What I Learned in January 2016

Sunday, January 31, 2016

It's the last Sunday in January. I've got a pot of chili simmering on the stove and I just removed a batch of cornbread muffins from the oven. Before we end the weekend, I wanted to take some time to join Emily in reflecting on what I learned in January. I learned...

1. To thank God for everything. I wrote about it several weeks ago and I've continued to learn about it all month long. It's never uncalled for. Say it out loud. He loves to hear it and you'll grow to love saying it.

2. That I prefer front load washers as opposed to top loaders. As much as I love being able to add clothes to the wash cycle after the water is done pouring in, that convenience isn't worth the beating that the agitator gives to clothes in top loaders.

3. That Psalm 23 is an explanation of Jesus' relationship with the Father. Maybe you already knew this, but I didn't until our pastor preached on it this month. Jesus Christ received all from the Father just as sheep receive (and expect to receive and lie in wait) from the shepherd.

4. To give being an expositional listener a try. This idea came from chapter one of Thabiti Anyabwile's book "What Is a Healthy Church Member?" .  I've got got a list of about 6 goals related to this task.

5. That command + v = paste. I'm not one for keyboard shortcuts, but that one has come in HANDY this month. Are there any that you use regularly?

6. So many things about Emily Dickinson that make me love her even more. She loved: her friends, Mount Vernon and George Washington, gardening, walks, New England, and writing. She was afraid of being alone to the point of not even being able to sleep with the window open when her sister traveled. This list of things to like about her is always growing.

7. That E.B. White was born in Mount Vernon, NY on July 11, 1899. I think of E.B. White often and keep a book two books of his essays back for reading when I need a boost. Coming across this tidbit unexpectedly in a book I happened to be reading this afternoon was a nice piece of trivia. You'd think I would know when one of my favorite writers was born, but I didn't until just a few hours ago.

What did you learn this month?

More Than A Mystery

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Detective novels are my favorite. They belong to a genre that always keeps readers on their toes. If you can find a good author, then every new release means another book gets added to your reading list. Irene Hannon is one of those authors that I keep tabs on. Her stories always draw me in. I'm someone that finds it pretty easy to walk away from a book even if I'm enjoying it immensely. Hannon gets the better of me. I almost always finish her books in just three or four sittings.

When I'm reading Hannon, I might sit on the kitchen floor to read a few more pages while a pot of pasta simmers on the stove or while a tray of cookies comes to life in the oven. When I'm reading Hannon, I know I'm in for a treat.

That's exactly how things went when I picked up my review copy of her latest novel, "Thin Ice". This book happens to be the second in her Men of Valor series. A woman named Christy Reed takes the center stage in this thriller that is just spooky enough to keep you on the edge of your seat.

In typical mystery fashion, this is a race against the clock. Readers will find themselves wrapped up in staying one step ahead of the plot by paying careful attention to the information Hannon allows them to access.

Without giving away any spoilers I'll tell you that "Thin Ice" involves an abduction and one person's attempts at seeking revenge. Christy needs to examine the past before she can ever get on with the future. As you might have guessed from the cover, ice skating plays a brief role in the plot, but not so much that non-skaters like me would get bored with the details.

While there are a few cliches here and there that Christian fiction can't seem to escape from, there are also a few moments that will stop you in your tracks. In fact, I folded three particular pages over so that I could come back to them. What I'm trying to say is that Hannon gives you a mystery, but she also gives you characters who are learning lessons and overcoming obstacles that we can all relate to.

Pick up your copy here.

*I received a review copy from the publisher and all thoughts are my own honest opinion.

What I'm Into: January 2016

Friday, January 29, 2016

January flew by in a flash! We celebrated Epiphany quietly with attifs and grape leaves, my sister got back from her trip, my youngest brother turned 16, and another round of theatre production started up again (this time they're working on TWO shows at the same time). We've been attending membership classes at the church we've been going to since August. It's been a great way to start another year!

