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.


Gentle Reminders of God’s Love

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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?


3 Essentials on the journey to fitness

The road to fitness and eating well has many potholes that can easily trip us, make us detour from our original plans, or even make us totally give up. Some weeks the numbers on the scale will mock us. Some days our schedule will squeeze out our time for exercise. What will keep us moving towards our goals? How will we continue to make those difficult but healthy choices?

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1. Choose your focus carefully

“Focusing only on what we’re giving up will make us feel constantly deprived. And deprivation leads to desperation, frustration, and failure. Instead we have to focus on everything we’re gaining through this process. And see the gains as more valuable than the losses.” – Lysa Terkeurst in Made to Crave

  • Focus on how you’re able to walk or run further without getting winded
  • Focus on the extra energy you have because you’re fueling your body with healthy food
  • Focus on the freedom you have to walk away from junk food
  • Focus on the discipline you’re developing by exercising regularly

2. When you “trip,” get up and continue on the journey

“Failures are finger posts on the road to achievement.” C.S. Lewis

We need to accept that we are going to fail sometimes. That’s okay. Failure doesn’t have to be permanent. If you missed a day, or even a week, of exercise that doesn’t mean you have to give up. Start again . . . now (not tomorrow!). If you gave in to your cravings and ate way more than you should have, that doesn’t mean you are a failure. Figure out if there’s something you can do differently next time. Learn from your mistakes and carry on.

“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure . . . than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt

3. Figure out what makes the journey “worth it” for you

“Wanting something is not enough. You must hunger for it. Your motivation must be absolutely compelling in order to overcome the obstacles that will invariably come your way.” – Les Brown

We are all motivated by different things. Find out what works for you. What will keep you going when you encounter those obstacles? Who will cheer you on when you’re down? What messages do you need to encourage you to keep going?

“A champion needs a motivation above and beyond winning.” – Pat Riley

If we tackle these three essentials, we’ll be able to celebrate our successes in the long run and change our “want to” to “I did”!

pursuingWhat helps you to keep going? I’d love to hear from you.


Pursuing Holiness, One choice at a time

pursuingThis morning I read Ephesians 4:14-24. Here are a few thoughts that “jumped out” at me as I read:

  • I am not to be like a child who is easily tricked and led astray (vs. 14)
  • I am to allow God’s truth to ground me (like an anchor) and help me mature in my faith (vs. 15)
  • I need to choose to reject “folly, vanity, emptiness of soul and futility” (vs. 17)
  • Going my own way will result in spiritual blindness, a hard heart, and indulging in “every form of impurity that (my) depraved desires may suggest and demand” (vs. 18,19)
  • I need to reject (die to) my old nature and renew my mind (vs. 20-23)
  • Choosing to follow God will enable me to be truly righteous and holy (vs. 24)

Lysa Terkeurst says, “Pursuing holiness means God is the only One we should long for; want greatly; desire eagerly. The only One worthy of worship.” She sums it up this way:

” . . . the very next choice I make is a crucial one. Literally, it will determine if I am walking the path of victory or compromise. One wise choice can lead to two, can lead to three, can lead to a thousand, can lead to the sweet place of utter dependence on God and lasting discipline . . . A place our souls were made to call home.”

Steve Green reminds me that I have to choose to die to my desires, will and plans in order order to enter into the holy life God has for me:

Enter In by Steve Green

Nothing chills the heart of man
Like passing through death’s gate
Yet to him who enters daily
Death’s a glorious fate
Dearly beloved we are gathered here
To be a holy bride
And daily cross death’s threshold
To the holy life inside

( Chorus: )
Enter in, enter in
Surrender to the Spirit’s call
To die and enter in
Enter in, find peace within
The holy life awaits you, enter in

The conflict still continues
Raging deep within my soul
My spirit wars against my flesh
In a struggle for control
My only hope is full surrender
So with each borrowed breath
I inhale the Spirit’s will for me
To die a deeper death

(Chorus)

If mourners should lament
Let them weep for those alive
For only when my will is killed
Can my soul survive

[youtube=http://youtu.be/Cf55DsPe-Sg]

Today I choose to pursue holiness, one choice at a time:

  • I choose to get up early to spend time reading God’s Word and praying; I choose NOT to sleep in.
  • I choose to eat food that nourishes my body and gives me energy; I choose NOT to eat junk food which only provides temporary enjoyment.
  • I choose to exercise and strengthen my body; I choose NOT to be a couch potato.
  • I choose to spend time with my children, talking with them, listening to them, teaching and training them; I choose NOT to spend my time escaping by reading a book.

What about you? Are you pursuing holiness one choice at a time? I’d love to hear about the choices are you making.


Advice to Beginning Writers

NOTE: This is week 4 of our Writers’ Blog Hop. The theme this week is advice I’d give to a newbie writer. Click on the link below to check out what other writers have to say about the topic.

