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Entries in Susan K. Stewart (5)


Busy, Busy

Insightful and practical, Susan K. Stewart challenges women to consider what they're doing in light of God's Word. In this Biblical Thinking UPGRADE, she asks us to consider the busyness in our lives, and if there might be a better approach to goals.

"By the end of 2016, I was tired," Susan says. "I accomplished many of my goals. I had a stack of check-offed to-do list. I had been busy. Why did I feel as those I hadn’t accomplished anything?"

Oh, I (Dawn) know a lot about checked off lists. I've lived by them since I was a child. But Susan makes me think—is there a better way?

Susan continues . . .

I had accomplished a lot that year:

  • published an award-winning book,
  • spoke at national conferences,
  • taught classes online,
  • and many other achievements, which say "success".

I met my goals for the year.

That’s was the problem. I had met my goals.

Each year we are bombarded with resolutions, goals, and focus words. We are encouraged to plan out our year for success.

Midway through the year, just as we begin to think we’ve failed, more articles and podcasts land in our email boxes telling us how to pick up the goals we haven’t finished and move forward.

Even Christian material tells us how to make plans and we can accomplish them. It might be a three-step list or a twelve-step program. The point is, “make a plan and work the plan.”

This can seem like a circle of life—no, more like a race track of life with no finish line.

I needed not just a pit stop; I needed off the track.

Here are some of the ways I’ve conquered the busyness.

1. Don’t buy a planner.

If you already have one, put it at the bottom of the bottom drawer.

We can become slaves to the lists and boxes. It can steal our joy in what we do.

I choose to have a plain calendar. Once a box is full, I don’t schedule anything thing else for that day.

2. Nix the goals and resolutions.

Instead, determine your priorities for the year. And it’s fine if you have the same priorities each year.

Some people tell me priorities are the same as goals. I don’t think so.

The month of July, my priority is my granddaughter’s visit. It’s not a goal; she comes every year. Those tasks take second chair to my priority.

3. Limit the number of items on a to-do list.

I have sticky pad to-do lists. It has space for four items. That’s truly manageable, there’s no space to keep adding on.

I don’t take the top sheet off until I’ve completed the tasks on it. I do add items to the next pages, but I don’t see them until I get there.

Long term projects get their own four-item to-do lists, which I pull out only when I’m working on that project.

Without a long to-do list I don’t feel overwhelmed, and I have a sense of accomplishment with each sticky note I pull off.

These are some tangible ideas how to not be bogged down in the endless cycle of resolutions, goals, and failure. They help me keep perspective on my day and my life. I feel more in control.

But this list in not the real answer.

Henry David Thoreau said, "It is not enough to be busy; so are the ants. The question is: What are we busy about?"

I answer this question each time I get bogged down in accomplishments, when I think I should be doing more, when I’m tired of being busy. Yes, it happens even with the above steps.

Jesus was busy about doing good and His Father’s will.

  • Yes, He got tired.
  • Yes, He needed to draw away from the daily tasks to rest.
  • Yes, He needed to spend time with God the Father.

We are told by Jeremiah God has a plan for us, a plan for good.

God's plan doesn’t require to-do lists and goals, and it doesn’t leave us exhausted.

God’s plan also has hope and future. What more do we need? (Jeremiah 29:11)

The reason 2016 was so exhausting and lacked fulfillment is I was working from MY goals and plans. I was busy about busy work, instead of doing good and God’s will.

For those of us who need a final step, it is this:

4. Seek His kingdom first (Matthew. 6:33), and make it your priority.

God will add what you need to your to-do list.

Which of these action steps could help you get off the busy-busy treadmill right now? What can you do to seek the Lord and do more of His will?

Susan K. Stewart teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. She is known for practical solutions to real-world situations. Susan is senior nonfiction editor with Elk Lake Publishing, blog content manager for Mount Hermon Writers Conference blog, and has published five books. Susan lives in Central Texas with her husband, Bob, three dogs, three cats, nine chickens, and two donkeys. Discover more about Susan's ministry at



Where's My Reward?

Susan K. Stewart is a seriously practical woman who writes books that help writers, teachers and others. I'm guessing she probably doesn't get a lot of praise; but she is a woman of excellence. In this Service and Ministry  UPGRADE, she encourages us to think about service in a fresh way.

“We know we’re called to serve,” Susan says. “but we don’t think about service as a reward. And that’s something we can cultivate.”

Hmmm.... I (Dawn) don't think I've ever truly thought about service that way.

Susan continues . . .

Anne Steele’s hymn, “Self-Consecration,” was published in 1848*. More than 150 years later, the words of the second verse are a prayer I want to not just say, but also mean.

I will resolve, with all my heart,

With all my powers, to serve the Lord;

Nor from His precepts e’er depart,

Whose service is a rich reward.

