Welcome to the 2016 book club

I think when you hear the same message from more than three people, you should take it seriously. And I’ve heard that several of you want more book suggestions and more opportunities for book discussions.

Finally, I think I’ve figured out how to do that for you.

Here’s what it will look like:

  • On the first day of every month I’ll host a three-book giveaway. Each month one person will win, and the package will include a children’s book, a novel and a non-fiction book. Look for these giveaways on the Simply Faithful Facebook page.
  • On April 15, June 15 and Aug. 15 I’ll host a book giveaway where six people will win a copy of the same book. Those people will be asked to discuss the book on the Simply Faithful Facebook page so the rest of us can determine if we might like to read it, too. Then, I’ll capture that discussion and share it here so it is easy to find for everyone.
  • In the fall, I will select a book for us all to read. I’ll interview the author and you’ll all have a chance to chat live with him/her on social media. This year, if the author is comfortable with it, we may offer live streaming on Facebook so you can see the author, too, while you are asking questions. (Yes, just like the Jetsons!)
  • I’m working on creating a monthly newsletter that will include suggestions for living a life of faith, free printables and book suggestions, along with Q&As with talented authors. If you are interested in receiving those newsletters, just slip your email address in the box on the bottom left.

Let’s try it. Sound good?

P.S. Feel free to share your book recommendations with me – especially for the fall. Thanks!

And the stationery giveaways start… now!

photo (1)Friends, remember how last week I told you I’d be giving away great stationery? Well, it’s starting now!

You have a chance to win the April “Sincerely Box,” which comes with four hand-lettered (crazy cool) greeting cards and four postage stamps to make keeping in touch easy. I’ll pick a winner Wednesday morning, so act fast.

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For those of you on Facebook, click here to enter. For those of you not on Facebook, just comment below and tell me why you’d like to win.

Also, we’ll have another stationery-themed giveaway next weekend, along with some free downloads. I hope you win!

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Learning to fly

photoSomewhere in the clouds above Baltimore, I remembered my first flight — remembered how 38 years ago I fell in love with take-off.

Every flight since, I’ve smiled as the aircraft picked up speed and its wheels left the pavement. Flight. Amazing flight.

Then, all those years later, I looked out my window and thought about the speed — the commitment — required to stay in flight. There’s no lengthy pause mid-air. No slowing down to look back over your shoulder.

If you’re flying, it works best if you’re fully committed to moving forward.

I think that may be the case with my writing, too.

The last few months I’ve been hovering around the ticket booth. I want my writing to grow, but it takes real, hard-earned cash to buy airline tickets and real, soul-deep work to craft something worthy to be read. And when I finally start? I second guess myself on the runway and in the air. I want a guarantee that the trip will be worth it.

If a pilot did that, we’d all get off the plane because we know that isn’t any way to fly.

So, let’s get serious about the writing, the mothering, the whatever-it-is-you-are-meant-to-do. Let’s fully commit. Let’s fly.

I read all of your thoughtful answers on my survey, and I’m working on some new things for you, dear readers. I don’t have hard dates for everything yet, but here is what you can expect:

  • I’m starting a monthly newsletter that will come to your email inboxes. You’ll see special content there, like interviews with authors and practical tips on living out your faith.
  • I’m creating devotionals, worksheets and decorative sayings that  you can easily download and print.
  • I’ll be hosting giveaways on a regular basis. For the next few weeks the giveaways will focus on stationery items since many of you enjoyed the series on sending more letters.  After that, I’m hoping to offer book giveaways at the beginning of each month. We have avid readers in our community, and I’d love to share the newest books and hear what you think about them.
  • I’m learning about podcasting. It may be later in the year before I’m ready to commit to that but it is something I’d like to try.

All of this will take time. I’ll need new routines, and I’ll stumble along the way. Thank you for grace and for all your kind words of encouragement. I pray I can offer that to you, too. I want this to be a place where we are all lifted higher,  where we all fly.



A few changes coming to Simply Faithful



We’ve shared this online space for about four years – and shared space in newspapers for close to seven – so it’s time to make some small adjustments.

I’ve decided to stop writing each week for the GateHouse newspapers. They were wonderful to work with and I loved the thought of being nationally syndicated, but I want to use my time differently. There are things I want to do to promote my book, improve this blog and grow our community on social media… and that all takes time and energy, too. So, I made the decision to cut back for my family. For my own spiritual growth. For a chance to rejuvenate.

