Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling Finished the second read-through of this series, and I think it got even better the second time through.
Garlic and Sapphires, by Ruth Reichl A fun read that I brought with me on family vacation. Not spectacular, but not horrible, a lightweight read with an interesting plot.
Radical: Taking Your Faith Back from the American Dream, by David Platt My hubby and I finally finished reading through this book out loud together (mostly in the car when we remembered to bring it along). This book is a great challenge to our comfort zone of American Christianity. I’d highly recommend this book and any of his writings or his sermons on the Radical podcast to anyone and everyone possible!
Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas See my review here.
Simply Tuesday, by Emily Freeman One of my favorite authors and this is her newest book. I’m currently in my second read-through because it was just that good. I can’t begin to describe it, you’ll just have to read it for yourself!
GoodReads update: 84 out of 100
It took me a while to get to this book in my stack, partially due to moving and everything going on with the beginning of the school year. But I’m so glad I did, and I already plan to go back and read through it again, more slowly this time, to digest it a second time.
This is a second edition of the first publication of Sacred Marriage, and though I hadn’t read the first, I could tell that this edition was expanded and even more full of wisdom than the first. The author writes with candid personal experience and honesty, and I appreciated his anecdotes (appropriate, not overdone) and the wealth of application that he never failed to first apply to himself. It felt like he was saying, “Here’s what I’ve learned through marriage, let me share it with you.” Though focused on the spiritual aspect of marriage, this book was by no means less practical because of it. His extensive use of Scripture and illustrations from current and historical writers was strong and thorough.
I especially appreciated his emphasis on serving your spouse and communication, and the description of one’s spouse as a “God-mirror” was intriguing and convicting (in the sense of confronting our sin, showing Christ to each other, etc.) but mostly it is the overarching concept of looking at marriage as a tool God uses to point us to Him and make us holy that sets this book apart from other books on marriage.
I would highly recommend this book for any couple, no matter what stage of marriage they’re in, and have put it on my list of “books to give as wedding or anniversary gifts”. I would also not hesitate to give this book to a mature young adult who might be preparing for marriage (or the possibility of it).
*I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Sometimes God leads by nudging you gently in a direction, instead of by lightning bolt revelations or sudden big events.
That’s what He’s been doing for us lately. After two years of marriage, we’ve settled into life together and what it looks like for us right now. But we’ve also been discussing where we’re going as a couple, what we dream of for the future, what our family and home might look like in the next decade(s). We’ve noticed things happening, little things that might not have any significance if our eyes weren’t open to how God is leading us. It started as just a possibility, but then it seemed as if God was putting the pieces together to fit just right to make it a reality.
I’ve been searching for what God wants me to do as a wife and, hopefully someday, a mother, to help support our family and pursue the passions and gifts He’s given me. I’ve discovered in the past year or so how much I love teaching piano, and when I started thinking about how I could pursue this further as a way to earn an income from home after we start a family, all of a sudden my number of students potentially doubled and I found a two-year piano pedagogy program at a local university that is both doable with my schedule and affordable with a little tweaking of our budget. I’ve also struggled with dry spells in my photography here and there, but then He gave me a wedding to shoot (by myself!) and graciously gave me unexpected money from it to start a new camera fund. More opportunities to keep up this hobby keep popping up and that makes me happy.
J found, through a recommendation from a friend, a different online seminary that is less expensive and has a better class format for the way he learns and studies. He should also be able to finish in two years, at the same time as I’d be finishing the pedagogy program. The Lord also gave him a small raise in his salary this next year which came at the perfect time as a reminder that He is providing for all our needs.
Our friends across the street are moving (to also pursue online seminary), and we are going to move into their apartment, which will allow us a yard, first floor living, inside access to the basement, and the opportunity to get a real piano for me to teach from. And then, as if it couldn’t get any better, my boss at the consignment shop, whose family is also moving, said that we could borrow their piano since they won’t have room for it in their next place.
