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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Delighting in Obedience: Redefining Success

How do you define success?

This is a question we need to answer for ourselves and revisit on a regular basis. Our definition of success will affect how we act and react to life and what it brings. Let’s see what the Bible has to say about “success”:

BiblePsalm 62:7 (Living Bible) “My protection and success come from God alone. He is my refuge, a Rock where no enemy can reach me.”

Proverbs 3:6 (Living Bible) “In everything you do, put God first, and he will direct you and crown your efforts with success.”

Proverbs 12:3 (Living Bible) “Wickedness never brings real success; only the godly have that.”

Proverbs 28:13 (Living Bible) “A man who refuses to admit his mistakes can never be successful. But if he confesses and forsakes them, he gets another chance.”

Ecclesiastes 4:4 (Living Bible) “Then I observed that the basic motive for success is the driving force of envy and jealousy! But this, too, is foolishness, chasing the wind.”

Mark 4:19 (Living Bible) “but all too quickly the attractions of this world and the delights of wealth, and the search for success and lure of nice things come in and crowd out God’s message from their hearts, so that no crop is produced.”

2 Corinthians 3:5 (Living Bible) “and not because we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success comes from God.”

At the beginning of January I picked a chapter of Scripture to memorize while I walk on my treadmill. I have been working my way through 1 Timothy 4. This morning as I walked, this is the verse I memorized and meditated on (verse 8):

“For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.”

This fits perfectly with what Lysa Terkeurst discusses in chapter 8 of Made to Crave.

“We need to define ourselves by our obedience, not a number on the scale.” -Karen Ehman

I Timothy 4:8 is NOT an excuse to avoid exercise. However, it reminds me of where my priority should be – becoming more godly. My job is to be obedient by:

  • Thanking God for the body He gave me (Psalm 139: 13-17)
  • Eating nutritious foods that will provide energy to accomplish God’s will
  • Getting sufficient exercise to become or remain fit so that I can use my body for God’s glory
  • Measuring my worth by what God thinks of me, not by a number on the scale

And even more importantly:

  • Reading God’s Word regularly to nurture my spiritual growth
  • Replacing my negative “self-talk” with true, uplifting statements from Scripture
  • Listening to (and making) music that will feed and nourish my soul
  • Meeting regularly with other believers to learn more about God and encourage others
  • Praying every day, throughout each day, so that I’m conscious of God’s promptings and fellowshipping with Him
  • Walking in obedience to God and His Word

We are told success is winning a prize, becoming wealthy, having influential friends, being beautiful, and myriads of other things people expect. As Christians, I believe our definition of success should be:

“Consciously and persistently pursuing God and His will in our lives, no matter what the cost.”

Do you agree? If not, how would you define success?


3 Things I’m #Determined to Do

This week in our Proverbs 31 study of Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food, by Lysa Terkeurst, our key word was “Determined”. Our key verse was:

1 Peter 5:7-8a, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert.”   NIV1984

There are three things I’m determined to do this year:

  1. IMG_00000206I am determined to follow God with all my heart and strength. Determination requires a choice. In Joshua 24:14-16, Joshua challenged the people of Israel to choose who they were going to serve. This choice resulted in actions – they had to throw away the gods their ancestors worshiped and serve the Lord. In Ephesians 4:22-25 we are given more details about how this choice to follow God should affect us (emphasis mine):22 “You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; 23 to be made new in the attitude of your minds; 24 and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.25 Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.”   I will choose to follow God, to seek His will, and to do what He asks. I will choose not to pursue my own selfish interests, not to engage in activities which will draw me away from God, and not to do things I know are wrong.
  2. I am determined to make lifestyle changes which honor God. I was reminded lately that I was not taking care of my body the way God wanted me to take care of it. I was feeling sluggish and the number on my scale was the highest it has ever been. Although I ate mostly healthy food, I ate too much of it, and snacked instead of waiting. Exercise was also something missing from my schedule. One of my resolutions this year was to make lifestyle changes which will honor God. I Corinthians 6:19 reminds me that my body really doesn’t belong to me; it belongs to God. I am determined to make the following lifestyle changes: eating mindfully, no snacking after supper, taking smaller portions, and exercising regularly. Although I have set some weight loss goals for myself, they are secondary to honoring God with my choices. I started this journey on January 2nd and am blogging here on Fridays about my journey.
  3. presentI am determined to use my spiritual gifts to honor God. I believe God gives each of us spiritual gifts to serve Him and His people. (If you’re not sure what your spiritual gifts are, take this gifts test.) My spiritual gifts are administration and exhortation. Although I don’t always like to lead, people tell me I’m good at it. Last year I took on the challenge of leading InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. Writing is a gift I’ve enjoyed most of my life. However, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started taking this gift seriously. I’m thankful for a group of Canadian Christian writers who are determined to encourage, mentor, challenge, and equip one another. I will choose to use my writing to exhort others as God leads.

