2016 Favorites

I know we’re already 11 days into the year, so it might be a little late to still be talking about 2016, but I’ve kind of been getting a slow start to this year. In fact, I really haven’t given much thought to my goals for the year yet…this blog is called Grace to Grow, right? So I’m giving myself to grow into 2017 slowly. There’s nothing magical about January 1st! So in the meantime, I thought I would share some of my favorite things from last year.

TV Shows: When Calls the Heart, Designated Survivor, and Fixer Upper // Last winter I started watching When Calls the Heart, and I loved it! Something about the sweet community and the simpler times made it the perfect show to watch while working on an embroidery project. This fall, we also started watching Designated Survivor, and it’s been really good! It’s a really intriguing concept, and fascinating to think about how a situation like that might really play out. It’s a good inside look into life as the President, too. And then, of course, everyone’s favorite: Fixer Upper! It’s been popular for a while, but I didn’t start watching it until the newest season started in November. My sister and I watched quite a few episodes while she was home for Christmas break, and now we’re hooked 😉

New (to me) Authors: Sibella Giorello and Sarah Sundin  // I couldn’t pick just one favorite author I found last year! They have really different writing styles and they write in really different genres, but I really love their books 🙂 Sibella Giorello writes the Raleigh Harmon mystery series about a really smart, capable, FBI agent who works on some really tough cases. Sarah Sundin writes WWII romance, and her most recent series has a little bit of mystery too! I’ve either read or ordered every book by both of these authors, and I can’t wait for their next books!

Kindle Unlimited Author: Jenn Faulk // I read a few of Jenn Faulk’s books during my free trial of Kindle Unlimited, and I was really excited when my parents gave me a year’s subscription for Christmas! I’ve already read 15 of her books since Christmas 🙂

New Series: Montana Rescue by Susan May Warren // My favorite new series that started in 2016 is definitely the Montana Rescue series by Susan May Warren, including the Montana Fire prequel series that came out in the summer. I can’t wait for the next three books in the series to come out this year, starting with a new one at the end of this month!

New Book: The Magnolia Story // I read so much last year, I’m really having to stretch to come up with different categories for all my favorite books 🙂 So my favorite new stand-alone book from 2016 is The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines! I read it right after I started watching their show, Fixer Upper, and I loved getting to hear about how they met, how they got their business going, and how they’ve overcome the challenges they’ve faced. Now when I watch the show I feel like I know them a little bit better!

Podcast: The Boundless Show // I never really listened to podcasts before 2016, but now I have several that I really like! My favorite, though, would have to be the Boundless Show by Focus on the Family. It’s geared toward single adults, especially young adults, and I love the variety of topics they cover.

Blog: Phylicia Delta // Phylicia’s blog is one of my all-time favorites, and I always read every one of her posts. I especially enjoyed her productivity series in December, and I love that she does live videos on Facebook to go along with a lot of her posts!

Blog Post: I haven’t written a whole lot of blog posts, since I just started blogging in September, but I think this post was one of my favorites to write. I love reliving the vacation my family took to Alaska! That was the best vacation we’ve been on, and we all have so many fun memories.

Instagram Photo: I love this photo I posted last April! It really shows how crazy our weather can be in the spring 😉 Plus, it turns out that this is one of the most recent pictures we have of our dog, who had to be put down in October.

Well, now that I’ve relived some favorite moments from 2016, it’s time to get started on planning for 2017!

What were some of your 2016 favorites?

2016: Year in Review

We’re in the final days of 2016, and honestly, I’m glad it’s almost over. This has not been one of my favorite years, mostly because of my job situation and struggling with finding a purpose and some semblance of a career. That struggle is definitely not over, but I’m hoping it gets better in 2017! It’s been kind of a rough year for our country too, with terrorist attacks, natural disasters, and of course our recent contentious election. But there have been some really good things about this year too, and that’s what I want to focus on today! So here’s what went down in 2016.

January: I don’t remember too much about January, honestly! But I do remember one fun day I had with my grandmother, when we went to New Hampshire to see Ted Cruz speak. We left early in the morning, stopped for coffee on the way, and got to go out to lunch after. It turned out to be a really fun day!

