Oct 14, 2015

a little break . . .

Beautiful Hope Blog is taking a break until November since this girl is getting married this weekend!!

Here's some posts on lessons I've learned during the engagement seasons": #From Miss To Mrs

Oct 8, 2015

Guest Post: The Journey of Ruth

Earlier this week, I shared a review about a new book for teen girls called Beauty, Boys, and Ball Gowns. Today, I am so honored to have Olivia "Livy" Jarmusch, the author of the book, sharing a guest post!


Everyone has experienced a season in life where the dry places of the heart feel just like a desert.  Spiritual rain is scarce, bitter pain destroys flowers of hope, and confusion clouds any rays of sunlight.  

As the Book of Ruth opens, we find Naomi trapped in a season like this. The fresh pain of widowhood is piercing her heart, as well as the staggering blow of losing her two sons. 

Hope was nowhere to be seen on Naomi's radar.  "I went away full, but the Lord has brought me back empty." {Ruth 1:21

All of her cisterns had run dry. All joy was gone. 
She was so deep in the pit of depression that she desired to change her name to Mara, which means bitterness. Naomi felt all alone. But little did she know, that there was someone who could totally relate with her lot in life.
Her daughter-in-law, Ruth. Ruth had also lost everything she cherished and loved so dearly. The husband of her youth was taken from her, and now she had nowhere to turn.

Naomi advised her daughter-in-love to go find a new husband, "I'm going back to my homeland. But you're still young! You have time! Don't waste your life grieving with me. Make the most of what you still have." 

Despite Naomi's compelling speech to leave her and go find a new man, Ruth had something else in mind.  Ruth replied, "Don't urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God." {1:16

Ruth's faithfulness and devotion here goes far beyond a simple act of friendship and kindness. This is Ruth pounding her stakes in the ground, setting her firm resolve, making a lifelong commitment to serving this woman.  "I'm not leaving you. Where you die, I'll die, and where you're buried, I will be buried." That's some gutsy love. That's the kinda friendship that remains. That's the tenacity that Jesus requires of us, when He commands us to take up our cross and follow Him {Matthew 16:24}.

This same spirit of devotion urged Peter to follow Christ, even to the point of martyrdom. This same cry, "I'll follow You anywhere!" echoed through the heart of Thomas as he ministered in India, and Asia before being brutally murdered for his faith. This is what kept Paul rejoicing in the midst of his chains and beatings. 

This is what keeps a young girl on her high school campus, boldly speaking out for Christ, despite all the teasing. This is what keeps a young man pure until marriage, in spite of the sinful temptation this world has to offer. This is what keeps the missionary going, pouring herself out, and loving until there's nothing left. This is what keeps the pastor preaching truth, on the days when nobody shows up. This is what keeps us lifting our hands, singing songs of praise, and seeking His face in the midst of our dry seasons. 

When we cry frustrated tears, and it feels like Heaven is silent, we choose to press on; 
"I will follow You anywhere Lord. Where else can I go? You are the One who has the Words of life. Where You go I'll go, You are my God and my King, and my life is yours forever!" 

Just like Ruth, we must daily make the choice to be committed to our King. 

Ruth and Naomi took the long journey from Moab, back to Bethlehem; despite all the questions, pain and bitterness. What they didn't know is that God had something absolutely beautiful in store for them. Just up the road, a grand adventure was about to unfold. 

The same is true for you, sister! The desert isn't going to last forever. This road isn't going to lead you to more disappointment and pain.  If you're following Jesus, keep moving forward
This is only the beginning of the story! The Author is weaving together a most beautiful tale! All it takes, is a few more steps down this dusty road. The page is about to turn, and an exciting chapter will begin! 
Once the two arrived in Bethlehem, things didn't look much better. They were still hungry, they still had to do life, and they still hurt on the inside. 

The only upside to their scenario, was that they arrived just in time for the barley harvest. Naomi advised Ruth to choose a field, settle her attention there, and start gleaning. The fields were full of harvesters, hustling and bustling around, leaving an ample amount of grain behind for widows, orphans, and strangers in Israel. Those who had nothing were free to glean and take home whatever they could find left over. 

Ruth entered the field of a man named Boaz, and he expressed much kindness and favor towards her. She returned home with her hands full, carrying more than enough for both her and Naomi. Boaz promised that she could stay there, gleaning as much as she needed, until the harvest was over. 

