“Hope Prevails” ~ A Review & Giveaway (Ends 7/16/17)

Have you ever gone through challenging times and found it difficult to hang onto your hope?  Or, have you even struggled with depression?  Have you wondered why your faith wasn’t enabling you to kick that depression in the teeth?  Or, have you ever found it difficult to believe what God says about you?  If so, you’re going to love Hope Prevails by Dr. Michelle Bengtson.  The BlogAbout Blogger Network sent me a copy of this amazing book to review and a copy to bless one of our readers with….as well as a gorgeous & incredible gift box from the author!  (I’ll be sharing some goodies with my giveaway winner from that as well!)

 

I have read a lot of good books over the past year.  However, I must say that in all my reading, I don’t know that I’ve seen an author open the door on her own struggles and then describe them in such a way that I felt that she was talking about my own.  I endured a season of depression myself following a couple of serious surgeries and family difficulties several years ago.  While I would say that depression doesn’t describe my emotional state at this moment, I am in a place where Dr. Bengtson’s words are still of enormous value and assistance.  Readers of the finchnwren blog know that after having abdominal pain that just wouldn’t go away, I required surgery to remove a cyst in early May.  That cyst turned out to be cancerous, to my utter shock and disbelief!  The surgeon felt optimistic about having gotten all of it out, but he still recommended chemotherapy.  So I’ve completed the first third of the chemo journey (having had 2 of 6 sessions) but I am discovering that for me, the battlefield of the mind is almost as important as the battle being waged in my body.  How do I endure the physical challenges while hanging onto my hope, my faith, my belief in  God and that He is FOR me?  What a perfect book Hope Prevails is for my journey!

What will you find in Hope Prevails?

Author and neuropsychologist Dr. Michelle Bengtson found, after treating patients for years in her own practice, that she required treatment for depression herself.  And she discovered that there was a crucial ingredient missing in common treatment options for depression; the spiritual aspect.  In Hope Prevails, you’ll find out what depression can look like, what it can do to you spiritually, and how you can integrate care of yourself spiritually to work alongside traditional treatment.  And receive true healing!

Each chapter begins with identification and description of depression plus the key elements of YOU, yourself, that can be tended on your walk toward healing.  Next, Dr. Bengtson gives the reader an Rx (prescription) to follow, that includes anything from Scriptures to read and review, brief research, prayers, and more.  She writes the most meaningful prayers for the reader/sufferer of depression, and concludes each chapter with a Recommended Playlist of praise and worship songs that are keyed to each chapter.  (You can find them by searching YouTube or iTunes.  Worth a listen!)

And Dr. Bengtson shares her own life, transparently, and how to address the spiritual component of the healing of depression in the following chapters (and others):

  • This Thing Called Depression
  • You Are Not Alone
  • The Underlying Causes of Depression
  • Recognize You Have An Enemy

These first chapters define depression in all its lack of glory, and remind us that there is an enemy of our souls who seeks to do us in, as Jesus instructs us in John 10:10:  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…”

But then Jesus goes on to encourage us and remind us of the truth:  “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Life!  Not just painful existence.  The remainder of the chapters in Hope Prevails tell us about this full or abundant life, and how we can apprehend it:

  • Recover Your Joy
  • Reclaim Your Peace
  • Reestablish Your Identity
  • Know Your Worth
  • Remember  Your Secure Destiny
  • Be Confident That Nothing Separates You from God’s Love
  • God Uses Your Pain
  • The Way to Hope

Each of these chapters is so rich; each one speaks to a component of our spiritual identities (you know, the invisible part that makes each of us uniquely us), how each is affected by depression and its spiritual battles, and how we can regain strength and joy in them.

 

 

How Hope Prevails affected me

So…I’ve mentioned a bit to you about my own current physical, mental, and spiritual journey.  How I am walking through chemotherapy: one day–6 hours, actually–getting the IV infusions and then 20 more days of letting that medication do battle in my own body.  Then starting the whole process over again.

