Small Acts of Kindness: Wedding Roses

By Sarah Van Diest

It was my wedding, well, it was my second wedding. I never dreamt I would have been divorced, much less get married a second time, but here I was, and ever so thankful to be here after such a long and difficult road.

I was nervous. And though I had an idea about how I wanted things to go, I didn’t have a solid handle on how to pull it off. I called in some friends to help make it happen. One did my hair. One did the food. One did the flowers. It was simple and it was perfect.

The wedding we planned was very small. Only family and a few friends were invited. Our pastor’s house served as our wedding venue. We had cheesecake and punch, the music was one guy with a guitar, and the kids played out in the backyard. It was cozy and sweet. I wouldn’t change a thing.

After our small ceremony, my wonderful groom took me off for our honeymoon and to the start of our new lives together. We left our five boys with various family member and went away for a week of learning to be us.

The boys were really the only thing I thought about back home.

But one of my sweet friends thought of something else. After the wedding, she grabbed my bouquet of red roses and dried them, preserving them beautifully for me. When we returned home from our honeymoon, she came over to deliver the bouquet. It was such a sweet surprise!

I had no idea how much that gesture would mean to me, but when she handed them to me, I cried. I’m still not exactly sure what the tears meant, but I think it was all things combined together: a second marriage, a blended family, a new start, and the knowledge of dear friends to support and cheer us on.

I still have those roses, 13 years later. I keep them as a reminder of that day and of my thoughtful friends and all they did to help make that day so special. They remind me that tiny gestures of kindness can be enormously impactful. They encourage me to be thoughtful of others. And they tell me that the kindness doesn’t have to be huge to be meaningful.

Click to tweet: Small acts of kindness. Kindness doesn’t have to be huge to be meaningful. #kindnessmatters #amreading


Sarah Van Diest is a writer and editor. She’s the mother of two boys, stepmother to three more, and wife to David. Sarah wrote this book as letters to a dear friend whose life was turning upside down. She’s done this for years for numerous friends and will continue to, Lord willing. It’s her gift to them. It’s hope written down.


God in the Dark

When you are in the dark places of your life, Sarah Van Diest offers a companion for the path you are walking. You will find a voice of comfort and truth to call you back to the light, to help you see that you are never alone, never too far gone, and never unloved. This collection of 31 devotions doesn’t minimize the reality of your struggles, but rather points you to where God is—walking right alongside you. Receive this hope in the pain, God in the Dark.

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Why I Decided to Get a Tattoo-Part 2

By Jennifer Hallmark

**If you missed it, you’ll find part 1 here...

Hello, world! It’s Sunday, January 21. I’ve just left the church, and I’m driving home. After the service, standing in the parking lot, I showed my daughter my tattoo. I can’t help but smile because I’ve just totally shocked her. I didn’t think it was possible.

She asked if it hurt. In fact, even today, that’s the question I’m asked the most.

Yes, it hurt. A lot.

But really not as bad as I imagined. I’m a writer, and I have a big imagination.  I went in with a large cup of iced coffee and my friend, so I was ready. The artists were very professional and the parlor was super clean, which was the main thing I’d been researching for the last six months.

The lady and I discussed again what I wanted (we’d already been chatting on FB messenger), I paid her, and she went to get the template for the word “fearless.” I’d picked a specific font, one where the letters were in cursive, but the “r” wasn’t joined to the “l.” That way, it could read fearless or fear less.

In life, I’ve always been cautious, conservative, and reserved. Nothing wrong with that except when I let it affect my walk with God and my witness. Or it comes between me and my family and friends. So this year, I want to fear less and faith more.

I love the little story that says, “Fear knocked on the door. Faith answered. No one was there.” That’s how I want to live. I’m not there yet. Every day, I ask God to help me recognize fear and shut the door by my faith in Him.

Anyway, the whole process from when I entered the shop lasted about an hour and a half. I’d already purchased the soap and ointment and things for aftercare. It’s healed well.

