what i read in january.

I feel refreshed after a month of getting back into a reading routine and gaining momentum after a two month period of finishing not. one. single. book. In summary, I read 24 books in 2016 with an average of 2 books a month! I hope to kick that number in the butt in 2017, but am pleased about the titles I accomplished and lingered over this past year. You can find all my past book reviews here. 

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  • Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls (And Everything In Between) by Lauren Graham

Writers: how therapists buy summer homes. 

Lauren Graham is the main star of two of my favorite shows, Gilmore Girls and Parenthood. This memoir, unlike A Year In The Life, was no disappointment. (Although the endings of both leave the same confused and hopeless feelings. Just a warning.) Graham took us through the beginning of her career, season by season through Gilmore Girls, gave writers some fantastic tips, skirted us through the adventures of her love life, and gave a lovely tribute to Parenthood. It was light and breezy – there wasn’t a real common thread that pulled the whole book together in harmony which at times annoyed me.  I received this one as a gift on Christmas day and had it finished within a week! If you love Gilmore Girls as much as I do, definitely pick this one up. As a bonus, I already had Lauren’s voice in my head as she told her stories and that added to the simple charm of the book!

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  • Writing Down The Bones: Freeing The Writer Within by Natalie Goldberg

I write because there are stories that people have forgotten to tell, because I am a woman trying to stand up in my life. I write because to form a word with your lips and tongue or think a thing and then dare to write it down so you can never take it back is the most powerful thing I know. I am trying to come alive, to find the distances in my own recesses and bring them forward and give them color and form.

This book was the best book I have read about writing to date. I have had this one on my shelf for almost a year, but once I gave this book more than a glance, I couldn’t put it down. I decided to not highlight my favorite segments, because I wouldn’t quit highlighting. I love Goldberg’s unique voice, how she faces the struggles, reality, and glory of writing. I’ll keep this one nearby for years to come and pull out an essay or two when I am feeling discouraged and at a dead-end in my projects. Natalie Goldberg is a Buddhist, so at times the book stretched out of my belief system and comfort zone, but it’s important to read a bit from people you don’t understand and overall that didn’t overshadow the heart of the book! I was expecting a boring yet helpful book on writing, and instead was met with a poetic, thrilling, helpful account!

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  • Girl Meets Change: Truths To Carry You Through Life’s Transitions by Kristen Strong

When God uses change to send us packing, He sends us with the promise of blessing too.

January held some gut-wrenching change for me, and the rest of the year will be no different, so I picked this one up on a whim when I was taking care of my responsibilities at my church library. This book was a helpful companion, and I would recommend it, especially for those who are new to the faith or need a “change of scenery” so to speak! Kristen Strong was a new author for me. Honestly, I didn’t like her style of writing at all, but the heart of the God-given truths kept me going until the last page.

Currently reading…

The Broken Way by Ann Voskamp (for the second time)

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend 

Abiding in Christ by Andrew Murray

Way of the Heart by Henri J. M. Nouwen

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines

Friends, what are you reading right now? Do you have a monstrous reading goal marked for yourself in 2017? Tell me what you have recently hated or loved!

 

 

 

 

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five choices to turn this Christmas week upside down

See this post at it’s original home The Rising.

This week a lot of hurt is highlighted and identities are shaken. We say, “My love won’t be enough, I need to buy them a little something more. The house doesn’t look good enough, I need to get busy. This year wasn’t productive enough, I need to squeeze in tighter jeans and wake up earlier before January 1.” Or, “How do I look into the face of the people I’ve disappointed with love and how do I look in the mirror and not see failure? Loss took my sleep and my heart this year, how do I sing Joy To The World here when it is hardest to even breathe?”

This week has the potential to add to your weariness or it can make you clap in celebration. You can come to the stable humble or you can stay cold. You can beat yourself up or you can dare in hope. You are invited to make His love your home, but you can choose to remain in lies.

I ask you this – how do you want to remember this December? When you look back at this in the years to come, what do you want to see more than anything else?

