Today I Choose

By Jennifer Hallmark

“This is the day the Lord has made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24 NKJV

Today I choose to be kind to myself.

Today I choose to be positive and think of the good in my life, not concentrating on the bad that calls so loudly…

Today I choose to enjoy all of my life, not just the parts that I call good…

Today I will write, love, laugh and be…my concentration will not be on doing…

Today I will be thankful for all the people in my life…people placed by a God who loves and cares for me…

Today I remember the people who have gone on to be with the Lord who influenced my life and I am grateful…

Today I will slow down and take time to enjoy the beauty of nature that God freely bestows on us daily, regardless of season…

Today I will tell people that I love them because I don’t know what tomorrow holds…

Today I will look for people to encourage, for there are people all around me who need to be uplifted…

Today I will not worry about what people think but meditate on what God thinks of me…

Today I will let the minor problems and inconveniences go and give the major ones to God…

Today I will remember the price that Jesus paid so that I could have abundant, eternal life, the price of His own life…

Today I will stop, listen and learn whatever God is trying to teach me through whatever means He is using…

Today I will ask God to help me display the fruit of His Spirit toward all the people I meet…

Today I choose to love myself as God loves me and not belittle myself any more…

Today I choose to live…

Click to tweet: Choice: Today I will tell people that I love them because I don’t know what tomorrow hold. #kindnessmatters #smallactsofkindness

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Favorite Friday Fiction: Murder at the Courthouse by A.H. Gabhart

Hi! As you might have guessed, I love to read. Some of my favorite genres are Southern fiction, speculative, fantasy, and mysteries. Murder at the Courthouse by A.H. Gabhart combines a murder mystery with small town USA. I thought the characters were well-developed and the plot good. I’ll probably read more of her books in the future…

Click to tweet: Murder at the Courthouse by A.H. Gabhart combines a murder mystery with small town USA. #Favorite Friday Fiction #FridayReads


Murder at the Courthouse

After a few years as a police officer in Columbus, Michael Keane has no trouble relaxing into the far less stressful job of deputy sheriff in his small hometown. After all, nothing ever happens in Hidden Springs, Kentucky. Nothing, that is, until a dead body is discovered on the courthouse steps. Everyone in town is a little uneasy. Still, no one is terribly worried–after all the man was a stranger–until one of their own is murdered right on Main Street.

As Michael works to solve the case it seems that every nosy resident in town has a theory. When the sheriff insists Michael check out one of these harebrained theories, his surprising discovery sends him on a bewildering search for a mysterious killer that has him questioning everything he has ever believed about life in Hidden Springs.

Bringing with her a knack for creating settings you want to visit and an uncanny ability to bring characters to life, A. H. Gabhart pens a whodunit that will keep readers guessing.

Digital Coupons: Click and Save

By Jennifer Hallmark

First published on the Inspired Prompt Blog

Extreme couponing. I tried it. Bought the special notebook, fixed all the tabs inside, and purchased a newspaper. According to the instructor (yes, I even went to a class), the money would soon be rolling in.

Except that was the only newspaper I ever bought. By the time I clipped all the coupons and filled my notebook, I was confused. And you don’t even want to know about the shopping trip with me stumbling all through Publix.

It didn’t work.

Now I’m not saying it won’t work, because people have proven it does. It just didn’t work for me. So I put my notebook in a drawer and whispered a prayer. “God, if I’m going to save money, there has to be an easier way.”

Cue the angelic choir.

Did you know your smart phone can carry digital coupons?  I’m no expert at this but I can tell you how it works with the stores that I clip them from. You can add what you want and when the coupon expires, it disappears. Most stores probably work in similar ways. Just get out your smart phone and let’s start collecting coupons and saving money.

The area I live in is very rural so I do most of my shopping in the small town of Moulton, fifteen miles away. The stores I use for couponing are Dollar General, CVS, and Gateway Foodland. I also use Publix digital coupons, but it’s about 35 miles away. Let’s start with the one I use most.

Dollar General-go to their website and sign up. Then you can go to digital coupons. You can look through the available coupons and add what you want to your phone. When I get an email with their new ad, I go to the coupon section and add more. At the moment, I have 292 coupons. Any time I’m shopping I can look through my coupons and add them to my list. If I’m in a hurry, I still enter my phone number in the payment terminal before I check out so it will look over my coupons for me. I’ve saved $99.43 so far using these coupons.

Gateway Foodland & PublixI do the same thing. Make an account, add coupons, then start saving. I have 190 coupons loaded at Foodland and close to that at Publix. And new coupons come each Wednesday to my email.

