My Anniversary Gift for Year Five: Marriage Counseling


This weekend my husband and I will celebrate our five year wedding anniversary. Just this past January, we began discussing about how we wanted to celebrate this milestone. We both value experiences and quality time over gifts, so we determined to take two trips sans kiddo. (We like to gift equal opportunities for babysitting to both sets of grandparents. It’s only fair.) But on top of two great experiences seeing different parts of the country, I also asked for a bonus gift. Marriage counseling.

When I shared my request at a recent speaking engagement, there were audible gasps in the room.

So I wanted to take a moment to explain why I believe one of the greatest gifts we could give our marriage is counseling. Unfortunately, counseling, especially marriage counseling, still carries a bit of a stigma for many people. Countless female friends and acquaintances have confessed to me that although they might like to visit a counselor, they didn’t think their husbands would consider counseling as an option. The reason? “There’s nothing that wrong with our marriage. I’m happy. Aren’t you happy? I don’t need to talk to a stranger to know I should love my wife.”

David and I committed to several sessions of marriage counseling because our marriage is good – really good – and we want it to continue that way. In the same way I see my doctor for yearly checkups or get the oil changed in my car, the goal is to do the work before any crisis arises.

If you told me that next year I would be expected to get in a boxing ring and go toe-to-toe with Laila Ali, I would be foolish to think my training could come in the middle of that match. You do the work outside of the ring so that you are skilled and equipped for the fight.

I asked for marriage counseling because I want to fight for our marriage, together.

The greatest threat to our marriage isn’t outside of our marriage. The greatest threat is in our marriage- it’s me and my sinful heart. It’s my husband and his flesh. I so appreciate the outside perspective provided by my counselor that helps us to see our blind spots both individually and as a team.

A personal trainer helps you to do the work that will shape your body and strengthen your muscles. A counselor helps us do the work to strengthen and shape our marriage.

Statistics scream that marriage is hard. My husband graciously accepted my request for counseling because we both want the same thing: a great marriage.


On a recent road trip we talked through some of the greatest marriage lessons we’ve gleaned through reading (Tim Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage and Sacred Marriage by Gary Thomas in particular), learning and counseling over the past five years. Here’s what what training has taught us:

Prepare for the fight before you get in the ring!

Invest in your marriage by strengthening your team: pursue each other, schedule date nights, develop your communication skills, seek out mentors, enlist a counselor for support. I have yet to regret time devoted to knowing my spouse in a greater way.

(Romantic) Love isn’t enough. 

David doesn’t complete me. He can’t complete me. To place my total purpose and satisfaction upon his shoulders would be crushing. David cannot read my mind. He will disappoint me. So giving love only when I feel the love, that’s going to lead to some lonely stretches of time. Instead this one goes back to our vows. We committed before God to be a picture of the gospel to the world. That’s our end game. That’s our firm foundation – we are both sinners in desperate need of a Savior, not each other. Even when I don’t feel loved in the way I might imagine for a particular moment, I am still called to lean in and love. Marriage is a daily choice.

“In any relationship, there will be frightening spells in which your feelings of love dry up. And when that happens you must remember that the essence of marriage is that it is a covenant, a commitment, a promise of future love. So what do you do? You do the acts of love, despite your lack of feeling. You may not feel tender, sympathetic, and eager to please, but in your actions you must BE tender, understanding, forgiving and helpful. And, if you do that, as time goes on you will not only get through the dry spells, but they will become less frequent and deep, and you will become more constant in your feelings. This is what can happen if you decide to love.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Place your vows where you can see them.

Our first Christmas together I had our vows printed and framed with a shot from our wedding. The picture hangs outside our bedroom door and serves as a daily reminder that we go out into the world committed to each other before God. We are in this journey to help each other become our future glory-selves, and that takes daily vow renewal in our hearts.

“[Spiritual friendship] is eagerly helping one another know, serve, love, and resemble God in deeper and deeper ways.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Practice Patience.

Almost every little frustrating spat is a result of differing expectations. Take a deep breath, then proceed with the reminder that this other person is FOR you and not out to get you.

Communicate. (Kindly.)

Sometimes it’s not exactly what you say, but how you are conveying your message. We have two big rules in our marriage when it comes to our words: No silent treatment and no cussing at each other, EVER.

Release the need to justify yourself.

I’m sorry goes such a long way to mend hurting hearts.

