Ponderings

New Things and Old Things

Isn’t it funny how you start off the year with new goals and new ideas and then halfway through, you’re in a totally different spot. There’s many reasons for this, one being outside life circumstances, but sometimes the Lord is simply calling to you and stirring your hearts in new ways.

That’s where I’ve been (as I’m sure you noticed with the lack of posting on both blogs). Part of it has been life (the summer was really busy – I bought myself a house for my 35th birthday. Yay for mortgages!! :)), but also the Lord whispering to my heart. A change of direction.

I promise the next line isn’t “I’m moving to Europe!” (Although, um…so game!), but a shift in my online writing. I’ve had two blogs for a while, but the past several months I haven’t been sure where I was going with each one. It didn’t seem like I should have two, but I still really enjoyed writing for each one. Did I just stop altogether? I admit, that’s where I was for several weeks, but I didn’t feel peace about that either.

I know it probably seems a bit dramatic to talk about blogs this way, but I truly wanted to be faithful to whatever the Lord was asking of me. So what’s the final verdict? One blog, but a combination of the two. Will I be blogging every day? Not quite. My goal is at least once a week and will be a variety of life posts and bookish posts. I’m figuring out other details (like my Inklings), but I’m ready for a change. I’m also slowly moving over popular posts from each blog to have in the archives, so you can still find them. Plus it’s always nice to have the reminders of early blogging days – sometimes it’s cringe worthy, but worth remembering. (Although true confession, sad to lose all the comments – there were some fun discussions!)

When I first started blogging back in 2012, my time and desire fit my blogging schedule. But, as life happens with new chapters, I don’t have the time (and no longer want to) spend several hours a week on blogging (how different my weekends are with a house. Grass Internet. Grass. It likes to grow). I loved the years when I did that – it was exciting starting and pursuing something I loved. I still love it and am forever thankful it opened up doors to the career I’m in now, but I’m no longer in a place to spend my nights and most weekends working on the blog. And that’s okay. I’m excited to still be in the blogging and bookish world, but at a pace that is healthy for where I’m at now.

I’ll still have my newsletter and of course I won’t stop reading and sharing about my favorite reads on other social channels in addition to blog posts, but I’m excited about this new direction.

I’d love to stay in touch! Here’s how to find me:

Sign up for the newsletter here
Website | Instagram | Facebook | Blog Facebook Page | Twitter | Goodreads  (just note any review prior to 2014-ish may have been during my “everyone gets 5 stars!!” stage 😉
Email: jamie @ musingsofjamie.com

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Bookish Radness

My Top 8 All-Time Favorite Fiction Reads

Do I dare even tackle such a list? Now before you think there’s really only eight favorites on my list, I just have to say this is me we’re chatting about! But here’s a start of some novels that have held a place in my heart for at least 10 years. You know it’s solid if it’s remained on the list for at least a decade.

Mark of the Lion Series | Francine Rivers: If you ask me for a book recommendation, this will always be the first series I recommend. Looking for a biography of the 13th President? Read Mark of the Lion. Oh, you want a story about London society after 1912? I think the story of Marcus and Hadassah is just what you need. Just kidding, I’d give you a legit recommendation, but I don’t think I can put into words how amazing this series is. If I ever meet Francine Rivers, I’m just going to hug and thank her for this book. I’ve probably read it 10 times and I only see that number increasing through the years.

Just know it’s a three book series. I did not know this and when the first book ended, I texted my friend who recommended it asking why she would think to suggest a book that just RIPPED OUT MY SOUL. Yep, my reaction was equivalent to all caps plus a bag of chips and toss in some fireworks.

I own a hard copy and the kindle version so I can read it at anytime. I also read it two weeks after I read it for the first time because it’s just that amazing. If I could only have one series the rest of my life, this would be it. (I need to confess, I only read this about 5 years ago, but I’ve read it 10+ times, so I still added it to the list.)

Dracula | Bram Stoker: Vampires? Wha? Let’s just clear things up by saying it is nothing like modern day vampire shenanigans. No, this is a classic that so fantastically demonstrates battling such evil. I’m reminded that in the fight against evil, you will battle dark forces, you will lose people, you will want to quit, but you won’t. The world will be a better place because you didn’t. I haven’t read this one in a few years, but man, what a book! My e-reader friends, it’s free, so no excuses!

