a resolution to read

Reading is one of the three R’s of new year’s resolutions and I have noticed there are quite a few people who are committed to reading a few books this year – everyone is sharing their lists! I notice because I love to see a good book list, and because I am a reader myself.

Ever since I was a little girl, if  I wasn’t outside playing, I was inside, on my bed, with a good book in hand. Nancy Drew and Babysitter’s Club gave way to Max Lucado and then Elisabeth Elliot.

College was full of books that still fill our book shelves and my list on amazon “to read” is quite. long.

I tell people that I read like some people run. I have conditioned myself to read a lot of books over a short period of time. I like to read capital G “good” books and that often means non-fiction Christian. I do love good literature but right now in this learning+growing season of life I just cut to the chase with the books that present flat out propositional truths. Capital T “truth.”

I don’t typically start the year with a year-long list, that seems crazy to me… but as friends recommend books, as I come across one book in another, I add the title to the “to read” list, and ask the Lord what I should read next. and with whom. Often times I am reading “this book with her” and “that book with these girls” and these couple on my own.

However, I did start this year with a pile in mind, one I thought connected the themes of life that were filling my thoughts – on growing, living brave, and getting to the good work the Lord has prepared for me. 

Before I share my January book list with you and how I go about reading through the pile, I want to list a few considerations concerning reading.

I said I’ve noticed people sharing their book lists. and I am gonna join in on the fun and share mine, too. But here’s the thing – reading is not the thing. books are not IT. With that made clear here are some consideration…

  1. If you’re gonna read any book, read The Book of books. Read the Bible. If you read a bunch of others but neglect this one, the others don’t matter. THIS is the book that matters. These Words are truth and life. This is the book you can build your life on; you can completely recommend to anyone and everyone. This is THE book. Read it.
  2. If you’re gonna read some other books – before you begin, answer these “why’s” and repent when you realize that “yep, I’m reading for all of the wrong reasons
  3. Funny enough even something as wholesome as reading can be messed up by sin. One way is you reading for all the wrong reasons. The other way is by a bad book. Don’t read bad books. Now, if you read point one and you think – well the Bible is full of awful stories with terrible characters, what of that!? Remember this – the protagonist in scripture is Jesus and right and wrong are correctly understood; the antagonist is actually bad, and the story is True and points you to Truth. Plus, scripture is well written. It’s high literature. Think through this sort of lens when you are determining if a book is good or bad. And then with a repentant, righted heart, read good books.
  4. Once you’ve gotten yourself into the practice of reading the Bible, once you’ve repented and now you’re on the way to reading 📖 well and good books, – which by the way, I’m writing this in list form, but of course the experience of it all sort of may swirl around – repenting and reading and righting all mingling together – I would love to share with you the books on my January list
  5. I would also love to know A. what you’re reading and B. If you’ve read any/all of the books on my list, what you think about them. I mean maybe you have another suggestion or perhaps a helpful critique of one of them (my list isn’t “ultimate” you know 😉
  6. Here’s my January Book List
  • bible with a year long bible reading plan
  • Capital Gaines by Chip Gaines
  • Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson
  • Falling Free by Shannan Martin
  • Unseen by Sara Hagerty
  • The Peace Maker by Kevin Sande

Have you read any of these? Thoughts? Which one do you want to add to your book list? And, what books do you currently have on your list? I want to hear from you 💙💙💙💙

Like I said, I read like some other people run. I read a lot. I read at a steady pace and lap through each book. I am going to leave the running analogy now because – I don’t run. I chose these books because most of them were sitting on my shelf already, not-yet-read, and that in and of itself is enough motivation for me.

To get through the books this month, with the exception of the bible which will take the entire year, I simply read one page at a time. Often. I started with Capital Gaines because I thought it would be a quick, easy, non-life.changing but still encouraging read, and I was wrong for the most part (it was a quick read.)

*Full disclosure – I read Capital Gaines before the month of January began, but didn’t plan to, and had it on my January list, which is where it stayed. So, feel some relief, if you need to.

Then I moved on to the book Unseen because even though I wasn’t sure I wanted to read it, I was gifted it, my sister said she loved it, then another good friend pulled it out of her bag and asked me if I had read this book… and I felt like maybe I just should! So I did. It was so good. I know it took her so much more time to write this book than for me to read it, … which is like any book,… and part of me wants to go back through it slowly so that Sara can know how much I truly appreciate the work she put in and the heart she poured out. I am still sifting through the message of the book and hope to share a cup of coffee with the friend who gave me the book in the first place.

