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DSCN1832Do you ever feel like you’re drowning? Like the demands on your time or talents have far exceeded your storehouse? Today’s post by Paula Vince couldn’t have come at a better time. Managing a book launch while organizing and facilitating a major fundraising event has kept me busy. Not insanely busy, but busy enough to cause me to pay extra attention to how I spend every moment. (Hm… that sounds like a Bible verse from James. :) )

But in the midst of the chaos, as you know, my computer crashed. And let’s just say, I’m not a fan of my daughter’s fancy, technologically advanced touch-screen computer. *sigh* I think God realized how much I needed this reminder today. Hopefully Paula’s words will encourage you as much as they did me.

 

Over Your Head by Paula Vince

 We’re often conditioned to grow agitated by the thought of being ‘in over our heads’ at anything. I admit, my attempts at ‘winging it’ have made me not merely nervous but also feeling guilty, as if I’m cheating by trying anything new and pretending to be something I’m not. I imagine people who discover my basic incompetence have a right to pay me out.

“This person doesn’t know what he/she’s doing!” are words we never want to hear spoken about us. It’s far easier and more comfortable when we stick to doing the things we’re certain we can pull off flawlessly. My problem is there’s not much that falls under that category. Then I get bored enough to want to crawl out on a limb.

Thankfully, I’ve come across some research on the human brain that convinces me that ‘winging it’ is no mistake after all. Brain scientist, Dr Caroline Leaf, tells us that it’s actually healthy for our brains to be stretched beyond their comfort zone. Trying things we’re not certain we’ll achieve makes our brain environments fertile. It stirs up the lush cells that make us smart and interesting. Effortless performance may feel comfortable but doesn’t help our brains to thrive. She recommends that we choose goals just beyond our present abilities. I cry, “YES!” because I’ve had experience doing that very thing.

In the late 1990s, I dreamed an idea I thought would make a stunning novel. How I wished some experienced Christian author would write it, but nobody did. When it wouldn’t leave my head, I decided that I would be the one. I’d get into the heads of the characters and be the girl who found herself the victim of a shocking date rape. Even more nerve-wracking, I’d also be the boy perpetrator who suffered for years with remorse and self-condemnation. I was in my twenties and unpublished. I wrote the story by hand in the car when I dropped my pre-schooler off at kindy while his baby sister slept in her capsule in the back seat. The result was Picking up the Pieces, which won an International Book Award in 2011 for its second printing.

I like living on the edge of my brain power.

A wise sage, Star Wars’ Master Yoda, said, “Don’t try, do!” And, of course, God doesn’t call the well-equipped, he well-equips the called. When God’s angel greeted Gideon with the words, “God is with you, you mighty warrior!” he’d been threshing wheat in a wine vat to hide it from the Midianites. Gideon’s first reaction was, “Huh, you mean me?” That was my reaction whenGod called me to write those novels and not some best-selling, well-established author.

I’ll finish off with this thought. Dr Leaf said that brains get a good gymnastics work-out when their owners are thinking deeply. Even though my brand of deep thinking is on a far inferior scale to the deep thinking of Albert Einstein, I trust it’s deep enough for the grey matter that God gave me to get a bit of a stir. It seems a reciprocal thing is going on. We write out the ideas we believe God wants us to express, either in our novels or in blog articles, and He gives us more flourishing, better-functioning brains.

Award-winning author, Paula Vince loves to evoke tears and laughter through her novels. A wife and homeschooling mother of three, she resides in the beautiful Adelaide Hills of South Australia. Her youth was brightened by great fiction and she’s on a mission to pay it forward.

Her novel, Picking up the Pieces, won the religious fiction section of the 2011 International Book Awards.

Her novel, Best Forgotten, was winner of the 2011 CALEB Award in the fiction category and also recognized as the best overall entry for the year, chosen over memoirs, devotionals and general non-fiction.

Paula’s books are a skillful blend of drama and romance tied together with elements of mystery and suspense.

Find out more at www.justoccurred.blogspot.com.au and www.vincereview.blogspot.com.au.

Paula is the author of Picking up the Pieces, The Risky Way Home, A Design of Gold and Best Forgotten. Her new novel, Imogen’s Chance, will be published in April, 2014.

