Showing posts with label christmas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label christmas. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

For the love of reading... A long book blurb

Hello Lovely Readers,

I am back in Boston. I have been away seeing part of my family in Houston where it was hot, humid, and felt more like September than Christmas, but being with my niece and nephews, and my family was more important than the weather and that made it feel like Christmas.
The kiddos and I with their books
From the pic above, you can see that I spread my love of reading to another generation... I sure hope they never tire of me giving books. I gave books to a few people this Christmas some of them were books I had read in my 26 book challenge (link) that I really liked and thought other people would like and now that I have finished the challenge (link) I wanted to go through the books I read, focusing on the books I really enjoyed, pulled on my heart strings, or other various thoughts

Some books I really enjoyed..
1. First Impressions by Charlie Lovett- it is an intriguing literary mystery to keep you guessing who actually wrote Pride and Prejudice. I picked up this book because I love Jane Austen and looking for good fan-fiction about the author or her works. I also liked reading a book written by a guy that actually felt to be written by a woman. I don't usually read books written by men, I don't know why, but I am not usually drawn into male author's works... so I was pleased by this book.

2. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson- was a historical fiction novel with a sort of time traveling novel that made you think... "What if you could live life over and over again, till you got it right?" Ursula Todd keeps being able to live her life over and over to fix the mistakes she has made till she gets it right, but what will she do with that power? I will admit it took me a bit to get into it because the first couple chapters were a bit repetitive but over all the story was interesting and I loved the concept of the story.

3. Searching for God Knows What by Donald Miller- I can't really even put into words my love for this book. Just read it!

4. The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley- This book was given to me by a friend and I have already passed it along to others. It also introduced me to the plot twisting, historical and modern day writings of Susanna Kearsley and I cheated a few times on this challenge to read more of her books. Half of the book is set in present day where author Carrie Maclelland is searching for the inspiration for her newest novel, the other half is set in 1708 and the story of a Jacobite uprising. I love reading multi-generational stories and I loved both the present and past story lines weave together and both kept me wanting to see what happens next.

5. The Lake House by Kate Morton.- This is another multi generational novel, told from many different perspectives and shows how a secret from the past can still impact our present. Kate Morton is one of my favorite authors and one reason is that she blends the past and present together wonderfully. I feel as I have just written about this book I don't want to be too repetitive... so go read my post "Book blurb...The Lake House" ( link).

For more info on this books go to my "26 Book Challenge" (link)

Books that pulled at my heart strings...

1. The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah- I am not a huge WWII fan when choosing historical fiction, once again don't know why. So I think it is interesting that the two books that pulled at my heart strings the most are set in WWII. This book is set in German occupied France during the war and is about two sisters who must chose different paths in trying to protect their homes and lives around them. The eldest, Vivanne, tries to keep her head down and just tries to survive and to keep her family farm going. The younger one, Isabelle, joins the French Resistance and helps pilots who have crashed sneak into Spain. Though they chose different paths they both make ripples in the war effort.

2. The Storyteller by Jodi Picoult- is yet another multi-generational story and weaves together Nazis Germany and the concentration camps with a small town in New England. I found this story very powerful and had to take deep breaths after reading some parts because of the descriptions of how the Nazis treated the Jews was very powerful and I couldn't push it aside and think "well that is all in the past" as I know it happened and it was horrific. In present day, Sage who is part Jewish, has hidden away from the world after a horrible accident that killed her mom and she is left with many scars. Her life is changed when a new acquaintance, Josef, confesses that he is a former Nazis officer. This story nicely weaves Sage, her grandmother's story, and Josef's story together.

3. Light between Oceans by M.L. Stedman- is about Tom Sherbourne, who returns to his home, Australia, after fighting in the trenches on the Western Front (WWI) and takes a job as light house keeper on a island. He likes the solitude of it all until he meets Isabel who is young, bold and beautiful. They go through many heartaches with a few miscarriages and stillborn deaths (this is the part that made me cry) and they kind of believe life is hopeless until there is a boat crash on the island and baby girl is left helpless on the shore. Though they live a happy life together when they return to the main land they see their choices have made impacts on other people's lives and now they must decide what to do. I held my breath for many moments in this novel.

These three I would recommend but would suggest keeping a pack of tissues with you when you read. 

To see other books I read for challenge click this link

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Tunes for Tuesday... Christmas music

Hello Lovely Readers,

After my last Tunes for Tuesday (link) where I shared music that inspired me while I was writing I thought this week it would be fun to share my favorite Christmas Music... In no particular order.

