July 2017 Month in Review

july 2017 month in review2

I’m back! Taking a hiatus was definitely the right thing to do, as the last few weeks have been absolutely crazy. I survived, however! I survived teaching ballet to rambunctious little girls, throwing a big 17th birthday party, and dancing for 8 hours a day while staying in a dorm three hours away from my family. And I loved every minute of it, but I’m glad to be getting back to writing, and calmer days, and a little bit more real vacation time before school starts again.

Bloggings of the Month

Before my hiatus, I did write a few posts:

the works vs. grace thing again

Image result for la la land I finally saw it!

growing up2.jpg a post that’s very close to my heart…what God’s been teaching me about growing up

Favorites of the Month

Image result for spider man homecoming Spider-Man: Homecoming was amazing!! Tom Holland is the best Spider-Man yet, in my opinion, and I’ve seen all three. If you are into Marvel and haven’t seen this yet, what are you waiting for??

674749 29949578 This month I read two of the cutest fantasy books ever…if you have any interest at all in fantasy, fairy tales, cute romance, or fun banter-y dialogue, The Ordinary Princess and Paper Crowns are definitely for you!

On Coming out of Depression & Experiencing the Faithfulness of God.png this beautiful post from Amanda is something everyone should read

 Two beautiful posts about the power of fantasy: Fantasy in My Veins from Tracey and My Life’s Tower of Fantasy from Deborah…love, love, love! (Deborah’s picture wouldn’t load on my computer…ahem, sorry.)

And finally…you’re welcome:

 

Coming in August

  • Ideas for overcoming cell phone addiction
  • Thoughts on denominational differences
  • Some favorite blogs you should be following
  • A new pet peeve of mine
  • Reviews! (Some new favorite music of mine, and others TBD.)

 

Did you have a good July? Was it as busy as mine? Did you read anything good? How much longer do you have before going back to school? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

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La La Land: Old-School Movie Magic

Image result for la la land

La La Land (2016)

My Rating: Three and a half stars

Age Suggestion: 14+

The Movie

Two proper L.A. dreamers, a suavely charming soft-spoken jazz pianist and a brilliant vivacious playwright, while waiting for their big break, attempt to reconcile aspirations and relationship in a magical old-school romance. (from IMDB)

Starring Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone

Rated PG-13

My Thoughts

This movie, while not flawless, was sweet and entertaining and right up my alley. The plot, though simple, is a time-honored story of artists seeking to “make it” in the big bad world of performing, and succeeds at bringing a kind of old-Hollywood glam into the modern world. I wasn’t always sold on the more out-there musical sequences (it works in Singin’ in the Rain, but you can only ask a modern audience to take suspension of disbelief so far), but somehow they still pulled off an updated but thoroughly classic musical movie.

I have to say, I’m not a fan of Ryan Gosling’s singing voice. I think he did great in the role overall, but his voice wasn’t good enough to really carry an entire musical. I didn’t really like Emma Stone’s, either, until she sang “Fools Who Dream”. Then it seemed like she just came out of her shell completely and I couldn’t have asked for a better singer. If only she could have sung like that the whole time…

(the one time I didn’t mind their voices was when they were singing “City of Stars” together in their apartment. It’s realistic that a couple just hanging out and singing together aren’t necessarily going to sound Broadway-ready, and it actually made the scene sweeter.)

But the music overall is great! The songs are well-written and beautiful and I love the instrumental soundtrack.

My one big problem with the movie is somewhat of a spoiler. So if you haven’t seen it and you don’t want me to spoil the end, skip past this next part.

SPOILERS BEGIN

Here’s what I hate:

Two people fall in love. For various reasons they have to part ways. Years later, one or both of them is married. The girl’s husband is played up as kind of a fool, or at best just mediocre. Then the lovers run into each other again. They can never be together now, but it’s obvious that they still care about each other. The girl doesn’t seem to really care about her husband at all.

Regardless of how good a book or movie is, if it has this plotline in it, I don’t like it. Because if you marry someone it hopefully means you love them enough to forget about other people you may have loved in the past. Plus, whether you love your husband or not, it’s just not okay for you to fantasize about a previous lover once you’re married. And why do they always have to make the husband seem so mediocre next to the other guy? It’s possible that she married another really great guy!

