Gardening!

I have been a gardener for as long as I can remember … or at least attempted to be one. As a child, there was an open lot next to our house in Nigeria which my dad made into a large garden. He and Mom worked tirelessly in that garden along with the help of a hired Nigerian worker. The produce they grew during the rainy season helped so much at that place and time in history, when getting food was not as simple a task as stopping by the grocery store on my way home, like it is now.

And I helped them garden. At least I toddled along behind Daddy and pestered him, asking how I could help him. I was the only one of his four children who showed an interest in gardening and I have been drawn to it for as long as I can remember.

One of my fondest gardening memories is of climbing inside the angled cucumber trellis my dad had built, to pick ripe cucumbers inside that he could not see or reach. He’d built a long teepee-like structure with the two sides about three feet apart at the base but meeting in the middle a few feet off the ground. I would crawl along inside that structure picking cucumbers and tossing them out to him. I felt like I was in my own little botanical wonderland with lush vines all around me. And I felt so big and important to have been given the task of deciding if a cucumber was ready to be picked or not.

The first year I was married, over 40 years ago now, I talked my husband into renting a tiller and tilling up a patch of land in our back yard for me to plant vegetables. I had no idea what I was doing back then but worked away at the endeavor anyway. I have had a garden ever since but these days I at least know which plants do better in dryer soil, which need more water, which should be planted by seed and which need to be started indoors a few weeks before planting. I’ve also learned a few tricks like planting marigolds around the edge of the garden to help keep the bugs out.

Last year, I tried something new. My college-age son put in a raised garden for me and, oh my goodness, that turned out so well! I don’t know if it was that the new location got more sunlight or if it was the new bags of garden soil I put in the area, but I have never had such a successful garden. Ever. I had a couple rows of okra that grew to be taller than me by several feet. I had to bend them over to pick the new produce by the end of the season. My family ate roasted okra all summer and fried okra all winter that I had cut and frozen.

So, it’s summer again and you can bet if I can’t be found inside my house cleaning, cooking, or writing, I am outside playing in my garden.

Since I often write devotions, I naturally find Bible verses for many aspects of life. Here is my favorite gardening verse:

Sow righteousness for yourselves, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the LORD, until he comes and showers his righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 (NIV)

Click to Tweet: “It’s summer again and you can bet if I can’t be found inside my house cleaning, cooking, or writing, I am outside playing in my garden.” — Harriet Michael via @InspiredPrompt #gardening #FridayThoughts

Writing Prompt –  Finish this paragraph: Ellen dumped another shovel-full of soil into the wheelbarrow. All this work better pay off. If the garden didn’t do well, Marty would throw a fit.

Time to Write with Shirley & Harriet

Shirley Crowder, how do you fit writing into your daily schedule?

With all my work, ministry, family, and other responsibilities it can be difficult to carve out time for writing—even though I don’t require a lot of sleep!

I find making a schedule helpful in safeguarding my writing time and I must be disciplined to guard that time.

I schedule early mornings before work and after midnight for writing. Devotional writing works well in these time slots, whether for a blog, newspaper article, or devotional for a book.

I block out four hours of each Friday (when I’m off from my job), sometimes morning and sometimes afternoon, to focus on devotionals for books.

I turn off the TV and the sound on my phone, sit at my desk, and start writing. I keep a sticky note handy to jot down things that come to mind that are not related to my writing.

All my writing deadlines go on my calendar, including my study and research, time to put it aside (a few days for a blog, article, or single devotional; and a couple of weeks for a book manuscript), time for someone else to read the manuscript, and time to do final edits/rewrites.

Admittedly, sometimes it is difficult to carve out time when I need to be at the hospital with a friend, or doing laundry, or any one of a gazillion other things that come along.

Please understand that all of this is the way things SHOULD work!

If my schedule gets interrupted for any reason, I reschedule that time as soon as possible.

I have to remind myself that my time is not my own—it is God’s! It is extremely important that I seek the Lord’s guidance in scheduling my writing time. [Click to Tweet]

Harriet Michael, what’s your secret?

I work three days a week as a substitute middle or high school teacher at a nearby Christian school. This school has block scheduling, so they have only four classes a day with each class an hour and a half long. One of these four blocks for each teacher is a planning period. As a sub, I have no planning to do, nor do I have to grade tests or papers. So, how do I fill this hour and a half three days a week?

You guessed it, I write.

With the school’s permission, I bring my computer with me and use the planning periods to get some writing done. It works out great for me. I can’t leave the school anyway, so I am stuck in a classroom with nothing else to do for ninety minutes. I might as well take advantage of the time.