What I'm Watching

I created my own little writing workshop for myself this month. It started out with this short interview with Neil Gaiman that I watched about ten times and then snowballed from there. I've got a post planned for February with more details, so stay tuned.

We finished our second season of Worst Cooks of America on Netflix. What's not to love about Flay and Burrell and a bunch of people who seriously can't cook??? Nothing, I tell you.

I've just started watching Ocean Mysteries on Netflix and while it makes me laugh A LOT (grown men sneaking up on wild sea lions to rescue them because "who knows what will happen to them if WE don't help them"), but I've watched two episodes, so I must like it.

Last night we watched this adaption of Jane Eyre on AcornTV.

In the Kitchen 

After being inspired by my Aunt Alice's Christmas Eve dinner, I whipped up some twice baked potatoes for the first time. It won't be the last time.

One of the biggest hits this month happened when I did a mash up of this recipe and this recipe to create some of the best pork chops I've ever had.

My favorite cook book is the 1950's Betty Crocker's Picture Cook Book. Last weekend I made the "Lemon Fluff Pie" from it and while it didn't hold up, it was super good. If you see that book for sale, grab it. You won't be sorry!

Next up: Parkin (thanks to Dorothy Sayers) and baked carrot slices (thanks to Amanda). 

On the Living Room Floor (What We're Playing)

On my sister's trip to SC, she learned and came home with a few new card games. We played them nonstop for weeks.

First up was Dead Man's Draw also known as "the pirate game" which is a pretty fast paced game that quite a few people can play at one time.

Then there's James Bond which is an even FASTER paced card game that an infinite number of people can play (you just keep adding decks of cards).

An old favorite is Spot It, but we've never actually owned our own deck for that. Now we do. :)

My sister and I also played Ticket To Ride...I think I've won ONCE in the years that we've had this game. She, on the other hand, wins ALLLLL the time.

Can you find the six words hidden in this picture?
Around the Internet

Those ^ pictures have been going around on FB and I stop my scrolling every single time. I think I enjoy them so much because they remind me of the Highlights Magazines my Grandma used to get us subscriptions to (magazine subscriptions make GREAT gifts for kids).

Tropical Traditions is having a MAJOR sale through Sunday. Check it out HERE. We're talking, 50% off on a gallon of coconut oil. You don't want to miss it. 

My friend Jay shared this recent Q & A session from Ligonier's January conference with me. You might enjoy it too!

I really want to have a mid-winter party like the one they have at The Kelly Writer's House with lots of soup and great literature some day. 

I discovered Lori's blog this month and I'm excited about offering a guest post over there in a few months!

What are you into? 

Link up with Leigh so that we can see your posts too! 

For Your Joy

Thursday, January 28, 2016

A few weeks ago, Alicia announced that she was going to be teaching a course to help people get through winter with JOY. Winter is definitely not my favorite season, so this whole idea really appealed to me. In fact, I think most of us would be in agreement on the issue that it is a TOUGH season.

The class is called "Matchless Winter". It's nine weeks long and includes one email every Monday that is LOADED with material. You can learn more about exactly what is included by clicking HERE.

Now...Alicia has no idea I'm writing this post. The thing is, I am REALLY excited about her course. This week's email contained a sentence that provides a great summary of what you can expect should you decide to sign up. She wrote, " Let's flip our 'endure' attitudes on their heads and enjoy this season."

There really is soooo much about winter that is unique. As I've said before, each season contains ways that enable us to glorify God, it's just a matter of figuring out what they are and making the most of them. I can't think of anyone better to follow along behind on this journey of unwrapping the gift that winter is to us.

Week three begins Monday, so there's still plenty of time to sign up and make this winter one to remember.

A Walk In The Park

Monday, January 25, 2016

A lot of people don't understand this, but I love taking walks. The part that is especially confusing to many people is that I don't have to have a destination in mind. There's just something about putting on my tennis shoes and stretching my legs. I almost never listen to music, I set out when I know I've got at least 20 minutes, and the goal is to take my time. I look for hills and I'll stop to chat if I see someone I know. If I'm anywhere for more than a day or two I start scouting out my "route".

