It can happen to all of us.

Despite our best intentions, we can get sucked into the commercial rush of the holiday season, and before we know it, December’s gone. We blink, and we miss it.

This year, let’s determine a different way.

Let’s pause before the month even begins, and take intentional steps to slow down.

Let’s get ourselves ready to notice and enjoy the true reason for the season.

As I compiled this post, I realized there are so many amazing books available!

In this post, I’ll share about the following:

 

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Firstly, my dear friend, Asheritah Ciuciu has a beautiful, helpful devotional called Unwrapping the Names of Jesus

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This book promises to help you “rediscover the beauty of the greatest gift of all by unwrapping His Names one at a time.”

 

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 unwrapping names of jesus

And then there’s Ann Voskamp’s gorgeous family Advent devotional, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift.

 

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Read my review here, then order a copy for your own family by clicking here. You won’t regret it!

These gorgeous ornament sets complement Ann Voskamp’s Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. Each ornament corresponds to a daily reading.

They come in an embossed, die-cut paper version, as well as a sculpted ceramic version. I was blessed to receive a set of the sculpted ornaments last year, and they are stunning.

STARTING TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 22ND, USE CODE FRIDAY16 TO GET 30% OFF YOUR DAYSPRING ORDER FOR BLACK FRIDAY!

 

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I also love Ann’s book, The Greatest Gift. It follows a very similar format to the family version shown above, but is geared more toward an adult audience.

 

My friend Trillia Newbell has a new book coming out soon, called Enjoy.

Right now, when you pre-order Enjoy, you will receive a free Advent devotional written by Trillia. To learn more about Enjoy and this giveaway, visit Trillia’s website.

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The dear Kris Camealy recently released a book called Come, Lord Jesus:

 

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AND … Christina Hubbard from Creative and Free is hosting an Advent Book Club based on this book, beginning November 27th! So order now and join the club!

 

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Finally, the delightful Anna Rendell is offering 25 devotions for time-strapped Moms in her book, A Moment of Christmas.

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The description on Amazon says, “This book is for the woman who craves a less crazed-feeling Christmas, who longs for a season that is intentional and full of joy. Including 25 devotions, each of them guilt-free, inspiring, and able to be read in 10 minutes or less! As you prepare your heart for Christmas by reading through these pages, you’ll be inspired to drop the pursuit of perfection and chase holy.” Sounds amazing, hey?

 

Don’t let this December pass you by.

Get your hands on some of these resources, then schedule a bit of time each day to dwell in God’s presence.

 

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Thank you for supporting this site!

The holiday season is upon us, and so is the temptation to rush, rush, and be rushed.

Here are some suggestions for how you can practice dwelling in Christ and in His goodness during this busy time of the year. Click here for some beautiful, helpful resources.

 

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Unwrapping the Names of Jesus, an Advent devotional by our very own Asheritah Ciuciu is now available! Get your copy here.

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Looking to dwell under a warm blanket with a good book?

Here’s my list of all-time favorite fiction reads, just for you!

 

Fiction Favorites

Registration for the mini Christmas round of #fmfpartysnailmail is open until 11/21!

Click here to sign up! 

 

Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Bouchillon
Photo Credit: Kaitlyn Bouchillon

 

In case you haven’t guessed already, this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is: 

 

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New to Five Minute Friday? Find out more here. We’d love to have you join us!

 

Set a timer for five minutes, and get your fingers ready to tap furiously across your keyboard!

Here we go …

 

My heart is on all the turmoil and tragedy happening in the world these days, and if I’m not careful, it’s easy to let my thoughts veer toward fear. I imagine what it must be like to live in Paris right now, or Syria, or anywhere, really — when the threat of terrorism looms large and real.

Then I remember: that’s exactly what it is — a threat. I can live cowering in fear of a threat, or I can cling to a promise.

I think of friends living in Europe, and I wonder if they consider leaving. Where would they go? I think about friends and family in South Africa, with all of her uncertainties and instabilities.

I think of news reports here in America, and I can hardly bear to read any more.

And I “groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling” (2 Corinthians 5:2).

All of the options in this life are lacking. Yet in Christ — no matter where I live, God alone is able to “make me dwell in safety” (Psalm 4:8).