I am blessed to have this carved-out scheduled time every week and I realize it is a unique situation. But the point remains—set aside some specific time every week to write. Make it part of your routine. I actually find I get more done in the school year when I am working than I do in the summer when I am off. There are so many distractions pulling at me when I am home. Being forced to sit in a chair, with nothing else to do but write works well for me.

At a writers’ conference once I heard an instructor, whose name I cannot remember, tease that what writers need to do sounds like a dirty word. He called it BICFOK, which he said stands for “butt in chair, fingers on keys”. That truly is the key to getting some much-needed writing accomplished. Just sit down and do it!


Shirley Crowder was born in Nigeria, West Africa, where her parents served as missionaries, Shirley is passionate about disciple-making, which is manifested through a myriad of ministry opportunities that include biblical counseling, teaching Bible studies, speaking at conferences, writing, and serving on the national advisory team for The Addiction Connection.

She is a biblical counselor and is commissioned by and serves on the national Advisory Team for The Addiction Connection. Her articles, devotions have appeared in “Paper Pulpit” in The Gadsden Times’ Faith section and Seek magazine—a David C. Cook publication. She has also written articles for Life Bible Study and Woman’s Missionary Union. Six published books were contributed to, authored, or co-authored by Shirley. Four contracted devotional books are due out over the next two years.

Shirley has spiritual children and grandchildren serving the Lord in various ways throughout the world.


Harriet E. Michael is a multi-published author and freelance writer. She has authored five books, with two more coming out this year. Over 200 articles, devotions, and stories penned by her have appeared in various publications by Focus on the Family, Lifeway, David C. Cook, Standard Publishing, Chicken Soup for the Soul, The Upper Room, Judson Press, and more. Harriet has been married for nearly forty years. She is the proud mother of four grown children and “Lala” to two adorable grandchildren.


Click to Tweet: The key to getting some much-needed writing accomplished: just sit down and do it! – Harriet Michael via @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #time

Writing Prompt: Map out a quick, doable writing schedule for tomorrow. Then post it where you will see it. If it worked for you, try it the next day, too. Make changes if necessary. Keep at it until you’ve found a system that works for you. Don’t give up! Even five minutes between daily tasks can add word count to your work-in-progress.

Do you have a question for Shirley, or Harriet? Please feel free to ask in the comments section. We’re here to help.

Apples of Gold

Apples of gold in pictures of silver.

golden apple

This is the way Proverbs 25:11 describes what it calls “a word fitly spoken.” It says these words are like apples of gold in pictures of silver. But what, exactly is a word fitly spoken?

There are many possible answers to that question. The New American Standard Bible says it’s a word spoken in the right circumstances. It is a word or words spoken to another person that helps them in some way. Maybe it encourages them, or eases their pain, lifts them up, or sympathizes with their pain. However the fitly words are intended, the end result is that they land on open ears and touch the listener in some significant way.

I am an eclectic writer—I write many things: fiction, nonfiction, full length books, short articles, and devotions. Yes, I am a devotional writer. I absolutely love writing devotions! I have had hundreds of them published in magazines, online, and in books. I teach workshops on devotional writing. Devotions helped to build my writing resume and payment from writing devotions supplements my writing income. But this is not the reason I write devotions. I write to touch the hearts of others with words that cause them to ponder on God’s word. My goal is that they will be “fitly words.”

It’s autumn again, a time of year when apples are in abundance. We enjoy apples in so many forms during this season—cooked in pies, coated in candy, squeezed into juice or made into cider, and so many other ways.

apple-fall

Because of this verse in Proverbs, the abundance of apples makes me think of devotional writing. Let’s be writers whose words are fitly. Let’s have our words be apples of gold in pictures of silver.

A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver. Proverbs 25:11 (KJV) [Click to Tweet]

Writing prompt: write a devotional about a time someone spoke words you needed to hear.

Kids and Summer

Ty as shark

Kids, pools, and shark fins! Summer doesn’t get much better than that.

This is my youngest son about fifteen years ago. He is grown now and sports a beard, but I will always remember him like this and treasure this picture.

Here at Inspired Prompts we are breaking from our usual more serious writing related topics to share some personal pictures and information with our readers so I will tell you a little about my family.

I have been married for over thirty-nine years. My husband and I have four children. We had three, waited a long time, and then had the fourth. Our children currently range in age from 36-21. And now we have two grandchildren. Oh, what joy grandchildren bring! I know all grandparent think their grandchildren are special but ours truly are—in one way, anyway. Our first grandchild is bi-racial and our second is Marshallese.

K G Hilton Head

Here is a picture of my first grandchild with his mother, my daughter, on a family vacation. (He is her biological son.)

