Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hard Lessons in Grace and Trust


I'm excited to link up (for the first time ever) with Emily P. Freeman's "What We Learned." April has been a month full of hard lessons in grace and trust. It's driving me to my knees...and I have a feeling that's exactly why it's happened this way.

1. Failure is part of our story.

The words hit me so hard I stopped the podcast to think about what I'd just heard. "It's not enough to write a good story. We have to live one." 

Reading is my passion. I love getting lost in a good novel, being so caught up in the story that I feel like I'm there. Any good story has conflict. Who wants to read a story where the main character just floats along with no opposition? When I write, my motto is "How can I make this worse?" It sounds horrible, but the higher the stakes, the better the story. So I make things as difficult as possible for my main character.

Why should my life be any different? If I just float along with no struggles, I won't experience victory. I texted a writing friend recently about my novel. I'm halfway through edits right now, and it's making me crazy. I told my friend how discouraged I was. "I'm feeling so fragile right now...but maybe that's what I need. So when the victory comes, I'll stand there with trembling hands, knowing it's all Him and nothing of myself." Life imitates art. I talked to her about writing, but it's true for my personal life as well. God is using my circumstances to make my story better.

2. God is enough - and because of Him, I am enough.

After 35 years, you'd think I would know this by now. I do know, but I need a lot of reminders. This post from Shauna Niequist was perfect.

3. My soul doesn't need empty calories any more than my body does.

4. Bullet journals are the best thing ever created.

Technology is great, but when it comes to planning, I'm still a pen-and-paper kind of girl. I'm also weird about my calendar and how I want it laid out. So bullet journaling is a perfect match for me. It's basically a build-your-own-planner project, and it's working beautifully for me.



5. There's a good reason why Rhonna Designs is my favorite photo editing app.

This is the app I use for all my blog photos. It's so easy to use and has so many options. When the latest update released, they added even more. AND they've been offering free backgrounds to their Instagram followers. I love this app!

6. Our world is only as big or small as we make it.

This, from the latest She Reads Truth Bible study, has been rolling around in my mind for days. Since January, I've been wrapped up in my own problems. My thoughts and prayers have centered on me, even though my problems are small compared to what's happening in our world. I need to broaden my horizons and realize just how big the world is, and just how small I really am.

7. This quote is true, and it's where I'm at right now.



Sunday, April 19, 2015

When Your Soul is Full of Empty Calories


Breakfast last Thursday morning was a Coke and a devil's cream cake. Empty calories. Junk. Not what my body needed as fuel before I spent the morning seeing patients. It was a guarantee that I'd crash before lunch and need a snack to pull me out of my slump. My body doesn't function well on empty calories. If I start the day with my normal fruit and yogurt smoothie, I can go strong for hours. But if I'm not prepared, or if I simply decide to be lazy and not take the time to make something healthy, I grab junk food, and I pay the price.

It's easy to feed my soul junk, too. When I'm feeling worn down, it's so much easier to open Candy Crush Saga than my She Reads Truth app, or to pull up Criminal Minds on the DVR instead of opening a book. I can make every excuse for why I should veg out on the couch instead of going for a run or working on my to-do list. Not that it's always bad to relax. Sometimes our body and brain need to tune everything out. More often, though, we need to push through the exhaustion and the cravings for junk and really feed our souls.

This has been a tough year. I've gone through two job changes. My family and I stayed sick for weeks at the beginning of the year, passing illnesses back and forth. Right now I'm deep into edits on my first novel. It's painful. One of the hardest things I've ever done. Emotions are high right now. Fear peeks around every corner as I make plans to submit my manuscript to agents in a few months. It's been a year of refinement, in more ways than one, and it's scary.

I've learned something through all these changes. I am weak. That's the biggest thing God is teaching me. On my own, I fall so easily into sin. I slip into fear, negative attitudes, and bad habits. It takes so little for me to fall. One day of not reading my Bible, skipping a morning of reminding myself of His promises, and I'm falling, my faith growing weaker.

