Book List Swap 2015

(We really need a better title for this… But that’s all I got for right now. Sorry).

So we’ve already covered how I read a lot of blogs, right? And regularly refer to them in conversations? As in, staring every other sentence with “one of my favorite bloggers…” Because they are all my favorite. But one of my favorite favorites is Sarah Bessey. And about a year ago, she and her husband chose one book per month for each other to read. She blogged about it and the idea stuck in my brain.

This year, my dear husband and I have decided to try the same thing. We each chose 11 books (one for each month except January because we’re both trying to read the Bible through in January) for the other one to read. And much like Sarah Bessey and her husband, our lists are a bit (read: radically) different.

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My picks on the left and his picks are on the right. Unsurprisingly, he gets to read a lot of lovely novels, young adult works, and a touch of spiritual memoirs. And I am reading Lonesome Dove and a whole lot of theology. Like… a lot of theology. Which is fine, I do like theology… But my brain is kinda flabby since I haven’t been in school or done anything school oriented for 18ish months. Let’s just say this should be interesting!

I’ll break down the lists for you:
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Not pictured in my stack: Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey (fitting…)
I Capture the Castle: Dodie Smith
The Umbrella Man and Other Stories: Roald Dahl
Many Waters: Madeleine L’Engle
Bel Canto: Ann Patchett
A Circle of Quiet: Madeleine L’Engle
Carry On, Warrior: Glennon Doyle Melton
Jacob Have I Loved: Katherine Paterson
Til We Have Faces: C.S. Lewis
Tables in the Wilderness: Preston Yancey
Eleanor & Park: Rainbow Rowell

Basically if there is a book on this list that you haven’t read, you should go read it right now. Each of these I love for various reasons. Some I have loved since high school and other I just read last week. They are all so very good in their own way. So go! Find a copy! Read them!

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My dear husband’s list:
Lonesome Dove: Larry McMurtry
War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning: Chris Hedges
Economy of Grace: Katherine Tanner
Foolishness to the Greeks: Leslie Newbigin
Bright’s Passage: Josh Ritter
The Substance of Faith: Clarence Jordan
The Pastor: Eugene Peterson
The Nature of Doctrine: George Lindbeck
Torture and Eucharist: William Cavanaugh
The Peaceable Kingdom: Stanley Hauerwas
Ethics: James McClendon

Oh man. That list is going to be a hard one… But I have heard my dear husband reference these books so much and I know each one of them was really foundational as he read, studied, and thought his way through seminary. (And yes, Lonesome Dove totally counts as foundational. It was the foundation of a year long Larry McMurtry reading spree. Which isn’t a bad spree to go on: his books are super cheap in thrift stores!).

So I’m excited. And a little jealous that my dear husband gets to read all these fabulous books!  It should be an interesting journey for us both and I hope it will lead to many good (and most likely head-ache inducing) conversations. And hopefully we can do it all again next year! (Because let’s be honest: picking 11 books was almost impossible!)

Wish us luck! And if anyone else wants to read along, feel free!

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Books to Read, Lists to Finish.

I think one of my biggest goals for this year is to finish up some of my long term projects. I’ve been crocheting a blanket for almost two years now… I’m about half-way finished, but it is time and past time for me to get it done. I also started out watching all the Disney movies (or, to be more technical, all the Walt Disney Animated Feature Films) in chronological order about two years ago. When I started this project, I thought it would take me a summer. That was the summer of 2013… It is currently January 2015. I’m on Oliver and Company, which is number 27. Out of 54. So I’ve got some work to do.

My other big long term project has been reading all the Newbery winners in chronological order. We’ve talked about this before: that list has been harder for me than I anticipated. Much, much harder. It doesn’t help that my library resources went from epically large university library with free inter-library loan to small but still delightful local library service with occasional inter-system loans. But let’s be honest: my real struggle is those books about animals. And with children’s literature in general before 1950ish… But I still believe in children’s literature and I still want to finish my list.

