Favorites: Fall 2017

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Fall is my favorite season. It’s so beautiful outside, I love the crisp, but not freezing, weather, and I get to wear scarves and sweaters and boots (finally). Here are a few other favorites from this fall season (September through November):

The Nashville Statement (Desiring God): Every Christian should read this manifesto of Biblical sexuality in an age when all of these points are up for discussion and debate.

Found this video challenging and thought-provoking:

 

Image result for a mango-shaped space A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass – this book made me cry my eyes out late at night. Be warned. Recommended for ages 10+.

And then if you need cheering up, a few favorite Blimey Cow/Jordan Taylor videos:

 

four tips for breaking the strong female character trope - a guest post by Christine Smith [header image]100% agree with this article – must read if you are a fiction writer!

Image result for elantris Elantris by Brandon Sanderson – for an example of how to do the aforementioned “strong female character” correctly (and just about everything else in fiction) – my Goodreads review – recommended for ages 14+

Loving This World As It Really Is (Well Said) – an absolutely beautiful discussion of how we as Christians see the world

Formulaic for a Reason: The Existential Appeal of Hallmark Movies (The Gospel Coalition) – loved this take!

And speaking of romance, this happened to one of my favorite YouTubers this fall:

 

Finally, I don’t really like this actual song very much, but this cover of it features a whole bunch of different genres and is so creative and amazing!

 

What are some of your favorite things from this fall? Do you agree with any of mine? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

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Music Spotlight: The Gray Havens

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Modern Christian music is a bit…disappointing…these days.

Okay, okay, I admit it. I listen to typical contemporary Christian music pretty often. There are good songs, and I think that anything that truly encourages me or prompts me to worship is worth listening to.

But there’s a lack of quality, both spiritually/theologically and musically, and once in a while I find some Christian music that makes me realize what I’ve been missing. The Gray Havens’ albums are like that.

About Them

The Gray Havens centers around husband/wife Dave and Licia Radford. Since their beginning in 2013, their projects have been hailed as “an imaginative treatment of faith…[having] a visionary quality that’s both playful and enraptured.” They have a knack for creating a listening experience similar to paging through your favorite book, with richly textured compositions and multi-layered lyrics. Releasing their debut EP on Noisetrade in 2013, and their first full-length album, Fire and Stone, in 2015, the duo has gained a steady following of listeners nationwide. (from their website, www.thegrayhavensmusic.com/)

Why I Love Them

The first time I listened to a Gray Havens song (“This My Soul” was the first one I heard), I knew immediately that this was some special music. The message that song expresses is just the simple redemption story that most other Christian music also shares: man sinned, and Christ came to die for us so that we could have eternal life. But it doesn’t just say it; this song captures the incredible beauty and wonder of that message in a way that I’ve never heard in any other song, a way that gives me chills every time I hear it. I loved it from first listen.

And as I listened to more of their music, my opinion was reinforced. “This My Soul” is still one of my absolute favorites, but every single song expresses truth in a beautiful, wonderful way.

The best thing about them, I think, is that the lyrics are deep, poetic, and thought-provoking. It isn’t just about the catchy chorus; these songs have truly great writing to go along with the high-quality music. You won’t catch every lyric the first time you listen to a song, or the second time, or the third time. I even recommend looking up the lyrics and reading them while you listen to the song. I’ve done that a couple of times, and I always get so much out of it. The lyrics of these songs express Biblical truth in a way that actually does justice to the wonder and mystery and depth and transcendence of it. They make you want to worship in a far deeper way than most of the worship music being marketed today.

Plus, just the musical quality is amazing as well. The instrumentation is interesting and there are different structures and styles; it’s not just the same formula over and over again. You can tell that they have poured heart and soul and tons of work into every single song.

One of my other favorite songs is “Jack and Jill pt. 2”. The first time I listened to it, the feeling I had at the end was that feeling you get when you finish a really incredible book. Music has never made me feel that way before. I can’t even describe how amazingly creative and lyrically brilliant it is.

Basically, this husband and wife get it. Their music does justice to Christianity in a way that no other contemporary music does that I’ve heard. They get that you can’t reduce the gospel to a few cliche choruses. They get that God’s power and glory are supposed to give us chills and make us fall to our knees. They get the wonder and the mystery and the incredible awesomeness of the God that we worship.

Because, in the end, that’s what Christian music is about: prompting us to give glory to God, leading us to repentance and worship and thanksgiving and love. And The Gray Havens’ music does that in an incredible way. I can’t recommend it enough. All I ask is that the first time you listen to it, you listen to it carefully and really let it soak into your soul.

Favorite Songs (all of them are so good, but here’s a sample)

Have you listened to the Gray Havens before? If not, will you give them a try now? (I hope so!) Have you found any other amazing Christian music recently? Tell me in the comments! 

love, grace

Read more:

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

A Peek Inside My Music Library

A Day of Rest, Joy, and Worship

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”

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

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  • 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

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  • 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

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  • 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

 

 

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!)

6 Christmas Albums I Love

Christmas music is what really makes it feel like the Christmas season for me. When I turn on that first Christmas song, it makes me so happy. At that point, the holidays have truly arrived.

I’ve been listening to Christmas music obsessively, and today I want to share some of my favorite albums with you. Hopefully this will introduce you to some artists you haven’t heard before and provide you with some new things to listen to!

(I wish I could share my actual playlist with you, which includes most of these songs and a few more in a very specific order, but I don’t have Spotify or anything so this will have to do for now.)

Noel: Josh Groban

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If you haven’t already listened to Josh Groban’s Christmas album, go do it! It’s classic and gorgeous and usually one of the first albums I listen to at the start of the season.

Two of my favorite songs:

Christmas: Michael Buble

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Here’s another album with a classic sound and gorgeous vocals that is a good way to start off the season!

