‘12 Days of Christmas’ – a different kind of devotional

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As soon as I started reading Matthew McCarrick’s “12 Days of Christmas: A Christmas Devotional,” I knew it was going to be a different type of Christmas reading plan.

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash.

The basics are there: Christmas is about hope, sacrifice, Jesus’ love for the world — and angels. 🙂

It’s also about sorrow, suffering, loss, evil, fear, dragons (yep, you heard that right) and other things that we tend to gloss over this time of year.

McCarrick pulls from stories and perspectives we may not have thought about in relation to the Christmas narrative, and I’m always eager to read familiar stories from a different angle.

Take Joseph, for instance.

How did this young man feel when he was called to stay with Mary, his betrothed, who was now pregnant — but not by him?

What thoughts might have run through his mind as he pondered the wisdom of obeying God — not only the angel’s instruction to take Mary as his wife but, later, to escape to Egypt with his young family because Herod was out to kill the Christ child?

“As I read this story, it struck me that Joseph was afraid,” McCarrick writes.

But Joseph obeyed, despite his fear. And we can take comfort in that because we won’t escape life without fear.

And that’s OK.

In fact, McCarrick devotes a couple of chapters to Joseph and his faithfulness, despite what must have been challenging emotions.

McCarrick also talks about the Year of Jubilee that’s described in the Bible. I’ve always loved the idea of Jubilee (in fact, I’ve given that name to a character in the book I’m writing) — but I’ve never seen the Year of Jubilee mentioned in a Christmas devotional.

And Revelation.

When you think of RED at Christmastime, is a red dragon the first thing that comes to mind?

I didn’t think so.

McCarrick — continuing to think outside the stable — refers to the red dragon in Revelation 12:1-7.

“The battle for Christmas is a battle for your soul,” McCarrick writes.

This is where he challenges the reader to trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, our rescuer and deliverer.

Yes, this is a different Christmas devotional. It’s full of messy stories, hardship and sorrow — but, ultimately, those stories are grounded in HOPE.

At the moment, 12 Days of Christmas is FREE on the Kindle app. Click here to download it.

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Why ‘To Well With You’ is going a different direction

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“Then I saw forms of people moving single file along the grass. They were making for the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very verge. Then I saw that she was blind. She lifted her foot for the next step … it trod air. She was over, and the children over with her. Oh, the cry as they went over!

“Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all made straight for the precipice edge. There were shrieks, as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.”

It’s been many years since I first heard this story of Amy Carmichael’s dream, but it has stayed with me. (I urge you to pause right now to read the entire story by clicking here. Then come back and see the rest of my story.)

I identify with Amy Carmichael’s grief in so many ways. In this dream that haunted her, she watched streams of people walk off a precipice to their deaths. Young, old, weak, strong, mothers and their children — everyone. The common denominator: All were blind.

Another group of people ignored the cries, saying — as they went about their idle, meaningless lives — that they hadn’t received a definite call to help.

But Amy could not. She couldn’t ignore the cries of those who were perishing.

I cannot.

Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. He said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.’ ” — Matthew 9:35-38.

To say we haven’t received “a definite call to go” (to quote a person in the Amy Carmichael story) is to take a dangerously narrow view of Jesus’ instructions to us. God may have a unique and specific purpose for each of us as individuals, but that includes — for ALL of us — the command to go into the world and make disciples.

To share the good news of the gospel.

It doesn’t necessarily mean we have to uproot our lives and move to India, as the Irish girl Amy Carmichael did.

Your mission field may be your office. It may be your neighborhood. Maybe it’s your child’s school or her sports team. It may be your blog or your Facebook page. (Dare I say it may be every one of those things?)

For more than a decade I’ve tried to write stories on my blogs that connect me to the world and, in my own little way, “preach the gospel.”

In 2014, I became a certified wellness coach, and I tried to get across the idea that wellness is a holistic pursuit and can mean so many things. My goal was to spur my readers to find their purpose and live it out, and in my mind finding your purpose means realizing who you are in Jesus, gaining strength and boldness from that knowledge and making Him known throughout the world.

I wrote around it in so many ways, so as to attract and inspire those who may not already know Jesus. I wanted my world here to feel safe for those who didn’t necessarily believe the way I believe.

Well, things evolve and grow and change, and I’m tired of beating around the bush.

It’s exhausting, y’all.

Starting today, To Well With You is a blog about Jesus — unabashedly and unapologetically. 🙂 

I’m starting in earnest and with intention to study Christian apologetics, a field I’ve dabbled in for three decades — since I read C.S. Lewis’ book Mere Christianity in my mid-20s. Since then I’ve read a few books, interacted with some apologists on Twitter and started listening to podcasts on the topic. (Want a really great one to start off with? Listen to The Alisa Childers Podcast — she is the type of respectful, thoughtful apologist I would like to be. Find her great blog here.)

