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.

 

 

A Few of Our Favorite Things Christmas Giveaway! Ends 12/22/16

Good morning!

Finch and I have some very special gifts we’d like to bless one of our readers with, in this giveaway!

 

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In A Few of Our Favorite Things Giveaway, one blessed reader will win the following:

  • Debbie Macomber’s Twelve Days of Christmas, the story of a blogger, mistaken identity, and romance, all served up at Christmastime
  • A Christmas Story CD from Point of Grace, with 14 beautiful Christmas songs
  • Bath & Body Works’ Vanilla Bean Noel body lotion
  • Koco nail polish, in “Married to the Mauve”
  • 2 Bath & Body Works hand sanitizer bottles, in Cherry Almond Shortbread
  • A pair of fuschia knit gloves with gray stripes

We’re so thankful for each and every one of our readers.  We wish we could bless every one of you with Christmas goodies, but we’ll have to settle with gifting one special reader.

Enter here!

Just click on the pink link below, which will take you to the Giveaway Tools form where you can enter.  The giveaway closes on December 21 at 11:59PM.  Best wishes!

Enter here!

 

Enjoy!  –Wren

 

10 Amazing Biscotti Recipes (plus 2)

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It’s time to dust off the biscotti recipes and start our holiday baking!

Here are some of my tried-and-true faves.

Happy baking! –Wren

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Every Christmas, I make one of my favorite baked goodies for my beloved aunts and uncles.  It’s been part of our Christmas tradition for years!  And while I have my favorite old standbys (Southern Living‘s Cocoa-Almond Biscotti and Chocolate Chip Cinnamon Biscotti), my eyes always light up when I see a new biscotti recipe.  Here’s a list and links to the next 10 I plan to try out!

1.  Whole Living‘s Double Dark-Chocolate and Ginger Biscotti.  This is not a newbie to me, but it definitely bears mentioning here.  This is a complex and interesting mixture of dark chocolate, chopped candied ginger and walnuts that will delight the palates of the adults on your list.  It’s very healthy as well!

2.  Martha Stewart has a lovely Cherry-Almond Biscotti recipe at her website, using dried cherries and amaretto to build an unforgettable flavor.  Cherries plus almonds…

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Win a gift bag of lovely greeting cards from Paper Doll Greetings! (Ends 12/14)

My amazing and creative friend Julie is the artist behind Paper Doll Greetings, and just in time for Christmas, she has provided a collection of beautiful handmade cards and a mini-journal for one special reader to win!

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What is Paper Doll Greetings?

It’s my friend Julie’s Etsy shop, where she sells her handmade, beautifully created cards, journals, and mixed media art!  Each card and journal is handcrafted from the most beautiful papers, ribbons, and ephemera.  They make incredible gifts for your loved ones—or ways you can bless yourself!

 

julie-giveaway-pic-1What’s in this giveaway?

Beautiful cards and a mini-journal, all handmade (and some, hand-painted!) by Julie herself.  One winner will receive:

  • A blue mini-journal, beautifully inscribed with Psalm 20:4
  • A “note of support card,” decorated with satin ribbon and roses
  • A “journey” card, illustrated with Judges 18:6
  • A beautiful floral birthday card, with gold lettering and a green satin ribbon
  • A lovely blank card with die-cut and ribbon decoration

Just enter here!

This giveaway closes on December 14 at 11:59P.  Just follow the pink link to the giveaway form below to enter.  One winner will be selected and notified at the close of the giveaway.  Best wishes!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Kwik Stix’ amazing new Neon and Metalix Solid Tempera Paint Review–& Giveaway!

Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of reviewing the Kwik Stix 12pk for the Homeschool Review Crew.  Now, Kwik Stix has some fabulous new tempera paint sticks, and The Pencil Grip, Inc. sent me and Jackson two packs of their new colors to review:  Kwik Stix Neons 6PK and Kwik Stix Metalix 6PK.  They really are amazing…and YOU can enter to win your very own set of each one!

 

 

kwik-stix-metalix-bannerWhat are Kwik Stix?

Kwik Stix are solid tempera paint sticks.  They look a little like glue sticks, and they roll up and down in the exact same manner.  They give you all of the beauty and fun of tempera paint without the stinky and mess!  They’re appropriate for use by children from ages 3 and up.  The special Neon and Metalix sets we received each had 6 Kwik Stix in the packages.

The tip is fairly wide (almost 3/4″) and rolls up and down easily.  You hold the Kwik Stix in your hands like you would a crayon or like a stick of chalk.  Then, you simply draw on your paper, wood, poster board.  We even found a new medium they could be used on…keep reading to learn more!

