I leave for Tahiti today- follow along on IG!!

Thursday, July 28

I cannot believe it, but we leave TODAY for Tahiti! I am beyond pumped up!
{if you want the backstory on why we are going to Tahiti, read this post here}

Part of my partnership with Inspiration Cruises & Tours will be to tell the story of what a cruise with them is really like. And if i'm honest, i'm super curious to find out myself!

You see...their cruises are more than just a boat stopping in different ports.
Their cruises are a whole experience, 
one that is meant to refresh and deepen my relationship with God.
If a Christian conference and the most amazing cruise had a baby, Inspiration would be it!

Each day I will be exploring a new French Polynesian island, and then coming back on board to hear Chuck Swindoll share an insightful, encouraging message. I imagine that Chuck will bring the scriptures to life in a way that feeds my soul and opens the scriptures to me in a new way. He is a gifted teacher, and i've heard he's a super friendly and funny guy. So looking forward to meeting him :) {side-note about Chuck...I read through so many of his books in college and they gave me so much hope and life in a few dark moments. So while he doesn't know who I am, God has really used his writing in my life!}

Beyond the teaching time, there will also be a few musicians leading us in times of worship with the Lord. Now, THAT, i'm excited about!! To be in nature truly leads me to a place of awe and wonder for our Lord, who so creatively shaped the heavens and earth. Being able to express that awe and wonder through worship is truly a gift, and one I can't wait to be a part of.

Inspiration is known for their attention to detail and a touch of luxury, because who doesn't like to be pampered? I know I do! I can't wait to share with you the sweet little touches of love they add!

If you've read this post here, you know that things have been a bit hard lately. I've been doing a lot of praying and soul searching in terms of my calling, and so this trip is coming at a really wonderful and much needed time. I truly believe it will be the retreat my soul is craving.

And, it's going to be absolutely GORGEOUS!! I would LOVE for you to follow along with our trip on IG @inspirationcruises. That's right, i'm taking over the Inspiration Cruises IG with my pictures from our trip, and it's going to be so much fun. Would love to see your sweet comments and feedback!

Love you dear readers so much!! Excited to show you Tahiti and French Polynesia through our eyes!! xoxo

8 reasons why you should host an exchange student

Tuesday, July 26

Growing up, my parents hosted a slew of exchange students throughout the years! We had guys from Sweden, girls from Germany, and more recently our adorable Aline from Switzerland who came to live with us for a year (and she truly became family!).

Kevin and I have been wanting to host an exchange student, and we thought we'd test the waters by hosting 2 adorable junior high girls from China for 10 days. We just dropped them off yesterday, and man, it was a fun week!  It was hilarious, heart-warming, and exhausting all wrapped up in one experience- but i'm so glad we did it!

It got me thinking about why it's an experience everyone should try at some point in their life.
So here are 7 reasons why YOU should host an exchange student:

1) You learn about a new culture!: You don't even have to leave your home to experience and learn about a country and it's culture. Hosting an exchange student gives you the opportunity to ask questions and learn about traditions and customs through the eyes of a native. While playing games with the girls each day (let me tell you, they LOVED their games...never played Sequence that much in my life! ha), Kevin and I asked the girls questions about the 1 child policy in China, about what typical foods they ate each day, and the special occasions and holidays they celebrated.

2) You get to try new foods!: Almost all of our exchange students cooked a traditional meal for us at some point or another. I've eaten home-made Swedish meatballs from my cousins, and this past week ate home-made Chinese dumplings. Food is such an integral part of learning about someone's heritage and upbringing, and it's fun to experience that part of culture through your 5 senses!!

3) You always have a place to stay in their country!: We've visited almost all our exchange students through the years, most recently Aline and her family in Switzerland this past Christmas. Every time we visit Sweden, we are well taken care of! If you show hospitality to an exchange student, I can guarantee their family will be delighted to show hospitality to you when you come visit. It's pretty awesome!

4) You tend to explore your own backyard in greater detail!: When an exchange student comes to live with you, chances are you'll want to show them the "best" parts of your surrounding city and region. Whenever my parents hosted exchange students, we took a lot of fun trips to San Francisco, Disneyland and the beach. It became a great excuse to do something fun!