When I was in high school I had a friend who taught me to give speed walking a rest and ever since then I've made it a point to walk slow sometimes. Walking slow is something that I have to force myself to do which means that the conscious effort to slow down is a benefit in and of itself. 

Today I bring you pictures from two walks through one of my favorite parks. One happened on a Monday at the tail end of 2015 and the other was on the second Saturday of 2016. 

On the Monday walk, the snow was fresh and the park was pretty much deserted. My brother and I saw a family playing on the big toy and a few people out with their dogs, but mostly there was a strange quiet that had taken over. We walked and stopped to take a few pictures and may have thrown a few snowballs. 

On  the Saturday walk, the place was mobbed with people. My sister and I checked out a new to us coffee shop because we're testing out everyone's chai teas. We pretty much literally ran into a woman walking "Hank Williams" (Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong were waiting at home). We may or may not have interrupted an internet date when we asked for someone to take a picture of us (Ansel Adams went all out, zooming in and out by walking towards and away from us and commenting on how he was making sure to get the sunset in because it was beautiful).


My brother and sister don't share my love for walking and I'm pretty sure they have no idea how much their occasional agreement to go along means to me...Whether they do or not, I do!

A walk in the park is something I always welcome. You never know what you'll witness.

Aging and Living

Thursday, January 21, 2016

January 21, 2016

On the first day of the year I settled  into my old spot in the living room at our other house to listen to a poem online. It was so good that I listened to it several more times before taking it down in my journal. Though the punctuation and line structure is probably wrong, here it is:

The Gift by Mary Oliver
Be still, my soul, and steadfast
Earth and heaven both are still watching
Though time is draining from the clock
And your walk that was confident and quick 
Has become slow.
So, be slow, if you must
But let the heart still play its part
Love still, as once you loved, deeply and without patience
Let God and the world know you are grateful
That the gift has been given. 

Today, the sky is basically gray and it is quietly drizzling, but on the day that I heard that poem the fresh snow was sparkling in the sunlight. The sky was blue and my mind was a few blocks away with Alice in the hospital.

Alice has taught me so very much. The only reason these words could mean so much to me at 25 is because of her friendship. This poem is about aging and it is also about living. I take Oliver's words and Alice's lessons with me as soul stirring HOPE.

Aging can't be stopped and won't be stopped. Love lets gratefulness for the gift of life and eternal life SHINE. Be slow, if you must, but don't ever stop letting God and the world know that you are grateful.

The Circle: January 2016

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Last time I took part in Kiki's link up, it was July and I let a bunch of FB quizzes introduce me. This time around, the theme for The Circle is to make a goal and inspiration moodboard for 2016. I had a lot of fun going through my pictures to come up with illustrations for some things I want to make sure that I do this year.

One Word: My word for 2016 is behold. Basically, this word is a constant reminder that I want my life to be centered around beholding God in all things and at all times.

Stay In God's Word: A big part in this business of beholding is consistent Bible reading. I'm currently taking one hour to read through Scripture first thing every morning. Along with this habit, comes the need for purposeful prayer and regular communion with other Christians. I'll be writing more about each of those topics over the next few weeks.

Travel: If the opportunity comes at all, I want to follow Alice's advice and "See everything and do everything they say to do. You can rest when you get home." 2015 held quite a few opportunities to travel including two trips to SC. This is half hope and half pep talk.

Let The Music Play: I've been embracing music more like I used to and I forgot how much I love it. I'm going to be sharing playlists every once in a while here too.

Write And Write Some More: I decided to write a book this year. It's going to be a novel and my goal is to use it to communicate the feelings of "home" that my Mom's parents and their house hold for me. I haven't played with fiction in years. It's going to be TOUGH, but tough is good.