“To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God. It is what we need more than anything. It liberates us from pretense, humbles us out of our self-righteousness, and fortifies us for any difficulty life can throw at us.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage



There are obviously countless more things to share, but this is what is fresh on our minds in a year with so many friends experiencing deep grief and challenges in marriage relationships. Marriage is hard, but it can also be such a blessing. That’s my hope and desire for this next year, that this journey together (no matter the minefields that await) would be so, so good because we are determined to walk this together.

“The reason that marriage is so painful and yet wonderful is because it is a reflection of the gospel, which is painful and wonderful at once. The gospel is this: We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope. This is the only kind of relationship that will really transform us.” Timothy Keller, The Meaning of Marriage

Happy 5th Anniversary, David.

I love you so. xoxo


*Wedding photos by Jane Zarzynski Photography

Summer Graces

When you live in the middle of a desert, you grow used to the oven that greets you in the middle of the day. But I will never adjust to having temps over 100 once the sun goes down. I do my best to get out of the house so we aren’t cooped up every day, but it’s still a challenge to keep from going just a little bit crazy.

I do well for pockets of time and then something happens to frustrate me: the cup of water dumps over, the website won’t load, the batteries died, the price changed, or the creative juices won’t flow. I am pretty bad with frustrations. But I’ve found that one of the quickest fixes for my mood is music. It’s an instant way to lower my pressure gauge. Sometimes I turn on kid music and dance with my daughter or blast top 40 radio and run laps in the living room. But the best fix this summer?



Morgan Harper Nichols – this album is so, so good. My friend Carey pointed me in this direction a few months ago and I find myself listening to it at least once a day. The truth stops me in my tracks. The music is medicine to my soul. Here’s my current favorite off of the album, although I will probably switch to something else tomorrow.



Cooking through Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around breadthe Table with Recipes has also been aiding my summer sanity. I love me some Shauna Niequist. I feel like we sometimes share the same brain. This book did wonders for challenging my ideas on community and hospitality – as in – a paradigm shift. Some basic observations.

  1. Hospitality is not the same as entertaining.
  2. I want a tribe of people who know which drawer holds my spoons.
  3. There is something sacred that happens around a table if I will simply take the time to notice.

I don’t have the space to give you a full run-down, but know that this has been one of my favorite reads of 2015. I’ve also given away three copies of this book thus far. There’s another sitting in my Amazon shopping cart. The food is good, but I really love rereading my favorite passages and notes as I prepare to cook. I’ve never cooked all the way through any book, so this seemed like a great start. I made salad dressing for the first time. (As a Chopped fanatic, I’m only mildly ashamed to admit this to you.) I purchase almond meal and crafted homemade breadcrumbs. I just purchased new towels to try to make my own bread in the coming weeks. WHO AM I?

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the book:

“I felt within myself the desire to shoo her out, to hide, to keep her from the disorder that is my real, actual life some days. But I took a deep breath, and she sat there listening to me across my dirty coffee table, and we talked about community and family and authenticity. It’s easy to talk about it, and really, really hard sometimes to practice it.

This is why the door stays closed for so many of us, literally and figuratively. One friend promises she’ll start having people over when they finally have money to remodel. Another says she’d be too nervous that people wouldn’t eat the food she made, so she never makes the invitation.

But it isn’t about perfection, and it isn’t about performance. You’ll miss the riches moments in life–the sacred moments when we feel God’s grace and presence through the actual faces and hands of the people we love–if you’re too scared or too ashamed to open the door. I know it’s scary, but throw open the door anyway…” – Bread & Wine by Shauna Niequist

I feel like reading this book pushed me to pursue deeper friendships, especially when it comes to the girlfriends in my small group. We’ve committed to eating together once a month in the coming year. We will meet in a home to break bread, ask the “how are you REALLY doing” questions, and study the word. I have no doubt that this tribe will come out of this experience changed. My people, my tribe – I like how that sounds.




And lastly, I feel like I should tell you that yesterday was pretty much a wash. I struggle daily with balancing my various roles. On the days I get good time in the word, play with my kiddo, and maybe exercise, I feel some guilt about not working. And on the days when I try to make calls or send e-mails while my daughter is awake, I feel guilty about screen time or just not spending time with her. Yesterday I tried to cram way too much into her nap time. I wanted to clean the house, record a podcast, send e-mails, read, and exercise. Sounds like I have 6 hours to work with, right? FALSE. I get on average about an hour and forty-five minutes. At the hour and a half mark I began crying. Do you ever feel like you have so many “I HAVE TO DO THIS” that it’s hard to ever get to the “I WANT TO DO THIS”?

