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

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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!)


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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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It’s my privilege to welcome April Swiger today, with an excerpt from her new book, Dignity and Worth: Seeing the Image of God in Foster Adoption.




April Swiger is a wife, mother to two awesome little boys (Jayda and Zay), homemaker, and blogger. In 2013, her family moved to her home state of Connecticut, where her husband, Adam, serves as the worship pastor at Christ the Redeemer Church. Living in a 100-year-old farmhouse, being debt-free, cooking nourishing food, and enjoying introvert-friendly activities are some of her favorite things.

The following excerpt comes from Chapter 5 of April’s book. This chapter is called, A Conversation About Race: How Understanding Our Child’s Cultural Background Honors the Image of God.

Thank you, April, for sharing these important words with us!


Processed with Rookie Cam
Processed with Rookie Cam


I remember the first time my son openly acknowledged that his skin color was different than my husband’s and mine. It happened just before Christmas in 2014, and he had recently turned three years old.


We were looking at the various characters in an old Italian plastic nativity set that my parents had passed down to us. This particular nativity is the perfect set for a toddler who plays hard all day, every day, because the pieces are unbreakable.


My favorite part of this nativity set is that the skin colors of the characters are not all porcelain white. Most figures look like they’re Middle Eastern, and one of the three wise men has very dark skin, just like my son. Jayda picked up this wise man and made a comment about how the two of them matched one another. I was thrilled to see him notice the similarity, and was eager to point to our Creator as the one who gave him his dark brown skin.


Jayda and I talked more about his observation, about how God made us each unique, and how every person is beautiful, created in God’s image, regardless of the color of his or her skin. Adam and I have used the same vocabulary with Jayda since that first conversation to reinforce the truth of the Imago Dei and the variety of skin tones God has created.


I believe that initial conversation about the dark-skinned wise man spurred on Jayda’s curiosity and awareness of different ethnicities to a new level. On multiple occasions when out running errands, Jayda would point to others who had the same skin color as his own, excited to see “a match.”


Our willingness to talk with him about race gave him the freedom to address the subject; it gave him agency in processing his experience of social dynamics. I believe if we had refused to talk to him about race, he may not have felt the freedom to ask us about it. If we had skirted the issue because it was awkward for us to discuss, I wonder if he would have felt that we were unapproachable on the topic.


It doesn’t matter if your children are black, white, Asian, or Latino: Every parent needs to talk openly with their children about race and ethnicity.



For believers, the conversation ought to be fueled by the gospel—how Jesus is the one who has freed us from sin and death, and racial division and racism—and focus on the hope that it brings to every relationship.


These conversations are incredibly hard, though. Whether they are with my son, a family member, or a friend, it takes humility, effort, thought, and wise word choices to navigate conversations about race and ethnicity. I’m willing to engage in these conversations because I’m convinced it’s important to God and honors those who bear his image.



Because race and ethnicity are important to God, and he purposefully created each and every one, I am always encouraged to hear of families who embrace different cultures in their homes and who humbly choose to enter into difficult conversations.


These families teach their children that people with skin colors different than their own are not bad, but are, instead, a beautiful expression of God’s creativity. How tremendous a privilege it is to lead our children in worship as we look at the people of the world, from every tribe, tongue, and nation, created by God, with dignity and worth.


Another reason I’m willing to enter into conversations about race is that one of the most heartbreaking realities of foster care and adoption is that certain children are seen as more desirable than others. According to one of our case workers, within Connecticut’s foster care system, the most desired child is a white female, aged zero to two years old. The least desired children are black boys. Even the babies.


Our youngest, Zay, even as a tiny baby, was considered “hard to place.” That means there weren’t many families willing to take him. There were a number of reasons for this, which included his prematurity and his birth mother’s health, but being black was definitely high on the list of his “undesirable” qualities.


I’ll say it again: I don’t believe every couple should consider transracial adoption, but I do believe more families ought to take a step forward, become well-versed on the challenges, and trust God with growing their family into a multiracial one.


Related post: Should Parents Have Children of a Different Skin Color?


April Head Shot

Want to read more? Find this excerpt and the rest of April’s book here.

Join April for more “Faithfulness in the Mundane” at and on Instagram.


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