Here I Go …

April 2014. I took my first blogging challenge.

I’ll admit it: Before I ever started, I thought I wasn’t going to succeed.

But I did. Somehow I blogged my way through the alphabet, from A to Z, in the month of April. Twenty-six posts in thirty days! At the end, my fingers were sore, but the pain was worth it.

I learned that not only do I enjoy writing for me, but I enjoy writing for others as well. And to my delight, I discovered an amazing community of bloggers I never realized existed … bloggers who encourage me both in my Christian faith and as a developing writer.

So … I’ve decided to do it again. I’m taking on the A-to-Z Challenge and once again will spend most of my spare time in April typing away.

 

A2Z-BADGE-000 [2015]

 

A lot of bloggers who take the A-to-Z Challenge will have a theme. Perhaps a gardener will blog through the alphabet about different varieties of flowers, or a cook might share different recipes throughout the challenge.

Last year I tried to come up with a theme, but never did. Literally, God gave my my writing topic each day, one post at a time.  (You can read all about that here, which is my “A” post from last year when I admitted my aspirations to blog through the alphabet in April.)

Truthfully, blogging without a theme and waiting on God to give me an inspiration for each day’s post was something of an exercise in faith. Literally, there were days when I had absolutely no idea of what I would write about until I sat down in front of my laptop and prepared to blog.

So I asked God to allow me to have a theme for this year. Actually, I didn’t so much ask as I pleaded with HIm. And this is what He gave me:

A Baptist Girl’s Confessions: Tales from My Ever-Growing Faith

 Hmmm … not exactly what I had in mind as there still isn’t a firm idea of what I will be blogging about each day. It seems like once again I will be doing what I do best, writing about the insights God gives me in my own little mundane life.

I expect during April I will write about motherhood, grief (as I am still very much processing the deaths of my father and grandfather), foster parenting, raising teens and tweens, marriage, homeschooling, personal memories and who knows what else. There might even be a day or two when I write about the laundry.

I can’t promise you  what sorts of posts you’ll find here each day, but I can promise you this:

I’ll do my best to share my faith

as I write from my heart

on whatever topic God gives me.

Most of all, I hope you will join me in April.  Please feel free to connect with me by commenting, either here or on Facebook. I love getting feedback and forming new friendships from my readers as well as with other bloggers from around the world.

Be sure to stop back in tomorrow for my first A-to-Z post for 2015, in which I will share all about:

Airplanes

Advertisements

BUT …

I just checked. There are five unpublished (and unfinished) blog posts in my queue. Most of them have a title, along with a short paragraph, maybe two. Nothing more. Just random ideas, barely starting to shape up into something worth sharing.

Not five minutes ago, I sat with my laptop in front of me, gazing at the blog posts waiting to be written. Surprisingly, my main emotion wasn’t guilt, though if I am honest there was this small pang of guilt starting welling up. But I swallowed hard a time or two, and soon enough it all settled down again as I forced myself to remember that writing is not my only job.

My last post was published on July 15th. I haven’t managed to write another full blog post since, though I promise it isn’t for lack of wanting to write. Trust me … I want to write! 

BUT

 

Isn’t there always a “but?”

I laughed right there because this is something I always caution my children about doing.  Whenever I reprimand them for neglecting a chore, they want to respond with, “But Mom …”   I shake my head, hold up my hand, and say, “There’s always a “but” to stop you from doing what you know you should be doing. It’s your job to not let the “buts” get in the way.”

Let me just go ahead and say it:  The BUTS have been getting in my way!

It doesn’t even matter what the buts are or why they are preventing me from writing. Sometimes, but not always, our excuses are valid. It’s what I wrote about in my last post about having Blogger’s Guilt. (By the way, that post was deemed “share worthy” by Faithful Bloggers and featured on their website! Here’s a link to view it there:  http://faithfulbloggers.com/struggling-with-bloggers-guilt/)

BUT … truthfully, most of the buts I’ve been using lately have been more because of my own laziness. I’m out of the blogging habit and I’ve grown complacent in regards to my desire to be diligent about writing for God.

It’s been a strange summer in my home. The typical schedule and routine has been thrown so far off course I don’t even know how to get us back on track. And yet here we are at the end of summer vacation and starting to ease back into a life of order. Homeschooling is back underway as of this morning. My summer babysitting job is drawing to a close at the end of this week, as well. No more camps. No more overnight visits with friends and family, especially on week nights. It’s time to get back into the daily grind.

