Category Archives: Guest Posts

Choosing Gratitude (Guest Post)

Choosing Gratitude

By Steph Beth Nickel

Twenty twenty.

Enough said. Right?

COVID. Hurricanes. Wildfires. And so much more.

Pivot has become a way of life and “overwhelm” a state of being.

Remember back in the olden days—say this time last year? Maybe you were looking forward to 2020. Maybe you’d purchased a shiny new planner and had begun filling it in with goals and dreams for the following 12 months.

And then—March!

True confessions. For the first little while, I was relieved not to have so many obligations on my To Do list. (Bear in mind that I didn’t know anyone who had COVID. In fact, the number in my community has remained relatively small.)

When I thought about it, the word surreal came to mind.

As an extrovert desperately in need of continued “human contact,” I began to listen to more audiobooks and podcasts. Familiar voices and all.

While the optimists declared we would have so much more time for those projects we’d been putting off, it soon became clear that lethargy, lack of motivation, and full-fledged depression were taking their toll on many people. Even though I’m typically positive and upbeat, I found a heaviness settling in.

While I was able to keep up with my church work, I did very little writing and editing. I simply didn’t have the wherewithal or mental ambition.

When laziness, procrastination, and pandemics hit, we have to make a choice. (We may also need counseling, and those who seek it are to be commended. And in some cases, physician-prescribed medication is the right route to take.)

Still, gratitude is an important practice for all of us.

Since Ann Voskamp released One Thousand Gifts in 2011, many people have begun to keep a gratitude journal.

It’s actually amazing how quickly we can think of 1000 things to be thankful for—when we set our mind to it.

Where should you look for things to add to your gratitude journal?

  • Make a list of family and friends and things you appreciate about each of them.
  • Consider the people who indirectly and unknowingly make your life easier and more secure each day.
  • Make a list of material blessings you are especially thankful for—and then move on to those that simply make your life more enjoyable.
  • Instead of focusing on those things you are unable to do, make a list of things you can do.
  • If you’re able, go for a walk and be mindful of all the things around you that you have to be thankful for—including the ability to see, hear, feel, move, and think.
  • Make a list of unexpected blessings. While this may take longer, it will warm your heart and, perhaps, easy the heaviness.
  • Whether you’re attending church services in person or watching them online, there are many people working together—and a lot of tech—needed to make it possible.

These are only a handful of ideas, but they can get you started.

When we choose gratitude, it won’t make COVID go away. It won’t put an end to natural disasters. And it won’t magically cure anxiety and depression. However, it is an important discipline and will remind us just how much we have to be thankful for.

Do you keep a gratitude journal? What are you especially thankful for these days? Where do you look for ideas?

Tweets

Twenty twenty. Enough said. Right? (click to tweet)

Gratitude is an important practice. (click to tweet)

Gratitude is an important discipline and will remind us just how much we have to be thankful for. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.

Narrowing Your Focus (Guest Post)

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay

Narrowing Your Focus

by Steph Beth Nickel

Despite the craziness that is 2020, many of you have even more balls in the air at this time.

  • Working from home or in the community.
  • Learning new tech, like Zoom.
  • Diving into a new entrepreneurial endeavour.
  • Fulfilling volunteer responsibilities.
  • Facilitating your children’s schooling like never before.
  • Juggling your budget.
  • Getting used to being together with the same people day in and day out.
  • Trying to figure out how to stay in touch with friends and family you can’t visit.
  • Obeying the protocols when you do get together.
  • Figuring out what Sunday worship looks like.
  • Figuring out what the holidays will look like.
  • Arranging drive-by celebrations.
  • And on and on the list goes.

For months (years?) I’ve been thinking of setting aside specific days of the week for each of my many eclectic pursuits. Well, I finally did so. Mondays are for fulfilling my intern responsibilities and developing my Nurture and Inspire brand. Tuesdays and Wednesdays are for editing, which, for now, will be my primary source of income. Thursdays are for writing. Fridays are for fulfilling my doula recertification responsibilities. Saturdays are for creative endeavours (writing poetry, practicing modern calligraphy, learning to create poured paintings). Sundays are for worship, reading, and resting.

