Monday, January 31, 2011

Sun Stand Still: A Book Review

Sometime before Christmas, I joined a program called Blogging for Books through the WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing group. It is a great program! Basically, I get free books just by reviewing them on my blog. If you like to read, you should sign up!

The first book I read through the program is Sun Stand Still by Steven Furtick. The words on the back cover caught my attention:
"This book is not a Snuggie. The words on these pages will not go down like Ambien. I'm not writing to calm or coddle you. With God's help, I intend to incite a riot in your mind."
I thought it sounded like a great, Christian book, and I was curious to see just how convicting the book would be.

The title of the book comes from the Old Testament in Joshua 10:13. In this verse, Joshua had the audacity to ask God to make the sun stand still during battle, and God made it happen. The entire book uses that verse as its theme, comparing the things in our lives to this battle.

My impression of the first half of the book was that it did not dig very deeply into the issues of faith and prayer. I was expecting to be deeply shaken and convicted, based on the title and the snippet on the back cover, but that did not happen right away. In fact, I struggled to make it through the first 10 chapters.

However, I'm glad I trudged through it, because I felt that the best part of the book was the second half. Furtick delved much more deeply into the topics of faith and audacity in prayer, two main themes of the book. He gave a lot of real life examples of how and when to pray a "sun stand still prayer."

I felt convicted during the last 10 chapters because of Furtick's great balance between writing about radical faith and practicality. He provided many real-life examples of "sun stand still prayers" that God had answered, yet he made sure to include a few chapters warning that God doesn't always answer our prayers just the way we want Him to.

For me, chapter 14, "Pray Like a Juggernaut," was the most powerful. In this chapter, Furtick takes a look at some of the more common and generic terms we may use in our prayers. For example, he addresses the use of phrases like: "be with me today, God," and "If it be thy will, Lord." He challenges Christians to look at these phrases and change them to something more specific and faith-filled. My prayer life has changed now that I've eliminated some of the phrases he mentions.

Overall, this was a good read. I would recommend it to anyone who would like to take a closer look at their prayer-life. However, if you're looking for a book that's going to shake you to the core, inspire you and convict you in every area of your life, this book may fall a little short. I guess I was expecting something more like Francis Chan's Crazy Love, which completely changed the way I live my life.

I received this book for free from WaterBrook Multnomah Publishing Group for this Review.

Date 9: Saturday Morning Breakfast

I picked our date this week, and I decided to make it a date morning instead of a date night :-) On Saturday morning, Luke and I headed out for a late breakfast at Bob Evans.

When our food came to the table, it was embarrassing how much there was! Luke had pancakes, bacon, toast, home fries, and I don't even remember what else. And I ordered the garden harvest omelet, which came with home fries and toast. And I also splurged on a French vanilla cappuccino. It was all so good! And I didn't need to eat another meal all day because it filled me up so much...

We ate slowly, or at least I did, and talked during our meal. We talked about some fun new endeavors we may be getting into, which was exciting! What a great morning. I think we should do breakfast dates more often :-)

After breakfast, Luke had to head to Guitar Center for some things for his drums, and I read in the car during the long(ish) car ride. I'm reading My Sister's Keeper, and cannot put it down! What a great, relaxing morning.

We was such a nice, laid-back date! I am beginning to understand why people always say that couples need to continue to date even after they're married. It's so nice to take a little time for the two of us to re-connect during our busy weeks. My love language is quality time, so these dates have been so much fun, and have meant so much to me! I find myself looking forward all week to the next one!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Week in Review

Sunday 1/23 - After church we went out to lunch (as usual on Sunday) at an Italian restaurant we'd never been to before. And then for most of the afternoon, I laid around and watched documentaries on Instant Netflix. I was feeling the winter blues all weekend, and was coming down from the high of the Arizona trip, so it wasn't my best hour. Haha...but luckily I've snapped out of it since then!

