Dec 31, 2015

December Book Reviews

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Silver Chair
C.S. Lewis

Eustace and Jill enter Narnia and are given a crucial task by Aslan: find and free the lost prince of Narnia, Prince Rillian. Many believed there was dark magic behind his disappearance ten years ago, but after many voyages to find him were fruitless, many lost hope. The two children are joined by a pessimistic (though endearing) Marsh-Wiggle (I picture him like a lanky scarecrow) as they enter the wastelands of giants and creatures of the Underland.

This is quite possibly my favorite Narnia book (it's a tie with The Magician's Nephew). I was constantly amazed at C.S. Lewis' storytelling abilities and creativity. I thought I knew the world of Narnia since this was my last Narnia book of the series, but Lewis weaved new lands outside of Narnia that blew me away. I love the ways he developed his characters in all of his Narnia books, but I particularly love Puddlegrum (the Marsh-Wiggle) in The Silver Chair. His hilariously negative view on life was a brilliant addition to the book. I also loved the theological backdrop of all of the Narnia books, and The Silver Chair did not disappoint on this front. There is a great philosophical and apologetic conversation between the the protagonists and the antagonist that reminded me of Mere Christianity.

My rating: 5/5 stars

You and Me Forever: Marriage in Light of Eternity
Francis and Lisa Chan 
Greg and I started this book in the summer while we were engaged and have read it on and off, mainly on our three-hour car rides to Houston since we felt the long chapters were best understood all in one sitting rather than reading small clumps at a time.  We loved the discussion questions at the end of each chapter and felt challenged to evaluate our marriage 'in light of eternity', as the Chans' subtitle notes.

You and Me Forever is not your average marriage book, because it doesn't really focus on marriage. A quote on the back cover  says: "The way to have a great marriage is not by focusing on marriage." Well, then, what should we focus on? The Chans believe Christians should focus on God first and foremost, placing Him preeminent above all else, even your spouse and children. Only then, when the greatest Love is in its proper place, can we love our families best. Using Scripture as well as wisdom from their experiences in their own marriage, Francis and Lisa discuss principles to have a marriage that satisfies the deepest part of the soul when God is the main focus. 

My rating: 5/5

7 Men: And The Secret Of Their Greatness
Eric Metaxas
I knew I wanted to read this book after diving into 7 Women last month (see my review here). Metaxas' biographical style is powerful as he uncovers the true stories behind seven men who showed true heroism in their difficult circumstances. George Washington, William Wilberforce, Eric Liddell, Jackie Robinson, Dietrich Bonhieffer, John Paul II, Chuck Colson. Each vastly different from one another: A president, an English abolitionist, an Scottish olympian turned missionary, a major league baseball player, a pastor and spy of Nazis, a pope, and a former Nixon associate who ended up behind bars.  Each of these historical figures experienced struggles and challenges that could have destroyed them, and yet they each showed resilience, boldness, and unwavering faith in God. 

I really liked this book and felt like Metaxas brought life into their stories by sharing not only their victories, but also their mistakes and weaknesses. He made them approachable as well as admirable, both important aspects of a biography. The short snippets of these seven men was enough to give an overall picture of why they were, but also left me wanting to know more. I look forward to watching movies about some of the men, including 42 ( about Jackie Robinson), Chariots of Fire (Eric Liddel), and Amazing Grace (William Wilberforce)

My review: 4.5/5

The Alchemist: A Magical Fable About Following Your Dream
Paulo Coelho
The fable starts with a Spanish young shepherd boy who has a recurring dream of treasure lying near the Pyramids in Egypt. He meets a stranger who helps him decide to follow his dream to Egypt. Selling all that he has to pursue his dream of unfathomable treasure, he sails away from his homeland and lands in the boisterous markets of Tangiers, Morocco where he meets more people along his journey. Eventually, he travels across the Egyptian desert and meets an alchemist who changes everything. 

