Category Archives: Christian Living

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.

The Year of JOY (Guest Post)

What's your word of the year for 2019?The Year of JOY

by Steph Beth Nickel

It’s that time of year again.

We’re getting ready to say goodbye to the year gone by and hello to a shiny new year filled with possibility.

For the past few years, I’ve embraced the concept of choosing a word for the year ahead.

The theme for 2019 came more as a series of ideas.

In many respects, I have been living selfishly. I believe God is calling me to follow Jesus’s example as outlined in the book of Philippians, to live more sacrificially.

It’s a matter of doing what is clearly laid out in His Word—no matter how I feel.

As the old saying goes, I’m to “bloom where I’m planted.” (I often fall prey to the Oo! Shiny Syndrome, always chasing a new pursuit, a new online course, a new exercise program.)

Although to many Christians it may sound cliché, it comes down to the acronym J.O.Y., which stands for Jesus, Others, Self.

The Lord summed up the commandments by saying we are to love God with our entire being and love others as we do ourselves.

With His help, I hope to do so more effectively in the next 12 months than ever before.

I realize these concepts will seem basic for anyone who has been a believer for any amount of time. However, if we truly seek to live this way, it will affect us—and those around us—in ways we can only begin to imagine.

Does this mean everything is going to change?

Have I stopped dreaming big? Far from it. I hope to get my Nurture and Inspire brand out into the world for real in 2019.

Am I going to stay out of my favourite physical and online stores? That’s highly unlikely, but I do intend to (re)discover the books, courses, and journals I already have on hand.

Do I think if something excites me and gets the adrenaline pumping it must be selfish and set to one side? Not necessarily.

But do I think that those things that make me giddy are always part of God’s plan for me? Absolutely not! I must be more intentional about discovering why I want to pursue something new.

The funny thing is to live a self-sacrificial life means I’ll have to pay close attention to what makes me tick. It isn’t so much about what I do over the next 12 months but why I do what I do.

So, how can we select a theme for the New Year?

  1. Pray about it. It’s important to invite the Lord to be part of this and every other area of our life.
  2. Be attentive. Inspiration can come from any number of places.
  3. Create a list of achievable goals. Do they have a common thread?
  4. Reorganize our list of goals according to our priorities.
  5. Take a close look at our life. Does it truly line up with those priorities?
  6. Be willing to make a course correction—or several—as the need arises.

How about you? What is your theme, your word, for 2019?

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

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

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter.

Overcoming Overwhelm (Guest Post)

Overcoming Overwhelm

by Steph Beth Nickel

Do you have a sense of anticipation when you wake up? Or would you rather pull the covers over your head, roll over, and go back to sleep?

Recently, I’ve found myself in the latter category—at least more often than I’d like.

So, what can we do about it if that’s the case?

Take a good hard look at our To Do list.

If it’s already full to overflowing, we must learn that putting off pursuing our shiny new idea, declining a request to take on another project, or rescheduling a lunch date with a friend just might be the right thing to do.

"Time to thin out your To Do list?"

Thin out our To Do list.

As much as we feel we must—or want to—accomplish everything on our list, wisdom may lead us to a different conclusion … wisdom and humility.

It’s not going to do us—or the people around us—any good if we allow ourselves to get to the point where, one day, we really do pull the covers over our head, unable to face the day. And even if we’re able to keep motoring on, do we become short-tempered with those around us? Do we neglect health habits? Do we fail to accomplish what is truly important?

Make choices according to right priorities.

I would say my relationships are most important: with God, with my husband, with our kids, with our church family, with my friends, etc.

If the items on my To Do list don’t further those relationships, then it’s time to re-evaluate how I spend my time and energy.

If I resent seemingly unimportant chitchat with my grown child or getting an invitation to spend the evening with friends because I’m weighed down by thoughts of what I’m not accomplishing, then it’s time to rewrite my To Do list.

Develop healthy habits.

As Christians, we’ve been taught that putting ourselves first is selfish, ungodly, and I would agree with that, but I’d add a caveat.

If we don’t care for our spiritual, emotional, and physical wellbeing, we will not be able to develop our relationships and accomplish the things on our To Do list to the best of our ability (click to tweet). And the temptation to roll over and go back to sleep will become a real possibility.

Exercise, healthy eating, and sufficient sleep energize us, help us think more clearly, and improve our attitude. Good reasons to make them a priority.

Give yourself a break.

Netflix? Video games? Surfing the internet? Maybe. But often these activities and others like them don’t recharge and invigorate us. They often distract us from what can truly do so.

How about …

Playing a board game with the family? Grabbing your camera and going for a photo walk? Picking up that book that’s been gathering dust for too long?