Ahem. Rant over. I loved the rest of the movie, I just really don’t appreciate that it ended this way.

SPOILERS END

 

*Content Warnings*

Like I said above, this movie is pretty clean as far as romance goes. The two main characters do end up living together outside of marriage, but what we see never goes beyond kissing.

The biggest reason I recommend this for ages 14 and up is because there is quite a bit of language, mostly mild, but with a few very bad words. So it really depends what you’re comfortable with, personally. I don’t mind a little bit of language, as long as it’s not constant, but if you’re really bothered by it you might not want to watch this movie.

 

Quibbles aside, I really did enjoy this movie. It’s rare to have such a clean, old-fashioned romance movie these days, and so I would definitely recommend it if you like romance but can’t conscientiously watch a lot of today’s rom-coms and chick flicks. It isn’t really a comedy, but it made me laugh out loud several times, while still having serious and beautiful moments as well. And for someone who loves musicals, it was just the perfect, sweet movie for a comfy summer night.

What do you think? Have you seen La La Land? If so, did you like it? If not, will you watch it now? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

TV Review: Sherlock (2010-)

Top 7 Movies for Snow Days

Book and Movie of the Year 2016

May 2017 Month in Review

May is always one of the hardest months of the year, at least for me. It’s full of testing (AP tests, SOLs, and the SAT…) and school is winding down, but not quite over yet. Motivating myself to do anything once it feels like summer is so difficult.

But I just keep plugging along, trying to get done what I need to get done and still have some fun along the way, giving myself grace when I’m not quite living up to my own standards. Because those standards aren’t everything, and God loves us no matter how unmotivated we are at the end of the school year.

Bloggings of the Month

old testament pt3what God’s law teaches us about worship

old testament pt4 social justice for the Christian

big ben, bridge, clock tower a special Fun Friday post: the Blue Sky Tag

old testament pt5.jpgpractical tips to get into the Old Testament (the conclusion to the Lessons from the Law series)

Truths of the Month (from my journal)

*there is always always always hope. the Bible promises a day when everything will be so completely right again. (Isaiah 61)

*all the things that happen to us are demonstrations of God’s love, meant to advance the goal of making us more like Christ. (Romans 8:28-30)

*the calling of the Christian is not to do and be good at everything, but to cultivate the specific gifts God has given to us and use them for His glory. (Romans 12)

*the world begs for unity, but the only way to true unity is Christ. the unity God gives us goes far beyond anything the world has. (Romans 15:5-6)

*as Christians, we are called to maturity in spiritual things, but it is okay to be seen as innocent in the world’s eyes. (Romans 16:17-20)

*without God’s love, Christianity would literally not exist. love is the catalyst for everything we believe, and it should be the most important thing in our lives, daily and consciously choosing to love those around us. (1 Corinthians 13)

Favorites of the Month

Image result for heartless Heartless by Marissa Meyer was a very anticipated read for me, and it lived up to expectations! It may have ripped my heart out and stomped on it, but oh well…

Image result for arranged Arranged is a random movie that I had sitting around that I watched on a sick day this month. It’s such a sweet story of a Jewish girl and a Muslim girl who become friends, both of whom are having marriages arranged for them. Perfectly clean, with a cute happy ending. I loved it!

Even though I’m not really thinking seriously about dating and all of that yet, I absolutely loved this talk on singleness from Sam Alberry. First of all, he’s British, which is great. He is so entertaining to listen to, and the talk is full of practical wisdom and amazing insights! Highly recommended.

After Manchester, from Ann Voskamp. No words for how beautiful this is.

I found this video so helpful. Use discernment- Becca isn’t a theologian, and I don’t necessarily agree with her on everything, but a lot of what she has to say in here is really good.

Is the old testament still relevant today? And finally, since we literally just did a series on this, please read Is the Old Testament Still Relevant Today? Some really great points that I didn’t mention!

Upcoming

In June, I have a few standalone posts planned, including a book review and some ideas for making most of this summer. And then, once I get out of school in late June, I’ll have lots more coming, to be announced!

