Category Archives: Guest Posts

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.


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Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

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

The Importance of Contentment (Guest Post)

Girl in hat and sundress, picking daisies in a sunlit field.
[Image via Pixabay]

The Importance of Contentment

by Steph Beth Nickel

Why do you do what you do? Complacency, contentment, or conviction?

An onlooker might not be able to tell the difference.

Sometimes even we can’t tell the difference.

It’s what I’ve always done. That’s complacency.

I believe this is right, and it has been confirmed over and over again. That’s conviction.

But what about contentment?

It may look like complacency, but then again, it just might be conviction.

Contentment is my word for 2020.

As you may know, I am eclectically interested and eclectically involved. Too often I’m distracted by the Oo, Shiny! Books, online courses, careers …

Do you think it’s time to stop buying books (or at least slow down) when you have over 1,000 physical and ebooks you haven’t yet read?

Most of mine are accessible on my phone. <sigh>

And what about courses and lifetime access to online conference sessions, some of which were inexpensive, others … not so much?

I’ll buy this healthy living annual subscription and access to this library of workouts, and I’ll be healthier by the end of the year … if I access them and put what I learn into practice that is. (We won’t mention the fact that I was a personal trainer and know what I need to do to get healthier.)

Of course I’ll maintain my doula certification while writing, editing, working as our church admin, and helping my hubby clean the church each week. Sleep? Who needs it? (That would be me.)

To be honest, my whole life might be a case of FOMO, fear of missing out.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

In 2020, I will seek to live by my conviction that I have been called to contentment.

I will read 24-36 of those books I already have.

I will complete at least 12 of those online courses I’ve purchased and put into practice those things I learn from my paid subscriptions.

I will devote myself to writing—and publishing—the books I’ve begun.

I will maintain my doula certification because this is something I’m passionate about, but I will pace myself and not leave the requirements of my recertification to the last month or so.

I will stop becoming distracted by the Oo, Shiny! and look for the sparkle in the opportunities and possessions I already have.

Plus, I will regularly give thanks for my life as it is in the Here and Now.

How can you grow more content in the year ahead?

Do you have a word of the year? If so, what is it and why did you choose it?

All the very best in 2020!

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

Christmas Devotional and Giveaway

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

Just Around the Corner … 2020 (Guest Post)

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

Just Around the Corner … 2020

By Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

Here are six reasons to do so:

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

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

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

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

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

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

May 2020 overflow with the very richest of blessings!

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

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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

Understanding Different Personality Types (Guest Post)

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

Understanding Different Personality Types

by Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

Introverts and Extroverts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Connectors, Inspectors, Directors, and Reflectors

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

As I mentioned, he is an introvert.

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can take the test on the Exhale website.

Expressives, Analytics, Drivers, and Amiables

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

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

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

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

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

Challenge

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

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

Tweetables

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

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

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

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

How God Guides Writers—and Other People Too

by Steph Beth Nickel

What should I write?

Books, articles, blog posts …

Genre fiction, instructive nonfiction, memoir …

Poetry, Instagram stories, 280-character tweets …

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

How should I pursue publication?

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

Should I self-publish my work?

Should I do both and become a hybrid author?

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

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

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

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

Study God’s Word.

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

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

Seek to obey His commands and directives.

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

Spend time in prayer.

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

Seek godly counsel.

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

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

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

Use your talents and abilities as you have opportunity.

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

Pursue that passion that just won’t go away.

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

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

Persevere.

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

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

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

Tweetables

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

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

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

Steph Beth Nickel
Steph Beth Nickel

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

Pursuing Your Passions from Home (Guest Post)

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

Pursuing Your Passions from Home

By Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

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

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

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

Why You Might Want to Work from Home

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

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

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

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

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

Why You Need a Support System When Working from Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Steph Beth Nickel

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

Vacationing and the Writing Journey (Guest Post)

Letter tiles spelling GOAL with text: "We're here!" to a traveler is as amazing as "The End" to a writer.
Original image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay . Text added.

Vacationing and the Writing Journey

by Steph Beth Nickel

Are you traveling this summer?

Are you looking forward to the journey or only arriving at the destination?

