Tuesday, August 23, 2016

My Three Favorite Books Revealed | Secrets of a Bookworm No. 2

It's Tuesday, which means it's time for another Secrets of a Bookworm. It's a Q&A sesh all about books and reading! Today's question comes from literally everyone who has ever found out I like to read. :P

     The most common question a bookworm is asked is "What is your favorite book?" It's also the most dreaded question.

     How can a bookworm pick a single all-time favorite when they've devoured hundreds of books on all kind of subjects?

     It's difficult, but I have chosen. And the video has spoken. That's right. You can find the answer to today's question right here. Let me know what you think, and obviously I would love it if you subscribed to my channel and liked the two videos on books.

     So this is what it looks like when I dive into "BookTube," a group of YouTubers who could talk about books all day long. I thought you blog readers, my peeps, would enjoy seeing me go crazy over my books.

     More Secrets of a Bookworm to be revealed next Tuesday! :)


Monday, August 22, 2016

6 Ways to Enhance Your Beauty Without Makeup

     Have you ever been caught without your makeup but want to spruce up? Do you want to avoid the chemicals in makeup? Or maybe you're like me and just don't want to bother with it. (I'm an enthusiastic believer in natural beauty!)

     These tricks are a mixture of new formulas and ancient, tried-and-true beauty hacks. Give them a shot next time you need to enhance your beauty without makeup.

1. Eyelash curling ~ You may not have mascara, but a carefully curled lash will accentuate your eyes and make them look longer. The best part is that an eyelash curler only costs about $7.

2. Hair ~ Learn how to do your hair. It may just be one YouTube video a day, but you can learn how to do updos and braids. A flawless hairstyle is the perfect frame for your face.

3. CC Cream ~ Not makeup, but it's a color correcting cream, anti-aging serum, sunscreen, moisturizer, and a whole host of other things in one. I tried it because of an infomercial and really like it. My family always gives me compliments when I take a few minutes to put it on. (It's similar to a foundation but just one step and still not technically makeup, so my makeup-hating self is very happy.)

4. Water ~ Not to put on your face but to drink. Have you figured out yet that drinking water is the solution to literally everything? Well, it is, and your skincare is no exception.

5. Nail polish ~ Don't you feel 2000% more pulled together with your nails done? When your nails are on point, your beauty is on point.

6. Lipstick and blush replacement ~ This is an old trick that replaces lipstick and blush. You ready for it? Bite your lips and pinch your cheeks. Haha! Weren't expecting that, were you? It's perfect for sprucing up in the bathroom at a party because it takes like 0.0 seconds.

     There you have it: six natural ways to enhance your beauty quickly and without messing with makeup!


Friday, August 19, 2016

Amazon 2016: Pictures & Thoughts

     A month ago today, I was in Brazil, travelling along the Amazon River from village to village. It was my third trip to that beautiful place and by far the best one!

     I'm writing this post partly in preparation for the report letter that I still need to compose (so those who supported us financially and with prayer get a glimpse of what happened). You blog readers are the best, so you're my test group. :)

     I worked with the eyeglass ministry the first day, and quickly considered myself in charge of organizing it/staffing it every day. I also went out with an evangelism team several times. Those are teams of about three Americans and a translator who go hut-to-hut to meet the villagers and share the gospel.

Here's a goofy picture of me that one of my friends took by pointing the camera in my face with no warning. Thanks a lot!

Hammock selfie! (I hope all these pictures make up for no June or July photo recap!)

Typical terrain

This is the most parrot-y parrot I have ever seen in person. And isn't this what you think of when you think of the Amazon jungle? Too perfect!

We were watching the villagers play the boat (us), and they tied 2-2.

We organized our teenage girls' ministry that day too, and it was awesome!

Eek! So touristy. Sorry, guys. I'm tacky. But this yellow house made me so stinkin' happy!

This gorgeous sky!

     And what did God teach me? I'm so glad you asked.

     He taught me about the body of Christ. He showed me Himself in the people, nature, and time alone with Him. He taught me about patience and perseverance. He supplied me with the fruit of the Spirit, and I know that Spirit controlled me the whole time. He taught me about spiritual warfare and being an adult. He taught me what it means to be accountable to the God of the universe for every single one of my actions. He taught me that prayer is vital, and His will and way are the best.