Speaking of summer, I’m trying to decide on a posting schedule for the summer. If you could give me your input, that would be great:

Anyway, I hope you had a great May and are having a great summer/June so far! I’ll be back next week with more summery stuff!

love, grace

How was your May? Did you read or watch anything good? Tell me in the comments below! 

 

Why I Don’t Limit Myself to “Christian” Entertainment

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Surprise! A post on a Friday. I had something I really wanted to share while it was still fresh in my mind. I think I’ll continue to do this; I plan my Saturday posts ahead, but sometimes I get ideas that just can’t wait. So you may get a surprise post every now and then.

There’s Christian music and Christian books and Christian movies.

There’s also secular music and secular books and secular movies.

So what do we listen to, read, and watch, and what do we avoid? Do we only consume explicitly Christian media, or is secular entertainment fine as long as it is appropriate?

Here are my thoughts on this:

God created the world. God is truth. The created world cannot help but reflect God’s truth. Secular media may unknowingly reflect deep and profound truths about God and who we are in God.

Of course, there are many sources of entertainment that are completely inappropriate or promote messages absolutely contrary to Christianity. Those are a no-no, no questions asked, no exceptions.

But in the vaguer areas, the songs that are appropriate but don’t really have a “Christian” message, the children’s movies that aren’t inappropriate but aren’t particular Christ-centered either, the books by secular authors, look for little nuggets of truth.

They may be unintentional, but they will be there.

This train of thought, for me, was sparked by the song “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. I was listening to it on the way home from dance and started wondering whether, as a Christian, I should limit myself only to Christian music.

Then I started paying attention to the words of the song.

Here’s just a few lines that really hit me.

“Everybody’s been there,

Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy

“Fallen for the fear

“And done some disappearing…

“Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue…

“And since your history of silence

“Won’t do you any good

“Did you think it would?

“Let your words be anything but empty

“Why don’t you tell them the truth?”

That could be a Christian song, couldn’t it? As I listened to these words, I felt myself inspired to be a witness, to stand up for what I believe without fear, to stop my shy silence and speak up. Even though it doesn’t specifically mention God or Christianity, this song got me thinking about spiritual things. And anything that does that, to me, is good.

If we really listen, we can find truth all around us. And that can be so encouraging.

So use discernment. Don’t limit yourself just to Christian media. When you do consume secular entertainment, pay close attention to the worldviews and messages. When you find anti-Christian messages, avoid them, as I’m sure you’ve been told many times before.

But there is a flip-side to that, too, that rarely gets mentioned. When you find truth in secular media, rejoice! Let it encourage you.

God can speak through sources that aren’t explicitly Christian. Secular media can portray truth and beauty as well as, or better than, “Christian” entertainment. God is the creator of all art, everything that is lovely and good, and art is meant to be enjoyed.

love, grace

What do you think? Have you ever found exciting nuggets of truth in secular entertainment? Do you disagree with me, and limit yourself to strictly “Christian” media? How do you use discernment in your entertainment choices? Share in the comments below! 

Read more:

5 Ways to Stay Grounded in Truth This School Year

A Peek Inside My Music Library

Thoughts on Unrealistic Expectations and “Happily Ever After”

March 2017 Month in Review

For me, at least, March was very much a month of the daily grind. Very little excitement, very little unusual happening. Just trying to live faithfully, day in and day out. I’m not sure I did a very good job.

But the daily grind doesn’t have to mean boredom. It doesn’t have to mean gritting our teeth and just doing the same thing one. more. time. In fact, joy does not depend on excitement and adventure. Joy can be found in the everyday, by trusting that every task in front of us on any given day is one that God has given us to be completed in diligence and enjoyed with gratitude.

