Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Confessions of an Over-Planner

Today, Jennifer Slattery, a writing friend of mine shares some words of wisdom. I believe you will be encouraged by her thoughts. 

(And take a look at her newest book release at the bottom of the post. I just read it and I think you'll want to pick up a copy for yourself.)

Thoughts from Jennifer:
I’m a planner. I’ve always been a planner. Even as a teenager when my life was completely falling apart, I had a plan. A five-year plan, sometimes longer. I suppose I figured if I did X and Y, I could somehow fuse all the broken pieces of my life back together and be able to undo my self-destruction. And maybe there’s some truth to that, for without a plan, I’d probably wander about aimlessly, ever walking but getting nowhere.

But planning can only get one so far, and honestly, looking back over my life, all the best parts have come upon me unplanned. Every move, from California to Louisiana to Texas, Missouri and Nebraska, have hit me by surprise. And each has been wonderful and so very necessary. Each has in some way brought about a new layer of surrender and growth within, a new level of healing. A new set of friends.

And then there’s my writing, the area I’m most likely to plan the most—I never intended to pursue a career in publishing. Until one day, the children’s director at a church in California asked me to write a story for children’s church. And my love of words was born, or perhaps I should say awakened, because I’m pretty sure it was there all along, just buried beneath my, well, five-to-ten-year plan.

Ironic, isn’t it, that the very area that came about unplanned is the one now I try most to plan? As if I’ve forgotten the One who birthed that love within me and set it into motion? As if I’ve forgotten that He Himself holds my future, every word and contract, every bill and paycheck, in His sovereign hands?

As if I’ve forgotten the peace that comes from full surrender.

I am not called to be successful. I am not called to a straight and ever-smooth path. I am called to be obedient, and my obedience comes easiest when it rests on trust.

This is the call of every Christian—to embrace, fully, without hesitation, all that God has for us, trusting Him to bring fruit from our efforts.

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Gordon T. Smith, author of Courage and Calling says it this way, “God longs for us to be, precisely, all that we are called to be.”

We all have a call—a divinely planned, eternally-glorious reason for taking each breath. And God will show us that plan; He’ll unfold it step by step, if we’d but take the time to listen. Then obey.

His promise to do just that is infused throughout Scripture, but my favorite comes from Psalm 16:7-8 which says, “I will bless the Lord who guides me; even at night my heart instructs me. I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken, for He is right beside me.”

Even at night, my heart guides me. This verse reminds me of another, found in Proverbs 4:23, which says, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.”
In other words, is my heart filled with faith or fear? Am I planning to perfect my calling and use well all the talents and gifts God has given me, or am I planning to avoid uncertainty? Because if my motivation is the latter, I’m bound for disappointment. Life is filled with uncertainty, chaos, and set-backs, but regardless of what lays ahead, I won’t be shaken, because my God, the God who is, even now, lovingly guiding my every step—our every step—remains, unmoving, at our side.

What about you? Are you a planner, and if so, what tends to motivate your plans? What’s the difference between planning in obedience and planning out of fear?    

Jennifer Slattery writes soul-stirring fiction for New Hope Publishers, a publishing house passionate about bringing God’s healing grace and truth to the hopeless. She also writes for, Internet CafĂ© Devotions, and the group blog, Faith-filled Friends. When not writing, Jennifer loves going on mall dates with her adult daughter and coffee dates with her hilariously fun husband.

Connect with Jennifer 

Abandoned by her husband for another woman, Tammy Kuhn, an organ procurement coordinator often finds herself in tense and bitter moments. After an altercation with a doctor, she is fighting to keep her job and her sanity when one late night she encounters her old flame Nick. She walks right into his moment of facing an unthinkable tragedy. Because they both have learned to find eternal purposes in every event and encounter, it doesn’t take long to discover that their lives are intertwined but the ICU is no place for romance….or is it? Could this be where life begins again?

Get your copy:
CBD   Amazon    B&N    

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Less of My Time and More of God's Time

If you do any activity for 1 hour a day, at the end of the year you will have spent 15.2 days engaged in that activity. Assuming you actually get 8 hours of sleep at night, that comes out to 22.8 days of your awake life. That means, if I spend 4 hours a day in my kitchen (cooking and cleaning) by the end of the year, I will have spent 91.25 days (waking hours) in the kitchen. That’s about 3 months of my life! No wonder I get tired of it at times.

