Currently | January 2019




Are you one of those people who complain every time it snows in the winter?  Because I am so not one of those people.  I just don't quite understand how you could not want it to snow in the winter.  You could have brown ugliness, or you could have this!





I think I can rest my case.

Borrowing the prompts here this time around, I'm currently...

Choosing...things for the house.  The renovation is back in full swing.  Derek is planning on finishing up the kitchen details this weekend, and then the master bathroom is next on the list. I'm trying to make decisions about bathroom tile, and vanities, and decorative items, and which chair to buy for the corner of the living room to tie everything together.  Also, have I shown you this flower box thing we have in our living room?



I have it filled with a garland leftover from Christmas at the moment, but I'm trying to decide what to do with it long term.  We could tile it over and make it a plain old ledge, or I could try to get creative and think of something cool to fill it.  Since I have a black thumb, actual plants are out of the question.  What would you put in here?  I'm tinkering with the idea of a fake succulent garden, but I haven't found quite the right thing yet.

Tidying...nothing.  Everyone is experiencing a bout of house-tidying madness after Marie Kondo's Netflix special, and I'm over here actively avoiding starting any tidying projects.  My life over the last several months has been so not normal, between church issues and moving and renovating and Christmas - I just don't think I can bear to put anything else into upheaval.  So I'm hunkering down with my piles of stuff, and I'm liking it, thank you very much.  I'll tidy in the spring, when my bathroom floor is no longer bare plywood.

Exploring...my unread shelf.  One of my goals for the year is to refrain from buying any new books, and to read and/or make a decision on whether to read the books that I own and haven't yet read.  There are a lot.  I'm just warning you now.  In reality, clearing my unread shelf will be a multi-year project, but I'd like to get through at least half of my books this year.  Go look at my unread books on Goodreads, and tell me if you've read any of these and what you thought!  You can help me know what to read and what to gift to my local Goodwill. (Also, why can't you give away ebooks?  This should be a thing.).

Resolving...to actually follow through on my goal of going one week a month sugar-free.  I attempted to go sugar free the first week of January, and also the second week of January.  After succumbing to stress-induced candy heart cravings, I decided the third week in January was not going to be a winner either.  It's just been stressful, okay!  I think I'll make next week the official no-sugar week.  I'm doing so great on my New Year's goals, huh?

Refreshing...my style a little bit.  I've had a limited selection of things that have fit me over the last year because of baby weight, and I realized that my style identity has suffered some as a result.  I'm not really sure anymore what items in my closet are things that I feel good in, and which things need to be updated and refreshed.  I would like to shop my closet and figure out which things still feel like "me", and which things should go.

That sounds suspiciously like tidying, doesn't it?  But hopefully a little less chaotic and a little more fun.

What are you all up to this January?

Becoming Mrs. Lewis Review



2.5/5 stars.

First let me just say that I requested this book to review on a whim several months ago, and then as soon as it arrived I completely lost motivation to read it. Maybe it started in the first few chapters when I realized that this story starts out with Joy Davidman (the future Mrs. Lewis) married to another man. I didn't know that much about how Davidman's and Lewis's love story played out before going into this book, but I tend to generally dislike love stories that start with one person married to someone and ending up with someone else. I can't criticize the author or the book for this, it was how it happened in real life. I just didn't realize it going in.

I received a print copy of this book, and read several chapters in print, and then finished it on audio. Overall this book was written like a memoir, even though it is fiction. It's written in the first person, and covers many years of Joy's and Lewis's relationship, so some of the sections really read like narrative non-fiction as historical/logistical details were put in place. Overall I think the writing of this story was well-done, but I didn't enjoy it as much as I hoped, for several reasons.

First, I feel funny saying this since the book is based on a real person, but I either wasn't a huge fan of Joy Davidman, or wasn't a fan of how she was portrayed in this book, or maybe a little of both. It's hard to sort out what parts of the dialogue were quotes or true to real life, and where the author used her imagination. But overall, the result was me feeling slightly annoyed with the character of Joy, I think mainly because I couldn't relate to her. 

Some of this couldn't be helped, because the author was only trying to portray the facts of Davidman's life. Joy starts falling in love with Lewis before she decides to divorce her husband, while at the same time paying lip service to being "committed to her marriage" - but can that be true when she is entertaining an emotional affair with another man? After her divorce she also ends up sleeping around before she and Jack finally get together - once again, probably based in the reality of Davidman's life, but disappointing nonetheless. I find it ironic that she struggled so much with the decision to divorce her cheating husband, which IS allowed in Scripture, but brushed off her extramarital relationships as something she just had to try to do better at.