Bloggings of the Month

after the rain2.jpg lessons from the rain (which got such a good response! I’m so glad it helped so many people)

reblog from my old blog: how I enjoyed reading Deuteronomy (a preview of a series to come)

Image result for the broken way a review of one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read

 

Truths of the Month

from Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and Romans

*we are called not only to understand the Word intellectually, but to believe in our inmost heart and let it saturate our entire soul, constantly being reminded of it in our daily life and seeing and doing everything according to it

*we can learn from the sin of others, not watching it in a proud, judgmental way, but in fear, humility, and gratitude, realizing that we could very easily follow the same path

*God could have given us passages in the Bible about modern issues like social media and dating, but He didn’t…those issues should not be our focus. our focus should be on simply glorifying God in every circumstance

*joy can be found in our work by attributing our success not to ourselves, but to God, and being thankful for it

*the things that scare us about today’s world are not unique to modern times. God can handle it according to His perfect wisdom. there is nothing we have to do but trust

*in suffering, we do not have to force joy, but still continue to trust God and live faithfully even in sadness

Favorites of the Month

Image result for greenwitch The third book of The Dark is Rising Sequence, and my favorite of the series. The whole series is definitely worth reading, though!

Image result for the broken way See review above. So beautiful, profound, and healing.

Image result for sense and sensibility movie Elinor Dashwood is literally me. The weird part was seeing Snape play a proper English gentleman, and a good guy at that!

Image result for the fellowship of the ring A rewatch, obviously. But just had to include it because…how could I not?

Image result for age of minority If you haven’t listened to this podcast, you must! Sososo good for Christian teens or any Christian, really. And highly entertaining as well…I frequently look like a weirdo because I laugh out loud while driving.

34ae55bcedeaf01f8c8cd055559cb7fe an article in defense of fairy tales that I LOVED with every fibre of my being!

Coming in April

  • the beginning of my Lessons from the Old Testament Law series
  • a review or two, perhaps

How was your March? What are you looking forward to in April? Let me know in the comments! 

love, grace

February 2017 Month in Review

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Love. It’s what makes the world go ’round, or so they say, and in the month of February it seems like love is all everyone talks about. Candy, flowers, romantic comedies, and those adorable “relationship goals”. It’s all light, fluffy, happy, and wonderful.

This is the world’s brand of love. Have you bought into it? Is it really all that it seems to be from the outside? Or is the inside of the world’s love rather shallow and empty?

There is another kind of love: a love that truly makes the world continue to spin. Without this love, we would all have no hope. This love never ends, never fails, no matter what we do. It is infinite.

This is God’s brand of love. And when you believe in it, it changes you, and when you strive to emulate it, it changes the lives of others. When the love we talk about is a deep, everlasting love, there is nothing empty about it. It is the most full thing in the world.

Bloggings of the Month

the-relationship-series4 developing  your convictions on dating; hope for those who have already done things they regret

the-relationship-series5 an action plan for contentment in singleness

Image result for sherlocka review of my new favorite TV show

Truths of the Month

I’ve been reading in Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers this month, as well as some in the New Testament. Inspired by this post, I’m dropping the daily plan and simply reading a few chapters every morning, with the goal of getting through the Bible at least once this year, if not more than once.

A few truths from my reading:

*Just as the sacrifices of the Israelites were to be “without blemish”, so Christ was the only one who could possibly die for us, the only one who could meet God’s standard of perfection.

*Even though the Old Testament law is no longer fully in effect, we are still called to remain clean and holy, just in different ways, staying away from sin and darkness.

*Jesus didn’t spend the night before His death doing anything world-changing, but something very common, having dinner with his disciples. Yet God worked in that just as much as something bigger.

*Cleansing after touching something impure was a lengthy, involved process, symbolizing how hard it is for us to purify ourselves outside of Christ.

(A few of these are a bit of a preview for a series I’m going to do soon about what we can learn from the Old Testament Law. I’ve been learning so much as I’ve read it alongside the gospels, seeing so much parallelism and cool things like that. More to come!)

Favorites of the Month

Image result for the reason for god Reread The Reason for God by Timothy Keller and was just blown away by it all over again. If you are having doubts, you don’t know how to defend Christianity, or you just want to strengthen your faith even more, you must read this book! 

Image result for newsies live So, um, this happened…and I got to see it in the theater!! Oh my goodness, it was amazing. If this version ever comes out on DVD or Netflix or anything, I highly recommend!

 It’s a Wonderful Time to Be Christian: Five Reasons for Optimism in America is the last article you would expect someone to write right now, but despite what you might assume it’s not sarcasm. From Desiring God, this article is so encouraging and brings a unique perspective to the political and cultural atmosphere right now.