The striking part of this verse is not the resolve to serve the Lord and keep his precepts. What my heart clings to is “service is a rich REWARD.”

We know we’re called to serve. Haven’t we heard hundreds of sermons? Read dozens of books on a servant’s heart, servant leadership or service as worship?

Many espouse the idea we serve to receive a reward, whether here or in heaven.

Very few say anything about the act of serving BEING the reward.

Often we think of reward as a tangible item, like a trophy or medal.

I get a humorous picture in my mind of us standing on platforms as God directs the angels to pass out the trophies and medals.

Will there be a pizza party when the ceremony is over?

Among the many definitions of service found in Merriam-Webster Unabridged Dictionary are such things as:

  • “the serving of a master,”
  • conduct or performance that assists or benefits someone or something,” and
  • “the habit or practice of serving God or the acts done with that intention.”

How do these definitions apply to receiving the reward of service?

“The serving of a master.”

I don’t think any of us would question our service is to our Master, Jesus Christ. The New Testament is full of references to serving God and others. Even Jesus said He came to serve (Mark 10:45).

So we can conclude we are called to serve. God has even given us gifts to use in service to others (I Peter 4:10).

Conduct or performance that assists or benefits someone or something.”

Service is to assist or benefit someone else.

Again, we look to Jesus for our example. Think about His first miracle, turning water into wine (John 2:1-12). Who benefited? The bridegroom who was lauded for saving the best wine for last. It’s important to note Jesus was not credited with the good wine.

“The habit or practice of serving God or the acts done with that intention.”

Should I say this goes without saying? Our service is to God.

Jesus tells us in the Sermon on the Mount to give in secret, to pray in secret, and fast in secret (Matthew 6:4, 6, 18). He tells us those who do so in public receive a reward from those who see them.

Is it too much of a stretch to think Jesus also wants us to serve in secret?

Paul tells servants to serve heartily as to the Lord, “knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward” (Colossians 3:23-24). Paul considered his reward to be the ability to share the gospel (I Corinthians 9:12-18).

Neither of these are what we modern believers have come to think of as rewards.

How then do we develop the reward of serving?

1. Consider our gifts.

If God gave us gifts to serve, we need to consider what those gifts are and how to use them to the benefit of others.

Some gifts, such as teaching, are more visible. Certainly a Sunday School teacher is using a gift that all can see to teach others. If that teacher has the edification of the students foremost that is the reward. Other gifts, like intercession, are quiet, unseen. The pray-er uses the gift for the benefit of others.

2. Go where there is a need.

Serving God and others doesn’t mean volunteering at church.

Caring for children or a loved one, going to work daily to earn a family income, or even picking up trash along a roadside are all silent service. This service certainly isn’t glamourous.

It is, however, a reward.

When a call for volunteers is made, don’t rush to heed the call. Sometimes home-grown activities are our call.

3. Pray.

Well, yes, we should pray before entering into service.

Pray that the reward will be the service itself.

Pray to serve as a God-pleaser, not a man-pleaser (Ephesians 6:5-6).

Pray with me to resolve to earn the rich reward of service.

What will you do receive your reward of service?

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and donkeys—teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Susan’s passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Her books include Science in the Kitchen and Preschool: At What Cost? plus the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. You can learn more at her website

* Steele, Anne. “Self-Consecration.” A Book of Hymns for Public and Private Devotion. (1848).

Graphic adapted, Trophies Photo by Ariel Besagar on Unsplash.


My Hope Is Built On . . . 

Everyone talks about "dreams" these days, but Susan K. Stewart says we need to be careful when we dream and consider where we're placing our hopes. In this Spiritual Life UPLIFT, she tackles the topic with a personal story.

“I plan to go to UCLA and major in screenwriting,” the high school freshman announced.

She then laid out her plan, including what classes she would be taking in high school and community activities that will help her preparation for her goal.

Ah, plans. Yes, I (Dawn) have placed my hopes in so many personal plans, and even in people who might help me accomplish my goals. And I've learned, the hard way, exactly what Susan is about to teach us.

Susan continues . . .

“Wow! That’s wonderful,” I responded. “It seems to me you just might make it.”

When this confident young lady left the room, her dad said, “I want her to major in something that will give her a real career.”

“What!?” was all I could stammer. “What’s wrong with her goal? With her determination, she has a good chance of success.”

The response was, “Look what happened to Aunt Shirley.”

Aunt Shirley is a divorced family member who was a successful writer before the divorce, and was now struggling to make ends meet with two part-time jobs.

Has that ever happened to you? It has to me.

Why do we do that?

Compare someone’s (or our own) dream with another person’s failure.

Sometimes we sabotage our own hopes. We listen to our own negative talk.

  • “It can’t happen."
  • "I’m too old."
  • "I’m too young."
  • "No one else has ever done this before.”

