Category Archives: Guest Posts

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.

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.

On the Eve of NaNoWriMo (Guest Post)

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

On the Eve of NaNoWriMo

By Steph Beth Nickel

If you’re a writer, especially a fiction writer, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), may be familiar to you. Each year, during the month of November, hundreds of thousands of people sit down to crank out 50,000 words. Not 50,000 brilliant, astounding, incredible words. Fifty thousand words that may end up in a drawer (virtual or physical) never to see the light of day.

But maybe. Just maybe.

Those 50,000 words will become the bones a novel. They may morph into your first published book or your twentieth.

So, since it’s already October 29, is it too late to sign up? Absolutely not.

While some writers spend the month of October preparing an outline, creating character sketches, and ironing out the plot, others hit the ground running on November 1 with only the vaguest idea of what their story will be about.

I have three books I could work on during November, but instead, I decided to dive into a new project. The preparation? Make a list of what’s important to me right now. Review that list until a character introduces herself and lets me know her story needs to be written—and maybe a little of what that story’s about.

Sound too “out there” for your liking? That’s okay. There are as many different approaches to NaNoWriMo as there are participants. We all bring our unique writing style to the project.

Want to give it a try but don’t know where to start?

Here are nine ideas to get the creative juices flowing—even if you only have a couple of days before NaNo begins.

  1. Make a list of genres you like to read. There is great wisdom in writing what you like to read. (Note: Although it’s called National Novel Writing Month, some participants sign up for the challenge to motivate them to write 50K words toward any type of book. Some consider themselves NaNo Rebels.)
  2. Decide on the atmosphere you want to create. A light and happy romance. (We all need a little light and happy these days.) A suspense that will keep readers on the edge of their seats. A fantasy that will carry readers off into a world you’ve created. (If you choose to write a fantasy, your aim will likely be to write approximately 50 percent of the first draft in November. Most fantasies run closer to 100K words. But since this is your project, you may want to write the first 25 percent and the last 25 percent, leaving “the messy middle” for the revision process.)
  3. Think about what you typically write. Writing what you’re familiar with may give you the confidence to sign up for NaNo. Plus, you may come to the project with countless ideas that have already been tumbling around in your brain.
  4. Try something completely different. What better time to dip your toes into writing something you’ve never written before? Remember the goal is to write 50K new words, not 50K earth-shattering/inspiring/compelling words. (Psst! They don’t even have to be good.)
  5. Create a rough character sketch of your protagonist and/or antagonist. Rather than including their hair and eye colour and their favourite TV series, decide on an age range, gender, their ultimate goal and a list of obstacles that you’ll throw at them to keep them from achieving it.
  6. Create the skeleton of your plot. Where will the story begin and where will it end? You may even want to decide on an inciting incident and a dark night of the soul event. (The inciting incident plunges your protagonist into the story. The dark night of the soul event occurs at approximately the 75 percent point and is just what it sounds like. Things have gone from bad to worse for your protagonist, and this is the lowest point of them all.)
  7. Wake up on Monday, November 1, put fingers to keyboard, and just write. While you may be a die-hard plotter, this is the perfect opportunity to see what all the fuss is about “discovery writing” or “pantsing.”
  8. Give yourself a break. While it feels amazing to write 50K words in just 30 days (1,667 words per day), every word you write toward a new project is one you didn’t have written before.
  9. Recruit a friend or two to write with you. There are local groups and numerous opportunities to connect online with other participants. However, if you dive into this challenge with a small group of friends, you can become one another’s accountability partners. You may even want to meet at a local coffee shop once a week for lunch and a writing session. (Warning: If you’re as much of an extrovert as I am, the writing component will require excessive discipline.)

If you’re participating in NaNoWriMo this year, I’d love to hear from you. You can email me at nurtureandinspire@gmail.com

To sign up, visit the NaNo website: https://nanowrimo.org/


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.

Weddings, Clients, and Meetings … Oh My! (Guest Post)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Weddings, Clients, and Meetings … Oh My!

by Steph Beth Nickel

Okay, so, I only attended one wedding this month, but the title reads better because I pluralized it. As writers, we’re allowed a little poetic license from time to time.

