Beautiful Day

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Favorite Reads of 2014

Time for the annual "Review of Books!"  No particular ranking here--just the order that I read them in.

1.  "A Fine Romance:  Falling in Love with the English Countryside" by Susan Branch.
This one, to me, is just plain pretty and fun.  If you know anything about Susan Branch, she is primarily an artist.  Her books are filled with her watercolor writing style.  It is lovely, and sometimes a little busy.  Since I am drawn to watercolor AND lovely writing AND the English Countryside, this just seemed a perfect fit.  I read it as a sort of respite that drew me to dreaming of visiting Beatrix Potter's Hilltop Farm or Jane Austen's Chawton, and taking long walks in the countryside, enjoying the flowers along the way.  It is a travel memoir by the author, so includes biographical sketches I could do without at times, but overall I found it just a lovely, easy read that was inspiring.

2.  "Celebrations of Faith" by Randy and Lisa Wilson.
This one was my inspiring visionary read for the year.  Celebrations are important to me.  This title just reaffirmed some of my own thoughts and provided some new ideas to bless my family with.  I was both convicted and encouraged in my own goals for training our children and giving life to my home and family.

3.  "Man of the Family" by Ralph Moody.

We are slowly working our way through the "Little Britches" series.  I have a bunch who enjoy Western stories and these offer tales of grit and character development.  One caveat:  There is occasionally some language that takes the Lord's name in vain.  It seems an effort to make certain characters seem real.  Since I read these aloud, I edit the language out when reading.

4.  "Sacred Influence:  How God Uses Wives to Shape the Souls of their Husbands" by Gary Thomas.
Perhaps this one makes the list because I spent a good couple of days pondering it while on a personal retreat to Glen Eyrie (an amazing and rich time).  I think it also does because I just needed many messages this book had to offer at just the right time.  I found it both deeply convicting and practically helpful in continuing to learn to love and respect my husband.  I even learned some valuable things about the physiological differences between men and women that make conflict resolution more challenging.  And this lesson stood out to me the most, regarding the wisdom of Ephesians 4:26 ( not let the sun go down on your wrath."):
"The Bible never says we have to resolve all differences or problems with our spouse before going to bed.  If you're still dealing with your anger, you can let that go by yourself, before going to bed even if your spouse won't or isn't able to discuss the issue until later."
I highly recommend this title!

5.  "Through Gates of Splendor" by Elisabeth Elliot.
Classic missionary biography, primarily of Jim Elliot, but also of his four comrades and their wives.  I read this aloud to the children and just found it a fascinating true story of men who were ready to give everything, including their lives, for reaching the Auca people with the Gospel.

6.  "Women of the Word:  How to Study the Bible with both our Hearts and Our Minds" by Jen Wilkin.

Finally!  A book devoted to not only teaching women about the why of spending time studying the Bible in depth, but she outlines a straightforward and fairly simple method of personal Bible study for any book of the Bible you want to study.  Don't read that as meaning easy, however.  In-depth study does require time and discipline--and the author does point that out in her book.  But she also does not approach it in a sense that overwhelms women with the sense that they will never have time to do it!  I found her approach very similar in many ways to methods I have used through our participation in the National Bible Bee, so it was kind of a natural extension of something I was already doing.

7.  "Glimpses of Grace:  Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home" by Gloria Furman.

This being the final title I completed in 2014 also means it is the most prominent in my mind and heart at the moment.  I appreciated the author's mix of her own circumstances with the Gospel lessons she was trying to convey.  I came away with some challenging thoughts, not necessarily new, but in need of being refreshed:

"Keeping a home, serving strangers, 'settling down,' raising a family--none of this was ever about us.  It was always for the sake of the gospel."
And this quote, because it is something our former pastor and his wife did so well, and of which I was a personal beneficiary of, and something I am seeking to become better at (pointing others to the Gospel):
"...God has prescribed fellowship with other believers as one of the means he uses to release gospel truth into our lives."
8.  "When Sinners Say I Do:  Discovering the Power of the Gospel for Marriage" By Dave Harvey.

I am going to cheat a little bit here.  I am actually not finished with this one yet, but I want to record what I am gleaning from it already.  Tender Warrior and I are reading this together, at the recommendation of the above-mentioned pastor and his wife, and we are finding it rather powerful.  We are a little more than halfway through it, but I think I can safely say it is going to rank up there at the top of the list of marriage books to recommend.  There are some hard truths in this book and the author doesn't sugar-coat them.  At the same time, the power of the Gospel (as the subtitle says) shines loud and clear.  The chapters on mercy and forgiveness are my favorite thus far.
"Mercy doesn't change the need to speak truth.  It transforms our motivation from a desire to win battles to a desire to represent Christ.  It takes me out of the center and puts Christ in the center.  This requires mercy."
Mercy has been a key theme this year.   It is at the forefront of the book of Jonah, which we studied this summer.  I have much to learn here, and am looking forward to finishing this one out slowly enough for it to make real impact.  Very highly recommend!!

My Bible reading plan of 2014 was this one, Professor Grant Horner's Bible Reading System, where you read 10 chapters a day.  It was rigorous, but I liked it because it had me in different parts of Scripture and kept me from getting bogged down somewhere in Numbers or something.  I admit, I like the bookmarks too!  I kind of left it, though, in June, when Bible Bee season started and my time was devoted more to in-depth studies of books.  This year I completed studies of the books of Genesis, Jonah, Nahum, Jude, and started one in Hebrews.

With my children, aside from the above-named read-alouds, I explored several new titles, like "Roverandom" by Tolkien and "Owls in the Family" by Farley Mowat.  I also enjoyed revisiting some old friends like "All-of-a-Kind Family," "Little House on the Prairie," and "Little Women."

This year I did not get to some of the classics I had hoped to.  Still on my list are titles like Elizabeth Gaskell's "Wives and Daughters," Jeremiah Burroughs' "The Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment," and Arthur W. Pink's "Profiting from the Word," all of which I have started but am not far into.  I am hopeful to get to these in 2015!


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