And that includes me, too! In addition to all of my other jobs as wife, mom and teacher, I am planning to return to a diligent routine of writing every day. Not only because I desire to get back into my regular writing schedule, BUT because I need to write daily as it helps me focus on all of the things God has called me to do in my life.

Did you notice it? There was another BUT … and it’s actually a good but, because not all buts are bad.

but-meubles-electromenager-saint-herblain-1309252625

Do you know what my favorite BUT is? It’s in the Bible, located in Ephesians chapter 2. To really get the wonderful effect of this BUT, you have to read the verses 1-3 before you get to the verse with the BUT.

Here are a couple of key points from verses 1-3:

You were dead in your trespasses and sins … (verse 1)

 … we were by nature children of wrath … (verse 3)

In other words, like all other humans born on this planet, I am prone to being bad. My very heart leans toward self-centered, wrong behaviors.  (If you are a parent, you realize you didn’t have to teach your baby to hit or bite or throw a screaming fit. You did, however, have to teach how your child how to share and how to use manners and how to be kind to others.)

As much as I try, I cannot be perfectly good … not even on my best day.

Now comes my favorite part, verses 4 and 5:

BUT God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses. You are saved by grace!

God knows I cannot be good on my own. I can try and try, and still will fall short of His perfection. So He made a way for me through Jesus Christ.

Trust me … this is the best BUT ever!

My life is never going to be perfect. I’m going to struggle with doing what I know is good and right, and being selfish. I’m probably going to give into a temptation of some sort, if not later on tonight then tomorrow for certain.

It’s only because of the “BUT” God has offered that I have hope to live a life on this earth that is worth living … as well as the hope heaven’s perfection in the next life.

This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us. ~Romans 5:5

If you haven’t accepted God’s offer, I hope you will take the time to consider it. I’d love to tell you more about how this wonderful BUT can change your life, just as it has changed mine.

Blogger’s Guilt

It’s hard not to feel guilty.

Following the A-to-Z Blog Challenge I took during the month of April, my new goal for this blog was to publish a post two or three times each week.  But I’ve failed … miserably.

Truthfully, I think about writing on my blog every single day. In fact, it’s never that far from my mind.  Writing is a cathartic hobby for me, a pleasure which never feels much like work. Because of this, I am always eager to find a few moments in which to sit down and write.

It’s actually finding those few moments that is so very hard.

Image from Pixabay
Image from Pixabay

Ten days ago, three of my five children returned home from Germany. I’ve loved having a loud, chaotic house again.  Cooking for a tribe, tackling Mt. Laundry each morning, sorting out disputes, being the chauffeur to five people who apparently have busier schedules and more places to go than myself … it’s all part of the fun and games and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Two weeks ago, the baby I keep each weekday decided to begin to use her walking skills on a regular basis. Suddenly, everything has changed! “Miss E”  is able to quickly get into a lot of things she is not supposed to get into … and I’m remembering things about toddlerhood I had long forgotten. Whew! There really is no sitting down with a toddler in the house! These little people are work, and nap times are just as much for moms as they are for the sweet child.

Most days I am trying to figure out how to fit in time to read my Bible and exercise, much less have time for personal hobbies. My daily schedule isn’t filled with vast amounts of free time. Just like everyone else on the planet, I’ve only got 24 hours a day. The hours are limited, and I’ve got to use them wisely.

It’s during seasons like this I must remember there will be days when writing, even if it is writing for God, must take a backseat on my priority list.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Last week, I came across this lovely blog post:  Seven Reasons Bloggers Don’t Blog.

I can relate to all seven reasons given by the author of that freeing blog post.  (1) I do not want to post fluffy content on my blog. (2) My biggest desire is to  write encouraging and helpful words for my audience.  (3) Writing is tiring, and time consuming.  (4) The 40% of me that is somewhat introverted needs time to quietly process life before I can write about it publicly.  (5) I’m writing a book …  but I’m only about halfway through the first two chapters. I am discovering it is a painfully slow process to write a book.  (6) Big and wonderful things are happening in life.  My family is preparing to become a foster family. I’m excited and scared and very busy with getting my home ready to take on another child. (7) Finally the biggest reason of all … blogging is not living.

