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Wednesday

What Keeps You Going?

Today was one of those days. Nothing really went wrong. I had a pleasant cup of tea and snuggled my dogs before planning write. And then... nothing. Just not really in the writing mood.

I kept finding things to do to distract myself. Ever been there? Laundry, dusting the piano, watering flowers. Finally, after a few hours, I sat down in the office chair to try writing again.

It was hard. Like studying for an exam in college after you've just taken cold medicine. Nothing was wrong. I just wasn't feeling it. I've found that this happens sometimes.

We all have moments of elation in our callings. We go to conferences and get so excited as we catch a vision of where our writing might take us. We meet wonderful friends online and swap work, so happy to get positive feedback on our precious WIP from mentors and critique partners. We have those moments--those often quiet moments--where God whispers, and we know... we just know... the things ahead are nothing like the things behind. We know the calling is worth the work it takes to get there.

But then there are other moments--the everydays--when it's so much easier to sit back and not write. To turn on the TV, or grab a book, or get lost in Facebook statuses. Before we know it, another day has passed, and maybe we didn't pull up Microsoft Word at all. Maybe we didn't feed our calling. And maybe a little part of it dimmed.

If we're not careful, we can slip into this it's-still-my-dream-but-I'm-just-not-feeling-it-now routine, that, over time, undermines our calling. Whatever you feed, grows. All it takes is one glance at my weed-filled garden to prove that! So feed your dreams. Feed your calling.

But how do we feed our God-dreams? Through daily discipline. Through the mornings we don't want to get up early and the afternoons we feel tired and the nights we want to watch TV. I am so bad at this sometimes. I let myself get caught up in a bunch of distractions.

I would encourage you to write down your dreams and a timeline for when/how you want to achieve them. Pray about these goals, and ask God if He has more.

We have to be intentional if we want to dream big dreams. They aren't going to come true on their own.  How do you build a stairwell to the clouds? One step at a time. :)

What do you do to help stay focused when your daily routine seems busy or boring? How do you make yourself say no to distractions?

Monday

Happy Monday!


Hi all! I've been battling with allergies for a couple weeks now (bleh!) and taking Benadryl every day to keep them under control. So needless to say, no DIY project this week! Instead, I've been totally wrapped up in reading Redeeming Love. Crazy, I know, but this is actually the first time I've read it. I thought to myself, could it really live up to all that hype? Uh, yes it can. No wonder this book has sold over one million copies!


How has everyone's week been? Are you all on track with your writing goals now that fall is just around the corner? (At least, I like to think that whenever it's so hot outside-ha!) I need to do some serous catch up work this week because my allergies have given me that fuzzy-headed feeing, and I've fallen behind. But I'm determined to get this book done and done well before conference season!

Read any great books lately?


Wednesday

Pray Well







I don't know about you, but sometimes when I pray, I come away feeling more burdened than I began.

Let me give an example, and this may sound pithy, but I think it works to clarify. You know those photos people post on Facebook of lost dogs? Yeah, the terribly sad ones. I always try to pray, even if it's just for a few moments, the dogs or cats will find their way back home. But often, as I think through all these different scenarios of things that might have happened to these poor people's beloved pet, I end up stressing myself out and coming away from the prayer feeling burdened.

This was never God's design.



If we're not careful, this can become a vicious cycle that actually turns us away from, rather that toward, God.

Today I was listening to KLove with the following verse was read:


Don't let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. (John 14:1 NLT)


Don't let our hearts be troubled? Trust in God and in Christ? Isn't that what I'm doing when I send up these frantic prayers? Well, maybe not . . .

Today I want to challenge you--and myself--that if prayer leaves you feeling vulnerable, fragmented, and worrisome, then something is wrong. Prayer is designed to put us in connection with God, and His presence will always make us whole. We may not always like His answer, but it's best for us, and something deep within our soul recognizes that. When we hear from God, we find peace. We feel settled.



Prayer should be a conversation with God, not a one-sided street where we beg God to do what we want and hope He hears us. We need to do less "convincing" and more listening. 

Time and again, I am amazed when God reminds me He's been two steps ahead of me all along. I don't have to figure it all out and suggest a game plan to Him. I don't have to talk Him into doing things my way. I don't have to beg Him to be good or to care about my life. He already is good, and He already does care. More deeply than I know.

What I do need to do is trust.

See, without trust, the trouble sets in. With trust, on the other hand, we can find freedom. Have you ever dated someone you didn't trust and found yourself constantly trying to govern their behavior? Don't treat God that way. He's in the business of healing us, not breaking us down.



So let me point out several areas where we can trust God, and thus avoid the troubling of our hearts...


