The value of writing the Scriptures in longhand

Do you have a shortcoming that hinders you from getting things done — from being as effective as you could be?

Mine is perfectionism.

It’s a recurring theme for this blog, even when you’re not reading about it. (It’s often why you’re not reading the blog at all — because I haven’t posted!)

My goal is to publish a post every weekend, consistently. My No. 1 hindrance — even more than the health problems that keep me tired all the time — is perfectionism.

If you’re a blogger, you understand all the steps that go into publishing a decent post. It’s more than just writing the words; it’s editing, creating and checking links, producing nice images (including finding or taking photos or creating graphics, cropping and sizing them correctly), publishing the post, pushing it out to social media, writing an email to let your subscribers know about it … and don’t get me started on SEO. (If you don’t know what that is, you’re probably better off!). I have given up on the idea of search-engine optimization … at least for now. It’s a low priority. Also, if I were a fancy blogger, I’d use professional-looking pictures every time. Some websites are unbelievably beautiful. I want mine to be believably about Jesus and his grace and mercy for us. 🙂 So I often take pics of my handwritten cards, notes and pages, and sometimes I even post them on Instagram, LOL!

My goal with this website is to help you.

I want to encourage you, inspire you and spur you to action. I want to help you KNOW GOD. And not just “know” God, but to really dig deep and have a relationship with him that helps you navigate life and help others do the same.

My aim is to make the Lord’s name great and to take you along for the ride. I want us to share our faith with love and respect, no matter whom we’re talking to.

We’re learning together here. I’m studying Christian apologetics, and it has been fascinating so far. I’m hearing terms and concepts I had never paid attention to before.

But all that sharing and blogging comes wrapped up in perfectionism, which tends to drag me down and keep me from doing … anything.

I’ve been working behind the scenes, though just not publishing.

So when I find something that calms me down — that allows me to pull back, slow the spinning plates and just sit and contemplate for a few minutes — I grab hold. And then I want to share it.

I’ve followed a woman named Arabah Joy for a year or so, and she recently offered her Love the Word Bible Study Binder at the low cost of … FREE … and I grabbed it. (The free offer has expired, but here’s the link in case you’d like to buy the 66-page download for $27.)

It includes pages for writing Scriptures, and this is something I’ve wanted to do for a while.

Also, I looooove writing longhand. I’ve always enjoyed writing of all kinds, and in the past couple of years I’ve been reminded of how I enjoy not only keyboard typing but simply getting back to the basics and writing things longhand. Handwriting uses a different part of your brain, the scientists say.

(Jury’s still out on whether I’m a paper-planner girl or a digital-planner geek. I think I’m a hybrid — I enjoy and see value in both methods.)

So, if you’re struggling with perfectionism, a busy schedule, a brain that goes in a hundred-thousand directions all the time, or any other issue that’s making you cray-cray, consider writing out some Scriptures.

Then sit and contemplate them and pray over them.

Here are a couple of my faves to start with:

2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV) — “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him.”

James 1:2-5 (NIV) — “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.”

Write these on whatever you have — it doesn’t have to be fancy paper or colored index cards. You see from the first photo that I scrounged around and found some colored notebook paper. I’ve had the paper for years, and I’ve had the colored index cards for years. Don’t go out and buy something.


I included a set of my favorite writing tools in the first photo because I enjoy writing with these markers (using them actually slows me down and helps me contemplate what I’m writing), but a plain ol’ pencil or regular ink pen will do. (If you do want these markers, here is an Amazon link to my idea list where I recently started list of my favorite office supplies. I’m not an Amazon affiliate, so I don’t make any money off your clicks or purchases.)

Also notice that I chose not to start over when I messed up; I decided to scratch it out and keep going. I gave myself a bonus point for letting that go; the message is more important than how pretty and “perfect” it is.

Have the handwritin’ of a serial killer? No problem.

TYPE IT OUT. I love me some copy-and-paste, but this is not the time for that.

In the above passage from James 1, instead of copying and pasting from the website I linked to for you, I retyped it. I have it memorized in a different translation, so I did have to check my notes a couple of times, but writing it — whether by hand or by keyboard — helps you remember and internalize the words, and especially the message.

