Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sharing our Struggles

{Written By Miss Johanna}

There have been so many times throughout my Christian walk where I have felt utterly discouraged when I hold myself in comparison to others. Especially when I'm in the midst of a spiritual struggle. When I see how on fire others are for Christ, and than look at my own life and the strugglesd that I go through daily, I feel completely unworthy to be accepted by those who seem so pure and holy. Regrettably, this has evinced in me the tendency to keep my troubles to myself. Countless times I have felt unable, or perhaps unwilling, to share my secrets with anyone. Why? It's simple. Because there is always that little voice in my head which dauntingly whispers, "you can't tell her that you are struggling with this! She is such a better Christian than you! She would be appalled!" It wasn't until very recently that the Lord opened up my heart to a few important truths. Truths that changed my life.

Firstly, and perhaps most importantly, I seemed to forget that we are all sinners. Romans 3:23 says: "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." Often times, when I look at the sins which have marred my life, I seem to believe that I fall shortest when compared to others. But in truth, are we not all equal when standing before God? Haven't we all sinned, and therefore, deserve eternal condemnation? Whether you lied or stole, whether you committed adultery or murder; do we not all fall equally short? In the same way, no matter what you have done the Lord's forgiveness is always enough to wash us clean.

Secondly; we all fail. Every time I am going through a spiritual struggle or conflict, I seem to believe that I must be the only one. When I looked at the lives of others, and saw how wonderful their relationship was with Christ, I was simply heartbroken at the thought of mine being so much less beautiful. It seemed that everyone's life was perfect; except for mine. It seemed that no one else had struggles; except for me. And of course, this made me want to keep it all in; all to myself. I didn't want anyone to know that I wasn't as perfect as they were. I was blinded to the fact that no one is perfect. I couldn't see that we all make mistakes. I was too focused on my own worries and struggles.

Until recently. I realized the truth. I stepped over my pride. I told of what had been on my mind. What I had been struggling with. What I needed help with. Where I had fallen short. When I had messed up. And how they could help.  And I asked them to pray for me. You see, when we share our troubles with others, we accomplish so many things. 

Firstly, we realize that we are not the only ones going through this. When we allow ourselves to share our hearts with others, we will always find that they too are going through something. When we tell others of our struggles, often times we gain encouragement from their experience. 

Secondly, it is no longer a secret. So many times, when we allow our struggles to remain secret, they can grow into something much bigger and more terrible. If we allow them too, they will poison our conscience and infiltrate our heart with fear. I believe one of the devil's greatest weapons is fear. He will tell us we are not good enough; he will tell us that we are an utter failure; and he will fervently try to discourage us to share our failures with other, because, as long as we do he will have the high ground. There is nothing like fear to block our minds from God's love and truth. Don't let it blockade yours. 

Finally, when we let others know about our struggles, they will be able to pray for us. James 5:16 says: "Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." You see, when we confess our shortcomings to others, they are able to wield the greatest weapon of all of all, just when we are unable to. They are able to intervene for us. They are able to strengthen us through Jesus Christ. They are able to defeat the devil through prayer. 

Sisters, if you are going through something in your life today I hope you have someone you can share it with. Don't let that little voice stop you when it says, "you can't tell her this! She is such a better Christian than you," because it isn't true. It takes courage. I know. But don't ever forget ...

We all fall short.
We all struggle. 
We all need help. 
We all need Jesus.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Monthly Interview :: Miss Haley

Today for our monthly interview, Reflections of Grace will be interviewing Miss Haley of Chapter Thirteen blog about the importance of choosing our reading materials wisely. Haley has been a sweet friend and pen-pal of Bethany's for a while now and we are both excited to be able and let her share today! Thanks Haley, for letting us interview you! :)  ~Bethany & Johanna {P.S. Be sure and visit Reflections of Grace on June 1st for our one year anniversary giveaway celebration! We have several prizes in store that you can win so check by then and enter!}

REFLECTIONS OF GRACE :: Could you introduce yourself to us? How did you come to know Christ?

