Weekend Reads

Each weekend, I like to share articles or posts that I consider noteworthy during my week of reading (blogs or otherwise around the web), whether they encourage, challenge, inspire, or just flat-out make me laugh. Sometimes these are “current” links (recently written), and sometimes they’re older articles that I just happened to stumble upon in the past week. I also try to share a little something about the book(s) I’m currently reading. I hope you enjoy!

Around the Web:

 Cinderella

The Audacity of Cinderella” by Rebecca Reynolds, from the Rabbit Room – This review perfectly, delightfully summarized exactly why I completely adored the new Cinderella movie. Spot on and made me teary just reading it.

My Favorite Things to Buy at Trader Joe’s” by Anne Bogel of Modern Mrs. Darcy – Makes me wish we had a TJ’s in our town!

In honor of Jonathan Crombie and his tragic death this month, 25 Times Gilbert Blythe Melted Your Heart.

On My Nightstand: 

CaptureTheCastle

I recently finished I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith and, not surprisingly, adored it. One of the most original and captivating narrators I have ever encountered in fiction.

CharlotteBronte

I also finished The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James last week and, surprisingly, didn’t love it, even though I really, really wanted to. More thoughts on this later!

Currently reading: The Art of Work by Jeff Goins, Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey, Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider, The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle, and The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier.

Currently re-reading: Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist (highlighter working overtime on this re-read!), The Story Within by Laura Oliver, and The Wheel on the School by Meindert DeJong (my pick for the “book from your childhood” category for the MMD Reading Challenge).

Lessons in Trust

On several occasions recently, I have found myself in a situation where I have had two options: fling a fit, or trust God’s sovereignty. I made plans, lined up my ducks in a row, did everything in my power to ensure that I made the right and best decision—and then the whole Jenga tower of a situation collapsed all around me, and I could barely see the remnants of my “perfect” plan, now scattered around me. Suddenly, I had no control whatsoever over the situation, and I found myself back at square one with a lousy attitude about it. You might think that after the first time, I would have learned my lesson, but no–this has happened multiple times over the last 6 weeks.

After yet another carefully-built plan shattered recently, I found myself in a place of angry frustration again, but then, another detail fell into place with such breathtaking, inspiring perfection that I suddenly realized something critical. Oh. I haven’t been trusting God’s sovereignty at all. Instead of surrendering my carefully crafted but obviously flawed plans and allowing God to work, I was all too quick to respond in frustration and complaining, and had I carried on that way, I might have completely missed what happened next. Instead of zapping me with some perspective, though (which, let’s face it, would have been exactly what I deserved), God instead orchestrated the details for a backup plan that would fall into place and mock me to my face with the sheer reality of how much better it was than my original plan. Oh. God is sovereign. Wow, I had forgotten that.

How many times will I miss these opportunities to trust and instead make them reasons to throw a tantrum? When will I remember that God’s sovereignty is absolute? He doesn’t merely have the “big” and “important” details of the universe in the palm of His hand; He cares about the “small” and “insignificant” moments of my life as well; in fact, sometimes those small moments can become the most profound opportunities to trust His perfect plan. When I inevitably fail to trust Him, though, I am so grateful that He doesn’t punish me with a cosmic spanking. Instead, He quietly molds the situation into something far better than I could have ever imagined, which then reminds me with a jolt how much He cares for me.

Have you seen God’s sovereignty in new ways recently? Tell me about it in the comments!

Life as Inspiration

In case you’ve missed it, I haven’t exactly updated my blog faithfully recently. Part of it has to do with my current schedule, being completely overloaded at work, and always having a zillion things on my mind – but part of it has to do with fear, both rational and irrational.

When I look at my post count for the last month, I feel fear in many different forms: fear that I’ll never have inspiration to blog again, fear that this will just become one more blog that I’ve started and then ultimately abandoned, fear that no one will read anymore because I never post anymore. But then when I sit down to try to actually write a post to add to that post count, I feel more fear: fear that my words don’t matter, fear that no one is reading anyway, fear that I’ll never do this blogging thing right – whatever “right” means!

