How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Top Fifteen Books of 2016

The year will be ending soon, so it’s time for me to safely tally up the fifteen most impacting books I’ve read in 2016! I love making this list, though, as usual, it was rather difficult to narrow down and rank the best ones. Please comment and let me know if you’ve read any of these books and what you think of them, or if any of them pique your interest. Also, which books in the vast array of literature were your favorite reads of 2016?
The Joy of Less
Francine Jay
Although this book itself was not heavily influential on me, it encapsulated what I’ve been learning this year about minimalism and how less is more where it comes to possessions. Francine Jay, “Miss Minimalist,” was able to make me think very positively of this concept . . . and when you’re a packrat, the first step is to change your thinking.
Captain Blood
Rafael Sabatini
This swashbuckling adventure was a lot of fun! It’s the favorite book of my character Marion in my upcoming novel, Suit and Suitability. Besides that, I, like Marion, found depth in the honor and courage portrayed by Captain Peter Blood as he faced his hardships.
Coffee With Cooper
Daniel Lee Cooper III
This is a book I proofread, actually. It’s the story of an inspiring journey taken by the author to connect with strangers across North America. Having survived a battle with cancer, Cooper wants to spread hope among people going through life struggles. It’s a fun, honest, thought-provoking look at our problems and how we can cope and move forward.
In His Steps
Charles Sheldon
This Christian classic sparked a movement in the late nineteenth century, prompting Christians to ask, “What would Jesus do?” and follow the honest response. Its timeless message encouraged me to look at my life and how I should act out the answer to that question.

Before Jane Austen
Harrison R. Steeves
This wasn’t just a book of literary criticism; it was a history that gave me a sweeping view of the eighteenth century through its literature. I knew hardly anything about English literature before Jane Austen, besides the most famous classics, and this book enlightened me on many different levels—including why Jane Austen is such a landmark.
Jane Austen
I delighted in rereading one of my favorite novels of all time. The familiarity was comforting, the characters and humor were always fresh, and the new insights enriched my appreciation for Austen’s talent.
Anne of Green Gables
L. M. Montgomery
Another reread this year, I opened this beloved novel when I found out I was going to Prince Edward Island. I loved it just as much, delighting in its beauty and character, savoring the story I know so well, and being surprised by the situations I had forgotten. Above all it prepped me for PEI!
Grey Is the Color of Hope
Irina Ratuskinskaya
This haunting memoir was difficult to read at times, but it taught an important lesson I had never encountered before: how not to give in to your tormentors and suppressors. How to remain strong and look down on them as the misguided wrongdoers that they are. How to emerge from captivity with your spirit unbroken.
Elizabeth Gaskell
I read this lovely story partially when I was sick (the only time I was sick this year, thank God), and it was one of the most comforting books I could read. With its cozy storyline and cast of sweet and amusing characters and its rich portrait of Victorian village life, it wrapped me in its arms. Miss Matty is delightful and I was of course reminded of the A&E miniseries I love so much.
Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat
L. M. Montgomery
Although I prefer Anne over Pat of Montgomery’s heroines, it was my first time reading these books, so they impacted me more this year. And the last portion of Mistress Pat affected me like few fiction does (i.e., had me sobbing because its resolution touched me right where I was raw at the time). I read these books on my way to and from Prince Edward Island.
Crazy Love
Francis Chan
This best-selling book about God’s love and how it should inspire us to live had me both convicted and encouraged. It was a faith-strengthening book that I needed when I read it.
The Bird in the Tree and Pilgrim’s Inn
Elizabeth Goudge
Again, these novels hit me right when and where I needed them. I’m excited to read the third book of their trilogy. Goudge’s beautiful prose sinks into my soul and reminds me of what is beautiful in this world, both in nature and spirit. The characters go through situations that challenge them to die to themselves and to choose the path of real love.
Green Dolphin Country
Elizabeth Goudge
Wow. This was one of the hardest-hitting novels I’ve ever read. The characters, like in all Goudge novels, are extremely well drawn, and their lives take on epic proportions when some of them emigrate from the Channel Islands to New Zealand. All of them had much to learn about God, life, and love. I’ll never forget Marianne, Marguerite, and William and what their lives taught me.
Pursuing Justice
Ken Wytsma
This book almost made number one. In some ways, it should be in that position. It forever changed my view of how Christians should live; it made me ponder our mission to the world and realize things need to change . . . starting in my own life. It’s a true wakeup call to serve.
Sparkling Gems
Richard Renner
I’d say at least 100 of these daily devotionals touched me on the exact day I was experiencing whatever they addressed. It answered many questions and soothed many issues I was going through, pointing me to the greatest and deepest source of all, God’s Word, and pressing me to take my cares to Him.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Another Year Gone By . . .


Happy December, everyone! I don’t know about you, but this month always makes me nostalgic yet anxious and excited. My years are usually filled with highlights to remember fondly. Even the sting of unhappy things has dulled, and I’m left with a deeper knowledge of God’s unfailing strength and presence. The next year always holds new and invigorating possibilities, though I still feel a sober sense of caution about the state of the world and what new challenges we’ll face. Yet most of all, I’m grateful to have the assurance of the Lord’s faithfulness at every turn!

I’d like to share my highlights of 2016:

- My nephew’s birth in February. The birth of a healthy baby into your family is one of the most joyous gifts God gives.

- A dear friend’s wedding in May. I was blessed and honored to be in her bridal party. It was such a touching and fun occasion.

- Meeting three fantastic long-distance friends in person for the first time this summer. We had such sweet times together.

- Camp Yeshua in July. Even though it’s wonderful every year (I’ve been going since 2006), this time was especially so because I led a tribe (small group) with my dear friend.

- Volunteering at a music day camp in August. I love working with kids.

- Prince Edward Island, Canada, in September. Not only was this trip a dream come true, it was made even better with three incredible friends.

- Visiting my 98-year-old grandmother and other relatives in September. 

- The Feast of Tabernacles in October. Amazing, godly people, powerful worship, many spiritual life lessons, and great fun with the children’s program. 

- Taking introductory sword-fighting lessons in October and November. It was fun and stimulating. 

- Getting my proofreading/copyediting business underway. 

- Completing my novel Suit and Suitability. Next year looks on point for publication. I’ve had so many joys and frustrations with this thing . . . but that will be a story for other posts!

Thank you to all my family and friends who made 2016 one of the best years yet! I thank God for you!

So! What were your 2016 highlights? Was your year steady, or full of changes and surprises? Was it difficult or happy?