“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.

 

 

 

 

 

Kwik Stix now at Toys “R” Us ~ And You Can Win a Set! (Giveaway ends 4/30/17)

Guess what??  Kwik Stix, our family’s favorite tempera paint sticks, are now available at Toys “R” Us!  And the lovely folks at The Pencil Grip, Inc. are providing a set of Kwik Stix for one giveaway winner here at the FINCHNWREN blog!

 

 

What are Kwik Stix?

Kwik Stix are wonderful solid tempera paint sticks that are perfect for children (ages 3 and up), families, and adults who love to create beautiful art!  They work like glue sticks, in that they’re encased in a plastic container with a cap.  To use, you simply remove the cap, roll the paint stick up, and you’re ready to color.  There is virtually no scent (like you’d find with most tempera paints), and you get the rich texture and color of liquid paint without the mess.  All you need are Kwik Stix and whatever medium you’d like to draw on, which could be anything from paper (of all kinds), canvas, wood, and more!

Kwik Stix come in two size types, the Kwik Stix Classic and Kwik Stix Thin Stix.  The Classic version sticks are 3 1/2″ long, with a chubby paint stick width of almost 3/4″.  This width is perfect for little hands, but also is great for coloring large areas quickly and easily.  The Kwik Stix Thin Stix are longer and thinner than the Classic ones, measuring in length at 5 1/2″ with a paint tip of 1/2″ wide.  These are wonderful for coloring in small areas, without getting outside the lines.  Personally, our family loves working with both types at once!

And what about colors?  There are so many to choose from, such as:

  • Kwik Stix Classics and Thin Stix come in 6-packs or 24-packs
  • Both the Thin Stix and Classics come in white, yellow, orange, red, pink, lime green, green, light blue, blue, purple, brown, and black.
  • The Kwik Stix Metalix packs include gold, silver, fuchsia, deep green, deep blue, and deep purple, all of which feature metallic or glittery accents
  • The Kwik Stix Neons packs are filled with bright orange, vivid purple, lime green, light blue, yellow, and bright pink…in brilliant neon hues.

How we’ve used Kwik Stix

We have loved allowing our imaginations to run wild with our Kwik Stix, not only in the surface we’ve drawn on but in the art movements we were studying in our art lessons.  Here are some ways we used them as we learned about Vincent van Gogh, Pop Art, and still life paintings:

 

 

We also love using them for creating art in our art journals.  They’re also wonderful for Bible journaling!

 

And now…the giveaway!

The Pencil Grip, Inc. is providing one set of Kwik Stix (size, style, and colors to be selected by The Pencil Grip, Inc.) for one FINCHNWREN blog reader!  Just click on the pink “Enter here!” link below, which will take you to the Giveaway Tools entry form.  Giveaway closes on April 30, 2017 at 11:59PM.

And don’t forget to check out Kwik Stix at Toys “R” Us!

Enter here!

Best wishes, and 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.

Enter to Win Gorgeous Lip Goodies! (Ends 4/17/17)

Hello, friends!

 

 

Finch and I have some gorgeous lip goodies for one reader to win this week!  It is such a beautiful spring day–and it’s April!–both of these make us smile, so we’re going to host this giveaway for someone to beautify her smile!

One winner will receive:

  • City Lips Advance Formula HA Plumping Spheres + Collagen Peptides Collagen Enhancing Lip Treatment
  • Model Co’s Shine Ultra Lip Gloss in Berry Pink
  • Make Up Forever’s Aqua Lip Waterproof Lip Liner Pencil in 10C (it’s sort of a plummy color)

And, we’ll throw in some fun samples and a black drawstring Sephora bag to keep it all in!

Just click on the pink link below to head to the Giveaway Tools form to enter, and follow the directions!  Giveaway ends on April 17, 2017.

Enter here!

Enjoy, and best wishes!  –Wren

Wall Pops! Wall Art Kit Giveaway ~ Ends 4/8/17

It’s spring!  Time not only for spring cleaning…but how would you like to win a kit to make your walls look even more amazing?

 

 

Then, you must enter my new giveaway!  In honor of the FINCHNWREN blog, we’re giving away a Wall Pops! Wall Art Kit in “Sitting in a Tree” style.

What are Wall Pops!, anyway?

Wall Pops! are repositionable wall art kits that you can use to brighten up any wall in your home.  They’re super-simple to use:  as the box says, just “peel, stick, and move.”  With them, you can turn your walls into murals and works of art!

 

How do you use them?

First, Wall Pops! recommends that you test them in an inconspicuous area to be sure that they’re compatible with your paint or walls.  Once you’ve done this, you simply peel the stickers off the sheets and apply them to smooth & clean wall surfaces.  Then…ta-da!  A gorgeous new look for your walls!

If you don’t like them where you’ve applied them, you should be able to gently remove them from your surfaces to reposition elsewhere.

 

The “sitting in a tree” set

…has branches, leaves and little birds in a green and blue color scheme.  It is adorable (if I do say so myself!) and I love how it dovetails with my sister’s and my blog name.   And I must admit that when I bought this set to give away on the blog…I got another for my own home!  It’s got all my favorite colors in it…not to mention the leaves and birds!

