Category Archives: Christian Living

The Season of Promise (Guest Post)

Baby Robins (photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel)

The Season of Promise

by Steph Beth Nickel

Birdsongs. Budding trees. Flowers opening to the sun.

Signs of promise and new life are all around us here in the Northern Hemisphere. (In the Southern Hemisphere, my favourite season has begun.)

Regardless of the season, we have the opportunity to experience God’s promises each and every day.

Will we experience the fulfilment of His promises in our time and in the way we’d choose for ourselves? Rarely, very rarely.

Still, His promises are Yay and Amen!

How can we rest in those promises—and share them with others?

  1. We must spend time in God’s Word. No matter how familiar it becomes, there is always more to learn.
  2. Prayer is crucial. If the past two years have taught us anything, it’s this: what seemed impossible and surreal—unthinkable even—may be waiting just around the corner. Prayer is the only way to find peace and assurance in the midst of unimaginable circumstances. Plus, it’s a great way to focus on the Lord rather than on … well, anything else.
  3. Spend time with other believers, those who will encourage you and build you up. If you’re unable to do so in person, keep in mind that it’s important to carry on two-way conversations, not simply watch church services online.
  4. Head out into creation and soak in the wonder of the season, knowing that God reveals His nature in what He has made.
  5. If you feel overwhelmed, it’s 100% fine to get the help you need, including professional help. These past two years have taken their toll emotionally as well as physically as never before.
  6. We can’t wait until we’ve got it all together before we reach out to others, or we’ll never reach out. We’re always facing one challenge or another.
  7. Even before you feel adequately equipped, look for ways to bless others. Drop a card in the mail. Allow that person with only a couple of items to go ahead of you at the checkout. Smile at a stranger. (Even if you’re wearing a mask, it will show in your eyes.) A simple act of kindness can go a long way to brightening someone’s day—and our own.
  8. Prayerfully consider the writing projects you have on the go. Is it time to persevere and complete them or is God leading you in a different direction? (Remember: just because you’ve hit a wall doesn’t mean you should scrap the project. This is when we need abundant wisdom and clear guidance.)
  9. Take on a new project that will allow you to share the promises of God and evidences of the new life we have in Christ. Write a related blog post. Record an encouraging podcast. Start a Bible study—in your home or a private Zoom room.

We each express our creativity in unique ways, but we can only do so for a limited amount of time if we don’t refill the well.

What is your favourite season and why? What promises does it bring to mind? How do you share this encouragement with others?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Post-Mandate Living (Guest Post)

Image by congerdesign from Pixabay

Post-Mandate Living

by Steph Beth Nickel

Virtually all the COVID restrictions have been lifted in Ontario (Canada).

You would think that would cause relief and rejoicing, a return to “normal.” While that may be the case for some, I have spoken with several people who will continue to wear a mask. And while I’m not overly concerned about my own health, when I’m not feeling 100 percent, I may wear a mask for the sake of others.

Regardless of how we feel about the mandates and statistical reporting, the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine, and how others have dealt with the situation over the past two years, we’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot of lessons.

Here are just five that come to mind:

  1. Kindness and compassion should always be “the norm.” There have been too many attacks launched on social media from every perspective. (In this, I include all the belittling comments and attacks—even the seemingly benign attacks—on the intelligence of those who feel differently than we do.)
  2. As we enter a time when each of us is free to choose how we deal with mask-wearing and social distancing, respect is vital. Those who continue to wear masks should be treated as those who previously could not wear masks wanted to be treated—with respect.
  3. And speaking of respect… Even easygoing people have developed strong opinions about things they’d never given a second thought pre-pandemic. We may/likely have friends and family members who are adamantly opposed to our perspective on a wide variety of topics. It’s important to learn how to live at peace with them—especially when they are members of our family or church, those people we interact with regularly.
  4. The Lord instructs us to put other’s needs above our own. In Philippians 2:3, He says, “Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” (ESV) Although I’m sure not based on this biblical directive, the employees at the garage where we get our car serviced have what I think is an excellent approach. Because of government mandates, they are no longer required to wear masks. However, if a customer comes in with a mask, they are to put one on out of respect for them. That earns them five out of five stars in my book.
  5. The anxiety of the last two years hasn’t necessarily evaporated. We may have a whole new list of concerns. Should I shed my mask or not? Should I get a/another booster shot? Should I be extra cautious around people with cold and flu symptoms, knowing my immune system hasn’t had the workout it’s had pre-COVID? And on and on and on.