Hailed as a modern classic, selling 20 million copies and available in 42 different translations, The Alchemist is a beloved book for many. It came well-recommended by various bloggers, so I decided to give it a try. My verdict is that it is an overall good fable with a lot of twists and turns and definitely kept me captivated. But I was less than impressed with some of the lessons and morals in the book. Religious  and metaphysical ideas are confusingly mixed and I disagreed with the underlying morals of the story, including following your heart (our heart can lead us astray many times), listening to omens, and if we really want something bad enough then the whole universe will help you achieve your goal. I liked the story, filled with imagery of Egypt's deserts, Andalusian pastures, and colorful marketplaces of Tangiers, but was not a fan of the symbolism or lessons presented. 

My rating: 3.5/5
The Inner Life
Thomas à Kempis
The Inner Life is a shortened version of The Imitation of Christ, with excerpts taken from the book to compile a devotional-like book that Kempis (a monk during the 1400s) used to encourage others towards humility, simplicity,  and obedience to God. I wrote about this book a few days ago for this month's edition of #COLLABOREADS. Read it here.

My rating: 4/5

Created To Be His Help Meet: Discover How God Can Make Your Marriage Glorious
Debi Pearl
Debi Pearl discusses what she and her husband believe about a woman's role in marriage. She uses Scripture to explain submission, obedience, reverence, and respect of one's husband. She also uses lots of letters she's received and inputs them in corresponding chapters to the topic of the letter. She ends each chapter with discussion questions as well as topics to search the Bible for more clarity. 

Although there were some pretty good tidbits sprinkled throughout the book, overall I felt like it was filled with poor advice and Scripture was misinterpreted. Here are some major flaws I found in the book that bothered me:
  • This is a Christian marriage book, yet there is very little mention of the Holy Spirit, other than Pearl telling women not to correct their husband's misdeeds because they are trying to "be the Holy Spirit".  Instead, there was a lot of do this, don't do that, which seemed very legalistic. 
  • She blamed wives for many (almost all) of marital problems.  She was downright harsh, critical, sarcastic, and sometimes cruel towards wives. She used language to make fun of certain women that I thought was very unprofessional for a book, and even more so, inappropriate for a Christian (slut, wench, ugly hillbilly, dumb-cluck). 
  • I felt that the book was rooted in a lot of fear-based teachings. In essence, a lot of her advice sounded like this: Don't try to correct your husband or make him angry, or he will leave and you'll be a single mom living in a dirty apartment and your children will have to go to public school (the horror!). There was also a lot of shaming in the book. If a wife does not constantly cook homemade meals, homeschool her children, and refuse to work outside of the home, then she is "blaspheming God's Word". There's nothing wrong with doing those things, but she's going too far when she says that a mom is foolish and irresponsible if she works or lets her children go to public school. There is not a one-size-fits all to motherhood and marriage, Mrs. Pearl. Your ridicule, shaming, and sarcasm do not convince me. 
  • Her teachings make husbands like idols. She doesn't outrightly say this, but husbands are revered and to be obeyed even when they are in blatant sin. At one point, she even recommends staying with a verbally and physically abusive husband. There were only a few areas she excused as getting the authorities involved (abusing the children and if he makes the wife do something illegal or immoral). And she is against a woman learning the Bible on her own without her husband allays teaching her. I love learning with my husband. I respect and really admire his wisdom, but he is not my mediator between me and God, and that is how Debi makes it sound.
  • She discourages women meeting with women because it is "unnatural" for women to be discussing emotions with one another and can lead to "intimacy" (in other words, you'll turn into a lesbian". I agree that women shouldn't be getting together to gab about the faults of their husbands, but I believe that it is healthy and beneficial to have women who you can study the Bible, have fellowship, be encouraged by, pray with, and have fun with. 
  • She repeatedly proclaims that a wife's ultimate purpose is to be a help meet for her husband. Yes, I believe God wants wives to respect and honor their husbands and to help them as a "help meet". And I believe that now that I am married, this is part of my purpose.  But my ultimate purpose is not in whether I am a wife; my purpose and identity are rooted in Jesus. This is not mentioned at all, and can gravely confuse wives about their worth if they think their only purpose is how good of a wife they are. Not to mention single gals! What about them, Mrs. Pearl? They have great purpose and they have worth even if they are not married! 
My conclusion is that I cannot recommend this book at all. There are far too many dangerous ideas and teachings in the book that far outweigh the few positive snippets of truth. Instead of this book, I would direct women who want a book on Biblical womanhood (in every season rather than just as a wife), to a book I strongly recommend:  Elisabeth Elliot's Let Me Be A Woman.