I can tell you (see my Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator for confirmation) that I am a great beginner.  I love starting new things, new classes, new projects.  But there is that spot, sometimes, in the middle of the journey where the fun isn’t as obvious, the grind has become the grind, and the newness has worn off.  Now nobody is really going to call chemotherapy a fun journey.  But there has been that newness of it: the not knowing what’s coming next, the unforeseen challenges.  All those kept me on my toes, really depending on God for what was around the next corner because we just had no clue.  But now I’m kind of noticing that we’re in that middle part; the routine.  Not that there won’t be unexpected surprises or challenges; but now I’m thinking that suddenly the circumstances (the pain, the medications/their effects, the trips to the doctor) aren’t my fight, I (my choices, my relationship with God, my mental battle) am my fight.  Or rather, my reacting to each day; knowing I might not be feeling my best or feeling well at all, but choosing to ENGAGE.  Engage with God; believe His truths; attempt to walk out my best in my life and with my family.  Sigh.  The middle.

What a powerful tool, what a valued companion Dr. Michelle Bengston has provided for me in my fight.  In each chapter, she defines what I am needing, whether it’s hope, joy, peace, identity, etc., and kindly and lovingly explains how I can grasp or attain it.  She provides truth to counter the enemy’s lies.  She includes Scripture that I’ve written in my journal or on cards for my vision board, so that I can remember what is real and true about my journey and about me.

How could Hope Prevails help you?

Now…most of you (and maybe even none of you!) are NOT undergoing my particular journey.  But perhaps you have experienced depression.  Maybe someone you love has.  Or it could be that you just desperately need to learn, remember, and know the truths the enemy would love for us to forget, but that God has given us in His Word.  Or, what if you’d just like to learn how you can grow in your own relationship with God?  If so, this book is for you!  (And keep reading because I have one copy to bless a reader with…that just might be you!)

I have to tell you that discovering that there had been a cyst in my body that was cancerous, and then going thru six rounds of chemotherapy, was NOT something that I was hoping for in my life!  But God has spoken Romans 8:28 over every one of us that loves and believes in Him…and He has spoken it over me and my life and journey to defeat illness as well.  I know that there will be a day when I can richly and fully say that I can rejoice in having gone through this.  If this also is something you desire to be able to say about your own pains and struggles, then that’s another reason to read this incredible book!

 

The unboxing of encouragement

Before I get to the giveaway, though, I have to share with you the absolutely wonderful gift box that I received from Dr. Michelle Bengtson.  It came to me at just the right moment, when I was home from surgery but still in significant pain from a wound infection.  WHAT an encouragement and blessing this box was!  Just at a moment when I needed something beautiful and wonderful to encourage me.  (Thank you from the bottom of my heart, Dr. Bengtson and The BlogAbout Network!)

 

 

Of course, you know after reading my review that I adored the book.  But at a time when I needed some beauty and love (and isn’t it nice to get that in a physical form from time to time?), I was blessed with that gorgeous scarf and the beautiful pearl bracelet that reads “Hope”!

 

 

I have to tell you that I wear the bracelet every time I go to chemotherapy.  It reminds me of beauty, that God is good, and that I have a hope to look forward to…not only in the life to come but in the here and now!

 

And now…enter to win some Hope Prevails goodies!

One reader will be selected to win a copy of Hope Prevails, a dog tag necklace with Jeremiah 29:11 on it, AND a delicious bar of chocolate from Dr. Michelle Bengtson!  Just click on the pink link below to be taken to the Giveaway Tools entry form.  Giveaway closes on July 16.  Best wishes!

Enter the giveaway here!

 

Don’t forget to visit Dr. Michelle Bengtson on social media, where you’ll find more encouragement and beauty

 

Her website, DrMichelleBengtson
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest
Instagram

 

Thank you for letting me share this powerful book (and goodies!) with you all.  Blessings!

Enjoy!  –Wren

DISCLOSURE:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

 

 

 

 

 

Yellow Owl Workshop’s Make It Yours by Christine Schmidt ~ A Review

I love art books, craft books, creative how-to books. So when I had the opportunity to review Yellow Owl Workshop’s Make It Yours by Christine Schmidt, I was ecstatic…because this book is all those things in one!  Blogging For Books was kind enough to provide a free copy of this amazing book so that I could try it out and review it, and share my thoughts with you!

 

 

What is Make It Yours?