As we navigate these and other issues, God’s Word gives us instructions that apply. He knew what each and every one of us would face down through the millennia. Amazing!

In the ESV*, Philippians 4:4-9 says:

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.”

I return to these verses again and again. What are your go-to verses in times of anxiety and uncertainty?


*English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

The Many Faces of Journaling (Guest Post)

Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

The Many Faces of Journaling

by Steph Beth Nickel

Have you ever opened your electronic journal or notebook and simply written, “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”? I have. Maybe not with that many Hs, but you get the idea.

I’ve also written what Julia Cameron refers to as Morning Pages, three pages of whatever pops into my mind (also known as “stream of consciousness writing”). Cameron recommends doing so first thing in the morning to clear out the cobwebs. I should probably get back to this practice.

Journaling is a wonderful way of expressing our frustration, clearing out those cobwebs, and what I refer to as “rambling until we stumble upon truth.”

The advantage of journaling is that no one, not one single person, ever has to read what we’ve written. We can process thoughts, emotions, and questions we’re reluctant to share with anyone, even our most trusted friends and family members.

As a Christian, you might be concerned that your journal won’t always overflow with faith-filled declarations. I came to grips long ago that God knows my innermost thoughts and motives already. It’s often good if we face up to them and learn to apply the Truth in genuine, truly lifechanging ways.

Of course, we have much to be thankful for. Gratitude journaling has become a prominent idea, at least as far back as the publication of Ann Voskamp’s One Thousand Gifts. Keeping track of what I’m thankful for is another practice I’d like to get back to.

Journaling Supplies

  1. An app on your phone, such as Day One or your Notes app.
  2. Good ole Word on your laptop or desktop.
  3. A simple notebook and a ballpoint pen.
  4. An elaborate journal and colourful gel pens.
  5. An artist’s grade sketchbook, brush markers, washi tape, and stickers.

Lies to Squelch (Trust me, I’ve told myself these lies repeatedly.)

  1. Each sentence must be perfectly crafted with proper punctuation and no misspelled words. (This is a hard one for writers to set aside, but it’s important to do so.)
  2. If my writing is horrible… If I can’t find my favourite pen… If my “artwork” looks like a preschoolers got her hands on my supplies… I might as well give up. Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
  3. I must “hold back” for fear someone will come across my journal. (There are ways to ensure this doesn’t happen, including asking your family to respect your privacy and/or tucking away your journal where they will not find it.)
  4. Pouring out my random thoughts has no benefit.
  5. God will think less of me for expressing my fears and doubts.

Ways to Get Started

  1. Give Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages a try for at least a week. She recommends using pen and paper as there is a different neurological connection between brain, pen, and paper than between brain, fingers, and keyboard.
  2. Pouring out your heart in the form of prayers is a great way to focus. I know praying aloud with others or writing in my prayer journal keeps me focused far better than “saying my prayers” silently.
  3. Buy a simple notebook to get started. If you spend a lot of money on elaborate supplies and a leather-bound journal with handmade paper (my favourite), you’re less likely to put pen to paper for fear of messing it up.
  4. Grab a pack of multi-coloured gel pens. Sometimes, just writing with fun-coloured ink can elevate your mood.
  5. Slap on some stickers. This is one of the easiest ways to express your creativity and summarize the mood or topic you’re dealing with.

Are you a journaler? What are your favourite journaling tools? Is there something you hadn’t thought of that you’re going to try out?

Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Review: Holding On When You Want to Let Go, by Sheila Walsh

Cover art: Holding On When You WAnt to Let Go, by Sheila Walsh

Holding On When You Want to Let Go, by Sheila Walsh (Baker Books, 2021)

Subtitled “Clinging to Hope When Life is Falling Apart,” this book takes a candid and compassionate look at the struggles that can make us want to let go and give up. And it takes a clear-eyed look at the God who holds us in His care even when life really does seem to be falling apart.

Each chapter opens with a verse of Scripture and a relevant quote. The first five address the main things that threaten to overwhelm us: feeling like life’s out of control, feeling alone, when God is silent, when we’re afraid, and when we’ve messed up.