The Lord is so faithful to provide for us, even in the midst of our most dry and desperate seasons. When we glean in the fields of our Lord, feasting on His Word, there is always more than enough. The Lord's generosity is overwhelming. His kindness is too much to process. His love leaves us speechless. 

Sister, if you are trapped in a season of feeling alone or discouraged, it's time to head out into the field. God's Word is RIPE and ready for you to glean from! He desires to minister to you, feed your heart, water it, and refresh your soul. The Lord doesn't want you to feel orphaned and widowed. He wants to generously provide for you; physically, emotionally, and spiritually. You are His princess, and He cares so deeply for you! He has so much to give. All you have to do is step into His presence and receive it. 

The Lord is faithful to give you everything that you need. But there comes a time in a girls life where she must step into the Royal Throne Room of the King, and boldly petition Him for things that she desires and dreams about seeing unfold in the future.  

Truth is, Ruth couldn't live off manna forever. Harvest season was nearly over, and Naomi wanted to make sure that she was thinking of the future. Naomi said, "My daughter, I must find a home for you, where you will be well provided for. Now Boaz, with whose women you have worked, is a relative of ours. Tonight he will be winnowing barley on the threshing floor.  Wash, put on perfume, and get dressed in your best clothes. Then go down to the threshing floor, but don’t let him know you are there until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, note the place where he is lying. Then go and uncover his feet and lie down. He will tell you what to do.” (3:1-4) 

Boaz was in a special position to possibly rescue Ruth from her widowed state. As a unique family member called a "Kinsmen Redeemer", he had the ability to redeem everything that was broken and shattered in her life. Jesus can do the same for us!  On the cross, Jesus offered the free gift of redemption for anyone who receives it.  On the cross, Jesus completely destroyed the curse and written code against us {Col 2:14}, and opened up the gates of Heaven! He has promised every resource of Heaven {check out Ephesians 1:3}, but we must ask! Jesus said, "Until now you have asked for nothing in my name, ask and you will receive so that your joy may be full." {John 16:24}  

It took boldness for Ruth to enter the threshing floor in the middle of the night and risk it all by laying down at Boaz's feet (an act of submission). We must possess the same bold faith when we enter the courts of the King, by making our requests known with whole-hearted faith! It is impossible to please God without faith. 

But how can a girl have faith and expect better things for the future, when in the past, everything hasjust crashed down around her? When life has been difficult in the past, hope deferred tries to make our heart sick, with thoughts of discouragement like, "I've been stuck in this situation for so long. I don't know how things are ever going to change, I feel like God isn't even listening to me anymore." But hope must rise up in our souls as we encounter our Kingsmen Redeemer. We must pray with the strength we have left, 

"Lord, fill me with hope! You have promised to care for every detail in my life, and You have been faithful to provide all I need, but these dreams stirring inside of my soul feel so impossible. I desire to see You move in my life in such a mighty and powerful way, so that it's totally undeniable that it was You! I'm asking for You to do the impossible, by making these God-sized dreams come true!  I know that a desire fulfilled is a tree of life, so encourage me Lord, and help my unbelief! Strengthen me when I get weak, and so tired, and don't feel the desire to fight for these dreams. Don't let the lioness of courage inside of me shrink back in fear. Remind me that You are the King of the jungle! I will NOT be afraid because my Daddy is King.  Raise me up to be all that You've created me to be, to speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Give me the courage to fight for the rights of all who are destitute, for the poor, the needy, and those who are in much worse situations than I am. FIll me with Your Spirit of boldness! I give You my brokenness, and ask for deeper healing. Be my swift strength. (That's what the name "Boaz" means!) 
My soul clings to You, and my heart hopes in You alone. I know You will not disappoint me!"

In Ruth's story, Boaz was faithful to ride in and save the day. Just at her lowest point, He proved himself faithful. He abundantly answered her request and happily took Ruth as his wife, redeeming all that was lost. They had a son, and Ruth was no longer unfruitful. Her heart was full and satisfied.  Naomi was also so full of joy as she welcomed her grandson into the world.  

Sweet sister, the Lord has GOOD things in store for you. His plan for you is more beautiful than you could ever dream. Don't listen to the voice of deception that says, "It's hopeless." 

 Just like Ruth, you are on a journey. Whether you're just leaving Moab, the land of heartbreak; gleaning at the field of God's goodness; mustering up the courage to make a Kingdom Request, standing in the place of faith that He will come through; or rejoicing because your Boaz has blessed your life with joy ... the journey you're on is beautiful. Embrace every moment and bless the Lord with each breath, because no matter where you're at, the King is forever faithful!

