Friday, December 19, 2014

The Countdown

As I write this, Christmas is just six days away. My shopping is practically done, I haven't started wrapping anything yet, and I never got the Christmas cards done. Looks like friends and family might get a New Year's greeting from us this year! Even though it might all sound crazy, I'm not complaining or worried. And no, I'm not on any medication. 

I'm trying to calm things down so I can actually enjoy this Christmas with my family, and it's been fairly successful so far. We've chosen to make our girls' focus Christ this year which means we're cutting back on the number of gifts under the tree and talking more about why we celebrate. Besides the financial benefits our decision offers, it's also taken some pressure off of Charles and I. I got confirmation that it was working when Emily included a message in her family prayer about us all remembering the reason we celebrate - not presents, but Jesus. It was such a great moment!

I hope you don't think that I'm sitting over here calm as a cucumber with no concerns or stresses. This holiday season has been just as stressful as others. I decided to make all the teacher and friend gifts this year to save us some money. Over the last few weeks I've made 18 pints of apple butter and more cookies than I care to look at ever again. I've also supervised homemade gifts for grandparents and other family members and released my latest book, in case I didn't have enough to do! 

I got my idea for cutting back from another blog, Momastery, written by Glennis Melton. Each year she finishes all of her Christmas shopping by December 1 so that her family can spend the month enjoying each other and celebrating the holiday. Since I didn't read her blog post until December, my shopping wasn't even started, but I loved the way they do presents in her family. Each kid gets four things: One you want, one the world needs, one you wear, and one you read. I modified this for our family and changed "one the world needs" to "one you need." In the future we might change it, but this works better for us. 

I made up papers for the girls to give me ideas, and boy has it simplified things! We still do Santa, so we didn't get away with only four gifts, but we've limited the Santa gifts already, and we won't be inundated on Christmas morning. I feel good that the girls will end up with things they truly want and need. And I get to enjoy my holiday with the family!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

An Early Christmas Gift for My Readers

This post won't be long or involved. It's just a quick reminder that all three of my books in Kindle format are free on December 11 and 12. If you would like to have any or all of these titles, now is the time to pick them up - you can't beat the price! 

Give yourself and your family an early Christmas present that won't break the budget! 

Here are the links to the books:
Becoming a Proverbs 31 Woman: Learning to Lose the Intimidation

I'm Looking for God Today

Daddy, What Does Faith Look Like?

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Finally, A Post!

I need to apologize to those of you who read my blog posts because I haven't posted in so long. I have been productive with my time, but obviously I haven't been blogging. I am excited to tell you that my third book is done and published as of December 6! Becoming a Proverbs 31 Woman: Learning to Lose the Intimidation" is my first ladies' Bible study book, and I'm quite proud of it. 

I wrote this study between 2011 and 2012, and it's taken me this long to get it ready for publication. Writing a weekly study for your ladies group is much easier than adapting that study for mass publication. I had to spend time beefing up each lesson since I won't be sitting with each person as they go through the book. Then the editing process began which always takes longer when it's your own. I love editing other peoples' work, but I dread looking at my own. That step took longer than it should have, but I can only look at my own words so much before they all blend together into alphabet soup!

If you've been looking for a good, meaty Bible study to do on your own or with your group, I highly recommend this book. Each of the women involved in the initial study with me got a lot out of it and noted positive changes in their lives. I decided to study the Proverbs 31 Woman and the characteristics that make her special as well as the things that make her intimidating to women everywhere. 

The book delves into several aspects of her character: her fear of the Lord, self-control, virtue, kindness, compassion, sense of responsibility, resourcefulness, willingness to work hard, high energy level, wisdom, and love. Throughout the study, readers get to explore each of the characteristics from a Biblical perspective and learn how to attain them in their lives. I use several scriptures in each chapter to give a clear picture of God's ideas about each concept. 

My goal with this book is to make you look at the Proverbs 31 Woman a little differently - not as an unattainable standard, but as a woman living her life for the Lord - and learn how to become a woman who fears the Lord today. I hope you'll pick up a copy for yourself and one for a friend this Christmas!