Tonight, though, I choose to ignore the fears. I choose to ignore the nagging doubts that tell me I’ll never have “good” inspiration to blog again. I choose to ignore the idea that every post has to be perfect before I can share it. I choose to ignore.

image

After some helpful and timely encouragement from my husband, we walked around the corner to one of our town’s “fancy” grocery stores for their Friday night wine and cheese tasting. Our shadows had already lengthened, but the sun was still shining when we left our house, and I breathed in the fresh air, grateful for the opportunity to be outside and enjoy the world.

We walked into Nugget and saw the regulars already gathered around the tables in the cafeteria, greeting one another and talking and laughing amongst themselves. One older man, a sharp-witted white-haired fellow probably in his 70′s, greeted us and introduced himself as he made his rounds, even though we had met him before and knew his name was Jack. “I’m buying tonight!” He grinned at us. “So get whatever you like!” He clapped Austin on the shoulder as if they’re old friends and winked at me before he walked away to the next table.

I swirled my wine glass, sniffed the fragrant red blend that ended up being my favorite of the night – bold and strong, Austin declared, but not spicy. “It’s… grapey!” he finally exclaimed. We tasted two types of cheese, one paired with the white wines and one with the reds, and I love experiencing the way the flavors bounce around the palette, complementing each other in such delicious ways. I crushed the soft cheese in my mouth, enjoying the crumbling texture and amazed at how a tiny piece skewered with a toothpick could explode with such flavor on my tastebuds.

I snapped a photo of Austin’s wine glass and tasty treats as we sat at our table, and afterward I realized why I wanted to capture that moment. Because the whole outing – the walk, the fresh air, the tasting, the time spent with my husband – had reminded me that when the going gets rough with my writing, this is what I need to do. Throw myself with energy and enthusiasm into LIFE itself – don’t give in to the fear and the sense of uselessness, but embrace the beautiful everyday that is always before me, without fail, and simply keep my eyes open.

If I’m really paying attention, I know the ideas will come.

Weekend Reads

Each weekend, I like to share articles or posts that I consider noteworthy during my week of reading (blogs or otherwise around the web), whether they encourage, challenge, inspire, or just flat-out make me laugh. Sometimes these are “current” links (recently written), and sometimes they’re older articles that I just happened to stumble upon in the past week. I hope you enjoy!

Confessions” by Sarah Bessey – “Pride is a tricky thing, it makes liars out of us. If we don’t ever admit to our stumbles or our failings, our weaknesses and struggles, then how will we know when we’ve found our people?” 

Sometimes the first few sentences of a piece have me arrested immediately, all my defenses broken. This is one of those pieces. I’ve only just recently started reading Sarah, though I’ve known her name for a long time, and I am absolutely falling in love with her writing. Her love for Jesus spills through every word she writes – and seriously, what is there not to love about a Canadian girl who can rock both a nose ring and Ingrid Michaelson glasses and is a self-confessed Whovian? I mean, really.

Here’s What Your Soul Needs You to Know” by Emily Freeman – “Our inner life hums quietly beneath the surface, speaking only to those who make space to listen.” 

The 26 Worst Things That Can Happen to a Book Lover – this made me laugh out loud several times.

Mindfulness in the empty moments” by Carmella Rayone – “I wouldn’t do more, I would simply learn to see. I would see the creative nourishment and mindfulness waiting in the empty minutes of the day. And I would pick up the needles and knit, if only but a few stitches…. I would color slowly across the linen with embroidery floss, just one stem of a flower. I would open the journal, pick up the pencil, and sketch – what did that cloud look like today?

It was less about making room and time, I realized, and more about recognizing the room and time that I already had.”

 

Enjoy your weekend, friends!
XO Jenna

What I’m Into – January 2015

As we kick off the second month of 2015 (how can it already be almost February?!?), I wanted to share a roundup sort of post touching on some of my favorite things from January. I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer, who is the host of a monthly “What I’m Into” linkup. I hope to make this a monthly feature, in which I will share what I’ve been reading, watching, listening to, and otherwise captivated by in the past month.