  • Trust who God is. Do you really believe God is good? That He loves His children? That He loves you and died for relationship? That He knows your day to day moments and is highly invested in redeeming your life, and your heart? This seems like such a simple concept, but it's difficult to put into practice. When challenges and disappointments come, we tend to doubt God's nature. We wonder if He is still good. We wonder if He has forgotten us. God is I AM-- who was and is and is to come. He will never leave you nor forsake you. Taste and see that He is good. And can I also just say something else? He gets us. He loves us. It's no surprise to Him that we doubt His love. So ask Him to show Himself to you, to make His love real in your life in a whole new way. Ask Him to remind you of His goodness, and He will.
  • Trust who you are. You are a child of God. A friend of God. Sometimes in the church, we harp on our fallen nature a lot. We hear about how fallen, how bruised, how broken we are, and how far we are from God's original plan. Yes, it's important to recognized our flawed state because it's the first step to receiving grace. However, I think we make a major mistake when we oversimplify our characterization of humanity as broken. We are still infinitely valuable to God--despite the fall and even in it. We were created to do good things--created in the image of God. Did you catch that? You were created in the image of God. Not just Adam or Eve or Noah or David or the apostle Paul. You. Your friends, your spouse, your children. God cares about you just as much as He cared about them. You don't have to talk God into caring, or listening. He already cares much more than you realize. Instead of trying to talk Him into getting in your boat, step inside His. It's a much more fulfilling ride, I guarantee, because God is the one who designed your heart in the first place, and you were created to crave intimacy with Him. You are uniquely valuable to Him as an individual, so don't dismiss the creation He so desperately loves... yourself.
  • Trust God's promises. Has God promised you something but hasn't delivered yet? Are you feeling like Abraham... old and desperate for affirmation of God's promise? Sometimes we have to wait before we hear from God, but He always answers us, and He always listens. Hold fast to the promises God has spoken into your life and into your heart. He has not forgotten them, and He has not forgotten you.
When we begin to reshape our perspective of God, ourselves, and His promises, we begin to pray differently... we start seeing prayer as a way to ask God what He wants rather than as a means to our own end. God is not your personal genie. He's got too much more in mind for our lives to give up His heaven-sized plans for our earth-sized ones.

What about you? Do you ever find yourself growing weary in prayer? In what ways have you learned to trust God, and how does that help your heart?



Monday

Anthropologie DIY Ballerina Dress


Is this dress ah-mazing or what? I'm going to add it to my DIY project list but wanted to show you all the nice version before I take a shot at my own, because it probably won't look anything like this when I'm done!

This woman has an amazing blog full of fabulous DIY projects. Check out her ballerina dress here: http://kojo-designs.com/2012/02/kojotutorial-the-ballerina-dress-an-anthropologie-dulcie-dress-knock-off-2/

And here's how hers turned out. Now let's hope mine looks half as good!





















How have you all been this week? Is anyone working on any cool projects?

Wednesday

Give Me a Break! (No, Really.)


I'm sorry for posting this blog so late in the day, friends! I couldn't think of something to write about for the life of me, and that so rarely happens. Then I took a nap, and--whala!--started feeling alive again.

It's amazing how much our bodies like sleep. And sweet tea. And chocolate.


So today I want to chat about something I think often gets neglected amid the deadlines and the mad-dash rushes to get books to our agents to prospective publishers. And that is rest.

Sometimes we all just get tired. Take today for example. I really had no one reason to be wiped out (aside from the sinus problems I've been having--bleh!), but by this afternoon after a stressful vet appointment and a delightful lunch with my mom, I could not seem to sit down and write.

Often, we think if we could just push through the tiredness, we could something productive. But more likely what we end up doing is spending two hours looking at the Sephora website because we never could muster any energy. :)

Are you running on fumes? Here are a few signs it may be time to just take a nap:

