4 Ways to Read More During the School Year (+book recommendations!)

I know many of you who follow my blog are avid readers, with stacks and piles of books waiting to be read. I am, too. I love books and reading is one of my favorite leisure activities.

But once school starts, our time slowly slips away from us and we find ourselves reading less and less. What can we do to ensure that even during the school year, when life gets busy, we are still enjoying great books on a regular basis?

I have four tips for you:

1. Take a book with you to school every day.

This may not apply to those of you who are homeschooled, but it’s the single tip that has made the most difference for me. I carry the book that I’m currently reading in my backpack every single day – it’s a daily essential just as much as my planner is.

Because there’s so much downtime in public school classes, and because I’m a pretty fast test-taker, I get a lot of reading done in little bits and pieces throughout the day. Between classes, after a quiz or test, on the bus, during study hall if you don’t have anything else to do…all of that is valuable time perfect for pulling out a book.

2. Set aside particular times in your weekly routine to read.

During the school year, spontaneously picking up a book in your “free time” usually isn’t going to happen (mostly because that free time doesn’t really exist). But if you structure longer chunks of reading time into your week, you’ll make steady progress. For me, this is usually weekends, especially Sundays. But whether it’s every evening before bed or for three hours on Saturday afternoon, plan some regular time into your schedule when you can consistently get some reading in.

3. Listen to audiobooks.

To be honest, I really prefer print books. There’s something about holding a book in your hand that just can’t be replaced. But if you’re an auditory learner, or you’re literally always on the go and can’t find time to read anywhere in your schedule, audiobooks might be a good option. You can listen to them while you’re driving, working out, doing chores, walking your dog, and more; it’s a great way to get through the books you want to read while still getting other things done as well.

Using audiobooks for school reading while multitasking can be a great way to save time too. (Even consider putting them on double-speed to save even more time!) You can then use the time that you would have spent reading school books to do other things (like reading for fun, maybe…?).

4. Choose books that you can’t put down.

Finally, make sure you are reading books that pull you in, books that you will voluntarily choose over social media and all those other time-wasting activities. If forcing yourself to read Charles Dickens is going to mean you never actually read at all, then don’t try to read Charles Dickens during the school year! Maybe do that over the summer instead.

If you like classics, by all means read classics. But if you just need to read light, fun books to take a break from schoolwork, that’s totally fine too.

Here are a few of my favorite lighter reads to get you started (if you want more details about any of these feel free to leave a comment!).

Image result for paper crowns mirriam nealPaper Crowns by Mirriam Neal (fantasy, fairy tale; be sure to enter the giveaway for a copy of this if you haven’t!)

Image result for the lunar chroniclesImage result for heartlessThe Lunar Chronicles and Heartless by Marissa Meyer (sci-fi/dystopian, fantasy, fairy tale retellings; some intense scenes/violence and mostly clean romance)

Image result for the penderwicksThe Penderwicks and sequels by Jeanne Birdsall (contemporary, family)

Image result for vinegar girl Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler (contemporary, clean romance; maybe some language, I don’t remember)

Image result for interrupted rachel coker Interrupted by Rachel Coker (historical, clean romance, Christian)

Image result for miss peregrine's home for peculiar children series Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and sequels by Ransom Riggs (fantasy/weird sort of historical; some language and intensity)

Image result for dragon king trilogy stephen lawhead The Dragon King trilogy by Stephen Lawhead (epic fantasy, adventure; some scary scenes/violence)

Image result for mitford series The Mitford series by Jan Karon (contemporary, family, Christian)

 

What do you think? How do you make time to read during the year? Have you read any of the books I recommended, and what others would you recommend? Share in the comments! 

love, grace

 

 

 

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10 Verses to Encourage You This School Year

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For our last installment in the back-to-school series, I want to leave you with some passages from the Bible that I hope will encourage you and strengthen you for whatever you face this school year.

I could talk about God’s love and faithfulness all day and night, but the Bible obviously says it better than I can. So here are ten of my favorite verses for encouragement and strength.

“For it is You who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God – His way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; He is a shield for all those who take refuge in Him.”

-Psalm 18:28-30

“Fret not yourself because of evildoers; be not envious of wrongdoers! For they will soon fade like the grass and wither like the green herb.

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.

Delight yourself in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday.

-Psalm 37:1-6

“Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; He makes my feet like the deer’s; He makes me tread on my high places.”

-Habakkuk 3:17-19

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

-Matthew 11:28-30

“And when they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not be anxious about how you should defend yourself or what you should say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”

-Luke 8:11-12

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”

-John 10:27-29

“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

-John 14:26-27

“Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.”

-Romans 5:1-5

“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

-Romans 8:37-39

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation He will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

-1 Corinthians 10:13

I hope you have a wonderful school year and I know God has many wonderful things in store for your life! Don’t ever forget His promises as you go about your daily calling.

What are some of your favorite Bible verses for encouragement? 

love, grace

This Year, Respect Your Teachers

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Teachers are one of the most gossiped-about groups of people. Students compare and complain about teachers all the time as a matter of course. It seems almost impossible to be a teacher that people generally like, much less one that no one complains about.

