2009 Review: Life and Books

2009 was a good year for our family; I hope it was for yours. That's not to say it was without difficulty, but we really had some neat experiences:

---> We moved to a new (cheaper, more diverse, more relational) neighborhood
---> I focused in and worked hard on learning Turkish
---> A family trip to Egypt, full of history and beauty, fulfilling a dream I've had since childhood
---> We memorized the first chapter of James together as a family
---> I took a nice, long blogging break (and have found that, in the season I'm in, I really don't miss it that much)
---> Found out we're expecting #5 (who the doc thinks is a little girl, but I'm only 14 weeks so it's a bit early to be certain)
---> My mom came for a visit
---> Doug gave me a sewing machine for Christmas and so I've been loving learning this new skill
---> We had yet another virtually commercialization-free Christmas overseas (this is one huge joy for me in living abroad)

As for books, some of you may remember that I laid out a 40-book list goal for myself at the beginning of 2009. I did *almost* read 40 books in 2009, but only about half of them were from the list I put up at the beginning of the year. I am about halfway through 10 others of the list, and 10 others I haven't even started. (Here are all my book reviews for what I *did* read in 2009.) It was an ambitious goal, and perhaps, too, I am a bit too "P" (if you don't know the Myers-Briggs personality types, that means a bit too random/spontaneous) to read solely according to plan. One thing I learned is that I like reading fiction more than I thought I did, and I ended up weaving in more of it than I had planned.

Here are my top reading highlights from 2009:
  1. Sacred Marriage-- (Gary Thomas) - This is the least typical, the most challenging, and the most helpful marriage book I've ever read. I highly recommend it. For any Christian, male or female, I believe it will help put marriage in its proper perspective... not as a relationship of getting, or even of "each giving 100%", but as a state of growing more like Christ.
  2. What Our Mothers Didn't Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman-- (Danielle Crittenden) - I said this on my review page, but I'll say it again... I think this book should be handed to every single woman in America under 40. Those of us who have grown up with feminist principles interwoven into every history lesson, every self-esteem talk, every career day, have more to think about than what's been presented to us. Crittenden offers a balanced, thoughtful, much-needed perspective on approaching life as a woman in this modern world.
  3. The Unlikely Disciple-- (Kevin Roose) - Interesting book, this. For anyone who has spent significant time in evangelical Christian circles, this is just the sort of book that can help us reexamine the "furniture" of our lives... the things we take for granted in life that others look at and notice about us. Roose, as a secular journalist major, entered a very conservative Christian university for a semester to examine young evangelical life "from the inside". He offers a surprisingly balanced (for the most part) perspective that I (as a girl who grew up in church and went to a Christian college) found refreshing and insightful.
  4. No Graven Image-- (Elisabeth Elliot) - I heard about this book from a friend and was surprised as I read. It's Elliot's only novel, and she doesn't shy away from tackling hard questions about life, God's sovereignty, and many of the gray questions I have wondered about throughout the years. Certainly, it's not an "easy" read as I felt the need to debrief and talk through some of the overarching questions raised in the book... but it is insightful and valuable and a beautiful novel in its own right. I highly enjoyed it... but perhaps more importantly, I walked away thinking, which I imagine was Elliot's aim. It's not still in print, so if you can get your hands on it, it's worth it.

Here's hoping that you have a thoughtful, enjoyable year full of growth and joy throughout 2010! Many blessings to you and yours! ~Jess


Anonymous said...

Congratulations on the new addition!


I don't remember where I found your blog. Maybe Ladies Against Feminism?

sara said...

Happy New Year, Jess. It's good to read your thoughts.

Steph VG said...

Great to hear from you, although I understand the bloggy break. I do the same thing, but mine is unannounced... (read: lazy blogger here!). Anyway, awesome job on reading so many books! I really loved "No Graven Image," even though it was surprising to me, as well.

Have a very happy new year, especially as you anticipate the arrival of your new little one!

melissa said...

First off - congratulations on #5!

My husband and I were able to attend a Sacred Marriage conference last year while Stateside - awesome conference: convicting and challenging, and you're right about the book - not typical! :)

Amanda said...

Congrats on your pregnancy!

Jess said...