I was still living in that frustration around 7:30pm. My daughter was in bed, my husband left for the gym, and I was gearing up to do a workout DVD in my living room. But I was tired. I was sore. And a dear friend text to say, “What if you just don’t?” So I thought, “Lord, can you take care of me tonight?” I filled my water-glass, took a shower, lit a candle, and then wrapped myself up in clean sheets. I had recently checked out a new book at the library and I was finally giving myself the space to read.

small victories

Enter Small Victories: Spotting Improbable Moments of Grace by Anne Lamott. I love tender, crass, poetic, thoughtful Annie Lamott. She has eyes open to things I often miss. This quote in particular brought a smile to my tired face.

You can change the world with a hot bath, if you sink into it from a place of knowing that you are worth profound care, even when you’re dirty and rattled. Who knew?

The lesson of this summer has been to remember that God loves all of me extravagantly. He cares about my obedience, my service, and the condition of my heart- but He also cares about my body, my soul, and my spirit. He sees my weakness and He promises to match and exceed it with His grace.



Summer On,



No More Holding Back


Well HELLO there. It has been 3 months since my last blog post and about 5 months since I was posting on a regular basis. What can I say, life has been full and my computer has remained closed. I’ve been reading, playing, running, connecting, studying, teaching, parenting, prepping, traveling, resting, cooking new recipes, and trying to just live in the moment. I wouldn’t trade the last few months for anything.

But since the last post in March, I haven’t been able to stop thinking of another story behind the garage sale. God has been teaching me a beautiful and messy lesson about hospitality. I’m learning more and more what it looks like to not simply offer the convenient, easy parts of my life- but to offer all of my life and trust the Master. Here’s what I mean…

No More Holding Back from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

John 6:5-15 The Message (MSG)

When Jesus looked out and saw that a large crowd had arrived, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy bread to feed these people?” He said this to stretch Philip’s faith. He already knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered, “Two hundred silver pieces wouldn’t be enough to buy bread for each person to get a piece.”

One of the disciples—it was Andrew, brother to Simon Peter—said, “There’s a little boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But that’s a drop in the bucket for a crowd like this.”

Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” There was a nice carpet of green grass in this place. They sat down, about five thousand of them. Then Jesus took the bread and, having given thanks, gave it to those who were seated. He did the same with the fish. All ate as much as they wanted.

When the people had eaten their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the leftovers so nothing is wasted.” They went to work and filled twelve large baskets with leftovers from the five barley loaves.

Whether blueberries, loaves or fish, I long to be a woman who opens the doors to her home, sets out the very best, and stops apologizing for the state of my kitchen. I want to unclench my hands and give it all to the One who makes miracles over lunch. No more holding back.

– – –

More to come – recipes, a With Joy Retreat update, some new favorite things, top reads this year, and even a foray into podcasting. WHAT.


Love first, ask questions later.


Last fall I attended the Allume conference and was privileged to hear many amazing authors and speakers. I returned home from my trip with piles of books and pages of notes. But out of all of the amazing talent and famous names that graced the stage, there was an Iraqi High School teacher who has challenged the way I think about the world every day.

The Middle East feels so far removed from my every day life. It’s hard to identify with the struggles of a far off place I’ve only seen on the nightly news. But Nassir’s father changed my heart in 2 minutes and 46 seconds. It took 2 minutes and 46 seconds to move from apathy to concern. My heart broke at the 34-second mark of this video. I hope you will take a moment to watch.

“His Surgery Would Be Five Years Away”—A Father Shares His Story! from Preemptive Love on Vimeo.

I wept, missing my own daughter after having been on the road for weeks, and I wept for Nassir, his father, and the many children of Iraq who are struggling with very little hope of healing. I cried when I thought of the countless parents who feel powerless to help their children. Because of the use of chemical warfare in Iraq over the past three decades, heart defects affect roughly one in ten children. Although expensive in the U.S., children here at least have access to life-saving surgery.

Picture the landscape of Iraq: cities devastated by war upon war, large populations now running from ISIS. Many of the most skilled professionals left the country years ago for more opportunity. Hospitals are understaffed and under qualified to meet the surmounting needs of the people.

And that’s where Preemptive Love comes in. For less than $1,000, a child can receive a life-saving heart surgery. A tagline printed on Preemptive Love t-shirts explains their heart perfectly: Love first, ask questions later. It’s a beautiful motto for me to remember all day, every day. Love first, Ginger. Love first.


