Category: faith

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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Compassion and justice aren’t optional

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Many times in my life, several things I’m working on or doing converge into one lesson. The things I’m reading, thinking about and doing seem to fit nicely together so that I can “kill two (or three) birds with one stone,” so to speak.

Today I was determined to make my Bible and devotion time a priority:

Get the dogs fed (sweet mercy, most days that’s gotta be No. 1 in my household), microwave my refrigerated coffee (No. 2? Most definitely!), then the Bible App.

I hate to admit it, but I’m STILL a work in progress. (Note to self: You always will be.)

I still haven’t disciplined myself to do Bible first, email and social media notifications second. Still working on that.

But I’m going to put that discussion aside for now, because today at least two of the things merged.

The things?

Day 6 of the 30-day Practice in Public Challenge. that I’ve been participating in.

Day 1 of a devotional reading plan in the Bible App. I did this same 40-day plan four years ago, but as I finished my latest plan, rather than search for a completely new one I decided to take a look back at the 68 plans I had already completed.

The plan “Restart: Compassion and Justice” caught my eye because: 1) It touches on issues that I think are extremely important in our society, especially lately. 2) My pastor started a new sermon series last Sunday called “The Invisibles: Seeing the People that God Sees.”

The scripture for Day 1 is Genesis 1:26-27 (I read it in the New Living Translation):

“Then God said, ‘Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us. They will reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, the livestock, all the wild animals on the earth, and the small animals that scurry along the ground.’

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

And from the commentary:

“As we understand and live this out, our lives reflect the One who created us. Instead of oppressing others, we empower them; instead of building fences, we get involved in the lives of others and work toward their good. We stand up for justice, speak out for the powerless, and love the unloved.”

My question (primarily to myself, but to all of us):

What I am doing, other than believing (and occasionally stating in public) that racism, bigotry and favoritism are wrong? That looking down on someone who’s homeless, mentally ill, in prison — or maybe just “different” from us — is NOT okay.

What am I doing to show “the least of these” that I care, that God cares? That no matter what society says they are — broken beyond repair, unworthy, unlovable — God says they are created in His image and, therefore, are of INFINITE value. No one can put a price tag on that which God has determined is invaluable.

His redemption covers all of our brokenness. It covers our sin, our struggles … our bigotry, arrogance and apathy.

But the sacrifice God made for our sin (Jesus’ death and resurrection) doesn’t give us license to spend our days living for ourselves, as if being redeemed means freedom from responsibility.

So, what am I going to do this weekend to “stand up for justice, speak out for the powerless, and love the unloved”?

For starters, I’ve just taken 30 seconds to add a reminder to my Google calendar. Monday I’m going to contact a local agency where I’ve been wanting to volunteer. This agency helps the unwanted have life. I need to be a part of that again, as I was 30 years ago when I had more energy and optimism. It’s time to hit refresh.

And I’m going to spend some extra time thinking through this question with more intention: What else can I do?

So that’s me.

What are YOU going to do?

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Well Well Well tips & tools – 09/04/17

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I haven’t brought you a Well Well Well in a while, so I guess it’s about time I do something about that.

Well Well Well is a way for me to share three tips, tricks, tools or other resources that I think you’ll find useful, informational or inspiring. And today I got a little carried away, so our “three” will be three themes, with sub-items. 🙂 Here we go:

SPIRITUAL

Some may call it serendipity; I call it a kick-in-the-pants by the Almighty. Read Meeting with God in the Airport, then come back and tell me if you’ve ever had an experience like this and how you responded.

ART/GOOD READS

As usual, I’m reading too many books at once, but I’m enjoying all of them. Here are two of the books I’m still reading (you might even say savoring), plus one about which I owe my friend a review.

I’ve been taking in a lot of content about creativity, writing and art lately. These are two of the books on my Kindle app:

Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. I follow Jeff and, in fact, helped him promote Real Artists Don’t Starve when he published it early this year. The more of Jeff’s content I consume – books, courses, challenges (including one I’m participating in right now – my500words) – the more I like him. If you’re any type of artist (writer, musician, painter, whatever) who wants to make money with your craft – or you need someone to help you understand why it’s OK to make money as an artist – read this book.