Is it time to rework your To Do list? I know it’s time to rework mine.

~~~

Tweetable: 5 tips on why—and how—to rethink that crowded To Do list from @StephBethNickel (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

Steph Beth Nickel
(Photo by Stephen G. Woo Photography)Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter.

Should You Try Harder? (Guest Post)

Do you need to try harder?

Photo credit: Pixabay

Should You Try Harder?

by Steph Beth Nickel

I’ve never written a book review for Janet’s blog. But today I’d like to share one I wrote for HopeStreamRadio.

Before I purchased the e-version of You Don’t Have to Try Harder by Kathi Lipp and Cheri Gregory, I debated whether I needed one more book. I have hundreds, if not thousands, of physical and ebooks awaiting my attention, more than I’ll likely ever read. However, this was a purchase well worth making.

Below is my invitation for you to read this book along with me. You see … I just got started.

You Don’t Have to Try So Hard is the newest book by Kathi Lip and Cheri Gregory. And it looks like it’s going to be perfect … well, not perfect exactly, but we’ll get to that.

I read the introduction this morning and can’t wait to dig in.

Kathi Lipp opens the book like this: “No one would ever label me a perfectionist. You can’t eat off my floor. (Well, you could, but I wouldn’t suggest it.)”

I can relate already.

Further into the intro, Kathi gives three insightful examples of what she calls “the bully of perfectionism.”

“I will pick up the check … because I feel that I’ve taken up the other person’s time.”

“I will run out the night before an event and spend too much on clothes so that I appear to fit in.”

“I spend ten times more time worrying about how other people feel … than being concerned about my own health in these relationships.”

Do you see yourself in any of these statements?

She ends by saying, “Perfectionism isn’t Christian. It’s just crazy.”

Although Cheri Gregory’s mother apologized to her daughter’s husband when she saw the state of their home, Cheri’s perfectionism surfaced in other ways.

She was …

“A student who argued for the extra point when she got 99 percent …”

“A teacher who skipped family gatherings because she couldn’t face her students until her lesson plans were just right.”

“A wife who tried to overhaul her husband so she could finally have a happy marriage.”

When she realized it wasn’t simply a matter of trying harder, she went to the other extreme.

She became …

“An employee who didn’t speak up during staff meetings so her input couldn’t get shot down.”

“A friend who let a call from a BFF in crisis go to voice mail because she felt too inadequate to answer.”

“A pastor’s wife who skipped church because her own family drama had left her too drained to put on her game face for the day.”

Both authors realized the “try harder” motto simply didn’t work.

They came to this conclusion: “There is no nice, polite way to do this. There’s no easy way to leave the life that’s been expected of us and to start living the brave, not-so-neatly-tied-up life God is calling us to.”

If you’re ready to learn how to live the life God is calling you to and abandon the idea that you can do so simply by making more of an effort, by trying harder, then you may want to add You Don’t Have to Try So Hard to your To Be Read pile of books.

Chapters include …

Meet the Bullies of Try-Harder Living, Take Your First Brave Steps, Perfect is for Pinterest, Give Yourself a Time Out, No More Last Minute, Enough Really is Enough, and others.

The authors have several lofty goals for this book, ones many—if not most—of us are in the process of learning.

Kathi and Cheri invite us to …

“Exchange outdated views of who [we] ‘should be’ for a clear vision of who [we] are in Christ.”

“Take control of that too long to-do list …”

“Stop striving to maintain an image and live with more freedom …”

“Overcome the tyranny of ‘more’ and live radically with the abundance of ‘enough.’”

“Stop trying to earn others’ approval and learn to rest in God’s lavish, unconditional love.”

Does any of this sound good to you?

Yeah, me too!

So, today I invite you to pick up your own copy of You Don’t Have to Try So Hard and learn how to overcome the bully of perfectionism—whether we can eat off your floor or not.

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

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

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter.

The Stages of Adventuring (Guest Post)

The Stages of Adventuring

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you been on any adventures lately? Are you on an adventure now? How do you feel about adventuring?

My hubby and I are adventuring in the Maritimes. We’re having a wonderful time as we explore all four provinces on our whirlwind tour.

Has it been nothing but unicorns and rainbows? Definitely not.

Tend, with caption: "This would be our first campsite on PEI. Yep, that’s the Atlantic outside our front door."

This would be our first campsite on PEI. Yep, that’s the Atlantic outside our front door.
[Photo Credit: Steph Beth Nickel]

So what are the stages of adventuring?

Decide to Adventure

It’s true that not all “adventures” are those of our choosing, but that’s not typically true of vacations.

Dave and I first decided to travel east after our 2017 vacation in Alberta.

Because we’re tenting 10 of the 17 days, Dave thought it would be cheaper and take less planning.

Such was not the case.

Even when we choose to go on an adventure, we must mentally make provision for the unexpected.

Prepare to Adventure

I booked our accommodations, prepared the shopping lists, and purchased the food and other supplies.

Dave undertook the time-intensive project of booking campsites and plotting our route.

All the while, we were seeking to get extra work done at our day jobs.

By late Sunday afternoon, I was done in. We were scheduled to leave on Thursday at 1:00, and I was uncertain whether the trip was worth all the effort.

There may come a point as we prepare to adventure that we’re ready to call it quits.

Begin the Adventure

By 2:00 on Thursday, we were on the road, only an hour later than we’d hoped.

My hubby, who is doing the driving, did not consider the next eight hours much of an adventure. There was lots of construction and it took that long to get to Gananoque.

But what a delightful B & B.

The hosts were friendly. The suite immense. And the made-to-order breakfast was included.

When we’re finally ready to set off on an adventure, we need to take a deep breath and go for it.

Look for God-Sightings on the Adventure

The luxury of the B & B in Gananoque was evidence of God’s grace. (I had no idea it was so lovely when I booked it.)

When we returned to our campsite after exploring Charlottetown for the day, we discovered the owner of the campgrounds had graciously covered our tent with tarps to keep it dry. Talk about going above and beyond!

And one more thing: the stars!

No one really wants to get up in the night to use the facilities, but I was actually glad I did. I looked up and the stars were incredible.

So, whatever adventure we’re on, may we remember to look up.

Whether we’re on a once-in-a-lifetime vacation or an “adventure” we’d never choose for ourselves, may we keep our eyes open for the Lord and His handiwork.

Tweetables

Keep your eyes open for the Lord and His handiwork. (Click to tweet)

No matter what the adventure, keep looking up. (Click to tweet)

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

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

Stephanie (Steph Beth) Nickel is an award-winning co-author, a freelance editor and writer, a labour doula, and a former personal trainer. She also loves to speak, teach, and take slice-of-life photos. She would love to connect with you on Facebook or Twitter.