Monday, August 25, 2014

When Life Closes In

As it stands right now, my Proverbs 31 Woman book is (finally) ready to go once it has cover art. It's been a long time coming and I'm really excited to get it done and published! My next project will be editing and preparing my James Bible study for a similar treatment. My third children's book is with the illustrator now, and we hope to have it completed by Christmas. It sometimes feels like everything happens at once, which is pretty overwhelming. But, once they are all published, I'll have to seriously buckle down and get some more writing done. 

Do you ever feel like everything that needs your attention happens all at the same time or not at all? Nothing is ever spaced out easily, at least not in my world. I often feel like I'm running around erratically, never accomplishing anything, even though things are getting done. But, when the list is so long and the time is so short, it's easy to let the panic and stress take over. 

So, what do we do when life just closes in around us? Most of us respond in one of a few ways: some run through their list until they break down, some try to do pieces of each thing that needs doing without forgetting anything important, some thrive on the hectic lifestyle and dive right in, and others play the "ignore it and maybe it will go away" game. I can't say that any of these are a particularly healthy approach, but let's face it, most of us can identify with at least one of these strategies. I, personally, try to complete pieces of each task and pray I don't forget the important stuff. I don't recommend this strategy, though, because I inevitably forget something. 

I'm trying to get better at handling the messes of managing a family, writing and editing books, leading and preparing Bible studies, teaching Sunday School, and whatever else jumps on my plate by handling one thing at a time. I have a list, and I try to work my way down the list. Sometimes things jump to the top of the list by necessity, but I'm trying to roll with the punches. I'm not going to claim to be an expert, but I sure do get a lot more done when I stop panicking and start productively working!

As we all get back into the groove of school with the kids, I want to challenge you to think about your coping mechanisms. If you're like me and find yourself stuck with a destructive habit, try to change it. Make your list, utilize your calendar, send yourself text reminders; do whatever you need to do in order to reclaim a little bit of sanity!   

Monday, June 2, 2014

Blessings in Inspiration

I had the pleasure of exhibiting my books at a local author's festival in our community this past weekend. Authors were given a table and allowed to sell books, interact with readers, and give micro-readings. It was a wonderful day and I made some new customers and have several visitors to my table. I felt like I was in my element at the festival, surrounded by people who are as passionate about writing as I am.

I was one of the few (and maybe the only) authors there with Christian books and people noticed. Some would skirt my table quickly after reading my titles, but others took a double take and came back to look harder. Some of those "second-lookers" came back to buy books from me later in the day. Many people were happy to see Christian children's books that deal with real issues that kids ask about like faith and God's presence. 

All those juices generated at the festival continued on today when I FINALLY got the idea for my next book! I was in the shower, one of my favorite creative spaces, when an idea finally gelled and I started formulating how to put the story together. I spent the afternoon drafting out my story and I'll give it a few days to sit before picking it up for revisions. It has been months since a good children's story has come to me, but I'm learning that this is normal for me. The Lord gives me the inspiration when it's time, not before, so I can sit down and hammer out something when I'm not feeling it, but most days it will be something that hits the trash. 

Now, you might be wondering why I shared my little anecdote with you. Partly because you, my blogosphere friends, should know that I'll have another book for you and your kids within the year! I've also learned something that applies to more than my writing career that you might find helpful as well. I've taken a break from my children's book writing for almost a year because my well ran dry. I sat down with trusty notebook and pen several times, only to come away empty handed and frustrated. So I put it down and decided to let God drive the bus. He's never steered me wrong in the past - I knew that when it was time for Book 3 he would let me know. And he did. 

When we remember to let God drive, our path becomes very clear and less worrisome. I won't lie and tell you my life is worry-free because I'm too much of a worrier to let that happen consistently. However, I'm getting better at handing my writing business over to God for his glory and he's coming through. I hope that you'll give your life and your passions and talents to him, too, so you can see how faithful he can be in your life! 

