A new year is upon us yet again. 2018. I swear, each year goes by faster than the last. I know that this is the time of year when we look back over the last 12 months and think about what we want our next 12 to look like. We start making our “new year’s resolutions” or thinking about our “focus word” for the next year. I have never been much of “resolutions” person, but I did like the idea of a “focus word”. I partly still like having a “focus word”, but usually after a few months go by, I forget all about it. As for resolutions, well, I have never been good at those!
So, neither of these things hold any interest to me this year. Although, I do like to look back, to see if I have changed. And, I have grown a bit since this time last year. Most of my growing has been spiritually, and I am so grateful for that. Isn’t it funny how much you can change and grow in just a year?
And, what about you? Do you really stick to those “resolutions” you make? Be honest now. I know we start with the best of intentions, but I am willing to bet that nine times out of ten, we fail. So, my question is; why bother with them at all?
I am changing up my thinking this year. I am going to focus on being a better person, a kind person, someone who does the right thing. As I type this, I know that it sounds easy to say, but I know that in practice, it will be anything but easy. I guess to put it more simply, I want to be a better person today than I was yesterday. (This is more of a life-long goal, rather than just something to attain over the next 12 months.)
And, I am going to make 2018 my year. I am going to do things for me. I am going to put myself first. (I know this sounds selfish and also, isn’t that just usually how we are as people? We put ourselves first.) But, I propose to figure out what is important to me and then go about making them a priority in my everyday life. (Things like spending more time with God and my family and friends.)
I also intend to work hard towards some personal career goals this year. However, I am not going to rush any of it. I have tried doing that and it doesn’t work. I am going to be slow and steady and take my time. And, who knows, maybe even take a leap of faith at some point.
But, for those you who still want to make some resolutions, might I make a suggestion to you? I have realized that there is a much better and easier way to make changes in your life. (And, best of all, you can get started any time!)
First, you must be ready and honestly willing to want whatever that change may be. You should want it with all of your heart and soul. Next, you must be willing to put in whatever work is necessary to make that change. Finally, and most importantly, give it to God. Or, maybe you should start with giving it to God.
Either way, no matter what, pray about it. Talk to God and be open to hearing Him answer. And then, take your time, be mindful and start taking steps toward the changes you want to see. Start with baby steps, it is easier that way. (At least, this has been my experience.) Then, you can take bigger and bigger steps as you go along. Or, you can be like me and just baby-step your way through the whole journey. No shame it that! Steps are steps and progress is progress.
Along the way, just keep on praying and trusting God and leaning on Him. If you truly want something bad enough and work hard towards your goals, He will get you to where you want to be. It may take more time than you thought, it may not go according to your plan, there will likely be some twists and turns and diversions along the way, or your end goal may completely change; but if work with God and trust in Him, you will get there. You will win. The victory will be yours. This I can promise you!
I am still working my way along in this life, as we all are. I am growing and changing each day. I am learning not to worry about things or people. I am learning that if I trust in God, I will be just fine. I am learning that God loves me and wants only the best for me. (And you too!) I am learning that God wants us to be happy and have abundant lives. I am learning to put God first. And, my prayer for the new year, is that you are learning all of these things too!
I love to read. And, I am not picky about what I read. Heck, I will read anything I can get my hands on. This includes magazines, junk mail, blog posts, and even the writing on product labels, even lists of ingredients. But, I most especially love books. I love to collect them and read them. (I have been this way ever since I can remember.) There is just something magical about books, and being whisked away to another time and place. (One of my goals as an adult is to one day have a library like the Beast has from Beauty and the Beast. Plus, I would like to say that I have read every book that lines their shelves. But, I digress…)
So, yes, you can call me a bookworm! I enjoy books of all different types and genres. I tend to go thorough phases; I will read classics for a while, then young adult, then mysteries. (You get the idea.)
However, with all that said, I often find myself reading books on World War II. They can be fiction or nonfiction, but for whatever reason, I am particularly drawn to this time in our history. I think it is because I have an extremely difficult time wrapping my head around the atrocities that took place. For the life of me, I can’t understand how there could be so much hate in the world for one group of people. I have read story after story, account after account, of the concentration camps and the holocaust, and the poor souls who were forced to either die immediately, or die slow, horrible, agonizing deaths. These are hard stories to tell and hard to listen to or read—but they must be told. (Repeatedly.)
This leads me to my latest read: The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. Published in 1971, this book written by Cornelia (Corrie) ten Boom, a Christian evangelist that I had heard of, but never knew that much about, touched me deeply, not necessarily because of the setting, nor the fact that it is a true story, but because it shows her family and their love of and for God.