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Needless to say, I was touched and moved by the stories shared by the Preemptive Love Coalition. I couldn’t stop telling the stories of Nassir and other children like him. What would I do if my daughter had a life-threatening condition and no possible hope? Our small group from church determined that we wanted to take part in giving hope to Iraqi families.




So we gathered our excess, picked a Saturday, and had a garage sale to benefit Preemptive Love. All proceeds benefited that one organization. We planned, advertised and THE PEOPLE CAME. (Hallelujah!) We had so much stuff, so much traffic, and so much craziness in one morning. It took time and effort, but the result, both in memories and monetarily, was completely worth it. I have a deeper connection, and a truer love for the people God has placed in our community. Serving alongside our small group served to connect our lives and unite our hearts in a new way.




It was so encouraging to see friends, strangers, and neighbors all together in one space. In all, thanks to donations and sales, we raised roughly $1,900 and will help to fully fund two heart surgeries. Two lives. Two stories changed for good.




Damaged hearts in Iraq broke my heart, but something else may tug at yours. I am deeply touched as I watch the world being remade, rather than undone, by acts of love. My friend Tanuja donates her time and energy to tutor and teach reading every Saturday in New York City. My friend Mary works tirelessly with the refugee population of Phoenix. My mother-in-law has volunteered every Monday for over two-decades at a homeless shelter. Countless friends have opened their homes and hearts through fostering and adoption. In such a dark world, your light is desperately needed.

Not every problem in this world has your name on it, but I guarantee you, something does. Someone needs your hands, your presence, and your generosity. How can you help mend the broken places? Sometimes writing a check is the answer, but sometimes, God is asking you to stand with your people and do the work. I cannot perform a heart surgery, but I can educate, promote, and stand in the gap.

So, what breaks your heart?




P.S. THANK YOU to so many of you who have reached out with kind and generous encouragement over the past month. 2015 has been full of unexpected moments, but God continues to give grace each day. From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

P.P. S. With Joy BE retreat is ONE month away and we do have a spot left for you! There’s even a little scholarship waiting. If your heart just perked up, head here for more info and to message me. We want you here!


In Need Today

My faith is a floundering mess.

My soul is worn.

My heart hurts.

And all of this is over circumstances and relationships over which I have NO control. I tried to verbalize my frustrations and hurts to my husband last night. “Everything just looks so broken and there’s a stubborn part of me that believes if I could just be the one in control, it might go differently. If I was in charge of the internet, our website would stop being ridiculous. It’s making us look so unprofessional. Doesn’t God know that? Doesn’t He see her running and hurting? Doesn’t He know how much I want them to stay here? Can’t He just direct him? Why are these babies struggling? Why is everything so broken?”

For all of my  all of my words about hope, I still struggle with surrender. I struggle to release. Just like you, I have to remember that things are broken this side of heaven. I must surround myself with the truth of God’s character and promises.

A favorite verse keeps running through my head today. “Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10, AMP.

My studies are teaching me that the verb for let be in the original Hebrew, rapha, actually means to release, to stop fighting, to just drop it.

So much of my inner struggle over what I cannot control (circumstances or behaviors) comes from a disconnect between what I claim to believe and how I actually lean into God’s promises. As I prayed to learn how to release and trust, God has been faithful to actually teach me. I can normally navigate my life in my own strength. This season, it’s not possible. I hate it. And I love it. And I hate it.

I wrote this verse during my quiet time early this morning, “…May your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Psalm 79:8, NIV

I am in desperate need. I need more wisdom. I need God’s presence. I need to decide today whether I will choose truth over feelings. My flesh says my prayer list holds reasons to worry and doubt. My Father says His ways are higher than my ways. And that, should be enough. That is enough… for today.

“I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him for that day.” 2 Timothy 1:12, NIV


Our website is back up and running. Praise the Lord. There’s one small change if you are still having trouble connecting. We’ve moved from to Our knight in web armor, big-time-help man deserves a lot of credit for his hard work. John Griffith, you are the bomb-diggity. THANK YOU.

Thank YOU for praying, asking, and encouraging this week. Both Carey and I have needed it. God is good, all the time. Let’s keep pressing on to know Him, friends.



Trust is a verb


My ministry and business partner, Carey, responded quickly and specifically when I text her asking what one word I could pray for her during the month of January: Trust.

Neither one of us could have guessed all of the ways God would call her (and me) to trust at the start of 2015. Just a few weeks into a new year and changes were quickly brewing. In the midst of questions we entered into February and I text her again. What’s one word I can pray for you this month?