Monday, May 12, 2014

A Special Message for Moms

Yesterday was Mother's Day, a day set aside to honor moms for all that they do. My family of five had a wonderful day together, beginning with a delicious, healthy breakfast prepared for me by my oldest, followed by church and some great quality time and dinner out. I can't tell you how many times the girls told me, "Happy Mother's Day" throughout the day. It was a beautiful, memorable day. I say all of this to tell you that not every Mother's Day has been this way. I remember when the girls were all younger that Mother's Day felt like Monster's Day - they seemed to turn into crazy little monsters who wanted to drive me insane more than anything else. They were not fun days, and I often looked forward to Monday just so their behavior would return to normal. 

Looking back on these days after a success like this year, I have to wonder what made those times different. I think it has to do with maturity. As toddlers, especially, children don't think past themselves and their immediate comfort. They're not interested in a day set aside for Mommy, especially if she gets presents and they don't. They don't want to go somewhere other than McDonald's or Taco Bell to eat; after all, they're most important, right? When they started preschool some of the attitudes started to change, probably because the preschool made a big deal of Mother's Day with a tea and gifts each year. The girls finally started to realize that it was a day to make Mommy feel special, not a day to torment her and make her regret becoming a mom! 

I think we're often this way with God. How often do we remember to thank him for all he's done in our lives? We make sure to blame him when things aren't going well, but we forget to give him credit when things go right. We have a day set aside for God every week, but do we take advantage of it to thank him for what we have and worship him at church? Too many of us choose not to; Sunday has become a yard work or sports day with God rarely even making our list. 

If we feel neglected when our children behave badly on Mother's Day, or even worse, forget us on Mother's Day, how do you think God feels when we forget him? He loves us as children, which all of us moms can understand. Why do we think we can hurt him any less than our children can hurt us? As we raise our children to respect us as their parents and treat us special on our days, we should raise them to treat God the same way, especially on his special day each week. 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Re-engage the brain (for a little bit longer!)

Has anyone noticed that their kids' brains have turned off since coming off Spring Break? Isn't it supposed to be a time to recharge the batteries before wading back into the school routine? The answer is yes, but Spring Break has the opposite effect in my home. 

The girls and I spent a fantastic 12 days in New Mexico with my parents over our break, which was so nice. We relaxed, the girls played, and we did tons of fun stuff. But now we're home slogging through the same-old routine and brains are disengaging. 

While the idea of a recharge is nice, I almost wish we could just skip it and get out of school a week earlier. The girls wouldn't get used to sleeping in and playing all the time, and I wouldn't have to be the warden every single morning, reminding them to brush teeth and comb hair (because we never do those things). 

My zeal for school work has also diminished and I have to force myself to care about what's coming home. Heaven help us if someone brings home a project! This is the time of year when Mom helps the kids find the shortest book in the library to write a book report on or homework is completed in the backseat on the way to ________ (fill in the blank). 

My kids are involved in one sport (all together!) that runs year round, so our sports routine is constant. But many kids pick up baseball, soccer, or lacrosse this time of year, and schedules get even crazier! I've known many moms who pack dinner into the car and eat on the way to one practice or another. 

So how do we re-engage our brains and get through the rest of the year, ladies? Here's what helps me - when I remember to do it! 
1.  Write it down - If you have something coming up write it down on the calendar. I keep a desk calendar hanging over my desk so I can see what's going on each week. This requires actually keeping up with it and adding things as you find out about them. This time of year it's hard to remember to get everything on there, but boy do I pay when I forget! 
2.  Say "no" if you need to - You can't do everything; sometimes you need to say no and let someone else pick up the baton and run. It's hard, I know, but you know when you're getting to your breaking point. The last thing you need in the middle of all the crazy end-of- school-year hustle is a breakdown!   
3. Pray! - It may seem oversimplified, but prayer can be the difference between a harried, crazy mom and a calm, centered mom. Yes, our schedules are busy right now, but the Lord knows what each one of us needs to get through all the craziness, and he's able to bless us and our families through it. When things start to feel overwhelming I make myself spend some time in prayer, then I start prioritizing my list. It's amazing how much clearer everything looks after I've taken that time to connect with the Creator. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Combating the "If only's" and "Never enough's"