Redeeming Love | Francine Rivers: That sneaky, sneaky Rivers lady. Without knowing how it happens, after reading her stories, you’re forever connected to the characters she creates and wish you could meet these people in real life. Redeeming Love was also the first Christian Fiction book I read back when I was in college. I remember my friend Lindsay, from one of my Comm classes during my freshman year (folks, I never remember details, so the fact that I remember the class, the friend and the year should tell you something ;), gave me her copy to borrow and I had the chance to read it over Thanksgiving and I devoured that sucker in about two minutes flat.

Please, read this book if you haven’t yet (which I need to point out that every monthly top seller list Lifeway releases, Redeeming Love is on it. I jest not. And it’s nearly 25 years old. In May, Francine Rivers not only had her latest (which was fantastic, see my review here), but Redeeming Love as well. P.S. IT HAS IT’S OWN WIKIPEDIA PAGE. Need I say more?

The Land I Lost: Adventures of a Boy in Vietnam | Huynh Quang Nhuong: This is one of the first books I vividly remember reading. I read through it so many times, I’ve lost count. Since growing up in Vietnam was so vastly different from growing up in my parent’s house in Orange County, California, I was so fascinated by this man’s life. Every time I read this book I wanted to do one thing: Go on an epic adventure. If my mom ever asks why I’m always fixin to do something crazy, it’s because I grew up on stories like these. It was also my Mama who gave it to me 🙂

Fire By Night | Lynn Austin: Sigh….just thinking about this book makes me want to re-read it. I think I might too. It’s been a while since I’ve encountered Dr. McGrath and Julia, so I think this summer I might change that. Not only do I love Julia’s character (and connect with her), I adore Dr. McGrath. The whole series is enjoyable, but this one shines far greater than the other two. Plus it’s Civil War (and still my favorite Civil War fiction novel), so win with that.

The Giver | Lois Lowry: I’ve talked about this one the blog enough, so I’ll keep it short. Without pain, one would never know the true depth of happiness, beauty and love. Lowry so beautifully captures this. Plus it’s coming out in the movies soon!!

The Harry Potter Series | J.K. Rowling: Duh.

To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee: This was one of those books I actually liked in high school and understood at the age of 16 why it was such an important piece of literature. It’s beautifully written, it’s an amazing story and Atticus Finch is one of the all-time greatest heroes in literature.

You might be wondering about the books I talk about every 27 seconds and why they aren’t on this list. Well, I figured it was a given that anything Narnia/Lewis or Middle Earth/Tolkien related are in their own category of greatest all-time anything. I mean, I have a monthly series about them internet, so of course they are my favorite of favorites. (If you want to join in The Inklings series, check it out here)

Alright, there’s the fiction list! I feel I can breathe a little easier now ;). What do you think? What are some of your favorites to add?

Bookish Radness

These Are My Confessions (All 7)

Anyone else start singing/dancing to Usher’s Confessions Part II when reading the title to this post? You wouldn’t be alone if you did, just so you know!

But here they are internet…my confessions.

Of the booknerd sort. Sorry TMZ.

1. I have yet to watch a book trailer (Wait, I just lied, I’ve watched the two that have been posted on my blog). More accurate would be I’ve never felt compelled to watch them. It’s not that I hate them, more so it only takes an intriguing description or trusted recommendation for me to want to pick it up.

2. There’s some “classics” I refuse to read or I have endured them and hate them. My friend, Brooke, reminded me of this with a book known as Wuthering Heights. Are there some good quotes? A few. But y’all…de.press.ing (fans of this book, let’s still be friends k?). Another one? Kafka. Please tell me how a person turning into a cockroach is revolutionary in literature. I’m all ears.

I shall stop now, lest you think I really don’t like books.

3. I have a hard time adding star ratings to books. If I don’t really like a book, I feel like a horrible person. I know it’s ridiculous because there’s no way I’ll connect with every book, but I can’t help but think of how much work the person put into it. Unless it’s Moby Dick or one of the aforementioned classics, then I have no qualms about ripping that a new one ;). But seriously, when amazon makes you pick stars… PEOPLE TOO MUCH PRESSURE. I know a 4 Star, even 3 is still good, but man never thought picking stars would be so hard.

I know it’s simply my personality. In college, I was the Sports Editor for our newspaper my senior year and I had a weekly column called Lap’s Low Down (go ahead and be amazed at the decisions of my youth). I loved the position, but I found it impossible to be “mean.” Like when one of our teams lost to the last place team in the league, I couldn’t bring myself to write a column about it (which would have been easy to get a laugh out of it). All bets off when it comes to professional teams though. Don’t mess with my boys in purple and gold (Lakers) or my Who Dat boys! Bring it on Seattle.