I love my blog. I love to write. But my biggest responsibility is to be the godly wife and mom God has called me to be.

I realize that according to the experts, if I am to ever have a “real” career as a writer, I need to have a platform, build an audience of 5000 or more readers,  and post three or four times a week on my blog. But I’m not there. I admit that many days I wish I was because I think I’d love nothing more than a fantastic contract with some big name Christian publishing house and a couple of books on the shelves  down at the nearest Lifeway Book Store.

Yes, God called me to write … but He simply asked me to write for Him, not for a publishing house or for a set of standards that He didn’t give to me. So that’s what I am going to do … write for God.

And He also asked me to be a wife and helpmeet to my husband Jon.  God called me to be a mother to five wonderful teens and tweens, who are growing up so quickly. They won’t be home with me for very much longer before they leave to start their own lives. God asked me and my family to open our home and share His love and our lives with children I don’t yet know through fostering.  He asked me to be a good neighbor to the lady next door who is dying, and to be a listening friend in real life, not just on the computer screen.

I’ve got just one life to live. While writing and blogging is very much a part of my life, it’s not all that I do. And so today, I’m setting down the guilt I put upon myself for not blogging on some made-up schedule. I’m laying aside the burden I’ve carried around for the past two and a half months for not keeping up with an insane blogging schedule, as well as tending to the realities of my life.

Instead, I’m asking the Lord to help me be faithful to do all He requires of me for today, and nothing more. I pray a lot of those days include writing for God.  I think they will.

But whether they do or whether they don’t, I’m done with “Blogger’s Guilt.”

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  ~John 8:36

A to Z Blog Challenge … Reflections Upon Completion

A-to-Z Reflection [2014]

 

I honestly didn’t think I could do it. The challenge seemed insurmountable. How would I ever manage blogging twenty-six times in one month when I hadn’t managed even twenty posts in the entire previous year?  I had a feeling that my one moment of impulsivity was going to drive me absolutely crazy.

And yet, it didn’t.

In fact, writing practically every day in April turned out to be rather enjoyable.

Going into this challenge, I had no idea what to expect. I imagined hours of sitting around, beating my head against the computer screen, while my five kids ran rampant around the house. I envisioned dishes stacked up, laundry piled up, and school projects left unfinished. I figured before it was done, I’d give up, unsuccessful and unfulfilled as a writer.

Thankfully, my ideas and concerns are not God’s. And what He had in mind for me during April was something I never would have imagined. Through daily writing, I learned more about God, His truths, myself and the process of writing.

So what are my A-to-Z take-aways? There are many, but here are the 3 most important ones, along with a new writing/blogging goal I derived from each.

1. If God called me to write, then I definitely need to write … daily.  As a mother to five children, all of whom are homeschooled, I have a busy life. It’s not an excuse for me to neglect to do what God has asked me to do. Generally, I feel like I don’t have what it takes to take care of my family and write, but in April God reminded me that if He has asked me to do something for His purpose and glory, then He will provide everything I need to get the job done. This does not mean I will post daily to m blog.

As a result, my new goal is to write half an hour each day, and post to my blog 3 times a week.

2. Good writers employ many writing aids, including prompts. In the past, I’ve been hesitant to write to a prompt, simply because I felt as if it couldn’t be a spirit-led sort of writing. I would wait until an idea hit me and then I would write, but considering that I wasn’t practicing daily writing combined with a hectic life, writing ideas happened infrequently. The result was sporadic blogging and random writing. It wasn’t so much because God was speaking to me, but rather because I wasn’t attuned to listening or taking advantage of opportunities to write with the help of prompts. What I discovered about a prompt (even one so general as a letter) is my thoughts were pointed in a direction, enabling me to find inspiration I wasn’t otherwise aware of and a place to start.

In addition to writing daily, I am going to utilize prompts for days when I do not have another writing idea.

3. Writing is communal. Typically, I think of writing as a solitary activity. It’s not. Writers, like all humans, need community. Writing is done best when I am connected to other writers. Perhaps the biggest blessing of the A to Z Challenge was discovering new blogs and connecting with other writers, especially those who blog about their faith. Connecting with other writers is beneficial to help me apply writing skills to my own writing as well as gives me to opportunity to encourage other writers.

