3 Books I Read This Week & What I Plan to Read Next Week (+ win a stack of books!)


3 Books I Read This Week:

Unstoppable — All in all, there was a lot of food for thought, motivation, and inspiration in this book. I think it would be especially encouraging for those who feel called to do something but are struggling because it’s hard, and heavy, and discouraging, at times. It encouraged me to keep going, keep running the race I’ve been called to, and keep persevering even on those days when I really want to give up.

This was one of my favorite parts of the book…

3 Books I Read This Week

Help Me, Jesus! I Have Nothing to Wear! — I heard the author speak at a conference not too long ago and loved her suggestions and tips for dressing well. I was so inspired, in fact, that I went and bought her book and had her do my color analysis at the end of her session. This book is a fun read with lots of pictures and practical application.

I didn’t necessarily agree with all of the conclusions, but I love how it helped me further formulate what my style is and how I can put outfits together in a way that compliment my shape, height, and personality. And it’s a good thing I had this help because I had to spent quite a bit of time working on putting outfits together this week (see my Instagram picture here for more details!)

The Cricket in Times Square — This book was a huge hit at our house with all the kids. It starts out a little slowly but quickly picks up into a fast-paced adventure that all of our kids loved. They would beg me to read extra every day because they enjoyed it so much. And we were very sad when we finished the last chapter.

3 Books I Read This Past Week

9 Books I’m Reading This Week:

Parenting the Wholehearted Child — Can I be really honest with you? Parenting books aren’t my favorite genre. In fact, I typically steer clear of them.

I was raised in an age and culture where many families followed parenting books and discipline plans to a tee and, well, much of the fruit from all that didn’t turn out so great. It left a bad taste in my mouth for the whole “follow steps A, B, and C as a parent and you’ll be a Godly family/good parent” etc.

So yes, I kinda prefer to stay far away from anything that remotely resembles a system or method of parenting. Because I truly have come to believe that there are no one-size-fits-all plans.

At any rate, I was hesitant to start this book because it fell under the “parenting book” genre. But I’m so glad that I did. I’m two chapters in and it is honestly turning out to be one of the best non-fiction books I’ve read in a long time.

I just want to sit and read the whole thing in one sitting. But on the other hand, I want to process it slowly so that I can take it all in!

She Reads Truth Lent Study/Bible — I am loving the Lent study so far… as I have loved all the She Reads Truth studies. Seriously, one of the best things I’ve invested in for my personal spiritual development and relationship with God ever.

3 Books I Read This Week

Stepping Heavenward — My new friend, Allison Burr, (who is not only been a huge blessing to my life by helping me with some business projects but is moving from Minnesota to just 15 minutes away from me this very weekend — I’m so excited!) sent me this book and said it was one of her very favorites ever. Can you believe I’ve never read it? I’m working on remedying that stat.

The Imagination Station: Book 16 — All the kids have been anxious for me to start this one ever since it showed up in our mailbox!

Love Without Limits – For years, Nick Vujicic has been a huge inspiration to me. I was excited to see that he had gotten married and is a dad now and am looking forward to reading this book from he and his wife.

The Relational Soul — This book came highly recommended to me by a friend. It looks intriguing and I can’t wait to start it.

Lizzy & Jane — So far, I’ve found this to be really engaging!

Long Walk to Freedom & Kaffir Boy — I’m slowly working through these as I seek to understand more about South African history.

See all the books I’ve read so far in 2015 here.

3 Books I Read This Past Week

Who Wants to Win FREE Books?

Leave a comment telling us what you read recently and you could win the stack of books shown above + a $5 Starbucks gift card!

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Listia: Trade in stuff you no longer need & earn free gift cards!


Have you tried out Listia before? It’s a site where you can list items you have that you no longer need or use and then you can earn free credit that you can cash in for gift cards — including Amazon gift cards!

Read more about how Listia works here.

Have you tried Listia before? If so, I’d love to hear about your experiences!

