March 31 Fellowship: Preparing Our Hearts for Easter with Vicky Dobbs

Join us for an interactive and engaging devotional on preparing our hearts for Easter.

For our March Friday Fellowship on Zoom, we’ll be hearing from a unique and talented woman of faith, Vicky Dobbs.

Who is Vicky?

Here is a brief bio on Vicky:

Vicky is a native Pennsylvanian who grew up as a Roman Catholic in Amish Country (Lancaster, Pennsylvania). She left the Catholic church when she was 18 and joined a Bible church. Vicky graduated from Penn State University with a Bachelor of Science in Marketing. She speaks French, having begun her college career as a French major, and studied abroad for a semester in Nice, France. 

More than 35 years ago, she moved to Texas and married Stan, the love of her life! She has been in Baptist churches since moving to Texas. 

Vicky is a lifelong learner. Before becoming a mother of four children, she worked in marketing for Compaq Computer Corporation in Houston, Texas. She was a homeschool teacher for her four kids through seventh grade. 

She also taught in homeschool co-ops and at a private Christian school. She earned 36 continuing education credits in Bible through years of Bible study (mostly Precept/Kay Arthur). She has volunteered in various capacities within the church and community, heavily emphasizing teaching children. She taught aerobics and worked for 24 Hour Fitness for 20 years until the pandemic. 

She is an empty nester and enjoys traveling around the globe with her husband, Stan, of 35 years. She is working on a Master’s in Theological Studies.

To join us for the March 31 fellowship, complete this RSVP form by CLICKING HERE. You will be emailed a link to join us via Zoom.

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Scott Ink Scripture Calendar: Meaning Behind the Verse for February

For those who have the Scott Ink Scripture Calendar, here are my thoughts behind the verse for February and why I chose the graphic I did.

For those who have the Scott Ink Scripture Calendar, here are my thoughts behind the verse for February and why I chose the graphic I did.

Along with memorizing each verse for the month, I would encourage you to do a little Bible study asking the questions:

  • What is this verse about?
  • What does it teach me about God, others and myself?
  • How can I apply it?

Here’s how I answered those questions with this month’s verse, which addresses how to walk in faith, not fear.

What is this verse about?

God doesn’t want us to live in fear. Because of Christ’s work on the cross, He has conquered death and if we believe, confess our sins, trust in Him, and have faith, we have salvation. 

So Christ’s work on the cross gives us the power to live free from our sins. 

I can replace my fear with faith, knowing God’s love for me and Christ’s work on the cross gives me power over my fears, and I can rest in His goodness to experience peace and a sound mind.

What does it teach me about God, others and myself?

Reflecting on this verse, I’m constantly in awe of how much Christ loves me to die for me. And how much our Heavenly Father loves me to send His only son to serve as the sacrificial lamb so that I could be cleansed of my sins. Christ lovingly took my place on the cross. I have deep gratitude and love for Jesus because of this selfless act. Since Christ is our model of how we live as believers, we should strive to love others selflessly like Him.

How can I apply it?

When my mind darts to a worst-case scenario or something that invokes my deepest fears, the Holy Spirit reminds me of this verse to walk in faith and not in fear. And because God is for us, who can be against us (Romans 8:31)? God is on my side, and I don’t have to live in fear. 

This verse has strengthened and empowered me in my faith. I spent much of my life living in fear from when I was a little girl to my adult years. When I started meditating on 2 Timothy 1:7 a few years ago, I realized Jesus’ powerful work on the cross defeated the enemy and his plans to foil our lives.

When Christ is our Savior, we can exchange our fear for faith and have victory in our minds. Our fears find a comfortable home in our minds and want to take up residence filling every room, closet and cupboard. But Christ’s sacrificial love sweeps away the cobwebs of fears and lies so we can live powerfully in His love for us. 

I would love to hear from you: How did you apply this verse to your life?

About the graphic:

This image is heavily influenced by Valentine’s Day, in pink and Cupid’s arrows. The arrows, however, are representative of spiritual warfare and God’s powerful love to extinguish the flaming arrows of the evil one (Ephesians 6:16) with His ultimate act of love when He died on the cross for us.

Have you started memorizing the verse for March?

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Gift-Giving Tips from the Best Gifter I Know

If you’re stumped on what to get a friend or loved one for Valentine’s Day, a birthday or another special occasion, these tips, from gifter extraordinaire, Julie Dalavai, teach you how to gift well, thoughtfully and intentionally.