HALEY :: Hi everyone! My name is Haley. I'm fourteen years old. I live in Kansas with my dad, mom, and little sister. I'm homeschooled. I like photography, reading, blogging, baking, letters, and crafting. I am being raised in a Christian home. I accepted Christ when I was nine years old and was baptized a couple years later in our church.

REFLECTIONS OF GRACE :: Why do you enjoy reading?

HALEY :: I've always loved reading, even when I was little. My mom would take me to story time at the library and I'd look through stacks of books. I like reading mainly because books can take you places that you'd never go otherwise. They make you use your imagination and allow you to learn about new things.

REFLECTIONS OF GRACE :: Why do you think it's important to be careful of the books we read?

HALEY :: I think it's important to be careful what books we read because books will make you use your imagination. It's important because when we read we're learning and we're thinking about what the book is presenting.

REFLECTIONS OF GRACE :: Have you ever started a book but decided not to finish it? What made you decide to do so?

HALEY :: Yes, I have. It was a children's book actually, but I stopped reading it because the of the bad language that was used throughout the book. I really did not feel comfortable with it, I felt guilty reading it, and I knew it wasn't God-honoring.

REFLECTIONS OF GRACE :: What are some of your favorite books/authors?

HALEY :: I like books by Janette Oke. The Millie Kieth A Life of Faith series. Also, I really like the Viking Quest series by Lois Walfrid Johnson.

REFLECTIONS OF GRACE ::  What are your favorite kinds of books? (Example: fiction, non-fiction, historical fiction, amish fiction, etc)

HALEY :: Historical fiction. And I like if there's a little mystery in it too. I mostly read books that take place in the pioneer times, just because I'm so interested in that time-period and I love learning about it.

REFLECTIONS OF GRACE :: Let's say you have started a book, but you find it's content is a bit "iffy" and aren't sure if you should continue reading it. Do you have guidelines as to were you draw the line or were its okay to keep reading?

HALEY :: When it comes to discernment of whether or not a book is okay to read, consulting Philippians 4:8 is helpful. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things."  Does the book steer my thoughts towards good things? And most of all does the book honor God? If not, then I won't keep reading it.

REFLECTIONS OF GRACE :: Would you like to share anything in closing?

HALEY :: I'd like to encourage you that if a book is not honoring or you would not be using good judgment to read it -- just put the book down, return it to the library. I know we "want to know what happens in the end", but it's really worth it not to have things in your mind that just don't need to be there. And thank you, Bethany and Johanna, for having me!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Fruity Delights :: Recipes

I just love fruit! They come in all shapes, sizes, tastes and colors and are very healthy! Some of my favorite fruits are strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, bananas, oranges, grapefruit, apples and kiwi! Today I've compiled some yummy looking recipes that will be perfect for the upcoming summer! Please enjoy!

Healthy Fresh Fruit Pizza 

Fruit Pizza Recipes

For the cookie crust:
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 1/2 c. butter
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the cheese spread:
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
For the topping:
  • Sliced fruits
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. To make the crust, cream the sugar, egg, vanilla and butter until fluffy and light. add the baking powder and flour and mix well. Spread the mixture into a pizza pan or on to a baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown. Cool. Combine the sugar, vanilla and cream cheese and spread onto the cooled crust. Arrange fruits on top and cover. Refrigerate for 2 hours and enjoy! Serves 6.

Fruit Dip

Marshmallow Fruit Dip

  • 8oz package cream cheese, softened and room temperature
  • 2 – 7 oz jars marshmallow creme/fluff (I was able to buy 1-130z jar)

Mix marshmallow creme and cream cheese together (by hand or mixer) until well combined.  Serve with your favorite fruit such as strawberries, cherries, bananas, pineapples, etc.  Enjoy!