About the Author:
Livy is a dreamer, singer, songwriter and orphan advocate. As the founder of Crown of Beauty Magazine, her passion is to teach young women about their royal identity in Christ. She loves fairy-tales, the smell just after it rains, golden retriever puppies and peppermint ice-cream cones. She's currently raising funds to build an orphanage for her precious princess sisters in India! To donate or find out how you can get involved, visit www.crownofbeautymagazine.com 

Oct 6, 2015

Book Review // Beauty, Boys, and Ball Gowns

Beauty, Boys, and Ball Gowns
by Olivia Lynn Jarmusch (& 12 contributors)
(check it out on Amazon)

Recently, I was approached by Olivia, the founder of an online magazine for Christian girls called Crown of Beauty Magazine, to review a chapter of an new book called Beauty, Boys, and Ball Gowns. The book is written by Olivia as well as twelve contributors from the online magazine. Fun advise and interviews  from women who are well-known within the Christian community such as Kari Job, Jill Dugger Dillard,  and Moriah Peters are also included in this gem of a book. 

Beauty, Boys, and Ball Gowns is targeted towards teenage girls and covers topics such as singleness, identity in Christ, and how they can be a light within their community. From the chapter excerpt that was emailed to me, I can tell it is a book focused on the Bible and will be very encouraging for teen girls as they wrestle with different fears and worries that linger during teen years and beyond.  It is easy to understand and relatable. As a teenager (many moons ago), I would have really enjoyed this book. 

Olivia used an analogy of our invitation into God's royal family from John 1:9-13. What an awesome reminder that the King of Kings calls us to be His children, to be royalty, not because of anything we have done in our own merit, but because of who He is and what He has done.  Olivia depicts this truth beautifully and this is the bedrock of the book, that our identity as God's children gives us our worth.

I really liked how Olivia explained  that when our eyes are not on the King, they are often distracted by fears, lies, and sin that the enemy Satan tries to use against us. But to re-set our gaze on King Jesus, we are to "seek the kingdom first", as it is said in Matthew 6.  She explains that  "to seek the kingdom is to seek the King.  Jesus is the heartbeat of the kingdom".  And the best way to get to know this King Jesus is through the Bible, which is all about Jesus.  She also shares other ways to persue Jesus including prayer journaling, singing praises to Him on your own along with in communal worship, praying specifically for certain people and praying through scripture, and being intentional about  having times of avoiding media and other distractions to have a "coffee date" with the King where you are focused on Him and meditating on His truths. I like that Olivia was very intentional in showing practical ways to "seek the kingdom".

She then switches to discussing singleness and how God's royal daughters are precious jewels that are set-apart. I loved how she went to the book of Job, where in chapter 28, Job talks about hidden jewels that are only found when searched for, and that only God knows where these jewels are.  God's precious daughters are not display-shelf faux jewels, but rather, they are precious hidden jewels, who God knows and loves deeply. They are set-apart for godly men who will search God first and find these precious jewels in that pursuit. What a comfort that single girls and women are held in the safe hands of God (Psalm 139:10) and He guides them to the right men in His perfect timing. The author encourages single girls that in their "hidden" seasons, when it seems like no prince is in sight, to allow themselves "to be humbled and changed in the hidden, secret place. Dirt is the place that diamonds are discovered. Let God use your singleness to create something breathtakingly beautiful". I know how hard some days were as a single girl in my teens and twenties, and this is such a hopeful way to look at the season of singleness. 

This was a great chapter from the upcoming book, Beauty, Boys, and Ball Gowns. I look forward to hearing more about this book! And I love that these women are donating $5 of each book sale to an orphanage for girls in India! What an encouraging and beautiful project these women put together to come in unity to write a book to strengthen and pour love on young women who will read through the pages! If you have a teen girl in your life (a sister, cousin, Bible study buddy), this is definitely a book to pick up and gift to her! 

Stay tuned for later this week when Olivia does a guest post here at Beautiful Hope Blog!

Oct 2, 2015

October Goals + Journal of a Miss to Mrs

Yes, so glad indeed, especially for this October! FIFTEEN more days until I get married to my blessing & joy, Greg! With a jam-packed September behind us, we are ready to get this show on the road! 

September was quite possibly the busiest month of 2015 so far! My parents and I drove 2,000 miles to Texas with all my belongings and I unpacked them in the apartment that will be our home once we are married (and was hosted by two different friends during my stay; so thankful for their hospitality!), lots of wedding planning and cutting things off our Wedding To-Do List, and two wedding showers in Texas! Whew! It was a whirlwind, but an exciting and joyful one!