My rating: 1.5  out of 5 stars

This concludes my monthly reviews for 2015 books. I read a total of 48 books this year, more than doubling the amount I read last year! In a few days, I will share my favorite books of 2015.

Dec 30, 2015

goodbye 2015: second half of the year

Today, I am continuing my review of 2015. It was a fun year full of adventures and celebrations! Here is the second half of the year's favorite moments!

[See the first half of the year here]
>> wrote another entry in the "Journal of a Miss to Mrs" on how productivity, perfectionism, and people-pleasing can steal joy. 
>> Spent a weekend with cousins at Pacific City, OR. 
>> Spent six days road-tripping to Yellowstone and exploring the beauty of the national park with my family and Greg. See the posts [one] [two
>> Greg and I had our engagement photos done [see them here]
>> Books I read: Elsie Dinsmore: Book 1; The Memory Keeper's Daughter; Anything: The Prayer That Unlocked My God and My Soul. [Read my reviews here]
>> I wrote about the heart behind the Proverbs 31 woman in the "Journal of a Miss to Mrs" series
>> Had a garage sale to sell stuff before my move to San Antonio.
>> Books I read: Where'd You Go, Bernadette?; Narnia: Voyage of the Dawn Treader; Longbourn; 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. [Read my reviews here]

>> Moved all my belongings from Oregon to Texas, a 2,000 mile road-trip with my parents. They met Greg's parents for the first time, my dad fell in love with Rudy's BBQ (he talked in his sleep that night saying, "how did they get the meat so soft?"), and then they went back home and I stayed with friends while driving to Greg's during the day to unpack stuff in our soon-to-be apartment.
>> While in Texas, Greg's family and friends had a wedding shower for us, which was super fun. My San Antonio gals threw a tea party bachelorette party for me the week before. I was a bit spoiled!
>> During the whirlwind month, I managed to post 12 days of Bailey Jean's Blog-Tember Challenge. [see my Blog-Tember posts].
>> Books I read: Lunch in Paris: A Love Story With Recipes; Avenue Of Spies; The Chase; Narnia: The Last Battle. [see my reviews here]

>> I had a beautiful bridal shower in Portland, hosted by my hospitable and awesome aunt and decorated/planned by my sisters. The decor was all handmade, an ode to my love for DIY.
>> A group of friends who formed a prayer group that I have been a part of for the past 3 years treated me to a delicious dinner to celebrate my upcoming wedding. Super sweet!
>> Greg and I became Mr. and Mrs. on October 17th!!!! Then hopped on a plane(s) and spent ten days in Maui!
>> Books I read: Surprised By Joy: The Shape of My Early Life; For Women Only; A Moment of Weakness. [See my reviews here].
[wedding photos by Vio Regus Photography]. More wedding photos on my Facebook account
>> Shared weekly posts of things Greg and I were thankful for [see posts here]
>> Co-hosted Kiki's The Circle link-up as we all shared what we are thankful for through acrostic poems [see the post]
>> Spent Thanksgiving with Greg's family (three hours away from San Antonio)
>> Books I read: 7 Women; Notes From A Blue Bike, I Am Malala, Waiting for Morning. [Read my reviews here]

>> Took a day-trip to Gruene, TX, my favorite little town near San Antonio. [See my post here]
>> Went to a 90s-themed  Christmas Party and dressed the part!
>> Spent time with Greg's family in Houston (and went to a Houston Rockets game!)
>> Joined new friends from our Young Marrieds sunday school class to listen to an army band play Christmas classics in a variety of styles. So fun!
>> Spent our first Christmas as Mr and Mrs in San Antonio. We attended the candlelight Christmas Eve service, ate dinner on the Riverwalk and enjoyed the thousands of lights bedazzling the area, and spent Christmas Day relaxing at home. We opened gifts, watched A Christmas Story and Elf, spent time reading, and just being goofy together.
>> Attended our first wedding together as Mr and Mrs (Greg's cousin and his beautiful bride)
>> Books I read: 7 Men, The Alchemist, Narnia: The Silver Chair, You and Me Forever, The Inner Life, Created to Be His Help Meet. [reviews coming soon]

Tomorrow, I will share my favorite books of 2015!

