Shawn’s Top 10 Books Read in 2015

I’ve never made a “Top 10 best books I’ve read this year” list, but it seems like all the cool kids are doing it (including Sara). This was a good year for reading, though not my most prolific. I’ve included the theology books that have had the greatest impact on me, as well as some non-fiction, history and even fun reading (fiction) that I’ve enjoyed in my list.

Many of these books weren’t released this year (or this decade), but they were among the best that I read or listened to in 2015. I do end up listening to a lot more books than I “read”, as I have nearly 2 hours in the car every weekday that I tend to put to good use listening to books at 2x speed.

Shawn's Top 10 Books of 2015 | One Radiant Home

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Here are my top 10 books, in no particular order:

1. Praying the Bible by Donald S. Whitney – No book on this list had more impact on my life this year than this little volume by Dr. Whitney. This is the second time one of his books has dramatically changed my spiritual lifestyle. I’ll never be the same after picking up the practice of daily praying through the “Psalms of the day”. I can’t recommend this little book with any higher praise and thankfulness.

2. Life and Diary of David Brainerd by Jonathan Edwards – This book sat on my shelf for years, but I finally listened to it this year during my morning commute. Brainerd’s devotion, piety, and sacrifice for the sake of the Gospel were inspiring. No wonder this book was a major motivator to many generations of missionaries, including the well-known martyr, Jim Elliot.

3. Slavery by Another Name by Douglas A. Blackmon – Why had I never heard of this book before? An astounding history of the enslavement of thousands of black men and women in the south after the American Civil War by state governments and big business, like U.S. Steel and other companies. Rocked me back on my heels and filled in huge gaps in my knowledge of racial issues. Every high school student should read this book. Every student of race relations should read this book. Staggering.

4. David Copperfield by Charles Dickens – One of three Dickens novels that I
listened to this year. I could hardly pick just one for this list. I listened to David Copperfield most recently, but I loved Bleak House as well. Dickens had such an astute understanding of the human condition. His novels are immensely enjoyable and make the commute home fly by.

5. The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom – I can hardly believe I hadn’t read this before. I cried after virtually every chapter. Unbelievable suffering and persecution experienced by Corrie’s family, and yet Christ shines through so brilliantly in these pages. This was truly an experiential picture of the goodness and mercy of God in the face of unspeakable sin.

6. The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert by Rosaria Champagne Butterfield – This book shines as the book to read and to understand how the Gospel can transform the heart of any sinner. Rosaria’s conversion story was touching, powerful, and challenging. It helped especially to reinforce to my heart the degree of my own sinfulness and need of a Savior.

7. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough – Wilbur and Orville Wright were
truly remarkable men. This new biography helped me to appreciate both their genius and their contribution to our world. What these men produced truly changed the world forever—for better or worse. They won the race to make flight possible. I loved this book and could hardly put it down.

8. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania by Erik Larson – As a former Naval submarine officer, I really got into the hunt by the German submarine crew. Larson made the people involved come alive, making this history feel like reading a novel. Brilliant and helpful for understanding the United States’ entry into WWI.

9. Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow – This was the second biography I’ve listened to by Chernow (George Washington being the first…). I had no idea that Hamilton had, perhaps, the most significant impact on the early years of our country, more than any other founding father. His tenure as the first Secretary of the Treasury set the stage for the growth of the federal government into the behemoth it is today. You don’t know anything about early American history if you don’t know about Alexander Hamilton.

10. The Martian by Andy Weir – Just fun. I basically listened to this book non-stop once I started it. Brilliant, funny, entertaining—I simply enjoyed this one so much that I had to include it. It added virtually no value to my life other than entertainment. Warning: a few crass words & thoughts, but great story.

And a couple of bonus books…I came very close to including Turn the Ship Around by L. David Marquet, as well as Prayer by Timothy Keller on this list. Both books have had a major impact on my thoughts and plans for 2016.

While we both read a lot of good books this year, we also both started a few books we didn’t finish and finished a few books we should have stopped reading. That list probably deserves it’s own post…

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8 Things I Learned in November

8 Things I learned in November | Radiant Home Studio(This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for helping to support my blog!)

1. “Chasing 6 kids” is not really exercise. Last month, Shawn brought home an activity tracker for me. I knew I wasn’t getting close to the recommended 10,000 steps a day, but I was surprised at how low my steps actually were. I was averaging 4,000 steps a day. I read that the average American only gets about 5,500 steps in per day. Since I’ve been tracking with my Jawbone, I’ve doubled my step count average. To be honest, I was doubtful that it would really do anything for me, but I have been much more mindful of my choices. It’s hard to get much exercise as a stay-at-home-mom, but I’m more likely to go for a walk or jump on the trampoline with the kids before I sit down to sew or read now. Little changes make a big difference.