Am I ready for another one?

No. I broke through that wall and it is enough. It’s taken me a few months to get up the courage to share it with y’all. I shake my head as I think how crazy I am to get so worked up over a tattoo. But one of my fears throughout my life has been fear of rejection. So, it makes sense.

Why have I shared this over the last two weeks? I guess it’s mostly for me. I have my first novel coming out in June of 2019 with Firefly Southern fiction, and I’m already struggling a little with what people will think of my book. Will they cringe? Laugh? Love it? Or reject it?

I give these fears to God. I like to say I don’t write for God; I write with Him. We laugh and cry together as I pen words that reduce me to a transparent, vulnerable state I’d rather not be in, at times. But it’s a healing place.

And it’s me.

Hello, world!

Click to tweet: Why I decided to get a tattoo. My daughter asked if it hurt. In fact, even today, that’s the question I’m asked the most. #tattoo #faith

Me signing my contract

Why I Decided to Get a Tattoo-Part 1

By Jennifer Hallmark

Hello, world! It’s Saturday. January 20, 2018 at 10:15 a.m.

Guess where I’m going today? I’ve kept it a secret from most of the people I know. Before I tell you, I’d like to explain how I got here. Or try anyway.

I’m the oldest child in my family, a melancholy introvert and a creative perfectionist (in recovery). 🙂

When I was six-years-old, my dad became sick. Really sick. It started with numbness in his feet and legs and progressed until he was unable to walk. No one could diagnose what was wrong with him. Within a couple of years, he was unable to work, even in a wheelchair.

We lived in Florida at the time but moved back to Alabama to be close to the family. Within a year, my parents and I gave our hearts to Jesus.

Somehow, in the years to follow, I imagined that if I could only do everything right, maybe my dad could get back to how he once was.  Between the seventh and twelfth grade, I only made three B’s. Two in typing (yes, I’m that old) and one in physics. I did well in sports and was very involved in our youth group at church.

At the age of fourteen, I sincerely sought God for two weeks and saw prayers answered as He drew closer and became more real to me than ever before. By the age of sixteen, I was as sold out to God as possible and made a vow during a time of prayer. I told God I would never drink, smoke, do drugs, have sex outside of marriage, or go to R-rated movies. For a good Baptist teen, these were the five worst things I could think of.

A few years later, I married, moved, and joined a new church. Unfortunately, the church was steeped in legalism and by the time I reached my late twenties, I was well on my way to being a modern-day Pharisee. I couldn’t see it at the time, but I was judgmental, critical, and all the other things that make up a “religious” person. I’d lost sight of my first love.

Then, when I was twenty-eight, my dad died suddenly of an aneurysm. My world crashed. I didn’t know what to do. My works had not lengthened my dad’s life like I thought. So, it must be my fault he died. If only I could have done better. I despised myself.

A few years later, I changed churches again, and God slowly brought me back to my first love. Then He began to show me who I’d become.

For the last twenty years, He’s been peeling back layer after layer of law and works from me, where I had tried to earn His love instead of accepting the free gift. It’s not that wanting to do the right thing is bad; it’s the ulterior motive behind our actions. In my quest to be perfect, I listened to anyone and everyone who seemed to have the answer to what I needed to do rather than listening to God.

If a preacher on television said you need to pray for an hour, I added it to my list. If my church said don’t smoke, I didn’t. If a teacher said my kids needed to do something, I tried to do it. Occasionally, God broke through my bent to the law of works, and I was actually led by the Spirit, but so often I wasn’t. Instead, I was driven by people’s opinions and my fear of what others thought. I didn’t like who I was, but I couldn’t seem to change.

This resulted in my health steadily declining in my thirties. I experienced burnout over and over again as I continually struggled to change. But as much as I wanted to change, I still wanted validation from people for everything I did. I wanted to always ask permission before doing something. But the problem was, especially in gray areas, people differed.

