2016 Reading Goals

At the beginning of last year, I heard about something called “The Empty Shelf Project.” The idea was to empty a shelf somewhere in your home, and take a picture of it, and post it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or whatever. Then, you place each book read over the course of the year on that shelf, along with pictorial progress. The idea being, at the end of the year, you have a (hopefully) full shelf, giving a great visual account of the books that have been read.

Aside from the organizational chaos that this would inflict on my precious library, I kind of liked this idea. And, I even toyed with the idea of participating. For about thirty seconds. And then reality set in. Good thing, because, here we are at the beginning of a new year, and my (virtual) shelf is still pathetically empty. (Well, unless books like The Cat in the Hat, or Winnie the Pooh count. Then I’m good!)

I have actually picked up several promising reads over the past 12 months. But, sadly, all but a few have been set aside only a few chapters, or in some cases, mere pages, in. Not because they haven’t been engaging, or encouraging, or convicting. Most of them were exactly that. And, I always had great intentions of finishing. But, there they sit, unfinished, days…weeks…months later.

I used to love the opportunity to stay up late, reading “just one more page.” That often turned into “just” one more chapter…which usually led to just finishing the book! But, these days, what little sleep I do get is far more precious than a few extra pages. And, because I am not a fiction reader (though sometimes, I wish I were!), right now, the mental energy and focus required to concentrate are just not there at the end of the day. And, during the day? Well, you just don’t take your eyes off of an active almost-4 year old, a very “determined” 2 year old, and a newly-mobile 9 month old! You just don’t.

2016 is only days old, and I have already seen several new reading challenges that I would love to participate in. Tim Challies posted one for everyone from the “light reader” to the “obsessed reader.” (And, that DA Carson plan?! Wow.) In years past, I would have jumped at the challenge to try and read over 100 books in a year. But, even though I could probably name 100 books that I would love to read this year (though maybe not across all genres), considering how few I’ve actually finished in the last 365 days, I probably need to be just a bit more realistic about my goals! Then, maybe I might finish more than just a few chapters here and there!

In no particular order, here are my reading goals for 2016. There may be more (I hope there will!), but my goal is to at least get through these…

2016 Books

  • The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love, by Gloria Furman – I got this book for Christmas, so I actually started it before the new year began. But, I so appreciated Gloria Furman’s book, “Glimpses of Grace,” that I couldn’t wait to get into this one. As a pastor’s wife, I want to be equipped to effectively serve and minister to my husband, my family, and our church – graciously, joyfully, and realistically.
  • Housewife Theologian: How the Gospel Interrupts the Ordinary, by Aimee Byrd – Honestly, I picked it up because of the title. I started reading it last summer, and did not get very far. But, I like what she has to say so far, and I really like where she is going!
  • A Place of Quiet Rest: Finding Intimacy with God through a Daily Devotional Life, by Nancy Leigh DeMoss (now Wolgemuth) – Because, prioritizing time with the Lord is essential…especially as a busy mom. But, it can be hard.
  • Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book, About A (Really) Big Problem, by Kevin DeYoung – You will notice a theme to my reading material. Crazy-busy is a term I have used to describe my own life on many occasions – even before this book came out. This book has been on my “to be read” book for far too long.
  • The Busy Homeschool Mom’s Guide to Daylight: Managing Your Days Through the Homeschool Years, by Heidi St. John – This is one of those books that I started last year, but… I heard Heidi St. John speak on the topic of homeschooling multiple ages, at last year’s homeschooling convention. I am currently homeschooling a 5th grader, 2 pre-schoolers (almost-4 years old, and 2 years old), and have an infant along for the ride. So it was very encouraging to hear someone speak to and from the experience of homeschooling a wide range of ages and abilities…and make it sound like it was possible to get other things done as well! I think I left her session, and immediately picked up her book…of course, I’ve been trying to read it since then.
  • Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Gospel, by Russell Moore – I love analyzing and debating cultural trends and issues…even if only with myself. (Yes. I talk to myself.) But, I’m not very good at engaging. And, the idea of raising my children to both effectively navigate the world we live in, in a winsome, God-honoring way…honestly? It terrifies me. This was another Christmas present from my husband. I hadn’t actually heard of this book until I opened it on Christmas morning, but my husband knows me well.
  • Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith, by Larry Osborne – From the back cover: “Following Jesus is not a race to see who can be the most radical, sacrificial, knowledgeable, or burnt out for Jesus. It’s simply doing whatever He calls us to do, whether it’s radical and crazy or simple and mundane.” I picked this up a year or so ago because I have seen an attitude of “spiritual competition,” one-upsmanship, or a feeling of what “ought” to be done, and the resulting burn out devastate so many Christians. I don’t know much about this author, and I will admit the recommendation by Rick Warren gave me pause, but this book was recommended by a trusted friend. And, because I don’t know that I’ve ever really seen this topic addressed, I figured I would give it a chance.
  • Motherhood: Hope for Discouraged Moms, by Brenda Payne – It makes me sad to see words like discouragement, desperation, and despair being used so frequently, and so consistently to describe motherhood these days. While I have been discouraged at times, it doesn’t define my life as a mom, and I don’t want it to. So, I am reading this for myself, yes. But, I am also reading it because as I hear this from other young moms so often, I want to be able to encourage them, and give them biblical hope in those discouraging moments.
  • Run to Win the Prize: Perseverance in the New Testament, by Thomas R. Schreiner – My husband read this book last year. He said I have to read it too. So I am. Actually, the excerpts he read to me from another, much longer book by the same author on this topic are the real reason I picked this one up. But, with the limited reading time I have, my husband suggested that I start with this one.
  • Beautiful Girlhood, revised by Karen Andreola – Those years between childhood and womanhood are rapidly approaching. And, I want to be well-prepared to walk that road with my girls, and guide them as they grow up.
  • God’s Priorities for Today’s Woman: Discovering His Plan for You, by Lisa Hughes – Again, note the theme? Expectations are a burdensome thing. And, living under constantly changing expectations of what a “godly woman” is supposed to be can be overwhelming. Thankfully, the only expectations we are called to live up to are clearly outlined in Scripture.
  • True Beauty, by Carolyn Mahaney and Nicole Whitacre – While fashion and make up have never really been my “thing,” modesty, femininity, and the biblical definition of beauty is something I am very interested in. Based on the recommendations alone (Nancy Guthrie, Al and Mary Mohler, Kevin and Trisha DeYoung, Jani Ortlund), I am excited to read this!