Even though I said no particular order this has been my favorite Christmas song this year
Song: Mary Did You Know?
By: Pentatonix 

Song: God Rest Ye Merry Men
By: Mercy Me

I listen to this song probably all year round--it is so beautiful
Song: O Come O Come Emanuel
By: Bethany Dillon

Song: O Holy Night
By: Carrie Underwood

I like these next 2 songs because I am from Oklahoma
Song: Oklahoma Christmas
By: Blake Shelton and Reba McEntire

Song: BC Clark's Jingle

I know this song gets dissed for being too materialistic
but I have memories of singing it with my sister
Song: Santa Baby
 By: Eartha Kitt

Song: Carol of the Bells
By: Pentatonix

No Christmas song list would be complete without this
 Song: Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas
By: Judy Garland

Ah! So many Christmas songs I love... it is probably favorite type of music. And while in some ways I wish I listened to it all year round I am glad to keep it special for this time of year.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Looking Back, Thinking Ahead

Done with my thesis 

Hello lovely readers,

It is Christmas time and I feel this a curious time of year, at least for me. It is a time of reflecting about the year that shortly ending and it is a time that we are preparing for the year to come. 

Looking back at this year I feel this year has been filled a lot with my thesis...and maybe thats how it should have been but lately I have felt I spent so much energy, so much time, and devotion to it that I kind of lost focus on what the most important things are in my life. On mentally preparing this post I began to look through my photos (on Facebook) to remember all that has happened over this year. Some of the highlights have been getting to spend so much time with my family; I spent some time with my family in May, August, October and just recently when my parents came up here to see me present my thesis. If you don't know I live in Boston and my family lives all over so I usually see them only twice a year (minus skype dates) so I feel that has been really neat this year. Another highlight this year has been moving in with my current roommate and friend. Last year (until end of August) it was a struggle with my apartment. I never felt like my last place was home. Moving into my new place has felt like home the moment I started unpacking my boxes.
with niece and nephew in May

So as I began to think about 2014 and everything that happened, there have some parts of it I wish I could put behind me and never think about them again, but I know those moments have shaped me. And instead of looking at them with regret I am going to try to give them over to God and let him use them as moments of development. While 2014 has been a mix of both of ups and downs (as years are) it is what 2015 brings that I am most interested in.

Lately, I have been praying a lot to hear God's voice to feel his guidance but in reality I have felt distant from God. I know He is with me and He is the hope I have anchored my life to. Hebrews 10:23- Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful- has been a verse I have had to repeat to myself a lot through the year. I think it is more true lately as I am coming to terms with the fact I am done with school.

Birthday celebrations 

For 23 some odd years, I have been a student and I have almost placed my identity in the fact I am a student. Especially in undergrad and grad school my life has been about the next homework assignment, the next chapter to read, and the next paper to write. In grad school I felt life was on hold until I finished school and sometimes I felt angry I couldn't do things because I was in school.

I have been praying for God to use me in such a way that I would make an impact in this world for Him.  I have also been praying to hear God's voice and feel His guidance.  But I have felt stuck and sometimes useless. I am not blaming Him for this... actually I am holding myself responsible. Because I know I have filled my life with clutter, I sought fulfillment from temporary things. So one thing I really hope for 2015 that He prune and cut things out of my life that are not from Him. This is going to take work on my end, because it is easy for me to turn on the TV, go on Facebook or Pinterest, listen to Spotify and block Him out. But I don't want to do that anymore.
Being a bride's maid in my friends wedding, in July.
On Monday I prayed:
Lord I pray you lead me. Lord there are so many big questions on my mind now. What do I do for a job? Where do I go from here? Lord I need your guidance with these questions. Lord, you are the only one that makes my life make sense and I pray oh Lord I pray you lead me on. 

Then on Tuesday morning I read the passage: 

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is -- his good, pleasing and perfect will. -Romans 12:2. 

Visiting my sister's family in August...
Sadly my nephew was in the hospital.
With nephew in hospital I got to spend a lot
of time with niece... blessing in disguise 
These things may not seem immediately linked but they are in my mind. I think one thing I really need in upcoming year is to renew my mind and heart in God. In that I believe I will be able to truly know what God wants from me. However, I have no idea what that looks like. 

Over the fall my church went through a series called "Resistance" and it was about remembering why we have the Sabbath, a time of rest, a time of remembering what is important to us, and a time to remember what God has done for us, I think over the last year and especially this last fall I have kind of forgotten that.  I say my faith, my friends and family are the most important things in my life... but I felt distant from those things. I have felt very much like I have been drifting through life, not really making connections. So, another thing I would like in 2015 is to really invest or reinvest in things that are important to me. 