Monday 1/24 - While at work, I kept receiving text updates from family members because my cousin Sarah was at the hospital in labor! She had a little boy named Hudson, and I was able to go visit them at the hospital in the evening. He is so sweet!! Definitely gave me baby fever. Or a worse case of it...

Tuesday 1/25 - What a boring day to write about...I went grocery shopping after work and spent the evening cleaning the house. It felt good though, because I knew I was finally out of the unproductive funk I had been in all weekend!

Wednesday 1/26 - I didn't do anything exciting on Wednesday either. Except a new toy for Luke arrived: an HD projector. He desperately wanted to sell our TV and get a projector instead, and I caved I guess. The living room is slightly less homey now, but I must say, the huge screen is fun to watch movies on! Here's a picture of us testing it's not really going to project a picture on the wall opposite the couch. haha! And yes, Luke chose one of his favorite movies to test it out with (okay, I admit's one of my favorite movies too!)

Thursday 1/27 - Luke went to work setting up the projector that evening, and his parents visited for awhile so he could show it off. I spent most of the evening reading, but then JC came over and we all watched The Office.

Friday 1/28 - I had a girls night with my friend Kristin while Luke was at basketball. It was fun to have some girl time! We watched movies and talked and ate lots of chocolate...what the best girls nights are made of :-)

Saturday 1/29 - After heading to a church library meeting, Luke and I had a little breakfast date! We went to Bob Evans and enjoyed our breakfast while we talked. It was such a nice morning! We spent the rest of the day at home, working on projects. And then I relaxed with a book, and some re-runs of Desperate Housewives in the evening. I love Saturdays so much!
My delicious French vanilla cappuccino at breakfast

Movies I watched this week: A bunch of documentaries that are all blurring together. haha...and Waiting for Guffman (B)

Books I'm reading this week: The Bible (I Kings), Finished The Lost World by Michael Crichton, and started My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult

Songs I'm loving this week: When the Rain Comes - Third Day, and This is the Stuff - Francesca Battistelli

Things I'm looking forward to next week: Going to an Ohio State basketball game with Luke and JC!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Arizona Adventure - Days 6 & 7

The last two days of our trip were a lot more low-key than the first 4. Which is good, because this post will be a lot shorter than the others! Or at least it won't include as many pictures.

On Monday morning we had another large breakfast...Luke's grandma really outdid herself all week! After breakfast, we headed to Tubac to shop.

Tubac is a shopping village with lots of interesting shops full of jewelry, art, and things of that nature. We had fun walking through all the unique shops, even though most of the items were a little out of our price range!

On our way back from Tubac, we stopped at a few more places because we still had to buy souvenirs for family members! I always push this off to the last day, afraid to commit to buying anything early in the week in case I find something better. Does anyone else do this?

Monday afternoon was spent at Luke's grandparents' house. I sat in a big chair in their Arizona room and read all afternoon. It was lovely, although a little depressing because I was SOOO dreading leaving the next day!

Later that afternoon, Luke and I had the pleasure of meeting some of Luke's grandparents' friends. They were all so much fun!! I hope to see them the next time we visit :-)

And in the evening we had a big, delicious dinner, Luke and I packed everything for our departure the next morning, and then we all spent the rest of the evening watching American Pickers and Pawn Stars.

The next day our flight didn't leave until around 12, so we slept in a little, and then we all went out to a little place called Dona's Diner for breakfast together. It was delicious! And after that came the sad part: saying goodbye. Luke's grandparents' drove us to the airport...I took one last picture in Green Valley during the drive: the Pecan Groves

We sadly said our goodbyes, and soon after that, boarded our flight. I tried to hide it from Luke, but I cried just a little bit as the plane was taking off. You would too if you had to leave this:

...and return to to this never-ending grayness

Anyway, here's my last picture of the trip, one last picture of Arizona out the window of the plane.