Button for blog hopDear Beginning Writer,

It wasn’t too long ago that I stood in your shoes. Although I’ve been an avid reader who enjoyed writing for most of my life, I never considered myself a writer until after I attended my first writers’ conference. The best way for me to share advice with you is to tell you a bit about my personal journey as a writer.

I entered The Word Guild’s God Uses Ink contest (Now called Fresh Ink Novice Writing Contest) in 2009 and won first prize in my age category. The prize was free registration for the Write!Canada Conference. I stepped out in faith, booked my flight and attended a conference where I knew no one.

At the conference I learned many things:

  • Writing your book is the “easy” part
  • There are several avenues to having your work published
  • It’s important to start building a platform before you publish anything
  • It’s helpful to belong to organizations where you can interact with other writers and learn from their mistakes
  • If God has called you to write, be obedient and walk through the doors He opens for you

I still remember feeling like I was walking in a fog on a dark night. I knew I was supposed to be at the conference, but I had no clue what to do next. People at the conference were friendly enough, but most of them were from Ontario. I wondered what I would do for support after the conference.

After I arrived back home I decided to do what I could. I sought out support from groups I could access online. The groups I linked up with are:

I didn’t think I had time for a blog, so I joined Twitter and began using it as a mini-blog. I also started a personal Facebook account and enjoyed the opportunities to interact with my friends and family. A few months later, I decided to start a blog as a way to share information from my work as a school board trustee with Northern Lights School Division No. 69.

Testimony January 2010One of the most helpful books I read was Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids by Christina Katz. One piece of advice she gives is to research markets, write, submit, and start over. In other words, you don’t sit around waiting to see if one piece is accepted before you start on another piece. And if your piece is rejected by one market, you do some more research and send it out again. I started my journey to publication with the winning entry I wrote for the Word Guild contest. It took several months (and many rejections), but my memoir piece entitled Gifts from a Loving God was accepted by Testimony magazine in November 2009 and published in January 2010. It was subsequently reprinted by two Sunday School papers.

Something else I found helpful was Brian Henry’s Canadian Writer’s Contest Calendar. I purchased my first copy in 2010 and began entering contests as a way to learn how to follow writing guidelines and also to receive honest feedback on my writing. The contest I enjoyed the most was Fiction in Five, where I won several prizes and had a few of my short stories published. One of those short stories became the basis for my novella, Cecile’s Christmas Miraclewhich was just published in December 2013.

Cecile's Christmas Miracle Book Cover Although I live in a fairly remote rural area, I’ve been able to take advantage of several writing courses which have helped me hone my skills. The Christian PEN offers courses throughout each year, where lessons are sent by e-mail. Class members are added to a Yahoo listserv and able to send in homework assignments, ask questions, and interact with each other. Long Ridge Writers’ Group and the Institute of Children’s Literature offer writing courses where you receive materials in the mail and may either submit by mail or e-mail. In these courses you are matched with a published author who acts as your instructor and gives you detailed feedback and suggestions.

My writing journey continues with many ups and downs. My prayer is that I’ll be faithful to God’s calling on my life. The rest is up to Him.

If you have questions or suggestions you’ve found helpful, please leave me a comment. Thanks 🙂


Dealing with stress in a healthy way

I’m starting week 7 of my journey to fitness. The excitement has worn off and some days exercising is just plain hard work. I’ve seen progress, especially in the first few weeks — I’m down ten pounds and five inches. I’ve hit the first plateau, where my body is saying, “Hey, wait a minute. Let’s not starve ourselves here.” The good news is I’m being consistent with my eating and exercising. The bad news is the numbers haven’t changed lately and sometimes it’s easy to be discouraged.

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I’ve been thinking about how I arrived at the place where I weighed more than I ever had before. For me it was about stress and unhealthy responses to stress in my life. Here are things I find stressful:

  • Balancing everything – being a wife, parenting, writing, teaching music, household tasks, community involvement, etc. Quite often I find myself feeling guilty – I should have done more, made myself available, etc.
  • Relationship issues – By nature I’m a people pleaser. It makes me feel good when I am able to help others. It makes me feel bad when there’s conflict between me and somebody else.
  • Home renovations – Kendall and I have been married for over 20 years. We’ve been doing some sort of renovations for over 18 years. I’m the type of person that likes a place for everything and everything in its place. I’ve learned to be more flexible with my children. However, it still bothers me when I constantly feel like I’m living “out of a suitcase”.