 Kill Sin or Sin Will Kill You, also from Desiring God, is a jarring reminder of the seriousness of sin and what it will take to kill it in our lives.

 On Faith and Fashion was a wonderful article about what fashion can mean for the Christian girl. As someone who loves clothes and makeup and is just generally very girly, I loved this way of looking at it!

Coming in March

  • Struggles with perfectionism; excellence vs. perfection; finding balance
  • Lessons from the rain
  • A book review of something to be determined

 

How was your March? What did God teach you? Did you read or watch anything amazing this month? Also, do you like this new format for these posts or do you prefer the old one? I’m experimenting a bit. Tell me in the comments below! 

love, grace

 

 

 

January 2017 Month in Review

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We’re already at the end of the first month of the new year. How are you doing with your goals? Are you living bolder, better, brighter for God in the new year? Accomplishing everything you could have dreamed?

Or are you, like me, realizing that God’s plans for you mostly involve seemingly small, mundane, ordinary things?

I’m learning that progress doesn’t happen overnight and that sometimes the hardest part of the Christian life is trusting that God is working in you even when it doesn’t feel like it. Trusting that He is in control of every small task that comes into your life and every small worry that crosses your mind.

Big goals are great, but don’t be discouraged if you aren’t accomplishing the lofty things you had hoped. Simply move forward into the next month, one step at a time, seeking to live for God in all things, small and big, and look for the little victories that are evidence of a greater work in your life.

This Month’s Devotions

I’m following the yearly reading plan laid out in the back of my Bible. I started late, but just doubled up a couple of days to catch up and now I’m on track. I just finished reading through the Bible, but I’ve never actually read the whole thing in a year, as the first time it took me a little longer. We’ll see what happens.

Some truths from this month:

*God will always provide what we need, and even more than we need (from Exodus 4-6)

*God is terrifying in anger, but that anger will never be used against us- only for us (from Exodus 15)

*God knows what He’s doing when He prompts us to do certain things in our lives…why would we question Him? He is the all-powerful God of the universe and knows so much better than us

*Equal treatment for all people is a very important part of God’s law system (Exodus 23:1-9), yet equality for ourselves should not be our focus; instead we should focus on serving others (Matthew 20:25-28)

Bloggings

This month I started a series on dating in the teen years (more specifically, why I’ve chosen not to). There were three installments:

why I'm not dating in high school 1.jpgGod’s Purpose for Romance

why I'm not dating in high school 2.jpgGod’s Purpose for Singleness

why I'm not dating in high school 3-corrected.jpgAvoiding Drama and Temptation

from other blogs…

From Mirriam Neal: become (super inspiring) and a super helpful hack for fixing flat characters

Observer > Critic (this sounds like a very hard but also very worthwhile mindset shift)

Even though getting old isn’t even on my radar yet, I loved this post: Your “Age” is Defined by Your Attitude, Not a Number

7 Tips for Victorian Happiness (this post is why I followed this blog)

If you were wondering about my political thoughts, other Grace says it perfectly

How to Find Time to Read More. Not sure if this was helpful or not…but definitely entertaining!

Readings

Image result for till we have facesImage result for the rose and the balloon by kirsten fichterImage result for interrupted by rachel cokerImage result for little womenImage result for little men bantamImage result for little men bantam

  • Till We Have Faces: 4 stars. Obviously very good, since it’s C.S. Lewis, but I felt like I didn’t quite get the point of it or something. Probably need to read it again.
  • The Rose and the Balloon: 3 stars. Imperfect, since it’s a self-published book by a young author, but a cute story and a light, quick read.
  • Interrupted: 4.5 stars. I loved this book so much! Probably my favorite of the month. It was such a sweet romance with a deeper message, completely clean, and a Christian perspective.
  • Little Women, Little Men, Jo’s Boys: 4-5 stars. Rereads all, and all just as good as the first time 😉

A few articles I enjoyed:

A final note: if you haven’t discovered The Babylon Bee yet, you’re missing out. It’s Christian News Satire from Christians and as long as you don’t take any of it too seriously, it’s really funny.