I also want to read more this year. I go through phasing of reading a lot (like when I spent the summer nannying an infant. I was going through a book or two a day!) or not reading quite as much (like right now because my dear husband talked me into reading the whole Bible in a month. That puts a bit of a damper on reading other things…). My dear husband and I have decided to do a bit of a project together: we both chose 11 books (one for each month except January this year) for the other to read. It is a variety of books, although unsurprisingly, he will be reading a lot of children’s and young adult stuff and I’m going to be reading a lot of theology. But it will be good: I’m really excited for him to read some of my favorite books and I’m willing to give his theology stuff a try. (I’ll let you know the final list Thursday…)

In order to accomplish all of these big lists and goals, I’m also going to try and infuse a bit more structure into my days. Starting with no Netflix until 3pm. I knit/crochet much faster when listening to podcasts, so I need to spend more time doing that and less time watching the X Files (I know, I’m like 20 years to late. But seriously Scully, what will it take for you to believe?!?). So we’ll see how that works.

Well, that’s what I wanted to share with you this morning. Sorry it doesn’t have any exciting photos or fun life stories. Hopefully I’ll be able to work more diligently on these long term projects and keep you updated as to my progress.

What about you, dear readers? Any exciting long term projects for 2015?

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Make.

The Christmas tree is in the yard. The boxes are in the shed. My living room feels slightly bigger and a bit less twinkly, but in a good way. I’m already trying to figure out how I can decorate a bit for winter and even spring and summer.

We had a lovely Christmas. Actually, we had approximately 6 lovely Christmases and a wedding to boot! My family has always been this way: the perks of being a big family. My dear husband and I received lovely gifts and gave some pretty good ones too. I didn’t end up making very many things this year because all of my making power went into Glittering Eyes Studio. But I did discover the trick to stress-less gift wrapping: buy books and DVDs. Or anything else that is a rectangle…

And now it is January 2015. I had my moment of reflection, introspection, and goal setting yesterday whilst sitting in my local coffee shop. Last year was a crazy year for us… We spent half the year in temporary, transitional places, trying to learn and love as best we could all the while knowing we were leaving soon. The other half of the year we have spent trying to learn new rhythms, find new traditions and keep old ones, and trying to find stability and put down some roots. My word for 2014 was Grow. I knew that I was going to have to grow in order to survive last year. I both grew and survived.

For 2015, I have chosen the word Make. I want this to be a year full of making things: making things for my store, making things for family and friends, making mistakes and learning from them, making friends, making memories, making more dinner, making bread, making new things to get better skills, making to-do lists, making progress on my big long-term projects, making time for the things that are important. Make.

I have big ideas for 2015. Big shop ideas, big craft ideas, big life ideas. I want my Etsy shop to grow. I want our house to feel more and more like home every day. I want this town and this place to feel more settled. Last year was a year for going, doing, adventuring, driving (lots and lots and lots of road trips!), learning, stretching. And I know there will be plenty of that this year too. But I want to make in 2015.

So, 2015, let’s do this. As the wise Neil Gaiman wrote:
And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.

And it’s this.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

And he also said:
May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.”

Amen and Amen.

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5 Things: Christmas Edition

Happy Friday, dear readers! We are certainly in the midst of the Christmas season and my 5 things today reflect that. How about yours?

1) Seeing our front porch Christmas tree lights from the road.

2) Watching Christmas TV specials actually on TV (I was able to catch most of Charlie Brown and all of Rudolph. Good stuff).

3) Christmas craft projects: knitting, embroidery, and even some sewing!

4) The anticipation of other people opening their gifts from us… I think I got our nieces and nephews some pretty perfect gifts this year and I’m excited to see them open them!

5) Our Advent wreath tradition. Sometimes at dinner, sometimes at lunch, my dear husband and I light our Advent candle.

What’s making you happy on this lovely Christmasy Friday?

