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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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:
Pinch Me Therapy Dough
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
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
We got the calendars printed within 10 days and the wood stands made.
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
Five simple ways to shed your spiritual fat and exercise your faith more.
One of the great joys in my life is studying God’s word through an in-depth Bible study called Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). During a recent BSF lesson, we studied Matthew 13, which includes the Parable of the Hidden Treasure. As I read over my notes, a section stuck out that I starred and highlighted:
“Feasting on God’s blessings but failing to pour out into others causes us to grow spiritually fat, but not faithful … Are you bringing out those treasures and sharing with others the rich investment God has deposited in you? … Do you realize how much treasure you have? What will you do with what you have learned …?”
Bible Study Fellowship, Notes from Lesson 14
One of the greatest treasures I have is God’s word. The Bible study lesson, along with my personal notes, challenged me to ask, “Am I growing ‘spiritually fat’ by feasting on God’s word but never exercising my faith and applying my knowledge and sharing it with others?”
As I pondered that question, the Holy Spirit reminded me of some of the recent ways I’ve been inspired to share my faith. I hope it will inspire you to explore your own ways as you are led by the Holy Spirit.
1. Text a friend or family member an encouraging verse.
We’re surrounded by so much negativity and everyday trials can be burdensome. When I get discouraged, I turn to God’s word to uplift and encourage me. There are some go-to verses that remind me of God’s presence and power and I cling to His promise that He will never leave or forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:8).
I put them in my “Notes” on my smartphone so I can access them easily when I’m going through a difficult time.
You can do the same thing when a friend or family member is having a bad day or has received some bad news. Look up some Bible verses to encourage them. Google “encouraging Bible verses,” and you’ll be surprised at how many you’ll find.
Isaiah 55:11 tells us that God’s word never returns void so know that the word you share will be a blessing to the recipient. Both BibleGateway and Bible Hub are some wonderful resources to look up scripture, and their Apps make it even easier to share verses by text or email, for example.
Here are just a few of my go-to verses of encouragement.
What are some of your “lifeline” verses to remind you of God’s goodness, faithfulness and love to you? I encourage you to have them ready and recall them on your phone or even on a sticky note throughout your house or workplace (if appropriate) as a visual reminder. Visual cues can be powerful reminders in our distraction-filled world, especially if we’re trying to correct a bad habit or negative thinking.
2. Send a birthday gift of a Bible verse or a prayer.
Tuck a Bible verse or scripture reference into your birthday card. You can also do this digitally. I’ve found some great scriptures for birthdays from these websites HERE and HERE. Have you ever gifted someone with a written prayer? It’s such a powerful and thoughtful way to share your faith with them.
What’s even more powerful is using the audio feature on your phone and recording a short prayer and sending it to them. Your audible voice is a wonderful way to connect personally with someone you want to encourage.
3. Spend some time memorizing scripture.
To help me with Nos. 1-2 above, I’m trying to be better about memorizing scripture. When you commit to memorizing scripture, God’s word fills your mind and heart so that when you undergo a problem or trial in your life (or even something wonderful), the Holy Spirit will bring to mind more quickly those verses you’ve memorized. Don’t you think it’s funny that we’ll often recall countless trivial details of a celebrity’s life but when it comes to pouring our energy into memorizing God’s word, we struggle? I’ve been convicted of that lately. Memorizing God’s word is an eternal treasure.
Scripture memorization is something I’m not very good at, but I’ve challenged myself to get better as my youngest daughter recently joined the Bible Drill class at our church. Bible Drill is an amazing program taught by one of the most dedicated and faithful children’s leaders at our church (thank you Miss Sheila!). Even if we commit to learning one verse every couple of weeks for a year, that’s 26 verses that we didn’t know before. Scripture memorization is a wonderful way to hide God’s word in our heart so that we will not sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).
4. Pray scripture for prayer needs.
I’m involved in several prayer groups and sometimes when a prayer request is shared, I will search for a verse in the Bible that corresponds with the prayer request (a Bible concordance can make this easier). For example, if a friend is sick or recovering from a surgery, I’ll find a scripture or passage on healing in the Bible and either pray that verse for the person or claim that promise and blessing for them.
5. Invite people to your church or Bible study.
One of the best ways I’ve found to share God’s word with others is to invite them to my church or Bible study group.
