Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Loving Good Books: Favorites from 2021

It was a great year for reading ... 20 books completed in 2021!

For a few years now, I've been keeping track of the books I read on goodreads, a fun online place for recording, and also sharing about books. It also is a good motivator to read more. I set my goal for 2021 to read 15 books, and I surpassed this goal with reading 20 books!

The photo above shows seven of my favorites from the year, although I would say that I enjoyed each and every one of the 20 books.

I read this coffee table style book through season by season through the year. The focus is on simplicity, and decorating naturally, with a special focus on the beauty of the various seasons. Also an emphasis on using all five senses: sight, touch, hearing, smell, and taste. I incorporated multiple new ideas from the book into my decorating. I highly recommend this book.

The Mystery of Catastrophe - by Joel Richardson and Nathan Graves
This very insightful book "presents a clear, biblical case for God's plans and purposes amidst tragedy". A very timely book for me to read. At a time during the fall of 2021 I was searching for answers and understanding in the midst of many things going so very wrong in our country and world. As I prayed for some clarity, desiring to gain more of God's perspective in the midst of difficulties, my dear husband directed me to this book. He had read it recently, and thought it might be helpful for me. It was excellent, and I highly recommend it to others.

My review on goodreads:
This book was absolutely amazing, and I would rate it as the very best book that I have read on this topic. I connected deeply with each chapter throughout the entire book. This is a book I would highly recommend for all introverts ... written by a fellow introvert, who shared so clearly her own struggles and resulting insights, gave valuable info from helpful scientific data, and included many examples from the lives of others. I will be keeping this book handy to refer back to for continuing insight and encouragement.

Gentle and Lowly - by Dane C. Ortlund
My review on goodreads: 
It may be difficult to adequately put into words how this book impacted me. It had been referred to me by a friend, and also is a book that our pastors and interns at the vibrant, growing church we are part of have all been reading, as well. The author focuses on a verse, or a quote in each chapter, and gives us a deeper, beautiful, insightful understanding of the heart of Christ. That from which everything He did on earth, and all that He is, flows from. Each chapter captured my heart in understanding more deeply what a loving, merciful, compassionate God we have. I highly recommend this book, and wish that each person I know would have an opportunity to read it.

The Fisherman's Lady - by George MacDonald
My review on goodreads: 
It has been on my mind in the past few years to read some of George MacDonald's novels, and came across this one (and also it's sequel) at a used book store while on a trip with friends last fall. And now was the time to read it! Though it took me a bit of time to adjust to the style of writing, even with the great editing done by Michael Phillips for contemporary readers, I absolutely loved this classic originally published in 1875! The characters are fascinating, and the deep plot kept my attention all the way through. I will be watching for more treasures from this author, whom C.S. Lewis learned so much from.

Between the Wild Branches - by Connilyn Cossette
This historical fiction book, set in the time of the Levites and the Ark of the Covenant, was the second in "The Covenant House" series by this author. A relaxing, yet engaging read, and also full of great insight into the time period. I've also read her "Out from Egypt" series, and her "Cities of Refuge" series, and recommend her books.

This very practical, encouraging book was another very timely read during 2021. Filled with scriptural truths, practical ideas, and inspirational stories and quotes - it was the perfect short read for me to pick up during the fall season. I have already purchased one to give away as a gift to a friend, and highly recommend it. Anything by Holley Gerth is sure to be treasured.

These books are just seven of the twenty that I read in 2021. All twenty of the books are shown below. I was not disappointed in any of them, and recommend each one very highly.

Reading good books is of high importance to both my husband and me. A way of relaxing, and also as important, a way of learning and growing. One of our favorite things is to curl up in our living room during the cold winter days, or also to sit out on our patio during the warmer days of the year with a good book in hand. I usually have several books in hand at any given time ... an inspirational book, and also a fiction book. And maybe another one, as well. 

Monday, January 17, 2022

In the Kitchen: Menu Planning

Having a menu plan is a necessity for me. If I go through a period of time when I don't plan out my menus, it's difficult for me to consistently serve good meals. Part of the reason for my need of a plan, is that I have collected so very many recipes over the years, and the decision of what to make each day can feel a bit overwhelming. And then it becomes too easy to just put something together quickly, or else pick up fast food to take home. But if I have a plan with a few ideas right in front of me each week, then I'm much more apt to prepare a tasty meal, even just for the two of us. And besides, it's fun for me to menu plan!

But it's crucial for me that it needs to be a simple and flexible plan. I like to be able to move things around, changing the dates of when to prepare a specific recipe, depending on what is going on each week. 

My current menu planning allows for this flexibility. I spent a bit of time last week planning out my meals for the next three months, through the end of March. I'm continuing to use the same spiral notebook that I used in 2021. Each week has a printed weekly chart that I created on my laptop. And for each week, I have chosen three main dish recipes to put on post-it notes. 

When I actually prepare the recipe, I'll write it into the chart itself, and place a small check mark on the post-it-note. The reason for using post-it notes is that they can be easily moved around to a different week than originally planned for, if I wish. I am loving the simplicity and flexibility of this plan.

I like to switch up my categories of recipes that I pick from during the different seasons of the year. For January through March, I picked from three main categories of recipes in my collections:

One recipe from my SOUP section.

The next from my collection of CHICKEN main dishes.

And the third, changing off between FISH, PORK, or BEEF main dishes.

I'm only choosing three main dish recipes for each week (in this empty nest season of life we are in), as that is most likely the number I will need to prepare each week.  The other days we will use left-overs from previous meals, or use a frozen meal that I've made on a previous week, or else we may be gone from home and need to pick up fast food wherever we are that day. 

Also, at the bottom of each menu planning page is a space where I often put other ideas for the week as well: lunch ideas, sides or breads or desserts to make. Usually on post-it notes, as well, so they can be moved around, if needed. But the most critical planning for me are the plans for the main dishes each week. 

I'm always looking for ways to live creatively in the home, and also, to simplify the responsibilities of life, leaving more time for the things of ultimate importance ... loving God, and loving those around us. Preparing tasty, nutritious meals is just one way to let His love shine through us. And menu planning is a big part of making this happen! 

Friday, January 7, 2022

A Practice, A Habit, A Way of Breathing


It’s a daily practice,

a habit, a way of breathing,

as I take the first steps

into each day …

Before I continue on in my

reading through His Word

chronologically, now in the OT.

First of all … pausing, and

writing out my gratitude,

recounting His gifts, glimpses

of His love and care from

the day before, with thanks

and with adoration.

And then …

pulling out a verse card,

just one, from my collections.

Writing it out word for word,

letting His truth sink into

my heart and soul, truth to

hold close throughout the day.

Today’s verse, beyond my

comprehension, love beyond

compare. Our greatest gift,

to be loved by Him. A lifetime

and an eternity of being loved.

Each day, each moment.

I love each of you with the same love

that the Father loves Me.

You must continually let My love

nourish your hearts.

If you keep My commandments,

you will live in My love,

just as I have kept My Father's commands,

for I continually live nourished

and empowered by His love.

My purpose for telling you these things

is so that the joy that I experience

will fill your hearts

with overflowing gladness!

(John 15:9-11 TPT)