A Few of My Favorite Things | Meaningful Gifts for Women

christmas-gift-guide-2016

When I come across a great book, song, or resource, I love telling my friends all about it. So even though we’re just days away from Christmas, I am sharing a few of my (somewhat) recent favorite things with you. Whether you’re looking for a last-minute Christmas gift for a friend or an encouraging resource for yourself as you look to the new year, here are a handful of meaningful items to consider!

Letters To My Daughters: The Art of Being a Wife by Barbara Rainey

I have so much respect for Dennis and Barbra Rainey of FamilyLife Today (a Christian radio ministry), so when I learned about this book, I immediately added it to my wish list. The book is set up as a series of letters written by Barbara as she answers the kinds of questions that her own daughters and other younger wives might ask marriage. Her frank, yet gentle wisdom was such a blessing to my heart, and I truly felt like I was getting to sit down to coffee with her and pick her brain on all things marriage! She helps wives better understand God’s beautiful design for marriage, but also recognizes and addresses the very real challenges of such an intimate relationship. Filled with lovely watercolor paintings and hand-lettered art, this book is a wonderful gift for married women of all ages, especially new brides.

The Pastor’s Wife by Sabina Wurmbrand

By far one of the very best books I read this past year, this book by Sabina Wurmbrand (c0-founder of Voice of the Martyrs), was an incredible challenge to my heart as a Christian, a wife, and a mom. Sabina shares the story of how she and her husband Richard met as young people in Romania, came to know Jesus, gave their lives to ministry, and how their lives were turned upside down during the Communist takeover in 19–. Even in the midst of intense, unthinkable persecution, Sabina never wavered in her devotion to the Lord. She endured years of harsh prison life and separation from her family – yet emerged a triumphant, glorious testimony of God’s faithfulness.

Prayer Journal from ValMarie Paper

I’ve had my eye on one of these journals for awhile now and just recently had the opportunity to start using one. Normally, I’m hesitant to use “fill-in-the-blank” journals, for fear they won’t feel as intimate and personal. But this journal has been a huge blessing to my prayer life and the more I get to know Val Woerner through her blog, the more I love her heart to encourage women. This journal is set up as an undated, six-month journal (so you can start using it at any time), with writing prompts for specific categories of prayer such as your nation, community, loves, family – and space to record answered prayer, Scripture, and quotes. I love that it is nice and slim, but so pretty and available in a number of colors. In addition to these undated prayer journals, Val also offers pregnancy journals, infertility journals, gratitude journals, and prayer journals for men.

Homemaker’s Friend 2017 Planner

When I stumbled across this planner a couple months ago on one of my favorite blogs, Richly Rooted, I was excited to learn more. I tried two other planners this year but was disappointed in both for various reasons. Personally, I like my planner to be medium-sized; big enough to write comfortably in, but small enough to fit in my purse or bag. I also love having monthly, weekly, and daily layouts to write down my appointments and daily to-do’s. Since I found the 2016 planner so close to the end of the year, it was on sale for $1 – and after using it for a couple months now, I can say with confidence that this is my planner for 2017! It has the monthy, weekly, and daily layouts that I like, along with sections for your shopping lists (perforated, so you can tear them out!), project lists, important addresses, AND two pockets for storing receipts and notes. There is also an encouraging Scripture or quote on each page spread.

Marriage and Motherhood Devotional by Leslie Ludy

I often pick up these devotional books, brimming with inspiring photos and timely truths, when I need some encouragement as a mom. This devotional is one of my personal favorites because it focuses on why you need to keep your marriage a priority over your children – and how to practically do that. Personally, I know all too well how easy it is to pour myself into my children and give the sad leftovers to my husband. Leslie shares refreshing spiritual wisdom and helpful ideas for building your marriage – and then your family – on the strong foundation of Jesus Christ.

The Thrill of Hope by Christy Nockels

If I had to pick only one Christmas album to listen to, it would be this one – which is saying a lot! I’ve long admired Christy Nockels for her lovely voice and consistently Gospel-rich lyrics, so I was just thrilled when I learned that she was working on a Christmas album. I know it’s getting pretty close to Christmas Day, but truly, these songs will add a sacred richness to rest of your holiday season, even if just for the next week! Two of my favorites are the hope-filled “Advent Hymn” and her beautiful arrangement of “Hark the Herald Angels Sing”. Find the hard copy here and the digital download here.

Flourish Bible study from Life Lived Beautifully

A group of friends and I went through this eight-week study this fall and were so blessed. The study focuses on the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5 and I learned so much about what it means to thrive spiritually even during challenging seasons of life. Whether you go through this study on your own or with a group of women, you’ll come away with a greater understanding of how to have a flourishing relationship with Jesus.