This is an easy to read, conversational-style book that feels a little bit like we’re sitting with the author over coffee. Sheila Walsh doesn’t write “down” to us in an instructorly way. Instead, her personal stories and those she shares from others prove she has the credibility to write about this. She’s been there, and is still there, just as we are. But she’s learned some solid strategies to keep holding on.

Those strategies are the focus of the second half of the book: learning to focus on the God who is holding us. We read about His promises, His character, and he amazing things He has done for us. The invitation is to actually let go… and to be held by the One who won’t let go.

Favourite lines:

I still felt like that five-year-old girl who was afraid of being known. What if someone saw the crack in my soul. [page 78]

The simple act of thanksgiving reminds us that God is with us and that He is in control. [page 103]

If life is making you feel like letting go or if you just want a little reassurance, this book can be a helpful resource. I love how it keeps pointing back to God and to His Word.

Sheila Walsh is an author, speaker, and teacher who I first discovered in my younger years through her music. Scottish-born, she makes her home in the US. For more about the author and her ministry, visit sheilawalsh.com.

[Review copy from my personal library.]

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Celebrating 2021 (Guest Post)

Celebrating 2021

by Steph Beth Nickel

Yes, you read the title right.

On December 26, the visiting pastor to our church asked us which we would choose, gold or a struggle. While none of us would willingly choose the latter, he was pointing out the fact that, while things of this world are fleeting, struggles help strengthen and mature us spiritually.

I’m not ready to choose struggles, but I am willing to look back and see how past challenges have shaped and grown me. I’m willing to commit the year ahead to God’s care, whatever it may bring—including further struggles.

Let’s take a few minutes on this, the last day of the year, to journal about what we can celebrate—both “the gold” and the growth that has come as a result of the difficulties, obstacles, and heartbreaks we’ve faced.

Here are a half dozen tips as to how to go about this:

  1. Start here! Make a list of all the things that thrilled your heart this past year. For example, my hubby and I were able to fly from Ontario to Saskatchewan for the weekend to witness our son and new daughter-in-law’s wedding. What an incredible blessing! Now, that was something easy to celebrate.
  2. And now move onto the more challenging part of the exercise. Give yourself permission to be 100 percent honest with yourself and with the Lord. We don’t have to put on a brave face and only write what is “proper and expected,” what we think others would want to read and what we think is acceptable. After all, no one ever has to read these words. (And God already knows what we’re thinking and feeling.)
  3. Take some time to really “feel the feels.” Sit quietly. Journal more. Head out for a walk. Whatever works for you.
  4. Prayerfully, re-examine these struggles. Ask yourself how you’ve grown as a result. Have you been able to empathize with others more readily? Are you more patient with them? Have you seen yourself “go deeper” with the Lord as a result of your challenging times? Journal about it.
  5. Press in even further. What have you learned about God? About yourself? About others?
  6. Record how you’ve grown and developed spiritually. Don’t think you have? Journal about that too. You may be surprised.

Note: This post is for you, not your spouse or your best friend. We should never minimize the struggles others have faced or are facing. It’s important not to weigh them down further with additional “Shoulds.” I’m sure they’re doing enough of that to themselves. And while the Scriptures are true, as it says in Ecclesiastes 3, there is a time to speak and a time to remain silent. We need wisdom as to which is which. Spoken at an inopportune time, Bible verses can sound like nothing more than platitudes. Words meant to encourage and uplift can cause guilt and shame.

Further disclaimer: It is not my intention to weigh you down with Shoulds either. If you can only complete #1, go for it! While I may see some growth in me that has resulted from the challenges I’ve faced, I’d still rather they came via “the gold.”

What are you celebrating about the past 12 months?

What is one way in which you have matured spiritually because of a struggle you’ve faced?


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Gift-Giving Guide for Readers

If you’re looking for gift ideas, some of my writing friends have created a Gift-Giving Guide for readers who like devotionals and inspirational nonfiction.

Christmas Gift-Giving Guide: Connecting with God

This guide is available as a PDF to view online or to download. Please be patient and give it a few minutes to load–it’s beautifully done, which means lots of images and links to purchase anything that catches your eye.

Interested? Just click the image above or click here: Connecting with God.

The Comfort of Consistency (Guest Post)

The Comfort of Consistency

by Steph Beth Nickel

I’ve become one of those people.

Seven years ago, my then future daughter-in-law first came to visit from across the Pond.

Because our home is well over 100 years old, it looks best when it’s decorated for Christmas. So, that year, we decorated mid-November.