Creamy Fruit Tarts

Best Creamy Fruit Tarts

  • 1 cup buttermilk baking mix 
  • 2 tbsp. granulated sugar 
  • 1 tbsp. butter, softened 
  • 6 oz. cream cheese, softened 
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar 
  • 1/4 cup sour cream 
  • 1 1/2 cups assorted fruit slices or berries 
  • 1/3 cup apple or apricot jelly, melted
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix baking mix, 2 tbsp. sugar, butter and half of the cream cheese in small bowl until dough forms a ball. Divide into 6 parts. Press each part of dough on bottom and up 3/4-inch sides of 6 tart pans, 4 1/4 x 1-inch or 10 custard cups. Place on cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until light brown; cool on wire rack. Remove tart shells from pans. Beat remaining  cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar and sour cream until smooth and spoon into tart shells, spreading over bottoms. Top each with about 1/4 cup fruit. Brush with jelly.

Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups

  • 2 cups strawberries
  • ¼ tsp cinnamon

Blend the fruit until smooth, then spread onto a Teflex sheet or a parchment-lined baking sheet. If using a dehydrator, dehydrate at 105 degrees F for 8-10 hours or until the fruit is pliable and easy to peel from the sheet. If using an oven, leave it on at the lowest temperature until the fruit is dry (times will vary depending on the oven). Cut into strips and store in a glass container in the refrigerator.

Whole Wheat Fruit Muffins

  • 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour (I used King Arthur’s white whole-wheat flour)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup oil (I used coconut oil)
  • 3/4 cup orange juice or apple juice
  • About 1 cup of total filling (berries, fruit, nuts, etc. – see below for details)
Heat oven to 400 degrees F. In a large bowl with a fork or whisk mix the flour, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Make a well (hole) in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the eggs, honey, vanilla, oil and orange juice. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together – do not overmix. Now here is the fun part. If you are in a hurry just add 1 cup of blueberries, mashed up banana & nuts, or other filling of your choice. If you have 5 or 10 minutes extra (and some anxious helpers) do not add anything to the muffin batter before continuing with the next step.
Line a muffin pan with liners and fill 2/3 to 3/4 of the way full with batter. If you didn’t already add your filling, sprinkle 1 – 2 teaspoons of whatever you would like (from the list below or from your own creation) onto the top of each raw muffin in the pan. Then gently mix each one with a fork or spoon. Here are some options to consider for the fillings:
  • blueberries
  • diced strawberries
  • peeled and diced pears
  • applesauce
  • either diced or mashed up bananas and chopped walnuts
  • raisins and chopped pecans (I add an extra pinch of cinnamon to the muffins with this filling)
  • grated carrot and chopped walnuts
  • orange or lemon zest (only add 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of zest per individual muffin)
  • a mix of dried fruit bits
  • jelly
After the filling has been mixed into each muffin slide the tray into the warm oven and bake for 10 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Serve warm or at room temperature and freeze some for a later date. Enjoy! Yield: 12 muffins.

Fruit Sorbet


  • 1/2 banana, frozen
  • about 1/2 cup frozen berries (I like blueberries and raspberries, mixed)
  • about 1/4 cup chopped frozen mango or pear (adds creaminess)
  • up to 2 Tbsp. agave nectar (may be omitted)
  • up to 1/4 cup plain soymilk or coconut milk (may be omitted)

Throw everything in your food processor and whir until it begins to resemble ice cream.  You’ll need to stop the machine and scrape down the sides two or three times before it comes together.  As soon as it’s creamy, scoop out and serve–it melts quickly.  This is a little scoop of heaven in a bowl!

Note :: As always please use discretion when visiting the provided links. Thanks!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Judge Ye Not!