     So there's a snippet of my trip and an explanation for why I didn't get around to posting in July. (July 1-12: trip prep. July 13-22: trip. July 23-31: trip recovery.)

     Alright, Madeline, get your act together and go write that letter now. :)


Thursday, August 18, 2016

6 Ways to Be a Gentleman

Call a boy a gentleman and watch his shoulders straighten. Call a girl a lady and watch her spirit turn graceful. Humanity was brought into existence by God speaking words into the void of the universe. We tend to become what we are called. 
~The Medicine of Hope 
     This one's for the men, "by a lady," as Jane Austen would say. I don't have impossible standards for a gentleman. All these things, like my 6 Ways to Be a Lady, are qualities you can cultivate in your life. As always, we will start with what the Lord says about men.

     1 Timothy 6:11-12a says, "But you, man of God, flee from all this and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith."

     I won't preach at you, but you get the idea for God's calling for you men. And here are 6 ways to be a gentleman:

     1. Focus on others. Unselfishness is a dying art. When your focus is on serving others and meeting their needs, gentlemanliness follows. Don't ask if we want help; just jump in and help! But never open doors or help carry things just to impress people. If your heart truly desires to help, that is a step in the right direction.

     2. Be humble. Yes, sometimes girls are going to reject your help. Hopefully not, if they are ladies. But still, it may happen. Or people will just be downright mean to you for no reason. Remember in these tricky situations that "humility comes before honor" (Proverbs 18:12, 15:33). It might be best to just take a step back. And never be unkind because someone was unkind to you!

     3. Protect. Be the one who stands in the gap for the defenseless. Don't just protect your girlfriend or mother or wife. Protect anyone who needs it. Protect them from verbal abuse, physical abuse, or anything that threatens them. Protect their hearts and protect their minds.

     4. Be patient. Whether it's something as simple as waiting in line or as difficult as waiting years to get married, a true gentleman knows that God's timing is best. As you wait, redeem the time. Work on your own character in the minutes or years of waiting.

     5. Lead. Be faithful in the little things. Take responsibility for your actions. Speak words of peace. You might have to strike out all alone a few times, but your example is important. "Set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith, and in purity," reads 1 Timothy 4:12. Any young person can be a leader when they follow the Lord instead of the world. And people will follow a strong leader.

     6. Listen and speak respectfully. I'm not here to tell you to just listen all the time. That would be awful of me. Yes, we should all listen respectfully more than we do, but I also want the next generation of gentleman to speak up respectfully. You can voice your opinion. Tell us what you're thinking. And for heaven's sake, just like I told the ladies, don't be a doormat. Listen to us when we're speaking, but you can speak to us too. And when you are respectful of us, you will gain respect for yourself.

     These are all the things I would tell my brother (if he was subscribed to my blog) and will tell my son one day.

     Maybe they seem like simple things. Maybe they seem impossibly hard. But they are definitely important and make a huge difference.


Wednesday, August 17, 2016

6 Ways to Be a Lady

Call a boy a gentleman and watch his shoulders straighten. Call a girl a lady and watch her spirit turn graceful. Humanity was brought into existence by God speaking words into the void of the universe. We tend to become what we are called. 
~The Medicine of Hope 

      Being a lady isn't about nice clothes or being pulled-together all the time. It certainly isn't about trying to show the world how strong you are or embracing feminism. It isn't the polar opposite of feminism either. Today, we're turning to what Scripture says about us women.

     1 Peter 3:4 says, "it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight."

     Let's explore what this means in more detail.

     your inner self ~ Our inner self is our mind, emotions, spirit, soul. Our internal world is where all of our ladylikeness must come from. This is what is valuable in God's sight.

     the unfading beauty ~ Beauty fads come and go. Fashion changes over time. It's good to care about these things to an extent, as long as we hold fast to the beauty God is creating inside our very being.

     a gentle and quiet spirit ~ Ah! This, this is the key. We must allow God to cultivate within us spirits graced by a gentleness and quiet peace. This doesn't mean we need to be silent all the time. It means we speak His words rather than our own. It doesn't mean we need to be doormats. It means we need to have self-control when we want to lash out. So much goes into this quiet and gentle spirit, and I think we allow God to create it within us through constant prayer, submission to His Spirit and will, and saturating our minds in Scripture.