5) You get paid!: While not everyone cares about the money, it certainly  was helpful for us as new homeowners (who are juggling a mortgage) to have a little extra financial help! Some programs pay upwards of $800 a month to house and cook dinner for the student! If you already cook dinner for your family anyway, then it will be no problem to add one more person to the mix! {fyi- not all organizations pay, so if this is important to you, just make sure to check that our in the FAQ's}

6) You get to share YOUR culture!: So many people around the world are anxious to learn more about American culture. They often think what they see in the movies is so "American" and you get the great opportunity to share with them what the real American culture really looks like, haha! We had so much fun making the girls foods we eat on a daily basis (like tacos and pasta, etc), and showing them an American high school, etc. As a Christian, it's a great way to share your faith and your life journey:) Also it's fun to share traditions and holidays we celebrate. Often, they are fascinated by holidays that are distinctly American like Thanksgiving and 4th of July!

7) You come away with hilarious stories!: Hosting isn't always bells and roses, and sometimes things get lost in translation. But you have to admit, those are the best kinds of stories! This past week, our 2 little junior higher wanted to make us Chinese dumplings. They told us it would take 1 hour, and instead it took almost 4 {let's just say we were starving and a little stressed out wondering what the heck they were doing to our kitchen...there was flour everywhere! haha}! They finally admitted to us they had never made dumplings, and the four of us laughed so hard. Surprisingly, they turned out really delicious and we still chuckle when we think of that night, even though there were a few mishaps!

8) You build amazing friendships!: It's true, having someone live with you causes your relationships to deepen to a level that might never have happened otherwise. Our sweet Aline from Switzerland literally became like a sister to my siblings and I. She has flown out for all our weddings, and my whole family attended her wedding in Holland 3 years ago. It is such a gift to have this type of relationship with someone across the world!

If you are interested, just do a basic google search for organizations that work in your area! Or, start asking around town to see if anyone your friend's know hosts students. In our case, we heard of a women who hosted students, got her phone number and found out what organization she went through! If you love to travel, then I think you would also love to host exchange students!!

ps- we leave for Tahiti on Thursday!! woo hoo! I'm going to be hi-jacking Inspiration Cruises IG so make sure you follow along @inspirationcruises I would SO love to see your sweet comments and support:)

 {their t-shirts cracked me up! It was a bunch of English words strewn together that made absolutely NO sense, hahahah} 

Let's build a house together! I'm serious...

Friday, July 22

Part of the reason I love this blog is that it connects me to the most genuine people who are working to make the world a better place. There is nothing I love more than hearing stories of people who saw a need, dreamed a dream, and are now seeing that need met! 

Colin Johnson is one of those people. I'll let him tell his story in a second, but first, let me introduce him. He is the founder of Whole Story Hammocks, a very sweet non-profit that sells hammocks and chairs (like the one pictured below). But the coolest part about these purchases, is that after he sells 100 hammocks or chairs, he takes the profits and literally builds a house for a family in need in rural Nicaragua! 


So…I'll let Colin share how he was inspired to start this great organization…

"WholeStory Collective was founded on the belief that every family deserves a safe place to call home. This belief took me to Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the western hemisphere where 46% of the population lives on less than two dollars a day.

 I was blown away at the lack of safe living conditions in rural Nicaragua and wanted to help. While I was in Nicaragua I met with a lot of amazingly talented artisans in the city of Masaya. The talent and craftsmanship that existed there was truly incredible. One product seemed to stand out among the rest; the handwoven hammock. The detail, design, comfort and craftsmanship in each product was remarkable and than BOOM, I saw the opportunity. 

I decided I would start a business where for every 100 hammocks I sold, I would fund a home to be built for a Nicaraguan family in need. I partnered up with the Suazo family who have been making handwoven hammocks for over 80 years, and found a grass roots nonprofit organization called The 4 Walls Project who was doing an amazing job building home for families in El Sauce, Nicaragua and the rest is history. 

We are currently working on building our 5th home for a family in needed and are expanding our product line to consist of handmade relaxation goods. Our first product expansion was our Wanderlust Chair" 

And, as a side-note, the Wanderlust chair is what Colin sent me, and as you can see from the photos, i'm absolutely smitten with this dreamy chair. It's a perfect pair of classic handmade quality you just don't get from a chain store! The chair was super comfy, and it will have a permanent spot on our patio. I also am kind of obsessed with this hammock (isn't it a perfect blend of boho chic mixed with comfort? those crochet doilies!! Swoon!). 