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Christmas Music and Beautiful Tensions

One of my favorite things about Christmas is pulling out all my favorite Christmas albums and listening to them. I’m not a super huge fan of the typical Christmas music played in the stores… I may have been ok with it at some point in my life, but last year I worked in retail for the month of December. I distinctly remember walking into the store one November (early November, in fact) day and saying out loud, “Oh no. Not yet!” It was Christmas music. My least favorite song quickly became Mele Kealikimaka: apparently it’s Hawaii’s way of saying Merry Christmas to you. I’m sure had I not heard it a bajillion times that November and December, it would think it is a fun vintage ditty. But alas, it has lost all its quirk and charm from being overplayed.

These days, my favorite Christmas music is a combination of delightful blasts from my own past, some Advent songs, and lots of hymns. I grew up listening to a lot of Christian music and these days I don’t really listen to much of that anymore. However, every Christmas time I pull out some of my favorites:

Point of Grace, A Christmas Story
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This one gets first play every year. It is fun, beautiful, has lovely music, and reminds me of decorating the house with my family.

Next up on the rotation is:
Michael W Smith, Christmastime
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I love his instrumental versions and how everything is so dramatic and orchestral.

Suffice to say Christmas is the only time I listen to Point of Grace or Michael W Smith these days, but man do I love their Christmas stuff. It feels like home.

I also love Sara Groves’ O Holy Night:
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She has a great voice, simple songs, and a delightful commentary on Toy Packaging (“Nothing makes me lose my cool like toy packaging… Ask the kids to leave the room it’s time for toy packaging…”)

Speaking of feeling like home, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my favorite Christmas movie soundtrack:
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I think my favorite song from this is when Bob Crachit (Kermit) and Tiny Tim (Robin) sing accapella… “Tis the season to be jolly and joyous, fa la la….” So good.

A few of my newer discoveries are:
Peter, Paul, and Mary, A Holiday Celebration
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My favorite song from this is Mary singing I Wonder as I Wander. I get goosebumps every time. (Side note, if anyone ever finds this on vinyl and wants to send me a copy… I wouldn’t complain).

Over the Rhine: Snow Angels
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I discovered them in graduate school. Both Over the Rhine and Peter, Paul, and Mary bring a more melancholy tone. Sometimes I get a bit tired of the jingles bells and the merry and bright and need a bit more solemnity. These albums certainly do the trick.

And then, of course, there are all the songs we sing in church. What Child is This? remains my absolute favorite Christmas carol, but O Holy Night is a close second. And then Advent songs of O Come, O Come Emmanuel and Come Thou Long Expected Jesus always speak to me.

These songs help me to balance this season between the ache of Advent and the joy of Christmas. It is indeed the season to be jolly and joyous. But it is also the season to wonder as you wander, to rejoice even though you are weary, and await a long expected Messiah. There is room for both in this time. There a tension, to be sure, but when in life are things clear cut and simple? Hardly ever.

So as we wait for the light, we sing in the dark. We sing about Santa, jingle bells, and coming home for Christmas. We sing about a baby in a manger, about a long hoped for promise being kept, and about a hope not yet realized. We dream of white Christmases and of a world made right once again. And we hold it all together in a beautiful, achy tension. This is Advent. And this is Christmas. ‘Tis the season indeed.

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5 Things Friday: Christmas Tree Edition

Here’s the deal, dear readers. I’m going to cheat a little bit today. I’m going to show you pictures of my Christmas tree and that is what makes me happy this week. I know you know how much I love Christmas, how strongly I believe in real Christmas trees, and how much I need light in my life these days. Consider that my list. And a recommendation to have whatever kind of Christmas tree or decoration makes you happiest. I personally think an 8 foot spruce with colored lights,  a gold star touching the ceiling,  lots of penguins, a touch of handmade, and a sprinkle of team spirit is best… but that’s just me. 😉

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Happy Friday, readers. And Happy Christmas.

