“Hope Prevails” ~ A Review & Giveaway (Ends 7/16/17)

Have you ever gone through challenging times and found it difficult to hang onto your hope?  Or, have you even struggled with depression?  Have you wondered why your faith wasn’t enabling you to kick that depression in the teeth?  Or, have you ever found it difficult to believe what God says about you?  If so, you’re going to love Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengtson.  The BlogAbout Blogger Network sent me a copy of this amazing book to review and a copy to bless one of our readers with….as well as a gorgeous & incredible gift box from the author!  (I’ll be sharing some goodies with my giveaway winner from that as well!)

 

I have read a lot of good books over the past year.  However, I must say that in all my reading, I don’t know that I’ve seen an author open the door on her own struggles and then describe them in such a way that I felt that she was talking about my own.  I endured a season of depression myself following a couple of serious surgeries and family difficulties several years ago.  While I would say that depression doesn’t describe my emotional state at this moment, I am in a place where Dr. Bengtson’s words are still of enormous value and assistance.  Readers of the finchnwren blog know that after having abdominal pain that just wouldn’t go away, I required surgery to remove a cyst in early May.  That cyst turned out to be cancerous, to my utter shock and disbelief!  The surgeon felt optimistic about having gotten all of it out, but he still recommended chemotherapy.  So I’ve completed the first third of the chemo journey (having had 2 of 6 sessions) but I am discovering that for me, the battlefield of the mind is almost as important as the battle being waged in my body.  How do I endure the physical challenges while hanging onto my hope, my faith, my belief in  God and that He is FOR me?  What a perfect book Hope Prevails is for my journey!

What will you find in Hope Prevails?

Author and neuropsychologist Dr. Michelle Bengtson found, after treating patients for years in her own practice, that she required treatment for depression herself.  And she discovered that there was a crucial ingredient missing in common treatment options for depression; the spiritual aspect.  In Hope Prevails, you’ll find out what depression can look like, what it can do to you spiritually, and how you can integrate care of yourself spiritually to work alongside traditional treatment.  And receive true healing!

Each chapter begins with identification and description of depression plus the key elements of YOU, yourself, that can be tended on your walk toward healing.  Next, Dr. Bengtson gives the reader an Rx (prescription) to follow, that includes anything from Scriptures to read and review, brief research, prayers, and more.  She writes the most meaningful prayers for the reader/sufferer of depression, and concludes each chapter with a Recommended Playlist of praise and worship songs that are keyed to each chapter.  (You can find them by searching YouTube or iTunes.  Worth a listen!)

And Dr. Bengtson shares her own life, transparently, and how to address the spiritual component of the healing of depression in the following chapters (and others):

  • This Thing Called Depression
  • You Are Not Alone
  • The Underlying Causes of Depression
  • Recognize You Have An Enemy

These first chapters define depression in all its lack of glory, and remind us that there is an enemy of our souls who seeks to do us in, as Jesus instructs us in John 10:10:  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”

But then Jesus goes on to encourage us and remind us of the truth:  “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Life!  Not just painful existence.  The remainder of the chapters in Hope Prevails tell us about this full or abundant life, and how we can apprehend it:

  • Recover Your Joy
  • Reclaim Your Peace
  • Reestablish Your Identity
  • Know Your Worth
  • Remember  Your Secure Destiny
  • Be Confident That Nothing Separates You from God’s Love
  • God Uses Your Pain
  • The Way to Hope

Each of these chapters is so rich; each one speaks to a component of our spiritual identities (you know, the invisible part that makes each of us uniquely us), how each is affected by depression and its spiritual battles, and how we can regain strength and joy in them.

 

 

How Hope Prevails affected me

So…I’ve mentioned a bit to you about my own current physical, mental, and spiritual journey.  How I am walking through chemotherapy: one day–6 hours, actually–getting the IV infusions and then 20 more days of letting that medication do battle in my own body.  Then starting the whole process over again.

