#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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I can’t get no satisfaction – or can I?

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SatisfiedQuote2Perfectionists have a hard row to hoe.

Trouble is, most of the time it’s of their own making. (Not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.)

A recovering perfectionist, in working out a long-ago commitment to make that phrase past tense (recovered perfectionist), might attempt an artsy version of a favorite song lyric – prompted by a friend’s Song of the Month post and inspired by other friends’ practice of expressing beautiful truths in watercolor and other media (Alison and Jeanetta) – and decide to post her own, primitively written piece of “art.”

(She might even leave an incredibly long and convoluted sentence long and convoluted and hope that the reader will plow through enough to understand it.)

In the interest of demonstrating that trusting in Him – creator of the universe, of art and our very souls – is the higher virtue, this recovering perfectionist might decide:

  1. The good Lord will appreciate the effort and look over the crudeness of the lettering, not judging it on “artistic merit” but on intent.
  2. It’s a good exercise toward the “recovering” part of perfectionism.
  3. The artist’s willingness to show vulnerability might just encourage another weary traveler to do the same.
  4. A nonperfectionist might look at this piece and decide that it’s just fine. (What’s all the fuss?)
  5. There’s value in declaring that true SATISFACTION can be found in Him and only Him. (Someone please inform Mick Jagger.)

So I present to you this crudely drawn, deeply felt quotation, which will go on my bathroom mirror, and maybe even find a spot at my workstation at the office.

Btw, don’t bother looking for any lightly drawn pencil marks on the quotation that may have helped the aforementioned still-recovering perfectionist keep the rows straight. (Those were probably erased once the lettering was complete.)

(If they existed at all.)

Perfectionism, a hard row to hoe?

My friends, recovering from perfectionism can leave you face down in the dirt!

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What attempts at overcoming perfectionism have you made recently? Publishing a poem that may not be understood? Taking an art class and letting the “flaws” show in the finished product? Leaving the toilet seat up? Share your vulnerable moment in the Comments section.

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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools 12/21/15

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Another apology about the long absence in this space. My head has been in a million places, and I’ll talk about that soon. Meanwhile, here are a few things I want to share with you.

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:

COMMUNITY • FAITH • SPIRITUAL

I’m not sure how to introduce this, because I have a ton of opinions on how we treat people who are not like us. So I guess I’ll just keep it simple: Those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus Christ should see each person as a creation of God – each and every one of us created in His image. That includes Muslims (even terrorists). If you have time to click just one of these links today, please let it be this one.

Check it out: My Muslim Problem

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FAITH • SPIRITUAL

My friend Lois regularly inspires and encourages me with her insights on life and faith. In this post, she brings out a part of the Christmas story that doesn’t get a lot of air time: the role Mary’s cousin Elizabeth played in the drama. (Also, my pastor pointed out something this morning that had never occurred to me: John the Baptist was the first person to celebrate Advent! [The whole leaping-in-the-womb thing.]) Lois points out that our waiting may not be about us at all – perhaps it’s for someone else’s benefit.

Check it out: What the Christmas Story Reveals About Waiting

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FAITH • SPIRITUAL

Like Lois (and me), my friend Alison wrestles with things. And in the midst of it, these two beautiful ladies usually write words that challenge my tiny faith and encourage me to think higher thoughts. Alison and her family have been living in Aberdeen, Scotland, for a couple of years while her husband works on a PhD in theology. Today, she talks about trusting God with her family’s future.

Check it out: Before You and With You

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That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …

Merry Christmas!
Suzy O
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Well, Well, Well: tips & tools 10/19/15

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wellwellwell3 - tips & toolsEach week I bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful, inspirational or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:

SPIRITUAL

When someone follows me on Twitter, I don’t follow back automatically. There are just too many people out there cluttering up my feed in an effort to get attention, and I sometimes scratch my head and say, “Why in the world would that person want to follow me?”

But if the person looks semi-legit, I usually check out his or her website, if there is one (bonus if it’s a personal blog with something human to say), then I decide whether to follow back.

When Stefne Miller followed me a couple of days ago, I knew almost immediately that I would keep going back to her website. In this link, she writes about the “F” word: forgiveness. I really like her writing style, and I hope her post will speak to you as it did me.