As Christian students, I think this is one of the biggest areas where we can change our behavior to demonstrate our faith. Because if someone doesn’t complain about their teachers (or complain in general…but that’s another post), it stands out pretty obviously.

Teachers Deserve Our Respect

The Bible is very clear that Christians are called to honor those placed in authority above them.

“Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” -Hebrews 13:17

“Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.” -Romans 13:1

Teachers spend their life helping to raise the next generation in an underpaid and underappreciated job. It would be nice if they could receive a little more respect from those who they are trying to teach. (Yes, even the bad teachers.) They are human too, not some kind of mindless robot with no feelings.

And don’t just show respect to their face, either; show them respect even when they aren’t around, in the conversations you have with your friends and family. Imagine how much you could change the atmosphere of your friend group if you stopped listening to teacher gossip!

What If They Hold Different Beliefs?

This can suddenly get hard if one of your teachers has very different beliefs from you. Especially in public school, Christians are not a majority, and most of your teachers will hold varying religious and political beliefs. How do you show respect to someone you don’t agree with?

If the issues don’t really come up in class much, just ignore it. You can still respect someone without agreeing with everything they say. Test everything with Scripture and quietly refute the things they teach that you know to be false; they don’t necessarily need to know that you disagree with them.

If, however, you find yourself in a confrontation about an issue, in a class discussion or even a one-on-one conversation, it can be tricky. Still try to present your ideas in a “respectful disagreement” sort of way, even if they are being less than nice about it. And don’t gossip about the conversation later.

Always remember that respecting someone does not mean accepting everything they teach. You are allowed to hold your own opinions, and you are allowed to defend those opinions. Just try to do everything with love and honor in mind.

 

What do you think? Have you had trouble with teacher gossip before? Will you try to put a stop to it this year in your own life? Have you ever had a confrontation with a teacher over your Christian beliefs, and how did you handle it? 

love, grace

5 Ways to Stay Grounded in Truth This School Year

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On Wednesday we kicked off our back-to-school season here on the blog with How to Love School This Year. Today I want to continue with a related subject: how to deal with opposing cultures and viewpoints in school.

This post is geared more toward those who attend a public school, but it can also apply to any secular situation, from school to a job to an extracurricular activity or if you have friends who are unbelievers. Even if you go to a Christian school, you will be faced with situations where you are presented with lies, and we have to know where to turn when that happens.

Here are five strategies to help you stay grounded in the truth during this school year.

1. Remind yourself of the truth often.

Before we can defend truth, we have to know and understand it. And after we understand it, we have to continue to remind ourselves of it from day to day.

Reading God’s Word should be a daily foundation of our lives. It should be the first place we turn when we’re sad, upset, or searching for answers. The Word is Truth, and the only way we can know truth is by reading it regularly.

“The sum of Your Word is truth, and and every one of your righteous rules endures forever.” -Psalm 119:160

This school year, make it a first priority to read and reflect on the Bible every single day.

2. Hang out with other people who believe the truth. 

Fellowship is an important aspect of the Christian life, and having strong Christians around you can make all the difference while dealing with a secular environment. Additionally, surrounding yourself completely with unbelievers can be dangerous; choose your friends wisely and make sure you have a good balance.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!” -Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

When you have Christian friends, you can stand up for the truth together, and if one of you has doubts the others can pull them out of their doubts and help them stand up again. Even just having one or two like-minded people with you in school can make a huge difference.

This school year, choose to nurture the friendships that will help you grow spiritually and let go of the ones that hold you back.

3. Test everything you are told against the truth.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…” -1 John 4:1a

Especially in a secular school setting, you will have constant information coming your way, and not all of it will be true according to the Word of God. If you follow tip #1 and are reading the Bible every day, that will make it much easier to test what you hear according to what you have been reading.

Don’t accept everything blindly; think for yourself about issues and come to a decision that reflects God’s truth.

This school year, think hard about everything you are taught and test it under God’s lens.

4. Be ready to defend the truth boldly. 

Just as there are opposing viewpoints coming your way often, there will be occasions where you will have to explain your own opinion or get asked a question that leads into some deep religious conversation.

“…Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. ” -1 Peter 3:15

Don’t shy away from this kind of conversation! Be prepared for it and seize the opportunity to share your faith and potentially convert someone to Christianity. If you are shy about witnessing, pray that God would give you boldness and trust that His Spirit will do great work through You when the opportunity comes.

This school year, boldly share the truth of the gospel with unbelievers in your path.

5. Don’t give in to doubts, but use them as a way to become stronger in truth. 

Doubting is an easy way to quickly derail your faith.

“…for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea who is driven and tossed by the wind.” -James 1:6

But if you start to doubt, that doesn’t mean that all is lost! Everyone has doubts at times, but we have to learn how to react to them in faith.