Yellow Owl Workshop’s Make It Yours
is a beautifully photographed, clearly written project and idea manual for those who love to craft or create…whether they’d consider themselves creative or not.  Each project contains photos of the process itself as well as the finished version of the project.  These range from stationery, to kitchen items, to home decorative furnishings, to gifts, and more!

Author and artist Christine Schmidt intros the book with a chapter that’s all about how to use the book, making it perfect for the seasoned artist and crafter and the newbie alike.  She talks about ways the reader can use the book and describes all the various art media and crafting supplies mentioned and utilized.  From that brief introduction, she jumps right into creative instruction.  The projects are divided into these six broad categories, with each chapter containing 4-7 different ideas:

  • Abstract & Geometric Patterns
  • Everyday Patterns
  • Custom Motifs
  • Occasions & Celebrations
  • Flora & Fauna
  • Travel-Inspired Patterns

 

 

Here’s what you’ll find in it:

  • Step-by-step instructions for 31 different extremely cool projects
  • Gorgeous, full-color pictures of projects the author has made
  • A complete list of supplies needed for each project
  • Instead of a slipcover, the softcover book’s front and back have 3″ wide bent covers that you can use instead of bookmarks to mark your place
  • Templates for various designs
  • Photos of supplies needed for design categories
  • Recommended reading
  • And more!

 

Some of my favorites…

Well…how would you like to learn how to gold-leaf a table?  Or carve your own stamp?  Make fondant cake decorations?  (Because, really, isn’t fondant the coolest??)  What about painting decorative plates, or doing a new sort of tie-dye?  This book is so packed full of so many different types of projects, the reader will never get tired of using it!  Because of course, if one completed every project in the book, she’d then have the mastery to start back over again and tweak the projects with her own learned skill and creativity!

 

And things I’m looking forward to making myself!

I received this book for review at sort of a challenging moment.  I love art and teaching art.  But during the time when I could have whipped out some of these amazing home and gift ideas, I had surgery which turned into almost 2 weeks in the hospital, followed by weeks of at-home recuperation.  So I haven’t yet been able to make ANY of these!  But here’s a short list of some I’d like to try first!

  • Shibori pattern tie-dyeing with indigo dye
  • Painting decorative plates with markers
  • Making my own stamps and stamping clay ornaments
  • I’m also hoping to adapt the leather-working aspects of Schmidt’s plaid tote to create an art display board for next year’s art classes
  • And more!  What a drool-worthy book!

 

Who would enjoy Yellow Owl Workshop’s Make It Yours?

  • Artists
  • Crafty folk
  • Homeschoolers
  • Art teachers (oh yes, there’s so much in this book to adapt for your classes!)
  • Families who like to do art together
  • Those who aren’t crafty or artistic but would love to be
  • Someone who’d like to update or personalize her home’s look or furnishings
  • A book club; what about reading this book together then doing some projects?

 

And my conclusions:

I think that Yellow Owl Workshop’s Make It Yours is a fantastic resource, well worth its purchase price of $22!  It’s easy to read and use, and gorgeous to look at.  Readers have the opportunity to learn printmaking, clay work, stamping (including how to make your own stamps), painting, dying…and so much more!  Really, it’s like a year-long art class packed into one nice thick book.  I am happy to recommend it!

 

 

I hope you enjoyed this brief glance of a wonderfully creative how-to book!  Thanks for joining me today!

–Wren

Disclosure:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog. We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews. We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products. We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.  I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

#Keyword Reading Challenge March: C.S. Lewis’ “Out of the Silent Planet”

Hello, everyone!

So March is over…and due to a nasty infection (not to mention a painful visit to the orthopedic surgeon) I am a little late getting my #Keyword Reading Challenge post up.  But I did actually read a book with a variation on one of the March keywords in its title, which included  Shall, Go, By, Silence, Her, Saga.  I got a book I’d first read as an early teen, and thoroughly enjoyed dipping into again:  C.S. Lewis’ Out of the Silent Planet.

 

 

Out of the Silent Planet is Lewis’ tale of Dr. Elwin Ransom, philologist, who is kidnapped by the amoral Professor Weston and Ransom’s old (yet not very much-liked) schoolmate Devine.  Ransom is manhandled into a spaceship, and the three leave earth for Malacandra, a planet that’s in our own solar system.  Neither man is willing to admit to Ransom exactly why he’s been brought along, yet he discovers on the journey, via overheard conversation, that he is actually intended to be a human sacrifice for the Malacandrians.  He makes mental plans to try for an escape as soon as they land, and he’s successful.  Ransom leaves Weston and Devine behind, and sets off on his own.