I’ll still be writing here – just without the pressure of a weekly deadline – and you can still find my news articles about faith and compassion in the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle. They’ll appear there every other Monday.

I’m also helping a dear friend write a book that we pray helps many, many families who are healing from sexual abuse. I’m excited because she not only shares her family’s story but offers practical advice and spiritual encouragement. Much of the first draft is done, but we’ll soon finalize our book proposal and start looking for a literary agent. We would so appreciate your prayers for this project.

I’d love to hear how I can better serve you dear readers, so please let me know what you most enjoy and what you most need.

Thank you for sharing this journey with me.



How to live creatively

IMG_8775My soul sometimes gets restless. It grows tired of the day-to-day. Of meetings and schedules and rushing.

It wants to try something new. Or travel. Or redecorate. Or sit and day dream. Because my soul – the very center of me – craves space for creativity and beauty.

I forget that the God who painted stripes on the zebras and chose a brilliant red for the cardinal, shaped our souls, too, and I imagine his fingerprints are still there from when he created us.

In the Christian scriptures he asks us to focus on what is lovely and true and pure and just. I suspect he means it more as a daily practice than as an afterthought, something that works its way into my routine well before my soul is heavy with negativity and the clutter of busyness.

So, I’ve been wrestling with what it means to live more creatively in the everyday. At first I focused on the lovely, noticing the smile in front of me and seeing the art in the clouds – even if for just a moment. I added pictures and podcasts that inspired and strengthened me. I spent time with friends who encouraged and uplifted me. All of it fed my soul.

But living creatively requires more than mere beauty and gratitude: It requires risk.

In order to share more of myself, I must risk being known and rejected. In order to work for what is just and serve others in way that isn’t tried and tested, I must risk failure.

“Failure isn’t a necessary evil. In fact, it isn’t evil at all. It is a necessary consequence of doing something new,” writes Ed Catmull, president of Pixar Animation and Disney Animation and author of “Creativity, Inc.”

He goes on to explain how the fear of failure can crush the best of creative businesses, but, “The antidote to fear is trust.”

I highlighted it in yellow.

Suddenly Catmull’s words about business make living more creatively seem a lot like living more faithfully. And a lot like trusting the Creator, who is lovely and true and pure and just.

How to find time to write letters and share joy


In today’s brag-about-being-busy world, where does the slow process of pen and paper fit in? It fits in the nooks and crannies of our days — and it fits in the spaces we schedule for it.

If you want to send more notes and letters, then carry them with you when you take your car for an oil change and when you get your hair cut. Tuck something to write on in the glove box for when you’re waiting on kids at practice. Buy postcards and fill them out on the plane.

Writing cards and letters isn’t a race or a competition. It’s about sharing your heart with one person at a time.

And finding time for that one person isn’t so hard.

If it helps, schedule a day each week or a day each month to send birthday cards and notes. Or, make it a task that you associate with something you already do. Watch your favorite TV show and scribble down your message during the commercials, or write while you’re waiting on the towels to dry.

If you need a little inspiration, or a reminder of the benefits of staying connected, flip through “Write Back Soon” by Karen Benke or join the Letter Writers Alliance where $5 gets you a lifetime membership, free stationery downloads and optional pen pals.

Just remember that no one is keeping score. You can write seven letters a week or seven letters a year. What matters is that you reach out to people — that you offer joy and grace and encouragement. Then, writing letters becomes something sacred and we all win.


Finding people to write to

file781261141191So, you’re interested in sending a little joy and encouragement through the mail, but you aren’t sure who to write to?

Maybe these questions will help:

  • Is there someone you should thank — someone who sent a gift or an invitation? Someone who gave you a great piece of advice or a kind word?
  • Do you have a relative who has been on your mind? Maybe someone older or someone who doesn’t get out as much as he or she would like?
  • Did you read a great article or see a cartoon that made you think of someone? Could you go through your craft or hobby supplies and send a few extras to someone who would enjoy it?
  • Who have you been praying for? Is there someone you know who is ill or struggling in any way?
  • Are you friends with children? (I’ve never met a child who didn’t love to get mail with his or her own name on it!)
  • Have any of your friends moved to a new city? How about writing to a friend whose family lives far away?
  • Is there anyone whose work you admire? A mother who is doing a fantastic job? A teen who volunteers and makes a difference in the community? A neighbor whose garden brightens the whole block?

If you’d like ideas for what to write in your letters, click here. Need some inexpensive supplies to get started? Click here. Or, if you’re wondering why writing letters is holy work, read this.