Giving a good and thoughtful gift is not always easy. But my lovely sister-in-law, Julie Dalavai, is hands down the best gifter I know and makes it look easy. 

Year after year, whether it’s Christmas, birthdays, or other special occasions, Julie always shows up with the most thoughtful gift. Hands down.

There was the year she and my brother gifted my husband, Robert, with a subscription to Biblical Archaeology, a magazine he voraciously devoured with every issue!

Or the year Julie gave me a gift certificate to a favorite local tea room. This was many years ago when the girls were toddlers and finding “me time” was rare, if not impossible. It felt like heaven when I treated myself to lunch at a calming and beautiful place like the tea room. I nibbled on a chicken salad croissant, leisurely sipped a Lady Grey tea and indulged in a slice of chocolate cake all to myself (with no one begging me to share!).

Julie is such a thoughtful gifter that she could do it professionally. We’ve urged her more than once to start a side hustle.

Julie gifted Robert with bookends in the shape of chess pieces for his birthday last year, combining his love of books and chess. He loved the thoughtfulness of Julie’s gift.

Not too long ago, I gathered her best tips for gift buying, and I am sharing them with you, dear reader, well ahead of Valentine’s day in this question-and-answer format.

Julie is an excellent gifter because she has perfected the golden rule of gifting: Always keep the recipient at the center of the gift-buying process.

Leona: Julie, what are some places where you get ideas for good and fun gifts?

Julie: Here are some places I like to get ideas:

  • Uncommon Goods (website)
  • Do an Amazon search for their sport, interest or hobby. For example, “gifts for artists,” “gifts for musicians,” “gifts for golfers” and “gifts for horse lovers” to name a few.
  • Etsy has some unique gifts if you have the time to search there.
  • Deals and Steals is a segment on Good Morning America where they often have unique merchandise marked down the day they air it.

Leona: You’re such a thoughtful gifter for each person. How do you do that so effortlessly?

Julie: Here are some general tips:

  • I select gifts based on a person’s extracurricular interests or everyday/practical needs or things that remind them of where they’re from. 
  • I also try to consider an appropriate size gift. Would it fit in their home or office without being obtrusive? 

I also ask:

  • Are they more into things they can use or admire? 
  • Do they like sentimental things? 
  • Have I seen them use something similar before? 
  • What do they talk about? 

A lot of gifting involves listening to know what a person is into and what your recipient appreciates. 

Julie Dalavai
For Ellie’s last birthday, Julie got this fashion-forward pre-teen a cool and stylish hat for fall.

Other tips:

  • Start early (especially for Christmas) as it reduces stress and it’s easier on your bank account.
  • Make a list of ideas throughout the year. When you see something when you’re out, at someone else’s house, traveling or an idea on TV, make a note of it on your list.

Leona: How about for those folks who are hard to buy for?

Julie: For those folks, I may alternate each year and try to find a unique gift one year and a gift card the next. Sometimes I feel like gift cards are an easy way out and not personal enough, but I’ve never seen anyone bummed out when receiving one. I also try to ask their friends/mates for ideas.

Leona: Do you think it’s wrong to ask a person for a list (this applies especially at Christmas)?

Julie: I think it’s fine to ask someone for a list of what they want then you know you can’t go wrong, especially if that person is hard to buy for. Depending on the friend or family member, I may ask them directly.

When our middle daughter, Priya, was much younger, Julie gifted her with a cool 3D butterfly puzzle set. Priya loves color and is very artistic so she appreciated the puzzle and had endless fun.

Leona: What are your thoughts on “experience” gifts? They can be pricey.

Julie: I think “experience” gifts are worth it. Sometimes they are pricier but create memories; if you stop and ask someone what you gave them for Christmas two years ago, they probably won’t remember a standard gift. 

Experience gifts are appropriate when the person is someone you think may have everything. It’s even better if it can be an experience for two so they can share it with a spouse, friend or child.

Experience gifts can also be, for instance, gifts that make a person’s life better. These are usually things that make their lives more efficient, and organized, save space, brighten up their area or make their after-work schedule more fun and efficient. Maybe a bag to carry work things in, office décor or even a book or activity that takes their mind off work after hours.

For a cook, consider a kitchen gadget that makes dinner easier. You get the point.

Leona: What are some cool gifts you’ve come across recently that have caught your eye?

