Thursday, October 9, 2014

Transition complete!

I've gotten everything moved over to my new blog, so come visit me at amberiam.wordpress.com!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

I'm Moving!

I'm packing up this blog and heading to Wordpress! I'm ready to start blogging more often and move into the realm of an actual blogger, and I feel like Wordpress offers more opportunities for that than Blogspot does. Join me amberiam.wordpress.com!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summertime Slacking

I have been lazy this summer.

Besides not posting anything here since the end of June, I've also neglected my personal and professional to do lists, thinking that I still had "plenty of time" to finish everything before the end of August.

Ha.

Honestly, it's always like this. I make a huge list for work projects and home projects and fun stuff, and every year I proclaim that this is the year I will do all of these things.

Humph.

I guess there's not really a point to this post, other than to say I'm ready to start blogging again. I have a list of ideas and a lot of nearly finished drafts that I need to get together and publish. I also have ideas about how I want to improve this little blog and help it grow.

So, if you're out there and still reading, thanks. I'll be back soon!

Friday, June 27, 2014

It's Summer!!

Saturday was the first day of summer, and as I've done with fall, winter, and spring, I wanted to celebrate the good things about summertime!

1. Watermelon: I could eat my weight in watermelon. It's the most delicious fruit in the world, nay, the universe. So far this summer I've gone through a mere two watermelons by myself, but we still have plenty of time.

2. More daylight: More daylight = more time outside for the crazy dog. More time outside = less craziness inside. Win-win situation!

3. Laying by the pool: My parents have a pool that I'm planning to come spend the day at on July 4. This was really a cautionary note for my mom...

4. Calmer days at work: During the summer, things get a lot calmer and quieter at work. It's a good opportunity to catch up on things that I put off during the academic year or to undertake new projects that turn out to be a lot bigger than you anticipated (inventory...sigh...)

5. Fireflies: Or lightning bugs, as they can be called. Fireflies make me so happy. I think I've always associated them with summer, so when I see them, I know that it's finally summertime! Also, K dog constantly tries to catch them, so that's more entertainment for him (and me!).

6. Sunshine: After going through the longest winter known to mankind (and womankind and dogkind). it was so nice to see sunshine again! There's something about a sunny day that just makes everything seem like it's going to be okay. And, sunny days are ideal for laying by the pool... ;-)

7. My birthday!: I had to save the best for last! I may be too old to get so excited about my birthday, but I don't care. It's my birthday! It only comes once a year! It's in mid-July, and I'll be glad to give gift ideas if you're so inclined. ;-)

I've got a new feature coming up on Monday and a new series starting next Wednesday, so escape the heat with some cool reading...aw yeah, I just said that....


Monday, June 16, 2014

Short product review + Giveaway winner!

In my last post, I had a lot of products to talk about from Influenster and BzzAgent. I had so many products to review that I didn't have a chance to try all of them! Over the weekend, I tried two more of the Influenster products- the PRFOOT Triad Orthotic Shoe Inserts and the Aqua Spa Relax Body Creme (Lavender and Chamomile scented).

I wore the inserts on Saturday to do an hour long workout at the gym. I also wore them for a 3 mile run/walk (definitely more walking than running!) afterwards. I didn't affix them to my shoes because I wanted to make sure they would work well for me, and I'm also going to need new shoes in the next couple of months, so I wanted to be able to transfer them. Since they weren't affixed, the left insert was a little uncomfortable because I moved it when I put that shoe on. However, besides that discomfort, I really liked the inserts! I liked that they didn't cover the entire shoe but still felt like they supported my whole foot. They provided a good amount of cushioning, so my feet weren't sore after exercising. I'll be using these from now on!

I used the lotion before bed last night. It went on smoothly, and my skin immediately felt softer. I liked the scent, but I didn't feel like it lasted long enough. I did have a hard time getting out of bed this morning though, so maybe I was more relaxed than I realized! Aqua Spa also makes a bath/shower gel with this scent. I may purchase that to use with the lotion to see if the scent lasts longer.

Now, for the fun stuff! There were two entries to the giveaway- thanks Lena and Clara! I let my husband act as the random number generator since there was a small number of entries. He decided to leave it completely up to chance by rolling a dice. He decided that if it was an odd number, then comment number one (Lena's) won, and if it was an even number, then comment number two (Clara's) won. He rolled, and it landed on....

(Building suspense...insert drumroll here...)

Three! Congratulations Lena! I'll send you a message with the gift card code! If you buy something for that precious baby boy, send me a picture! =)


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Summer Fun Products from BzzAgent and Influenster

[HEY! Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a $10 Amazon gift card. No one has entered yet, so you'll probably win! =)]

As a member of BzzAgent and Influenster, I receive free products in exchange for my honest opinion. Lately, I've received a few items that are going to help our summer be more fun!

From Influenster, I received the "Go VoxBox." Here's what it had in it (ignore the fact that I put everything on the stove to take a picture!).


Contents:
PRFOOT Pedi-Rock
Blue Diamond Blueberry Almonds
PRFOOT Triad Orthotic Shoe Inserts
Vitamin Shoppe Fit N' Full Shakes in French Vanilla, Swiss Chocolate, and Fresh Berries
Vitamin Shoppe Shaker Bottle
Aqua Spa Relax Body Creme in Lavender and Chamomile 
Playtex Sport Tampons
Coupon for Mueller yogurt

I haven't used everything yet, but I've enjoyed everything I have used! The shakes tasted a lot better than I thought they would. I did notice that the chocolate blended better than the vanilla. I haven't tried the berry flavor yet, so I'm not sure how well it will blend. The shaker bottle works well with no leaks or sweating. The lid is a little tough to snap down, but once it's sealed, it keeps anything from spilling. The almonds were good, but they were a little sweeter than I expected. They may taste better mixed in with plain almonds or another unflavored food. I used another one of the products, but I'll spare you the details of that! ;-) I'm planning to use the inserts the next time I run, so hopefully they'll help me go lightning fast (ha!). 

Currently, I have four open BzzAgent campaigns: Silk Protein-Fiber Almond Milk, Bic Soleil Glow Razors, Coppertone Clearlysheer Sunscreen, and Summer Favorites at Kroger (which included Honey Mustard and Onion Pretzel Pieces and Rolled Guacamole Tortilla Chips). 

Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of any of the products when I unpacked the boxes. Sorry!

The first product I tried was the Protein + Fiber Almond Milk in Original flavor. I have been drinking almond milk instead of dairy milk since February, so I was really excited about this campaign! I usually add my almond milk to coffee, tea, or protein shakes, so I don't know how this tastes by itself. However, it tasted great mixed in with all of my usual drinks. Plus, the added fiber helped keep me full just a little bit longer. And, not to be TMI here, but it didn't do anything funky to my stomach (hey, that's important info to know!). The only downside was that I couldn't find this in Publix, so I had to go to Kroger for it, which can sometimes be a not-so-fun experience. I'll definitely buy this again!

The second product I tried was the Soleil razor. Like most women, I find shaving a pain in the leg (instead of a pain in the neck...get it...heh). Now that it's warm out, I have to shave even more often, so I'm glad I had the chance to try the Soleil razor because it lasts longer than the double blade store brand razors I usually use! The Soleil has three blades, which I didn't think would make a big difference, but it does. It seems to give a closer shave that lasts just a hair (ha) longer than my other razors. It also has a lubricating strip with Vitamin E and aloe, so your legs get a little extra moisturizing when you use it. That's never a bad thing!

