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Thursday, December 31, 2015

Best Books of 2015

2015 was a slower, more intentional reading year for me.  And that has really been a good thing.  For one,, I've spent a lot more time in the Bible, including reaching my goal of reading through it all chronologically this year.  Besides that, it's been a year that I am very glad to see fading out.  It means a new year with a new slate to write on is just around the corner!

These are the books that stand out of the approximately 28 that I read (next to the Bible, which I just mentioned).

"Snow Treasure" by Marie McSwigan -- In the winter, the children and I did a little "Frozen" unit study, which included learning about Norway.  This was a great tale based on real events and it drew us all in.  A very fun adventure story.

"She is Mine" by Stephanie Fast -- My friend handed me this title early in the year.  I could hardly put it down.  It was shocking, sad, compelling, and amazing all wrapped up in one.  I cried my way through it.  It is the author's story of her childhood as a Korean war orphan, and how the love of God met her through adoption.  Read my friend's review here and check it out for

"Teaching from Rest" by Sarah Mackenzie -- This is a title I had seen floating around for quite some time, but I wanted to wait until it was available in print (me and books on computer screens don't get along well).  Though I'll admit that I struggled with reading a book written by a mom of very young children yet (meaning there is a lot to be said for life experience and wisdom that grows with age), I do really like this little book for its reminders to me in my own homeschool journey, which frankly needs a shot-in-the-arm from time to time.  And perhaps a younger mom helps a veteran one find some of that idealism, enthusiasm, and focus with which she began her own home education journey!  She comes from a classical teaching bent, which I don't mind, so just be aware that some of her resources and encouragement lean in that direction.  I found some practical wisdom and encouragement here that I plan to return to.

"Own Your Life" by Sally Clarkson -- I started out the year ready to dive into this book.  But life happened, and I didn't get into it until the fall.  But it was the right time, and I loved this message from Sally.  There is usually a Sally Clarkson title in my annual list, and this is a great one.  I look forward to returning to it as well in my quest to live a life of intention, beauty, purpose, and joy!

"Of Knights and Fair Maidens" by Jeff and Danielle Myers -- I have a great deal of respect for the teaching of Dr. Jeff Myers, so when this edition of their original courtship story was reprinted and on sale, I  knew I wanted to read it.  I have read several books on dating and courtship (including some not-so-great ones).  I think this one presents a balanced view of striving for honor and purity in how young adults treat one another, without tipping the scales toward a fear-based model that never trusts young people who sincerely desire to honor Christ in their relationships.  Jeff Myers is big on mentoring in all the messages I have heard him speak, and so it is not a surprise to find that he is a big advocate of having godly accountability and wise mentors in your life at every stage, including courtship.  I am eager for my daughters to read this title when I can get them to agree that their own stacks aren't too big to add to it!

"A Path Through Suffering" by Elisabeth Elliot -- If you read my post from yesterday, you saw many Elisabeth Elliot quotes, and all of them came from this book.  This one ministered to me tremendously this year and though I haven't read a lot of books on suffering, I'd have to say this is a top one I would recommend!

"What Did You Expect?" by Paul David Tripp -- One of the best marriage books out there!  I'm not sure how well it ministers to young married couples as I have not read many reviews of it written by that demographic.  I often wonder how a young-married person would read it.  I wish I would have read it long ago.  Though as in any book I am sure there are points I don't quite agree on, overall the emphasis on facing just how much our own sin blocks us from loving our spouse well is a necessary reminder.  Marriage is for God's glory, not ours!

"Stepping Up:  A Call to Courageous Manhood" by Dennis Rainey -- I picked up this title when I found it on sale and with the thought that I was going to pass it on to my just-turned-13 son.  But of course I wanted to read it first!  It actually seemed to be most appropriate for seasoned men and for those starting out in marriage and family life.  This book is full of exhortation, great stories of courage, and all throughout I felt Dennis Rainey's passion for this subject.  It is largely a call for men to live their life well and to pass it on to others through mentoring.  I HIGHLY recommend it!  Will I pass it on to my son?  Certainly.  But I think I'll let him mature a bit first and probably wait until he's on the older side of a teenager.  One of the best parts of this book was that it sparked the theme for my son's birthday celebration...COURAGE.

"I Love You, Ronnie" by Ronald and Nancy Reagan -- This past summer, Warrior and I were privileged to take a trip to the Reagan Presidential Library and I wrote about how inspiring that was here.  I picked up this title to bring home because I was taken in by the letters on display in the museum, and by President Reagan's love for his wife.  Everyone knows he is "The Great Communicator" and I loved that this book shined light into his communication with his wife.  Being a words person, I'll admit this book made me kind of swoony.  There was so much to love about it--his wit and humor, how he always found time, even in the midst of White House duties, to bless his wife with words, how they never got used to the times they had to be apart, how she seemed to shine in her role of helping him, and most of all the integrity they maintained in their marriage that seems to be nearly non-existent among the leaders of today.

"Shepherds Abiding" by Jan Karon -- This was my final read of the year, which I read aloud to the children.  I am including it here because it was mostly just a calm, breath of fresh air in the Christmas season.  It was funny and sweet and we all enjoyed it.

These books I personally enjoyed the most, but I did also read numerous titles to my children and spent the majority of read-aloud time between the Little Britches series and "The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place" this year, with some "Ballet Shoes" for good measure for my ballerina girls!  Looking forward to a new year of reading, learning, and growing!  And to reading what others have found inspiring in their own readings of 2015!  Please share!