Remember Julia: I went from knowing nothing other than her status as "a famous cook"  to being completely smitten with and inspired by Julia Child. In November 2014 I read her book "My Life in France" which fed my curiosity about France (created by F. Scott Fitzgerald) as well as my passion for cooking for anyone willing to let me put food on the table. In November 2015 I read "As Always, Julia" where I learned about her dedication to language studies, Paul's heart for gardening, and Avis's stick-to-itiveness when it came to getting Child's cookbook published. Basically: I want to spend an hour a day on French and remember to make the most of every circumstance. Have a bunch of free time? Use it wisely, who knows what might come of your efforts. You might be moving? Keep the garden up as if you'll be there for a hundred years. The business of accomplishing ____ is tough? Don't give up! 

Go For Walks: I love walking and I've been doing much less of it lately. I want to change that.

There you have it, seven goals and inspirations I'm carrying close as 2016 descends upon us!!! Things are off to a great start and I can't wait to tell you more about why that is.

Are you linking up with Kiki?

What are some goals and inspirations you have for 2016?

12 Months of Reading

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Last January, I took part in Anne's first reading challenge. The challenge consists of 12 prompts to help you choose books that you might not necessarily read. I enjoyed it so much that I'm doing it again this year. Here's how last year's challenge went:

A book  you've been meaning to read. 

"The Doorbell Rang" by Rex Stout // Finished January 17 It took me a while to come to grips with Stout's style, but I came around! This was a great mystery. I love Wolfe's "rules" and Archie's way of describing things - especially women. I'll be back for more!

A book published this year.

"By Your Side" Candace Calvert // Finished March 2 This book with a nurse and a cop bulging his muscles on the cover was the last thing I expected to make me so eager to read again! Calvert writes a story that is easy to invest yourself in. She reminded me that with God there is always hope and that home is a blessing from Him. Full review here.

A book in a genre you don't typically read.

"The Eyre Affair" by Jasper Fforde // Finished April 20 This book is a genre that I pretty much NEVER read. That being said, I really enjoyed it and I'm going to be reading more of Fforde's "Thursday Next" series sometime! There is some language, but it is few and far between. Even though the story is strange and a little hard to follow, I couldn't put it down!

A book from your childhood.

"The Giver" by Lois Lowry // Finished April 16 I first read this book with my friend Terry back when we were in 5th or 6th grade. We loved it. Reading it again with my book club was a real treat. It's short, but it provides readers with so much to sink their teeth into.

A book your Mom loves. 

"Gaudy Night" by Dorothy Sayers // This was the last category and as much as my Mom loves books, she usually only tells me about one at a time until I've read it. For years it was "To Kill A Mockingbird", then it was Rex Stout (but I had already used that category), so then she moved on to Sayers. I started this one on December 31 because I had been saving it to read over the winter and I decided that I would make a good dent in it that night and it WOULD count for the 2015 challenge. I finished it last night. Now, for my thoughts: I'm one to skip dialog. Sayers writes A LOT of it in and I found myself UNABLE to skip it. It is FANTASTIC! She writes bluntly in a way that captures human interactions that seem real. I laughed out loud often and smiled even more. She beat me with the mystery. I didn't have it figured out. I guess I was too busy enjoying the scenery!!!

A book that was originally written in a different language.

"A Man Called Ove" by Fredrik Backman // Finished November 14 You must read this debut novel by a man who has a way with words and people. You will laugh. You will cry. You'll hate the way the book makes you feel and you'll have to force yourself to pick it up. Each time you crack it open, you'll realize that you don't want to put it down. All of a sudden you'll realize that you love Ove and you need to know more about his story. 

A book "everyone" buy you has read.

"All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr // Finished February 9 I think I read this book at the perfect time...I had just returned from three weeks in SC and it was the tail end of winter, I was missing my family and longing for WARM weather. I LOVED this book. It really moved me and it was one that took me a while to recover from. No book could compete with it for WEEKS.

A book you chose because of the cover.