The giveaway

One reader of the FINCHNWREN blog will win this Wall Pops! Wall Art Kit in the “sitting in a tree” style.  Just enter by clicking on the pink “Enter here” link below.  That will take you to the Giveaway Tools form; once you’re there, just follow the directions!  This giveaway closes on 4/8/17.  Best wishes!

Enter here!

Enjoy!  –Wren

Your Chance to Win Laura Story’s new CD “Open Hands” (ends 3/22)

Are you a fan of worship music?  If you are, you’ll love Laura Story’s new CD, Open Hands.  Flyby/Propeller Promotions sent me a copy of this lovely new music to review…plus one to give away to a reader!

 

 

Laura Story…

Do you know Laura Story?  Sometimes, you can hear and love songs but have no idea whom they’ve come from.  This is my experience with Laura—until Open Hands, anyway!  You probably know the song “Indescribable,” it was recorded by both Chris Tomlin and Laura Story.  What about “Mighty to Save”–that’s another of my faves.  Her song “Blessings” won song of the year in 2012.  So obviously, Laura is a talented songwriter.  But, that’s not all that she has done!  Laura has led worship at Perimeter Church in Atlanta for 12 years.  She has won a Grammy Award; a Billboard Music Award; several Dove Awards; and even an RIAA Gold certification!  All this since 2008, when she published her first album.  She is even the author of a couple of books, about navigating life through hard moments or seasons while hanging on to God’s hand.

These are her, admittedly, impressive public accomplishments.  In her private life, she’s the wife of Martin Elvington, and they’ve had three kiddos together.  But the struggles they’ve experienced since her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor have provided the inspiration for the songs of her two most recent albums.  How do you live when God doesn’t fix things?  Laura has learned that keeping “open hands” — translated as keeping a loose hold on things & trusting that God’s got it, not holding them tightly and seeking to control them, are just what God may be asking of us.  She says, “I wanted to make an album so that each song I write would be just that seed of hope or that lifeline that someone listens to during that tough moment and thinks, ‘I’m going to choose to trust God, even during this.’”

 

What you’ll find in the songs

Open Hands contains 11 beautiful, thoughtful songs.  Some of them are familiar hymns with new bridges or choruses added, like “Awake My Soul (A 1000 Tongues)” or “For the Love of My King,” which takes from and adds to the old hymn “My Jesus, I Love Thee.”  Reimagined for a new audience, both of these take the vital truths and compositions of the original words and music and add personal vignettes of praise and struggle.  They’re just as beautiful and worshipful as the originals, and I truly enjoyed the new versions.

Story shares the hopes of motherhood in “Give You Faith.”  What do we wish for our children?  What would we desire most to give them?  That they will have faith, and hope, but most of all the love that God has for them, that will never let them go.

In this most contentious of post-election years, Story’s “Grace Abounds” reminds us that in the darkness, in the trials, when we see hatred or terror in news stories; when it seems that there is no hope at all, that God IS there.

I have several favorites on this album; I love the songs I mentioned above.  But one of my best-loved is the song the CD starts with:  “Death Was Arrested.”  You might not imagine that this song is about the Prodigal Son, but it is…even as it’s about us as well!  I am so moved by these words (and the music is perfectly suited to them):

“Ash was redeemed only beauty remains…
My mourning grew quiet my feet rose to dance
When death was arrested and my life began…”

You’ll also find these songs:

  • The song from the title, “Open Hands”
  • “You Came Running,” the story of what God does when our dreams crash down around us
  • “Whisper,” where Story talks about how we can wait to hear His voice
  • “Every Word You Breathe:” we’ll cling to Him and His word, not our experiences or things we’re familiar with
  • “Majesty” reminds us all that God really is
  • “Extraordinary,” about God’s extraordinary love for us

My thoughts

Open Hands is a rich, beautiful, worshipful experience.  We’ve listened to it many times as a family; during morning times when we’re preparing for the day and getting breakfast made and eaten.  We’ve played it in the afternoons when school is over; and in the evenings during quiet moments.  I can honestly say that each time we’ve heard it I’ve loved it more.  The music and words are both contemplative; Story’s not trying to write the next top-10 worship hit.  Rather, she’s writing about the God that she sees showing up over and over in her life (and others’ lives); the God whose grace really is big enough; and the worship He deserves from us all.

Open Hands will bless you; encourage you; and help you to see God in all the portions of our lives.  Get a copy of this CD.  Play it during your quiet times; when you take your children to appointments; as you move through your daily life and tasks.  It will really speak to your heart!

And, you can enter this giveaway to win Open Hands below!

FlyBy/Propeller Promotions has generously provided a CD of Open Hands for one of our readers!  Just click on the pink “Enter here” to go to the Giveaway Tools form to enter.  Giveaway closes on 3/22/17.  Best wishes!

Enter here!

Check out more on Open Hands via social media:

Buy Link: http://smarturl.it/OpenHandsiTunes

http://laurastorymusic.com/

https://www.facebook.com/laurastory
https://www.instagram.com/laurastorymusic/
Video links:
Open Hands (Official Lyric Video) – https://youtu.be/AABE–YR1No
Open Hands (Song Devotional) – https://youtu.be/NWWiyFlXdi0

Enjoy!  –Wren

“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 on the same blog, 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.

 

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.

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!

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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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