For this is the glorious mystery: that “the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14).

Let’s not forget the wonder of it all. Though the world is darkened by threats and black clouds of evil, we can cling to the promise that light will always overcome darkness in the end.

 

By the way, we *will* have a regular FMF link-up next week, even though it’s Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Hope you are able to join us!

Also, we’ll be having a special edition link-up on Wednesday, December 2nd to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Letters to Grief. Write your own letter to grief and come link up on December 2nd!

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It started ten years ago, with the first Christmas after I got married — the question of traditions. I grew up in Michigan, where Christmas equaled cutting down our own tree the day after Thanksgiving, baking and decorating cut-out cookies, singing carols in the blustery snow, and a candlelit Christmas Eve service ending with Silent Night. My husband grew up in South Africa, where December is the hottest month of the year, and Christmas is spent poolside, with meat on the braai, and Coke and Christmas pudding to follow.

Merging our two cultures and backgrounds and forming new traditions has proved a challenge that still changes with every year, especially as we’ve added growing children to the mix. I started to question which traditions actually enhanced the meaning of Christmas, and which were done just because that’s what we always did growing up. Then my mom passed away, and the traditions that shaped so much of my own childhood hurt too much now that she was gone. I found myself trudging through the motions of rolling out Christmas cookie dough simply for the sake of my kids, and nothing more.

For years, I’ve longed to be more intentional about elevating Christ above the constant barrage of decorations and toys that line the retail windows and shelves every December.

The new family Advent devotional by Ann Voskamp is exactly what I’ve been looking for.

 

 

Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is a real treasure. Since I’m familiar with the gift of Ann’s writing, I expected this book to be a rich resource to use with my three kids — what I didn’t expect was how much it would challenge and bless me personally, particularly with how every account in the Bible points to Jesus.

With a winsome and engaging tone, Ann Voskamp weaves Christ into every story shared. Reading this book made me feel like I was sitting in Ann’s home, watching her sit with her own children gathered about her, eyes sparkling as she told them the hope-infused story of Jesus with every turn of the page. As Ann writes in the final entry, “Our whole, grand, epic story, right from the beginning, has been about Him.”

Each reading includes a Scripture passage at the beginning, and thoughts to discuss and a family activity suggestion at the end of the daily entry. Not only does Ann challenge the reader to see Jesus in every aspect of our redemption story, she also encourages us to “Use the life you’ve been given to give others life.” Her heart to give and serve is so evident in the way she entreats her readers to be a blessing to others.

Needless to say, I highly recommend this gem, and am so looking forward to December when I can start this new family tradition and read it day by day with my kids. Thank you, Ann, for giving the gift of this book as a way to help families keep Jesus as the true reason for the season.

 

To order, click here.

Related post: God of Tradition

For more book reviews, click here.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tyndale House Publishers, in exchange for my honest review. This post contains affiliate links. 

We made it!  It’s the final day of October!  For those who have been doing Write 31 Days, CONGRATULATIONS!!  This is me sending you virtual cupcakes, hot tea and lots of expensive, dark chocolate. Seriously, posting every day for 31 days is a huge accomplishment.  Well done!

This is also our fifth and final Words Matter giveaway.  I hope you’ve all enjoyed the giveaways as much as I have.  Thank you to all who have offered the fantastic prizes, all who have entered, and congratulations to those who have won so far!

This week I’ve put together a fabulous package to wrap up our month of goodies.

The winner of this giveaway will get not one, not two, but THREE books from women that I admire tremendously. 

These three authors have shown through their lives and ministry that words really do matter.

The first book in the giveaway is the beautiful new family Advent calendar just released by Ann Voskamp.

It’s called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift, and it is an absolute treasure.

If you’ve ever read Ann’s writing, you’ll know what an incredible gift she has, and this gem is no exception.  In fact, I opened it expecting to use it with my children, and I have been so challenged and blessed by it, even as an adult.  I just adore Ann’s perspective, and she weaves Jesus into every single page.

Even if you don’t win the giveaway, you want this book.