I can tell you (see my Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator for confirmation) that I am a great beginner.  I love starting new things, new classes, new projects.  But there is that spot, sometimes, in the middle of the journey where the fun isn’t as obvious, the grind has become the grind, and the newness has worn off.  Now nobody is really going to call chemotherapy a fun journey.  But there has been that newness of it: the not knowing what’s coming next, the unforeseen challenges.  All those kept me on my toes, really depending on God for what was around the next corner because we just had no clue.  But now I’m kind of noticing that we’re in that middle part; the routine.  Not that there won’t be unexpected surprises or challenges; but now I’m thinking that suddenly the circumstances (the pain, the medications/their effects, the trips to the doctor) aren’t my fight, I (my choices, my relationship with God, my mental battle) am my fight.  Or rather, my reacting to each day; knowing I might not be feeling my best or feeling well at all, but choosing to ENGAGE.  Engage with God; believe His truths; attempt to walk out my best in my life and with my family.  Sigh.  The middle.

What a powerful tool, what a valued companion Dr. Michelle Bengston has provided for me in my fight.  In each chapter, she defines what I am needing, whether it’s hope, joy, peace, identity, etc., and kindly and lovingly explains how I can grasp or attain it.  She provides truth to counter the enemy’s lies.  She includes Scripture that I’ve written in my journal or on cards for my vision board, so that I can remember what is real and true about my journey and about me.

How could Hope Prevails help you?

Now…most of you (and maybe even none of you!) are NOT undergoing my particular journey.  But perhaps you have experienced depression.  Maybe someone you love has.  Or it could be that you just desperately need to learn, remember, and know the truths the enemy would love for us to forget, but that God has given us in His Word.  Or, what if you’d just like to learn how you can grow in your own relationship with God?  If so, this book is for you!  (And keep reading because I have one copy to bless a reader with…that just might be you!)

I have to tell you that discovering that there had been a cyst in my body that was cancerous, and then going thru six rounds of chemotherapy, was NOT something that I was hoping for in my life!  But God has spoken Romans 8:28 over every one of us that loves and believes in Him…and He has spoken it over me and my life and journey to defeat illness as well.  I know that there will be a day when I can richly and fully say that I can rejoice in having gone through this.  If this also is something you desire to be able to say about your own pains and struggles, then that’s another reason to read this incredible book!

 

The unboxing of encouragement

Before I get to the giveaway, though, I have to share with you the absolutely wonderful gift box that I received from Dr. Michelle Bengtson.  It came to me at just the right moment, when I was home from surgery but still in significant pain from a wound infection.  WHAT an encouragement and blessing this box was!  Just at a moment when I needed something beautiful and wonderful to encourage me.  (Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Dr. Bengtson and The BlogAbout Network!)

 

 

Of course, you know after reading my review that I adored the book.  But at a time when I needed some beauty and love (and isn’t it nice to get that in a physical form from time to time?), I was blessed with that gorgeous scarf and the beautiful pearl bracelet that reads “Hope”!

 

 

I have to tell you that I wear the bracelet every time I go to chemotherapy.  It reminds me of beauty, that God is good, and that I have a hope to look forward to…not only in the life to come but in the here and now!

 

And now…enter to win some Hope Prevails goodies!

One reader will be selected to win a copy of Hope Prevails, a dog tag necklace with Jeremiah 29:11 on it, AND a delicious bar of chocolate from Dr. Michelle Bengtson!  Just click on the pink link below to be taken to the Giveaway Tools entry form.  Giveaway closes on July 16.  Best wishes!

Enter the giveaway here!

 

Don’t forget to visit Dr. Michelle Bengtson on social media, where you’ll find more encouragement and beauty

 

Her website, DrMichelleBengtson
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram

 

Thank you for letting me share this powerful book (and goodies!) with you all.  Blessings!

