A Passionate Hope by Jill Eileen Smith

A Passionate Hope
Jill Eileen Smith


Are you ready for a journey back thousands of years to the time of ancient Israel? The story of Hannah comes alive in this new book from Jill Eileen Smith. Based off the events of 1 Samuel, Smith weaves together a wonderful story of God’s love, redemption, forgiveness in a powerful way.

Hannah married Elkanah and never expected to have trouble having children. Years went by and she found herself barren. No children. She felt ostracized by her husband’s family and questioned God. Unlike most marriage relationships in the day, Elkanah had real lasting love for his wife Hannah and wasn’t turned away by her barrenness. After many years, however, his parents encouraged him to take another wife, in an effort to have an heir. He married a 2nd wife who was highly jealous of Hannah and the love Elkanah had for her despite her lack of children. Hannah endured insults and struggle and continually went to the Lord as her strength. Will Hannah ever have children? Or will she die a lonely woman? Read A Passionate Hope to find out what happens in Hannah’s story and what causes her to worship the Lord despite her circumstances.

This was the first book of this kind that I have ever read. At first I was skeptical and expected the book to be hokey. It was nothing of the sort. Beautifully developed characters and plot lines make this story of Hannah come alive in new ways. Little is known about Hannah’s life so the author had to expand on what little she found in the bible. The reader learns a lot about Israelite history, culture and religion. Characters emotions are fluidly depicted in the story. I could hear what the characters were saying and feel what others were feeling. The writing style is simple but profound. I learned so much about God and how much he loves and cares for us through a work of fiction. This is a must read! I can’t wait to read more from this author. She is an excellent writer and I highly recommend her.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for my honest review. I was privileged to read this book.

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No ordinary salad!

If you know me in real life, you know that I love to cook and bake and make all sorts of things! So of course, when I get the opportunity to review a cookbook I jump on it!

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Bring on Mighty Salads by food52! This book is fabulous! What an absolutely Gorgeous book. From the moment I looked at the cover my mouth was watering. A good book description found right inside the cover of the book is “Does anybody need a recipe to make a salad? Of course not. But if you want your salad to hold strong in your lunch bag or carry the day as a one-bowl dinner, dressing on lettuce is t going to cut it.” The book is full of beautiful pictures not only of the recipes, but of different types of greens, herbs, vegetables, fruits etc.

There is a detailed table of contents divided by salad type: leafy salads, Less-leafy vegetable salads, grain & bean salads, pasta & bread salads, fish & seafood salads, and meat salads. A few pages later you will find a building blocks table of contents including: Go Greens, Cooking Smarter, Just DIY it, Power Proteins, dress well, and to garnish. I love that you can find the different recipes for dressings from this page. Maybe I have a taste for an orange flavored salad. I can look on the list and find the Orange Dressing on page 74! The only thing that might make this easier to use is if the dressings were listed in alphabetical order instead of by page number.

Each recipe comes accompanied by a picture (there were a few that were missing pictures but that’s ok!), which in my opinion, tips my decision to buy or not buy a cook book. If there are lots of pictures I am much more likely to buy the book than if there are recipes without pictures.

The recipe page of the two page spreads lists the ingredients clearly in an easy to read font. Number of servings are included as well as a quick description of the salad followed by a little more info about the salad. These descriptions really make me want to try to make every salad in the book. They make me hungry just reading them! Directions for each recipe are given with easy to follow numbers by each point. There are also short reasons why you do what it’s telling you to do. I find this incredibly helpful and a great learning tool that I can use while cooking other dishes. At the bottom of the page are some genius tips (not found on every single recipe.. but on most). These vary by recipe but are very helpful for substitutions if necessary or just tips to make salads better.

There are also pages about herbs and other items like eggs etc. How to take care of them, how to prepare them, how to store them etc. so very helpful! Overall I love this book. I can’t wait to make more recipes from it. Right now my favorite is the Roasted Chickpea Salad with Za’atar found on page 78, the Bagna Cauda Egg Salad on Rye Toast found on 89 and the Lemony Green Pasta Salad on page 90. Amazing book. You won’t be disappointed. I can’t wait to try some of Food52’s other books too.

I received a copy of this book from Blogging for Books and the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion.


Pictures from my kitchen will have to come later because sometimes you make something that just looks so good you can’t wait to eat it… and then you forget to take a picture!

Why Romania?

Earlier this year I found myself asking the Lord “Why did you give me a passion for foreign cultures and people if I can’t do anything with it?” I have had an unrelenting passion for foreign cultures and people for a long time. I remember sitting in my 5th grade class listening to a classmate talk about her friend in Japan. I thought that was so cool. I asked that girl how she found a friend in Japan and long story short, about a year later I had a friend in Japan too! I remember the day the letter came. Isn’t it funny how you remember such great details about events that change your life or the lives of those around you? I came home from school and the dishwasher was running in the middle of the kitchen (ya know one of those portable units you have to connect to the faucet) so I walked around it and happened to look down and there sat a very foreign piece of mail with my name on it! Oh boy was I excited! A letter and pictures of a young Japanese girl and a Japanese temple (金閣寺 or Kinkakuji).