Dec 29, 2015

Goodbye, 2015: favorite moments from the first half

Goodbye, 2015! You were so good to me!

2015 came and went pretty quick, and it was hoppin' with lots of exciting moments and memories! I got engaged and married this year and went on trips to NYC, Yellowstone, and various Texas trips. It was a year of good reading, growing in the blogging community through link-ups, as well as learning to deal with some deep-rooted anxiety and fears through trusted community. 

Come along for a walk down memory lane as I share a few memories from the first half of 2015!

>> I started off the year with reviewing goals from 2014 and sharing my goals for 2015
>> Celebrated one year together with Greg during a trip to San Antonio
>> Books I read: Women of the Word, Surprised By Oxford, and Mere Christianity. See reviews here.

>> I ran my first 5k ever in San Antonio with Greg at the end of February! It had been a goal for a few years to run a race and this was a great one! We ran around a few of the mission in the Missions National Historical  Park. A few friends ran the half marathon and the 10k, but I was happy with finally running a 5k race. 
>> Finished my posts that reviewed my 1000 gifts journal (inspired by Ann Voscamp's book, One Thousand Gifts). I shared some of my favorite gifts (blessings) from the previous year.
>> Books I read: The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, And The Mountains Echoed, Jesus Among Other Gods, and I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings. See my reviews here.

>> Spent a weekend in Seattle for PNP continuing education and catching up with friends
>> Finished a two-month study on Philippians using Jen Wilkin's "5P Method" of studying the Bible (I wrote about this here; scroll down to Women of the Word book review)
>> Saw a theatrical production of The Great Divorce, performed by three stellar actors
>> Books I read: Major Pettigrew's Last Stand, The Total Money Makeover, Mended: Pieces of a Life Made Whole. The House Girl, and Chronicles of Narnia: The Magician's Nephew. See my reviews here.

>> Greg visited Portland and we celebrated his birthday as well as Easter together! We explored Portland and also made time for day-trips to Hood River and Seattle (see my post). 
>> Spent a half-day with my grandma, mom, and sister in Woodland, WA exploring two beautiful gardens: The Woodland Tulip Festival and the Hulda Klager Lilac Festival
>> Posted about the story behind one of my favorite hymns, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing.
>> Books I read: The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and The Horse and His Boy; The Magic of Ordinary Days; Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire; The Great Divorce. See my reviews.

>> Greg surprised me with a visit to Portland the first weekend of May and PROPOSED! Read the story here.
>> Started "Journal of a Miss to Mrs", a series of posts on what I learned throughout engagement and newlywed seasons. 
>> Spent a week in NYC with my sisters and Greg!!! (see the posts: part [one], [two], and [three]
>> Finished a two-month study on Habbakuk using the 5P method (I wrote about this here; scroll down to Women of the Word book review)
>> Books I read: I Tried Until I Almost Died, Mama Maggie, Savor, The Pearl, and Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. See the reviews here.

>> Celebrated my 29th birthday in San Antonio with Greg and my SA friends (& rode the scariest ride at Fiesta Texas)
>> Wrote about the story behind another favorite hymn, His Eye Is On The Sparrow
>> Books I read: The Porcelain Thief; Kelly Tough; And the Shofar Blew. See my reviews here.
Stay tuned for memories from the second half of 2015!

Dec 28, 2015

#Collaboreads: The Inner Life

Today, I am joining Rachel A. Dawson and Amber for December's #COLLABOREADS. The theme this month was "A Friend's Favorite". Basically, read a book that a friend recommends and then answer the R.E.A.D.S acronym to review the book. Link-up and then start conversations with other bloggers who have linked up.  I decided to ask my husband for a book recommendation since our preferences of books is quite different. He loves books deep in theology that sometimes are a bit hard for me to grasp. He recommended The Inner Life.

