Best Reads for 2012

One of my goals this year was to read more. I read 44+ books in 2011 (With the best 10 listed in THIS POST). Including the homeschooling books, cookbooks (yes, I read those cover to cover), and e-books, I at least doubled that number in 2012.

And I thought I’d share some of my favorites with you.

PLEASE NOTE: Most of these books have been published for years. I’m just that far behind in my reading. I’m hoping some of you have missed these along the way and I can enhance your library request list for 2013.
Also note: I am not an affiliate of Amazon. I just prefer visuals and they provide such an easy way of doing that. Feel free to click on these images to find out more about the book, but do not feel obligated to purchase from them, etc…

Favorite Memoir/Biography

It’s a toss up between these two:

Both are so different and yet completely relevant. Inspiring. Eye opening.
And this one I borrowed from my hubby’s bookshelf and oh my. It’s long, but worth it.

Favorite Novel

I’m not a huge novel reader, but I devoured this one in a weekend! So good.

Surprised Me The Most

I have to be honest. I didn’t expect 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker to hit me as hard as it did. You see, extravagant is not an adjective to describe me. It’s been a year since I’ve purchased any new clothing for myself. And I wouldn’t consider my home cluttered. Until I read this, looked inside myself and realized I have much to shed…

Was so Good I Had to Read it Twice

This book hit me so hard I had to read it twice. You might have noticed, I quote from it often. And to think, I discovered this on my own (well, my hubby’s) bookshelf!

Friends, it will make you look in the mirror and question your own spirituality. Even if you don’t agree with everything he says — you’ll see grace in a whole new way. And it’s a really quick read!

Need to Add to My Personal Library

I’m not sure why it took me so long to read these. They’ve been out awhile. But I’m so glad I fixed that this year. The Ragamuffin Gospel and A Circle of Quiet I had checked out from the library (more than once). The Pursuit of God I own on my kindle. Even still, I think I’ll be adding these to my own personal library this year so I can mark them all up!

Favorite Cookbook

I read this cookbook a couple years ago and have re-read it multiple times. I finally added it to my cookbook collection and enjoy referring to it while I’m trying to toss in extra veggies into my dishes.

A number of these muffins and cereal bars, I make a couple times a month. If you haven’t looked at this cookbook before, I do recommend doing so.

I was going to have an honorary mention category, but I couldn’t narrow it down…

Earlier this year, I started listing the books I was reading on my blog (not including the homeschool or cookbooks). It was buried in my Personal Bucket List and hard to find, however. Going forward, I plan on giving what I’m reading it’s own page, making it easy to locate. Please feel free to visit the page at any time (You may find it HERE). I would love if you would also whisper out suggestions of some to add throughout the year!

How about you, friend? What have you read recently that is still resonating with you? What book would you like to see me add to my list for 2013? I’d love to hear. 

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

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My Best Reads for 2011

I’m really striving to remember. To reflect on how far I’ve come. To be reminded of all that God has shown me this year.

And as the year-end is on the horizon, I’d like to share some of that with you.

One randomly scattered post at a time.

I must admit I lost count somehow, but I can recall reading 44 books/cookbooks (yes, I read cookbooks cover to cover) in 2011. Here are the books for 2011 that had the most impact on me.

1. Captivating by John and Stasi Eldredge

I may have finished this book by the time this posts. It’s my current read and I’m nearly done.
I must admit I went into this book skeptical. I honestly didn’t think my soul had much mystery.
I was wrong.
I don’t consider myself a girly-girl, but that doesn’t stop me from having all three of every woman’s main desires mentioned in this book. So thankful I read the words with my heart open wide.

2. The Bible

Who would I be if I didn’t list this one. I read the New Testament through this year in The Message Translation (which I had never done before) and was quite surprised with how much I enjoyed it.
I read the Old Testament through in the NRSV version — straight from THIS BIBLE I was gifted with years ago by my (then future) in-laws. Next year, I plan on reading out of the Living translation simply because I haven’t before. And I’m going to read the Psalms and Proverbs from The Message. My friend Lisa inspired me to do so.

3. The Help by Kathryn Stockett

Don’t think I need to say much about this one except that I lost some sleep while reading this as I had trouble putting it down!

4. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis

I enjoy reading this book every few years. It’s one of my all-time favorites. If you have not read it, please put it on your 2012 list. Please.

5. Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo

It doesn’t matter if you believe the story actually happened. What matters to me is if you believe it could. If you believe in the place Jesus went to prepare for us. And I loved how this book allowed me to reflect on my eternity.

6. Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp

This is the only parenting book I’ve read more than once. This year was my 3rd time reading it and I learned just as much as the previous two times. I love his perspective on parenting and the Biblical foundation he lays down as he provides a practical approach to the most important role I’ll ever have.

7. I Will Carry You by Angie Smith

I read this book in 2010 right after I delivered my 2nd son stillborn. It was just what I needed. So much so that I read it again in 2011. Even if you haven’t experienced the loss of a child, this book is worth a read. Because we all grieve. And we can all experience the joy on the other side.

8. Wheat Belly by William Davis, M.D.

Yet another book I went into skeptical. And I’ll even admit I’m not living out the diet laid out in the book. But it changed the way I eat for a variety of reasons and the knowledge I gained about grains, carbs and even my disease of Hashimoto’s made this book worth my time. I even think it would be worth yours.

9. The Healthy Family Cookbook by America’s Test Kitchen

I have a habit of checking out cookbooks from the library. Some I check out multiple times. This was one of them. And this has even made my list of cookbooks worth purchasing (along with a number of America’s Test Kitchen cookbooks — I love them).

10. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

It was the reason I started this blog in the first place. It was the only book I read for the first time in 2011 that will be added to my forever favorites. For it has changed my perspective on joy. If you haven’t read it I implore you to change that.

How about you? What are some of your favorite books? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

(NOTE: This post is filled with links to Amazon.com. Please know that I’m not an affiliate. Amazon doesn’t know me from Eve. Feel free to click on any of the images or links to see more about the book I’m referring to, but do not feel obligated to purchase from the site you’re directed to. If you’re like me, you’ll check with your library first!)

Am linking this up with:

My Christmas Playlist

Welcome to Music Mondays!

I love Christmas music. I don’t love when stores start playing it before Thanksgiving, but I have nothing against you playing it at home all year round!

And because it’s the first Music Monday of December, I thought I’d share some songs on my Christmas Playlist.

(NOTE: If you’re reading this in an email/reader format, PLEASE CLICK HERE to listen in and to see my new header!)

Here are 10 of my favorite Christmas songs in no particular order:

1. “You’re Here” ~ Francesca Battistelli

2. “Christmas Offering” ~ Casting Crowns

If you are not singing this song in church, I suggest you send your worship leader an email With THIS LINK (click to listen).

3. “Carol of the Bells” ~ BarlowGirl

This is one of my favorite songs. Normally, I prefer instrumental renditions, but I have to admit, Barlow Girl gets it. The timing, the crescendos, the articulations, the harmonies, the modulations, they’re all right on. Makes my heart flutter when I hear it.

4.”O Holy Night” ~ David Phelps

Let’s be honest. This song is HARD to sing. But oh, I love it so. And friends, David Phelps can sing, but it’s his passion that gets me every time and has made it my favorite version of this song. THIS LINK HERE shows him singing it live on the Gaither Vocal Band stage. Gives me goosebumps every time I watch it! (This is the best clip I could find. NOTE: The song begins around the 1:25 mark, but the testimonial is great before!)

5. “How Many Kings” ~ Downhere

This is a beautiful song for reflection. You can listen and read the lyrics by CLICKING HERE.
♪♫ How many greats have become the least for me?
♪♫ How many fathers have gave up their sons for me? Only one has done that for me. All for you. All for me.  ♪♫

6. “Mary and Joseph” ~ Dave Barnes

I’ve recently discovered Dave Barnes and really enjoy this entire Christmas album — especially this song:

7. “Hallelujah (Light Has Come)” ~ Barlowgirl

I really enjoy this entire album (Barlowgirl Home For Christmas). CLICK HERE to watch the official video of this great song.

8. “Be Born in Me (Mary’s Song)” ~ Francesca Battistelli from Music Inspired by “The Story”

Love. This. Song. (love the variety of this album, too)
Here is a sampling of the lyrics. Click on any of them to listen and see all the words to this beautiful song.

 ♪♫ I’ll hold you in the beginning
You’ll hold me in the end
Every moment in the middle
make my heart your Bethlehem
Be born in me
I am not brave I’ll never be
the only thing my heart can offer is vacancy
I’m just a girl
Nothing more
but I am willing
I am yours
Be born in me
 ♪♫

9. “Breath of Heaven” ~ Amy Grant

Yet another Mary’s Song I love. And let’s face it, no one sings it better than Amy Grant. CLICK HERE to refresh your memory.