Now I am in the middle – literally – of Falling Free, a book I purchased as my sister was still lauding it, but it took me a few months to start. I am so glad I did now and I am sad I didn’t sooner. It is a hilarious, hard to hear, hurts real good book. You should read it. I told another friend it’s sort of like a girl’s Radical by David Platt. See what you think 😉

My sisters and I are reading Own Your Life by Sally Clarkson. Let me tell you, when I first saw the title of this book. I was IMMEDIATELY completely PUT OFF by the title. I still feel a lingering tinge of “ew” towards it. But one I realized Sally was in her sixties and hopefully not too affected by our culture’s god-of-this-air named Productivity I felt a little bit better. Then, so many friends recommended it, I thought… ok. I can at least skim it. Plus, with my sisters whatever is always better. I wanted to FLY through this book, but my sisters want to sit in it, so I have paused around chapter four.

I have yet to start The Peacemaker, but plan to by the beginning of next week.

If I don’t finish the January list, the books roll on over to February, where my list is shorter. March doesn’t have a list yet, and would like one, so your suggestions are welcome!

(links for the books : BibleCapital Gaines / Unseen / Falling Free / The Peacemaker / Own Your Life) PS when I was inserting the links to purchase these books from amazon, I noticed that each one of them are considerably less money than I remember them being a couple of weeks ago. So, seize the day! and buy the book!

turning to the new year + turning to new life

So we have made it through 2017 into the new year – Hi 2018! And for that alone we can give praise to the Lord! We made it – we are alive! We are here!

To celebrate, I wrote a blog post about how the FIRST thing we need to do with our lives, in the new year, is repent from our sin.

Whenever I read or write the word repent one particular bible verse comes to mind. It’s one I memorized as a little school girl and it’s one I memorialized in my mind as a grown college girl, driving to school each morning. John, in all of the love of Christ that has overcome his own heart, writes

If we confess our sins He is faithful and Just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us of all unrighteousness.*

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photo : the gospel coalition

John writes that if we confess our sins (You have sinned girlfriend. Remember, we all have sinned and fall short of Glory….*) – that HE IS faithful and Just and HE DOES forgive and cleanse,… of all! We are not only alive today and not only have we made it through the new year, but we are ALIVE in Him!, and He is re-making us New in His mercies that are new every morning, every minute, in every minutia of our new lives.*

So, repent. Righteousness is promised. That is a BIG promise.

What is righteousness?

Well, ultimately, Christ is Righteousness. When we turn from our sin, God gives us Christ, who is the believer’s very Life. So, this is good news. And this is just the sort of new that we need this year, today, this very moment.

Righteousness in and through Christ means turning to Him. His righteousness rights us. Righteousness is the reality that because of Christ, you and me are free from the penalty and guilt of sin. You are free! As if that wasn’t enough, righteousness means you are in a position of being morally right and justified before God. You are justified!*

This is radical renewal all done for you.

This is the kind of NEW you were made for, saved for, and still alive for.

This is the sort of salvation you so desire but cannot write a list long enough or good enough or pretty enough to accomplish.

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photo : amazon

This year, today, Jesus invites you to let the reality of that you are justified by faith* refresh your soul. He calls you to rest into His righteousness. He gifts you with grace and space to relax in His renewal. SO, let’s accept the invitation. Turn away from your sin, come on into Christ, and live new this new year.

*1 John 1:9 / Romans 3:23 / Lamentations 3:23 / Colossians 3:3 / Romans 8:1 / Romans 5:1

a new year + a new beginning

Happy 2018! We made it!

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On New Years Eve, we have a funny family tradition to take a family selfie lying down on the hotel bed (since 2011 we have been traveling with Tyler + MPB the last week of December) -this is from 2015!

So there’s this thing people do around this time of year that unless you’ve been stuck under a rock, you have heard about it – and probably been a person who has done it, too.

Everyone hits December 27th… I’ll give y’all a day or two.. and starts in on making resolutions. Whether you journal it out or joke about it, everyone is working on their New Year resolutions.

When I asked google about the history of New Years resolutions, I skimmed over some information that showed how it was the Babylonians some 4,000 years ago who initiated both celebrating the New Year and making new year resolutions.

So apparently we’ve all been doing this for quite some time. Even though, by … what?, February 10th, to be generous, we have either forgotten, abandoned, or messed it all up … our list is in the trash. Sometimes we do take it out, uncrumple it, and even make it to the end of the year, but in an unwittingly common manner, we make them, and we end up breaking them.