{Written By Bethany}

We were in the grocery store, grabing a few items before going home for the day. I spotted a young man an instantly a bad impression flew through my mind. I saw a slowchy teen-aged boy with baggy jeans that had chains drapping from side to side. I saw tatoos and a hair cut that was a bit weird, and on top of that there was an imodestly dressed girlfriend hanging off his arm as he scuffed through the store. I thought to myself "What a low life, he's obviously not a Christian becasue of how he looks....etc" As I continued to think bad thoughts towards the man I noticed that as he turned around there was a small book in his back pocket of his several-sizes-to-big-jeans. From the small bit that was peeking out I was able to read "Holy Bible". I was in awe of how the Lord used that young man to show me just how judgmental I was. Before I'd even seen him for 5 minutes I'd judged him wrongly. I still, to this day, don't know whether he was a true Christian or not. But either way the Lord used that store visit as a opportunity to show me how judgmental I can be without even realizing it or meaning to. How judgmental my sinful mind is.


We were out in town and were in a parking lot getting out of the van. I noticed a young girl walking to her car with some other girls who may have been family members and my eyes quickly turned to her large stomach, clearly showing she was pregnant. I started to think negative things towards her, wondering how she could ever do such a thing. But then the Lord hit me with a thought. She is pregnant, and yes she's not married but she is still pregnant dispite the "option" to abort the baby. She could have easily gone and had it "taken care of" and never have to go through so many stares, mean words, harsh eyes, rude looks, and embarassing situations. The amount of courage it must have taken to choose life, despite the negative response of others was huge! But she choose to keep the baby, to save it's life. I realized that even though she had messed up {as we all do daily if not hourly}, she didn't make it worse by trying to cover it up or fixing the problem to make it look like she was innocent. She made it work, she adapted her life to fit the results of her mistake. God showed me that even though this young teenaged girl was pregant, she was really a hero to me, becasue she was strong enough to not abort her baby. For that alone should I treat her with respect instead of think unkinly of her.


I was about 8 years old and we were at a science discovery museam. As we walked in I saw a lady with a long modest, plain dress and tennis shoes on her feet. My mind automatically began to think how "unfashionable" that outfit looked, and how her shoes totally didn't match her dress. I began to go on and on about how I'd never wear such a clothing choice in public. Before I'd even spoken to her or had time to make a first impression I judged her based on her outer appearence. How could she even stand to be in a feminine dress or skirt? I hated them! Now fast forward a couple of years. You see a family walking in Wal-Mart and notice that all the girls of the large family are wearing long skirts. You guessed it! Now I'm the girl with the skirt and tennis shoes on. { :D God sure does teach lessons in a interesting, unforgettable way, doesn't He?} Now I'm the girl out in public with the "unfashionable attire"! I'm the girl who wears skirts everyday and is willing to sacrifice fashion for modesty's sake! How the Lord has since then changed my heart! I now realize that it's not what you wear that makes you who you are! through this experience the Lord has shown me so much on judging!


These are all an examples of the many times I've judged before giving thought to what I was doing. My sinful nature's first responce is to judge, to find something about them to grade myself against, to see how much more "godlier" I am than them becasue of some certain area based on the outer appearance. This brings to mind the story of the sinful man who begged for God's mercy at the temple humbly, were the "clean, innocent" rule-following man just was there because he was following the rules. Who was truly forgiven? The Lord has often shown me how I am quick to judge. I must let God do the judging, and it's a good thing I can't righteously judge others, otherwise if I judged myself according to how I judge others, then I'd be bound for hell for sure with no hope of Heaven! Thank the Lord for such a merciful God! Often times when I judge others I realize that I'm really making God sad becasue I'm thinking I'm better than others based on outer appearance. But 1 Samuel 16:7 tells us that: "The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart." I'm told that my best acts of righteousness are as filthy much more my sinful acts? {Isaiah 64:6}

Judging is something our sinful nature is prone to, it's something that just happens before we realize it. We must train our mind to be merciful and to stop judging, leave it up to God. The Lord is the only True Judge so if we leave the judging up to Him then our lives will be a lot easier and we will be able to see people for who they are instead of pointing the finger. Blessings!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Book Reviews