We spent the entire rest of the day and evening on two different flights. We had a layover in San Francisco, which meant we went from Tucson to San Fransisco to Pittsburgh. It's always weird when you have to back-track like that. Luke was smart and upgraded our seats on the second flight, which was 5 hours long. So we had lots of extra leg room, and I really appreciated him thinking to do that. Plus, the flight wasn't full so we had the whole row to ourselves.

I've found that I really enjoy flying! I had a chance to read most of "Water for Elephants" during our flights, plus I got to watch "Life as we Know it" again.

Our plane landed in Pittsburgh about 20 minutes early, and my parents were already there to pick us up. It was great to see them! But arriving home was definitely bittersweet.

So that's it! I enjoyed every minute of our trip, and I'm looking forward to hopefully going back in the next few years! We are so thankful to Luke's grandparents for EVERYTHING they did. It was truly one of the best weeks of my life!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

What I'm Cooking Wednesday: Parsley Potatoes

Today I'm sharing Luke's all-time favorite side-dish:

This is so easy to make I can barely even call it a recipe. But here's what you need:
2 lbs. Red Potatoes
About 1/2 cup butter (or a little more if you're like us and don't mind the risk of a heart attack :-P)
1 tbsp chopped parsley
salt to taste

First, wash the potatoes and cut them into chunks.
Put them in a pot and fill it with water until the potatoes are covered under about 1" of water. Add a little salt, and heat to boiling. Then cover and reduce heat. Let simmer for about 20-25 minutes.

After that it's really simple. Drain the water, place them in a serving bowl. Add the parsely and the butter, a little at a time while the potatoes are still very hot.
Stir well until all the butter is melted. Add salt to taste.

And that's it! It is soooo good. It's such a delicious and easy side dish!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Arizona Adventure - Day 5: Hiking and Returning to Green Valley

Sunday was our last day in Sedona, and we really wanted to get some hiking in before we left! So we woke up early to pack everything up, check out of our condo, and hit the trails.

We chose the Soldiers Pass Trail, simply because we had seen the entrance and parking lot earlier that weekend, and knew we could find it easily.
It ended up being another favorite part of my trip! The trail was about 3.5 miles long, but it was uphill pretty much the whole way until we got to the lookout point. Although I am unbelievably out of shape, I loved walking through the trails of red dirt and seeing all there was to see.
We saw some really neat cacti including prickly pear:

This little one...I have no idea what it's called, but thought it looked cool

And Agave. AKA "Cowboy Killer" according to our tour guide on the Pink Jeep Tour the day before.
I have a little story about an Agave Cactus...Luke climbed to the top of this little hill and I took his picture. Can you see him?? He's pretty small

And on the way down, he "brushed his leg" (his words) against an agave plant. It punctured right through his jeans and into his leg! People who live there swear they jump out and bite you! haha...Anyway, he limped for two days. Luckily it didn't get infected. But it's easy to see why they called it "The Cowboy Killer." If you fell on top of a big one, those little tips would go right through you like spears! I'm glad Luke was only hurt a little bit by it.

A little while after Luke's little run-in with the Agave, I lost my footing, somehow landed on the side of my ankle, and fell right into the mud. As soon as my weight landed on my foot, I really though I had broken it because of the odd angle in which it had landed. I thought Luke was going to have to carry me back to the trailhead, and bring me to the ER. But I sat down for a moment and rested it, and it was completely fine! It was a tiny miracle, I think :-) It was pretty stiff and sore the next morning, but I made it through the rest of the hike with no problems. I was so thankful!

Anyway, back to the trail. There were a few fun things we saw on our way to the top:

Here's Luke standing by one of "The Seven Pools"
A Random hole in the ground:
And other pretty things:
Of course, the most beautiful thing was the red rock scenery.
Here we are almost to the top. I was pretty tired at this point. You can tell because all the blood has drained from my face and I look like a ghost :-P

Once we finally made it to the top, I knew all that hard work and huffing and puffing had been worth it. The views were absolutely unbelievable! Again, it took my breath away.

