Can I just say that I love reading? There is a definite sense of loss as I finish one book and don’t have another one with which to replace it. Thankfully Pinterest has been a handy tool to help me pick out my next book.

Here are my top picks from this year! As always, there is quite a bit of diversity in what I found myself enjoying.

Trust: A Godly Woman’s Adornment by Lydia Brownback

Throughout the second half of this year, I have read numerous books on fear in preparation for a group I helped lead on fear and anxiety at church. This gem is one of a series of four (others include Joy, Purity and Contentment). It includes short devotionals that are packed full of gospel centered truth. This book is perfect for those who are struggling with anxiety and works for those hurried days when a longer devotional time isn’t possible. Here is one of my favorite quotes:

Rest assured that nothing can touch you apart from your heavenly Father’s permission. Out of his love for you, he is well able to prevent the thing you are so afraid of, and out of that same love he might allow it. Either way, whatever happens, he only allows what is going to work for your eternal happiness and blessing and his glory…. You are safe in God’s keeping every moment of every day.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

What a wonderful book! I don’t always love books composed of letters, but I loved this one. It is witty, funny and smart. Not only that, but it creatively tells the story of the German occupation of Guernsey Island during WWII several years after the end of the war. I love books that include characters that are well-defined and able to be “known” by the reader. This book is full of such characters. They come alive as you journey with them.

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

I loved this book! I picked it up and couldn’t put it down. It is superbly written, engaging and funny. Through a series of events, a white girl ends up living with the African-American Boatwater sisters in the midst of the Civil Rights movement. The book explores the lessons they learn together about love, family, and healing. (Note: The book contains some weird feminist theology and themes of self-empowerment which typically turn me off. However, the writing is so good and the story so engaging that I found myself gladly overlooking these things in favor of the story as a whole.)

True Beauty by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre

“True beauty is to behold and reflect the beauty of God.” This book is a GEM. I have always been a bit perplexed on how to approach the subject of beauty and body image as a Christian. This year, beauty and the self-consciousness that often accompanies the subject hit me square in the face. Even as I was knocked off balance by these things, I was encouraged and refreshed by the authors’ approach. They were balanced and completely God-centered. This book is not legalistic nor does it tell us to neglect our appearance. Pick it up and you will be blessed!

Age of Opportunity: A Biblical guide to Parenting Teens by Paul David Tripp

This year was one in which we were suddenly and abruptly confronted with many of the issues that come with parenting tweens/teens. Paul Tripp does an excellent job of humbly and honestly presenting the calling and blessing that can come from parenting teens. He focuses on how to reach the heart of your teen. I will be honest, this season has made me somewhat apprehensive, but I was encouraged by the vision Tripp cast for parenting during these years.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

What can I say- I just love Pride and Prejudice! I re-read this classic after I discovered a whole new genre of literature: Pride and Prejudice spin-offs. I wanted to refresh my memory and do some fact checking.

Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman. A trilogy by Pamela Aidan

An Assembly Such as This, These Three Remain, and Duty and Desire

This trilogy tells the story of Pride and Prejudice from Darcy’s perspective. In my mind, there were always a few holes in the original story. Like, how did Darcy possibly fall in love with Elizabeth when it seemed so obvious that she hated him? Why would he take her back after she was so unkind? What did he do to get Wickham to agree to spend his life with someone as annoying as Lydia Bennett? I loved hearing the story from his side. I loved seeing what life was like for a gentleman in the 1800s. I loved having all the gaps filled in. I was sad when the series came to an end.

The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis

Confession: I tried reading Mere Christianity this year and couldn’t finish it. I just didn’t have the bandwidth to concentrate on the heavy philosophy it contained. I mentioned this to a friend and she suggested this title, an allegory. In general, I tend to gravitate toward symbolism, which means that I enjoy allegories- especially those written by brilliant people like C.S. Lewis! Lewis has some wonky ideas about heaven and hell with which I don’t agree. However those differences faded away as he painted a picture of the decision every human faces: Will you give everything up and live for God? -or- Will you continue to live for the shadowy representations of God/morality you have created? There can be no combination of the two.

Favorites from 2014
Favorites from 2013
Favorites from 2012
Favorites from 2011
Favorites from 2010

 

 

 

 

 

“This is my favorite hike EVER!”

Why?

Because there were huge rocks to explore…

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streams to fjord…

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ladders to climb…

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bridges to cross…

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beautiful colors…

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gorgeous views…

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and wonderful company.