(Note: The links in this post are affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy here.)
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48-Hour Giveaway: Aubrey Organics Age-Defying Moisturizer (12 winners)

aubrey organics

Looking for a new moisturizer? You’ll want to be sure to sign up for this giveaway!

Aubrey Organics Age-Defying Moisturizer is a preventative moisturizer that protects skin from environmental stressors and reduces the appearance and depth of wrinkles giving you firmer, younger-looking complexion.

The ingredient list for this moisturizer includes sea buckthorn (a powerful antioxidant) and golden seaweed to protect your skin from sun and pollution, while carnosine (an amino acid) and milk thistle work to firm your complexion and smooth fine lines and wrinkles with twice daily use.


Use coupon code MSM25 to get 25% off any Age-Defying Moisturizer purchase (expires 3/31). Plus, get free shipping on orders over $25.

Find out more about Aubrey Organics Age Defying Moisturizer here.

Would you like to enter to win some Aubrey Organics Age-Defying Moisturizer? Just click on the graphic below and type in your name and email address. 12 winners will be chosen and posted next week. This giveaway ends Saturday, March 1, at 11:59 pm, CST.

Enter the Giveaway

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Gretchen’s $47 Grocery Shopping Trip and Weekly Menu Plan



1 bag Whole Carrots – $0.99

1 bag Red Grapes – $1.98

1 bag Spinach – $1.79

1 carton Mushrooms – $1.49

1 pkg (3 per pack) – Zucchini – $1.49

2 bag Chocolate Chips – $1.59 each

1 can Black Beans – $0.59

1 Frozen Orange Juice – $1.19

1 lb Ground Turkey – $1.89

1 Baking Powder – $0.99

1 Half & Half – $1.89

1 pkg Rice Cakes – $1.29

1 pkg Strawberries – $1.69 (I bought these before I went to Green Acres and saw the marked down strawberries.)

2 Grapefruit – $0.59 each

Total with tax ($1.55): $23.18

DSC_0050Green Acres Market

2 pkg Strawberries – Marked down to $0.99 each

1 pkg Organic SuperGreens – Marked down to $0.99

Total with tax ($0.23): $3.20



1 Russel Stover Marshmallow Egg – $0.50, used Free e-coupon (no longer available) – Free after coupon

1 Juicy Fruit Starburst Gum – $1.29, used Free e-coupon (no longer available) – Free after coupon (These free gum coupons are sure coming in handy as rewards for my Awana girls each week!)

1 Dream Blends Milk – $2.25, used $2/1 printable – $0.25 after coupon

0.60 lbs Broccoli – $1.13

0.63 lbs Tomatoes – $0.81

1 gallon Milk – $2.59, used $0.40 Ibotta rebate – $2.19 after rebate

1 Kroger Sandwich Slims – $1.79

1 pkg Corn Tortillas – $1.77

1 Kroger Greek Yogurt – $3.39

1 Kroger Mouthwash – $1.49, used Free mailer coupon – Free after coupon

1 Kroger Spaghetti Sauce – $1

0.93 lbs Asparagus – $1.85

2 Cucumbers – $0.79 each

1 Romaine Lettuce – $0.99

3 Mom’s Best Cereal – $1.50, used $0.50/1 e-coupon – $1.33 each after coupon

Total with tax ($1.44) after coupons and rebate: $21.18

Total for all grocery items: $47.66 

Menu Plan for This Week


Cereal x 2

Toast & Eggs x 3

Biscuits & Gravy, Eggs, Orange Juice

10-Minute Stovetop Granola, Fruit


Peanut Butter & Jelly Rice Cake Sandwiches, Tossed Salad x 2

Fruit/Crackers/Cheese/Veggies x 2

Leftovers, Spinach Smoothies

Cheese Quesadillas, Fruit/Veggies

Sautéed Veggies with Spaghetti Sauce


Mexican Lasagna, Steamed Peas, Strawberries

Chicken Pot Pie, Tossed Salad

Veggie and Chicken Stirfry, Oatmeal Muffins

3-Cheese Ziti with Turkey, Steamed Broccoli

Steak Fajita Sandwiches, Grapefruit

Ground Venison Vegetable Soup, Crackers, Cheese Slices

Out to eat

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I found my happiest place on earth!

