For weeks, the theme of working for the Lord has been rolling around in my mind. Everywhere I turn, Scripture pops up about putting our faith into action. Combine that with a desire that my kids not sit around in front of a screen all summer and the idea of a goal-setting journal for kids and teens was born.
I created the journal for my kids to use, but when the proof arrived, my husband said, "I want one of these." So, I designed a version geared more toward adults. The concept of both is the same. Every day, set a goal to do something: to help someone, to honor God, to grow your mind, to take care of your body, and to use your talents. Then track the results. The goals can be big or small, but over time, even "little" accomplishments add up to big results.
Why should we set goals? Of course, we're not saved by works, but Titus 2:14 says that Jesus gave himself for us "that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works." We should be zealous about doing good things. And when we pray and ask God what goals to set, He will guide us.
I hope these books help kids and adults to be purposeful in accomplishing great things.
The journals measure 8.5" x 11" and contain pages for three months-worth of pages to set and track goals.
To purchase My Big Goals: A Journal for Kids and Teens click here.
To purchase Good Works: A Goal-Setting Journal click here.
See videos below for an inside look.
Jesus said whoever gives a cup of water to one of His disciples, in His name, will be rewarded for it (Mark 9:41.) After attending a special Mother's Day Tea at a local church earlier this month, I have to believe that goes for cups of Earl Gray, as well. Not only was I immensely blessed by the show of love from the church, but the event also led me to discover a company that does much more than give water, all in the name of Christ.
Lewisville Baptist Church planned their tea party for the weekend before Mother's Day and extended an invitation to all women and girls in the community. I'm so glad my daughters and I went. There was such a sweet spirit of love and Christian fellowship, and the tables were all so beautifully decorated. The ladies of the church had gone to great lengths to ensure their guests had a special experience, even printing beautiful menus that described all the varieties of tea being served. And the food! What a spread!
Now, I enjoy tea, but I'm no connoisseur. For most of my life, tea usually meant throwing eight bags of Luzianne orange pekoe in a pot of boiling water (4 if you had the family size) and after a few minutes, dissolving a cup and a half of sugar into the dark liquid in a gallon jug, then filling the rest of the jug with tap water, giving it a stir, and serving over ice. That's still a great way to do it, but the tea party my daughters and I attended reminded me there are so many varieties of tea to be explored and enjoyed.
I chose the "African Chai" at the party and ended up drinking three cups! (Plus, a cup of coffee, because I'm almost always going to get coffee when it's available.) I was so impressed with the flavor of the tea, and since the pastor's lovely wife told me where they'd purchased it, I ordered some online just a couple days later.
Not only is this tea amazing, but the company that sells it, New Creation, is a faith-based non-profit that works to counteract the human trafficking trade around the world. From their website: "Every item in our shop is created by the hands of a survivor or a vulnerable person that is at risk of being trafficked. We believe this ethical work is a key element to breaking the cycle of poverty + human trafficking."
I purchased two tins of loose-leaf tea, that each came with an adorable, hand-carved wooden teaspoon, and I also bought a book about prayers to change the world (they sell lots more than tea.) This was a fun purchase for myself, and I've been enjoying my tea in a new mug I bought recently, too (from Amazon, pictures below.)
I don't usually post about products, and there are zero affiliate links in this post. I'm just excited to share about a great company I've found and how I'm now enjoying at least a daily cup of hot tea, and how, when I do, I think of the new friends I made and remember feeling the love of God at a tea party. God is so good to us with these continual blessings. Often, we just need to open our eyes to them.
The ladies of Lewisville Baptist Church, as well as the New Creation company, bring to mind these verses: "There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all." 1 Corinthians 12:5-6
How has the Lord called you to minister? Maybe it's to make a mom feel special and loved, or maybe it's to rescue people from desperate situations. Maybe it's to pray for someone the Holy Spirit brings to mind. There's work for all of us to do every day. May we seek those opportunities to be a blessing!
A tingling sensation rises in my chest, accompanied by a gentle pressure and a bubbling up of emotion that lifts my shoulders and brings a smile to my face. The tingling spreads to my arms and I find myself singing a familiar song: I just feel like something good is about to happen. I just feel like something good is on its way.
Excitement. Sometimes, it overwhelms me. I'm usually at work, doing an ordinary task when, for a fleeting moment, I'm struck with jubilant anticipation. The feeling is almost always accompanied be the song, and it makes me want to jump to my feet and shout. Maybe these bursts of excitement are from too much caffeine (I drink an awful lot of caffeine,) but it feels more like the springing up of an eternal hope, like a hug from the Holy Spirit.