There are some parts in the beginning of the book where Joy expresses almost a disdain for the ministry of the home, wishing she could spend more time writing instead. I can't necessarily be upset about this struggle to value the ministry God gives us as wives and mothers in our homes, I get it, but while the struggle was slightly resolved by the end of the book, overall I didn't find the message here very uplifting on this front. Once again, there is no one to blame for this, it's just an example of why it is probably harder to write fiction when you are trying to be true to the facts of someone's life (I personally like my fiction tidy, so this might be the last fiction-based-on-biography book I read for a while). I also found it sad that there is so much made about how much Joy misses her boys while she spends several months writing and recovering form health issues in England, but then as soon as she gets them back and divorces her husband, she moves to England and ends up putting the boys in boarding school. I imagine it may have been the best decision she felt she could make as a single mother in England at the time, but I felt bad for the characters of her little boys in this story.

While there is nothing that could be done about those facts of Joy's life if the author was to be faithful to the Davidman's life story, I didn't like how some of Joy's internal monologues were presented. I don't know how much of this the author was basing on written evidence, and how much was the author's imagination, but Joy's character engages in mild cussing (h-word, d-word) and using the Lord's name in vain. There is a part where Joy's parents come to visit her in England, and she thinks of her father as a "prig" and refers to his "idiocy". The disrespect for her parents was cringe-worthy to me. How much of it was based in the truth of her attitude toward her parents, I don't know, but it was a shame.

Even more cringe-worthy though were the repeated phrases referencing "quivering", "trembling", "shaking", "desire", and references to how it felt when "bodies came together" in sexual relationships. I just couldn't. I do blame the author for that, and did not enjoy those passages in the book at all. It's not the style of romance book that I like. I cringed a lot. This one point cost this book a couple stars for me.

Overall, I thought this book was just okay. I did learn a lot about Lewis and Davidman that I did not know. But did I enjoy it? Not that much. It's not one I'll go around recommending. 

Note: I received a copy of this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

My Favorite 20 Books From 2018



Last year was a good reading year for me - I not only got pretty close to my goal of 75 books (73!), but a lot of them were really good.

I tried to narrow it down to some stand-outs to share with you all.  I picked my top five non-fiction books, and top five fiction books, and listed other honorable mentions below.

Disclaimer: I'm linking each book to my corresponding review on Goodreads - before you pick one of these up, please read my full reviews!  Not every book on this list gets a stellar cleanliness rating, but I break all that down in the reviews so you can decide if it's for you.  Nevertheless, I picked each of these books because some part of it resonated with me and made me feel that it is worth reading.

Non-Fiction




1.  When People Are Big And God Is Small by Edward T. Welch

If you are a believer and pick one book to read on this list, pick this one.  I read this book at just the right time in my life, and was so convicted about the various ways that the fear of man can usurp a proper fear of God - and how I'd fallen into that myself.  This is one of those perspective-shifting books for me that I know I'll think about my whole life.  Highly recommend.




2.  The Reformation: How A Monk And A Mallet Changed The World by Stephen J. Nichols

I was trying to read more about church history this year, and I picked up this short little book - but wow, it packs a punch!  I learned so much about the Reformation and the Reformers, things I've heard referenced and didn't know anything about.  If you consider yourself a Protestant Christian, pick this one up to learn your heritage!  Good stuff.




3. The Discipline Of Spiritual Discernment by Tim Challies

I want to buy a copy of this book and go through it again.  This is a really thoughtful exploration of discernment, and how to do it right and avoid doing it wrong.  Discernment is something every Christian should be practicing and seeking to grow in, and this book is a great place to start!




4. How To Be A Perfect Christian by The Babylon Bee 

This book is a satirical look at modern Christianity in America, and it was hilarious.  I was also highly impressed at how the authors still worked in the gospel in the end while staying true to the satirical tone!  Don't read this unless you've been a believer for a while (you won't get the jokes, and I wouldn't want a new believer to be discouraged since this book is pointing out some problems in Christian culture - get rooted in the Bible first).  Also don't read this unless you are okay with some "ouch" moments.  No one is exempt in this book, but all the points made were good.




5. The Most Dangerous Animal Of All by Gary L. Stewart

This is the oddball on this list, but it was too interesting not to share!  An adopted man makes the case for why he thinks his biological dad was the Zodiac Killer.  He has me completely convinced.  Also, you would think this book would be dark and disturbing, and it is a little bit, but the way the author tells his story showcases his gratitude that he was adopted to a Christian family and how God placed him right where he needed to be.  The story about his biological dad is sad, but the author's story is hopeful, and it struck a nice balance.