Robert Ellie

And here’s a picture of one of my sons and my second grandchild, his daughter, whom he and his wife adopted from the Marshall Islands. They traveled to Hawaii to get her.

My other two sons—the oldest and the youngest—do not have children so from them, I am still a grandmother-in-waiting, or rather a Lala-in-waiting, since my grandchildren call me Lala.

Yep, they call me Lala, and you can call me a happy grandmother, who can’t wait to play with her grandchildren again!

Click to Tweet: Join us for some Summer Fun via @InspiredPrompt as we share our favorite summer fun photos and stories. #summer #travel #adventure

Writing Prompt: Caption this photo!

Research: The Inspired Prompt Way

Research. We’ve spent the month of March dissecting this topic from all angles. From how to start, to research on the road, and current events research, a way to gather information should be coming clear.

I’ve asked the Crew to share their go-to source when it comes to research. Here’s what they said:

Harriet Michael: As a Christian nonfiction writer who writes a lot of Biblical pieces—devotions and essays to a Biblical theme, my go-to resource is Bible Gateway where I can look up passages, do word searches, find commentaries, and find passages in all translations. Here is their link: https://www.biblegateway.com/

Jennifer Hallmark: Sometimes when I write, I just can’t think of the right word so I use an online thesaurus. Even if I don’t find what I need, it often gets my creativity flowing so I can move forward in my writing. Their link is http://www.thesaurus.com/

Kristy Horine: I find the Blue Letter Bible www.blueletterbible.org to be a great resource due to its interlinear concordance, cross references, language explanations, and access to commentaries. It has an app that is free that can be downloaded to your phone.  In addition, www.biblestudytools.com is helpful in the commentary area.

Another source is www.thoughtco.com. This is not a Christian-based resource, but it sure is fun for those strange and unusual questions like if brain cells regenerate, or the difference between racism and prejudice. It is based on the idea that we should be lifelong learners and seeks to teach just that. Plus, it has a really neat daily email you can sign up for. And, for numbers: www.barna.com and www.pewresearch.org

Betty Thomason Owens: I attended a class on researching at the Mid South Conference. The instructor gave us the Library of Congress website. It’s huge. You can find articles, photos, and lots of other interesting studies and stories and books. https://www.loc.gov/  I also love History.com  https://www.history.com/ and the Smithsonian.com https://www.smithsonianmag.com/.

Gail Johnson: I use the Bible, Webster’s dictionary, and the Strong’s Concordance. Also Bible Gateway and the online versions of the dictionary and thesaurus.

Bonita McCoy: I love  Biblehub.com because it gives you the verse in several translations. I use it for my Beautiful Pieces of Grace blog. Also the good old library for articles for the Inspired Prompt site and my Courageous Writers blog.

Fay Lamb: My research varies on what the subject happens to be. If it is medical, I will look up medical research on various sites, but I also look for journals of people who have undergone medical procedures. I also use slang dictionaries for slang for certain times. I even have a surfers’ slang dictionary.

Tammy Trail:  I tend to look for historical societies. There is a blog I like to catch up with too, Colonial Quills. Lots of historical information there for me. I use the Colonial Williamsburg website also. For writing related information, I love Seekerville.

Carlton Hughes:  Like others, my research varies depending on the subject. I’m mostly writing devotionals now, so usually I’m searching for a specific scripture on Bible Gateway. Blogs like Novel Rocket are good for general advice on fiction writing.

Shirley Crowder:  I use Blue Letter Bible — lots of commentaries, words studies, etc. https://www.blueletterbible.org/

Karen Jurgens: I use Google for whatever I need to know when I’m writing about Paris and other parts of the world. I study maps of the city, and I use reference books I’ve purchased while visiting. For example, I bought lots of historical books and maps of Cayman Island when I vacationed there a couple years ago. I always write about settings I know personally or have visited.

Cammi Woodall: Started in September of 1998, Google is the world’s largest search engine. You know how I know that? I googled it! When you can use your search engine name as a verb, you know you are doing something right. I love other sites like AskJeeves.com or Yahoo.com, but I always come back to Google. In one research session, l learned that the world’s oldest church is the Dura-Europos house church in Syria, arsenic poison will still show up in your fingernails 6 to 12 months after ingestion, and a ten-gallon hat really only holds three-quarters of a gallon. Who knew? Google did! And now I do, too.

Thank you, Inspired Prompt Crew! As you can see, there are research sites galore for the fiction and non-fiction writer. Do you have a go-to site that’s not listed above? In lieu of a writing prompt, we’re asking you to share that in the comments below…

Click to tweet: The Inspired Prompt Crew shares their go-to source when it comes to research for writers. #research #Google