The answer came once more: Trust.

I prayed that she would continue to trust and I would begin to release and rest. And then, last Friday, our website for With Joy Retreats disappeared. That’s the not-so-technical way of describing the tickets, back up data, hosting, and other jargon I don’t really understand. Our business, which relies on the web for everything- ticket sales, information, registration, contacts – just went away. Even with some amazing help, we still don’t feel any closer to having the problem solved. We are praying a fix comes soon enough.

Even as I attempt to look at this logically through the lens of my faith, the questions and doubts keep coming: Ginger, will you release and rest in this? Will you trust that my plans look differently from your plans? Will you believe that I don’t need a website to accomplish my purposes?

I was in a bad place on Friday. My heart was racing for long stretches of time and I was close to panic. I had to stop and remember that in the midst of unexpected situations, I have a choice. Will I choose to believe that God cares for the details of my life, OR, will I spiral into worry, anxiety, and panic?

Trust is so much more than hopeful concept. In selecting trust as a prayer for these two months, I’m realizing how much Carey longs to know and live surrendered to God’s will. She is teaching me through every challenge and change that God is always faithful to His promises.

If you are one of the many who have attempted to find our With Joy Retreats website this weekend, know that you can contact us at withjoyretreats at gmail dot com and we can answer any questions and even register you individually through e-mail and an invoice. It’s a lot less fancy (and a bit humbling on our end) but we are going to keep rolling and trusting.

Registration is still open for the 2015 BE Retreat. Spots are limited, and the website is broken – but God is good and we hope you can join us in April to rest and be known.

With Joy Retreats Flyer (1)

Following (and trusting!),


Afraid of silence?


My stack from the library makes feel very spiritual and intelligent. I look at the pile and think, “Wow. What impressive books.” I just want you to know the state of my heart before we get much further.

But I’ve only read one of them and the due date is this Friday. I just finished Invitation to Silence and Solitude by Ruth Hailey Barton. I recommend it. I took pages of notes like a diligent scholar. There’s only one problem, this book isn’t meant to be a study. It’s meant to be a practice. In three weeks of studying about silence, solitude, and simply resting in God’s presence, I have yet to actually attempt even five minutes of silence and solitude. I have yet to receive the invitation. I’ve tried writing it on my to do list, but my toddler seems to wake just as I’m settling into stillness. Her nap time feels like the only time I can really accomplish, and so being still just feels so… unproductive.

Of course I realize that this post is in direct opposition to the post I wrote last week. I’m super great at telling others to be still and I am ALWAYS ready to journal and read… but those are all tasks. I can even turn prayer into a task.

The more I’ve wrestled with the need for silence and solitude, the more I have to realize how frightening the thought of NOTHING actually is. I want control. I need agendas. I long to feel accomplished and productive.

Barton gives wonderful insight throughout the book, normalizing my fears and helping me realize that this condition of striving is one shared by many of us.

“But silence is not always as easy as it sounds. At least that has been my experience. What sounds like an inspired idea in a spiritual director’s office is actually very difficult for those of us who have been moving so fast for so long… how surprising (and humbling!) to find that something so seemingly simple and doable can be so difficult! For the first year or so it seemed like all I did was struggle to make it to the ten-minute mark, all the while noticing the noisiness inside my own head, the pull of distractions, the resistance I felt to this new and challenging practice. Somehow during those moments the need to do laundry seemed more urgent, to-do lists began to compile themselves effortlessly in my head, people and situations I hadn’t thought of for years present themselves unbidden, emotions and questions I usually didn’t allow myself to acknowledge took me totally by surprise, The spirit of cynicism whispered, ‘How pointless is this? We’re not getting anything done here!'” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Hailey Barton)

I do appreciate some silence in my life. I awake most mornings to have coffee, prayer, and time in the Word. I treasure the quiet, the alone time, the chance to indulge and read. But I’m almost always researching, preparing, and writing down verses to text and send to others. Rarely do I let God speak directly to me. I set and keep the agenda for our meetings and I don’t allow for changes. Obviously I realize that I can’t continue in this pattern and hope for real change, growth or rest. There’s a part of me that desperately wants that kind of intimacy with the Lord, and the rest of me is scared. Barton echoes and validates that fear.

