2016 Reading Challenge Review

So I had a bit of an overly optimistic view of how much I would be able to read in 2016. But in the end, I chose to stick with my Goodreads challenge of reading 30 books.

My final tally was 29 completed books. Not included in that count were at least three books that I reread. So depending on how you’re counting, I read 32 books this year. Below is a visual list of all (except the rereads) that I finished.

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There’s definitely a lot more fiction in this list than I realized. Probably because I have a pile of non-fiction setting beside my chair waiting for me to pick them up and give them a chance. 10 of the “inspirational-fiction” books I read were also loaned/recommended to me to read.

And you know what? I flew through them. I drank them up like I was in a literary drought. I wasn’t. I had loads of books to read, and several I was in the middle of but felt a little uninspired to continue. I always loved to read, and I’ve always been a fast reader. But this summer and fall when I was feeling like I was in the depths of despair, I really needed some of those books. I call them “Fluff”. ‘Cause they’re just kind of like marshmallows: sweet, contain no nutritional value, tasty, and occasionally I wonder if I’m wasting my time. But they gave me a bit of a respite from the workings of my mind. Books are love. Anyways. If you want my thoughts on a specific book, let me know. Otherwise, here are a few I would recommend:

Me Before You – Jojo Moyes
This also came out as a film this year, but left a lot to be desired in the adaptation. And if you watched it and were disappointed or angry, please read the book. They left out so many details and character characteristics [see: flaws]  If you need an easy read (probably bring some tissues), give this a shot. “Live boldly. Push yourself. Don’t settle. Just live well. Just LIVE.”

Velvet Elvis: Repainting the Christian Faith – Rob Bell 
I’ve heard it said more than once that Rob Bell kind of went off the deep end, theologically speaking. I’m not really sure what that means, but this book was written before any of that supposedly went down. I learned a lot in this book and it gave me a lot to think about. “The moment God is figured out with nice neat lines and definitions, we are no longer dealing with God.”

My Imaginary Jesus:
The Spiritual Adventures of One Man Searching for the Real God . – Matt Mikalatos
Goodreads suggests it’s a bit of “Monty Python meets CS Lewis.” The author has a lot of Imaginary Jesus’ in his life. Created from his own imagination to fit who he thinks Jesus is.  You follow the author in his adventure to rid his life of his fictional creations and find the Real God. “That’s the danger of following an imaginary Jesus,” Daisy said. “The more committed you get to him and his plan, the further afield from the real Jesus you get. Your earnest attempts to be committed to your imaginary Jesus actually move you away from Christ.”

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking- Susan Cain 
As an introvert in a time in my life that required a lot of extroversion (job search) only to work in an industry that actually houses quite a lot of introverts. The world is weird. Anyways, this book helped me to feel less crazy. “Everyone shines, given the right lighting.” “There’s zero correlation between being the best talker and having the best ideas.” “Don’t think of introversion as something that needs to be cured.”

Enchanted Inc. [series] – Shana Swendson
I actually read the first three of these books when I was about 13 or 14. I reminded myself what happened and then continued on through the rest of the series. The books are set in modern day New York City (most of them) where Katie, a Texan girl turned New Yorker, discovers that she is so un-magical that everything the magical community uses to veil their presence. Which means she’s very valuable to them. And the male lead, reads as completely adorable. “Any man who would deny you dessert isn’t worth having.”

Behold the Lamb of God – Russ Ramsey
25 chapters for the days leading up to Christmas. The book is a wonderful narrative of the Christmas story. I recommend you also listen to Andrew Peterson’s Christmas CD: Behold the Lamb of God. I plan on rereading this every Christmas season. “When the angel Gabriel stood before Mary, the hypothetical gave way to the real. The ordinary stories all at once glistened under the extraordinary light of this celestial storyteller.”

I’ve decided to give myself another Goodreads challenge, only this time I want to try and read 35 books.

