Category Archives: Christian Living

Christmas Devotional and Giveaway

If you like Christmas devotionals, check out my guest post at Patti’s Porch. Someone who comments on the post (on that site, not here) will win a print or ebook copy of my daily devotional book, A Year of Tenacity. Draw is on December 17, 2019.
Link: This is the Lord’s Battle.

Just Around the Corner … 2020 (Guest Post)

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Just Around the Corner … 2020

By Steph Beth Nickel

Can you believe it? In a little over a month it will be 2020. Does that sound as futuristic to you as it does to me? (Maybe I’m just showing my age. <grin>)

I like to make plans for the new year at the end of November.

Here are six reasons to do so:

  • Making New Year’s resolutions has a built-in expectation of failure. Let’s face it, most resolutions get tossed aside before the end of January.
  • If we leave planning until the end of the year, we don’t feel as if we have as much time to fine tune our plans with January 1 looming before us.
  • We may feel pressured by all the yearend advertising. Join this gym. Buy this discounted bundle online. (Guilty.) Make this the year you do … (I’m sure you can fill in the blank with any number of things.)
  • If we “test run” our resolutions next month, we can do so with a minimal number of onlookers. (Hey, even the gyms are less crowded in December.)
  • And if we start in December, we can see what works and what may be best set aside. But don’t forget to give yourself grace since many of us are especially busy during the holiday season.
  • And if you’re just coming off the writing high of trying to pump out 50,000 words in November (NaNoWriMo), you may feel as if you can conquer the world. Why not start before the feeling fade? (I will be away for part of the weekend. A dear friend’s mother passed away this past week, and the service is on Saturday. However, I’m hoping to hit 50K before getting on the road. It would be the first time ever.)

Many of us choose a word for the coming year. And if we’re Christians, we may feel the Lord has laid something on our heart. That is the case for me this year. I believe 2020 is to be my personal year of contentment, which is not to be confused with complacency.

So, just how can our Word of the Year line up with our List of Goals? (Notice, I didn’t call them resolutions.)

Here are six of my goals, all of which should lead to greater contentment. (Hint: It’s best to frame goals as positive statements. Negative ones just make us feel as if we’ve failed up to this point.)

  • If you know me, you realize I am eclectically interested and eclectically involved. Call it the Oo, Shiny Syndrome, the Butterfly Syndrome (I have a tendency to flit from one thing to the next to the next), or just call it Oh, Squirrel! Regardless, my goal is to focus more on the task(s) at hand and only pursue something new if I’ve thought it through and maybe, just maybe, set something else aside. (That is almost painful to commit to. Who says we can’t spin two dozen plates at the same time?)
  • Narrowing my focus means it’s far more likely than I can do some of those things I’ve been planning for years, things like publishing a novel and a nonfiction book. There, I’ve said it. I won’t only be content if I birth these two book babies, I will be ecstatic.
  • Between a gym membership, online fitness site memberships, and the DVDs I have on hand, there is no reason I can’t be stronger and healthier by the end of 2020 than I am now. That plus the fact that I actually like to exercise. Yes, I am one of those weird people.
  • Hand in hand with getting more exercise is the importance of eating a nourishing diet. To all of you who do, kudos! Really! By the end of 2020, I want to be consistently eating more healthfully. I’m not committing to perfection, whatever that may mean, but the more I eat healthy foods, the more I want to do so. I already know that. It’s just a matter of putting the knowing into practice—and using all those fancy gadgets and cookbooks I’ve purchased, hoping they’ll motivate me to do better.
  • My To Be Read (TBR) pile is monumentally high. Plus, several of my favourite authors will be releasing new books that I will be tempted to buy over the next 12-13 months. Contentment doesn’t necessarily mean I won’t buy some of these books, but it does mean I will deliberately get to some of those books I have neglected far too long.
  • And speaking of books, I have numerous versions of the Scriptures—and access to the others online. While I will be using some of the Bible study tools I have on hand, I don’t need anything more than my Bible to grow in my faith over the coming year. The plan is to focus more on reading God’s Word than being distracted by all the shiny study resources that are sure to come to my attention.