Ransom meets Malacandrian residents of three distinct (yet interconnected) species, each of which has a particular set of gifts and talents.  There are the hrossa, the poets; the seroni, the wise ones; and the pfifltriggi, the miners and engravers of Malacandra’s metals.  Because he is a philologist, he is able to build a bridge of language with them all, and even develops deep friendships with some.

Ransom discovers that Weston and Devine have (of course) terrible plans involving Malacandra.  He also learns that he is from the planet Thulcandra, the silent world or planet; and that there are other beings, which aren’t sometimes quite visible; the eldil.  The hrossa plan to take Ransom to Oyarsa, who seems to be some sort of keeper or ruler of Malacandra.  But before they leave, a tragedy occurs.

Out of the Silent Planet is the story of Ransom’s fight against the plans of evil men, his hearing of Maleldil, and an incredible tale of a fascinating world out of C.S. Lewis’ own imagination.  Anyone who’s read the Narnia books won’t be in the least surprised at this.

What may come as a surprise, however, is Lewis’ astounding way with words, and the level of scholarship and intelligence from which he writes.  The Narnia books contain Christian truths within their fantastic stories.  So does Out of the Silent Planet; but the brilliance with which they’re expressed here reminds the reader that Lewis was not only a Tutor and Fellow of Magdalen College of Oxford, but a professor at Cambridge University as well.

Out of the Silent Planet is fantastic fantasy/science fiction; but it’s also a beautiful reminder of the eternal truths of the Christian faith.  Oh, and also here’s a fun fact:  Lewis may have patterned the good man Ransom’s character after that of his dear friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings books (and others).  What a compliment!

I’m linking this up with the #KeywordReadingChallenge from the My Soul Called Life blog.  Hop over there by clicking on the button below to find some fascinating reads from other bloggers containing this month’s keywords list in their titles!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Win a Copy of “Choosing Real” ~ Responding to Life’s Unexpectedness (Giveaway Ends 3/19/17)

I was captivated by the idea of Bekah Jane Pogue’s new book Choosing Real.  How do you respond to life–and to God–when life doesn’t go as planned?  When schedules become overfull?  When suffering and difficulty press in?  I had the lovely opportunity to read Choosing Real when the BlogAbout Blogger Network provided a copy for me to review–as well as a copy to give away to one reader!

 

 

So what is Choosing Real?

Subtitled “An Invitation to Celebrate When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned,” Bekah Jane Pogue’s wonderful book addressed the questions that every woman has to face sooner or later.  We all have that image of the picture-perfect life; you know, the one we’re striving for.  The one that our list-making ought to be achieving (if we just get everything checked off and accomplished).  That our Pinterest boards should be illustrating.

But, life doesn’t work that way.  Although it feels as though it should at times.  Life intrudes with messiness; with suffering; with unexpected pit stops and sharp turns that we weren’t planning for (and, by the way, that weren’t even included on our to-do lists).

So what exactly do we do when we’re exhausted, or sidelined by illness or tribulation, or simply struggling with the fact that life doesn’t look like we thought it would at this point?  When we’ve served and volunteered and run ourselves ragged but we’re not satisfied and we’re not at rest?  And where exactly is God, what does He expect of me anyway, and how much more can I possibly do to meet His expectations?

Except maybe they’re not His expectations for me at all.

There came a day, after Bekah’s dad passed away unexpectedly, that she sat on a bench and told God she was done.  She had nothing left to give, no ability left to serve; no more smiles; she was empty.

And she discovered that He was okay with that.  In fact, maybe even happy with it.  Bekah had lived as though she was the pursuer of God; that she was the one responsible for everything; that the faith life was all up to her.  And the idea of God enjoying her, just as she was?

Until she came to the end of herself, I don’t know that she would have imagined that.  And yet that was what she found at that point.  The invitation comes from God, not from us.

Bekah said that this–that realizing that she could be completely REAL with God–actually saved her life.  (I can relate to that!)

So how do we live, being real with God?

