What We’ve Been Reading – January 2021

What We’ve Been Reading – January 2021

Welcome to a New Year! We are kicking off this year with a book release! Dreams of Savannah released on January 5th and if you haven’t snagged a copy yet, you can order a SIGNED copy from my shop HERE! And…coming in May 2021 is the launch of a brand new series. You can preorder The Nature of a Lady HERE.

We’re sharing a few of our recent reads with you today, but we want to know…What books have you been reading as we kick off 2021?

Roseanna’s Reads

In the last few weeks, I’ve done plenty of reading…but none strictly for pleasure. Even so, I’ve added quite a few fabulous books to my list, including some of my favorites from this school year with the kids!

For the Edit

Delia and the Drifter by Melody Carlson
This one’s for an edit–book releases 2/15–and it’s very much a classic Western romance in some ways…and utterly surprising in others! I highly enjoyed my read!

On Audio

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
I listened to this one on audio, as I have the other 2, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Of course, it took me until 3/4 of the way through to realize the narrator wasn’t saying “Serious Black” but rather “Sirius Black.” The quirks of audio, LOL. Looking forward to the next one!

With the Kids

Caddie Woodlawn by Carol Ryrie Brink
I loved this pioneer story the first time we read it a few years ago, and I loved it just as much this time around. The titular character is adventurous, audacious, yet we see her grow from a wild tomboy to a loving sister and gracious young lady in the course of the year the book covers.

With the Kids

The Seven Wonders of Sassafras Springs by Betty G. Birney
I absolutely love the premise of this book: a boy who thinks his town is so boring and wants to go see the world, and whose father promises him a trip to visit relatives if he can find seven Wonders of the World–er, town–in the next seven days. It’s full of delightful, homespun, miraculous stories, the likes of which are always surrounding us. Such a fun story!

For the Edit (too)

Heart of the Crown by Hannah Currie
The summation of the Daughters of Peverell princess books was soooooooo good! A satisfying end to the series and just a beautiful story in its own right!

Nonfiction

How to Fight Racism by Jemar Tisby
I’m not finished this one yet, but I’m excited to have a practical guide to understanding and fighting racism tendencies! I loved The Color of Compromise by the same author so snatched this helpful little book up as soon as I saw it.

With the Kids

The Great Wheel by Robert Lawson
This story of the original, massive Ferris Wheel for the Chicago World’s Fair is told from the point of view of an Irish lad who comes to America to seek his fortune and follow his aunt’s prophecy, that says he’ll follow a star westward and ride on the greatest wheel ever built. Such a fun slice of fictionalized history!

Rachel’s Reads

For Fun

I am a little obsessed with all things WWII right now. So when I received an ARC of Kristy Cambron’s new book, you’d better believe I tore into it immediately!

On Audio

My husband and I recently went on a road trip and decided to reread this one since the squeal just released. This is one of those books that is so drastically different from the movie that it feels like it’s a completely different story. (Some language)

With the Kids

We just finished this book as part of our school curriculum. My third grader read it all by himself, aloud to me…And he really loved learning about George Washington!

Because I'm Obsessed with WWII Reads...

I told you I was reading a lot of WWII right now….This story was INCREDIBLE!!! I highly recommend it. Takes place on US soil (mostly) during WWII and follows the incredible women who flew the planes all over the US for the military. (General Fiction)

With the Kids

Read-Aloud with the boys. My 8-year-old has discovered that he loves reading! We JUST started reading this one together as a family and will work on taking turns reading. We’ve read several books in the Narnia series to the boys when they were so young, they don’t rememeber them…Hence…starting over from the beginning.

Holiday History ~ Good King Wenceslas

Holiday History ~ Good King Wenceslas

I don’t know about you, but I always enjoy learning about the true story behind things like songs, poems, and stories…much like the one that goes along with the carol “Good King Wenceslas.”

This song is based on the famous life of a Bohemian duke, Wenceslaus I (known in Czech as Svatý Václav). Wenceslaus was renowned for his piety and Christian devotion, and nothing could stop him from doing good…even terrible weather. The event memorialized in the song took place on December 26, the feast day of St. Stephen, a day traditionally reserved for delivering alms to the poor. Wenceslaus was so determined to take these alms to his people that he trekked out in the middle of a blizzard to accomplish it. The song is from the perspective of one of his servants, who thought at one point during the journey that he’d surely die from the cold; the snow was so thick he couldn’t see what was ahead of him. But he made his way by literally following in the footsteps of the duke, which led him unerringly to the door of the people he was helping.

Wenceslaus lived from 907-935 and is famous for his midnight vigils and dedication to protecting and providing for his people, especially the poor. Upon his death, many biographies were written about him, and he was soon named a saint. So great was his popularity that the Holy Roman Emporer Otto even posthumously conferred on him the title of “king.” How fascinating is that? He has been held up for centuries as what a true, noble leader should be.

Wenceslaus has remained a popular figure in both Bohemia and England for centuries, resulting in the poem and Christmas carol we all know, written in 1853 by John Mason Neale. The variation in the spelling of his name has happened in the time since the song was written; it originally had that ‘u’ in there.

Holiday History ~ Cookies

Holiday History ~ Cookies

Ah, Christmas cookies. The baking, the decorating, the consuming…all part of the holiday tradition in many families. And it’s been that way for hundreds of years.

Feasts have been a part of Christmas celebration for untold centuries, and since it was counted as one of the most important days of the Christian year, that meant that all the expensive, special foods were reserved for that day. Which included spices, sugar, butter, and lard. So naturally, when one wanted to make a special treat for Christmas, one brought out these prized ingredients and created a sweet delicacy, often in the form of cookies.