If you don’t know me, I must tell you, I’m a pretty emotional person. I cry easily and oftentimes for the silliest things. I cry when I get mad, or sad. And, I often feel both emotions, and many more, as I make my way through the pages of a book. As I mentioned before, I have read a great number of true stories—both war and other happenings—and in the case of this book, I read for the first time ever about finding joy in such a desolate place as a concentration camp. And, this is simply because of God. I can’t begin to tell you what a different light that puts your perspective in.
If you haven’t read this book yet, I urge you to pick it up and read it as soon as you can. I found the 35th anniversary edition at our Ollie’s for only $3.99. (Such a great investment!) The book shares the story of how Corrie and her family helped Jews escape from the Nazis. I don’t want to give anything away, but I will tell you that Corrie and her sister, Betsie, end up at Ravensbruck. They manage to bring a Bible in with them and they share it with other prisoners and have group meetings where they share God’s message of love and they all pray together.
Betsie is such an amazing and gentle person with such a heart for God. To read about her thoughts that she shared with Corrie, and her words and actions—well, suffice it say that she is my new role model. Betsie was thankful to God for the fleas in their sleeping area and often prayed for the souls of the very Nazis that were holding them captive. Talk about giving thanks in all circumstances and praying without ceasing! I want to be exactly like her.
Their father, Casper, was also a spiritual giant who not only read their Bible to his family and the workers in his watch shop every day, but who offered help in any way possible to anyone who needed it, despite their background or social, political, or religious views. In the book, after he and the rest of his family are taken into custody, he tells the Gestapo, “If I go home today, tomorrow I will open my door to anyone who knocks for help.” He then goes on to say, “It would be an honor to give my life for God’s chosen people.” What a godly and upright man! It is no wonder that the whole ten Boom family turned out to be the fine people they were.
And, of course, there is Corrie herself. After her life in Ravensbruck, she made it her life’s mission to share the story of God’s love and share her own story and that of her family with as many people as she possibly could. She knew the importance of all of it and in 1946 she started a worldwide ministry that took her to more than 60 countries before she finally gave it up.
The building that the ten Boom’s lived in and that housed their family’s clock and watch shop is now a museum called the Corrie Ten Boom House. If I am ever blessed enough to go on a trip to Holland, I will be visiting. You can learn more about the museum here.
To learn more about the Holocaust, you should check out the fold3 website’s Holocaust Collection. There you can find personal stories from more than 600 individual victims and survivors, as well as information on the concentration camps, looted valuables, and national archives records.
If you have never read The Hiding Place, I think you can learn a great deal from it. There is a great quote from Oscar Wilde that says, “It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” I think Oscar was onto something! While reading about the dark parts of our history can be tough, seeing how God worked through the ten Boom family during World War II will truly lift your spirits. It also proves that no matter what you may be going through, God is right there with you. One of Corrie’s most famous quotes goes, “There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still.”
Christmas comes but once a year. Thank goodness! I know I should love Christmastime, but, honestly, as an adult, I just don’t. Not really. Not like I should. I love Jesus, I love that He was born. I love what Christmas stands for. I even love putting up Christmas decorations. And, I especially love the tastes and smells that go along with Christmastime. (Real Christmas trees smell so good. Sweets and candies and baked goods, taste so yummy!) I don’t like Christmastime for the simple fact that it is stressful. And, I hate anything that is stressful.
Now, that stuff being said, there is another thing that I do LOVE about Christmastime—the music! Oddly enough though, I can’t listen to it nonstop for the whole month of December anymore. I used to be able to do that. Now, I have to enjoy it bits and pieces at a time. I will listen to it for a while, then switch to something else. Then, later, I will switch back to it. I think the main reason is because I hear a lot of the same old Christmas songs over and over and over. And, while I do love what I refer to as the “old classics”, I can’t deal with hearing them over and over and over in the same day. I know, I know, I know…I am turning into a crotchety old lady!
However, there are some great Christmas songs that I adore, that I can’t get enough of. In fact, most of these I only hear because I play them for myself. They don’t get much air play on the radio, or Pandora, or XM. So, I thought I would share them with you. Below, in no particular order, are my favorite Christmas songs of all time that I don’t hear much on the radio. This is my Christmas gift to you. Merry Christmas! You can thank me later!
1) “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” – Viva Voce on Happy Christmas Vol.2
Ok, I lied before. (About the “in no particular order” thing. After this song, that applies.) This song is my very favorite Christmas song ever. That is why I have it first. I have always liked the lyrics of this song. But, Viva Voce cranks it and their version ROCKS!!! I can listen to this one song on repeat for hours. (Yes, I know, it’s sad.)