So, what about you? Do you have a word for 2020? Have you set some goals for yourself? I’d love to hear about it.

May 2020 overflow with the very richest of blessings!

Tweetable: 6 Reasons to make your plans for the new year at the end of November. Via #StephBethNickel #2020 #newyearsresolutions #goals [Click to tweet]

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

Review: Beholding and Becoming, by Ruth Chou Simons

Book cover: Beholding and Becoming, The Art of Everyday Worship. By Ruth Chou Simons

Beholding and Becoming, by Ruth Chou Simons (Harvest House Publishers, 2019)

“The most ordinary days become extraordinary places of transformation when we hope in Christ instead of our circumstances… No circumstance is too ordinary or too forgotten for God to meet us there in worship. His transforming grace turns our ‘everyday ordinary’ into a holy place of becoming.”

Beholding and Becoming, page 221

This delights me, because I hear an echo of Brother Lawrence’s call to practice the presence of Christ. It makes such good sense: the closer we are to Jesus, the more we abide in Him, the richer life becomes. The more like Him we become.

Subtitled “The Art of Everyday Worship,” Beholding and Becoming is a lovely hardcover gift book. Each of the 16 sections is lavishly illustrated with soul-resting art and gentle text. Sections are divided into “Beholding” a key truth about God and “Becoming,” where readers are invited to apply what they’ve read to daily life.

Stopping to appreciate the artwork helps readers to slow down and absorb the text. The art incorporates symbolism (explained in a glossary—don’t worry if you’re not visually intuitive) to reinforce section themes.

I’ve marked a number of key passages for further thought. The sections that spoke to me most personally looked at smallness (held in God’s greatness) and at redefining failure and success (the author declares, “Faithfulness is success” [page 111].

These, and other themes addressed in the book, are common to many people in these crowded, don’t-slow-down days. Beholding and Becoming is a meditative invitation to dare to slow down and consider who God is—and what difference that can make in our lives.

Ruth Chou Simons is the author of GraceLaced, another beautiful hardcover gift book, and she is the founder of the GraceLaced ministry. For more about the author and her work, visit gracelaced.com.

[A review copy was received from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. I was in no way compensated for this review.]

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Understanding Different Personality Types (Guest Post)

Image of people and the earth.
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Understanding Different Personality Types

by Steph Beth Nickel

Melancholy or sanguine? Introvert or extrovert? Director or connector? Analytic or expressive? Enneagram 2 or enneagram 7?

If you’ve ever taken a personality test, some or all of these terms may be familiar to you. (I love taking quizzes. I’m pretty sure I can chalk it up to my personality type.)

Introverts and Extroverts

Maybe the most familiar terms are introvert and extrovert—and the more recently coined ambivert.

While there is much literature and more than a few GIFs that explain what it means to be an introvert, it really clicked for me when I discovered how introverts and extroverts recharge.

Typically, spending time with people drains an introvert and energizes an extrovert.

An introvert isn’t necessarily shy and reserved. They may enjoy spending time with family and friends. They may love to be out and about. But there comes a time, they have to spend some time alone. Otherwise, they will feel completely depleted.

On the other hand, an extrovert may be exhausted, wanting nothing more than to curl up on the couch and spend the evening reading a good book or binge-watching Netflix. However, if they have to go to a function, they may very well be the last one to leave. Time with people whose company they enjoy can be even more energizing than an evening on the couch.

As an extrovert “on steroids”, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate the introverts who call me friend. Trust me, I know how annoying I can be. <grin>

We must learn to appreciate those with different personality types. God has made us unique and we need one another.

I think it’s humorous that I am the only extrovert in my family. My husband, daughter, and two sons are all introverts. My firstborn may technically be an ambivert, but he definitely falls on the introvert side of centre. For the most part, he would be happy spending the majority of his time at home with his wife and their six guinea pigs.