I know it can be intimidating to step out and invite others knowing they may say “No” or they are just not interested. Ask the Holy Spirit to guide you and bring people to mind who you can encourage or invite. You’ll be amazed at the courage and boldness the Holy Spirit provides (2 Timothy 1:7). The first time you do anything out of your comfort zone is scary, but the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
As you can see, these are some simple yet effective ways that have worked for me to bless and encourage others so that we can shed our “spiritual fat” to exercise our faith more.
I’m a big believer in taking baby steps when it comes to doing anything new. If you’re a believer who has feasted on God’s blessings but failed to pour out into others, what is a simple way you can shed your “spiritual fat” this week? I’m praying the Holy Spirit will reveal some ideas so that you can start exercising your faith more.
As 2022 unfolds, I’m looking forward to what God is going to show me and my family through an unexpected word choice.
The wonderful Mary Whelchel of The Christian Working Woman ministry is a virtual spiritual mentor of mine. While I’ve never met her in person, I look forward to her Monday-Friday devotionals in my Inbox each week. I gobble them up like my favorite chocolate chip cookies.
When she asked her readers to think about choosing the word “thankfulness” as their word for the year, I knew I had to at least consider it.
It didn’t take me long to embrace her suggestion, and she pointed me to this verse: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:6-7).
I love the part about “overflowing with thankfulness” because gratitude is one of my personal core values. So often we get caught up in what we don’t have that we overlook what we do have. A regular prayer is, “Lord give me eyes to see what your hand has provided.”
I first learned about selecting a word for the year from the book, My One Word by Mike Ashcraft and Rachel Olsen recommended by Mary Whelchel. It’s a terrific read worth your time. Mike is a senior pastor of a megachurch in Wilmington, North Carolina, and Rachel Olsen is a member of his congregation, author, and also serves as a national speaker with Proverbs 31 Ministries. Mike first developed the process on how to choose your one word for the year to think, pray and meditate on for his church:
“Choose just one word that represents what you most hope God will do in you, and focus on it for an entire year. This single act will force clarity and concentrate your efforts. As you focus your word over an extended period of time, you position yourself for God to form your character at a deep, sustainable level. Growth and change will result.” The book walks you through a variety of steps and reflections to guide you in choosing your one word, along with selecting a key verse that corresponds with your word.
I never realized until recently the reason Psalms is my favorite book of the Bible is because it’s brimming with so many instances of David’s heart of thankfulness and praise.
One of the reasons I decided to focus on thankfulness as my word of the year is I wanted to cultivate a greater sense of gratitude in my life. When you’re in a state of thankfulness, you choose to focus on the good things rather than the negative things in your life. After the pandemic, and living through so many challenges that it brought – not to mention the everyday trials of life – it’s so easy to whine and complain about what’s not going right.
But choosing thankfulness forces us to focus our eyes on things that are going right, which is contrary to our normal thought life – at least for me. Without the Holy Spirit directing us, our minds automatically go to things that are negative, worst-case scenarios. We may often see the “giants” or problems in our lives bigger than God Himself like 10 of the 12 spies did in Numbers 13-14. Only two of the spies – Joshua and Caleb – saw God bigger than the giants, and as a result, they were the only two people from their generation to enter the Promised Land.
By choosing thankfulness, I’m going to focus my mind on the charge from Philippians 4:8: “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
There is irony in me choosing thankfulness at this time in my life. As I write this, every member of our family is walking through a personal trial as we’ve never encountered before. Thankfulness would probably be one of the last words I would choose to meditate on right now. But isn’t that just like God – to take our hand and challenge us to trust Him as He leads us through difficult valleys to reveal truths, lessons and insights we wouldn’t have learned other wise?
I know it’s hard to focus on being thankful amidst circumstances that test our faith. But in the few short days of 2022 that I’ve been practicing thankfulness and meditating on that word, God is showing up in ways that encourage and remind me He sees our family and what we’re walking through. When my autopilot mind races to the negative, the Holy Spirit counters to help me to focus on thankfulness. Almost immediately, my mind starts thanking God and praising Him for all of the good things in my life.
I look forward to God reframing my perspective in 2022 to focus on:
Things that are true
Things that are noble
Things that are right
Things that are pure
Things that are lovely
Things that are admirable
Things that are excellent
Things that are praiseworthy
When you focus on all of those things Philippians 4:8 lists, suddenly a new mindset takes shape, allowing you to choose thankfulness.
I Thessalonians 5:18 challenges us to be thankful – always: Whatever happens, it says, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.
Won’t you join me in choosing thankfulness this year?