However, what if that time spent is on something a bit less productive? Say, watching TV, shopping at garage sales or organizing my closet? It’s still about 3 months’ worth of my waking hours.

As I contemplate making much of Jesus and less to-do about me this year, I intend to examine how I spend my time. I mean, if I have time to spend on above said activities or some other addition to my day besides the basics that are necessary for living, don’t I have time for God? For His word? For Prayer? 

Rare is the season when I have had absolutely NO time that is flexible. If I’m being honest. (I’m thinking about all that time I spent scrapbooking and stamping when my kids were young).

Currently, TV and movies are something that tug me away from the important things. I love a good story and pause for one whenever I get a chance. It tends to be my fall back when I am stressed, bored or tired. I default toward that instead of spending time with God to find comfort and relief.

My thinking goes something like this: I deserve a break. When else am I going to have “me time”? I just want to have a bit of fun? I. I. I.

God knows our body needs rest. He knows our hearts need rest from the stress of life. He gives us His solution in Matthew 11:28-30 "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

But I ignore His offer more than I care to admit. So in 2016, I’m focusing on going to HIM more than this, that or the other that calls out to me with promises of relief. Because, truth be told, hours spent on an activity with no eternal value, leaves me drained more often than not. 

That’s not to say that recreation is necessarily bad. I’m just saying that I need to examine where I spend my time and not just go one place or the other on a default mode. I believe God wants me to be intentional about my choices of where I spend my time.

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And honestly, I would much rather look back and realize that I spent 3 months of my year with God instead of in front of the TV!

How do you spend your flexible time? What do you do when you want relief from stress? Are any of those things robbing you of time you could spend with God?

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Making Much of Jesus in 2016

If we have never been tested with the choice of "keep your life or keep Christ- you can’t keep both", how can we know that we know that we know that we value HIM above all else?

In 2016, I want to learn how to make much of Christ. I want to value HIM above all else. But in order to do that, I need to make less fuss over me. With that in mind, my word for the year is LESS. Each month I will focus on a different aspect of life. Open up that part of me and lay it before Christ. See what He has to show me and teach me in putting HIM above all else.

The areas I plan on looking at are:
   Me, myself and I
   Stuff (good, bad and otherwise)
   Time Wasters
   Money (how I spend and what I spend on) 
   Social media/marketing
   My “rights”
   Distractions (not just by bad things)
   Religious and spiritual activity
   Busyness / noise

When we don’t have to give up anything (not our homes, 
riches, jobs, belongings, etc) to follow Jesus, 
how do we KNOW we value Christ above all?  

I will be sharing this journey with you here on my blog on Tuesdays, on social media throughout the week and in my monthly newsletter. I challenge you to examine your own life along the way with me. Together, lets make much of Christ this year!

Do you have a word for the year? Or some goals and resolutions? I want to hear what is stirring in your heart for 2016. Please share in the comments below. 

Friday, December 11, 2015

Book Recommendation: Road to Deer Run by Elaine Cooper

I was recently blessed to read an advanced copy of Road to Deer Run by Elaine Cooper. This is a wonderful story set during the Revolutionary War. In her usual engaging style, Elaine weaves a tale that will keep you turning pages to the end. 

If you are looking for a gift for a book loving, history loving friend or family member (or just for yourself), this book should be on your list! 

About Road to Deer Run:

War is in the air in 1777 in western Massachusetts. The able-bodied men have all left Deer Run to fight the battle at Saratoga, New York, leaving the Colonial women and the elderly behind to tend the families. While news of the American victory is heartening, the personal losses are already being felt by the Thomsen women in the village of Deer Run.

Still reeling from the loss of her brother, nineteen-year-old Mary Thomsen comes upon an unexpected and terrifying discovery: A wounded King's soldier. Her heart wants to hate, but her compassion and sense of Christian duty overcome her grief. But becoming a Good Samaritan takes a terrifying toll, and brings Mary on an adventure of fear and passion that she could never have anticipated.

Get your copy:
CrossRiver Media   Amazon      
~ ~ ~

I thoroughly enjoy finding books that not only entertain, but also uplift me in my spiritual walk. Deer Run does not disappoint! The underlying message is strong without being in your face. 