Currently I’m reading (because I’m crazy and read more than one book at a time):

  1. Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life – Tish Harrison Warren
  2. In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto – Michael Pollan
  3. The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities of Commitment with the Wisdom of God – Timothy Keller with Kathy Keller
  4. The Anthropology of Turquoise: Reflections on Desert, Sea, Stone, and Sky – Ellen Meloy
  5. Mere Christianity – CS Lewis

And on my to-read pile:

  1. Design for Real Life – Eric Meyer & Sara Wachter-Boettcher

  2. The Curious Case of the Missing Figurehead – Diane Noble

  3. The Sacred Search – Gary Thomas

  4. The Barbarian Way – Erwin Raphael McManus

  5. The Irresistible Revolution – Shane Clairborne

  6. Sex God – Rob Bell

  7. Silence and Beauty – Makoto Fujimura

  8. Intentional Living – John C. Maxwell

 

What books did you enjoy reading in 2016? What books are you looking forward to reaading in 2017?

 

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The Sun Comes Up And The World Still Spins

This post is about the election. And I might swear a little.

You don’t have to read it. But I needed to write it. Because it’s been a week and I needed to talk about it. So I’m writing it instead.

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People have been saying singing 2016 sucks. And some will say this is the cherry on top. The icing on the cake.

Donald Trump is going to be our president. –Hillary Clinton

Honestly, I never paid much attention to politics.
I was too young for it to matter to me.
I was too young to vote.
I lived in a self-constructed collegiate bubble.

Now I’m out of college and I know I should be paying attention. This is my future and it’s happening now. But this campaign. This mud-slinging. The shit they threw at each other might have come from different directions but it all looked the same. Shoulda listened to Washington ya’ll. That two-party system.

Call me uninformed. Call me ignorant. Call me irresponsible.

No man’s ignorance will ever be his virtue. –Sara Bareilles, Seriously

I just wanted the anger, the hate, and the bitterness to be over.

Tuesday, I woke up and voted. I didn’t get a sticke and I’m sad about that, TBH. I went into a two-hour interview and emerged with a migraine. I somehow made it home, ate dinner, and was asleep by 7pm.

Wednesday, I woke up at 4am to go to work. Before I crawled out from beneath my toasty warm bed, I checked my phone to see what the future of my country would be for the next four years. I went to work. Tried to toe the line between the democrats and republicans. Came home. Napped. Ate some pumpkin pie. But boy, oh boy. I should not have gotten onto the internet. How my heart broke.

I wanted the anger, hate, and bitterness to end.

Oh my naïveté.

The polls break down the votes like they are tossing blame on demographics. This article sheds a lot of light on that Rural/Trump confusion: How Half of America Lost its F**king Mind, if you’re curious/angry.

The hatred on Facebook. The shame people are throwing on their peers. This belief that anyone who supported a candidate that differed with your own, is a miniature version of that candidate… how did that get started? A mom on my newsfeed reported that her second grader came home from school upset the day after the election. Other students were telling her that Hillary was a “baby killer” after she voted for her in their classroom elections. Second graders. This poison has spread so far.

Yes, our government could use some help. Yes, our country has some problems.

“So how did our politics get so poisonous? I think it’s because we overdosed, especially this year. We drank too much of the poison.

“We take a little bit of it so you can hate the other side. And it tastes kind of good, and you like how it feels, and there’s a gentle high to the condemnation. And you know you’re right, right? You know you’re right”   –Stephen Colbert

You know, at times, I’ve despised living in what feels like the middle of nowhere. It makes the job hunt rough. It means that weekend activities are virtually nonexistent. But with the anger that is sweeping our country, the protests, the violence, it’s looking pretty nice. If you don’t hear from me, I’ve moved down the road and joined the Amish. Besides, they seem to be getting along with other people quite nicely. Can someone start a kickstarter for me so I can buy a horse?

Fear.

It’s a dangerous word. It spooks the herd. And we all bleed in the stampede. – Sara Bareilles, Seriously

People are afraid.

People are afraid, acknowledge that and don’t brush it aside because you might not be. When someone says their worried about their safety because of their government, that’s a big-ass deal. And if you don’t understand why and someone tells you it’s because you’re privileged, don’t get upset. The word “privilege” gets tossed around a lot and it makes a lot of people angry because they think it reflects poorly on them. But it’s not an insult, it just is. It can be a hard thing to understand without all of negativity attached. I recommend reading Of Dogs and Lizards: A Parable of Privilege. Seriously, stop right now and read it. Now. I’ll wait.