The concept of beautiful decorated cookies originated with the Germans, like many of our other Christmas traditions. Why did they go to such trouble to cut out and decorate their cookies? Because they then used them as decorations on the tree! Cookie cutters became widely (and cheaply) available in the late 1800s, helping this tradition to spread.

So when did we start leaving these sweet treats for Santa? Interestingly, that dates only to 1930s America. In the throes of the Great Depression, most families didn’t have a lot…but they wanted to instill in their children the idea of not only being grateful for what they had and what they received, but of giving too. Cookies were something small and relatively inexpensive but nevertheless precious that families could offer in gratitude. Originally, stockings were filled with such treats for Santa. But over the years, people instead put the cookies and milk out for him and left the stockings empty, to be filled by him.

Word of the Year – Intentional

Word of the Year – Intentional

As 2020 wound to a close, my best friend and I were talking about a Word for the year to come. I mentioned how I usually come to mine…namely, I pray about it and wait for something to strike me–or not. She, on the hand, prayerfully CHOOSES one. Something she means to keep in mind in the year to come. Her word for 2021 is “Joy.” Which is lovely, right?

I decided that this choosing business had something going for it. I began to ponder what I felt my word should be, and praying that God would clarify it and help me pick the one He wanted for me. I considered quite a few. Something resonated whenever I considered my need for rest…but rest as a word for the year didn’t seem quite right. I got a feeling of being on the right track whenever my husband and I talked about making a list of what we’ve done in 2020 and then setting up plans to help us stick to the right path in the year to come. And I knew that I wanted a word that also captured how I want to pursue relationships and love my neighbors in all that I do.

It was in a conversation about marketing our books that the word itself hit me.

Intentional.

This is the word that encapsulates everything I’m going for in 2021.

I need to be intentional about my rest–because let me tell you, burnout is a real thing!

I need to be intentional about my writing, focusing on the stories God wants me to write.

I need to be intentional about building relationships and tending relationships, with family and friends and neighbors.

I need to be intentional about pursuing the passion for reconciliation that He has planted in my heart in this tumultuous year.

I need to be intentional about my food choices, my exercise, my health, my family’s health–a lesson diabetes has taught me in the last quarter of 2020, for sure, when “spontaneous” became an impossibility for my son.

Intentional. It’s the word that also speaks to the reason undergirding everything else. My husband and I talk a lot about the value of self-awareness and “knowing your why.” When you know why you’re doing a thing, it helps you focus. It helps you make decisions. It helps you evaluate whether each thing adds or detracts from what you should be doing. We ask “why?” a lot in our family. And having the answer definitely creates intentionality.

I don’t want my life to be defined by happenstance and circumstance. I don’t want life to happen to me. Even when I get tossed curveballs (and 2020 had a few of them!), I want to step forward to meet them, knowing that they might be able to make me pause and regroup and even change up some of my actions, but they can’t change my reason for things.

Do you have a word for 2021? I’d love to hear it, and what it means to you!

Holiday History ~ Christmas Wreaths

Holiday History ~ Christmas Wreaths

Did you know that Christmas wreaths have their origins in Christmas trees? I’d never really paused to wonder where they came from, but upon reading that, it made total sense.

In Europe, where the pine forests inspired the tradition of bringing something green and eternal into the home to celebrate the bringer of eternal life, the wreath soon took shape too. It happened quite naturally–people had to trim and shape the trees they brought inside for Christmas, which meant boughs left over. Well, these people weren’t wasteful–they decorated with the limbs too.

And the idea of weaving them into a circle was apparently a natural one–another symbol of eternity, after all! I found it fascinating to learn that those first Christmas wreaths were not hung on the door or set on the table to hold candles, but were in fact hung upon the tree! Yep, that’s right. The first wreaths were ornaments.

It’s also important to note that throughout history, wreaths were a symbol of victory–just think of Greeks of old wearing a laurel or olive-leaf crown when they won a game. This is an idea that never went away, so creating one from evergreens at Christmas time was just another element to the symbolism of all Christ represents for us.

The idea of an advent wreath in particular is credited to Johann Hinrich Wichern, a Lutheran pastor.

Like many other Christmas traditions that we now consider standard, wreaths began to be adopted by the general populace all throughout Europe and America during the 19th century.

Holiday History ~ The Twelve Days of Christmas

Holiday History ~ The Twelve Days of Christmas

These days, all the hype is leading up to Christmas. So much so that on December 26, it feels kinda like a letdown, right? The all-Christmas-music-all-the-time radio stations are back to normal programming. Some people start taking down decorations. By the time New Year’s rolls around, people look at you like you’re crazy if you’re still wishing them a Merry Christmas.

I do it anyway. Why? Because the Christmas season traditionally begins on December 25. It doesn’t end there.

The Christmas season is about much more than a day: it is about celebrating the miracle and life of Christ. Just as we have the Advent Calendar to count up to Christmas Day, so we also have the Twelve Days, which follow Christmas and lead up to the Epiphany on January 6.

Surviving mainly in Europe today, the Epiphany is a long-celebrated day that remembers the arrival of the Magi. Literally “Manifestation,” the Epiphany is also the day taken to commemorate the second birth or baptism of Christ and the importance of God being made man through that act. In many parts of the world, the Epiphany is just as celebrated (or even more so) as Christmas…and in the days when sweets and citrus fruits were primary decorations, children especially loved this day, because it’s when they got to eat those candies and fruit. 😉

The Twelve Days covers all sorts of important moments in Christianity, like Christ being named 8 days after birth. The importance of the Christmas star. The journey the magi took. The baptism of Christ, as already mentioned. And so much more.

In our family, we like to remember the full Twelve Days and never take decorations down until the traditional day, January 6. And there’s something really special about stretching it out like that. About making Christmas the start of something, instead of the end. Because really, Christ’s arrival was just the beginning. And this helps us to remember that.