2) “Santa’s Beard” – They Might Be Giants
I am a huge TMBG fan. I have been since high school, thanks to my friend Sabrina. Two guys named John make up the band. They are just fun. Most of their songs are completely crazy and/or silly and I love it! I mean, sometimes life just calls for things that put a huge smile on your face.
3) “Blue Christmas” with Porky Pig
I am also a huge fan of cartoons. I grew up on Bugs Bunny. If you are at least my age or older, I am sure it was a staple for you too. So, I know you love Porky Pig just as much as I do.
4) “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” – Alvin and the Chipmunks
My mom and dad bought me this album, yes the vinyl kind, when I was a kid. I always thought Theodore was the best. And, their version of this classic, where they talk to Rudolph, is my favorite version of this song. I love to hear Rudolph talk!
5) “Christmas in Hollis” – Run-D.M.C.
This song and the video make me laugh. And, if you grew up in the 80’s, Run D.M.C. is a staple.
6) “Father Christmas” – The Kinks
When you grow up in a household where your dad is a musician, you tend to follow his taste in music. The Kinks are one of my dad’s favorite groups and this song has a great beat!
7) “Grown Up Christmas List” – Natalie Cole
Now this song is one of my hubby’s favs. As an adult, I love the lyrics and agree with them completely. Add in Natalie’s spectacular voice and this song brings tears to my eyes every. time.
8) “Wonderful Christmastime” – Jars of Clay
No offense to Sir Paul McCartney, but I do NOT like his version of this song. Actually, I have heard other versions of this song and didn’t like those either. I am not sure exactly what it is about this Jars of Clay version, but they not only make this song good, but they make it heart-filling. (And, as a side note, their whole Christmas album, entitled Christmas Songs, is really good.)
9) “I’d Like to Hitch a Ride With Santa” – The Andrews Sisters
I am a sucker for the swing and boogie-woogie era. I could watch those movie musicals all day long. Of course, The Andrews Sisters are the epitome of that era. They had the vocal range and harmonies that many people, even today, would kill for. And, this little ditty is just a fun and different Christmas tune!
10) “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” – Aaron Shust
This song they actually do play a good bit on the radio. And, I am sooo glad. It is different in that the music sounds like it is from Israel or something. It is super cool!
11) “We Three Kings” – Hugh Jackman, David Hobson, and Peter Cousen
This Christmas song is one of my all-time favs. And, you NEVER hear it anywhere. I just don’t understand. I even had a hard time finding a version online to share with you guys. But, I did come across this cheesy version featuring Hugh Jackman. And, I am a fan of both Hugh and cheese!
12) “2000 Miles” – The Pretenders
What woman who loves music, doesn’t love Chrissie Hynde? Her voice is so, well, Chrissie. And, this song isn’t strictly a “Christmas” song. It is one of those rare songs that you can play year-round.
13) “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” – Harry Connick, Jr.
I am a HUGE Harry fan. When his Christmas album “When My Heart Finds Christmas” came out in 1993, I went out and bought it and basically wore it out, I played it so often. The whole album is great, but this song and “(It Must Have Been Ol’) Santa Claus” are my two favorites. “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” is a song from the movie “Babes in Toyland”. This is a fun old Disney movie from 1961. If you get the chance to watch it, you should! But, in my humble opinion, the best “Babes in Toyland” is the 1934 version with Laurel and Hardy. Talk about a fun movie—it is one I try to catch every year at Christmas. It is a classic, and even though it was made 83 years ago, it still holds up well. The simple, silly comedy makes it such a pleasure to watch. Sorry, I digress…
14) “Carol of the Bells” – Family Force 5
“Carol of the Bells” is such a popular song, you can find a plethora of different versions of it, and just about all of them are good. While Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s version is probably everyone’s favorite and the most played and well-known, this version by Family Force 5 is cool and kitschy and addicting. (At least, I think so.) Give it a listen and see what you think.
15) “Most Beautiful Time of the Year” – Beckah Shae
Never heard of Beckah Shae? I hadn’t either until about a week ago. I am not sure what rock I have been living under, but thankfully I have seen the light! Beckah is a Christian pop artist and her voice is AMAZING. I just had to include it. High energy, it makes you want to get up and dance. And, it is another one that I can listen to over and over and over.
So, what do you guys think? Did I leave your favorite off the list? Have a rare gem you want to share with me? I would love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below. And, I wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!
I am so glad you are here! I am Erica Strickland, a girl who loves God. My goal here is to simply share His love and light.