Paula is also one of the four authors of The Greenfield Legacy

Let’s talk about this. I’ve never considered how following my calling might exercise my brain, but I’ve often (daily?!) recognized God’s stretching. Early when I sensed the call to write, a sermon on the man who hid his talents and was then chastised by his master really hit home. Actually, it made me cry! Because I knew if I didn’t answer the call to write, I’d be burying what God gave me–what He intended for me to use for His glory.

What about you? What area do you sense God is stretching you in? (Touch screen computers???? hahaha.)

Share your thoughts with us! And sorry today’s post has no fun pictures. (I think I miss those more than y’all!)

 

 

There’s one thing bound to initiate panic in any writer’s life. Can you guess what that is? I’ll wait… You have three guesses. I do hope, even though you’ll likely read my answer well before you reach the “share comments section” that you’ll tell us your guesses anyway. :)

All that to say, I’m having computer problems and might not get the post up and out today. Which is kind of a problem, as I had a lovely guest scheduled to share her heart with you. BUT… There’s always tomorrow! And I don’t even have a pretty/funny/thought-provoking/completely random photo to share! (More accurately, I have no idea *how* to locate and upload photos on this computer.)

This, of course, means, my subscribers will receive two emails from me this week–either both today, if I figure this silly computer out or the second one tomorrow. I think. ;) Hopefully you’re inbox isn’t as clogged as mine.

 

Giving Your Best

Two brothers, one blessing, and a mother who effectively turns one against the other. Family dysfunction forever recorded in the pages of Scripture.
How would you like to leave that as your legacy?
cookdishwashing001Legacy.
Does that word make you cringe? If you’re a parent, I’m pretty sure you’ve struggled

with guilt, fear, and feelings of defeat on more than one occasion. Maybe daily! As I was listening to my Pandora this morning, lyrics I heard really encouraged me. Of course, now I can’t recall them, but in essence, the singer said each day he’d give all he had, and that would be his legacy.
Pause to consider that for a moment. When everything goes crazy and it’s all you can do to keep those nasty thoughts from flying off your tongue, give your all.
When your kids are sick, or crabby, the air conditioner breaks, and your bank account dwindles, and you haven’t got a dime to spare. When it’s all you can do to share a smile and maybe a cup of tea with a lonely neighbor, give your all.
When you want to serve in a half a dozen places but time, young children underfoot, or a failing body holds you back, and it’s all you can do to send out emails or phone calls or encouraging texts, give your all.
That will be your legacy, and that is enough. Because worship and surrender is a heart issue.
Today my sweet friend talks about giving God our all when our self rises up, demanding our full attention. As you read her thoughts on perhaps the most famous feuding brothers in all history, consider her question: How do we–how do you–know when we’re seeking God’s best?
beth picSeeking His Best by Beth Farely
There is such deception that takes place between Jacob and Esau. The brothers both wanted their father’s blessing, but Jacob eventually stole Esau’s blessing. They were seeking their own selfish best, not God’s. Genesis 25:29-34
How do we know if we are seeking God’s best for our lives and not seeking self-gratification? I admit there have been times in my life where I get into a mood and feel that I can do whatever I want and convince myself it will work for me. That is not an example of seeking God’s best for my life.
Stay Focused
When I am focused on something I’ve desired, it always has a way of showing up. A huge piece of cake, an over-spending shopping trip; a white lie…yup, there they are right there in front of me.  Are they God’s best? Absolutely not!
Stay in the Word
What does it mean to seek God’s best? It means seeking His will by being in His Word–reading the Bible daily. It really means giving up of self and adding more of Him in your life. Like Esau and Jacob, we can become jealous of others and allow that jealousy to rob us of God’s best for our lives. Unbelievers may see this as God being the dictator of our lives because He calls the shots. But He is not a dictator; He gave us the free will to choose. Jacob and Esau didn’t have to be so jealous and evil toward each other; God did not choose that for them.
Stay in His Will
God holds the key to an abundant, joy-filled life. His way is really the best way. The world tells us to make our own path, to do it “my way.” But the Bible teaches that true freedom comes from living under the loving care of our heavenly Father. Understanding how God’s sovereignty impacts our lives helps us enjoy a life of greater meaning and purpose; His perfect purpose.
Beth Ann Farley lives in Kansas City, MO with her husband and six grown children and 13 grandchildren. She wrote for www.bookfun.org., Toot n’ Town magazine. She has recently been published with Landline magazine, Teachers in Focus, Horse & Rider, Mature Years, Indian Life and Wesleyan Publishing.  Her poetry has been featured in Sweet Freedom written by Jennifer Slattery. She’s guest blogged on thewriteconversation@blogspot.com by Edie Melson and Poppy Smith’s Inspiring Women to Thrive blog. Beth is a co-host on Living by Grace, a faith-based Facebook community. She often writes for the Senior Smart Network; a network devoted to senior citizens. Visit her online at FirstHalfDay.
LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. Do you ever wish you could do more for God? What are you doing with what He’s giving you today? Are you seeking His best in every moment, in the gunk and the joys? Because he who is faithful in the little things will also be faithful with the big. ;)
As a fun aside, I recently learned my novel is now available for purchase in ebook form and at a discount–under $8 in fact! You can get your copy from CBD here.
Other news and updates–seems I’ve been all across the web this week. Join me on fellow LbG hostess Maria Morgan’s blog as I talk about my novel and what God’s been showing me about faithfulness. You can read that here.
On Internet Cafe’ Devotions I talked about our need to cultivate listening ears. You can read this here.
With school starting and all the chaos that brings, I wrote an article for Crosswalk on how we can live by the Spirit when life gets crazy. You can read that here.
Last Friday I chatted with another LbG hostess, Jessica R. Patch about my writing and my debut. You can read that interview here.
On Saturday I visited with Crystal Barnes from Stitches in Time. Join us here.
Monday I chatted with fellow ACFW author Casey Herringshaw. Join us here.
And finally, yesterday I camped out over at Takin’ it to the Streets where I talked about slipping and falling, and responding to others who do the same. You can read this devotion here. (And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our first annual Hope for the Homeless event, coming next month!)
That’s all that’s new with me. :) Now it’s your turn! Share your thoughts, your news, your celebrations with us over at Living by Grace on FB or in the comments below.