"The Opposite of Loneliness" by Marina Keegan // Finished May 3 Marina led a life that was very different from mine. Her style of writing is raw, honest, unguarded, and even a little brutal. I skipped around, leaving quite a bit of her fiction and some of her non-fiction unread. Overall, I admire what she accomplished and the way that she went about letting her youthfulness be a part of her writing. She wasn't afraid to ask questions, to take her own red pen to her writing, or to put time aside just to write.

A book by a favorite author.

"A Severed Wasp" by Madeleine L'Engle // Finished February 14 I adore L'Engle. After reading this book's predecessor, I knew that I HAD to get to this one eventually. It wasn't worth the wait. It wasn't horrible, but I guess I had my own story in mind and this one just didn't quite line up with where I expected the characters to have traveled in their lives. You MIGHT like it, but I can't say that I did.

A book recommended by someone with great taste.

"Lizzy and Jane" by Katherine Reay // Finished January 8 I finished this book on a flight from Atlanta to Salt Lake City sitting next to Bryan (random guy). I probably won't be recommending this book only because I didn't LOVE it. I am willing to give Reay another chance. The book reminded that change can be good and that we should not be afraid to try new things (or go back to old things). Reading it when I did was very good! I was visiting family and starting to regret all of the years that I missed.

A book you should have read in high school.

"Watership Down" by Richard Adams // Finished June 15 I read this along with my brother and sister who had it assigned to them in school and needed to write essays about it. We all really enjoyed it. I found it interesting and classify it as one of my favorite books ever. According to the introduction, the novel started out as stories Adams told to his children who insisted that he write it down. Knowing that made it mean THAT much more to me.

A book that's currently on the bestseller list.

"The Melody Lingers On" by Mary Higgins Clark // Finished July 2 Mary Higgins Clark is my FAVORITE author. She released THREE new books last year and I read each and every one of them. I sped right through this one because I just needed to get to the bottom of things! To be perfectly honest, I kept waiting for someone to sneak up and murder someone, but this was more of a "who IS involved and who isn't involved" mind game based plot.

Are you taking part in this year's challenge

What are some memorable books that you read in 2015?

Saying Thank You

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Jan. 7, 2016

"...be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ..." Ephesians 5:19 - 20

We had a guest preacher on Sunday who did an excellent job of expounding on Deuteronomy 8 and what happens to those who forget God. The point of his message seemed to be that everything you have you receive from God and that the importance of thanking Him must not be overlooked. 

I'm going to be writing more about prayer on Friday, but you need to know this, prayer is my weakness. As much as I love to talk, it takes effort for me to make conversation with God. While I'd like to think that making the task of prayer into something it was never meant to be is my problem, that might not be the case.

A big part of prayer is meant for thanks. Saying thank you was something that I had to be taught. I was one ungrateful child because I always thought "Well, of course, people would do ____ for me. They want to." If someone WANTS to do something for me, saying thanks seems to lessen the gift in my eyes. Don't get me wrong, I say it a lot, but I don't say it as much as I should. I certainly don't thank God enough and He sent me two messages on Sunday to make sure that I knew that. 

The first message made me realize that just as God never tires of leading His people, He never tires of hearing gratefulness overflow into thanksgiving. I need to say thank you. For everything. Waking up and thanking God for the day is good and right. Saying thank you every time I eat food is not silly or trite or meaningless. I need to say that again: saying thank you is never meaningless. 

Later that day, I got to hear the testimony of Ken. He is 77 and lost his first wife to illness when he was 41 and she was 36. 36 years later, his face still lights up and he still gets tears in his eyes as he talks about her. I sat across the room with tears of my own as he told the story about how there was a clock in his church that had the message "God heals all things in His time" written on the face and how week in and week out he saw that and thought to himself "That is a lie!". He was the preacher and when it came time for him to preach on Ephesians 5 he realized that he thought that was a lie too. God hadn't healed the wound losing his wife had left on him and his three children. Ephesians 5 said to thank God for everything, but he couldn't...