Julie: Cool gifts I have seen but not purchased include:

  • A BlendJet
  • Lock Laces
  • Pinch Me Therapy Dough
  • Portable Campfire
  • Attachable smartphone camera lenses
  • Personalized socks where you can add pet or actual family faces
  • Personalized dog blanket (send a photo of your dog and it’s reproduced on a blanket)

Leona: Julie, what was your most favorite gift as a kid and as an adult?

Julie: My favorite gift as a kid was a very realistic baby doll that was a boy. I bought real baby boy clothes for it and loved that it wasn’t a girl like all the others. My favorite gift as an adult is a charm bracelet my grandmother gave me when I graduated college. I can keep adding to it and have it forever.

Leona: We’ve covered a lot of ground and a lot of tips. Anything else you’d like to add?

Julie: I would say there are special gifts that cost more but if you have some time and start early, keeping an eye out for sales, you can give them and still be budget-friendly. 

Although I’m not good at this, I think it’s ok to give gift receipts and let a person know they can exchange something because you want to get your money’s worth and you want them to enjoy what they get (buying early and online may make this a little harder). 

And if you know there is a place someone likes to shop, check that store’s website and sign up for the emails because you can get alerts and discounts, and (you can unsubscribe later)!

That’s a wrap! Keep these gifting tips in mind the next time you’re shopping for just the right gift – from teacher gifts to Valentine’s to Christmas, birthdays, anniversaries or any occasion that calls for a celebration. As Julie advises, if you can, start early, so you can keep your gift buying affordable and you don’t break the bank!

VALENTINE’S SPECIAL! From 1/23 to 2/15, with every Scott Ink Scripture Calendar order, you will receive five free Valentine’s Day postcards and stamps to send to your Valentines (until I run out!) The postcard features the attributes of love as found in 1 Corinthians 13. Send them to your BFFs, family, grandkids, nieces, nephews, friends or whoever you want to show some love to this Valentine’s Day! Postcards are also available for purchase in sets of five or 10 (stamps included) and free shipping! CLICK TO ORDER

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When You Don’t Know What to Say, Share Scripture

Use encouraging verses to provide comfort, hope and strength for situations when words are simply not enough.

It happened several times last week.

I encountered situations and circumstances where I heard about illnesses, hopeless situations and trials where I didn’t know what to say or think. 

So I did what comes naturally to me – I shared scripture with those hurting and struggling.

Going to God’s word for hope and encouragement is something I’ve done intentionally for the past couple of years when I’m faced with a problem. I use the Notes file that looks like this on my smartphone to gather verses that have encouraged me. 

What is your lifeline?

As I encounter scriptures and verses that speak to me through some trial or struggle I am wrestling with God, I type it into my Notes file. In sharing scripture with others, I’m not overlooking or dismissing their problems; rather, it’s simply a way to minister to them through God’s word to offer hope and encouragement. 

Over the last two years, that Notes file has grown and became a go-to lifeline for me when faced with any big or small problem. What better lifeline than God’s word?

During the past week, I had several opportunities to pull up the Notes file and send encouraging verses to others. 

In learning about a friend struggling with an unexpected cancer diagnosis, I shared these verses:

Joshua 1:9

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Isaiah 43:2

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.

Isaiah 26:3

You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you!

For a friend who was overwhelmed and depleted, I shared this verse:

Psalm 51:10

Create in me a pure heart O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 

Which verses are your go-to lifeline for daily encouragement? Don’t have any? Consider going to God’s word and finding ones that uplift and encourage you and start your own Notes file. Or ask a friend or family member.

As you come across verses, keep adding to that Notes file. My Notes file has 14 verses that help me to not focus on the problem, but on the God who is bigger than the problem. The verses are a beautiful reminder that He will carry me through the trial as God has done before. 

In a recent Bible Study Fellowship lesson, a question asked, “How do God’s people find hope … find a strengthening Scripture to share with your group.” Scripture does strengthen us during our weakest, most troubling and frailest moments. It counters our weaknesses, our troubles and our frailties with strength that only God alone can provide.

Praying and claiming God’s promises

If you want to go deeper in your walk, pray a particular verse back to God and claim it for your life. I’ll give you an example. Last week, my heart was weighed down with worry and anxiety about a work-related problem. These verses in Philippians came to mind:

Philippians 4:6-8 – Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

This is how I prayed it back to God and claimed it for my life:

Dear Lord, you tell us in your word not to be anxious about anything. Lord forgive me for my anxiousness about _____________. Lord, please take over the situation and remove this anxiety I feel. Lord, I ask for your peace to fill my heart and relieve my worry and insecurity. Help me to trust in you for a solution to this worry. Please guard my heart and mind against taking up that worry again and remind me that I have already surrendered it to you. In Jesus’ Name, Amen. 