It makes me happy to introduce to you a few of my favorite new blogs I found as a result of the A to Z Challenge:

1. The Artistic Christian

2. True Beloved Blog

3. Praise, Prayers and Observations

4. Everyday Moments of Worship

5. Whims and Wanderings

I hope you’ll take the time to check out these blogs.  Leave a nice comment, too! They are great writers … and they have been a blessing to me, so I hope you will join me in encouraging them as well.

In order to hone the craft of writing, I am committed to being actively involved in encouraging writing communities, both online and face-to-face, as well as participating in writing challenges or classes.

April might be over, but I think the A to Z Challenge will stick with me for a long time yet to come. I’m already planning to participate in next year’s challenge. Meanwhile, I’m going to put into practice some of the lessons I’ve learned and see where God takes me on the writing journey to which He called me.

Z is for …

 

I did it! Oh, yeah, I did it! I completed the A to Z Challenge!

 

celebrate

Woo-Hoo!  

There’s a party going on right here  … a celebration

Cel  – e – brate good times! Come on!

Now, I bet, I’ve got you singing.  Great! Because the fact is, I am celebrating today and I’d like you to celebrate with me .  But, you should know, I’m not celebrating me and my accomplishments. No, I am celebrating what God did for me in the month of April.

You see, I’m 99.9% positive I could never have completed the A to Z Challenge on my own.  A quick look at my blogging statistics prior to April 2014 will show some pathetic results.  Relatively infrequent posts. Low readership. No goals. Truthfully, I felt as unsuccessful as the statistics already proved.

Whenever I thought about writing, I typically whined,

“Lord, why did you call me to write for You when it is obvious I cannot do it successfully!”

Despite my feelings about my “writing career,”  I  was eager, enthusiastic and excited when the Holy Spirit prompted me to take the A to Z Challenge.  But as the time passed and the beginning of the challenge grew closer, I begin to have second thoughts,  doubts replacing my zeal for the task ahead.

How on earth could I post 26 times in one month when I hadn’t posted 26 times total in the previous year? I had five kids to homeschool, meals to cook, errands to run, and laundry to wash. Lots and lots of laundry. Where would I fit in all the writing time? How would I come up with topics for all those letters? What about Q and X?

Then in the quietness of my soul there was a whisper.

I’ve got this. All you have to do is give it to Me.

So I did. Day by day. Post by post.

Several times, I thought I wouldn’t have a thing in the world to write. Every single time, God came through. In the beginning, I believed I didn’t have a chance in the world of seeing this challenge through to the end. Truthfully, I didn’t.

I had something better.

I had the zeal of the Lord of Hosts to help me accomplish what God had called me to do for His glory.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

letterZ

Zeal means great energy, enthusiastic diligence, or passion in pursuit of a cause or object. Many places in the Bible talk about the zeal of the Lord, almost always in references to the zeal of the Lord of Hosts performing a particular feat.

I almost always start off a new project with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, but I often lack the fervor and passion to see it through to completion. In the past, I’ve been scared to step out and do things I know God has called me to do because I fear I cannot accomplish the work.

How wonderful is this thought: I don’t have to! It’s not me. On my own strength and power, I will certainly fall short of success. Rather, it is the zeal of the Lord of Host (God working in me) that will accomplish whatever task He has asked me to do. All I have to do, is be willing to let God work through me.

Z is for Zeal …

God’s zeal, not mine, to do wonderful things through me to bring glory to His great name!

So what is it that God is asking you to do?

Are you willing to let His zeal carry you through in completing your mission impossible?

A is for …

Perhaps on another day, the writer’s link with a blogging challenge for the month of April would not have caught my attention, but on that particular morning it did. With nothing more than a quick glance at the rules of the game, I registered.

Fast forward two months, and what seemed like a great idea back in February has me feeling a bit like an April fool today.

Still, I’m already in, linked up, and set to go. Besides, whenever I’m in, I’m all in.

My mission for the month:  Blog through all 26 letters of the alphabet.

Just in case you’ve forgotten a certain little poem often taught in elementary school, April is only a 30-day month. Even the slowest of math pupils would understand that 26/30 means a lot of posting in April!

Quite frankly, my track record for blogging is not that good. I’ve had this blog for about a year now, and have managed only 16 posts or so during that time. Statistically, I’m not even blogging twice a month.

Generally, I try not to feel guilty about my lack of consistency in keeping up with my blog. After all, as the mother of five, all teens or tweens, it’s not as if I’m sitting around, twiddling my thumbs, and eating bonbons all day.

