A free 5-day Christmas devotional for you

Wreath InsideChristmas is wonderful, exciting and sacred — and emotional, stressful and draining.

May I offer something that I hope will help?

A few years ago I put together a tiny little devotional that’s designed to be read just before Christmas, when it seems everything is crashing in. And I’d like you and your friends to have it.

Please print as many copies as you’d like. Share it with anyone who could use a little encouragement or a brief moment of peace.

This is designed to be printed (double sided) on two standard pieces of copy paper. Just fold in the middle. Simple.

If you have trouble downloading this, just email me and I’ll send the file.

I pray you’ll enjoy the gift and that it will help you welcome this holy season.



See that little spot in the lower left of this page that asks for your email? I’d love it if you’d add yours there, and I’ll send you an email each time I post something new here. Then, just click here to download the devotional: 2012Christmas devotional

For when you need to be overwhelmed by grace

IMG_9027IMG_9014For almost two years I talked to the boys about the Great Salt Plains in Oklahoma — how we would leave the trees and hills of Tulsa and trade them for the red dirt and flat, fertile plains to the west.

I described to them how you can watch a thunder storm careen across the sky for miles without buildings and lights spoiling the view and how, when we got to the salt plains, we would see the white stretch out all the way to the horizon.

Still, when the dirt road ended and we passed through the gate, they weren’t sure what to make if all that salt. It was overwhelming.

We brought out our borrowed shovel and began to dig shallow holes. We poured water down the sides and caught glimpses of sparkling crystals. The boys filled one plastic cup with treasures and started on another while I looked at their smudged faces and their shoes caked with mud and salt. Our tires were white. The knees of Jessie’s black jeans were white.

Everything was white because there was an abundance of salt. Not a salt shaker full, acres and acres full.

The Christian scriptures tell us that people of faith are to be light and salt in this world, and in all these years that I’ve been reading that verse, I’ve pictured salt on my dinner table. I’ve thought about salt’s importance in preserving and seasoning, but I’ve visualized it as small and scarce. I forgot that it fills oceans and seas and mines — even a portion of the plains in my home state.

I forgot that there is plenty of salt for purity, for sharing the flavor of compassion and grace. If we want, the salt that was once used to bind people in an unbreakable covenant of friendship could overflow on our tables and in our lives.

And the light that shines in darkness? The symbol of God’s love and hope? It’s plentiful, too, year after year after year.

That changes things for me. It shifts my thinking and my fears.

Unlimited love. Hope. Purity. Healing. Grace.

And suddenly, like the boys, I’m overwhelmed.

A gift for you: A devotional for the 5 days before Christmas

Christmas is wonderful, exciting and sacred — and emotional, stressful and draining.

May I offer something that I hope will help?

I’ve put together a tiny little devotional that’s designed to be read just before Christmas, when it seems everything is crashing in. And I’d like you and your friends to have it.

Please print as many copies as you’d like. Share it with anyone who could use a little encouragement or a brief moment of peace.

This is designed to be printed (double sided) on two standard pieces of copy paper. Just fold in the middle. Simple.

If you have trouble downloading this, just email me and I’ll send the file.

I pray you’ll enjoy the gift and this holy season.



Download here: 2012Christmas devotional

Preparing for the marathon of marriage and motherhood

It’s not often that I knowingly cross paths with people who have run multiple marathons. I’m not a runner myself, or even an occasional jogger, so it was just by chance that I was introduced recently to a man who had run 19 marathons.

I’ve always figured that casual runners respected the endurance of those who run marathons the same way I look up to gifted poets. And I figured that anyone passionate enough to complete multiple marathons would be the kind of person who insisted on keeping in shape, always training for the next big race. But this man wasn’t. In fact, when I met him, he was talking about the need to begin training again and while he talked, he patted his stomach.

It would take a little while, he said, to get going again. Odd, I thought. With all those races and all that experience behind him, he would still have to start at the beginning. He would still need to prepare.

Unfortunately, I think I’m in the same place spiritually. I’ve been doing my best to serve God for many years. In fact, by some people’s standards, I’m even considered experienced because I’ve run some faithful races. I’ve relied on God for some heavy stuff. Like being the first in my family to navigate going to college. Like moving by myself across the country. Like enduring painful loss.