Kwik Stix’ tempera paint dries in about 90 seconds.  And it’s really mess-free; no paint ending up in unexpected places.  You don’t need water or palettes; the tempera paint is self-contained in the tubes.  And the colors are beautiful and vivid!

kwik-stix-metalix-7Tell me more about the Neon and Metalix Kwik Stix.

With pleasure!  The Neon and Metalix Kwik Stix sets each have 6 paint sticks in their boxes, with beautiful colors in each.  The Metalix set comes in gold, silver, fuchsia, deep green, deep blue, and deep purple.  Each of these has metallic or sparkly glints of color in them, which really enhance the depth of the color when it’s applied to paper or other media.

The Neon paint sticks colors include (all of which are, of course, neon) bright orange, vivid purple, lime green, light blue, yellow, and bright pink.

 

kwik-stix-metalix-3How we used these Kwik Stix

We’re huge art-o-philes in our home.  We love creating art (whether virtually or in real life) with many different media.  I’m blessed both to teach my own son, plus a coop class of elementary-aged students, in art.  We have used Kwik Stix before (in the larger 12-color pack) and loved the ease and beauty of the tempera sticks!  This time, I thought we’d try something completely different in the art projects we completed for this review.

First, a little Van Gogh!  When I received these tempera paint sticks and saw the Metalix set in particular, I thought immediately of Van Gogh’s Starry Night, with its sparkly stars and moon and accents.  So we began our new Kwik Stix journey with an art project copying Starry Night with the Kwik Stix.  We used both the Metalix and the Neon colors (and I also pulled out our 12-pack of Kwik Stix for extra colors).  First, we drew the outlines of the major landscape items of Van Gogh’s masterwork on stock card paper.  Then, we took our Kwik Stix and began to color.  It was so fun; and I’m very pleased with our results!

 

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Next, I thought we’d try a little Pop Art.  I found some canvas boards for an incredible price last week on Amazon, and while I wasn’t sure that Kwik Stix would play well with canvas, I really thought they would.

 

 

kwik-stix-metalix-4I found a fun cat art image on Pinterest, so I drew that lightly on my canvas board, then outlined with a Sharpie.  My son decided to draw free-hand.  We discovered that the Kwik Stix were as fabulous on canvas as they are on paper!  The color is still very vivid and bright; we used mostly the Neons on our canvases but you can also see the Metalix gold and blue in the lower left quadrant of the pop art cat.  It might have taken just a minute longer than the usual 90 seconds to dry, but not much.  And I really liked the finished results.

 

 

kwik-stix-metalix-2One interesting thing that happened while I was coloring in the cat was that I colored outside the lines in a couple of places.  I wanted to fix that, so I took a paper towel and scrubbed the spots with my fingernail.  Most of the color came right off and I was able to color over the spots.  I really like the look of the Kwik Stix on the canvas, so we tried another artwork on canvas.

Last, we did another Van GoghStarry Night turned out so well that I wanted to try the artist’s Sunflowers (from the Arles Series).  The colors were just begging to be reproduced with our Kwik Stix!  I have to say that, if you’re doing lessons on Seurat and the Pointellists, or Impressionist art, or (clearly) Van Gogh, Kwik Stix are the way to go!  Your child can mimic the broad or tiny brushstrokes beautifully with these amazing tools.

 

kwik-stix-metalix-6Our conclusions

You can probably tell that I LOVE these KWIK STIX!  They are so easy to use.  They don’t have a strong smell (or even a smell at all) like many temperas do.  They dry quickly, they glide over the paper (or the canvas), and they are just FUN.  I recommend them to you highly–whether they’re for your homeschool or for a class you’re teaching!

Best of all, The Pencil Grip, Inc. has provided a set of Kwik Stix Neons 6PK and Kwik Stix Metalix 6PK  for one of our readers to win!  Simply enter in the Giveaway Tools form below.  Giveaway ends on Sunday, November 27.  Enter today!

 

kwik-stix-metalix-5Enter to win Kwik Stix Neon and Metalix tempera paints below!

Be sure to visit The Pencil Grip, Inc. at their social media sites below!

You can purchase both Kwik Stix Neons 6PK and Kwik Stix Metalix 6PK for $5.99 at The Pencil Grip, Inc., and for slightly more than that at Amazon.  Kwik Stix Basic 6PKs and Metalix 6PKs are both available in the stationery aisle at Target.  You can simply click through these links to find out more!

Fat Brain Toys Kwik Stix Page
The Pencil Grip, Inc. at Amazon
The Pencil Grip, Inc.
Kwik Stix on Pinterest
The Pencil Grip, Inc. on Facebook

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.

