What I've Been Reading

I have been on a reading kick lately and LOVE it!  I go through phases where I don't read anything (outside of the Bible, obviously) for months, even years.  Then, out of nowhere, the mood strikes and I pin 44 books to my Pinterest board and reserve them all at my local library (Praise the Lord for FREE books).

Here are three of my favorites from this year:

Author Allison Pataki blew me away with this one!  Like I've mentioned in blogs past, I get so wrapped up in the stories I read that sometimes I can't control my emotions. This book made me literally laugh out loud, cry (oh, did I cry - I'm a crier) and get so angry there were times I threatened to put it down and never pick it up again.  That though, is my struggle with historical fiction, especially the way Pataki writes - it's all based on a true story (historical details are accurate, life in between is fiction) so I often had to tell myself that this is just how life was back then and to push through. 

Anyway, this story is about Empress Sisi of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.  The story starts out when she's right about 15 years old and details her rise into Austro-Hungarian royalty, for which she is totally unprepared.  I loved this one especially because it's not just a love story, it's a story of struggle, heartache, and tenacity.  I am ANXIOUSLY awaiting the sequel to this book, Sisi, which will arrive in March 2016. 

The Mapmaker's Children weaves between two stories, one set during the time of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) and the other set in modern day Virginia.  Two women, decades apart, struggling with the same affliction: infertility.  I love Sarah (h= ew) McCoy's attention to detail as she writes about real-life UGRR map artist, Sarah Brown (the daughter of abolitionist John Brown).  Eden, Sarah's modern-day counterpart, is a complicated and lovable character who has practically moved mountains to attain her goal of conceiving a child, even to the detriment of her marriage. 

I did not pick up this book because I too struggle with infertility, I picked it up because of my fascination and love for the UGRR and everything for which it stands.  The topic of infertility is written about in a very sensitive but extremely truthful way, at no time was I offended nor did I ever feel like the subject was minimized or made light.  I was, however, delightfully surprised to see the gospel woven into Sarah Brown's story as she and her family were such strong Christians who were definitely in the minority by standing up for the rights of the enslaved. 

Not quite as well written as The Accidental Empress but still a REALLY good read.  I would definitely recommend it.  As far as the emotional rollercoaster I typically experience, this one wasn't quite as up and down as other books I've read, which was nice.  I was involved and captivated by the characters but wasn't obsessive about the life situations.  I really need to work on that.  I've gotta stop getting so wrapped up in these fictional/historical people.


And for my favorite non-fiction book of the year - Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin.  I have read multiple books about getting the most out of Scripture reading.  This one is, by far, my favorite.  Even outdoing books by John MacArthur, R.C. Sproul and other big name theologians.  Wilkin covers topics such as the metanarrative, Scripture comprehension over observation and even gives you the nuts and bolts for studying scripture in depth.  This is a book I marked up, dog-eared and highlighted from beginning to end!   If, like me, you prefer to borrow from the library over buying books, I would HIGHLY recommend you go ahead and buy this one.  Trust me.

My Top 5 Family Games for Christmas

It's no secret, I'm a gamer. A board gamer, that is.  It's a real thing, trust me.  So, today, I thought I'd share with you all some of our family favorites, in no particular order!

One of our favorite Christmas traditions is giving our son a board game and playing as a family.  Well, everyone loves it except my husband, he just tolerates them unless he wins.  Haha!

1.  Ticket to Ride USA & Europe

Ticket to Ride is strategy game where you are a railroad tycoon trying to expand your tracks to as many destinations as possible while battling other players for track space.  The rules are pretty simple, even when our boy was 10 he was able to play this game!  Set up is pretty fast too!

Settlers, as most of us call it, is a gateway game!  Once you get into it, the strategy and play of the game will hook you and you'll want to play it all the time and then run out and find other strategy games.  Basically, you're trying to get 10 points and have to gather resources in order to build settlements and cities (or even armies) that earn you victory points - watch out for the robber though!  Set up takes some time and there are a lot of rules BUT they're well written and don't take long to get through.  It's DEFINITELY worth taking the time to learn and play.  We've been playing for at least 5 years solid - seriously, since my son was 7!  Oh, and there are MANY expansion packs - it's the game that keeps on giving!