And that’s when it all began.

Dickensian Christmas display
Photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel

We’ve been decorating “early” ever since. My hubby set up his extensive Dicken’s Village from Department 56 on November 12 this year. The following Sunday, I set up my smaller (but more fun) Whoville Village on the mantel.

Christmas Who-ville scene
Photo credit: Steph Beth Nickel

The trees went up last week. Yes, trees—plural.

At this time of year, I can count on my hubby’s inner child surfacing. Christmas is his favourite time of year. After decades of marriage, his love for the season has finally rubbed off on me.

And don’t we all need a little enthusiasm, positivity, and just plain ole fun?

The past couple of years have weighed us all down with challenges we never anticipated—and some we saw coming but would rather have avoided.

Unprecedented. Pivot. New normal. We’ve all heard these words Far. Too. Often.

But in the midst of it all … consistency.

Christmas comes round every year. Hopefully, the season brings you far more joy than anything else. (While I do love my hubby’s enthusiasm and a laidback approach to the twenty-fifth—something we started even before 2020—I do miss visiting my extended family and celebrating in person with my sons and their wives. But let’s not dwell on that. Thank You, Lord, for Zoom!)

And hard on the heels of Christmas … a brand new year. Twenty-twenty-two. Can you believe it?

This time of year means more than coloured lights, Christmas villages, and a catered turkey dinner. (Hey, don’t judge!) It also means goal-setting time, which I love.

What do we want to accomplish in the next 13 months? What small steps can we take to get closer to our dreams and aspirations? How can we do our part to fulfill our responsibilities—both paid and volunteer?

I love a fresh new year … or month … or week. These are constants in my life, consistency that gives me an anchor as I get tossed around on the sea that is the world in the 21st century.

But the Real Anchor is not routine—although it’s comforting. It’s not even my hubby’s tangible joy as December 25 approaches. No matter what’s going on, no matter what time of year, the truth of Hebrews 13:8 keeps me from drifting when the seas are calm. And it keeps me from sinking in the midst of crashing waves. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (ESV).

He is my Anchor, my Constant, my Security.

As you look ahead to the holiday season with its joys and challenges … As you approach the new year with expectation or hesitation … As you seek to make it through just one more day … I trust you will find your comfort and security in the truth of the unchanging Jesus Christ.


Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.

Review: Prepare Him Room, by Susie Larson

Prepare Him Room, by Susie Larson (Bethany House, 2021)

Did you know there are 24 chapters in the Gospel of Luke? That’s one for each day of December until Christmas Eve.

Prepare Him Room is a gentle invitation to make space in our lives this Christmas season, to take time to refocus our spirits on Jesus and not miss the “sacredness of the season”. As the introduction says,

…it’s precisely this season when Christians most often lose sight of what’s available to them in Christ Jesus. [page 11]

In Prepare Him Room: A Daily Advent Devotional, each reading opens with related Scripture verses and quotes from other authors. In a friendly, conversational style, author Susie Larson shares anecdotes and applications that reorient us to Jesus, His presence, and His power.

Each day concludes with a prayer and a suggested “fast” from a thought pattern, attitude, etc. I’m sure we’re not expected to magically erase each one from our lives in one day, but in training us to notice these things in our lives, the author gives us a tool for ongoing, prayerful growth in the days ahead.

Favourite line:

Even though God delays, He delivers. [page 17]

My review copy is a delightful hardcover gift book complete with ribbon marker. The simplicity of the cover is like a deep breath, slowing me down to rest as I open to the day’s reading. I look forward to going back through the pages when December comes. [An ebook version is also available.]

For more about author and speaker Susie Larson, and for her online devotional encouragement, visit susielarson.com.

[Review copy provided by Baker Publishing Group via Graf-Martin Communications. My review is voluntary and is my own uninfluenced opinion.]

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Review: Psalms 365, volume 1, by David Kitz

Psalms 365: Develop a Life of  Worship and Prayer, volume 1, by David Kitz (Elk Lake Publishing, 2020)

With Psalms 365, author and storyteller David Kitz provides short, practical, and personal daily devotions from the beloved Book of Psalms. I’ve found it to be a valuable addition to my day.

Each reading points to a psalm, drawing on a key verse for the day’s focus. There’s a conversational-style reflection on the passage and a prayer of response. Then to encourage readers to deepen a lifestyle of worship and prayer each devotional concludes with a question to think about and to perhaps take into personal conversation with God.