A Million Little Ways by Emily P. Freeman. Before the session on writing that I taught at last month’s Megaphone Summit, I asked my fellow Arkansas Women Bloggers for suggestions on books to give away. This was my third time to lead a class at Megaphone, and I always like to give away books. A Million Little Ways was one of the suggestions. I had never heard of it, but I’m truly enjoying looking at ways I can use my particular skills to serve my audience and help each person realize her/his God-given potential.

… And then there’s my friend Cecelia Wilson’s book, the true story of a German family displaced by World War II. Cecelia and I grew up in the same church, and our families have been friends for longer than we care to admit (but that doesn’t mean we’re old! 🙂 ). When Cecelia spoke at a local event this summer, I sat in the audience, bought the book, met the 81-year-old woman whose story Cecelia told (I met Edith’s daughter, too), and fell in love with Back to Bremen. You don’t have to be a World War II buff to enjoy this book; it’s the story of a mother’s love for her family. Check it out.

And I promise, Cecelia, I’m going to get that book review written soon!

CULTURE

Racism in our country weighs heavily on my mind, and the recent events in Charlottesville, Va., stirred me up again. Here are two posts about racism from a Christian perspective (actually, three, because I’m linking to a post I wrote a couple of years ago). In the second one, I urge you to make the time to watch the 22-minute video:

Responding Biblically to Racism by Bob Lepine of Family Life Today.

On Taking Sides Like Jesus Read it, watch the video, and decide to do something to help make the situation better.

We Are Every Tribe, Tongue and Nation, one of the guest posts I wrote in 2015 on Seth Godin’s Your Turn Challenge blog.

In the words of Heather Heyer, the young woman who was martyred at the Charlottesville rally:

Heather Heyer quote: If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.Check out these links, then come back and let me know what action you’re going to take.

And, if you’ve found any value in this post, please share.

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Enter to win: Put Your Faith Where Your Fork Is

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The week after Christmas is typically a time when our thoughts turn from holiday excess (including all the food we indulged in for several weeks) to preparing for a new year and all the hope for change that it can bring.

(We won’t talk about the indulgences that may be to come on New Year’s Eve. Fortunately I don’t have to worry about parties and food on this occasion, as my head drops to the pillow long before the ball drops on Times Square.)

I, for one, am looking for a fresh start in some of the areas I struggle with, including letting stress trigger bad habits with food. Sometimes I let that derail my goals.

I’ll be spending this weekend formalizing and putting to paper some of the goals that have been swimming around in my head for the past few weeks. (Remember the “5 Days to Your Best Year Ever” goal-setting course that I told you about in early December? Well, it’s time for the rubber to meet the road!)

So … what about you?

If getting a handle on your weight issues is one of your goals for 2017, I have an offer for you.

Nettye Johnson, a wonderful woman I’ve been following for a year or two, has written a book, Put Your Faith Where Your Fork Is.

Here’s a description:

In Put Your Faith Where Your Fork Is, author Nettye Johnson shares spiritual truths and scientific principles to help you:

  • Put God first and grow closer to Him in the pursuit of health and wellness.
  • Right skewed relationships with food.
  • Embrace moderation and eliminate food guilt.
  • Create a personalized, effective, and livable food philosophy for healthy weight loss and maintenance.
  • Change your view of healthy disciplines from a challenge, battle, or struggle to a privilege, joy, a part of who you are, and a way to honor God.

As are many books about weight control and healthful living, this one is written by a person who’s been there.

Nettye knows.

And because Nettye has been victorious in this battle, she wants to help others achieve the peace that comes from eliminating guilt and remorse and get on with the business of health and honoring God in the process. A few weeks ago, she offered a buy-one-get-one-free opportunity.

So … thinking of you … I bought a copy of the book and got an extra.

And I’ve been waiting to read it.

I’ve been waiting for you, my friend. The next step is yours.

I’m giving away a FREE copy of Nettye’s book, Put Your Faith Where Your Fork Is, to one reader. Here’s how you can win:

  1. Commit to reading the book with me and discussing it a chapter at a time (12 chapters, 12 weeks).
  2. Fill out the short form below telling me why you’re making this commitment (and why I should give you a free book!).