I just read a very interesting book for a freelance assignment. It's called Daring Greatly: How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by BrenĂ© Brown. She explores the United States' culture of "never enough," which I found fascinating. She hypothesizes that people in this country are suffering from a culture of scarcity, which is a culture "never enough." No one ever has enough of anything: never enough time, never enough sleep, never enough money, never enough power, and the list goes on forever. We just never have enough, period. 

The idea resonated with me because I catch myself trapped in the same cycle. I wake up tired and think "I didn't get enough sleep" instead of thanking the Lord for the sleep I was able to get. Many of my "never enough's" creep into my thinking as "if only's." I think to myself, "If only I made more money I could..." or "If our house was bigger I would..." Again, the list can go on forever, but the idea at the heart of it is the same. Nothing I have is enough. Why is that? 

I think if I look deeply it's because at times I lack faith and gratitude. When I forget that God provides me with everything I could possibly need, and then some, these feelings of not enough like to creep in. When I remember that he's the fount of every blessing, I don't struggle with these thoughts as much. 

Isn't it interesting what that loss of focus does to us? It's such a simple thing, too. We think it's harmless to dream about bigger houses or better cars, and it can be. But, when our heart is coming from a place of jealousy, envy, or discontent, those simple wishes become destructive. They can eat away at our peace of mind, cause dissension in our marriages, and make us short with our children.  

One passage helps me regain focus when my mind wanders into "never enough" and "if only" land. 
It's Matthew 6:31-34: "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." 

These verses have helped me through many a rough day, especially when I'm caught up in the "never enough" mentality. If we can simply remember that God provides all of our needs, we really don't need to worry so much about keeping up with others. He has never let me fall, and I have to trust that he is providing for my family's needs in all things.  

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Taking Time as a Couple

This weekend my husband and I are going away for our anniversary. We just hit 14 years, which is very exciting, and quite the accomplishment in today's world. To my knowledge, we've never gone away to celebrate our anniversary before, so this trip is a bit of a milestone. We're both looking forward to having time to focus on each other, without distractions or responsibilities. With three active children, our relationship can sometimes take a back-burner to our busy lives, and we need a re-charge!

How often do you and your husband remember to celebrate your couple-ness? Over the years our date nights have been few and far between for the most part. When the girls were really young, we couldn't afford a babysitter, so nights out didn't happen much. As they got a bit older, and money became a little less of an issue, we still struggled to make dating a priority. It wasn't until my girlfriend and I devised a monthly babysitting swap that we actually started enjoying time set aside just for us every month.

I can't stress enough how important time alone with your spouse is. Last year during sequestration, our budget was pretty tight, so our date nights were spent at home. We'd drop the girls off for their sleepover (which they love), run to the grocery store for some goodies, come home and put jammies on, and pop a movie in. Our overall cost was low, but the time together was priceless! Other months we've gone out to a nice dinner and just spent hours talking. I can't tell you how special it is to remember all over again why I married this man!

So, maybe you don't have close friends or family around. Are you out of luck? Nope - there are so many options for couples today! Unfortunately, not all of them are free, but you may be able to find something that's fairly low cost and budget-friendly.
Look into some of these ideas:
1) Share childcare expenses - If you're looking to go out with another couple, hire one babysitter and share the cost.
2) Barter - Do you cut hair, tutor, or provide another service? You may be able to trade favors with a teen or other young person in return for babysitting service.
3) Utilize trustworthy teenagers - If you have a neighborhood teen or a young person from the youth group at church that you can trust, consider offering them a babysitting opportunity. They usually charge less than an adult. 
4) Join a babysitting co-op - Many churches or other groups will start babysitting co-ops. You'd drop your child at a specified location and provide their meal, and another couple would watch them. At some other point you would return the service. If several families are involved, the duty rotates month-to-month.