CVSThis one is a little different. I signed up for their extra care card since I purchase my prescriptions here. I add their deals from the app on my phone. I also get extra care bucks back (I have to spend at CVS) when I fill so many prescriptions and at different times get coupons for a percentage off certain items.

Ibotta-With this app, you first find offers on the app. Before you shop, add offers on products by completing simple tasks. Buy the products you selected at any participating store. Keep the receipt. Redeem your offers by taking a photo of your receipt. (You can scan the Wal-Mart barcode) They match the items you bought to the offers you selected and give you the cash. Your cash back will be deposited into your Ibotta account within 48 hours. I’m still undecided about this because it is time-consuming. But I cashed out for the first time and had it put on a $50 Walmart gift card. I enjoyed spending it. 🙂

I love couponing this way. Wednesday is usually the day I sit down, add all my coupons, and make my list. I can have everything added in thirty minutes or less and make my list for shopping.

Click to tweet: Did you know your smart phone can carry digital coupons? Find out more. #Savings #coupons

One more tip of a way I save money. I have the Wal-Mart app on my phone and I’m signed up for Savings Catcher. Again, I first created an account. I scan each receipt as I get them and they search for all the stores in the area for a lower price. Say, if Foodland has milk cheaper in their ads, Wal-Mart loads the difference on an e-shopping card. So far, I’ve saved over $50 from price compare.

Hooray! I can chunk the notebook, put my scissors away, and rid myself of the headache. Also, I could buy extra items to donate to a food bank or other charity and still save. I wonder what people will think up next?

Saving Money is My Super Power

By Amanda Hardin

I save money.

What’s your super power?

Are you picturing me with a red cape with a dollar sign on it? That’s me. A stay-at-home mother of three and with only one income things can be a bit tight. I’ve had sixteen years however, to perfect my money-saving skills.

I learned early on that babies only need a few items so pick what makes life a little easier. How about giving an item multiple uses like a changing pad on a dresser? Clothing swaps with family and friends have caused me to buy very little new clothing for my young children.

When I do have to purchase an outfit or two, we hit yard sales and thrift stores. I also shop seasonal clearances and buy for the following year (presents are also great to buy at this time). When the kids grow out of things, they go to the back of the closet for trading or thrifting.

The cheapest way to feed babies is to breast feed, but if you can’t, formula companies send out coupons monthly. This is great because depending on the type of formula the baby needs, it can be a small fortune. For my little ones in school, we pack snacks and lunches which can cost fifteen dollars or more per child each week if purchased from the school. I also like to use money savings apps like Wal-Mart savings catcher or Ibotta. Both give back money as gift cards which I save for Christmas.

Smoothies, detox

And how about the refrigerator? I save many things like orange and lemon peels for homemade cleaners and freeze chicken and vegetable scraps for broth. Freezing overripe fruits are wonderful for smoothies or fruit water. The best tip is to just eat clean from the start. Encourage water and fresh fruit when the children are young and save yourself the cost of expensive juices, sodas, and snacks later. Both your body and wallet will thank you for it.

The biggest food-related tip to save money is to eat at home instead of out. Ninety-eight percent of the time we cook at home. I meal plan so I have a game plan for those busy nights I’m tempted to hit the drive-thru. Sales and coupons play a big part in meal planning and I even hit a couple of stores a week. My super busy schedule makes planning my day and meals a must. I created a planner tailored perfectly for me at half of what it would have cost me to buy one.

Back to health, I forgo the expensive gym membership and hit the park and run for the cost of a decent pair of sneakers.  There are a lot of free apps out there to keep you knowledgeable and motivated. Some of my favorites are C25K,   Zombie’s Run!,and Google Fit.

The best thing we’ve done for our wallet has had a huge impact on our spirit. We celebrate Christmas on less money and instead focus on giving to others through food and toy drives, and serving at church or soup kitchens. This can be difficult when your kid comes home telling you what the other kids received for Christmas, but it is truly worth it.

For entertainment, we enjoy Redbox or just a simple game night (they get board games for Christmas). When we do go out, we opt for free local events and local and state parks like our local wildlife refuge. Fall is also a great time to hang out by a bonfire and drink cocoa. The library is a great source of entertainment from because you can rent movies, books, audio books, buy seriously discounted book, participate in the summer reading programs, book clubs, and a slew of other things.

For the home, I love to hang clothes out on the line in the fresh summer air. There is something quite therapeutic about being in the sun with a fresh breeze blowing that doesn’t make it seem like a chore, plus it can save a ton on electricity. And before we call an expert, we go to YouTube to make sure we can’t do repairs ourselves.