My son and brand new daughter-in-law had a small ceremony because … COVID. So many friends and family members couldn’t make the trip. I will forever be thankful that my husband and I made it to Saskatchewan from Ontario for the weekend.

Even though we were only away for four days, travel included, it meant we had to shuffle a lot of other responsibilities.

Deadline extensions + a tsunami of tasks + a sense of overwhelm often leads to too much YouTube and not enough time at my computer.

So, how can we handle our schedule when we’d rather vegetate on the couch or pull the covers over our head and sleep for “just five more minutes”?

Here are some suggestions that have either worked for me in the past or I’m planning to implement in the next little while:

Create a list of everything you want to get done. The more detailed the list, the better.

Prioritize the list. Self-care may be a buzzword these days, but getting adequate rest, eating well, keeping physically active, and doing something that feeds your spirit on a regular basis are vital for not only your wellbeing but also for your ability to effectively complete the tasks on your To-Do List. Be sure to include self-care on your list of priorities.

Decide what you can get done each day within reason. I make a mean To-Do List, and because I’m content moving unfinished tasks to the next day, it’s hard for me to create realistic expectations for each day. I’m getting better, but it’s a process for sure.

Back out of at least some responsibilities that don’t rank high on your priority list. This is tough for many of us. People count on us. We don’t like to say no when they ask us to do something, especially something “small.” (Don’t forget the adage about the straw and the camel’s back.) Like me, you may be eclectically interested and eclectically involved. It’s hard to know what to set aside—even temporarily—but it’s a necessary skill.

Assign specific tasks to specific days. Trying to do a little bit of everything on the same day often leads to a sense that you haven’t accomplished anything significant. Completing a single task before moving onto the next one has its benefits, but when that isn’t possible, it’s important to determine how much of one task you will accomplish before moving on. Optionally, you can set a time limit and see how much of the project you can get done in an hour or two for instance. Be content with your progress, and move on, physical and mentally, to the next task.

Beware of mental fog and hair-trigger emotions. We’ve all been there. Unable to concentrate on the task at hand. Snapping at a friend or family member over a non-issue. Feeling that anger, frustration, or anxiety forming in the pit of our stomach. Should we push through? Take a break? Walk away and start fresh tomorrow? Because I work from home and create my own schedule, most times, I have the opportunity to add the task to my next day’s schedule. Even if this isn’t an option, taking a stretch break, reading a novel for 5-10 minutes, or just closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths can make a surprisingly big difference.

Have some fun. “All work and no play …” and all that. Is there something you look forward to every day? I enjoy watching an episode of a show on Netflix or Disney Plus with my hubby each evening. Instead of watching “just one more YouTube episode,” I feel more refreshed when I take a little time to read. And, of course, being an extra extrovert, I love meeting a friend for coffee and a l-o-n-g chat.

How to you deal with overwhelm in your life?

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.

Writing in Multiple Genres Part 2 (Guest Post)

Summer Series 2021: Writing in Multiple Genres Part 2

by Steph Beth Nickel

Last time we asked three questions:

  1. What does success mean to me?
  2. Do I care about becoming the “go-to” expert in my field or my readers’ favourite writer in a certain genre?
  3. Do I complete projects or do I have a virtual drawer full of unfinished manuscripts and other writing projects?

While your answers to these questions may lead you to believe that it’s best not to write in multiple genres and/or on multiple topics, there are several reasons you may choose to do so.

  1. If you haven’t yet settled on the genre and/or topic you want to focus on, it’s perfectly acceptable to try your hand at writing several different types of books. After all, if you end up churning out books you don’t enjoy writing, it’s going to lead to burnout—and will likely come through in your writing.
  2. If you’re just getting started on your writing journey, you may be surprised that you can actually write in a particular genre. I didn’t think I was clever enough—or committed enough to research and worldbuilding—to write fantasy or sci fi. However, I began a YA speculative fiction novel for NaNoWriMo last year and quite enjoy what I’ve written so far—at least most of it. You never know unless you try.
  3. If you’ve been writing on the same topic or in the same genre for a long time, you may be ready for a change. Nothing freshens up the process more than trying your hand at something new.