It would be awesome to enroll in a college program, but for now my study of apologetics will continue informally, although I’m cranking it up a notch or two.

You’ll definitely notice it here at To Well With You.

This means I may lose readers and subscribers, and I’m OK with that. If this is not your jam, I’m sorry for you but I understand.

Being married to an atheist has helped me view the world a little differently and have compassion for others with different views, but it’s also given me a sense of urgency to learn how to intelligently and compellingly articulate what I believe and why.

I can no longer keep silent.

“I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” — Luke 19:40.

As for you, you decide what you need and want here. I love every single one of you, and I hope you’ll stay — at least until you’ve read a few posts and figured out that I’m not here to cram anything down your throat. I’m here to share what I’ve learned and provide resources if you want to know more about the Christian faith.

If you’re a believer, I encourage you to use this as a tool to build your own confidence in sharing your faith. (I need those same tools, and I’d love your prayers.)

If you are not a believer, I ask that you stick around, at least for a while. You’re even welcome to challenge what you see here, as long as you do it respectfully and politely with the mutual goal of dialogue that informs and advances the conversation.

I’ll show you the same courtesy. My aim is respectful dialogue and teaching (learning together) as I try to show you why I believe.

I don’t want your blood to be on my hands.

To Well With You.

11/18/18 — Please be patient as I update sidebars, my resource page (which now features running stores), my About page, categories and other features of To Well With You. It will take time, but I didn’t want to delay this post any longer.

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Guest post: Patty H. Scott, author of ‘Slow Down, Mama: Intentional Living in a Hurried World’

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I’ve told you about my precious friend Patty Scott, whom I met in a creative-writing group on Facebook last year. We’ve never met in person, but we have communicated many times through private messages, a Zoom chat, text messages, comments on each others’ blogs and social media and any other way we could think of! (She lives in my native state, California, and one of these days we’re going to meet up. I know it will happen – we just haven’t figure out when or how.  🙂 )

I can tell you for certain that Patty’s primary spiritual gift is ENCOURAGEMENT. If I had to pay a counselor for the many times she has lifted me up with her wise, non-judgy and timely words, I would be bankrupt.

In September 2018, Patty published her second book, Slow Down, Mama: Intentional Living in a Hurried World. Through the end of October 2018, Patty’s giving away a copy of the book every Friday on her blog, so hurry on over if you’d like to be entered to win. Or if you just want to support Patty by buying a copy, you can visit her Amazon link.

When I asked Patty to write a guest post for To Well With You, I thought she was going to write something related to the new book. I think that’s what she thought, too, but this post came pouring out of her as the Lord gave her the words and the topic.

So let her minister to you by discussing a painful time in her past that has made her stronger and allows her to speak wisdom and truth to others.

P.S. When Patty mentions Texas, keep in mind she’s hasn’t visited us in Arkansas, so we’ll let her off the “hook” as she waxes poetic for a moment about the Longhorn state. 🙂

It’s absolutely never too late to get back up and soar

By Patty H. Scott

I bet you and I have a lot in common – unless you are a seasoned triathlete. My lifelong dance with self-care and self-discipline has found me sitting out a few numbers, catching my breath, then starting up – again. And again. And again. I haven’t always been consistent in prioritizing my own health or caring for my diet and exercise needs. When I was younger, I lived a typically active childhood, running in the grass, climbing trees and using my pogo stick for transportation. My mother had an obsession with all things organic and healthy. We didn’t have an ounce of sugar or any preservatives in our home. No joke.

While my upbringing taught me what a healthy diet could be, I felt caged in by the restrictions. Anytime an opportunity to eat something sweet came my way, I indulged. Through my teen years, I endured several traumatic events. This led to my developing an eating disorder. I starved myself and tried to eat less than 500 calories a week. A week! I would tell my mom I had eaten at a friend’s home, or would pick at supper and then secretly scrape my plate into the trash. I over-exercised to burn calories. My obsession with skinniness was an attempt to control something about myself when everything around me felt so very out-of-control.

In my young adulthood, I healed from anorexia. Later I swung the other way and started emotional eating – using food to comfort myself, to cope with loneliness or to quell boredom. Food was my security blanket. I forgot how much I loved to move and exercise simply for the joy of it.

One year, after I had dated my boyfriend (now my husband) for a few years and had put on more than 70 pounds over the course of three years, I asked him, “Do you like me better when I am thin?”

In his gracious and thoughtful way, he answered me with words that changed my life forever. He said, “I love you no matter what. I didn’t start dating you for your looks. Of course I find you more attractive when you are thinner, but I think you are attractive no matter what you weigh, and I am staying with you.”

That message – that I was loved, and yet that it would be better for me and him if I were at a healthier weight – moved me into action.

I started attending Weight Watchers and doing all the things they teach – eating proper portions, exercising consistently and drinking enough water. Over a year, I lost 52 pounds. I also regained my self-esteem and a sense of myself as a person. Food no longer held me as a captive.