Sweet Children’s Gift: “Christmas Love Letters from God” ~ Review & Giveaway!

I have the most lovely book that you’ll want to have at your home this Advent and Christmas season, to share with your children:  Christmas Love Letters from God.

 

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Don’t you think that we all–whether it’s us, as parents, or our own children–need to be assured of God’s firm, unending, enormous love for us?  I know I do.  (And that’s another blog post.:))  What a wonderful time of the year Christmas is, to underline the deep love our Creator God has for us…and the way He showed it to us by sending His Son Jesus for us!  Author Glenys Nellist and illustrator Rachel Clowes have created a gorgeous book, complete with special letters included for the reader/child, which does just that.

freezer-meals-045This book is designed for children aged 4-8, but really, if you’re going to be using this as part of your Christmas or Advent celebrations, it will really be enjoyed by the entire family.  Ms. Nellist takes 7 Bible stories about Christmas and retells them for a younger audience, adding pertinent Bible verses, while Ms. Clowes brings those stories to live with beautiful illustrations.  And the book then becomes very personal, because contained within each story is an actual love letter from God that can be personalized with your child’s (or your children’s!) names.  These letters tell more about God’s love for that child and how He expressed it…and is written like a letter from God directly to that child!

So what events leading up to Jesus’ birth are included in Christmas Love Letters from God?  First, we begin with God’s words to Isaiah about the coming Savior who’d appear as a baby but become a King for the whole world.  Next, we get to peep into what might have happened when the angel Gabriel was sent to visit Mary, and to tell her of how her life was going to change as she became the mother of Jesus, our Savior.  We’re reminded of how God didn’t leave Joseph out of these miraculous events, but sent him a dream of the truth of who this baby really was.  We watch as Joseph and pregnant Mary journey the road to Bethlehem; to Jesus’ birth in a stable; the shepherds’ nighttime surprise; and the wise men’s search.  Each of these included that little letter from God to your child for you to personalize, with his or her name.  Sweetly, the book ends with a letter that the child can write to God!

freezer-meals-047This book is so beautiful and so sweet.  It would be a fabulous addition to your pre-Christmas or Advent celebrations; you could read a chapter per night, or even use it as a precious bedtime read-aloud.  It really will bless you and help you all prepare your hearts for Christmas!

And, you can enter to win your own copy of this sweet book for your family!

Just enter the Giveaway Tools entry form below.  Giveaway closes on Saturday, November 26 at 11:50PM.  Best wishes!

Where can you find this book?

Christmas Love Letters from God Bible Stories can be purchased from the following vendors (and just so you know, none of these is an affiliate link!):

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Love-Letters-God-Stories/dp/0310748240/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1476465777&sr=8-1&keywords=christmas+love+letters

Barnes & Noble: http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/christmas-love-letters-from-god-glenys-nellist/1123563734?ean=9780310748243

Zondervan: http://www.zondervan.com/christmas-love-letters-from-god

You can also visit the author and publisher at these social media sites:

Glenys Nellist

https://www.instagram.com/glenysnellist/

Zonderkidz

Videos:


 

 

 

 

 

“Disclosure (in accordance with the FTC’s 16 CFR, Part 255:  “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising”):  Many thanks to Propeller Consulting, LLC for providing this prize for the giveaway.  Choice of winners and opinions are 100% my own and NOT influenced by monetary compensation.  I did receive a sample of the product in exchange for this review and post.

Only one entrant per mailing address, per giveaway.  If you have won a prize from our sponsor Propeller /FlyBy Promotions in the last 30 days, you are not eligible to win.  Or if you have won the same prize on another blog, you are not eligible to win it again.  Winner is subject to eligibility verification.

Wonderful, Meaningful Gifts from CrossTimber ~ A Review & Giveaway!

We have had the most beautiful experience for our family recently!  We were selected to review CrossTimber for the Homeschool Review Crew, and received their Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse, with the option to choose any name for personalization that we wished.  (I’ll share more on that below!)

 

crosstimber-bannerSo what’s in a name?

Everyone’s name is special to him or her.  And important.  You know how good it feels when someone you admire or just met got your name right.  We feel seen, and connected, when people use our names and use them well!

But, there is so much more to a name than that.  It is part of our identities and becomes part of our makeup.  It is so very personal and really connects to our hearts.