Check it out: The “F” Word

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ProjectSTIRlogoFAMILY • FOOD/RECIPES

On my other blog, Suzy & Spice, I wrote recently about Project STIR, my friend Sarah’s documentary film project in which she highlights family recipes around the globe.

This has been tremendous fun, and I’ve “met” lots of people all over the world who are as sentimental as I am about preserving family recipes. Many of us are “Project STIR Ambassadors,” which just means we love this project and want to help Sarah spread the word so we promote the project online. (Sarah spotlighted me on her blog here, and I wrote about my Nanny’s Pickles here; my cousins and I had a grand time with our family memories.)

Sarah launched her Kickstarter (fundraising) project with a video of “Mamaw’s Chicken Dumplins,” where she films a dear family friend, “Mamaw” (who in some ways took over for Sarah’s deceased grandparents), showing granddaughter Rachel how she makes chicken and dumplings. The video is just over 3 minutes – well worth your time.

Sarah has less than two weeks to raise the rest of her funds on Kickstarter, so please consider making a donation – nothing is too small to help her reach the goal, which will help her film the families and their recipes. This project is so wonderful, I know you’ll want to be a part of it.

Also, another blogger friend, new mom Paige, who recently started a podcast, features Sarah and Project STIR on this episode of Hear Motherhood (who is not a mom yet, but the project is about family, so it counts!). Sarah tells how she came to know Mamaw, how Project STIR came about, and where it’s going. Take a listen.

Sarah also created a Project STIR page on Facebook. And if you’re interested in being an ambassador (share a food memory on your own website), click here for details.

Another great thing about this project is that Sarah has partnered with The Pack Shack! Keep reading …

Check it out: Project STIR

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thepackshack-logoGIVING BACK

I wrote about my first experience with The Pack Shack on the Arkansas Women Bloggers website in September, when I was Blogger of the Month.

I say “my first experience,” because I’m not finished yet. I came home from Arkansas Women Bloggers University determined to spread the word. I had heard about The Pack Shack, a new-ish organization based in northwest Arkansas that helps feed the needy, but until you experience a Feed the Funnel party firsthand, you really have no idea.

After everyone else had left the party that August weekend at AWBU, I talked to Pack Shack co-founder Bret Raymond, and I was struck by his humble spirit and his desire not to shine a light on himself or even the organization but to bring glory to God.

I took the Feed the Funnel idea to my running club and my small group at church, and I also plan to present it to my new employer (I start next week). Stay tuned; I’m sure to be talking about it again in the coming months.

Click below to see what a great time we Arkansas Women Bloggers had serving such a worthy cause. It includes a fun video that I shot on Periscope.

Check it out: Giving Back with The Pack Shack

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That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …

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How to stay true to your mission when you’re tired or weary

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GandhiQuoteWhen you purport to be a coach, a teacher or a mentor (of anything), it’s tempting to let everyone believe you’re a strong, infallible and powerful superhero, no chinks in the armor, ever.

I used to be that person. No, not strong, infallible and powerful, but someone who wished she could come across that way to the world (remember, recovering perfectionist here).

But if I were trying to advise you in how to do something (or stop doing something), wouldn’t it be better if I could relate to the challenges you face, and better still if I had gone through those challenges (or similar ones), myself? Whether I had succeeded the first time or failed 1,000 times and finally figured it out, you’d be more likely to come to me for advice … or at least for empathy, right?

Sometimes a “superhero” needs to just be real.

Sunday, we had a visiting missionary in our church services. He has written before on his blog about how missionaries are expected (by some) to be perfect saints, and, in fact, some missionaries try to perpetuate that myth. The tendency is to think you can’t show vulnerability or you’ll turn people off to Christianity. After all, isn’t following Jesus supposed to make our lives rosy and perfect?

Well, no.

In John 16:33 (NLT), Jesus said, “Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” He never said life would be perfect; He said he’d never leave us to face life alone (Deuteronomy 31:6).

Our missionary friend knows this truth. In fact, his wife and daughter couldn’t be with us Sunday because they were with his wife’s family, grieving the unexpected loss of his father-in-law a week earlier. And Sunday evening, he told us that he had just gotten a call from his mother; she and his dad were meeting with hospice the next day because his dad is dying of cancer and the end is that close.