4. This has been mentioned before, but I’m going to toss it in again. I want to punch Movie Tie-in Book Covers in the wrists. I don’t know what it is, maybe I see them as posers. Kinda like Little Debbie’s Cloud Cakes. Nice try, but those aren’t Twinkies.

5. I’m not a fan of novellas. They end too fast. I understand that’s the whole point, but still…

6. This has nothing to do with reading (well kinda) but I’ve had about four sips of coffee in my life and all were horrible. So when I’m reading, I prefer my tea.

7. I prefer covers that don’t have models on them, more specifically when you can see their faces. You may have already guessed this from this previous blog, but I thought I would discuss this one a bit more. You see, I love art. If someone wanted to pay me to get a Master’s Degree I would get two ;). Finish my one in History and add an Art History one. The depth of emotion a beautiful piece of art can invoke (Impressionism is one such style) is one reason I love it so much. So when a cover has these artistic elements, to me, it reveals the heart of the novel. I love when I can get the vibe of the novel with a simple glance at the cover.

Plus, I always develop my own ideas of how a character looks, so give me mysterious over anything else. I also admit I’m a font snob. There, I said it.

I feel like a rebel writing this confession, since the genre I read the most (Christian fiction) uses models more than any other genre I read. Which on a side note, I’m really curious why. Any publishers out there want to chime in? Is it to separate genres? I’m genuinely curious. (My friend Rel has a fabulous discussion about this by the way. Check it out here!)

Here’s a few quick ones I love:

Will covers with models stop me from reading my favorite authors? NEVER! 😉 But I do have to admit I find myself being hesitant on occasion with authors I don’t know. Sorry y’all – who knew I was on such a book cover mission!

Alright, now that I’ve shared, I want to hear from you! Do any of these vibe with you? Or maybe you totally disagree! This is a safe place, I want to hear! What confessions would you add?

Love and Faith, Ponderings

I Choose To Believe

With the new year upon us, there’s some things I want to keep believing in (I did a post like this a couple of years ago, but wanted to expand this year!).

So how about you? What are you choosing to hold onto as we make our way into 2014? I’d love to hear your thoughts and goals. As for me,

I choose to believe in Grace
I choose to believe in Second Chances
I choose to believe in Hope
I choose to believe in Love
I choose to believe in Truth
I choose to believe in Forgiveness
I choose to believe in Courage
I choose to believe in Wonder
I choose to believe in Beauty

Love and Faith

Merry Christmas!

May this beautiful Christmas hymn stir your heart!

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

O come, O come, Thou Lord of Might,
Who to Thy tribes, on Sinai’s height,
In ancient times didst give the law,
In cloud, and majesty, and awe.

O come, Thou Key of David, come,
And open wide our heavenly home;
Make safe the way that leads on high,
And close the path to misery.

O come, Thou Wisdom from on high,
And order all things, far and nigh;
To us the path of knowledge show,
And cause us in her ways to go.

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.
Rejoice, rejoice! Emmanuel
Shall come to thee, O Israel.

Love and Faith

Christmas Eve – A Holy Night

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of our dear Saviour’s birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
‘Til He appear’d and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! O hear the angel voices!
O night divine, O night when Christ was born;
O night divine, O night, O night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Before Him lowly bend!

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

O’ Holy Night – Christmas Carol

Ponderings

Why it’s Better to Admit the Nerdy Things in Life

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m kind of a nerd. And not just because I read a lot (although, increasing your knowledge isn’t nerdy people…it’s brilliant :). It’s because lots of the things I like and do are well, a bit nerdy. I admit I wasn’t always secure enough to freely admit this, but good thing you grow up and become much more wiser right?

Here’s the thing: in the age of the Internet there’s lots of people who portray a persona of someone they’re not. Trying to look “cool” for a world of strangers. It’s bad enough for our kids to fear being who they really are, but if they look to adults for guidance, they sometimes don’t see a difference. I vote no to that.

You do the world a disservice ignoring this because you’re uniquely you. No one else is. We’re wired certain ways for an amazing and incredible purpose only we can fulfill. That’s why I’ve learned to embrace exactly the way I was made.

So this month’s post is where I gladly admit things about me I know are totally nerdy/quirky/only I do, but still me!

1. I memorized the Gettysburg Address for chuckles because it’s one of my favorite American speeches. It’s so beautiful and profound (if you ask me to recite it in person, I might get stage fright and mess it up though). I also have it hanging on my wall.