He sat in his office attempting to prepare to preach the message and trying to get his own heart in order. This was where I lost it in a room full of strangers with not a tissue in sight....Ken told us that he sat in his office just months after having lost the love of his life TRYING to at least mouth the words "Thank you for taking my wife." to God. He said, he remembers moving his lips and not hearing any sound come out. He couldn't say the words. He kept at it and finally, the words came. And he meant them. He truly was thankful to God, even for this thing that he couldn't seem to get over and he realized that God WAS healing that wound. 

Ken wanted us to know that we must thank God for everything. He said, "A lot of people say it's hypocritical to obey God when you don't feel like it, but that's not true. Fake it til you make it and you'll make it." 

Deuteronomy 8 and Ken's testimony showed me that ALL things come from the hand of God and every single one of them come for a reason. We are called to receive them with a thank you because saying thank you puts us in the position of humility. Humility is us recognizing who God is and who we are. Saying thank you is never meaningless. Thank Him for what is good and easy as well as what is difficult and hard and don't be surprised when you realize that you're making it. 

What are some things you can thank God for today?

Have you ever received something from God that you found super difficult to thank Him for?

10 Things I Learned in 2015

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

July 6, 2015 // Favorite Shot of 2015
1. Making your own hot chocolate is a great idea. The first recipe I tried came right off of the Hershey's cocoa powder box. In August, I discovered an even better recipe from Smitten Kitchen. Also, Old Fashioned donuts go GREAT with the latter recipe.

2. I really want to move back to South Carolina. The winter of 2014-2015 is responsible for this lesson. Going back again in the fall to watch my brother graduate from police academy sealed the deal.

3. Living to make yourself happy, only makes you uneasy. God says a lot about this in His Word and there's a reason why. Stay in the Word and listen.

Jan. 7, 2015 // Three of six.

4. That you should wash your clear shower curtain in the washing machine once every three months. The first day of each new season is a perfect reminder.

5. That ants can apparently eat or at least carry off seeds. If you have an ant problem in your garden, take care of the ants and THEN plant your seeds. I usually do this, but this year I didn't and I ended up having to plant my cucumbers several times.

6. Cosmos really can bloom anytime during the summer and will continue blooming until the plant is killed off by frosts.

March 17, 2015
7. That theatre life is HARD and also very rewarding. The schedules require a lot of evenings away from home right around dinner time. Once shows start, there go your weekends too. Seeing my brother and sister SHINE and having countless audience members rave about the performances makes it all worth while. I'll never forget the little boy who sat in the front row at one of the shows...It was his first time to see a live performance and the JOY the show brought him could not be hidden.

8. That the Holy Spirit's main ministry in the life of the believer is to mediate the presence of Christ.  Packer's book "Keep In Step With The Spirit" taught me this!

9. How to poach an egg. I've been doing it at least once a week ever since. If you want to learn, you should check out this video and especially this video.

10 . The wonders of essential oils. The latest victory was adding two drops of lemon EO to the washing machine while I was washing some kitchen towels that just needed a little extra help.

Bonus - That I really enjoy preparing for and putting the work into photo shoots for sponsored posts. After working with several brands over the last few years I realized that this part of blogging is really inspiring and FUN.

What did you learn in 2015? 

Christmas 2015 In Pictures

Monday, January 11, 2016

The day after Thanksgiving in 2009, marked the day when no family holiday would ever be quite the same. That was the day my barely 17 year old brother packed up his truck and made the cross country trek to start life over again in South Carolina. Since that day, holidays have held a bittersweetness to them that makes me squeeze WHOEVER I'm with a little bit closer.

Christmas 2015 was unlike ANY Christmas before it. My brother (who is now 23) and sister (who happens to be 17) were missing. He still lives in SC and she was visiting over the Christmas vacation. Meanwhile, I ended up celebrating the day at The Queen's Cottage with my Mom and youngest brother. It was just the three of us because my brother was SICK, I was getting sick, and my Mom was getting over having been sick. No body wanted our germs and we didn't feel like traveling, so we stayed put.

