Two years ago this month, a dear friend of mine sat at my kitchen table and filled out a lengthy, tedious application to commit herself to an out-of-state residential treatment center called Vision of Hope.

As I paged through the application with her, my eyebrows were permanently raised. I knew I could never make such a commitment myself. The requirements and limitations set on the residents were lofty and strenuous.

But my friend, trapped in bondage at the time, signed on the dotted line.

With God’s help, she has remained in the program for two whole years, and is still a part of it.

She is a walking testimony to the grace of God.

She has changed from the inside out. And it’s nothing short of a glorious sight to behold.

Today, I’ve invited her to share a snippet of her story. For privacy reasons, I’ve decided not to share her name.

Here’s my friend’s story: 

On July 23, 2015, my whole world changed. I walked into a place that demanded full surrender. But I was still clamoring for control. My view of my life was futile and small. My view of myself was broken and consuming.

I had no hope.

I was just done trying. But there I was, at a residential treatment center called Vision of Hope. That word mocked me.

How did I even get there in the first place?

People in my life had prayed and urged and prayed some more. They were so confident that I could find healing in this place. They were so confident that things could change. I was riding on their hopes. I had none of my own. And I had already determined exactly how long I was going to give this program before I gave up completely on life.

You see up until that point, I had done everything in my power to control how I wanted my life to go. The ironic thing about that was, in clamoring for my own control, I actually lost more and more of it…until, my life was literally chaos, and I was chained to addictive patterns of “escaping” that chaos.

Fast-forward almost two years now and I can’t even describe to you all the areas of my heart that the Lord has totally overhauled. Things I never expected, like pride and selfishness, were exposed as the Vision of Hope staff pushed me deeper into God’s Word and deeper into the roots of my addiction.

My idolatry was explained as we faced the ways I was chasing my kingdom, instead of loving God with my whole heart. It has been a crazy journey full of very hard choices. Choices to surrender. And I am still learning and growing in my fight to surrender to My Shepherd instead of my sin.

I haven’t graduated from this program yet, because Vision of Hope has an open-ended time commitment. They know that bringing about lasting change takes a unique amount of time and diligence in God’s Word for each individual. But I am so thankful for what God has already done!


race for hope

Race for Hope

I wanted to take this opportunity to talk about this ministry because we are coming up on one of our biggest annual fundraisers, called Race for Hope.

Something that makes Vision of Hope unique is that it keeps the cost for residents incredibly low. They only ask for $400 dollars a month! That hardly covers room and board and doesn’t even touch all of the certified Biblical counseling, training, and classes that the residents go through as the Staff strives to lead each of them to the Savior.

How can they do that? They rely on support from the body of Christ to give and relieve the financial burden of these girls that come in already carrying enough heavy burdens. Burdens like addictions to drugs and alcohol, patterns of self-harm, eating disorders, unplanned pregnancies, scars from being sexually trafficked, and more.

I’m writing this to ask you to be a part of lifting that burden.

Race for Hope is happening on June 10th this year. Vision of Hope has a fundraising goal of $50,000 total.

Are you ready to hear how you can get involved?

To donate, follow this link, and choose to either support one of our teams/runners, or just donate to the ministry as a whole. If you choose to support one of our teams, all funds go to the same total and it gives that extra boost to the girls who are working hard to raise support.

This is also a joint fundraising event for Faith Bible Seminary, so you will see those teams on the list as well.

You can also learn more about Vision of Hope and what they do by clicking here.

Thank you for taking the time to read this and consider getting involved!

It’s my pleasure to welcome author and speaker Cindy Bultema to the blog today, with a special guest post and giveaway!

I’ve had the privilege of meeting Cindy at two writing conferences. She served as a keynote speaker on one occasion, and I was so moved by her powerful testimony. Cindy has a bubbly, contagious joy and is a dynamic speaker and Bible teacher.