What about you? What are you determined to do?


Ups and Downs on the Road to Fitness

Caution SignIt has been 3 weeks since I started down the road of healthier choices with a view to becoming more fit. I’ve had some encouraging victories:

  • Cutting out snacks  – I no longer crave food in the evening. During the day I have felt hungry a few times between meals, but I’ve been able to satisfy that by drinking water and putting my attention elsewhere.
  • Eating more mindfully – Just the act of paying more attention to what I’m eating and when has made a difference. I consciously slow myself down and enjoy the flavor and texture of my food. I have been amazed at how I feel satiated even though I’m eating smaller portions.
  • Birthday HatAllowing myself some treats – Somehow this decision has freed me from craving “forbidden” food. If I want a treat, I allow myself to have one, but pay more attention to the serving size than I used to. I also try to eat my treat along with a meal so that my blood sugar level is not affected so drastically. Finally, I don’t sweat it if I’m invited out. This week I celebrated my birthday and thoroughly enjoyed my black forest cake with a generous helping of homemade ice cream.
  • Consistently using the treadmill – Up front I decided I would use the treadmill 6 days out of 7, giving myself Sundays off. In the past 3 weeks, I have only missed 1 day and that was because I left home at 6:15 in the morning and didn’t get home until 8:00 at night. The i-fit routines continue to challenge me – I’m now up to 30 minutes at a speed of 3.4 miles/hour and an incline between 5-10%.
  • Losing some weight and becoming more fit – I am down 7 pounds from where I started. I know the first pounds are the easiest to lose. This past week I only lost 1 pound, but at least I’m still heading in the right direction. And weight aside, I’m getting more fit. The other day I only had 20 minutes to spend on the treadmill. I challenged myself to walk at speeds between 3.5 – 3.8 miles/hour at an incline of 2%, and barely broke a sweat. This is a huge contrast to three weeks ago when I huffed and puffed my way through 20 minutes at speeds between 3.0 – 3.3 miles/hour.
  • BibleMemorizing scripture and learning – While I’m on the treadmill I alternate between Scripture memorization and watching videos on my iPad. (TedTalks is one of my favourite apps on my iPad.) In the past 3 weeks, I’ve memorized 5 verses; not a lot, but more than 0.

Last Saturday was one of the “downs” in my road to fitness. It’s the day I left early in the morning and arrived home in the evening. I wasn’t able to spend time walking. I did eat breakfast before I left home, which I was very thankful for later in the day. After breakfast, I spent 3 hours driving and arrived in Edmonton just in time for a meeting to start. The meeting lasted just over 3 hours and then a few of us chatted for another hour or so. During our visit I ate a gluten free cookie and some cheese. About 3:30 that afternoon I was feeling light-headed, so I stopped for a Wendy’s hamburger and some water. Then I went shopping. That’s when the craving kicked in. I was tired, I hadn’t eaten well, and I had another 3 hours of driving ahead of me. I gave in and bought chips, chocolate chip cookies, and some chocolate. Not healthy choices at all!

When I had time to reflect, I decided I should have planned ahead a little better and taken some healthy snacks with me, like carrot sticks, nuts, etc. If I had snacked during the meeting, my energy levels and blood sugar would have remained more stable. However, I was able to move past this “downer” and the next day I was back on track again.

What tips and tricks do you use to keep yourself going when you “fail”?


#Empowered by trusting God

Made to Crave CoverI’ve started another Proverbs 31 online Bible study. Made to Crave: Satisfying Your Deepest Desire with God, Not Food by Lysa Terkeurst is the book we’re using. One of the questions Lysa asks early on in the book is:

“Is it possible we LOVE and RELY on food more than we love and rely on God?”

One of the things I appreciate about the Proverbs 31 studies is that these women are not afraid to ask tough questions and they expect honest answers – from themselves as well as study participants. It’s refreshing to be part of a community where we are able to be brutally honest and allow God to change us, while being supported and encouraged. I find this very empowering. Excuses don’t cut it. Only the truth.