Art Prints by Breezy Brookshire

Elijah and I don’t know what specific plans God has for growing our family, but we do hope to adopt children into our family someday. This beautiful print captures that hope and desire for us and I gifted it to Elijah for his first Father’s Day when I was expecting Chloe. I adore Breezy’s beautiful work and have my eye on several others I want to display in our home. In addition to the prints in her Etsy shop, she has illustrated an absolutely gorgeous book, For Such a Time As This, a devotional for young girls that highlights women in the Bible and how the Gospel is woven all throughout Scripture. Her portrayals of biblical women like Sarah, Elizabeth, and Anna are just what I’ve always pictured in my mind!

Make Over Your Mornings Course by Crystal Paine

I am a huge fan of Crystal Paine, a.k.a “Money Saving Mom” and thoroughly enjoyed her 14-day online course on how to establish a productive morning routine. There is an assignment each day that takes about 15 minutes total to complete and the results are completely worth your time! Included in the course are daily videos, a workbook, and helpful printables. The assignments really helped me think through what was holding me back from getting my day off to a good start and what I could do to make positive changes. She also has a Make Over Your Evenings course that I want to go through sometime soon!

This post contains affiliate links, which means that you purchase through one my links, I receive a small commission. Thanks for supporting my blog!

“Steadfast Love” by Lauren Chandler – A Book Review

File_000

I’ll  be honest – the first thing that attracted me to this book was the pretty cover. Navy and gold? Right up my alley! And the text inside is actually navy blue, too. I don’t know if I’ve ever come across another book with text in anything other than black. Aesthetics aside, I found the content within to be even more inspiring than the appealing cover design.

This sentence graces the back cover:

“Sometimes He wrings the worship from our hearts.”

I don’t know about you, but when I read a phrase like this, I wince a little. The thought of worship being wrung from my heart makes me shrink back – because what kind of pain, trials, and storms would I have to endure for that to happen? It’s easy to esteem loving and trusting Him in the midst of it all, but if I am being honest, I don’t like the idea of suffering.

Steadfast Love focuses on Psalm 107 and the steadfast love of the Lord toward His children as they encounter various situations. She highlights the journey of those who find themselves in chains, in folly, in the desert, and in the storm – and how God rescues and redeems them. At some point, all of us will find ourselves in hard, painful circumstances. Some of these circumstances are simply a result of living in a sinful, fallen world; while others are consequences of our own poor choices. And then there are the trials that the Lord allows us to walk through solely for our good and His glory. We can expect difficulties in life and praise God, we can expect His faithfulness through it all (1 Pet. 1:7). Lauren writes:

“The beauty of this Psalm is that there is not one season in which we have not found ourselves. It is an invitation to self-examination balanced by God-exaltation. We see ourselves with the psalmist’s eyes, we recognize the ache, the sting, the heaviness; and, we identify with their cry for help. The picture of God’s deliverance in each scenario encourages us to trust that He is willing and able–that there is a God who cares, who is not far off, who concerns Himself with our concerns, and who is the only One capable of rescuing us.” (emphasis mine)

IMG_2215

One of my favorite parts of the book was Lauren’s examination of “faux-anchors” – anything we depend upon other than Jesus:

“What we choose to use as our anchor determines how well we will weather the seasons of life. Imagine hoisting a rope tied to a brick over the side of an ocean liner and saying, “That’ll hold.” anyone in her right mind would signal the Coast Guard and be on the next boat back to shore. The brick will sink and have the appearance of stability, but the first steady current would sweep it away.

I have had my share of faux-anchors–things, people, talents, abilities, statuses, even good deeds–that felt like they would hold but without exception, each failed me. God has graciously used seasons in the desert, in chains, in folly, and in the storm to expose the weakness of my anchor imposter. He unties the frail rope from the measly brick and replaces it with His “hesed” chain tied to the anchor of Yahweh, the Great “I AM,” the One who will never fail.”

I highly recommend this book for any woman, regardless of age or season in life. As Lauren dives deeply into Scripture and shares the trials that made Psalm 107 precious to her, your heart will be freshly anchored to the Lord.

Have you recently read a book that has encouraged you spiritually? Tell me about it in the comments below!