Have I inspired you to give it a try? Leave a comment or, if you’re on my email list, reply to the one I’ve sent you about this post. I’d love it if you’d include a picture of your handwritten verses.

P.S. I’ve had another brainstorm since I wrote this post, so be sure to check back later in the week for that announcement (hint: #ScriptureMemorization). Subscribers will hear about it first, so be sure to fill out your name and email address in the box at right [probably at the bottom if you’re on mobile] to get updates. 🙂



Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley, writer • editor in reading, 6 comments

He’s not there

Dad’s grave.

I rarely think about visiting my dad’s grave. Usually someone else suggests it. This evening, it was Bruce. We had eaten dinner out, and as we got into the car I wasn’t ready to come home just yet.

“Let’s drive by the river,” I suggested.

“Go to the cemetery?” Bruce said.

“Oh, yeah. Good idea.”

I had been restless and out of sorts most of the afternoon, and just before Bruce got home from Saturday work duties, I was finishing a great but depressing book about Alzheimer’s disease. Great because it was a true story told well; depressing because it was a true story written by a daughter in anguish over her mother’s devastating illness.

By the time Bruce got home, I needed something fun and distracting, so I suggested we go to dinner or a movie. Bruce predicted that I would tire out before a nighttime movie was over, so we settled for dinner at a burger joint (where neither of us ordered a burger).

After we finished our food, we sat and lingered — rare for me. Bruce loves to linger over dinner out; I’m usually ready to leave as soon as we finish eating. But we were enjoying the atmosphere, the food and the 1970s-80s music, so we chilled while Bruce enjoyed his Dr Pepper (no ice), and I had three glasses of iced tea. Just a nice, relaxing evening as we took our time, enjoyed each other’s company and chatted about aging, our bodies and our minds, how we’re slowing down, even in our 50s.

Back in the car, as we approached the White River we noticed how high the water had risen because of the recent rains. Just like the ebb and flow of life — sometimes high, sometimes low.

We parked near the dam and sat in the car watching the sun set for a few minutes, then we drove to the cemetery where so many of our loved ones are buried.

Some of them are my family, and some are friends unrelated by blood, but all have a place in our hearts.

The verses on Emily’s tombstone, Psalm 139:13-14, say: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

Sometimes during the week, I drive to the cemetery on my lunch break and sit in the car by Emily’s grave. Sometimes I get out and just stand there in front of it, marveling that she touched so many lives in just 13 years, wondering why her death hit me so hard when I’m not even her mother. (Would you tattoo the name of someone else’s daughter above your ankle?)

When Emily’s aunt, my cousin Teri, mentioned getting a tattoo after Emily died, I felt a strong urge to get one, too. Teri and daughter Peighton have multiples; this likely will be my only one. I had it done a month after Em died.

Tomorrow is six months since Emily’s little transplanted heart gave out. I still haven’t quite wrapped my mind around the reality that she’s gone.

I drove Bruce to view her gravestone, placed just recently, and I took pictures (I also keep a collage of Emily pictures, produced by the mortuary for her service, on the bulletin board above my computer). Not even Emily’s mom knows this, but I take pictures of her grave almost every time I visit. Most of them look the same. Some have wilted flowers in them, fresh after her burial; others have autumn leaves, maybe a dusting of snow; the most recent ones have her gravestone in place.

I’m ready for grass to grow over the grave, I told Bruce this evening. Right now it’s just dirt. Would grass make her death more real, the site seem more “normal”? I’m not sure why I want the grass.

We moved on.

Back in the car, I said, “You know, I haven’t been by Philip’s grave since we buried him. I’m not even sure I could find it without a lot of driving around.”

So I dialed Mom’s number. Philip was Mom’s first cousin, and she knew how to find the grave. I’m not sure she’s been back to his grave since that day in 2015, either, but she directed us to the right spot. Sometimes I marvel at the things Mom can remember, especially when it comes to the many relatives we’ve lost.

We told her we had been to Emily’s grave and were going to Dad’s, but we wanted to find Philip’s gravesite first.

Uncle Arthur and Aunt Virginia are buried right behind their son Philip.

We found it, and just a few feet away are his parents’ graves; I had forgotten that. I barely remember Uncle Arthur and Aunt Virginia, and I wish I’d known them better.