February: In February, I got to spend a few days house- and dog-sitting for my grandparents while they were traveling. It was fun to get a little taste of living on my own! Then, my parents and I were able to spend a weekend visiting my sister at college.

March: March was a busy month! We had our presidential caucus, which I volunteered at, right at the beginning of my sister’s spring break. Then I had my wisdom teeth out a few days later. That wasn’t exactly fun, but I’m glad my sister was home! I’m pretty sure March was also the month I bought my blog domain and hosting, but I didn’t start writing for a while.

April: A lot of fun things happened in April! Near the beginning of the month, I made my first solo road trip down to visit my sister for her birthday (and a Newsboys concert!). Then at the end of the month, I was elected to be a delegate to the Republican National Convention in July.

May: In May, I started my job as part-time secretary at the Christian school I graduated from. My sister came home from college for the summer, and a week or so later, we had family come in from all over the country for my grandfather’s 80th birthday party.

June: Nothing really big or exciting happened in June; it was more of fun memories of spending time with my sister. We went to the beach, went to Panera a few times for lattes and scones, went to Bible study, went shopping, did errands…plus, school got out, so I was able to switch to working half days!

July: This was the month when I did the biggest, craziest thing I’ve probably ever done! My mom, sister, and I drove to Cleveland with one of my mom’s friend for the RNC. I was a delegate, my mom and her friend were alternates, and my sister was along for the ride ? It was quite an experience, and definitely an honor to represent my state. I’m so glad we could go, and even though my dad had to stay home and work, it was a fun family road trip with the added bonus of our friend! Another fun event was the wedding I got to take pictures of with my sister. That was my first time as her second shooter!

August: The Rio Olympics were this month! It’s always fun to watch our athletes (and see the USA blow every other country out of the water!), and I especially loved watching the women’s gymnastics. I wish I could be friends with those girls! We also spent this month trying to do fun things before my sister had to go back to college, like getting up super early to drive to the beach and see the sunrise. Then my mom and I drove my sister back to school and got her settled in at the end of the month.

September: I tried my hand selling something at our small town fair! We’ve talked about it for years, and this year we finally decided to sell iced coffee. My family helped a lot; we just wished my sister could have been there! She did come home a couple of weeks later for my birthday, and we had a great weekend going to a for KING & COUNTRY concert and going to a high school football game for the first time! This was also the month I really started blogging, at least semi-regularly ?

October: In October, I got to drive down and visit my sister for her fall break! It was just a 3-day weekend, but we got to do a lot of fun things because she didn’t have classes, work, or much homework. Plus, almost everyone had gone home for the break, so we pretty much had the place to ourselves!

November: The first fun thing about November was that a Chick-fil-A finally opened in my home state! It’s an hour and a half away, but we did get to make the trip the first weekend it was open, and it seemed like everyone in the state had the same idea. I also started my second job as a grocery store cashier, to add to my school secretary income. Then, of course, we celebrated Thanksgiving and started getting ready for Christmas.

December: December was a busy but fun month, getting ready for Christmas! At the beginning of the month, my mom and I spent a couple of weekends helping with the Christmas Spectacular at our church. My sister came home around the middle of the month, and I had a couple of weeks off from my job at the school. We had a great Christmas, going to church on Christmas Eve and Christmas morning, then celebrating with my dad’s family that afternoon.

And now here we are! It’s been a year of highs and lows for sure. I love taking this time between Christmas and New Year’s to reflect on the good memories, try to learn from my mistakes, and figure out where I want to be this time next year and how I can get there. I’m excited for 2017 and my dreams and goals for this blog, and I would be honored if you want to follow along!

How was your 2016?

The Light Has Come

Today is the day we’ve been waiting for. Our Messiah is finally here!

