What I'm Into (December, 2015 & January, 2016 edition)

With the blink of an eye, the holidays are over and so is one of the craziest months of my program year! Here's what we've been up to. 

What I'm Reading:

I read 8 fiction books during the last two months. My favorites included:

The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel. I've become such a huge fan of Kristin Harmel. I've enjoyed every one of the books I've read by her. This one, a novel about WWII, just might be my favorite book of hers so far. 

Orphan #8 by Kim van Alkemade. Perhaps more than any other book I've read over the last two months, this is the one that haunts me, the one that I can't stop thinking about. It's disturbing but well worth the read.   

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan. Had I read this book a year ago, I'm not sure I would have loved it as much as I did. But as a working mom, I found myself relating to so much of the main character's story. I loved all of it... Except the last 10 pages, which I HATED.     

Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal. This quirky story of interwoven characters captured my heart in a really big way. 


I read 6 non-fiction books over the last two months. My favorites included Roadmap to Reconciliation (see my full review here), Our of Sorts (see my full review here), Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity (see my review here), and Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity (see my review here). 

Kid's Books: 

We've read a lot with Hope over the last two months, especially since our advent ritual was reading a Christmas book each night. My favorites included:    

Bear Stays Up for Christmas by Karma Wilson. This series by Karma Wilson is great. It's filled with cute critters and it's story-driven. 

Giggle, Giggle, Quack by Doreen Cronin. My sister-in-law introduced me to Doreen Cronin and I was thrilled to find more stories about duck and Farmer Brown at our local library. These stories are ones that will amuse parents & kids alike. 

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. My husband was familiar with this story, but I certainly wasn't. It didn't stop me from appreciating it! It's charming and as a youth pastor, I actually really appreciated it's theology.   

Things I Love:

Winter Walk At The Arboretum

Winter walks at the Arboretum. Such a great way to get outside.   

Zoo Lights 2015

Holiday Magic at Brookfield Zoo. We love the zoo anyway but it was especially fun to see it decorated for Christmas.   

Welcome Pack Delivery In The Dark

Introducing a whole new group of teenagers to refugee ministry through a welcome pack delivery, which I might add, we delivered in the dark using headlamps and flashlights. 

Shedd Aquarium 2015

The Shedd Aquarium. We had such a fun day taking baby girl to explore the Shedd! 

Christmas Shopping With Dad 2015

Christmas shopping with Dad.

Frying Chicken 2015

Visiting Jacksonville before Christmas. In addition to seeing everyone, highlights included enjoying Grandma's fried chicken.   

John Deere Tractor From Grandpa

Seeing Grandpa's joy at giving Hope her first John Deere Tractor. 

Franklin Bank 2015

Visiting Grandpa at the bank.  

Spying On Samson 2015

Spying on Samson. 

Christmas Tree 2015

The Christmas tree. 

Gingerbread House 2015

Making our 1st gingerbread house with baby girl. 

Christmas 2015 Christmas 2015 2

Celebrating Hope's 1st Christmas. What a gift she's been to our family! 

San Diego Zoo 2016

Vacationing in San Diego. We had such a great time in San Diego. Highlights included whale watching, visiting the San Diego Zoo, and a delicious brunch on Coronado Island.   

Blocks Jan 2016

Playing with Christmas gifts. 

Real Jesus Edits 2

Editing The Real Jesus. I can't even begin to tell you how excited I am to get this devotional about Jesus - based on the research published in The Jesus Gap - into the hands of teenagers. 

Devil's Head, 2016

Skiing! It was only Devil's Head but for this year, it was enough! 

Owen's 1st Birthday Party 2016

Attending birthday parties, like this one for Hope's friend Owen, who turned one.   

What I'm Into Button

Today I'm linking up with Leigh Kramer to share what I'm into. You can join the conversation here.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the Minister of Youth and Family at Atonement Lutheran Church in Barrington, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

More about Jen

Jen's Books

Now Available!

A Mission That Matters: How To Do Short-Term Missions Without Long-Term Harm

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Now Available!

Unleashing the Hidden Potential of your Student Leaders

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The Real Jesus

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The Jesus Gap

What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

Based on National Research

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