Sorting through the time crunch

Weekly CalendarToday’s assignment in the Balanced Challenge is one that I know I’ll have to keep coming back to. I don’t know about you, but for me it’s often a challenge to figure out how I’m going to make the best use of each 24 hour segment God gives me. There just isn’t enough time to do everything.

Tricia Goyer shares one way to sort through the time crunch: Sit down and make a list with four categories.

  1. Things I have to do (non-negotiable items like work or feeding and clothing your family)
  2. Things I should do (no one will die if these things aren’t done, but they are very important. e.g. reading the Bible)
  3. Things I want to do (those things that bring me joy and make me feel more alive e.g. my work with InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship)
  4. Things I’m doing to “look good” or doing out of guilt (usually volunteer activities that are good, but may be zapping our energy)

Tricia then challenges us to cut ALL the items listed under #4 and schedule the rest of the items into some sort of calender. I’ve shared the beginning of my calendar at the top of this post. It still needs some work – my husband and I plan to compare notes and calendars.

This exercise has been an important reminder to me that I can’t be everything to everybody. Some things have to give. Tricia reminds us that there are different seasons in life and sometimes we have to wait to do things until a different season.

How do you plan your schedule? What do you struggle with the most? I’d love to hear from you in the comment section.

balancedchallenge-button1


God’s Calling on my life

“The Spirit of the Lord and King is on me.
The Lord has anointed me
to tell the good news to poor people.
He has sent me to comfort
those whose hearts have been broken.
He has sent me to announce freedom
for those who have been captured.
He wants me to set prisoners free
from their dark prisons.”

Isaiah 61:1 (New International Reader’s Version)

God’s calling on my life became evident to me while I was still very young. I was privileged to spend the first ten years of my life in southern Africa, where my parents were missionaries. I remember thinking it was a good thing my parents were telling these “sinful” people about God. One day I had a rude awakening. I was attending a daily vacation Bible school when I grasped my sinfulness and God’s grace. At the tender age of five I confessed my selfishness, lies, and disobedience, requesting forgiveness and empowering from my Heavenly Father.

More light was shed on God’s calling when I discovered what my names mean:

Ruth – Compassionate and Lucile – Bringer of Light

Hiker looking at map

I continued growing in my faith through my school years. My parents moved to Three Hills when I was eleven. Many godly men and women nurtured my faith. After high school, I decided to attend Prairie Bible College where I majored in Bible and minored in Christian Education. When I graduated, I was invited to stay on staff, working in the Prairie Bookroom (book store). During this time I also took my first writing course from the Institute of Children’s Literature.

Life took some twists and turns. I thought God was calling me to be a missionary in Africa, like my parents. However, that door slammed shut. Instead God lead me to marriage and presented parenting children with special needs as my mission field. Several years ago the advocacy for my children widened into advocacy for all children in the Northern Lights School Division when I was elected as a school board trustee. A few months after that I entered my first writing contest and won first place in my age category. The prize was a free conference registration for Write!Canada. At the conference, it dawned on me that God has specifically gifted me and called me to be a writer.

This week I was challenged to come up with a 5-7 word tagline which describes my writing. This is what I came up with:

“Exploring life’s adventures through writing”

God has led me to write about many different topics which fit in very diverse genres: devotionals, special needs, parenting, contemporary fiction, light romance, memoir, adoption, education, Bible study, social media.

balancedchallenge-button1

In the Balanced Challenge, Tricia Goyer’s question for Day 4 (today) is:

“What have you been called by God to do? Take a few minutes away from work and family to sit with your Bible and talk to God. Believe that God placed your dreams and passions in your heart. Find a verse that speaks to you about this, and post it today on your blog.”

You saw my verse at the top of this post. I look forward to hearing about God’s calling on your life in the comments below.