Which leaves me with one burning question:

 Why did I ever think I could manage publishing 26 times on my blog during a one month period?

Looking back, I know much of my eagerness to participate had to do with a desire to improve my writing skills, develop better blogging consistency, find new writing inspiration, and build my readership. I recall thinking, “What better way to possibly improve in several of these areas than by taking a part in this challenge?”

Yet, as the weeks went by and I thought about the actual process, I began to feel nervous about exactly how this challenge would play itself out.  Many writers taking the challenge blog through the alphabet with a theme in mind, which seemed like a great idea to me.  Several times I tried to come up with a theme: homeschooling ideas, Bible verses, godly thoughts, favorite books to read with children, etc.  Each time I would get excited about the theme possibilities …  and then panic would set in.

Oh, no! What will I write about for Q or X? What if I run out of ideas?

With the focus of succeeding in this challenge centered on me and my abilities, I knew I was setting myself up for failure. Something had to change. Or rather, there was something that I didn’t need to change. I needed to stay true to who I am as a writer.

The one big thing that is consistently true about my writing is that I write for God. He’s the boss and I work for Him.  In our writing relationship, He always gets to pick the topic. My job is to pretty much just write whatever He tells me to write.  And since He mostly gives me insights about Himself through the ordinary (and sometimes not-so-ordinary) experiences in my life, I try not to complain.  It’s actually a really great deal, and I love my job … though it might be nice if there started be an occasional payday involved.

I have come around to understanding that there won’t be a theme for my blog during in the A to Z Challenge. At least, that is, there won’t be a theme chosen by me. And so far, if God has picked a theme, He hasn’t let me in on it yet.

He did, however, stay faithful to His part of the bargain, and give me the idea as well as the words to write in this initial post.

letterA

That’s why A is for Aspiring to blog through the Alphabet in April

Stay tuned for B.  At this point, even I have no idea what God might want me to blog about tomorrow.

 

My heart is moved by a noble theme, 
as I recite my verses to the King; 
my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. ~Psalm 45:1

My Laundry Room Encouragement

Yesterday a surprise package arrived outside my door.  I love surprises … especially ones that I know are likely to be good. And this surprise box had “GOOD” written all over it! (Well, not literally, but I’m sure you know what I mean.)

It was from my Aunt Janell, who lives so far away from my Cajun Country home that I rarely get to visit with her.  However, during a phone conversation several weeks ago, she had mentioned she had a little something to send me if she could ever get around to mailing it.  From the size of the box, I knew this wasn’t “a little something.”  Again, I had the feeling that whatever this boxed contained was a treasure … perhaps not a treasure for anyone else, but definitely something intended to bless my heart.

With the kids watching eagerly, I opened the box … and, to my delight, discovered this:

Image

Like any good gift, this one was absolutely perfect for me!  No doubt, God had His hand in helping my aunt choose this gift and even picked the perfect day for it to arrive on my doorstep.

Writing is hard.  It’s emotional. I’m invested in the words I’ve written, and long to see that what I’m doing makes a difference. I want it to matter, for God to use it, and for others to be blessed by it.  But so often, I don’t see it, and I start to doubt whether or not I heard God call me to write for Him.  Perhaps I’m not supposed to see and know all the ways God uses the words He gives me to write … and yet, I am easily discouraged.

So after a couple of days of questioning and doubts and wondering why on earth I keep pushing myself to write, a laundry mat arrives on my doorstep … and in my heart I felt God whisper, “Just keep meeting me in the laundry room, remember to write for Me only, and trust that my plans for you are good.”

Thanks, Aunt Janell, for the laundry mat and for the encouragement to continue writing. I’m quite certain it will be put to good use … bringing a smile to my face each time I step inside my laundry room (aka: the prayer closet).  I’m looking forward to seeing you in September! 

Image

 

As you can see, my newly upgraded and improved laundry room is all ready for the return of 3 of my 5 kids at the end of the week.  I am positive I’ll spend a lot of time standing here this weekend, washing away the dirt, grime, sand and sweat which collected on their clothes from several days of summer camping fun … and God will somehow meet me in the laundry room, washing my spirit in His perfect peace and love.

