January 27, 2013

think! (philippians 4:8)

When I transferred to Grace twelve years ago (how is that even possible?), the theme verse for the year was Philippians 4:8. "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things" (ESV). Honestly, there are many times when I've tried not to think of this verse ... because it can be horribly convicting.

I woke up this morning with a yearning to reconnect with the Lord. In the chaos of speech season (which consumes nearly every evening and seven Saturdays in a row), work, and book reviewing, I haven't taken much time at all to read the Bible, pray, or spend time with God. And it's showing in my life. It shows in my attitude, in my thoughts, and in what I choose to do in my free time.

So I didn't go to church this morning. Instead, I made some coffee, pulled out my prayer journal, and opened my Bible. I went to Romans (my favorite book) and started reading. Romans 2:16 gave me pause: "And this is the message I proclaim—that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life" (NLT). I know that I am forgiven and will not face eternal judgement ... but this verse served to remind me that God knows everything I do, say, and think—even the things that I would be horribly ashamed of if they came to light. And that's what caused me to remember the "think" verse.

My biggest area of weakness is media—books, movies, and TV shows. Recently, there have been several things I've watched and read that I know wouldn't pass through the Philippians 4:8 filter; it's not even debatable. So I've set up some guidelines for myself that I will only be able to stick to with the Lord's help. It will be difficult. But in the light of eternity, does it really matter if I know what happens on Scandal?

I've also asked someone I trust if she will help me be accountable about my media consumption and encourage me to spend time with God. It's far too easy for me to rationalize things when I know no one else needs to know about it.

So that's what I've been thinking about today. I'm so thankful that God never gives up on me!

January 5, 2013

best books of 2012: top 10

Last year (okay, it was really last February), I picked my favorite books of 2011 in several genres. These were books that I read in 2011, but they weren't necessarily published in 2011. This year, rather than pick my favorite books of 2012 in particular genres, I've assembled a Top 10 list. Some of these books are in the same genre, because—let's be honest—nearly everything I read is a historical or contemporary romance. These books didn't all earn 5-star reviews—but they are the 10 books that, at the end of the year, I remembered most fondly. I nearly decided to skip ranking the books and merely list 10 of my favorites, but that would be the easy way out. So here they are, my 10 favorite books of 2012.

10. Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska by Tricia Goyer & Ocieanna Fleiss (my review)

This is one of the last books I read in 2012, and it was definitely one of the best! I love how the two stories—one from the present and one from the past—are intertwined. Plus, both romances are really heartwarming. Definitely a winner!

9. Beyond Molasses Creek by Nicole Seitz (my review)

I read Beyond Molasses Creek on a train, in an airport, and on a plane. When I finished, I just had to sit there and absorb it—it was that good. It's definitely not fluff (though you know I enjoy the fluff, too!)—it's a novel to be savored.
8. Dreamspell by Tamara Leigh (my review)

It's a time travel story with humor and an excellent romance, capped off by a touching epilogue. Do I need to say more?

7. The Maid of Fairbourne Hall by Julie Klassen (my review)

I stayed up far too late reading this book about an heiress who goes undercover as a maid. Though it's set a full century before Downton Abbey, if you're a Downton fan, you'll enjoy this book.

6. The Choice by Robert Whitlow (my review)

This is absolutely the best pro-life book I have ever read. Here's part of my review: "This book shows the abortion debate in a different light as it goes beyond the choice itself and shows the aftermath of the decision. While I have always considered myself pro-life, The Choice helped me see past the politicized pro-life/pro-choice debate and consider the women who face the pain of unplanned pregnancy while also strengthening my belief in the importance of choosing life."

You need to read this book!

5. Dark Star: Confessions of a Rock Idol by Creston Mapes (my review)

Honestly, I didn't expect to enjoy Dark Star very much ... so I never would have guessed it would end up on my Top 10 list!

From my review: "Rarely do I read a book that captivates me as much as Dark Star did. I felt like I was really reading a rock star's autobiography—it was like an E! True Hollywood Story in book form. I literally could not stop reading—I had to know what would happen next!"

4. With Every Letter by Sarah Sundin (my review)

With Every Letter is a wonderful World War II romance that takes its cue from The Shop Around the Corner (the precursor to You've Got Mail). Sarah Sundin is one of my favorite historical fiction writers because of the wonderful characters she creates. Her books are can't miss for historical fiction lovers!

3. The Stars Shine Bright by Sibella Giorello (my review)

Giorello's Raleigh Harmon series is my favorite in-progress series. Raleigh is an FBI agent, and each book details one of her cases ... as well as her relationship (which can't really be described as a romance—yet!) with fellow agent Jack Stephanson. The Stars Shine Bright is my favorite Raleigh book to date, and I eagerly await the next installment.

2. Angel Eyes by Shannon Dittemore (my review)

Angel Eyes was my favorite book of the year in two categories: Young Adult (YA) fiction and sci-fi/fantasy. This is a fabulous book that is at turns witty, thought provoking, intense, and sweet. I can't wait to read the sequel, which releases next month!

1. My Stubborn Heart by Becky Wade (my review)
I read My Stubborn Heart at the end of April. After that, every time someone asked me for book recommendations, this was at the top of the list. This is a fantastic book with wonderful characters, and it has a great message about following God instead of your heart.

If you pick just one book from this list to read, read My Stubborn Heart. Not only is it my favorite book of 2012, but it would easily make my list of the Top 10 books I've ever read!

Have you read any of the books on this list? What did you think of them?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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