There were 400 years between the Old and New Testaments. 400 years of silence from God, 400 years of waiting, wondering, the memory fading…no prophets to speak on His behalf, to remind them of His promise to send a Messiah who would finally fulfill the Law. 400 years of wondering if it was real, if He had really talked to them, if He was really coming to save them like He promised…and then He came. Quietly, humbly, without fanfare, born in a stable to a poor teenage girl and her fiance. Under the radar of everyone except the shepherds, told by the angels, and the wise men, led by the star. The silence was broken, but almost no one knew. God was with us, one of us, part of the world He created, in a way no one expected or anticipated. But that’s the way He works, because if we could understand Him, we wouldn’t need Him. Christmas shows us that we need Him, more than we could ever know. But He knows, and He came for us because He loves us.

This part of Friday’s reading in the She Reads Truth Advent reading plan was something my soul needed, and maybe yours does too: “This is God’s pattern. He always shows up. He always saves. He is always coming back, and that is never not true, no matter how thick the silence…the silence will end, the darkness will abate, and Christ is coming back.” This Christmas, there is a lot of darkness in the world. It may seem like God is silent, in your life and in the world. But Christmas is His promise that He is coming back for us, to set the world right again.

I hope that this Christmas brings you time to celebrate and reconnect with your family and friends, and experience the joy of the season. I hope you also have some time to reflect on and truly appreciate the great gift God gave us when He broke His silence some 2,000 years ago. Merry Christmas!

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned…For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of His government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over His kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:2, 6-7

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I can’t believe Christmas is less than two weeks away! It seems like Thanksgiving was just yesterday. There are so many things to love about the Christmas season, I wish it would last just a little bit longer! Today I thought it would be fun to share some of my favorite things about December and the Christmas season, so here they are, in no particular order.

Christmas lights, buffalo plaid, and homemade peppermint mocha can make any day merry and bright ?❤️☕️

A photo posted by Jen Newendyke (@jenewendyke) on

  • Peppermint mocha // Whether it’s Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or Coffeemate creamer, I can’t get enough of peppermint mocha coffee! It’s my absolute favorite this time of year. I’ve even come up with a quick and easy way to make it at home: put a packet of peppermint hot chocolate in your mug, brew a cup of strong coffee in your Keurig (or coffeepot), add a little milk or half and half, and voila! Peppermint mocha! I’m sure I’m not the first person who thought of that, but it is an easy way to get your peppermint mocha fix (and cheaper than Starbucks, that’s for sure!)
  • Bath and Body Works Winter Candy Apple // This is my all-time favorite scent from Bath and Body Works. I don’t shop there very often, but when I do, it’s almost always to buy Winter Candy Apple shower gel, lotion, hand soap, etc. at Christmastime!
  • Christmas lights // Every year, my dad’s cousin (who lives right down the road from us) decks out his house and front yard with tens of thousands of Christmas lights, and he has them set up to flash along with some Christmas music. He even has an FM transmitter so you can listen to the music in your car while you watch the lights! It’s our family’s annual tradition to go to his house every Thanksgiving night to see him turn the lights on for the first time. As much as I enjoy his outdoor lights, I really love the indoor lights we have at our house: on the Christmas tree, on the mantel, and the electric candles in the windows. There’s just something so cozy and peaceful about Christmas lights at night!
  • The Christmas Spectacular // The annual Christmas program at my church is called the Christmas Spectacular, and it really lives up to its name! They put on 13 performances every year; it’s a mix of dance, drama, music, and an awesome light show. We love to go watch it, and my mom and I also helped as greeters at several of the shows this year. It wouldn’t be Christmas without the Spectacular!
  • Christmas Eve Candlelight Service // One of my absolute favorite Christmas traditions is going to our church’s Christmas Eve candlelight service with my family. We sing Christmas carols, see a few scenes from the Spectacular, and then at the end, we all light the little candles we got on our way in and hold them while we sing Silent Night. It’s a great time to take a moment right before Christmas day and remember why we really celebrate.
  • Hallmark Christmas movies // Sure, they can be kind of cheesy, but they’re also fun, lighthearted, and full of Christmas cheer. And there are new ones every week for the entire months of November and December!
  • Peppermint everything // This kind of goes along with the first item on my list, but I’m a sucker for anything peppermint this time of year. There’s peppermint yogurt, peppermint ice cream, peppermint brownies…pretty much anything you can imagine, including peppermint Oreos! Those are really good dipped in coffee…I know it sounds strange, but it’s delicious!