Over the following years, I have gained weight during pregnancies, the usual 2-3 pounds over the holiday months of November and December and a bit of padding around my tummy when we have gone on vacation. I have never regained that 52 pounds.

My heart attitude toward self-care changed, as well. I have learned that the essence of caring for others comes from our own capacity to receive care. We must be filled to pour out. Our own well-being makes it possible to give to others. When we aren’t well, we have to slow down and pull back. We don’t have reserves from which we can bless.

As I have shifted in the way I see self-care, I have been more gracious toward myself. I don’t demand my exercise and compliance to dietary guidelines, like some inner Army sergeant. I have learned to approach myself with grace and love. It is called “self-care” for a reason. Bullying has no place in our approach to ourselves.

No, this is not Patty, but I have no doubt she could do that. 🙂 (Photo courtesy of Brannon Naito via Unsplash.com)

Earlier this year, my husband and I agreed to invest in a personal trainer for me. I have been wanting to take my fitness to another level. I knew I needed the accountability, instruction and support to do this well. My trainer gives me a weekly regimen. He and I meet once a week so he can beat me up lead me through a workout. I started eating a “no white” diet (avoiding processed sugar and white starch). I lost a few unwanted pounds and feel great.

Then came my trip to Texas. In July, I went to visit one of my oldest and dearest friends who lives in Houston. Everything is bigger in Texas – including me! I ate freely on that trip. I think It’s a prerequisite for Texans to say, “Y’all want some pah?” Yes, ma’am, why yes, I do. The pie was beyond worth every bite. Still, I came home feeling the results of my foray off my diet and exercise routine.

Shortly after my trip, I started subtly sending myself shaming messages.

“You blew it.” “You aren’t ever going to stick with any exercise or diet routine.” “You are fat.” These are things I would never say to an enemy, let alone a friend, yet I was silently whispering them to myself all day long.

Despite a growing feeling of discouragement, I got back to the gym. I wanted to hide out from my trainer, but I showed up. I went on my Monday walks with my friend, attended my regular Friday Zumba class and cut back on some of the sweets and bread. Bit by bit, I started back into action.

As I resumed the routine I know works well for me, I realized some deep truths. I may have a lifetime of falling off wagons. I may choose to take breaks from healthy habits in order to enjoy a vacation with friends. As long as there is breath in my body, I can always, always get back on track. The results I want to see will come with resilience, courage and simple actions. My break from exercise and diet taught me to extend myself grace. Self-care means treating ourselves with love and gentleness above all else.


What are you going to take away from Patty’s post today? In the comments, list one thing you’ll do to be kind to yourself today. Commit to it, girl!

I’ll go first: Gonna hang out and watch a Hallmark movie with Mom today (instead of obsessing about needs to be done at home).

 

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3 things you should read, plus a book giveaway!

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Here’s a quick look at three posts my friends have shared in our creative-writing group, plus the announcement about a new book I’ve been waiting for:

Kristi Stone of Stone Family Farmstead shares How to Handle Anxiety Naturally. You don’t necessarily have to take pharmaceuticals to overcome anxiety and depression (some people do, and that’s OK). If you want to get off medications, see some of Kristi’s recommendations, and experiment with what works for you. Be sure to do this in tandem with your doctor. If she balks at the idea of going off meds, ask her to keep an open mind and work with you to find a natural solution.

Don’t give up.


Katie Andraski’s post hits on the main theme of the nonfiction book I’m writing. I couldn’t have said it better than Katie did in Machetes, Mean Speech and Genocide.

And if you haven’t seen Hotel Rwanda, rent it now. It’s worth your time.


In observance of Suicide Prevention Day earlier this week (September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month), Jen Rose Yokel writes a letter To the Ones Who Kept Living. Even if you don’t know anyone who has carried out or contemplated suicide (that you’re aware of), please read the letter. Then be sure to reach out to someone you think may be struggling. They don’t have to be on the brink of suicide for you to lend an empathetic ear. Just listen. Or just be there.


And … drum roll, please

I recently mentioned to my email subscribers that my precious friend Patty Scott was about to debut her second book, Slow Down Mama: Intentional Living in a Hurried World.

IT’S FINALLY HERE!

This book is soooo good, my friend, and Patty’s generous little heart has prompted her to give away a copy a week through October. She’ll draw a winner’s name every Friday, so hurry on over and get your name in the hat.

Just like Patty’s previous book, Parenting Your Teen through Chaos and Crisis, this book will soothe you, encourage you and give you practical answers and action steps. She’s there for you, friend. And you couldn’t have a better friend than Patty; I can guarantee you that.

SuzyO

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Well Well Well – help for your savings, your sanity and your soul

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As we continue on our journey to well-being, I have three more resources that I find helpful, challenging (we need challenges, y’all) and – perhaps best of all – encouraging.

