Friday, May 17, 2019

A Reason for Restless Nights

If you are like me, you hate it when you can't fall asleep; the constant turning from side to side, the exhausted yet fully awake feeling, the defeated urge for morning to just come already.

Last night was such a night. Sleep would not come. So I had the opportunity to comforted a friend late into the night. Later still I couldn't fall asleep. I prayed and prayed and prayed. Still no sleep. I don't know exactly how late it was when I finally fell asleep but it was starting to get a touch of light outside. 

I woke up feeling awful and desperate for coffee. Complaints started forming in my mind and then I had a sobering thought... What if those restless nights happened for a reason? 

What if the reason I couldn't sleep was because my friend needed me? What if the reason I couldn't sleep was because God wanted me to sit in His presence and pray, intentional and undistracted. 

As I thought this, I realized how much more important it was than one night's full sleep. I became even more grateful I could be there for a friend in need. I rejoiced that I spent time with my Heavenly Father. 

I might feel tired right now but God's strength will carry me through my day. May He carry you through your day too. God bless you all and have a wonderful day.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Walking, Waiting, and Writing with God

A few years ago, I sat at the dining table with my laptop, scribbled notes, dozens of typed pages from a manuscript, and several pens scattered before me. There was a moment where I felt completely at peace. It was like a warm blanket wrapping around me. In that moment there was no doubt in my being that I was doing what I was called to do. It was God's peace gently assuring me that I was on the path He called me on. So I stepped out in faith and wrote.

But the feeling faded. I struggle with doubt and fear. I looked at all the things that came with being a writer: rejection, critiques, pitching to agents, editors, publishers, marketing, platforms; and became overwhelmed. In my mind, it took a strong person to put themselves out there, their precious work out there. It took a confident person to be rejected but stay the course. I felt it took a person so secure with themselves that nothing could sway them. That person was not me. I'm insecure. I'm highly introverted. I'm really sensitive. Or so I thought. Two weekends ago, God showed me a whole new me.

I was blessed to attend the 50th Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. Not only did I come home with a mind expanded with writing knowledge but knowledge of how God sees me. I can not tell you how many times I looked at myself in a mirror that weekend and said, "Who is this new woman? I kind of like her.". Not once during the conference did I feel self-conscious of my looks. Not once did I feel inadequate. Not once did I feel lost. God showed me who I really was, why I was there, and confirmed I was where He wanted me. He used other people to speak into my life and encourage me. He opened up the door to conversations that inspired and taught me. It was incredible. His peace surpassed all my understanding that weekend. The whole experience made me even more excited to keep write with God.

I'm so thankful and blessed. God took care of the big and the little things. He took my hand and guided me through the things I thought would overwhelm me. God brought people into my life to encourage, push me, and teach me. I'm still in awe of all that happened and God's amazing faithfulness. I pray you all have the courage to stay the course God has set before you. May you feel His strength inside you as I did. May you feel His love flow through you like I did. May you feel His amazing blessing rain down.

Monday, March 25, 2019

Sometimes You Just Can't Do It All

It's as the title says, sometimes you just can't do it all.

What do I mean by all? I mean saying yes to everyone who needs help, saying yes to every opportunity, saying yes to everyone's wants. Maybe you have no problem saying no to over-committing. Maybe you have no problem stopping to take a moment for yourself, treating yourself, and making sure you have enough in the tank to do the things you need to do. Maybe you do have a hard time saying no, even when you are drowning in your own life. Well, I believe there should be a balance of helping out, being responsible, and yet taking care of yourself--that means giving yourself a break and recharging. Yes, we should be helping others, sacrificing time for others, loving one another with action, however, we also need to make sure we can do so healthily.

You are important too. It isn't selfish or self centered to do something for yourself every once in a while. It's called self-care. As I mentioned before, there is a balance that is needed when giving of yourself and giving to yourself. Carve out time to read a book, go on a walk, take a nap, journal--something that you love to do. If you are super busy, maybe it's just a playlist that makes you happy and listen to it when you drive or an audio book you enjoy listening to while you're cleaning. Look at your responsibilities, what you want to do, and what others ask of you. Figure out what is mandatory and what is optional, what is important and what isn't as important, what is healthy to keep and what is unhealthy that needs to go. We all have to do things we don't want to, but what is it that is making us not want to do it? Are we not wanting to do it out of selfishness? Anger? Hate? Immaturity? These are not good reasons not to do something. Or is it because doing it will break our limitations? Will saying yes have unhealthy consequences? Find the balance and know your limits. Our reasoning behind why we say yes or no can help indicate whether or not it should go or stay.