Connectors, Inspectors, Directors, and Reflectors

Not only is it a good thing to know your own personality type. It is also helpful to know your spouse’s. In my case, I have been married to an amazing man for over 35 years, an amazing man who couldn’t be more different from me.

As I mentioned, he is an introvert.

Dave is also a reflector, while I’m a connector.

Reflectors “take time to listen to others, making them feel seen and heard; drop what [they’re] doing to help someone in need; and exude a sense of calm confidence that helps others relax when their around.” (Exhale … p. 119)

Connectors “make everyone feel welcome, wanted, included; exude an upbeat, optimistic mood; and enjoy taking center stage.” (Exhale … p. 116)

Of course, people rarely fit neatly into a particular box, but we have definite leanings.

I first learned about this test from Cheri Gregory and Amy Carroll, the hosts of the Grit ‘n’ Grace Podcast and the authors of Exhale: Lose Who You’re Not, Love Who You Are, Live Your One Life Well.

(Don’t let the title mislead you. This is not merely a self-help book written to make readers feel good about themselves. These ladies truly love the Lord and want each of their readers to discover who God made them to be.)

You can take the test on the Exhale website.

Expressives, Analytics, Drivers, and Amiables

I learned about these personality types from Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory, in their book You Don’t Have to Try So Hard: Ditch Expectations and Live Your Own Best Life.

Sometimes, you only have to read the list to find out where you fit.

While I try to be amiable, I definitely qualify as an expressive. Our top emotional needs are “attention, affection, and approval.” Our God-given assets include being having a good sense of humor, being good on stage, and having a sensitive heart. Our potential liabilities include being a compulsive talker, scaring people off, and being too happy for some people. (You Don’t Have to Try So Hard … pp. 43-44)

And thankfully, my hubby is an amiable. I’m not quite sure who else could put up with my compulsive talking and over-the-top happiness.

Amiables need “respect, self-worth, and harmony.” They have “low-key personalities; are calm, cool, and collected; and are happily reconciled to life.” They may be indecisive, shy, and compromising.

Challenge

Take a personality test and encourage someone close to you to do the same.

As you learn more about yourself and those closest too you, you will be better able to appreciate the strengths and extend grace when it comes to the areas of potential weakness in yourself and others.

Tweetables

Typically, spending time with people drains an introvert and energizes an extrovert. (click to tweet)

Appreciate others’ strengths and extend grace when it comes to areas of potential weakness. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

How God Guides Writers—and Other People Too (Guest Post)

Questions: who? how? what? when?where? why?
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

How God Guides Writers—and Other People Too

by Steph Beth Nickel

What should I write?

Books, articles, blog posts …

Genre fiction, instructive nonfiction, memoir …

Poetry, Instagram stories, 280-character tweets …

At the risk of sounding cliché, the possibilities really are endless.

How should I pursue publication?

Should I look for an agent and try to get a traditional deal?

Should I self-publish my work?

Should I do both and become a hybrid author?

If I choose to self-publish, what will I do myself?

Format my manuscript? Create a book cover? Edit my book?

And if we’re Christian, we likely want to be certain that we’re fulfilling God’s call on our life—and going about it as He would want us to. But how can we know that we’re following the path He has set out for us?

Writer or not, there are a number of ways to do so—and they’re not as mysterious as we may think.

Study God’s Word.

The Scriptures are the Lord’s primary means of communicating with us. It’s important to become familiar with what they say and what they mean in context.

In God’s Word we find specific instructions and principles that apply to every area of life.

Seek to obey His commands and directives.

Are we seeking, in God’s strength, to walk in obedience to Him? As we do, He sheds light on the path before us and enables us to take the next step on the journey.

Spend time in prayer.

Sometimes, it’s as we pray for guidance that He gives it. At other times, it’s as we’re praying for others that the Lord nudges us in the direction He wants us to take.

Seek godly counsel.

Wise counsellors may be members of our family or fellow members of our church. They may be friends, neighbours, or even those we’ve developed relationships with online.