Cindy BultemaCindy’s newest Bible study, Live Full Walk Free: Set Apart in a Sin-Soaked World released in December as part of the Inscribed Series at Thomas Nelson. In this journey through 1 Corinthians, Cindy equips women to live a set-apart life for Christ in our sin-soaked world.

Here’s Cindy with a sneak peek at Chapter 5 of Live Full Walk Free:


You Are Not the Only One

I was talking with my friend Jamie recently after she’d had a long, disappointing Monday.

Everywhere she turned she was pelted with lies, frustration, and discouragement.

Jamie was lamenting that at the end of her long day, in the midst of trying to bake cookies for a sick friend—and burning half of them—she caved in and inhaled a huge handful of half-burned cookies.

Easy comfort, right? Except every woman knows what happened next: After eating those cookies, Jamie carried guilt and shame on top of everything else that had gone wrong in her life on that horrible, rotten, no good day.

I have so been there. My guess is: you have too.

One more cookie story, because in this life we will have cookie temptations.

Once, when my kids were ages one, two, three and ten, I came up with the brilliant idea to invite all the 4th grade moms from my son’s school over for coffee, conversation, and homemade chocolate chip cookies.

It seemed like a good idea at the time, but my plan to win friends and influence people through chocolate quickly went bust. In the midst of trying to keep my kiddos busy, roll store-bought dough onto cookie sheets, and frantically hide all our clutter – I gave in and ate (more like “sucked down”) four ooey, gooey warm and chewy cookies.

Later that week, when I sunk down into my therapist’s couch, I cried and told her that I was disgusted with myself. I was filled with self-loathing, and shame. Why? Because of the cookies. I told her that I had been striving to pretend I had it all together – when the reality was I was hanging on by a thread (a thin thread, at that).

And then, longing for connection and acceptance from these other moms, I had tried to numb my feelings with homemade cookies. And afterward, what did I do? I let the enemy flood me with lies and guilt and shame.

My therapist listened and nodded. “Cindy, do you think you are the only woman who has eaten some of her homemade cookies?”

“But I ate four cookies. Not one, not two, but four.” I said loudly, as if she spoke a foreign language and couldn’t understand the meaning of the number four.

“Cindy, do you think you are the only woman who has eaten FOUR of her homemade cookies?” my therapist replied.

“Um, yeah, probably not”.

So recently, when I listened to my friend Jamie describe her discouragement and self-loathing over eating her chocolate chip cookies, I recycled my therapist’s question.

“Jamie, do you think you are the only woman who has eaten some of her homemade cookies? Because, friend, you are not the only one.”

The words I gave Jamie are the words I want to give to you: You are not the only one.

  • You are not the only one who deviated from your healthy eating plan.
  • You are not the only one who feels disappointed, discouraged, or overwhelmed.
  • You are not the only one who wonders if you’re “not enough” compared to air brushed perfection.

And, sweet friend, you are not meant to live under harsh judgment, condemnation, and self-loathing.

Thankfully God’s Word speaks realistically to you, to me, and to cookie lovers everywhere about how to live full, free lives—even in the midst of our most disappointing and discouraging of days.

We can start by choosing to extend the same grace we would share with a girlfriend to ourselves.

We would never say to a friend who indulged on fresh-baked cookies, “You stink. You have no self-control, everyone thinks you are fat, and no one likes you anyway.”

You would never say that, right?

So why do we let the enemy put such horrible, garbage thoughts in our head?!

Let’s choose grace over guilt.

Let’s choose freedom over frustration.

Let’s choose kindness over constant criticism and comparisons.

Let’s choose life…life to the full, more than enough, super abundance, full, free life! (John 10:10)

May the God who made you, knows you, loves you, and desires to fill your days with satisfying, life-giving moments remind you afresh that you are accepted, loved and enough—cookie crumbs and all!


Cindy’s latest Bible study, Live Full Walk Free: Set Apart in a Sin-Soaked World released in December 2016 as part of the Inscribed Series at Thomas Nelson.

Visit Cindy’s blog to watch the study trailer and download FREE resources!