All that praying and scripture reading I did years ago, when I was really training, carried me through those early races. But now I’m in the marathon of marriage and motherhood, of trying to become a mature woman of God – and I feel just  like my new friend, the runner. I need a little while to get going again, a little time to prepare and build my endurance.

It’s time for me to stop taking short cuts and commit to doing the work I know I need to do. I know the things that feed my soul.

May I recommend: Two kids’ books for fall

With a house full of boys I’m always on the look-out for good books — and good prices on those books. Here are two that we are enjoying this season:

  • “The Pumpkin Patch Parable” by Liz Curtis Higgs
  • “A Pumpkin Prayer” by Amy Parker

“The Pumpkin Patch Parable” tells about a man who grows pumpkins and lets his light shine. Each two-page spread includes a scripture.

“A Pumpkin Prayer” offers thanks for many of our autumnal blessings.

I picked them up a couple of months ago at our local Ollie’s Bargain Outlet for $2.29 each. Hopefully you’ll be as fortunate!

Bible is ‘all about friendships’

I know it’s hard to be the younger one, the one who watches from the doorway as older kids leave for friends’ houses. That’s why it struck such a chord with me when Benjamin said he wanted to go somewhere that I couldn’t see him.

He wanted to leave the house without Mom and Dad. He wanted to be big. At 4, his options are limited.

Then, it struck me: He could play on our front porch while I sat mere feet away in the living room. He could have the sense of playing just out of reach, and I could know he was safe.

He raced around gathering up the supplies he would need to entertain himself. A write-on wipe-off board. A Bible. An imagination that somehow always finds its way back to Star Wars or Justice League heroes.

Within minutes he poked his head back inside the door.

“I’m reading chapter one,” he said, carrying his Bible. “It tells all about friendships… and relationships.”

I started to explain how chapter one is about creation, but I stopped myself just in time for the reality of what he had said to sink in.

He’s a bigger, wiser boy, than I thought.

Decorating your heart and walls with scripture

I never met my great-granddad, but I know his fiddle. I grew up with it sitting on a shelf in our living room. Next to it always hung a picture that told how a master musician could take an old, discarded instrument and make beautiful music. It was a reference to how our broken lives become glorious in God’s hands.

I saw that picture a million times, and I can still imagine it if I close my eyes because there’s power in the things we see day after mundane day.

Mama and Daddy downsized and the large picture is long gone from the living room. But the last time we went home to Oklahoma we rented a little two-bedroom apartment that was filled with scriptures and quotes about faith.

For 10 days it seemed every room reminded us of God and his faithfulness. And that’s when the idea twirled by like those helicopters that fall from elm trees: Maybe the walls of my home needed to say more about God’s goodness, more about his ability to turn brokenness into wholeness.

I began to search for scriptures that were beautiful in thought and in appearance, and I looked for sayings that offered real insight and value – like the one that hangs on the door to my home office, Let us be silent that we may hear the whisper of God.

I scoured our basement for a chalkboard and chalk, and I wrote in my best left-handed penmanship: Pray without ceasing…. I propped it up on the empty eyesore that used to be our microwave stand and invited my husband and boys to list prayer requests.

Aunt Heather, who is pregnant, Jessie added.

Kathy’s new job, I wrote. Tanya’s dad, who is waiting on a liver transplant.

Benjamin wanted to pray for all the people who love him, and especially for his cousin JJ, whom he adores.

Next, I think I’ll frame the words from my parents’ picture and arrange it on my mantel in the living room. I’ll put it right next to my great-granddad’s old fiddle, which I inherited. And when it’s time to pass the beloved fiddle on to the next generation, I’ll make sure my boys have the words, too.



A gracious Q&A with Ann Voskamp

For those who missed the chance to chat with Ann Voskamp, author of One Thousand Gifts, I’ve copied (and slightly adapted) the conversation we had on the Simply Faithful Facebook page and provided it for you here. Ann is truly a gift. May you enjoy getting to know her better and may you cherish her wisdom…

  • Simply Faithful Welcome Ann! We are so excited that you are here with us. If it’s OK, we’ll let you say a few words and then we’ll dive in to the questions.

Ann Voskamp Thank you for grace and the warm welcome!

