Take the Next Step

Photo by aatlas taken from pixabay.com

Photo by aatlas taken from pixabay.com

Never quit on the uphill. My high school track and cross country coach repeated that phrase to me often, usually when I was tired, lagging, and midway up an intense climb. He also encouraged me to take my rest days–to give my body time to recover and rebuild. Both are important for champions.

This analogy and advice applies to our spiritual life as well. Right now I’m in an uphill climb. Planning a major fundraising event–it’s not the biggest event I’ve facilitated, but it is by far the most complicated and foreign! You can read more about it HERE. I’m also preparing for two talks in August, and, well, I could go on, but I’m sure you understand. Life is busy, for all of us. This is true doubly (triply?) for today’s guest post, Ginger Solomon.

Take the Next Step

By Ginger SolomonGinger pic

What’s your July been like?

Mine’s been busy.

At the beginning of the month, several other authors and I had a book release. Since then I’ve guest posted on several blogs like this one. I also finished another novella slated to release in November. It still needs to be edited. In addition, I’m working on three other novels—a sequel to my debut novel, a stand-alone contemporary, and a fantasy—all romance.

Then there’s school to prepare for. It starts in just a few weeks. I have a senior, a sophomore, an eighth grader, and a sixth grader this year. Getting their schedules set up and ready usually takes me a day or two of intense work. We also have a full garden that needs to be cared for, in addition to twenty-five chicks—they’re about eight weeks old now—who are ready to be transferred out to the barn to be added to the dozen or so we raised earlier this year. The older hens will retire.

Oh, I guess I should have told you I live on a 7-acre mini-farm. Well, that’s what I call it.

Needless to say, I’m busy.

But it’s just a season. A few years ago, I was homeschooling all seven of my kids. That was busy, even without anything else added to the mix.

Next year, I’ll only be homeschooling three, and then it won’t be long before even those will graduate and move on.

seasonversepicEcclesiastes chapter three talks about seasons. Verse one says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven…”(NIV)

I’m fond of saying my full-time job is homeschooling, and writing is my part-time job. That is my season at the moment.

In my latest release, Mr. Christmas and Miss Scrooge, part of the Love in Mistletoe Springs novella set, both of my characters are in new, busy seasons of life. Mitch returned to Mistletoe Springs to care for his ailing mother. Margaret took over the family business so her parents could take a yearlong sabbatical to travel the world. Neither season was expected, but sometimes it’s what’s needed.

We often ask why me. Or why now. I’m not sure God answers those questions very often. I’ve read somewhere that asking what now is better. It gives us something to focus on besides the mountain we have to climb. Often it means just looking at the ground in front of us, taking one step at a time.

That’s what Mitch and Margaret did. One step at a time. There were bumps along the way, sometimes big ones. But as long as they did the next thing they knew to do, they made progress. And so can you.

Hebrews 12:1(NIV), “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles,

Raceverseand let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.”

What season are you in?

***

livingbygracepic.jpLet’s talk about this. Are you in a season of business? How might (or how does) remembering that this is just a season help you persevere? Or maybe you’re in a season of rest. How might remembering that that too is a season help you recoup without feeling guilty? Both seasons are important, because we can’t run marathons forever. Neither can we remain in rest mode forever. Share your thoughts with us here in the comments below or at Living by Grace on Faceboook.

Ginger Solomon is a Christian, a wife, a mother to seven, and a writer — in that order (mostly). When not homeschooling her youngest four, doing laundry or fixing dinner, she writes or reads romance of any genre, some sci-fi/fantasy, and some suspense. She’s a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, president of her local writing group, and writes regularly for two blogs. In addition to all that, she loves animals, likes to do needlework (knitting, crocheting, and sometimes cross-stitch), and is a fan of Once Upon a Time and Dr. Who.

Visit her online: on her website, group blog Inspy Romance, at her Facebook Author Page, on Twitter @GingerS219, or on Pinterest

About Ginger’s latest release, Love in Mistletoe Springs:

The Mistletoe Springs animal shelter loses their grant, endangering the lives of countless stray dogs, cats, even birds and turtles. The community attempts to save the shelter by running a Christmas in July fundraiser. Groups of volunteers scramble to get all the details together while managing their personal lives. For ten people, love gets in the way.

“A Cockatoo for Two”
Nikki Waldrop is given a cockatoo because her son is allergic to hairy animals. But this biology teacher needs help from the principal, who once lived in Indonesia and knows about caring for a cockatoo. When the sick bird responds with “Gimme a kiss,” hearts begin to soar.

“Brewed with Love”
When Amber Cook meets firefighter Bryan Grant, can she overcome her deep seated fear of fire and discover true love?

“Stray Gifts”
Dani Cooper has vowed to focus on her four kids and stay away from strays, whether animal or human. But will she be able to resist the handsome, mysterious veteran who shows up on her doorstep looking for work…and maybe, for a home and family too?