That’s Christmas to Me AND A Pentatonix Christmas: Pentatonix

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Pentatonix is so talented and can sing so many different styles; all you have to do is listen “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” to hear both their classical and contemporary sound.  The songs are so fun, catchy, and well-arranged!

Christmas Beyond the Lights: Sons of Serendip

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I just discovered this group, and their music is so beautiful! Some has vocals (and wow, is the vocalist great), and some is just instrumental (and wow, are the arrangements gorgeous). Calming, reflective, and beautiful.

Rose of Bethlehem: Selah

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I mentioned Selah in my November Month in Review for their hymns album. Their Christmas album is probably one of my top favorite albums in this entire list. It is perfectly balanced with classic carols and amazing original songs, reflective pieces and toe-tapping ones, and every song is gorgeous. So highly recommended!

Plus Two More Songs I Love…

So there you are! A huge list with six favorite albums of mine and my most favorite Christmas songs of the moment. I hope this gives you some new things to listen to during the Christmas season!

love, grace

 

 

November 2016 Month in Review

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December is here!! Which means Christmas!!

I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday and so as soon as Thanksgiving is over I’m in full holiday season mode. Advent candles and devotionals, great music, decorating…I love it all!

November was a month of writing, primarily. This month, I wrote a novel from beginning to end, banged my head on keyboards, and then changed the plot completely to redraft the whole thing later. I saw my school musical, Godspell, and was pleasantly surprised by how respectful and accurate it was! (Let me know if you want more thoughts on this). Thanksgiving, of course, was a wonderful day of family time and delicious food.

And now, as we move on to December, I’m so excited to enjoy Christmas and the last month of 2016!

This Month’s Devotions

I finished reading through my Bible!

For the majority of the month I was in the book of Revelation. And while I was a little scared to start reading this notoriously difficult book, it turned out to be one of my favorite books in the entire Bible.

Why? Because it’s such a beautiful picture of the hope we have as Christians.

And that, I think, is the key to enjoying Revelation. Don’t try to decode every symbol or analyze every vision. Read it all with the overall message in mind: Christians will be persecuted, but it will not last forever. God will return, and He will judge the world and bring justice to His people. Through Christ’s amazing sacrifice, we will live forever in heaven, a place of such beauty we cannot even imagine it here on earth.

If you read Revelation that way, I think you will find it much more enjoyable.

Bloggings

god is in control2.jpgthere was an election that happened this month and please remember this simple truth

Purposeful Pages Memethe last linkup: an inspiring website, how blogging has impacted me, what I would tell my younger self

gratitude2having gratitude in the midst of our entitled culture

from other blogs…

Honestly just read everything Amanda wrote this month. Slowly. Digest it and reflect on it. Such good posts that I couldn’t pick just one or two!

I love the idea of doing a one second every day video project. Don’t know if I could actually pull it off, but it is a really cool way to record memories!

This short story is so beautiful I can’t even…agh. So good. The concept and the twist and it’s just…read it.

And finally, two things to get you in the Christmas spirit: YA books paired with Christmas songs and December Song, Peter Hollens’ new Christmas single that is absolutely gorgeous.

Readings

The Art of War for Writers: Fiction Writing Strategies, Tactics, and ExercisesThe Body in the Library (Miss Marple, #3)Hollow City (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #2)

Three really good books that I read this month; all pretty quick reads, since I was writing up a storm and didn’t have a lot of spare time.

  • The Art of War for Writers: 4 stars. A really handy little book that I will be referencing often. Read my review on Goodreads here.
  • The Body in the Library: 4 stars. Love me a good Agatha Christie when I need something quick, light, and engaging.
  • Hollow City: 5 stars. I was worried it wouldn’t be as good as the first one, but it drew me in just like that one did. I love this series so much!

Watchings

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(yes, I watched two things with Benedict Cumberbatch in them. don’t judge me.)

  • Sherlock: again, I only watched one episode of this in the entire month. Seriously. I just don’t have time to watch TV, even such epic TV as this. The one episode I did watch was the wedding episode (fellow Sherlock fans know which one I mean?) and it was just the BEST ever. All the cuteness!!
  • Hamilton’s America: yes, I have joined the madness of being obsessed with Hamilton. Even I, the one who hates rap with a passion, love it, and I think that says something! Anyway, this documentary was really great for some behind the scenes and clips of the musical as well as historical background. Highly recommended if you love Hamilton as much as I do!
  • Doctor Strange: 4 stars. Another great Marvel movie, as usual. Benedict Cumberbatch incredible, as usual. And if any of you are Marvel fans but afraid to see this one because of the supernatural elements, it really wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be. Not any different from Thor or Guardians of the Galaxy, really, and any problems I had with the movie were for different reasons altogether.

Listenings

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  • Godspell: As mentioned before, this was my school’s musical, and in addition to being much more accurate and respectful than I expected, the music is SO good. Listened to it obsessively after seeing the show!
  • Greatest Hymns: One day I got fed up with generic Christian music and wanted to go back to the old school songs, so I looked up hymn albums that I might like and found this one. It was exactly what I needed to refresh my soul.

Here’s a song that just makes me want to dance:

This is kind of the theme song for my NaNoWriMo (in addition to just being beautiful):

And another song I listened to on repeat while writing this month (love, love, love!):

Upcoming in December

  • Mini-reviews of favorite Christmas books, movies, and/or music
  • Um…an as-yet undetermined post about Christmas? Advent? Something? Who knows.
  • The 2016 Book and Movie of the Year! I can’t believe it’s already time to do another one of these.

 

I hope you all had a wonderful November! See you next week with some Christmasy stuff. Have an amazing December and enjoy the holidays!

love, grace