2. On the other hand my activity tracker app also tells me I’m a “sleeperhero”. I average 8 hours of sleep a night. This isn’t super surprising to me, since I have never functioned well on too little sleep. But it is interesting to see it measured and confirmed. My app assures me that I’m way above average, so at least I’m winning at something, right?

& Things I learned in November | Radiant Home Studio

3. I discovered that I love branding and marketing for creatives. This is a topic I have been reading about for a couple of years, since starting my pattern business, so it isn’t a completely new realization. I have been working through How to Style Your Brand by Fiona Humberstone this month and I thoroughly enjoyed learning about color psychology using her seasonal branding system. I’m still deciding if I’m an Autumn side of Summer or a Summer side of Autumn. But I’m getting closer to nailing down my brand style as I make moodboards and sort photos.

4. Growing crystals is boring. We bought a cheap science experiment kit so that we could grow crystals at home. Technically, it worked. But it was unimpressive (thus the lack of photo), to say the least. The picture on the box showed a neat geometric 3-D crystal structure. Ours was basically a flat piece of salt. Next time we study crystals, we’ll take a field trip to Cracker Barrel to eat rock candy…

5. The library is not free. I already knew this too, but it seems we have been reminded of this a lot recently. I’m avoiding the library for a while. A better deal – the $5 bag sale at the local used book warehouse. Ten cent books are cheaper than late fees.

8 Things I learned in November | Radiant Home Studio

6. Marriage points to a greater spiritual reality. I’ve been reminded of this truth this month after reading Eight Twenty-Eight by Larissa & Ian Murphy (the kindle version is only $2.99) and re-reading This Momentary Marriage by John Piper. I saw the short video story of Ian & Larissa a couple of years ago, but the book is worth reading for Larissa’s excellent writing and storytelling abilities. Their relationship is a beautiful picture of unconditional love and faithfulness in the midst of trials and suffering. And Piper is always worth reading!

7. I’ve seen a lot of Bible art journaling recently. Crossway will be releasing a new journaling Bible in a few weeks with blank pages between the printed ones. It would be perfect for art journaling. Sometimes I write out scripture phrases in fancy lettering, and it does help the phrases to stick in my mind. I wonder if making art in my Bible would work the same way. I might be giving it a try!

8. Kids can entertain themselves for hours with a glue gun, sticks, and some puddles. Most of the boats weren’t successful, but…

8 Things I learned in November | Radiant Home Studio

8 Things I learned in November | Radiant Home Studio

What have you learned recently?

I’m linking up with Things I Learned at Chatting at the Sky.

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My Favorite Time of Year

Maybe it comes from growing up in NY, but I love the crisp air at this time of year. It’s a little later here than in NY when it finally gets cool, but it reminds me of the first days of school (which I loved) and hiking (which was a favorite family activity).

Today was the first cool but sunny day we’ve had this year. The last couple of weeks have been wet and muddy, so this was a welcome change! I took the kids to the park to enjoy the beautiful day. I also love bringing the camera along to capture my favorite moments and stretch my creative muscles. I love sewing, but sometimes getting outside with the camera is just the inspiration I need to spark ideas in other creative areas.

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

And finally, this gem from my phone after Kyle got me laughing…

My Favorite Time of Year | One Radiant Home

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Praying the Bible (or Hope for my Prayer Life…)

Praying the Bible Whitney | Hope for My Prayer Life | One Radiant Home

“But when I pray, frankly, it’s boring.”

And when prayer is boring, we don’t feel like praying. And when we don’t feel like praying, it’s hard to make ourselves pray. Even five or six minutes of prayer can feel like an eternity. Our mind wanders half the time. We’ll suddenly come to ourselves and think, “Now where was I? I haven’t even been thinking of God for the last several minutes.” And we’ll return to the mental script we’ve repeated countless times. But almost immediately our minds begin to wander again because we’ve said the same old things about the same old things so many times. 

“It must be me,” we conclude. “prayer isn’t supposed to be  like this. I guess I’m just a second rate Christian.”

No, the problem is almost certainly not you; it’s your method…(Praying the Bible p. 14-15)

Don Whitney has a way of getting right to the heart of a matter. I remember feeling the same way when I read Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life a few years ago.