How is vacationing like the writing journey?

We aren’t planning any big trips this year, but I realized on our way to Frankenmuth for a couple of days that I had a choice. I could enjoy the journey or merely endure it.

Writing is a little like planning and executing a vacation.

Decide on a Destination

Unless you’re hopping in the car and seeing where the road takes you, you likely have a destination in mind.

The same should be true when writing. Are you planning to write a book? An article for Medium? A blog post?

Set a Timeline for Each Leg of the Journey

Life happens. Something may come up to deter you from your schedule. However, it’s important to at least have a schedule to keep you on track. (You don’t want to find out the day before you leave for the airport that you should have renewed your passport.)

It’s important to be kind to yourself. Set an achievable pre-journey itinerary, but don’t be so “kind” that you leave everything to the last minute and consider giving up on the idea altogether.

This year I signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo—and, shock of shocks, I edited my manuscript well ahead of schedule. There are several more steps to take before the book is available, but now I know I can actually git ’er done. Now to set a timeline for the next steps.

Gather What You Need

Clothes? Check. Camera? Check. Toiletries? Check. Tickets and reservations? Check. Aforementioned passport? Check.

Gathering what you need for your writing journey can simply mean grabbing a pen and notepad or your phone with its note-taking app, finding an inspiring location to write, and getting at it. Or it may need a reliable internet connection and months of research.

Whichever it is, commit to it and get started.

Start Out

You won’t get any closer to your destination if you gather what you need, pack it in the car, and sit in the driveway.

It may be exciting—or a little scary—to start out on a new journey. But the only way to reach your destination is to set off.

Put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard (thumbs to phone screen?) and begin.

“Once upon a time …”

Recalculate When Necessary

You may find you made a wrong turn or missed the cut-off. But just like the old GPS units used to say, “Recalculating.”

You wouldn’t abandon your idea for a vacation because you had to do some backtracking and recalculating to find your way.

Don’t abandon your idea if the road to publication gets a little bumpy or if you have to find your way through unfamiliar territory.

Ask for Help

When planning your trip, you may hop online to get inspiration or check out customer reviews of accommodations and tourist attractions.

If you get lost (on the road or in the airport), you may have to check with someone in the know.

Even after you reach your destination, you will likely count on dozens of other people to make the trip a success.

Granted, writing is, in many ways, a solitary endeavour, but “no [writer] is an island.”

Writers rely on countless others on the journey from the first spark of an idea to published work—and beyond. Those people may include beta readers, editors, proofreaders, marketing pros, web designers, and many others.

Celebrate Your Arrival

“We’re here!” to a traveler is as amazing as “The End” is to a writer.

Touching down on the tarmac or penning those satisfying words isn’t really the end of the journey. But it is well worth taking at least a few minutes to do a happy dance—literal or figurative.

Finalize Plans

You may have a detailed itinerary in hand, but it’s good to check on reservations and make sure everything is in order. On most trips, adjustments have to be made.

When it comes to releasing a book or publishing a blog post, adjustments may be in order. Or, possibly, if you’re new to the process—or have just been too busy with other things, you may have to create that website, research traditional and indie publishing options, find out how to get your work in front of readers.

Begin Planning for the Next Journey

It took about five minutes before I started planning our next trip to Newfoundland when we were there last summer. Since our son and daughter-in-law live in Scotland, I thought it would be a wonderful location for a family gathering. They wouldn’t feel like they’d left home—except, of course, for the hours of travel and the money spent.

Even if you’ve arrived at your writing destination, you likely have plans for several other projects. While you want to relax for a while and enjoy the moment, you just may want to grab that note-taking device and outline the next journey.

Wherever you are along the way, take a deep breath, and marvel at the fact that yes, you are a writer. And it’s one of the most exciting journeys you’ll ever take!

Tweetables:

How is vacationing like the writing journey? [click to tweet]

9 ways travelling is like the writing journey. [click to tweet]

“We’re here!” to a traveler is as amazing as “The End” is to a writer. [click to tweet]

Take a deep breath, and marvel at the fact that yes, you are a writer. And it’s one of the most exciting journeys you’ll ever take! [click to tweet]

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

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