Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Reading Challenge

I've always been an avid reader - I was that kid who easily read 50 books over summer vacation. Now that I'm a big girl, unfortunately I do not have time to read 50 books over the summer, let alone in a year!

This past year, I read a large number of books, partly thanks to spending many hours on planes and trains, but I also spent a lot of time trying to figure out what to read, instead of just reading!

So, for 2015, I'm going to give myself a little challenge. My goal is to read at least 20 books this year, from classic literature to spiritual reads to fiction books that are hot, hot, hot right now.

I've made a list of some books that I'd like to read to get myself started, and I'd love to hear your suggestions too! Tell me what needs to make my list in the comments!

So, self, do you accept this reading challenge?!


The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkein
Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith
A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle

Kid Lit

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine (re-read) (listening to the audiobook now!)
The Last of the Really Great Whangdoodles by Julie Andrews (re-read)
Greenglass House by Kate Milford

Sci-Fi and Fantasy

Dune by Frank Herbert (I've tried before and failed... I shall try again!)
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel


The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Spiritual Reads

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Walking with Mary by Edward Sri (re-read)


The Expats by Chris Pavone
The Accident by Chris Pavone
Human Croquet by Kate Atkinson

Top Pick Fiction

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (reading now!)
The Husband's Secret by Liane Moriarty

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Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Lord is with you

It's very fitting that on the Fourth Sunday of Advent, we hear the story of the Annunciation.

The angel Gabriel greets Mary with, "Hail, full of Grace! The Lord is with you." But what does this mean, to be full of grace? What does it mean for the Lord to be with you?

The answers to these questions aren't easy - even Mary was "greatly troubled" and "pondered" their meaning.

When Mary told the angel to let it "be done according to your word", she said yes to being with God, yes to being full of grace.  Her yes affirmed this greeting - just as when we say yes to God, we are filled with His grace.

Just as John the Baptist cried out to prepare the way of the Lord, Advent is a time for us to truly prepare ourselves to be with the Lord.

We can never carry the Lord like Mary did, because she literally and physically had Him with her - she carried Him in her womb. We can, however, be "pregnant" with Christ by carrying him in our hearts.

The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us. God chose to come into the world through Mary, through her yes. Let us pray that in this last week of Advent, we will say yes to the ultimate Christmas gift and also share God with the world by carrying his grace in our hearts.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

#5Faves: Christmas Albums Edition

Linking up with Jenna!

We all love Christmas music. But let's admit it - with every pop singer ever to grace this earth releasing a Christmas album, some Christmas music is absolutely terrible. Lucky for you, I've scoured near and far to weed out the bad and find the good. Here are my five favorite Christmas albums, that I can pretty much listen to straight through, from start to finish.


You know how when you've listened to a CD too much, it gets all scratched up from too many plays and then doesn't play anymore? Well, that happened to this CD. After about a year. Because I listened to it year-round. I love MercyMe's music, but their Christmas album is absolutely amazing. They take many classic Christmas tunes and introduce more upbeat tempos ("Silent Night"), a different musical tune ("Gloria"), spine-tingling harmonies ("O Holy Night"), and/or beautiful instrumentals ("It Came Upon a Midnight Clear", "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen", "Little Drummer Boy"). Don't miss their heart-warming original - "Joseph's Lullaby" - either. Actually, you should probably just start on track one and listen the whole way through.


Amy Grant has many Christmas albums out there, and I have to admit that I haven't listened to them all, because I love this one so much. I grew up listening to this album, making sure to listen to "The Night Before Christmas" on repeat on Christmas Eve. Other note-worthy songs include "Breath of Heaven (Mary's Song)" (perfect for Advent and even year-round!), "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year", and "Joy to the World/For Unto Us a Child is Born".


Like most of their albums, Relient K's Christmas album is very punny, which means it's especially fun for the young and young-at-heart. Many of your classic favorites are also given a fun and upbeat spin, a la Relient K style. My personal favorites include "Angels We Have Heard on High", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", and "In Like a Lion (Always Winter)" (perfect for Advent).


This is a classic, people. Just click play and sit back and soak up the joy of the season. I especially love the always wonderful "White Christmas", the fun and upbeat "Jingle Bells", the classic "It's Beginning to Look Like Christmas", and the timber tones of "Silver Bells".


I've tended to notice that Christian artists make really great Christmas albums. Casting Crowns' album is no different. "I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day", "O Come All Ye Faithful", and "Joy to the World" are some of my favorites that are on repeat, while "Christmas Offering" and the gorgeously instrumental "O Come, O Come Emmanuel" may soon join the constant-repeat list.

What are your favorite Christmas albums? 
Tell me now so I can soak up all their goodness this season!

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