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.

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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

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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.

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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.


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?


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

Pushing through the Breakpoint

footprintsMy journey to fitness hit a wall this week. It happened on Wednesday, January 29th. In the morning, while I was on the treadmill, it seemed like thirty minutes lasted for hours. Often I feel tired around the fifteen minute mark. On Wednesday it hit me seven minutes into the routine. I had to push myself, pray, remind myself why I was doing this, and ultimately just keep taking one step at a time. Most of the day I felt like I couldn’t go on. My cravings kicked in – I wanted sugar. More self-talk, more prayer, distracting myself with other things, continuing to take one step at a time. When I reached the end of the day and looked back, I celebrated. I made it!

Breakpoint: According to Wikipedia, there are many different types of breakpoints. In computer programing, it refers to “an execution stop point in the code of a computer program.” In commercial leases, a breakpoint is “the gross sales amount that triggers payment of percentage rent.” In meteorology, breakpoint refers to “a location referred to when issuing watches, warnings, or advisories for specific areas.”

I hit my first fitness breakpoint on Wednesday – the critical time when victory was possible, but defeat was nipping at my heels. The i-fitness instructor on my walking program says it this way, “Come on, push through. I know it’s hard, but you can do it.”

There are several things that helped me “push through”:

  • Remembering my goals
  • Reminding myself I was doing this for myself and for God
  • Taking one step at a time
  • Focusing on my successes, not on how much further I had to go
  • Praying and asking God for strength I didn’t have

Since Wednesday, the journey has been easier. The good, healthy choices seem more automatic. It’s like I’ve crested a hill and am on the downward slope. I know there are more hills, maybe even mountains, ahead. But now that I’ve pushed through this one, I know I can do it again.

What about you? What keeps you going? What helps you push through those times when your goal looks impossible?


5 Choices that help me in my walk with God

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Come, Thou Fount has been one of my favorite hymns for a long time. I guess I appreciate it because it describes my struggle to follow the Lord. Walking with God STARTS with one decision, but after that, I need to continuously choose, every day, even every moment of the day, to follow God. Otherwise I drift away. It’s like I have an automatic setting to do my own thing that overrides everything else, unless I choose.

In my walk with God, I continue to find ways to encourage or force myself to grow spiritually. Here are a few things I’ve found helpful:

  1. Setting aside a specific time for Bible reading and prayer. I’ve found that if I don’t make this a priority, it doesn’t happen.
  2. Getting up early. I’m a morning person, so it’s easier for me to focus when I get up. My alarm usually rings at 5:30 on weekday mornings. This allows me to have time by myself with God before anyone else in my family is awake.
  3. Keeping a planner beside my Bible. I find I’m easily distracted by my “to do” list. If I write things down in my planner, I can forget about them and give my full attention to God and His Word.
  4. Writing down lessons learned, prayer requests, etc. My mind wanders easily. Writing things down helps keep me focused. It’s also encouraging to go back and see how God led and taught me in the past.
  5. Using a devotional resource. Over the years I have done a variety of things including: reading through the Bible in a year (Google “Reading through the Bible in a Year” to check out different options), using Our Daily Bread (I now have the app on my iPad), working my way through a book of the Bible and studying verse by verse (using a concordance and doing word studies), participating in online Bible studies (Proverbs 31 Ministries is a great resource for women.)

What about you? What have you found helpful in your spiritual journey?


Guest Post: All I Want for Christmas Is

Today my friend and fellow author, Janice Dick, joins me on my blog. Janice Dick writes historical and contemporary fiction, inspirational articles, blogs and book reviews. She also edits and presents writing workshops.

Janice DickWebsite:  www.janicedick.com

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All I Want for Christmas Is . . .

I recently received a phone call from one of my grandkids, four-year old Jordy. He schmoozed a bit first because that’s what he does, then said something garbled about Christmas, followed by, “This…and this…and this…and this…”

“Jordy,” I interrupted, “do you have a list there?”

“Yes.”

“Have you been looking at the catalogue?”

“Yes.”

“Are these all things you want for Christmas?”

“Yes,” followed by a cheery goodbye. Mission accomplished.

Is that how my prayers sound to God? Do I schmooze my way into His presence with the prescribed praise, confession, thanksgiving, then get to the good stuff: my list of wants? Some of them are legit, some are just plain selfish. Sometimes I’m ashamed of how childishly I approach the Holy God.

But wait. Jordy’s chitchat didn’t bug me; I was more than pleased to hear from him. Sure, he was thinking of himself, but he also thought about me and took time to call—I know how he is. I loved piecing together the puzzle of his thoughts and deciphering his words. I guessed at what “this” and “this” might be. He made me smile and my love for him grew, as it does every time I see or hear from him.

I have a heavenly Father who adores me. He calls me the apple of his eye. Every moment of every day His thoughts are with me. When I rattle off my list of wants, He stoops to listen, and I like to think He smiles when He hears my voice. He knows how I am, yet His love for me is greater than I can dream or imagine. He tells me to approach Him with confidence and I am safe in His love.

This Christmas season I sense that Jesus is taking time to teach me—through the words of a child—how to love Him better. I trust His love and acceptance of me as much as Jordy trusts that I’ll open my arms to him when he comes for Christmas. And yes, there will be presents.

© Janice L. Dick

December 9, 2013

Check out Janice’s newest release, Other Side of the River, available from Amazon. (Currently volumes 1 and 2 are available)

Other Side of the River