IT IS WELL

There is plenty to be weary about, but this missionary friend told us, “It is well.” He knows where his source of strength comes from, and it is not from striving and trying and wearing himself out in an effort to attain perfection. As he told us Sunday morning, Jesus didn’t come to heal the well, but the sick.

The missionary’s wife has written beautifully, too, about the struggles they face on the mission field and, heck, just as human beings living in a broken world.

I use the word beautifully a lot when I share others’ words, and the common denominator – the thing that causes it to be beautiful to me – is that the speaker is letting herself or himself be vulnerable.

Authentic.

Imperfect.

Real.

I’m writing about being real today because I’m tired and I want to let you know about it. I know my mission, but lately the path to fulfilling it has seemed to take a lot out of me. I’m learning a lot, but some weeks I feel as though I take two steps forward and one step back. I’m working on learning how to discern the essential from the nonessential, but figuring that out is not easy or simple.

The one below – picking out a birthday card for my mom last week – was an essential. Waiting until the day of … not the wisest decision. But I allowed hubby to help, and he picked out a beautiful card for her. (I think I’ll keep him.)

TextMsgScreenShot073115HOW TO STAY ON MISSION

Here are 10 things you (and I) can do to stay on mission when you’re tired or weary – or when life is just plain hard:

  1. Be honest. Don’t try to hide the fact that you’re hurting. Talk to a trusted mentor. Ask for prayer from your circle of friends. You don’t have to go into all the gory details, but share what’s on your heart. We were made for community. Reach out.
  2. Take a break. If you can’t take a full-blown vacation, escape for just a day, or even an hour. This will help refresh your mind and your body. If you can do this on a small scale every day or week, even better.
  3. Spend some time examining the things that got you to this point. Don’t think about it for five minutes and quit; really reflect on what’s going on in your life.
  4. Remember your “why” (aka “look at the Big Picture”). Have you figured out your mission – your purpose? If not, get in touch with me or a trusted mentor to help you through the process. Remembering your why is probably the most important thing on this list. I have it as a reminder on my idea board, in notebooks, on my bathroom mirror and as a hashtag when I post a workout to my running app. Remembering my “why” carries me a long way when I’m tired or wondering why I’m doing this.
  5. Decide what’s important. Figure out what is essential for you to fulfill your purpose and what is not.
  6. After thinking through what’s important, focus on the No. 1 thing on the list. Get rid of what isn’t essential to your mission, with the realization that you cannot do everything. (I’ll be writing a review of the book Essentialism as soon as I finish reading it – so much great advice.) Last weekend, our missionary friend’s wife and daughter stayed behind in their home state to grieve with their family before they return to the mission field. This was their No. 1 priority at that time. (If family is not near the top of your list, it should be.)
  7. Pray. Some of you who read this blog might not pray to God, so substitute the word meditate. I pray to God for peace, comfort and guidance. If you don’t pray, at least take some time for peace and calm so that you can gain clarity.
  8. Ask for help. I’m not talking about divine help, notwithstanding Item 7. If you have a task that’s overwhelming, ask someone to help you accomplish it. As wise King Solomon said, you get a better return for your labor; a cord of three strands is not easily broken (Ecclesiastes 4:9-12).
  9. Celebrate what you’ve already accomplished; recall the progress you’ve made – even the small stuff – and take time to appreciate it. If you have trouble remembering any of the good, ask a friend! (See Item 8.)
  10. Let go of “perfect.”

This isn’t a comprehensive list. What have I left off? (See, I’m asking for help! Leave a comment above with some of the things on your list.)

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The gift of shalom

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I’ve been restless lately.

Staying up too late. Working on blog-writing, platform-building, branding, marketing, content-producing, time-stealing stuff.

It’s all good – I love every bit of it – but it can be all-consuming, too.

It’s not so good when you realize you’ve been trying to squeeze Jesus into the cracks – those tiny slivers of space where maybe a bit of light can shine in between the piles of busyness, if you pause just a moment to notice. When maybe He’s been whispering your name but you’ve had too much mental noise to hear His call.

He tends not to shout unless He has to.

And then you start hearing the same word or message from multiple sources. I don’t believe in coincidence, so I see this phenomenon as my Maker kicking the volume up a notch, to maybe the equivalent of a stage whisper. Beats a kick in the pants.