Cindy Bultema



Cindy BultemaWith nearly 20 years of ministry experience, Cindy is a popular women’s speaker, author, and Bible teacher. But don’t let her cheerful smile fool you—Cindy has endured single parenting, overcome bondage to addiction, and survived tragic loss. Cindy lives in Michigan with her husband and their four kids. Most days you can find Cindy walking her beagle Rocky, attending one of her boys’ hockey games, or serving hot lunch at her kids’ school.



And now it’s time for a giveaway!

Cindy is generously offering a copy of her Bible study to one winner!

Enter to win below!

Cindy Bultema


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Welcome to another round of Five Minute Friday!

My challenge for you this week is to click around the link-up until you find someone who is joining FMF for the first time. Last week I found at least three newcomers, and it makes me smile every time!

If you’re brand new to the Five Minute Friday scene, you can learn more about us by clicking here!

This week, it’s my privilege to welcome Shannon Popkin as a guest blogger. Shannon is the author of Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, which releases Friday, January 27th!




Here’s Shannon Popkin with this week’s Five Minute Friday post on the prompt:





Control. The desire for it wells up from somewhere very deep inside of me. I crave it. I feel compelled to lunge for it; to do whatever it takes to have it. I feel an urgency to take control, wondering what might happen if I don’t!

And so I go for it. I leap for it. I run for it. I grasp it as tightly as I can and clutch it with all my might.

Then without comment, control slips through my fingers like a mirage. It flutters like a leaf, blown upward into heaven.

I see now that it was all a tease. I never did have a grasp on that blasted control.

This makes me angry and frustrated. I shout at it to get right back here, and jab my finger at the ground in front of me. Then I whimper like a child because I need it so badly. But control is not mine to be had. It doesn’t belong in my hands. It belongs in God’s.

I look up to search His face, wondering why He has taken the control I so deeply long for. Is He taunting me? Is He Indifferent and aloof? Does he even see me all the way down here, beneath his throne?

I wave my hands frantically, to let him know that I need Him to send it back down. I’m ready to hold on more tightly, now. I won’t let go this time.

There’s movement. He sees me! He’s stooping low. For a moment, I’m terrified, and then I see kindness in His eyes. He whispers something into my soul and I lean forward to hear it. You were not designed to carry the burden of control. Won’t you let me carry it for you?

And then He shows me His hands. His massive, wise, holy hands. They are good, God hands.

And at first glance I didn’t notice, but now I do! He’s holding something, there. Are they threads? They’re translucent yet as strong as steel.

I look closer and see a trillion plotlines being woven together in such complexity and beauty, such that I’ve never laid eyes on. His strong fingers are twisting and tying and looping the details together—details of people who are known and loved by Him—in intricate patterns so that each thread moves the story along toward a conclusion that fills my heart with such joy I can hardly breathe.

I can’t see the ending; I can’t see the full pattern. But I just know that it is good.

“It is very good,” I hear Him say.

But when I turn my eyes back to His face, He is gone. Hidden from sight. Just like that.

It was only a glimpse, but it was enough.

I am settled now, at peace with what I can’t see and what I don’t know. I no longer feel the angst in my soul, pressing me to take and keep and have control.

He’s in control, so I don’t have to be.




Author and speaker Shannon Popkin loves to blend her gifts for storytelling and humor with her passion for God’s Word. Shannon is the author of Control Girl: Lessons on Surrendering Your Burden of Control from Seven Women in the Bible, and is a contributing blogger at

Shannon is happy to be sharing life with Ken, who makes her laugh every single day. Together, they live the fast-paced life of parenting three teens. For more information and companion resources for Control Girl, including a downloadable discussion guide for leaders, go to  Shannon would love to connect with you at, or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest.




Now it’s your turn! What comes to mind when you think of the word, CONTROL? Share with us in five minutes or less!


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So I woke up this morning and wondered, What should the Five Minute Friday word be for this week?

AndrewThen I opened my email inbox and found a message from Andrew Budek-Schmeisser, long-time faithful member of the FMF community.