     But how can we be ladylike in our day to day? Here are six ways modern women can be ladies:

     1. Love your fellow women. Go above and beyond politeness, and truly learn to love your mother, sisters, friends, and older women in your life. You can love younger women by mentoring them and being an example to them. You can love older women by respecting their opinions and learning from them. Always be kind, and never cut down those around you. In a day and age where insecurities soar, always be gentle in your words and actions. Remember that hurt people hurt people.

     2. Be dedicated to your commitments. Honor whatever promises you make. Be faithful in the little things. Arrive on time. Do your best work, and don't let anyone convince you to do otherwise.

     3. Let the men be gentlemen. As a very independent person, I know this one is hard from first-hand experience. If a man opens a door or offers to help you carry something, humbly accept. The only exception to this rule is if he is doing it in a mocking or disrespectful way. Don't tolerate him patronizing you. But except for in those rare cases, let the men be gentlemen!

     4. Fill your mind with truth. Sometimes the evil one gets into our heads and whispers lies about us; we aren't smart, pretty, etc. Instead of listening to these lies, fill your mind with God's truth. You are valued, adored, wonderfully made, full of life, and being renewed day by day. Get into God's Word daily to make truth the order of the day.

     5. Speak gracious words. As girls and women, we often try to impress others with our words, or our tongues just run away with us. James 1:26 says, "Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless." Take care that your tongue doesn't run away with you! Pray for self-control in this area and that your words will bring life to and encourage others.

     6. Depend on the Lord. The world tells us that to be strong ladies, we must be independent and not rely on anyone else. But the Lord says to rely on Him. Trust him for all of this quiet and gentle spirit formation. Trust him to carry you through the hard times. Trust his timing, his will, his way. Dependence on the Lord will take your spirit to new heights of maturity.

     These are the ways little girls become women and women become queens. Focus on these six, and there will be a noticeable change in you.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Where I Get My Books | Secrets of a Bookworm No. 1

One of my favorite things is when readers ask me questions. Sometimes (like today), it turns into a blog post. If you know anything about me, you know I like to give things quirky titles. Hence, Secrets of a Bookworm was born (today, actually). It's a Q&A sesh all about books and reading!

     Today's Question:
I was wondering where you like to get the books you read from. Are they all just from the library? A bookstore? A thrift store? Amazon? I'd love to know because I'm always looking for more books to read and sometimes my library won't have it available at that time.
Thank you!

      First of all, I have to say that I adore this question! What bookworm wouldn't love talking about their book-shopping habits? Let's start with the basics, shall we?

Books I Already Own

     I own 28 books right now that I have been intending to read but have never read. They are, of course, set apart from all the books I have read. Here's a picture of 27 of them:

     If you own books but have never read them, that's a great place to start. When you're done, you can choose whether to give them a coveted spot on your bookshelf or pass them on to someone else. I read my own books when:
  • I am house-bound.
  • A book is staring at me across the room.
  • I feel motivated to whittle down the list of books I own but haven't read. :P


     I always have multiple books in my possession from multiple friends. It's a kind of trust system. It strengthens the friendship and helps us to literally get on the same page. :) I borrow books from friends when:
  • They are desperately urging me to read the book.
  • They have a book I haven't been able to find elsewhere.
  • I started a book while at their house and want to finish it.
     Just remember the the ten commandments of borrowing books.

The Library

     The library is an amazing resource for free books, but the time limits and limited availability of books there makes it a little more complicated. I use the library when:
  • I'm not sure if I want to spend money on the book.
  • I see something on the shelf at the library that grabs my attention.
  • It's a short-ish book, usually under 300 pages.
  • I'm bored with my own book selection.
  • The book is at least a year or two old...(they rarely have brand-new releases, and if they do, there is a waiting list a mile long).