First of all, remember that feelings are not the truth. Feelings are real and can hurt a lot, but they do not represent the truth about the world around us. When doubt hits you, immediately turn to God instead of away. Ask that He would restore your faith and make a conscious choice to still trust Him even though your feelings would have you do otherwise.

Then, seek out the answers to your questions! Don’t just push your doubt to the back of your mind, but rather use it as an opportunity to strengthen your faith by learning more about God and finding the best answers you can to the questions you have. Spend serious time studying the Bible. Read books about the topic. Ask your pastor, your parents, or other knowledgeable people you know.

This school year, defeat doubt by seeking answers in God and trusting Him regardless of feelings.

 

There will always be challenges to our faith, no matter where our lives take us, but I hope these five tips help you to stay firmly grounded no matter what.

What do you think? Will these tips help you? Have you struggled with doubt or had your faith tested or questioned in the past? Share in the comments below! 

love, grace

How to Love School This Year

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School is coming. That may be an awful thought to many of you, but  it’s time to stop denying it and start preparing our minds and hearts for another year of academic work and perhaps, for people who attend a secular school, cultural battles.

I want to write a few school-related articles over the rest of August, covering topics like teachers, time management, and more. Today I want to start by looking at how we view school overall.

Many of you probably groaned at that first sentence up there, and that gets at an underlying problem in our culture today that I want to talk about.

School: A Great Privilege

God gave us our minds for a reason. He didn’t have to create us as people who crave knowledge and have an immense capacity for intelligence, but He did. God values knowledge. 

“An intelligent heart acquires knowledge, and the ear of the wise seeks knowledge.”  -Proverbs 18:15

In fact, it is so important that we use our minds well that He included that in the greatest commandment.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind…” -Luke 10:27

Right up there with using our heart, soul, and strength to love God is using our mind as well. We are called to believe, not just because of emotions, but because of intelligence and reason.

Today, school has been turned into a chore, but it is actually a great privilege and duty of the Christian life. Around the world, so many kids don’t have the opportunity to attend school. They would be overjoyed to experience the life that we have every day, and yet we never stop to appreciate the fact that we have the resources and opportunity to learn.

Seek God in All Things

Learning to love school is easier said than done, that’s true. But for the Christian, a sure-fire way to get excited about everything you are learning about is to search for God in all of it. His creation expresses Him in so many ways every day:

“The heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork. Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge.” -Psalm 19:1-2

There is always something new to learn or something to appreciate more about God in whatever we learn in school. If you go to a secular school, you may have to work a little harder, it’s true, but no matter what learning environment you are in, it will always be there. Creation itself can’t help but express God, no matter how much a secular worldview tries to hide it.

Here are some subject-by-subject ideas for how to do this.

Science: The Wonder of God’s World

Science is probably the most obvious one to start with. It is the study of how God’s world works, and let it open your eyes to the amazing universe He created. Take joy in learning the details of how it all works together. Skip over the evolution stuff. Be more and more awed by everything you discover in science class.

“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” -Psalm 139:14

Math: The Order of God’s World

God is a God of order, and nowhere is that expressed better than math. In math, everything always works together according to the rules. How could that have happened by chance? My mind was kinda blown when I first thought of this, and I really hate math, so maybe thinking about this will get you more excited about math class too!

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace.” -1 Corinthians 14:33

History: God’s Great Plan Unfolds

No matter how much it is masked, our country and the world have such Christian influences in their past. In history class, take pleasure in learning about how God’s plan has unfolded throughout the ages and seeing how He has chosen certain pivotal people in every era to make changes for His glory.

“Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. He changes times and seasons; He removes kings and sets up kings; He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding…” -Daniel 2:20-21

English: Exploring and Defending Truth

English is essentially the study of communication, which is used to transmit ideas. In English class, focus on really thinking about each worldview you come in contact with and testing it according to the Bible. Then develop and express your own opinions boldly through writing.

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” -Romans 12:2

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition…and not according to Christ.” -Colossians 2:8

Languages: Appreciating Other Cultures

The diversity of the human race is a beautiful thing. God loves all races in all corners of the earth, and through learning a foreign language you can connect with another part of the human race, both through the class itself and perhaps in that language’s use in the future. You never know when you might have an opportunity to witness to someone that you would have missed if you couldn’t speak their language.

“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” -Galatians 3:28

Arts: Expressing God’s Beauty

God is so creative; He gave us such a vibrant, wonderful world far beyond our basic needs. He bestowed that creativity on His children as well, and He gave us the potential to create incredible beauty through it. If you take a visual or performing arts class, focus on using your art to build up and express God’s wonderful beauty.

“God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” -Genesis 1:27

“…and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, with intelligence, with knowledge, and with all craftsmanship…” -Exodus 35:31

 

I hope this gave you some ideas for how to have a Godly mindset and learn to really appreciate and enjoy school and learning. I will definitely be trying to view things this way during the coming school year, and I hope you will too. I think this kind of mindset can radically change the way we think about our lives.

What do you think? Do you like school? Do you think you would like it better if you tried this? How do you see God in each of these school subjects? Tell me in the comments below! 

love, grace