So, what do you say you and I pool our money and build a house together in Nicaragua?? Think of your giving as a donation to a very deserving family in Nicaragua, and out of it you are getting a sweet chair or hammock that will remind you of the people your generosity has helped provide for! Think we can do it!?!? Spread the word to the family and friends, and let's do this! To read more about Colin and Whole Story Hammocks, click here. 

On sale today: Amazing products (that I use daily)

Wednesday, July 20

First of all, if you haven't heard of 100% Pure- they are, in my opinion, the BEST make-up and skin care line i've ever used. Literally, my face has never been clearer and cleaner, and if you know me, you know i've struggled with skin issues for a while! Our skin is our biggest organ, and so we shouldn't be putting toxic crap on our face or body (and we all know most drug store brands are loaded with toxic chemicals!). Last year, I literally threw away all the drug store products filled with chemicals, and started investing in make-up and skin care that nourished my body in a natural way:)

For the last year, i've exclusively used 100% Pure products, both for my make-up and skin care routine. You can read more about the exact products I use each day for make-up and skin care.

1) Pretty Naked II Palette
100% Pure just came out with a new palette (complete with luminizer, blush and eye shadow) that I think is awesome. I've exclusively used their original Naked Palette the last year and have loved it, and now they are coming out with the Naked Palette II, which offers some variation in colors. This palette saves you the money of having to buy the luminizer, blush and shadows all individually. And it lasts forever! Right now, they are offering 10% off if you use the code ny10naked to purchase the Pretty Naked II Palette

2) Rose & Calendula Water Serum
This is one of those products that is pricey, but a total game changer! I use this under my daily moisturizer, and my evening nourishing oil. It hydrates and keeps skin nice and clear. It has been out of stock for almost a whole year, and i'm over the moon it's back in. AND, right now if you purchase this, you will get the Organize Rose Hydrosol Mist for free! Click here to check it out!

3) 20% off the scent of the month which is mangosteen, and 20% off the ingredient of the month which is jojoba beads. If you see any products with these, you get an automatic 20% off. All of their lotions are amazing, I must say, and perfect for staying moisturized this summer!

4) And, the best steal of a deal...
20% off $50+ orders
25% off $100+orders
30% off $150+ orders
No exclusions
Ends at midnight 7/26/16 (PST)
Save up to 30% off on 100% Pure online

If you feel overwhelmed, make sure to check out my posts on all the products I use on a daily basis (make-up and skin care) to give you an idea of how these products work and which ones I recommend. I've tried a LOT of their products, and definitely have my favorites! They offer free shipping AND free returns, so it's super easy to send something back if it's not your style. Total game changer. If you struggle with skin issues of any kind, I promise you will come to adore these products like I have!!

And if you just want to browse at your own pace, feel free to use my affiliate link here:) Thanks so much for supporting me in so many ways:) xoxo

Happy Wednesday!! 

We're hosting 2 Chinese jr high students this week- and an epic fail!

Friday, July 15


Ekkk! Kevin and I love meeting people from different countries. This week, we are hosting 2 jr. high Chinese girls. We picked them up last night and they are adorable! So sweet and curious. They are coming to an English camp here in America, so their English is pretty basic which makes it all the more hilarious as we try to communicate with hand gestures.

But...Kevin and I had a total fail moment last night. We gave the girls a tour of our home, let them settle in and put their stuff away....and then about 2 minutes later they walked out to the living room and said "we don't know how to close the door". At first I thought maybe they didn't realize you had to push the handle down...what kind of doors do they have in China anyway?? BUT...as it turns out, their door is literally falling off it's hinges. #embarassing

We NEVER use this guest room, and I guess have never tried to shut that door. Evidently the hinges are falling off, and sure enough...it doesn't close. Like, at all. 

So as Kevin is trying to drill it back up, the girls come bounding up to us, all smiles, with loads of gifts for us in their hands. It was so stinkin' cute. We cracked up, put the drill and screws down, and marveled at the beautiful gifts they came bearing from their China. In their basic English, they grandly described these traditional gifts. They are now displayed in our living room in a prominent spot!

And then we went about trying to fix the door. It kind closes now! ha. Worst. Host Parents. Ever.

Any who...hopefully we can get that door working tomorrow!

Pray for these sweet ones, that they feel loved and welcomed in our home, and in our country!! Can't wait for all the adventures we'll have in the next 10 days!

If you've ever thought about being a host parent for students from other countries, DO IT! It is such a fun experience, and you'll end up with friends all over the world!!

Happy Weekend!