  • Linda Gordon How did you come to know the many references you used in your book? I was totally amazed at how many different sources you knew and quoted.

Ann Voskamp Ahh… the wonder of listening to all the authors and words that have come before! I read a lot… and I think when you begin to answer God’s call — He also providentially has you cross paths with all the words and thoughts you need for the work?

And I remember writing that bibliography — many hours!

Linda Gordon so did you find the quotes as you were writing the book or were there ones you knew and wanted to be sure to include?

Ann Voskamp Yes, Linda — some I found as I read, during the writing process — only God moments. And others had been tucked in a file — as they resonated with the life God was leading me into…. Good questions!

Amy Kushnir Ann – I just stumbled upon this thread riding home from spring break in Texas – that answer about how God has you cross paths with all the work and thoughts you need for the work – profound! Just hit me like a ton of bricks! thank you!

Ann Voskamp Hi Tanya! Warm wave! Yes, the style …

The book is written in its own idiosyncratic language—prose meeting poetry, a strange kind of language.

Throughout Scripture, when a person came into the presence of God, the only language they had to stammer out anything was a different language than their vernacular. The only way to communicate their encounter with God was often through lyrical language.

I didn’t think a book written in that “prosetical” God-encounter language would ever find a real home out in the world.

But God had other plans —

And maybe that is exactly what we’re all hungry for—a powerful, personal encounter with God in a language all of its own?

Simply Faithful How did your editors respond? Were they supportive?

Tanya Shaw Herrold I agree. That connection to our perfect Maker is needed among us today just as in earlier times!

Ann Voskamp Well, Zondervan and Waterbrook both bid for the book, based on the first three chapters, so they knew what the style and voice was at the outset. Zondervan wanted something fresh and “outside of the box” — and were very encouraging to do exactly what God called. They told me to write just vertically, for an audience of One. And I did.

  •  Ann Beaudoin Meyer Hi Ann. I can imagine that sharing your personal life experiences through this book was a challenge. Even greater difficulty must be speaking to large crowds and the medias about such a personal, intimate topic. How do you think you have grown as your book continues to impact so many people?

Ann Voskamp Ah, Ann… such a thoughtful question. I think the Lord has asked me to live the truth/message of the book again now, in deeper ways. Can I trust Him? Is all grace? Will I turn blessings into burdens?

I think the journey has kept me very small and quiet and hushed under His wing. He’s used it to draw me closer to Him — relying only on Him.

When I am weak — He is strong.

Simply Faithful I loved your blog post about wearing rainbow socks and standing on his promises. I may borrow that idea!

Ann Voskamp Highly recommended, Marketta.

Ann Beaudoin Meyer I think that is the key, really appreciating those blessings. We turn them into burdens all too often!

  • Linda Gordon How long ago did you write the book? How did you meet your farmer?

Ann Voskamp Linda, it took me about 13 months to write the book? And I met the Farmer in his mama’s Good News Bible Club!

Linda Gordon That is good news! Was it love at first sight or a work in progress?

Ann Voskamp Ah, we were young… 14. We had our first date at 16. And were married when I was 20. Grace upon grace… Christ braiding us together in Him.

  •  Simply Faithful How did you get involved with Compassion International and what draws you to that organization?

Ann Voskamp We’ve always been child sponsors, since we were married…. and had several children sponsored through Compassion for many years. I became an advocate for Compassion about 3 years ago? And then Compassion invited me to live blog a trip to Guatemala in Sept. 2009 and Ecuador November, 2011, and see firsthand their work. That sealed it! My heart is forever with His children in need! The proceeds from One Thousand Gifts now has returned to the Guatemala City Dump to build an educational center — thanks be to God alone.

Ann Beaudoin Meyer Do you have plans to return to Guatemala?

Simply Faithful Lida Merrill will want to hear more about that! She has done a lot of missionary work in Guatemala with people who have disabilities.

Courtney Joseph Oh I love this!

  •  Lida Merrill Hi Ann, Thank you for your time this evening. Have your older children read your book?

Ann Voskamp Good evening, Lida…. My oldest, yes, he has — he’s nearly 17.

Lida Merrill What impression did it have on him?

Simply Faithful Is he the one who threw toast?

