Friday, December 31, 2021

Sisters' December Reading Challenge

The last month of the year was a great reading month. I love the coziness of a reading a book during the dark nights of December. With busier schedules this month, a quiet hour to read was even more cherished.

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December Reading Challenge

1. Read a Christmas book.

Charity- Hallelujah by Cindy Rollins

Handel’s Messiah is always a wonderful addition to the month of December. In this advent book Rollins breaks down this beautiful song into a 25-day listening schedule and Scripture readings. Each day Mom and I enjoying a few minutes of beautiful singing. Over and over we were amazed as we listened and read the words that Handel set to music. Rollins also included guest writers who share their Christmas traditions and explain Handel’s remarkable piece. We are already talking about how we are going to read it again next year! 

Gina- Home for Christmas - numerous authors

This was a heart-warming collection of Christmas stories. Though some of them were possibly doctrinally unsound, such as rewrites of the Christmas story with shepherds and wisemen arriving at the stable at the same time, I can overlook such things. A few were true stories, many were classics, but most I had never read. Short stories are perfect for a busy schedule.

2. Read a book on doctrine/spiritual growth/self-help.

Charity-Unseen: The Gift of Being Hidden in a World that Loves to Be Noticed by Sara Hagerty

Being unseen and unnoticed is hard. We want to do something worthy of notice, to change lives, visibly serving God. But what if God wants us to hide in Him? To know Him personally without the crutch of “doing” something great? Hagerty explores the concept of being hidden and unseen by telling her experience of learning to know God more fully. I didn’t finish reading this book yet, but I’ve been challenged and can’t wait to see what the rest of the book will teach me. 

Gina - Adorned: Living Out the Beauty of the Gospel Together by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy examines the verses in Titus 2 and the role of an older woman to teach the younger to "adorn the doctrine of God our Saviour in all things." (Titus 2:10) While this book didn't reveal lots of new truth to me, I need reminded of the strength we have to encourage each other in the faith.

3. Reread a favorite book.

Charity-Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

I stepped back into a childhood favorite this month, and it was pure delight! I am a firm believer in rereading books because the way you view life is always changing. Little Women held so much meaning as I read it again in my twenties. It is the story of four sisters living with their mother while their father is away fighting in the Civil War. They are trying to decide what really matters in life and overcome their valleys and weaknesses. It is a story of growing up and learning that their castles in the air won’t always come true, and yet maybe there is something much better in store for them.

Gina- A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser

I read this book quite a few years ago after my brother-in-law died. I've known I should reread it and this seemed like a good time. Jerry lost his mother, wife, and daughter in a car accident. He wrote this book three years after the accident. I felt like he understood where I am in the grief journey. I like that he is willing to answer the hard questions of where is God in our pain. He also acknowledges all pain, not just death, but other losses such as unemployment, infertility, and abandonment. I underlined lots in this book and highly recommend it as the best book I've read on grief. 

4. Write a list of favorite books you read this year and share your list with a friend.


Gina- Here is my list. And I'm sharing it with you, my friend. My ten favorite books this year lean heavily toward books on grief, and only one is fiction. Not sure what that says about my year, but looking through this list reminds me of how richly I was blessed by words on a page this year.

5. Read a book while listening to Christmas music.

Charity -

Christmas music is often playing in the background after Thanksgiving. This month often found me enjoying the cozy mood of Christmas songs while snuggling up with a good book! Also mom and I would often be found listening to Handel’s Messiah with our advent book in hand so that we could follow along.

Gina- Christmas music is played on repeat at our house so it was the backdrop to lots of reading this month.

Both of us enjoyed the reading challenges this past year. I read more books this year than usual and  severely cut back my screen time. It was fun to have a little push to read the books that have been collecting on my shelves. 

We will be taking a break from the Sisters' Reading Challenge for the next two months to take part in the Brighter Winter Reading Challenge. But we will be back in March with a new version of the Sisters' Reading Challenge. 

If you want to make sure you never miss a blog post, you can sign up to receive the blog posts by email. Some of you have said that you used to get the emails and now don't. I know that some of the email addresses were lost when I switched to a new email service last summer. So feel free to sign up again. You can find the signup form on the right column of the blog.

(The literary scarf I'm wearing in these photos was a gift from my children and can be found at Storiart. I'll let you guess what book they chose!)

Happy New Year! We look forward to reading with you in 2022!

Saturday, December 25, 2021

From our house to yours


I'm reading in Isaiah now, the perfect place to be reading over the Christmas season. In the midst of all the chapters of doom and destruction, we find words of hope. Never easy words of "it will be okay," but words that point to Jesus. 