3.  Gloom

Gloom is one of my FAVORITE games of all time!  There's some strategy to it but you'll have really get pretty creative as you play.  The object of the game is to make your very unique family of 5 (cards that you lay in front of you) as miserable as possible until you finally kill them off (you want to have the most negative points at the end).  In order to do this you have disastrous action cards (which have negative points) that are in your hands that you have to weave into a story about your family.  The best part, you can "bless" your opponents by adding to their story with positive cards, making their score go up!  So. Much. Fun.  Especially if you have dorks like me who speak before they think and suddenly you have an underwater train running from Iceland to Germany.  This one is best for the older kids or just with friends!

4.  Munchkin

Munchkin can get pretty complicated - especially if you mistakenly put curses on yourself and not the other players.  This is definitely a strategy game with some major quirks as you battle monsters and climb your way through the dungeon to get to the treasure at the end.  Oh, and don't forget, you have to take out your friends on the way!  This is a tongue in cheek nod to Dungeons and Dragons, from what I've heard.  I don't play D&D so I'm can't confirm it.

5.  Pandemic

Pandemic is one of the most unique games I've ever played because you don't actually compete against other players, instead you cooperate with one another in order to save the world from disease!  I've played DOZENS of times and have only won this game twice!  The rules can be a little complicated at first but it doesn't take long before you've gotten the hang of it.  This one is VERY addictive!

Bonus:  Skip-Bo
This is an oldie but a goodie.  Believe it or not, I was just introduced to this game a few weeks ago and have LOVED it ever since!  Pick it up and play it but let me warn you - YOU WILL get addicted to it!!

There are many, many more games I'd like to share about here so come back often and look for my board game reviews! 

Slowly but Surely

I sat down to study Scripture tonight.

It may not sound like a monumental accomplishment except when you learn that this is an area in which I have struggled greatly in my faith ever since I was put on (and eventually taken off of) a medication that basically wrecked my brain for years.

The Lord has been so patient with me!  Especially as I have sleepwalked through Scripture reading, yawned through Bible study, and pretty much blown off every urging of the Holy Spirit to dig into the Word of God.

Looking back, I can almost see how the Lord has brought me to this point.

First, He gave us a new church and we didn't even have to leave our old one.  Confused?  I don't blame you.  It was a weird situation but, just as He promised, He worked it all out for the good of those of us who love Him.  Essentially, my old church was spiritually dead and probably only months away from having to close it's doors; only to be plucked out of its demise, renewed and reborn as a brand new church, planted by a larger church in our area.

God's grace is so tangible for me in this situation because He gave me literally everything I was hoping for in a church:  Gospel focused, passionate about missions and evangelism, a community not afraid of accountability, expository preaching....  I could go on and on.  Now, don't go thinking I'm worshiping my church.  Just as with every church out there, it's manned by sinful humans.  The difference that I'm noticing between this church and my old one is that the members are seeking to obey and glorify God.

Second, through this new church, He has reawakened my love for theology.  Before that terrible medication, I had much more knowledge of God than I do now.  I could hold deep, in-depth conversations about the Word and even hold my own in debates.  Sometimes, not all of them.  I'm too much of a goofball to be serious for a very long time.

Finally, I have brothers and sisters who spur me on and challenge me like I've never been challenged before.  Currently, for example, they are challenging me on my love of entertainment.  At the base of it, entertainment isn't necessarily a bad thing BUT they are calling me to examine how much I abide in it in my spare time.  What am I watching/listening to?  Would I allow my son, my husband or even myself to do or say the things my favorite shows do and say in my home on a daily basis?  How much time do I spend entertaining myself in comparison to my time in the Word/prayer?

Basically, the Lord is shifting my priorities, slowly but surely.  Does this mean I don't enjoy a good sitcom?  No!  What it does mean is that I am becoming more aware of how I spend my time and whether or not it glorifies Him.

Tonight, as I struggle to stay awake - playing human alarm clock for my hubby who has to go to work at midnight - I sat down to really study the book of 1 John.  I started at 9:30pm and 30 minutes later it was already 11!  Ok, ok, it only felt like 30 minutes; I had no idea an hour and a half had passed by!

Now that it's almost time for my sweet husband to arise and head off to work, I am praising the Lord that He has not stopped moving in my life!