This study deals with an age-old problem — relying on food; putting our trust in money, or position, or people RATHER THAN GOD. In Jeremiah 2:13, God states it this way:

“My people have sinned twice.
They have deserted me,
even though I am the spring of water that gives life.
And they have dug their own wells.
But those wells are broken.
They can’t hold any water.

Isn’t it ironic that we turn away from the almighty, loving, perfect God who created us and try to fill our emptiness with created things that don’t last, hurt us, and leave us in worse shape than we were before? How can we be so foolish? Thankfully, God understands that we are prone to sin and He waits for us to repent and come back to Him. He is the only one who can truly empower us.

As I begin this study, I choose to turn away from relying on food and people to relying on God. In and of themselves, these things are not bad. It’s my reliance on them that is wrong. I confess my sin of relying on “broken wells” and choose to rely on God today.

I know I face an uphill battle, but that’s okay because I’m empowered by the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He stands with me and I can call out to Him. Lysa shares:

“When I started, I knew this battle would be hard — harder than I ever imagined. But through it all I determined to make God, rather than food, my focus. Each time I craved something I knew wasn’t part of my plan, I used that craving as a prompt to pray. I craved a lot. So, I found myself praying a lot. . . It was my way of tearing down the tower of impossibility and building something new. My tower of impossibility was food. Brick by brick, I imagined myself dismantling the food tower and using those same bricks to build a walkway of prayer, paving the way to victory.”

What about you? Are you trusting food, people, money? Or are you choosing to be empowered by God?


My Writing Goals for 2014

Blog Hop for WritersNOTE: Writers: please click on the button above to share your blog link and participate in the blog hop. Readers: please click on the button to go to other writers’ blogs. They will be sharing posts along the same theme as this one.

“Write. Start writing today. Start writing right now. Don’t write it right, just write it –and then make it right later. Give yourself the mental freedom to enjoy the process, because the process of writing is a long one. Be wary of “writing rules” and advice. Do it your way.” ― Tara Moss

Path SignEach year, around New Year’s Day, I sit down and set some goals for myself. I find goals inspiring and look at them as guides, not something written in stone. Here are my writing goals for 2014:

1. Finish writing my novel, Olga’s Discovery. I’m working with Kathi Macias, the acquisitions editor for A Taste of Chocolate (an imprint of Elk Lake Publishing) on this project. She liked my proposal and I’ve promised her the first 20,000 words by mid-February. Currently, I’m at the 18,000 mark of my first draft. After that, I’m aiming to write at least 10,000 words per month until the story is finished.

2. Write a Twitter Manual for Writers. This was on my list last year, but I didn’t do it. I’m giving myself a goal of having the rough draft done by the beginning of May. Ongoing discussions with a publisher have given a kick-start. I’m aiming to get it done.

3. Write a full-length novel about Cecile and Colin. In December 2013, Cecile’s Christmas Miracle, a novella, was released. I’ll admit that I packed a lot into the plot – too much to be resolved in the length of the novella. Several people have told me they are waiting to read the next part of the story. I’m in the early stages of working out plot details and doing research, with a view to continuing the story in a series-style manner – releasing several chapters at a time. My goal is to have the next part of the story released in October or November and then continue the story on until it’s a full-length novel.

Those are my main writing goals. I know that there is a lot of work to do behind the scenes as well. I want to move my website and blog from WordPress.com over to WordPress.org. I also want to continue to post regularly. The plan right now is to post 3 times a week:

  • Mondays – Writing related posts
  • Wednesdays – Posts about what I’m learning in my walk with God
  • Fridays – My fitness journey

Of course there’s social media to keep up with as well. I’m still figuring out how I’m going to fit this all into my schedule. (If you have any tips, I’d be happy to hear them.)

As I start this new year with enthusiasm and optimism, my prayer is that I will always be sensitive to God’s leading in my life and that if I have to choose between my writing goals and spending time with people, I’ll choose the people.

What are some of your goals for 2014? I’d love to hear about them so we can encourage and support each other throughout this coming year.


Day 2 on the Treadmill

TreadmillI have a confession to make. I don’t like exercise. No, let me be totally honest – I hate exercise! It’s something I’ve always had to work on and often I make excuses NOT to do it. If I can do something fun (like play volleyball or curling) and get exercise at the same time, great. However, with my current family responsibilities it’s difficult to do those things on a regular basis.