Yes, I just depicted an idealistic lifestyle... and in case you're wondering, no I don't have it balanced. I struggle with saying no. In fact, I find it really hard to say no. It's difficult for me to say no even when I absolutely don't want to do whatever it is. (I'm talking about the optional things not my personal responsibilities.) I hate saying no. My mind scrambles to make up a plan so that I can do it all and still manage to have enough left in me to make it through the day. I can guilt myself into doing things. I can ignore my limitations. But let me tell you, it doesn't work. I can maybe fake it a few days, maybe a week, but there is always a breaking point. I'm human. I have limitations.

I love helping people and I'm a highly empathetic person. God gifted me with this personality. It's a big gift to have and I'll be honest, sometimes I wish I didn't have it. Being empathetic makes me want to help ease other people's hurt, stress, or crazy schedules. I want to be able to listen to people at any moments notice, or chip in where I can, or simply be present with them. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day and I need at least 8 of those hours to sleep to properly function. But God made me who I am and I am learning to use it for His glory. I'm not perfect. I struggle. But God is good and perfect. With His guidance, I can find the balance of pouring myself out but being filled as well. 

We should be kind and extend a helping hand where we can, when we can. Sometimes sacrifices have to be made and choices have to be made. Key word, sometimes. We are all different. We have different abilities and different limitations. But we can't do it all, all the time. I pray that you are able to find a balance in your life. I hope you discover what is healthy to say yes to and what is unhealthy that you can say no to. Remember, it isn't going to happen over night. Be kind to yourself and be kind to others. Give grace to others and have grace for yourself. I wish you all the best and encourage you to join me on this journey.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Expand Your Horizons

I love travel. Especially flying.

I find it exhilarating being up so high, soaring in the endless sky, and among the cotton candy clouds. I love the intensity of take off. The sudden burst of speed. The surge in power of the engines. The sinking feeling in my stomach as the wheels leave the runway. It is so fascinating to see the buildings, the cars, and the land become smaller as the plane ascends into the sky. One's perspective changes after seeing something that was once big shrink into a tiny dot beneath oneself. Our homes are a small portion of a vast world. I love gazing out of the airplane window and seeing God's beautiful creation. I am in wonder at His magnificent artistry. How amazing God's view of the world must be from the heavenlies.

As much as I love flying, it is not as simple as walking onto a plane. In order to fly, I have to go through an airport. Airports used to scare me to death. Security in particular is a nightmare. I do not enjoy being in loud, crowded places. If airports were crowded with happy, quiet, relaxed humans than it would be a piece of cake. Let's be real, who wants to be surrounded by people who are in a hurry because they miscalculated time, did not get enough sleep, have not had their hundredth cup of coffee, or think that they are the only person with somewhere to be. Oh yeah, sign me up for that.

It took some time for me to adjust to it all. Like most things, the more one does something the more comfortable one become with it. When I settled into the hustle and bustle of airports, I found they are quite entertaining places to be. Recently my trips have been mostly red-eye flights, which are fantastic because there are fewer people and they are so sleepy they move a whole lot slower. I also discovered I am a people watcher. Perhaps it stems from my writer's curiosity-always looking for new material to work with. Or perhaps it is because of my introvert tendencies that it is normal for me to be watching and listening. Whatever the reason, airports are no longer overwhelming but exciting.

If you ever have the chance to fly. Do it. Try to not only enjoy the experience yourself but also be the sweet person you would want to be standing next to in line. Try to be the helping hand to the mother trying to wrangle three little kids. Try to be the kind one who helps the elderly traveler put their bag in the overhead bin. New environments are chances to be a light in the world, to share Jesus' love with others, to offer someone a smile, to give someone hope that there are still decent people. It is a perfect opportunities to appreciate God's detailed design and minister to others. Expand your horizons. Spread God's love. Enjoy new places.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Read 50 Books in 1 Year

Last year I challenged myself to read 50 books in a year and expand my reading genres. And I successfully reached my goal. Below is my 2018 reading list with a brief blurb of my thoughts.