Half Price Books

     I love the deals I can get at HPB, but you have to be smart with this one. Usually, I shop at HPB when:
  • I have just sold books to them. (When you sell at HPB, they usually give a dollar or two per book in cash and a coupon for 10% off.)
  • The book I want is in good condition. (Don't settle just because their selection that day is a little beat-up.)
  • I have a gift card.
  • The book is under $7. (This is my little quirk. I can't justify spending more than $7 on just one book, especially when I often walk out of HPB with three books for that much.)
  • They have a $1 or $2 book that I am interested in (usually in their sale shelves outside the store).


     Amazon is a perfect if you want a good deal on a new release. I bought the final book in The Lunar Chronicles from Amazon because I didn't want to wait around. Free 2-day shipping with an Amazon Prime membership or their pre-ordering option don't hurt either. :) I shop on Amazon when:
  • It is a new release that I can only find there or at B&N.
  • I pre-ordered it.
  • I'm only buying one particular book.
  • I know it's a book I want to own.
  • I don't feel like going to a store.
  • I have an Amazon gift card.
  • I can't wait for the library!
     I always buy books new and directly from Amazon because a private seller's used copy could be completely beat up and stained and smell like smoke. You never know. ;)


     This site has amazing deals on all kinds of books, with an especially wide young adult selection. However, their site is difficult to navigate, and they're not likely to have a specific book. I buy from Book Outlet when:
  • I have several books in one order. (The shipping kills me after free Amazon shipping). :)
  • The deals are actually better than what I could find elsewhere.
  • I want to try a book I don't know a lot about.
  • I have a coupon, or there is a sale going on.
     I try to never spend more than $7 on a book here either.

Barnes & Noble

     Good ol' B&N. Many people might be surprised to find that I don't buy books from here. They rarely have the best deals. I shop (shop, not buy) at B&N when:
  • I just want to see a book before purchasing it elsewhere.
  • I am "window-shopping."
  • I want to read the first pages to see if I'm even interested in the book.
  • I want to discover new books I've never heard of.
  • I want to give strangers advice on which books they should buy. (I always think this, but I never do it.)

     I have also received a lot of books through blog giveaways, Goodreads giveaways, or Twitter giveaways. Sometimes people just give books out on Twitter or on their blog (without a drawing). I always jump on those if it's a book I'm even remotely familiar with. I get books from giveaways when:
  • There are no more than a few hundred people entered.
  • All I have to do is Tweet about it or enter my email.
  • All I have to do is contact them super fast and say, "I want the book!"

Launch Teams & Publicity Campaigns

     I have been on at least two launch teams now (Simply Tuesday by Emily P. Freeman, Looking for Lovely by Annie F. Downs). You get a free copy of the book when you are selected for a launch team (even if it's an ARC- advanced reader's copy.) I also can get a free book through the Blythe Daniel Agency and others simply by blogging an honest review. That's how I got The Dating Manifesto by Lisa Anderson and Praying Upside Down by Kelly O'Dell Stanley.

     I get books from launch teams when:
  • I "know" the author well through reading their blog regularly.
  • I trust their message is something I can promote.
  • I know I'll all-around love their book.
     I get books from publication agencies when:
  • It's a book that sounds interesting to me personally.
  • It's a book that will be interesting to you, my blog readers.

     There you have it! All the places (I think) that I buy books. All my book-shopping stops have been revealed.

     Currently on my nightstand are three library books, three borrowed from three friends, and one of my own.

     If you have any bookish questions, send them to me in email or put them in the comments below. I can't wait to answer them!


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

How to Keep Your Smartphone from Ruining Relationships

     I've had this post idea in the queue for a while. It's not being released in light of the latest game people are obsessed with. (I can't even bring myself to type the name of it...you know who you are. :P)

     Everyone walks around with their heads down these days. They're ignoring their surroundings and even the humans at their sides. And it's not because they're jumping the gaps between sidewalk squares like the three-year-old whose hand they're holding.

     Look, ladies and gents. I'm preaching to myself more than anyone. We can all improve in at least one of these areas. We've got to take control of our phones before they take control of us. And especially before they ruin our relationships with real-life human beings!

     Let's dive in and begin breaking bad habits!