What are your favorite things about the Christmas season?

What I Read in November

What I Read in November | Grace to Grow Blog

Despite having a new job and Thanksgiving preparations take up more of my time in November, I was still able to read 11 books. I found some good ones that month! Plus, one of my favorite authors, Robin Jones Gunn, released a new book: the first book in her Christy and Todd: The Baby Years series. I loved the Christy Miller series growing up, and I’m so glad she’s still writing Christy and Todd’s story!

But I’m getting ahead of myself! Here are all the books I read in November:

Through Waters Deep and Anchor in the Storm by Sarah Sundin (Books 1 and 2 in the Waves of Freedom series) // This is the second World War 2 series I’ve read by Sarah Sundin, and her most recent one. In the first book, Through Waters Deep, Mary Stirling works at the Boston Navy Yard. It’s there that she meets Ensign Jim Avery, and they are soon drawn into an investigation of a saboteur on Jim’s destroyer, the USS Atwood. In Anchor in the Storm, Jim’s sister and Mary’s roommate, Lillian Avery, is struggling to find her place as a female pharmacist. When Jim’s best friend, Ensign Archer Vandenberg, notices his men struggling with nerves and drowsiness, he enlists Lillian’s help to uncover a connection to the large sedative prescriptions she’s been filling. This series has the same rich WW2 details and sweet romance as her previous series, with the added bonus of mystery and intrigue. It’s the perfect blend of crime-solving, romance and history. I can’t wait for the third book to come out in March!

Where Treetops Glisten by Cara Putman, Sarah Sundin, and Tricia Goyer // I decided to buy this book because I’ve been reading everything I can find by Sarah Sundin. This is a collection of three Christmas novellas, following three siblings through WW2. I love that the stories all tie in to a Christmas song from the time period (White Christmas, I’ll Be Home for Christmas, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas). Three wonderful stories, perfect to read during the Christmas season!

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple // This isn’t the kind of book I normally gravitate to, but I’ve heard good things about it from several people and found it on sale at Books a Million. The story format is a little hard to get used to at first; it’s written as a collection of e-mails, notes, and correspondence that we later find out was pieced together by Bernadette’s daughter. It turned out to be a story that held my attention, and was pretty funny and eccentric. A story about a somewhat dysfunctional family, a mom who has lost part of her identity and is struggling with anxiety and fitting in with the social hierarchy of her daughter’s school, and a daughter who loves her mom no matter what–it’s somehow relatable, even though parts of the story can seem far-fetched. Overall, I enjoyed it.

Resolutions, The Plan, and Taking Chances by Jenn Faulk // I always enjoy Jenn Faulk’s books! Whenever I’m in between books, I like to find one of hers I haven’t read yet and download it to my Kindle for a fun read. These three were no exception; I loved reading about new characters and seeing how they tied into the storylines of her other books I’ve read. I can always count on Jenn Faulk for a fun, lighthearted romance with characters I wish I could be friends with and a spiritual message that never seems forced or fake.

A December Bride by Denise Hunter (A Year of Weddings Novella Book 1) // I decided to re-read this book after watching the Hallmark movie based on it, to see how they compared. Even though they had some differences, I really enjoyed both the movie and the book! It’s a story of a broken engagement, then a fake engagement that (spoiler alert!) turns real. It’s a novella, so it’s a quick read, but it’s a really touching story.

Stone and Spark & Stone and Snow by Sibella Giorello (Books 1 and 2 in the Raleigh Harmon Mysteries series) // I’ve talked before about how much I love the Raleigh Harmon series. When I finished the 6 books in that series, I found out that Sibella Giorello had written a three-book series about the fifteen-year-old Raleigh. I read the first two books in November and loved them! This series is an inside look at the events that first interested Raleigh in geology and solving crimes, and the people in her life that made her who she is. Her character and her skills were really refined by fire, between helping her best friend deal with tragedy and struggling to relate to her mentally ill mother and her father as he tries to help her mother, along with the usual high school drama. It’s really interesting to get a look at her life while her father was alive and before she became an accomplished FBI agent and professional geologist.