This isn’t a rigid schedule, but it does assure me that I will be able to get more done when I’m not trying to do a little of this and a little of that each day.

Here are nine things to consider if you want to set up a schedule that will help you accomplish more by paring down your To Do List:

  • Consider what you truly need to do every day.
  • Remember that you’ll get more done if you don’t switch from one responsibility to the next to the next.
  • Ask for help. You don’t have to do it all on your own.
  • Create a flexible and achievable schedule, leaving margins of time for those things beyond your control.
  • If at all possible, focus on 1-3 main things each day.
  • Leave time in your schedule for adequate sleep, meal prep, etc.
  • Offer yourself grace and permission to make changes to your schedule as needed.
  • Make time for rejuvenation, possibly something as simple as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths.
  • Do something fun every week. Every day?

So, how about you? Do you have a daily schedule? A weekly schedule? I’d love to hear what works for you.

Tweetables

Despite the craziness that is 2020, many of you have even more balls in the air. (click to tweet)

A weekly schedule assures you you’ll be able to get more done when you’re not trying to do a little of this and a little of that each day. (click to tweet)

Make time in your schedule for rejuvenation, possibly something as simple as closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.

Facing the Storms (Guest Post)

Photo credit: Pixabay

Facing the Storms

by Steph Beth Nickel

Sitting on the patio at a restaurant in Grand Bend, Ontario, we watched the sky grow dark and the storm roll in. (They moved us inside as they battened down the hatches, so to speak.)

It was fascinating. A sunny day at the beach turned into a thunderstorm with torrential rainfall. Not to mention a power outage that had us wondering if we could slip under the arm across the parking lot. It had stopped halfway down. (We made it with lots of room to spare.)

The drive home was uneventful. The power was out in much of St. Thomas, but hey, no biggie. I couldn’t help but think of my friends and others living in California, dealing with raging fires, and Texas, being bombarded by Hurricane Laura.

You may not be facing thunderstorms, forest fires, or hurricanes, but you are facing storms. We all are, here in the anomaly called 2020.

I can almost guarantee you’ve heard all the suggestions below before, but in case you need a reminder, as I often do …

When you’re facing a storm, consider the following:

  1. As they say these days, give yourself permission to feel all the feels. Accusing God of wrongdoing is dangerous. Feeling what we’ve labeled “negative feelings” is 100 percent acceptable.
  2. Give yourself a break. Sometimes we do get overwhelmed. We simply have to acknowledge that there comes a point when this becomes an excuse, rather than a legitimate reason, for not getting busy crossing things off our To Do list.
  3. Begin a Gratitude Journal. Ann Voskamp’s book One Thousand Gifts got us thinking about listing 1,000 things we’re thankful for. Whether we do this or not, keeping track each day of something we’re thankful for can go a long way to reassuring us there is beauty even in the midst of the wildest of storms.
  4. Rest and recharge. Go for a photowalk. Curl up with a good book. Watch a movie. Take a nap. Play a boardgame or put together a puzzle. There are countless ways to refresh.
  5. Get together with a friend. Proximity or social distancing protocols may make this a challenge, but Zoom and FB Rooms, etc. can be the next best thing to getting together in person.
  6. Fellowship with other believers. Some congregations have begun to meet in person. Others are live-streaming their services. Attending church (or watching the broadcast) are important, but so is genuine, interactive fellowship, with lots of back and forth. Participating in a Bible study in-person or online can build us up and help us face what comes at us.
  7. Spend time in God’s Word and prayer. Of course, this is important no matter what “the weather.” However, the temptation is to succumb to the weight of overwhelm and let important disciplines slip away. It may not be the time to sign up for a theology course. (But who knows? It may be.) No matter what, spending time developing our relationship with the Lord is of prime importance.

How about you? How are you facing the storm? What do you do to get you through these difficult days?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.

Love One Another (Guest Post)

Photo credit: Pixabay

Love One Another

by Steph Beth Nickel

A simple walk through Walmart. That’s when it hit her. I don’t think I can do this mask thing for the long haul.

