Monday, February 22, 2016

Something to Cling To

Comfort. That's what my soul is crying out for.

The cold, wet weather outside feels like it's crept into my heart. My soul needs warmth the way my body craves a soft blanket and a steaming bowl of soup. It's easy to comfort my physical body, but much harder to find peace for my restless, worrying soul.

So much in this life is out of my control. Experience has proved it time and time again. Things happen to me, to people I love, and I feel helpless. No matter how hard I try, I can't stop sickness from infecting friends or keep a loved one's heart from breaking. I can't keep storms from hitting. I can't fix every mistake or force someone to make the right choices.

Maybe it's because we're in the middle of Lent. Maybe my heart is more fragile than normal. But lately, life is tearing me down. When I pray, the words don't come, just desperate tears. My neat little prayer list sits useless as I get on my face before God, unable to put my needs into coherent words.

I long for something physical to hold when life threatens to overwhelm me, like a little girl clinging to her teddy bear. I reach desperately for my Father, longing for Him to hold me with physical arms. Countless times I've prayed, "If I could just see You, face to face, even for a few seconds..."

I know He's there, but I wish I could see Him with physical eyes. But I hear Him, whispering to me that it will all be okay, that He has this, that He will never let me go. So I cling to those promises and follow Him through the darkness of this life.

Right now, I cling to my Bible, to the words from my Father, as I long for Him. It's the physical thing that pulls me closer to Him. But one day, I won't need those words anymore, because I'll cling to Him. I'll reach out and touch Him. One day, I can finally worship Him face to face. One day, He'll reach out His hands, wipe away a lifetime of tears, and put all the shattered pieces of my heart back together. I'll be whole and complete in Him. That hope is the comfort my weary soul needs.  It's what I cling to.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Renew Isn't an Easy Word

Renew. I was so excited when God laid this word on my heart for 2016. Last year's word, refine, was so hard. But renew? Sure, I could do that. Renew is a comfortable word, right?

I was so wrong.

Renewal is hard. It's leaving me on my face, begging for grace and mercy and strength. Being made new means dying first. It's painful and scary.

Being renewed is going to take slow, focused time - time with God to renew me spiritually, time working out to renew my body, time resting to renew my exhausted body and mind. I think slow and focus would be perfect complimentary words for the year.

God is calling me to slow down. Not to take things off my plate - this isn't about busyness. This is about intention, about taking time in the midst of chaos to focus on what really matters. It's about finding peace in the middle of the storm and hearing the voice of God in the midst of the noise.

That means daily time with God, taking my spare time back to read or pray or study Scriptures (instead of playing Candy Crush Soda Saga or checking Facebook), and finding routines, patterns, and practices that bring my focus back to God.

A few days ago, I read the perfect words in Jesus Calling: "Through the intimancy of our relationship, you are being transformed from the inside out." That's true renewal - changed from the inside out, giving God control of every aspect of who I am.

As I look ahead this week to my Lent Bible study, I feel like the last few weeks have been preparing me for this time. Lent is about remembering the cross and the price Christ paid to set us free. It's a time of reflection. It's a time to remember that we have to die to truly live - we must die to ourselves to find life in Christ.

Renew isn't an easy word, but it's my prayer this year: Jesus, help me die to myself so I can made new in You.

Monday, February 1, 2016

What I'm Into: January 2016

What I'm Into


I haven't had nearly as much time to read as I wanted, but here's what I've been working on:
  • A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L'Engle - I'm re-reading this series, one of my childhood favorites, and I think it may be even better as an adult than as a kid. Added bonus: I kept my copies from middle school, and I'm reading the same paperback I read when I was twelve. It's made me very nostalgic. 

  • The Hour That Changes the World - A how-to on prayer that breaks down different aspects of it. Easy to read and really practical.

  • The Blacklist - best thing on TV since 24. James Spader's character is just incredible.
  • The Killing Fields - This true crime show follows a detective who came out of retirement to solve the cold case that wouldn't let him go. Bonus: It's set in Louisiana, in an area we've traveled through many times.

My fourth short story was accepted by a magazine and will be published in February. I worked on edits for it and worked on another short story in January. I'm not sure what I'll do with the second one quite yet, but it's one of my favorites so far. In about two weeks, you can find Promise Me Forever in the February romantic suspense issue of Splickety Love. I'm also working on my one page synopsis for my novel so I can enter the ACFW Genesis contest, and I'm getting agent proposals ready.

  • Bethel Music, especially You Make Me Brave - Hillsongs has always been my top choice for worship music, but Bethel Music is now running in a tie with them. I even bought a Bethel kids worship DVD for my children's church class.
  • Ted Dekker's interview/writing course - Ted Dekker is, without a doubt, my favorite author. Hearing about his struggles and his writing process was so inspiring. When your favorite author admits there were times he wanted to quit, it makes your own occasional frustrations seem okay.

