Making a plan to seek joy

summer passports


I knew when I went to a work conference in California that I’d come back with a notebook full of ideas. What i didn’t know is what a difference it would make in my husband’s life.

Brian is a stay-at-home dad, and he home schools our boys. He has every Wednesday night off — and he has about 30 minutes to himself each night when he slips away to get something he “forgot we needed” at the grocery store. But I think we figured out that he had slept away from the boys for three or four nights in the last eight years… until he tagged along on my business trip.

That first day, I started to see a difference. By the second day, I could almost see his shoulders relaxing. And by the third day, he rattled off all the places he had visited while I was in class, and then he paused and said how glad he was to have the chance to explore and to have an adventure.

I had forgotten how fun adventure is, he said, and I think I can have more adventures at home, too

Giveaway plus free printables for sharing joy

photo (7)Friends, this week we are fortunate to have an embellishment kit from the very talented Freckled Fawn to give away! This is a monthly subscription kit, and each kit contains a crazy-cool pouch filled with goodies to decorate letters, scrapbooks, journals and planners. Click here to enter.

I’m always looking for fun things to send in the mail to kids and others who might need a bit of encouragement, so I thought I’d use some of these Freckled Fawn embellishments to create pocket letters.

To make pocket letters: Take a plastic sheet that is designed to hold trading cards. Cut pretty paper to fit the pockets. Fill pockets with fun items (like stickers, washi tape, decorative paperclips and seashells) and tuck a little letter inside.

photo (11)

photo (14)There are thousands of YouTube videos about making pocket letters. They can look pretty intimidating, especially if you don’t have a room full of craft supplies, so I’m sharing two faith-inspired designs I made. All you need to do is print, cut and start filling the pockets!

If you haven’t already, please slip your email address in the box on the lower left of this page. Then, click here for the beach-themed pocket letter: BEACHFAITHPocketLetter. Click here for the pocket letter with the doughnut and globe: FAITHPocketLetter.

My hope is that these pocket letters will bring joy and share God’s love. Enjoy!

P.S. If you’d like to learn more about how writing letters can be a ministry, click here.


Would you like to send love to Oklahoma?


It’s fair to say that I have some connections in Oklahoma, and I’d like to use them for a good cause.

IMG_1498If you’d like to send a little note — perhaps a picture drawn by your child or a scripture — to cheer the people who survived the recent tornadoes, I can make sure it arrives safely in their hands.

Would you like to reach out in that way, offer an encouraging hug via pen and paper?

Just mail it to me at P.O. Box 12923, Rochester, NY 14612 and mark “Oklahoma” on the envelope so I know to leave it sealed. I’ll need your notes by Monday, June 17.

(Please, don’t send any money. Just love!)

If you’d like, here’s a quick little design you can download and print. Enjoy!

Oklahoma stationery


Day 33: What a sunset and nature teach us about hope

Remember how Pat Costigan has an entire exhibit of paintings dedicated to hope? Well, take a look at this one and then enjoy her artist’s statement:

024Sunset One 1080p x 300dpi

I spent much time exploring sources of hope and asking others what are the sources of hope for them.

Many of the respondents to the question “What gives you Hope” gave this answer:

  “Nature gives me hope.”

Day33Today’s journal page comes to us from Maureen Phillips. She says: My life and hope for the future is focused on my faith in Christ.   In recent years, it has become clearer to me that my hope only grows through the joys and disappointments that come my way.  I am certain that the love Jesus has for me is perfect, so when my life isn’t I rest in knowing that His plans for me are good. My husband and I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in April and we have have two beautiful children.  Our daughter is 18 and our son is 14.  Our favorite pastime is camping.  We love to get away with friends and family and just enjoy nature. To download, just click here.

Day 14: Hope in a snapshot and a free journal page

Because both of my little guys woke up two hours early (thank you barking Pomeranian) I’m only sharing a journal page — but it is a good one, with a good story! And I think I can tell you about it while holding a wiggly toddler.

Leanne Martin picToday’s journal page is from Leanne Martin. Her passion is coaching figure skaters. She was an engineer for many years, too many years, until she realized her calling… teaching. She also teaches as an adjunct professor for Syracuse University on the side. She is married with an active 11-year-old son. She also loves working at Camp Ta-Kum-Ta in Vermont every summer where she learns to love, cry, laugh and celebrate hope.

Here’s her artist’s statement about the journal page:

The picture of the baby deer (that I took in my yard just before mowing the lawn) represents new, beautiful, fragile life.

It’s love that ties us all together.