That’s it.

It’s simple: Make a commitment, then tell me why.

You have until noon Central time Monday, Jan. 2, 2017. I’ll announce the winner that evening. And if you don’t win the free copy, you’re welcome to purchase one and let me know if you’re interested in starting a group discussion. (By the way, I am not an affiliate and get no compensation for promoting this book; I just think Nettye’s awesome and has really valuable things to tell us.)

Feel free to share this post with your friends, and ask them to enter to win the free copy of Nettye’s book. (Also, subscribing to To Well With You – separate from the giveaway – will ensure that they receive my updates by email.)

The winner and I will figure out the best way to go about discussing the chapters. If you’re local, we might meet each Saturday morning over coffee or tea. If you’re my long-distance friend, we can email or connect online. (We’ll figure it out.) And if we have enough interest for a group discussion, I might create a private Facebook group to do that.

TO ENTER, fill out the form below (you’ll have to scroll to see all the content). And thanks!

Create your own user feedback survey

I can’t wait to see what you have to say!

#FaithWhereForkIs

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Letter from my dad, 1989

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dadquote1989I’m feeling a little sentimental as I write this tonight, so instead of issuing some goal-setting challenge as we prepare for the new year or bragging about how I actually lost weight over the Thanksgiving weekend (trust me, it had been going the other way for several weeks, so I was due for some good news), I thought I’d share something incredibly special to me.

letterfromdad1989_pg1

letterfromdad1989_pg2Here’s what I wrote a few minutes ago in a “get organized”-type private Facebook group I’m a part of:

“This is what happens when you start mining through the detritus of your life. You find diamonds under all that dirt.

Thing 1: I found this letter today while clearing out old file boxes. My dad wrote it in 1989, around the time I graduated from college and was preparing to spend 2 months as a summer missionary in Guatemala. He didn’t finish the letter before I graduated, and he wrote on it some more while I was in Guatemala. We found the letter – still attached to the legal pad – after he died (Dec. 23, 1997), and then it was lost again in a bunch of file boxes. Until today.

Thing 2: A few days ago in a short burst of decluttering, I found a poem Dad wrote me for my birthday many years ago. I may post it tomorrow (my birthday) on my blog or my social media (we’ll see).

Thing 3 (but really it is the MAIN thing): God is GOOD, and he’s good ALL THE TIME. This has been a stressful year for my family, with accidents, illness, financial hardship and [other things]. My dad wrote a TON of stuff (I got my love of reading and writing from him), but these two gems were written specially for me. They give me such a feeling of being loved – by my earthly dad and my heavenly dad. If you’ve kept reading this far 🙂 thank you, and I hope it has inspired you to #bebrave and keep digging!”

So … normally I’d try to end this with some type of life lesson or challenge, but I’m going to let you come up with your own take-away. We all know we should embrace our loved ones more often and tell them how we feel. And, as we’ve just come off of Thanksgiving, we’ve read all the “I’m grateful for” posts – and that’s wonderful. (I even have a “gratitude partner,” and we email each other a list every day.)

But tonight I’m letting you enjoy the rest of your weekend guilt-free and full of my gratitude that you’re a reader here, whether regularly or sporadically. Until next time …

To Well With You Suzy O signature - Sacramento font

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Primrose Hill: ‘Made better by our story’

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Psalm18-16You don’t have to be a former meth addict to appreciate the words of David in Psalm 18.

David was running from a human enemy, and the Psalm is one of thanks for God’s rescue. At Primrose Hill Teen Challenge, you’ll hear stories of rescue from drug addiction, alcohol addiction, fears and failures.

So many stories of second (and third) chances …

Jenn, who survived a methamphetamine addiction, divorce, jail, loss of family relationships and more, quotes Psalm 18:16 and says that’s exactly what God did for her.

He took hold of her:

“God’s grace and mercy started working miracles in my life. He restored my family and transformed me into a beautiful and loving woman, mother and child of God.”

Jenn is just one example of the power of transformation that begins at Primrose Hill.

PrimroseHillGraphicAt the recovery center (located in north-central Missouri), the women learn life skills, social skills, parenting skills and work skills. GED classes are available for those who didn’t finish high school, and the women are discipled in their faith.