So people are afraid and I’m afraid too. I’m afraid of the opposition between brothers, friends, and countrymen. (Hellooooo, holiday season.) I’m frightened for the future of our nation. I also put my pepper spray back in my purse today. I’ve been in a crowd where a gun was drawn, where thankfully, there were cops nearby. And yeah, there are those who speak on moving… but the grass is always seems greener on the other side. Justin Trudeau might look fine, but you can’t tell me it’s all roses in Canada (the politeness, Tim Hortons, and amazing Hersey Kisses aside). My fear may not be the same as your fear. But that doesn’t diminish the reality of either.

Science Mike of the Liturgist podcast posted this last week:

“…Based on the campaign rhetoric, huge swaths of America are scared of our President. They fear for their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

And how can you, … be an agent of peace? Especially those of you who follow Christ–how are you going to “do unto the least of these” in the age of Trump.

I will reflect alongside you.

With love,
Mike McHargue”

An agent of peace. Doing unto the least of these. A new podcast I just discovered told this story in their first episode:

“So there a town in France that for hundreds of years has been practicing an ideal called “radical hospitality”. Their commitment is very simple: if someone knocks, they open their doors. So WWII comes around and after a lot of running around French Jews come knocking and this town just did what they always did; they didn’t take a political stance one way or another, they didn’t think about it: someone knocked on their doors and they let Jews in.” –Vanessa Zoltan, Harry Potter and the Sacred Text

Spread love. Do unto others. Do unto the least of these. The holidays are coming, not that you need a reason, but spread the love. Bake some cookies. Visit your grandma. Call your mom and tell her you love her. Bring your best friend some Starbucks. Rake an neighbor’s yard. Send a letter to someone you love. Share some good in the world. And Penny + Sparrow just released their first Christmas album. There is still some good in the world.

So I’m putting my faith and trust in God. And checks and balances still apply, no matter who is in office. And if you don’t live in America, please, please, keep us in your prayers.

My Dear Wormwood,

Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.

Keep up the good work,

Uncle Screwtape

–CS Lewis, Screwtape Letters

 

Empty Rooms are Honest Places

I like to think I have good taste in music. And so do a lot of my friends. (Not just because they agree with me.) Except for K-Pop. I just can’t do that one, sorry Lyssa.

But even though three people were telling me how amazing Penny & Sparrow are for the past four years, I just couldn’t seem to get into them.

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A week ago Sunday, I went down to Indianapolis to see one of my favorite bands perform: The Oh Hellos. I’m slightly obsessed. It’s fine. Also in the building that night were both Switchfoot and Relient K. I will never not find this a funny.

And the friends that went with me were those dang Penny & Sparrow fans.

And guess who was opening for the Oh Hellos?

That’s right.

GUYS. I’ve been listening to Penny & Sparrow (almost) exclusively since.

There was this very nice parent-aged couple we met as we were waiting for the concert to begin that said they were really only there for Penny & Sparrow. The husband told me about how clear Andy Baxter’s voice is and that they’ve been to see them perform several times. This couple also let me and Morgen move in front of them so I could see a little bit better. #faithinhumanity

So my curiosity was peaked.img_2938

And I fell completely in love.

Two guys. One guitar.

Hilarious. Amazing stage presence.

Beautiful humans.

Thoughtful lyrics. There’s more to them than an initial listening will provide.

Hauntingly wonderful vocals

Can I say… soul-stirring? Maybe heart-stirring.

Though the concert was standing room only, I would love a chance to hear Penny & Sparrow in a more relaxed (see: chairs) setting. Because the you have to listen to them. And I think that is why I struggled so much to enjoy them before. I never took the time to understand the music. And I guess, I still don’t really “understand” everything. But I’m listening and not just hearing.

The music moved me folks. And I encourage you to let it do the same to you. Some things I recommend:

A Beginners Guide to Penny & Sparrow  <– Read this!

Serial Doubter
Honest Wage
Patience, First & Patience, Please
Fantine

Take a listen, for your own good.

Then after the mellow sounds of Penny & Sparrow, yes, I rocked and jumped and danced to The Oh Hellos.

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The energy level of this band when they perform is off the charts.

The banjo player acts like he’s rocking out on an electric guitar.

They’re jumping.

They’re dancing.

They’re singing their hearts out.

I don’t know how they keep it up, but I’m ever so glad they do.