Thanks ladies... I'm glad some of you have loved the same books. I had a hard time narrowing it down, but these all really stood out.

I hope you all have a great start to 2010! It's fun to interact with you guys again!

Catherine R. said...

Cute apron!

Anonymous said...

I've missed reading your posts!

Anonymous said...

Your blog keeps getting better and better! Your older articles are not as good as newer ones you have a lot more creativity and originality now keep it up!

Anna said...

It's nice to hear from you again. Thanks for the suggestions. There are quite a few of the books you read this year that I would like to try.

Debbie said...

I agree with your comments about Sacred Marriage. We, too, have that book and I also highly recommend it. As for the book, The Unlikely Disciple, my husband told me a few days ago that was a book that he wanted to buy soon because it looked interesting (the reviews were all positive). I enjoy reading your blog and are glad that you are back. Congrats on your newest addition. That is very exciting and I am very happy for you.

Alice said...

Congratulations on your pregnancy - how exciting!!

I read Sacred Marriage this year too. Such an amazing book! I would recommend it to pretty much anyone.

I've missed your posts too!

Mrs. David Hankins said...

Congrats on baby #5! We're right there with ya...about a month ahead.

I just picked up the Thomas book a few weeks ago because I thought the subtitle sounded great...glad to hear a positive review. I'll look forward to reading it after I finish my current reading project (Treasures of Encouragement by Sharon Betters ;) Have you read Dave Harvey's "When Sinners Say 'I Do'" or Love that Lasts by Gary & Betsy? They are probably my two favorite marriage books thus far.

Happy New Year!


Courtney said...

I had hoped to read 66 books last year. Didn't quite make it all the way through, but had fun trying. Doing it again this year: the Bible.

Congrats on your pregnancy. Best wishes for 2010!

Brenda said...

Congrats on the baby!!! :) You look so cute in braids.

I would love to have a commercialization-free Christmas!

SouthAsiaRocks said...

Congrats on #5!! That ROCKS!!

Anonymous said...

Congrats on #5! Where do you live in Turkey? My husband, two kids and I just moved to Izmir in October! Small world! :) How do you find time for language learning with kids at home? I'm struggling the most with that!

kelly summers said...

thanks for sharing!

Tammy L said...

Congrats on the new baby!! I was excited to see a new post from you. :) Wishing you a blessed new year!!

Polly said...

Congratulations on the baby! That's very exciting.

I haven't read *any* of the four books you list. I'll have to add them to The Ginormous List!

Jess said...

Feel free to e-mail me (makinghome@pobox.com) and we can talk specifics. :)

Finding time for language learning is definitely the huge challenge for young moms abroad. For me, when we moved overseas the first time, I wasn't homeschooling, and we "only" had two kiddos (3 & 1), and we had a part-time househelper to come and do dishes and clean the floors. So my husband and I traded off with the kiddos and both got more than 25 hours in per week (including study time, class time, and practice/speaking time). Since he was only a university student and didn't have a business to run at that time, it worked.

Here, he runs a business, we live in a big city, we have 4 children and I homeschool the oldest 2, and we can't afford a househelper. So I do all the cooking, cleaning (he does help a great deal when he is able, and I'm so thankful), schooling, etc. It was tough at first. I waited until my "baby" was about 1 year old and then have done 4 hours of class per week throughout the last year. I try to get in roughly 1-2 hours of study per week and about 5-10 hours of community practice time (depending on how much I can get out, if I do the shopping that week, etc.). It's not easy, and I'm actually in a very weary stage right now... but pressing on. I've gone from not really being able to talk to anyone about much of anything except for very short, memorized phrases to being able to talk about family life, politics, experiences, my husband's work, holidays, food, and more. I still am not anywhere near proficient, but I am able to communicate ideas and understand a good portion of what people say to me. It's a difficult thing, not for the faint of heart, and very very difficult for a mom of young children. But I do what I can with the amount of "free" time that I have, and have to trust that my God and my husband see and know my heart and my priorities and find pleasure in what I do offer up.

Feel free to e-mail me... blessings to you and hang in there. If you haven't been down to Efes, you need to go- that place is amazing!

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

Congratulations, Jess! I do hope youa re feeling well and that you have a healthy pregnancy.