Bekah shares about her experiences–that can also be our own.  Sometimes it’s an outlook we can pursue.  Sometimes it’s questions we can ask.  Sometimes it is just stopping and taking another look at the way we’re used to behaving or acting.  Here’s a list of some of the ways Bekah, and we, can inject realness into our lives:

  • Saying “yes” to God’s invitations
  • Learning how to really experience rest
  • Finding God in the middle of the loss
  • Understanding our identities in the messes and transitions of life
  • Knowing we are “seen”
  • And more

What Choosing Real is meaning to me

Have you ever read a book and thought, “Eureka!  Exactly!”

This is a book that so resonated with me.   I don’t know Bekah in person, only from reading her book.  But so much of what she describes was not just something I recognized, it was experiences I’d lived.  And I’d guess I’m not the only one!  I’ve definitely been a woman who took the entire responsibility of my relationship with God on myself; as if He weren’t going to be doing any approaching and it was all up to me.

Exhausting!

And not really even logical.  If my husband doesn’t just sit on the couch all day, ignoring me and our son and waiting for me to approach him and for him maybe to talk to me (which he DOESN’T–he is awesome!), why would I think that God is just sitting up in heaven waiting for me to do all the work in our relationship?

That’s not even a relationship.  But it wasn’t until I saw Bekah describing her own experiences that I could see the pieces missing from my own perspective.

So no spoilers, but…

here are some of the most meaningful things I’ve read in Choosing Real.

  • Learning to seek His presence when I’m feeling loss
  • Separating my identity from my roles or my emotions
  • Asking if I am sacrificing “my sanity or my family” to make things happen
  • Choosing to engage all my senses when I am in a place of “overwhelm”

There’s so much more.  But I want you to be able to experience it during your own read!

Finally…

Would I recommend this book to you?

Yes.  I love Bekah’s friendly manner of writing.  It really does feel that she’s writing to you personally–who happens to be her very good friend.  So the book is a pleasure to read.

But even more important, the themes she shares and the perspectives she offers are words of wisdom that I believe we as women desperately need to hear.  We all have questions about our value, our identities, and how we’re “supposed” to interact with God–and what He wants of us.  The way we answer those questions is often shaped by our own experiences (both painful as well as positive) rather than by God’s own truth and His own value of us.

Choosing Real reminded me often of a beloved childhood book, The Velveteen Rabbit, which emphasizes the importance of being Real; Real with a capital R.  It turns out that we don’t have to be well-worn and threadbare to be Real.  Rather, we can engage in Realness in the relationship that defines us the most clearly, which will affect not only our perspectives of ourselves, but also our relationships, and the work of our lives.

And it can set us out on the road we long to be on; the place of Rest with a capital R with the God who loves us.

 

 

And you can enter to win your own copy!

Just click on the pink Enter Here link below, which will take you to the Giveaway Tools page with the entry form.  Giveaway ends March 19, 2017 at 11:59 PM.

Best wishes!

Enter here!

 

Enjoy!  –Wren

DISCLOSURE:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Great New Read from Katie Ganshert ~ LIFE AFTER (my review)

Katie Ganshert is one of my favorite contemporary fiction writers.  She creates flawed yet enormously appealing characters who move through challenges and relationships in an interesting fashion.  (She also writes engaging speculative fiction as K.E. Ganshert.)  I received her newest novel, Life After, to read and review, to my great anticipation!

life-after

 

The Story:

Autumn Manning boards a train one snowy evening carrying a box of items.  Distracted, she vaguely acknowledges those around her.  There’s a variety of people around her:  an older man wearing a John Deere cap; a mother with a small child; a professional woman with an expensive handbag; an artistic-looking young woman.  And others.  As Autumn returns a text she’s just received, the unthinkable happens and the train explodes.

Autumn survives the blast, with physical injuries that keep her in the hospital until she’s pronounced healed and is released.  But the emotional injuries, the invisible ones, aren’t so easy to diagnose or to fix.  Night after night, she is startled awake by nightmares.  And guilt.  Why did that man plant the bomb?  Why did 22 people die?  And why did she survive; 1 out of 23 people in that car?