The Inner Life is a small book compiled by Penguin Books from excerpts in Thomas à Kempis' notable classic, The Imitation of Christ. It is translated to English from Latin. Thomas à Kempis (1380-1471)  a monk, priest, and writer who spent his life from age nineteen until his death in a monastery in Holland. His life was devoted to prayer, simplicity, and union with God (source). Whether he was teaching, studying, offering Mass, or copying manuscripts, he was a humble man with a desire to know God.  His book, and the abbreviated version, The Inner Life reads like a devotional focused on humility and obedience to God.
Riveting : What part of the book could you NOT get enough of?  
Thomas à Kempis' writing was a bit difficult to get used to at first because of the older English, but I was challenged and encouraged by his writings overall, especially those excerpts on humility and simplicity from the world's distractions and amusements. 

  • On loving others: "Whoever loves much, does much. Whoever does a thing well, does much. And he does well, who serves the community before his own interests" (p.17)
  • On obedience: "Lord, for Your sake I will gladly bear whatever You shall send to me. From your hand I will accept gladly both good and ill, sweet and bitter, joy and sorrow; and for all that may befall me, I will thank You." (p. 61-62)
  • On humility: 
    • "He is truly great, who is great in the love of God. He is truly great, who is humble in mind, and regards earth's highest honors as nothing…" (p. 6)
    • "The more humble and obedient to God a man is, the more wise and at peace he will be in all that he does." (p.7)
  • His contrast of the nature (the flesh) and God's grace on pages 100-104 were really insightful and  a great reminder on how vastly different they are ("Nature is eager to receive honour and reward …Grace faithfully ascribes all honour and glory to God…" p. 101)
Elements: How did you relate to/care for the characters?What's your thought on the plot line and twists and turns?
I was a little thrown off with how short and slightly choppy the chapters where, but once I realized the book was made up of excerpts of The Imitation of Christ, it made more sense why there wasn't a smoother flow. It seemed a bit like Penguin Books just copy and pasted the excerpts that were divided into short chapters (between 1-3 pages), but I soon got used to it and read it like a devotional. 
I cannot say I can relate to Thomas a Kempis very much since I don't follow a monastic life. BUT, I do desire to devote more time to the things that marked his life and his book: prayer, simplicity, humility, and union with God. 

Associate: What other books are like this one? 
I have not read The Imitation of Christ, but I can only imagine it is a worthy read based on The Inner Life. Penguin Books squeezed out a great deal of the wisdom to create The Inner Life. Therefore, it makes sense why it may come off as being intense and serious if it is "The Best Hits" of a classic book on growing spiritually. Kempis does not beat around the bush -- there just simply is no time for fluff. At first, I was put off by this. I like storytelling, metaphors, and visuals. And a bit of humor is nice, every now and then. The Inner Life does not have any of this. However, after talking about this with my husband, I started to see that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. Kempis was serious about his faith and The Inner Life exemplifies this. Most of the writing paraphrases different Scripture passages, so in a way, it is almost like a medieval version of The Message Bible since it is translated in Old English. It takes some time to get used to, but I soon realized that the tiny book is jam-packed with wisdom that I could apply to my own life. It also led me to pray through some of the ideas, namely on asking God to show me what humility looks like as a daily practice. 

Emotionally, it reminds me of C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity, because they both were hard for me to get into at first due to the language and somewhat difficult concepts to grasp. But, I ended up loving Mere Christianity once I got through the first few chapters, and the same goes for The Inner Life. The writing style reminds me of Brother Lawrence's Practice of the Presence of God. He was a humble monk as well and desired to praise God in whatever work he did, even if it was scrubbing floors or cooking. 

 Design: You know you judged this book by the cover. What did you think of it? How did it relate to the contents of the novel? And the font and layout of the pages? 
The cover is pretty simple with the white background and a passage from the book in Old English font. The title is in a very slightly larger font and red, so there is a contrast, though still a bit difficult to differentiate from the paragraph. There is nothing riveting or necessarily eye-catching about the book's front or back cover. The chapters were short and divided into three books (Book One: Counsels on the Spiritual Life; Book Two: Counsels on the Inner Life; Book Three: On Inward Consolation). The book is relatively short at 108 pages.

Stars: How many out of five do you give this book? 4 stars 
Would you recommend this book to a friend? Yes, I would. It has a different feel compared to modern devotional books, but is definitely worth the read and will bring up a lot of good areas to pray about and ask yourself who you are doing in those areas. 

Dec 16, 2015

christmas tour & traditions

Today, I am liking up with Kiki from In Its Time and Katie from Refining the Wild Grapes for this months The Circle prompt to share what the holidays look like in our home, as well as what Christmas traditions we cherish. 