God’s word has the power to encourage, inspire and uplift you. And the beautiful thing is that as you become more familiar with scripture, the Holy Spirit will flood your mind with those verses and you’ll be able to recall them as quickly as a favorite childhood memory or your mom’s birthday. Not only can it encourage you personally, but you may also be led to encourage others.

The next time you’re stumped and don’t know what to say to a struggling friend, turn to scripture. Use the Holy Spirit’s leading to either pray that scripture for the person privately or share it with them directly.

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How An ‘Aisle of Shame’ Brought Me Closer to God’s Word

A supermarket’s ‘Aisle of Shame’ inspired me to create a scripture calendar to help encourage others to memorize, reflect and be transformed by scripture.

I love it when God plants a humble seed.

The seed He planted that turned into the Scott Ink Scripture Calendar started at Aldi of all places.

Yes, you read that right. 

Aldi, the supermarket chain.

I told you it was humble. 

‘Aisle of Shame’ Christmas Shopping

In December 2020, I was shamelessly shopping at Aldi’s infamous “Aisle of Shame” (AOS), and I came across these calendars — see the picture below. 

For those unfamiliar, there is a shopping aisle in Aldi that peddles every type of home goods, clothes, shoes, small appliances, rugs, seasonal decor, you name it. 

Christmas was around the corner, and I was looking for a cute and practical gift, and the price point was right. So I picked up several to give as presents to friends and family. I liked it so much that I even purchased one for myself!

Working from home, I thought the calendar would be a nice size for my dining/office table. I also liked that it was portable and could take it from room to room. It checked a lot of boxes. 

My favorite calendar – gone!

When I went back the following December to purchase some more calendars for 2022, they were nowhere to be found. I even went on an Aldi Facebook Group to ask if they were available elsewhere in the country but no one had seen them. Maybe it was a supply chain issue?

Having taken a visual design class from former graphic designer Pamela Wilson, and with several years of desktop publishing under my belt (as a journalism major), I decided to design my calendar for 2022 using Canva, a desktop publishing tool for those who are not professional designers. I printed it at the local Staples and recycled the wood base from the previous calendar. Here’s the one I designed for 2022.

out of sight, out of mind

For 2023, I once again scoured the AOS for the calendars but once again, they were nowhere to be found. So I decided to design another calendar but for this year, I wanted to add a verse to each month. For the past couple of years, my spiritual goal has been to memorize scripture more and be intentional with what I surround myself with. 

You’ve heard of the phrase out of sight, out of mind

This calendar – with the verse – would be in full view and top of mind. Since the calendar is right by my laptop, it’s in front of me for at least 8-10 hours a day or more. 

2023 Scott Ink Scripture Calendar

Being intentional about what I see regularly, and surrounding myself with God’s word, would help me in my spiritual goal of memorizing scripture. During the day, our mind gets cluttered with many worldly images, voices, words and influences, not to mention negativity. If we’re not careful and intentional, it’s easy to get discouraged by worldly thinking.

Having this simple, 6×4-inch calendar right in front of me allows me to focus on key verses from God’s manual for life – the Bible. 

Being intentional with spiritual goals

Over my lifetime, studying scripture, praying God’s word, and claiming the promises found in the Bible have allowed me to undergo transformations and metamorphoses like that of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Memorizing scripture transforms and renews my mind, allowing me to shed old ways of defeatist thinking and embrace a life lived with greater peace and clarity. Like that butterfly, I can break out of the chrysalis of sin, shame, doubt, fear and worry and take flight to experience true freedom in Christ.

What we think matters. Filling our minds with God’s word and meditating and reflecting on it change our thinking. You replace the old, destructive thinking patterns with new patterns that offer hope, promise and guidance for daily living. 

A humble seed germinates

I thought other friends and family might benefit from memorizing scripture, and I thought of offering the calendar to them so they could be inspired and encouraged, too.

I reached out to my friend, Christie Hayes, who works for a local printer to get a small batch of the calendars professionally printed. Next, I needed to get the wood stands made. That proved to be a more difficult task. When I went online to purchase the stands, the most affordable stands I could find were in China, and the earliest they could be here was at the end of January. The ones I found on Etsy and Amazon were at a much higher price point, boosting the price of the calendar beyond what I wanted to charge.