Other Books I'd Recommend:

When Is It Right To Die? by Joni Eareckson Tada - So good, from a voice I really trust on this subject!
Better Together: Strengthen Your Family, Simplify Your Homeschool, And Savor The Subjects That Matter Most by Pam Barnhill - Great ideas for morning time (a homeschooling staple).
936 Pennies: Discovering The Joy Of Intentional Parenting by Eryn Lynum - I don't read many parenting books, but this one was different!  Made me appreciate the every day.
Weapons Of Mass Instruction by John Taylor Gatto - If you've never heard of Gatto, google him, and then read this book.  Really interesting.
Educated by Tara Westover - Fascinating story.
Voracious: A Hungry Read Cooks Her Way Through Good Books by Cara Nicoletti - Just pure fun!





Fiction



1. The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton

This is the second Kate Morton book that I read, and I loved it just as much as the first.  This one strikes a more sad note than The Secret Keeper, so I'm not sure I'd recommend this as a first Morton book, but the fairytale atmosphere in this one was delightful.  I'm not even a big fan of fairytales, and I enjoyed it.




2. Castle Of Water by Dane Huckelbridge

I was so impressed with this book.  Two people survive a plane crash and are stranded on a desert island.  They go from hating each other to...well, I won't completely ruin it, but it was sweet.  I have a couple content issues with this one, so please read my Goodreads review for those details.  But the overall story was so well done, with beautiful writing and a great story that kept me turning the pages.  Be prepared to cry a little (and if you've lost a child to miscarriage or stillbirth, be aware that part of the story deals with that).  But it was so good.




3. My Cousin Rachel by Daphne Du Maurier

I've probably talked more about this book than any other this year!  Philips cousin Ambrose, who raised him and whose estate he will inherit, travels over the winter, and communicates with him through letters.  We learn that Ambrose marries a distant cousin, Rachel.  but soon Ambrose is dead, and Rachel shows up on Philip's doorstep.  And from there it gets even more twisty.  You will spend weeks trying to unravel this story, but it is the best book for discussion that I've ever read!  My advice - read it with a friend.




4. Crooked House by Agatha Christie

Anything by Agatha Christie is going to be good in my book, but this one was interesting.  I thought her insight into human nature was really on display in this mystery - she knows that humans are not basically good, and this book reflects that.  It's one of her darker books, but worth reading I think.




5. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn By Betty Smith

I read this modern classic for the first time this year, and while it's far from my favorite classic, it makes it on this list because I loved how the characters in this book were far from perfect, but you couldn't help but like them anyway.  I especially loved the relationship between Francie and her father - it was a study in how powerful the father/daughter relationship can be, even when the dad has a lot of problems.  I think I only gave this one three stars, but I still think about it.  Something about it resonated with me.


Other Books I'd Recommend:

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn - One of the most impressive books I've ever read, and fun to read!
The Choir Immortal by Katie Schuermann - I like this series by Schuermann - she captures small town life/church life so well.
Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns - Excellent on audio, the characters won me over!
Eleanor Elephant Is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman - Some content issues in this one (lots of language), but I loved the quirky and heartbreaking character of Eleanor.

Have you read any of these?  What was your favorite book you read in 2018?




Honeysuckle Dreams Review



Sometimes you just need a book that doesn't make you think too hard, to read purely for fun, and Denise Hunter's books are usually that for me. I don't know why, but I always get sucked into her stories.

In this book, Brady's estranged wife has just died, and he learns that his baby son may not actually be his. The baby's grandparents are suing for custody, and Brady is desperate to keep his son. After a misunderstanding with an engagement ring, his friend, Hope, is mistaken for his fiancé - and then they start to think that maybe an arranged marriage may not be a bad idea, for a chance at keeping the baby, and for Brady and Hope themselves.

My usual complaint about Hunter's books is that the relationship between her characters is sometimes too focused on the physical, but I thought she did a better job in this book of making the characters appreciate each other's character and personality. There was still some of the descriptions of their "chemistry", and references to their sexual relationship after they are married, but I thought the overall focus of the story was on other things.

One thing I didn't love was how the characters sometimes bordered on dishonesty. After the initial confusion with the engagement ring, Brady doesn't tell the truth right away. His wording in one of the courtroom scenes is questionable. Since it's a Christian fiction book, I just wished that there were some repercussions or lessons to be learned related to the dishonesty, but that was missing. 