Sandy Toes by Robin Jones Gunn (Book One in the Christy and Todd: The Baby Years series) // The Christy Miller series by Robin Jones Gunn was one of my favorites when I was a teenager, and I’m so glad that her story has continued through The College Years series, The Married Years series, and now the first in a three-book The Baby Years series. I love reading about Christy and Todd as they grow up, get married, and start a family. They’re such relatable characters, and I wish we could be friends in real life and that I could babysit their kids 😉 even though they only have one as of this book. It’s fun to follow along and see them learn and grow through each stage of life, and this book showed what I imagine to be a very accurate portrayal of the struggles a young couple faces as Todd tries to find his place in a career and as they prepare for a baby. I can’t wait for the next two books in the series!

Have you read any of these books? What have you been reading lately?

December Goals

December Goals | Grace to Grow Blog

It’s hard to believe it’s December already! Soon it will be 2017 and time for New Year’s resolutions, but for now, we still have a month left of 2016, so let’s make the most of it! Here’s how I did with my November goals:

  1. Write at least two blog posts per week. I ended up posting 6 times in November, so not quite twice a week, but not bad considering I started a second job and am still getting used to my new schedule.
  2. Read 8 books. I definitely accomplished this and then some 🙂
  3. Set up a budget. I know I’ve been putting this off for a few months, and I still didn’t get it done. Now that I have a second job, I’ll have a better idea this month of the total amount I have to work with.
  4. Finish my machine embroidery project. I actually totally forgot about this! I’ve been busy with two jobs, Thanksgiving, and then Christmas preparations…oops! This is still something I want to do though.
  5. Get a good start on buying/making Christmas presents. I did really well with this one! I think I’ve bought everything I need except a gift card or two, and almost everything I have is wrapped. I’m really excited I got that done before December! Now I still have a couple of things to make, so hopefully I can set aside the time to finish those without rushing right before Christmas.

Now, here’s what I want to accomplish in December:

  1. Work on pre-scheduling blog posts. I would still like to work towards the goal of two posts per week, but I think I’ll have an easier time accomplishing that if I’m not scrambling to write something at the last minute. Sunday is the one day a week I know I don’t have to work, so my plan is to set aside time on Sunday afternoons to write posts for the week.
  2. Consistently follow the She Reads Truth Advent reading plan and read The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp every day. I posted here about why I’ve decided to read these two things, and I want to be disciplined and read them every day instead of falling behind and trying to catch up.
  3. Set up a budget. Now that I have a better idea of how much I’ll be making every month, I’m finally going to set up a budget on Mint! No more excuses!
  4. Finish making Christmas presents. This should be pretty easy to accomplish, since I kind of need to get them done by Christmas 😉 But I don’t want to wait until the last minute!
  5. Do some Christmas baking. I want to make the time to enjoy Christmas traditions, especially once my sister gets home from college in a couple of weeks.
  6. Start working on goals for the new year. It would be nice to get a head start on that before New Year’s Eve 😉

What are your goals for December and/or Christmas plans?

Let Every Heart Prepare Him Room

advent

December is here, and with it, the beginning of the Christmas season and of Advent.

Christmas brings a lot of joy, but it also brings a long to-do list. On top of our normal school, work, cooking, cleaning, and errands, we’re now expected to go Christmas shopping, go to Christmas parties, decorate our houses, and bake all kinds of sweet treats. There’s nothing wrong with those things; in fact, there’s something very right about celebrating sweet Christmas traditions. The problem is when we participate in all this busyness for the wrong reasons; to project a certain image or to live up to unrealistic expectations, placed on us by others or ourselves. This year, I don’t want to let everything I need to do take the place of who Jesus is calling me to be. I want to make and take the time to slow down, savor the season, and remember the real reason we celebrate.