As a teen, I had obeyed God out of my love for Him, looking to Him as a Father. At some point, I let my fear of failure, fear of rejection, fear of people’s opinions, and fear of God’s disappointment take control. In my mind, God was no longer a Father. He had become my taskmaster.

It took years in the Word and stepping out time and again in faith to break the hold of Phariseeism to begin trusting God and His grace.

Today I’m taking another step. I’ve stressed over this decision to the point of a full-blown panic attack. But I’ve decided to look at it as an adventure instead. An exploit, which me, my friend, Joyce, and God are going on together.

I’m getting a tattoo on my foot that says “fearless.”

Some of you might think I’m crazy for stressing and worrying about it. Others probably think I’m crazy for getting a tattoo. My mom probably won’t understand.

I don’t know if I fully do.

But after six months of thinking about it, I’ve reached a place of relative peace. I asked Joyce to go with me and talked with my husband about my decision.

It’s so not me. But deep down, it is me. The creative writer part of me. So, I’m diving in, taking the plunge, stepping off the cliff and building my wings on the way down.

God’s with me and I’m okay.

Come back next Wednesday and I’ll let you know how it went.

Until then…

Click to tweet: Why I decided to get a tattoo. It’s so not me. But deep down, it is me. #tattoo #faith

Small Acts of Kindness: The Love of a Child

By Jennifer Hallmark

No one can show kindness like a child. Young children have a generally happy, carefree look at life, not yet jaded by the pain and sorrow associated with growing up.

My granddaughter, Phoebe, came to visit one day, bearing the gift of a picture she’d drawn for my refrigerator. The simple drawing of me and her with lots of love touched my heart and I still display it to this day.

If you have children you care for, encourage them to draw or make simple gifts for people around you that need to be lifted up. This doesn’t have to be expensive but it can make the world of difference for someone struggling.

The difference made by the love of a child…

P.S. And I love that she drew me with long hair 🙂

 

Small Acts of Kindness – A Child’s Prayer

By Betty Thomason Owens

My Dad died eleven years ago. It was unexpected. I was going to the hospital that morning to bring him home. Instead, I received a call that his procedure had not gone well, please come at once. By the time my mom and I arrived, he was gone.

The shock of the painful loss, and the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day, left me with a painful migraine. As my family gathered in the kitchen of my house to discuss Dad’s final arrangements, I lay in bed, too sick to move.

The door opened, letting in a sliver of light. My six-year-old granddaughter, Sophie, whispered to me. “Grandma, can I pray for you?”

Fresh tears filled my eyes. “Yes, of course you can.”

She stood beside me, laid her small hand on my forehead, and prayed. I don’t remember her exact words, but she prayed for my comfort, because I was “so sad,” then for my healing from the painful headache. “I love you, Grandma,” she said, as she left the room.

Now, I figured I had a problem. If I didn’t get up, she might think her prayer didn’t work. Or maybe God hadn’t heard. My head still hurt, and nausea still churned my stomach, but I got up slowly, went in and washed my face, then crept out to the kitchen.

Sophie and her sisters hugged me. Her daddy (my son), brought me ginger ale and crackers. Gradually, the pain subsided and I realized, it had gone. I was reminded of Peter’s mother-in-law in the Bible, the woman for whom Jesus had prayed (Matthew 8: 14-15). When I made the effort to rise and join my family, healing manifested.

Sophie never doubted. And though it seemed a small thing, her prayer of faith released me, and gave me the strength I needed to rise and join the living.

Click to tweet: Small acts of kindness. A child’s prayer makes the difference. #kindness #prayer


Betty Thomason Owens loves being outdoors. Her favorite season is spring, when she can work in the yard or take long walks, while thinking through a troublesome scene in one of her stories.