This is my first Christmas as a newlywed, as well as the first time I am away from family during the holidays. Christmas will definitely look different than other years, which is bittersweet. It is sad and slightly "bitter" that I will not be able to partake in some of the Christmas traditions I have come to love. One of my favorite traditions is the annual Polar Express showing at Portland's OMSI  with my younger siblings, followed by a stroll along Peacock Lane (a street filled with adorable Tudor-style homes in Old Portland all decked out in Christmas lights and decor).

The Portland Zoo has a great light show that I've been to a few years with my siblings.

I loved having introvert time as I stroll through my favorite antique shop in Portland, Moticello Antique Marketplace during the holidays because they always had great holiday decor ideas.
I also love caroling the night away on Christmas Eve along with other people from our Romanian church. We go to homes of our congregation and carol in front of their lawns, after which we are invited in the home for homemade snacks and warm drinks. It is a fun time to sing carols and also re-connect with friends. And of course, there is something so heart-warming about having plenty of family time during the holidays, which usually includes delicious Romanian meals.

And probably one of my favorite family holiday memories are the two years we visited the Bavarian town in eastern Washington, Leavenworth, for their Christmas season. See the posts from 2013 (part one , part two, and part three)
Although I will miss those traditions, as well as just simply being with family on Christmas, there is so much sweetness in this season. Greg and I get to make new traditions since we are now a family, and spend our first Christmas together instead of 2,000 miles away from one another. Also, I will be attending several Christmas parties with his extended family in Houston, so I am looking forward to that!

My new home is in San Antonio. It may not be a winter wonderland like the Pacific Northwest can be with it's evergreens and cold winter weather, but the San Antonio still has a lot to offer during the holidays in its own southern style, and I am excited to develop new traditions down here with Greg. Recently, Greg and I took a day trip to Gruene, TX and enjoyed how the small town was decked in holiday cheer. Also, I am also looking forward to seeing the River Walk all bedazzled in thousands upon thousands of lights for the holidays, and hope to make both yearly traditions.
Greg joked that one of our Christmas traditions this year was finding a cute little dwarf tree at our local H-E-B store (the chain supermarket in Texas). We were a little bummed at how small the dwarf trees were, but didn't have enough space in our apartment for a normal-sized tree. We eventually chose one and then bought some ornaments and a few decorations from the nearby Dollar Tree. I left almost all my Christmas decor in Portland during my move, so I was sad we wouldn't have a lot of decor, but I was pleasantly surprised that Dollar Tree had a few good options! As the years pass, I am sure we will add on to our little Christmas decor collection, but for now, we really like our simple decor. It echoes our life season right now of new beginnings. 

Here are some shots of our apartment living room and dining room. 
I bought the beautiful vintage book of carols a few years ago from an antique shop in Portland. 
I bought styrofoam cones and twine at Dollar Tree and wrapped the twine around the cone to make the two "trees", then topped them with bows also from Dollar Tree. The poinsettia and wall hanging were also from Dollar Tree!

What are some of your favorite Christmas traditions?

Dec 9, 2015

Christmastime in Gruene, TX

Gruene was a prominent cotton-producing town in the late 1800s and early 1900s after being discovered and inhabited by German farmers, namely Ernst Gruene. It lost popularity during the Great Depression and became a ghost town after WWII, especially since highway construction bypassed the town. Thankfully, the 1970s brought many renovations to the dilapidated small town, and it soon became a tourist attraction that still brings in many crowds today, especially to the historic downtown (source). With its old world charm and small town atmosphere, it is a great day trip from the hustle and bustle of nearby San Antonio and Austin. 