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The second to last day in South Africa, we visited the Maubane Community and participated in their children’s church service. There are not words to describe how incredible this experience was.

You see, most of these children live right across the street from this colorful playground (that you helped build!) in little homes — mostly made of cast-off supplies they’ve recycled into building materials. Many of these children don’t have parents or their parents are working in the city so they don’t see them but maybe on the weekends.

The majority of these children know hunger and want as a daily part of their lives. They have very few possessions and very little to look forward to. Despite all that, every Sunday, these children gather with Pastor Norman for an exuberant children’s church service.

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To see these children joyfully and enthusiastically clapping and shouting and singing about the goodness of God… it was soul stirring.

I didn’t understand a lot of the words they were saying and shouting and singing at the top of their lungs, but I didn’t need to. Their enthusiasm, their heart, their hope, their happiness all spoke louder than words ever could.

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After they were finished with their church service, the toddlers were called over to line up for food. They had a very special treat that day — Walkie Talkies (i.e. chicken feet & chicken beaks). The leaders there told me that it is rare for them to have meat so this was a very special occasion for them. {Take Action Ministries paid for some of the locals to make this for them as a treat because we were going to be there visiting.}

The leaders also told me that they have the toddlers line up first to give the older children a short break from caring for their younger siblings. Since there are so few parents around in this community on a daily basis, the older children often have to look after their younger siblings much of the time.

These older children shoulder a great deal of responsibility and burden and the church leaders try to give them a break as often as they can by having the toddlers all line up and sit down to eat together so the older kids can talk and play together.

We spent some time hanging out with the older kids. Taking pictures, laughing, talking, and even being quite goofy (as those who know me well know I am an expert at!)

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I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but pretty soon, different children just randomly started coming up to me and hugging me. From the littlest ones to the teens, they all seemed desperate for love and affection. And the more kids who hugged me, the more the line grew of kids wanting to be hugged.

As more and more children hugged me and held on tightly, my heart began feeling like it just might rip into shreds. I tried to look into each child’s eyes and also speak words of life:

“You are loved.”

“You matter.”

“God has something special for you to do.”

“I love you.”

I felt so overwhelmed by the needs. It wasn’t just the need for food and shelter and clothes and schooling. More than any of that, these children are starving for love. To know that someone cares about them. To know that they have value.

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As I found myself surrounded by these beautiful children, I wanted to just weep and laugh at the same time. Because I knew then and there that, going forward, one of my callings in life would be to see to it that none of these children in the Maubane Community go hungry again.

That none of them die from disease. That none of them miss out on an education. But most importantly, that I do all I can to provide opportunities for them to know that they are loved — not only by other people, but by a Heavenly Father who created them and has infused them with gifts and talents and worth.

Right there, on the red dirt of South African soil in that huddle of children, I discovered my happiest place on earth.

Somewhere deep in my soul, I felt right at home. Right where I was supposed to be. Doing what I was created to do. The only that would have made it more complete would have been to have my husband and children by my side experiencing it with me.


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When I finally had to say goodbye, I could barely keep back the tears. One boy who was around 13 years old asked me, “Why are you going?”

I thought, “Trust me, child, I’m asking the same thing!”

But instead, I told him: “I will come back.”

And, by the grace of God, I will. I will come back as often as I can. And when I’m not there I will carry the stories and the faces and the hugs with me everywhere I go.

Because I left part of my heart behind in South Africa. And I will never be the same.

P.S. Thank you, thank you, thank you to each of you who have joined me in this cause that I have become fiercely passionate about. I know not everyone has the wiggle room in your budget to give money and not everyone is called to give to this project, but you have no idea how humbly grateful and excited I am that 130 of you have joined Lisa-Jo and me in making a difference in these poor communities in South Africa!

Your partnership in the #TenDollarTribe is going to make a major difference in the lives of all of the children you see pictured in this post plus many more. And it thrills my heart!

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