The third product I tried was the sunscreen. I received two different types- Clearlysheer for Sunny Days and Clearlysheer for Beach and Pool. Since I haven't had the chance to go to the beach or pool yet this year (BOOOOOO), I used the Sunny Days formula. It went on light and had a good odor; I was glad to have a sunscreen that didn't smell like coconuts or that had a telltale "sunscreen smell." I tend to break out a lot in the summer also, but this sunscreen didn't make me feel like my pores were clogged. I'm not always the best about remembering to put on sunscreen, but I'm going to make more of an effort since I have a good one to use now!

The fourth and fifth products I devoured tried were the pretzel pieces and tortilla chips. Okay, here's my confession. I've been doing a couple of challenges at the gym since the end of January, and I'm supposed to be eating cleaner. All of the clean eating went out the window during the three days it took me to destroy these snacks. Oops! There's nothing healthy about these snacks, but they would make a great side for cookout food or a good afternoon snack. I also received coupons for Big K soda and Kroger Deluxe Ice Cream, but I haven't redeemed those yet. 

I know this was a pretty long post, but if you're still with me, take a moment to enter the giveaway and then take more than a moment to purchase one or more of these products!


Monday, June 9, 2014

Time to Celebrate!

Source for original photo

If my blog was a person, it could go to kindergarten in the fall because today is its fifth birthday!

(Okay, technically I'm not sure if it could start this fall because of birthday cut off dates and things I know nothing about, but stick with my analogy and act like I'm right...).

A lot of things have changed in my life since June 2009. I've gotten married, finished a second graduate degree, and gotten my first dog, among many other changes!

I've learned a lot about blogging in the last 5 years. I still have a lot to learn and to improve upon, but I'm getting there! I'm also blogging more consistently, and my statistics are showing improvements because of that.

Here's how my posting consistency has changed. In 2009, I only published 1 measly post, which was my "hey look, I'm blogging now" post. I did a little better in 2010, publishing 3 whole posts. Slow down! In 2011, I published 22 posts. I was on fire! ;) I even attempted to do a 30 day blogging series, but I only lasted 16 days! I published 30 posts in 2012 and maintained a blog (Thankful 366) where I wrote an entry every day of the year detailing something I was thankful for. That was tough! Last year, I published 75 entries! I participated in 2 blog linkup series' and did my first "Blogging Through Books" series, so that definitely helped my count! This year, I have published 33 entries so far, so I believe I can easily surpass last year's total! I've got another series planned and another "Blogging Through Books" series in mind, so there's going to be a lot worth reading on here during the second half of 2014!

Enough about stats, let's get to the fun stuff! To celebrate my blog's birthday, I'm hosting my very first giveaway! I've got a $10 Amazon card for one lucky winner! To enter, leave a comment and tell me one big change that's happened in your life in the past five years (include your name and email address as well). Easy enough, right? The contest will end at 11:59 PM Central Time on Sunday, June 15. I'll use a random number generator to choose a winner and announce it here next Monday, June 16.

Thank you to everyone who has supported me during my blogging journey. When you comment here, on Facebook, or in real life, it means a lot to me. Sometimes I feel like I'm just writing for myself, so it's fantastic to get unexpected feedback! I can't wait to see what will happen in the next 5 years!

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Sometimes You Just Have to Stop...

It's no secret that I've been dragging the Make Yourself Amazing series on and on and on and on. It's June and we still haven't made ourselves fully amazing yet! I'm not sure why I'm having so much trouble finishing this series, especially since I was so excited about it at first, but I think it's time to throw in the towel. I have quite a few other topics that I want to blog about, but I felt like I couldn't until I finished the series. I also haven't seen nearly as much interaction with this one as I did with the other book series I did. I think part of that is because I've been really inconsistent in posting about this series, but I also feel like this book isn't resonating with you all as much as it did with me. To be honest, I'm also finding it kind of difficult to write about some of the chapters. I think it's a title that you should read and reflect upon on your own, rather than reading my reflections about it. I really appreciate Sarah giving me a review copy, and I'm sorry for dropping the ball on this one.

Phew.

I can't tell you guys how much I've gone back and forth on this decision. I know it might seem silly to some of you to put this much thought into something like this, but I really want to grow and develop this blog, and I felt like stopping this series would brand me as a quitter. I think it was just the wrong time for a project like that. If any of you do have the book and want to discuss anything else or even contribute content, let me know. Otherwise, I'll be back Monday with an exciting post and maybe even...a giveaway!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 16

The challenge from Day 15 was to change our attitude towards work. Since I'm off work today taking care of my wisdom tooth-less husband, I've got time to reflect on what I do like about my job and reasons why I shouldn't view it as a hassle or chore. I really want to make a list or a printable to keep on my desk for those stressful days when I can't remember why I wanted to be a librarian! Did anyone do this activity? Is anyone still following along? I know it was hard to keep up with this series when I had some pretty big gaps, but I hope there are people still out there reading! =)

Today's chapter is called Don't Hurry!

Source for original photo


Focus Verse: She senses the worth of her work, is in no hurry to call it quits for the day. (Proverbs 31:18, The Message).

Sarah starts this chapter by asking if anyone has ever been in a real hurry only for everything to go wrong? I had a day like that last week. I came home from the gym to take a quick shower before going to work, and somehow, I started falling further and further behind. Then, when I was rushing to work, I had obstacle after obstacle and felt frazzled the rest of the morning. I would love to say that this was an unusual morning for me, but the truth is, I've spent a lot of time hurrying lately.

This isn't the focus verse, but this verse is worth showcasing also:

Careful planning puts you ahead in the long run; hurry and scurry puts you further behind (Proverbs 21:5, The Message).

I think I should get this verse tattooed across my forehead!!

Sarah wrote these words, but I feel like they could be straight from my mouth also:
I get in a hurry when I'm running late. Usually when I run late, it's due to a lack of careful planning. Either I hadn't set my alarm right, I hadn't planned for traffic, or something unexpected comes up.
Sarah has another great quote a couple of paragraphs later: "If you don't want to be in a constant hurry, you've got to make time." Everyone has the same amount of time in a day, and yet some people are always in a hurry and seem to get nothing done (guilty, unfortunately). You can't create more hours in a day, but you can become more efficient. The same technique that I wrote about yesterday in relation to stress reduction applies here too; if you want to be more efficient, you have to say no to some things. You have to figure out what is the most important to you and figure out how to keep those things in your schedule. You may have to ditch the rest while you're finding your footing and becoming more efficient, but you may find that you don't want to regain the extra stress!

You can also find alternatives to things that stress you out. For example, Sarah and her husband prioritize time with each other and their friends on weekends, so they chose to hire someone to clean their house in order to save time and not feel guilt about what they "should" be doing on weekends. You can apply this same principle in your life by outsourcing or bartering with someone.

Another way to find more time is to be efficient at what you do. Look for ways to be more efficient. Ask for help if you need to

Being busy can stop people from being amazing, and none of us want that, right? Learning to reduce busyness and stop hurrying will be so beneficial in the long run, and if we're sowing into our future, this would be a great seed to plant!

One final point that Sarah makes is to enjoy the journey of life. You may want an unpleasant situation to change as quickly as possible, but God is more interested in changing us- our attitudes, habits, and behavior. If you hurry through life, you'll miss the valuable lessons and character building.

Here's another great quote to end this chapter:
Don't hurry through life; God might want to teach you something that will boost you to greater heights. Enjoy the journey and praise Him for the wonderful gift that it is. Enjoy where you are right now. Don't waste time wishing things were different and hurrying them along. "For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven," (Ecclesiastes 3:1). There is a time for everything, so enjoy the time you're in now and don't rush past. 
Today's challenge: What do you need to remove from your schedule so that you aren't in such a hurry? Rather than "no," are there alternatives that you could employ to make life easier? You might have to be creative, but you will reap great benefits in the long run.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 15

The challenge for Day 14 was to sow good seed by talking nicely to someone you see daily, being kind to someone who annoys you, or finding a Bible verse to confess over your life. I've been working over the past week to be a lot kinder to someone who grates on my nerves. It hasn't always been successful, but I'm getting better! Did anyone take on this challenge? I would love to hear about it if you did!

