reading now // next to my armchair

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As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Christmas is a time of peace, quiet and lingering, for our family. Surprisingly to most people, our December calendar is generally pretty empty. Towards the end of the month, we really hibernate, spend time with friends, and hunker down together (hopefully this year, in the mountains.)

As we spend our days together, we are surrounded by several things – good food, good people and good books. This Friday announces the beginning of December, but I’ve already kicked off our Christmas reading (we already have our tree up, so why not?!)

Below I share the books we currently have our noses in – some holiday related. I hope you’ll find one that sounds just perfect to accompany a warm cup of tea, and a comfortable blanket. I have a turquoise armchair that I like to curl up in (with an electric blanket that my family teases me about, relentlessly) and these are some of the books you’ll find on the table, next to my cuppa.

Enjoy!

Next to my armchair:

The Common Book of Prayer (my copy was found at an estate sale, but they sale them on Amazon and they are red, too)

Come Let Us Adore Him (this is a new way to celebrate advent and the anticipation of the birth of the Christ child. I’m very excited to begin this)

Mere Motherhood (i love this real, raw account of a veteran homeschooling mother)

Pleasing People (a convicting, must-read for us recovering, type-A people pleasers)

Respectable Sins (an even more convicting book)

The LifeGiving Table (a beautiful call to intentional “being” with our family and loved ones)

For Advent:

A Simple Advent Guide by Tsh Oxenreider (new this year, it’s simple and lovely)

We Light the Candles (we’ve used this in years past and love it’s simplicity and focus on Christ)

Slow + Sacred (created by my dear friend, it’s simply beautiful)

For the children:

An Orange For Frankie (just heartwarming – in tears by the end)

Seek and Find Christmas Carol (adorable for the kids to do together – whimsical illustrations)

Little House Christmas (if you love the Ingalls family, you’ll love these short excerpts – we read one a week, by the fire)

Little Woman Christmas (Alcott makes Christmas so darn charming)

Happy Reading!

book list 2017 // something for everyone

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Every.Single.Christmas.Season I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what gifts to give. I really do enjoy buying the perfect gift for my loved ones – something special that will uniquely fit a person’s personality and interests.

I had a flashbulb moment this year (and I’m not sure why on earth I hadn’t thought of this earlier). I was blow-drying my hair (when all my best ideas happen) and I thought, “This is the year of books! Everyone gets a book!” It’s a pretty perfect idea – I adore literature, and there really is a book for every person – opening a world of new ideas, opinions and thoughts. Books grow and teach us. They soften us. They are the perfect, thought-filled gift.

This year, in between shopping for my friends and family at the bookstore, I decided to also compile a book list for you. As with any booklist, mine is obviously not exhaustive. Many of the books dearest to me don’t even appear. It pained me to not include each and every amazing title that I’ve enjoyed or gleaned from, but it’s just not possible!

The books I selected have been read by me this year, or are those that I pick when asked for a suggestion in that specific category. It doesn’t mean they are the only suitable choices, simply my go-to’s and ones that have proved perfectly fitting. There are at least another 30+ I could add for each category (and hundreds more for history lovers, educators and children!) Alas, that wouldn’t help you much, would it? To that end, I endeavored to keep my selections to a minimum.

Again, there are so many others I wanted to add, and if you need additional selections, contact me! I’d love to help you find the exact book you are searching for.

ENJOY and here’s to reading!

Note: There is much crossover amongst the categories. Please take a look at each, for you might find something that suits a completely different person than suspected!

***

 

For the student of theology and religious study:

For the homeschool mother:

For the sports lover:

For the new-ish Elementary school reader:

For the the food & feast lover/entertainer in your life:

For the political junkie and social issues aficionado:

For the science-fiction/fantasy lover:

For the hurting or grieving:

For the dad who doesn’t have enough time to read:

For your husband:

For the exhausted mom:

For the classically-inclined young lady:

For the middle schooler who isn’t completely won over by current YA fiction:

For the young one in the family (picture books and short read-alouds):

For the skeptic:

For the eagerly-growing Christian:

For the history buff:

For the poetry/short story/essay lover:

For the older and wiser women in your life:

For your grandparent:

For that adorable pre-schooler in your family:

For the fiction-reader:

For your sister:

For the family who loves to read aloud together:

For the education-lover:

***

I hope this list proves beneficial. I had a wonderful time compiling it for you.

Merry Christmas!

Christmas came early // breaking tradition

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Breaking tradition felt good and needed.

I didn’t apologize or care that I wasn’t supposed to.

After the year I’ve had, I looked at my husband last weekend and said, “Do we HAVE to wait until people leave on Thanksgiving to decorate for Christmas?” To which he wisely answered, “Of course not! Let’s go get a tree right now. Who cares if it’s fake. Who cares?”

So we bucked 15 years of marital traditions. 37 years of resolute Christmas choices on my end. Real trees only. Christmas music in December only. NO talk of anything Christmas before Thanksgiving! No!