Well Well Well - tips & tools

The first is another encouragement about your personal finances.

I need to pause here and let you know that the Lord has really been putting it on my heart lately that I need to get back into budget coaching and ministering through some sort of financial stewardship training. We can talk about that more in depth later (oops, I actually typed “debt” instead of depth!), but here’s the short(ish) version:

I’m a certified budget coach and small-group leader with Compass – finances God’s way. In fact, I used to be administrative assistant to the Mid-South director when he was with Crown Financial Ministries (the founder of Crown later created Compass). James is now over eight states with Compass, and I truly miss working with him. In 2007, when Bruce had so much sickness (and three hospitalizations, including surgery) from the Crohn’s disease, he lost his job. At the time, I was working with Crown and doing freelance editing, so all my work was home-based. When Bruce lost his job, I had to find a full-time gig with health insurance. (The Lord blessed me with the Worst Job I’ve Ever Had at a newspaper chain – I say “blessed” because it has made me grateful for all the jobs I’ve had since!)

Compass and Crown’s field-based employees are considered missionaries and raise their own funding. I hadn’t quite got there yet, so I actually worked 17 months without a paycheck from Crown. That tells you how much I love those ministries, how much I loved working with James and how much passion and commitment I have for helping people get their finances on track.

But for years Bruce and I have had an albatross around our necks. We’ve blamed our debt on medical expenses, but I can’t blame ALL of it on that.

Unwise spending doesn’t have to be in the form of extravagant purchases. Sometimes it’s those nickel and dime things that, over time, add up to an amount that you can’t pay off at the end of the month. Before you know it, you’re in over your head. You with me?

And here’s another thing I’ve learned (I’ll talk about it in a future post): Applying for a credit card to get the points (the more you use the card, the more points you earn) really doesn’t pay off, literally. Ask me how I know.

So, at this point, I’m starting to get preachy (and long-winded), but I wanted to give you a glimpse of what’s been on my heart lately AND tell you to stay tuned: I’m going to be writing a lot more on debt-free living and personal finance. If that’s for you, awesome – I’ve served you. If you’re perfectly happy with your personal financial picture and don’t need advice on how to live debt-free, then maybe you can skip these money posts. We can still be friends. 🙂

(I’m also going to be leading an online Bible study with Compass – dates to be determined – and probably get back into active budget coaching.)

OK, this is officially the longest Well Well Well I’ve ever written before getting to the actual resources. Here they are:

Bible App reading plan Dave Ramsey’s Financial Wisdom from Proverbs (you knew there would be a Bible App mention, didn’t you???)

One of the keys to being financially free (or as Dave Ramsey calls it, having financial peace) is accountability. In a nutshell, this means we can’t always trust our own judgment when it comes to spending money. And when it comes to those big purchases? Look out: Our emotions sometimes take over, and our wants become “needs.”

For me, it’s usually a tech toy (laptop, tablet, software I “can’t live without”). Granted, I need some of these to run my online business, but some of it is stuff I can manage without. Until recently, I always said Bruce and I had already cut our extras to bare bones necessities. But with the purchase of our second car (see my previous post for that story) and my sticky note on the wall that says “DEBT FREE BY 12/31/2019” (yes, after we added the second car), I knew we needed to dig deeper. (I’m also reviving my languishing freelance editing side-gig and taken on a new business as an Origami Owl designer – the goal is to generate an extra $500 a month. Sometimes decreasing expenses is not enough and you have to bring in extra income.)

When Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University went on sale a few weeks ago, I jumped at the chance to take this Bible-based study. The Compass and Ramsey teams have partnered in the past, so I’m not cheating on Compass to take the FPU study – I promise!

One thing that any good financial study teaches is the need for accountability. There are so many Bible verses on the need for partnership, community and wise counsel.

If you’re married, your spouse is likely the best person for that. If you’re single, someone like a roommate, best friend, church member or … a budget coach … can be valuable to you.

At the moment I’m not officially doing budget coaching, but if you need advice or help sorting things out or setting up a budget – or someone to convince you that you should! – reach out to me. Feel free to leave a comment, visit the contact me page, text me if you have my phone number or private message me through my Facebook page. No charge for that assistance, my friend. 🙂

I really and truly believe that we can’t get our emotional, mental and spiritual houses in order without financial peace.

Funny you should mention peace. That leads me to …

Book recommendation: ‘Parenting Your Teen Through Chaos & Crisis’ by Patty Scott

Whether you have a teenager, a toddler, a self-sufficient adult child or no kids at all, this book by Patty Scott will sooth your soul.

I met Patty in a private Facebook group for creative writers. It’s not a Christian group, per se, but through it I’ve met many like-minded members, including Patty.

