Top 10 reads from 2014

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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

Amen.

 

 

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!

 

Following,
Ginger

Last Minute Gift List

Twas two weeks until Christmas and all through each day, the people were scurrying, ordering, and wondering what present to give Uncle Clay…

Love always perseveres.

 

Actually, we are down to the last few items on our list and – wait for it – we finally found the perfect gift for Uncle Clay! But perhaps you are still hunting for some unique gifts. Have no fear, this super handy list for last minute gifts is just for you!

1. For the young women in your life: My book – Forget the Corsage. I still feel strongly that this book is exactly what I would share over coffee conversations with any gal I could snag some time with. I’m passionate about the message and believe strongly that women (of all ages) need to be reminded that life is found in Jesus- not in a significant other, success, wealth, or even the pursuit of happiness. Written as letters to myself at various ages, I think this makes the perfect gift for gals ages 12 to 20-something. It’s full of my personal (and embarrassing!) journal entries and provides questions and space for readers to respond.

forget the corsage

 

2. For the person who has everything: make a donation to the Preemptive Love Coalition. I heard about this organization at the Allume Conference and was beyond moved. I told my husband that this year I want to fund a heart surgery. Take away all my gifts, I just want to help in any way I can. God continues to stir my heart for these children, families, and this country. Spend some time on the website watching videos, reading stories, and you will likely be pulled to action.

“Thousands of Iraqi children, born with life-threatening heart defects, are waiting in line for a lifesaving surgery. Already the world’s most common birth defect, heart defects are even more common in Iraq—some Iraqi cities estimate that their children are ten times more likely to be born with a defect.But their parents search for a solution in vain. Iraq’s once great medical infrastructure can no longer serve these children. 

To eradicate The Backlog of children in need of lifesaving heart surgery, Iraq needs a nation-wide solution for Iraqis, led byIraqis. That is why we created Remedy Mission – a pediatric cardiac training program that brings international heart surgery teams into Iraq to train locals and save children.”  

In simple numbers: $49 covers supplies, $275 sends a surgeon, and $650 sponsors a heart surgery.

 

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3. For your littles: These delightful books!

Song of the Stars by Sally Lloyd-Jones

The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones

Thoughts to Make Your Heart Sing by Sally Lloyd-Jones

You Are Special by Max Lucado (Also comes in board book!)

God Made Light by Matthew Paul Turner

 

4. For the fashionista in your life: Noonday Jewelry! I love this jewelry and am making plans to host a trunk show in 2015 because I’m that big of a fan. I’m not a fan of themed parties, but for this company, I will make an exception! Not only do I love the look of the products, but I so admire the mission and purpose behind everything they do.

“Noonday Collection’s mission is to create economic opportunity for the vulnerable. We partner with artisans in the developing world, empowering them to grow sustainable businesses. By creating a marketplace for their goods, we create dignified jobs at living wages. This allows our artisans to earn more in order to support their families. We also offer no interest loans and make advance payments on orders. This way we are able to shoulder the costs of materials and build a lasting relationship based on trust. We offer scholarship programs and emergency assistance. Noonday Collection also donates a portion of sales from adoption trunk shows to place orphans in forever families.

Noonday Collection is not a charity and we do not believe that providing a hand out is a sustainable long-term solution to poverty. We aim to be a sustainable business that gives women across the United States a way to make a lasting difference in the fight against poverty and injustice. This is what makes this movement so special. To learn more about Noonday’s impact, click here: http://www.noondaycollection.com/impact.”

 

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5. For the women who need rest: Registration for the 2015 With Joy Retreat: BE.

I absolutely believe in this retreat and the hope that it holds for all of us run down and worn out by doing, trying, and never-stopping. Consider joining us in Prescott, Arizona for a weekend of respite, creativity, and worship. Details about payment options coming soon so stay tuned if you’ve been waiting to secure a spot!

 

With Joy Retreats Flyer (1)

 

I know I’m missing some other wonderful things to share, but the 16 month-old is demanding I take her hand and go get the mail – so if I want this post to ever see the light of day I must hit publish and go with what I’ve got! :) Thanks for understanding the infrequent posts and scattered thoughts. I’m working on giving what I can, when I can and dropping any sense of guilt for the rest. Anyone with me?