A couple of days ago, Shawn asked me to pray about something for him. I broke down in tears, frustrated that my pattern of prayer is almost exactly what Dr. Whitney describes. I knew I wouldn’t really pray for him the way that I knew I should. Shawn handed me Praying the Bible and encouraged me to read it. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. I’ve read other books about praying scripture and clearly they haven’t really helped. But since it was Don Whitney, I figured it wouldn’t hurt to see what he said.

I was immediately drawn in by the first chapter, where it felt like he was inside my head. His years of pastoral ministry and teaching seminary have allowed him to see that prayer is a common struggle among believers and that almost all of us have these thoughts as we try to pray. This was confirmed as I talked to some ladies at church that seemed to be struggling in the same way.

Dr. Whitney’s method isn’t new or groundbreaking. In fact, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea if it was. An effective prayer method must stand the test of time and transcend cultural barriers. It needs to be something that worked for the disciples and people throughout church history. It needs to work in America, China, and Europe. The solution, Whitney says, is to pray through a passage of scripture, particularly a Psalm.

It sounds simple, and it is. I recommend reading the book for more details about how to choose scripture and what a daily prayer routine might look like. Dr. Whitney has a way of writing that makes him feel like a wise, trusted friend sharing what the Lord has taught him, as you meet over a cup of coffee. Several years ago, we had the chance to hear him speak and meet with him in a small group as we shared a meal afterward. In person, he is as genuine as he seems in his writing and his years of wisdom spill out into every conversation. This is the picture of him that I have when I read his books

After a couple of days, I can’t say that my prayer life is “fixed,” but for the first time in a long time, I feel like there is hope that my prayer life can become more than what it has been.

And what if we could teach our children to pray like this now, saving them from the years of struggling to have an effective and vibrant prayer life in the future? Yes! I want my children to leave my home equipped to pray.

Praying (from Psalm 119) that the Bible would be my hiding place and my shield, that I would hope in the word of God and turn to it continually as I pray, and that we may teach our children to keep their lives pure by guarding it according to the word of God and through prayer.

Posted in Radiant Living, Reading | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Summer So Far

We have moved into our new house and are settling in. It’s a little bit surreal to own a house with plans to stay indefinitely. I’ve been avoiding writing anything about this because I know many of you might be wondering what happened with our plans for ministry in England. It’s a long story…another whole post. For now I’ll just say, after months of unsuccessful job hunting, prayer, and seeking the Lord, it seemed good to stay where we are. The Lord has shown us a future for our family here and we are following with small steps as we wait to see his plan unfold.

Queen Anne's Lace | One Radiant Home

So, we bought a house. It’s the 2nd house we’ve owned, but the first we’ve owned and planned to keep for more than a couple of years. After a year of renting in a subdivision neighborhood, we are thankful to have a property that allows the older children to run and play freely. I’m also thankful to have a place where I am free to decorate and change things without asking for permission. It’s wonderful to have that freedom after years of renting.

Digging in the Dirt | One Radiant Home

K with a 4 leaf clover | One Radiant Home

L with Queen Anne's Lace | One Radiant Home

J peeking | One Radiant Home

We were able to close on the house before our lease was up on the rental house. During the 3 weeks of overlap, we spent some time painting and working on some other updates around the house before our stuff was moved. A couple days after we moved in, we also had some work done on the driveway by a friend of ours that has a concrete business. The kids were entertained for hours watching the men pour and spread the concrete sidewalk and watching the tractor spread gravel.

Watching the Concrete Workers | One Radiant Home

Pouring the Concrete Sidewalk | One Radiant Home

Our neighbors are family from our church with children ranging from teens to baby. Everyone has someone to play with. I haven’t really seen my big kids in a couple of weeks! They disappear into the woods to play after lunch, stop in for drinks every now and then, and show up at dinner time. Their favorite day so far was the day we had heavy rain causing flash floods. Who needs a pool when you have a temporary pond in the yard? I barely snapped a picture of the boys as they were running by!

Playing in the Mud | One Radiant Home

The previous owners had a wonderful raised bed garden setup. We helped them plant before closing, and now we are enjoying buckets of blackberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, and more zucchini than we can eat. We also have several cantaloupes growing and are anxiously waiting to try them!

Blackberries | One Radiant Home

Garden Harvest | One Radiant Home

Blackberry Cobbler | One Radiant Home

And finally, a few photos of the kids…

C and the Kids | One Radiant Home

The Kids | One Radiant Home

Brothers | One Radiant Home

J 5th birthday | One Radiant Home

Posted in Dwelling, Gardening | Tagged , , | 2 Comments