Earthly years

By most standards, Dad and Philip had long lives. Dad was only 59 when he died (just three years older than I am now), and Philip was 85, but they were very old compared to Emily.

And compared to Kristen.

Our grief over Emily was still brand new when we lost Kristen, daughter of my cousin Billy from Yuma, Ariz. Kristen died in a car accident on Nov. 1. We didn’t get to attend a service for Kristen, but we grieve her just the same. Kristen was a young single mom, and my heart aches for her parents, her children and her siblings. I can’t express in words how it hurts my heart to think about the loss of this precious young woman I hadn’t seen since she was a little girl.

When we lost her grandmother, my Aunt Juanita, Kristen was just over 2 months old; Dad and I flew to Yuma from Arkansas as soon as we got the news that the swift-moving cancer had taken my aunt. Mom and several other family members packed into a van and drove out, arriving a couple of days later.

The minute I met Kristen, I was in love.

At one point that week, when the rest of the family left the house, I held this sweet tiny baby in my arms for two or three hours. While the others made funeral arrangements and visited places they hadn’t seen in years, I hung back with the baby. I couldn’t put her down; we were buds.

The other Arkansas family members were in Yuma for about a week before having to head back to their jobs, but I stayed two weeks, having cut my summer internship short at the newspaper where I was working. My Uncle Bill and I had always had a special bond, so I hung out with him after everyone else had gone and the house was quiet (except for Aunt Juanita’s cuckoo clocks, which were everywhere — she had them set to go off at slightly different times so that she could enjoy each clock’s unique sound). That week, Uncle Bill sent me on errands in her car — a big ol’ Lincoln Town Car as long as a boat. She had a green-apple air freshener hanging from the rearview mirror, and to this day the smell of green apple always evokes memories of my Aunt Juanita. Since then, I’ve gone on the hunt many times for green-apple air freshener — in auto-parts stores, convenience stores, discount stores … I can’t believe how hard it is to find that particular scent nowadays.

I wish I had a particular scent to associate with Kristen. I’ll just have to hold her memory in my heart. If I had pictures, I would post them. I hope to see my cousin Billy this summer; maybe he’ll have some pics of his daughters and grandchildren that I can share.

Fragile heart

As with baby Kristen, it was the same for me with Emily. I remember the first time I laid eyes on her, through the glass at the hospital when she was just minutes old. I took some of the first pictures of her through that glass. Her mom, Tanya, jokes that I got to see her baby before she did! Tanya was still being tended to after an emergency C-section when the rest of us were marveling at the new life she had just brought into the world. She was beautiful and perfect.

Except her heart. We knew from the beginning that Emily’s heart would require special care for the rest of her years on earth. We just didn’t realize how few those years would be.

When her parents took her to Arkansas Children’s Hospital for medical care, I was living in North Little Rock, less than 10 miles from ACH. I tried to visit as often as I could. In the beginning I got to hold her, even in her hospital room. During later hospitalizations, visitors were limited or prohibited.

I have no idea how many days Emily spent at Children’s, but her mom probably does — or maybe she and Chester lost count over the course of 13 years. I do know that she received outstanding care there.

But finally the excellent care of humans was not enough. It was time for Em to rest in the arms of Jesus, the Great Physician, healer of all hurts and sorrows, the author and perfecter of our faith.

Jesus and Emily have better things to do than fret that no grass is growing over her grave.

Emily’s grave, a few days after we laid her body to rest.

For 21 years, Mom has tried to make sure Dad’s grave has new flowers each season, but I never think of it (pretty sure it doesn’t bother him, either). I rarely think to visit his grave. I think of Dad every day, because he’s in my heart and always will be, but I don’t think often of the place where his body is buried. When I visit, I don’t linger, and I rarely cry when I stand over his grave, even when I’ve had a rough day.

He’s not there.

When I visit Emily’s grave, I grieve for her parents, her sister, her nephews, her grandparents, her aunts and uncles and cousins, for the youth group at her church, the adults who ministered to her, the medical personnel who skillfully and tenderly cared for her … for the people on this planet who hadn’t met her and will never know how wonderful and funny and smart she was, that she loved pink — that the women wore pink blouses and dresses and jackets and the men wore pink ties the day we lowered her worn out little body into the ground. I grieve for those Emily left behind, but I don’t grieve for her when I visit that grave with the dirt and no grass.