nagato-typingSome days it feels like my fingers–and brain–are flying. Like vivid scenes are flashing behind my eyes (not before, because I’m pretty sure that’d make me schizophrenic.) so quickly, I can barely keep up.

 

Then there are days that every word, every punctuation key, is a giphy1_zps7e7c8e69struggle.

And I wonder, Lord, are you in this? Is this your story?

I still ask that question. A lot. Because if God’s not in this writing thing, I want nothing to do with it. But, with five completed novels and three contracts behind me, I’ve learned not to measure the nudge by the ease.

In other words, I’ve learned, sometimes life gets hard. Sometimes–most times–progress requires work and determination and wading through periods of stagnation or confusion and of resuming the trekk after incredible setbacks.

Because it’s in the confusion, in the wrestling for answers, that we often find the most clarity.

The novel I’m working on now is tough. Like crazy tough, and at the beginning, I wondered if it was too tough. If perhaps I should set my idea aside and move onto something new.

But prayer after prayer, the theme of the novel–longsuffering love–kept returning, I knew the only response I could offer was surrender. And once I did, pushing my expectations and concerns aside, my creativity started flowing again. (In fact, the novel is fully plotted and I hope to have the proposal to my publisher within the next two weeks. Yay!) More than that, I began to see the lessons God wanted to teach me through my own writing.

But that doesn’t mean it will be smooth sailing from here on out. In fact, I expect to encounter many more speed bumps and potholes.

You see, I’m stepping into what has become a timeless battle in the evangelical world, only I’m digging in a bit deeper, past the battle lines and picket signs to the hearts on both sides.

I have a feeling you wish I’d divulge what battle I’m talking about, but my silence on that is intentional. Because it doesn’t really matter what the battle is. Our response must be the same: Love. Longsuffering, unconditional, no-strings-attached love.

To love without strings means to love without an agenda. That means reaching out even when our efforts are spurned or fall flat

That means showing love because God is love, and as His children, we are called to reflect who He is.