May your Advent be full of wonder and sacred pauses, and may your days ahead be merry and bright.

Let every heart prepare Him room!

Following,
Ginger

P.S. Congrats to Elyse R who was the randomly selected winner of the REST PACKAGE! Elyse was notified by e-mail and should be receiving her prize soon. Thanks to everyone who entered and shared!

Book List #2

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HOWDY, FRIENDS!

I hope you have had a lovely summer full of fond memories and much-needed rest. School has just started (!) in my neighborhood, and I felt the compulsion to drift back into a more routine schedule and even try some writing.

I appreciate your grace and patience as I’ve continued to embrace letting go of some of the most time-consuming parts of my day. That release included this blog. Two years ago I would have been in full-on panic mode if I missed blogging more than three days in a row, much less only blogging TWICE in THREE MONTHS. HAH.

This post is a continuation of the reading list I shared in January and updated in March. I’ve always loved reading but I found the opportunity to do so dwindling in the past years. I missed it. Since making reading both priority and reward in 2014, I feel like I’ve finally found a balance that works for me and my days.

I’m sharing the books I’ve read these past months and what’s on tap for future reading. Check out the video below for details and a short list!

Book List Part 2 from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

Books mentioned in this segment:
A Praying Life by Paul Miller
More or Less by Jeff Shinabarger
Son by Lois Lowry
Mudhouse Sabbath by Lauren F. Winner
Shepherding a Child’s Heart by Tedd Tripp
The Catalyst Leader by Brad Lomenick

I would love to hear your recommendations for this year. What’s the best book you’ve read this summer?

Happy Reading!

Ginger

Reading List Update

2014books

I know. It’s been dead quiet around here, but it has been anything but quiet in my house.

Who knew an 8 month-old would be so screechingly loud? Love my little ball of personality, but MAN she is a lot of work. I’m not saying anything earth shattering here, except to acknowledge that this ideal of “having it all” and “doing it all” is a pretty big myth. I can give 100% to what’s in front of me, but that means something else isn’t getting done. I don’t want to multi-task my whole life, I’m not very good at it. So my working windows are really when my child sleeps – but that’s also my window for cooking, cleaning, showering, e-mails, lesson prep, and blog writing. Something has to give everyday, and as you could probably tell, the blog tends to get the stiff arm. My goal was to write once or twice a week. I want to hold to it, so thanks for your grace in the midst.

That being said, I HAVE been making reading a priority this year. We turn off the T.V. earlier or keep it off, and spend more time reading. Thus, I have a quick roundup of the goods thus far. Check out the video update on the 2014 reads below and I’ll catch you afterward.

Good Reads from Ginger Ciminello on Vimeo.

So, here’s my original booklist for 2014 if you want to see the titles. I don’t know if I could really rank the books, because they’ve all been so good for different reasons. My husband and I are still reading “Dad is Fat” and I just started the Jeff Shinabarger book. So looking forward to vacations this summer to also get caught up on some fiction and memoirs!

What about you? Any good ones you’ve read this year? DO TELL.

Happy Wednesday!

Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Etsy Corner

etsy finds

I know. The posts here have been few and far between these days. I apologize for the fact that blogging has fallen lower on my priority list. But if you are anything like me, you don’t really mind having one less item to read each day! Consider it a gift. You don’t want to read something slapped together in 15 minutes, any more than I want to offer out scraps. I’m working on some new posts that are taking some time. . . time to live and process the lessons God is teaching me.

But in the meantime, I have another Friday Finds: Etsy Edition!

I’m highlighting two shops today that have helped to add warmth and character to my very NEUTRAL kitchen.

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1. Field Treasure Designs.

I’ve highlighted this great shop before, and not just because I’m friends with the owners. The products are unique, quality, and definitely personal. They have a great Instagram feed that shows the ins and outs of what they are making and why they feel called to create art.

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Andrew and Brooke actually sent me these pallet pieces as a gift. I was so surprised and thrilled to finally have the perfect pieces for my tiny corner. My heart will always stay deep in Texas, but Arizona has my new roots. :) Head on over to the shop, Facebook page, or Instagram feed and pick yourself out something for your empty wall!