Clinging to God isn't an option. Dwelling with Him every day isn't just something I should do - it's something I have to do. If I don't stay on my face before God seeking Him, I'll fall on my face. The older I get, the more I learn about Him, the more I realize how desperately I need His grace and mercy. I am completely incapable of making it on my own.

Psalm 31:16 (NASB) should be our daily prayer: "Make Your face to shine upon Your servant; Save me in Your lovingkindness." Save me, Lord, because on my own I'm own, I'm a sinful, fear-filled mess. I can't do this life without you holding my hand. My soul can't live on empty calories. Help me fill up on You every day.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

How I Use My Commute Time



Commuting can get really, really boring. In good traffic, I drive 30-35 minutes. In rush hour traffic, which is pretty much every night, it's 45 minutes. Add in wrecks or road construction, and I'm in my car for over an hour, one way. I spend anywhere from 1-2 hours in my car every day, five days a week.

As much as I love music, it didn't take long to get bored with my favorite radio station. When I started dreading my time in the car, I had to find something to fill those hours. Here are my favorites: 

1. Podcasts

My first foray into podcasts was a disaster. I downloaded the app to my phone and found it eating up massive amounts of data. After just a few weeks, I deleted it. Months later, I got an iPad mini and realized I could use the podcast app on it. I quickly subscribed to several podcasts. Now on my drive to work, I can just plug in my iPad and listen.

There are so many great podcasts! The first one I listened to was How They Blog by Kat Lee (of Inspired to Action). Kat's interviews with bloggers have given me so many ideas for my own blog. I've learned an incredible amount from her. From her podcasts, I found The Portfolio Life by Jeff Goins. 

I sometimes listen to health and fitness podcasts, although I haven't found one yet that I really love. I'm open to suggestions. I just subscribed to The Art of Simple but haven't had a chance to listen to it. If it's as good as the blog, I know I'll love it.

When my favorite radio personalities left Air1 several months ago, they started their own podcast. If you want something fun that will keep you laughing, check out Brant and Sherry's podcast.

2. Audiobooks

This is my newest obsession. Modern Mrs. Darcy introduced me to audiobooks. Listening to my first one was such a great experience! 

3. Memorizing Bible verses

Katie Orr changed the way I memorize Scripture. In the past, when I learned verses (which was rare), I chose one or two verses. Katie introduced me to the concept of memorizing entire passages. Over the past couple of years, I've memorized Isaiah 55, John 15, and Psalm 27. When I'm memorizing, or even just reviewing, I love listening to the passage. Using the Scripture Typer app, I can record myself reading verses.

4. Brainstorming

Sometimes my mind is just too busy to focus on listening to anything. There are days when ideas are rolling through my mind and I'm tiring to sort them out. That's when my iPhone's voice recorder comes in handy. I can not ideas for my writing, things I want to research, or a list of things I need to do.

Note: These ideas work for driving. If you commute by subway or bus, you have even more options. You could use this time to plan, read, knit, write, or just about anything else. 

Do you commute for work? What do you do during your drive?

Monday, March 9, 2015

Bible Study


There are so many Bible study options available now: topical studies, word studies, book studies, inductive studies. Some of them require a major time commitment, others take only a few minutes a day. It can be an overwhelming choice. Where do you begin, and how do you make Bible study a part of your daily routine?

1. Choose the right Bible.

If you're going to make the most of your time studying the Bible, you need to choose the right one. There are three main translations I love:

NIV - easy to understand, this is a very popular translation with lots of Bibles and other study materials to choose from. This is the translation I use when I teach children’s church.

NASB - For my own personal study, I use the NASB Study Bible. It's widely regarded as one of the most accurate translations, plus it's easy to understand. It's filled with good information, including background information on each book, maps, cross references, and more - but it's all on a pretty easy to understand level. It's a great for your first study or your hundredth.