What books are you reading this year? Let me know in the comments…I’m always looking to add to my list!

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Filed under Biblical Womanhood, Currently Reading, Thinking Biblically

Year In Review ~ 2015

Dear Family and Friends,

Is it just me, or do the days, and months pass with increasing speed each year? I am amazed each time I realize that another year is coming to a close…not only at how quickly time has passed, but also at all that the Lord has done!

At the end of last year, we realized that it was time to say goodbye to our faithful vehicle of 10 years. When I thought about how we had our Jeep longer than we had lived anywhere, I half-joked that I might be more sentimental about getting rid of it than about moving out of any of our previous homes. After all, that was the car that brought our first three babies safely home from the hospital, and carried us over thousands of miles, through two interstate moves! But, adding another, albeit tiny, passenger (and her not-so-tiny carseat!) was just not an option. Normally, I am not a fan of car shopping, but this was a fairly easy process. And, the Lord provided a good deal on a vehicle with enough room for our growing family. Yes. We became minivan people! And, to be honest, I actually like driving a minivan!

   RachelRachel Susannah, was born at 2:17 p.m., on March 23rd. She weighed 8 pounds, 7 ounces, and was 20 ½ inches long. Her joyful, content personality has been such a sweet addition to our family! She is now 8 months old, and is all smiles and giggles! While teething has disrupted her normally-good sleeping patterns a little bit, it hasn’t changed her sweet disposition at all. She now has 2 teeth, and is currently working on a third! I love hearing her grunt and babble at her books, toys, and her big siblings! She loves to eat, and has enjoyed trying out all sorts of new foods. Right now, anything she can feed herself seems to be her favorite! And, as I type, she is probably only days away from crawling…and keeping up with her big brother and sisters!

IMG_4057Rebekah turned 2 years old in October. And, she is very 2. She is full of energy, curiosity, and stubborn determination. This has led to more than a few bumps and bruises for her, and a few heart-stopping moments for her mom! But, she has also put that 2-year-old determination to good use by deciding to potty train herself! (Potty-training 2 children this year was definitely not part of my plan, but, why not? She is making it really easy!) She has also joined her big brother and sister at the school table this year! She is so excited to “do school” each day, and, even with a short attention span, she has an incredible memory, and is doing well! She loves to help me around the house whenever she can, and takes her new responsibility of feeding the cats very seriously! Although she seemed a little unsure about losing her status as the baby of the family earlier this year, she loves playing with Rachel, and has become a very caring big sister. Although, “big” sister might be a bit misleading. Even though she is statistically tall for her age, she is still pretty tiny. There is only a 3 pound weight difference between her and her 8 month old sister! I have a feeling it won’t be long until people start asking if they are twins!