As I think over that question for myself, these are the choices that I am carefully crafting and praying over these holy days.

choosing the better thing

When Jesus came to the house of Martha and Mary in the village he was visiting, Martha was whining that Mary was at the feet of Jesus listening to his teaching and not helping her clean. Scripture says in Luke 10:40 that “Martha was distracted with much serving.” My heart understands Martha’s. I so often choose to clean up my act before I allow myself to sit with the Lord, but Jesus said this to Martha in her hustle and impatience:

“You are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

— Luke 10:41-42

Our culture belittles soul-rest, let alone sitting at the feet of Jesus to simply listen. To admit our need and to come to sit at His feet. So what better way to make a stand for the kingdom of God then to choose time with Him over things that can be taken from us in an instant? It sounds crazy to our busy world that is distracted with productivity and independent, but our strength that comes from Christ alone is unmistakable and our time in the presence of God can never be stolen.

choosing forgiveness & gratefulness

God has awakened much in me lately, but I know for certain that He has moved me towards less anger, more forgiveness, and true gratefulness. It’s not easy, and the process is only beginning, but one step toward freedom is not a small thing. If in these next few days, we would acknowledge our hurt against others instead of lashing out in anger, what would happen? When it’s easier to choose judgment and bitterness, let’s choose pain and compassion. Let’s ask for the grace and the other-worldly strength. Let’s choose being hurt over being angry. It doesn’t sound normal, but God coming as a baby was not normal. It is upside down from everything we had expected. That is why it means everything to us.

choosing to come humbly to the stable

It’s the truth of our identity that we can’t live forever unless we are born again. The sweet thing, the overwhelming thing, about Jesus’ birth is that now it is made possible. When we come to the stinky stable in all our own grime and accept the wild truth of who this God-child is, we are adopted as beloved children. It all sounded crazy and impossible to a bunch of Jews who just knew that Mary must have committed a crime, but we know the truth that it was only the beginning of Christ baffling man’s expectations as He created the gospel story. Kristen Strong said it this way: “Wrapped in the swaddled bundle of a wee babe is a startling truth: sometimes God allows change in our lives so we can have his presence like never before.”

choosing to give generously

We have been given the best gift, and the only Gift that matters and eternally lasts. How much more should that encourage us to wrap joyfully, to deliver packages and joy? We have the chance to give generously year-round. What better way to open conversations about God’s grace and faithfulness than when we are giving gifts than during the curiosity of the world when it is Christmas? The chances are, you are going to give something in the days ahead: will you give Good News or stress? Will you give from necessity or out of love? It’s no trivial thing, shedding beauty wherever we tread. Will you be a little crazy with me? Do a touch of the unthinkable? Let’s not grumble in our to-dos… let’s make it simple (we have nothing to prove!), keep our thoughts grateful when plans get destroyed and homes get messy, and lavish love wrapped in bows and hugs with generous hearts! We have been given a Savior! How much more should the church be moved to give happily as a symbol of true love and forgiveness?

choosing to make the truth of God-with-us into a God-with-us party!

I know it sounds impossible. You are burnt out, and it is impossible to get it all done. You don’t have time to sit and pray, because the guest bed needs changing and the gifts need wrapping and your heart is bleeding. Do you want to know the gospel’s all-encompassing truth? The baby was born so that the veil could be torn. He is God-with-us. You can take Him with you. Take Him to the store, see the world under redemption’s light. Give Him a seat around your Christmas tree, and watch the glow on your family’s faces like never before. God-with-us sometimes means prayer rooms and silent corners, but God-with-us gives us the freedom to tap into His presence in the driving and eating and dancing. While half of the world feeds on greed, give Him your heart and your home. Ask Him to come and flourish in His birthday party. Ask Him to be in the unspoken disappointments and needs, the comfortable silences, and the loud noise of family.

Rejoice, oh church! We have a stable to celebrate in and a cross to confess beneath. Rejoice, because we have both places to crawl. You see, everything broken and restless and insecure in us comes alive and whole in a baby in Bethlehem. Everything that aches and is helpless – finds healing and hope. On that not-so-silent-night, all our lives shifted and had a chance. I am captivated by a God who carefully thought through how to come to this earth so that He could sympathize with us, save us, be with us.

Merry Christmas, friends. See you next year.