Deep breath. You’ll be okay.

Thankfully, with God’s help, she talked herself off the ledge. But it was scary. It was the first time she could, in a small way, empathize with those who deal with full-fledged panic attacks.

This isn’t a post about the benefits and drawbacks of wearing masks. It’s about something far more important. It’s about love and respect.

Years ago, our former pastor said we can’t know for sure what motivates a person to speak and act the way they do. We may have our suspicions, but two people can do exactly the same thing for entirely different reasons.

It breaks my heart to read how people are attacking one another on social media. Like many people, I find conflict upsetting—even when I’m not directly involved.

While some conflict is inevitable, much is avoidable—especially when it stems from the assumption that we know why people are choosing to respond to COVID-19 in the way they are.

This situation isn’t going away anytime soon—barring divine intervention. How can we love one another well?

Here are nine ideas:

  1. Draw close to the Lord. We can only love others well if His love becomes a wellspring in us, bubbling up and overflowing to those around us.
  2. Be kind to yourself. It’s especially important these days to take care of ourselves. It’s not selfish; it’s vital.
  3. Admit it when you’re struggling in one way or another. We all need at least one confidante in our life who will actively listen as we pour out our heart, someone who won’t simply spout platitudes and expect us to “get over it.”
  4. Become a good listener. Stephen Covey said, “Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply.” I prefer the simpler version: listen to learn, not to respond.
  5. Begin a Gratitude Journal. While the situation can be overwhelming, when we deliberately examine our life for things to be grateful for, it changes our attitude—and that splashes over onto the people around us.
  6. Plan fun activities. Instead of grieving what we can’t do—at least for prolonged periods—it’s important to make the best of the situation. We are created for community. It’s important to enjoy time with family and friends, whether in person or online.
  7. Look for an opportunity to reach out to someone who is lonely. Even pre-COVID it was easy to neglect those who are isolated and on their own. It’s even harder for them these days. While we can’t necessarily go for a visit, we can write them a letter or give them a call. A simple act can brighten someone’s day more than we realize.
  8. Fellowship with other believers. The Lord used the analogy of a body for good reason. We truly need one another. Whether we get together in person or learn to use Zoom, it’s crucial to our spiritual wellbeing to spend time with other Christians. While watching a church service online can be beneficial, it isn’t the same as interacting with one another.
  9. Pray for one another. We see throughout the Scriptures that prayer is a command and an invitation. One of the most incredible things someone can do for us is pray. Why not let someone know today that you are praying for them—and don’t forget to do just that.

This list could be much longer, but these ideas provide a good jumping off point.

I’d love to hear how you are loving others in the midst of these challenging times.

Tags and Keywords

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.

In Search of Joy and Wisdom (Guest Post)

Red heart with a puzzle piece missing.
Image by PIRO4D from Pixabay

In Search of Joy and Wisdom

by Steph Beth Nickel

In the English Standard Version, James 1:2-5 says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.”

I can almost guarantee we’re all going through a trial of some description. Thankfully, as believers, we can cling to the promises in this passage.

It won’t be easy. And the full effect of steadfastness won’t happen overnight, but we can rest assured that God will be with us each step of the way. And I need that assurance right now. How about you?

In the early days, COVID-19 exacerbated my tendency to procrastinate to a full-on “What’s the use?” attitude.

With God’s help, I pushed through … although I still have a tendency to put things off. However, I no longer believe my efforts to forge ahead are essentially futile.

And then George Floyd and the racial divide spotlighting the need for God-honouring forgiveness and reconciliation.

In Ontario, churches have been allowed to reopen with restrictions. You would think this would be a cause for celebration, that we would delight in the opportunity to be together again. And while that’s the case to a certain extent, we are witnessing everything from those staying away because of fear to those who think we should completely disregard the governments directives.

We have come to realize we don’t know one another as well as we thought.

Enter social media. Facebook, in particular, has become a place where we hurt one another because of the hurt we’ve been carrying, the hurt that those who attend church with us may not be aware of.

Enter, once again, the “What’s the use?” mindset.

Why would I explain myself? What good would it do?