She’s not there.

Emily is with Jesus, the One who died for her sins, the One she accepted as Lord and Savior when she was a little girl — the One she wanted everyone to know and accept as Savior, too. He’s the One who holds her heart in His hands.

And this weekend, as we pause to ponder the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord who gave His life for us, we celebrate the reality of the tomb where His body was laid to rest.

He’s not there.

That tomb is empty.



Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley, writer • editor in reading, 2 comments

A reason for hope: He is risen!

Happy Good Friday, friends!

Do you struggle to be consistent, positive and hopeful?

I do.

I haven’t posted on the blog in two months. I’m still struggling with some health issues, which are overwhelming at times. In fact, because I have an autoimmune disease (Hashimoto’s, a hypothyroid condition), my doc decided to test for other autoimmune diseases last week. People with one autoimmune disease are more likely to have others.

I tested positive for ANA (antinuclear antibody). ANA is present in most people who have lupus, but not everyone who tests positive actually has lupus. The doc has referred me to a rheumatologist in Little Rock for further testing and evaluation, and I’m still waiting to get an appointment. (I tested negative for rheumatoid arthritis last week, but I seem to be developing osteoarthritis.)

I don’t want this blog to be about my health, but you need to know that my health struggles are an ongoing source of concern for me and my family, and a source of exhaustion and frustration for me in particular; it means I struggle to concentrate and stay focused on what I’m writing, so I’ve started and stopped many posts many times.

(I also live with a dude who’s had an autoimmune disease since the first year of our marriage, so there’s that.)

With every post I write — especially when I haven’t posted in weeks — I struggle with whether to bring up my health, because that’s the main reason for the inconsistency.

And I struggle to stay positive. I struggle to get out of bed every morning, and to put one (injured) foot in front of the other.

So let’s look at the very best reason to stay positive and have hope:


Today is the observance of Good Friday, the day our Lord Jesus was crucified.

On the third day after the crucifixion, He rose from the dead.

He died and rose for ALL of us, no matter what race, color or creed.

Those sins you’ve struggled to conquer? He conquered death so you could rely on HIS power and strength, not your own.

That disease or family problem or job strain or those money woes you’re stressed out about? He has overcome the world and, while we still have to live in the world, that’s not the end of the story.

His death gives us HOPE because He has promised us a future, if we will believe in Him.

If you’re not a believer, you can become one this instant.

Admit you’re a sinner in need of the Savior’s forgiveness, grace and mercy. Turn from your sin and hand him the reins of your life.

For “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Romans 10:13).

Yup. You have to relinquish control. And that’s nothing to worry about; it’s actually FREEING. You have Him there to lead and guide you, every step of the way.

He died for this. He died to give us hope and a future.

I celebrate this fact with you today, because it’s the only thing that can get me out of bed some days.


Jesus is Lord, and He is alive and living in the world today, even when it seems crazy to believe that.

I pray that this brings you hope on this very Good Friday, and may you go out and give hope to someone else this weekend.




If you need to talk about faith, Jesus, becoming a Christian or anything else you need help with, you can contact me here.

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley, writer • editor in faith, forgiveness, hope, Jesus, 2 comments

Need a great place to start? Try the Book of John

Is somebody trying to tell me something?

My pastor is preaching a series called “The Gospel According to John.”

Last week, when I finished the short reading plan I had been doing in the Bible App (there’s that app again!), I clicked “discover” to see what plan I might want to start next.

What popped up first?

Two studies on … you guessed it: John! (I opted in to both.)

Bible page - Book of John
Photo by James Coleman on Unsplash

Yesterday, Brent preached on my favorite chapter in the book: John 15 (I am the vine; you are the branches).

I’ve loved John 15 ever since discovering a life-changing little book several years ago called “Secrets of the Vine” by Bruce Wilkinson. You really should read it. It’s short on pages but long on impact. (Remember “The Prayer of Jabez” from the 1990s? Same author, same impact: short but powerful.)