Wise counsel, direction that honours the Lord, points us in the right direction—even if it’s not what we want to hear.

And we can rest assured that it will never contradict the clear commands in God’s Word.

Use your talents and abilities as you have opportunity.

While we are responsible to develop them, God gave us our talents and abilities. They are often a good indicator of the route we should pursue.

Pursue that passion that just won’t go away.

We can’t do everything we’d like to do in this life. (Ask me how I know this. <grin>)

Still, if there is a God-honouring passion that never leaves us, no matter what our circumstances and season of life, it’s likely something the Lord wants us to investigate—and possibly, pursue.

Persevere.

I recently heard that there are writers who give up because the words just aren’t flowing. These individuals figure if God wants them to write, He will give them the words and it will be easy.

Any of us who have written anything from a Facebook status to a full-length novel know there are times it’s far from easy. The right words seem as elusive as the bat my hubby can’t find in our house (but that’s another story).

Still, the Scriptures have much to say about perseverance. And if God has put it on your heart to write, I encourage you to persevere. Develop your skills. And continue to seek Him for guidance and direction.

Tweetables

Wise counsel, direction that honours the Lord, points us in the right direction—even if it’s not what we want to hear. (click to tweet)

If there is a God-honouring passion that never leaves us, it’s likely something the Lord wants us to investigate. (click to tweet)

Any of us who have written anything from a Facebook status to a full-length novel know there are times it’s far from easy. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

Pursuing Your Passions from Home (Guest Post)

Image: laptop and coffee cup.
Text: Is working from home right for you?
Image credit: Pixabay

Pursuing Your Passions from Home

By Steph Beth Nickel

Know your why … we’ve all heard it. But what does it mean?

We don’t want to become self-obsessed, but it really is good to know why we do what we do … and why we want to pursue certain interests and passions.

If we work outside the home, one reason may be to earn a steady income. As much as I enjoy working in the church office, one of the primary reasons I continue to do so is to earn that paycheque every two weeks.

There are plenty of people who work from home who earn far more than I do, and I know I could do the same if I put into practice what I’ve been learning. But should I?

Before we decide to hand in our resignation, we must get to know not only the business / creative endeavour we want to pursue but also ourselves.

Why You Might Want to Work from Home

It may be more cost effective. When you consider wardrobe, transportation, and childcare costs, sometimes, it makes more sense to work from home.

Your day job is far too stressful. Just remember, it can also be a strain on your mental health if you don’t have a clear business plan, a good support system, and significant self-discipline. All three are needed to work from home.

You need the flexibility of setting your own hours. Are you caring for children or aging parents? Is your most productive time outside of regular work hours? Do you have health concerns that make it a challenge to work outside the home?

You are committed to lifelong learning. What it takes to have a successful home business is always changing. If you’re not committed to staying current and learning from those with more experience—who, in many cases, are significantly younger—working from home may not be for you.

Can you afford a dip in pay for a time? Granted you don’t have to get the most expensive tools of the trade when first starting out. So, start-up costs may be minimal, but it’s likely you’ll make less than you do for a while, even if you currently have a minimum wage job. That’s why what I suspect is the majority of people make the shift gradually, working at their day job and establishing their home business at the same time.

Why You Need a Support System When Working from Home

For the good of your mental health. Even introverts need to personally interact with people from time to time. But for extroverts such as myself, it’s lifegiving. And if we don’t have that stimulus on a regular basis, we may look for it by listening to podcasts and hanging out on social media far too often. (Ask me how I know these things. <grin>)

To both encourage and challenge you as needed. When we’re uncertain if we’re making headway, it’s important to have someone in our corner to encourage us. When we’re not pouring enough time and energy into our business (there are countless distractions when one works from home), we need someone to lovingly challenge us to press on. Setting our goals and sharing them with an accountability partner who will check in with us regularly can be a big help.