1. A Man's Heart by Lori Copeland
A wonderful western romance that had me up late into the night laughing, crying, and completely engulfed. Lori Copeland has an amazing way with words. 
2. A Name Unknown (Shadows Over England Book 1) by Roseanna M. White
History. Mystery. Romance. This book had it all. Roseanna M. White crafted an intriguing story and relatable characters. I am eager to begin reading the next books in the series.
3. Before We Were Yours by Lisa Wingate
This fiction book was raw, eye-opening, and created around a true historical scandal. It was a good read, tough to swallow at times, and pulled at the heartstrings.
4. Room for Hope by Kim Vogel Sawyer
Through the strong characters in this historical fiction, Kim Vogel Sawyer shows forgiveness and love in a way I had never read before. Great read.
5. The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin
An excellent, beautifully written contemporary romance that had me in tears. 
6. Messenger by Moonlight by Stephanie Grace Whitson
Intriguing historical fiction with great characters and plot.
7. An Awakened Heart by Jody Hedlund
 A well crafted historical romance novella that took me back in time. 

8. To Win Her Favor by Tamera Alexander
A good historical romance that combined two of my favorite things, horse racing and history.
9. The Witness by Dee Henderson
10. Unspoken by Dee Henderson
11. Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson
12. Undetected by Dee Henderson
13. Taken by Dee Henderson 
14. Jennifer: A Love Story by Dee Henderson 
 Suspense. Romance. Mystery. Intrigue. Dee Henderson has an incredible way with words that gripped me on every page. Great plot. Amazing characters.
15. A Thousand Sleepless Nights by Michael King
A gripping, relatable story that had me captivated with its display of the fight for family and love.
16. A Lady Like Sarah by Margaret Brownley
Entertaining western romance that didn't disappoint.
17. In All Deep Places by Susan Meissner
 I found this mystery in a little shop while traveling and was so excited to read it. Fascinating characters, great plot, and an ending that took my breath away.
18. The Universe of Us by Lang Leav
I loved this collection of poetry. Simple yet profound.
19. Bad Ground by W. Dale Cramer
A coming of age novel with good characters.
20. Out of the Shadows by Sigmund Brouwer
A good mystery read that was eerie at times.
21. The Return (Amish Beginnings Book 3) by Suzanne Woods Fisher
An enjoyable book from a talented author. Wonderful characters and plot.
22. Phoebe's Light (Nantucket Legacy Book 1) Suzanne Woods Fisher
Suzanne Woods Fisher knows what she's doing. Great story and excellent characters.
23. A Bride Most Begrudging by Deeanne Gist
 A solid historical romance about the tobacco brides.
24. Hope Valley War by Brock Thoene
A good western that was fun to read.
25. Navigating Early by Clare Vanderpool
26. Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool
Two interesting middle grade books with unique stories. 
27. Little Britches by Ralph Moody
A solid adventure that entertained.
28. Flight of the Eagles (Seven Sleepers Book 1) by Gilbert L. Morris
 Not quite my cup of tea but it has some interesting ideas.

Men of the Saddle Series by Lori Copeland
29. The Drifter
30. The Maverick
31. The Plainsman
32. The Peacemaker
I immediately fell in love with this western romance series. The characters are well rounded, the romance is genuine, the humor is spot on, and the story took me to another era.
Code of the West Series by Stephen Bly
33. It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own
34. One Went to Denver and the Other Went Wrong
35. Where the Deer and the Antelope Play
36. Stay Away from That City... They Call It Cheyenne
37. My Foots in the Stirrup-- My Pony Won't Stand
This series was a fun, good ol' western adventure that had me entertained.
O'Malley Series by Dee Henderson
38. Danger In the Shadows
39. The Negotiator
40. The Guardian
41. The Truth Seeker
42. The Protector
43. The Healer
44. The Rescuer
Dee Henderson completely wrecked me with this incredible suspense romance series. I have never read books that sucked me in so hard and so fast. Her detail and storytelling is beyond brilliant. Throughout the series I felt such a wide range of emotions that had me reaching for the next book and the next. The characters are so real, relatable, and inspiring. 
Orphan Train Series by Jody Hedlund
45. With You Always
46. Together Forever
Anything orphan train related captures my attention. This historical fiction series by Jody Hedlund is no exception. I absolutely loved these books and cannot wait to purchase the next book in the series that was recently released. They are a great read!
Uncommon Heroes Series by Dee Henderson
47. True Devotion
48. True Valor
49. True Honor
50. True Courage
Again, Dee Henderson sent me on an exciting ride with her military romance series. These characters, much like many of her other characters, show the true lives that men and women who fight to protect their loved ones. These are truly inspirational books that had me at page 1.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Celebrating Christmas With Our Lost Loved Ones