Enjoy!  –Wren

DISCLOSURE:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

 

 

 

 

 

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H is for Happy: Blogging Through The Alphabet

Welcome back to Blogging Through the Alphabet!  My friends Amanda from Hopkins Homeschool and Annette from A Net In Time are co-hosting Blogging Through The Alphabet.  This week’s letter is H, and I’m sharing a super-fun book/journal that beautifully exemplifies H…for Happy!

 

 

I received the most charming book to review that is just the ticket for getting ourselves into a happy frame of mind.

 

Karen Salmansohn’s fabulous new journal, Instant Happy Journal, is as gorgeous on the inside as it is on the outside.  Its subtitle is “365 Days of Inspiration, Gratitude, and Joy.”  More than just an empty book with pages to be filled, it’s designed to actually enable its writers to, as the old song goes, “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative.”

And how, actually, does Salmansohn do this?  She has created a journal with a blank page for each day of the year.  But, the pages aren’t completely blank.  Instead, each one has what the author calls “happiness prompters.”  It’s a wide variety of quotes, lists, thoughts, and information that will cause the user to stop and think, and to purposely call to mind things about each day that are good.  Or happy.  Or joyful.

In the journal’s foreword, Salmansohn mentions a study done at the University of California. Study participants were divided into three groups, and given three different assignments.  The first group was to write once weekly about 5 good things they were thankful for.  Members of the second group wrote 5 irritating things that had happened in their days.  The third simply wrote down five random things that had occurred.

 

 

Overwhelmingly, the first group (the ones who wrote things they were thankful for) noted that they were happier and that they looked forward more to good things in their futures.  Perhaps most surprisingly, they experienced more improvement in their health!

I was particularly interested in this book because I can see that it is and will be a very useful tool for me.  I’ve always been a pretty positive person.  But, difficult struggles in the past few years have really had an affect on my outlook.  I would love to be more grateful and more thankful for the blessings I have.  What a cool way to record these…at night after the day’s events, or in the morning as I recall the neat things of yesterday.  And then, there’s a wonderful record of all those very good things, any time I might need a lift!

Karen Salmansohn’s Instant Happy Journal is beautiful to look at, full of amazing prompts for your writing, and is, I think, something that will enable users to think about GOOD things. It’s a joy!

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

Lots of other amazing bloggers have written cool posts about their takes on the letter H.  Click on the Blogging Through the Alphabet button below to check them out!

Best Freezer Meals Plan Ever! finchnwren’s Review of MyFreezEasy

How thrilled I was to be selected to review MyFreezEasy for the Homeschool Review Crew!  My family received MyFreezEasy.com Freezer Meal Plan Membership  to use and review.  I only have three words to say about this:  love, love, love!

myfreezeasy

MyFreezEasy is…..

…hands down the best freezer meal resource I’ve run across.  What is a freezer meal, you ask?  A freezer meal is a recipe that you’ve made ahead of time, placed in ziplocs or foil pans, and popped in the freezer.  Ideally, you prepare several at a time.  Then throughout the week, when both meal creativity and energy might be at a low point, you have all the ingredients for a delicious and healthy meal ready to go.  You can either cook it in the evening or put it in the crockpot in the morning.  Either way, you have something healthy and delicious to feed your family, but all you have to do is provide heat of some sort!

myfreezeasy-1Erin Chase at MyFreezEasy has created an incredible array of delicious, healthy freezer meal plans.  Via subscription, you can access these meal plans, which come in all these different varieties for different taste buds and preferences.  With the Basic Plan, you have these meal types available:

  • Traditional
  • Gluten-Free
  • Slow Cooker
  • Clean Eats
  • and the 20 Meals Plan, which has a variety of protein and meal categories

With the Premium Membership, subscribers have access to the first five plan types, plus the ability to customize their family dinners by adding or subtracting meals.  Each month, subscribers get brand-new meals for that month, which also correspond nicely to the seasons the months fall in.

Erin’s meal plans contain the recipes themselves, shopping lists (by recipe, category, or store section), assembly instructions, and actual cooking instructions.  Each of these enables home cooks to prepare amazing meals and save money,  time and energy!