In just a few months, Patty has become a dear, dear friend, even though we live 2,000 miles apart. I treasure this precious soul as I would someone I had grown up with face to face. We’ve resorted to texting, private messaging (especially when she took a few weeks off social media to focus on her family and finish her next book), chatting via video calls and praying for each other and each other’s families.

In this book, Patty lets parents off the hook for their children’s failures and shortcomings. We raise them the best we can – even though we sometimes make mistakes – and we leave the outcome in the Lord’s hands. Our kids play a role, too. They can choose to make good choices or bad. Even when we teach them well, they are still free and sentient beings who make their own choices.

And I know Patty’s heart; she is a gentle, wise teacher who loves to minister to parents – especially those who are still in the trenches.

If you have “mom guilt” or know someone going through challenging times with their kids, buy this book. I plan to buy a copy for my church library and an extra to keep on hand as a loaner; when I meet a mom in need, I can place it in her hands and say, “You’re not alone.” (It’s for dads, too, though.)

“You’re not alone.” That’s the crux of Patty’s message.

Visit Patty’s website to find out how to buy the book or to glean more wisdom from her weekly blog posts.

I’m also on the launch team for her second book, “Slow Down, Mama! Intentional Living in a Hurried World,” which will be out Sept. 10. (Stay tuned. It’s gonna be another good one.)

Bible verse to encourage your soul Matthew 27:51

Matthew 27 gives the account of Christ’s sentencing by the Roman governor and his crucifixion (death on the cross). The moment Jesus died, the huge curtain (sometimes referred to as a veil) separating the parts of the holy Temple was torn in two, top to bottom, and all kinds of heck broke loose (but in a good way).

The Temple curtain symbolized the separation between a holy God and sinful man. Because Jesus took our sins upon himself when he died, He eliminated that separation. Whereas the curtain marked the dividing line between the Holy Place (where only priests were allowed) and the Most Holy Place (reserved for the high priest once a year, to atone for the sins of the nation of Israel) – areas where regular folks like you and me were not allowed at all – Jesus’ death removed the barrier between us and God. “The veil of the temple was rent in twain,” some translations read.

This means regular peeps (that’s you and me) can come to God as individuals – no need for a priest to act as intermediary. Jesus took care of that with his death, burial and resurrection.

That is GOOD NEWS, my friend!

If you’d like to know more, reach out to me, a pastor friend or someone else you know who studies the Scriptures. If you’re a reader, look at the gospels in the Bible. They tell the fascinating true story of Jesus and his sacrifice for us. And speaking of fascinating, here’s a movie recommendation, if you like a good detective story told from a unique angle: Risen, starring Joseph Fiennes as a Roman tribune tasked with finding Jesus’ corpse. (Spoiler alert: He doesn’t!)


My, my, my, this Well Well Well post has gotten out of control. These are supposed to be short and sweet. #WellnessFail. I try to make them easy to read, so I hope you’ve been able to navigate all the goodies I’ve provided today and that they’ve left you encouraged and inspired.

Do you have a tip or inspiring book, quote or other resource to share? If so, spill the beans! Leave a comment so that the rest of us can enjoy it, too.

To Well With You,
SuzyO

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Well, Well, Well — 3 apps to help you with budgeting, Bullet Journaling and being a better person

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I’ve been letting some health problems and fatigue get in the way of blogging this year. In an effort to get back in the saddle, I thought I’d keep it simple by reviving my Well, Well, Well feature, which is something I started about three years ago to share apps and resources I’ve been loving lately. Today’s goodies include apps for budgeting, Bullet Journaling and being a better person. 🙂 

Here are three apps to make your life better!

EveryDollar budgeting appEveryDollar

(EveryDollar has free web-based and mobile versions, plus a paid upgrade with monthly and annual payment options.)

I downloaded EveryDollar in late 2016 in the hopes of getting back to monthly budgeting. Alas, it was hit and miss until we bought a second car a few months ago. Bruce and I went more than 10 years with only one car! (a 2002 Honda Accord) … until the final straw, when I said, “I don’t know how we’re going to pay for it, but I want to get a second car.”

That is absolutely not the responsible approach, but it’s the one I took because I was tired and frustrated. The next day, we bought a 4-year-old vehicle, and now we’re making monthly payments. Hence my renewed vigor in learning the things about EveryDollar that I had been stuck on.

I got hung up on a couple of things in the app that I have since figured out how to handle because I watched some videos, but if you’ve been using the app and are a “ninja” (expert), I have some questions for you, so let me know!

If you need to organize your financial life, EveryDollar is a great budgeting app to get you there. (And, no, “budgeting” is not a dirty word. 🙂 )

Rest assured that I’ll be writing more about EveryDollar in future posts. It’s extremely awesome.


Trello boards
Suzy’s Trello boards.

A Trello workflow specifically for Bullet Journaling

(See pricing discussion below.)

Trello is another app that I had downloaded probably over a year ago but didn’t start using to its fullest potential until this year. Who am I kidding — I’ve barely scratched the surface of its “fullest potential.”