A Sister's Secret, Sisters of Holmes County Series #1
A Sister's Secret
{Sisters of Holmes County Book # 1}
By Wanda E. Brunstetter
{Review By Bethany}

Publisher :: Barbour
Number of Pages :: 299
Source :: Library
Publication Date :: 2007
My Rating :: 5 out of 5 stars

Putting her rumschpringe {running-around years} behind her, Grace Hostettler returns to Holmes County, Ohio; joins the Amish church; and begins a new life with a new romance. The next four years are nearly idyllic for the oldest Hostettler child-except for the hidden pain she bears from a carefully harbored secret. Her peaceful world is shattered the day she runs into Gary Walker-an Englisher who knows enough about her past to destroy her future. Gary's arrival in Holmes County coincides with a series of startling attacks against the Amish community-and the Hostettlers in particular. Is Gary at the root of this evil? Amishman Cleon Schrock plans to marry Grace but is unaware of her past. When evidence of Grace's deception arrives on her family's doorstep, will Cleon feel compelled to desert the woman he loves? {Taken From Back Cover}

I really enjoyed this book by Wanda. I read one book authored by her last year and really enjoyed it so I told myself I'd read more of her books but hadn't gotten around to it until now. :) This is the first book in a series called Sisters of Holmes County. The series consists of three books, each one is about one of the Hostettler girls who are Amish: Grace, Ruth and Martha. In this first book the main character is Grace, since she is the oldest. I will say that I loved it and it kept me wanting to read more and more! It had a wonderful way of making you feel like you just can't put the book down until you've read one more chapter... ;) 

Pros :: Even though this would be considered a romance, Wanda did a wonderful job keeping it clean. The most romantic part in the book is about holding hands and even that didn't go into details. Even though there wasn't much descriptive romance, Wanda had a way of still clearly getting the point across of the two being in love without presenting it in a way that is distracting to a single woman. Even though there is deception going on in the book, at the end Grace is truly sorry and repents of keeping her secret to herself. So even though there is deceptions and lies in the end Wanda made a great point at showing how truly sorry Grace was.

Cons :: Since Grace is keeping a dark secret deep inside her there is deception{don't worry it's nothing too if you are thinking she committed some bad crime, worthy of jail-time, then it isn't anything like that :)}. She hold the truth about her past from her parents and what makes it worse is that when evidence shows up on her door, she has to spill the beans all at once. One thing I didn't like about the book is how I felt as if Wanda wasn't putting much detail into how the Amish live personally. She made reference to using weapons when they were being attacked with pranks, but the Amish don't use guns or weapons, the Mennonites don't even do that! This is only one example of several that I found that lessened the ability to feel like you were in the book. So I felt as if she didn't put much effort into making you feel like they were Amish. Although this is something that makes a book more enjoyable to a reader, it's definitely not something to make you avoid the book altogether.

A Sister's Test, Sisters of Holmes County Series #2
A Sister's Test
{Sisters of Holmes County Series Book # 2}
By Wanda E. Brunstetter
{Review by Bethany}

Publisher :: Barbour
Number of Pages :: 287
Source :: Library
Publication Date :: 2007
My Rating :: 5 out of 5 stars

Ruth is the second oldest sister in the Hostettler family, and she has one burning desire-to marry and fill her Amish household with children. Life seems to be falling into place when Martin Gingerich starts to court her and she befriends a motherless child. But her dreams are suddenly shattered in one horrific moment, putting Ruth's faith to the test. Finding herself spiritually adrift, Ruth's only prayer becomes a desperate "God, why?"

This was a very inspiring book and I thoroughly enjoyed it! It was very nicely written and was very interesting!

Pros :: This book was very inspirational and after reading it, I found myself counting my blessings more and thanking God for my family. In this book Ruth goes through lots of trials and losses and reading about her hard times makes you realize how well off you are. I never seem to realize how blessed I am until I read or hear about someone else who has it a lot worse off than me. This was a book that really left an impression on my heart and helped me be more thankful. Since Wanda went through great detail with Ruth's trials you felt as if you are there besides the person feeling their grief and pain. Often times I found myself thinking "Oh, poor Ruth" as if I would someone in real life that recently went through a loss!