Tomorrow, I’ll share tips on how to find time to write letters, so check back — or make it easier on yourself and add your email to the box on the lower left, and I’ll send articles directly to you. Until then, happy writing!

Finding ideas for letters


Sometimes the hardest part of writing a letter is getting started, but once you have those first few sentences, where do you go from there?

Try asking a question. You may learn something — and you may inspire a person to write you back. Do you have any big plans for the new year? What projects are you working on around the house? Have you read any good books lately? Answer the question yourself and you’ve just written a whole paragraph!

Share a quote, a line of poetry or a scripture. I like Hebrews 6:19, which says that hope is an anchor for the soul. Sometimes I slip in decorative quotes like these that are meant for scrapbooking and journaling. They are inexpensive, especially when I use a 40 percent off coupon at a craft store, and they give me something more to talk about.

Tell him something you admire about him. People like to have kind things said about them, and they especially like to be able to save those words and return to them when they need a reminder that you are in their corner.

Send a photograph. It’s rare to get pictures printed anymore, so take a snapshot of something silly or something you think is beautiful. Explain it in your letter.

Feel free to tell something personal. That’s the beauty of a letter. You aren’t publishing it so that dozens — or even hundreds — will see it. You are writing to one person who wants to know how you are really doing. One person who doesn’t demand the glossy version of your life.

IMG_9172If you’d like to write more letters, join us this week. Yesterday we talked about supplies to make corresponding easier (and less expensive) and tomorrow we’ll discuss how to find people to write to. Check back here or slip your email address in the box on the bottom left and I’ll let you know when the new posts are up!

Finding writing supplies

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Collecting writing supplies is almost as much fun as getting letters in the mail. But if your goal is to send more encouragement and joy, your supplies don’t have to be expensive or massive. You just need a few basics to make the process easier – and then it’s more likely to get done.

Of course you’ll need addresses, but it’s OK to start slowly if you don’t have many. Ask a few friends for theirs and add them to your address book or contact list. Next week, repeat the process. Anytime I’ve tried to add more than a handful at once I’ve gotten overwhelmed and procrastinated!

Then – and I think this is most important – buy postage stamps to have on hand. Keep them tucked in your wallet, stashed in the junk drawer or paper clipped to your weekly planner because if you have to make a special trip to buy postage stamps, you’re much less likely to send a note when you’re thinking of someone.

If you have the space and the budget, fill a shoebox with greeting cards and pull from there when you need to wish someone happy birthday or send your condolences. Individual cards can get expensive, so I almost always buy them by the box or create my own. I’ve always liked ordering from Current but some discount stores like Dollar Tree and Marshall’s have great prices, too. I love beautiful stationery, but the personal message is always more important.

When I make my own stationery, I often use my sons’ artwork. I buy white cardstock 150 sheets at a time from big box stores like WalMart, and I fold them in half for an instant card that the boys can decorate. Sometimes, if there is a particular piece of art that I like, I use my home printer to make a few extra copies.

If you’d like to get in on the fun of decorating your own cards and letters, you’ll find thousands of YouTube videos and pins on Pinterest to help you. But, if it’s simplicity you want, take plain copy paper and add a row of stickers or draw spirals or arrows with a pen. My favorite? Adding washi tape to any kind of paper. It’s already decorative, you have thousands of choices of patterns and it’s easy to put on in a straight line – which is usually a challenge for me. (Rolls of washi tape range from 50 cents to around $4, so I like that part, too.)

IMG_9160Now, if you’d like a few more recommendations, I do have some I’d love to share:

My three favorite note cards right now are these doughnut-shaped ones, these Russian nesting dolls that can stand up after you write in them and this set from the Library of Congress card catalog.

IMG_9159Also, I often use things that aren’t meant as stationery… like these free journaling cards that you simply download and print at home. They are small, but I like that. Not every letter needs to be long. Since I’ve been watching Downton Abbey like it is my job, I’ve downloaded copies of blank telegram forms to write on as well.

IMG_9166I’ve been experimenting with these disposable fountain pens, and I love these pens because of their vivid colors and fine tips (mine were closer to $5, though).

I may have a slight addiction to sticky notes and washi tape. You can find lots at craft stores, but I really enjoy what I’ve ordered from here and here on Etsy.

Tomorrow, we’ll talk about finding ideas for things to write about in your notes and letters. If you’d like to make it easy to follow this five-day series, just slip your email address into the box on the lower left!