The simple, gospel truth about morning rituals and why they’re such an effective way to start your day

Mornings are my jam.

If you’re not a morning person, you’re probably rolling your eyes right about now. Don’t hate me. It’s how I was made, just like you were made to get your mojo on around 4:30 in the afternoon (yawn). I’ve always been this way.

Even when my babies kept me awake all night, I still loved mornings; who can resist the snuggly bed-headed toddler lugging his bedraggled bunny? Not me.

Mornings are a chance for a fresh start.

If you read this blog regularly, or follow me online, the you know I have this thing about the prefix re-, which means, “again, back, once more.” There’s a word in the Hebrew that express it beautifully: shuwb. It means to return, restore, refresh, repair.

We serve a “Re- God!” His mercies are new every morning. “Return,” He says, “I will restore.” With God, every day is a do-over.

Morning person or not, we all have to face a new day, every single day. The question is, how?  

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Why you will never understand addiction

Don’t miss the giveaway at the end of post!

Who hasn’t known the heartache of having a friend or loved one who struggles with addiction? The never-ending cycle of hope vs. hopelessness, of wanting to help but feeling helpless… it will (and should) drive you to your knees, which is why I’ve invited my good friend, Paula Jauch to share at my table today. I first met Paula at a writers conference; we were both rookies, searching for a way to get our words out into the world. Well, friends, her voice comes through loud and clear because she. speaks. truth. Hard-won truth, because she’s been there. The words she shares are written from a place of brokenness and healing.

This past fall I woke up to a message on my phone with a picture of a beautiful baby boy who had just been born into our family. The text was from one of my family members whose daughter had just given birth to this precious child. But what I wasn’t prepared for was the text that followed:

“Please keep her and her son in your prayers; she is being arrested because they found heroin in the baby’s system and her baby boy is being placed in protected custody. In the meantime he will be kept in the hospital to wean him off of the drug.”

I know this is a pretty heavy story to share but this is the kind of stuff I grew up with all my life and I still hear small glimpses of these types of stories from my family and many other families.

Please take notice that I said “small glimpses;” I have to be very careful of what I allow into my life or what I am willing to listen to. I can’t control everything I hear but I know from experience the repercussions of being absorbed into the family’s dysfunction from addiction: reliving the trauma and wounds to the degree that would prevent me from moving forward. And I desperately want to move forward.

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Word Power

“As a writer, I play with words all day long. I toy with them, listen for their overtones, crack them open, and try to stuff my thoughts inside.”
― Philip Yancey, What’s So Amazing About Grace


If you’re new here, you should know straight up that I’m a Word Nerd. My idea of fun is a morning spent with a dictionary, concordance and my etymology app. And coffee. Organic, fair-trade pour-over coffee. I’m not a total nerd.

Advance warning: a lot of these posts are loaded with definitions, word origins and Greek or Hebrew translations. I like to dig deep and I want to supply others with the tools to dig deep, too. If I could, I’d hand out shovels with every blog post.



I’ve been shaped by words and I bet you have, too. Words of encouragement, words of life, compliments, advice, instructions. But along with those, there have also been words of discouragement; words that felt like death, insults, advice I didn’t ask for, and even words I longed to hear, but never did.

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9 Things I Learned in 2018

2018 was a very good year


Every day for the past 4-1/2 years I’ve written an online nightly gratitude post, called Counting it ALL Joy; in it, I share honestly about my search for joy and what I’m learning, because here’s the thing… it’s not really joy unless you count it ALL joy. Searching for joy is like searching for gold; sometimes you find the Mother Lode, sometimes you find nuggets, but you never come up empty handed. There’s joy in the searching and there’s always something to learn.

Here are 8 things I learned in 2018:


1. Momentum is built one moment at a time

It’s easy to build momentum when you’re headed downhill; it’s the uphill slog that bogs you down.  This year was uphill all the way for me. Redesigning and relaunching my blog, building an email list, learning a new platform, refreshing old content and writing new… whew! My secret to success? Keeping my butt in the chair! I couldn’t find my picture of the chair.


My writing spot is an antique teacher's desk that belonged to my Dad

2. Fitness can be fun

You’d never find me at the gym on January 2nd, or any day, for that matter. My idea of exercise is picking up my pen to write in my journal and taking long, rambling walks. I don’t like crowds, noise, TV (or multiple TV’s as is the case at the gym) and I’m not particularly fond of sweating.

Then we hired a trainer named King, a 6’10” tall, gentle tyrant and I am at his command. I’m down 12 pounds, have tons of energy and am setting new goals for myself.


Having a personal trainer has made all the difference.