Why would I share my perspective with that particular person? Their mind is already made up.

Why would I voice my opinion? It will only cause an argument.

Or the other extreme …

Why shouldn’t I voice my opinion? I want to start a conversation. (Sadly, this “conversation” often devolves into something completely emotion-driven and just causes more hurt—especially if posted online.)

After 35+ years in the same church, I have seen countless hurts and disagreements. Those are unavoidable. I get that.

But what do you do when one person you love and care about wounds another but you haven’t witnessed it firsthand?

You want to submit to authority.

You don’t want to cause division.

But you believe we, as the body of Christ, could be more than this, more genuine, more authentic, more loving.

I long for the day when beloved brothers and sisters don’t simply disappear into the night as it were.

However, in all this, I must cling to James 1, trusting God to work it all out not only for me but also for all those involved.

When we face trials and heartbreak, we can count on God’s promises.

When we just don’t know what to do or say, we can ask for wisdom and trust Him to provide it.

It may be cliché, but “God’s got this!” And boy, am I glad!

Tweetables:

The full effect of steadfastness won’t happen overnight. (click to tweet)

God will be with us each step of the way. (click to tweet)

What do you do when one person you love and care about wounds another? (click to tweet)

When we face trials and heartbreak, we can count on God’s promises. (click to tweet)

When we just don’t know what to do or say, we can ask for wisdom and trust God to provide it. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.

An Extrovert’s Journey through Months of Social Distancing (Guest Post)

Steps and trail, with text: "An extrovert's journey through social distancing"

An Extrovert’s Journey through Months of Social Distancing

by Steph Beth Nickel

I gave up listening to the news … well, when one still did so at 6:00 PM on network television.

And then the headlines became virtually unavoidable thanks to the worldwide web.

And then … COVID-19.

Our world changed overnight.

Some people got sucked into the 24/7 coverage of the virus. Some tried to avoid it altogether. Whether sheltering in our homes or trying to live life as we’ve always done, there’s no denying our world has changed. But what about us?

You might think that introverts aren’t struggling as much as extroverts, but that’s oversimplifying the situation. (Click to tweet)

It’s one thing to choose to come apart and recharge your batteries. It’s another thing to be told you have no choice. For those living on their own, it can become very lonely—depressing even. And no matter how much introverts love their family, it may be challenging to share the same four walls with them day in and day out.

And while there are memes about how difficult social distancing and sheltering in place have been on those of us who are extroverts, there is another side to the story.

Given, I share my home with my hubby, and we love spending time together. I have been allowed to continue working—while keeping my social distance from co-workers and keeping the doors of the church locked. That has made it easier on me than many people.

Plus, I have discovered how nice it is to have fewer obligations. Sure, I have a mile-long To Do list, but most things are far less time-sensitive than before. There are fewer people counting on me to be at a certain place at a certain time on a certain day.

Still, there have been indicators of how this situation has affected me. Can you relate?

  1. I spent so much time talking to my pastor that he had to admit he’d become frustrated. He is a task-oriented introvert. So, you can see the challenges with the two of us working together at the best of times. (I often refer to myself as “an extrovert on steroids.”)
  2. Although I didn’t spend much time watching the news, I was aware of what was going on. I’d spend the evening on the couch, overwhelmed by the surreal days we are living in, and often fall asleep early. (I may be an early bird, but I didn’t used to fall asleep before 8:00.)
  3. I became mildly resentful when I got the impression that someone thought I should be doing more. I suppose I was well-aware already of what I wasn’t getting done and couldn’t imagine taking on anything more. To an extent, I became withdrawn. I haven’t reached out to family, friends, and neighbours the way others have, even others who would normally find it more difficult than I do.

But during this time there have been many blessings as well.

  1. My pastor confessed that he had become frustrated. I explained that talking was my way of processing the situation. And we settled into a routine that has been better for both of us.
  2. Some evenings I still fall asleep early, but those evenings are fewer and further between. Now, I intentionally go to bed between 9:00 and 10:00 and get up at 4:00, so I can get some things done when I’m fresh and (somewhat) more raring to go.