Greg and I have been discussing for several months during our engagement that we want our wedding day to be as stress-free as possible. We are realistic and know that stuff will come up and that our wedding won't be perfect, but at the same time, believe that we can take purposeful steps to decrease as much stress as we can.  

In September, we took a few steps towards preparing our hearts and minds for our wedding day and, even more importantly, our marriage:

1. We have been praying for our wedding day, which has been so awesome to come unified as a couple, and pray for our families, the messages that will be spoken at the ceremony, the friends and families who will be traveling to get to our wedding, etc. It has brought a lot of peace and joy in my heart by linking hands with Greg and praying intentionally for our Big Day. 

2.  We have been looking back at specific times that God has been faithful in our lives, both individually as well as together as a couple. It is so humbling and encouraging to see God's strong hands upholding us through many rough waters and bringing so much joy in our lives. It gives us joyful anticipation and hope for what is to come!

3.  We have been going through You & Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan, which has been an awesome resource of deep, heartfelt conversations and prayers, especially the discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

4. We had awesome premarital counseling sessions with Greg's pastor of singles & college ministries, who will be one of the officiants at our wedding. We discussed topics like finances, expectations, family boundaries, serving and respecting one another, healthy conflict management, and spiritual growth within marriage. It brought up great discussions! I recommend anyone who is getting married to pursue premarital counseling! Such a great tool for preparing for the rest of your life with your spouse-to-be! 

5. We asked for help. We have wonderful family and friends who have been offering to help with DIY, coordinating, and all sorts of other help, and we are so thankful! We can't do this alone and we are so thankful for people who love us dearly and are rooting for us to have not only a beautiful wedding, but a blessed and beautiful marriage. I am especially thankful for my friend Jen, who is my Day-Of Coordinator, and has been an immense help in preparing for the wedding so that I won't have to make any planning decisions or trouble-shooting on our wedding day.

We hope to carry these onward through October as we draw near to the wedding, but even further as we come back from the honeymoon and get used to real life as newlyweds.  

Here's a quick review of last month's goals and then a few for October!


September Goals

1.  Post about our  Yellowstone family trip that we took back in July
Nope. I just did not have the time. This will have to wait for November

2.  Post 2-3x/week for Bailey's Blog-tember Challenge (see the first 3 I did so far)
I posted THIRTEEN Blog-tember posts, plus 2 others in September = 15 posts. That's the most I've ever blogged in one month! It was an awesome challenge during quite possibly the busiest month of the year!

3.  Read 3 books, which should be do-able since I have a 2-day trek to Texas next week!
Yes! I read FOUR! Read the reviews I posted!

4. Start "Seven Sacred Pauses" where I stop and have selah moments throughout the day to rest and refocus on the Lord rather than on stress. Even if I do just 2-3 pauses a day, it has been helping this week already with my stress level!
I did this the first week of September and it was SO good to refocus my time and spend a few minutes throughout the day to read and pray through specific Psalms. I hope to do this again in October!

5. Work on two photobooks for my parents that they've requested of recent vacations.
Nope! I will get to this in November 

6. Work on our wedding slideshow
Yes! Thisclose to finishing! 

7. Apply for pediatric nurse practitioner and/or RN jobs in Texas
Nope! I looked a bit, but this will have to wait until November!

8.  Exercise 2-3x/week with a mix of jogging, pilates, and strength-training
Yes! Roughly 1-2x/week, but it still counts! I have been feeling great on days I invest time in working out & it helps with stress management and sleep (among so many other things, of course!)

9.  Eat cleaner and increase my protein intake  (I really don't eat enough protein)
YES! I am pretty proud of this one! I have been feeling SO good on the days I have been eliminating or atleast drastically decreasing my starch intake. I like my pastas, cereal, bread, etc., so this has been tough in the past. But once I saw how big a difference the days I avoid starch vs the days I eat them, it was enough motivation for me to continue being more cautious.

10. Set aside a day per week that Greg and I are praying intentionally for our wedding day to be a day of joy rather than busyness, chaos, and stress.
Yes! We want to continue this in October, but like I said earlier, it has been awesome to pray intentionally about our wedding day!


October Goals

1.  Do another week (or atleast 3-4 days) of  "Seven Sacred Pauses" where I stop and have selah moments throughout the day to rest and refocus on the Lord rather than on stress (even if I do just 2-3 pauses a day)

2. Exercise 1-2x/week and continue clean-eating as much as possible, avoiding foods I know will make me feel sick (starches, potatoes, beans).

