How Coffee Makes Me a Better Christian

On Coffee and Quiet Times. How preparing a cup of coffee each morning keeps my quiet times on track. (from Leslie Ann Jones)

When I discovered that the elementary school in our town starts at 7:30 a.m., I died a little on the inside. The early school day means that I have to rise before 6 a.m. to get our daughter up, dressed, fed, and ready by the time the bus comes by. 

Y'all. I just can't even describe how devastating this knowledge was to me. It's no secret that I'm not a morning person. Over the years, I've tried to get up "an hour earlier" than my kids, and I've failed every. single. time. I'm just not wired that way.

I immediately decided that if I had to get up before the sun, I needed a ritual—something to look forward to every morning. And I also needed some caffeine. In large doses. Which led me to the conclusion that I needed learn how to like coffee.

Dennis laughed at me and rolled his eyes when I told him my plan. He thought I was being a little ridiculous, but he supported my quest to find a brand of coffee that didn't make me gag (Lavazza, for the win, by the way), and he faithfully washes my little espresso maker when I leave it sitting in the sink. Because apparently I can't do regular coffee. Nope. That would be too easy. It's a homemade mocha latte for me every single morning.

Anyway. Back to the point. I knew that if I didn't have a tangible, physical reason to stay awake after the bus rolled away, I would make a beeline back to bed as soon as possible. But if I could manage to make the coffee before the bus came, then after it left, I would settle down in my chair with my coffee (usually in a Dwell mug), my Bible, and my journal to enjoy some quiet time alone with the Lord before I had to wake up the youngest for preschool.

I mean, I'm not going to waste the coffee. I just made it, for crying out loud. I'm 100 percent serious when I tell you that making a cup of coffee every morning has done more for my spiritual life than I ever imagined possible.

I feel a little silly telling you this because I'm a writer of Bible studies. I'm supposed to have this quiet time thing down by now. But the reality of my life as a stay-at-home mom sometimes runs me ragged, and the truth is that I like to sleep. A lot. And sometimes I want to sleep more than I want to spend time in the Word. The struggle is real. Am I right?

But y'all, here's the lesson I've been learning: Sometimes the spark we need to get us going is as simple as a cup of coffee, a pretty journal, or a friend to hold us accountable. There's nothing magical about the coffee, but the physical act of preparing it helps keep my quiet times on track. Maybe it could help you too. 

Until next time, grace and peace.

Does your Bible study need a kickstart?

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Packing Shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child

Ideas and Tips for Packing Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes. Be sure to include clothes, accessories, toiletries, toys, school supplies, and other useful items. Find more ideas at

I'm a firm believer that God blesses his people so that we may in turn be a blessing to others. During a month when we typically spend a lot of time giving thanks for all our blessings, it's good to consider how we can pass those blessings on. As a family, we try to do this in many ways, but one of our favorite ways to bless others at this time of year is to pack Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.

OCC is a branch of Samaritan's Purse. Each year they collect boxes filled with all sorts of goodies for children the world over. It's a tangible way to spread joy and share the Good News of Christ with those who may otherwise never hear it. OCC collects the boxes during the third week of November every year. If you want to pack a box, click here to look up a drop-off location near you, and get to packing!

Over the years, packing shoeboxes has been a powerful teaching tool for our girls about selfless giving, sharing the gospel, and being a blessing. I'm just going to be honest here and say that our kids sometimes get upset about giving away items that they like (there was a particularly epic battle over a light-up bouncy ball last year), but if we don't teach them how to be cheerful givers, then who will?

It's nearly impossible for my children to understand the depths of poverty in the world, but OCC helps connect them to the unfathomable and teaches them how to put others first. This year, both of our daughters chose to pack a box for a girl in their age group. They each helped choose the items in the boxes, and I thought it would be fun to show you what we packed. So, let's take a look, shall we?

There you have it! One of our OCC boxes for the year. What did you put in your boxes this year? Let's share tips and ideas below. 

Until next time, grace and peace.

Sharing Love & Sending Joy the Old-Fashioned Way

A few years ago, an acquaintance's husband suddenly died in the night. My heart broke for her, but since we weren't very close, I didn't know what to do. I wanted to express my condolences, but I felt totally awkward calling or texting her to say something, so I did the only other thing I could think of.

I wrote her a note.

In August, I ran into her for the first time since her husband's death, and she told me that the simple little note I had written meant the world to her in the days after he died. She told me how much the prayer I included had encouraged her, and then she thanked me for taking the time to let her know that I was thinking of her.

I was shocked. It's been three years since I wrote that note, but she still remembers it. It took five minutes of my time, but it became a bright spot to remember in an otherwise dark and dreary time.

That experience served as the inspiration for a new line of stationery in the LAJ Shop. Sometimes God uses something as simple as a handwritten note to encourage and uplift us, and these notes were designed specifically with that purpose in mind.

Do you know someone who could use a little extra encouraging? What better way to share a little love and send a bit of joy than to mail a handwritten note? I don't know anyone who doesn't like getting mail. It's easy to send a text these days, but a card delivered the old-fashioned way speaks volumes. When we take the time to sit down and pen a heartfelt message, we become avenues through which God blesses others. Who wouldn't want that?

I'm celebrating the launch of these pretty little cards with a sale! Use code SENDJOY to receive 30 percent off all stationery in the shop and get busy sharing love and sending joy. Code expires November 7, 2016 at 11:59 pm CST.