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!

Reading List for 2014

2014books

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!

Life Starts Now

dear me

Dear Eighteen year-old me,

I’m looking down at my sleeping daughter as I write this letter to you. You won’t believe the journey that has led from 18 to being thirty-one. It has been an incredible ride. I have so many things that I want to tell you. I could talk for hours and hours with lessons learned and mistakes made… but I know the experience will only serve to grow you and teach you. So instead, I’ll summarize some main points that I hope you learn sooner than later. For starters:

1. Don’t get that perm in two years when you move overseas. Yes, England is damp and wet, but perming your hair won’t fix that. I repeat. It will be 2002. DO NOT GET A PERM.

2. When those guys say, “I don’t think we should date any more,” let yourself be sad. That’s fine. But then repeat these words to yourself: “Rejection is a good thing.” I know it sounds harsh, but relationships end in one of two ways: rejection or marriage. You didn’t want those to be marriage. Trust me.

3. You can spend years trying to “find” yourself, but if you identify yourself with an anchor other than your heavenly Father, you will end up in a road that leads to nowhere. Finding my identity in the Lord has been the most freeing and exciting discovery of my life.

4. Who you are is more important that what you want. Let me see if I can explain. I wanted to be in a romantic relationship but it felt like zero guys were interested. So I decided I needed to lose weight to fix that. Long story short, don’t sell out who you are for anything. Don’t let your story get hijacked by bad decisions.When I know the WHO I want to be it helps me choose my “WHAT AM I GOING TO DO?” Set your heart and mind on who you want to be … a woman of integrity, honor, compassion, and inspiration. Stay true to your identity in the Lord.

5. You can trust the Lord with the desires of your heart. I know it’s confusing when things don’t happen in your timing or within your parameters, but I want to remind you that God loves to give you GOOD gifts! He’s not waiting to throw your decisions in your face or spoil your plans. His good IS good.

6. Your heart is worth guarding and sharing. Ugh. That word “guard” has become such a touchy one. So here’s what I mean. Love yourself enough to protect your heart from unnecessary hurt. Don’t be careless with your time, your body, or your emotions. But don’t wall yourself up from experiencing real relationships either. We have to risk big to win big. Share, give, and receive love with your heart … just don’t settle for the cheap version.

7. Your mistakes don’t define you. I stand here and acknowldege a long list of life mess-ups. I could label myself easily, stand before you and declare:

Hi, I’m Ginger and I’m a recovering food addict.

Hi, I’m Ginger and I’m a liar.

Hi, I’m Ginger and I’m deceitful.

Hi, I’m Ginger and I’m a recovering bulimic.

All of those statements have been true of my life at one time or another, but I am also united with Christ. His past is my past and His future is my future! He calls me Beloved.

Hi, I’m Ginger and I struggle with food and body image, but I am IN CHRIST.

8. Get out of your comfort zone! Sure, it’s safe to sit by yourself, watch t.v. and spend all of your Saturdays at the library, but growth comes when you are willing to take on challenges. I know you like to hold your cards close and are afraid to share too much, but you have got to get past that fear. This life has too much waiting for you and I don’t think it will be found watching reruns of “Everybody Loves Raymond.”

9. God isn’t hiding. I know you want to hear from Him, but don’t make it complicated. He’s not holding out on you. His Word promises that if we seek Him we will find Him. Hayley Dimarco says, “You cannot seek anyone with all your heart in your spare time.” True that. Give Him your time and attention and then be patient. Sometimes He wants you to take a step even if you don’t know what the path ahead looks like. Be brave and keep seeking.

10. Life starts now. Oh, Ginger. This is the message I want you to get through your head and into your heart. Your life will not start when some guy to rides up on a white horse and invites you to be the heroine of his story. You ARE the heroine. Your heavenly Father has given you an amazing life to live, so why are you stuck waiting for someone else to confirm that truth? Life is not on hold until you find “the one.” Life does not start with a corsage, a diploma, a ring, a job, or even the perfect group of friends. Real life begins with Jesus.