Overall I really liked these characters, and the way their story played out. The baby was also really adorable. I do wish the story had ended better - instead of tying them together as a family, I felt like the ending was too focused on Hope's career. She got married because she wanted a husband and to start a family, and then her triumphant moment at the end is to go back to school for her doctorate. This decision at the end just didn't seem to fit the goals of her character throughout the rest of the book, in my opinion. Nothing necessarily wrong with getting her doctorate, but it felt like a discordant note.

It was the light read I was looking for though, and if you need a palette-cleanser book, I'd be curious to see what you think.

Note: I received a copy of this book for free in exchange for an honest review.

Sharpening My Goal-Making Skills (2019 Goals)



I don't usually make New Year's resolutions (if you've been around here for any length of time, you probably remember this).  I've tried the word-of-the-year thing, I've made reading goals, but New Year's resolutions?  Not so much.

However, when I was thinking about 2019 on New Year's Eve, I also realized that for almost every year for eight years, I've had something related to babies to look forward to.  Either the hope of a baby, or a due date, or a first birthday.  This is the first year I have nothing baby-related in my future (as far as I know, ha!).

When you have a new baby on the way, that is your New Year's goal - "have the baby".  When you have the new baby in your arms the New Year's goal is "get some snuggles and sleep".  Nothing else is quite as important as that.



But without those things automatically on my goal list this year, I am feeling the void.  So I thought it was probably time I brushed off my resolution game so this year doesn't pass me by with nothing fun or meaningful being accomplished.

So here are my goals for the year.  I haven't made goals like this in so long, and I'm fairly worried that I'll just fail right out of the gate, but I'm going to give it a go!

Spiritual - Memorize the book of Hebrews.  I have been wanting to do this for years, and now that I've finally got a tentative morning routine established, I have a consistent time to work on this each day.  I've done some slight brushing up on Hebrews already and was pleased to discover that I still have Hebrews 1 and 2 solidly in my memory bank.  So I'm starting with chapter 3.  That means I have 11 chapters to memorize in 2019 - one a month, and break for December.  I feel like this is completely doable if I focus!

Marriage - One note per month.  I really struggle with making goals for my marriage.  We have a pretty good relationship overall, and I can't add in things like "go on a date every month", because...five kids.  I can't say something like "do something nice for Derek" because that's too vague and I'll forget to do something specific.  So I think I'm going to try to write him a little surprise note and leave it somewhere each month for him to find.  Just something fun to keep him guessing.

Motherhood -  Document my children better. One thing that I regret in my motherhood journey so far is my lack of documentation of the specific cute things my kids say and do, and my lack of printing out the pictures I take of them.  I had an inspiration the other day about how I could be more consistent in recording cute things my kids say and getting their pictures printed at the same time.  It involves Chatbooks.  I might share more in a separate post once I get all the kinks ironed out, but I'm excited about it.  My goal here is to take one picture of each kid per week, as well as write down one thing they say and/or answer one question for each kid per week.

Health - Go sugar-free one week each month.  Ideally I'd like to get a gym membership back.  We had to let our membership expire in the summer for lack of funds, and I miss going to the gym.  However, even if I did have the gym, I know that I should also improve my eating habits - I drink too much sugared coffee and eat too much sugar.   So for at least the first week of each month I'd like to go sugar-free, just to give my sweet tooth and insulin production a break.

Reading - Participate in the unread shelf project.  I counted up the amount of books I own that I haven't read, and the number is a bit staggering.  I'm embarrassed even to type it here.  In my defense, these were mostly Kindle books that I bought for a dollar, collected over several years.  But still - I should read some of those!  So I'm going to attempt to buy no more books in 2019, and only read books from my unread shelf.  I will allow myself one library book each month, and book purchases at our library sale in the summer.  I'm also allowed to ask for books as gifts.

Blog - Try some routines.  I'd just like to add a little routine back to my blog life.  The posts I'd like to try to incorporate on a monthly basis are:

-Monthly recap/goal update post (this will make next year's blog recap so much easier to put together).
-Monthly summary of what I read.
-Monthly "currently" post.

These mini blog goals may or may not happen.  I have to give myself a lot of grace when it comes to the blog so it stays enjoyable and doesn't become a chore.  But I do think it would be fun if I could be more consistent with these types of posts!  They are fun to write, and, I think, fun to read.

Financial - Save $1000.  Bekah turned me on to this handy savings chart that is totally doable.  I would like to save $1000 for the next few years so I either could 1) get Derek better Christmas presents, or 2) save all the money and surprise him with something really good for his 40th birthday in a few years!



Everything is written down in my bullet journal, so it's official.  I'll try to post at the end of January to let you know how it's going!

Do you make New Year's goals?  What is on your to-do list this year?

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