Still, I always find it so fascinating to hear others’ New Year’s resolutions, even though I realize they tend to be about the same thing every year. I like to listen to friends as they share from their past, from what they’re learning, and to the practical ways they hope to change and grow as a person. And even though everyone’s resolutions are so personal, it seems to me that we could sum up resolutions something like this…

reading – books. magazines. journals. articles. the Bible.

running – or whatever form of exercise one has decided upon

arithmetic – all of the numbers… your weight, your budget, and what time you wake up in the morning

These are the three R’s of New Year’s resolutions. 

And though I want to talk a bit more about these three R’s, and while sincerely I cannot wait to share with you my resolutions for this year, let’s start with this question:

What is the WHY of resolutions?

Well, to begin considering this question, and I am just thinking aloud here, not even asking google, and I have yet to talk this over with Tyler, I think we love a good start-again. We love love love a fresh page, a blank slate, a new beginning. And we imagine that we surely will do better with this lovely new. Surely we will be kinder, be thinner, be healthier, smarter with our money, and definitely check off all of our business – home – friendship – plans.

I mean, I love a fresh beginning.

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Happy New Year, 2016!

This love for new is intrinsic in us – it might manifest itself in different ways, in different personalities, generations, and values, – but the thrill of a white page ready for purpose and pen is all around loved by all.

So, you, me, we all love a fresh beginning and it’s intrinsic in us. Think about it with me – we are made in the image of God and it is God who loves a fresh beginning more than any of us…  We are displaying Him in this love.

Here’s the thing though – if we love it, and if it’s the image of God in us, then why do we have to uncrumple our paper so many times >> Why did we crumple it up in the first place?

Well,… We are made by Him in His image. And… we all have sinned and fallen short of His glory.

So, here we are in love with new and fresh but we have sinned and cannot cannot cannot climb back up on our own. Glory cannot be ascertained through New Year’s Resolutions no matter how much we want it – love it – write it down – desire it – try to make it happen.

So Glory came to us. 

And this is what we packed up into boxes, shoved back into our attic, back into December… remember? We celebrated that Glory came to us. “And His name shall be called Immanuel, which means, God with us.”…. “And His name shall be called Jesus, for He will save us from our sins.”

Jesus’ birthday – the Incarnation – God wrapped in the soft skin of a brand new baby – brings new life, brings glory to us.

So often, though, we miss out on Glory because Glory is so small. and we want to be so BIG.

We tend to run right past this grand reality every Christmastime, since, for heaven’s sakes, the advertisements and articles are already ramming resolutions down our throats, and into our longing hearts. As if this is the savior… as if we could save ourselves…. with a list.

But this reality – the Incarnation – Glory to us – Good News – a Real. New. Beginning – will completely and utterly transform our resolutions.

Going back to the question at hand – what is the why of resolutions? – we must realize:  because of sin, our why… the reason we make resolutions… get’s awfully thwarted.

Our why comes out of selfishness, out of sin, and perhaps even from Satan himself.

Remembering the three R’s I mentioned, we read books for all of the wrong reasons; we run and exercise to bring whatever glory anybody – and I do mean any.body. – will give us; we count our pounds, and our dollars, and our minutes because we feel like we have just.got.to.save.ourselves.

and we are out of breath.

NO wonder we are so prone to crumbled papers and despair. NO wonder we are so apt to end up feeling like we are amazing when we actually end the year and we have actually completed our resolution… or at least by swimsuit season we have lost enough weight, we have saved enough money, and we are making!it!happen! by going to the beach in our bikini!

and we are holding our breath, hoping it all stays put.

Bless our glory-stealing hearts. Bless our I-think-I-can-save-myself souls. Oh…. our sinful, selfish, satanic resolutions needs not be kept up but repented of.

Honey, it’s not that losing weight or budgeting your money or reading a book is a sin. The thing is though you are using that goal as an end to gain glory for yourself and when you go after glory for you you are stealing it from the only One to whom glory is due. 

(Remember, we have all sinned… you. and me. me me me me me. And it takes one to know one, and I know about glory-theives because I am one.)

So what do we do with this image of God love of new and this sin-thwarted heart?

What do we do with our shiny resolutions and sin-sick soul?

Well, we dig back out December once again and we unwrap the Gift of Christmas once again and we confess Jesus is Lord and Savior – not me, not you, not anyone else, or anything else, and not any list either.

We repent. You don’t have to cry, but you can. You don’t have to kneel, but feel free. When you and I repent, the only thing we must do is turn away from ourselves, our sin, and Satan, and turn towards Jesus.

So let’s start together – Let’s repent of our sin. Let’s breathe out prayer and breathe in freedom.