Defeating Defeat

For as long as I can remember, I have loved words. The sounds of words, like serendipity and fricasee. The meanings of words, like blessed  (Oh, how happy) and  Hallelujah (to boast in God). The process of stringing words together, creating alliterations and metaphors. I even think in words, not pictures. My dreams often consist of visual  words, like closed captioning in my sleep.

I don’t remember when I first began to write, for  I never really kept a journal or a diary with any sort of regularity. By adulthood, I wrote almost daily, and for a variety of reasons.  To remember … all the adorable things my children did and said, as if putting it down on paper would ensure that I would never forget a single moment. To clarify and organize my thoughts, especially when feelings didn’t match beliefs and I searched for the right perspective. My marriage felt apart, and I found writing helped me to grieve.  Somehow I realized through writing, I found myself … perhaps more importantly, I found God.

Along the way, through all this writing, God called me. He called me to write for His purposes instead of my own, for His glory instead of mine. I marveled at this plan for my life. I laughed with joy when, on my 40th birthday, God Himself gave me a verse, confirming what I already knew in my heart that in this next season of my life I would write for Him:  “My heart is stirred by a noble theme as I recite my verses for the King; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer.” Psalm 45:1

And then I very promptly got the worst case of writer’s block ever.  Eight months of nothing … I couldn’t not write a single sentence, not even prayers in my journal.  At first, I felt annoyed. Soon, I was concerned, then anxious and finally devastated.

God had called me to write. I knew it as sure as I knew my name. Then why was I unable to pen words? Over and over I tried, I cried and I prayed.  Nothing changed. I felt completely defeated. One morning, out of my complete misery,  I wrote in my prayer journal, “Lord, I feel defeated. Why? And how can I find victory again?”

To my surprise, God’s response was instantaneous.  From the tips of my fingers came words, written in the form of an acrostic. Since I’m sure that I’m not the only one who experiences feelings of defeat, I’ll share what God showed me.

I will feel defeated when…

D: I am in DENIAL of the truth.

It goes without saying that what I believe and what is the truth are often completely different things. Satan is constantly whispering things in my ear, lies that he wants me to believe. But Jesus said, “The truth will set you free.” (John 8:32) When I am willing to listen to God and embrace His truths, I discover that I am free from feelings of defeat.

E: I hang onto my  EXPECTATIONS (which are often unrealistic).

Expectations are a problem for me. Often I realize that I’ve got assumed, but unspoken, expectations of myself and others (including God). Furthermore, it seems, more often than not,  my expectations are unrealistic. When I have an expectation that is unfulfilled, blocked, uncertain, lost or even fails, it opens the door for me to experience feelings of anger, anxiety, sadness, and perhaps shame. Rarely are these emotions founded in the truths of God. Rather, most often, I’m listening again to the lies of Satan.

God has been showing me how to let go of my expectations for this life, and embrace His plans for me.  I love the words of Jeremiah 29:11.  ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for your welfare, not your destruction,  to give you a future and a hope.’ “

F: I  FOCUS  on my  FAILURES.

Just like I listen to lies and have unrealistic expectations, quite often I spend the majority of my time pondering my failures … failures which often exist only in my own mind, failures which often are only measured by the world’s successes.  I’ve been learning that I should focus instead on two wonderful truths.

The first is this:  Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.  (Romans 12:2). God’s plans for my life will look a lot different than the world’s idea of success, therefore I cannot use worldly standards to measure my success.

And the second truth:  I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength. (Philippians 4:13)  If God has called me to do it, then He will give me the strength needed to succeed.  All I need to be is willing to follow Him.

E: I  EXTEND  myself in areas that God has not called me.

God has specific callings for my life. I am a wife, mother and writer.  These are my three most important roles. Too often, I allow other activities to get in the way of my responsibilities in these areas, and when I do that I am going to feel strained and stress.  Quite often I know when I am over-extending myself because I will begin to feel weary and worn down.  It’s a sign that something is out of balance.

Jesus told His followers, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mattthew 11:28-30)  I have to be careful to put up guard rails and protectors in order to keep myself centered in the path God has laid out for my life. When I am careful to do this, my life isn’t marked by feelings of defeat.

A: I  AVOID  dealing with my sin.

But sometimes I just do not want to give up whatever it is that is making me miserable.  I don’t know why sin works that way, but I’ve found this to be true time and time again. I get caught up in some sin, and even though it makes me moan and groan and whine about the state of my life, I refuse to confess it to God. I just don’t want to give it up.