    And…
  3. While not having as many obligations as pre-COVID, restrictions have begun to ease up some, and I’ve been sharing my space, at a safe distance of course, with more people. And, wow, have I missed it! I’m still a little overwhelmed with all the changes we’re going to have to implement going forward, but I look forward to seeing people I haven’t seen in months—even if I can’t give them a hug. I didn’t realize how much I’d missed being around them.

How about you? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Alone or sharing your space with family? How have you been coping these last few months?

Other Tweetables:

I’d spend the evening on the couch, overwhelmed by the surreal days we are living in. (Click to tweet)

I look forward to seeing people I haven’t seen in months—even if I can’t give them a hug. (Click to tweet)

Join the conversation below!

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.

Words Aren’t Enough (Guest Post)

Image by Anemone123 from Pixabay

Words Aren’t Enough

by Steph Beth Nickel

When I miswrote the title of this post, I realized I had stumbled upon truth.

Instead of “Words aren’t Enough,” I wrote “Word aren’t Enough.”

But wait! The Word is enough.

Only Jesus, the Living Word, can comfort the Nova Scotian families* (and others) who are grieving.

Only He can wrap them in His loving arms and sustain them today, tomorrow, and into the future.

Only He can give them the strength to put one foot in front of the other.

Only Jesus can stir the compassion in our hearts and remind us to pray for those whose hearts are broken.

Only the Living Word is enough!

And only the Written Word, the Scriptures, are enough to satisfy our desperate need for answers.

We won’t find the specific answers to the whys of this tragedy, but we will find the answers to questions we didn’t even know we were asking.

Can God really be trusted?

Does He care about what we do to one another?

Does He leave us on our own?

Will He hear me when I cry out to Him?

What does He know about the pain I’m going through?

Dear readers, may you find comfort in the Written Word. And may you come to the Living Word, who promised His followers, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:29-30 ESV).

I know it doesn’t feel this way now, but when we humble ourselves and acknowledge our need of the Saviour, we learn that He is willing to bear the heaviest part of our burden on His own shoulders.

My words most definitely aren’t enough, but I pray that you will come to know the One who is the Word.

*[Note: I thank Steph Beth Nickel for this very timely and personal guest post written for Nova Scotians (of whom I am one) in the wake of Canada’s largest mass shooting, which claimed over 22 lives April 18-19, 2020. With all the world dealing with COVID-19 and other issues, this post still has something for everyone! Many thanks, my friend. ~Janet]

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.

Some Things Never Change (Guest Post)

Image by Engin_Akyurt from Pixabay

Some Things Never Change

by Steph Beth Nickel

Livestreaming church services. Economic upheaval. Social distancing. Self-isolation. Pandemic.

It’s what we talk about. It’s what we think about. It’s what we pray about—when we can muster the energy to pray.

It seemed like a very good time to focus on some of those things that simply never change. Here are 11 things to consider:

We are called to be outwardly focused.

As Christians, we’ve known this all along. But true confession time … Until recently, I didn’t realize just how self-focused I am. Am I really doing what I do to 1) honour God and 2) bless others? I want these goals to be my motivation, but too often they haven’t been. These days are the perfect opportunity to ask God to refine our motives. (All the while, we must extend grace to ourselves and remember that self-care isn’t necessarily selfish or self-centred. See below for further encouragement in these areas.)

There are always opportunities to minister to others.

Even now, there is so much we can do to bless others: post something encouraging on social media; pick up the phone and check on a senior who doesn’t have access to the Internet; offer to drop off groceries to someone who is apprehensive about venturing out. Even with social distancing, there is much we can do for one another.

Turns out our parents and Kindergarten teachers were right; it is nice to share.

This truth needs no explanation except to say there will be people who need financial assistance, a kind word, and/or a smile today. If we have the opportunity, let’s be generous with what we have and trust the Lord to provide for our needs.

We need one another.

Of course, this is another truth we’ve known all along, but it’s crystal clear with the current situation. Kindness and acts of service are crucial at this time. There may be restrictions as to how we can help, but we certainly need one another.

Our healthcare workers need our prayers—as do our government leaders.