ESV - Also a very accurate and easy to understand translation. 

One important note: Make sure you choose a translation (NASB, NIV, etc.) instead of a paraphrase. A translation is word for word from the original languages, while a paraphrase is a retelling in an individual's own words. Paraphrases can be a great tool, but they should be used as extra reading, not your main study Bible.

2. Think about your learning style.

Are you a visual learner? Do you like variety or do you need repetition to learn? Do you move quickly through new material, or you like to mull over new ideas over a few days or weeks? Look for a study that moves at your pace without overwhelming you.

I'm very visual. I love using colors, symbols, charts and graphs to help me digest information. When I discovered Kay Arthur's book "How to Study the Bible for Yourself" I knew I'd found my perfect match. 

3. Start small.

If you are just starting your Bible study journey, start small. Instead of committing to reading the entire Bible or jumping onto a year-long study, find a study that you can finish a few weeks. There are some great long-term, intensive Bible study plans but for now, set goals that you can reach in the short term. This also lets you experiment with different study styles. You might find that your original approach doesn't work. You may need to try several styles before you find one that fits. A few options to look at include: 

  • Big Picture Studies

These plans take you through major portions of the Bible, or the whole Bible. Examples are read the Bible in a year plans, the Bible in 90 days, or reading though the New Testament. YouVersion provides lots of great options.

  • Detailed Studies

My favorite type of Bible study is inductive study. I love the depth of these studies - reading cross references, digging into the meaning of key words, marking maps, and really going deep into a text. I could spend weeks studying the same chapter.  If this type of study appeals to you, Kay Arthur's Precept Ministries is the best place to start. 

  • Word Studies

The Bible wasn't written in English. The original Hebrew and Greek are very different from our language, and sometimes English just can't do as well with its descriptions. Word studies are perfect for going deeper into the Bible without getting overwhelmed. 

  • Topical Studies

Topical studies cover specific topics from the Bible. The possibilities are endless--from prayer to parenting. 

  • Total Immersion Studies

This is my absolute favorite way to study the Bible. I don't know if it's technically listed as a method, but I love to focus completely on one book - studying it, writing it by hand in my journal, memorizing verses from it. I love to wrap my mind and heart completely around one book, digging into the individual words, using inductive study, and seeing how it fits into the bigger picture. 


Friday, March 6, 2015

What I'm Reading: March

I have a new book obsession: audiobooks. It's Anne at Modern Mrs. Darcy's fault. She's been talking about Audible a lot recently, and then she posted this. Around the same time, a friend (and author) was looking for reviews on the audio version of her first novel. I volunteered. Now I'm addicted. From now on, my monthly "What I'm Reading" post will include what I'm listening to, plus links to the Audible version of it.

I also have to confess: I got majorly behind on my reading last month. At the beginning of February, I was sick (again) and trying to adjust to a new job, including a new work schedule. It really threw me for several weeks. At the end of February, I finally got into a new routine and starting catching up, but I was already behind. As of now, I'm finishing two of the books on the February reading list, but I'll carry one over into the new month.

What I'm Reading


1. Anomaly by Krista McGee



This is the book I'm carrying over from my February list. I can't wait to dive in, since I've heard so many good things about it from fellow Hunger Games fans. I just ran out of time last month.

2. How She Does It by Anne Bogel 


A new job. Easter's quick approach (a busy time for a pastor's family). Home. Family. Projects. My blog. My novel. Life seems to be flying at me faster all the time. I love Anne's blog and her great advice on books, balance, and life in general. I'm hoping to find some practical tips to help me reign in the chaos. 

3. Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner


This is a new author for me, but I love spiritual memoirs, and I've heard a lot of great things about this one. 

4. Into the Free by Julie Cantrell


This falls into the "I can't believe I haven't read this yet" category. New York Times and USA Today bestseller, multiple award winner - it's been on my radar screen for months now, but I kept pushing it aside. I'm really looking forward to digging into this, even though it's not in my usual genre. (Although the past couple of months, "my usual genre" has been pretty much non-existent. I've been stretching my reading comfort zone a lot.)