 

myfreezeasy-2Here’s how we used our membership:

With the Premium Annual Membership, we had access to *every*single*recipe* on the MyFreezEasy website.  (For the current month, that is; menus are rotated, so you’ll want to save each month’s to a file on your own computer so that you can access your faves again.)  So to begin, I saved a number of menus for September to our PC: the Clean Eats Plan, the All Chicken Meals Plan and the All Ground Beef Meals Plan.  I selected the following 5 meals to prepare for my first week, and printed copies of them so that I had ready access:

  • Paleo Minestrone Soup
  • Dutch Oven Italian Chicken and Potatoes
  • Chicken Fajita Bake
  • Peach & Balsamic Chicken Skillet
  • Frito Pie filling
  • I also threw in soft taco filling

On a Saturday afternoon (which is prime meal prep time for me), I laid out the 5 printed recipes around my kitchen.  Next, I got out 5 large bowls or pans.  I then got out 6 (remember, the extra taco filling) ziploc freezer bags, wrote the names of the recipes on them in Sharpie (Erin Chase also provides printable labels you can tape onto the bags), and opened them and placed them in the bowls.  (This gives me a stable way to fill them and keep the ingredients from spilling out of the bags as I prepare.)

Next, I got out the canned goods and spices that would go in each bag.  I chopped any fresh veggies I’d be using (onion, carrots, zucchini, etc.) and got out any frozen fruits and veggies necessary.  I opened the cans so that they were ready to go, and pre-measured the spices into ramekins.  I browned 3 pounds of ground beef and drained the fat (that was the only protein I had to pre-cook).  Then—filling the bags!

Following the recipes’ assembly instructions, I dumped the veggies, the spices, and the proteins into the bags.  (Often, I’d leave out any extra liquids to be added at cooking time for two reasons: first, that takes up less freezer space overall; and second, it’s important to add room-temperature liquid to frozen crockpot meals to prevent shock or breakage to the crockery liner.)  Once I’d finished filling the bags, I sealed them, squeezed out any excess air, and put them in the freezer.  Ta-da!  A week’s worth of meals!  (It did take me a little over an hour to prep all of these; but I really think that much of that is due to the fact that all these recipes were new to me.)

 

myfreezeasy-3What about the recipes?

All I can say is—-delicious!!  The process itself is so easy to do and really does save time and money.  But all of that would mean nothing if the recipes themselves weren’t tasty.

But they were.

And not just tasty!  Delectable.  Filling.  Full of fiber, protein, veggies.  And most definitely tasting like they came out of a great home cook’s kitchen!

Our family’s favorites, so far, were varied.  The Dutch Oven Italian Chicken and Potatoes.  (What an imaginative use of baby potatoes!)  And the Italian Sausage Skillet.  (My son’s absolute fave so far; it’s one we’re already repeating.)  The Peach & Balsamic Chicken Skillet (because what could be better than balsamic vinegar in a sauce?).  Also, the Chicken Fajita Bake.  Sadly, the minestrone and the Frito Pie filling had to be pitched before we could eat them, because I discovered that our favorite organic grocery store had sold us some bad ground beef.  (Fortunately, I was the only one who ate it…so that’s something!)

But let me tell you what’s on this week’s menu.  Slow Cooker Red Pepper Chicken.  Italian Sausage Skillet (again).  Chicken Fajita Bake (again).  Best Meat Loaf Ever.  Red and Green Chicken Enchilada Bake.  I can’t wait!

 

myfreezeasy-4And this is why I love MyFreezEasy!

After a full day of homeschool, piano, and/or coop classes, I am not as energetic as I was when I woke up at 6:00AM.  (Understatement.)  So coming up with dinner at 4 or 5PM?  Not my best hours, for sure!  So, to have a meal plan in which all I have to do is to select the meals, then print the recipes and add the ingredients to the grocery list (my awesome husband is our grocery shopper), then assemble the meals, so that all I have to do on a given day is put them in the crockpot or into the oven?  (Or maybe into a skillet on the stovetop.)  Most definitely a lifesaver!  Here are my top reasons why I love MyFreezEasy….and why I think you will too!