2. Be Small Studios

My friend Carey gave me this Abide print for my birthday last year and it has made such a sweet addition to the corner. My house is full of a lot of neutral colors, so any pops of brightness are a welcome surprise. Glance through the other work by Annie Barnett and you will be pleasantly surprised. I love the mission behind her work. She also has a website you can visit here!

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I just received two more pieces of art for my birthday that might be making their way to this little corner. The signs are also from an Etsy shop, so stay tuned for next week’s shop recommendations.

Happy Friday, Friends!

-Ginger

Stitch Fix: For the Win

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I don’t particularly enjoy shopping for clothes. I’m not hardwired to spend the day floating through the mall and just browsing. Two times a year my husband and I go to the outlet malls for the morning and stock up on any basic needs. That’s typically all the shopping for my year. I’ll pick up an occasional item from TJ Maxx or Target if I’m looking for something specific, but generally, that’s it.

I’m also the gal who if I like something, I will just buy it in 2-3 colors. I own the same cotton dress from Wal-Mart in both black and red. If you find a good $15 win, why not make it last that much longer? Hah!

This year is providing so many opportunities for me to speak to my peers. I’m honored for the chance to address Mops, Moms, and various women’s ministries in my area. More engagements also means a need to dress like an adult, at least occasionally. (I’ve told you before, a daily goal is to be out of my pjs by noon -> perks and curse of working from home.) A quick survey of my wardrobe and you would discover lots of solid-colored cotton tops and pairs of dark-wash blue jeans. Nothing wrong with those items, just not always ideal for my job.

Enter Stitch Fix: an online personal stylist.

The Stitch Fix Website will summarize the process better than any lengthy paragraph I could write! Here’s how it works:

1. Create your style profile.
2. Pay $20 styling fee toward your box. (You can use toward your final order – any of the 5 products you keep!)
3. Schedule your box.
4. Open you box and try on the clothes. Take awkward selfies in mirrors and send the pic to your friends and family members. (Each item also comes with styling tips on how to best wear the products.)
5. Once the box arrives you have 3 days to decide what you are keeping and what you are returning. The returns are all free and super easy: drop the prepaid envelope in any USPS box.

Other noteworthy pieces of info: If you keep all 5 items you get 25% off. The more info you provide on your style profile, the better matches your stylist will make. Most items are about $65.

My initial qualms: $65 is a lot for a gal used to buying at TJ Maxx. What if I don’t keep anything?

My answers: This was a birthday gift to myself (using $ from grandparents! THANK YOU!) – I was hunting items for speaking, pieces I wouldn’t normally choose for myself. Worse case scenario, I’m out $20. Best case, I find something I love.

Without further ado, here’s my box experience!

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My box arrived on a Thursday afternoon. I had until end of mailing day on Saturday to figure out what I was keeping and what I was returning. (Forgive the cell phone pic from the floor of my daughter’s room.)

The five items in my box were priced between $32 and $88. I liked the looks of everything and was very pleased at the various fabrics and prints. The dress was really the only thing I would have picked up off a rack and tried on. It just also happened to fit the best out of everything. I text my friend Carey and said, “I HOPE THE DRESS FITS!”

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Although I liked the vest and bird shirt, they were just too big. I’m not sure if it was the fit or if I’ve gone down a size, both just looked like big boxes on me. I also really liked the floral shirt, just not $58 like it. Had it been less than $40 I might have considered it.

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In the end I kept the necklace and the dress. I almost talked myself out of the necklace, I’m not big on flashy jewelry, but it just went so nicely with the dress. The work was already done. My husband told me to keep it just so he didn’t have to hear me say that I WISHED I’d kept it. The $20 styling fee went toward my purchase, essentially making the necklace $12. I can do a $12 necklace. :)

All in all it was a good experience. I didn’t get a speaking top, but I also hadn’t bought a new dress in almost two years. Well, I had, they were just maternity dresses. I would definitely do this again, I’m just going to wait for a credit to do it.

A credit, you ask? Why yes! If you sign up for Stitch Fix using this link, I get a credit toward my next box. (OR use this referral code: 3310293). Lovely, right?! That’s what I thought.