4 Ways I’m Involving my Family in my Writing

four people holding up letters to spell "team"

Today our Balanced Challenge is:

“How can you get your kids involved in what you’re working on? How can they experience what your job is like and contribute to it?

balancedchallenge-button1

This was a good question for me to think about. Often when I think about my writing, I don’t take the time to think about how it will affect my children and husband. This is a mistake, because my family will be affected. Sometimes they will be affected negatively, because I won’t be available when they want me, the house will be messy at times, and they may have to fend for themselves. However, I have the opportunity to affect them positively as well, if I am intentional about making them part of my writing process.

  • I can share ideas and pictures with them so they have the opportunity to get excited about the project(s) I’m working on. Perhaps they will have an angle to share that I’d never think of on my own.
  • I can ask them for feedback, especially if I’m using them as an illustration in my writing. So far, I’ve found this a very positive experience. I’m very careful about what I share, and my kids like that I love them enough to write about them 🙂
  • I can take them with me when I have a book table set up somewhere. I’ll always remember the first time I did this. My oldest daughter was excited that I had pieces published and she wasn’t shy about stopping people and telling them to “Read my Mom’s story on page . . . “
  • I can ask for their help with research, especially if I’m writing about something they are passionate about. Kids love to share their opinions and expertise.

I’m looking forward to hearing other advice you have to share 🙂


5 Things I’m doing to make my writing work

Ruth L. Snyder picture of writing areaI have had to make several changes to make working at home actually work for me.

  1. Carving out writing time – In order to write consistently and meet writing deadlines, I’ve had to be very intentional about my writing time. Currently I get out of bed at 5:15 every week day morning so that I have at least 30 minutes of uninterrupted writing time before other family members get out of bed. I also try to write when my children are at school. However, I do write when they’re at home too – often when they are watching a movie or playing nearby.
  2. Putting God first – My 30 minutes of writing in the morning is preceded by time spent reading my Bible, praying, and prioritizing my day. I find that if I don’t do this first, I can go through the whole day without stopping to seek God and His guidance. Then I wonder why things go awry.
  3. Having a dedicated writing space – the picture at the top of this post shows my current writing space. I’m thankful to be able to have my own desk, computer, printer, and bookshelf. If you look closely, there’s dust everywhere. But that’s okay. Some things have to “give” if I’m going to get my writing done. I still need to finish organizing my space, but this is a great start.
  4. Making writing a priority – I’m still working on this one. My husband and I are very different – his work is physical, whereas mine is mental. Sometimes we struggle to understand each other. It’s easy to say “no” to something else when I have a music class scheduled (I’m a piano teacher and Music for Young Children teacher as well). However, writing is often a “hidden” type of work—there’s a lot of thinking that needs to happen before any type of physical evidence can be demonstrated. I need to have the freedom to say “no” to other things so that I can write.
  5. Understanding and accepting that I’m a writer – I’m beginning to understand that most writers struggle with calling themselves writers. I’m no exception. It has taken me years to call myself a writer. I’m realizing now that writing is not just one of the many things I do. I’m called to be a writer. God gifted me with the ability to express myself in ways that make sense to other people. He expects me to use that ability. When I don’t write, I feel frustrated, like there’s something missing in my life. That’s why I need to do everything I have to do to make it happen.

balancedchallenge-button1

This is day 2 in Tricia Goyer’s Balanced Challenge. I’m looking forward to learning about changes other people have made so that they can work successfully at home. Feel free to leave me a suggestion (or two).

This morning I did an interview on blog talk radio. We discussed blog hops, social media, celebrating Christmas overseas and several other things. Listen in here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/gelatisscoop/2014/03/12/ruth-snyderauthor-of-ceciles-christmas-miracle-much-more


Family Priorities

I'm taking the Balanced Challenge with Triciai GoyerFor the next 11 days I’m participating in a challenge based on Tricia Goyer’s new book Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom. (Her book is specifically written for those of us who are moms and writers, but the principles could be applied to other work-at-home options.) Each day I will be answering a question she poses in her book. Today’s question is based on chapter 1 – Family Priorities.