2. I may have watched Denzel Washington’s Academy Award acceptance speeches on Youtube recently. And teared up.

3. I only eat Vanilla ice cream. It’s not that I don’t like the other ones. I just don’t mess with the best. Hate away ;).

4. I watch Disney classic cartoons on a regular basis. And still cry. I mean have you seen the part when Mufasa dies?? Good golly, I’m a bawlin mess every time.

5. I have ordered the same exact thing at Del Taco my entire life. I kinda wish I was joking, but alas, I am not. It’s the original #3: Bean and cheese burrito with red sauce, fries and a root beer. If I feel like “mixing” things up, I’ll get a Cherry Coke.

6. I buy costumes for my cat. This past Halloween he was a dinosaur. As you can tell from this picture, he was thrilled.

7. Speaking of my cat, I considered creating his own Instagram account. This still might happen people.

8. If someone offered a class to learn elvish, I’d be all over that in 2.8 seconds flat.

9. I recently needed to write a bio for myself and this is what happened: “She wishes she could go to Hogwarts, live in Narnia and hopes one day Gandalf will show up at her door and invite her on an adventure. She also could never part with Dracula by Bram Stoker, The Giver by Lois Lowry or Mark of the Lion trilogy by Francine Rivers.” P.S. If you’re wondering what it’s for, check out this awesome new board I’m on here!

Well Internet, there’s a few to kick things off. Hope you enjoyed them! Now, it’s your turn! Please join in and share what makes you – you! I’d love to hear it!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Deeanne Gist

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

Guys.

Look who is on the blog today. Look! Yep, the very same I always mention is absolutely hilarious and how I love all her books. The bestselling author herself, Deeanne Gist! Do you know how exciting it is for me to be able to host my favorite authors on this little corner of the web? All I’m saying is I’ve been known to dance around the room from excitement. I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I did and be sure to pick up one of her books stat!

Deeanne Gist — known to her family, friends, and fans as Dee — has rocketed up the bestseller lists and captured readers everywhere with her very original, very fun historical & contemporary love stories. Add to this four RITA nominations, two consecutive Christy Awards, rave reviews, and a growing loyal fan base, and you’ve got one recipe for success.

You can connect with Deeanne on at her website, Twitter or Facebook!

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
In the last five years we’ve seen 2 kids get married, 2 graduate college, and 1 move to the other side of the country to pursue a career in music. In that time, as Greg and I became empty nesters, our sweet border collie suddenly moved way up in the pecking order. He’s not *quite* top dog, but he’s close. Never did I dream we’d let him on the furniture with us, on our bed, in our hotel rooms, and hardly ever out of our sight. Our kids are all shaking their heads at this sad state of affairs.

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Oh, goodness. There are too many to count, much less narrow down to one. So many words I’ve let spill out that I’d love to recapture. So many decisions I’ve made that I so wish I’d never fallen through on. So many falls I took that could have so been avoided. One thing? Hardly.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
I remember looking out the window above the kitchen sink while washing up some dishes. The day was glorious and the girls were playing hula-hoop on the deck and the boys were eating popsicles while they watched Greg work on a fort he was building for them. I remember resting my hands against the sink and thinking, “You know, life just doesn’t get any better than this.”

Before
After

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
I hope the next generation never forgets that though they are connected to “friends” all over the globe with a touch of their fingers, that it is still extremely important to have friends they spend time with, play with, and share with–live and in person. No amount of texting, tweeting, or facebooking can ever replace the rewards which come from those face-to-face, day-to-day relationships.

Thank you so much Deeanne! Such a pleasure to host you at Books and Beverages!

Author Interviews

4 Questions With Bestselling Author Rachel Hauck

(This interview is part of my 4 Questions Project, where I get the chance to chat with authors and tell stories of people, life, and adventure. Be sure to check out previous interviews here!)

Guys! I’m sooooo excited to have the bestselling Rachel Hauck on the blog! Not only is she a fabulous writer (she wins awards and stuff), but she’s also awesome. She gives plenty back to the reading community, not only by connecting with fans, but helping fellow writers out! She was recently awarded the 2013 AFCW (American Christian Fiction Writers) Mentor of the Year.

So if you haven’t, I suggest you grab one of her books and dive in! You can connect with Rachel on Facebook, Twitter and her website!