Other times we have our hope in the wrong thing: education, another person, fortune, ourselves.

All of these sources of hope will fail us.

An archaic definition of hope is “trust, reliance.” Most often we think of our hope as the anticipation of something. We also build our dreams on what we or others are going to do for the fruition of that expectation.

If hope is in fact trust rather than dream, maybe our hopes are dashed because we have placed our trust in the wrong place or person.

We are told by Paul that Christ Jesus is our hope (1 Timothy 1:1). Not our dream or expectation, although we surely look forward to the coming of Jesus. Christ Jesus is where we place our trust; who we rely on.

We are told by Peter to “prepare your minds for action, keep sober in spirit, fix your hope completely on the grace to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:13).

We are to TAKE ACTION BASED ON OUR HOPE (trust) on the GRACE of Jesus Christ.

When our expectations are based on hope from Jesus, we can’t sabotage them.

This requires taking those dreams to God before making all the plans on our own to-do list.

For years, I’ve had a dream of a having a specific book published. For years, my hopes have been built up only to be knocked down. This year I asked God, "Why?"

He impressed on me that I was trusting in my own plan, not the dreams He has for me.

I laid my desire aside. Even though a number of people gave me reasons not to, it was the right thing to do. I’m now trusting God’s vision for me rather than mine.

I’ve placed my hope in God’s dream.

When our hope—remember, that means trust and reliance—is in the Lord, no one can take them it away from us or talk us out of it. We will be able respond to negative self-talk with “God told me to do this and I trust him.”

What is your hope is built on?

My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

~ Edward Mote (1797-1874)

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and donkeys—teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Her passion is to inspire others with practical, real-world solutions. Susan's books include Science in the Kitchen; Preschool: At What Cost?; the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers; and her most recent book, Harried Homeschoolers Handbook. Learn more about Susan at Practical Inspirations

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Daniel Reche at Pixabay.


When a Biscuit Blunder Reminded Me of God's Love

Susan K. Stewart is a no-nonsense Christian with a strong desire to inspire and equip people in various walks of life. In this UPLIFT post, she encourages us to find hope in God's love in the midst of life's "blunders."

“Little did I know," Susan says, "my granddaughter, Wendy, would remind me of God’s love when she baked biscuits for dinner.”

God's love? Biscuits? OK, Susan. I (Dawn) think you've got our curiosity!

Susan continues . . .

Eleven-year-old Wendy had just made her first batch of homemade biscuits. She put the plate down in front of her grandfather. “Papa, try one of my biscuits!”

Wendy followed instructions carefully, but the biscuits didn’t rise as usual.

No concern.

The color wasn’t quite right.

Well, it was her first try.

After slathering with butter, Papa took his bite. For a moment his face gave away a concern—just for a moment.

Wendy bit into hers.

“These are great, aren’t they?” She was proud of her effort.

Papa’s initial reaction confirmed that the biscuits weren’t quite right. They were course, not fluffy, and a bit gritty.

I pondered what had happened. What could have gone wrong?

I had supervised the baking effort and didn’t see any mistakes. Well, other than the flour looked odd. While munching my gray, gritty biscuit, the proverbial lightbulb came on.

It wasn’t flour. It was diatomaceous earth (DE).

We keep DE in the pantry to use for bug control. It looks similar to flour except a little finer. The wrong container had been grabbed.

Thankfully, DE isn’t harmful to humans.

In spite of the odd gray color and gritty feel in our mouths, we laughed about the blunder and enjoyed Wendy’s first made-from-scratch biscuits.

Even after learning what happened, Wendy was not discouraged. This was her creation and she was pleased.

Isn’t that like God? We are His creation, and we can sometimes be gray and gritty.

He doesn’t throw away any of us.

God said His creation, including humans, was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). Not just “good,” but “VERY good.”

Even after Adam and Eve fell into the snare of Satan, God didn’t give up.

He wasn’t discouraged and didn’t throw us in the trash can.

Instead, God had a plan to restore His creation to Himself:

“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:6-8 ESV).

God made a way for us to come to Him. Jesus died to renew our connection with God.

That’s amazing! Even when I have a gray attitude or am abrasive, God shows His love. He says, “Isn’t Susan very good?”

Like Wendy, God sees beyond the blunders, my blunders, to His creation. He’s not downcast or unhappy. God continues His love. He is still proud of His effort put into me.

The next day, Wendy called her mom to tell her and laugh about her biscuits. She was so happy to have had the opportunity to be part of the meal preparation. We’ll forever talk about the DE biscuits.

“(God) will rejoice over you with gladness” (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV). Sometimes it’s hard to fathom that God takes delight in us, just as Wendy was delighted in her biscuits. He created us, saved us, and takes pleasure in us no matter what.