"There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse..." (Is. 11:1) 

"Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid..." (Is 12:2) 

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee..." (Is 26:3)

Today, on Christmas, may you know the peace that only Jesus gives. 

"My people shall dwell in a peaceable habitation, and in sure dwellings, and in quiet resting places." (Is 32:18)

Thursday, December 16, 2021


I've heard that Christmas is a hard time for many people. One study found that 38% of those surveyed said their stress increases in December. Others find the longer hours of darkness to negatively affect their emotional health. 

There are many reasons for depression, but I used to assume that those hardest hit are the ones with no family and friends, like the man we caroled to this week who sat in a dark trailer and said no one visits him. My heart breaks for him, and the many others, who sit alone night after night.

I wonder if it is the contrast that is most painful. The contrast of what you had and now don't. The contrast between what you want and what you've been given. The contrast between reality and desire. The more jolly and merry in the world around us - even if it is fake, the more stark our own life can appear.

Our December has been rich, and full, and beautiful. I love the gatherings, the food, the people. We've attended numerous music events: church caroling, Christmas singings, concerts, and community events. Each one fills me with deep joy. 

But the joy contrasts to loss. Just as a splotch of mud stands out starkly on a bride's white dress, so grief at Christmas feel highlighted with neon lights. 

Twenty years ago Ed proposed on Christmas Eve. Though he is gone, the hole he leaves is too big to be forgotten by filling the social calendar and singing "Joy to the World." Memories run too deep. I'm surrounded with tangible reminders. I pull a book off the shelf and find his name inscribed. I rummage for a piece of scrap paper and find a list of points in Ed's handwriting for a game he was playing with the children three years ago. The children flip through photos and videos on my phone (which was once Ed's), and I hear his voice singing Christmas carols. 

I don't want to lose memories. But the beauty of memories carry a gut punch. 

I recently reread A Grace Disguised by Jerry Sittser. He compares catastrophic loss to an amputation. 

"We can recover from broken limbs, not amputation. Catastrophic loss by definition precludes recovery. It will transform us or destroy us, but it will never leave us the same. There is no going back to the past, which is gone forever, only going ahead to the future, which has yet to be discovered. Whatever that future is, it will, and must, include the pain of the past with it. Sorrow never entirely leaves the soul of those who have suffered a severe loss. If anything, it may keep going deeper." (Please go read the whole book because I can't copy down everything I underlined.)

Somehow that has been comforting. Maybe it is a sign of health that the deeper the joy, the greater the contrast to the deep sorrow. Sweet contrasts with bitter. Light to darkness. The heartbreak of the cross to the glory of the resurrection. The valley of the shadow of death to the gates of heaven.

I don't know how to hold both joy and sorrow in my heart at the same time, but I'm not given an option. I know many of you are walking through similar contrasts. May we not deny the pain or decline the joy, but embrace both. It sounds cliché, but this is why Jesus came. To walk into our sorrow and give us eternal hope.

"And ye, beneath life's crushing load, 
Whose forms are bending low,
Who toil along the climbing way
With painful steps and slow,
Look now! for glad and golden hours
Come swiftly on the wing:
O rest beside the weary road, 
And hear the angels sing." 
(3rd verse of It Came Upon the Midnight Clear)

I'm including a video of a song by Aspire Chamber Choir that I loved this month. (If reading by email you may need to click over to the website for the video.) You can also enjoy Aspire's entire Christmas concert.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Sisters' December Reading Challenge

We are nearly to the end of the year. Charity and I have loved doing this reading challenge and both feel like our reading life has grown in 2021. 

This post contains affiliate links.

December Reading Challenge

1. Read a Christmas book.

I love the coziness of a good Christmas story. There are also Advent books available.

For example: 

Shepherds Abiding by Jan Karon

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson

Skipping Christmas by John Grisham

I wrote several posts about Christmas books, including adult books and children's chapter books.

2. Read a book on doctrine/spiritual growth/self-help.

Do you have an area in your life that you'd like to improve in the coming year? Here is a chance to learn more about a specific topic.

For example: 

12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You by Tony Reinke

Atomic Habits by James Clear

The Gospel Comes with a House Key by Rosaria Butterfield

3. Reread a favorite book.

Sometimes I feel like there are so many unread books that I can't let myself reread books. But I also know that on the second read, I often get more from the book than the first time. Here is an excuse to reread a favorite book - either for fun or for learning.

4. Write a list of favorite books you read this year and share your list with a friend.

5. Read a book while listening to Christmas music.


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