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Favorite Quotes from 2015

In recollecting the year, I wanted to record some of the quotes that have spoken to me.  These are, of course, aside from the Bible.  The majority of my recordings have come from the Psalms this year.  And you can read them on your own.  The Psalms came alive for me this year in a profound way and I am so grateful.  

I hear the words everywhere, whether music, movies, or books.  These are some of my words in 2015.

"This is the unmaking
The beauty in the breaking
Had to lose myself
To find out who you are..."
~Nichole Nordeman

"I pass through a vale of tears but bless thee for the opening gate of glory at its end."
~"The Valley of Vision"

"I would rather have a man chasing Jesus than a house full of stuff"
~The movie, "War Room" by Alex and Stephen Kendrick

"And I fall on my knees and I fight like a warrior,
I am a warrior on my knees."
~Steven Curtis Chapman

"I know of no answer to give anyone except the answer given to all the world in the cross.  It was there that the great Grain of Wheat died--not that death should be the end of the story, but that it should be the beginning of the story, as it is in all the cycles of nature.  The grain dies.  The harvest results."
~Elisabeth Elliot

"What you practice, you become."
~Sally Clarkson

"Have courage and be kind."
~"Cinderella" movie
Have Courage and Be Kind printable
Image from

"Sing about His mercies and greatness.  The enemy would like to destroy your family and your joy--all you have invested and all your hopes for the future."
~Elisabeth Elliot

"Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important."
~Ambrose Redmoon

"Real courage is doing your duty under fire."
~Dennis Rainey

"There comes into the life of every man a task for which he and he alone is uniquely suited.  What a shame if that moment finds him either unwilling or unprepared for that which would become his finest hour."
~Winston Churchill

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."
~C.S. Lewis
Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point. - C.S. Lewis | Tiffany made this with

"Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see."
~Neil Postman

"God uses crooked sticks to draw straight lines."
~Dr. Carl Wenger

"Quarry me deep, dear LORD, and then fill me to overflowing with living water."
~"Valley of Vision"

"And thanksgiving in the midst of darkness, clears a way for grace."
~Elisabeth Elliot

"Then I ask myself:  but why do I need the word of anyone but God Himself?  He has told me again and again and again that He is with me and will always be with me, in the deep river, the hot fire, the Valley of the Shadow.  Yet I sometimes doubt Him.  So, in His mercy, He brings along witness after witness, people who have learned dimensions of transforming grace impossible for them to have learned anywhere but where they were."
~Elisabeth Elliot

Thursday, December 24, 2015

On Christmas, Ruth, and Happy Endings

I think I finally get it!  Why I am drawn to "happily ever after" stories and fairy tale endings.  Why beauty is a very real attraction to my heart.  I suspect...I know I am not alone.  I witness it in my own children's love for the same fairytales, whether of the "Cinderella," "Frozen," or "Tangled" variety, or the epic stories of faith, bravery, and courage existent in Narnia or "The Lord of the Rings."  I see it all around me, in both its broken, and its redeemed forms.

And isn't Christmas the embodiment of hopes, dreams, and beauty?  It seems to draw out and make apparent all that we seem to long for.  Which also means it is often a very difficult and dark time of year for many in facing their own disappointments, hurts, and shattered dreams.  It just didn't turn out like I expected.

"But now they desire a better, that is, a heavenly country.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them."
~Hebrews 11:10, NKJV

Last night I said to my Warrior that Christmas just seemed to breeze by faster than ever this year.  That always makes me sad, because it means it's coming to an end.  And I didn't get to enjoy it nearly as much as I wanted to!  I had so many hopes to just rest in it and enjoy it and soak it all in.  But they didn't come to fruition so well.

I've been reading through these devotionals this year, and I have loved them!  It's been a brief survey through the Bible of how Jesus is the fulfillment of all stories we know and love in His Word.  And there is one in particular that ministered deeply to me.  "Jesus is the True and Better Boaz."

Perhaps it is partially due to my study of Ruth this year, which is one of the best I've ever undertaken.  And I'm sure a large part of its appeal has also been the life experiences of this year.  Whatever the reason, I find it so compelling!  I think here is the ultimate "happily ever after story" of the Old Testament.

Ruth lived in a world of brokenness.  She was a foreigner, even of the despised country of Moab.  And she was alone after the death of her husband.  She chose to forsake her own country's idols and her extended family to follow God and to care for Naomi, as they returned to Bethlehem.  In the midst of walking a faithful, yet certainly lonely, life, Boaz finds her.  He gave her a home and a place to belong.  He brought her intimacy and companionship.  He brought relief and help to her task of caring for her mother-in-law and just plain putting food on the table.  He served out his role as a kinsman-redeemer.  In short, you could very well say that Ruth's wedding to Boaz was the stuff of dreams and fairytale endings for her.

Jesus is the True and Better Boaz--the One who gives us a home and a place.  The One who brings us into the most intimate relationship we can ever know.  The One who brings relief to our weary hearts.  The Kinsman-Redeemer for us all.  All of this world's disappointments, difficulties, loneliness, and celebrations that didn't turn out the way we hoped or expected are leading to the Great Feast--the Marriage Supper of the Lamb.

A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks a new glorious morn
Fall on your knees
O hear the angels' voices
O night divine
O night when Christ was born
O night divine o night
O night divine

Today I am hoping to dwell on these thoughts.  Christmas may not be all I hoped or dreamed for this year.  But it will be good!  I am surrounded by those I love.  I have much to be thankful for.  And above all, I have the gift of a Redeemer to celebrate!

And I am quite certain there will come a day when dreams come true.

Here's a little Christmas gift from me to you......a song that I've really appreciated this year.  Merry Christmas!


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