Here we go. :

Jesus, I turn myself in. I have been a glory-thief and I’m even been really good at it. I have been self-indulgent, I have been self-righteous, I have been full of myself. I made up this long list of resolutions… But I am over it. I am over myself. I confess my sin and I trust You, Faithful and Just, to forgive me and to cleanse me from all of my unrighteousness.  In Your precious, saving name, Amen.

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And from this year, Happy NYE 2017 and Happiest 2018!

End of the year and End of your life

Before Christmas even arrives, planners fill the shelves at Target. How do I know? Because I bought one! Before my birthday, which is November 6th, and excitedly showed Tyler the gift I bought myself.

If you’d like to know what planner I purchased, this is the one most similar = May Designs 2018 Planner

So many people buy planners and so many other people tell you how to plan your life, all before Christmas even comes.

And once you actually reach the day after Christmas, all you – all I! – can think about it filling in my *new* planner!

I do love the blank fresh pages. I do love all the hope a new year holds.

But before we rush – maybe you’re already there! – or maybe you’re hiding from all of the crazies who are planning their next quarter of a year,…- before we rush into the next year, I want to share with you a place to pause.

This article by John Piper comes to mind at the end of every year since I read it. The blog post was published in 2012, and I think I read it that year. Y’all – here’s the link and I cannot recommend it enough.

Article = Death Rehearsal

Rehearsing our own death is a task we need to do and a reality we must face before we rush into the new year. Life IS fleeting and the Lord is the final say. So let’s rehearse our deaths in order that we might LIVE.

I had already been thinking about finding this article and reading it again today or tomorrow as I finished Chip Gaines’ book, Capital Gaines. I borrowed it from the library thinking it would be a quick read, and I do really like his older-brother, funny+wise way about him, but truth be told, the book was so much better that I expected, and all I just-so-hoped it would be! I want to buy it 💙

Link to buy the book = Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stufft the end of his book he writes out two different obituaries, one of them ends in tragedy; the other in faithful success. (Surely he read this desiring God article.) And surely he shows his reader, me included, will gain 😉 wisdom in doing this exercise.

So first thing – I’m writing this little post for you, and then next thing, I’m writing out my own obituary. I want the reality that life is fleeting to sink into my feet and weight me to run this race of life with perseverance, to run all the way to the Finish, to the Finisher of our Faith.

Let me know what you think of the article,.. or if you’ve read his book. And even more importantly let me know how your death rehearsal goes 💙 I pray thinking through death will motivate you to LIVE through life. 💥

Ten Questions for 2017

Tyler and I have a tradition that has become one of my very favorites — a Christmastime we go on a special date + share through our year. We talk about what the Lord has done, all that has happened, where we’ve been. We consider our sufferings and hardships; the aspects of life that we struggled and stumbled through. We praise the Lord who gives grace upon grace.

This year, to prepare for our evening, I wrote a list of questions to frame our discussion. Then, I recorded our answers in my journal. I am excited to read through our conversation next year and see how the Lord has moved through our lives, making His glory known and our paths straight.

We reflect over our year with the intent of praising the Lord and realizing that it is ONLY HE who has done all of these great things in our lives, that ONLY HE upholds us with His righteous right hand, and that it is ONLY HE is worth this whole thing – all of the messy and mundane and really hard is worth it because ONLY HE is worthy.

So as you go into the new year, I invite you to reflect with us through the questions we considered. And I pray in the end you SEE and SAVOR Him.

Questions to ask about 2017

What did you learn about yourself?

What did you learn about the Lord?

In which relationship did you well invest?

Which book that you read this year was the most impactful?

– What song

– What sermon

– What event

What scripture did the Lord continually bring back to your memory throughout the year?

What is a real regret do you hold? (Release it the Lord – 1 John 1:8-9)

Who is it that you need to ask to forgive you?

What are

– three reasons

– three people

– three things

that you can celebrate?

Whatever word the Lord gave you at the beginning of the year – reflect on that. Is it accurate? How?

What other questions, reflections, considerations do you want to record about this year?

This is the only photo we have of us after our great night out at Humble Pie and Hayes Barton Pharmacy ❤️🎄

merry christmas, every one

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Praise God from whom all blessings flow 

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Praise Him all creatures, here below! 

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Praise Him above, ye heavenly host! 

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Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost! 
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Amen. 

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us – but to YOUR NAME we give GLORY, for the sake of Your steadfast love + Your faithfulness. 