I know that I will always have stress in my life. Some things I’ll be able to change, and with other things I’ll have to choose to cope. I find that identifying the things which stress me out is the first step to dealing with them in a healthy way. When I feel stressed, I often crave my comfort foods – chocolate, sweetened yogurt, cheesecake, and other sweet things. In the past few weeks I’ve started training myself to slow down and think before I eat. Here are some things I’ve found helpful:

  • Drinking water – often I’m thirsty rather than hungry
  • Choosing healthy snacks – vegetables or protein
  • Allowing myself an occasional treat
  • Choosing an activity to get my mind off eating and onto something else
  • Paying attention to serving sizes
  • Chewing slowly and enjoying the taste of my food
  • Praying
  • Filling my mind with healthy thoughts

What about you? What stresses you out and how do you handle it?


The #truths I live by

Today many people claim that truth is relative. Some will even go so far as to say that there is no such thing as truth. (You can check out the various “theories” of truth here.)

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I choose to believe that the Bible is the inspired, inherent word of God, written by at least 35 different authors over a period of about 1,500 years. The truths I live by all come from the Bible. (Note: I use BibleGateway.com to look up verses. These are in the New American Standard translation.)

1. I believe that salvation is only available through Jesus Christ.

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” John 14:6

2. I believe that I can know where I’m going when I die

“Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:1-3

3. I believe that each person is uniquely created by God

13 For You formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother’s womb.
14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well.
15 My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.”  Psalm 139:13-16

4. I believe my body is a holy temple of God

16 Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? 17 If any man destroys the temple of God, God will destroy him, for the temple of God is holy, and that is what you are.” First Corinthians 3:16,17

5. I believe that I am no longer condemned

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:1-4

6. I believe that God fills me with His peace

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6,7

7. I believe that God gives me the power and strength to do what He calls me to do

11 Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. 12 I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. 13 I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:11-13

So how does all this relate to me and my body?

  • God made my body just the way He wanted it to be; I need to choose to accept  the parts of my body that I can’t change, including what I perceive as “flaws”
  • God gives us food to eat and enjoy; I need to choose to eat food that will give me energy and keep me healthy
  • God gave me unique abilities; I need to choose to use my abilities to honor Him

Anna Tymchuk – My Hero in Olga’s Discovery

NOTE: This is the third topic in a blog hop I’m hosting for writers. To check out what other writers have to say on this topic, click on the button below:Blog Hop for WritersToday I would like to introduce you to Anna Tymchuck, a minor character from my historical fiction book, Olga’s Discovery. The stock photo below is exactly how I envision Anna. The story is set in the late 1950’s. Anna lives on a farm in rural Alberta. I’m aiming to have the book published in 2015.

Happy senior woman

She may be diminutive, but Anna is no pushover. Her graying hair is culture_heritage_201050_tnsusually pulled up in a bun, covered with a kerchief. Smile wrinkles line her face, belying the hardships she’s experienced in life. Blue-gray eyes twinkle with delight as she observes her nearly adult children. Her non-Ukrainian friends complain that she always smells like garlic. She just smiles and tells them they don’t know what good food tastes like. People who know her well will tell you she’s always humming. She claims it keeps her sane.

BibleAnna starts and ends her day with prayer. Her prayer book is tucked into her apron and is read often throughout the day. As the matriarch of her family, she takes her role of spiritual leader seriously. God is not some remote being to her, but a personal friend who walks close beside her each day. She prays often that her children will also develop personal relationships with their Heavenly Father. Although she trusts God, she does worry, about many things. Especially her children.

golden_wheat_icon_tnsShe spends many hours in the kitchen, but she’s equally at home around horses or doing field work. Just don’t ask her to drive a truck or tractor. She claims they have a mind of their own and are dangerous. Her hands are calloused and rough, her arms muscular, from a life of hard work. From the time she was a young child, Anna worked alongside other members of her family to eke out an existence in the Ukraine. She was courted by Wasyl Tymchuk, a tall, handsome young man from her village. At their marriage ceremony, she pledged to love, honor and obey him until death. They emigrated to Alberta, Canada, where they homesteaded and started raising their family. One tragic day, Anna had to lay Wasyl’s body to rest after a tractor crushed the life out of him. Despite the loss of her husband and the realities she faced raising four children by herself, she is a kind, gentle, godly woman.

b6_3d_coffee03_tnsPeople in the community of Gillmore look to her for friendship, wisdom, and grounding. If they need advice, she is the first person they seek out. The coffee is always on and Anna stops whatever she’s doing to sit and visit with whoever drops by to see her. Her pampushke (yeast buns filled with a poppy seed and fruit filling) are legendary.

pillar_column_108209_tnsAnna is not one of the primary characters in Olga’s Discovery, but she is twenty-one-year-old Olga’s (the main character) mother. Olga loves and respects her mother, but doesn’t share her mother’s view of God. This is a source of great concern to Anna. Throughout the story, she gently, and not so gently, reminds Olga that she needs to nurture a close relationship with God. As Olga’s life unravels, she leans more and more on her mother to be her pillar. Anna is able to offer her daughter strength because of her own faith.

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