The picture in the lower right corner represents hope. This is a picture of my dragon boat team that raced in Ride the Dragon for Charity in Vermont this past August. We were raising money for our charity Camp Ta-Kum-Ta.  My husband and I volunteer every summer for a week (we have for the last 14 years) at a kid’s camp called Camp Ta-Kum-Ta in Vermont. This is a camp for kids that have or have had cancer. A few of our rowers in the Dragon boat race were former campers that are now camp counselors. Now that is hope!

To download the page, click here.

Here’s a glimpse:

Day 14 Leanne


Thank you, all of you, for joining us for the 40 Days of Hope project. Each day during Lent, we’ll share something about hope here — something that we pray inspires you or encourages you. We’re also planning to share free journal pages for you to download. We don’t quite have 40 yet, so if you’d like more information on submitting one, please click here.

Day 13: Another shade of hope, through the eyes of an artist

Remember Pat Costigan and her paintings of hope? We’re sharing another one today titled Spiritual Resistance.

Spiritual Resistance 13x19x300dpi

Here’s the bulk of the artist’s statement…

The inspiration for this painting was how the Jews practiced Spiritual Resistance in the Ghettos during World War II. The prisoners in the ghettos at that time drew upon their:



life giving abilities

to survive, not to succumb to hopelessness and fear and transform their dismal, dark lives, if for only a moment into something that lifted their souls out of this world into another dimension.

Their lives were filled with:



extremes of cold,

lack of warm clothing,

want of decent living conditions,

the everyday threat of death for themselves and their loved ones by



and cruelty.

They performed music, theatre, created art, gave lectures about science, literature, art, music and performed many, many unselfish acts of kindness.

How do we combat the hatred that destroys and tears down?

When we do acts of good where we are, it affirms our humanity.

When we experience forces from outside trying to get to our inside, the darkness in…

We can transform the darkness of pain into Light, Joy and Hope.

We can embrace the world.

We can embrace the dark, diseased world.

We can throw our loving arms around this world in order to change it.

We can speak words of encouragement

We can try to understand our enemies

We can practice courage to speak out for silent victims of injustice

We can join in the dance of Light

We can join in the music of Peace

We can join in living in Hope

Pat Costigan and her husband, Bob, have four daughters, Clare, Beth, Anne and Irene. Before children, she earned a BA in Art and an MA in Special Education, taught and always made art. Through the years she has been involved with local and international social justice issues. Pat recently completed a series of paintings on “Hope” and is working on a new series titled “Grace.” Pat co-authored, designed and created the artwork and illustrations for the newly published book, “Mothering: An Art Of The Heart” ( When she is not busy in her studio, she is often found walking their rescue dog, Bella, around the neighborhood in Fairport, NY.

Rachel Doll picToday’s journal page is from another artist (and friend), Rachel Whaley Doll. She is also an author and musician — mostly because she wondered what she could do with her gifts and decided to try. Her newest book, “The Exquisite Ordinary,” is available on Amazon.  Vocal recordings, murals, contact information and other writings can be found at And she has been gracious enough to write about having a peaceful dwelling and share it at Simply Faithful.

Here are Rachel’s suggestions for the journal page: 

Gather your journal paper and crayons, and set a timer for five minutes (so you won’t keep wondering how long it’s been!). For five minutes, find a comfortable position and close your eyes. Focus on calm breathing, and on the colors that present themselves as you breath gently with your eyes closed. When the five minutes are up, and you are ready, let the colors and shapes that presented themselves in your meditation guide your hand on the page. Don’t try to create anything, just enjoy the color and movement. As you look at the page, write something on it that you dream of accomplishing, and hang it somewhere you will see it often.  Happy dreaming!

To download, click here.

Here’s a glimpse:

Day 13 Rachel

Day 9: On one side despair, the other hope

I cry at the Hallmark channel and at the occasional country song, but even I was surprised when my eyes started to well up while checking Facebook the other day. A friend from long ago had posted a video made at her church, and it featured what they called cardboard testimonials.

It’s a simple concept, really. You cut up a cardboard box and on one side you write a problem you faced. On the other side, you write how God helped you through it. In my friend’s case, people took turns coming up to the front of the church. They showed their signs and then flipped them to show what God had done. One after another, after another.

  •  Breast cancer – survivor
  • Used drugs to feel good – Use God to feel ecstatic
  • Orphaned with no family – God provided a family
  • Brother killed by drunk driver – I have forgiven
  • $$$$ bondage – freedom obedience

For close to eight minutes the people stream by on the video, sharing some of the deepest parts of their souls in fewer than 10 words. I cried because of the pain they must have felt and I cried because I’m in love with hope, with overcoming the impossible. And every time the cardboard signs turned over, there she was – hope scratched in black marker.