Today's chapter is called Working Class

Source for original photo


Focus Verse: First thing in the morning, she dresses for work, rolls up her sleeves, eager to get started. (Proverbs 31:17, The Message).

We need to work. I know, I know, that may not be what you want to hear tonight, but it's true. We need to stimulate our bodies and brains, and as Sarah says, work is a part of life and amazing people do it well.

You were born to work hard, but you were not born to strive or struggle just to get through life. Striving makes work physically and mentally taxing. Thankfully, Hebrews 4:9-11 says that "there's a special rest still waiting for the people of God. For all who have entered into God's rest have reseted from their labors, just as God did after creating the world. So let us do our best to enter that rest."

Jesus struggled and stressed for us, but this doesn't mean that we can throw all responsibility and work ethic aside. Rather, as Sarah writes, it means that the work we do shouldn't stress us out, cause us pain, or steal time that we should spend with others. Proverbs 13:4 tells us that those who work hard will prosper, so whatever areas of our life we want to be amazing, we should make sure we're working hard on them.

We should also work not to have stress. Easier said than done, right? But, honestly, stress is a choice. We stress ourselves out by saying yes to too many things and letting our lives getting out of balance. One way to reduce our stress is to look at our priorities. Choosing to do things according to life's priorities will reduce stress.

When you're choosing to reduce stress, don't swing too far the other way and become so passive that you just give up on life. Don't let life pass you by! Sarah writes: "Look alive! If you can't find encouragement any other way, encourage yourself. Be amazing. Be awake for all life throws at you and be prepared to work it for all it's worth."

Today's challenge: It's time to change your attitude toward work. It is not a hassle. It is not a chore. It is what you were born for. Don't let work stress you; relax into it. Get that get-up-and-go and go!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 14

For some reason, this has been an incredibly difficult series to finish. I don't know if it's just the busyness of life getting in the way, my lack of time management, or what, but this is going on way longer than I ever anticipated! Do any of my blogging friends have any suggestions on how I can help myself refocus?

Okay, here we go again! The challenge for Day 13 was to reflect on how you invest your time, decide what to change, and figure out how to do it. A tall order for sure! I've actually kept a time log before, but it's been a while since I've done it, so I think I'm going to do it again starting on Friday and see how I invest my time. Did any of you look at how you invest your time? I would love to hear any insights you came up with!

Today's chapter is called She Plants...

Source for original photo

Focus Verse: With money she's put aside, (she) plants a garden. (Proverbs 31:16, The Message)

Last Saturday, one of my friends and I went to a local farmer's/artisan's market. One of the booths had little markers made of spoons and forks that you put in your garden to keep track of what you're growing. I started talking to the lady running the booth about starting a garden and what it would take to grow certain types of plants. Although I decided that right now isn't a good time to start a garden, it made me think about what it takes to grow plants, fruits, and vegetables.

Gardening is a process. You plant seeds, nurture them, then wait for the harvest. Your harvest won't surprise you. If you planted tomato seeds, you'll end up with tomatoes (well, if you do everything correctly you will!). If you planted carrot seeds, you'll end up with carrots. I'm sure you're following me here. As Sarah shares, the same is true in life; when you metaphorically plant something in someone's life, like love or kindness, it will come back to you, much more than you planted in the first place.

Planting and harvesting is not a quick process. Planting prepares for the future. Sarah uses this example to show that amazing people are future-minded. One way to plant for the future is to think positively about the future. Sarah's insight on this is great: "If you think the future is bright, there is a good chance you will enjoy life and make good decisions. Conversely, if you think the future does not hold much, you will live in the moment with no consideration of tomorrow." This rang true to me because when I dread the future, whether it's an event or just a general blah feeling, I don't really care about anything beyond how I feel in the moment. I'm not likely to make good, healthy decisions, and I'm more apt to spend money because it makes me happy now, rather than thinking about how that money can be used more wisely.

When I'm feeling blah, I also feel hopeless. This is a direct result of my negative outlook and feeling like the future is bleak. If you think the future is bright, you will be hopeful and have a positive outlook. \Sarah points out that hope is one of the essentials of life, and that when all hope is lost, it often signals the decline of life. Luckily for you (and me!), amazing people have hope, which can also be seen as an expectation of good things and believing in a good outcome. That sounds a lot more fun than being mopey! Also, when you have hope in your thoughts, you sow great seeds for your future.

Another way you can plant seeds is by what you do. Matthew 7:20 says "Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions." As Sarah points out, to get a tree and fruit, you first need to plant seed and actions are seeds. She even says that everything you did today was a seed. That puts a different spin on just going through the daily motions if you think about everything you do being a seed that sows into your future. Kind of makes you want to quit playing Candy Crush, huh? (I'm talking to myself here but if it applies to you too...).

Let's go a step further with our actions being seeds. We'll include our thoughts here too because our thoughts are what propel us to take actions. Every action falls into one of two categories: life and death.

Let that sink in for a moment. Every action falls into one of two categories: life and death.

That's a big thought that I've never really considered, so I want to share what Sarah said about this:
If what you do will bring life to all those involved, then it is a good choice. If, on the other hand, your action will lead to death, don't do it unless you don't mind sowing bad seed. I don't want to give Satan any of my seed. He has taken enough from humankind, and I have no intention of freely giving him seed from my life. I want to sow seeds that will produce life.

Using this life and death principle is a good way to determine whether you're sowing good or bad seed, if the action is not something that scripture deals with.

Your words are also seeds. Words are extremely powerful. God sowed seed with words and ultimately created the universe! You can sow good seed with your words by taking the advice from 1 Peter 3:10: "...If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from speaking evil and your lips from telling lies." This means speaking good, life-giving words, no matter what your circumstances are. Sarah uses an example about being loving and understanding, even if someone cuts you off in traffic. That hit a little close to home for me because I've been hitting some frustrating high school traffic on the way to work lately, and let's just say that I've been a little less than understanding and loving with my words! She ends this section with another great quote that I want to share:
Planting seed thoughtfully is a huge challenge. What you think about is seed planted for the future. What you did today was seed planted for the future. Every word was planted for the future. What you did at work today will impact your future. How you responded to your spouse is seed planted for the future. There is only one way to consistently plant good seed, and that is to think, act, and live like Jesus. 
Unfortunately, even if we plant great seeds and sow them carefully, bad circumstances are going to come along. In an actual garden, people have to deal with things like weeds. In life, we have to prune weeds too- problems, difficult circumstances, challenges. Everyone faces these things, but the amazing people are those who can still flourish and grow in spite of these difficulties. As Sarah says, "problems are inevitable; growth is optional."

One final note from the chapter relates to money and saving for the future. When you plan for the future, you should remember that money is a commodity for today and the future. Be wise with your money. Save and invest so you can harvest when the time is right.

Today's challenge: Choose to sow good seed today. Talk nicely to the person who makes your coffee. Be kind to the person who annoys you. Find a verse in the Bible that you can confess over your life and watch for it to take place. Sow for your future.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 13

The challenge from the last entry was to picture yourself in a challenging situation and then picture yourself rising to conquer it. Did anyone have a chance to do that? If so, share what you did to conquer the situation (in your mind!). I'm actually working on ways to overcome the challenge of losing my motivation- both in blogging and related to healthy living. I'm making a list of possible motivation busters (or challenging situations) and how I can rise to conquer them. I may eventually share that list also.