I asked Elaine what she hopes readers will take away from reading Road to Deer Run. 
Elaine: "A strong belief that no matter what life throws at you in the way of tragedy, God can be your source of strength if you choose to trust Him. I also want my readers to understand the importance of forgiveness. Bitterness has far reaching ramifications in our hearts and souls, and in our relationships with others. With God’s help, we are equipped to truly forgive."

~ ~ ~

One of the things I find fascinating is the fact that the basis for this story came from Elaine's own family history. I asked Elaine how this story affected her personally, since it is based on the story of her family. 

Elaine: "Writing a fictional story of my ancestors was a very moving experience. The more I researched about their lives in 1777 as well as the terrible toll the war took upon everyone—soldiers and civilians—the more emotional the writing journey became. I also experienced a deep sense of loyalty in my depictions of the characters, not wanting to write anything that would offend them if they were looking over my shoulder. They were my grandparents, after all." J

~ ~ ~

Since its Christmas time, I asked Elaine to share a favorite Christmas memory. You'll like this one!

Elaine: "When I was little, my mom had a wonderful way to help us get into the true meaning of Christmas. In early December, she put out a box of cotton balls and a large empty jar. She instructed us to put a cotton ball into the jar every time we did something nice for someone else. But there was one condition: We had to make sure no one saw us put the cotton balls into the jar! That way, only God knew what we had done. By Christmas Eve, the jar was usually brimming with soft cotton. Mom took the wad of balls and placed them in the manger. Then she placed the ceramic Baby Jesus on the soft bed of cotton. Our kind deeds made a sweet place for Jesus to sleep." J

Elaine Marie Cooper is the award-winning author of Bethany’s Calendar and Fields of the Fatherless. Her re-release of the Deer Run Saga begins with Road to Deer Run this month and will be followed by Promise of Deer Run (June 2016) and Legacy of Deer Run (December, 2016). Saratoga Letters will be released by Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas in October, 2016. Elaine's passions are her faith, her family, and the history of the American Revolution, the era in which her historical fiction novels are set. 

Connect with Elaine 
Website   Facebook   Twitter    

Road to Deer Run delivers on entertainment and encouragement! Click to Tweet  

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

7 Tips for the Holidays When Wounds are Fresh in Your Marriage

This post is one I shared last year, but felt it important to share again. For those wounded in your marriage, this is for you. If you know someone who has been wounded, please share. 

The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves 
those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

Discovering problems in your marriage at any time is hard. Near the holidays is more so. Three years ago when I discovered my husband's secrets of sexual addiction, it was only two months till Thanksgiving. Family would soon fill our home.  

I knew I wanted our marriage to last. I knew I chose forgiveness, but my feelings hadn't caught up all the way with my choice. We were going to counseling, but things were still tender and iffy.

I would cry at the drop of a hat. I carried more tension than usual attempting to keep things “normal” for the kids. I wanted to do the right thing one day and was angry the next. 

If you find yourself in a similar situation, the greatest encouragement I can give you is to hold on to hope in GOD. Not in your marriage. Our strength, our worth, our future is in GOD, not in how well this life goes. 

I looked back at how I handled that time to find some practical helps I could pass along. Some things I did right and other things I wish I had thought of. Here are some of both.

Rest. It’s easy to go overboard with busyness to avoid thinking about the mess around you. To give you the feeling you are in control. But your mind, heart and spirit will function better if you are not tired. You will respond better. You will make better decisions about the present as well as the future.

Find space. Take time to be alone. This will give you privacy to process things however you need to. Write in your journal. Worship. Pray. Cry. Scream and yell it out with God.  He can handle all the hurt and pain you feel right now. Let HIM carry your burden! If you have to be around family (and consider bowing out of some of those events) space is especially crucial.

Grieve. Even if you want to let God heal your relationship. Even if you have already chosen to forgive. Even if your spouse is doing the right things. You have lost something. Allow your heart and mind to process those losses through the grief.  Don’t rush this – even during the holidays. This is a good reason to make space for yourself.

Say NO. Give yourself permission to do what is best for your family. Do not fall into other’s expectations. Either from those who have no clue what is happening and expect everything to be normal or from those who do know and think they know how to “fix” this situation.  Only do those things that refresh you and comfort you.