Not exercising is bad enough, but add the fact that I love to cook AND eat, and you have a recipe for disaster spelled O-V-E-R-W-E-I-G-H-T. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I’ve moved from thinking about changing, to making choices that will help me change. I’m still working out the details so that I’ll stick with my decision to get back into shape. However, here are the choices I’ve made so far:

  • Set a weight goal
  • Decided to use my treadmill again, including an i-fit walking program
  • Asked my husband to move my treadmill so I can use it
  • Figured out a time of day I can consistently exercise
  • Started the walking program

I’m on day 2. I huffed and puffed my way through the 20 minute walking routine which helped me walk just over a mile and burn 143 calories. This is hard. I don’t like it. But I’m going to grit my teeth and do it, because I know it will be good for me in the long run. According to the Mayo Clinic, here are 7 benefits:

  1. Exercise controls weight
  2. Exercise combats health conditions and disease
  3. Exercise improves mood
  4. Exercise boosts energy
  5. Exercise promotes better sleep
  6. Exercise puts the spark back into your sex life
  7. Exercise can be fun

Add to that I Corinthians 6:20:

“Don’t you see that you can’t live however you please, squandering what God paid such a high price for? The physical part of you is not some piece of property belonging to the spiritual part of you. God owns the whole works. So let people see God in and through your body.” (The Message)

If I forget, I give you permission to remind me. I’m looking at this as a life change, not a resolution. I’m aiming to blog about my exercise journey every Friday. I hope you’ll join me.

What about you? Are you choosing to do something that’s hard for you because you know it’s the right thing to do?


5 Steps to developing good habits

good habits

Happy New Year! It’s a greeting we exchange every year at the beginning of January. None of us know what 2014 will bring us. Many people try making resolutions only to have them fall by the wayside. Some people even refuse to set goals, explaining that only sets them up for disappointment and failure. Many of us want to make changes in our lives, but how do we set ourselves up for success rather than failure?

“Sow a thought and you reap an action; sow an act and you reap a habit; sow a habit and you reap a character; sow a character and you reap a destiny.”   -Ralph Waldo Emerson

  1. Choose your thoughts – UCLA claims that we have approximately 48 thoughts per minute, 3,000 thoughts per hour, and 70,000 thoughts per day. Those thoughts affect what we do or don’t do and how we feel about ourselves and others. What kind of food are we giving our thoughts? Are we feeding on the truths of God’s Word? Philippians 4:8 instructs us: “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.” (NIV)
  2. Choose your actions – Just because we think about something doesn’t mean that we need to do it. We need to carefully choose our actions, sorting out our thoughts and picking out what should take precedence. As the quote above says, it’s easier to give up good habits than bad ones. Will I choose to be thankful today or complain when something doesn’t go my way? Will I choose to react when someone is mean or will I choose to love them anyway? These are little choices, but they all lead to results.
  3. Choose your habits – I find that my morning routines set the tone for my day and make it easier (or harder) to accomplish what I want to get done. I’m a morning person, so getting up at 5:30 works for me. If you are a night owl, perhaps what you do just before bed sets the tone for your next day. Find out what works for you. In my routine I include time to read the Bible and pray, time to sort through priorities for the day, time to catch up on e-mail, and time to share something inspiring on Facebook. This year, I’m also including 20-30 minutes of exercise because I want to do more than think about becoming more fit. Although some people say that a new habit is formed in 21 days, some researchers from UCL say it is probably closer to 66 days before something becomes “automatic”.
  4. Choose your character – When was the last time we stopped to think about what kind of person we want to be? What character qualities do we want to develop in life? (Check out Character that Counts if you need some ideas.) Some of the character traits that are important to me are: godliness, dependability, empathy, and joy.
  5. Choose your destiny – Where do we want to end up? What do we want to accomplish before we die? These are questions we often avoid. However, if we don’t tackle them, we will probably be disappointed. Those who do set goals start with a destination in mind. We have to dream before we can get down to work. Some people think it’s morbid, but what epitaph do you want on your grave? Martin Luther put it this way: “If you’ve got nothing worth dying for, you’ve got nothing worth living for.”

Lately I found myself thinking I should lose some weight and become more fit. These thoughts would flit in and out of my mind on a fairly regular basis, but that’s where it would end. In her book, 100 Pound Loser, Jessica Heights gives some helpful tips, including breaking goals down into small, attainable steps, like losing 1 pound a week. Last night I chose to take some steps towards healthy weight loss and fitness. This morning I shared my decision with my husband, so that he can keep me accountable. He also made my treadmill accessible so that I can use it again. I know that there will be ups and downs, but I plan to keep my destination in mind.

What about you? Did you make any resolutions or set any goals for yourself?