Since the guys already bought their Christmas presents from Tony’s book recommendations this year, we’re taking time this week to do some early Christmas shopping for the ladies.
First, we looked at a few “one-size-fits-all” gifts, now we’re looking at specific options for different interests.
The History Buff (Buffy?)
Tell-tale signs your wife would enjoy this category: Her lucky numbers are 1517, 1492, and 1776. She knows the difference between the two Martin Luthers, the eight King Henrys, and the two Bunyans (an important fact in our family). She wins the “pin the date on the timeline” game at every homeschool party. Blindfolded.
Luckily, the History Buffy can be an incredibly easy wife to buy gifts for. She loves books, and biographies are always a great choice. Here are some of our favorites, not only for their entertainment value, but also their sanctifying work and encouraging examples.
Idelette by Edna Gerstner – This is one of my favorite biographies. A good friend loaned me a copy several years ago, and I tracked my own copy down to re-read this year. Though I believe this book is (sadly) out of print, you can still find used copies at Amazon or Half.com. Edna Gerstner beautifully crafted this biographical account of Idelette Calvin, the wife of the great Reformer John Calvin. Since Tony was working his way through Calvin’s Institutes on TSS this year, I thought I’d “follow along” from the biographical perspective of Calvin’s own helpmeet. A quick read that brings historical events to life, this is an entertaining account that challenged me to aspire to the love and care Idelette showed for her studious husband.
Jonathan and Sarah: An Uncommon Union by Edna Gerstner – Another well-written biographical account by Mrs. Gerstner is the story of Jonathan Edwards and his beloved wife, Sarah. I am greatly encouraged by the way the Edwardses lived out Ephesians 5 in their marriage, creating a picture of Christ and the church that even inspired comment in George Whitfield’s biography. (Whitfield’s biography by Arnold Dallimore is #6 on Tony’s Top 20, and his favorite biography set.) Whitfield, who previously had considered a life of singleness, was convinced in his need for marriage due to the Christ-honoring couple he saw when visiting the Edwards family. That example is beautifully described in this book.
Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God by Noel Piper – Even better than a single biography, Mrs. Piper takes the lives of five seemingly “ordinary” women and highlights God’s abundant grace to strengthen them in extraordinary ways. The chapter titles alone are beautiful picture of faith, such as: “Sarah Edwards, Faithful in the Mundane,” “Gladys Aylward, Faithful in Humility,” and “Esther Ahn Kim, Faithful in Suffering.” This book was so good, I loaned it to a friend, who passed it along to another friend, who passed it along to another friend … maybe I should ask for another one for Christmas! Learning about several of the women in this book encouraged me to dig deeper into a few of their lives. One of my favorites was the story of Esther Ahn Kim (see below).
If I Perish by Esther Ahn Kim – Our son must have heard the second chapter of this book a half-dozen times. Every time he saw me reading the moving biography of Korean Ahn Ei Sook, he asked me to read (again) the story of her standing tall amidst thousands of bowing worshippers at a pagan Japanese shrine. It is an inspiring account of obedience to Christ that illustrates the example of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego before King Nebuchadnezzar. Miss Ahn boldly prayed on her way to the shrine, “Today on the mountain, before the large crowd…I will proclaim that there is no other God beside You. This is what I will do for Your holy name.” The ensuing account of her hiding, persecution, imprisonment, and torture is an amazing story that will leave you in awe of God’s abundant grace amidst trial.
In Trouble and in Joy by Sharon James – Another inspiring collection of biographies, including the lives of Margaret Baxter, Sarah Edwards, Anne Steele, and Frances Ridley Havergal. The Girltalkers did an excellent interview series with Mrs. James earlier this year as a follow-up to their Book Club review of More Love To Thee, the biography of hymn writer Elizabeth Prentiss biography. (More info on that biography in the “Music Mom” post.)
Through Gates of Splendor by Elisabeth Elliot – A classic missionary biography that traces the lives of the incredibly faithful, deeply trusting missionary families who brought the Gospel to the jungles of Ecuador in the late 1950s. There is now an audio book available, too. It would be fun to follow this book with a date night movie, End of the Spear, which dramatically recounts the work of God’s grace in the lives of both the missionary families and the Ecuador natives.
There are so many excellent biographies out there, and even though this list is getting long I have to make room for just two more that are on my current reading stack:
Anne Bradstreet by Heidi Nichols – “Why read Puritan poet Anne Bradstreet?” asks author Heidi Nichols (and wife of Stephen J. Nichols, who has written several excellent books.) Mrs. Nichols answers the question beautifully, “In contrast to the common delusion that we control our lives in today’s society, we can gain in Bradstreet the perspective of one who recognized God’s sovereign hand in every aspect of her life, in times of exuberance and in times of pain.” I am halfway through this book and thoroughly enjoying it. (And for those of you who played the “Who is She?” game … Now you know the rest of the story.)
Lady Jane Grey: The Nine Day Queen of England by Faith Cook – I don’t have this book yet, but have read others on the life of Lady Jane Grey, the “Nine Day Queen of England” and have been inspired by her faith in the midst of persecution. Recently, this account by Faith Cook has been recommended by both Sharon James and Tim Challies. Looks interesting and is even recommended for younger daughters. I think it would be a lovely idea to give to your wife and daughters as part of a “Mother-daughters” date package. Include a Starbucks or shopping center gift card and a copy of Girl Talk and pray for God’s grace to deepen the love and friendship between the women He has given you to lead.
Ultimately, the best gift you can give your wife is not one that can be wrapped in shiny red paper and tied with a bow. Centering your home around the Gospel, loving her as Christ loved the Church, and faithfully serving her in humility and grace is a gift that will prepare her heart not only for the year ahead, but for a lifetime with her Savior. Most importantly, the price tag of the gift doesn’t matter, because the ultimate price for our sin has already been paid by our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Loving her with this glorious Gospel is a priceless gift.
May God be glorified in your homes this Christmas!
Stay tuned this week as we serve up gift-giving ideas for:
- Books for Your Bride: Intro
- Books for Your Bride: One Size Fits All
- Books for Your Bride: The Trainer
- Books for Your Bride: The Music Mom
- Books for Your Bride: The History Buff(y)
- Books for Your Bride: The Fiction Fan
- Books for Your Bride: The Memory Maker