When I was growing up, we never really celebrated or even mentioned Advent. Sure, we had one of those mini Christmas trees you put a specific ornament on each day of December, but that was the extent of our Advent activities. Now that I’m an adult, I decided that this year I want to take part in the tradition and prepare my heart, not just my house and my shopping list, to appreciate and celebrate the meaning of Jesus’ coming. So I picked two different things to do to for Advent: I’m following along with the She Reads Truth Advent study and reading The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. The SRT reading plan, called Advent 2016: Christ was Born for This, started last Sunday and goes for 29 days. The Greatest Gift has daily readings that go from December 1st-25th, so I’ve only read a couple of days so far, but it looks like it will be really good. I have read Ann Voskamp’s blog, but this is her first book of hers I’ve read, and I’m looking forward to savoring it this Christmas season!

Do you do anything for Advent? What do you do to simplify and enjoy the Christmas season?

What I Learned This Fall

I’m really excited to be linking up with Emily Freeman’s What We Learned series today! I have read and really enjoyed her books and her blog, and I’ve always loved that she wrote a monthly post with a list of things she learned that month. It’s a quarterly series now, so today is the day for What We Learned in Fall 2016. Here’s my list of 5 things I learned this fall.

What I Learned: Fall 2016 | Grace to Grow Blog

  1. I think I will like blogging…if I can learn discipline and consistency. It’s fun to think of an idea for a post, put it into words, design a graphic, and then see my own words on the Internet. I haven’t been as consistent as I should be…I do enjoy blogging, but sometimes I enjoy things (like reading) more! 😉 This is definitely an area I want to learn to be more disciplined in.
  2. I miss being in school! That probably sounds strange, but my college years were really fun. I studied from home, and I earned almost all of my credits through exams like the CLEP and DSST. I loved always being able to learn new subjects, studying on my own, and only having to take a test instead of sitting through classes and writing papers. It gave me a lot of freedom to set my own schedule and experience a lot of life outside of a traditional school setting. Now that I have two jobs, I miss being able to set my own schedule and “work from home.”
  3. The election results aren’t as important as I think they are. Honestly, I wouldn’t have been happy either way, but this was the first year I really put effort into getting a candidate elected in the primary, and it was disappointing that it didn’t work out. Then I was left with two options that I seriously disliked. I don’t know how the next four years are going to go for our country, but I know that God has used this election season to teach me to rely on Him more and on my actions, votes, and favorite candidates less. That’s a lesson I’ll always need to learn, over and over throughout my life, no matter who the President is. I’ve also started to realize more and more how important it is to listen to and truly care about people whose opinions are different than mine. Now that I don’t have a political party or favorite presidential candidate, it’s harder for me to look at life as my side against theirs. I’m still not the best at listening and being understanding, but I think this fall has been a turning point in my life.
  4. A little Christmas before Thanksgiving can be a good thing. I’ve been listening to Christmas music and watching Hallmark Christmas movies for the last few weeks. Some people may think that’s too soon, but I’ve decided that life is short, and if celebrating Christmas brings me joy, I’m going to do it!
  5. It’s way too easy to buy books on Kindle. I’ve mostly stuck with paperback books in the past, and I still usually prefer to hold an actual book in my hands. But sometimes it’s really convenient to find a book, buy it, and be able to read it instantly, without having to go to the store or wait for it to be shipped. Plus, I’ve been getting emails every day with Kindle deals, so most of the books I buy are between $0.99 and $2.99, sometimes a little more if I really like the author, and I’ve found myself buying more this fall than I used to. My general rule of thumb is that I don’t buy a book on Kindle if it’s cheaper to buy the paperback used on Amazon. Ultimately, it’s nice that having books on Kindle makes it easier for me to read more. Anything that lets me read more is a good thing in my book! 😉

So there you have it…5 things I’ve learned this fall. It’s been a good season, and I’m looking forward to Christmas and the winter season coming up.

What have you learned this fall?

The Meaning of Thanksgiving

the-meaning-of

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you are able to have a day of rest and celebration with your friends and family. We are spending today with my mom’s family and tomorrow with my dad’s family (although I have to work until 3pm tomorrow 🙁 ) But today is a day for rest and reflection, and thanking God for all the ways he has blessed us this year.