One of my blogger friends recently shared this link to a Trello post about using the app to Bullet Journal, and I jumped on it. (I suck at Bullet Journaling on paper, but in an app? OK!)

If you don’t know what a Bullet Journal is, go to YouTube and search for “bullet journal.” You’ll be watching videos for weeks. (Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

As for the Trello app, it’s a productivity/organizing app that is good for those who like a visual approach, drag-and-drop capabilities and color coding (me!). You can name your projects and workflows whatever you want, creating a list for each stage of your project, such as Ideas, To Do, Doing, and Done (totally your choice what you name them).

Random ideas for using Trello:

  • Organize a kitchen remodel (that’s the example used in the Trello demo).
  • List your books To Be Read, Reading, and Finished Reading.
  • Plan a vacation with Possible Destinations, Flights and Accommodations, Packing List, Hire Pet Sitter (or House Sitter) and more.
  • Design a succulent garden (shoutout to my Trello-using blogger friend, succulent-grower-extraordinaire and virtual assistant Gina K; hey, Gina, have you used Trello for this?).
  • Set up your Bullet Journal. This is the one I’m excited to share today. If you need to get organized and can’t decide whether to do it on paper or by using an app, look into Bullet Journaling and Trello.

While I could go on and on trying to explain Trello, just take the tour and get inspired. (Plus, if you like dogs, say hello to Taco, the Trello spokes-husky. 🙂 )

The free version of Trello is more than enough unless you have a team (then a paid upgrade might make more sense), BUT you can share your boards with other Trello users, even if you don’t have a team; that’s totally free. (My “team” consists of my hubby and my cousin Pam. We collaborate and try to help each other stay organized. I’ve also received shared boards from other bloggers and organized people I follow online. I’ve never paid a dime for Trello.)

As for physical Bullet Journal pricing, you can spend anywhere from zero dollars (a notebook you already have) to a bunch, depending on how fancy you want to get with notebooks or journals. But if you do it in Trello: free!


Lysa TerKeurst reading plan Unglued

Bible App reading plan, ‘Unglued’ by Lysa TerKeurst

(The Bible App is free.)

Everyone knows I love the Bible App by YouVersion. I talk about it all the time on To Well With You because it has so many great features.

And I love Lysa TerKeurst. She’s real, authentic and vulnerable. She has struggled with some of the same things I’ve struggled with (if you battle weight problems, check out her book Made to Crave and the Bible App reading plan based on the book), and she has lots of wise and practical things to say that help me soldier on. And Lysa has struggled with some things I haven’t struggled with — things I hope I never have to experience.

The latest Lisa TerKeurst reading plan that I discovered in the Bible App is a 5-day devotional called Unglued.

Oh, my goodness, y’all. Just read it, OK? There are only five days in the plan, and if you want to read all five days in one sitting, it won’t take you very long. It’s just good.

Here’s an excerpt from Day 2 that spoke to me:

“I decided God was trying to get my attention to be more aware of my reactions. More aware of handling daily frustrations in a way that reflects a heart that loves the Lord. In today’s key verse, Luke 8:15, Jesus reminds us, ‘But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.’ (NIV 1984)”


Do you have an app, a productivity tip or a resource you’d like to share? Leave a comment or visit the To Well With You Facebook page and post there.

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How keyboard shortcuts can save you loads of time

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I’m not sure when I discovered the beauty of a computer shortcut or exactly when I dubbed myself the Queen of Keyboard Shortcuts. 🙂

But I LOVE them.

#lifedeclutter
Beginning of a new quarter, fresh start. Let’s make some #lifedeclutter happen.

I had used PC systems at all four of my summer newspaper internships, but it wasn’t until my senior year of college, when the school paper replaced its clunky old computer system with Macs (cue celestial music), that I realized just how technology can make our lives easier.

I bought my first computer in November 1996 (I remember because it was Election Day and also because I just remember stuff like that), and I’ve spent the past two decades learning how to make computers work faster and more efficiently for me. I love passing along my little tips to anyone who’ll listen. (You’re welcome.)

While PCs and Macs use different operating systems, the platforms accommodate many of the same keyboard shortcuts. Also, different software programs (“apps,” for you young whippersnappers) use different shortcuts, meaning that not everything is universal, but many things are.

Why am I so in love with keyboard shortcuts? Let me count the ways:
  • They save a lot of time. (Duh.) I’m serious. Little detours away from the keyboard add up. Having to take your hands away from the keys to grab the mouse is time consuming. If you type fast and know the shortcuts, you can zing through those paragraphs like nobody’s business. I cannot tell you how much time I save by favoring the keyboard over the mouse.
  • No need for a mouse. What if you’re in a mouseless situation (or maybe the little critter’s battery is dead) but still need to perform a function in your document? Two strokes (or a combination of keys) and you’re all set.
  • They’re more precise. Have you ever tried to close a window on your screen where the little exit x or red dot was small, and maybe your mouse was a little uncooperative – maybe it wandered around the screen when you didn’t tell it to? Keyboard shortcut.
  • They cut down on “mouse hand.” (I’m not sure that’s a real term, but I know it’s a thing.) Haven’t you experienced cramps in your mouse-wielding hand that could be eased with a little break from the normal position? I sure have.
  • It’s cool. No, really. It just is.