Today's chapter is called A Buyer

Source for original photo


Focus Verse: She looks over a field and buys it. (Proverbs 31:16a, The Message)

Judging from the title of this chapter, it was written for a shop-a-holic like me! In the first paragraph, Sarah states that a wife of noble character loves to shop...but the message of Proverbs 31 is to be wise with what you buy and your investments. Oh boy. This one might be a tough one for me!

First, you have to be wise with your money, especially when making a big purchase. As Sarah writes, if you were to spend thousands or even millions of dollars purchasing property, you would prepare beforehand. You would research the property and have an expert evaluate it as well before spending your hard-earned money. You would make sure that you're as prepared as possible before investing your money in something.

Second, you have to be wise with your investment of time. Sarah aptly puts it this way:
It is wisdom to think highly of your time. The people you give your time to each day are an investment. So the question is, are you investing in people who will bring you a good return or not? Is the person with whom you spend most of your day going to bring you a good return?
Sarah and I both spend the majority of our time with our husbands, and we both definitely feel that those relationships bring us a good return! =)

She also points out that you need to make sure that friendships are a good investment of your time. If a relationship is toxic, causes you to behave badly, or just plain wears you out, then it's time to invest elsewhere.

Third, you have to invest in your dreams. If you don't have any dreams, take some time to brainstorm and write down a few. Do it now! I'll wait...

[Cue elevator music here]

Okay, you should have some dreams now! In this area, you should view every experience you have as something that can help propel you towards your dreams. For example, Sarah worked in a part-time retail job selling jeans. While she didn't have any interest in making that her lifelong career, she was determined to learn from the work experience and use those lessons to help her achieve her dreams. So, even if you're not necessarily where you want to be in certain areas of your life, use those experiences as investments towards your future dreams.

The fourth investment we should make is in our habits. Sarah puts it best when she says the habit of today is an investment for the future. The habits you currently have, positive or negative, will shape your future. Sarah gives a good way for you to determine whether your habits will help or harm your future. She says to consider the return your habits can give and ask, "Is this what I want for my future?" Habits are hard to break but easy to fall back into; ask anyone who has skipped a few days of working out, and they will confirm this!

Before I wrap up this entry, I want to share another great quote from the chapter:
You are incredibly talented, beautiful, and amazing, so consider your investments conscientiously. It is wisdom to take regular stock of your life and put things into perspective. If you recognize bad investments, ditch them now and move on. There are many great opportunities, people, and habits you can develop in life. It is a shame to waste them on bad ones.
That is so true! Life is too short and too precious to waste on bad habits, bad relationships, or a lack of dreams. I thought this chapter would call me out as a shop-a-holic, but instead it is challenging me to think about what I want from my investments.

Today's challenge: Reflect now on how you invest your time. Be honest with yourself and take a good, thorough look. Now the hard part: decide what to change and figure out how to do it.


Saturday, May 10, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 12

Today's chapter is called Rise Up!
Focus verse: She's up before dawn, preparing breakfast for her family and organizing her day. (Proverbs 31:15, The Message)

I am not a morning person. I know that's a shocking confession, especially to those who know me in real life, and since I'm the daughter of a man who says "embrace the morning." Blech. I'll embrace it...around 10 or 11! However, despite not being a morning person, I work at a place that opens at 7:30 during the academic year, so I have to get up and get moving.

Beyond having to get up for work and exercising early, Sarah points out that God wants us to rise early and prepare for the day, as well as rise up and make a difference.

Since I have been in a slump lately, this is a perfect call for me. It's so easy to stay in your rut, with your head down, not really rising up to do anything, but this is the wrong attitude to have. As Sarah says, there will always be opposition, excuses, and difficult situations, but you have to choose to rise anyway.

Throughout the chapter, Sarah gives examples of amazing women who rose above their circumstances and made a difference in the world for God. I won't spoil the details, but it's very inspiring to see these women who have done great things in spite of their circumstances. It definitely made me think about just what a whiny brat I've been lately when there's not been anything nearly this challenging in my life!

When we've experienced sin, brokenness, or anything that makes us want to fall instead of rise, we have to move past those things and persevere. Sarah says not to let brokenness hold us captive because we deserve better than that. We have to rise from brokenness, embrace the victory that is ours, and determine not to go back to that place of brokenness again.

Today's challenge: Take a moment and picture yourself in a challenging situation that you may face today. Now picture yourself rising to conquer it. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Back in Bloom


Remember back on April 23 when I said that I was going to finish the Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond series by mid-May, barring all sorts of catastrophes? I didn't take into account the possibility that I might just feel sad, worn down, and not interested in anything.

Even though the weather was starting to get prettier and we were nearing the end of the spring semester to make way for a calmer summer semester, I just felt blah. I would think about blogging, and it just seemed like so much effort. I knew something was off because I love to force my opinions on anyone who will read or listen to them write.

Slowly, though, I came out of my funk. I began to feel inspired to write again. I was a little more pleasant to be around (or so I thought...ha). I felt human again. Now I'm "back in bloom," so to speak. I'm ready to pick up where I left off and share a lot of the other ideas I've had lately. I'll pick back up with day 12 of the series this weekend...for real this time!

I hope all of you who are reading are doing well and haven't gone through a funk lately. If so, here are a few things that helped me:

1. Talking to people- I didn't necessarily talk about how meh I was feeling, but the act of just forcing myself to interact with others made me get out of my own brain for a little while.

2. Exercising regularly- I go to a fantastic gym, re:MOVE//Training, where the workouts are challenging and definitely distract you from everything but the sole goal of not throwing up! (Kidding...kind of!). But, even taking a short walk or doing something not as difficult helped.

3. Getting more sleep- We've started trying to institute a rule where we turn off all of our electronics an hour before bedtime so we can wind down and fall asleep more easily. We don't always do it, but when we do and get to bed earlier, it makes a huge difference!

4. Purging clutter- I know that this seems kind of odd or crunchy, but I think there's a connection between physical clutter and emotional well-being. When you're constantly kicking stuff out of the way or trying to find something amidst a bunch of junk, you just feel overwhelmed. I have a lot more to get rid of, but I'm off to a good start (my mom will be so proud of this one!)

I am missing the element of my spiritual relationship and walk with Jesus here. Honestly, that's a topic I'm not wanting to delve into at the moment, but I know there's a connection between my lack of faith lately and my mood. That's a goal that I'm going to be working on, and I may talk more about that later.

What helps you all get out of a fog and back in bloom? I'd love to hear what helps others!



Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond!: Day 11

Hello again!

Last week I had a not-so-fun stomach bug, and I didn't have any energy to even think of blogging (or cleaning the house or working or exercising or just about anything...). The last couple of days have consisted of me playing catch up with work/life/everything, so I'm just now getting back here. Since I'm slightly behind on this, I've decided to change the name to Make Yourself Amazing in April...and Beyond! Now, barring sickness, floods, famine, major life interruptions, plagues, and Internet outages, I should be done with this series around mid-May.

So, let's get (re)started!

Today's chapter is called Exotic Surprises

Source for original photo

Focus Verse: She's like a trading ship that sails to faraway places and brings back exotic surprises. (Proverbs 31:14, The Message)

God is a God of surprise. You think you have something figured out or that a prayer is going to be answered a certain way, and then BAM...God surprises you! There are many stories of surprise in the Bible, such as Gideon's and Samson's. God used people like them- ordinary men- to do extraordinary things. And, God can use you for extraordinary surprises as well!

To allow God's surprises to come into your life, you have to remain receptive and ready. Sarah suggests spending daily time with Him, preferably in the morning, so then you will be more open for His surprises all day long. I like this idea, and it's something that I need to get a lot better about doing. I'm a snooze button-a-holic, and that habit cuts into quiet time or just about anything else in the mornings!