Autumn doesn’t have any answers.  She doesn’t know why she survived, she doesn’t know how or when she’ll return to work, and she doesn’t know why she’s avoiding her fiance Chad, nor why she feels slightly angry when she sees him.  Also, she doesn’t know how to answer the letters she keeps receiving.

In another part of town, therapist Paul Elliott is picking up the pieces–or trying to–after having lost his wife, and the mother of his two children, in the same explosion Autumn survived.  He thinks his kids are doing better than they are; but he hasn’t really been able to fully process the loss with them.  He’s keeping food on the table, getting kids to school…but his daughter is reaching out for help in ways he’s completely unaware of.

Paul, Autumn, and the Elliott kids are pushed together in the most unexpected of ways.  And perhaps healing will finally come for them all.

 

My impressions:

I always approach a Katie Ganshert book with great anticipation.  And Life After completely delivered!  I really liked the main characters; and appreciated the supporting cast as well.  (Although I must admit there were times when I wanted to smack Autumn’s sister. )  The story is well-crafted and unfolds some quite surprising truths and events to all the characters.

I really liked Autumn, especially.  I thought Ganshert’s description of a person walking out life following an enormous trauma rang quite true.  Her questions, her (at first) fumbling attempts at rejoining the living, her reactions were all quite truthfully presented.  She was also an honorable and gracious person, when dealing with others’ “secrets” and losses.

Life After is excellent contemporary inspirational fiction.  It presents a person honestly trying to work through the “whys” of a tragedy; many of which those who suffer it might never know fully this side of heaven.  I also love the way Ganshert wove in mystery and even a little (but not too much) romantic interest.  It’s a great book, very timely for the day and age we all live in.

 

The Author:

You can discover more about Katie Ganshert and her writing and books at the following social media sites:

WaterBrook Multnomah Author Page
Katie Ganshert’s website
Facebook
Twitter
Pinterest

 

Enjoy!  –Wren

From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

My Review of Sarah Beckman’s ALONGSIDE, and a chance for you to win! (ends 2/24/17)

Do you ever wonder how you can help those around you when they’re in need, ill, or suffering a loss of some sort?  Sarah Beckman’s Alongside: A Practical Guide for Loving Your Neighbor in their Time of Trial richly answers those questions and gives so many ideas to the person who’d like to help but just isn’t sure how.  The BlogAbout Blogger Network provided an autographed (!)  copy of Alongside for me to read and review–plus a copy to give away to one of our readers!

 

alongside-banner

 

So…how to help?

Just recently, I was having dinner with two dear girlfriends.  And this very subject came up.  How do you help someone who’s suffered a huge loss?  Or is facing some significant (or even life-changing) sort of trial?  The first thing that comes to my mind is always to take a meal to the person or family who’s in need.  But what if the person has particular dietary needs you don’t know about, or can’t cook yourself?

Of course, there’s always the gift card to restaurants or grocery stores.  We were a bit stumped, though, as we brainstormed some other options.  Sometimes you want to help another person, but you just don’t know how.

 

alongside-1

Alongside by Sarah Beckman

Not long after that dinner, I had the opportunity to read the book that answered those very questions, written by a woman who has both served others in their own trials and experienced challenges herself, when she was the one who needed assistance.  She also contacted trusted friends and family, and asked them:  “I’m writing a book and I need your help.  Will you tell me exactly what was helpful and not-so-helpful to you during your most difficult life experience?”

Answers poured in as Sarah interviewed those close to her via Skype, Facebook, in person, and via email.  These conversations weren’t just surface, quick answers, either.  Some of them produced tears.  But all of them brought wisdom and incredible ideas for those who wish to serve and love others in times of suffering.  In Alongside, you’ll hear stories which range from those who were helped immensely, to those who were deeply hurt by someone’s well-meaning (yet thoughtless or unkind) remarks.  And one of the reasons you’ll want to keep this book handy are 26 chapters full of wide-ranging ideas of just how you can love and serve those in crisis or trouble.

alongside-6First of all…

Sarah Beckman begins with some things to keep in mind as you help and serve others.  First, why we should love others or seek to serve them.  How can we keep our own personal motivations healthy and pure?  How can we serve others without making it about us?  What are some examples of those who might be truly blessed by our help?  Depending on the closeness of our relationships with the person in need, how intimately should we try to get involved as we serve?

alongside-5

Practical ways to love and serve

As I mentioned above, I’ve found taking a meal to be a very practical way to come alongside others.  I have had several surgeries (not to mention bed rest during my pregnancy, and some broken metatarsals from a bad step off the stairs), and the meals others prepared and delivered to us made an enormous difference for us and gave us what I could not at the moment.  I do love that idea.