Click to tweet: The biggest life-changing money-saving decision we made was to live a debt-free life. #Savings #2018

We created a zero-based budget and live on only what we make. Learning to save money has benefited my family in more ways than we could count. We find creative ways to spend time together and it has given us a healthier life style.

So, what about it? Is saving money going to be your super power in 2018?


With reading being a passion since childhood, Amanda Hardin knew creating stories was what she was meant to do.  That comes hard being a stay-at-home mom of three. In other words, she is a housekeeper, chef, event planner, teacher, chauffeur, domestic engineer and household COO and CFO.  A job she has made easier by creating her own budgeting forms and daily planner.

She is a member of the Lawrence County Writer’s Guild.  She loves hiking, firearms, and running.  She has completed the Stoney Lonesome 5k Mud Run twice and is preparing to do the 2018 Warrior Dash.  In her spare time, she likes to read. Two of her favorite authors are James Rollins and Dean Koontz. She enjoys sharing some of her favorite childhood books with her children.

Small Acts of Kindness 2018

By Jennifer Hallmark

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.”-Aesop

The Small Acts of Kindness blog is built upon this quote, one that resonates within my soul.  I began blogging about kindness on May 18th, 2015.  Mondays seemed to be the day when people could use a shot of good news. So, with the help of others willing to share their stories, I embarked on a journey to share kindness, one small act at a time. Ellen Andersen liked the idea and soon joined me as a contributor and friend.

I took a parable from the teachings of Jesus to illustrate what kindness means to me.

Jesus says in the Bible, Luke 10:30-37:

 Then Jesus answered and said: “A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him,and departed, leaving him half-dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, ‘Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

And he said, “He who showed mercy on him.”

Then Jesus said to him, Go and do likewise.”

I want to do likewise, showing mercy and grace in the world around me. It hasn’t been easy much of the time. It’s not hard to make a phone card or send an encouraging card to a friend or family member. But when it comes to people that don’t treat me well or a stranger, I don’t often do like I want.

My melancholy and introverted personality mixed with a tendency to be timid and fearful make stepping out to make a difference difficult . But I still want to. So I often do it afraid.

A few days ago, I’d taken my mother to the eye doctor. We sat across from an elderly man with an Air Force cap on. It took me about twenty minutes to work up the courage to say ‘hello’ and then ask if he served in the Armed Services. His countenance immediately brightened, he smiled, and shared with me a little about the years he served (right after World War II). I thanked him for his service to our country. His smile grew bigger.

After that, we went back to watching a show on HGTV that played overhead. But when he left, he smiled again and wished me a Merry Christmas. I truly believed that small encounter helped him better enjoy the day. And, except for the uncomfortable moments where I wrestled to bring myself to say something, it really wasn’t that hard.

Click to tweet: Being kind is something we all can do. #kindnessmatters #payitforward

In 2018, I plan to share more kindness, even if I have to do it afraid. I hope you’ll join me!

Favorite Friday Fiction: Prayers of a Stranger: A Christmas Story by Davis Bunn

Prayers of a Stranger by Davis Bunn is a really well-written Christmas story. Bunn creates life-like characters like Amanda that you can’t help but like and root for. The highlight for me was Amanda’s trip to Bethlehem…

Click to tweet: Contemporary Christmas novel by internationally-acclaimed author, Davis Bunn. #Christmas #FridayReads


Prayers of a Stranger: A Christmas Story

While visiting the Holy Land, Amanda answers the prayers of a stranger . . . and begins an amazing Christmas journey.

Amanda Vance is ambivalent about her husband’s idea for a big family holiday up north. Last year she planned a special Christmas in their own home, carefully preparing a nursery and the keepsake ornaments for their newborn. Now that room stands as empty as her heart.

Then a neighbor’s mishap turns into a last-minute chance for Amanda to take a much-needed vacation to tour the Holy Land.

An extraordinary turn of events allows Amanda to help answer a young mother’s plea for healing. Then, filled with a sense of awe, Amanda visits the place of Jesus’ birth. There she discovers anew the miracle of the Christ child—God incarnate as a tiny, vulnerable baby.

Her return to Florida marks a momentous shift in her soul and in her marriage as she begins to realize that her journey didn’t end in the Holy Land. And that God doesn’t just answer prayers of strangers . . . but also those of her own heart.