So in a quiet moment I finally notice.

I have daily readings on my Bible App and also receive occasional emails from Christian publishers with new resources, studies, devotionals, announcements … marketing. There are times when the emails seem like mere noise, too – just more information overload in an already crowded brain.

But then one newsletter presents itself with a headline like this:

God’s Gift of Peace for Your Mind and Heart

And the word PEACE seems to SHOUT! (Ironic, no?)

I opened this one to skim and ended up reading all of it.

It began:

“Peace, shalom (shah-loam). Shalom comes from the root verb shalam, meaning ‘to be complete, perfect, and full.’ Thus shalom is much more than the absence of war and conflict; it is the wholeness that the entire human race seeks.”

That just resonated with me.

After all, this is what To Well With You is really about: my desire to help all people see their worth as His created ones and to fully realize their God-given potential. As whole, complete beings.

So when I received an email from Jen Hatmaker (I always open hers right away), I clicked a link to a post (not hers, but one she liked) with this headline:

I used to think God wanted a lot from me

“I should really volunteer at church more, lead a Bible study, organize something for the homeless. I’m the worst at this Jesus stuff. I should really be doing more for God! It’s so demanding, it takes EVERYTHING!” said the author, Sara Bessey.

But “maybe God doesn’t so much want things from us,” she said. “Maybe God actually wants things for us.”

Her conclusion was that we should …

“Run towards grace, towards shalom.” (Shalom, again.)

I love the way one of the commenters referred to Sarah’s post:

“It’s like setting aside my fifth espresso for a nice clean glass of water.”

Cool, refreshing water.

John4QuoteUnfathomable peace that satisfies like a cool, refreshing drink. This is what I wish for you today.

Shalom, y’all.

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The saddest thing on earth

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1Chronicles21-20

“No one was sorry when he died.” I can’t think of a sadder thing to be said of someone who has passed away.

It’s not necessary that I be remembered for something after I’m gone, but I do want my life to count for something while I’m here – preferably something that will outlive me. The mark I make on the world … I want it to last, because I hope that it’s something good and worthwhile.

I want to help make sure others’ lives are better, not worse, because I sucked up air on the planet.

As I wrote on the web page that serves as my “digital business card”:

“I want my epitaph to say, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’ I want to serve others and bring glory to my Creator while I’m doing it.”

I’ve been reading through the books of Kings and Chronicles in my one-year chronological journey through the Bible this year.

Most of the kings chronicled in these books were evil, with a sprinkling of rulers who followed the Lord and were blessed because of it. But it didn’t last. (Obedience can be hard work!) Even with shining examples to light our path, without intention and purpose it is easy to go our own way.

Of King Jehoram, the chronicler said: “You have not followed the good example of your father, Jehoshaphat, or your grandfather King Asa of Judah. Instead, you have been as evil as the kings of Israel.”

King Jehoram chose the path of self and left no legacy to be proud of.

“His people did not build a great funeral fire to honor him as they had done for his ancestors.”

My ancestors set a good example for me. As far back as I know of, they followed the Lord and passed down that legacy to me and my kin. Most of us, as far as I know, are doing our best to obey the Lord and remain open to His leading.

But whether the legacy passed down to you was good or bad, what are you going to make of it?

Are you going to use your God-bestowed gifts to bless the world, or to take from it?

My mission statement flows out of my desire to leave the world better than I found it. It is:

“To follow God’s leading and help others see the Light.”

What legacy do you want to leave?

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Introducing Well, Well, Well

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WellWellWellLogoBruceRGBThis week I’m introducing a new weekly feature: Well, Well, Well (hats off, as usual, to my hubby for coming up with the name). In it, I’ll bring you three tools, tips, articles, recipes or other resources that I find useful or interesting on the journey to wellness. Feel free to suggest your own helpful hints and tips by leaving a comment (see Comment link above).

Here are this week’s three:

PRODUCTIVITY

One of my fellow Arkansas Women Bloggers posted a cry for help on Facebook last week:

“I need a way to organize important emails I want to keep, screenshots of important info, etc. Basically, I need a ‘file cabinet’ that is easy to access, easy to use.”