But, there are SO, so many more, and the author’s entire second section of Alongside (18 chapters and 137 pages) is absolutely packed with categories and ideas that can bless our friends and neighbors.  Here’s a sampling of those chapter titles:

  • be present
  • offer specific help
  • listen well
  • give good gifts
  • nourish normal
  • make them laugh
  • tap into your talents
  • choose wise words

You will find tons of ideas in this book.  Great gifts lists for men, women, children, teens.  Questions to ask.  Inside- and outside-the-house duties that you could perform.  Things NOT to say.  Ways to help that won’t put pressure on the person who’s suffering.  And so much more!

alongside-2

In special circumstances…

What do you do?  What if you’ve had very similar times of suffering yourself?  What if the person you’re desiring to serve doesn’t share your faith?  How do you help when your friend has a terminal diagnosis?  What about uncomfortable social situations?  Sarah Beckman covers these and other situations where we might feel even less like we know what to do or how to help, with kindness and grace but also with clarity and wisdom.

 

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How Alongside affected me

I loved this book.  Over the course of my life, I’ve been in a position to offer help to others, and I’ve required it myself at various times.   But I don’t always know what I can do (especially if I don’t have a super-close relationship with the person in need) to help besides bring food.  Not anymore!  Now, I have a huge abundance of ideas in addition to that.  I also have more perspective on how my words might sound to the person in need; and how to take the pressure off them by offering specific things, rather than just asking, “How can I help?” and leaving them to come up with solutions when they’re already in a place of suffering.  I’ve also been reminded of other needs a person in trial might have, and things I can do or offer to offset those.

 

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Alongside could be a fantastic resource for:

  • A person who is suffering–who’ll now have a long list to answer others who’d like to help but don’t know how
  • An adult with older relatives
  • Anyone who’d like to be available to serve in times of need
  • Someone who’d like creative ideas for blessing others who are suffering
  • Youth group leaders
  • Those in ministry, whether it’s to men, women, or moms
  • Anyone!

We live in a beautiful world.  But it’s also a world where we do both see trial, and experience it ourselves.  For this reason alone, Alongside is a book which will equip you, encourage you, and help you to be ready to love and serve others.  I recommend it highly!

Enter to win your very own copy!

One reader will be blessed with his or her own signed copy of Alongside by Sarah Beckman.  Just click on the pink link below to go to the Giveaway Tools entry form to enter.  Giveaway closes 2/24/17.  Best wishes!

Enter here!

 

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

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DISCLOSURE:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.

Can There Be Creativity in Prayer? ~ Reviewing DESIGNED TO PRAY & Giveaway (CLOSED)

How is your prayer life going?  Do you need a boost?  Are things there seeming like the same old, same old?  If you’re needing something in this area, but you don’t know exactly what, then you’re going to love this book.  The BlogAbout Blogger Network was so very kind to send me a copy of Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage With God to use myself–as well as a copy for one special reader to win!

 

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So how is your prayer life, anyway?

I will admit to you that my own times of prayer have really undergone a beating in the last four years.  Two abdominal surgeries (which left quite a mark on my overall stamina and energy) plus job challenges took my own faith to a place that I never expected it would go.  Did I believe in God?  Yes, of course.  Did I spend time in God’s Word?  Yes.  But even as I read the Bible’s truths, I struggled to apply them to myself; to believe that God really was FOR me, in my corner, loving and upholding me.

Hard times.

But (and here’s where we insert a “yay!”), I’m journeying back.  Receiving healing.  Able more and more to receive God’s truths for myself.  But I still could see that my prayer life needed…life.

 

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Enter Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage With God

I will not be exaggerating if I tell you that this book has made more of an impact on my prayer life than any other resource I’ve ever found on prayer.  It has been a delight.  It has caused me to see God differently–more truly what He is.  It has enabled me to desire prayer more fully, and to enjoy connecting with Him.  It has made my morning prayer time SO FUN.