The whole week is kind of a blur. The day we dropped my sister off (the Thursday before Christmas) it started snowing and it didn't stop until a few days after Christmas. We shoveled like our lives depended on it. We saw the Star Wars premiere. We got rearended while we were at a stop sign on Monday. Went to a party on Tuesday night with some new friends. By Wednesday, we realized that we would probably be staying put and started planning for how we would celebrate.

I can't remember if it was Christmas Eve, Eve or Christmas Eve...But my Mom and I went shopping to get a few surprises to make sure that Christmas still felt SOMEWHAT like Christmas for my 15 year old brother. We braved the crowds and made our way to Wal-Mart where we picked up some sparkling cider, a waffle iron, one small gift for him, a little tree and tree skirt, and a giant platter of shrimp cocktail.

It was Christmas and sick or not, we had plans to make the most of it!

On Christmas morning, my Mom lit the candles and opened the drapes and the celebration of our Savior's birth began.

We had our traditional waffles with strawberries and whipped cream. We exchanged a few small presents. We had allll the time in the world to lay around feeling miserable (just keeping it real). We facetimed with my sister and the family members she was gathered with. I made a small pot of spaghetti (thankfully, it was the kind of sick where we could all hold down food and had decent appetites) complete with repurposed hamburger buns which served as garlic bread and some homemade crutons to go on our ceasar salads.

The day was slow and lazy and special all at the same time. It was Christmas and the three of us were together with eyes glazed over, fevers running high, and the kind of quiet in your soul that comes when you're thinking deeply about LIFE. 

It was a Christmas for the books. People were missing and a lot DIDN'T happen. Oddly enough, it's not one I want to forget anytime soon.

How was YOUR Christmas?

What is your favorite Christmas tradition that you take with you no matter WHERE you spend it?


Book Review: A Devotional

Saturday, January 09, 2016

I write today's review with a bit of a heavy heart...I was hoping to be able to offer you the perfect companion to your consistent Bible reading, but I think I may just have to issue a warning. This volume of devotions by Nancy Guthrie was very promising. It's beautiful, it's compact, and after having been challenged and encouraged by several of her books, I thought that Abundant Life In Jesus: Devotions For Every Day Of The Year would be something special.

Guthrie loves God and His Word. Her compilations of sermons designed for Advent and Lent have been a big part of my life for several years. This review isn't all sunshine and roses, but I do not want to blemish her name.

When I first opened the book I was excited to notice that every single day's title puts God at the very center. Guthrie makes it very clear that abundant life is found not in God's blessings, but in God Himself. She wants her readers to get to know God. My next stop was a careful reading of the introduction, where I was very impressed with the way that she described her hopes for the book.

Then I got to the part where she explained her choice to write the devotions as if God was the one speaking. This is where the book becomes too similar to "Jesus Calling" and steps too far away from "My Utmost For His Highest" for my comfort. She makes it clear that these are all HER words and DO NOT come from God, but again, the style just isn't something that I'm comfortable with.

As you seek to behold  God, tools like these can be helpful, but this is one that I cannot recommend. Keep your eyes out for Guthrie's Advent and Lent books and maybe even her future projects. In the meantime, pay careful attention to what tools you use alongside your Bible reading.

Do you have a favorite daily devotional? 

Have you been encouraged or challenged by Nancy Guthrie before? 

* I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own.

A Strategy For Beholding God: Consistent Bible Reading

Friday, January 08, 2016

These wait all upon Thee,
That Thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
That Thou givest unto them, they gather;
Thou openest Thine hand, they are satisfied with good.  Psalm 104:27-28

The resolve to behold God is essentially about waiting on Him. To wait on God is to join Christ in looking to Him as our supplier and commander. ALL that we have and are, have been and are being received from the hand of God. We truly have nothing to boast about in ourselves. Nothing. Positioning ourselves to wait on God is even a gift of grace that He grants us.