Here’s what I will do differently next time:

1. Update the Pinterest board I shared with my stylist to include exactly what I’m looking for: dressy tops. (DO make a board!)
2. Measure myself so I can better determine my current size.
3. Remove jewelry from my next box. (Check out the profile, you can be super specific!)
4. Request a certain color palate. (I own too much navy.)
5. Stay away from winter clothes – rarely is it colder than 60 degrees here. How often will I really get to wear a warm vest?

In summary: fun, unique experience. I don’t have the cash flow or need to do it monthly, but I might do this for myself each Birthday.Thanks for indulging this random post. So many people were interested in the process that I just had to share.

Happy Thursday!

Ginger

Friday Finds: Etsy Edition

etsy finds

I so enjoy personal, handmade gifts. . . especially if I don’t have to be the one to make them. That’s where Etsy comes in. Without Etsy (an online handmade/creative store) my house might just be cream painted walls and some photos in frames. Slowly but surely the artwork from Etsy is adding personality to our space. I have a few different shops that I work with frequently, so I thought I would share the beautiful craftsmanship with you for the next few Fridays.

I’ve been planning on using Peter Rabbit as a jumping off point for a girl nursery for years. When I was really little my grandparents gave me a Wedgwood set of Peter Rabbit dishes from their months spent in England. I didn’t want giant decals on the wall, just a base for colors and a unifying theme. As you will see below, we ended up with soft blue walls, green bedding, and pale prints. My goal was crisp, clean, and feminine. I’m so pleased with the results.

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I have to mention the bunting in the pic! With the help of my mother-in-law, sis-in-law, and the sewing machine and genes from my own mom – I made them! This was my first big sewing project since being in costume practicum in college. The basics came back after we finally figured out how to load the bobbin on my machine. I picked up the inspiration for this mobile of sorts from Pinterest. Here’s the blog post that ultimately gave me a direction for the project.

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The three prints you can see in the photos above are all from a fabulous little shop on Etsy: Printable Wisdom. I love that I found a native Texan who was so willing to work with our changes and ideas. She was super speedy, affordable, and talented. I highly recommend this shop!

My husband spied this quote and fell in love with it,
“Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.”– Emilie Buchwald.
We hunted through pages on Etsy trying to find a print of the quote that we liked, to no avail. So, we turned to Ashley at Printable Wisdom again and she custom created yet another design for us. We found another piece she had made with books and just went from there. D is so pleased with the result!

 

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We finished off the room with a name print that she customized to our color and print needs.

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There you go. Kudos to Ashley at Printable Wisdom. Now get yourself over to her shop!

Happy Friday!

Ginger

p.s. Any shops you frequent?!

Reading List for 2014

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This year is a wide mix of material, and I’m excited for all of it!

Spiritual Growth Titles:

1. (Not pictured) Currently Reading – Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis.
I feel as though I’m one of the few who have never read this in its entirety. I’m working to fix that at the moment. He provides such logical explanations and examples to so many complex thoughts, ideas, and theology in this work.

Mere Christianity is a theological book by C. S. Lewis, adapted from a series of BBC radio talks made between 1942 and 1944, while Lewis was at Oxford during World War II. Considered a classic of Christian apologetics…” (Wikipedia)

2. Humility: The Journey Toward Holiness by Andrew Murray
Yet another book I’ve had for ages and still not done my due diligence and read it all the way through. Perhaps 2014 is the year to finish every book I’ve started. This one came highly recommended by several of my friends. It’s not long at all, but packs a firm punch.

“Here is the path to the higher life: down, lower down! Just as water always seeks and fills the lowest place, so the moment God finds men abased and empty, His glory and power flow in to exalt and to bless.” 