To come alongside you in various areas. Maybe you need help with childcare. Or maybe it’s housework. Or maybe it’s in business-related areas, such as tech support and legal counsel. Maybe running a successful home business means you have to install an app that prevents you from getting lost down the rabbit hole that is social media while you sit in front of your computer, wondering what you’re missing in the big wide world.

Why Working from Home May Not be the Best Choice for You

You need more money than you can currently generate from home. If your goal is to make enough money to quit your day job, you may have to do extra work for a time, establishing your business in “the margins” left by your current employment and other responsibilities. And, if you’re committed to working from home fulltime, you’ll have to practice saying no when other opportunities come your way. You may very well have to back away from some of the things you are currently doing in your “downtime.”

You don’t have the support of your spouse. If you do your research and lovingly build a case for working from home, it will likely go over much better than if you come home from work one night and tell your spouse you’ve quit your day job—especially if your current income goes toward paying the bills.

You need the stimulus that comes from working with others. Someone I know has fairly recently realized that the quiet is far too loud to work from home exclusively. Yes, that someone is me. I process things verbally. (Big surprise to anyone who knows me, I’m sure.) And when someone I work with asks for my counsel because they value it … Wow! I am humbled and blown away.

That’s why I watch too much TV and listen to too many podcasts when I’m on my own. I need company. That, more than actual laziness, is what keeps me from accomplishing all I’d like to do in my home office.

Right now, all you introverts are confused and scratching your head, I’m sure.

There are too many distractions at home. Whether you’re an extrovert or an introvert—or somewhere in between—perhaps you would find it difficult to work from home because the housework is calling. Or maybe it’s the kids or your spouse. You may find it difficult not to answer the door or respond to that text that just came in. Maybe it’s a beautiful day and you decide to go for a walk and get your work done later. Or maybe the covers are just too warm and your pillow much too soft. See what I mean about distractions, especially for someone like me … SQUIRREL!

Most importantly, as a Christian, you may not feel it is what God is calling you to at this point. Recognizing who God created us to be is an important process, one that takes a lifetime. Praying and seeking wise counsel in this area, and in all others, is very important.

We are all created different—and that’s a good thing. I would love to have a successful home business, but, for now, I acknowledge that there are several reasons I will continue to divide my time between working outside the home and working from home.

Know your why. Know yourself. And go from there.

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer: Emphasis on the Crazy (Guest Post)

Seashore with text: "Recharging and refreshing are not selfish."
Image source: Pixabay

The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer: Emphasis on the Crazy

by Steph Beth Nickel

What does summer mean to you?

Enjoying the longer days and warmer weather?

Occupying your children?

Heading away on vacation?

Kicking back and enjoying a slower pace?

Reading more books?

Two years ago, my hubby and I went to Alberta for two weeks. Dave had wanted to take me to Jasper since we were married over 35 years ago. It was wonderful!

Last year, we did a whirlwind road trip to all the Maritime provinces. I’d never been farther east than Quebec, and Dave had never been to Newfoundland. It was an adventure for both of us.

And this year … Well, we are spending a couple of days in Frankenmuth, Michigan. My hubby loves Christmas and he loves Bronners, the Christmas Store.

We may camp for a couple of weekends, but this summer will be far more low-key.

Winters don’t typically weigh me down emotionally. This past winter, however, was different. I found myself sleeping much more. I had zero energy to write and edit in the evenings.

And then spring arrived. My spirits lifted and I became more productive—somewhat, at least.

I made the mistake of blinking, and now, it’s summer.

I have a lengthy list of goals to accomplish in the next couple of months, including participating in Camp NaNoWriMo and finally finishing the edit for the first book in my Nurture and Inspire series.

I also want to get the first draft of the follow-up to Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, complete—or close to it—by the end of August.

I would like to get back to work on the first novel in my Hard Choices series if at all possible.

There are also other projects I want to tackle, but I’ll spare you the details.

So, will my summer be lazy? For the most part, I don’t think so.

How about hazy?

That’s how my brain feels at the end of my church office workday. If I exercise more, eat better, and get adequate rest, I should be able to fight the haziness. Weatherwise, it’s beyond my control, however.