Am I alone in this, or do you feel it, too? Do everyday moments ever feel like the night before Christmas, or like there's one more number to be announced on a prize-winning ticket and all your numbers so far have been a match? That's what it's like for me. I just feel like something good is about to happen. I just feel like something good is on its way.
Granted, there are plenty of times where I feel anxiety or sadness in much the same way. But those occurrences seem more in line with my human nature. The excitement I experience has a supernatural sense to it. Maybe I feel it because the Lord is getting ready to drop a new idea into my spirit or reveal a new ministry opportunity. Maybe a personal dream is going to come true or someone in my family will accomplish something great. It sometimes feels like, at any moment, something unexpected and wonderful could happen to me. The next email I open or phone call I receive could be about marvelous, life-changing news. Any day now, the Lord could grant one of my heart's desires, simply because I delight in Him. (Psalms 37:4)
Or maybe the excitement is about something greater. I liken it to the feeling Zacchaeus must have had as he climbed down from the tree, knowing he was about to break bread with Jesus. It's the feeling I imagine in the parable of the ten virgins, for the ones who were ready for the bridegroom, when the cry was made at midnight, "He's coming! Go meet him!" The sensation could very well be my spirit "Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ." (Titus 2:4) That's definitely something good that's on its way.
Whatever the cause, I'm thankful. Even if it's because of too much caffeine, I just feel like something good is about to happen. I hope you do, too.
I just feel like something good is about to happen
I just feel like something good is on its way
He has promised that He'd open all of heaven
And brother, it could happen any day
William J. Gaither, copyright 1974
Here's a link to the Gaither Homecoming version of the song referenced in this post. (Jessy Dixon's part in this gets me!) And another great version is below.
Someone who made a dramatic impact on my life passed away recently, though I’m sure he didn’t know how important he was to me, how much he’s responsible for the person I’ve become. I hope I get a chance to tell him in heaven one day.
This special man was a businessowner, hardworking, dedicated, and successful. Close to twenty-five years ago, he took a chance on hiring a teenager whom he didn’t know, to work in his office, and that opportunity helped set me on the career path I’ve followed ever since. That “afterschool job” became the foundation for the work that pays bills and helps support my family, even as I pursue my passion for writing and ministry.
I worked several jobs as a teenager, sometimes more than one at a time, while also dual-enrolled in high school and community college. I think I was seventeen when I stopped in at a jewelry store in my hometown to ask if they were hiring. The answer was no, but the nice lady behind the counter told me the insurance agency where her daughter worked might need some help. An insurance agency? What could I do at an insurance agency? But this was in the days of paper files, and there were tons of documents to be alphabetized by client name and stored in metal cabinets.
I don’t remember the interview process or how much money he offered, but I remember that David Sloan took a chance on me. Right off the bat, his hiring me taught that courage pays off, that it’s worth it to try.
Eventually, my responsibilities in the afternoon expanded to answering the telephone if everyone else in the office was busy. I couldn’t do much more than place callers on hold, due to industry restrictions. To answer policy questions, I’d have to be a licensed agent. So, David made the decision to send me to classes in the evening and then pay for the test I’d have to pass to be licensed. His investment in me gave me confidence that I can do hard things.
I was eighteen years old when I became a North Carolina Property and Casualty Insurance Agent. I was so proud of that little card. It felt like I’d accomplished something big. Because of David, I learned that accomplishing big things feels good.
David was a good boss. He was stern when he should have been—helping to shape my work ethic and sense of professionalism—but lenient when I needed grace. Though I couldn’t see all these things then, that first office job, and the commitment it required, helped me grow as a person.
But it wasn’t just about the work. David treated me with respect. Along with the two other employees there, he cared about what went on in my life outside of work. At Christmas, when he and his wife hosted a party at their home, they invited me, the teenage part-timer. He taught me the value of being part of a team.
I worked parttime at the office for around two years, I think, before I moved on to a full-time job at a bigger agency in another town, with David’s full support. Within a year at that job, I was promoted and transferred to another city, where I would eventually meet my husband. I floundered somewhat in the job world during my early twenties, still maturing, and finding my footing as an adult. But my background in insurance eventually led to employment with a company where I discovered new skills as a Business Analyst. Moving to an Information Technology position opened doors I never imagined, and even now, in my current work for a software development company, I can trace every career advancement back to my start as a filing clerk at that little office in my hometown.
