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


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.

  • 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

  • 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

Sunday, February 22, 2015

How I Structure My Quiet Time

We know our time with God matters, but putting it into action can be pretty intimidating. You get up early, ready to dive deep into God's Word - but suddenly find yourself staring into the distance, feeling lost. What now?

Over the past several years, through a lot of trial and error, I've developed a structure for my quiet time. It works well by keeping me focused, and I know exactly what to move into as I finish each part. 

There are five key areas I want to cover in my time with God each morning:

1. Gratitude

I always start my quiet time with gratitude. It helps me focus my mind on what I'm doing, and it starts my day on a positive note. A gratitude journal is the fasted way to improve your attitude, because once your start counting His gifts, you find yourself looking for more. Little things become big gifts as you look for God's graces.

2. Scripture Memory

This was the "missing piece" of my quiet time for years. I knew I needed to memorize Scripture, but I didn't know where to start. One of my favorite resources is Do Not Depart, a great website run by Katie Orr. Her "Hiding His Word" challenges are so encouraging. I also use the Scripture Typer app to study and review my verses. It's the single best tool I've found for memorization.

3. Devotional

Jesus Calling is the most popular devotional out there right now, with good reason. It's a short read that always seems to have just the words I need for that day. I will be the first to say, this quick devotional isn't meaty enough to fill your entire quiet time - but it's a perfect way to focus your mind on Him and prepare your heart for your deeper study.

4.  Bible Study

There are so many great resources available for Bible study! You can join a Hello Mornings group, read through the Bible using the SOAP method, or go through a She Reads Truth study. I shared several different methods of Bible study a few months ago. Find the one that matches you and your needs, and dive in. The study you choose doesn't really matter - what's important is consistently getting into God's Word.

Personally, I'm working on a Lent study right now. Once I finish, I'm going back to my focus for the year, which is a chapter a day of inductive Bible study. I want to work my through the Bible over the next few years with inductive study.

5. Prayer

I can't wrap my mind around the fact that the God who created the universe wants me to talk to Him. He wants me to ask for what my family and I need, to tell Him what's bothering me, to thank Him for His gifts. What an incredible privilege. While prayer should be on going conversation with God throughout the day, it's important to spend focused time praying over specific needs. I keep a list in my journal of daily prayers for my family, church, and friends, as well as specific prayer requests. (If you'd like to learn more about how I journal, check out my post series.)

It's important to note that while this is my basic schedule, my quiet time doesn't always look the same. Some days, I focus on scripture memory more than anything else. Other days I spend extra time in Bible study and skip my devotional. Some days a quick devotional is all I have time for. Something, even if it's short, is better than nothing.

Do you have a schedule or routine for your quiet time?

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Why Lent?

Last year, I did something out of the ordinary for an evangelical girl. I observed Lent. Not in a traditional way - no ashes, no special service at church or fasting. But for the first time in my life, I did something special for Lent. I chose a Bible study God had been speaking to me about for a while, and I spent the weeks before Easter working through Kris Kamealy's Holey, Wholly, Holy.

It was the hardest season I'd been through in years. I had no idea what lay before me. Working through that study, laying my soul bare before God, really focusing on Christ's sacrifice and the enormity of my own sin - it crushed me. Morning after morning, this study left me on my knees, and sometimes on my face, before God. I asked Him to reveal my sin, and He answered, loud and clear. It wasn't just the obvious sins. He dug deep into my soul, showing me the sin I glossed over, trying to hide and justify. 

Those forty days changed me. 

Looking back at my journal from Lent last year, I'm still shocked by the aching, weeping wounds God revealed. Things hidden, even from myself, were brought to the surface. Though painful at first, I now see the healing that began through that brokenness. I'm a different person now than I was last spring. Still broken in so many ways, but a little more whole, my brokenness mended by a God of limitless grace.

Sometimes we need to ask God to reveal our sin. It's hard. We want to hide it - after all, His grace covers our sin. But when we realize how big our sin is, we realize how big our need for Christ is. We see how lost we really are, how hopeless our life becomes without Jesus. In the end, through the pain, we're drawn closer to Him. And we realize just how much the precious gift of Easter means.

This year has already been hard. A job loss, uncertainty and fear, a new job, a new schedule - a lot has changed in just a few weeks. At the end of 2014, I wrestled with my word for this year, debating for weeks between refine and dwell. I chose dwell, but God has shown me that the two are really intertwined - when I dwell with Him, He refines me, and when I'm being refined, I have to dwell with Him to find strength. 

That's really what Lent is about - dwelling on Christ, on His sacrifice, and letting Him refine us.

I'm observing Lent again this year. I've downloaded Ann Voskamp's Trail to the Tree and my friend Kirsten Oliphant's devotional Consider the Cross. I'm going through Holey, Wholly, Holy again, too. I know a little of what lies ahead. I know that God isn't done refining me, that He will reveal more sin and fear. But I know it will make me stronger, because God meets me in my weakness and give me His own strength.

If you haven't found a study for Lent, click over to Amazon and pick one up. Join me in this journey to Easter?