I was always interested in all foreign cultures (and have had friends on every continent except Antarctica) but kind of focused on Japan. I have a degree in Japanese studies from DePaul University in Chicago and have been to Japan as a student 3 times (and once just for fun)! Fast forward 10 years, I am now a homeschool mama to 3 girls. We had thought about (and began the process to) go to Japan to do missions work a few years ago but felt like God was maybe just using that as a means to an end. The journey that came as a result led me to make my faith my own and grow closer to the Lord than I ever had been before. However the love of culture and people didn’t go away. This led me to ask God “why did you give me this passion for foreign cultures and people if I can’t do anything with it?” I had always kept my love for the Lord separate from my love of cultures and people. God kept speaking to me saying “They don’t need to be separate. Use your love of foreign cultures and people for me. I’m the one that gave you that passion. Give it back to me.” From the moment my heart heard that I felt an excitement grow that I hadn’t felt in a long time. And then I prayed, “Where do you want me this time?” Our church, Harvest Bible Chapel Palos, has been supporting churches in Romania for a few years. This year there would be 2 trips to Romania and I felt God telling me to pursue that.

Long story short, I am apart of a team of 7 people going to Romania in 24 days! We will be doing a kids evangelistic English camp at Harvest Targu Mures. We will also be doing a mini camp at a local orphanage. Our hope is that the kids will feel the love of Christ through our time teaching them English through sports music and crafts. Our team will use our gifts and talents to run specific parts of the camp to make it impactful memorable and fun! Another main goal we have is to strengthen the church in Targu Mures. Our goal is to help the current kids Ministry team at Harvest TM strengthen their ministry and to be able to put on a camp like this themselves next year!

I am leading the music portion of the camp. Normally I am just a member of a band playing the keyboard so this is a big step for me to lead the children in worship! I am super excited to see what God has in store as we seek to honor and glorify him in Romania.

Would you consider supporting my trip? I am nearly 50% funded and have a short time to raise the rest! I need your help! I am raising $2500 to cover the cost of airfare, transportation, accommodations and ministry expenses. No gift is too small and all contributions are tax deductible. You can make contributions online at https://harvestpalos.missionsconnex.com/tgm (make sure to choose my name Jessie Young from the Drop down) or by check. Please email me at jyoung080506@gmail.com if you’d like to send a check)

I would also like to ask you to pray for my trip. For preparations, team unity, the church in a Targu Mures, the city of Targu Mures, hearts of the kids to be prepared, safety and health for our team, etc.

Thank you so much in advance for your support through finances and prayer. I am looking forward to sharing with you all that God does in Romania. We are expecting him to move in power and pray all we do and say will honor and glorify him!

“…because he is at my right hand, I Shall not be shaken.”

Psalm 16:8 says “I have set the Lord always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken.” Have you ever felt abandoned, left out, rejected, forgot about? We all go through times where we feel lonely. The other day God spoke to my soul clear as day saying “People will let you down but I never will. Anytime you need or want to talk to me I am here.” The Lord is at my right hand. 1 Corinthians 6:19 says “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own,…” when we give our heart to Jesus and ask him to be Lord of our life we are given the gift of the Holy Spirit. He is our counselor our guide and constant companion. He is always with us. He hears the groans of our hearts, our hurts, struggles, and our times of rejoicing. When we run to the Lord it is never a bother. I always have his full attention. He chooses me and doesn’t forget me. He never breaks a promise and there’s no such thing as a let down. He is more than willing. Always by my side; just a breath away. He speaks straight to my heart. And best of all, accepted me at my worst. Jesus came to forgive the worst in us. He loved us enough to die a horrible death in our place so that we can be forgiven and acceptable in the eyes of the Father. Psalm 18:6 says “in my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice, and my cry to him reached his ears.” And verse 19 says “He brought me out into a broad place; he rescued me, because he delighted in me.” Cry out to the Lord today! He always sees, always hears.

I was in bondage… Jesus paid my ransom!

When I am restless and undone, you are there to gather the pieces, tear off the chains of bondage and lift me up on your wings. Safety. Full of compassion and love for the broken lost one wandering in the wilderness. Remove the blinders I have put on. Help me walk in your light, run to you. Catch me when I am falling. When my legs won’t carry me to you, You come to me. When I cry out you don’t turn and run away. You draw near. You heal me. A shelter. A stronghold in the storm.

I myself am not worthy of anything but in God’s abundance of love, grace and mercy I have been redeemed. He has called my name and I am His. Adopted as a child of the ruler of all things. A daughter of the one true King. I have no reason to shrink back; to fear. Because of what Jesus has done for me… shedding his blood on a tree, taking my sins upon himself as the ultimate sacrifice, in full obedience to His Father… for me! Not because I am at all worthy, but because of His pure unadulterated love that covers me and makes me look pure in the eyes of the Father so I can live in relationship with Him. If I am to be like him I need to live in relationship with others. Extending the same love, mercy and grace, being real; not fake out of fear. I can let myself be known, not because I have anything to prove but because of what God had done. I am here to worship the king. The creator of all things. The one who causes my heart to beat and keeps the world in its perfect position, rotating at the perfect speed. The one who provides my every need. My guide and constant companion. All glory to God for what He has done, what He will do and most of all, for who He is!