3. Continue praying with Greg for our wedding day and our marriage.

4. Read and discuss 1-2 chapters of You & Me Forever by Francis and Lisa Chan

5. Do a juice detox 

6. Meet with out-of-town friends for atleast a few minutes the day(s) before the wedding since the wedding day will be so busy. 

7. Be as stress-free as we can on our wedding day by continuing the game plan we started in September (especially prayer and digging into the Word!)

8. Continue She Reads Truth's study on 4 of Paul's letters (finished Galatians, working on Ephesians, then is Philippians and Colossians). 

9. Challenge myself to plan as little as possible for our honeymoon in Maui. I am a planner, but this is going to be relaxing, and Greg has done an awesome job of planning the trip so far. It'll be fun to be spontaneous, which is very unlike me, but I am ready to try it! :) 

10. Write to my Compassion Child ( I slacked in September!)

Some highlights from September:
- 2,000 road trip to Texas with my parents to move all my belongings 
- Our parents meeting for the first time
- Tea Party Bridal Shower with San Antonio gals!
- Being hosted by my sweet friend Lea for 1 week and Cristina for the 2nd week in Texas! So many great conversations and encouragement from them both!
- Spending the daytime unpacking and "nesting" some of my feminine flair in our soon-to-be home
- Cooking healthy meals for Greg and I 
- A huge wedding shower in Houston & time with Greg's family while in H-town!
- Spending quality time with Greg as we prepped for our wedding day. It was SO awesome to do wedding planning while in the same state!!! It had been tough doing it through long-distance and was so fun while we were together in San Antonio!

Oct 1, 2015

September Book Reviews

September was an eclectic reading month. Parisian recipes with a love story to boot, cruelty and terror in Nazi-occupied Paris, a guide for girls in dating & seeking God first, and the end of the Narnian world … I bounced around through genres but enjoyed every one of my September books for different reasons.

Lunch in Paris: A Love Story with Recipes
Elizabeth Bard
Written as an ode to Parisian cuisine and it's co-starring role in her love story with her husband, Lunch In Paris is a delight! Bard is an excellent author with humor, candor, and depth. It goes beyond a cookbook or romance. Bard shares fears of never measuring up to her own standards after having difficulties with finding a job post-grad school as well as discusses grieving family members who have passed. She weaves it all together in this beautiful book that is dear to my heart. Dig in, bon appetit!

Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris
Alex Kershaw
This true life spy tale is gripping, heartbreaking, and awe-inspiring. It's an emotional roller-coaster that I am glad I endured because it opened my eyes to Paris' dark history during the Nazi Occupation from 1940-1945. The story revolves around American physician Sumner Jackson, his wife, and his young son, who soon find themselves surrounding by Nazi when the Germans occupy the ritzy Avenue de Foch near the Arc de Triomphe, which is coincidentally the Jackson Family's street they live on. Dr. Sumner and his wife begin using their hospital and home as meeting places for people escaping France as well as for the Allies intelligence. They risk their comfort and their very lives for freedom. 

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free through Blogging for Books in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Chase: Trusting God with Your Happily Ever After
Kyle and Kelsey Kupecky
Written to target teenage girls, The Chase is a great book that helps girls direct their attention away from guys and instead towards Jesus. It continually, even when discussing their own love story, points to Jesus and how His unfailing love should be the love that matters most. Kyle and Kelsey share mistakes from previous dating relationships as well as lessons they've learned,  and waiting for the right person even when they were lonely in high school and college years. Their book is hopeful and encouraging, and the language is easy to understand for teens. Their honesty makes them relatable and approachable, which brings more depth to the book. I would definitely recommend it for any teenage girl who wants to grow in her love for the Lord and trusting in His provision for an earthly love story.

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for free through Icon Media Books in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Last Battle
C.S. Lewis
I made a blunder and read The Last Battle (the last Narnia book) instead of The Silver Chair (the second to last), so I was a bit confused during a few references to the latter, but still enjoyed it. The Last Battle has a much different feel than any other Narnia book. It is darker and apocalyptic for the last days of Narnia. There are lots of Biblical pictures, especially from Revelations that are thought-provoking and masterfully created (as only Lewis can do!).  I would definitely recommend reading this after the other Narnia books since there were a few references I was oblivious to.


Currently Reading

You & Me Forever 
Francis and Lisa Chan

Surprised by Joy
C.S. Lewis