So that’s my story. And it’s tough to write, partially because I’m diving into an issue I have little direct knowledge of. But mostly because I sense I’m teetering on the edge of something hugely important. something that, if we Christians really grabbed hold of, could radically change the world.

That something is recited so often, it’s become cliché:

Love the sinner not the sin.

Ah, but it’s the living this out that gets hard. You know what makes it hard?

The sin, namely pride, within us.

Pride says our efforts should be reciprocated, that we should see results, that our efforts should instigate change in others or the situation.

But listen to Jesus’ words in Luke 17:7-10

“When a servant comes in from plowing or taking care of sheep, does his master say, ‘Come in and eat with me’? No, he says, ‘Prepare my meal, put on your apron, and serve me while I eat. Then you can eat later.’ And does the master thank the servant for doing what he was told to do? Of course not. 10 In the same way, when you obey me you should say, ‘We are unworthy servants who have simply done our duty’” (NLT).

Servants give up all rights and expectations and simply obey.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. I’m pretty sure we all know someone who feels so difficult, so bitter or angry, or perhaps so far from God, we’re ready to wipe our hands of them and walk away. To find someone else more responsive. Granted, there are times when God does indeed redirect us, but even so, He never, ever, ever stops loving a wayward heart. Remember as well, He hasn’t asked us to change or convert our friend. Rather, He asks us to reveal Himself. The rest is up to Him. So relax, take a deep breath, let your expectations go, and simply surrender.

Oh, before I go, my publisher has released a free sample of the first 36 pages of my novel, Beyond I Do. (Which, last time I looked, was still available at a discounted price on Amazon. You can purchase it here.) You can read the excerpt here.

Plus, I’ve been making the cyber-rounds and would love for you to join me on the following blogs:

On Friday, I visited Christian fiction author, Lena Nelson’s blog for a fun interview. You can read this here.

On Saturday I visited Janet Brown’s blog to share of a time when I got schooled, and rightly so, by my daughter. You can read this devotion here.

On Monday on Inkwell Inspirations I chatted about resting in God and His purposes for us. You can read that here.

I also stopped by my friend Gail Pallotta’s to share a devotion on closed doors. You can read that here.

On Tuesday I visited my friend Naomi Musch’s blog to share how creation walks helped mold my daughter and my relationship over the years. You can read about that here.

And yesterday I was interviewed at Misty Bellers’ blog. You can read that here.

 

 

 

shutupSometimes I think I’d do well to bind my mouth with duct tape before going out. From blurted inconsideracies to complaints and arguments over trivial things that, when pointed out, reveal more about me than the actual issue.

Why, oh why is the tongue so hard to tame? Or am I the only one eating my feet a good chunk of the time? footnmouth-1

If only I’d remain safely behind my computer with its delete key.

My biggest problem? OJM disease–overactive jaw muscles and a very me-centered brain that likes to believe I have the answer to every question, the solution to every problem, and necessary input for every debate.

The problem with this? Proverbs 10:19 puts it so well: “Too much talk leads to sin. Be sensible and keep your mouth shut” (NLT).

I suppose it’s a law of averages thing–you spew enough words some of them are bound to be sinful, hurtful, not productive or effective.

So what’s the solution? Invest in duck tape? Hide out in my bedroom? Throw up my hands with the concession that this is who I am?

None of those options progress the gospel, which is a huge problem, me being Christian and all as quite frankly, it is for the sake of the gospel I–and other Christians–are still here. On earth, I mean.

So once again I ask, what’s the solution?

Gritting my teeth and proceeding with the utmost determination won’t solve this, not long-term, anyway, because the moment I relax or get distracted I’ll revert to my old, verbose ways.

PrayerwThe best, the only solution is to continually draw near to God, allowing Him to work in and through me.

Pausing to acknowledge Him while I wash the dishes.

Praying while I fold the clothes.

Singing songs of praise, out loud or internally, while I go about my daily tasks.

Checking negativity and consciously focusing on my Savior and all He’s done instead.

For Christ-like behavior comes not from me but from Him.