O God we bend our knees, we bend our hearts, we bow our heads, we bow our worship before the Newborn King, come to us, the Gift of all gifts, and we praise the Savior and King, Jesus Christ our Lord. Glory Glory Glory to the Newborn King! Glory Glory Glory to the Savior of the World! Glory Glory Glory to Immanuel, God with us! Glory Glory Glory to Christ, who IS LIFE.

Friends and family, we wish you the merriest Christmas, we pray that you grow in the love and knowledge of Jesus Christ, and are filled with the fullness of Him, – filled to the very brim of your soul, even overflowing, – who fills all in all, so that you too with us can sing, Praise God from whom all blessings flow, from now and into all eternity.

Amen.

christmas . home

A few years ago, I walked around my house and took quick photos of each room to show to a friend who had moved far away. We both loved taking care of our home and particularly loved decorating them for Christmas – she would often decorate the day after Halloween! – and even though we couldn’t stop by each other’s homes, it was fun to share our festive spaces with each other through our ever-open text conversation.

I realized it was fun for me to see the progress we had made around our new home – to see that yes indeed we had painted the room I wanted to paint, and, oh!, what good-looking new bedding after feeling like we might just keep whatever we had before we got it. These quick photos acted as a reminder and even memorial stones for all the Lord had done in and through our little home. So, I since that time a few years ago, I have excitedly anticipated the day in December that I would walk around and snap photographs of each room in my home.

This year we spent more time and money and effort on the outside of our home – we got a new roof! and Tyler built a tree house – it’s so cool and I cannot wait to show you soon! But even at that, especially with having Haddon in our home, there have been so many changes – even changes that aren’t documented, because as you might know, things change so quickly with a baby in their first year. First it was his little baby swing, then the play floor mat, then an exersaucer, and now it’s a fun space ship tent that takes up the living room’s corner. (And that’s only one little space that’s happily affected by Haddon!)

I at least remember – if it wasn’t the case, oh well! – that there would be this one magical day when each room in my home would be clean at the same time and the weather would be sunny, with sunbeams streaming into my sparkling clean home, and that was the glorious day I would take the pictures.

However this year that magical day did not come to pass (well, at least it hasn’t yet, and I don’t think it’s gonna, girlfriend!). But so many magical in many other ways days have come along and they are filled with spread-out legos, strewn around toys, piled up dishes, folded laundry, construction paper and crayons everywhere, pirate hats and firemen costumes by the back door, and a stack of books by the couch.

I’ll take it! These are the magical days and they are not exactly sparkling clean but they are exactly sparkling.

SO without further ado, here is my home this year, this Christmas time, and I am so glad to share these photos with you, friend.

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I stuck this little cute guy (the flocked tree) right on top of all of Tyler’s books that decorate his desk, which is conveniently located in our foyer – welcome home! 
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This pinboard, a gift from a friend that I have totally appreciated, has been full all year of the boys’ church and school crafts, with Christmastime being no exception. I proudly hang their crafts, and then I privately decide which ones to keep and which ones… not to 😉 
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Ok, so admittedly not very Christmasy, but this is the view you get when you come into our home from the side door – and these are the $12/each chairs the Lord gave us before we got married, and we are still rocking them! 
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Our stocking are hung by the chimney with care…
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I have had this tiny nativity since I was a young girl, and I might have (stolen) it from my mom when we got married… Did you give it to me, mom?
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Our Tree!! This year we decorated with white lights, colored ornaments, and a new tree topper from Target’s Hearth and Hand with Magnolia – Thanks Chip and Joanna! I love this galvanized Moravian star! 
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Every morning I light the candle and softly play Christmas music. We enjoy both during breakfast and throughout the day. 
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Mom got me a new advent candle holder that I planned to wrap in fresh greenery… well as you can see that didn’t happen! But I did put those clipping that precious dish, which was a gift from Tyler’s grandmother to us that she received when she got married – it’s one of the two valuable things in our home and I naively place it in the middle of our kitchen table! 😉 – and those oranges… well, after reading An Orange for Frankie, we just had to have some on our table. 
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These lights are from my sister’s wedding a few years ago, and they have happily decorated my dresser all month long. I think they might stay out through the wintertime. 
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A Christmas gift from my mother-in-law last year, I got to set out this sweet nativity for the first time. Whenever Haddon is in our room, he points to the sheep, so we Baa! like one 😉 and it’s not only sweet and decorative, but also funny! which is fun fun fun.
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Both Tyler and I are reading this gem of a book for Christmas. 
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I bought the snowman Christmas felt garland the day after Christmas the Christmas before Tyler and I got married (tracking?) and I never thought that it would hang in our children’s room – how “more than I could have asked for or imagined” is that!? 

Merry Christmas from our home to yours!