Author Spotlight: Wanda Brunstetter

I don’t know when I started to like it or what initially drew me to it but I love Amish fiction! On a trip to the Shipshewana Amish community I found some intriguing books by Wanda Brunstetter. I picked up a few and fell in love. I love the ease at which I could read the stories. They were relateable and fun. I especially liked that they contained a lot of cooking and baking.

Wanda has been writing about Amish fiction for years. Her husband grew up in the Mennonite church. As she met more and more extended family she began to fall in love with the Amish way of life. She researches extensively for her novels. All this hard work can clearly be seen in the way she fluidly depicts Amish life.

Are you drawn to the simplicity of Amish life? Have you ever visited an Amish community? Wondered what it is that makes them want to maintain their lifestyle even when there are so many modern conveniences that would make life quicker and “easier”? Pick up any of Wanda’s novels and you will fall more in love with this fascinating people group.

Her newest book, The Seekers: Amish Cooking Class tells the story of Heidi Troyer as she organizes an Amish Cooking Class in her home. What will happen when a handful of Englischers sign up to learn to cook? Life lessons are learned in addition to cooking lessons and Heidi is stretched in her faith as she learns more about her students.

I received a digital copy of this book from NetGalley and later joined Wanda’s Clippity Clop Book Club and was given a hard copy of the book in exchange for my honest review. The book starts out by introducing all the characters rapidly one after another. The introductions were short but sweet. This was very confusing for me at first, to keep everyone straight. I had trouble remembering who everyone was. I couldn’t tell who was Amish and who was English. The story line seemed so predictable from the beginning. But, as the story progressed it got better and better. The characters were further developed and didn’t seem as fake. They were normal, everyday people, just like me. The Amish culture was present throughout the story but wasn’t overpowering and over the top like some Amish fiction. I would have liked to know a little more detail about the type of Amish these characters were. Some things they had and did are not allowed according to some other Amish books I’ve read. I was surprised Heidi had an indoor bathroom, for example. Overall the story was great. There was a clear antagonist that twisted the story a little bit. I’m glad it wasn’t all sunshine and roses. I found myself rooting for Heidi and her husband and took it personally when the villain took advantage of these kind people. The story line is simple but the concepts presented are complex and authentic. People go through these issues. I could picture myself in the book as one of the characters. Loved the relationship between Eli and Loretta and wish I could see what happens with them. Maybe in a future book?

Check out more of Wanda’s work on her website: http://wandabrunstetter.com/
or on her facebook page:

Home by Ginny Yttrup

Just finished Ginny Yttrup’s book Home.

Home is a story of life. A writer goes on a journey of self discovery as she struggles to write a novel. Relationship struggles, mental illness, infertility, fear, temptation and many other real life situations come together to make this story real but beautiful. It went where I never would have expected it to go. There’s no predictability in this book which is fantastic! Love how the story within the story helps better understand the character writing it. The character development is great. Such depth. The characters are believable and feel things that everyone would feel. I loved how they all dealt with their emotions and many went through the stages of grief in their own way. The beginning of the book was a little bit of a struggle but stick with it and you’ll be happy you did. The timeline was confusing when switching between character’s point of view. At first this was really obvious but as the book progressed the chapter separations by character overlapped (in terms of parallel concurrent timing) a little less so the flow was better. Overall the book was great. I could see myself in the characters and the topics covered were ones I deal with myself. This book led to a lot of self exploration in ways similar to the characters in the book. I love when a fictional book has this sort of effect on me as a reader. It makes fiction seem more like nonfiction!

I received a hard copy of this book from Goodreads giveaways and a digital copy from netgalley in exchange for my honest review.


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“I am the vine; you are the branches.”

While preparing for small group I came across the verse John 15:5 “I am the vine; and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” The branches on the vine are completely dependent on it for everything, much like my children when they were babies were completely dependent on me to sustain them. I am completely dependent on Jesus. Without God my heart would cease to beat, my lungs wouldn’t fill with air, my life would be over. Apart from Jesus I can do nothing. I am insufficient on my own. No amount of gifting, studying, learning, or collecting of money will be able to help me with everything. I have to constantly ask myself if I’m relying on Jesus or if I am relying on myself in some vain attempt that most of the time proves useless. My God is creator of the Universe, sustainer of life, and supplier of all my needs. Who are you relying on? No matter what the branch does it cannot bear fruit apart from the vine. Are you attempting to produce fruit in your own power? Abide in Christ and you will bear much fruit. God gives in abundance… He overflows us with gifts and blessings. Do you see it? Or are you stuck frantically looking around to keep up alone?