Love,
This Ginger

– – – –

These are the truths I would tell my eighteen year-old self. Those main points (really, rethink the perm) are what I would share with any woman if we had the chance to sit down and share a cup of coffee and an hour of time together. So, of course, those are the points that shaped my first book. I can’t wait to share Forget the Corsage with you.

 forget the corsage

More to come…

Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Summer Favorites Edition

I don’t know about you but it’s hard for me to believe that next week will be September. How did that happen? I feel like yesterday was July 4th, but maybe that’s just life with a baby. Today I’m sharing a few of my favorites that have helped me enjoy my summer indoors. I haven’t seen a pool since Memorial Day and I really have only spent a handful of hours outside since May. For real.

So here’s a little bit of fun to enter our three-day weekend. Woohoo!

1. One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp

gifts

My mom gave me this book over a year ago and I’ve been meaning to read it ever since. It just so happens that NOW was the perfect season for me to read it. I’ve never felt so motivated to live in gratitude with a word of thanksgiving on my lips. If you haven’t read this book or checked out Ann’s blog, give yourself a gift and make sure you put this one on your list!

2. The Giver Series by Lois Lowery

three-books

The Giver 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. The fourth and final book in the series just came out last fall. I’m a big fan.

3. Say Yes to the Dress

yes

What is it about watching people find wedding dresses? I really could watch every single episode of this reality show. Totally mindless entertainment, but this has been the summer for just that. ;)

4. Photo Apps

Heaven knows I’m taking a zillion photos of my baby. I’m trying to use some restraint and not post my child up on every social media outlet. I do have some go to apps for the photos I take on my phone. If you haven’t looked at these, here are some winning cheap options.

Camera!
Camera+
Big Lens
Frametastic
BeautifulMess
VSCOcam

5. Camelbak Waterbottle

bottle

I have three of these bottles and I literally have one at my side every single day. I love that the straw makes life easy when I have a baby in my arms and this klutz also appreciates that it is spill-proof. Big Win.

So there you go – random list from my life indoors. I would love to hear your summer fun favs.

Happy Weekending!

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Snap Out of It

thursday

We talked about worry yesterday, a topic I’ve touched on several times in the past years. So for today’s tip, I wanted to list some practical tools that I’ve picked up along the way to help combat worry.

Snap It.

This is not some form of weird penance. I take a rubber band and write a verse on it, usually Philippians 4:6-7 – “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Obviously you need a wide rubber band and some tiny handwriting. Stretch that sucker out and write the verse, or part of the verse. This allows me to meditate on the words, glance at the verse every time my eyes go to my watch, and occasionally pop myself with the band if I’m on a worry cycle headed to nowhere but anxiety. That little pop can sometimes pull me out and force me to acknowledge my anxieties rather than letting them take over my thoughts.

Face the alternative.

Take out your journal and open it to a new page. Write out Philippians 4:5-7. “Let your gentleness be evident to all, the Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Now translate this verse into your own version of worries. For example…

“Let your fear be evident to all for the Lord is distant.  Be anxious about everything, but in everything, by making lists and keeping yourself awake at night, with complaining, present your worries to yourself.  And the weight of the world and all the problems that could happen, and all the things that did happen, and everything that might happen, will keep your hearts and minds captives to worry.” (Ginger 4:5-7)

Refreshing way to live, isn’t it?  What would your verse say about the way you live your life? Is it plagued by worry, or have you come to the point where you realize your best chance is to give up and trust?

Read the book of Joshua.

Whenever I’m coming down with a case of mental “shaking knees” I spend some time reading about Israel’s worried leader. Over and over God tells Joshua to “BE STRONG AND COURAGEOUS!”

After the death of Moses the servant of God, God spoke to Joshua, Moses’ assistant:

“In the same way I was with Moses, I’ll be with you. I won’t give up on you; I won’t leave you. Strength! Courage! You are going to lead this people to inherit the land that I promised to give their ancestors. Give it everything you have, heart and soul. Make sure you carry out The Revelation that Moses commanded you, every bit of it. Don’t get off track, either left or right, so as to make sure you get to where you’re going. And don’t for a minute let this Book of The Revelation be out of mind. Ponder and meditate on it day and night, making sure you practice everything written in it. Then you’ll get where you’re going; then you’ll succeed. Haven’t I commanded you? Strength! Courage! Don’t be timid; don’t get discouraged. God, your God, is with you every step you take.” (Joshua 1:1,5-9, MSG)

Fight like you mean it.