We bucked tradition and we decorated, listened to Christmas carols and sipped hot toddies on November 13th. A cardinal sin in my house.

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It felt good. It felt sooo good.

And maybe no one would have cared if I did this a decade ago. Maybe I created these so-called Christmas fundamentalist people in my mind, because I myself was one (although people get really heated about the Christmas carol discussion, which is hilarious.)

I was a Christmas fundie for no good reason. It’s exhausting caring so much about non-salvation issues.

It’s good to grow up and realize. And celebrate joy when needed. And break tradition, once in awhile.

month of peace // glow

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Christmastime smells different to me. It’s in the air (yes, even Southern Californian air.) I can feel the change and I’m not referring to constant LEXUS car commercials, frenzied mall shopping, or holiday tunes in mid-October.

No,

From the last day of November until fireworks usher in the New Year, our family finds itself truly living in the glow of the season. I like to believe that it is just as wonderful as I imagine it in my mind, and it certainly is, but this is only because I actively set aside the normal and embrace the magical. The light-filled month of December is our true homage to life-giving truth and love. Feeling the warmth of the Christ-child and His birth. Knowing that all of life can be a bit muddled but inside our hearts and home, there is space. Rest.

My girls (and I) pack away the more vigorous aspects of homeschool – notebooks and science experiments are placed on a shelf and replaced with the finer things in life. There are moments that I wonder why we don’t park in this space for an entire year but I then reflect on the value of this season. How it deserves to be placed a bit higher. Reverence. Time allotted to breath, peacefully reflect and quietly learn.

If this all sounds a bit emotionally and nostalgically charged, it’s because it is. This month has become sacred in our house – the girls know that it won’t be filled with calendars and daily routines. No assignment lists or checked boxes. As a creature who thrives on rhythm and order, December is the time when I breath a sigh of relief and allow time to run away from me. No grand expectations or requirements. I want this month to be rife with tranquility and (as we have been working toward a new family culture) the last few years definitely have granted us rest and warmed souls. While the world outside speaks of stress and anxiousness – booked evenings and overspending, I relish in this time with my girls and husband. We intentionally keep our days clear and allow them to organically fill. It takes work but it is a worthy investment. When the moments of wonder come and overtake us with awe, we are ready. We don’t miss it.

Tangibly speaking, we transform our normal routines and clean house. We fill our home with books which reflect the season. We slowly rise and linger more at the table, speaking of the weather (although often it changes to the weather somewhere else, as SoCal weather is pretty basic during December) and eating really, really rich and heartwarming food. It certainly isn’t a strict time of moderation, but rather savoring very good things – because we have time to appreciate them, without rushing. A fire is constantly roaring, whether outside or in and allows hours of inviting friends in, cooking and baking. Long walks through our neighborhood, although often treaded, take on completely invigorating scenery. I take a term-long break from my normal schoolwork, forsaking the studies towards my masters degree for a 6 week term in paper crafts, baking cookies and glitter glue. Writing a letter that has been due. Sitting longer and not feeding the urge to jump up and do do do. Basking in the good and hard memories of years past – allowing room for the Lord to heal and bring about renewal.

All of these things are possible. If only we hand over our busy inclinations and remain.

So, I wait. I bake pumpkin bread and cook a turkey and feel extremely thankful. I enjoy the month of November because it’s more time the Lord has granted me with my girls, my friends and my husband.

But I wait. And I wait.

Because the season of peace is almost upon us.

***

Dear reader,

If this all seems rather whimsical, it really isn’t……It’s simply a call to give the best part of you to the season of Christmas, rather than allow the commercialization of December to eat your alive. I encourage you to carve out days, weeks and moments this upcoming season to dedicate to filling your soul with promises from the Lord and His truth, goodness and salvation. It’s not as intensive as it may seem. It’s a gift the Lord offers each of us.

Bring a basket into your living room and fill it to the brim with books that bring families together such as this advent, these short stories, or my personal favorite Christmas book (which can be read all year long.) Read whenever it comes to you, without regard to time (well, I mean, you have to feed your children and stuff.)

Wrap yourself in a blanket and sit with your kids. Light a candle, turn on a beautiful Pandora station (Christmas hymns station is our go to) and play a game or two. Bake. Play cards with your kids and light a fire. Make something simple for your neighbors and give yourself time to walk over to their homes and actually talk with them. Take all the opportunities to serve at your church and in your community (and easy way to serve others that I’m sure your church is doing also.) The season is hard for many people – give your time and resources to others. Come home and talk with your children about it. Create a culture of giving and inviting. Sing Christmas hymns over bacon and cinnamon rolls. Watch a movie as a family. Work on forgiveness, even when it takes time and is especially painful. Call someone who you struggle with – someone who doesn’t deserve it.

Sit and bask in your tree, advent, Bible. Allow the season to slowly wash over you and keep the Lord locked in your vision and in your heart. Give Him this season in the small ways and He will hand it back to you in the largest way possible.

Be still and know. Submerge in the glow, peace and comfort of Christ.