“The struggle into solitude is real because the danger is real – the danger of living the whole of our life as one long defense against the reality of our condition.” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Hailey Barton)

Yes. I fear silence because I know the truth of my condition. I am not enough. I cannot do enough. I will fail as mother, wife, and friend – **BUT the gospel** tells me I am more loved and accepted than I ever dreamed possible. That grace and level of trust should silence those fears and beckon me toward solitude with my Savior. “The gospel destroys fearfulness because it tells us that nothing we do will exhaust God’s love for us.” (Timothy Keller)

“When we sit quietly in God’s presence, the sediment that is swirling in our souls begins to settle. We don’t have to do anything but show up and trust the spiritual law of gravity that says, ‘Be still, and the knowing will come.'” (Invitation to Solitude and Silence, Ruth Hailey Barton)

Be still, and the knowing will come.



This was my kitchen 45 minutes ago.

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It currently looks exactly the same. It’s still a disaster and the minutes of nap time are ticking down.

But my spirit feels a bit better. I walked outside, sat on the patio and let myself be quiet. “Ginger, what are you doing here?” I simply shared how I felt with the Lord and then sat for almost 15 minutes. My mind wandered here and there, but I would try returning to that question. It was good.

I’m going to commit to being still every day until the With Joy Retreat – and beyond then. I’m excited to share what God is teaching me, where I fail at this, and how God’s grace covers my failures.

Registration for our 2015 BE Retreat is open for an extended period! Spots are limited, but I hope you will consider joining us as we walk out what this idea of being still and being known by a Gracious God. Follow this link for information and registration:


P.S. If finances are keeping you from attending, please contact me!



**If I ever actually were to get a tattoo, it would either be a tiny anchor (Hebrews 6:19 reference) or script on my wrist saying BUT THE GOSPEL. That phrase wins everything.**

Learning to Be.

I’ve learned to adapt. The me of fifteen years ago would have had a minor meltdown over changed plans or to-do lists that remain undone. Life has taught me to prepare and then adjust. With seemingly so much to do and so little time to spare, I have learned to make the most of opportunities. My biggest chunk of time is between 12:30 and 2:30 (give or take) each afternoon. My daughter naps and I furiously run from task to task. Dishes, laundry, e-mails, maybe lunch, exercise, cleaning, phone calls, meeting. It’s MY time.

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You can imagine my dismay when my daughter awakens early from that afternoon nap. If you listen closely enough you can probably hear my cries from your home.

But my heart is slowly shifting.

In the Gospels we find Jesus feeding 5,000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish. From the outset it didn’t look like enough. That boy with the lunch might have just kept it hidden. But when God steps into a situation, He makes plenty out of what seems tiny. He multiplies what we offer.

Monday afternoon I made myself stop. I was (once again) eating my lunch while I washed dishes. My mind was running in circles of worry and need. Frustration over the lack of time to accomplish was threatening to choke. So I did the only thing I know to do. I prayed aloud and I talked to myself.


“Ginger, the dishes can wait. Light a candle, get some water, and eat the WORD.”

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I am desperate for wisdom in so much of my life: friendships, parenting, marriage, work, writing, and so on. My soul thirsts for something real and true. Something inside me is stirring to desire silence and rest over noise and busyness. The tyranny of the to-do can’t keep winning. I want TO JUST BE.

Perhaps you are like me and you need to train your soul to be still. I’ve got a pile of books, but really, I just need a chair and 10 minutes of silence. 10 minutes where I give up control.

Perhaps this video speaks to your heart as it does mine…

If you would like to be a part of the very 1st With Joy Retreat this April, there are still a few spots remaining.Still considering? Follow this link to explore, ask questions and register. Don’t miss out! Registration closes on February 1st.



P.S. The breakout sessions have been announced! Check out the descriptions here!

Top 10 reads from 2014


I realize we’ve already stepped into 2015, (Happy New Year – by the way!) but I’m only now taking the time to reflect. It was a good year of reading in my house; it almost feels impossible to rank these titles. Some were perfect vacation reads while others I will likely pull out and read again and again for spiritual growth. My top four are solid but everything after you could likely mix up the order and I would still nod my head in agreement.

So now – in a slightly particular order, my favorite reads from 2014…


hanging10. Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) by Mindy Kaling

Here’s where I warn you that a few of these titles aren’t a good match for young readers. This is one. Although full of hilarious stories, this one has colorful language and adult situations. I very much appreciate Mindy Kaling’s chutzpah as an intelligent and hilarious female writer and actress making waves in Hollywood. Her stories of summer camp made me snort on an airplane. Nuf’ said.