And now, to the craziness …

I pretty much covered that when I shared my list of goals. Those goals plus editing my client’s 100+K fantasy novel would, to many people, be the very definition of craziness.

How do you determine when your schedule is too crazy?

Do you feel overwhelmed just making the schedule? Yes? Then it’s likely time to pare down the list.

Do you have a realistic view of what you can accomplish in a day? A week? A month?

Even knowing you have unrealistic expectations, do you still include too many things on your To Do list?

Is there any time to recharge your batteries on your schedule? Recharging and refreshing are not selfish. We have nothing to give if we don’t do so.

Is there time to simply enjoy being with family and friends? Whether your household is swarming with children or you’re an empty nester … whether you come from a big family or it’s just you … summer is the perfect time to enjoy time with your favourite peeps.

Whether your summer is shaping up as lazy, hazy, or crazy, I pray you have a great one.

Blessings, one and all!

Tweetables

Overwhelmed just making your schedule? Time to pare down. (click to tweet)

Recharging and refreshing are not selfish. (click to tweet)

Summer: the perfect time to enjoy time with your favourite peeps. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel (Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

Marks of a Good Friend (Guest Post)

Good friends listen and share from the heart.
[Image courtesy of Pixabay]

Marks of a Good Friend

by Steph Beth Nickel

Who’s your BFF? Who do you love spending time with? Who can you call in the middle of the night when you need them?

I’ve found that good friends, genuine friends, are marked by several characteristics. Let’s consider five of these traits.

Good friends listen.

Sometimes we need advice. And it’s great when we have wise, insightful friends who will “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15).

However, there are other times, we simply need someone who will listen—just listen.

My husband of over 35 years is an active listener. He doesn’t just stay quiet and pretend to listen. He is my sounding board when I need to pour out my heart. It’s such a blessing to have friends like this—whether or not they’re also family members.

Good friends share from their heart.

Another mark of genuine friendship is trust and authenticity. When our friends trust us enough to share from their heart, it’s a good indicator that our friendship is solid.

While there may be many people we refer to as friend who don’t open up to us, it’s a privilege when they do.

Sometimes they’ll want our advice. Sometimes they’ll need us to listen. We have to resist the temptation to turn the conversation back to our own situation when our friends pour out their heart.

Good friends cheer us on.

Are you beginning a new adventure? A new challenge? A new battle?

Our very best friends are there to cheer us on when this is the case. They may be able to relate to our situation; they may not. Still, they’re rooting for us. They’re in our corner. We can depend on them and call on them whenever we need a boost.

Good friends facilitate growth.

While true friends are good listeners, open up to us, and cheer us on, they also challenge us to grow. They don’t so much demand growth but facilitate it.

Good friends have a way of making us want to become better people. They bring out the best in us. And they forgive us when we’re less than our best—even when we’re at our worst.

We want to become better people when this kind of person is in our life.

Good friends address hurts.

Do our real friends hurt us? Do we hurt them? Yes and yes.

Sometimes we hurt one another unintentionally. At other times, for whatever reason, we may be intentionally hurtful.

Our very best friends will address the issue. It may be hard for us to hear. It’s likely even harder for them to bring up. However, friendships that endure the test of time are often marked by openness and honesty.

When we get close to someone, when we open up to them, we risk being hurt, but it’s worth it.

I am privileged to have many such friends and I’m thankful for each and every one of them.

Now, that we’ve considered some traits of genuine friends, let’s take an honest look at ourselves. Are we this kind of friend? What steps can we take to become even better friends than we are today? Are we willing to do the hard work, the work that reaps rich rewards?

Tweetables:

When we get close to someone, when we open up to them, we risk being hurt, but it’s worth it. (click to tweet)

Good friends listen. They share from their heart. They cheer us on. Good friends facilitate growth and address hurts. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel (Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

Why Do We Take On So Much? (Guest Post)

Why Do We Take On So Much?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Last month, I talked about paring down our To Do list.