I’m going start you with five of my favorite shortcuts for each of the two major operating systems; if you’d like to learn more, I’ll add to the collection in a later post. And feel free to suggest other tech lessons you’d like to explore.

FUNCTION MAC PC
SAVE Command + S Control + S
UNDO Command + Z Control + Z
COPY Command + C Control + C
CUT Command + X Control + X
PASTE Command + V Control + V

If you’re reading this post on a computer, take a few moments to try these keyboard shortcuts. Open a document, type a few words and try the commands. Don’t worry: If you make a booboo, there’s always Command Z!

Do you already use keyboard shortcuts? What’s your fave? (Mine is Command + Z – undo!)

Next tech lesson: text-replacement apps (also a terrific timesaver).

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#lifedeclutter: Let’s get our stuff together – together

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Several months ago, I started working on getting my little world in order, as in:

  • Decluttering my workspace (home office).
  • Getting more sleep.
  • Taming my inbox (I will NOT let it defeat me – not there yet, though).
  • Organizing my closet, dresser and bathroom.
  • Offloading a bunch of deadweight on my computer (really old files that just take up space, physically and mentally).
  • Changing web hosts (don’t get me started on that).

#lifedeclutter

I named this (not so) little project #lifedeclutter, and for a while I posted about it here, on social media and on my whiteboard at home.

I probably don’t have to tell you how easy it is to let things slide once you’ve started making improvements, especially if you never quite achieved the results you were looking for in the first place.

Yes, I’ve made a lot of progress. But I’ve also backslidden in some areas.

My main email account (I have three going into the same inbox) contains – as I write this paragraph – 8,111 emails, 5,707 of which are marked Unread. (Sad but true.)

A few months ago, I had it under 2,000.

I won’t go into all the things I’ve been busy with, but those things have led me to neglect the daily maintenance I was pursuing in my digital space.

In other words, I never got to Inbox Zero (does that even exist?), and I slid back into old habits.

Well, my friends, that is going to change.

In less than two weeks, a new month starts, and so begins a new quarter of 2018.

The return to #lifedeclutter.

I’m giving myself the rest of March to gear up for the change, because I’m working on my taxes, trying to reconcile all my bank accounts and hoping to get things in good order to start fresh come April 1.

(Major shift: I’m bound and determined to switch back to Apple Mail and start using the filters and tagging plug-ins I added over a year ago. I’m going to schedule it and make it happen.)

But most of all, I’m bouncing a lot of ideas around in my head.

I want to figure out how to get you involved.

So … in the next three days, think about this:

What is the main thing in your world that’s driving you crazy right now?

Do you need to:

  • Declutter your closet?
  • Organize your kitchen?
  • Create a bedtime routine that helps you end the day relaxed and ready to sleep?
  • Shape up your family budget?
  • Shape up your butt? (Guilty.)
  • Prioritize some neglected relationships?
  • Make amends?
  • Clean out your inbox? (Ahem.)

Getting your physical, mental and spiritual world in order opens the door to infinite possibilities. I’m looking at you, entrepreneur-in-the-making.

Write down (yes, write it on paper, in ink) one to three dreams you have. If ANYTHING were possible, what would you want your life to look like in 12 months, 5 years, 10 years … at the end of your life?

Would you start a business? Apply for a job in a different field? Go back to school? Start volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about? Move to the mission field? Write a book? Sail around the world? Build a house? Run for office?

DREAM BIG, MY FRIEND.

One thing you’re not allowed to do: Limit yourself or edit your list. Write anything you’ve ever dreamed about doing, no matter how crazy it sounds. (You don’t have to show it to anyone if you don’t want to.)

This is your life we’re talking about.

If you’re brave enough, post a comment here letting the world know what you’re dreaming. If you’re not ready for that, contact me privately here and share it with me only. (I promise I won’t tell.)

Then we’ll come back next week and start working on some things together.

If you don’t already get my email updates, be sure to subscribe (see the box or click here) so you’ll be able to keep up with our #lifedeclutter and other goodies. (Kinda ironic that I mention subscribing when I haven’t tamed my own inbox, huh? I promise I won’t inundate you with daily annoyances. I email when I publish a blog post, and sometimes I send stuff exclusively for my subscribers, but that averages to about once a week.) At the moment, the free resource for subscribing is “8 Tips for Saying No Graciously” – a two-page PDF that will help you get started on what you want to do, not what you think you have to do.