3. A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman
I’m also currently reading this book. My copy is marked and worn and I haven’t even finished it yet. I read chapter 6 three times before moving on. So much of Emily’s writing feels as though it has been taken from a page in my journal, only my journal from a few years down the road and with a lot more wisdom. The subject line of this book speaks to my heart: Uncover the art you were made to live. You don’t have to be an artist or even an art enthusiast to enjoy this book. She’s taking the truth of Ephesians 2:10 and applying it to living daily art. “God has made us what we are. In Christ Jesus God made us to do good works, which God planned in advance for us to live our lives doing.” (NCV)

4. More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Generosity by Jeff Shinaburger
I don’t know much about this book. My friend Carey text me while she was at the Allume Conference this October and told me I should look into Shinaburger’s stuff, that apparently I would really connect with it. So I put the book on my Christmas list and my mother-in-law was kind enough to oblige. Now I have the book and I look forward to reading it and sharing what I learn.

In More or Less, Jeff Shinabarger calls readers to create their own social experiments to answer the question, “What is enough?” (Amazon)

 

Family Growth Books

5. On Becoming Baby Wise: Book II by Gary Ezzo and Robert Bucknam
Can you tell I needed some more titles to round out my list?

6. Grace Based Parenting by Dr. Tim Kimmel
My friend and former boss, Kevin East, highly recommends this one. I’ve only heard positive reviews so I’m definitely looking forward to cracking this one open.

Despite the numerous examples the author cites where parents fail, this text is overwhelmingly upbeat with hope and possibility: Parents who strive to live a life of faith characterized by daily trust in God will pass on this message of possibility and potential to their offspring. Kimmel asserts that this “radical” mode of parenting will meet the three essential needs in kids’ lives: for security, significance and strength. He assures parents that these needs can be met with grace-laced love, purpose and hope. Kimmel’s gentle heart is evident in every chapter, and his obvious passion will spur frustrated parents to keep at the task with new resolve and optimism. (Publishers Weekly Review)

7. Beyond Ordinary: When a Good Marriage Just isn’t Good Enough by Justin and Trisha Davis
Yet another title that I don’t know much about. I actually saw this book pinned on someone’s Pinterest board and decided to do likewise. I pinned it and my husband gave it to me for Christmas. I’m hoping we can read it together.

How safe is your marriage? The answer may surprise you. The biggest threat to any marriage isn’t infidelity or miscommunication. The greatest enemy is ordinary. Ordinary marriages lose hope. Ordinary marriages lack vision. Ordinary marriages give in to compromise. Ordinary is the belief that this is as good as it will ever get. And when we begin to settle for ordinary, it’s easy to move from “I do” to “I’m done.” (Book Description, Amazon)

 

Fun Reading

8. Dad is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
My husband received this book from my dad this Christmas. We’ve been slowly reading it out loud on nights when we feel alert enough to stay up past 9:30. Jim is one of my favorite comedians. He’s pretty sarcastic and down-to-earth. This book is his memoir of sorts about surviving life with his wife and 5 kids in their 2-bedroom New York apartment. We’ve laughed aloud. A lot.

9. Son by Lois Lowry
Yesterday I wrote about books two and three of the “Giver” series. This is the final installment, book four. David wants to read it aloud also, so I’m having to sit on my hands to keep from tearing it open and reading it on a 24-hour binge!

My thoughts on the series: The Giver (book one) has been one of my favorite books for the past decade. It took having lots of downtime to finally check out the rest of the series. Think Hunger Games minus the violence. It’s young adult fiction but the themes within the book have nothing to do with teen romance. Each of the books has left me thinking for days.

– – – –

There you have it. Looks like I have an odd nine books on my list. I would love to add at least three more asap! I’m still formulating, although I’m fairly certain my sister’s top choice (Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? by  Mindy Kaling)  will be making an appearance fairly quickly. That’s why I’m also looking to you, friend. What should I add to my hold list at the library ASAP?

What’s on your list for 2014?

Following,
Ginger

2013 – My Favorite Reads

This year was fairly sparse in terms of reading for me. My attention was split in a million different ways. I started a few and then didn’t come close to finishing. Fortunately I read enough to at least feasibly pull off a top 10 list. I had to pull up my library account and old journals to fill out my list. Blerg. I’m hopeful that 2014 will be full of a lot more books. As a family we are making a commitment to turn off the television and pull out a book instead.

reads

Here are my top books from the year – not necessarily released this year!

10. The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen by Syrie James

If you are looking for an easy and quick read this is good one to snag. This was a nice fluff mystery that filled the void after I finished reading Persuasion again. The premise: what happens when you find a lost manuscript hidden inside an English Manor. Intrigue ensues AND you get to read the “found” book.