Here I want to say I am sorry to anyone that I was not there for over the last year...even if you understood why I am sorry I got so blocked by other things I could not see what was important. 

Fancy night with roommate. 
On the job front I will take my time to figure things out. Fortunately this year I have been blessed with two part time jobs that have really been relief when I have been stressed about money. I think it is important right now to get things worked out in my relationship with God... so I am not going to dwell on that.

I am thankful for this year I have had the support system (friends and family) that I have had. I don't know how I would have been able to get through the struggles I have gone through... and I promise I will not forget it.

I am excited to see what 2015 has in store for me and I am already starting to shape my New Year's resolutions.

1. Invest or re-invest in the relationships I have
2. Work on transforming my mind in order to understand God's purpose for my life.

Those are 2 pretty big things so I will leave it at that for now... if I fail I will (with God) pick back up and try again.

There are other things I am looking forward to as well in 2015.

1. My sister and brother-in-law are expecting their third baby... from the pics above you can see they make cuties so I am excited for this new little one. 
their birth announcement.
2. My mom and I have been dreaming about and plotting a trip to Paris and now done with school, we have been planning one for May. 
Mom and I from recent trip to Boston 
3. Also I have been thinking about going on another short-term missions trip. I remember how impacting my trip to Honduras was and my church does a trip to the Dominican Republic every year and watching the videos of the trips have made me want to go.
4. I am also looking forward to getting back into doing some of my own fun writing. Though I might be writing more with pen and paper than typing... my eyes are getting tired looking at word document. 

"Mary did you know"-Pentatonix
This has been my favorite song this year. 

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Faith is bigger...

My friend and I on Thanksgiving

In my last post I couldn't believe it was Thanksgiving and now I can't believe it is December, however I am very much look forward to going home for Christmas (I always look forward to that).

A few years back I did a study on the word "hope" and what it meant when I say "I hope in the Lord."Well lately I have been questioning my faith, I don't mean to I don't have faith, but just questioning what it means to say the word "faith" or "I have faith." Faith is such a small word for all the meaning it has.At the heart of the word faith is believing in something we can't see or in our limited view understand. Last year my co-worker asked me "why do you believe in God?" and I answered "at the end of the day He is the only one  that make sense." Since then I have though how many time God (from my very limited perspective) doesn't make sense, like I can't understand why natural disasters happen, or why there are diseases that can't be cured. So sometimes God doesn't make sense. If I say that does that mean I doubt God? ABSOLUTELY NOT. I am not expecting God to make sense from my view point. So maybe at the end of the day I don't have faith because He is the only one that make sense, but because He is the only one that has kept my life together.

Let me go back and explain... Have you ever felt you got everything together? That you are in control and things are going well. I usually feel this when I have been good in my bible study, strong in having spiritual conversations and I feel I can sit back and cruise, and for a little bit... just enjoy life. Well that is when I start to falter because when I feel I can cruise problems erupt (okay that might be an exaggeration), but I do have a feeling things are falling apart. I have used the analogy of first swimming along just fine, then feeling like I am treading water, then potentially drowning.

So back to faith, as I feel myself like I am treading water, I realize something is not right, and I know immediately I have tried to take control. Why do I do this? Because I am human with arrogance and pride. Depending on how much pride I have at the momen. I either keep treading or try to turn back to God. God is good about reminding me how small and weak I am without Him... to be honest I am okay that. Then He usually sorts things out, and I am saying my life gets better, but He reminds me who and what should be the true focus of my life. Who should be the focus? Is God. What should be the focus? Is His Will. I am not saying I understand all this over night, sometimes I spend months where I feel I am treading water and sometimes I feel I am trying to get back to God but I am blocked. It is not easy to let God break me down and let myself sink until I give up my ideas of control... but it is always worth it.

So why do I do this? More and more as I go through this journey of faith, that having faith in God is believing He will work it out... even if you are not sure what the "it" is. As I am wrapping up this semester and facing my last semester of school, the future is really looming over me. Right now my "it" is the future. I have faith in God because He is working out my future, He has had a plan for me (even before I was born) and I know His plan for me is perfect. In this His ideas of perfect and my ideas of perfect are different, but I know His ways are right and true. Therefore, I have to constantly remind myself to give up my control and give it to Him. I am learning more and more I have faith in God because He will never let me go and I am never on my own, He is always with me, He will always be with me, and I needn't worry because he is taking care of me.