  • The meals are healthy! and delicious!
  • They are incredibly easy to prepare beforehand
  • They help keep our grocery bill low
  • They make my family happy
  • The variety is interesting and ever-changing
  • MyFreezEasy makes meal planning and prep easy and non-stressful
  • The meals can be customized for our own family’s needs

I really could go on and on.  But I think you get the idea!

 

myfreezeasy-5You can find MyFreezEasy here:

Visit MyFreezEasy.  Check out Erin Chase’s awesome MyFreezEasy.com Freezer Meal Plan Membership.  It is worth every penny…and then some!  You can also read about other Crew members’ experiences with MyFreezEasy.  And you can also learn more by stopping by  MyFreezEasy‘s social media links!

Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/freezeasy
Instagram:  http://www.instagram.com/freezeasy
Pinterest:  http://www.pinterest.com/5dollardinners/freezeasy

Enjoy! –Wren

MyFreezEasy.com Freezer Meal Plan Membership {MyFreezEasy}Crew Disclaimer

Chopped Greek Salad!

Hello Fresh Chopped Greek Salad! Perfect for a summer day and so quick to put together!

greek salad box

 

Greek salad box openIngredients:

  • 2 Pitas
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 1 Lemon
  • 1oz Black Olives
  • 1 Cucumber
  • 1/4 oz Oregano
  • 4 oz Grape Tomatoes
  • 1 Red Onion
  • 1 box Cannelini Beans
  • 1 T Balsamic Vinegar
  • 1/2 c Feta Cheese
  • 4 t Olive Oil

Prep the ingredients: Wash and dry all produce.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Zest the lemon, then juice one half.

Mince or grate the garlic.

Greek salad chopped garlicCut the cucumber into ¾-inch cubes.

Falafel half moonsHalve, peel, and thinly slice half the onion.

Greek salad red onionHalve the olives and tomatoes.

Greek salad black olives and tomatoesFinely chop the oregano leaves.

Drain and rinse the beans. 2 Cook the beans: Heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the cannellini beans and garlic and cook, tossing until the garlic is fragrant, for 1-2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the lemon zest. Season with salt and pepper and set aside.

Greek salad mixture

Toast the pitas: Cut the pita into thin strips.

 

Greek salad pita slicesPlace the strips onto a baking sheet and drizzle with oil. Place in the oven for about 5 minutes, until slightly crispy.

Make the dressing: In a large bowl, combine the oregano, lemon juice, 1 Tablespoon balsamic and a large drizzle of oil. Season with salt and pepper. Toss the salad: Toss the cucumber, feta, tomatoes, cannellini beans, olives, and red onion (to taste) into the dressing. Season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy: Serve the chopped Greek salad with the toasted pita

Greek salad photo

Enjoy—Finch!

From Our Archives: Trim Healthy Mama, revisited!

Here’s something I want to revisit myself, that I blogged about some months ago.  It’s the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook.

I have to admit that I haven’t eaten as healthily as I meant to this summer.  I’m hoping that seeing this in front of me will  help me to get back on track with some good food choices.

Enjoy!

Good morning, everyone!

Here is my newest “things we love!”

December 2015 020I actually reviewed the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook several weeks ago for Blogging for Books (see my review here).  I had been meaning to check out the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book, but decided to check out the cookbook first, to see if the plan foods were anything I would actually eat AND anything I would actually feed my family.

The answer to both questions is a resounding “yes!”

I have made:

  • cilantro lime chicken
  • berry milk (which is actually more of a smoothie, but  made with frozen fruits and almond milk)
  • crockpot fajitas
  • cream of mushroom soup
  • cheese cracker snack
  • enchilada casserole
  • and more!

There has only been one soup I’ve made that my family didn’t like.  Otherwise, we have loved everything!  (Well, the boys hate mushrooms, so I must admit that I’m the only one who ate the cream of mushroom soup.)