If you own the Five Minute Friday book, you’ll know that Susan Shipe dedicated the book to Andrew — a daily fighter and warrior against the ugly, horrific ravages of terminal cancer.

This morning Andrew shared a post he wrote in advance for this week’s Five Minute Friday linkup. He didn’t know the word yet — I hadn’t even chosen it yet — but his post was titled, Count it all joy.

I decided then and there that I had to share it with you here.

So — because of Andrew and the words he shared — this week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is:





And yes, I know we already wrote on JOY in October 2015 and Lisa-Jo used it a couple of times when she served as FMF host … and yes, I know the word three weeks ago was ENJOY … and yes, I know I’ve been sharing a lot of guest posts lately — but you know what? Sometimes we need to bend the man-made “rules” and follow where the Spirit leads, amen?

Week after week, Andrew is teaching us how to die well.

The following words, written by a man writhing on his death bed, are no exception. Let’s lean in, listen close, and learn from him, shall we?

Without further ado, here’s Andrew:


For a long time, I was really irritated with James (as in the New Testament Epistle) and his ‘count it all joy’ to be found in James 1:2.

Trade places with me, dude, and we’ll see how long you talk about joy.

But he was right, and I was quite wrong. It’s not that pain and the small and daily humiliations of illness are in anyway pleasurable. Only a madman or a masochist could say that. I’m not the latter. (Jury’s still out on the first.)

And neither is the joy based in the promise of Heaven. Certainly that’s an attractive future, but it can seem a long way away when you pass the night screaming in pain. That was last night, as I write this; I do hope tonight will be better.

So where’s the beef? Oh, sorry. Where’s the joy?

Simple. The joy is in the process of showing up.

Joy is in the intention of joy; it’s found in the resolve, however shaky, that overcomes the pain to say that life’s still good and still worth living.

Joy is found in the decision to reach out and offer encouragement to someone who’s hurting because I am hurting, too.

Joy is found in living the example of hope when all hope’s rationally gone, even if no one is looking.

Joy is found in the realization that there is purpose to my pain and that I am the vital link to fulfill that purpose. Quite a responsibility!

Joy is found in the moments I would have shrugged off in years past but that I now see as treasures beyond price. God did not intend our moments to be wasted.

And most important…well,to me…joy is found in what I can give, because I now understand that the gift of pain is the vital other side of compassion.



May the joy of the Lord be your strength, brother.


Related posts:

On Dying with Dignity

For Your Joy

Related products:

Joy Joy

Related books:


Joy  Joy

Affiliate links used.


Share your own five minutes of free writing on the prompt, JOY, below!


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Welcome to Five Minute Friday!

We have tons of goodies and surprises in store for you this week, as I’m celebrating TWO YEARS hosting this wonderful community!

Lisa-Jo Baker started Five Minute Friday on January 13, 2011 and hosted for nearly FOUR YEARS before passing it over to me in August of 2014.

It’s been my absolute privilege to open this space to brave writers like you week after week.


Since we have so much to share this week, I feel like I should give you a little Table of Contents so you don’t miss out on any goodness! In this post, we’re sharing:


In the past two years, we’ve had some good times, hey? We had several video interviews with Asheritah and a number of FMF community members; we had our very first retreat; we’re even making a BOOK!

Speaking of the Five Minute Friday book, I’m thrilled to be able to share a sneak peek of the cover with you, AND to reveal the release date!



It's a Five Minute FridayBOOK!(1)


We chose September 26th so that those of you who are participating in Write 31 Days in October will hopefully share all about the book with your Write 31 Days readers!

All proceeds from the book will be divided equally between two vital ministries in South Africa: The Vine School in Cape Town, and the Ten Dollar Tribe!

And speaking of Write 31 Days, remember how a whole bunch of us have done 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes for the past two years? (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, catch the 2014 version here and the 2015 edition here!)

Well … I have some exciting news to share! Not only will 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes still be going strong for its third year running, but the lovely, one and only Christina Hubbard from Creative and Free will be hosting the challenge this year!