I’m sure many of us could hold up our own signs. I know I would have trouble deciding on just one:

  •  Will I ever be loved? – married April 18, 2003
  • Drs said arm might not grow or move – played sports, trombone
  • The adoption isn’t going through – celebrating 5 years as family

I also have signs waiting for their happy endings, waiting for God to help me over, around – or even through – mountains of doubt and troubles. But those signs will come, too. Eventually I’ll be able to flip them over and share testimonies of hope.

My marker is ready.

car crashToday’s journal page is from Tammy Riedl, who knows something of hope. Nine months ago, her oldest son was in a car accident that ruptured his spleen, crushed all the bones in his left pelvis area, broke his arm, collapsed his lung and bruised his heart, liver and kidneys. He spent 22 days in the hospital but — when the cardboard sign flips over — he returned to work full-time in late December.

To download today’s journal page, click here.

Here’s a glimpse:


Day 8: Putting your hope in the one who carries you

He reached down from on high and took hold of me; He drew me out of deep waters… He rescued me because He delighted in me.” — Psalm 18: 16, 19b

This verse, this beautiful verse, is how Jenn Kelly starts her story of hope. Please, read on…


I take my son Jackson (he’s two), to the gym with me about three times a week. OK, maybe more like two times a week. They have a great day care there, so I don’t mind leaving him in able-bodied hands. 
Sometimes when we go, it’s raining miserably, or the wind is so strong and fierce that I have to carry Jackson instead of letting him walk by himself.

When I open the car door, I pull his hat down over his ears, I pull his hood up and I take him out of his car seat. When I pick him up, I say, “I’m going to carry you buddy, it’s very cold out.”

He squirms a little because being two he wants to walk on his own, because he is two, and he is very independent. But once that wind hits him in the face, I can hear his gasp of shock and he buries his face right into my shoulder to shield his face. I lift my arms up and wrap them tightly around him, cradling his head against me so the wind won’t whip his face. ‘I got you love’ I whisper to him over and over again to soothe and to let him know that I do indeed have him.

Jackson takes great comfort in knowing that mommy’s got him and I’m not going to let the wind take his breath away, nor am I going to make him be exposed to the harsh elements alone. His mommy has him tightly against her, holding him.

So many times in the past 6 years (since I’ve become a Christian), life has taken my breath away, the rain falling so miserably on my heart that I can’t stop crying, or the winds of pain and anger or disappointment come and shock me, taking my breath away.

How thankful I am that God pulls me tightly in, pulling hat down further on head, pulling my hood up and then cradling me into His big strong arms, and whispers to me over and over again, “I got you love, I got you love.”

Photo courtesy of Jenn Kelly

Photo courtesy of Jenn Kelly

Jenn Kelly is the author of “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, an Elf, and a Very Stinky Fish”  and its sequel, “Jackson Jones: The Tale of a Boy, a Troll, and a Rather Large Chicken.” You can learn more about her and her upcoming projects at her Website: You can also find her page on Facebook and follow her on Twitter. Look for @JennKellyauthor.



Today’s journal page was designed by Tawny Burgess, a a 20-something gal living in Chicago, writing her tales of the city, theology, and all sorts of pop culture. Read more about her at her blog, My Sanguine Life.


To download the journal page, click here.

Here’s a glimpse:


Day 7: Finding hope in a Mason jar


Have you seen the Pinterest projects where people take a jar and fill it with memories or blessings throughout the year?

IMG_1519Well, Barb Adams wants to do that on a larger scale — on a community scale — so she’s started a Facebook page that’s dedicated to collecting those notes of hope.

“The mission of the JAR PROJECT page is to encourage all of us to focus on the positive occurrences in our lives that we might otherwise let slip through our consciousness,” she writes. “The JAR PROJECT is dedicated to helping us bathe in the light rather than becoming bogged down in the darkness.”

Won’t you visit today and add your own note? Or perhaps pull a jar out of the recycling bin and start this tradition at home?

Elisa Pompili headshotToday’s journal page was designed by Elisa Pompili, who grew up in Spencerport, NY spending most of her time with her big Italian family and a few close friends. Elisa works as a school counselor and loves big and small adventures, chocolate, and traveling. She wrote and finished her debut novel, “Making Room,” long before she ever knew she would live in North Carolina, where she currently resides with her husband Greg and their cat Sheldon. You can read more about her at her blog.

To download today’s journal page and write your own thoughts, please click here


Here’s a glimpse…

Simply Faithful - journal page - Elisa Pompili

Thank you, all of you, for joining us for the 40 Days of Hope project. Each day during Lent, we’ll share something about hope here — something that we pray inspires you or encourages you. We’re also planning to share free journal pages for you to download. We don’t quite have 40 yet, so if you’d like more information on submitting one, please click here.