Idol Lies by Dee Brestin explores the idea of "idols" -- things we allow (knowingly or unknowingly) to become more important than God in our lives. This book is aimed at women and the specific idols that plague women. Excellent for a women's group or personal study.
Martha's Vineyard - Isle of Dreams by Susan Branch was a book I couldn't wait for the day it arrived in my mailbox! I love this illustrated memoir of Susan's new life on Martha's Vineyard and how she developed her art and published her first book.
The Envy of Eve: Finding Contentment in a Covetous World by Melissa Kruger is "the" book on envy/jealousy that I would recommend. This book is powerful, convicting, and practical. Even if you think you don't struggle in this area you will be amazed at how many common daily situations actually involve envy.
Delicious!: A Novel by Ruth Reichl was such a fun, fast-paced, foodie read! And it's set in New York City which is another bonus.
Letters to My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife by Barbara Rainey is now my highest recommended book on marriage for women. Rainey lovingly shares truth and how it applies to living in unity with your husband in the midst of real life. She uses analogies from various art forms (photography, cooking, painting) to help explain the principles she is communicating.
Life in a Jar: The Irena Sendler Project by Jack Mayer tells the recently discovered story of Irena Sendler and her work in the Polish Resistance during World War II, rescuing hundreds of Jewish children from the Warsaw Ghetto. The story felt like finding a buried treasure of history and gave me much food for thought about the effects of war, the great sacrifice of the resistance workers, and the long-term consequences of war across generations. It seems books about Irena are popping up all over -- her life is worth learning about.
Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lisa TerKeurst surely must be one of the most popular Christian books published last year -- and with good reason! TerKeurst delves into the topic of loneliness, rejection, and hurt and the healing that Christ can bring to our hearts. TerKeursts' writing is clear and invites deep connection.
Boys without Names by Kashmira Sheth was one of our homeschool read alouds. Set in modern India this book tells the story of a group of boys stolen from their families to become slave labor, making decorated frames to be sold by their master. The story is riveting and we all became very attached the characters as they worked to survive an extremely abusive situation. This book touched me very deeply. It is a good book to help both adults and children become more aware of the realities of child and slave labor throughout the world.
The Broken Way: A Daring Path into the Abundant Life by Ann Voskamp is an excellent book that talks about brokenness and suffering and how God can take what feels so messed up and use it for His glory. If you think you don't like Ann's writing style you might consider trying her again as this book shows how her writing style has matured.
Life Creative: Inspiration for Today's Renaissance Mom by Wendy Speake and Kelli Stuart was such an encouraging book! This book is all about moms who long to be creative but feel the practical demands of parenthood on their shoulders. Speake and Stuart have lots of practical advice on how to still grow creatively and use your talents in the midst of motherhood -- sometimes in ways you wouldn't imagine.
And while we are on the subject of stories and books, I thought I'd mention my brother-in-law's podcast Based on a True Story. Dan takes movies that are based on real-life stories and tells us what is true, what is stretching the truth, and what is purely added by the film-makers. It's just the kind of information I am curious to know after watching a movie.
It was a special treat to be given the opportunity to travel the first weekend of January -- all the way to Arizona to visit a friend of mine who lives in Scotland but was back to visit family. Even from the air I could already see major differences between Indiana and Arizona!
And before we even left the confines of the airport I had a thousand questions for my friend about the flora and fauna of this region. It is all so very different!
First order of business was brunch with Karen and her sister, Janice. It's only taken me 15 years to meet Janice, having met all the other members of the family previously.
Here we are enjoying the sunshine and warmth of Phoenix in January, not to mention the joys of friendship!
It took me a few minutes to get over the idea of FAKE GRASS! What?!
More nature lessons awaited in Karen's mom's backyard where I found an ancient olive tree!
And this amazing, nearly leaf-less tree that survives by having green trunks and branches rather than big leaves.
Citrus was growing everywhere!!!! I kind of went a little batty about it until finally Karen's mom, Dawn, said surely we could pick one or two if they were hanging over the fence into the alley. It was so delicious (and I kept thinking, "stolen water is sweet.....).
And bougainvillea -- a flashback to Africa. I love it so much!!!
Later that day Karen and I headed north to Sedona where her family has a house. The next day we went exploring and couldn't believe how high the water was.
I tried to take in all the different scenery -- red rock, scrubby trees, dry grass, blue sky, and broken down Conestoga wagons all around.
And gorgeous sycamore trees!!!!
Here's a view of the "ranch" where we spent the weekend.
Isn't the caboose fun!??!
Friday afternoon we drove into Sedona, admiring all the rock formations.
And wandering around all the tourist shops.....
I can understand why people love the West so much:
Mostly we spent our time sitting in front of this fire, talking and reading books:
Lots and lots of books! YAY!!!
Saturday afternoon we wandered next door to this delightful place:
The lady in the welcome center kindly invited us to have some hot cider:
I just wanted to plant myself in this room for the afternoon:
Enjoying our hot cider!!!
Christmas decorations were still up!
A new plant!
And then we came upon a random barn of sheep! WHAT? This seemed to belong back in Scotland not here in Sedona. Turns out the sheep help manicure all the lovely greenery.
By Sunday Karen's cold had taken many turns for the worse and going to church was out of the question. We listened to a sermon together, made a huge pot of chicken soup, and spent more hours by the fire. Mid-afternoon I decided to take a little walk. The water level had gone down significantly:
The weather was warming up (60 degrees) and the rocks were looking lovely:
I walked up a quiet hill road:
Thinking about all the books I've read set in the west....
And the woods was completely covered in blackberry bushes!!!! I couldn't believe my eyes, except Karen had told me as a child her mom would bring their family up to Sedona just to pick blackberries!
It was so nice outside I decided to sit and watch the birds and read my book in the gazebo.
We lit upon the terrific idea of baking potatoes in the fireplace. Twice as tasty!
And we made sure to cook delicious, nutritious food!
Our favorite was the chicken soup, which we consumed for three meals straight:
Monday we headed south to Phoenix, taking one last look at the Sedona landscape:
It was fun for me to observe the desert as we traveled south:
Especially all the saguaro cacti!
Dawn took us to lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant!
It was SO delicious! Wouldn't mind having this again right now!
And then it was time for us both to head to the airport -- one of us to Indianapolis and the other all the way to Scotland.