Holy cow — we Evernote lovers jumped all over that. (In fact, folks who’ve been using Evernote for years and know all the ways to harness its superpowers are called “Evernote ninjas.” I am not one of them — yet.)

If you aren’t using Evernote, you’re missing out. It’s probably the most useful productivity tool I’ve ever used, although I’m still learning all its capabilities and I’m not as productive or proficient with it as I know I will be as I keep using it.

Evernote is an electronic filing cabinet but not just for your emails. It uses a notebook and tag system that allows you to sort and find things easily later. But I’m a newbie. A couple of others with more experience can convince you:

In a recap of her AWB conference presentation last year, she says:

“I’m accustomed to the look on someone’s face during an Evernote session at the exact moment where they realize what it is capable of and how it is applicable in their lives.  At the Arkansas Women Bloggers conference, however, I mistook the perplexed looks on the faces of attendees as an indication that I was missing the mark or doing a poor job of representing the complete fabulousness of Evernote.  It turns out all those furrowed brows and the silence in the room were actually indicative of their brains simultaneously exploding.

“And hey, what can I say?  That’s exactly what I’m looking for when I introduce someone to Evernote.”

Check it out: Evernote.com


SPIRITUAL

If you’re like me and would like to read the Bible every day, let me encourage you: It can happen, and there’s never been a better time than now with better tools than ever. I have fallen in love with the Bible App, and this is the second year I’ve done my through-the-Bible-in-a-year plan electronically rather than using my physical Bible (which is a reference Bible, has a ton of footnotes and weighs a gazillion pounds). I carry my “Bible” around with me everywhere, because I can access it just about anywhere: my laptop, my smart phone or my iPad.

You can browse devotional plans as short as three days or as long as several weeks, and they’re searchable by topic (say you want devotions for Lent or Advent or marriage, they’ve got you covered). It’s available in several languages, several translations of the Bible (so you can read a different version each year if you like) and different versions of the one-year plan (I’m doing chronological this year). They added a Bible App for Kids a few months ago, and if I had small kids I’d jump all over that! I use the Bible App now at church and take sermon notes inside the app. There are translations that you can view only online (with an Internet connection) and some you can download for offline reading.

Probably my favorite feature of the Bible App: audio! Yes, some translations (including the one I’m currently using, the New Living Translation) can be read to you out loud. When I’m slogging through the “less interesting” chapters of the Bible (say, most of Leviticus), it’s nice to listen while I get ready for work. Obviously this isn’t for in-depth study, which I would do sitting down with the visual version or a hard copy of the Bible. But it does help for getting to know the culture and commands of the biblical texts. The audio reinforces what I read.

The YouVersion folks just keep adding features, making it better and better. This is another tool that I could go on and on about, but you should just …

Check it out: Bible.com


FINANCIAL

I’ve been following Mary Hunt of Debt Proof Living for more than 20 years, since her little black-and-white newsletter (then called Cheapskate Monthly) was about 12 pages and arrived each month via snail mail.

I love Mary because she’s down to earth, practical and wise.

Here’s an excerpt of a post I wrote about Mary two months ago on my other blog, Suzy & Spice:

“By the time I met Mary, she had gotten her family into $100,000 of unsecured debt … and back out.

“She scratched and clawed (and prayed) her way out of the hole.

“And, because she has been to the bottom of the pit and climbed her way back out, dirt under her fingernails, sweat on her brow, wisdom under her cap, she has built an organization out of helping the rest of us do the same – or, better yet, not digging that pit in the first place.”

And heres a link to a recent post, Tough Times Don’t Last, Tough People Do, in her Everyday Cheapskate column.

Maybe you’re not in debt but need to begin saving and just don’t know how to get started and stay motivated. Mary can help. (I can help, too, as I’m a certified budget coach and volunteer for a financial stewardship ministry; I know some of the tips and tricks of getting and staying on track.)

Or maybe you have a family member or friend who could use the kind of gentle kick in the pants that Mary provides. (That kick in the pants probably shouldn’t come from you — let Mary do it; she has the expertise and the objectivity!)

Mary has written lots of books and has a great website, daily column and newsletter.

Check it out: DebtProofLiving.com

That’s it for this week, kids. I hope you found something useful or at least interesting. Until next time …

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