Today, I’d like to talk about why we take on as much as we do.

While I can only speak for myself, maybe you can relate.

Financial Need

There may be responsibilities you would like to set aside, but you have bills to pay. I can relate.

For the most part, I enjoy my work outside the home, and we do need the money. Still, there are many days I’d love to stay put and work in my home office and spend time decluttering the stuff I’ve accumulated over the last 30+ years.

I feel for those who have to hold down an “evil day job” in order to make ends meet.

Others’ Dependence

I see this as a two-sided coin. We depend on others and they depend on us. That’s the way life works.

However, when others are so dependent on us that we get drained and have nothing left to give, we need to re-evaluate our To Do list and prayerfully consider what needs to change.

Others’ Expectations

We’ve likely all taken on tasks because someone else thought we should—maybe a family member, employer, or church leader. Maybe it was a casual acquaintance, but we didn’t feel we could say no.

We ought to be able to expect things of one another, but when those expectations become unreasonable, we have to be able to let go of them without resentment or fear of hurting the relationship.

Our Own Expectations

How many times do we think we could take on “just one more thing”—even though we don’t have adequate time or energy?

In my case, the answer is “at least several times a month.”

So, if I could do without sleep and never binge watch Netflix, I could do a lot more than I do now. However, that time would best be spent completing tasks I already have on the go.

The New, Shiny Syndrome

Are you like me?

Do you see something new and shiny, something you already have the skills to accomplish or would like to learn, and jump in with both feet, only to remember you’re carrying the weight of all those other responsibilities and find yourself going under—and then binge watching Netflix because you realize you don’t have the ambition to do anything at all?

Grasping

Sometimes we take on a task because we’re grasping for something. Maybe it’s a sense of acceptance, worth, or accomplishment. 

Do we want to admit these truths to ourselves? Definitely not!

Does it help to do so? Absolutely!

Passion

We may have a passion to do something, but that, in and of itself, is not a reason to do something—or not to do it.

Some people refer to it as balance. I like to see it more as tension, the good kind.

Every day we hold things in tension. How much time do we spend on this or that task? How much time do we spend interacting with our family? How much time do we devote to our friends?

Wisdom, we need it in vast amounts.

Calling

As Christians, we often ask ourselves, “What is God’s calling on my life?”

Sometimes, that calling corresponds with our passions, our expectations, our need to earn an income. But we have to be in His Word and spend a significant amount of time in prayer, as well as seek godly counsel, to truly discern what His calling is on our life.

Calling Plus, Plus, Plus

Even after we do have a sense of what God has for us, we may want to do whatever it is—as well as oh, so many other things.

I am definitely in this boat. In fact, I’ve actually made it my houseboat where I spend most of my time.

Is that easy to admit? Nope!

Feel free to hold me accountable as I work this one through.

Rebellion

Though we wouldn’t want to admit it, we may be living in out and out rebellion toward God. Perhaps, we know we should invest our time differently, but we don’t want to.

That’s the bad news, but the good news is that God will forgive us and change our heart if we ask.

An Overinflated Sense of Importance (aka Pride)

Don’t get me wrong. I believe God values us highly. After all, if we had a price tag, it would read, “The Life of God’s Son.”

However, He is God, and well able to accomplish anything He desires—without our help.

Yes, He chooses to accomplish much through His people, but we don’t have to take on every opportunity that comes across our path, thinking, “If I don’t do this, who will?”

Trust God to give you wisdom and to raise up others to accomplish what He isn’t calling us to.

An Unwillingness to Set Aside Already Spinning Plates

I once heard a speaker say she never took on something new unless she knew what other task the Lord would have her set aside. Such a great perspective!

I definitely don’t live this way. I want to keep spinning all the plates.

So, why do you take on the tasks you do? Are there those you believe you ought to set aside?