Resist the urge to simply flick your hand at worry like a gnat. If worries take more of your thought life than prayer or gratitude, take a firm stand and commit to working on this struggle. Take your thoughts captive, don’t let them run you around. Wake up each morning with a song of thanksgiving in your heart rather than worries on your lips. (Easier said than done, right?) Just like any discipline this will take practice. Don’t give up- it’s worth it.

Following,
Ginger

Thursday Tips: Eyes Up

Yesterday we started walking through M’s complex thoughts about self-worth, anxiety, and what to do when we don’t like how we look or feel. Obviously it’s not something that can be answered in a short blog post or with a pat answer.

Acknowledging the truth, that we will never live up to the world’s standards is essentially step one. Step two is to then choose to live and see ourselves through God’s loving eyes. But step three involves our eyes.

When I get so focused on my own worries, imperfections and failings I get caught in a crazy cycle of self-loathing. One long look in a mirror, a step on a scale, a harsh word from a classmate… any of these can send our self-esteem reeling out of control. So we ground ourselves in truth, and then we look outward!

The truth of the matter is that joy flows most often when we take a step back from ourselves and notice those around us. Joy comes from blessing and encouraging others, rather than focusing on our own needs. When life is “all about me” it leaves little room for the joy that emerges through loving people.

The next time the tears threaten to overtake you, try one of these tips before you give up.

1. Make cookies and give them to friends and neighbors.

2. Write a letter (snail mail!) to a grandparent, relative, or teacher who has been instrumental in your life. Thank them for the role they have had.

3. Leave a flower for someone and don’t tell them who it’s from! Instead just include a note that says, “You matter. Thank you for being you!”  Have fun encouraging from a distance.

4. Go for a walk outside!

5. Turn on some music and dance in your room.

6. Offer to help your mom cook dinner.

7. The next time a volunteer opportunity is presented to you, say “yes”!

8. Go through your closet and collect clothes to donate to a local charity. That sweater you wore once last year might just make someone else’s day.

9. Take time to collect runaway shopping carts in the parking lot and return them to their homes.

10. Commit to only use texting and social media to encourage other people. No more lamenting, moaning, or complaining.

11. Invite someone in your family to go out for lunch, your treat! Plan the “date” and even dress up to make it more special.

12. This list could go on and on, so start making your own!

I know that counting my blessings is a huge kick in the pants when I need to refocus my gaze, but this list can also help in those moments when the hurt threatens to knock us down. We each have so much to give to a world in need!

I pinned this photo on Pinterest this week. I love the thought behind it. Let’s find our passion and get to loving others!

purposeful

Happy Thursday.

Following,
Ginger

Friday Finds: Favorite Things

Just think of today’s post as the “Oprah’s Favorite Things Show”, and if I had unlimited resources I would gift them all your way! A random list of what I currently utilize on a daily basis…

 

Ginger’s Favorite Things!

 

1. Flipboard News App. I check the top stories when I wake up in the morning. It’s become my go-to resource for everything that I missed while I was asleep. I try to stay up-to-date on current events. I may not be able to pronounce the name of every world leader, but at least Flipboard gives me a huge scope of stories to choose from.

app

 

2. Podcasts! If I’m not listening to music, I’m usually listening to a podcast. While I cook, exercise, drive… you name it. I use the Stitcher Radio App and frequently listen to: Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me, This American Life, Radiolab, Freakonomics Radio, The NPR: Hourly News Summary, among others. Now you know… I’m a public radio fan(atic?).

stitcher

 

3. Reading out-loud as a family. Hubs and I have done this off and on since marrying. We take turns reading a book aloud to each other at night before we shut out the light. We just finished “To Kill A Mockingbird” and I was so sad to see it end. (I am especially sad to know that this is the end of my husband speaking to me in a southern accent. He makes a really good Atticus!) Looking forward to starting the next book soon: The follow-up to Lois Lowry’s “The Giver,” entitled “Son.”