The other day I switched my Pandora station to play a Country Christmas station. Scotty McCreery's Christmas in Heaven sounded through the speakers and I hung onto every word that touched my ears. It was beautiful. Sad, but beautiful. I nearly started crying as I thought of the loved ones who have gone before me. My grandfather's face was clear in my mind. I began to wonder what McCreery had sang in his song:

"Is the snow falling down on the streets of gold?
Are the mansions all covered in white?
Are you singing with angels "Silent Night"

It made me sad at first, thinking of loved ones in heaven, but then I realized they are with the King. They are worshiping Jesus. They are face to face with Our Savior. My wondering turned to curiosity instead of sorrow. While there is still an ache of grief, there is a joy in that realization. Christmas is about celebrating Jesus. Our loved ones are celebrating in Heaven and we are celebrating here on Earth until our time comes to join them. 

The holidays can be rough when there has been loss. It doesn't matter how long it has been, the ache is still there, whether in the forefront of one's mind or in the back of one's memory. I pray that during this Christmas season those who grieve find joy in even the little things. May they feel God's peace and comfort around them. I pray they remember to celebrate Jesus' birth. May they contemplate the reason for the season. I pray they remember their loved ones are singing with Jesus. May they join in singing praises to the Lord on High.

Merry Christmas and God bless you all!

Monday, November 5, 2018

Travels and Thankfulness

Last month I was blessed to go on a trip with a very close friend. It had been roughly six months since I had last seen her and we were both in a place in our lives where we just needed a break. God's timing was perfect and He gave us the trip we needed. It was a trip to grow our friendship, a trip to refresh our souls, and a trip to grow closer to Him.

I had never been to Outer Banks, North Carolina and I was ecstatic to go. My friend and I had been counting down for months and the night of my departure finally arrived. I had an overnight flight, which are actually becoming a favorite of mine. I mean, who doesn't love running on caffeine and being surrounded by sleep deprived human beings? Besides, airports seem quieter during the late night/early mornings and less...chaotic. Also, I'm an author and a people watcher. I find it fascinating to watch people interact with each other and their surroundings. It gives me material for my writing and when it is really late at night, it's quite amusing too.

My flights went smoothly with only the minimal delays, very adorable crying infants, and a lot of sailors. My seat row mates were pleasant, probably because they slept most of the time and one of them was a dog. I ran into at least three sets of twins in the airports and was able to help a sweet mom with her twins while we waited for a flight. I was served coffee and a pastry by the most genuinely happy Starbucks employee I've ever seen, and I was picked up by my friend and her family with hugs all around.

It would take too many pages to even summarize my trip. But I'll just say, it was amazing. Just enough activities to see parts of Outer Banks and just enough downtime to relax on the beach. I laughed so much in the week I was literally sore. My friend and I made a habit to go to bed "early" because we needed hours to just talk and quiet time to read our Bibles together. The week was a time to invest in relationships: our relationship with God, our relationship with her family, and our own friendship. It was a time to let go of the stress of life and simply enjoy ourselves, which we did.

So in the month dedicated to thankfulness, I am thankful for this opportunity and thankful for the incredible friendship I have been given. I'm also thankful for my Heavenly Father, who knows just what we need and when we need it. He refreshed my spirit. He strengthened a friendship. He drew me closer to Him. For that I am thankful.

What are you thankful for this month?