1. Put it down.

     When others start talking to you, physically wrench your eyes from the screen and tilt your phone so that you cannot see whatever you were just looking at. This practice is simple and helps you focus on the people around you more. And make eye contact! See the conversation through to completion before returning to your phone.

2. Take an analog weekend.

     You see, children, analog means non-digital. In the olden days, everything was analog because there was no digital. But once they made digital, they had to call everything else "analog."

     Here is the full tutorial on how to make your analog weekend a success. Try it once; it might be hard. Keep doing it until it becomes easier. You may even find yourself looking forward to it! The most important part of this is that you use the time away from devices to connect with those people whose relationships you're worried about ruining.

3. Set a goal, and get a buddy.

     Nothing is more helpful than accountability. Find a friend or sibling or someone who will be around you enough to remind you about your goals a few times a day. This helps your relationship and encourages you to not spend too much time in virtual worlds.

4. Maintain real relationships with real individuals.

     There are so many communication options these days! Too often we forget about talking in person. This tip has two parts.

     Part A: Always discuss important things in person. Not over email. Not over a phone call even. If it's truly important (like a special story, testimony, advice, heart-to-heart, confrontation, etc.), you absolutely must tell it in person. If you share it over electronics, it won't be the same.

     Part B: Find your ideal in-person/over-electronics communication ratio. For example, I try to keep at least 50% of all my communication with each of my friends in-person. And that's pretty low when you think about how everything used to be 100% in-person!

     This isn't a perfect world, so it isn't a perfect system.

     But it may look like this: I spend three hours in a coffee shop talking in-person with them, and then I text them about twice a day for the next week until we meet again. If I spent an entire 24 hours with you, I will feel free to call you and chat for an hour the next day. With my family, I allow myself complete electronic communication because I am with them in-person basically 24/7 (and, I mean, they're family.)

5. Set boundaries regarding place and time.

     Place: There are some places your phone should never be. Set the rules for yourself now to keep yourself from stumbling. For me, it looks like this:

  • No touching the phone while I am in the driver's seat of any car.
  • No phone in my room or bathroom. (I can hear music just as well when it's right outside the door anyway.)
  • No phone at the kitchen table.
  • No phone in class. (I ALWAYS put it on silent and zip it up in my backpack.)
  • No phone in the library. (I now have an impulse to put my phone on silent every time I walk into a library or even a bookstore.)
  • No phone in any kind of theater! (As an actress, this one is very meaningful to me.)
  • No phone on retreats or sleepovers. (Often, I just leave it at home, so I don't even have to think about silencing it.)
     All of these protect me, protect the people around me, and protect the books around me, which apparently are very sensitive to sound. ;)

     Time: Don't ruin a relationship by texting too early in the morning or too late at night. Anything between the hours of 9 am and 9 pm should be safe, but be sure to respect your friends' schedules. If you know she's sleeping until noon today, don't text or call before 1 pm, just to be safe. :)

6. Redeem the time while you wait.

     Waiting is often a time we will pull out our phones. Even if we hadn't been on our phones while talking with our friends, we whip them out the moment they walk away. (It's so tempting, I know!)

     But we need to allow ourselves to be bored in this fast-paced, always-entertained-never-contemplating culture. Take a minute to resist this urge to pull out your phone. Scrolling through Twitter for two minutes isn't as valuable as reading a page of your book, looking at God's creation, or just being quiet with your thoughts.

     Often when I want to pull out my phone, I am actually in a good position to people-watch. School, stores, restaurants, the doctor's office, etc. are all public places of waiting that are also ideal people-watching spots.

     Allow your brain to rest, to reflect on the conversation you had. Allow your brain to soak in green leaves rather than the bright, overstimulating colors of social media. Allow your brain to read words on paper rather than words on a screen.

     This one helps you become a better person, which I guarantee will help all your relationships. Just try it, and you'll thank me later. :)

The Bottom Line

     Do you have the strength to prioritize the people in your life over the people on your phone? You only have one life to live. Don't while it away on the latest game or social media.

     As Jim Elliot said, "Wherever you are, be all there."

     If you follow these tips, you can "be all there" and keep your smartphone from ruining your relationships.

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