She is a multi-published, award-winning author of historical fiction, and fantasy-adventure. An active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW), she leads a critique group, and serves as vice-president/secretary of the Louisville Area group. She’s a mentor, assisting other writers, and a co-founder of Inspired Prompt, a blog dedicated to inspiring writers. She also serves on the planning committee of the Kentucky Christian Writers Conference.

Her works include the Legacy series and Kinsman Redeemer series, published by Write Integrity Press, and Jael of Rogan two-book fantasy series in a second edition, published by Sign of the Whale BooksTM, an imprint of Olivia Kimbrell PressTM.

You can learn more about her at BettyThomasonOwens.com. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram.

Small Acts of Kindness: The Right Encouragement to Soldier On

By Stephanie L. Robertson

The blue and navy bars mocked me from my computer screen.  Like a staggered row of dingy tenements, those statistics told me one thing:

Your posts are irrelevant.   Give up. 

I admit, I have shed tears of frustration over those metrics.  Since 2013, I’ve poured hours of work to create what industry professionals call a “writer’s platform.”  It’s supposed to assure folks in the publishing world that I’m marketable.  They can take a chance on my novel because people like to read my work.

The proof is in those little rectangles that indicate the number of visitors to my website.

Please forgive me if I sound cynical, but “build it and they will come” apparently doesn’t apply in the blogosphere.

Trust me, I have targeted, focused, spent hard-earned freelance writer funds, promoted, boosted, SEO-ed, and spent more money to promote my site.

And yet, sometimes it seems as though I’m wasting time and resources trying to build up enthusiasm for my site.

So I did what any self-respecting writer would do:  I begged and pleaded for site visitors in the post I wrote on March 1, 2018:  Pouring Out My Heart [http://www.sweetgumlife.com/2018/03/01/pouring-out-my-heart/]

In return, I received some small acts of kindness.

One of my brick-and-mortar friends (someone I know outside of the virtual world) offered up hope.  Essentially, she commented: Don’t give up!

An author friend sent me an entire paragraph.  Essentially, she commented: Don’t give up!

A close relative sent me a one-liner.  Essentially, she commented: Don’t give up!

And my dear father-in-law sent me a few short words.  Essentially, he commented: Don’t give up!

Sometimes, an act of kindness is simply a smile from a stranger.

At other times, it comes in a few comments, which reflect our Father’s love.

And gives us just the right encouragement to soldier on.

Click to tweet: Encouragement can help someone who’s about to give up. #kindnessmatters #smallactsofkindness


Stephanie L. Robertson is a writer and editor who maintains a southern lifestyle blog at www.SweetgumLife.com.

A busy Christian wife and mom, Stephanie and her husband of 19 years live in the Huntsville area with their teenage daughter.

Stephanie has a self-published short suspense story on Amazon and is working on adding a novel.  When not immersed in mom/wife life, she enjoys photography, Pinterest projects, coffee with family and friends, and immersing herself in a good suspense novel.

Favorite Friday Fiction: Frankenstein

Today’s classic, Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley is a really well-written book and an interesting read. I would recommend reading the book because shows like “The Munsters” and others have changed the essence of this true classic novel…

Click to tweet: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is a true classic novel, the premier monster story of English literature. #amreading #FridayReads


Frankenstein: The premier monster story of English literature—a tale of science pursued to horrifying extremes

An origin story nearly as famous as the book itself: One dreary summer on the shores of Lake Geneva, amid discussions of galvanism and the occult and fireside readings from a collection of German ghost stories, Lord Byron proposed a game. Each of his guests—eighteen-year-old Mary Godwin and her future husband, the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, among them—would try their hand at writing a tale of the supernatural.

Unable at first to think of a plot, Mary was visited one sleepless night by the terrible vision of a corpse, a “hideous phantasm of a man,” lurching to life with the application of some unknown, powerful force. The man responsible, a “pale student of unhallowed arts,” fled in horror from his creation, leaving it to return to the dead matter from which it had been born. But the monster did not die. It followed the man to his bedside, where it stood watching him with “yellow, watery, but speculative eyes”—eyes of one who thought, and felt.