Sarah also suggests being spontaneous. As she says, the difference between average and amazing is the surprise factor. I'm sure we all have people in our lives who surprise us sometimes and just make us feel good because they care. A couple of special ladies at work brought me a magnet today that they said reminded them of me, and it was such a nice surprise after some un-amazing things happened today.

With that in mind, today's challenge is to surprise someone at work this week with a cup of his or her favorite coffee, some chocolate, or a magnet that talks about the difference between dogs and children. ;-)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 10

Yesterday's challenge was to encourage someone. I decided to send an email to a store where we had great customer service last night. We didn't buy anything, but the employee was just as helpful and friendly to us as she was to the people who were buying things. I thought she definitely deserved some encouragement! How about you guys? Did anyone send a note, text, email, etc?

Today's chapter is called Looking for the Best

Source for original photo
Focus verse: She shops around for the best yarns and cottons, and enjoys knitting and sewing. (Proverbs 31:13, The Message). 

Sarah started the chapter with an Internet urban legend that she read called "The Rose," which she felt illustrated the principle of looking for the best in a relationship. She also shared this story to show that looking for the best in people is a lost art. It's so true. Many people have become so cynical that if someone does something nice for them, then they think there has to be some kind of "catch" or strings attached. Even our media makes it seem like only bad things are happening. No wonder we have a hard time looking for the best in people!

The next portion of the chapter talked about the knitting aspect of the verse. As Sarah said, an amazing person will draw out the best in others, then knit and sew the best of people together to create a beautiful garment. We all know people who look for the best in others and can always manage to bring out the best in people too. It's such a difficult skill, but it is so worth it when you have a breakthrough with someone who has been tough to communicate with or who you've had trouble finding good in.

Today's challenge: Look for the best in every situation and person you encounter. For example, if someone is running late, don't complain about her, just look for the best.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 9

I'm back from my "oh my goodness, life is too busy" blogging break. Let's get back to it!

Today's chapter is called Spite, Encouragement, and Hindering Behaviour (love the Australian spelling!).



Focus Verse: Never spiteful, she treats him generously all her life long. (Proverbs 31:12, The Message)

Oh boy. The title of this chapter hit me even before I started reading it. I know that it's in poor fashion for writers to fall back on the whole "_______ is defined as _______," but when I did a search of the definition of spite, I came up with synonyms like cruel, unkind, malicious, mean, nasty, hurtful...all kinds of words that you definitely don't associate with being amazing! Sarah points out that the words even leave a bad taste in your mouth and make you feel sick in the stomach.

Even though Proverbs 31 is referring to the relationship between a husband and wife, Sarah makes a great point of saying that the way you habitually treat others will be the way you treat those most precious to you in life. So, even if you want to treat your significant other or closer family and friends sweetly, if you're mean and spiteful towards your coworkers or strangers, then it's easy to carry this behavior into your close relationships.

What's the opposite of spite? Encouragement! Sarah showed the Amplified Bible's translation of Proverbs 31:12- She comforts, encourages, and does him only good as long as there is life within her. Doesn't that sound so much nicer than the other translation? Even though both of them are essentially saying the same thing, the tone and words in the Amplified translation is much more pleasant.

Encouragement enriches people's lives. Enriching adds value to something and makes it better than it already was. How do we do that? Sarah believes that if you want to make the life of someone else better, you need to have a great life yourself. I fully agree! I've noticed that when I'm moody and feeling sorry for myself and like my life is the pits, I tend to be short and rude towards others. I definitely don't add value to or make anything better than it was! She also points out that you can't live your life through the life of another because you can't enrich someone else's life when you have no life of your own. So, get a life! =)

Now, what do we mean by hindering behaviour? I may be a little off target with my interpretation (and if so, Sarah, please correct me!), but I took this to mean nagging and just dragging people down overall. I asked my husband if I'm a nagging wife, and his answer was "You have nagged, but you're not constantly nagging." Eek. I need to pay close attention to Proverbs 21:9 that says "It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop [on the flat oriental roof, exposed to all kinds of weather] than in a house shared with a nagging, quarrelsome, and faultfinding woman." (Amplified Bible). Double eek! Guess I have some work to do!

Sarah points out that there are times when restrictions and discipline are necessary, but don't get to the point where you're hindering someone else's growth. She also says that a good relationship will empower you to be the best version of yourself. Again, I fully agree! We are to bless and serve those who are closest to us because of our love for them. God has blessed us so that we will be a blessing!

I want to quote the last two paragraphs out of the chapter because I really enjoyed them:
God's desires for your life are superabundance and far more than you could imagine. He does not bless our selfishness, though. God will bless His children so that they will superabundantly bless others, not hinder them all the days of their life. God may bless you with a promotion so you can give more to missions. Or He may bless you with many friends so you can be an encouragement and strength to them. The Lord may bless you with a thriving company that can, with integrity and grace, influence governments and other business people...Always remember that is why our Heavenly Father empowers you to prosper. It is for the benefit of the community. If you are blessed, make sure you are using that blessing for others. 

Today's challenge is to empower and enrich the lives of those closest to you. Sarah suggested sending an encouraging text, giving them a quick call, or even offering a service to them. This only takes a minute and can make a huge difference in someone's life!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Feeling not so amazing...

When I planned to do this month long series,  I had great intentions of pre-writing some of the posts and being super on top of things. Obviously since I haven't posted in a couple of days, we know how well that turned out!

I'm not going to beat myself up or try to play catch up again because I think that compromises the posting quality. Instead,  I'll just pick right back up where I left off,  and we might just be amazing in May also!

Thank you to everyone who has been following along. I'll see you back here tomorrow for day 9.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 8

Yesterday's challenge was to find some verses that show your worth in Christ and write them down so you meditate on them. Here is a list of 51(!) verses about our worth to God. Pick a few favorites, write them down, and put them where you can see them every day!

Today's chapter is called Trust Me.



Focus Verse: Her husband trusts her without reserve, and never has reason to regret it. (Proverbs 31:11, The Message).

Trust is one of the most important character traits. If you don't trust someone, then it's hard to have a good relationship with her because you'll never feel comfortable and never feel like you will receive as much as you give. You may also feel paranoid and bitter because you don't have true relationships. Sarah says it best- the more people you trust, the better your life will be; trusting few people leads to poor quality of life.

The Bible is full of trustworthy people, and one of the most trustworthy is Joseph. Because Joseph was trustworthy and made himself amazing, God used him for big things. On the flip side, Samson put his trust in the wrong people and had to suffer through a lot of pain and turmoil.

Want to save yourself some pain and turmoil (I hope you said yes because otherwise we need to have a serious discussion)? One way to do it is to put your trust in God. Psalm 118:8-9 (The Message) says, "Far better to take refuge in God than trust in people; far better to take refuge in God than trust in celebrities." Of course, this isn't saying that you can never trust people! But, keep in mind that people are imperfect and subject to emotions and misunderstandings. God is steady and constant. God can be trusted to keep all of His promises. God will never let you down.

While we'll never be as trustworthy as God, we can work on making ourselves someone who people can trust. One of the best ways we can learn to be trustworthy is to read and meditate on the Word of God. Sarah says that we can let God and His Word teach us how to be trustworthy and how not to let others down.

In case you need further convincing that being trustworthy is a good thing, consider Proverbs 28:20a, "The trustworthy person will get a rich reward." Sign me up! When you're trustworthy, you'll enjoy better personal and professional relationships that will enrich your life. People will know that you can keep your word and can be relied upon. They will not have to question whether or not your actions will match your words. They will know that you will work hard whether you're being watched or not. Wouldn't you want to be friends with someone with those traits? Better yet, wouldn't you want to be someone with those traits? Here is your roadmap to becoming trustworthy and amazing!