Now, let’s get busy dreaming.

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Spicy Turkey Chili

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Third place in my church’s chili cook-off five years ago cemented my belief that the Spicy Turkey Chili that I had been making every Saturday during football season for the past few years was not only a family favorite but a crowd pleaser. (Or at least the judges were fans – especially one who said mine was the best.)

I try not to brag too much, but (in my humble opinion 🙂 ) my chili is the best. I took someone else’s recipe and tweaked it until it became mine.

Spicy Turkey Chili
Until I make my Spicy Turkey Chili again, this 2009 photo is the best pic I have!

I make fun of my pastor, who took second place that year, because I think his chili isn’t really chili – it’s goulash. He puts weird stuff in his – vegetables that don’t belong in chili. (Also, it makes me laugh because it reminds me of Uncle Felix and the Irish cook Norah in my favorite Christmas movie, Christmas in Connecticut.)

But someone must think it’s chili, because he won the cook-off a year or two ago. That first one was the only one I entered. Just having my friend (the judge) tell me he liked mine and ask me for the recipe … well, that’s all the validation I needed.

I have to be honest: This isn’t dump-a-bunch-of-cans-into-a-pot, bam-you’re-done chili. It takes a bit of time and effort, but my version has also gotten raves at a local half-marathon held in December that Bruce and I used to direct. I’ve had runners tell me it’s better than the canned-and-packaged everything version by another cook.

So go to some trouble for your family. They’re worth it, and you’ll appreciate the difference.

Here’s the version from my other blog, in case you’re interested. That was a modification of a chef’s recipe, and I thought my version was tastier. But since then I’ve tweaked it even more. For instance, I started leaving out the teaspoon of sugar, and it’s none-the-worse, tastewise, and actually better for you (who needs added sugar?). Also, sometimes I mash half of the black beans – sometimes all of them – because Bruce (having Crohn’s disease) doesn’t always digest things the way the rest of us do. (I’m not even sure the original version includes beans.)

 

 

 

Print Recipe
Spicy Turkey Chili
I used to make this every Saturday during football season. If you need a cold-weather bowl of yumminess, this fits the bill. Serve with or without crackers or cornbread, shredded cheese, Greek yogurt (a substitute for sour cream) and chopped scallions.
Course Main Dish, Soups
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
a bunch
Ingredients
Course Main Dish, Soups
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Servings
a bunch
Ingredients
Instructions
  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in medium pot with heavy bottom over medium-high heat. Add meat and stir with wooden spoon to break up. Cook, stirring, until meat is browned and cooked through, 8-10 minutes.
  2. Transfer meat to strainer to drain.
  3. Set pot over medium-high heat. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. oil, onions, bell peppers and garlic. Cook 6-8 minutes. Return turkey to pot and mix well.
  4. Add chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper and cook, stirring about 2 minutes.
  5. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, beans and broth. Stir well and bring to a boil.
  6. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, about 30 minutes. Taste for flavor and add salt and pepper if needed. Keep warm on stove until ready to serve.
  7. OPTIONAL TOPPINGS: Chopped scallions, cheddar cheese, a dollop of Greek yogurt (instead of sour cream), oyster crackers.
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2018 To Well With You Reader Survey

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Hey, y’all. Can you believe it’s already 2018? The older I get, the faster those seconds tick off the clock!

I’m writing a post that I think will hit home with a lot of people. (I want to start you thinking about your future.) For now I’m going to leave you to wonder what it is until you fill out my second-annual To Well With You Reader Survey.

I just want to get a feel for what you want. I want to be sure we’re tracking with each other.

This is the time of year that many people — including me — reflect on the past 12 months (maybe more), think about what went well and what could be improved upon, and decide what we want to see happen in the coming year.

For you, is it some area of personal improvement … finances, weight loss/gain, better relationships, getting organized?

How about career-wise? Do you have a dream that you’ve been shoving aside to do something you think you’re supposed to do but don’t really love, or that you had to do for a season for a specific purpose, but now that reason no longer applies?

Do you want to go back to school, finish a degree, get a master’s, take singing lessons?

DREAM BIG!

I want you to start looking at what’s possible in your life.

Not what your parents told you to do. Not what your friends think you should do. Not even what you think you’re supposed to do because of some misguided sense of obligation.

Sure, we all have things we HAVE to do. But are there things you’re putting in that category that don’t really belong there?

Start dreaming, stop letting outdated or misguided beliefs limit what you can do, and BE BRAVE.

We’ll talk more about that later.

For now, take the survey, and while you’re clicking the boxes, ask yourself where you’d like to go from here. And if one (or more) of the topics lights you up inside, let me know. (Also tell me if there’s something missing from the list that you’d like to explore.)

I want this to spark a fire in you and spur you to action.

Let’s get going.

Create your own user feedback survey

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