Rachel Hauck is an award-winning, bestselling author of critically acclaimed novels such as the RITA nominated The Wedding Dress and Love Starts with Elle, part of the Lowcountry series. She also penned the Songbird Novels with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Booklist named their novel, Softly and Tenderly, one of 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, Rachel worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in an uncomfortable chair to write full-time in 2004.

She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker.

Rachel writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair. She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

1. What is something about your life right now that you would never imagined 5 years ago?
Five years ago I would’ve never imagined myself in a different house, one with a freshly built (I can still smell the new lumber) two-story, octagon shaped “tower” with hardwood floors and trim as my writing office. Everyday I climb a curving staircase to the second floor, where the surrounding trees almost make me feel like I’m in a tree house, and I sit down to write novels. How fun is that?

2. What is one thing that you would go back and do differently if you could?
Wow, that’s a hard question. There are things in my past that I would do differently now that I have the perspective of time, but I think I would’ve cheated myself of the beauty and pain of my journey to have changed anything. Maybe I’d have been more serious about following Jesus in my college years but that season taught me a lot about myself and life. I needed those days to unlock areas of my heart that helped to get me where I am today.

3. What is one of the happiest moments of your life?
I have a lot of happy moments. When I met my husband. When I got married. When I sold my first book. I’ve probably never laughed as hard as I did in college. Man, my friends and I laughed a lot. Like, fall down on the sidewalk laughter. Growing up with my family. I still hold dear one Christmas when we were waiting for my grandparents to arrive and my dad played a girl’s hand game with me. Awesome treasures.

4. What is one thing you want the next generation to know?
Freedom isn’t free. Don’t depend on government hand-outs to complete your life. Get away from fear and anxiety. We have so many fears in our society. Work hard. Find solutions to your own problems through prayer, friends and resourcefulness. America is a great nation. Take advantage of the foundation set forth by our founding fathers.

Above all, love Jesus with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength.

Thank you so much Rachel! Like I said, so glad you could join the 4 Questions project!

Love and Faith

An Open Letter to Teenage Girls

To all the teenager girls out there, this letter is for you.

After reading about the recent horrible and tragic suicide of a 12-year old girl and follow-up articles about how much worse bullying has become (especially with the internet), my heart is so heavy for you guys. What you battle is an ugly and awful monster. Plus I’m auntie to two of the most precious and beautiful little girls in the world and can’t even begin to fathom that they would experience such pain that would lead them to think suicide is the only answer. Like I said, stories like these break my heart.

While I don’t know everything, my life experiences (31 years in the making) has lent me some wisdom. This is what I know.

Things are different for you then when I was your age, but I remember them well. It’s awkward, it’s uncertain and it’s a learning stage. But no matter what the “cool” crowd acts like, says or does, they don’t have it all together. They have plenty insecurities. I know life seems like a hot mess (and to be honest, sometimes it really is) and if you aren’t the coolest kid at school or have all the boys falling for you, then something must be wrong with you. That if other girls pick on you and try to bully you, then they’re right and you deserve it.

But you know what? THEY ARE WRONG.

I don’t know you personally, but I bet you are amazing. You are unique and you are beautiful. Maybe you love to paint, maybe you love to sing, maybe you love sports, maybe you love Star Wars and Harry Potter (what! what!). Maybe you want to write or teach when you’re older. Maybe you want to serve our country in the military or maybe you want to be a soccer superstar. Whatever it is you love – hold on to that, because that’s one of the things that makes you, well, you!

No really, you truly are unique. There’s a purpose only you, and you alone can fill. You know like Frodo or Harry (if you think the nerdfest references are going to stop, you, my friend, are wrong ;)). There’s a story being written, a beautiful incredible story and your role is just as important as my role, your parent’s role, the President’s role and anyone else you know.

Do you see that? Can you feel it? Oh friend! Don’t let anyone, anyone, tell you otherwise. Don’t believe the lies that attack you every day. I know it’s hard – they come from the radio, the TV, the internet and people. You know what you should do? Punch them in the face (well not the actual people – let’s all be law-abiding citizens k?). Just go all Samwise-Gamgee-against-the-Orcs on those lies.

And you know what? The people who have changed the world aren’t the one who bully people to feel better about themselves. Sadly, there will always be people who try to make themselves feel better by knocking others down. But keep fighting, keep pushing through, following your dreams and know that you are someone special. God made you that way and I promise He doesn’t make mistakes. And when you realize that, your heart, your soul, your everything will experience the most beautiful thing ever known and your life will never be the same.