The novel that Mary Shelley would go on to publish, the legend of Victor Frankenstein and his unholy creation, and their obsessive, murderous pursuit of each other from Switzerland to the North Pole, has been the stuff of nightmares for nearly two centuries. A masterpiece of Romantic literature, it is also one of the most enduring horror stories ever written.

Small Acts of Kindness: Lunch with a Friend

By Kathy Cheek

My friend and I hadn’t met for lunch in a long time since she had moved across town and was going to a new church. After we were seated and were sipping our iced tea, I asked “How are you doing?” and her “fine” didn’t sound fine at all.

When her voice started to tremble and tears welled up in her eyes I knew something was wrong and when she began to spell out a difficult situation in their family she also shared that she hadn’t told anyone because she was afraid of what others would think.

She admitted that holding it in and not talking to anyone seemed to just make the stress harder to bear. She finally realized she needed to be open and we talked about the fact that when we don’t share our burdens we end up adding burden to burden.

What do I mean by adding burden to burden?  The best way I know to describe it is when we have difficulty sharing our burden with others because we think it is too much for them to handle, we are adding a new burden to our already existing burden. This happens when we are reluctant to open up with people and talk about what we are going through, not wanting to impose our problems on others. When we keep it in and think it is too much to put on others, we are adding burden to burden.

God made His family to have that desire to come alongside hurting people and help them through the hard times. This is part of His plan to carry us through those difficult times and out of the valley. God goes with us and brings others along to walk the journey with us.  Pain is not a journey meant to be walked alone. We don’t have to walk alone when we let friends and family help us in our time of need.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort those who are in any trouble, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

Click to tweet: Small acts of kindness. Lunch with a friend. #smallactsofkindness #kindnessmatters


Kathy Cheek writes faith-filled devotions and is published in LifeWay’s Journey magazine and Mature Living, and also contributes to several devotional sites, including Thoughts About God, Christian Devotions, and CBN.com.

Her favorite subject to write about is the rich relationship God desires to have with us and the deep trust it takes to live it out. She and her husband of 33 years live in the suburbs of Dallas, Texas and they have two daughters and one son-in-law who also reside in the Dallas area. You can read more of her devotions at www.kathycheek.com.

Kathy is thrilled to announce her book First Breath of Morning – A 90 Day Devotional is contracted to be published and will be out this fall! You will find info and a description of the book on her Book News page at Devotions from the Heart

 

Favorite Friday Fiction: Misstep by Deborah Dee Harper

Misstep by Deborah Dee Harper is a book I really enjoyed, laughing out loud at different parts of the book. Zany, believable characters and never knowing what is coming next made it another great read. Don’t miss this series. Book 2, Faux Pas, is good and I’m ready for Book 3. 🙂

Click to tweet: Misstep by Deborah Dee Harper. A laugh out loud fun read. #humor #FridayReads


Misstep (The Road’s End series book 1)

Winnie and Sadie are still fighting, and I’m still living in the strangest town on earth.

It’s December in Road’s End, Virginia, a tiny town long forgotten by anyone but its residents, where Colonel Hugh Foster and his wife, Melanie, have chosen to live—for better or worse. The jury’s still out on that one!

Road’s End is comprised entirely of senior citizens whose kids have grown and left for greener pastures. Hugh, Melanie, and Bristol (one of the few sane people in town) are faced with a crumbling church in desperate need of repair and renovation, a dwindling congregation of opinionated, ornery senior citizens, and a camel—yes, a camel. And if that’s not enough, the trio and the rest of the Road’s End residents, are soon mired in danger and intrigue when a group of gun-toting drug dealers arrive in town, bent on killing the church handyman, and conspiring to ruin the doggonedest record-breaking blizzard the town has ever seen.

Poor drug dealers.