3. Patience pays off

Discouraged that you’re sowing to the wind?

23 years ago my husband and I released an album called Expectantly. Never heard of it? Huh. 7 years ago I published a book called Holidazed, remarkably also not a best seller. In November as I sat at my computer trying to figure out yet another way to market my book, I got an email from a pastor who said he’d just read my book and was I the same Susan Ely from the above album? He then went on to  explain how both were lifesavers for him during an extremely difficult time.

Keep sowing, you never know how or when those seeds will turn into fruit.


4. A large life is found in the small things

I enjoyed reading Cozy Minimalist Home and began the process of de-cluttering. Less really is more and a minimal amount of stuff provides maximal enjoyment. This of course, does not apply to boots. You can never have too many boots.


You can't have too many


5. Ain’t no mountain high enough if you’ve got the right guide

I’ve learned over the years to do “alone” but together is better. I’ve got some new guides holding me by by the hand: Summer Gross, my spiritual director who is teaching me to be still and listen. Emily Freeman, Brian Dixon, Gary Morland and the whole gang of Hope Writers, worldwide and locally, encouraging me on my writing journey.

Encouraging each other in our writing ministry

This is Erica Baldwin and Jodi Grubbs, both survivors in their own way, both brilliant!


This is my new friend Niki Hardy; stay tuned for her book coming out this year!


6. There are only three patterns I can wear confidently:

Leopard, snakeskin and camouflage. Apparently I am a wild woman.

Snakeskin boots are in the pile above.

I am officially a wild woman

7. I love musicals

Actually, I always have but I guess I forgot. This year’s favorites were The Greatest Showman and A Star is Born. I haven’t seen Hamilton, but love the soundtrack. Yesterday I watched Fiddler on the Roof and judging from the fact that I couldn’t sit still during the dance scenes, I’m pretty sure I’m part Jewish.


8. Leave the past behind and step into the future

I’ve been slowly letting go of emotional baggage; this year I let go of some of the physical baggage in the form of furniture and accessories from our old house. Suddenly I couldn’t handle all the stuff, all the color, all the reminders of loss. So I donated, spray painted, recovered and replaced items and created a refreshing and soothing neutral palate. Ahh…


Console table and updated mirror spraypainted gold


9. I want to build a table, not a platform

There are at least two, if not more, books inside me but the powers that be tell me that if I want anyone besides my immediate family to read them, I need a platform. Ugh to that for lots of reasons. Platforms are lonely places. A table suits me better. My passion is to serve up tasty, nourishing food in the form of words that inspire and satisfy the hungry soul. Words that you’ll want to share with others around your table. Join me?


The coffee is ready, pull up a chair


Happy New Year, friends! Your encouragement and support mean the world to me. You are why I do what I do. I pray that as you usher in this new year, the Lord will usher you into His Presence and Purposes in a way that will exceed all you could ever ask or imagine. Blessings!







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There’s got to be a morning after

The morning after… Jesus has finally come…

Now what?

After all the waiting and all the wondering; the weariness and worry of months of pregnancy, the baby finally arrives. He’s here. Now the REAL journey begins, caring for the love of your life.

I remember the wait and the weight of the babies I carried within me. Oh, how I longed to be relieved of both! Little did I know that although the wait would eventually be over, the weight would continue. 

Not physical weight (although at times it feels that way) but the emotional weight.


The weight of responsibility. The weight of love.


You carry the weight of your child and you wait. Then they're here. Now what?


Caring for that precious child I’d been given was heavy! Heavier than the weight of the pregnancy. 

Mom told me that once I had children there would never, EVER be a moment when I wasn’t thinking about them; it might be in the back of my mind but the weight of their presence would be with me always. I laughed, didn’t believe it, but they turned out to be the truest words she ever spoke. The physical umbilical cord is cut but there’s an invisible cord that connects us forever. 


Boy, you’re gonna’ carry that weight, carry that weight a long time. 


Now I carry it for my grandchildren as well. 

Simeon told Mary that her child would rend her heart, that a sword would pierce her very soul. A similar sword pierces my heart daily. I would bleed to death from the wounds except for Jesus. Because HE was pierced, I can live with the weight. Because HE endured the sword and came to live inside me, I can endure. 




There is never a minute that I am not aware of my children and there is never a minute that I am not aware of Him. Even when I ignore Him, He makes His presence known. He is IN me. I feel the weight of Him, His glory, the KAVOD of His presence fills me. His weight grounds me even as it lifts me up. 

I carry Him within me and He carries me. I transfer the weight and care of my offspring to Him. 

The cord between us cannot be broken.


Morning after morning, after morning. 


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