IMG_4318Titus turned 3 in February! He has grown up so much this year! Starting with the fact that he is now fully potty-trained! He is in preschool again this year, and, has eagerly jumped into our school days with a surprising amount of focus and concentration! He could practice writing his letters for hours (and, on occasion, has done just that!). But, his favorite part of the day is reading time. He has been begging to learn how to read for months, so, we are working though the book Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons together. And, while I’m not sure he would agree with the “easy” part, he is a hard worker, and definitely up to the challenge. When I asked him why he wanted to learn to read, he told me, it was because he wants to read his Bible…by himself. He is still all boy, and loves to run around outside. I think the back yard may be his favorite part of the house! He still loves his trains, cars, and tools. But, monster trucks are his newest obsession. He is in a unique position as the little-big brother. So, appropriately, he alternates between terrorizing his sisters, and protecting them from the anonymous “bad guys”. He cheerfully entertains his baby sister, and loves to make her smile and laugh with his goofy faces and silly noises.

IMG_4423cropHannah turned 10 in April! Ten. Entirely too grown up for my liking. But, it is a joy to watch her grow in to a sweet, creative, beautiful young lady! We celebrated her birthday with a Frozen-themed party, which she planned, and executed, all on her own! She loves helping in the kitchen, so she even helped make most of the food for the party! With a 12 day old baby, it was definitely a bit more low-key than she was originally hoping for, but I’m not sure it would have happened at all without her meticulous planning (and help from Grandma!). She is in 5th grade in our homeschool this year! Creation-Science steadfastly remains her favorite subject, as we continue our study of Zoology for the second year. This year’s focus is on ocean animals, and she is rapidly becoming a walking encyclopedia of sea-animal trivia! (Seriously. Ask her anything!) Outside of school, her interests lie in anything crafty or artistic. Thanks to a monthly girls’ group at church, she learned how to sew and crochet, and made a cute little hat, and a fun apron! She is a great help around the house helping me in the kitchen, or with the daily cleaning. And, she is great at organizing! She changes diapers like a pro, entertains little people, reads stories, and is just a wonderful and creative big sister! She loves her brother and sisters. And, they adore her as well.

It is a joy to see how much my children love and enjoy each other. And, at times, it still overwhelms me to see them all running around, laughing, and playing together. They are each such unique, and amazing answers to our prayers of so many years.

IMG_2620wmLife at home keeps me busy. I spend my days playing cars, changing diapers, coloring pictures, washing dishes, picking up stray Legos, and potty-training (x2!), while attempting to conquer mountains of laundry! I teach numbers, letters, and colors, alongside long division and ancient Greek mythology. And I answer the question “why?” more times than I can count. It is an exhausting, and at times overwhelming responsibility to train and disciple our children. But, it is also my greatest joy…and a whole lot of fun!

IMG_3591 Jason has been the Senior/Teaching pastor at Grace Community Bible Church for over a year now. He is greatly enjoying studying and teaching through the book of Acts, as well as special series on Sanctification, and Perseverance. And he had the privilege of baptizing 2 people from our church this year! IMG_4025As the only pastor/elder, it has been challenging at times, to keep up with all the needs of a growing church. But, he was able to bring on several deacons and an administrative assistant to help him with various ministries and responsibilities. It has been an incredible blessing to see the Lord growing our church – both spiritually and numerically – over the past year!!

When we moved to Texas, 5 years ago, the Lord provided a great little house for us about a mile from our church. And, at that time, it fit our family of 3 perfectly, with room to spare! But, our family has since doubled in size. And, it was becoming a complicated game of Tetris just to figure out how to fit everyone, and everything, in. We put that house on the market in July, and, thanks to a great friend and realtor, our house sold (very!) quickly! And, so began the exciting (and exhausting!) process of finding a new place to call home.

11934555_10207618183433836_8361133520582927853_oWhile we originally dismissed what would be our new house as a possibility, the Lord perfectly worked out the timing, the finances, and so many little details and desires, and gave us a new home that we absolutely love! (And, even though we are technically in a new town, we really only moved across the street. And, we are still only a mile from our church!) We moved in at the beginning of September, and are enjoying the process of getting settled, and working to turn our new house into more than just a place to eat, sleep, and store our belongings.