So, where would I be had it not been for David Sloan? Would I have met my husband? Would I have a good job now? Would I have the ambition to pursue a writing career and an Information Technology career while raising four kids? Maybe. You see, I know it really wasn’t David, but God, Who shaped my life. God had a plan for me long before I knew it, but David is the person God used, along with many, many others—my parents, church, friends, other generous employers (two, in particular, that had a similar impact as Mr. Sloan)—to put me on this path. I’m so glad David is part of my story; I’m so thankful for his kindness; and, in his memory, I’m inspired to make a difference in another's life, should God give me the opportunity.
Who knows the impact one person can have on another? Positive. Negative. Lifechanging. It may be impossible to tell, but the effect of our decisions can extend beyond ourselves and shape the lives of others for years to come. May we all attempt to live graciously, to offer help and opportunities to those who need them. May we strive to see value in others, to take a chance on investing in someone else's life. May we all have a heart like David.
My sincere condolences to the family and close friends of David Sloan, who passed away March 13, 2022.
Click here to read more about his life and legacy.
Please help me, Lord, I prayed. Please make this easy.
My dentist visits are times of fervent prayer. During even the simplest of procedures, I almost always end up crying from anxiety, at least a little, and it seemed the recent visit to fill two cavities would be no different. As the dentist came at me with the needle, I prayed harder in my mind. Please help me get through this. My prayer was desperate, pleading.
Then something life-changing happened. The dentist poked the needle into my gum, and I stopped praying. I quit begging God to help me. Instead, I began to thank God for being so good. I changed my prayers into praises, and the panic lifted--it dissolved and floated toward the heavens with my words of adoration. It was the most painless injection of Novocain ever. So, I kept praising, right through the drilling, and the result was nothing short of miraculous.
You are Magnificent, Marvelous, Wonderful, Worthy. Magnificent, Marvelous, Wonderful, Worthy. Over and over, I offered those words silently. At some point, I remember thanking God for a good dentist who can fix my teeth.
In a gentle voice, the dentist said, "You're doing good," as he worked. He always says that, because he's kind and genuinely empathetic about my anxiety. But for the first time, I actually felt like I was doing okay. Not just getting by. Not just managing. I was good.
Psalm 34:1 rang in my mind. I will bless the LORD at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. And though the praises weren't actually coming from my mouth--a little hard to do when your teeth are being drilled--they were there in my heart, thanks to the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Who knew what I needed to do. God heard my original request to make the visit easy, and He used my praises to accomplish it.
I've visited the dentist a lot over the past year, since I finally decided to prioritize oral health over my fear, and I've still got a few more visits left to get all the problems corrected. But if I can just remember my "secret weapon," I don't think I'll dread the next visit so much. Now to try praising the Lord on an elevator...
What makes you panic? Maybe praise is your answer, too.
Maybe a better question is, "Why not memorize them?" In an age where we can look up most anything in seconds, memorization of lists and facts has become a lost skill. But scholars suggest that memorizing information increases the brain's capacity to learn*, and when we memorize something, it becomes part of us.
Memorizing the Books isn't as important as actually reading and studying the Bible, but it is a way to affirm our commitment to making the Bible an important part of our lives. Knowing the names of the Books in order is useful for locating Scriptures easily. Many people are able to recite song lyrics, sporting event schedules, and network television lineups with little effort. What if we invested some of that same brain power in the list of sixty-six Books that make up the Holy Bible?
My nine-year-old son recently recited the thirty-nine Books of the Old Testament in front of our congregation (full disclosure: there was a monetary reward involved,) and he's working on learning the twenty-seven books of the New Testament. I learned them all when I was a child, too, but I'm having to re-learn part of the list now, and the refresher course is fun. Especially since he and I are working on memorizing them together.
What about you? Does this sound like a challenge you'd like to try? A quick internet search for "how to memorize the Books of the Bible" provides an enormous list of articles, blogs, and videos that could be helpful. If you're a visual person, a colorful poster is a great tool. (I love the one I bought for my Sunday School class, but it's no longer available.) Maybe try this free printable from www.1plus1plus1equals1.com. Or, if you memorize best through music, search the web for "Books of the Bible song." There are even videos that instruct how to pronounce the names of the Books.
Memorizing the Books of the Bible doesn't have to be accomplished in one day. If you set a goal of learning eleven names per week, you'll be able to recite them all in six weeks! Just set a goal that's right for you and stick to it. Make it a family project or challenge a friend to learn them with you.
I love having a worldwide web of data at my fingertips (and a Table of Contents in the front of my Bible,} but the internet can never replace the power of the human brain. If you haven't memorized the list of Books in order, give it a try. Why not?
*Source: Psychology Today, William Klemm, Ph.D., senior professor of Neuroscience at Texas A&M University.