Ann Voskamp Before the manuscript was submitted, the children whose stories were told, graciously gave their permission, so he had read some of the chapters before. And Caleb was very generously positive. He came to me last week and said I really need to begin another book… Humbling grace.

Ann Voskamp Ah yes — the toast scene. Yes.

Linda Gordon How did keeping a gratitude journal work for him?

Ann Voskamp We have a family gratitude journal that together we work on and we keep sharing each day at the table our thanks — it’s become part of who we are… our new default!

Ann Voskamp Warm wave, Lucinda!

I’m not sure I even now think of it in terms of a gift for words?

I think I just wait over a keyboard and He gives the gift?

Lucinda Mellinger Anderson Your descriptions paint the picture so well i feel like I’m right there with you!

Ann Voskamp Thank you for grace, Lucinda… So kind.

  •  Lida Merrill Are you planning a return trip to Guatemala?

Ann Voskamp Yes! Us as a whole family! We will all return to Guatemala, Lord willing, next January? To celebrate what God has done with the Educational Center!  http://www.aholyexperience.com/?p=8753

Ann Beaudoin Meyer How exciting! What part of Guatemala?

Ann Voskamp ‎(The above link is about Guatemala and how it came to be that One Thousand Gifts is going back there, to BE the gift! I am blessed, I can bless — this is happiness!

Ann Voskamp We will return, Lord willing, to Guatemala City….

Ann Beaudoin Meyer thanks for the link.

Lida Merrill Yes, thank you.

Ann Voskamp I preach out loud to myself.  I count blessings out loud. I memorize Scripture and meditate on Truth. We read Scripture together after every meal, 3 times a day.Here is a bit of where we are memorizing — wonderful resource!


Simply Faithful Who selects the scriptures? I love all of your ideas but I know they take preparation, too…

Ann Voskamp Last year, our little country chapel, our faith community were memorizing Colossians together — so we invited blog readers to join us.

Ann Voskamp This year, our faith community is memorizing Sermon on the Mount together — so we made up the resources to share online also. Our son, Joshua, (14) makes up all the downloadable resources from the blog… the monthly Joy Dare, the free printables, the Sermon on the Mount booklet… We love working together! A wonderful way to bond!

Simply Faithful He does fantastic work. They are all gorgeous. A true gift! (Will you thank him for us?)

Ann Voskamp I will thank him for you all. Imagine a 14 year old smiling shyly.

Courtney Joseph I love how your son is able to serve along side of you!

  •  Cathy Spellman Roberts Do you use journaling as a technique as you teach your kids in other areas as well?

Ann Voskamp Yes! Just today I handed out new journals. One of the boys (9) wrote a new title on his journal: “My Life.” Perfect!

  • Cathy Spellman Roberts How do you continually try to keep the negative thoughts out. I know I try to start my day when I’m driving by concentrating on my gifts and listening to what God has in store for me for the day, and I try in the middle of the day at work or with my kids to clear the clutter, but I have a hard time keeping it out.

Ann Voskamp I understand, Cathy… You are not alone. I am with you. Singing hymns for me helps. As does quietly preaching Scripture back to myself — a way to take captive every thought.

Ann Voskamp http://www.aholyexperience.com/?p=9031

Cathy Spellman Roberts Thanks. Music is very healing — and soothing — indeed.

  • Ann Beaudoin Meyer I appreciated your honesty in the book, as well as your blog, about your struggles with parenting. I know I have this vision to be the “perfect” mom. After I yell at one of my kids it hits me in the gut. Good reminder to have a little grace with ourselves!

Simply Faithful I like that you sometimes have dirty dishes in your sink.

Ann Voskamp I do! And dirty laundry in front of the washing machine.  And some parenting days leave me in tears and hanging my head in deep grief over my own sinfulness. My mama said that grace is like a boomerang — if you offer grace to a boomerang to others — you receive the grace. You give yourself the grace on the bad days — knowing Christ’s love covers our sins. Right there with you, beautiful women….

Linda Gordon The part about the glass jar and cutting was so hard. Were you suicidal or trying to cut out the bad parts of your life?

Lida Merrill Your line about “hurry empties souls” struck a deep cord with me in regards to parenting. I think the hurrying I did when my children were little emptied their souls. Thank you God for always refilling them, but it is something I am very aware of with my grandchildren.