Freshly printed copies of the calendar turned a vision into reality.

With the clock ticking (this is a calendar after all!), I knew a late January arrival wouldn’t work as I didn’t want the calendar to become outdated. So I sprang into action and did what isn’t always a first and natural response – I prayed.

After praying, the Lord brought two men to mind from my church who were wood craftsmen. I reached out to them – one of whom was in my Connection class – and they got on board with my idea and agreed to help. A huge thanks to Brian Wilson and his dad, Don Wilson, a veteran! They are so kind and easy to work with and understood the project’s urgency.

The local Woodcraft store had these beautiful walnut blocks on clearance. We were able to make three stands from each block of wood.

The Lord continued to guide our path as we searched for affordably priced wood for the stands. We found some beautiful walnut wood blocks that had been marked down at the local Woodcraft store. After purchasing the wood, the Wilsons got to work and made a prototype of a walnut stand to hold the calendar. Christie gave me the paper sample to ensure the calendar fit into the stand. Everything fit perfectly (whew!) and off we went to get started on production.

Looking back on how quickly the calendar came together reminds me of this verse that encouraged me from Proverb 16:3: Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.

We got the calendars printed within 10 days and the wood stands made.

Above, our girls, Ellie and Priya, helped stain the wood with Danish oil, while Jaia worked on address labels.

That’s how this very humble seed sprouted into the Scott Ink Scripture Calendar. I’m reminded of this passage:

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. The one who plants and the one who waters have one purpose, and they will each be rewarded according to their own labor. For we are co-workers in God’s service; you are God’s field, God’s building.
— 1 Corinthians 3:5-8

Why memorizing scripture is powerful

Thank you to my family and friends who have supported and believed in me as I turned this idea into a tangible product. A special thanks to Susy Eversull, my aunt-in-law/love who helped me to proof the calendar and has been my biggest sales gal! 😘

Whether you purchase the calendar or not, I hope you will intentionally decide to memorize God’s scripture more in 2023. 

Don’t know where to start? Select a few of your favorite short verses from the Bible. The Psalms are my go-to book of the Bible for finding encouraging, uplifting verses. You can also find some of my favorite verses in this blog post, Are You Spiritually Fat, But Not Faithful? God’s word never returns void meaning it produces good things as Isaiah tells us:

It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.
— Isaiah 55:11

Whether you read God’s word, memorize it, reflect on it or even apply it, why not let it prosper in your life? I look forward to hearing about the fruit it produces! 

VALENTINE’S DAY SPECIAL! From 1/23 to 2/15, with every calendar order, you will receive five free Valentine’s Day postcards and stamps to send to your Valentines (until I run out!) The postcard features the attributes of love as found in 1 Corinthians 13. Send them to your BFFs, family, grandkids, nieces, nephews, friends or whoever you want to show some love to this Valentine’s Day! CLICK TO ORDER

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Easter Hymn Story: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

Learn about the writer of this beloved and powerful Easter hymn.

Christmas and Easter are always more meaningful to me as I take time to savor the worship music celebrating our Savior and King. Many years ago, my dear father-in-law loaned me a copy of 101 Hymn Stories by Kenneth W. Osbeck (I loved it so much he let me keep it!). It’s a wonderful book exploring the history and inspiration of all of the great hymns we love to sing today.

With Easter coming up in a few days, I’m listening to some of my favorite hymns, including When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

Did you know it’s written by Isaac Watts? Here’s a little background on the very talented Mr. Watts:

Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote this cherished and popular hymn in 1707 for a communion service that he conducted. It was published in a collection of hymns titled Hymns and Spiritual Songs. Watts began writing hymns after his father, a learned deacon of a Congregational church in England, challenged Watts to write a hymn after his son repeatedly disagreed with the dry, congregational singing of the Psalms that occurred in churches of that day.

The young poet wrote a hymn every Sunday for two years, which is why many refer to him as the father of English hymnody. Watts’ heart longed to “Christianize the Psalms with the New Testament message and style.” In his time, Watts’s approach to hymns was a radical departure from the establishment.

Watts longed to write hymns that reflected his personal feelings towards his faith and his love of our Savior. I’m thankful his courage, faith and conviction led him to write such a meaningful and powerful worship song that still inspires me to cherish the message of the cross hundreds of years later. I love this contemporary version of this traditional hymn by Tim Hughes.

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