“Determine what your priorities as a family are. Ask yourself a few questions: What do we want to achieve as a family? What will matter five years from now – ten years from now? What will mold our children into God-serving adults? What will bring peace—not stress—to our home?”

family meal, eating together

My Family Priorities:

  1. Our family will read the Bible together and pray together every morning before breakfast.
  2. Our family will pray together and commit the school day to God every morning while we are waiting for the school bus.
  3. Our family will eat balanced meals with an emphasis on whole foods, vegetables, and fruit.
  4. Our family will have supper together at least five times a week.
  5. Our family will read missionary biographies together before bed.
  6. Our family will attend church together.
  7. Our family will celebrate adoption anniversaries as well as birthdays.
  8. Our family will learn to serve the practical needs of others, both here in Canada and in other countries.

If you’ve never thought about what you want your family priorities to be, I’d encourage you to take a few minutes to do this exercise. Our children grow up quickly, and we need to be intentional about the time we have with them.

What priorities does your family have? I’d love to hear about them.


Step One Accomplished; Moving Forward

I’m now in week nine of my journey to fitness. Last week I accomplished my first goal – doing the whole iFit level 1 walking program. I did it! I’ve also noticed that exercising is not such a chore for me any more. In fact I look forward to it every morning—it leaves me feeling energized and in a good mood.

Thumb

Time to reassess and set a new goal. I noticed that when I switched from walking 6 days a week to walking 3 days and doing 10-20 minutes of high intensity interval training 3 days, my weight loss stopped. As I sat in a waiting room with my son last week, the February 2014 Real Simple magazine caught my eye. One of the articles was on walking. Included in the article were two walking programs designed for treadmills. Here’s a summary:

Heart-Health Walk (30 minutes)

  1. picture of a stop watch and treadmill5 minutes at 2.5 – 3 miles/hour
  2. 5 minutes at 3 – 3.6 miles/hour
  3. 4 Intervals in the next 10 minutes: 30 seconds as fast as you can walk (4.5 miles/hour or faster) followed by 2 minutes at 3 – 3.6 miles/hour, repeat. (Increase the number of intervals as this gets easier for your body)
  4. 5 minutes at 3 – 3.2 miles/hour
  5. 5 minutes at 2.5 – 3 miles/hour

Weight-Loss Walk (40-45 minutes)

  1. Warm-up: start at 3.7 miles/hour and increase the speed every 30 seconds until you reach 4.1 miles/hour.
  2. 10 minutes walking as fast as you can WITHOUT jogging
  3. Stop walking. On the ground, hold a plank position for one minute, then do 10 push-ups, and 20 forward lunges on each leg.
  4. 10 minutes walking as fast as you can
  5. Stop walking. On the ground do 10 push-ups with your arms placed outside your shoulders, then do 40 crunches
  6. 10 minutes walking as fast as you can
  7. Stop walking. Use a bench or chair to do dips where you lift your rear end off the seat, walking your feet forward but keeping your buttocks as close to the seat as possible. Then, bend your elbows and lower your body in a “dip”. Hold each one for 2 seconds. Repeat 10 times. Finish with 10 lunges on each leg and another plank hold for 1 minute.

(For more exercise ideas, go to www.realsimple.com and search “workouts”)

I started the heart-health walk this week. Currently I’m only able to do the fast walking at 4.3 miles/hour, but in another week or two I should be up to the recommended 4.5 miles/hour. I’ve chosen to do the walk at a 4% incline for the first 20 minutes and then 6-10% incline for the next 15 minutes. I was pleased to see that my weight was down 3 pounds after the first 3 days. Hopefully this trend will continue.

What about you? Have you reached any health goals lately? Have you found any helpful walking plans? I’d love to hear from you.