There has never been a more important time to add our government leaders and healthcare workers to our prayer list. With the everchanging information about this virus that is circulating—even among the professionals—it’s difficult for them to know what the right thing to do is. They need the Lord’s wisdom and protection. (If you are either a healthcare professional or a government leader, thank you so much for your service!)

During difficult, uncertain times, we have Someone to turn to.

We’ve all gone through difficulty in our life: illness, loss, economic hardships … God was faithful then, and He’s faithful now. When we’re confused, overwhelmed, and struggling to make sense of it all, God invites us to draw near to Him, promising that He will draw near to us (James 4:8).

God loves us.

Don’t you love the fact that the Bible teaches not only that God is loving but also that He is love (1 John 4:7)? We can rest assured of His love when things are going well—and when a worldwide pandemic has changed so much.

God was not taken by surprise.

When the world changes overnight—and sometimes, hour by hour—we don’t feel equipped to keep up. Could any of us have seen ourselves in this situation a month ago? I know I couldn’t. Still, God wasn’t taken by surprise. And whether or not we feel prepared to face the days ahead, He’ll see us through.

No matter what happens in our world, we can rest assured that God never changes.

This is, perhaps, the singular truth that sees me through each day. While my life hasn’t changed all that much, I still sense the heaviness of this new reality. I can vegetate on the couch and watch Netflix and sleep more than usual—or I can trust in our unchanging heavenly Father and seek to accomplish the tasks He has set before me.

We are called to extend grace—to others and to ourselves.

The word should can cause big problems. Of course, the Bible lays out hundreds of clear Shoulds and Should Nots. However, when it comes to facing our current, unprecedented situation, we must be careful how we seek to impose our convictions—even God’s—on others. Even as believers, there are many times we’d be in big trouble if it weren’t for the Lord’s grace and Jesus’s sacrifice on our behalf. We must remember that many of the people we interact with do not know Jesus as Saviour, which I believe provides the opportunity for us to show them we are Christians by our love—not our judgment.

There is a balance between self-sacrifice and self-care.

We can find several examples in the Scriptures that indicate that we are to put others’ needs ahead of our own. At the same time, we must remember that, unless we care for our physical, emotional, and spiritual needs, we will soon have virtually nothing to offer those the Lord has brought into our life. May we prayerfully seek God’s perspective in this area, as in all others.


Click to tweet:


Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.

When a Plan Comes Together (Guest Post)

When a Plan Comes Together

by Steph Beth Nickel

Planners. Journals. Notebooks.

Do you love them as much as I do?

Maybe you make a simple To Do List on paper or on your phone.

Maybe you keep it all in your head. (Kudos if you do!)

Still, there’s a challenge no matter what method you use to record your plans, hopes, and dreams … follow-through.

I can make a mean To Do List. I can decorate it with stickers and even use fancy writing if I’m so inclined. But none of that matters unless I take the needed steps to make my plans come together.

Sadly, creating a beautiful, comprehensive list and then lying back on the couch to watch “just one more episode” on Netflix doesn’t get me any closer to my goals.

Plus, nine times out of ten, I fall asleep. And when I wake up, I either 1) restart the episode I missed or 2) head to bed, promising myself I’ll do better the next day.

So, what practical steps can you and I take to move beyond list-making?

  1. As much as possible, head to bed at the same time every night and rise at the same time every morning.
  2. Get regular exercise.
  3. Eat well.
  4. Pray before putting pen to paper, asking God to guide you as you make your list.
  5. Be honest with yourself. Just how much can you reasonably accomplish in one day? Your list should reflect reality.
  6. Your list should also reflect what is truly important, including time with God, family, and friends.
  7. Assign a time for each task, remembering to factor in “the margins,” times to catch up on projects that take longer than expected, and scheduled downtime.
  8. Pray again, committing your plans to Him. After all, Proverbs 16:9 is true, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (ESV).

February 17 was Family Day. I had prepared what I felt was a reasonably long list of things I wanted to accomplish, most of them in my home office. Before I got busy there, I did some extras around the house, which turned out to be a very good thing. Not only did I enjoy looking around at the less cluttered areas I had dealt with but also, we had unexpected company. (See Proverbs 16:9 above.)