What I'm Listening To

God's Daughter by Heather Day Gilbert


I was honored to be an advance reader for Heather's debut novel. I gave it a five-star rating on Goodreads, something I rarely do, but I loved this historical fiction novel. The narration is great on the Audible version, and I'm enjoying listening to it on my commute to and from work. 

What are you reading or listening to this month?

Monday, March 2, 2015

Journaling


I journaled consistently for several years as a teen and young adult, but gave it up in my early twenties when I realized that my journal had become little more than a place to complain. A few years ago, I read SavoringLiving Water, and I decided it was time to try something new. I started the habit again, but with a new perspective. This time I transformed it into faith journaling and incorporated it into my time with God.

What resulted is a deeper walk with God than ever before.

There are so many benefits to journaling. Just a few:

1. Journaling adds a new depth to my quiet time.
If you want to really grow your relationship with Christ, start journaling. Tell Him what you're thankful for. Write out your prayers. Write out the verses that seem to jump off the page as you read or the words that touched your heart. Choose a “one word resolution” for the year and focus on learning all God has to teach you about that word. Find recurring themes and what God is speaking to you. You will find a new depth in your relationship with Christ.

2. Journaling gives me “memorial stones.”
I love Joshua 4 because it tells about “memorial stones,” the ones Joshua placed in the Jordan where the priests carrying the ark stood as Israel crossed over the river. That's what journaling is to me - it's my memorial stone. It's a physical reminder I can point to and say, "This is what God has done."

I want to lay these stones not just for me, but for my children, too. My kids have to see and hear what God has done in my life, and remember what He has done in their lives. We have to lay memory stones for generations to come. I pray that my journals will give my children and grandchildren evidence of their heritage of faith.

3. Journaling forces me to slow down and focus on God and His Word.
Each day, I write out the scriptures I’m memorizing. Sometimes I’ll add verses from a devotional or from my daily reading. I love writing these words by hand.

We live in a fast-paced world. We're constantly on the go, racing from one activity to the next. When I journal, it forces me to slow down and focus on God. It makes me think about the words I'm reading and writing.

Journaling doesn't have to be time consuming or complicated. You don't have to journal every day, and you don't have to spend hours on it. It only takes a few minutes, and the benefits are enormous.

Ready to start? Grab your journal, if you have one - if not, grab a notebook and add this to your journal later. Write down your "why." Why do you want to journal? What do you hope to gain from it? Then share in the comments why you want to journal.


Need more ideas? You can check out my Journaling boardon Pinterest or follow me on Instagram to see my journaling posts.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Easy Cheesy Sausage Potato Casserole


Nothing says Southern comfort food like cheese and potatoes. Cheesy sausage and potato casserole is a favorite on cold winter nights at our house. The original recipes calls for several pounds of peeled, diced potatoes, followed by 45 minutes in the oven.

But I'm a working mom. By the time I spend 8-9 hours seeing patients, the last thing I feel like doing when I get home is spending an hour peeling potatoes. I tweaked the recipe and developed a quick version of this comfort classic. My family can't get enough of it, and I can have it in the oven in 20 minutes.

Ingredients:
  • Smoked sausage, 1 lb. (I use a local company's smoked sausage ring, either beef or green onion)
  • Frozen diced hash browns, 2 lb.
  • 1 can cheddar cheese soup
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 c. cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/8 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper



Directions:
  • Preheat oven to 350.
  • Thaw hash browns in microwave safe bowl (3-4 minutes, stirring every 90 seconds) - pour into 9x13 baking dish when finished
  • Slice and brown sausage; drain
  • Mix milk, soup, paprika, salt, and pepper until well blended
  • Pour milk/soup mixture over hash browns; stir well.
  • Top potatoes with sausage and cheddar cheese.
  • Bake for 45 minutes