This book was provided by B&H Publishers in exchange for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Giveaway! Leslie Ludy’s New Book “The Set Apart Woman”

In celebration of the release of Leslie Ludy’s new book, The Set Apart Woman, I’m giving away one copy of it! I had the opportunity to read through this book in March before it was released and have been deeply stirred by the truth inside. Being a busy mama, I don’t have the uninterrupted hours for reading that I used to, but since I am also a bookworm, I do make time for reading whenever I can! I often read through five or six books at a time, but when I got this book, I read it straight through. I will readily admit that I rejoiced and winced my way through it because God was touching upon compromise in my life and asking for renewed consecration. It was like cool water for my thirsty soul. The past two years of my life have been full of surprises, challenges, and transitions. Some hard, most of them wonderful. Yet I have to be honest and confess that I did not walk through most of the hard things in a way pleasing to God. When a “trial” arose, I often gave into frustration, condoned my complaining, and half-heartedly tended to my relationship with Him. I cringe as I remember the many bad moods and pity-parties I indulged in. My heart and life did not display steadfastness; I went up and down with my circumstances and emotions. But praise God for His faithfulness, His lovingkindness, His mercy, and His grace! Day by day, He has enabled me to see clearly again, to cling to truth again, and to walk in the power of His Spirit again. The beginning of this year brought so much newness of life and for that I am so thankful. It was like falling in love with Him all over again, just like I did during my first semester at Ellerslie. This year has been a beautiful time of drawing closer to God and Him drawing nearer to me, all the while experiencing the refining fire that is so very necessary for greater intimacy with Him. _MG_1786 I was SO excited when I heard that Leslie was writing a new book specifically for women, since many of her other books were written for younger, high school or college-age girls (though I am still edified by each of them and can’t wait until I have daughters old enough to read them!). Her books have played a very significant part in me coming to know the Lord and I expected this one would be no different. Even before I truly surrendered my life to Jesus, her books always left me desiring to really know Him. If you’ve read Leslie’s other books and you are thinking that there isn’t anything new in this book, well, you’re right! Leslie doesn’t stray for a moment from her classic message of making (and keeping) Jesus at the center of your life. However, she does get very specific in addressing many of the common challenges that women face. I love this because as women, there are certain areas of sin and compromise that we have a tendency to excuse and downplay. These issues include fear, worry, gossip, addictions to media, self-promotion, legalism, etc. Leslie approaches these topics and then turns right to Scripture, leaving us with empowering Gospel truth – and without a single excuse for our sin and compromise. I’ve read some negative reviews of this book and I completely disagree with those who say that Leslie’s message of pure devotion to Christ is legalistic and strict. Leslie actually wrote a section called Set-Apartness Vs. Legalism in chapter three, clarifying the difference between the two. Here’s a great quote from that section:

Legalism and true set-apartness are two very different things. Legalism oppressesbut true set-apartness liberates. Legalism chokes life, but true set-apartness gives life. Legalism is based upon self-effort, but true set-apartness is based upon the supernatural enabling grace of God. Legalism is based upon rules, but true set-apartness is based upon a relationship with the King of all kings.

The Set Apart Woman is incredibly convicting, but it has brought so much life to my soul. I know my struggles and my weaknesses, and I don’t need a book that ‘helps me become myself’ or promotes fruitless introspection. My soul needs a message that is going to set my eyes on Jesus, His worthiness, and His ability to make me more like Him. If you feel some stinging as you go through this book, my encouragement is to embrace the loving conviction of God. As my friend Mandy says, “We will find that fuller life and deeper joy in Him awaits us just beyond the brink of repentance – that’s the beauty and blessing of God’s refining!” The Set Apart Woman On a practical note, there are thought-provoking study and reflection questions at the end of each chapter. These will help you take the message of true set-apartness even deeper. They’re perfect for discussing in a Bible study group or working through on your own in your journal. And I just have to mention… isn’t the cover of the book just so lovely? It is so inviting and really reflects the sacred message you’ll find within its pages. Whether you’ve been walking with the Lord for two years or twenty years, I hope you’ll read this book! To enter my giveaway for a copy of this book: leave a comment and share with me one of YOUR favorite books on Biblical womanhood and why you love it. I’m looking forward to hearing from you! The giveaway is open until midnight on Monday, June 8th, 2015, when I’ll randomly select a name and notify the winner by email. Open to United States residents only.

Begin Again

Jan 2015-1

Ever since I surrendered my life to Jesus in the fall of 2010, the start of a new year has become a sacred time for me. It’s a time to freshly reflect upon the faithfulness of God over the past year and prayerfully seek His purposes for my life in the coming months. In this next year, I hope to begin posting regularly on this little blog. It’s my desire to be an encouragement to the few that follow this blog, as well as any others that may stumble upon it. I have lots of exciting ideas for future posts… a Scripture memorization challenge, book reviews, healthy recipes, modest style, home organization, motherhood resources, etc., but it shall unfold one post a time, as the Lord leads!

Until then,
lauren