There are also a few ways to make it easier to write and publish in multiple genres.

  1. Choose variations of your name or pennames so readers can easily identify the books they’re looking for. Remember—if you use the same name for all your books, you risk losing readers because they will expect one thing but may end up with something completely different. Plus, since additional books sales can come from recommendations, you don’t want to disappoint your readers.
  2. If you’re publishing a certain type of book with a traditional publisher but also want to write something completely different—and have the capacity to do so while fulfilling the terms of your traditional contract—you may want to look into self-publishing/indie publishing. (For the purposes of this post, I define both self-publishing and indie publishing as a process by which authors hire a book cover designer and an editor and upload their books to Amazon [and possibly, other platforms] themselves or through an aggregator such as Draft2Digital. The authors also oversee the marketing of their books. I am not referring to signing an agreement with a company that requires payment for two or more of these services.)
  3. Be willing to become a lifelong learner. Whether you self-publish or sign with a traditional publisher, the writing industry is always changing. What sells well this year may be outdated by the time you complete your book. The level of connectedness readers want with their favourite authors has changed dramatically in the last few years. Facebook groups may be the perfect place to develop that connectedness with your readers. But who knows what’s just around the corner? Plus, genre expectations, “hot topics,” book cover design, available formats (print books, ebooks, audiobooks, etc.), and so much more evolve. While we shouldn’t let this discourage us, it does confirm that we must always seek to learn—and adapt when appropriate.

Have you dabbled in various genres or written about a number of topics? Do you write books? Short stories? Blog posts? Have you been writing for many years or are you just getting started?


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.

Writing in Multiple Genres Part 1 (Guest Post)

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Summer Series 2021: Writing in Multiple Genres Part 1

by Steph Beth Nickel

Let’s talk about the pros and cons of writing in multiple fiction genres. Later in the blog series, we’ll talk about nonfiction.

Not everyone agrees that it’s a good idea, but there are a number of authors who successfully write in two or more genres.

Before you decide whether you’re going to focus only on one genre or on several, you’ll want to ask yourself a series of questions.

The first …

What does success mean to me?

Will you consider yourself a successful author only if you’re picked up by a traditional publisher?

If so, your publisher will want you to write exclusively in one genre—at least in the beginning. You’ll have more latitude if you go the indie route.

Are you looking forward to developing a devoted fan base?

If your readers love your speculative fiction and then pick up your next book, a cozy mystery or sweet romance, they’ll not only be confused but also disappointed. They’ll be expecting more of the same if your name is on the cover of both books. Writing under different pseudonyms can solve this issue.

Is keeping your fans happy an element of success in your mind?

With so many new books appearing on the market every day, if you don’t release your next book in what readers consider “a timely fashion,” they’re likely to move on to another author and may not pick up your next book if it takes too long to come out. This is especially true if you’re writing a series. Once readers are invested in your characters and storylines, they’ll want more ASAP.

Do you define success as being your readers’ favourite speculative fiction author? Mystery writer? Sweet romance writer?

To develop your storytelling skills to this level requires hours of reading, writing, and research. If you want to become your readers’ go-to author, it’s important to focus on one genre at a time. It’s best to choose a genre you love to read and can see yourself writing in, potentially, for years. Once you become someone’s favourite author, they’re going to want to get their hands on as many books as you can write.

What’s most important to you? How do you define success? Which route makes the most sense to becoming your version of a successful author? Regardless of whether you write in multiple genres or only one, your first responsibility as an author is to write the best book you can.

Happy Writing!

[Come back next month for part 2 of this series on writing in multiple genres.]

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.

It’s Not About the Money (Guest Post)

It’s Not About the Money

by Steph Beth Nickel

Guest Marguerite Croft shares so much wisdom on Episode 127 of the Write Now podcast (link here: WNP 127). One of the things that stood out most to me was her advice to “have a hobby.” She believes if we write only to monetize our ideas that we’ll have lost some of what it means just to write for the sake of writing.