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Decking New Halls

If you’ve been following along here for any amount of time, you’ll know that 2014 has been a year of transitions for my dear husband and I. We started out the year in Virginia, then went to Georgia, then Texas, then back to Virginia. We moved 2-3 times in the past year. We finally settled in a house that is approximately 950 square feet and it felt like a mansion. A whole extra bedroom! A mudroom! A front porch! An actual dining room as a separate entity! It was and is glorious.

One consequence of our lovely new house (which, incidentally, we are renting. Hopefully for a good bit longer) is that we have all sorts of new nooks and crannies to decorate for Christmas. While my favorite Christmas decoration has been and always will be our real tree with colorful lights and our ornaments, we also have some pretty rock-awesome decorations in the house this year. Most of them are heirlooms chock full of memories and stories that were gifted to me in the past few years. And, the biggest bonus of all, all the people I inherited these gifts from are still alive and well. That is my favorite kind of inheriting.

First up: my nativity. This was handmade by a relative many moons ago and was my mother’s for a long time. It was the nativity of our childhood and now that my mom has a new one, I get to have this one:
IMG_6610It is all white and ginormous. That’s why it is on two shelves: I didn’t have anywhere else to put it. My dear husband was helping me brainstorm where to put it and he had never seen it before. I had to explain to him that we were dealing with camels about a foot tall…
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Seriously. So big.
IMG_6612IMG_6614They are hanging out in our dining room. In our living room, we have a few pockets of decorations:
IMG_6616My mom made me the “Happy Christmas” part by gluing old school blocks together. (Did you know that I prefer Happy Christmas? It started out because I not-so-secretly wanted to be British and now it just makes me happy). I added a the pieces of Christmas trees past and some lightbulbs I found at Goodwill. Did you ever have those big chunky lights? That’s what we would also put on the outside of our house when I was growing up. I love them. I am still not completely satisfied with this display, but I’ll keep tweaking it and see what comes of it.
IMG_6620This corner of our bookshelf holds some old (the candlesticks are much storied and quite old), some new (the churches), and some things we had in Texas (the star and snowflakes).

IMG_6622This wreath was made by our church in Texas. They gave it to us on the last Sunday my dear husband and I were there. It hangs on our back door and gives a lovely jingle anytime someone comes in.

IMG_6625Our Advent wreath sits on our dining room table. The wreath was made by my dad and grandfather after I asked them how easy it was to make a circle out of wood. They responded by handing me this lovely wreath. I decorated it with some felt garland and fake berries.

IMG_6626Although I love all these decorations and all the ones not pictured here, I think my new favorite is my ceramic tree:
IMG_6618My great-grandmother (who I called Gaga in the brief years I knew her) made it. I did a bit of research and apparently ceramics were all the rage in the ’70s and ’80s. One lady at our church in Virginia told me about the ones she made too. Lots of shops had ceramic molds and would make the tree and then let you paint it. Our friend was church was saying a few local beauty salons around here had some molds in their back room and would let you make trees there! I feel like everyone has a ceramic tree or two floating around in their Christmas memory. My mom has one that she pulled out every Christmas. My grandmother had one too. And now I have my own.

I am still working on these decorations and more. To be completely honest, my house is an absolute mess right now… Smack dab in the middle of “it has to get worse before it gets better” with a healthy dose of “knitting for my Etsy shop is way more fun than actually putting boxes back in the shed.” My dear husband and I are getting our inside tree tonight and will hopefully decorate it tomorrow morning (don’t worry, I’ll be back with a full report and plenty of pictures on Thursday). Then I’ll be able to clean up and finish decorating.

I love it all… All the tradition, all the stories, all the red and green and silver and gold. I love having so many decorations from my family, so many handmade things, so many stories. I love finding new to me decorations from the thrift store that have stories I can only dream of. I love making new traditions and new stories. Christmas does my heart good.

I think I’ve decided my favorite Christmas decorations are the ones with light and stars. I love waking up early in the morning, sitting on the couch with only the Christmas tree lights on, and drinking my tea. The lights help me remember what Advent and Christmas are all about: standing in the dark, waiting for the light.

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