  • You start feeling jittery and little problems feel like big ones.
  • You have trouble bringing to mind what should be simple information, like why you walked into the kitchen and opened the refrigerator.
  • You can't seem to find motivation to do what needs to be done.
  • The only thing that sounds exciting is pushing the snooze button.
  • You've caught yourself being overly sensitive or having a grouchy attitude to those around you.
  • You walk around feeling constantly overwhelmed.
I think most of us, at one point or another during the year, just get burned out. Maybe you're a teacher like me, and you consider a choice between grading final papers versus eating brussels sprouts a toss up. Maybe you have toddlers and you feel this exhausted every day of your life. Here are some things that can help:
  • Take naps. Even just a 15 minute power nap might seem like a luxury, but can really boost your productivity. Just be sure you actually get up! Ha!
  • Avoid caffeine. Ah, it's so tempting, isn't it? Caffeine does give you that immediate pep. But I know in my experience, caffeine makes me really jittery, which in turn makes me fretful. And then I once again have to visit the Sephora website to relax. ;) It's a vicious cycle!
  • Listen to Pandora. I really like the Bethel worship station and the Billie Holiday one. Music helps bring another dynamic to your day, especially if you're working on something creative.
  • Try getting more antioxidants, like delicious fruit smoothies, to help keep your immunity up. We like to mix Chobani yogurt, strawberries, blueberries, and orange juice.
  • Reward yourself by doing something fun. Watch a quick episode of Say Yes to the Dress or even Gilmore Girls to give your brain a break. You're much more productive if you work in spurts rather than exhausting yourself. Studies have shown that in people preparing for finals.
  • Stay consistent with your devotions. I don't know about you, but when I start getting overwhelmed, my devotions are usually the first thing to go. Why is that, when spending time with God is one of the best ways to keep our perspective?
  • Surround yourself with positive people, quotes, movies, books, etc. that help you keep a healthy framework.
Doing these things will help you feel like yourself again, and in the end, make you all the more productive. There's only one you. So don't deprive the world of what you have to offer. :)

Monday

DIY Project Week 20 Ribbon Necklace


This week's DIY project is officially the easiest DIY in the history of all DIY projects. Not to mention, it's SO cute. Doesn't it just scream, "I'm from Anthropologie but not really!"? :)

I saw this pendant at JoAnne's Fabric last week and fell in love. I didn't feel like putting it on a traditional chain, though, so instead I opened for a skinny ribbon in a cream color. It's about 1/4".

Then, I cut the ribbon so the necklace would fall at a long length (though you could adjust it to any size), threaded it through the hole in the pendant, and tied a dainty little bow. The bow is also something you could customize according to the look you want... I think a thicker ribbon with a long bow would be lovely, but I wanted to call attention to the pendant, so I kept the ribbon subdued.

And whala!

What I especially love about this necklace is that it's so comfortable. Nickel necklaces will sometimes irritate my skin, especially in the heat, but this one is very cool and classy no matter the temperature.

Hope you are inspired to create your own!


Wednesday

The Next Right Thing


dream
 Many of you are writers. Coming up on conference season, you may find yourself with a whole lot of dreams and hopes and a whole lot of disappointment and frustration as you try to achieve them.

Maybe you absolutely love writing a story, but life has put weights on you one at a time that are becoming difficult to carry. Would a publisher ever be interested in such a risky subplot? Would ABA want something like this? Would CBA? Are my readers going to be mad because I said the word "crap"? Can I get published if every single year I fail to final in the Genesis contest no matter how badly I want to win that whole thing? What if I don't have a litany of superstar authors backing me up, willing to endorse me? What if I clam up during my appointments with editors, and I can't even remember my name let alone my story?

And then life, sometimes, very simply just exhausts our dreams. We go into survival mode for one reason or another-- busyness, emotional exhaustion, physical exhaustion-- we shove our dreams into a corner, and little by little, we let them starve.

Don't let your dreams starve. 

Sometimes, in the middle of the summer, you may find yourself sitting on the coach with a laptop in your lap and an empty tea mug beside you. The page count on your WIP is not what you'd planned. Butterflies are fluttering around just outside your window, begging you to ditch your story and go play outside. Maybe you have kids and are running around completely frazzled, trying to keep up with their summer activities.




Maybe you find yourself asking, "What's next?"

It's a natural question. When we invest our hearts in something like writing, it's only natural that we want to keep them safe. We want the best for our story. We want to see our calling come to pass through publication.

Sometimes it seems God likes to ignore that question. But more likely, He's trying to get us to change our focus. To ask different questions. Better ones. To grow. To learn. To trust.
If you find yourself stuck in the hum-drum routine of daily writing and wondering if your heart is still in it, and if God still cares at all, let me encourage you with something my pastor always says:

If you can't hear God telling you His plan, take the next right step.

See, the next right step is a whole lot easier than having to figure out a master plan of getting published, getting an endorsement from Terri Blackstock, and hitting the NY Times Bestseller list. The next right step is a lot more visible, and a lot more manageable. And that's where Satan tricks us. So often we fall into the trap of believing we have to have it all figured out.

We don't. We just need the next step. So maybe that next step is beginning to design your one sheet, practicing your pitch, or simply writing a few words down on page 57 of your WIP.

But don't devalue the next right step just because it isn't the final one.