I was able to sit and chat with a young man who has been a friend of the family for many years. And as it turns out, he has been reading the Bible in order to overcome his dark thoughts and draw close to the Lord. He wants to begin coming to church and was asking about baptism. What a wonderful way to spend an hour or so!

Our visit reminded me of the importance of positioning myself to be ready to be a blessing—online and in person. While sleep will still lure me away, tempting me to procrastinate and escape the overwhelm that prowls around the perimeter of my mind, there are steps I can take to make my plans come together—and steps I can take to be attentive when the Lord is bringing His plans together.

How do you handle your To Do List? What potential stumbling blocks do you have to overcome? What suggestions could you add to the list above?

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.

We Need One Another (Guest Post)

Two hands clasped together, with words like cooperate, unite, serve...
Image by John Hain from Pixabay

We Need One Another

by Steph Beth Nickel

I’ve recently begun Rachel Starr Thomson’s study 31 Days of Joy: A Devotional Journey in Fiction & Scripture.

The study springs from James 1:2-4, which says, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (ESV).

Each entry includes an excerpt from a novel, a scripture, and an inspirational thought with room to journal in response.

On Day 1, the author asks readers to record their personal battle.

Sure, I get in a funk every once in a while. But, hey, my life is pretty darn good. What personal battle am I facing?

And then it struck me. My heart is heavy because I see the hurt, misunderstanding, and disrespect happening all around me—in the church.

And hard on the heels of that revelation, I ask, “What can I do about it?”

Ever had one of those instantaneous D’uh Moments?

You’re a writer, Stephanie. So, write!

And here I am.

Am I writing to rag on the church? No, they’re my brothers and sisters in Christ.

Am I here to say I’m on the hunt for the perfect local fellowship, where we all love one another and get along 100 percent of the time? I’m almost 60 years old. I know such a place doesn’t exist.

But am I intent on doing my part to identify the type of community I want to belong to—and then doing what I can to bring about change as I have the opportunity? Absolutely.

Now, you may be a mover and shaker, intent on following the path you feel has been laid out before you, eyes focused straight ahead, blinders firmly in place.

Don’t get me wrong, we need people who keep us moving on a God-honouring trajectory. But we also need people who will identify obstacles in the road and come up with a creative way to deal with the obstacles. Sometimes barreling right through them is not the best course of action.

Even more importantly, we need people who recognize that there are men and women, young people, and children among us who may have ideas that are far better than our own. We need decision-makers who are humble enough to learn from those without as much experience as they have. (The Bible has a lot to say about humility and pride.)

We also need people who will recognize the giftings in others and nurture those giftings, setting individuals free to minister in ways that give their uniqueness an opportunity to flourish.

And, without a doubt, we need people who recognize the wounded. Sure, some are obvious, but some people have developed great skill at withdrawing into themselves because they’ve been hurt over and over and over.

Where do you fit?

Do you clearly see the path ahead? Cast that vision in a way that enables others to see what you see. Be patient with those who don’t quite get it. Don’t rush out too far ahead. And be humble enough to consider others’ ideas and input.

Are you motoring along, keeping your head down and doing your own thing? While we need diligent, hardworking peacemakers who keep things moving forward, we also need them to speak up when things aren’t moving in the right direction. Just this past year, I learned there is a way to respectfully address concerns about the direction our churches are going without being prideful and argumentative, without seeking to cause descension and division. And when we see issues that need to be addressed, it just may be our job to bring them to light.

Finally, there are those who are so hurt and wounded that they do their very best to blend into the shadows. Some are “so done” with church. Do we provide a place for them to be open and honest? Do we really listen to what they have to say? Do we consider if there is something we should change, both individually and as a fellowship? Do we truly weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice?

Church, there is a place for every believer in Jesus. He has made each one unique, with specific gifts and talents He has called us to develop and use. Let’s make a place for everyone at the table. (click to tweet this)

And let’s do what James said in James 1:9, “Be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (ESV).

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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.