It was good to hear from you. I, as you know have come to appreciate the value of extended blogging breaks myself. They do a heart and mind good.

I enjoyed reading a book called Same Kind of Different As Me, a true story about a real and true but highly unlikely friendship between a very wealthy white businessman and a homeless, illiterate black man. A great story to demonstate the power and transcendancy of the gospel. An easy read, but inspiring.

I'd never read Basic Economics by Thomas Sowell so I felt compelled to educate myself a bit in light of the times we live in.

Read Dumbling Us Down by John Taylor Gatto.

Those are just a few of the books that I read this year.

Jess said...

Those books sound great, Terry. I really want to read the Sowell one... I'm actually in the middle of Dumbing Us Down... have been for about 8 months (I don't know what my problem is but I'm reading it way slow).

Thanks for stopping by... I can't believe you've been blogging all this time and I just didn't know it. :) I'll follow your new one in bloglines.

Terry @ Breathing Grace said...

Actually, I haven't been blogging all this time. I just started up again about a week ago with the exception of my Merry Christmas message.

Thing is, my email box was getting hit with all these stupid and sometimes explicit SPAM comments popping up in various posts, forcing me to go and remove them even thought I was taking a break from my blog.

So I figured if I get back into blogging agin, I would have to do it from somewhere else- preferably some place with SPAM blocker. So I moved.

I really am so thrilled for you guys on your new baby. That is so cool. God is so good!

Catie said...

Congrats on the baby! :) We're expecting, too! July 14th is the due date!


Marianne said...

Congrats, Jess!! God bless!

Anonymous said...

Yay!!! Congratulations on number 5. I had my 4th this past march and he has been such a joy to me. Especially because he wouldn't be here if I had listened to what the world says about having children. I had 2 girls first, then my 3rd was a boy. So, I would've been done. But thank God that I allowed Him to change my heart about having children. Now I have a beautiful and precious little boy that I wouldn't have if I said No to God's plan. Sorry, don't mean to ramble. I only know you through your blog of course, but I am truly excited for you and your family. May God bless you all. Have a wonderful new year!!
Erica Miller

Jess said...

Thanks for all the congrats everyone! It is very fun to have people be excited with us! :)

Jess said...

Oh, and Catherine, thanks for the compliment on the apron... I made it last week or so and I'm loving it! Found the fabric here for way cheap (I love that about living here!), and made it. It's reversible, and the other side is also a black/white print.

Anyway, thanks for the compliment-- it's one of my new sewing experiments. :)

Anonymous said...

which is it? lil girl?
rejoicing with you in the joys of pregnancy....
currently looking at the big plunge of 2 to 3.....
and mourning the loss of my mom.
been a fan since last year and although sad you are not posting as frequently, it makes the ones you post more valuable.
from sex exhortations with husband
to recovering feminist musings to homeschooling.... love it all.
Rebekah in WI

Jess said...

LOL :) -- it's actually a boy! So that will makes 2 boys, 1 girl, and 2 boys. Congratulations to you, as well!

And my sympathies as you mourn your mother. I can only imagine.
Many blessings,

Moms In Need Of Mercy said...

Hi Jess,
Well, I think this is my first comment on your blog (I found you last year). I started writing my own blog now, so I understand the whole encouragement that comes from people actually leaving comments :)
We also use SL--this is our first year. My oldest is 4-1/2. We are loosely using pre4/5.
I wanted to tell you, though, I think I found the Mother at Home recommendation from your reading list last year. I LOVED IT! Have you read it yet? I hope to blog about his section on discipline sometime soon--although it takes time to stop what you're doing, you do end up with more time to do those things in the long run.
I'd love for you to visit me in blogland sometime!! (I think you'll like this post: http://momsinneedofmercy.blogspot.com/2010/01/resolution-no-one-really-ever-makes.html) :)
Blessings (and congratulations)! :)

Tara Barthel said...

Hooray for babies!!!

Very happy for you, Jess.

And thanks for the book recommendations, too. Popping over to Amazon now ...

Much love,
Tara B.

darci said...

hi jess! congratulations on #5!! so exciting, and i hope you are feeling well. :) love sacred marriage..we read it, read it again, led a small group with it, and recommend it to everyone. :) darci