Have you ever found yourself frazzled because you don't know what's up the road? How do you refocus and find productivity in the day-to-day, often mundane moments?

Monday

DIY Shutter Crafts



So, this week's DIY is more of a planning post... I'm getting some old, sentimental shutters from my parents in the next few weeks, and I want to make something out of them, but I'm just not sure what! I've been scouring Pinterest for ideas, and here's what I've come up with so far:





































































Source: bobvila.com via Ashley on Pinterest



What do you guys think? The bookshelf is pretty cool, isn't it? I like that a lot, but the shelves seem a little more practical. I'll let you know how it turns out!





Wednesday

Why Destruction Bothers Us, and Why It Ought To


A couple months ago, I drove past a commercial lot that was being cleared. Oak trees with huge, spreading limbs were being uprooted and knocked down by claws and trucks. I wasn't particularly attached to those trees. In fact, I'd never really noticed them. But as I watched this process of clearing out trees that had taken decades--maybe a century--to grow so mature, I wanted to cry. There was something fundamentally sad about it all.

I think as Christians, we have a tendency to resist acknowledging destruction and the sorrow it brings. Somehow, we feel as if confessing the reality of death-- of decay, of undoing-- shows a lack of faith. That if we were really good believers, we wouldn't feel so utterly weak sometimes from the weight of this world and its harsh realities.

But recently, I've been thinking about this tendency. I don't think it's Biblical. In fact, I think it's just the opposite. I want to challenge you to consider an alternative: that perhaps the very nature of destruction, and our deep desire for something more, actually points TO God rather than away from Him.

Life in the garden was different from life today. In God's initial plan, animals didn't eat each other, there was no breech of trust, and people didn't die. I have to believe this shows God's heart for our existence. He created us for something more, and deep in our blood, we desire that something.

What if despairing the state of the world doesn't show a resistance to God? What if it actually shows a desire for Him?




Source: Uploaded by user via Chelsea on Pinterest


Several months ago, I listened to a John Eldridge sermon where he challenged the audience to consider that the deepest dreams and desires of our hearts serve as reminders to us of our deeper calling. Like glimpses into Heaven, these moments of beauty remind us that there is more to this life than darkness and despair. There is something more to live for, and our calling is real. To tune in to these moments of honesty is to tune in to our calling.

So I want to encourage you. If you are facing a difficult time right now, do not be afraid to come clean with God about how frustrated you feel. God is not working against you. I would even go so far as to say He is every bit as upset about the state of His beautiful world as you are. Ask him to show you the beauty even in the destruction, and the power of His redemption.

I'm going to be talking more about these beautiful moments and how we can capture them with our writing over at The Writer's Alley tomorrow, so be sure to stop by. Until then, thanks for reading. :)

Monday

DIY Project Week 19: The Perfect French Mani


Have you ever tried those French mani stickers? How'd that work for you? I can't be the only one who ended up with white nail polish all over her nails and fingertips. What about just painting white tips on? Well, while I'm decent at painting my left hand, my right hand is another story.

And yet French manicures are so pretty! There's something classy about the good ol' standby French manicure. She's been to weddings, job interviews, and first dates, and women keep turning to this look because it says, "I'm polished. Look at me."

Problem is, as anyone who has ever tried to do their own French mani knows, white smudges all over your fingers and uneven lines do not. They say, "My hand shakes a lot." :)



I am excited to say, though, after years of smudgy manicures, I think I finally found a solution!

Have you ever noticed that nail techs use a little paintbrush across the edge of the white tip to straighten it out? This got me thinking. I have brushes. I have nail polish remover. Why can't I use that same trick at time?

As it turns out, this technique was even easier than I had expected.

Just take a flat tipped brush, dip it in nail polish remover, and sweep it underneath the white tips after you have painted them. The trick here is to get enough nail polish remover on the brush that a few sweeps will actually take off the polish.

I used this brush. It's a cheap-but-good Elf eyeshadow brush (that I'm not planning to use on my eyes again, btw. Ha!).



I also used Julep's French Mani Trio set, Orly's No Chip top coat, and Julep's acetone-free nail polish remover.

I like Julep (as well as Zoya and Orly) because they are 4 free, meaning they don't have usual litany of toxic chemicals many other nail polish companies use. But I've also found that these brands are good about not chipping.

(Julep actually offers these neat monthly boxes, and if you haven't signed up before, your first box is free. A pretty sweet deal for such expensive polish. That's how I first discovered them. Here's the link if you're interested: http://www.julep.com/rewardsref/index/refer/id/222492/ )

And whala! They should be dry within a few minutes if you use these polishes, and you're good to go! No one will ever know you did them yourself.