Watchings

Image result for sherlock season 4Image result for becoming janeImage result for les miserables movie

  • Sherlock, season 4: 5 stars. Oh my goodness. This season tossed my heart around and made me laugh and cry and scream and if you haven’t yet watched this show I think it is literally the best TV show I’ve ever seen and you need to watch it.
  • Becoming Jane: 4 stars. This was a really good movie! (Although sad…so don’t expect a happy chick-flick ending.) Would probably recommend to ages 14 and up because of a bit of content.
  • Les Miserables: 5 stars. So, so, so good!! I can’t believe it took me this long to watch it. Again, some content, but the scenes are easily fast-forwardable. The music is incredible and the cast is amazing and there is lots of food for thought as well.

Listenings

Image result for ruelle up in flamesImage result for hamilton logoImage result for the music of jane austenImage result for evynne hollens covers vol 1Image result for age of minority podcast

  • Up in Flames: I recently discovered Ruelle, an alternative singer with some really great songs. You might especially like her if you’re a fan of Twenty One Pilots or similar bands.
  • Hamilton: Introduced my sister to Hamilton this month! (She loves it.) If you haven’t listened to it yet, please do! It’s amazing.
  • The Music of Jane Austen: Loving this as something to listen to while I do homework or write.
  • Covers Vol. 1: This has been my go-to album lately when I don’t know what to listen to. Evynne Hollens is amazing and every song on here is so good.
  • Age of Minority: This is a podcast started by Jaquelle Crowe, editor of The Rebelution, and her dad. They talk about different topics related to being a Christian teen in today’s world, as well as lots of fun topics as well. So fun to listen to and highly, highly recommended! Find it here.

Upcoming in February

  • A continuation of my series on dating, discussing how to develop your convictions, what to do if someone asks you out, being content to be single, and more.
  • A review of Sherlock seasons 1-4. (And yes, I know I keep promising this and it doesn’t happen…I will get it done at some point!)

 

How was your January? Did you read, watch, or listen to anything amazing? What are you excited for in February? Tell me in the comments!

love, grace

 

 

December 2016 Month in Review

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Christmas trees, Christmas music, Christmas cookies, Christmas presents…annnd just like that, December is over. In rolls January, bringing goals and fresh starts, snow (?) (please?), and a return to the normal routine.

I get very excited over making goals for the year. Last year I changed all my goals like three times during the year and then ditched them altogether, but let’s see if I can do better this year. I have a new planner, which always makes me optimistic about what I can do with my life. (I’m a planner nerd.)

And I really, really hope it snows soon! It never snows in December where I live but we usually get quite a bit of snow in January and February. Snow days are amazing.

This Month’s Devotions

This month, I read through Ann Voskamp’s The Greatest Gift, an Advent devotional with Bible passages, readings to go with them, and questions for reflection. It was the second time I used this book during the Advent season and I absolutely loved it.

Ann Voskamp’s writing is superbly beautiful and the perfect way to stay focused on Christ during Advent. If you missed it, my Advent Reflections series was based on some of my favorite quotes from the book. All of those posts will be linked in the next section.

I’m currently studying The Reason for God by Timothy Keller. I started to have some questions about faith and the proof for God that I wanted to seek out answers to. I had read this book before, but not thoroughly, and didn’t remember any of it. This time I’m taking notes!

Bloggings

Image result for noel josh groban I shared some of my favorite Christmas music, both old favorites and new discoveries

childhood-christmas-favorites2 I also shared nostalgic Christmas favorites that I still enjoy

advent reflections part 1.jpgadvent-reflections-part-2advent reflections part 3.jpgadvent-reflections-part-4 the Advent series: part 1part 2part 3part 4

 a fun Christmasy tag

book and movie of the year 2016 2.jpg this year’s best book and movie

from other blogs…

A beautiful post about the wonder of God.

Also from The Rebelution, an interview with Tony Reinke about teens and technology. Totally worth listening to the whole thing!

Amanda’s post about facing the future really encouraged me as I start to think about what might be in my future…

Grace had a really great post about why she’s not ashamed she homeschools. I may not be homeschooled anymore, but I am still one of its biggest advocates, and this post hit the nail on the head.

Katie Gregoire is not a beauty guru. Also subscribe to her channel. She’s great.

A Studio C sketch in which the holidays are personified. One of my favorites of theirs recently!