Right now my life seems pretty up in the air as I pray and think about my future, but I am totally eager to see what God has planned for me. I will keep you posted on this journey.
Happy December!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thankful for the meaning

My nieces first ChristmasDear readers,
I like Thanksgiving, I have some traditions of Thanksgiving that stick with me like watching the Macy's parade and the National Dog Show. Since moving to Boston I have not always had the typical family Thanksgiving, I have made my own traditions of finding friends and spending the day with them. I am not a cook but I love making recipes that I remember from my childhood like pecan pie and sweet potatoes. I love watching my first Christmas movie over hot coco, most of my life we as a family always watched White Christmas, but now as an adult I like to start my season off with A Muppet's Christmas Carol. Sadly however Thanksgiving is often overlooked at least for me personally because it is the start of finals stress season.

Last Christmas...holding nephew
a great gift.
So as much as I like Thanksgiving I love Christmas, so it makes my heart hurt when people say they don't like Christmas. So I will admit I don't like how consumerism Christmas is. I love Christmas because it is a time for me to go home be with family. I will admit even though I hate consumerism, I like picking out gifts for people, this does not always mean buying. My two favorite gifts I have ever given have been to my dad one year it was a photo of us when I was younger and I am just resting my head on his shoulder, another year it was a poem I wrote that made him cry. Now that my niece and nephew are getting bigger I like seeing them on Christmas and seeing the joy they have. So yes I enjoy buying gifts but I set simple rules 1) I don't just buy random gift (usually this means I don't buy everyone I know a gift)... if I buy gifts it means something to me for that person, even if it is a gift card. I gave my friends a gift card to a restaurant so they could have a date night ( and as they had a baby I knew they needed a date night... of course I also offered myself as a babysitter). 2) I don't spend money I don't have... as I am one of the few people in America that don't have a credit card this is easier to do, but I set a budget for myself to keep my spending to a minimum. Yes, Christmas can be tense but it doesn't have to be. Remember a Charlie Brown's Christmas and what Christmas is all about...

I don't mean to stand up on a soapbox... every year my church goes through a series on Advent Conspiracy and it a series that really challenges us to get back to the roots of Christmas (video below explain). The first year we got involved in it... I felt guilty because I like getting gifts, but I mostly like giving gifts, and this felt like more pressure to spend less. I didn't really understand and I couldn't imagine telling my family I wasn't going to buy them gifts especially since I had already sent off my Christmas list.
Over time, I started to understand the idea of Advent Conspiracy. For one I stopped wanting things really. I might want things but instead of asking for things that might seem kind of pointless, I ask for things that I have put a lot of thought into. And as I get older I feel my gifts get more practical, like asking for luggage or shoes. Since I don't buy random gifts I don't like asking for random gifts. Also since I don't buy every body I know I don't expect gifts from everyone. So if you are reading this and think you need to buy me a gift... don't. And if you read that sentence and still think you need to get me a gift... I ask you to give to LIVING WATER.

I don't think I truly understood Advent Conspiracy until my pastor said something to the effect "make Christmas mean something more to others." I have never tried to sugar coat my life on this blog, but I know I am blessed in my life and I thankful that I don't fall into the group of people that just want Christmas behind them (according to a statistic given in my church it was more than 50%). I understand stress can come with Christmas, the travelling, seeing people who you may not want, buying people gifts you don't want and sometimes there is a deep pain if you are alone. I know those feelings even in a small amount, but I want to ask what if we made Christmas about more than ourselves? Christmas is consider the time of giving... what if we could give to others who couldn't give to themselves. I have found my passion for Living Water, but I know there are other organizations out there that are helping others meet basic needs around the world and in our own country... I think if we pushed ourselves to spend less on meaningless things and actually gave to others our Christmas might mean more.
I owe this picture to opening my eyes to the true plight of the thirsty, it was this picture and the fact "A child dies every 15 second because of clean water," and I thought "not on my watch." It was after this I decided to go to Honduras, on a Living Water trip.

Sorry this post was not meant to be a soap box, I just meant to encourage you that if you are feeling down at Christmas, this wonderful time of giving, that we give more than just gifts and presents but we give love... because love can change the world.  

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Who Knew...

Hello Lovely Readers,
Kimberly, from Here's What I think about that is featuring 11 questions about you... I found this lots of fun and thought I would spread it on. Hope you enjoy...

1. What is your number 1 goal for next year- Finish my story The Sister's of Pine Haven (even if it is not published) I want to finish a rough draft of it.
2. What is your biggest fear-  My biggest fear is that my deepest desire, of becoming a wife and mother will not come true.