Disclaimer: I complete several copywriting assignments each months to help pay the bills, some I find incredibly interesting; others, not so much. I also have numerous ideas for books 1) I’d like to write or 2) I’ve begun. One day I hope those books will earn an income as well. Writing for money is not a bad thing—not at all. But sometimes, it’s great just to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (or speech to text) just because we want to.

So, today, let’s explore some ways we can write simply for the joy of it. (Warning: Not all the following suggestions will give you “the warm fuzzies.”)

Have a “horrible” idea you want to explore?

Give yourself permission to see where the idea takes you. No one else ever has to read it. But who knows? Maybe it will turn into something you can’t wait to share.

Been thinking about trying your hand at a form of writing or genre you’ve never delved into before?

Go for it! Despite the fact that it’s difficult to discover who first came up with the idea that there are three distinct facets of a creative’s personality, when I heard Marguerite Croft mention the Dreamer, the Writer (or Maker), and the Editor, it resonated with me. We have to give the Dreamer permission to make even the craziest suggestions. Some of them we may want to pursue—even if it means exploring a form of writing we’ve never tried before.

Go with the flow!

Julia Cameron encourages everyone to take up pen and paper (NOT keyboard and computer) every morning and let three pages of whatever comes to mind flow from their pen. She calls these Morning Pages. It’s like clearing the dam. No judgments allowed! The Editor is definitely not permitted in the room at this point.

Similarly, you may freewrite based on a writing prompt—or anything else that inspires you and gets the creative juices flowing. You simply follow your stream of consciousness. (See what I mean about going with the flow?)

Pour Out Your Heart

Although similar quotes have been attributed to a number of different sources, back in 1949, journalist Red Smith was quoted as saying writing wasn’t hard because “you simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

The page is an amazing place to work through your thoughts and feelings. You can be 100 percent honest—and sometimes surprise yourself by digging down and discovering those deep waters (to keep the analogy going).

Talk to Yourself. Talk to God.

I refer to my journaling as “rambling until I stumble across truth,” but that’s just one form of journaling. There are countless ways to journal. Free form. Gratitude journaling. Prayer journaling. And on and on and on. For the most part, this is a very private form of expressing ourselves. Some people even leave instructions that their journals be either buried with them or burned after they pass away. Now, that’s private!

What writing have you done recently “just because”?

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.

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.

Is It Trust or Denial? (Guest Post)

Pink tulips with text "Trust v Denial"
Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay
Image by Ralf Kunze from Pixabay

Is It Trust or Denial?

by Steph Beth Nickel

Do people who always seem at peace with whatever life may throw at them drive you crazy?

(Psst, that’s a rhetorical question. You don’t have to share your answer. Maybe not so rhetorical actually … since you probably should answer it for yourself.)

Let me transport you back in time three decades or so. When I was a brand new mom, my family and I moved to a new city.

There were members in our new church home who were going through what I then considered unimaginable hardships, including one family whose young son had succumbed to cancer. As the mother of a two-and-a-half-month-old baby boy, I couldn’t imagine why God would bless a family with a child and then take that child away.

Oh, I could recite the cliches! But I didn’t know any of them to be true—not deep down in my heart.

As time went by and I got to know some of these people better, I realized they weren’t just spouting platitudes but actually trusted that God knew what was best—even when their situation was difficult and heartbreaking.

Trust, especially trust in the God of All Comfort (2 Corinthians 1:3), is a remarkable and precious thing.

But what we think is trust can actually be denial, a squashing of our feelings, doubts, and fears.

This summer, my second son is getting married. Because of COVID, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be able to attend the ceremony. (He and his bride-to-be live two provinces away.)

I’ve braced myself for this pretty much since Joshua informed me that he and Ericka had set a date. Still, it was more with a sense of fatalism than acceptance that I dealt with the reality of the situation.

And then, one day, I decided to be completely honest with myself. While I may have locked away my emotions, it didn’t mean they weren’t there. It didn’t mean that, if I gave them permission, the tears wouldn’t fall. It didn’t mean that I was truly accepting that God knows best in this, and every, circumstance.