Surround yourself with people who understand. You can’t just lock this up inside. Even if you only talk to a counselor, you need to talk. The secrets will turn into shame and bury you if you do not. Be selective and wise when you choose. Not everyone will know your journey or have the compassion to walk with you even if they do not.

Watch your talk. You may feel like tearing down your spouse. Don’t. It may be really hard to find the good, at least don’t say anything bad. If you have kids, remember they are watching and have a tendency to think tension between mommy and daddy is there fault.  
Make things good for your kids. It’s okay to tone it down from your normal holiday routine. It’s probably healthy to do so. But keep some important traditions. Even if it’s just you and the kids. Make memories with them. And don’t pretend that everything is okay. They know better. Don’t dwell on the problem. Acknowledge it, allow the kids room to process it and make the best memories you are able within your circumstance.

Above all, I pray you find HIS peace and comfort during this difficult time in your life.

If you want me to pray for you – leave a message via the “contact me” box on the right. 

NOTE: If there is abuse. If there is danger to you or your kids. Get to a safe place.

And if you know of someone who is going through a difficult time in their marriage, please pass this along using the share buttons below.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Learning to Listen

Join me through December as I contemplate
how Christmas can make a difference in my life.

“We are silent in the early hours of each day, because God is supposed to have the first word, and we are silent before going to sleep, because to God also belongs the last word.” 
~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer ~

Quite a few years ago I visited a friend who lived way out in the country. Way out. There were no street lights to keep me awake at night. No sounds of car doors slamming, dogs barking and other normal sounds of living in a city. The silence was loud.

It was into such a silence of night that Christ was born. The soft sounds of the animals in the stable and the sounds of labor from Mary the only noise precluding His arrival, Jesus the word who was with God in the beginning. The first Word of our world’s morning. And on that day, He was the first word coming into this world announcing our salvation.

Many were making too much noise to hear The Word. On that day or any other day of His life and death.

Too many are making too much noise to hear Him today! At Christmas or every other day of the year. Somedays, I make too much noise. My mind whirls with ideas, thoughts, plans and I find myself doing my thing instead of God’s all day long. There is more worry, unrest, doubt, and fear that I have to wrestle with.

I think Bonhoeffer had it right, that we should allow God to have the first word of our day and the last. There is more peace, direction and rightness to my day!

I’m learning that in the morning before my head starts filling with the busyness and distractions of the day is the best time to do my Bible study/devotionals. I try to get there as many days as I can. Before the noise starts, I can hear better. I still working on centering my mind, calming my mind, quieting my mind to give him the last word of my day, too. Fewer of my words and thoughts and more of HIS!

Our world is so noisy, we need to train our souls in silence so we can better hear God. Click to Tweet

What about you? When do you hear God best? When it is quiet enough to hear His voice? Do you set that time aside as belonging to HIM?

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Waiting on Christmas

Join me through December as I contemplate
how Christmas can make a difference in my life.

Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting –that is, of hopefully doing without—will never experience the full blessings of fulfillment. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer~

I would dare say that most of us in America don’t live a delayed gratification lifestyle. Not really. If you want something and don’t have money, charge it. You can take it home today. Are you in pain? Take a pill. Pain relief isn’t necessarily bad, but most of us no longer know how to endure patiently. Is life difficult? Find a way out. Can’t find a way out? There are plenty of addictions that seem to ease the pain- at least momentarily.

Most of us don’t even think about the possibility that what we want isn’t good for us. Our tendency is to “help God out.” In the Bible, Sarah tried this approach and sent her husband in to her handmaid and Ishmael was born. Not the one through whom the world would be blessed.

The Jews waited for the Messiah, but had so many expectations of what that would look like (according to their perceived need for an earthly deliverer) that they didn’t recognize Him when He showed up!

Celebrating the long awaited Messiah coming as a baby is Christmas. It’s waiting for what is best. 

But, do I satiate the hunger of anticipation with so many activities and traditions that I miss His coming? Is the day gone before I can soak in the meaning of it and relish it?

And thank God for it?

It is in the hunger of our soul that we can 
encounter the richness of God's blessings. 

What are you doing to make sure you don’t miss His coming at Christmas?