Cons :: One thing about this book is that the events that happened seemed to happen too fast. For instance, in the last book Grace and her husband Cleon are having a hard time getting along and then all the sudden after several chapters of conflict in a few pages they have made up. It just didn't seem like everything happened like it would in normal life I guess, but it is fiction after all. :D The only other con I can think of is it's a bit of a sad book, several people pass away, but the end is wonderful and it makes up with a very happy, hopeful ending!

A Sister's Hope, Sisters of Holmes County Series #3A Sister's Hope
{Sisters of Holmes County Book #3}
By Wanda E. Brunstetter
{Review by Bethany}

Publisher :: Barbour
Number of Pages :: 297
Source :: Library
Publication Date :: 2008
My Rating :: 3 out of 5 stars

Martha is the youngest of the Hostettler sisters and the most daring. While her main focus has been on her dog breeding business, Martha has also been troubled about the continuing attacks against her family and home in an Ohio Amish community. When prime suspect turns out to be Luke Friesen-the man she loves- Martha decided to play detective. But what will the search for truth cost? Luke seems to have taken the wrong road in life. With definite motive and myriad of methods, he looks guilty as sin. Will Martha's hope in his innocence be enough to bring the real criminal to justice? Roman Hostettler disproves of the love blossoming between his daughter and Luke. In his determination to drive the couple apart, discord and dissension grown within the family. {Taken From The Back Cover}

Sadly, this was my least favorite book in the series. If it weren't for not letting you all down by not having the third book's review or for finding out who had been responsible for the attacks on the Hostettler family, then I'm afraid I wouldn't have finished this book since I'd not considered it worth my time.

Pros :: The story was fairly interesting and did great on starting were you left off in the last book. Honestly the cons outweigh the pros, so I'm not able to think of anything else that was a pro in the book.

Cons :: I'm afraid that this book had more cons than pros, and I'd like to share some of those right now. For one, the subject of direct disobedience to parents was shown. Martha deliberately went against her father's commands in several areas, one being that she was forbidden to be around or talk to Luke. At first, Martha doesn't really have feelings for Luke, but as she slowly starts to see him behind her father's back, she develops feelings for him. In the book there is also more romance than in the first two which is disapointing, and two kisses are shared against Martha's fathers commands. If honoring our parents wasn't such a big deal then it wouldn't be listed in the Ten Commandments, but it was. So obviously God thinks it's important! The fact that this book shows Martha going against her father's wishes - and knowing full well that she was doing so and did nothing to stop it, but rather encouraged it-was just a bit more than I would have liked to see. To make matters worse, in the end Martha is "justified" by disobeying since Luke proves innocent and then end up marrying. The book almost makes it seem as if disobedience was no big deal and that in the end, ultimately everything fixes itself.

For those looking for the third book review in the Rose Trilogy Series {In continuation of THIS POST review for the first and second book in the series}, please let me explain why it isn't here as promised last month. :) This book seems to be pretty popular right now, and due to that, the book has been out for the past few weeks at the library, thus I've not been able to check it out yet nor read it. However the first time I am there and it's available to check out, I'll get it and be sure and review it in a upcoming review post as soon as possible. Thanks for your patience!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Fashion Fun | Craft Tutorials.

Recently I came across several lovely tutorials which I have absolutely been aching to try. I find it to be so much fun to enhance my wardrobe with handmade lovelies, or perhaps spend an afternoon creating a small fashion piece for a friend. I hope you enjoy perusing the tutorials I am sharing with you today, wouldn't it be fun to have an afternoon set aside this summer for crafting? 


(Cute for Summer too! :)

{As always, please use discretion when visiting these sights. Thank you! Happy Crafting.}