This morning, as I was scrolling through Facebook, I saw that someone had posted part of Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving proclamation from 1863, when Thanksgiving was first established as the last Thursday in November. I looked it up and read the whole thing, and I was struck by the fact that he wrote it during the Civil War. If there was ever a time when it would be hard to be thankful, that would be the time. But still, even during the darkest period in our country’s history, we were blessed with a President who pointed us back to God and reminded us why it’s so important to be thankful.

He listed the blessings from the growth of freedom we had experienced since the beginning of our nation, and then reminded the people that “…No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.”

We may not be in the middle of a civil war today, but there is plenty of strife and struggle and suffering in the world, in our country, and maybe even in your own life. Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation reminds us that there is more to Thanksgiving than eating turkey, watching football, and spending time with our family. Those are all good things, and we should enjoy them when we can. But Thanksgiving is also a day to thank God for His blessings, ask for His forgiveness, and ask for His help when life gets hard. It’s an opportunity to humble ourselves, ask Him to heal us, ask Him to bring us closer to Him, and to thank Him for fulfilling His purposes for us, even when we can’t see the purpose yet. I don’t know about you, but that’s a reminder I needed today.

What are you doing to celebrate Thanksgiving?

What I Read in October

What I Read in October | Grace to Grow Blog

October turned out to be a good month for reading! My birthday was at the end of September, so I spent October reading all the books I bought with the Amazon gift card my grandmother gave me 😉 I read 10 books in all, so I’m not going to take the time to write a lot about each of them, but here are some quick recaps.

October New Releases: Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren and A Royal Christmas Wedding by Rachel Hauck

I was really excited about these new books by two of my favorite authors! Wild Montana Skies by Susan May Warren was everything I’ve come to expect from her: true-to-life characters with real, raw, struggles and problems; exciting action and adventure; a variety of multi-faced relationships; and sweet romance. A Royal Christmas Wedding was the fourth book in Rachel Hauck’s Royal Wedding Series, and it incorporated a lot of the characters from the previous books in the series, which I love! It’s a sweet story about a royal and an everyday American girl reconnecting and falling in love (obviously), and who doesn’t love a Christmas wedding?!?

From the Raleigh Harmon series by Sibella Giorello: The Rivers Run Dry (#2), The Clouds Roll Away (#3), The Stars Shine Bright (#4), and The Waves Break Gray (#6)

I think I mentioned last month that I read the fifth book in this series several months ago, and I was hooked! I had to find out the rest of the story (or stories), and I wasn’t disappointed. Raleigh Harmon is a great heroine, and while her story does involve romance, it definitely isn’t typical or predictable. Her relationship with her mom has always been rocky, and her work as an FBI agent and then (spoiler alert!) as a private-geologist-but-still-crime-fighter feels gritty and raw and real. I feel like I can’t quite put into words why I love this series so much, but I do!

From the Wings of the Nightingale series by Sarah Sundin: On Distant Shores (#2) and In Perfect Time (#3)

I’m not a big fan of most historical fiction, but I make an exception for Sarah Sundin! Her stories don’t feel dull or boring like some historical novels can, but they are rich with adventure, romance, and World War II drama. The Wings of the Nightingale series follows three flight nurses who were pioneers in their fields during WWII. I really enjoyed reading about all the places they went and things they saw, and getting more of a “first-hand” account of life on the front lines. This series really brings history to life!

Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful by Susan May Warren (part of the Candy Cane Kisses Christmas novella collection):

I’ll admit it, I only bought this novella collection because of Susan May Warren, and I haven’t read any of the other stories (yet) 😉 Oh the Weather Outside is Frightful picks up where her Montana Fire series left off, and tells a story of healing, courage, and love for two of the smokejumpers we met in that series. Definitely worth buying the whole collection!

Destination Wedding by Jenn Faulk:

I first started reading Jenn Faulk’s books during my free trial of Kindle Unlimited, and I’ve gotten to enjoy her characters and her style of writing. This book gets into a second generation of characters; the bride and groom at the destination wedding were very young children in one of her previous books. It was fun catching up with them and their parents, and since you already know this book is about a wedding, there was also a sweet side story about the bride’s brother and the groom’s sister. Jenn Faulk is such a prolific author, she writes books almost faster than I can read them! I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next.

What have you been reading lately? Any favorites I should know about? 🙂