Even if your only option is the free childcare available at the mall or at IKEA, take advantage of some time to be alone with your hubby! You need time together that's not about changing diapers, feeding small people, or dealing with drama. Re-connect with the man you've chosen to spend your life with - not the daddy - and let him re-connect with you, the woman - not the mommy - he's picked!   

Monday, January 6, 2014

New Year, New Goals

It's New Years resolution time! Have you written yours down? I found a really interesting chart on
Take a look:
Statistic Verification
Source: University of Scranton. Journal of Clinical Psychology
Research Date: 1.1.2014

RankTop 10 New Years resolutions for 2014
Lose Weight
Getting Organized
Spend Less, Save More
Enjoy Life to the Fullest
Staying Fit and Healthy
Learn Something Exciting
Quit Smoking
Help Others in Their Dreams
Fall in Love
Spend More Time with Family
News Years Resolution StatisticsData
Percent of Americans who usually make New Year’s Resolutions45%
Percent of Americans who infrequently make New Year’s Resolutions17%
Percent of Americans who absolutlely never make New Year’s Resolutions38%
Percent of people who are successful in achieving their resolution8%
Percent who have infrequent success49%
Percent who never succeed and fail on their resolution each year24%
People who explicitly make resolutions are 10 times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions 
Type of Resolutions (Percent above 100% because of multiple resolutions)Data
Self Improvement or education related resolutions47%
Weight related resolutions38%
Money related resolutions34%
Relationship related resolutions31%
Age Success RatesData
Percent of people in their twenties who achieve their resolution each year39%
Percent of people over 50 who achieve their resolution each year14%
Length of ResolutionsData
Resolution maintained through first week75%
Past two weeks71%
Past one month64%
Past six months46%

Aren't these interesting? What's also telling to me, though, is how long these resolutions last. Most people are done keeping their resolution within a week. Why is that? Why can't we make a goal and stick with it? Weight loss, especially, seems to be something we moms give up on pretty quickly. We're quick to give ourselves an out: the kids have to nap, they're too disruptive, I'm too tired, or any other excuse we can use.

I haven't set myself any resolutions this year, but I do have specific goals I'm working on in my life. I think it's important that we all set goals for ourselves, and then we actively pursue them. For instance, if you'd like to lose weight, and you make it your New Years resolution, pursue it! Don't just purchase a gym membership - find a gym buddy, use a trainer, find classes you enjoy. If you're working out at home, make it work for you. I stick with my regimen much better when I'm with other people, so I take an aerobics class twice a week, and I kickbox twice a week. It keeps me accountable, and I'm able to share my exercise enjoyment with friends.

One thing I think we Christians always resolve to do is read our Bibles more each year. This is one deal I make with myself every year, and I usually have pretty poor follow-through. This year, I'm doing a reading plan with Charles and other members at church who have taken the challenge. I'm hopeful that we'll be able to hold each other accountable for our spiritual exercise plan!

So, moms, I hope that if you've set resolutions for yourself, that you'll set out with a mind-set to succeed. Include a friend or your spouse in your resolutions so they can help you stay on track.
Whatever your goals are, remember the S.M.A.R.T. analogy:
S - Specific. Commit to exactly what you want to achieve. Know what you're working for.
M - Measureable. Don't set a goal to lose weight - set a number. "I want to lose 10 pounds." You'll be able to measure your success this way.
A - Attainable. Make sure your goal is reasonable. Don't set yourself up for failure. Losing 10 pounds in a few days isn't attainable, but losing 10 pounds in 1-2 months certainly is.
R - Relevant. Your goal needs to mean something to you. Don't jump on the weight loss bandwagon if you're not really interested in losing weight and getting healthy.
T - Time-bound. Give yourself a time-frame to work with. "I want to lose 10 pounds in 2 months" gives you something specific to work towards in a set time period. With an ending in sight, it's easier to stick with something.