I'm trying to get comfortable sharing messages on camera every once in a while. (TikTok filters really help.) So here are some thoughts about an experience I had recently, when I was convicted in my spirit for saying "I can't." I hope this message encourages you.
I made a mistake this week. For days it has haunted me. It makes my stomach twist and tighten and my chest ache to think about it. Agonizing—that’s what living with my mistake has been like. All over a social media post.
When I shared on Facebook about our house search, and that we’d had to back out of a contract for the home we’d fallen in love with, I thought it was innocent, just telling friends about the journey. The post was set to private, after all. But the owners of the property somehow found out about it and weren’t happy with what I shared. When I got a phone call confronting me about it, I was devastated. I was embarrassed. I cried. I wanted to hide from the world (and I tried for a little while.) I probably should have known better than to share what I did, but my post wasn’t meant to cause harm. I didn’t mean to mess up. And my impulse was to swear off social media forever.
My reaction might seem silly, but I can’t stand it when people are upset with me. And I hate to make mistakes. Every time I share on social media, I read what I’ve written multiple times to make sure there isn’t an error that will make me look foolish, and especially that I haven’t said something that might hurt someone’s feelings or make them think less of me. So, when I do the very thing I’m so cautious to avoid, it’s torturous to my psyche.
Years ago, I was healed of anxiety issues. Sometimes, the panic tries to sneak back in, and I have to remind myself that I’m healed. It’s when I’m faced with conflict or the consequences of mistakes that I have to do the most reminding. After my social media flub this week, a barrage of stupid mistakes flooded my memory. They piled on top of one another. Thus, this blog. The memories won’t leave me alone, so I’m facing a few by writing about them.
When I was in my late teens, I was by myself in the office on a Saturday at one of my part-time jobs. The phone rang and I answered. The caller sounded like a nice old man. He asked for another employees’ phone number. The list was printed and posted on the wall next to me, and I wanted to help the man out. Next to the lady’s name and number was printed, “Do not give this out.” But the man sounded so sweet. He convinced me that he was her friend. I was young and naïve. I gave the man the phone number, only to find out later, from my very unhappy boss, that the man had been harassing the lady and she’d had to have her number changed because of him. Because of my mistake, she had to have her number changed again. It’s been over twenty years, and I am still sad about what I did.
At twenty, I worked in a different office as a receptionist. One morning, when I got dressed for work, I questioned the outfit. Was the top too lowcut for the office? I stood in front of the mirror, turning and leaning, scrutinizing to decide if the shirt was appropriate. I decided to go with it, only to be approached by the office manager at some point in the day and told never to wear it to work again. I was mortified. I had tried to make a good decision because I did care about how I looked. I didn’t want to be dressed immodestly. I just made the wrong choice.
Not long ago, I did a small task for someone that I loved, thinking that I was being helpful. Instead, the person was offended by my action. They thought I was trying to take over their responsibility, and they haven’t spoken to me since. My mistake this week brought back the hurt of that broken relationship so strongly. The feeling of helplessness. Of confusion. I meant no harm. But somehow, my actions did damage, and I can’t fix it, though I tried.
This week, I was reminded again how quickly things can go from fine to not, from calm to gut-wrenching. Yes, it may seem like I’m overreacting, but the fear of being reprimanded for the next mistake is very real. I often worry, did I thank that person for the gift or compliment? Did they know I was sincere? Did I forget to speak to so-and-so? Did I slight someone by accident? Were they hurt? Are they mad? Did I sound boastful? The questions are endless because I genuinely care about people, and I care what they think about me (maybe too much.)
There are tons more mistakes I could talk about, some bigger, some smaller than the examples here. And I haven’t even talked about sin. This blog will be much too long if I start down that path. So, what’s my point? Is it all hopelessness? Of course, not. That’s never the point.
A few days ago, when I was crying over an action that I couldn’t undo, there was one thing that brought me comfort. I said to myself, “Jesus loves me. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves me.” The Bible says, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38, 39) I’m pretty sure that includes my mistakes. Regardless of what others think about me, He loves me, and that’s all I need to know.
I’ll make more mistakes, for sure. (Writing all this down and sharing it could be a mistake, just like the Facebook post that started it.) But I can handle the fear of messing up again because my mistakes will never change His love for me. I struggle with anxiety sometimes, but no matter what, Jesus loves me. I don’t always get things right, but Jesus loves me. I do foolish things sometimes, but Jesus loves me. I mess up, but Jesus loves me. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves me. Jesus loves me. And He loves you, too.
Do you need reassurance that God knows the end from the beginning? That's what I got out of a story from Exodus this week.