  • Write From the Deep - This is full of practical advice and really great stories.
  • The Simple Show - Still one of my favorites. This is my go-to podcast no matter what mood I'm in.
  • Sacred Ordinary Days - A friend in a Facebook group introduced me to this one, and I'm so glad she did.


This month I've been focused on scripture memory. I'm memorizing Matthew 6 with Hide His Word. In just a few days, I'll start the She Reads Truth Lent study and Kris Camealy's Holey, Wholly, Holy.


I am absolutely in love with my bullet journal/traveler's notebook system! Mine isn't fancy. I made it from a piece of leather I bought at Michael's and filled it with Moleskine notebooks from Target because I didn't want to sink a lot of money into one until I tried it for a while. It didn't long to realize this is the perfect system for me. My traveler's notebook obsession is here to stay. I will probably end up buying a real Midori or fauxdori at some point.


My husband got me a FitBit Charge HR for Christmas. I love it! I had the original Jawbone, but it died just a few months after I got it. Jawbone replaced it with a newer model, but I hated it and just quit wearing it. The FitBit has so many great features! I love connecting with friends through the app, charting my progress, and doing challenges. I find myself checking my band often to see how I close I am to hitting my goal. I'm definitely moving more, even if my workout routine still needs to be revived. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Five Things I Learned in January 2016

1. How to make the perfect fruit smoothies.

Smoothies make the perfect breakfast for the mornings I work. I can sip one in my car as I drive to my office, and I really fills me up until lunch. I recently switched from fruit to a fruit and veggie blend. It was getting healthier, but I still put lots juice in them, and I knew there had to be a better option. A friend mentioned using unsweetened almond milk in smoothies, so I tried it. Perfect! My smoothies are creamy and rich, and the almond milk adds a lot of protein.

2. Drinking enough water every day is hard. 

Someone made the adorable sparkly water cup (above) for me for Christmas. To get enough water every day, I need to fill it up and drink it four times. FOUR. It's hard to drink enough water, y'all. Most days I fill it up two or three times. I haven't hit four times yet, but I'm getting there. 

3. How to use my FitBit Charge HR

My husband got me a FitBit Charge HR for Christmas. I love it! My Jawbone died just a few months after I got it. Jawbone replaced it with answer model, but I hated it and just quit wearing it. I'm excited to have a fitness tracker again, and the FitBit has so many great features! One of my favorites is the silent alarm. It's nice to wake up to a gentle nudge from my band instead of a blaring alarm. I also love connecting with friends through the app, charting my progress, and doing challenges. I find myself checking my band often to see how I close I am to hitting my goal. I'm definitely moving more, even if my workout routine still needs to be revived.

4. Matthew 6

I haven't learned all of Matthew 6 - just the first four verses. But I'm working on memorizing it with Hide His Word. I love memorizing Scripture because it keeps me focused on the Word. When my mind is on it so much, reviewing it and writing it daily, it seeps into my soul.

5. Renew isn't an easy word.

Last year, my One Word was refine (after a lot of wrestling with God and the complete upheaval that proved I was not in control of anything). When God gave me renew for this year's word, I was thrilled. Something comfortable and safe for the new year!

I was wrong. Renew isn't an easy word. Before we can be made new, the old has to die. It's not easy or comfortable. Honestly, so far, renewal hurts. Lent begins in just a few days, and I'm preparing to do the She Reads Truth study along with Kris Camealy's Holey, Wholly, Holy, which leaves me completely wrecked every time I read it. I have a feeling this year of renewal may not get easier...but like my year of refinement last year, the end result will be worth it. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

OneWord 2016: Renew

ELast year, I wrestled with God over my word for 2015. Late in 2014, I heard God whispering a word to me - refine. Not the word I wanted to hear. Refine is a scary word, one that brings thoughts of Job losing everything or David running for his life. There's no safety in that word. Instead of choosing it, I ran away, choosing dwell as my word for the year. Even as I did, God whispered to me, "It will be a year of refinement, whether you name it that or not."

He was right.

Last January started a long, hard year full of changes and challenges. It was definitely a year of refinement. As is often the case, I learned lessons through those hard times that I wouldn't have learned any other way. While I never want to repeat them, I can look back and see why I needed them.

Most of all God showed me last year that He is faithful. He's with us through the fires of refinement, and He really can create something beautiful from the ashes of loss and change. God changed my word last year, and through that, He changed my life.

As December drew to a close, I'd almost decided not to choose a word for 2016. Nothing felt right. Just when I was about to give up, God dropped a word into my heart: renew.

It's exactly what I need. God took me through the fires of refinement. Now He's making me new. This year, my prayer is that God will renew my heart, my mind, my body, and my soul. This year will be a journey of becoming new.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Where I've Been - and Why I'm Ready to Come Back

Watching your son's dream come true is amazing. My youngest is a huge fan of the Dolphin Tale movies. He almost has them memorized and can rattle off all kinds of details about Winter and Hope, the marine stars. When we went to Orlando for our family vacation/business trip last month, we were only an hour and a half away from the marina where the movie was filmed. So on our last day of vacation, we made the drive. It was amazing! We saw all the animal stars of the movie up close. We got to touch stingrays, and both of the boys fed them.