“I simply regard romantic comedies as a subgenre of sci-fi, in which the world created therein has different rules than my regular human world.” – Mindy Kaling, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? 





written9. Written Together: A Story of Beginnings, in the Kitchen and Beyond by Shanna Mallon

“The truth is, for some people, trust looks like taking a leap, quitting a job or relocating or starting a new business; for others, trust looks exactly the opposite, staying where you are, settling in, unsure of what comes next. A lot of times, it’s somehow both. But in every case, trust is always about admitting what you do not know, recognizing what you cannot control, opening up the fierce grip you have on your own expectations and plans, and letting something better take their place.” – Shanna Mallon, Written Together

I downloaded this book an embarrassingly long time ago, but only finally read it this spring. This was a delightful little read. I’ve known Shanna peripherally through the blogging world for years. Reading this book in one sitting made me feel as though I had always known her. The recipes, photography, and stories shared by Shanna and her husband, Tim over at Food Loves Writing are authentic and lovely. What are you waiting for? Go download this little gem!



ways8. A Million Little Ways: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily P. Freeman

Emily went and did it again – yet another inspiring, challenging, and artistic book. This one came at the perfect time, the short months after releasing my own art, my own book into the world. I was short on sleep with a newborn and thirsty for affirmation. I would have preferred words to any sum of money. The Lord used passages in this book to encourage my heart and remind me that His affirmation, His words, were enough.

“It is possible for us to uncover the art we were born to make and show up to release it into the world only to be met with silence, inability to make progress, and a seemingly impossible artless road ahead. The lack of movement isn’t because of fear or sin or lack of belief. Sometimes it’s simply God asking us to wait… 

Fear says I’m going the wrong way. Doubt says I won’t find it at all. But hope? Hope says, Wait. It’s just a little farther. You are not alone and this is not just your idea. My goal is a finished book – I call that my art. Yet there is a deeper work happening. I chase what I think is the art, but really that’s just the evidence. . . The real art is the invisible work happening in the depths of my soul as I uncover, sink, see, listen and wait. The book is just the souvenir.” – Emily P. Freeman, A Million Little Ways


guernsey7. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows

A World War II Novel about a London author and her unlikely friendship with the residents of Guernsey Island. I read this in about three days on my summer vacation. Unique, entrancing, and highly addictive, it was a delightful way to unplug and relax.

“That’s what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you to another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It’s geometrically progressive – all with no end in sight, and for no other reason than sheer enjoyment.” – Mary Ann Shaffer, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society





devil6. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson

I’m not sure how to summarize, so I will pass this one over to the editor: “Erik Larson—author of #1 bestseller IN THE GARDEN OF BEASTS—intertwines the true tale of the 1893 World’s Fair and the cunning serial killer who used the fair to lure his victims to their death. Combining meticulous research with nail-biting storytelling, Erik Larson has crafted a narrative with all the wonder of newly discovered history and the thrills of the best fiction.”

Fascinating read, to say the least. This one also won’t be suitable for all readers. But murders aside, Cream of Wheat, Juicy Fruit and Ferris Wheels… who knew so much came from the 1893 World’s Fair?






mentor5. The Divine Mentor by Wayne Cordeiro

My mom was reading this book and told me it might be a little basic. The goal of the book is to encourage and equip the reader to meet with the mentors within God’s Word on a daily basis: aka read your Bible. I thought I would skim to see if it would be a good fit for my teen girls. Skimming turning to taking notes and notes turned to reading the whole book. There was nothing new in his suggestions and yet the way Cordeiro presented the material was both engaging and compelling. I quote him almost daily, “If you need to start something, start small, but start now.” There’s too much to summarize here, so you should probably just pick up the book. J

“The more you continue to read Scripture, the more you begin to think as He thinks and act as He acts. And that’s how, over time, you gain the wisdom of the ages…

You can’t see through to the future. Looking forward is often cloudy. Muddled. You fly blind. Except for one thing: obedience. It’s like sonar. Obedience will not remove obstacles. It will only help you navigate through them.” – Wayne Cordeiro, The Divine Mentor



meaning4. The Meaning of Marriage by Timothy Keller and Kathy Keller

I read this book in my Bible study class this fall. I’ve read a lot of books on marriage, and this one tops the list. It’s so rich, applicable and not just for marriage – but for all relationships. Put it on your list if you haven’t read it yet. My copy is heavily underlined and one I wish I had read when dating.