“A great story filled with emotion, depth, and spiritual beauty.” —Debbie Macomber, #1 New York TimesBest-selling Author

Small Acts of Kindness: Closure

By Jennifer Hallmark

A New Year approaches and with it, a fresh start. In 2017, Ellen and I have enjoyed sharing small acts of kindness that affected us and also displaying kindness through the posts of guest bloggers. But there is one more act of kindness you can do for yourself before the New Year begins.

Several years ago, I was discussing the New Year with a friend and she told me how she was already praying about the New Year and setting goals.

“That’s always good to do. But I have one question for you,” I said. “Have you brought the year 2017 to a point of closure?”

Click to tweet: Finding closure before entering 2018. #NewYear #goals

She asked what I meant. I explained that in the thesaurus, the word closure compares to conclusion, end, close, and finalization. Had she brought this old year to a close? Have you? Below are several questions you can ask yourself so you can successfully end the year 2017.

(1)    Have I taken a moment to examine all the people in my life to make sure there is no bitterness or unforgiveness against any of them? The point is not whether they deserved to be forgiven even if they hurt you badly. When Jesus went to the Cross and suffered like He did so we could go to heaven, His love erased any excuse we might have to hold unforgiveness towards anyone for any reason. Reconciliation is not always possible, but with the help of God we can forgive.

(2)    Have I looked at all the events in my life and come to a place of peace/acceptance? Some things that happened to me this year were not good. Have I reached a place where I can move forward? It helps me to write my feelings down either in prayer form or a declaration. In a catastrophic event like the concert shooting in Las Vegas or the hurricanes that ravaged so many areas, I put into a prayer my thoughts and feelings of that day.

In an event, such as sickness or pain, I first write what the doctor said, then what God said in His Word. At the end, I write a declaration that I have chosen to believe God over man. I don’t deny the diagnosis. I simply believe God for healing, either in this lifetime or the next. During hard times, I can go back and read and remember, using these prayers and declarations to strengthen my faith and give me hope.

(3)    Have I examined my goals and dreams I had for 2017? Which goals did I reach? Which ones were probably unrealistic to begin with? As I look back at my accomplishments and the things I didn’t accomplish or finish, it will help me to set new goals, plans and dreams for 2018. I can also release my goals and dreams back to God and believe He has a purpose and plan within it all.

2018 offers a clean slate. Make sure and take a moment to bring 2017 to a point of closure. Then you’ll be free to start the New Year with faith and hope in the One who makes all things new.

Favorite Friday Fiction: The Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin

The Yuletide Angel by Sandra Ardoin is a sweet, historical romance set in the 1890’s at Christmas. Ardoin spins a feel-good story with rich characters and descriptive settings. Another good holiday read…

Click to tweet: The Yuletide Angel combines romance with small acts of kindness. #FridayReads #Christmas


The Yuletide Angel

It’s the 1890s in Meadowmead and someone is venturing out at night to leave packages at the homes of the needy. Dubbed “The Yuletide Angel,” no one knows the identity of this mysterious benefactor. 

No one, except Hugh Barnes, a confirmed bachelor who finds himself drawn to the outwardly shy but inwardly bold Violet Madison, a young woman who risks her safety to help others. 

When Violet confesses her fear of eviction from her childhood home, Hugh longs to rescue her. His good intentions are thwarted, however, when Hugh’s estranged brother shows up in town … and in Violet’s company. 

But Violet faces an even bigger threat. A phantom figure lurks in the shadows, prepared to clip the wings of her Yuletide Angel.

Favorite Friday Fiction: God Bless Us Every One by Eva Marie Everson

Cover photo for Favorite Friday FictionGod Bless Us Every One by Eva Marie Everson is a delightful tale which combines a contemporary story with Dickens’ in a masterful way. I really enjoyed how she wove A Christmas Carol and its themes throughout the book. A great read on a cold, wintery day…

Click to tweet: Why was A Christmas Carol by Dickens written in the first place? #Christmas #FridayReads


God Bless Us Every One

Charlene Dixon—called Charlie by family and friends—is devastated at the recent loss of her job. For the last five years, the twenty-seven-year-old has blossomed as the activities director of an exclusive all-girls school. But when a misunderstanding with the headmistress leads to a pink slip right before the holidays, Charlie packs up her dreams and returns to her grandmother, Sis, who raised Charlie as her own in the mountains of North Carolina.

When Charlie arrives—broken and confused—Sis immediately puts her granddaughter to work behind the scenes of the local school’s Christmas play, A Christmas Carol. Charlie doesn’t always like working with Dustin Kennedy, the drama teacher, but Sis encourages her to take a deeper look at why the book by Charles Dickens had been written in the first place and what it could teach Charlie about the needs of people in their own community.