Things I Love:

INFJ

Personality tests! I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of personality tests and the unique and complex elements that factor into our personalities as human beings. On something of a whim, I took a personality test that my sister sent to me earlier this month, and I’ve been on a tidal wave of research ever since. I’m decidedly an INFJ on the Myers-Briggs side of things, and a 2 / Helper on the Enneagram.

{I love this post from Anne at the “Modern Mrs. Darcy” blog, with 5 reasons why it’s helpful to know your personality type.}

photo 1

WorkFlowyMy boss shared one of his WorkFlowy lists with me recently so that we could collaborate on a project, and after doing a bit of research, I set up my own account, and within a day, I was using it obsessively. It has become my mobile brain, and I absolutely love it. It has both a desktop and a mobile app version, which sync with one another automatically, and I love the fact that I can pull it up on my computer and then pop open the app on my phone and see all of my changes there as well. With an extremely simple and streamlined design, it’s hard to believe how powerful it really is. It is already saving my sanity, and I know it will continue to do so as I use it more and more effectively.

irunurun

The irunurun app. Like WorkFlowy, this is another app that you can use either in a browser or on your phone, and the account automatically syncs. I’m just getting started using it – hence my fairly pathetic score so far – but I am excited to see how it will help enhance my productivity in coming weeks. I have learned that I desperately need accountability, as I am a terrific starter but a terrible finisher when it comes to setting goals (which apparently is a typical INFJ trait!). Hopefully this app will help me to continue developing good habits in the new year.

SevenApp

The Seven app. I learned about this one while listening to the Art of Simple podcast, and it sounded so completely brilliant that I went and downloaded it immediately. I’ve only done 2 days of workouts so far, but I’m definitely feeling the burn, which tells me two things very emphatically: one, I am dreadfully out of shape, and two, I need this app! Again, the app includes lots of motivational and habit-building features, which I think will help me stay on track. And seriously, if I can’t make time for just 7 minutes a day to work out… something is wrong with my life!

 

Reading:

January is traditionally a big reading month for me. Somehow, though, I have only managed to finish one book so far this month, although I hope to finish at least one more over the weekend. That said, here are the books I’m currently reading:

  • A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
  • Is God Listening? Making Prayer a Part of Your Life by Andrew Steinmann
  • Comforts from Romans by Elyse Fitzpatrick (in conjunction with my ladies Bible study group, currently studying Romans)
  • Gilead by Marilynne RobinsonRe-Reads:
  • Scribbling in the Sand by Michael Card (a delight)
  • The War of Art by Steven Pressfield (this is my 4th year of reading Pressfield to kick off a new year)

I have also discovered and re-discovered some new favorite bloggers in the past 6-8 weeks, and I am now eagerly following Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy, Natalie at Natalie Creates, Sarah Bessey, and Sarah Selecky. I signed up for Sarah Selecky’s daily writing prompts last week, and have been thoroughly enjoying them thus far.

Watching:

GilmoreGirls

When I started to hear rumblings of Gilmore Girls coming to Netflix toward the end of 2014, I knew I would probably finally get sucked in. I had several friends in high school who adored the show, but somehow, I never saw it. I haven’t finished it yet (season 6!), but I know for certain that it will go down in history as one of my all-time favorite shows. Between Rory’s bookishness, the constant banter and sparkling wit, and the all-around delight of the tiny town of Stars Hollow and its quirky and endearing characters, I just can’t get enough. Sidenote: the rewatch value is truly epic, and I laugh harder every time I go back to an episode again. My hubby gave me the full series on DVD for Christmas, because he knows how much I love to rewatch. Good man. <3

supernatural-poster

I shared last year about my sister getting me hooked on Supernatural, and this year’s midseason cliffhanger was a DOOZY. Needless to say, I’m thrilled that it’s back – and seems to be better than ever so far.

 

Listening To: 

I recently discovered the OverDrive app, and I am absolutely delighted with it. I’m currently listening to an audiobook version of Mary Poppins and loving every minute.

I fell in love with Alex & Sierra after seeing their adorable audition on The X Factor, and I’ve enjoyed following them ever since. Their version of “Gravity” still blows me away every time:

 

What are you into lately?! Tell me about it in the comments!