Benefits to the children include in-home care, learning and a loving environment, according to the organization’s website.

One way the residents help the organization pay for their care is by making soaps, lotions and lip balms.

The tagline on every label: “Made better by our story.”

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The folks at Primrose Hill sent me a gift set, a brochure and a newsletter telling stories of women formerly in bondage and now free from addictions because of the love of Christ and the care of those at the recovery center.

Primrose sent me a box of goodies recently in the hope that I would like them, talk about them and spread the word to my peeps (that’s you). Each woman involved in the production hand-signs each bottle, jar, bar and tube. (Lindsey, thank you for the lotion and the sugar scrub. Stacie, thanks for the hand and body soap. Krista, the Sweet Dreams bar of soap smelled … sweet and dreamy! And the Honey Bunch lip balm? Well, I guess the label was too small for a signature, but, to the young woman who produced it: hugs and kisses from me to you!)

I can’t squirt out a dollop of liquid soap or lotion, or run a bar of the Sweet Dreams soap along my arms as I sit in the bath, without thinking about the women who made them … without praying with every breath for each resident, each child, for each beautiful soul at Primrose who cares for the women and their kids, without thanking God for such an organization.

Places like Primrose change lives.

I am grateful for the soaps, lotion, lip balm and body scrub, but I’m even more grateful that Primrose invited me to be a part of its story.

So, whether you need a Primrose Hill product (no synthetic ingredients, and includes a fragrance-free option) or simply would like to make a donation and/or say a prayer for the ministry and those involved, please visit the website and look around. You’ll be encouraged and enlightened.

It takes about $2,000 per mom and $100 per child each month to operate the Primrose Hill recovery center. I hope you can help, and I know the families will be eternally grateful.

Click here to visit Primrose Hill’s website.

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Book review: ‘Choosing to See’ by Mary Beth Chapman

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Faithful lyrics - Steven Curtis ChapmanOne of the things that draws me to people is their honesty and transparency about their struggles. When someone is brutally honest about his or her life without glossing over the mess, that’s when I can relate. That’s what draws me in to a story.

ChoosingToSee_coverUsually when I think of the death of little Maria Sue Chapman (5-year-old daughter of Mary Beth Chapman and contemporary Christian singer Steven Curtis Chapman), three things come to mind: 1) the morning I heard the news on my car radio, 2) the family’s appearance on Larry King Live a couple of months later and 3) Steven’s sweet song “Cinderella,” which was even more poignant after Maria died.

But those are things I saw and heard from a distance – before I read Choosing to See: A Journey of Struggle and Hope by Mary Beth Chapman and Ellen Vaughn – before I heard the rest of the story from a grieving mom. After finishing the book, I had a deeper understanding of the family’s grief and how far Mary Beth, her husband and their children came in the two years between the accident and the book’s publication. Slowly but surely … God was healing them. In the meantime, they remained faithful to giving Him the glory and honor – even in the messy middle of their grief.

The family shares some of that story in the Larry King interview, too. The links to the interview start here, and below is the first segment:

The Chapmans’ faith – strengthened by their history of walking with God, and with a strong support network of friends, family, church members and counselors – is a testimony to others who are grieving, questioning … struggling.

There are no pat answers here, no trite quotes or pithy sayings, only the words of a mom being honest about her journey to healing. That she (and her family) looks to God as the ultimate source of that healing is largely what the book is about.

I wrote about this on my other blog last weekend, in a post called “Of funerals and letting go,” after I put down the book to get ready for a friend’s funeral. It was a day that could have been depressing but instead was encouraging.

Something that astounded me is that Mary Beth dealt with depression in the early years of her life, yet she still managed to cling tightly to God’s hand as she mourned, as she struggled and as she told her family’s story.

This story strengthened my faith and reminded me of the great truths of God’s love, mercy and healing.

If you or someone you know has suffered a deeply felt loss, my prayer is that this book would strengthen and encourage you, too. Check it out.

In the aftermath of losing Maria, Steven began writing songs for a new album, which he called Beauty Will Rise. The song “Faithful,” quoted above, is from that album. Give it a listen. It, too, is honest and vulnerable – filled with hope.

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