 

 

The second book in the prize pack is Vivian Mabuni’s Warrior in Pink.  I actually won a copy of this book on my friend Bronwyn’s blog several months ago, and it was so moving.  Since then, Vivian has become an online friend and a great encouragement to me through her writing and her testimony.  Warrior in Pink is Vivian’s story about her journey with breast cancer, and how the Lord cared for her during that intense trial.  Read my review here.

 

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On this final day of Breast Cancer Awareness month, Discovery House Publishers is offering a copy of Warrior in Pink for one of you to enjoy as well!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And last but definitely not least is Emily Wierenga’s memoir, Atlas Girl.  Emily is one author whose voice has really influenced my own writing, and I’m thrilled to be able to give away a copy of this thought-provoking memoir as Emily recounts her life’s experiences thus far, including a battle with anorexia and caring for her mother with brain cancer.  Read my review here.

 

 

 

 

 

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Again, even if you don’t win, you’ll want to get a copy of Atlas Girl as soon as possible so you can participate in Emily’s online book club starting November 3rd!  More details here.

 

In addition to her book, I want to take this opportunity to highlight a brand new nonprofit which Emily founded herself.  It’s called The Lulu Tree, and it exists to minister to women in the slums of Uganda.

 

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All proceeds of Atlas Girl go directly to The Lulu Tree, and not only that, but they have a boutique as well!  Check out some of the gorgeous items available — and all prices include free shipping!  You can even purchase your copy of Atlas Girl directly from The Lulu Tree boutique and not pay any shipping at all!

Check out some of the gorgeous items available at The Lulu Tree boutique.  This year, your Christmas shopping could really make a difference:

 

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Three Elephants print – Available at The Lulu Tree boutique
Hope Blooms Print - The Lulu Tree
Hope Blooms print – Available at The Lulu Tree boutique
Crocheted Headwarmer
Crocheted Headwarmer
Little Lamb hat
Little Lamb hat
Slouchie Beanie
Slouchie Beanie
Starry Quilt - Available at The Lulu Tree boutique
Starry Quilt – Available at The Lulu Tree boutique
Lulu or Akiki doll
Lulu or Akiki doll

 

Aren’t they lovely?  See all the beautiful and unique items available by visiting The Lulu Tree boutique here.

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For this week’s Five Minute Friday, the prompt is:

 

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If you’re new to Five Minute Friday, all the details you’ll need can be found right over here.

And since it’s the final day of Write 31 Days and 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes, and the last day of my 31 Days of Life in South Africa series, I had planned to write about the day my family and I left South Africa to move to the States for a temporary stint before going back.

But …

 

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So instead, you get a special treat ..

 

Today my sister is here, as my first ever guest Five Minute Friday writer!

 

 

 

 

 

(And since it’s Halloween, I’ll indulge you with this picture of the two of us, just a handful of years ago …)

 

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I love what she came up with in five minutes of free writing.  Her unique perspective as the sister of someone who spent ten years in South Africa is the perfect way to round out this series.

Here we go ..

 

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Go. Don’t stay. It reminds me of the Bible. A time to laugh, a time to cry. A time to stay, a time to go.

 

Through various personality evaluations, I’ve learned what I already know about myself: I’m loyal. One of the hardest things for me to do is to walk away. In some ways, this helps. In some ways, it hurts.

 

I remember a specific time that I brought my sister back to the airport (though don’t ask me *which* specific time; there were a lot of trips back and forth to various airports). I wanted to pull up to the curb, drop her off, give her a hug, and leave. She wanted me to stay, come inside, chat for a while until the very last moment we had to say goodbye, I had to watch her walk through security.

 

It might seem counter-intuitive. I just told you I don’t like to leave. But since leaving was so hard for me, I wanted it to be fast, quick, over with as soon as possible.

 

Don’t get me started on the times I visited her in South Africa, when “leaving” usually took about 36 hours, from her house, to the airport, on a plane, to another airport, on another plane (one more round of that), then finally, home.

 

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Sarah Baar lives and writes in Holland, Michigan.  Read her other guest post, When it’s hard to find hope in the rubble, here.

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Now it’s your turn!  Show us your five minutes on the word “LEAVE” by linking up your post via the inLinkz button below ..

 

 

 

Book Giveaway

 

Please note: Giveaway is only open to entrants with a U.S. mailing address.

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