As believers, we can count on Him to give us the wisdom (and the desire) to do what He’s calling us to—and only those things. But I’m pretty sure this is a lifelong learning opportunity. I’m trusting that I’m on the road to learning this lesson now that I’m staring down my 60th birthday. (Okay, so, it’s two years off, but when you get to be my age, two years flies by.)

Thanks so much for taking the time to take a closer look at why we do what we do.

Tweetables:

Sometimes we take on a task because we’re grasping for something—a sense of acceptance, worth, or accomplishment for example. (Click to tweet.)

Wisdom, we need it in vast amounts. (Click to tweet.)

God is well able to accomplish anything He desires—without our help. (Click to tweet.)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel (Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.

Is Quitting Right for You? (Guest Post)

Clock with words: time management, schedule, delay, stress, busy, alarm, late, rush, overtime

Is Quitting Right for You?

by Steph Beth Nickel

When should you set aside responsibilities? When should you press on? How do you decide?

My absence from Janet’s blog may or may not have been conspicuous, but when January and February slipped away, I had to ask myself, “Is this what God has for me going forward?”

Is this the only responsibility that has slipped? Absolutely not!

Since the time change—in the fall—tiredness and lack of motivation seem to have wrapped their arms (or is that tentacles?) around me.

Being an Expressive, I am among the group least likely to be overly concerned about missed deadlines. Not great when there are so many mandatory and “soft” deadlines in my life.

When Janet suggested I pray to see if God would have me continue writing for Tenacity, I thanked the Lord for friends such as her. No pressure, just concern that I follow the Lord’s path for my life.

So, how do we determine which responsibilities to take on and which ones to set aside? As Christians, we can ask the Lord for wisdom and direction—and He will give it.

Second, it’s a good thing to create a list of everything we do and prioritize the items on our list.

Some items on our list are mandatory—our day job and taking care of family for instance. However, when reviewing the remaining To Do items, we may want to determine which ones we feel called to and which we’re passionate about.

Now, if you’re eclectically interested, as I am, it may be hard to rank these in order of priority, which leads to the fourth thing we should do: be honest about our energy and abilities.

We may be skilled in many areas. We may be able to do a plethora of things each week, each day even. But can we do them well? Can we give them the time and attention they deserve? Can we do so without becoming exhausted and resentful? Can we do them without fear of burnout?

In humility we should ask, “Could someone else do this task? Could they do it more quickly and more efficiently than I can? Are they actually the right person for the job?”

I’m a little like Sister Bear from the Berenstain Bears. When my children were young, they watched and re-watched a video in which Sister Bear sang, “I want it all.” Truth be told, I’m like that. I suffer from what I call Butterfly Syndrome. I flit from thing to thing, claiming the whole garden as my own.

I’m like a plate spinner who tells herself, “Sure, the plate has slowed down … Sure, the pole is beginning to wobble … But I have lots of time to get to it before the fine china crashes to the floor.”

We must consider those who are counting on us.

Granted, I have some of the most understanding and forgiving friends, family, and clients in the world. Still, I have responsibilities to them, and if I can’t meet them, perhaps it’s time to set some of them aside—the responsibilities, not the people.

Last, but definitely not least, we must consider our Why.

Let’s go over that list we made item by item and determine why we’ve taken on each thing. When we know what motivates us, it helps us determine which items must stay on the list and which we can—and should—set aside.

Does this mean it will be easy? No. Often the things we’d prefer to set aside are actually the things that need our time and attention most.

Will I continue writing monthly posts for this blog? I hope so. But I’ll see after I prayerfully follow my own advice.

How do you determine what tasks to take on? Are there those that must go? Which tasks on your list make you want to jump out of bed in the morning (or stay up late) to accomplish?

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel (Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)

Steph Beth Nickel is a communicator who seeks to Nurture and Inspire in her many eclectic endeavours: editing, writing, podcasting, etc. Steph coauthored Paralympian Deb Willows’s memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances. Steph and Deb are working on a follow-up, tentatively titled Keep Looking Up. Steph is also a regular contributor to HopeStreamRadio. You can connect with her on Facebook or via email.