While our lives, and certain seasons especially, can seem impossibly busy, they really are very ordinary. But, it is in that everyday, ordinary, Christian life, that there is also great joy and anticipation as we see what God is doing, and what He will do, in us and through us to accomplish His purposes. It is an incredibly humbling privilege to serve Him as He chooses.

May this Christmas and the year to come be one of joy and anticipation for you, as you seek to serve our Savior each day!

With Love,
Jason, Veronica, Hannah, Titus, Rebekah, & Rachel

 

“Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving, and His courts with praise! Give thanks to Him; bless His name!”
Psalm 100:3-4 (ESV)

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Hannah’s 10th Birthday

Hannah's 10th Birthday

Hannah is quite the little party planner! {And, as an afterthought, I may have made a mistake introducing my artsy-crafty girl to the world of Pinterest.} She had the decorations, guest list, food, cake, and activities planned for months! Actually, her organization and detailed lists, along with Grandma’s help, were the only reason we were even able to pull off a party less than 2 weeks after adding a new baby to our family!

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The theme was “Frozen.”

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The menu:IMG_2482wmSouthwest Pinwheels
Carrots, Celery, and Pita Chips with Hummus
Strawberries, Grapes, and Blackberries
Snowcaps Candy
Cinnamon-Sugar Snowflakes
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“Melted Snow” (Water)

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{The Snowflake and “Happy Birthday” banners, and the water bottle labels were another Pinterest find.}

And, as always, Hannah had very specific ideas about her cake…or her cupcakes.
Chocolate, with vanilla (white) frosting…and snowflake decorations!
She and Grandma baked and decorated them together.

20150403_114129Licking the spoon is the best part.
And, like the sweet big sister that she is,
Hannah shared this privilege with her little sister.

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*****

The actual party was a bit more low-key than Hannah’s original plans.
But, everyone seemed to have a good time.

We invited several girls from church…

The girls had fun making paper snowflakes. (Yes, in Texas. In April.)

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And, then they talked and giggled some more as they enjoyed the snacks.

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Hannah has very sweet friends, and received some very thoughtful gifts…

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A beautiful purse, books, and several craft projects!IMG_2503wm

Then, it was time for cupcakes and ice cream!

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***

After our friends headed home, we continued the celebration with dinner, and gifts from the family…books about horses, doll clothes, more books (about more horses!), and a t-shirt and flip flops with horses on them! That theme was unintentional…but very appropriate for our horse-lover.

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We are so glad Grandma & Grandpa could be here to celebrate with us.IMG_2541wm

It was such a fun time of celebrating our firstborn!!

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Happy 10th Birthday, Hannah!!

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Filed under Birthdays, Hannah Elisabeth, Just for Fun, Life, Traditions & Celebrations

Introducing…

Rachel SusannahRachel Susannah - March 23, 2015

born March 23, 2015
2:17 p.m.
8 lbs 7 oz, 20 1/2 inches

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Filed under Mommyhood, Rachel Susannah

Titus’ Truck Birthday Party

Titus 3rd Birthday

For Titus’ 3rd birthday, we partied pretty much all day long!

He woke up to presents from the family at breakfast…

The Birthday Boy!

And then it was time to get ready for his Truck Party!

Friends - yes, all girls!

Grammy and Grampy, and friends from church came over to help us celebrate! (Yes. It was a truck birthday party, for a 3-year-old boy, and all of the guests at the party were little girls!)

Lunch!

Lunch was, at the birthday boy’s request: Hot Dogs, oranges, strawberries, blueberries, celery, carrots, cucumbers, and Fritos. All of his favorites.

The Truck Cake

For the cake, he wanted “yemon” (lemon), with chocolate frosting. He actually loves lemon. But, lemon and chocolate? I wasn’t too sure about that flavor combination…we ended up going with yellow cake, and that seemed to be exactly what he was asking for.  My cake decorating abilities are decidedly limited. But, with the help of pinterest (and obviously, that was only for ideas…I was not going for an exact replica!), a few stolen uh, I mean borrowed construction trucks, and a creative big sister, we managed to pull off a cake that pleased our new 3-year-old…and that’s really all that matters.

Present Time!

It was a fun day, celebrating our boy.

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Filed under Birthdays, Mommyhood, Titus Ryle, Traditions & Celebrations