(Just to clarify, Crystal Stine hosts the overall Write 31 Days challenge; 31 Days of Five Minute Free Writes is sort of a challenge within a challenge, so to speak.)

Here’s a picture of Christina and me, taken on the beach last Friday as we plotted and planned all sorts of fun things for the FMF community:

Christina Hubbard


You know online friendships are for real when you meet for the first time wearing your bathing suits and you chat for three hours straight before realizing your back may not have gotten as sunburned if you hadn’t been wearing your tank top backwards all day. Just sayin’.


As part of our festivities this weekend, I’m also hosting a special giveaway for my blog subscribers!

Subscribe here to receive these blog posts via email and you’ll automatically be entered to win a custom map necklace from KraftyKash, with the destination of your choice!

(Psst … if you’re already a subscriber, you’re already entered to win!)






Even if you don’t win, you’ll get a copy of my ebook, Letters to Grief, as well as two free adult coloring pages, just for signing up!

Subscribe here!




While we’re celebrating, go ahead and grab some goodies from the $5 Summer Sale at DaySpring!

DaySpring Sale



Finally, it’s my great privilege to welcome author Jennifer Dukes Lee to Five Minute Friday this week!

Read on to learn why I invited Jennifer to guest post on the prompt:






Jennifer Dukes Lee is an award-winning former news journalist, an (in)courage writer and a blogger at Jennifer once took a dare to find out whether happiness matters to God and, if so, how to pursue it in a way that pleases Him. Out of that quest, was born: The Happiness Dare: Pursuing Your Heart’s Deepest, Holiest, and Most Vulnerable Desire.




Please join me in welcoming Jennifer as she shares her five minute free write with us below!


In 2002, we moved to a part of the world known not-so-affectionately as “fly-over country.” That means that no one stops here to visit the natural features, national landmarks, or tourist attractions. (We don’t have many of those in farm country.)


People “fly over” our part of the world, on their way to everywhere else.


Like most people, I love to jet off to beaches and vacations and long weekends at the lake. All of those places make me positively giddy!


But the truth is: If I wait for a vacation to find happiness, I’m going to waste a lot of time wishing for greener pastures.


Happiness has very little to do with where our feet are – and a whole lot to do with where our hearts are.


Right here in fly-over country, I’m learning that often times, I have to be super intentional about cultivating happiness in my every day. You too? There’s a good chance your life looks a lot like mine: overdue library books, looming deadlines, Legos experiencing urban sprawl across the living room floor, expired sour cream at the back of the fridge, a garden where weeds are more abundant than flowers.


For most of us, life isn’t too fancy. It’s pretty … regular. Pretty ordinary. Pretty weedy.


But I think that’s where happiness is built – right in the middle of our ordinary lives, not on the French Riviera.


I want to build a life that I don’t need a vacation from. How about you?




Let’s build a happy life right where we are – on our back decks where we watch the sun slide down the western sky, on the couch during those late-night Netflix marathons, in the middle of the pillow flights, and the hundreds of family dinners, and the gazillionith tuck-in.


This is happiness – yep, even in fly-over country.




Jennifer’s book, The Happiness Dare, just released this week!

Take Jennifer’s Happiness Style Assessment, and find out in five minutes or less, what truly makes you happy.

And now … it’s giveaway time!

One person will win a copy of The Happiness Dare, courtesy of Jennifer Dukes Lee, and another winner will get this fabulous Writer keychain from KraftyKash!


Writer Keychain

(Psst … if you want to order the book or the keychain in case you don’t win or you want to gift a friend, you can grab the book here and the keychain here!)


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Both giveaways end at 11:59pm EST on Sunday, August 7th.

Must have a U.S. postal address to be eligible to win.  


Disclaimer: Affiliate links have been used in this post.

Join us with your own five minutes of free writing on HAPPY! 

Thanks for celebrating with us, friends! Don’t forget to click over to the blog linked up before yours to leave some comment love!


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