It has been just what I needed at a moment when I really needed SOMEthing, but didn’t know exactly what.

 

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So how can a book do all that?

Kelly O’Dell Stanley, who already authored a book on prayer called Praying Upside Down, kept having ideas about journaling prayer.  Designing something for people to use that would help them see God, hear Him, know Him, get closer to Him, that could engage them both individually and creatively.  A book that could take the reader on an interactive & joyful journey.

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Designed to Pray provides a unique journey on prayer that I’m pretty sure nobody has ever taken before.  O’Dell Stanley has designed 8 weeks’ worth of daily exercises on prayer which will enable the reader to use her own creativity, colored pencils and pens to venture into prayer in ways that are exciting, encouraging, and uplifting.  The weeks’ titles include:

  • “Fumbling into God’s Presence”
  • “The Faith of a Child”
  • “Creativity…or Connecting the Dots to See God”
  • “We’re All in This Together (Praying with or for Others)”
  • “A Personal God (Knowing God, Knowing Yourself)”
  • and three more

Each of these chapters begins with an introduction from O’Dell Stanley that sets the tone for the week’s activities and prayers.  Then, the reader is given 7 different activities, one each for every day that week, Sunday through Saturday.

 

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How can art & creativity take you into God’s presence?

It’s all about the activities, the grace and fun behind them, and what Kelly O’Dell Stanley has designed them to do; engage with God on a heart level.  Sometimes, I started with a page the author designed with some beautiful doodles in one corner, and doodled more…then wrote prayer items in the spaces.  Another time, I wrote lists of things I was thankful for like rays of the sun.  Once I lettered the words to a children’s song about Jesus’ love.  Sometimes I got to color!

One pivotal day, I wrote down fears that kept me from praying.  Honestly, these were sort of buried in my mind and I wasn’t consciously aware of them.  But when the author asked the right questions, out they came…and I was able to progress beyond them.

 

designed-to-pray-4My conclusions

I like artsy stuff.  I teach art at our homeschool coop.  I have just jumped into Bible journaling.  I like to “do” art with my child.

I am not, however, a “trained” artist.  But I’ve found over my years as a mom and a homeschooling mom in particular, that art does something in me that nothing else does.  It encourages me.  It removes me a step from life’s pressures and helps me to take a breath.  It provides cool times for connection with my son.

So, combining creativity with prayer?  It felt very natural.  It created real connection points between me and God (okay, He was there already, but it helped me to reach for Him).  It moved me to pray and think about things that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise.

Best of all, it breathed new life into my prayer times.  It made me WANT to pray.  It showed me that connecting with God can happen in new and beautiful ways.  It helped me to start my days with joy and a real knowing that He is there.

To me, that’s an amazing outcome from a book!  (I have to tell you that when I finish this book, I am thinking that I need to purchase a fresh one and work thru all the exercises and activities again!)

 

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Who could use this book?

  • Someone who is worn out with legalism and the “right” way to do things
  • A mom who wants to pray but doesn’t feel like she has a lot of time
  • A person who’d like to pray but doesn’t know how
  • Someone whose soul needs touches of beauty
  • And anyone else who’d like to know that God loves and cares for them

 

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My recommendations…and a chance for you to win!

If you see yourself in the list above…if you’d like to bring more beauty and joy to your prayer times…or if you’d just like to connect with the God who loves you in a new way, get a copy of Kelly O’Dell Stanley’s Designed to Pray: Creative Ways to Engage With God!

And, you can enter to win a copy now!  (Giveaway ends February 10, 2017.)  Just click on the pink link below to go to the Giveaway Tools form to enter!

Enter here!

 

WINNERS SELECTED:

I loved DESIGNED TO PRAY so much that I selected 3 winners!  (1 gets the copy from Blog about Network, and the others from FINCHNWREN.)  Congratulations to Diane P, Kayla F, and Savannah H!

Enjoy!  –Wren

 
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DISCLOSURE:  From time to time, finchnwren may receive a free product or service in exchange for our honest opinions expressed in our blog.  We are not required to write a positive or glowing review, nor are we additionally compensated for these reviews.  We share our own opinions, and our family’s opinion, of these products.  We’re disclosing this in accordance with FTC regulations.