In last week’s email, I referred my subscribers to The Bible Project and the John study I had just started. Don’t worry; not every day’s reading contains a busy, fast-paced video. In this plan, some days you’re just reading a passage, no video. Even though I love the videos (such creativity packed with information), sometimes I just want a meaty passage in a textual format. This has the best of both worlds. 🙂 

And then there’s J. Vernon McGee’s 21-day study, “Gospel of John: What it Means to Believe Jesus.” If you want written commentary with your verses, this is your plan.

Layer upon layer, word upon word — whether it’s visual, textual or oral, God is immersing me in the words and teachings of John.

Did I mention I recently finished a reading plan on Revelation? (Insert laughing emoji.)

This immersion is reminding me that I need to be connected to the true Vine, Jesus Christ, if life is to make sense – if I want to have a Kingdom impact on the world.

What about you?

If you’re not a big reader or are perhaps intimidated by the Bible, I think the Book of John is a great place to start. Its language is straightforward and easy to read. Many people suggest the book as a starting place when they encounter a non-Christian who wants to learn about our God. “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God.”

Looking for your next reading plan? You can’t go wrong with John!

I must admit that, even though I love John, another book in the New Testament is my favorite (it was my dad’s fave, too). Stay tuned; I’ll let you in on it pretty soon.

Do you have a favorite book, passage or story from the Bible? Spill the beans! Leave a comment and share it with the rest of us.



If you like what you see here, consider subscribing for weekly updates, and please share with a friend you think might be encouraged by what I share.

Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley, writer • editor in reading, 0 comments

A little bitty announcement – I’m a published author!!!

Bruce and I typically don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day — at least in ways that cost money. No offense if you get all giddy about (and dressed up for) the Feb. 14 observance. It’s just not our jam, anymore — at least now that we’re a broke married couple. 🙂

The anthology What We Love is free on Amazon for a few days, starting Feb. 13.

I prefer to celebrate February as Black History Month and American Heart Month.

No, I’m not black, but I did have heart surgery a few years ago and I wear my little Origami Owl locket with the red ribbon charm and the tiny little Heart Beat charm during February. (Scroll to the bottom of this post if you want to support our Force for Good program by purchasing those charms.)

You may wonder what all this red ribbon heartbeat Valentine’s Day talk has to do with my headline. Well …

Feb. 14 is our big ol’ promotion day for the anthology I collaborated on with 100 other authors (yes, this is a book with 101 authors).

The e-book, called What We Love, is out now on Amazon Kindle, and Valentine’s Day is the big push. (So I guess the Oakley household will be celebrating Valentine’s Day this year!)

Good news: Today (Feb. 13) and maybe for a few more days the e-book is FREE.

Also good news: You do NOT have to have a Kindle device to read this book. You can download the Kindle app wherever you download your apps, and then read it on whatever device you use, including your computer.

I don’t know how long it will be free (maybe five days?), so if you want it, you’d better click now and get it before you forget.

By the way, I didn’t participate in this community book project for the money, which is actually $0 for the authors.

That’s right; we authors aren’t getting paid. The editor, Donna Kozik, gets the proceeds, and she deserves every penny. She has spearheaded several of these community book projects, organized dedicated editing binges (the whole community editing one another’s essays together), put up with our endless questions — “Remind me: What’s the deadline?” “When does it go live?” “When do we start promoting it?” “Is there an image of the cover I can use on social media?” “When will it be free?” (until I’m sure she’s ready to flee the country, but I’m sure one of us would still track her down) — hired people to design the cover, promotional graphics and all that stuff, and handled the million other details involved in getting a book published on Amazon and promoted to the world.

She has earned the $$.

I participated in this project for a lot of reasons, even though there was no paycheck. 🙂

And Valentine’s Day is when we hope this sweet little book becomes a bestseller.

If you’d like to help make that happen, please download the book here — remember it’s free for a few days (and always free on Kindle Unlimited) — write a review if you’re so inclined, and feel free to share this post or the link to the book.

Thanks in advance!


Origami Owl has these charms available in its Force for Good section. Proceeds aid charitable organizations and individual families.
Posted by Suzy Taylor Oakley, writer • editor in books, reading, writing, 0 comments



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