John Dehnart and his family know this.  In fact, John has spent years, all the way back to his high school driver’s ed class, noticing the meaning of others’ names, investigating them, and blessing the owners of those names with the special meanings of their names.  What a ministry!  This grew out of John’s own printing business and personal interactions with other students, and over the years since then (during which he married, and he and his wife are raising a family) it has blossomed into a wonderful business, CrossTimber.  All focused around sharing the special meanings of individuals’ names from a Christian perspective, and inspiring verses of Scripture to go with them.  How encouraging!

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} Reviews

What does CrossTimber do?

CrossTimber researches the meaning of individuals’ names.  They really look deep for what God would say about a name, based on its original meaning in its original language.  They also look at history, for others who bore that name and what can be inferred from that.  Then, they connect it with Scripture verses (or a verse) which embodies that.

From there, CrossTimber offers beautiful and encouraging products which can display these names, their meanings, and the Scripture verses.  These gifts can range anywhere from framed prints, to coffee mugs, to bookmarks, and much more!  All of the gifts can be personalized with particular backgrounds (and CrossTimber has a LOT that you can choose from) which include landscapes, animals, musical instruments, castles and lighthouses….hundreds of choices!

When a person wishes to order one of these gifts, he can use the Chat Box at CrossTimber to ask John about his name.  After some research, John will respond with that name’s meaning and verses.  Then, the person can place his order using that information.  He’ll select backgrounds, frames (if he’s ordering one of the framed prints of a name and its meaning), and anything additional he’d like.  Then—the ball is in CrossTimber’s court!  They print and prepare the gift and then ship it to the purchaser.

crosstimber-mMy experience

CrossTimber very generously offered Homeschool Review Crew members a beautiful, personalized gift:  a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse.  I was particularly interested in what John might have discovered about my name.  I really love my name; but do you know what it means?  “Dark.”  I have to say that since I’m not a Star Wars Sith Lord and really try to stay away from the Dark Side….I never really liked that!  Of course, I was named after a great character in a movie; and I’ve always liked everything else about my name.  Just not its original definition.

Well, I was not the first person to feel that way!  When I contacted John about the meaning of “Melanie,” he responded with the most incredible and amazing account of my name and what it meant.  There were some amazing Christian women in the 5th century with my name.  The meaning John sent to me and to others with my name?  “Hidden and Protected.  One who is a Child of God.”  Oh!  How beautiful.  And how special to me.

He also included a Bible verse which fits that meaning seamlessly.  So I couldn’t have been happier with the results!

(My guys' names are blurred for their own preferences)

(My guys’ names are blurred for their own preferences)

Our family’s experiences

I was so happy with my own name that I emailed John back and asked him about the meanings of my husband’s and son’s names.  CrossTimber had given me a Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse free of charge for myself.  I had had such an amazing experience myself that I ordered (and paid for) the same framed names and meanings for my husband and son.  John gave me a discount for that order and included free bookmarks with our names and meanings which matched the framed prints.

So what would I say about CrossTimber?

Occasionally you meet people who are in the jobs that seem to be the absolute perfect fit for them; vocations where they are able to use all of their giftings, their temperaments, and their abilities.  This is truly John Dehnart and CrossTimber!  It is so obvious that he finds incredible joy in connecting people with the true and life-giving meanings and Scriptures of their names.  And not only that; he does it well, and he does it right!  Serious investigation truly goes into each name.  It’s not in any way random or careless.  And for me?  My experience with John and with CrossTimber couldn’t have been more positive or encouraging.  I loved what I learned about my name and its meaning and history.  And now I have a lovely framed gift to remind me of that on a daily basis!

Check out CrossTimber for lovely and inspiring gifts for people you’d like to bless or encourage.  You can purchase truly wonderful and encouraging gifts that others will treasure for a lifetime.  You’ll be glad you did!  You can also click on the banner below to see what other Crew members’ experiences with CrossTimber were like.  Lots of names out there—and lots of neat experiences!  You can visit CrossTimber’s social media pages at:

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/meaning.name/
Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/crosstimber

CrossTimber 2016 giveaway

And, you can enter to win your own beautiful name meaning gift!

CrossTimber is hosting a giveaway where you can enter to win your own name meaning gift!  Through Dec 4th, CrossTimber is sponsoring a Name Gift Giveaway.  Enter the giveaway for a chance to win another free Name Gift or $10 gift certificate!   Winner of the Grand Prize may select either a Personalized Mug OR a Name Plaque or 8×10 Plaque!  9 others win $10 Gift Certificates.

Just click on www.Meaning.Name/giveaway.html to enter.  Remember, the giveaway closes Dec 4th, 2016. Or you may enter via the Rafflecopter form below!
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Enjoy!  –Wren

 

Personalized Framed Plaque with Name Meaning and Bible Verse {CrossTimber} ReviewsCrew Disclaimer