 

9. Persuasion by Jane Austen

Austen naysayers beware: I am a HUGE Austen fan. (Who married someone who is a naysayer. BOO on naysaying husband.) I am such a big fan that I did not go and see Austenland. I read the book a few years ago. Meh. (I’m secretly waiting for it on Netflix. Don’t tell.) Persuasion is my favorite book of them all. Ann is my favorite Austen heroine (Lizzie is a close second) and the love story within is beautifully compelling. If you haven’t yet read this for the first time (yes, this is my 3rd time to read it), please do yourself a favor and pick it up!

 

unglued8. Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst

“I can’t control the things that happen to me each day, but I can control how I think about them. I can say to myself, ‘I have a choice to have destructive or constructive thoughts right now. I can wallow in what’s wrong and make things worse, or I can ask god for a better perspective to help me see good even when I don’t feel good.’” – Lysa TerKeurst, Unglued

Yes. Lots of good thoughts for someone who struggles with letting their emotions dictate their words, tone, and responses. I don’t want to fly off the handle. Unglued has seared this phrase into my memory: Feelings are indicators, not dictators.

 

7. Nehemiah: A Heart that Can Break by Kelly Minter

This was a really good study on the book of Nehemiah. I love Kelly’s approach to the reader, very authentic and direct. She spent a lot of time encouraging us to consider what (a person, issue, challenge) was breaking our hearts. Once identified, we were to move to action just like Nehemiah. I thought the study fostered some great discussion and I’ve already tried two of the recipes included.

 

6. Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers by Anne Lamott

“If I were going to begin practicing the presence of God for the first time today, it would help to begin by admitting the three most terrible truths of our existence: that we are so ruined, and so loved, and in charge of so little.” –Anne Lamott, Help Thanks Wow

I love Annie. She’s real. She’s rough. I don’t agree with some of the things she believes and writes, but I can’t fault her grit and charisma. Like many of her other books, this one is full of real-life examples, her personal theology, and a reminder that we tend to make everything overly complicated. She takes prayer back to the basics in Help Thanks Wow.

 

5. The Messenger by Lois Lowry

Why hasn’t this series been made into a movie?! I’m ready to watch it and then lament how they are not nearly as good as the books, but it was still fun to get out of the house and watch it any way! This is the third in Lowry’s “Giver” series. I’m reading book #4 aloud with David and we haven’t finished yet, otherwise Son would have likely made this list as well.

The Giver (book one) has been one of my favorite books for the past decade. It took having lots of downtime to finally check out the rest of the series. Think Hunger Games minus the violence. It’s young adult fiction but the themes within the book have nothing to do with teen romance. Each of the books has left me thinking for days.

three-books

4. Gathering Blue by Lois Lowry

This is the second book in the “Giver” series and I loved it. This was my favorite piece of fiction to read all year. The heroine, Kira, is wonderful. I love seeing the world through her perspective and going on an epic adventure with her. There are rich themes running throughout this one!

From the Amazon description: In perhaps her strongest work to date, Lois Lowry once again creates a mysterious but plausible future world. It is a society ruled by savagery and deceit and that shuns and discards the weak. Left orphaned and physically flawed, young Kira faces a frightening, uncertain future. Blessed with an almost magical talent that keeps her alive, she struggles with ever broadening responsibilities in her quest for truth, discovering things that will change her life forever.

As she did in THE GIVER, Lowry challenges readers to imagine what our world could become, how people could evolve, and what could be considered valuable. Every reader will be taken by Kira’s plight and will long ponder her haunting world and the hope for the future.

I know… why haven’t you read the series yet?

 

gifts3. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

This book took six months to finish. The first chapters are heavy, raw, and dark. The entire book is WORDY. Rich, deep, and very poetic, I felt as though I had to take space in between chapters to fully digest all I was reading. They style of writing certainly won’t be for everyone, but the imagery and lessons are strikingly beautiful. Ann is so very gifted with words. I found myself wondering: WHO TALKS LIKE THIS? More often than not, I would pull out my journal and record paragraph after paragraph.