In chapter three, God spoke to Moses, instructing him to lead the Hebrew people out of Egyptian bondage. Moses was told to go before Pharaoh and demand that he let God's people go. But God told Moses, "And I am sure that the king of Egypt will not let you go, no, not by a mighty hand." (v 19) God already knew that Pharaoh would say no. The next verse says, "And I will stretch out my hand, and smite Egypt with all my wonders which I will do in the midst thereof: and after that he will let you go." (v 20)
God knew how things would play out, and each of the plagues was part of His plan. He wasn't surprised when Pharaoh changed his mind about letting the Hebrews go the first, second, third, or ninth times. But it doesn't seem that Moses was privy to the details. He only knew about each plague when he was given the next assignment to petition Pharaoh (with threats of water turning to blood, frogs, lice, flies, livestock pestilence, boils, hail and fire, locusts, darkness, and the death of the firstborn children.) God knew that Moses would come before Pharaoh multiple times with the same result. (Also see Exodus 7:2-4.)
I don't understand why we face certain challenges, except that they can refine us and help us grow closer to God. But sometimes it's tempting to want Him to press fast-forward on the battle and get us to the victory. Or at least give us a hint about when it will be over. I want to know what I'm up against, on a scale of one to ten plagues. But His plans are good, even when I don't understand.
Our God is not bound by time. He is already in the future, even while He's here with us in every situation. He knows the end of the story. In every difficulty, we can take comfort in knowing that, in time, we'll be able to simply "stand still, and see the salvation of the LORD." (Exodus 14:13)
My ten-year-old is a cheeky one. She recently overheard me on the phone, telling my mother that my husband had taken two of our kids to the store while I stayed home with "the other two."
"What--we don't have names anymore?" my daughter quipped.
She shot me a pretend look of indignance, and I chuckled, which was her goal. But her joke immediately reminded me of something I'd recently studied, about three characters from the Bible whom some refer to as "the three Hebrew children.”
Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego are often referred to in this generic way, in story books and songs, as if the young men who refused to bow to King Nebuchadnezzer's golden statue in the book of Daniel didn't each have a name. But the interesting thing is, Shadrack, Meshack, and Abednego aren't even their real names. Those are only their slave names.
Daniel 1:6,7 tells us, "Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah: Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego".
From a transcribed sermon from the late Rev. Chuck Smith, I learned that Hananiah means "Beloved of the Lord", but his Babylonian captors changed his name to Shadrack, meaning "Illumined by the sun god." Mishael means "Who is as God?", but it was changed to Meshack, meaning "Who is like Shak?" Shak was a false Babylonian deity. Azariah means "the Lord is my help." They changed it to Abednedgo, which means "the servant of Nego", another false god of the region. (Along the same lines, Daniel means "God is judge" while Belteshazzar means "Baal's prince.")
Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah had beautiful names that spoke of the goodness of God, but they were given names that meant much the opposite. Their new names paid tribute to idols. What a heavy weight that must have been for "the three Hebrew children" who served the true God! But, even though history remembers them mostly by these slave names, their stories prove that they never forgot who they really where.
When these three young men were threatened with death but still refused to bow, it was because they knew that no one else can take the place of God (Mishael), and that they could be brave in the face of danger because God was their help (Azariah). They trusted that God loved them (Hananiah). Their slave names did not define them. They remembered who they were in God.
Like the Babylonian captors, our enemy assigns labels in an attempt to break us. The world calls us things far removed from the truth, and people spin words to cause discord and tear us down. If you claim to be a patriot, they'll say you're a nationalist. If you stand up as pro-life, they'll call you anti-choice. If you love someone but don't agree with all their choices, they'll declare that you're a bigot. If you're a traditionalist, they'll call you old-fashioned. If you're a Creationist, they'll call you anti-science. If you're in love with Jesus, they'll call you an extremist. But the world's labels don't define us; we don't have to accept them. If you're a child of God, that's the only title that matters.
Some of the names people should reject might be related to their circumstances, rather than their beliefs. Minority doesn't mean victim. Adopted doesn't translate to damaged. Broken doesn't mean worthless. Hurting doesn't mean hopeless. Don't buy what the devil is selling. He may try to give you a name, but it doesn't mean that's who you are.
Since the days of the early church, followers of Jesus have born the name. Acts 11:26 says, "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch." That's who we are. We're Christians, followers of Christ. When the world calls you something you're not, don't let it get you down. Keep following. Keep trusting. Remember who you are.
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Thank you for visiting my blog. I share devotional articles and musings about life, parenting, and the writing journey, as well as important news about my books. I hope you find something of interest here!
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