Consider David’s words in Psalm 139:4 “You know what I am going to say even before I say it, LORD” (NLT).

In other words, God knows, the moment you sit down to read your Bible each morning, when you’re going to flub it in the day ahead.

And He’s already got a plan in place. More than that, He’s ready and able to communicate that plan, to guide you, your thoughts, and your words to those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable. (Phil. 4:8)

God is true. God is honorable. God is right, pure, lovely, and admirable.

See where I’m going with this?

What’s the solution to a wayward tongue? To fix our eyes–our thoughts and focus–on God, checking in with Him throughout the day, pausing to acknowledge His presence when we’re stopped at a stop light or waiting in a check-out line. Listening to His soft, gentle whisper that guides us throughout the day and continually draws us to Himself, the only place we’ll receive the strength and peace needed to speak words of love, grace, and truth.

Because living the Christian life isn’t about trying harder but rather, drawing closer to our Savior.

LivingbyGracepicLet’s talk about this. What is your greatest struggle? How might checking in with God throughout the day help you in that area? How might centering your thoughts on Him fill your heart with praise and peace?

How much room is there for angst, frustration, or ungodliness in a heart filled–saturated–with praise?

If you enjoyed this post, you might find the following helpful:

Grabbing Hold of God Moments

Don’t Try Harder, Love More

Cultivating a Thankful heart

Oh, and since my book launch is but a few days away, and since some of you aren’t on Facebook, I thought you might want to know where I’ve been and where I’m going.

Yesterday I chatted with the editor of Family Fiction about my book, where the story came from, and what I hoped y’all would gain from it. You can read the interview here.

On July 4th and 11th, fellow ACFW writer Janet Sketchley interviewed two of my characters from Beyond I Do. You can get to know Ainsley here and Richard here.

On July 7th I chatted about books in general (and my addiction to them) on Writing For the Soul. You can join the discussion here.

On July 28th, I was honored to be on June Foster’s Author Spotlight. You can join me here.

My sweet friend Jennifer Hallmark was interviewed regarding her contributions to Sweet Freedom, the book itself, and her writing journey. You can read about all that here.

Next month, book launch month, I’ll be all over the web, but unfortunately, I’ve run out of time for link posting. ;)

As a fun aside, I recently finished plotting book three in my Midwestern Romance series, two stories that continue where Beyond I Do leaves off. Here’s hoping my publisher loves the plot and premise for books two and three as much as I do! I should also add, with my books release but days away, the pre-release discount will soon be over. So… if you were planning on buying the book, now’s a great time.

 

 

ID-100208307Ten years ago, one could go to a restaurant and see families actually talking. They could hold a conversation–like a full, twenty minute one–without the beep of an incoming text or emails halting it.

But then came smart phones and Facebook and all those alerts and instant messages that come with it, and suddenly, these things that we thought would free our time actually hold us in bondage. Those devices that we believed would keep us connected actually distract us from the very people we most want to connect with.

And I am by far the most guilty of this. I think it’s the instant ID-100103470gratification thing. Or maybe some sort of conditioning–you know, like Pavlo did with dogs and dog food. The bell rang; they got dog food until the bell alone could make them salivate. Now swap dogs and dog food with humans and instant messages. ;)

This week, I’ve been focusing on living fully present in the present. This started on a particularly hum-drum day when my body decided to rebel but my mind wanted it to behave like it had five years ago. I think that’s maybe the hardest part of chronic illness, well, the hardest part of adapting to it; realizing that life has changed. And that you can still find joy in that.

Unless you’re consumed with thoughts of what once were or what one day might be.

Because you can’t live–fully live–in the present if you’re always searching for a way back to the past. Nor if you’re trying to leap up ahead. It’s like maybe we feel we’re missing out on something.

Which we are. If we’re not living fully present in the present. We’ll miss out on a lot.

And we’ll never really enjoy the blessings God is giving us now.

Today I focused on doing just that. I put my to-do list, hum-drums, concerns for tomorrow or thoughts of yesterday aside and spent a wonderful afternoon with my princess.