There are two things I really love about this plan (well, three).  First, the food is very, very good for our bodies, and very easy to digest.  That is really important for me in particular, but for hubby and kiddo as well.  Second, it’s very easy to prepare.  And that third thing?  The Trim Healthy Mama plan is extremely grace-filled.  Instead of it being a plan that applies guilt liberally when you don’t eat as you should, it just directs you to look toward your next meal, which you can make to be a healthy one!

I’m looking forward to sharing more fun Trim Healthy Mama meals with you.  But for today—just know I ADORE this cookbook!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Things we love…Chickpea Tikka Masala recipe!

Hello Fresh delivered Friday and I’ve cooked 2/3 boxes. This one was successful (more about the other later:)!

Tikka box closedTikka box open

Ingredients:

  • 1 Box Chickpeas
  • 1 Yellow Onion
  • 1 Box diced Tomatoes
  • 1 thumb Ginger
  • 1 Serrano pepper
  • 1/2 C plain Greek Yogurt
  • 3/4 c Cilantro
  • 3/4 c Basmati Rice
  • Olive Oil
  • Water
  • S&P

In a small pot, bring 1 ½ cups water to boil with a large pinch of salt. Halve, peel, and dice the onion. Peel and mince 2 Tablespoons ginger. Mince the serrano, removing the ribs and seeds if you prefer less heat. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Finely chop the cilantro. Trim, then cut the green beans into 2-inch pieces.

Tikka spices

Tikka chickpea

Tikka green beans

Cook the rice: Add the rice to the boiling water, cover, and reduce to a low simmer for 15-20 minutes, until tender.

Tikka rice

Sauté the onion and serrano pepper: Meanwhile, heat a drizzle of oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the onion to the pan and cook, tossing for 4-5 minutes, until softened. Add the curry powder, ginger, and as much serrano pepper as you like to the pan. Cook, tossing for 2-3 minutes, until very fragrant. Season with salt and pepper.

Tikka onion

Tikka curry

Add the chickpeas, diced tomatoes, ½ cup water, and the green beans to the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, until thickened. Season with salt and pepper. 5 Stir ¼ cup yogurt and half the cilantro into the pan. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 6 Finish and Plate: Serve on a bed of basmati rice, garnish with the remaining cilantro and yogurt. Enjoy!

Tikka simmering

Tikka with yogurt

Tikka finished

Enjoy…Finch!

Things We Love: Trim Healthy Mama

Good morning, everyone!

Here is my newest “things we love!”

December 2015 020I actually reviewed the Trim Healthy Mama Cookbook several weeks ago for Blogging for Books (see my review here).  I had been meaning to check out the Trim Healthy Mama Plan book, but decided to check out the cookbook first, to see if the plan foods were anything I would actually eat AND anything I would actually feed my family.

The answer to both questions is a resounding “yes!”

I have made:

  • cilantro lime chicken
  • berry milk (which is actually more of a smoothie, but  made with frozen fruits and almond milk)
  • crockpot fajitas
  • cream of mushroom soup
  • cheese cracker snack
  • enchilada casserole
  • and more!

There has only been one soup I’ve made that my family didn’t like.  Otherwise, we have loved everything!  (Well, the boys hate mushrooms, so I must admit that I’m the only one who ate the cream of mushroom soup.)

There are two things I really love about this plan (well, three).  First, the food is very, very good for our bodies, and very easy to digest.  That is really important for me in particular, but for hubby and kiddo as well.  Second, it’s very easy to prepare.  And that third thing?  The Trim Healthy Mama plan is extremely grace-filled.  Instead of it being a plan that applies guilt liberally when you don’t eat as you should, it just directs you to look toward your next meal, which you can make to be a healthy one!

I’m looking forward to sharing more fun Trim Healthy Mama meals with you.  But for today—just know I ADORE this cookbook!

Enjoy!  –Wren