 

I’ve said once, I’d gladly be a groupie for the Oh Hellos and just follow them on the road. And I still would. But if they don’t have an opening, I’d gladly trail behind Penny & Sparrow too.

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Cognitive Champagne (Thought Bubbles): The Internal Misogyny of Basic-Shaming Culture

Another riveting post brought to you by Morgen B. 

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This past year I realized that I might love Taylor Swift.

Probably as much as the average American.

I know her most popular songs. Her hair has had me dizzy with envy.

It took me a very long time to admit this.

I tasted my first Vanilla Chai Latte, and it was sweet and delightful.

Around this time last year, I read my first Buzzfeed article on the characteristics that make one “basic” and recoiled in fear.

Yes, I DO own tall brown boots!

And YES, I DO wear them with black leggings on occasion while romping through leaves! What does that mean about me?

I have never had a Pumpkin Spice Latte, and there are just as many things that might strike me out of the “basic” criteria as those that toss me in. But the fear lingered still, because, by conforming to the Basic template, I thought I may have unknowingly lost all originality and spunkiness; I may have traded in my Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manic_Pixie_Dream_Girl) card for a lukewarm latte and an Instagram filter.

If that was the deal, I WANT MY CARD BACK.

But if I did just so happen to embrace the zeitgeist and genuinely enjoy the colors of fall, the smell of cinnamon, and the warmth of flannel, would that be so bad?

I realize that my reluctance to adhere to any semblance of “basic”ism has a potential to morph into internalized sexism. (http://www.culturalbridgestojustice.org/programs/sexism/internalized-sexism/)

I don’t want to be like other girls because “other girls” are shallow. Women as a whole are typecast as materialistic, petty, weak… you get the idea.

But I love women. Beyond the stereotypes and the lies about what women can’t do, women are forces of nature, fearsome and majestic to behold, just as much as our dear male counterparts because we, too are created in God’s image. Maybe one of the things I love most about the Creator is that He shows His goodness in the fierce strength of a man

AND a woman in such different and intricate and complimentary ways. But that’s a whole other soapbox.

The problem is that, from the Manic Pixie Dream Girl to the Basic Bitch, women and men have taken on the idea that there is nothing of value going on beyond the exterior. Society has managed to reduce a demographic to the things that they consume.

Inspired by the snark emitting from this: (http://theodysseyonline.com/ball-state/ready-basic-fine/201672)

 

Sinking, Not Swimming.

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This semester has been overwhelming. It’s the kind of school year where no matter how hard I work, the to-do list seems to continually grow. Work, classes, exams, projects, meetings, clubs, bible study. It feels like something’s gotta give. Things I want to work on: my lettering, my reading, this blog, working out. I have to push to the back burner. School and work get precedence, although I’ve had to start forcing myself to go to bed, even when my work isn’t finished.

My theme for this semester has been: “If I make it to December, I’ll be fine.”

It’s November now, I and don’t know if I can do it.

But I have to, right?

I don’t want to wish away my senior year. But sometimes I can’t help but thinking about the new kind of stability that lies ahead. I’ll lose the yearly stability of school, it’s true, but I can’t help but dream about the ability to leave work at work.

Are there any other college seniors out there? How have you been coping with this last year? Any tips?

60 Little Tips That Can Change a Girl’s Life

Some of these are SO GOOD. Most of these actually.

SERENDIPITY AND CREATIVITY

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One small step for girls, one giant leap for womankind.
  1. Download a banking app.
  2. Drink more herbal tea. It will save your life.
  3. Making your own coffee/tea instead of buying it will make you a rich woman.
  4. Always have at least 6 chap sticks stocked up.
  5. Check out thrift stores. You may have to wash things three times before you get the old lady smell out, but it’s well worth it.
  6. Never buy cheap jeans.
  7. Buy cheap sunglasses instead.
  8. Don’t chase boys.
  9. Wrinkle spray and a hair dryer erase all need to ever use an iron for all of you lazy ironers like me.
  10. Wear slippers when you have to drive in heels.
  11. Wear slippers when you’re travelling.
  12. Wear slippers at all moments that it’s even slightly acceptable to wear slippers.
  13. Spend a little extra money on your make up; it’s so worth it.
  14. Get running sneakers that are actually…

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