There's Luke right on the edge of the world :-)

And there he is giving me a heart attack, trying to make me a childless widow at the age of 26.
(The climb down to that rock was REALLY steep.)

I told Luke when we were at the top that I felt like we hadn't missed church being up there. I felt so close to the Lord being immersed in His creation like that. It is my favorite kind of worship.

After spending a ton of time enjoying the scenery at the top, we climbed back down and walked back to our car. What a fun morning!

After that, we stopped at The Chapel of the Holy Cross before we left to head back to Green Valley. It is a church built into a rock, and it is beautiful!

View from the inside

On the long, 4-hour drive back to Green Valley, we made a few stops to break up the ride. We ate lunch at a Jack in the Box. Luke had eaten at one the last time he was in Arizona, and he couldn't stop thinking about it, so we had to go. It wasn't bad, especially for fast food. Then we also stopped at the University of Phoenix Stadium, and the Indians training facility. For Luke, of course.

When we finally got back to Luke's grandparents' house in Green Valley, we all ate pizza for dinner, and I got to meet Luke's grandpa's cousin who also lives in Arizona. We all ate and chatted for a long time. And then we all watched a movie before heading to bed.


Tomorrow I'll be sharing a recipe for "What I'm Cooking Wednesday." But on Thursday I'll wrap up the re-cap posts with our last days in Arizona. It still makes me sad that I had to leave!!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Arizona Adventure - Day 4: Pink Jeep Tour and The Grand Canyon

This was the most beautiful day of my life, and probably my favorite day of our trip. I think you'll see why if you look at the pictures. I have never packed so many beautiful things into one single day before.

Luke and I woke up bright and early on Saturday morning for our Pink Jeep Tour! If you are unfamiliar with Pink Jeep Tours, it is a tour of Sedona. In a pink Jeep. Pretty simple concept, I guess ;-) Something tells me I probably didn't need to explain that...
The Pink Jeep Tour was a gift from Luke's parents. We are so thankful for it, because it really ended up being the highlight of our trip! We LOVED it!

We chose to do the Broken Arrow Tour, which was the most popular and also most daring tour. It was mostly off-roading, and it was so much fun! We had a wonderful tour guide from Costa Rica. He made it fun, and we learned so much! He also had us laughing pretty hard for most of the tour, so that was fun!

Here are some pictures:

See those black marks coming down the rock? Our guide told us those were tire marks, and that the grand finale of our tour was to drive down those rocks. Haha!
We made a few stops for some incredible views during the tour. This was our first one, on Submarine Rock. Gorgeous panoramic views!
And here we are! Pretty much in heaven
Here are some views from our next stop, at Chicken Point
Hangin' around at Chicken Point ;-)
(Okay, so I may have done a little something to this photo to make it a little deceiving :-P).

After our two stops, the rest of the tour got a little more scary. But in a fun way! But first we had to check out where the Flinstone House (according to our tour guide :-P)

And then we went down this scary rock at a 45 degree's another Jeep doing it right after we did it.
We hung out like this for a good 30 seconds...and it felt much scarier than it looks. haha
But the grand finale of the tour made the 45 degree angle look like nothin'...we went down "The Devil's Staircase." This one had me a little nervous, but mostly it was just fun :-) Here it is from the bottom looking backwards

That pretty much concluded our Pink Jeep Tour. If you're ever in Sedona, you HAVE to try it! Sooo much fun! It was about a 2 hour tour, and I feel like we really saw and learned a lot during that time.

After that, it was time to head to The Grand Canyon! We had about a 2-hour drive from Sedona. On the way we stopped at Olive Garden for some lunch. We caught a lot of grief for that one since we can go to Olive Garden anytime at home! But we were in a hurry, and just happened to see one right on our way, so we decided to stop. And it was delicious as always.