If we would behold Him, we must be always waiting on Him. Neither waiting on nor beholding God come naturally to us. We are naturally inclined to want satisfaction, but our hearts are master deceivers. Waiting on God is a special kind of waiting. It is about being aware of Him, in communion with Him, and totally dependent on Him. It has been said that we become what we behold. I like to take it a step further and say that, whether we realize it or not, we behold what we want to become. Beholding God is what happens when we truly are positioning ourselves to wait on Him. When our lives are shaped by that kind of waiting, everything becomes a finger that points directly to Him.

The hope of the Christian is the faithfulness of God. We know we cannot earn our way into God's favor...Here too, in resolving to behold God and positioning ourselves to wait on Him, we see His grace. As Andrew Murray says in chapter 4 of "Waiting on God", "...He [God] means His very demands to be promises of what He will do." Consistent Bible reading is one area where the demands and promises of God intersect.

Anyone can read the Bible. Anyone can commit to regular reading time. BUT, what such a resolve accomplishes and whether or not it exists is up to God. Christian, if you would behold God and wait on Him, you must be about the business of getting to know Him. The Bible is His special revelation given and preserved for the sake of His people. The point of today's post is this: We must make good use of His Word.

It is too easy to get caught up in waiting on OTHER things. And that waiting leads us to behold other things.

Choose a time each day, choose a plan, and make use of this means. The meat of God's Word is near, if you would wait on Him and behold Him, you must be about the business of gathering it and feasting upon it and drinking from this well that will not go dry. Check out this article for a list of plans and tons of resources. This is the plan I'm doing in 2016.

I have found that no means accomplishes so much as regular time spent in God's Word. It is in reading that Book that I have come to see God, to desire Him, and to find myself completely dependent on Him. The testimonies of consistent time in its pages have filled little books of their own. 

May 2016 be a year of consistent Bible reading. May God use this grace to fill you with such clear sight of Him that our lives are marked by waiting on and beholding Him.

How are you planning to devote yourself to consistent Bible reading in 2016?

Is this something you struggle with?

A Reading Challenge

Thursday, January 07, 2016

Last year I really enjoyed taking part in Anne's reading challenge. You'll have to stay tuned for an update on how that went because today we're going to chat about THIS year's challenge. Anne came up with 12 new categories and I've already decided that the "a book recommended by your local librarian or bookseller" is going to be my favorite square to prepare for.

I love getting recommendations from someone else. After I've read the book, I always try to go back to talk to them about it. There's nothing like having a friend or librarian who knows your reading tastes and is always has another perfect suggestion for you.

I spent some time on good reads putting together a rough reading list for 2016 and I'm looking forward to using Anne's categories to mix things up a little bit! Be sure to visit Anne's blog to grab a printable copy of your own.

In the meantime, here are a few books that I hope to read over the next few months:

"A Week In Winter" by Maeve Binchy // Years ago, Julie oohed and aahed over Binchy when I checked out her book titled "Minding Frankie" one summer. I've had my eye on this one ever since and I've been waiting for the perfect week in winter to read it in.

"Greenglass House" by Kate Milford // This YA caught my eye when Anne or Emily was reading it and I'm hoping that it might be similar to "The Mysterious Howling". If it is, I'll definitely be passing it around. Who knows, I might even be able to finish it in one day. 

"Faithfulness and Holiness" by J.I. Packer // For the last few years, I've spent a little time near the beginning of the year with my nose poked into one of Packer's books. It's a tradition that I've grown to love and one I plan to keep doing even if it doesn't fit into this year's challenge. I'm extra excited that this book happens to be about J.C. Ryle.

"The Four Loves" by C.S. Lewis // Jayda read this forever ago and told me that I HAD to read it. I haven't yet and I guess that's because this is a book that intimidates me. The time to dive in is now.

"Winter Garden" by Kristin Hannah // This may be the second book on my list not to fit into a category, but with all the snow that continues to pile up I'm in the mood for some winter themed reading. I'm hoping the garden element will fit in nicely with the dreaming about this years plants that I'll be doing really soon.

Are you taking part in Anne's reading challenge this year?

Do you ever set reading goals for yourself?