3. What is something you wished others knew about you that may not be obvious till they get to know you- I think when people first meet me they see me as this goody two shoes... I don't mind it but then I think they peg me as one type of person and I like to be pushed out of my comfort zone (sometimes). Most of the time when I am pushed out of my comfort zone, I really enjoy it. 
4. What is your favorite breakfast- Sweet Potato Pancakes. I had them once at the Trident Book Store here in Boston, and they tasted like heaven in my mouth.

5. What is your favorite workout- Walking around Boston. I have found great little places to walk around. I love getting lost in the city and exploring new places I never knew about. Plus her in Boston I have learned when ever the sun is must take advantage of it.

6. Have you ever gone skydiving- No, because I hate falling from high places. I am okay with heights but I hate jumping from heights.

7. Growing up, what did you do that got you in trouble- I don't remember doing anything over and over again that got me in trouble. But I do remember one of my worst/best punishments. I was about twelve and I was playing with my dad's lab top, something happened and the screen went blank. I lied to my dad three times about not playing with it. When he caught me in my lie, I was sent to my room where I could twiddle my thumbs or read my bible. I decided to read my bible, and through reading scripture, I felt so guilty about my actions I prayed to become a Christian that day.

8. What story about you does your family like to tell and retell- I can't think of any story my family tells over and over again.

9. What was the last TV show, book or movie that made you cry (or made you feel really emotional)-it is not hard to  make me cry, but Downton Abbey.

10. What is your favorite time of year- My favorite time of the year is tied between Christmas and my birthday (not because of the gifts). Christmas because I know I will go home and all my family will be there. I have so many fond memories of Christmas growing up and going to my Mema and Grangran's house, and spending the whole day with my family... it was my best gift. My birthday because I get my a big groups of my friends together and it is just fun to celebrate. 
My friend and I doing Karaoke 

11. What is your favorite song at the moment- Kimberly did a video and I liked that idea, so here it it. Fun - the Gambler 

Hope you enjoyed!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Winter Break... Part 3

My winter break is about to come to an end. 
Here is a song to end my winter break on.
Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson

I start back to school on Tuesday. It is weird in a good way to be going back to school. I know I have only had a month off but in some ways it feels like it has been longer. I mean I went home for Christmas for a week and got some down time but I also got to see a lot of family. I loved my down time, there was one day I was sitting on the sofa with my lab top in my lap and I was working on my story but I was still in my pajamas and my dad asked me if I was okay. Yeah I was great I wasn't thinking about school or work, I was just having a care free day (it was wonderful). But since coming back to Boston I feel like I have had another month to adjust to real life. 

In the month I have had off I have done...

1. A lot of reading...I finished off North and South (a book it took me all semester to read), A Jane Austen Education and started reading The American Heiress.

2. I have written a lot. I started the winter break with only 9 blog post on my blog Sisters of Pine Haven I am now up to 17 blog post. In other words that comes to 66 pages and 28,000+ words. It is not quite the 50,000 words that people had to write for National Novel Writing Month. I know that was in November but I wanted to see how many words I could write in my month off. Oh well maybe one day I will finish the novel. 

3. I have spent lots of time with my friends. My friend had a great New Years Eve party, where I felt I danced all night. I am not a good dancer but I do love to dance around. One of my best friends and I have hung out a lot rather watching the Golden globes, episodes of Downton Abbey or going to to go see the movie The Artist. 

The movie The Artist owes a blog post of its own it was so good. I didn't think I would enjoy it as much as I did but I loved it a lot. If you don't know anything about it, it is all silent (minus a few parts) and black and white. But the plot takes place during the end of the 1920s when the film industry switches from silent films to talkies. The main guy, George Valentine, is a big silent film star doesn't embrace the idea of talkies. 
Of course when I left the film I wanted to see Singing in the Rain, Jean Dujardin, has a very Gene Kelly way about him. I was so happy when The Artist won so many Golden Globes and I wish the movie well in the Oscars. 

4. I also spent way too much time on social media from Facebook, my blog, to YouTube (mostly looking up Downton Abbey videos), and Pinterest getting lots of great pictures that really helped inspire my story. 

5. Most importantly I have left my full time job in order to be a full time student. It is weird to leave a job I have had for a year and a half. It was not in a career I wanted to pursue long term but I did make it a part of me, I guess that is natural to make something you do every day a part of you. But I didn't realize how much it was a part of me until I left.

Over all it has been a good break...nothing too big but lots of time to relax and great time with friends. I loved having dinner on a random Tuesday night at the Cheese Cake Factory. That is probably my favorite thing about breaks having my nights free to do what I wanted. 
Have a nice weekend.