We took the scenic route to the Grand Canyon, which means we went through Oak Creek Canyon right outside of Sedona. It was BEAUTIFUL!! And I couldn't believe how different it looked from Sedona with all it's Ponderosa Pines and snow on the ground. Are you starting to see why this was the most beautiful day of my life??
On the way to the Grand Canyon, there is an IMAX movie you can watch all about it. We decided to stop and see it so we could get some history and ready ourselves. It was a pretty good little film! And we even got 4 free Nature's Valley granola bars with our tickets. This was exciting for me, because I LOVE Nature's Valley granola bars :-) Leave it to food, once again, to make me happy.

Anyway, after the movie, we headed for Grand Canyon National Park. We went to the first lookout point we could find, and once again, I was blown away. Luke's grandma says she doesn't know how anyone could see the canyon and not believe in God. I have to say, I think I agree with her.It made me feel so small
Being about 6 hours north of Green Valley, where we had been earlier in our trip, it was about 30 degrees colder. There was lots of snow and ice on the ground. A little part of me was afraid that I would slip on the ice and slide down under the bars, right into the canyon. It was a little scary if you think about it!
I love this picture
While at the Canyon, we just drove around, stopping at each lookout point and admiring the view. At one point when we were driving, we were lucky enough to see an Elk!
And since it's January, that's pretty much the only wildlife we saw the whole trip. I'm secretly a little thankful for that. I certainly did NOT want to see a rattle snake!

While we were in Sedona, I was reading the book that Luke's grandma had let me borrow, "The Harvey Girls." I mentioned it the other day.

The book is about Fred Harvey, who built a lot of hotels and restaurants along the Santa Fe Railroad in the West. In these beautiful, classy hotels and restaurants, there were women (The Harvey Girls) who were waitresses who lived by a very strict list of rules set by Mr. Harvey. They lived in dorms and worked very long hours. A lot of these women left their families and came from the East. It was a very interesting read, and I'm not even that into history (although I find that the older I get, the more I appreciate it and find it interesting). Anyway, The El Tovar Hotel is at The Grand Canyon, and it is one of the only Harvey Houses that still stands. I was so excited to get to see it since I had been reading about Fred Harvey and The Harvey Girls all week! I didn't get a good picture, but here's one I found online:

We talked about eating dinner there, but then checked out the dinner prices online. That changed our minds. Haha! But I was excited to at least see a bit of the history that I'd been reading about.

Mary Colter was the woman who designed most of the Harvey Houses. She built a little rest area on the South Rim of The Grand Canyon. It no longer stands, but the arch of the building still stands as a National Historic Landmark. I got to see it up close and take a picture, so I though that was exciting.

By the time we were done at the Grand Canyon, the sun was setting, and we were ready to make the 2-hour drive back to Sedona for our last night there. I so enjoyed the drive back to our condo
because the sunset was so beautiful!! See? Most beautiful day ever.
Once back in Sedona, we were famished! We wanted to go to the pizza place by our condo that Luke's aunt and uncle had recommended, but it looked packed and we didn't want to wait. We chose the Red Planet Diner instead (although it turns out that we should have just waited for the pizza!)This place had a fun atmosphere, but that was about all it had going for it. We had awful service and had to wait forever. I ordered chili in a breadbowl, and I was not impressed. Not only that, but they had a picture of Obi Wan Kenobi on the wall, and they had it labled "Obey One Kinobey." That was simply unforgivable in Luke's eyes :-P

But like I said, at least the atmosphere was fun. We felt like we were in Pizza Planet from Toy Story!

After our sub-par dinner, (listen to me, I'm becoming such a food snob! :-P) We headed back to the condo and watched football until we couldn't keep our eyes open. What a full, wonderful day!


Day 5 is comin' atcha tomorrow! - Our hike up Soldier's Pass Trail, our visit to The Chapel of the Holy Cross, and our night back in Green Valley.