If you haven’t seen Moana, you should. If you need more convincing: listen to this song.

And finally, if you still need more Christmas music in your life, here’s a gorgeous acapella Silent Night.

Readings

Image result for fourth dawnImage result for the greatest gift ann voskampImage result for letters from father christmasImage result for library of souls

  • Fourth Dawn: 3.5 stars. A very interesting look at Mary and Joseph and the history surrounding Christ’s birth. Read my Goodreads review for more.
  • The Greatest Gift: 5 stars of course. I think I’ve talked about this book enough on here already.
  • Letters from Father Christmas: 5 stars. I got this book as a gift; it was a Tolkien book that I didn’t even know existed! And the cover is gorgeous and glossy with that red and gold design; so pretty. Obviously I loved it, it’s Tolkien 😉
  • Library of Souls: 4 stars. My least favorite of the series, but still good. And the ending! It was actually happy. I was not sure how it would end happily, but it did!

Watchings

Image result for a charlie brown christmasImage result for moanaImage result for elfImage result for america's got talent christmas spectacularImage result for the nutcracker abt baryshnikovImage result for alice in wonderland royal ballet dvdImage result for sherlock

Yes, it was Christmas break. How can you tell?

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas: 4 stars. It was high time I actually watched this, and it was cute! A nice way to start my break.
  • Moana: 4 stars. Such a good movie! I would recommend seeing it in the theater if it’s still in theaters to get the quality sound and everything. The music is 5 stars (obviously, since it’s by Lin Manuel Miranda). And he even sings in one of the songs!
  • Elf: 5 stars. I’ve watched bits and pieces of this over the years but never actually seen the whole thing until this month. I loved it! So cute, and definitely something I will watch for Christmases to come.
  • AGT Holiday Spectacular: This is definitely a guilty-pleasure show, but this holiday version was fun! It was fun to see contestants come back and perform without the judging part.
  • The Nutcracker: Well, of course I had to watch this. I featured it in my childhood favorites post, and I can’t let a Christmas go by without seeing it!
  • Alice in Wonderland: 4 stars. I got this for Christmas and watched it immediately. It’s a relatively new, very creative ballet, that even people who are new to ballet would like because of all the different aspects (puppetry, tap dancing, etc.).
  • Sherlock: I just finished Season 3 last night. Still one of my favorite shows. CANNOT WAIT FOR SEASON 4 (which, if you hadn’t heard, is finnnnnnaly airing on Sunday!)

Listenings

I did a whole post on Christmas music so that basically covers it.

Upcoming in January

  • An official review of the first three seasons of Sherlock
  • Why I Don’t Date in High School: the beginnings of a two-month series on relationships in the teen years

 

I hope you had a wonderful December! What did you enjoy reading and watching this month? Are you excited for January? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Book and Movie of the Year 2016

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It’s already time for another book and movie of the year post! I had so much fun doing this last year and so I’m excited to do it again.

The choice, especially for books, was slightly agonizing, but I’m happy with the titles I’ve picked. In the end I just had to go with a gut feeling about which books most deserved this title.

Disclaimer: I am not getting paid to promote C.S. Lewis. Futhermore, this blog is not sponsored by C.S. Lewis, who happens to be no longer living anyway so how he would sponsor my blog, I don’t know. 

All jokes aside, I was a little concerned about choosing another C.S. Lewis book for my Book of the Year (last year’s was That Hideous Strength), but what can I say? C.S. Lewis is truly one of the greatest authors ever, and out of all the books I read this year, this one was the best. I do not take this choice lightly, and I didn’t want to choose a lesser book simply so that I wouldn’t have the same author two years in a row.

(It’s my award. I make the rules. And I say that the book can be by the same author two years in a row.)

So with that out of the way, I present to you…the 2016 Book and Movie of the Year! 

Book of the Year: The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis

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Runner-up: The Mysterious Benedict Society series by Trenton Lee Stewart 

The Last Battle is the final book of the Narnia series, the culmination of every plot in the other books. I had definitely read it before, but I was so young I didn’t remember, and this year was the first time that I sat down and read the whole Narnia series, from start to finish within a few weeks, on my own. The Last Battle blew me away.