Gentle Reminders of God’s Love

Panic_tns

This morning I had too much work to do and not enough time. Dirty dishes were stacked in the sink and on the counter, clothes were overflowing the laundry baskets, and my schedule for the day required me to be away from home, which meant no time for writing. As I sat at the breakfast table with my family, I felt panic rising. I took some slow, deep breaths and sent a quick prayer up. “Lord, you’re going to have to show me the way through this day, because right now I don’t know how I’m going to make it.”

Throughout the day, God sent me gentle reminders that He loves me and knows what I need:

  • The sky was a beautiful pink color this morning
  • I was able to fit in more chores than usual before I left home
  • I received many encouraging e-mails throughout the day
  • The kids in my preschool music classes made me laugh with their antics
  • I was able to have a short visit with a friend who attended Bible College with me
  • The sunshine brought out the diamond glitter in the snow
  • One of my devotionals was conditionally accepted by a publisher
  • I received an e-mail from an editor today telling me one of my pieces made her “tear up” because of the good memories it brought back to her
  • I was able to get the dishes washed while I was making supper
  • I even had a few minutes to write this post 🙂

I’m thankful I have a Heavenly Father who cares deeply about my “comings” and “goings”!

What about you? How has God met you in the midst of your day?


So many stories and so little time

Exam_tnsI’m enjoying my interactions with fellow authors and readers on Helping Hands Thirsty Thursdays. (Check out Helping Hands Press Facebook Page for more details.) Last week the publisher announced a number of new releases. As the announcements were made, I responded by saying I was adding certain books to my reading list and made the comment, “So many stories, so little time.” Several of us joked around about using a time machine to help squeeze more writing and reading time in, but joking aside, finding time for everything is a huge issue for authors. We are expected to write, read, edit, participate on social media sites, blog AND fulfill our other responsibilities in life.

Balanced coverA couple days ago I was happy to discover that Tricia Goyer has released a new book called Balanced: Finding Center as a Work-at-Home Mom. The book is now on my iPad and I’m making time to read it, a chapter a day. I appreciated Tricia’s disclaimer:

This book may not be for you if you are looking for a simple how-to manual with only schedules, outlines, and agendas. You don’t think your spiritual life impacts your work and home life. You think the whole balance issue depends on you and not on your dependence on God. . . . as someone who’s been working at home nearly all of my twenty-four years as a parent, I’ve discovered three main things: 1. What I do isn’t as important as who I am. 2. What God can do in my life and what He’s capable of doing can be two very different things—I don’t want to limit Him. 3. My outward goals are only reachable if I submit my inward soul to God.”

This is the first year I’m focusing intensely on writing. I have a LOT to learn. Here are some things I’ve discovered already:

  • I’m human and it is utterly impossible for me to do everything and do it well. Therefore, I need to chose my goals carefully.
  • It’s very easy to get side-tracked by Facebook, e-mail, and social media. Therefore, I need to limit my time on these items.
  • When I’m writing, I’m intensely focused and “living” in a different world. I find distractions very frustrating because it takes me time to come back to real life. Therefore, I have to organize my writing time so that I’m writing when my husband and children don’t need my attention.
  • Large goals overwhelm me. (I admit it, I don’t like to make goals I don’t think I can achieve!) A novel of 80-100,000 words seems unattainable. However, when I break that down into 1,000 word scenes or 2,000 word chapters I’m able to enjoy the process.
  • As a wife and mother, I don’t often have the luxury of having all day to write. However, I’ve found that it’s quite easy to fit in 1/2 hour here and there. If I’m able to write 300-500 words every morning in 1/2 hour, that brings me 1,500 – 2,500 words closer to my writing goal(s) every week.

I’m still discovering what works for me, and probably will be for years to come. Tricia Goyer puts it this way:

“The only thing we can be certain of is that as soon as we achieve a small measure of balance, something is going to overturn the applecart so all our good intentions will spill out like crabapples, becoming scattered and bruised.”

What have you discovered in your writing journey? I’d love to hear from you.