COVID has taken many lives, and my heart goes out to everyone who has lost a loved one or is facing an ongoing battle with this horrific virus.

But, as we all know, COVID has struck a fatal blow in other areas as well—job security, relationships, our peace of mind, and on and on and on.

There’s no denying it.

And yet, there is light in the darkness, hope in the despair, trust in the denial.

But the way to find real peace is not by denying the struggles we face—physical, emotional, and spiritual.

We don’t need to cling to platitudes or cliches.

We don’t need to deny how we feel—or that we’ve locked away our emotions.

We don’t need to paste on a happy face and pretend we’re a-okay.

But if we want to come to the place of authentic trust, we must press in and get to know the God of All Comfort better than we ever have before.

That’s what I plan to do. How about you?

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.

Proceed with Caution (Guest Post)

Proceed with Caution

by Steph Beth Nickel

The Old Normal

Are you ready to get back to the Old Normal?

COVID vaccines are being rolled out. Hopeful would-be travellers are booking airline tickets. Restaurants are opening for in-person dining.

While there will be continued restrictions for some time, we’re all ready to return to pre-COVID schedules … Or are we?

Ready for the New New Normal?

Truth be told, when the first lockdown happened, I was more than happy to set aside many of my obligations. (Of course, like most people, I didn’t know how long “the New Normal” was going to last.)

And here we are, twelve months in, and I have a confession to make. I will not be quick to fill up my schedule, at least not with what was on it before.

What are you looking forward to most? What is something you will not be adding to your schedule even when it is again an option?

A Year in Review

Instead of working in the church office, I’m now spending my days editing and writing from home. (Shh, don’t tell, but I’m also listening to podcasts, reading, and watching some TV shows as well.)

Because others have stepped up to take on the responsibilities in the sound room at church, even though we’re allowed to meet in person, I find it hard to motivate myself to get back into the routine of attending weekly services. Yes, I know it’s important. Yes, I know watching the live-stream isn’t the same. Yes, I know I’ll get back into the rhythm. However, we’re in a time of transition in our congregation, and things aren’t as they once were.

What changes have you weathered this past year? What’s something you found particularly challenging? What’s something you actually enjoyed?

Joys and Challenges of 2021

A year ago, I would sit on my couch, overcome with how surreal it all was. I would spend minimal time in Walmart—because that was where a panic attack threatened to set in, something that had never happened to me before. I lost touch with many people, people I could have contacted via Facebook, email, or phone.

And now …

I’m proceeding with caution.

While I’ve made some reservations (hotel and car rentals) for the summer in hopes of attending my son’s wedding in Saskatchewan, I haven’t purchased the airline tickets yet. Will they allow us to travel if we haven’t had both shots? Will our son and his wife be able to come from Scotland? (At this point, it doesn’t look like it.) Should we just postpone our plans until next summer, when we can all travel together, and watch the wedding via Zoom?)

I’m taking precautions while spending time with friends (and I did go to church this past weekend). This makes me aware just how much I need in-person connectedness. To a large extend, I had supressed my need for this kind of fellowship. After spending three hours chatting with a young friend over lunch, I realized how much of my joie de vivre had been lying dormant. (This “extrovert on steroids” can only remain alone for so long.)

Now that spring has arrived and things are looking up, I’m better able to shake off the physical and emotional exhaustion and actually look forward to my days, most of them anyway.

What joys and challenges are you facing?

Most Importantly

While we’re all ready to say goodbye to COVID-19, we can’t forget that we’ve learned some important lessons during the past year.

It’s important to be considerate of and patient with others, especially those who don’t see things as we do.

It’s difficult to be confined with others for prolonged periods of time—even those we love dearly.

“Re-entry” also has its fair share of challenges.

The mental and emotional ramifications of the pandemic have been as drastic as the physical ones—for many, even more drastic.

Scrolling social media often does more harm than good.

As restrictions begin to ease, I encourage you to proceed with caution. Remember the lessons you’ve learned over the past year. And extend grace to others—and to yourself.

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.