 

4. My Tervis Tumbler with lid and straw. Sure, Willy the Wildcat from my Alma Mater is cool, but even if this was a blank cup I would still love it. It keeps my tables free from water rings, my water cold, and this accident-prone gal from spilling. I use it every day that it’s not in the dishwasher. For real.

water

 

5. My house moccasins. Even though I live in Arizona, the winter nights still get chilly. We try not to turn the heater on unless it’s going to get below 35 at night… thus the tile floor is FREEZING. I don’t walk in my house without them. I tried to find the exact design on the Daniel Green website, but no luck. They are super soft and comfy – so I’m sure all of their products will fit the bill.

shoe

 

6. The Valley of Vision. My dear friend Becca gave me this copy three years ago and I pull it out just about every morning. There are over 300 Puritan prayers inside. The humility of the beautiful words always stills my heart before I open the Word. I highly recommend this book.

vision

 

7. A Mat Kearney Pandora Station. I’ve added in some Mumford & Sons for variety, but this is the go-to station in our house. We might be addicted. :)

 

8. I LOVE day planners. Blogging and real life friend Jordy Liz made me aware of one of her favorite calendars this year. I couldn’t resist and bought myself an early Christmas present. I was counting down the days to January so I could start using my Erin Condren Day Planner. I carry it with me all the time… it’s my right hand gal.

calendar

 

9. Smoothies. For the past 4 months I’ve been eating smoothies for breakfast at least 5 days a week. Since kicking caffeine, it’s been a nice replacement wake-up to get my day going. My personal recipe: 2 oz orange juice, about 1/2 cup of frozen berries, 1 small banana, 1/4 cup of flavored greek yogurt, 1/8 cup of fresh spinach. Blend that sucker up and enjoy.

 

10. Writing in my new “Getting to Know You” journal. We returned home from Youth Group one Sunday night to discover a bag hanging on our front door. Sweet friends from across town had left us this book to begin recording our new adventure: parenthood! I’m not sure why I’m choosing this format to share, but there it is. I’m in my second trimester and expecting our first child this summer. This really is my favorite realization each day! “The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy!” Psalm 126:3

baby

 

So now it’s obviously your turn to share your top picks. What gets the most use in your world?

Happy Friday!
Ginger

Friday Finds: The List

finds

Ginger, why are you listing your favorites of 2012 on the first Friday in 2013?

Life happens, my friends. And sometimes, we have to be okay with being just a step behind. I  love receiving recommendations from others. I’ve spent the week catching up on Google Reader and reading the “Best Of 2012” lists that abound. I’ve bookmarked some must-reads/watch/see/find/wear/pin for this year. But I also took the time to think through my year and jot down a few of my top recommendations!

My standouts for 2012:

Best New Recipe Tried and Tasted: Quinoa and Sweet Potato Chili. We aren’t vegan, paleo, or vegetarian but we both agree that this recipe is a SUPER WIN. Hearty, tasty, and yet full of vitamins. This here is good eats.

Favorite New Reads: Grace for the Good Girl by Emily P. Freeman, Love Does by Bob Goff and the chef inside of me loved My Berlin Kitchen by Luisa Weiss

Favorite Films: The Chef, Argo, Lincoln, Les Miserables

Favorite New Albums: Babel by Mumford & Sons and Give Us Rest by The David Crowder Band

Favorite Television Show: Parenthood (Weeping just thinking about it)

Best Books to read again: The Giver by Lois Lowry and To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Song with the most plays on iTunes: Waiting Here for You by Christy Nockles

And finally looking forward – on the reading list for 2013:

Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis
1,000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Storyline 2.0 by Donald Miller
Help, Thanks, Wow by Ann Lamott
Forgotten God by Francis Chan
Trusting God: Even When Life Hurts by Jerry Bridges
Written Together by Shanna Mallon
The Lemon Tree: An Arab, A Jew, and The Heart of the Middle East by Sandy Tolan

Care to share your favs for the year or what’s in store for 2013? My list is calling for some additions!

Following,

Ginger