Weekend Reads

Each weekend, I like to share articles or posts that I consider noteworthy during my week of reading (blogs or otherwise around the web), whether they encourage, challenge, inspire, or just flat-out make me laugh. Sometimes these are “current” links (recently written), and sometimes they’re older articles that I just happened to stumble upon in the past week. I hope you enjoy!

The Wonderful Ache of Beauty (Why We Need Art) by Jeff Goins – I always love Jeff, but every now and then, he bursts out with such penetrating insight that it makes me catch my breath. This is one of those posts.

The Spiritual Discipline of Wearing Better Pants by Emily Freeman – I’m so thankful for writers like Emily who are teaching me how to turn ordinary moments into Gospel-filled, Christ-honoring experiences.

A little Japanese word makes all the difference by Tsh Oxenreider – Goals are overwhelming, but not when seen in light of this little word. This is the only way I have found to truly accomplish goals, and I think most people would agree.

Anne‘s new living room “library” setup has to be the most beautiful, bright, and cheery bookshelves I’ve ever seen. Just looking at these pictures makes me so happy!

Photo Credit: Anne Bogel

Photo Credit: Anne Bogel

Also, her “9 novels to curl up with this winter” list? I want to read every.single.one.

Enjoy your weekend, my dears!

XO,
Jenna

Growth: My Word for 2015

For several years now, I have watched my favorite bloggers choose “their” word at the start of the new year – the one word that either summarizes their attitude toward the unfolding year, or describes something they want to work toward, or perhaps serves as a reminder of a lesson they want to make sure they don’t miss in the new year. At first, I found it slightly pretentious, but then I became more intrigued, and now I love January and seeing all the words people choose for their new year.

One word for 2015

I have never actively participated, but when I saw Bonnie Gray’s new “Beloved Brews” linkup, and her first writing prompt that asked for a post on this very topic, I decided that this will be my year to participate and join the “one word” community. I have pondered and journaled about it for the past couple years—in fact, earlier this month, I had journaled and chosen my word and reflected on it, although not necessarily planning to share it. But I create much better accountability for myself when I share things, so… here I am.

I have chosen “growth” as my one word for 2015.

In 2015, I want to challenge myself to new things that will enhance my intellectual, emotional, and spiritual growth throughout the year. I’m a natural and eager learner, so this should be fairly easy to embrace. “Growth” certainly encompasses a vast array of applications, which is part of what excites me about choosing it for the whole year, but for now I want to focus on growth in two specific areas: my writing and my personal discipline.

I have my own ideas of what that might look like, and perhaps I will discuss some details in a future post. For now, it looks a lot like setting my alarm earlier in the morning, setting multiple alarms to get myself to bed earlier, and waking up with my trusty Moleskine next to my Bible each morning. Baby steps, right?

Did you choose one word for your 2015? Tell me about it in the comments!

I’m linking up to the Beloved Brews Linkup, hosted by Faith Barista, Bonnie Gray. 

Beloved Brews Linkup

Weekend Reads

Each weekend, I like to share articles or posts that I consider noteworthy during my week of reading (blogs or otherwise around the web), whether they encourage, challenge, inspire, or just flat-out make me laugh. Sometimes these are “current” links (recently written), and sometimes they’re older articles that I just happened to stumble upon in the past week. I hope you enjoy!

Episode #77 of the Art of Simple podcast, where Tsh talks to one of my favorite bloggers and authors, Emily Freeman. My favorite part was when Emily talked about learning to pay attention to what makes us come alive – I’ve heard her talk about this many times, but something about the WAY she said it this time made me pause the podcast and then rewind, just to listen to and drink in her words again. It also tied in perfectly with another favorite blog post from this week…

Stocking the Pond” by Shauna Niequist – “The first step in writing happens way before the typing: it’s the stocking of the pond. Take notes on your phone, snap pictures, scribble on the back of receipts–notice everything. The first part of writing is noticing.” [emphasis added]

Give Me Gratitude or Give Me Debt” by Glennon Doyle Melton – The perfect antidote to my all-too-Pinterest-saturated sighs and wistfulness toward my house sometimes. I needed this reminder. Maybe you do, too?