When we want to jump ship on our calling, and why we shouldn't

Tuesday, July 12

Lately i've been feeling restless. It happens every few years or so…this deep gnawing on my heart for something new. Something exciting. Something fun. And for a good chunk of my twenties, I skipped from job to job, country to country, study abroad to internship…all in search of adventure and good fun.

In my late twenties, I felt called to counseling and started grad school. The entire duration of my masters program, it felt so right. Like I was exactly where I was supposed to be, learning and doing the things I dreamed about. It was empowering and exciting…and I felt so called to this profession.

And now i'm out, in the work force, sitting with people in their brokenness…and it feels hard. 
At times it feels scary and overwhelming.
And the last week or so, i've even felt a bit fearful.

I've wondered…
"Did I hear God right?"
"Can I do this?"
"This is hard"

And to be honest, I've thought "maybe I should have just become a travel writer, or a full-time blogger, or something that involves travel"

And while none of those are bad careers in and of themselves, it brings me to a place where I have to examine my calling…my purpose in life.

And I go back to the drawing board each time…
that God has called me to a life of service.
Of standing with others in their pain,
supporting, encouraging and calling out hope.
A life apart from this kind of work doesn't feel complete to me.

And I am encouraged, that sometimes the hard places are where we are supposed to be. That we can allow the Holy Spirit to move in us. We may be fearful, but HE is ever so strong, and good, and mysterious and can work through us even when we fall so short. I suppose that's why we are called Vessels…we are just open to let God flow right through us and bring His Kingdom here on earth!

This morning, I picked up the latest copy of Relevant Magazine, and the editor Cameron Strang wrote an excellent piece called "Restless to Find your Calling". I was so so encouraged by it.

Here's an excerpt I found incredibly insightful,

"I read a report recently that said the average twenty something stays in a job, on average less than 18 months…..I mean, I get it- especially in your twenties you're still figuring out what you want to do. Sometimes you need to try out a job to see if it's the sort of work God is calling you to do or not. You're learning and growing professionally and as you grow God will open new doors for you. Your dreams are being clarifies and you're getting a clearer sense of how your calling and profession intersect.

But there's a flip side to that season if we're not careful- one that can lead to restlessness. Too much change can prevent healthy rootedness, and keep us in perpetually temporary seasons. If it isn't fun anymore, we'll just swipe left and move on.

But if God has you in a job for a certain season, couldn't it be that he has you there for a reason much deeper than just your income? What is the impact you're supposed to make there? What is God trying to teach you?

In jumping from job to job we can actually lose sight of the larger things God is doing in our lives."

I totally agree with Cameron…if we just look to the next best thing that is fun and exciting, we may loose out on an opportunity to go deeper with those around us who God may have put strategically in our life.

Kevin and I talk about the idea that if we were to just perpetually travel and never put down roots, we would miss out on getting to know our friends and neighbors in a deeper way. Sure, there is social media and Skype, but it isn't the same as sitting with a friend and holding her when she finds out a family member has died, or inviting people to church each week, or walking with a friend who is going through a tough time.

So i'm stepping out of fear, out of FOMO, and out of just wanting to escape pain (or sometimes monotony). I'm going to choose to step into my calling, even when it's hard, because it is in those challenging places that we meet and walk with Jesus in new ways as He leads us ever forth on the purpose He has for our lives:)

May you be encouraged that even if your 'calling' doesn't feel so glamorous or exciting, it is sacred and holy and God is using you in beautiful ways!! Happy Tuesday! 

Summer Reading Book round-up

Thursday, July 7

So, i'm a sucker for books. There is nothing better than finding a comfy spot, having extended time, and finding yourself with a darn good book. Oh the joy of cracking those pages open.

Last week my entire family crammed into a house on the beach in Santa Cruz (you can see here), and I found myself with loads of time and heaps of warm sand to sprawl out on and get a nice tan while I read, ha! But really, it was heavenly.

Here are a few books i've been reading this summer:

Winter Garden by Kristen Hannah: Ok, so one of my favorite fiction books is Kristen Hannah's The Nightingale (go read it now!). I thought i'd give another one of her books a try. Since i'm a historical fiction fan, this one appealed to me as it took place in modern day Oregon and in Russian during WWII. I know next to nothing of what happened in Russia during WWII so this was super eye opening and an over all interesting read. I think I finished it in 2 days, ha!