“Spend the whole of your one wild and beautiful life investing in many lives, and God simply will not be outdone. God extravagantly pays back everything we give away and exactly in the currency that is not of this world but the one we yearn for: Joy in Him.” –Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts

 

2. The Valley of Vision

My dear friend Becca gave me this copy three years ago and I still pull it out just about every morning. There are over 300 Puritan prayers inside. The humility of these prayers always stills my heart before I open the Word. I highly recommend this book as an everyday devotional.

 

greatest1. The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp

This book was such a special part of the Advent season this year. The daily readings were perfect. As I mentioned, Ann has such an ethereal quality to her work, that the smaller doses ended up making this work my favorite book of the year. The readings were poignant and dramatically helped to focus my heart each day of the month. I will be pulling this book out every December for years to come. (Thank you, Aunt Kathryn!)

“God can’t stay away. This is the love story that has been coming for you since the beginning.” – Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift

 

There you have it. 10 books from my nightstand to yours.

But now I would love for you to return the favor. Share 1, 5, or even 10 of your favorite reads from 2013 in the comment section. (Tomorrow we tackle what we’re looking forward to reading in 2014!) I plan to compile those answers through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog comments and share the huge “YOU NEED TO READ THIS” list on Friday.

Following,

Ginger

P.S. I did read countless pregnancy, parenting, and baby books this year. If you would like to know which I recommend, feel free to comment and I will respond to you individually!

Best of the New Year Posts

New Leaf

There were SO many fabulous resources going around the interwebs last week. Everyone had hopeful and helpful thoughts to propel us all into this new year. I’ve finally changed all the calendars in the house, rewritten all of the birthday reminders, and boxed up the decorations from December. 2014 feels fresh and full of potential.

Before I share my favorite blog reads from last week, I wanted to take a moment and clarify some thoughts from my last post, Growing Forward in 2014.

  • I LOVE my daughter. Even at 2:30am last night, I was singing her praises and thanking God for the gift of one more diaper to change, one more hour to hold her and still her crying.
  • When I mentioned that I was looking forward to getting away with the hubs, know that I was not speaking out of desperation. I’m simply excited to do something for longer than 3 hours without having to return home to feed my girl. We most certainly can and will travel with her, I’m just pumped for a hiking trip with just the grownups to celebrate our anniversary.
  • My goal list does look different this year. The posts by Ann Voskamp and The Tiny Twig have both helped to shape my focus. (See links in the list below.) I’ve chosen one focus phrase for the year: Intentional Growth and then I broke that up into manageable chunks of 3. They are going to seem really simple, but I NEED simple in this season.

Morning 3 goals: Make the Bed, Read the Word, Get Dressed/Shower

Afternoon 3 goals: Correspond (e-mail, phone, snail mail), Exercise, Play with my kiddo

(That’s not all I hope to accomplish in a day, but if those things can happen I will be pumped.)

Weekly 3 goals: Blog posts, Meal Planning, Family Date

Monthly 3 goals: Marriage enrichment, community building, sacrificial giving/serving

So yes, I am choosing a few things to help me cross items off my list and stay growing forward. On top of these mini goals I also have 3 big yearly goals that I’m holding close. (See the post by Donald Miller below.) Here are some posts to help you carve out your own intentional growth for the year!

Yearly thoughts from Ann Voskamp:
Monthly goals from Hayley Morgan, The Tiny Twig:
A contrasting post from Donald Miller:
A reading challenge from Sarah Bessey
A challenge from Jon Acuff
Carey Bailey on resolutions with resolve
5 Tips to creating Resolutions with Resolve

Can you tell reading is finding its way back into my life? In the past year I filled my empty spaces with so much noise that I lost the joy of words. I’m back tomorrow to share my favorite books of 2013 (or let’s face it, the books I actually READ and liked in 2013 – not necessarily new books in 2013) and then on Thursday to show the books just waiting to be read on my nightstand.

 

I would LOVE for you to comment on both Wednesday and Thursday with your best reads of the past year and what you are looking forward to this year. I plan to compile those answers -> through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and blog comments and share the huge “YOU NEED TO READ THIS” list on Friday.

 

Okay. Enough for now!

 

Following,

Ginger