“Mistletoe Madness”
To say Kayla can’t function in a crowd is an understatement. The only help she can get to do her part to help the shelter is the bane of her existence, her brother’s best friend who has teased and harassed her mercilessly all her life. But Drew’s feelings for Kayla have suddenly changed. Can he both help the shelter, and help Kayla change her mind about him?

“Mr. Christmas and Miss Scrooge”
Mitch Silverton agreed to be in charge of decorating for the fundraiser. And he needs his boss, Margaret Holberg, to donate her family’s vast array of decorations to make the day unforgettable. BUT…

She’s not sharing. Christmas is not a holiday she wants to celebrate in July, and saving the animal shelter is not high on her list of important things to do.

He wants her to share more than the decorations. He wants her heart. Will he succeed in changing Miss Scrooge into Mrs. Christmas?

Endurance Training

A few years ago, I coached a middle school track team. Most of the kids were there to flirt, or gab, or…Okay, so I have no idea why they were there, but it certainly wasn’t to improve. During endurance training, they’d jog (or should I say, walk-shuffle-jog-shuffle) when I passed, only to resume their turtle pace as soon as I was out of view. Or so they thought. I suppose they never realized the span of our peripheral vision.

The lack of drive in most of the students irritated me, or perhaps confused me would be a better term, but honestly, I didn’t give them much thought. Instead, I focused on those that clearly wanted to be there–to learn and improve.

There was one boy in particular. He puked after every turn-out. Every one. At first I was concerned. I searched the internet for nutritional information, then relayed what I learned to him and his dad. Perhaps it was a salt deficiency. Maybe he was hungry, or hadn’t fully digested his food.

One by one, every reasonable explaination was eliminated. So, I began to watch him closely, then it made sense.

The boy gave his all, 110%, each and every practice. 

I ran track and cross-country in school, and know what it feels like to cross the finish line spent, nauseas and trembling from exhaustion. In fact, most coaches would tell you if you’re not spent at the end of the race, then you didn’t give your all. 

There’s nothing worse than standing on the other end of the finish line knowing you could have done better. Only now the race is over.

The Bible often equates our life to a race. In Hebrews 12, we are told to run with perseverance and to endure rigid training, knowing every tear, every struggle, every exhausting disappointment and panic-invoking computer crash, has a purpose.

Hebrews 12:1-13

1 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.

God Disciplines His Children

 4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

   “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
   and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
   and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.”

 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.

 12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.

 When I coached, I focused most on the athletes that worked hard. If they were going to give their all, I’d give them mine as well. And I pushed them hard. I ran along side them, saying, “Faster! Faster! Faster!” during our sprints. I watched them closely, pushing them to their brink, then allowing them to recover just long enough…but as soon as they caught their breath, I pushed them again.

Can we expect any less from God? Would we really want less?

Athletes know there’s no middle ground. You either go after the gold with everything you’ve got, or you get out of the race.

What race has God mapped out for you and how diligently are you training? Are you giving it your all or just trying to squeak by?

Getting rid of weasles

On Sunday as I was racing down the steep hills of central Missouri, flashes of color dotting the asphalt caught my eye. Riders from previous heats had tossed empty water bottles, goo wrappers (a high-energy food eaten during long races that tastes like overly-sweetened toothpaste) and anything else that had been previously strapped to their bikes, on the road. And although I doubt that extra zillionth of an ounce wrapper fragment would have weighed them down, their behavior reminded me of a verse in Hebrews:

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” Hebrews 12:1 ESV

Watching endurance athletes as they gear up for a race adds great imagery to this verse. Everything is evaluated for its efficiency and only the necessities are retained. This careful evaluation continues throughout the entire race as each curve in the road or dip of a hill is evaluated. Racers who make proper adjustments and keep their eyes focused on the course ahead finish much stronger than those who rely on brute strength alone. I believe this is true in our spiritual life as well.

The Bible tells me that God has a course mapped out for me, and although the finish line is nothing more than a glimmer tucked at the top of a long, steep hill, God has provided enough brightly marked cones to get me there. And I know if I would but keep my eyes glued to the orange markers, I could avoid many of the pitfalls that slow me down. Unfortunately, I have a tendency to let my eyes wonder to another path, one lined with delicate flowers and tall, swaying trees, that veers, ever so slightly to the right.

As a writer, I hear a lot of my friends talk of weasel words. Weasel words are those unnecessary linking verbs and adjectives that weaken your writing. But weasels aren’t limited to the page. Life can be riddled with weasels as well; those unnecessary time-sappers that get in the way of effective ministry. If we let them. As of today, I have determined not to let these varmints wreak havoc in my spiritual garden! As my commitments mount and every task vies for prominence, I will go over my schedule with a fine-toothed comb, exterminating those pesky weasels one by one until I can truly say that I have followed whole-heartedly the course God mapped out for me.

What about you? What are your greatest time-sappers and how will you get rid of them?