I've been to Gruene a few times and heard that there were a few Christmas-themed events happening last Saturday, so Greg and I decided to make it a date. The sun was out and it was a great day for walking amidst the beauty of this little gem in New Braunfels. 
We enjoyed a delicious lunch at my favorite restaurant in Gruene,  Gristmill  River Restaurant. It used to be a cotton gin (machines that separated the seeds from the cotton fiber) powered by the nearby Guadalupe River back in the late 1800s, but most of it burned down in a fire in the 1920s. It was renovated from its remaining boiler room in the 1970s (source).  Now, it looks like a treehouse with it's serene location under a canopy of tall oak trees. It is centrally located in historic downtown Gruene between Gruene Hall (one of Texas' oldest dance halls) and the town's water tower.
Our view from our seats on the outdoor patio in one of the ten seating areas. The place is huge!
 There is a beautiful outdoor sitting area as well.  
We walked to various boutiques and antique shops, all decked out in Christmas decor. 
We then relaxed on the porch of the Gruene Mansion Inn, a Victorian-esque house constructed in 1870s by Ernst Gruene's second eldest son. It is now a gorgeous compound that includes the historic inn as well as adjacent cottages for rent. 
We finished the afternoon by rocking on rocking chairs at the nearby Oma Gruene Secrete Garden for some live music and these lovebirds kept showing us young folk how to two-step like pros. They were adorable! A scoop of mint chocolate chip was also in order, since it was such a sunny December day!

Have you been to Gruene, TX or another small town with old charm? 

Dec 7, 2015

Our Grateful Hearts // Weeks 4 + 5

Thanksgiving has come and gone, but that does not mean the reasons for giving thanks should cease. Greg and I started journaling things we are thankful for at the beginning of November and we decided to continue for December as well. We figure it is a great way to help keep us from getting carried away with the busyness of the holiday season, by focusing on how faithful God has been.

"Not what we say about our Blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our Thanksgiving."  
(W.J. Purkise)

I hope that we can be good stewards of the many blessings God has given us. It's one thing to journal or blog about them, but I do not want to stop there. I want to remember to boomerang the blessings I have been given towards others, because we are not meant to hoard the many blessings God gives us. 

Here is week one, two, and three of our blessing journaling. And now, for the last week of November and first week of December . . . 

49. As I read the book, "I Am Malala", I was struck with a thankfulness that I was raised in a country where I did not have to worry about my ability to go to school. Malala lived in Pakistan and was targeted by the Taliban because she spoke out for the right for girls to go to school. I took that for granted as a girl, but it truly is a blessing that I did not have to fear going to school.

53. We are thankful that we got to hang out with one of Greg's friends and his wife, who were visiting from out of town. I have really loved getting to know Greg's friends and their wives, and look forward to meeting more of them since we live in the same state as many of them. The wives (of his best friends) that I have met so far are genuine, sweet, and so friendly!

55. In November, Greg rang in 7 years at his job! The company has taken care of him in many ways with great benefits and a great work environment. 

56. I am thankful for electronics and transportation that have allowed me and Greg to have a long-distance relationship until we got married in October and I moved to Texas. It was really hard many days to be apart, but would have been exponentially harder without the modern conveniences of FaceTime and airplane flights between Texas and Oregon. 

58. Thankful for a fun and restful Thanksgiving weekend in Houston with Greg's family. 

63. Thankful for God's love and grace for us, for the hope of eternity with Him, and for His redeeming power that restores us and gives us an identity as His children.

64. I am thankful for the 30 single gals who completed the survey I messaged them about. Their responses were full of wisdom, honesty, and transparency. I will be using the responses anonymously throughout parts of my upcoming blog series in early 2016.

67. Thankful for a week night date night! We went wassailing in New Braunfels, a cute Bavarian town an hour from San Antonio, and tasted many different wassails (ciders). 

69. Greg is going through a book about parables Jesus taught and he is thankful for Jesus storytelling abilities to teach so much while also revealing one's own heart conditions. 

70. Thankful for a little day trip to my favorite small town near San Antonio, Gruene (pronounced "green"). We shopped at the farmer's market and the small shops, ate lunch at the Gristmill (a restaurant that resembles a treehouse), and relaxed on rocking chairs while live country music played. It was such a sweet way to start out weekend!

71. Thankful for a fun night with friends from church this past weekend. We attended a 90s Christmas party and dressed the part. Greg was a 90s wangsta and I went for the grunge look :)

72. Thankful for our Young Marrieds Sunday school class. The other couples have been so sweet and one couple invited us to lunch yesterday. It was so great chatting and finding so many similarities! 

What are some of the things you are thankful for this week?

(I am linking up with Ember Grey)

A Grateful Heart with Ember Grey