Ann Voskamp Beautiful, Lida — I preach it to myself out loud often “There are no emergencies. God is in control… no emergencies. Abandon the fears and abide in the Father.”

Ann Voskamp Yes, Linda, so hard. No, not suicidal… just looking in all the wrong places to relieve pain… escape from my own skin? Hard to think I was there once — but I really, really was. Only God.

  •  Lucinda Mellinger Anderson Ann, Thanks for your idea of singing hymns,etc as I struggle writing.. any suggestions on how to journal?

Ann Voskamp Well — I leave a gratitude journal out permanently on my counter. That helps. And I have journals all through the house  … for specific helps, if you search the journal category at the blog, I wrote a multi-week series a few years ago on how to journal in various, creative ways and readers sent in their ideas and photos of their journals and it was very inspiring!

Ann Voskamp If you scroll back through these, there are so many ideas from so many wonderful women!


Lucinda Mellinger Anderson Thanks, I’ll check it out.

  • Lucinda Mellinger Anderson Ann, We are visiting our grandchildren,5 of them in Chicago and the job of getting ready for bed with a special movie after causes me to be grateful for all the noise, fun and hugs we get all to infrequent!! Thanks for sharing.

Ann Voskamp I am smiling, Lucinda! How wonderful! Much joy in Him to you all so beautifully there in Chicago! Blessed evening, Lucinda! It was a privilege…

  •  Simply Faithful Ann, we are so thankful for your time and for your many gifts.

Ann Voskamp Truly, it’s been a humbling grace. Thank you for yours.

Thank you for looking for Christ in the pages.

God go with you…

Eucharisteo, friends!

Ann Voskamp You’ve all radiated and exuded His joy tonight. Thank you!

Simply Faithful Blessings, Ann!

Lida Merrill Thank you for blessing us with your words.

Cathy Spellman Roberts Thank you Ann for your kind words and your time.

Ann Beaudoin Meyer Thank you for your time. I am sure that God will continue to bless use and use your words for the rest of us.

Courtney Joseph Oh bummer I’m late! So glad it’s all saved here to read!

How to create scripture cards

I fell in love with the idea of scripture cards when I first saw them at http://www.pinkroomponderings.blogspot.com/. Thankfully Angie, also known as BritChickNY, graciously agreed to write a guest blog here at Simply Faithful so we could learn more about the cards and about creativity. May you be inspired…

Hello all you creative souls out there! Yes! You! (Oh, you don’t think you are creative? Hm….you might be surprised) Think about it. What does being creative mean? Well, to be honest I believe that many of us think that it means we make a living creating something that someone else wants. It means that nobody can do “this” better than we can. It’s having someone compliment us on our handiwork. I beg to differ. To believe that, denies us the joy and freedom of expressing ourselves in a way that He intended to glorify Him and not us, and to use His gifts regardless of the stamp of approval from others or even ourselves.
Anybody who knows me will tell you that I always have projects on the front (and back!) burners. Just gotta be “doing.” Always on the look out for ideas. And completely inspired by what I see other artists/quilters/sewers/knitters works in progress. Here’s a little project that I did back in 2010. Rolodex Scripture cards. Go-ahead, Google that one! Whoa. Little works of art, touchy feely and so accessible. All jumbled together and taking up so little space and yet the possibilities are endless. And so….I participated in a scripture card swap. These are the cards I received.

Look, His word, in lovely bite size pieces, decorated and embellished and ready to encourage the recipient. And I am encouraged! Creatively and Faithfully! They all fit so nicely in a rolodex on my desk. Daily reminders.

Each person took the time to search the Word, thinking all the time about the others in the swap. Spending time putting papers together, gathering the trims and embellishments. All of us using the same “template,” but look how individual they are.

And these cards lend themselves to other “themes.” How about “thankful for” cards with your children? Perhaps a family photo album with special thoughts or memories of that person, or a shower gift for a newlywed or new mom with scriptural encouragement. The possibilities are endless but they do not have to be complicated. We ARE all creative, sometimes we just need some inspiration (and a little nudge) from each other. Please visit or contact me at http://www.pinkroomponderings.blogspot.com/
I would love to hear from you and look forward to see Him work in your creative world.
Angie (aka BritChickNY)