Wise King Solomon wrote, “Whoever conceals his sin will not prosper, but he who confesses and renounces them will find mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)  If I want peace in my life, I’ve got to continually confess my sins and turn back to choosing to live God’s way.

T: I am unTEACHable.

Quite often, when I am stuck in a rut of defeat, I know that God is trying to teach me a new way of doing things.  He wants me to grow and mature so that I am living a faith-filled life.  I don’t know about you, but I can be ridiculously unteachable.  I just flat refuse to listen and learn.

In 1 Peter 2:2, it says, “Like newborn infants, desire the pure spiritual milk, so you may grow by it.”  There are many things I desire in this world:  a strong marriage, children who love the Lord, financial stability, my daily chocolate . More than these, my heart should desire God and His truth in my life.

It’s been more than two months since God shared with me the reasons behind my feelings of defeat.  It didn’t cure me instantly of my writer’s block.  However, God also shared with me how to find victory in my life, and as I began to implement those truths I found my ability to write returned more and more in the days and weeks that followed.

Isn’t it comforting to know deep within the soul that God does not want me (or you) to live in perpetual defeat?

How have you overcome feelings of defeat through Christ? I hope you’ll share your success stories with me!

Stay tuned for part 2, when I share how God showed me how to make a VICTORY PLAN for living my life according to His perfect will for me.

The Start of Something New

For my 40th birthday (which wasn’t all that long ago), God Himself gave me a very special gift … a life verse.

The term life verse is taken directly from the “Dictionary of Christian~ese.”  Okay, not really.  However, if you don’t frequent churches or are perhaps new to the faith, then it is quite possible that you aren’t familiar with this terminology.  Life verse basically refers to a scripture that is deeply personal, and perhaps when you read it you feel as though God is leaning down and whispering directly into your ear.  Life verses tend to address a theme that appears over and over again in your life, telling of how God has worked in you or through you. It’s like the mission statement of your life.

So back to my 40th birthday and my gift from God, which was, as I said previously, my life verse. The back story is that I had always wanted a life verse.  I can’t tell you the number of times I had prayed and asked God for a wonderful life verse.  Over the years, I had scriptures that I loved and held particularly close to my heart, but I knew that none of them were my life verse. In fact, I had finally reached the conclusion that I probably was one of those people who just didn’t have a life verse.  On top of that, I was turning 40, which was turning out not to be all that fun.  I suppose I felt old and useless as I approached what was likely the second half of my life.

Anyway, a sweet friend of mine, who was keenly aware of my emotional struggles (at least the part about turning 40)  gave me a birthday sunshine box … a box filled with a week’s worth of small tokens and treasures, one to open each day.  Each small gift was wrapped and on the outside was a scripture that gave a clue as to what was inside. Each morning I allowed the children to pick a gift so that we could all guess as to what might be inside.

As the morning of my birthday dawned, I have to admit that did not feel like it was in any way a happy day.  My husband was working out of town. And frankly, I just wanted to pull the sheets over my head and sleep the day away.  But before the sun was very high in the sky, those five lively kids of mine were singing the birthday song and pulling the next gift out of my sunshine birthday box.  And the gift they placed in my hand that morning was wrapped up and tied with a ribbon that was attached to a card containing the following words that changed my life.

My heart is moved by a noble theme as I recite my verses to the king; my tongue is the pen of a skillful writer. ~Psalm 45:1 (HCSB)

           The instant I read those words, I knew it was my life verse.  I’ve always loved to write. It’s how I express myself.  It’s how I find myself.  Moreover, it’s how I find God.  In my youth and young adulthood, I wrote for me.  But in my 30’s, I had found joy in learning to write for God … to please Him and to share His love through words.  Truthfully, I longed to do more with my writing, but I had no idea what or how.   So for God Himself to reveal to me a plan for my future that included writing … well, for once, words fail me.

          Since that September morning, I’ve been praying in a knock, seek, ask sort of way.  I’m daring to dream and believing that God has plans to use me by allowing me to write for Him.  It’s the start of something new … not because I’m new to writing, but rather I’m new to believing that my writing is useful to God and to His purposes.  I’m new to dreaming that He will take my writing places I never dreamed it might go.  And I’m new to expecting God to use my writing to encourage others, especially ordinary women just like me, to know Him more.