10. “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” ~ Casting Crowns

This is one of my favorite Christmas Hymns. I was so excited to see it on Casting Crowns’ fabulous Christmas album and was completely shocked to discover it was a fabulous instrumental interpretation. Still love it.

That’s a beautiful note to end on this week!

How about you? What are your favorite Christmas Songs? I’d love to hear as we’ll continue talking about them on Mondays for a few more weeks!

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Linking this up to:

10 Things I Wish I Did

This is me being real. Here are 10 things I just don’t do but wish I did. . .

  1. I don’t call people on the phone just to talk. I blame working retail for this. In my old life, I found myself on the phone a lot. I don’t miss that. But I do miss a number of dear friends and wish I would pick up the phone once in awhile!
  2.  I don’t text. I blame my cell phone provider as they do not offer this for free. Refer to #1 and I’m sure you could understand how I could rack up quite the texting bill.
  3. I don’t scrapbook. I blame the mess. the clutter. I love the look of a completely finished scrapbook and know my kids deserve them more than the photo books I do manage to do. I just can’t bring myself to overcome the clutter of it all. the mess of hauling it out every time. oh, but I love looking at your finished books!
  4. I don’t sew. I blame myself. I so want to be able to say I do. My mom is a talented quilter/sewer/crocheter extraordinaire. I have no excuse. She has even given me her old sewing machine! The whole thing overwhelms me for some reason. Maybe 2012 will be the year I take this off my list…
  5. I don’t dance. I blame my parents for this. They never let me go to High School dances. Of course it’s not my parents’ fault for my lack of skills, but it’s more fun than admitting I’m not good as I would love to be. Love you mom and dad!
  6. I don’t garden. I blame the dirt. I also blame humidity for this. I am not a fan of either and where I live, both are required to endure if you’re going to succeed at gardening. I have had a container garden before and didn’t do too bad. So maybe there is hope for me yet!
  7. I don’t eat seafood. I blame the aftertaste. I blame the texture. Take your pick. I have an issue with aftertastes and some textures. I tolerate coconut shrimp for my family as it’s a favorite for my boys, but that is pushing it. Scallops? Crab? No can do. Wish it weren’t true. All the more for you!
  8. I don’t wear skinny jeans. I blame my ‘genes’ for this. Or maybe previous pregnancies. Sometimes I’ll blame my inconsistent exercise routine. Regardless, that is one trend I will not jump on board with. For your sake.
  9. I don’t bake bread. I blame myself on this one. I’m not a good baker and this task intimidates me. Help talk me out of this one. I so want to do this. Do I just get a bread machine and call it a day? This one has to come off my list. Soon.
  10. I don’t ride roller-coasters. I blame Space Mountain. It was my first experience on one as a young child. It terrified me. And I’ve never gotten over the feeling of your heart in your throat. Or is it your stomach. Regardless, it shouldn’t be there and I can’t seem to turn that into a good experience for me no matter how hard I try.
How about you? What don’t you do but wish you did? I’d love to hear. 
Thanks for sharing your time with me.
Simply striving,
Nikki

My Top Ten Thanksgiving Quotes

I’ve been reading up on Thanksgiving this past week and stumbled upon some great quotes. Inspired by OhAmanda‘s Top Ten Tuesdays, I would love to share the ten Thanksgiving quotes that have affected me the most in one form or another.

I hope they put you in the heart of Thanksgiving this week.

1.   If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.
~ Meister Eckhart

2.   To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven.
~ Johannes A. Gaertner

3.   The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.
~ H.U. Westermayer

4.

Thou that has given so much to me,
Give one thing more — a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleases me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days;
But such a heart, whose pulse may be Thy praise.
~George Herbert

5.   Best of all is it to preserve everything in a pure, still heart, and let there be for every pulse a thanksgiving, and for every breath a song.
~ Konrad von Gesner

6.   Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.
~ Kevin James

7.   Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.
~ Henry Van Dyke

8.   Feel thanks and it’s absolutely impossible to feel angry. We can only experience one emotion at a time. And we get to choose — which emotion do we want to feel?
~ Ann Voskamp

9.   As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

10.   Gratitude … goes beyond the ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ and claims the truth that all of life is a pure gift. In the past I always thought of gratitude as a spontaneous response to the awareness of gifts received, but now I realize that gratitude can also be lived as a discipline. The discipline of gratitude is the explicit effort to acknowledge that all I am and have is given to me as a gift of love, a gift to be celebrated with joy.
~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

How about you? Which one do you like most? Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving quote/saying? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

Linking this post up with

Forever Favorites (10 Christian Songs I Never Grow Tired of)

Some songs I don’t ever want to get out of my head. They’re my forever favorites. Most hold a special memory for me. If I happen to hear them on the radio, I will wait until the song is finished before leaving the room or getting out of the vehicle. They mean that much to me.