It started with a trip to the UP building to join my hubby for lunch. The weather couldn’t have been better. Overcast, a slight breeze, maybe 75 degrees. Plus, I had annoyed my daughter a total of 0 times on the drive over. (If you didn’t believe in miracles before…)

We get there to find my husband waiting, inching toward the exit. We’d fully expected to eat in the company cafe’, which is lovely.

But he–and God–had other plans.

My husband surprised us by asking if we’d perhaps like to eat somewhere else, saying he “had time”. Guiding us out of the building and toward the historical Old Market area with it’s cobblestone streets, amateur musicians, eclectic stores, and every flavor of cuisine one could imagine.

We chose to eat at Blue Sushi Sake Grill as sort of a thank you for the generous donation they gave to the Hope for the Homeless event. Then my husband returned to work and my daughter and I spent the rest of the afternoon being silly-goofy.

Being fully present in the present.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. You can’t fully enjoy today if you’re trying to cling to the past. Nor if you’re always looking ahead for what might be. And it’s easy to allow all those momentary distractions to occupy our time, but though they may give us “pleasure”, they’ll never give us joy. Rather, left unchecked, they’ll steal from us those very things that do bring joy: close relationships, peace, solitude, gratitude, and praise.

In what ways are you living a partial life? What have you allowed to hinder your joy of today? What can you do today, right now, to live fully present in the present?

For those of you wanting to go deeper in your friendships, you might find my latest Crosswalk article helpful: How to Maintain (Imperfect) Friendships.

 

 

WhiningThat noise! It grates on our every last nerve and sets the hairs on our neck on edge. It’s worse than nails scraping on chalkboard or our spouse grinding their teeth at night. It’s that high-pitched, face scrunched, body slumped whine. Parents, you know exactly what I’m talking about, don’t you?

God does, too. Only He gets it not from one child but from oh, a few billion. Nonstop.

Kinda makes you cringe, huh?

We’re all guilty of this. We have times, more than we’d like to admit where, surrounded by blessings, we zero in on the inconvenience or struggle and soon our heart’s a mess of frustration and discontentment. Even in our greatest struggle, we’re surrounded by blessings. Always. We just lose sight of them, is all.

This is why we are to thank God with ALL of our heart–every last nook, cranny, and crevice. Leaving no room–nada–for angst, frustration, or discontentment.

This has been my focus this week, and to help with this, I’ve posted Psalm 111:1-3 throughout my home:

“Praise the Lord!gratitude-2

I will thank the Lord with all my heart
    as I meet with his godly people.
How amazing are the deeds of the Lord!
    All who delight in him should ponder them.
Everything he does reveals his glory and majesty.
    His righteousness never fails” (NLT).

I will thank the Lord with ALL my heart. Every last crevice and fiber, pushing the discouragement, worry, fear, angst, frustration–everything other than gratitude–away, choosing to praise.

And I will surround myself with people who do the same, because gratitude and praise is contagious. (v. 1b)

In fact, since gratitude and praise are contagious, I will determine all the more to cultivate a thankful heart, so that my words can build up and strengthen others.

When I am tempted to fret or fall into a rut of negative thinking, I will ponder the deeds of the Lord.

This week, I’ve been doing just that, and I’ve found, if I were to attempt to list all God has done, I’d never finish!

Perhaps that’s the point. ;)

Finally, as I’m contemplating the deeds of the Lord, I’ll pause to reflect on who He is, for everything He does, big and small, reveals His glory and majesty.

This week I challenge you to cultivate a thankful heart, pondering all God has done in your life, then consider what each deed reveals about God’s character. At our house, we’ve made a list. During dinner, we reflect on Psalm 111, sharing two things God has done–one from the past and one more recent–and then we discuss what this tells us about God. Through this, we’ve seen His incredible faithfulness, noting even our times of greatest struggle turned into wonderful blessings.

Because as Ephesians 4:6 says, God is over all and in all and living through all.

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. How have you seen that to be true in your life? Pause to reflect on the past year. In what ways has God been faithful? How has He revealed His glory and majesty to you? Share your thoughts here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Facebook.

Other resources, articles, or posts you might enjoy:

Are You a Complainer or a World Changer

Joyful Living by Rhonda H. Kelley

True Contentment by Rhonda H. Kelley

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