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Turkey Run State Park, you win the award for BEST HIKE EVER!!!

Fall Break officially begins.

“Where are you going on vacation?”

Me: “Oh, we’re going ‘up north’!

<blank stare>

It’s not until I moved to another state that I realized that nobody else really understands where “up north” is. From where I currently sit, “up north” could mean anything from Fort Wayne to somewhere in Canada. But to anyone born and bred in Michigan, the phrase “up north” is clear as day.

Up North is exactly where we got to go this summer. We stayed in my parent’s scenic cottage in the Upper Peninsula, visited the Soo, swam in freezing Lake Huron (okay, so maybe I didn’t do that), and spent a day biking around Mackinac. We boated, used the four wheelers, and ate pasties. We had a fantastic time!

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At the cottage:

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At the beach:

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Hiking the Narnia Trail at Cedar Campus:

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Taking selfies in the woods:

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Four-wheeling:

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Jumping off stuff:

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Mackinac Island:

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We had an absolutely fantastic time!

It’s the first week of school at our house! We have loved our fun-filled summer, but it really was time to start up again.

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This year Jonathan is in 7th grade and is attending a “cottage school” where he takes 3 classes (Language Arts, World Studies and Science) at a school 2 days a week and does the rest at home. He enjoyed his first day.

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Thomas is in 5th grade and is as silly as ever.

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Zachary is in 1st grade and ready to hit the books.

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Big brother thought he needed a bit of help with a “silly face.”

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For some reason, helping Zachary with his silly face has been a favorite pastime for Thomas. Flashback to when Zachary was a month old. Big brother was happy to help out then too:

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Off we go! I’m ready to hang on for the ride.

“Spring Break”- those are two beautiful words, don’t you think?

We had the privilege of traveling down to Florida again this year to visit Brian’s dad and step-mom in Venice, which is just south of Sarasota (Siesta Key, Longboat Key, Anna Maria Island, etc.). We had a great time! We decided to skip the theme park scene this year and just enjoyed the beaches, the weather and few outings.

We spent the most time at Manasota Beach. We hunted for shark teeth (which seem to be deposited in mysteriously high quantities on Venice’s shores), built sand castles, swam, sunned, and generally enjoyed being in the sunshine. We also caught a drum circle which is an eccentric sort of event complete with belly dancers and hula hoopers.

This child LOVES the ocean. He loves the sand, the waves, the animals, the atmosphere. He loves everything about it. I have a hunch that he always will.

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Brave grandpa swimming with Thomas and Zachary.

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Jonathan, though he loves to swim, preferred the shore.

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Selfie at sunset.

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Brian and I had the privilege of worshiping at Harvest Tampa Bay where Brian preached and we were able to visit with friends.

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On our way home we decided to try our hand at kayaking.

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Before we had kids, Brian and I took a vacation to Anna Maria Island and visited Mote Aquarium while we were there. We thought we would take the kids back for a visit.

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On the way home we stopped for orange ice cream at Nokomis Orange Grove. Yum. We had it last year and have been talking about it ever since. It didn’t disappoint.

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Thomas, who loves and appreciates food about as much as Zachary loves the beach (and Jonathan loves Legos) found a new favorite restaurant: Pops. All other restaurants will now have to measure up to the standard set by Pops.

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What a blessing it was to get away, enjoy some sunshine and take a break together as a family!

Confession: I have been extremely negligent in posting pictures from Brian’s trip to India in November. I have also been negligent in scrapbooking those same photos. 

 In my defense, it is kind of challenging to accurately represent a trip that I didn’t take. This week, I finally decided to tackle that project and lo and behold, it didn’t turn out to be that difficult. He took amazing pictures and his descriptions of his experiences there were very thorough. In fact, even though I wasn’t there, I kind of feel like I was!  

Without further ado, here are my scrapbook pages of Brian’s trip to India. You’ll notice that these pages represent a brief overview of what he did in India. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to sufficiently relay the amazing blessing Brian experienced in India. His heart for the people grew in ways he didn’t think possible. He loved going on this trip. It stretched, challenged, blessed, encouraged and grew him. It was a tremendous privilege.

India- the team web  India- ministry web India- mountain beauty webIndia- jaipur web

 

 

 

 

I love taking the boys to the Indianapolis Museum of Art. Each trip is full of discoveries.

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Becoming “living sculptures.”

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Discovering a record player and roasting marshmallows.

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Experimenting with rubbings and paper hats.

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Checking out African masks.

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It was a super fun day!

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