Anyone familiar with the psalms knows that some are songs of worship, some of lament, others of repentance or even anger. Not always easy topics to draw an inspirational message from! David Kitz mines treasure from each one.

Volume 1 of Psalms 365 begins at Psalm 1 and goes to the end of Psalm 51. Volume 2 is also available, covering the next section, and volume 3 is still to come.

Excerpts from the Psalms 365 series can be found on the author’s blog, I Love the Psalms. On the blog he includes photos, which aren’t part of the books. Award-winning author David Kitz is also a Bible dramatist, conference speaker, and ordained minister. For more about him and his books, visit davidkitz.ca.

[Review copy provided by the author. My opinions are my own.]

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Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Working from Home (Guest Post)

Advantages (and Disadvantages) of Working from Home

by Steph Beth Nickel

More people than ever are working from home. Even before the pandemic hit, more and more people were starting home businesses. Over the past 14 months, many employees who would typically work in an offsite office have had to work from home.

There are several advantages.

Dress pants and shoes last longer.

If your work includes Zoom calls (oh, to have been in on the ground floor of that business), you have the option of wearing PJ bottoms or leggings and going barefoot e-ver-y day! And if you don’t connect with coworkers and/or clients via Zoom, you have the option of wearing comfy clothes head to toe.

You can set the alarm clock for later—if at all.

Who needs to get up early when they don’t have to eat, dress for work, put on makeup, and get out of the house in time to make it to the office by a specific time? (You don’t even have to shower every day. Who am I to judge?)

Without the commute, you save time.

Now that the commute lasts only as long as it takes to walk from your bedroom to the computer, you’re saving loads of time every single workday. And, just think, no rush hour traffic morning or night.

Food and drink are readily at hand.

Eat the lunch you brought or head to a local restaurant with your coworkers? No need to make that decision. The kitchen is only a few feet away. Need a coffee refill? Who’s to stop you?

You have less interaction with difficult coworkers, supervisors, and customers.

Once you’re into the flow of your work, you can keep going until it’s finished unless something truly pressing comes to your inbox. Escaping the daily interaction with others who cause you stress can be a blessing.

There are, of course, drawbacks as well.

You may need to increase your leisurewear budget.

When it became apparent that the first lockdown was going to last for a while, several fashion designers turned to making new lines of leisurewear and scaling right back on office wear, vacation wear, dresses, etc. Many of us have more leggings and joggers in our wardrobe than we ever imagined we’d own.

You may not have to depend on an alarm clock to start your day.

It’s wonderful to go to bed knowing we don’t have to wake up at a specific time. Plus, staying snuggled under the covers instead of jumping up before we’re ready … BONUS! However, if we find it too tempting and we don’t set “office hours” for ourselves, we may just spend too much time comfy and cozy.

No commute time.

For many people, that commute was their only opportunity to read a book or listen to a podcast. And at the end of the day, it provided the perfect opportunity to decompress before switching gears and tending to home and family responsibilities. It’s hard to factor in the equivalent when household chores, family demands, and work are pressing in 24/7.

Food and drink are readily at hand.

You’ve heard of the COVID 15/20/25. Yes? The food and drink that are readily at hand can lead to weight gain (and the need for the aforementioned leisurewear budget increase).

On a more serious note, the emotional and mental stress that the pandemic has placed on us has led to many people not having the wherewithal to eat healthy and stay active. They may sleep more and gain weight, which can lead to feelings of low self-esteem and guilt. If you’re having trouble dealing with the additional challenges this past year has laid on your shoulders, don’t hesitate to reach out to a friend, a counsellor, or a mental health professional.

Less interaction and other voices.

Extroverts are likely missing the daily face-to-face interaction with other human beings. Even introverts benefit from these interactions. And while we may love our family members to bits, “Mom, Mom, Mom …” and “Honey, have you seen my …” can weigh on us after a while.

I love the freedom of working from home, but it does pose its fair share of challenges.

If you work from home, what are some of the advantages and disadvantages you’ve discovered?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel
Photo of Steph Beth Nickel
Photo credit: Jaime Mellor Photography

Steph Beth Nickel is an editor, writer, and birth doula. If you would like more information about her services, you can contact her at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com;
join her Facebook group:
 https://www.facebook.com/groups/2725853534313738;
or visit her website-in-progress: nurtureandinspire.com.