All these things would seem like happy coincidences if we weren’t so aware of God’s hand in all of these “little” changes. We’ve been praying for Him to make His direction clear to us and He has. And the way He keeps leading us now is just another confirmation that He will make His direction clear to us for whatever our future–near and not-so-near–holds.
Gift from the Sea, by Anne Morrow Lindbergh A beautiful little book of life wisdom as learned from a vacation by the sea. Now on my wishlist to put in my personal library someday.
Design Mom: A Room-by-Room Guide to Living Well with Kids, by Gabriella Stanley Blair I don’t have kids yet, but it was a fun design book to look through and chock full of practical ideas for making your space functional and suited to your family’s life and purpose. Definitely one I will come back to when the need arises someday!
Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives, by Gretchen Rubin I had high hopes for this book, since I loved her previous two works, The Happiness Project and Happier at Home, but I was disappointed. Her anecdotes and categories of personalities were unique and I enjoyed reading through her list of excuses that we give ourselves to break habits (or keep bad ones), but as a whole it fell a bit flat for me. She seemed very focused on her own experience, which worked very well for her Happiness books, but failed to give a well-rounded application for those reading this book who were not of her own personality bent. She also stated some opinions (without really backing them up) that I found a little odd, such as exercise has nothing to do with weight loss, drinking water is not necessary (but diet soda isn’t bad for you?), and the best way to diet is to eat low-carb. It was interesting and unique, but seemed to skim the surface of the topic as a collection of random facts and experiences, without delving deeper into more practical research and tips.
Call the Midwife: In the Shadows of the Workhouse, by Jennifer Worth I didn’t enjoy this one as much as the first in this trilogy. I think it’s because it deviated from the main topic of birth stories; the first half of the book focused on the background of three people, barely related to the midwives, who had grown up in the workhouses of the early twentieth century, and then the second half focused on a patient who was an old soldier and his experiences through the recent wars. But it did give a real perspective on England’s first attempt at a social welfare system gone horribly wrong and some of their war experiences. Hopefully the series will redeem itself with the third book and go back to more birth stories (the main characters are midwives, after all). The BBC show is still by far one of the best I’ve ever watched. I’m thinking about going back and watching it again, but I’m not sure if I can handle all the emotions again…I cried at every single episode the first time through!
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, by J.K Rowlings Still working my way through re-reading this series. This is one of the best books of the series, in my opinion.
The Way of the Heart: Desert Spirituality and Contemporary Ministry, by Henri J.M. Nouwen Another little book, but straight forward and full of insight on solitude and silence and the necessity of both in our modern world and ministry. Written 35 years ago but still just as, if not even more relevant today. I’d recommend this to any vocational or lay minister to read, especially if they’re an introvert. (And if so, I’d give them Introverts in the Church to read along with it!)
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio: How My Mother Raised 10 Kids on 25 Words or Less, by Terry Ryan A fun read about how a small-town, stay-at-home mom kept her family afloat after the depression by winning contests (in the era before sweepstakes). If you like poetry, creative writing, or just an entertaining read, this one’s for you.
Capturing the Moment, by Sarah Wilkerson A beautiful book full of inspiration and tips for photographers, put together by the Clickin Moms community. I follow this website and love seeing how women all across the US have used their passion for photography.
A Timbered Choir: The Sabbath Poems, by Wendell Berry A beautiful poetry collection from the author’s weekly Sabbath walks in nature, contemplating God and life.
Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You, by John Ortberg While at times this book felt like the author’s rewording of his mentor Dallas Willard’s ideas and a little overboard with personal stories (not always super relevant to his topic), I did appreciate the wisdom of caring for the most overlooked part of our being–our souls. I’ve been learning a lot about this lately as the Lord keeps bringing me reading material perfectly related to my summer of quiet.
All Creatures Great and Small, by James Herriot A fascinating look into the life and work of an English veterinarian in the early 20th century.
GoodReads update: 74 out of 100