I would like to share them with you. My forever favorites a few at a time. We’ll start with some songs you probably all know. But not too recent as I need time to ensure they will be forever favorites!

(If you’re reading this in a reader format, you might want to click HERE to listen in)

In no particular order, here are 10 Christian songs I never grow tired of:

1. “Rescue” by Desperation Band

♪♫ I need you, Jesus, to come to my rescue. ♪♫

♪♫ No one else will do. ♪♫

♪♫ Capture me with grace…This world has nothing for me. ♪♫

Love this song! No one else will do. Wish we sang this more in church.

2. “Never Let Go” by Matt Redman

♪♫ I can see a Light that is coming for the heart that holds on and there will be an end to these troubles, but until that day comes, still I will praise You! ♪♫

To be fair, I also like David Crowder’s song of the same name. Make no mistake, they are different songs entirely. I can’t sit still when hearing this one and I LOVE when he adds ♪♫ You keep on loving and You never let go! ♪♫ during one of the choruses (around 2:30). Makes the whole song for me.

You can listen while reading the lyrics to it HERE.

3. “How He Loves Us” by David Crowder Band

♪♫ And I realize just how beautiful You are and how Your affections are for me. ♪♫

Like most songs over-played on the radio, I really fought this one. My sister blessed me with a cd after I delivered my son stillborn and this was on it (along with both Never Let Go songs). I would play this on repeat over and over and was able to find some comfort as you cannot deny any of these lyrics. This song was there when I needed it most and will always have a special place in my heart as a result.

On a side note: I LOVED seeing the YouTube video of the child in the car belting out this tune. (especially around 1:02 if you take a peek) The artist on that video is John Mark McMillon who I believe originated this masterpiece.

4. “Peace With You” by Ten Sheckel Shirt

This song speaks for itself. And was released when I was finally able to proclaim the same:

♪♫ It’s nice to be at peace with You. ♪♫

Peace With You

So bummed I couldn’t find an audio to link to this one! It’s a great song. Feel free to download it here. Song 7.

5. “My Desire” by Jeremy Camp

There are a few songs on this album I enjoy, but this one gets my hands in the air every time.

♪♫ This is my desire to be used by You…So I give my hands to be used by You ♪♫

 You can listen to it by clicking HERE.

6. “I Can Only Imagine” by Mercy Me

Now, who would I be if I didn’t include this classic. We all know it and I still love it. Can YOU imagine what it will be like?!?

Think about it while you listen HERE.

7. “Worlds Apart” by Jars of Clay

Love.This.Song. It speaks for itself. Have you ever sat down and read the lyrics? Please do.

Especially the ones around the 4 min mark here.

8. “Faithful to Me (Reprise)” by Jennifer Knapp

When this album was released it quickly became my favorite cd. Nearly 14 years later, I can still sit down and listen to it in its entirety.

I may not be too happy about her current lifestyle choices, but two things are certain: God is Faithful

and I still sing this song in the shower.

9. “While I’m Waiting” by Jon Waller

♪♫ I’ll be taking every step in obedience. And while I’m waiting I will serve you….worship…run the race. ♪♫

This song is really helping me get through some dry seasons lately. I haven’t seen the movie this song is in “Fireproof.” Have you? I’m worried it will take away the place this song brings me to when I hear it.

Have a listen HERE. Please worship while you’re at it!

10. Last but not at all least: “If You Want Me To” by Ginny Owens

I always have a song running through my head. And 7 times out of 10, it’s this song. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Ginny adds another verse which brings me to my knees every time.

♪♫ So when I cross over Jordan I’m gonna sing and I’m gonna shout ♪♫

I’m gonna look into your eyes and say

♪♫ ‘You never let me down.’ ♪♫

♪♫ So take me on the pathway that leads me HOME to You

and I will walk through the valley if You want me to. ♪♫

I sing this song All.The.Time.

So much so that when my oldest started to speak more clearly, we discovered he was able to sing this song in its entirety. I pray he knows I always want to do what God wants me to do. Even when it hurts.

What are some of your forever favorites? I’d love to hear.

Thanks for sharing your time with me.

Simply striving,

Nikki

This post is linked up to Ohamanda’s Top Ten Tuesdays