The endings of the other books are all so bittersweet, with the children returning to the real world, unsure if they will return. But not this one. This one displayed the great climax of human history and the great resolution of final peace and joy. The ending is made even sweeter because of the previous books, all of the characters reunited in eternal happiness. This book somehow captures what the feeling may be like when Christ returns, and it is a picture of heaven that I will never forget.

The runner-up is a whole series, because taking one book out of the series robs it of its magic. The four books together make The Mysterious Benedict Society series what it is: a wonderful story of friendship and good defeating evil. While a children’s book, it has such important messages for all ages, and is a story that everyone can enjoy. It is a happy story that is deep and meaningful at the same time, a rare find in this age of dark and depressing or light and fluffy books.

Movie of the Year: Big Fish (2003)

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Runner-up: The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005) 

I don’t think Big Fish is a movie that can really be explained. I can’t explain what it’s about, or why it had such a huge emotional effect on me, but I’ll try anyway.

The movie is the story of a father and son, shown in the present and in flashbacks through the father’s life. All during the son’s childhood, the father told wild stories about his own life, passing them off as truth. As an adult, the son greatly distrusts his father and resents those stories.

The movie explores their relationship, especially when the father becomes very sick. It explores the power of stories and the lasting effect they have on our lives. The ending had me crying my eyes out, and the whole movie is fun, humorous, entertaining, deep, beautiful, and sad all at the same time.

And yes, more Narnia as the runner-up. This year I watched a Narnia movie for the first time, and was really pleased with how well it was adapted! The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is visually gorgeous, well-cast, and stays very true to the book. I’m hesitant to watch the rest of the movies from things I’ve heard, but this one at least did a very good job and left me happy and satisfied.

 

What do you think? Do you like my choices? What are some of the best things you read and watched in 2016? Tell me in the comments! 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Childhood Christmas Favorites

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If there is one holiday that has tons of nostalgia surrounding it, it’s Christmas. Everyone has childhood traditions that have been part of their holiday season as long as they can remember, that provide continuity from year to year in the midst of growing up and going through changes in life. Christmas is a time to return to childhood, no matter how old we are.

This week, I want to continue the ‘Christmas favorites’ theme, taking a foray into the past and sharing three little pieces of Christmas that have been staples of my holiday season as long as I can remember. These are things that were huge parts of my childhood, that I still enjoy around Christmastime, and that I consider timeless, classic, and enjoyable for all ages.

 

Carpenters Christmas Portrait

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My family has listened to this album over and over on repeat every Christmas as long as I have been alive…first on tape, then CD :). It is such a classic! Not to mention it has so much nostalgia mixed in for me that it is always one of the first Christmas albums that I want to listen to at the beginning of the season. When I hear it the first time, I know Christmas has really arrived.

If you haven’t ever heard this album, you must listen to it! Classic Christmas at its finest.

 

Noelle of the Nutcracker by Pamela Jane

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I got this book one year as a child and loved it immediately, and have read it every year since and read it aloud to both of my younger sisters. I don’t know what it is about it that makes me love it so much, but I do, and it’s as much a tradition for me as anything else that my family does.

If you’re a teen or adult, you can probably read it in one sitting, which is all the more reason you should pick it up; it would also make a great gift for any younger siblings or cousins, etc. who are bookworms (or dancers!). Probably my favorite holiday book of all time!

 

The Nutcracker (American Ballet Theatre and Mikhail Baryshnikov)

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Okay…if I’m being honest, when I was a child I watched this year-round, not just at Christmas. But I’m including it here because it was such a part of my childhood and is technically Christmas-related.

It was probably the first ballet I ever saw, and could probably be credited with making me want to dance, which makes it even more special. Plus, Baryshnikov and Kirkland are such an incredible pair! There are other versions of the Nutcracker that I like just as well now, but none of them have the nostalgia of this one.

 

These three things all hold very special meaning for me, and they would also all be wonderful even without the nostalgia! I highly recommend them to all ages; they would be good for kids, teens, or adults to enjoy, or for families to enjoy together.

What are some of your most nostalgic Christmas favorites? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

Coming soon: Advent reflections from The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (posts during the week next week since I’m on break from school!)