Old Books and Old Friends

Returning to re-read a favorite book is, for me, like sitting down to have coffee with an old friend after an exhilarating but exhausting day of meeting new people. Even if I’ve met particularly delightful people – people I know will deserve more time and attention in the future, or who I sense could nurture my life or the life of someone I love – there still is nothing quite like settling back into a comfy chair and smiling at an old friend. I don’t necessarily have to be on my best behavior; I know where we stand and what to expect; the relationship we have already established gives me every confidence that we will enjoy our time together now.

This is exactly why I love to re-read favorite books. I know where I stand and what to expect, even though I always see something new on each re-read, if the book is truly worth revisiting. Of course, I do love the excitement of a brand new book – and even the uncertainty that comes with a title I have stumbled upon with no prior knowledge or recommendation. At the end of the day, though, sometimes my greatest enjoyment comes when I settle down with an old friend who can tell me that same story I’ve heard a dozen times but in such a new way that I couldn’t be more thrilled to hear it again.

Have you re-read an old favorite recently? Tell me about it in the comments!

Thoughts on Kate Morton

Kate-Morton

I’ve had Kate Morton on my to-read list for quite some time now; I’ve seen rave reviews of her work on various literary-type blogs, writers whose judgment I trust, and since I thrill with delight over a historical novel, I knew I couldn’t resist her for long. On a recent library visit, I stacked up three of her novels on my arm: The House at Riverton, The Forgotten Garden, and The Secret Keeper. When I came home that day, I sheepishly told my husband, “I might have bitten off more than I can chew this time…” Thank goodness for online library renewals!

HouseAtRiverton

I finished The House at Riverton, Morton’s debut novel, about a month ago, and honestly, I was underwhelmed. First of all, the story horribly depressing, which is not, I must clarify, an automatic deal-breaker for me. I actually appreciate (I don’t necessarily want to say “enjoy”) a sad and melancholy tale now and then, provided it also has redemptive qualities—life, after all, does not always include a Hollywood happy ending. I also tend to find depressing stories deeply emotionally compelling, and far more thought-provoking than the average “fluff” read with no lasting message. However, in addition to the depressing nature of the story, several of the characters in Riverton fell flat to me, and also, I predicted the major plot twist long before it happened, which is always unfortunate as a reader. [Incidentally, Riverton is basically Downton Abbey in novel form, so much so and with such eerie similarity that I finally Googled to see which one came first. Kate Morton did. To which I say, really, Julian Fellowes?!?]

I refrained, however, from passing full and final judgment on Kate Morton after reading Riverton, knowing that I had two more novels to try. I have slowly worked my way through The Forgotten Garden over the past several weeks, and I finally finished it yesterday, flying feverishly through the final pages and dying to know how the story would turn out. Although it still ends with a depressing finale, I felt less disturbed than I did after finishing Riverton. The characters felt more richly developed—and I certainly did not see that plot twist coming. Because the story spans multiple timelines and a rather confusing cast of characters, I found myself wishing I had started a “family tree” at the beginning, but I eventually got everyone straightened out.

Morton’s prose shines brightly in Garden, and a couple of times, I found myself taking pictures with my iPhone of a handful of delightful passages such as these (I would have highlighted had the book not belonged to the library!):

“Ever since Eliza had discovered the book of fairy tales in Mrs. Swindell’s rag and bottle shop, had disappeared inside its faded pages, she’d understood the power of stories. Their magical ability to refill the wounded part of people.”

“What a delight it was to have a place of one’s own, an entire garden in which to Be. Sometimes Eliza liked to sit on the iron seat, perfectly still, and just listen. To the windblown leaves tapping against the walls, the muffled ocean breathing in and out, and the birds singing their stories. Sometimes, if she sat still enough, she almost fancied she could hear the flowers sighing in gratitude to the sun.”

“A story idea began to flutter on the edge of Eliza’s imagination; she snatched at it, refused to let it go, held on as it grew arms, legs, and a clear destination.”

 

I thoroughly enjoyed The Forgotten Garden, in short, and I can’t wait to dive into The Secret Keeper, which I have heard described as Morton’s finest and which I have intentionally saved until last. Hopefully it will not disappoint!