He continues to rejoice in His creation.

A few days later, Wendy made a new batch of biscuits—this time with flour. They were tall and white with a hint of brown crust. The butter melted into the fluffy bread. Each bite was a delicious. A new baking creation to replace the old.

God does that for us; He makes us a new creation.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17 ESV).

In spite of our sin and rags, He offers us hope.

God doesn’t see us as those old dark and sinful creatures. He sees the new, clean creation we are in Jesus.

Take joy in what God has created—a new you.

Have you mistaken one ingredient for another other when cooking? Was the result a disaster or a fun story for the family? What is your reaction to blunders? Are you downcast? Or do you rejoice with God? What is your hope today?

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and donkeys—teaches, writes, and edits non-fiction. Her passion is to inspire others with practical, real-world solutions. Susan's books include Science in the Kitchen; Preschool: At What Cost?; the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers; and her most recent book, Harried Homeschoolers Handbook. Learn more about Susan at Practical Inspirations.

Graphic adapted, courtesy of Olisa655 at Pixabay.


The Least of These

Susan K. Stewart is is a practical and insightful writer with heart. In this Ministry and Spiritual Life UPGRADE, she encourages us to think like Jesus thinks when it comes to "the least of these."

“Today I encountered another “panhandler” on the corner of a busy intersection.” Susan said.

“As is my habit, I grabbed some bills out of a container on my console and handed them to the man. Once again I hear in my internal ear, ‘He’s only going to use it for drugs or booze.’”

Yes, I (Dawn) have heard that thought many times. Who hasn’t? But then there is another voice, a still, small voice of love.

Susan continues . . .

Quiet down internal ear.

As I gave this man a couple of dollars, I thought about a Dave Ramsey quote, which had been circulating on Facebook:

“Make sure that you are actually helping someone when you give them money, not just enabling bad behavior.”

I generally appreciate Mr. Ramsey’s suggestions. In this case though, life experiences have changed my way of thinking about this kind of giving.

Like others, I have thought those who ask for money, food, or whatever are drug users, alcoholics or morally unacceptable people.

Then the situation hit closer to home.

Our son was diagnosed with a serious mental illness. Like so many who suffer with these confusing brain diseases, his recovery didn’t start right away.

Unlike many other diseases, mental illnesses don’t have a quick fix. Too often our loved ones flounder trying to get better, trying to be good people, trying to be normal.

Like others, our son followed a path of self-medication through alcohol and drugs. Much to our pain, we had to ask him to leave our home. He began couch surfing, but at times would just get in his car and leave.

With no real destination, we never knew where he would end up. Most of the time he survived these trips by begging. Had it not been for the generosity and kindness of others, my son may have committed a crime or worse, died on the streets.

Maybe I respond with gifts as returning favors others gave my son.

Begging or panhandling is the practice of imploring others to grant a favor, often a gift of money, with little or no expectation of reciprocation.

Panhandlers are often found in public places such as street corners, urban parks, and near busy markets. Besides money, they may also ask for food, drink, cigarettes, or other small items.

According to a study in the journal of the Canadian Medical Association, “seventy percent of beggars stated they would prefer a minimum-wage job, typically citing a desire for ‘a steady income’ or ‘getting off the street.’” Mental illness was cited has one factor that makes them feel they cannot handle conventional jobs.

Beggars have existed since the beginning of time. We know Jesus encountered many of the less fortunate. What did He say?

First, there’s:

“For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you” (Mt. 7: 1-2 NASB).

Think. Have you ever picked up a free cup of coffee or snack? What if someone said that you don’t deserve it because you have caffeine or sugar addiction?

You don’t want to be judged in that way, do you? Does that person on the corner deserve it?

Second, in the New Testament:

“‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 

"The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me’ (Mt. 25:37-40 NASB).

I don’t recall that Jesus ever said, “Help those who meet this list of qualifications.” He said help the least of these.

I believe money or other possessions belong to God. I need to make them available to God for his use, in his time, and in his way.

I’m responsible to God how I use or not use what He owns.

When I pass one of those possessions to someone else, that person becomes responsible to God for its use. If that man on the corner this morning buys a bottle of wine, he has to answer to God.

  • Ask God to give you an opportunity to give a gift to someone on the street corner.
  • Give, not worrying about the gift, but praying for the receiver.

Give to the least of us.

How do you feel when you pass a beggar? What do feelings have to do with it, really? What might the Lord be saying?

Susan K. Stewart—when she’s not tending chickens and peacocks—teaches, writes and edits non-fiction. Her passion is to inspire readers with practical, real-world solutions. Susan's books include Science in the Kitchen, Preschool: At What Cost? and the award-winning Formatting e-Books for Writers. Learn more about Susan at

Graphic adapted, courtesy of hotblack at Morguefile.