Today's challenge: I'm going to copy this one verbatim from the chapter because I think it's one that may be really helpful for some people:
Has someone let you down in the past? Perhaps it was someone whose love and life was important to you. Don't let the fact that he let you down destroy your relationships with others. Trust again. Looking to Jesus will enable you to let go of the pain and move forward. As part of moving forward, examine how trustworthy you are. Meditate on some of the scriptures mentioned about trust, and allow trust to be integrated into your character. (Amber's note: if you haven't bought the book and want to know some of these scriptures, leave me a comment here or on Facebook).

Monday, April 7, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 7

Going to keep it kind of short tonight because I'm hoping to get to bed early! =)

Today's chapter is called Worth More than Diamonds

Original Source for Photo

Focus Verse: ...And worth far more than diamonds. (Proverbs 31:10, The Message)

Do any of you have any diamond jewelry? If not, have you seen the price of diamonds? They're not cheap! Now, I'm going to tell you something that might shock you.

You are worth more than diamonds.

That's right, you.

Here's another piece of good news for you. Your life has purpose and meaning. You can be happy with who you are because you were created in the image of God and are unique and special!

Still having trouble believing that? Let's look at another verse that Sarah included in this chapter, Ephesians 2:10: For we are God's masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things He planned for us long ago.

We can break down the verse and look at some of the different insights that Sarah has shared. There are great truths here!

"For we are God's...": As Sarah points out, the fact that we are God's means that our worth is great. Our lives are valuable and belong to God, so we should value them.

"For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus...": Our existence is not an accident. We were all created brilliantly (like diamonds!) and our lives have purpose and meaning.

"For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works...": Sarah has a friend that told her that whenever people ask him how to find the will of God, he tells them to start doing something good because God created us to do good. That's the first time I've ever heard it put so simply! That's a great insight too and definitely related to what we've been talking about over the last couple of days. Love it!

"For we are God's workmanship created in Christ Jesus to do good works which God prepared in advance for us to do.": God has painstakingly planned out our lives with all the things we enjoy. He left nothing to chance but prepared everything in our lives so that it would be perfect. His plans for your life are an expression of His extravagant love and perfect design for you. (I copied this verbatim from the book because I couldn't have put it better myself!).

Since we know our worth, we should know that we deserve to be treated like the most important person in the world. Don't take that to mean that you can put others down or be snotty, but know that no one can take away your self-worth or treat you poorly because you, dear reader, are worth more than diamonds!

Today's challenge: If you struggle with being confident of your worth and who you are in Christ, search the Bible and find scriptures that talk about your tremendous worth. Then place them somewhere that you can read, meditate on, and pray through the day.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 6

This catches us back up!

Since I'm posting back-to-back summaries tonight, I don't expect that anyone has completed the previous challenge! We'll revisit the challenges from Day 5 and Day 6 tomorrow.

Today's chapter is called Good Woman; Good Man.

Focus Verse: A good woman is hard to find (Proverbs 31:10a, The Message)


Source for original photo
Although Sarah and I have never met in person nor communicated in any way other than email, she and I share a trait (beyond being Christians!): we both got married "later" than others. I got married last year at age twenty-nine, and she was thirty-two when she got married. Because we share this trait, I know that she uttered the same words that I said many times: "a good man is hard to find!" However, when you do find that good man or woman, it completely knocks you off of your feet!

Sarah says that the word good is boring. It's true! Even the connotation of being a goody-good is so condescending! But, being good is not boring. After all, God is good, and we know that He isn't boring! Think about the things that you enjoy and think are good: music, art, etc. Do you find those things boring? Of course not!

Okay, so good isn't boring. Now, how can we be good?

It's actually pretty easy! As Sarah says, Jesus is all good, and since we live in Him, we are all good! Woo hoo! And, there's even more good news. Psalm 23:6 says that goodness will pursue you all the days of your life. So in addition to knowing how to be good, you'll also be pursued by good. Here's what Sarah says about this:
Goodness means the quality of being good. If goodness is pursuing you, that means that anything that has the quality of being good is chasing after you. Goodness is not only something you are, but it is the many things you can have. So stop running from goodness and allow it to capture you and shower upon you all the blessing it entails. You are so good.
Isn't that GREAT to hear before a Monday morning? =)

Today's challenge: Start thinking that goodness is after you and don't run from it. Let good things happen to you today (and beyond!).

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 5

Yesterday's challenge was to go through the Bible and look for practical life tools. Admittedly, I haven't done that yet, but if anyone got started with that challenge, I'd love to hear about it here or on my new Facebook page (facebook.com/ambercanread- still under construction!).

Today's chapter is called Speak Out for Justice

Focus Verse: Speak up for the people who have no voice, for the rights of all the down-and-outers. Speak out for justice! Stand up for the poor and destitute! (Proverbs 31:8-9, The Message)


Source for original photo


Today's chapter is about a topic that I haven't explored a lot, but every time I read about injustice, I get so stirred up that I want to immediately do something. Unfortunately, my own laziness and apathy usually gets in the way, and I quickly forget about my passion and move on to the next thing. I'm glad that Sarah has written about this topic as a step on the path of amazingness.

Sarah shared a verse (Job 5:16) about binding and gagging injustice in order to bring hope back into the world. Think about the concept of hope for a second. We are really quick to use the word hope for just about everything- "I hope it doesn't rain tomorrow," "I hope this movie is good," "I hope whoever wins this game." For some people, life isn't that easy. They hope for enough food to eat or enough water to drink or just to be able to survive another day. I'm not trying to be depressing, but if you are able to read this, then you should be doing something to correct these injustices. Sarah goes further to talk about a couple of injustices that she has seen firsthand and helped correct. The best part is that neither of them involved anything that would be too difficult for any one of us to do!

Much of the chapter talks about Saul's fight against injustice. I won't attempt to summarize it here since you all can pick up a copy of the Kindle edition for only $2.99. ;-)

Sarah talks about how she used to not be too stirred up by injustices due to her own selfishness. I think that's one of my problems too. I'm selfish, and I'm not 100% sure where to start to start balancing the scales. We don't have to overthink things though. Each of us can start small. Sarah suggests doing things like writing letters to the government or financially supporting programs that stop injustices.

It's no surprise that today's challenge involves figuring out ways to fight injustice. Think of a couple of ways that you can fight injustice, and we'll talk about them tomorrow!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 4

I'm so glad I took an extra day to post this one! It is a great chapter, full of wisdom, and I would've done all of you (and myself) a major disservice had I just slapped something together late last night! The plan as of right now is to have two posts tomorrow so we can get back on track.

Day 3's challenge was to see if there's anything in our lives that we should avoid or that's becoming an addiction. I know that I'm not alone in saying that I have a borderline addiction to social media and the Internet in general. It's usually the first thing I think about doing once I'm awake and kicking in the mornings. It also definitely takes away from my relationship with Jesus. I haven't started to make a plan to get rid of it, but I think knowing you have a problem is the first step, right? ;-)

Today's chapter is called Know Right from Wrong for the Sake of Others

Source for original photo
Focus Verse: Leaders can't afford to make fools of themselves, gulping wine and swilling beer, lest, hung over, they don't know right from wrong, and the people who depend on them are hurt. (Proverbs 31:4-5, The Message)

Knowing right from wrong shouldn't be difficult. We know that we shouldn't steal, cheat, lie, or any number of other things that "bad people" do. But what about those tricky little "gray areas" that cause you to question yourself? What do you do when the line between right and wrong is blurry?

If you're working on becoming amazing (which I hope you are since you're reading this!), then the first thing you need to know is that you have to know right from wrong, not for your sake, but for others, according to Bathsheba in Proverbs. Sarah puts it succinctly: "Life was never about doing what was right for you, but it is about doing what is right for others."