That day was special, but the whole trip was amazing. Five days at Disney parks, a trip to both Disney water parks, and multiple visits to Disney Quest, plus Clearwater Marine Aquarium. We snorkeled with sharks and stingrays, ate dinner at our favorite restaurants, rode all our favorite rides, and marked everything off our list. 

It was a great trip. After the rough year we've had, we desperately needed this break from the routine. We were all sad to leave, especially because we know this was probably our last Disney trip while both boys are still home.

Now we're firmly planted back in reality. My husband is dealing with church business, paperwork, and sermon prep. I'm back to work and adjusting (very happily) to a great new job just minutes from home. I'm planning children's church lessons, writing, and doing laundry. Our homeschool year started just after we returned, and adding to the stress is the fact that our oldest started high school. Record keeping is a lot more complicated now.

After more than a year of writing and revising, my long dreamed-of novel is finished. It's about to go through the final editing test - six "beta readers" who will read it cover-to-cover with fresh eyes before I send it to agents in January. In the meantime, I'm working on book proposals for my finished novel, starting a brand-new one (book two in the series), and writing a short story to submit to a magazine later this year. I also have some other potential writing opportunities coming up that I can't wait to share.

It's been a year of refinement. Life has taken us through a lot of ups and downs. But it's a year that has taught me a lot. The ups I've had, the moments of celebration, wouldn't have come without the downs. Some of my greatest blessings this year grew directly out of some of my greatest disappointments. That's just like God. He took what was meant for harm, and He turned it around, making it into a gift. I couldn't always see that at the time. I only saw the bad. But He knew what was waiting just down the road for me. 

Now life marches on, much faster than I'd like. I'm already missing our days filled with roller coasters, snorkeling, and dinner at our favorite restaurants. God has given me lots of reasons to celebrate, though. He's refined me this year. He  may not be done yet. If He's not, that's okay, because while the process is hard, the end result is worth it.

While I share a lot about my Bible study methods and notes here, if you want to see more, you can find me on Instagram. If you want to follow my fiction and where I'm at with my novel, you can follow my author page on Facebook.

Monday, July 6, 2015

How I Study My Bible

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen my new Bible study chart. I’ve gotten a lot of questions about the method I’m using, so I wanted to share my methods and the resources I’m using.

I’ve been studying the Bible for over twenty years, since I really got serious about my faith as a fifteen year old high school sophomore. My methods have changed a lot over the years as my life has changed. The one discovery that changed everything, though, is when I was introduced to inductive Bible study. I’m a very visual and tactile learner – I have to see something and work through it to understand it. My learning style makes inductive study a perfect match for me. My chart has developed out of that, but I’ll get to that a little later.

I’m starting to add art journaling, too, but I’m very new to it. That’s definitely a work in progress. I think it will add a lot to my current study. I want to get more comfortable with it before I share it on my blog, though.

The best starting point for inductive study is KayArthur’s book, Discover the Bible for Yourself. This is how I got my start. She walks through a detailed approach to inductive study and provides step-by-step instructions, charts, and more for each book of the Bible. 

Along with the book, I highly recommend the symbols key available as a free download at PreceptsCamden. I printed this list and keep it in my Bible study notebook. I use it every day. I’ve added a few symbols to the list, but this has just about everything you’ll need.

Now for my chart. There’s no printable for this, it’s just something I draw out on notebook paper to help organize my thoughts from my study. The idea came from Pinterest. I loved the basic concept of the chart I found, but I knew it wouldn’t work for every chapter, so I took the idea and tweaked it a little.

I use the same basic layout for my chart:
  • ·    Basics (who, what, when, where, why, how – recommended in Discover the Bible for Yourself)
  • ·    Key Words/Phrases (I list them and draw the symbol I used)
  • ·    Key Verse (This is something I may verse map or art journal later)
  • ·    Word Studies (Words I want to dig deeper into at a later time)
  • ·    Chapter Theme (another Kay Arthur recommendation)
  • ·    Extras (timelines, notes on specific topics, etc.)

As you can probably tell from my Bible pages and my chart, inductive study is a slow study of the Bible. I usually spend 2-3 days per chapter. My usual breakdown is:

·         Day 1: read chapter – mark Bible with symbols
·         Day 2: fill in chart
·         Day 3: word study/journaling

I love this slow approach to God’s Word. It gives me time to really soak in every detail of a chapter.

If you’d like to see more of my Bible study, followme on Instagram, where I post pictures from my study most days. You can also follow my Pinterest boards, including Bible study, Bible art journaling, journaling, and more. And if you’re on Periscope, I’ve started doing a few videos. Periscope is new and hosted by Twitter, so you can find me by my Twitter handle (@graceourmoments).