The Whole Brain Child: 12 Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind, Survive Everyday Parenting Struggles, and Help Your Family Thrive by Daniel Siegel & Tina Payne Bryson: Ok, so this is NOT a mindless fiction book. It's actually a non-fiction book that talks all about the brain science behind raising healthy kids. It's incredibly fascinating, and is blowing my mind with the research on the right and left brain and their functions. While it's authored by neuroscientist and MD Dan Siegal (i.e.: superhuman smart!), it's written with the parent in mind and gives some great suggestions on how to access both sides of the brain. As a therapist, i'm loving it!

Any book by Kate Morton: If you've hung around here long enough you know she's one of my favorite authors. All her books are page tuners and have great twists at the end (which I can NEVER guess!). Her most recent is The Lake House and i'd absolutely recommend it if you need a good beach read!

The Calvary Road by Ray Hession: Ok, so this is another non-fiction book that has become one of my all-time favorites. It's itty bitty, but packs a punch with flipping my Christian walk upside down and bringing me back to the profound basics of how to walk with Christ and in community with others. If you've ever had conflict (or are in the midst of some relational conflict) this book is super helpful!

Bread & Wine by Shauna Neiquist: I started reading this book when it was super popular a few years ago, and somehow I lost it on an international trip at the airport. My mom just gave it to me again in my Easter basket this year, and I've been having fun reading and cooking from it. The author's husband is gluten free, so it's packed with all sorts of dishes I can actually eat (hoorah!!). This is such a fun and easy read, especially if you love to experiment in the kitchen (I make the blueberry crisp recipe a few times a month...it's so easy and a crowd pleaser!)

Ok, a few I have on my list are: 
The Little Paris Bookshop
The Summer Before the War
A Man Called Ove

A few other favorite reads (from summers past) have been:
The Boys in the Boat
All the Light we Cannot See
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
Memoirs of a Geisha
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
The Book Thief
A Thousand Splendid Suns & The Kite Runner
Harry Potter (all 7 of them!)

I'm sure you are starting to see that i'm sorta kinda into historical fiction, haha, whoops! Convince me there's a good book out there not in this genre, and i'll give it a try!!

Any good book suggestions I should buy and take with me to Tahiti??  I would love your recommendations! 
Ingredient of the Month - 20% Off

And our next trip is to....

Monday, July 4


So, you guys were amazing at guessing where we are going…

We are off to…

French Polynesia, and specifically the islands of...
Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora, Tahaa, Raiatea, Huahine

It all started a few months ago when Inspiration Cruises & Tours contacted me about their very unique trips around the world. You guys, their cruises are truly amazing (just check out their awesome website here).

Essentially, they offer adventurous travel…but so much more. It's like going to a Christian conference, where you get to hear inspiring speakers, listen to worship music and grow in your faith, with world class travel. I've been on cruises before, but nothing that has offered me the chance to refresh and grow in my faith like i'm anticipating on this cruise:)

And what's even more exciting, is that one of my favorite authors, Chuck Swindoll, who had a huge impact on me in college when I read through many of his books, will be the speaker on the cruise. I cannot believe that i'm going to get to meet a man that has inspired my faith in huge ways throughout my life. Along with Swindoll, there are some great worship musicians and other speakers. I literally cannot believe that I get to spend a week doing two things I love…worshipping and growing with God, AND exploring and adventuring a new part of the world i've never been to!

Kevin and I fly to Tahiti July 28th, board the yacht July 29th, and spend 8 glorious days cruising around the islands, swimming with sting rays, hiking the lush hills, listening to Chuck Swindoll share his heart with us, and being refreshed by God's beautiful world. {If you are interested in joining me on this cruise, there is still room! Check out our itinerary here. }

If you've never heard of Inspiration, then I would so recommend checking out their website. They offer cruises all over the world, with top-notch speakers and great itineraries. Many of their cruises are completely comparable in price to other cruise lines (but on an Inspiration cruise, you practically get a Christian conference out of it as well!).

I can't wait to share about our time with you! If you haven't done so already, feel free to like Hope Engaged on FB, as I share more updates about our upcoming trip!! And, as a fun little bonus, Inspiration is letting me take-over their instagram while i'm on the trip, so you can follow along with our trip by following @inspirationcruises

Have a wonderful week dear friends!

ps- if you guessed any form of French Polynesia (including any of the islands), email me a 300x200 blog ad and i'll put it up for a month! Thanks for playing along:)

pss- Happy 4th of July! So grateful for the freedoms we have in this country. It's not perfect, but there is much to be thankful for!