This is where the difference between telling little white lies to appease people and telling the truth comes into play. Sarah uses an example of when a friend asks if a dress makes her butt look big. The "nice" thing to do is to lie, but telling the truth is right for her sake. My mom and I have a straightforward relationship where we know if we ask a question like that, we will get the truth. I value that honesty and appreciate that my mom can tell me the truth in a nice way. Wouldn't you rather be surrounded by people who can tell you the truth in a loving way than people who will lie just to keep you happy? If the example of clothes making your figure look bad doesn't really mean anything to you, take it up a notch. What if you were around people who lied to you about liking a significant other who treated you poorly? When I was in college, I dated a guy who wasn't the best for me. I had good friends who constantly told me that he wasn't someone I needed to be with, but it made me mad, and I didn't listen. Looking bad, I'm glad that they were able to do that because so few people are that bold.

Keep in mind, if you want people to tell you the truth, you have to remember not to overreact when they do, if they truly have your best interests at heart. You also have to tell the truth yourself. It's not a one way street! You have to be gentle and use grace, but you'll find that your relationships are so much better when you don't have to worry about lying to one another just to keep each other happy!

Phew, that was kind of a tangent. Let's get back to the chapter!

When you decide that you want to live out a life that shows people the difference between wrong and right, you have to know how to do that. Some may think that knowing that difference is instinctual, but those instincts had to come from somewhere. Children don't know the difference between wrong and right unless they are taught by adults (and even some adults don't really know!). Where do we learn these things?

....

...

...

(I wanted to give you time to guess)

From the Bible!

That answer shouldn't have been a surprise to you if you've been following along with this series so far! =)

For those of you who haven't read a lot of the Bible, you might think it's an old, outdated rule book. While it is old and there are rules, as Sarah points out, it's really the story of God choosing to love the world. How does love relate to right and wrong? As Sarah says in the chapter, love acts with others in mind, so walking in love means living right because that encourages others to live right. In other words, if God is love, and we walk in love, then we're walking with God and living in the right way. Does that make sense? Don't take the word walk literally here either. Sarah showed us in this chapter that the word walk has a modern translation of "lifestyle". Still confused? Galatians 5:16 puts it this way:
But I say, walk and live (habitually) in the (Holy) Spirit (responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit); then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh... (The Amplified Bible)
Our flesh is weak. It wants whatever is comfortable, even if that's not the right thing. Average settles for comfort, while amazing strives for correct.

The easiest way to think about this is to think of the Bible as our guidebook that will help us to live the right kind of lifestyle. Sarah talks about how her dog doesn't struggle to walk on the path that's laid before her, just as we shouldn't struggle to walk down the path that's laid before us by God. Love that idea! She also busts the misconception that being a Christian must be hard and boring. That's great news for all of the sour Christians out there! ;-)

Alright, we know where to find our guidelines for right and wrong, but how do we know whether or not we're following those guidelines and living the lifestyle that God has set out before us? The Bible talks about that too!
But the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit (the work which His presence within accomplishes) is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence)... (Galatians 5:22-23, The Amplified Bible)
Did those verses make anyone pause a little bit? They definitely made me a little uncomfortable because I know that I haven't been bearing too much fruit lately! The good news is that no one is perfect, and once we acknowledge and confess our slip ups, God forgives us, we can forgive ourselves, and move on. Phew!! Also, Sarah points out something that I've never really thought of. We were born to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit easily, so don't think of being kind or patient as something to struggle with, but relax into it and find those traits becoming part of your normal makeup and behavior.

One last thing for you to keep in mind is that if all of this overwhelms you or is new to you, or even if you just need a refresher on how to get started living the right kind of life, then remember that Jesus gave us one simple commandment: Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). If you do those two things, then you're well on your way to becoming amazing!

Today's challenge: Pick up the Bible and go in search of practical life tools that you can build a good lifestyle on. When you find them, make a note of it, and ask the Holy Spirit to help you do it! If you don't know where to start, try using the keyword search feature on a website like biblegateway.com, which will help you find verses related to the topic you want to learn more about.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Slight Delay

Today completely got away from me! I started working on today's entry around 30 minutes ago, but I've only typed a couple of sentences and can't seem to get focused enough to really dig into Chapter 4. I plan to do three posts between tomorrow and Sunday that way we can stay on track to finish by the end of April. Just wanted to give a quick update and apologize. I definitely am not being too amazing tonight!

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 3

Yesterday's short term challenge was to think of a few ways that you can be more dedicated to Christ. I'm taking a class on prosperity and stewardship at church on Thursday nights, and the pastor talked a little bit about Luke 16:10, which basically says if you're faithful in little things, you can be trusted to be faithful with big things. I tied that into the idea of being more dedicated to Christ and being trustworthy and responsible. If I can't be dedicated to the little things, like staying on task at work or making sure our budget is balanced, then Jesus can't and won't trust me to be dedicated to bigger things, like a better job or more money. So, that's how I'm going to be more dedicated; I'm going to work on being faithful in the little so I can honor Him and be entrusted with more. I haven't thought about my long-term challenge yet, so I need to get on that!

Today's chapter is called Avoiding the Shipwreck.

Source for original photo
Focus Verse: Don't dissipate your virility on fortune-hunting women, promiscuous women who shipwreck leaders. Leaders can't afford to make fools of themselves, gulping wine and swilling beer, lest, hung over, they don't know right from wrong, and the people who depend on them are hurt. Use wine and beer only as sedatives, to kill the pain and dull the ache of the terminally ill, for whom life is a living death. (Proverbs 31:3-7, The Message). 

What does Bathsheba mean by "shipwreck[ing] leaders." Unless you're a sea captain reading this on the satellite Internet on your boat, then you probably aren't worrying about literal shipwrecks.

(I really wanted to make a landlubbers joke here, but my brain just wouldn't work. Insert your own joke...).

A shipwreck, plain and simple, is a mistake. One way to avoid shipwrecks or making mistakes is to have a life-long attitude of learning. As a librarian, I fully support this idea, especially because it's Biblical! Sarah uses an example of getting ready to buy a car and ignoring the warnings of friends who have made the mistake of buying a particular model that's terrible. Since you didn't learn from their mistakes, you make your own mistake and end up with a shipwreck of a car.

Okay, maybe I didn't put that as eloquently as Sarah did in the chapter (this is why you should buy the book and why I shouldn't write late at night!, but you can see where she was going with that, right?

Shipwrecks cost time, energy, money, and resources. But, if you listen to those who have already wrecked, you can save time, energy, money, and resources. I don't know a single person who would rather waste those things instead of listening to someone with wisdom and experience! If you don't have anyone in your life that you can get advice from, remember that the Bible is full of practical advice that can help you stay the course.

Another way to avoid shipwrecks is to avoid addictions. Bathsheba warns her son against promiscuous women and alcohol, which could both be considered addictions. No one intends to become addicted to anything, but as Sarah says, sin is addictive from the first moment. She talks about praying for what she wants to be addicted to- Jesus- instead of praying against addictions like chocolate or drugs. Her reasoning is that what she prays for becomes a focus, so she wants to focus on the right things. This is brilliant! This goes back to chapter 1 and the idea of keeping good things in your mind instead of negative junk. If you're currently experiencing an addiction, even one as seemingly harmless as playing a game on your phone, then try praying for an addiction to Jesus and see if that changes your prayer life and your viewpoint!

