Canada had a website at first. Plus right now, Dayspring is giving out $30 gift cards to those who sponsor from the US website (I'm not sure if this applies to Canada as well). Transferring your sponsorship is so easy, plus it is then tax-deductible and faster to send letters.
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