Here’s what it means to fall in love. It is to look at another person and get a glimpse of the person God is creating, and to say, “I see who God is making you, and it excites me! I want to be a part of that. I want to partner with you and God in the journey you are taking to His throne. And when we get there, I will look at your magnificence and say, ‘I always knew you could be like this. I got glimpses of it on earth, but now look at you!’” – Tim Keller, The Meaning of Marriage





praying life3. A Praying Life by Paul Miller

“Let’s do a quick analysis on how little children ask. What do they ask for? Everything and anything. If they hear about Disneyland, they want to go there tomorrow. How often do little children ask? Repeatedly. Over and over again. They wear us out. Sometimes we give in just to shut them up. How do little children ask? Without guile. They just say what is on their minds. They have no awareness of what is appropriate or inappropriate. Jesus tells us to watch little children if we want to learn how to ask in prayer. After introducing the idea of bold asking in the Sermon on the Mount (‘Ask, and it will be given to you’) he tells us why we can boldly ask. ‘Which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!’” (Matthew 7:7, 9-11) – Paul Miller, A Praying Life

This book has been a shout to my heart. I’m encouraged and challenged to ask my Heavenly Father for all that is on my heart. Paul Miller reminds me  to not “be embarrassed by how needy your heart is and how much it needs to cry out for grace. Just start praying.”

I knew in my head the promise of prayer, the invitation to ask and receive, but I rarely took God up on it. My prayers were timid. I often talked myself out of asking, reasoning that if God wanted something to happen, He would just make it happen. I forgot about the relationship, and His desire to meet me in prayer. He loves to meet our needs.



mere2. Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

This book has been on my reading list since 2008. I’ve started it countless times. I still found the first segment slow, and had to force myself to push through, but I’m so glad I did! The punches that stay with me were all in the last few chapters. I read them, and then reread them (isn’t this what you do with Lewis?). I’m so thankful for the illustrations and metaphors he utilzed to bring faith to life. I think this book is an invaluable tool for putting words to what often feels indescribable. I am thankful to have read it and plan to continue doing so every other year.

“[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him. But trying in a new way, a less worried way. Not doing these things in order to be saved, but because He has begun to save you already. Not hoping to get to Heaven as a reward for your actions, but inevitably wanting to act in a certain way because a first faint gleam of Heaven is already inside you.” – C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity




unbroken1. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand

There’s nothing like a coming movie adaptation to light a fire under me and cause me to read a book. I know I’m way late to reading this one, but it did not make the experience any less poignant or enjoyable. I find I really enjoy well-researched and detailed stories. I pored over the pictures and read up on history. There was so much about the South Pacific side of World War II that I just didn’t know. The story of Louis Zamperini is touching, riveting, and so well written by Hillenbrand. There’s a reason this was a #1 NYT Bestseller. If you are one of the few that haven’t read it, you should remedy that situation in 2015.

“Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen. The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man’s soul in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it.” – Laura Hillenbrand, Unbroken


My pile for 2015 is already stacking up, but I could always use a few more suggestions! What was the best read for you in 2014?

Up on deck for me this month:

Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp and David Powlison
The Fruitful Life by Jerry Bridges
The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst


Happy reading, friends!



He’s Coming



Advent: Coming or Arrival

I had hoped to light candles more often and create a more peaceful welcome in my heart and home this Advent season. The wreath, devotions, music, Jesse Tree – all of those plans fell by the wayside as the month unfurled. They were traded in for plane tickets to attend my grandfather’s funeral, frequent trips to the playground with a restless toddler, play-dates with neighbors, parties with friends, and a few quiet moments in front of the glowing tree.

It could be so easy to turn this time into yet another list.  “Ginger, quiet yourself, prepare Him room! Have you prepared Him room?” My heart was challenged and comforted this morning in the thought that He is coming whether I feel ready or not. Even if I never catch up and send all the Christmas cards or take baked goods to my neighbors, He is still drawing near.

The love that has been coming for all of us since the beginning of time continues pursuing His people even now. He is in the relationships at the playground. He is standing in the receiving line at the funeral. God is WITH us – Emmanuel – and that is the gift of Christmas.

God graciously came to this world in the midst of the shouting and pain. He didn’t wait for the world to sit in silence and peace. He came to be our peace.

I remind myself that the coming of a baby is never quiet. The needs of this world shout for a Savior. Things are not as they should be.

We are living in the now, but not yet. The Savior has come and he will come again. So tomorrow morning I will pull myself from warm sheets, pour a cup of coffee, and remind myself that Advent is not what I do, but who I wait for.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

Merry Christmas.