Can shipwrecks ever be a good thing? Surprisingly, yes! Sarah says that a true pioneer will make many mistakes, but they will be mistakes no one has made before. Sometimes you have to get a little off course and messed up before God can step in and navigate you back to smooth sailing. Shipwrecks can teach you perseverance also. After the first time you get battered and beaten down, you'll realize that it's not so bad and be less hesitant to fail or make mistakes. Plus, you don't want to live with the constant fear that your failures and mistakes are going to break you. Sarah ended the chapter with these two lines: "If you live on the edge, shipwrecks and failure are sure to come your way for a season. Push past it; your dreams will come." In other words, strap on your lifejacket and get ready for the ride of your life!

Today's challenge: Do a little soul-searching. Is there anything in life that you should avoid? Anything that is starting to become a bit of an addiction? Make steps to rid yourself of it today! As Sarah said, amazing people are in control of their lives and their problems. Oh man. This one is good but tough!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 2

Before I start today, there are two quick notes that I want to make about yesterday's post:

1. I forgot to give attribution credit to the picture I used. That's been fixed on the post.

2. Sarah includes a verse at the beginning of each chapter, so I want to make sure I include that. It's also been added to the post. I'm going to call those Focus Verses and will make sure to have them in each posting.

I guess my brain was so full of April Fools' yesterday that I forgot those details!

How did everyone do with the negative thoughts challenge? I had three negative thoughts before I even left the house this morning! It was kind of sobering today to realize just how many negative thoughts crossed my mind. It was also so easy to get mired down in the negative once I allowed myself to entertain a negative thought. I'll definitely be paying more attention to the thoughts I have and not letting myself dwell on the negative. I lost count around 11 today, so hopefully some of you did better than me!

Today's chapter is called A Dedicated Life



Focus Verse: Child whom I bore! The son I dedicated to God! (Proverbs 31:2b, The Message)

Gulp. This one is a tough one for me. Maybe even tougher than wrangling all of my negative thoughts! Sarah starts this chapter with the story of a woman she met who, along with her husband, dedicated her life to helping war-torn women in Africa. From there, Sarah transitions into talking about some of the most dedicated people in the Bible- the gatekeepers. The gatekeepers never left their job and spent all day and all night around the house of God. Can you imagine being that dedicated to a job? Obviously, I don't have that kind of dedication because I barely even want to spend an extra minute there most of the time, much less all day and all night!

Sarah connects success and dedication, which is interesting because I don't think I've ever looked at it that way. What she says is true though. Those who are successful are dedicated to something that they love, and the more they love it, the more dedicated they are.

Another trait of those who are dedicated is guarding what is sacred, whether it is sacred to them or to others. There are so many things that can be considered sacred to people. For me, my beliefs, family, and close friends are sacred. I'm dedicated to those things, and if anything or anyone tries to break me from those, then I reevaluate my relationship with that thing or person.

Trust and responsibility are also traits of dedicated people. Those who are dedicated will be seen as trustworthy and responsible. I can see this relationship because I've had times where I struggle being either of these things, and it's usually because I'm not truly dedicated to a particular thing. For example, when I was working on contributing a chapter to a book, I was really flaky, missed deadlines, and did an all-around poor job on it. Now I can see that I wasn't really dedicated to it. I was roped into writing it because they had a space to fill, and it wasn't a priority or sacred to me, so I was irresponsible and just did the bare minimum. Of course, that's not the right attitude to have, but if you find yourself abandoning responsibilities or being untrustworthy about something, then check to see if you're really dedicated to it.

A fifth trait of dedicated people is that they will do whatever needs to be done. Yep, I didn't display this trait at all in my previous example! I also have found myself not displaying this trait at work, which makes me realize that I need to rededicate myself to my career (but I'm still not spending the night there!).

A final trait of dedicated people is that they get to give. As Sarah says, when you live a dedicated life, you will give to others in a variety of ways. You may even get to give someone a better life! How is that for amazing?!?

There is a downside to dedication, though. If you're obsessively dedicated to something, then other areas will suffer. We all know or have known of someone who was so dedicated to his career that eventually his family fell apart because he didn't invest in them. Or, how about that girl who is so dedicated to her relationship that when it ends, she has nothing else because she's pushed everything else away? There's a difference between wise dedication and obsessive dedication.

However, there is one dedication that won't lead you astray: the dedication to Christ. Here's what Sarah had to say about being dedicated to Christ:
When you dedicate your life to serving the cause of Christ, you dedicate yourself to what Christ is dedicated to. Life works out wonderfully because Christ is dedicated to your success, your family, your marriage. You can be dedicated to everything you want and need to be when you dedicate your life to Him.
Today's challenge has two parts. The first part is to think of a few ways that you can be more dedicated to Christ and less dedicated to things that don't matter (like, ahem, staying caught up with your Facebook feed, Amber). The second part is more long-term, and we'll revisit it at the end of the month. Prove your dedication by taking responsibility, volunteering for jobs no one else wants, or figuring out how to guard what is sacred to you. I can't wait to hear what you guys do for this challenge!
 

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Make Yourself Amazing in April: Day 1

Preface and Chapter 1: What are you thinking?

 Photo credit
Source for original photo

Normally when I do book reviews or write about books, I don't usually focus too much on the Preface, but the author, Sarah Coleman, raises some great points here that I definitely didn't want to overlook!

She starts the Preface with saying that we were all born to be amazing and not average. This is so true! This hits hard also because I've been feeling pretty average and unamazing lately. Coleman's take is that our choices and what we do determine whether we become more amazing and how fast we accomplish it. So what is amazing? Or, rather, who is amazing? For Coleman, the Proverbs 31 woman sets the example for the potential that we all have locked inside of us. It's funny because when I was reading this, I instantly had the thought that the Proverbs 31 woman was really an army of women, but, unfortunately, it's just one woman! That's a tough pill to swallow when I'm planted on the couch, fighting with myself to get enough energy just to get up and shower. Oh, and men, don't run away too quickly. Coleman speculates that not only was Bathsheba telling her son the godly qualities to look for in a wife, but she was also telling him of the important qualities he should develop. So don't think you're getting off the hook that easily or that this book is only for the women in your life! With that in mind, let's move to Chapter 1: What Are You Thinking?

Focus Verse: Oh, son of mine, what can you be thinking of! (Proverbs 31:2, The Message)

There is amazing power in words and what the mind thinks. If you've heard something about yourself for your entire life, then chances are you have internalized that and believe it. It might be something good, like people telling you that you're funny. But, more often than not, it's something negative, like telling you that you can't do this or that. After you hear that for so long, you start thinking it. As Proverbs 23:7 says, "For as he thinks in his heart, so is he." With that in mind (ha), it only makes sense that if you change your thoughts, you can change your life. Coleman says that the most powerful person is the one who controls his thoughts. Wouldn't you agree with that?

Our thoughts aren't the only ones that affect us; the way God thinks about us can also make a powerful impact on how we see ourselves. Coleman has great insights about God's perception of us. One of my favorite passages in this chapter comes towards the end:
When Father looks at you...He sees you already in the prosperous future He has planned. So stop looking with eyes of reality. Stop thinking of yourself as you are, and put your past failures behind you. God's reality is the future; see yourself there instead. 
Coleman ends each chapter with Thoughts To Ponder. I won't write the entire thought here, but one highlight was to stop negative thoughts as soon as you realize what you're doing and think positive instead. I'm going to add to her Thoughts and give you all a challenge: tomorrow, whenever you start to think a negative thought, make a mark somewhere and then immediately start thinking positive thoughts. At the end of the day, look and see how many negative thoughts you've had to fight off. I'm going to do it, and I'll share the results with you. Also, I know a couple of you have told me that you've bought the book and plan to follow along. I would love to hear insights from you! Sarah (it seems so funny to call her Coleman the entire time. Maybe I'll be less formal and stick with Sarah!) is going to stop by as much as she can, so if you have questions or thoughts, please share them here and hopefully she'll get to see them and respond!