Tag Archives: guest post

Should You Try Harder? (Guest Post)

Do you need to try harder?

Photo credit: Pixabay

Should You Try Harder?

by Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

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

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

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

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

I can relate already.

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

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

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

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

Do you see yourself in any of these statements?

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

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

She was …

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

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

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

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

She became …

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

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

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

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

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

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

Chapters include …

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

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

Kathi and Cheri invite us to …

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

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

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

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

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

Does any of this sound good to you?

Yeah, me too!

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

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

Money in the Bank (Guest Post)

Money in the Bank

by Steph Beth Nickel

Summer is upon us. Warmer weather. Sunshine. And vacations. And with vacationing comes that extra long To Do list.

My hubby and I are going east for approximately 2.5 weeks in July. And while it’s exciting (I’ve never been to the Maritimes before), it means getting things done ahead of time and making sure my responsibilities are covered. This includes gathering a long list of camping supplies. We hope to tent most of the time we’re away.

As things come together, it’s like money in the bank.

We’ve likely all lived from paycheque to paycheque at some point. But it feels so good when we don’t have to consider our bank balance or the remaining credit on our Mastercard before making a purchase.

It’s the same when we “bank” other things as well.

As the admin at our church, I am responsible to publish the bulletin each week. I am currently in the process of preparing all of July’s issues. Thankfully, we simplified things and are now putting out a half sheet of 8.5 x 11 instead of the tri-fold we had been creating.

I have an editing project I hope to make significant progress on before I head east and a coauthoring project I want to leave in good shape as well.

And then there are the books I’m reading, the books and movies I’ve offered to review for HopeStreamRadio, and the guest posts I sometimes leave to the last minute. <cough, cough> (Sorry this is arriving the same day it was to be posted, Janet.)

The extra responsibilities and longer To Do list can be overwhelming, but I actually work better when faced with an imminent deadline.

The Benefits of a Deadline

It has a way of chasing away my tendency to procrastinate. I can’t put things off until tomorrow if in very few tomorrows I’ll be on the road.

A deadline—or several—also helps me prioritize what really needs to be done and what can wait until I return.

A deadline encourages me as I see how much I can accomplish in a fairly short time.

As I cross each thing off the list, I breathe a little easier. It really is like money in the bank.

How about you? What are your plans this summer? Do you have to accomplish more than usual before you leave? How does that make you feel?

Tweetables

Deadlines chase away the tendency to procrastinate. (click to tweet)

Deadlines help us prioritize what really needs to be done. (click to tweet)

Meeting a deadline shows us what we can do when we put our mind to it. (click to tweet)

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

Can’t Writers Just Write? (Guest Post)

"Writers are expected to do so much more than just write."

Image credit: Pixabay

Can’t Writers Just Write?

by Steph Beth Nickel

If you’re a writer—and even if you’re not—you’ve probably seen posts about the GDPR, the General Data Protection Regulation. It makes sense to be concerned about how our personal data is collected, stored, and used, but the GDPR has caused a lot of trouble for many authors, bloggers, and other writers.

While this post isn’t about rules and regulations, all the talk about the GDPR did lead to the thought … why can’t writers just write?

If money were no object, perhaps, a writer could outsource everything except the writing itself. But are there really any writers who do that? Highly unlikely.

Authors and other writers are expected to do so much more than write.

Develop and maintain a website and possibly, a blog.

While creating content is a big part of this, there are domain names to be purchased, website themes to be chosen, and “branding” to be considered … among many, many other things.

Develop a social media presence.

In this, the cyber age, readers want to feel connected to the authors and writers whose posts and books they read. They want to know they’re real people with real lives. They also want to know that their favourite writers are willing to give them a glimpse into their life and that they care about more than simply selling their next book.

Find one’s tribe and connect with them regularly.

People can smell a sales pitch from a mile (or 1.61 kilometres) away—and many will run in the opposite direction. However, if an author is willing to truly connect with their readers and potential readers and offer them something of value without asking for the sale at every turn, those individuals may rise to the level of “super fan.”

Continue to develop and hone writing skills.

No matter how experienced a writer, there are always more skills development books to read and courses to take.

Authors seeking to go the traditional publishing route are familiar with writing and rewriting, query letters and proposals, pitching to agents and editors, and on and on.

Much of what it takes to become a traditionally published author has little to do with writing the books themselves.

Those seeking to self-publish have to write and rewrite, decide what to do on their own and what to outsource, oversee all aspects of their writing business even if they are working with a team.

While some people hate the word, authorpreneur hints at the fact that self-publishing writers are doing more than writing. They are small business owners and must see themselves this way and take responsibility for their business.

And when all is said and done, a writer must …

Continue to create content.

And while writers must juggle their schedules to include all of these pursuits and more, they must also continue to create content—or the rest of the process will be meaningless.

This is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. So, the answer to the question is no, writers can’t just write. But, at the end of the day—GDPR or no GDPR—writers can’t not write.

Tweetables:

Writers are expected to do so much more than write. (Click to tweet this)

At the end of the day writers can’t not write. (Click to tweet this)

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

Pushing Through … and When to Say “Enough” (Guest Post)

Know when to push through, and when to say "enough"

[image via Pixabay]

Pushing Through … and When to Say Enough

by Steph Beth Nickel

Many of us have a difficult time saying no when asked to do something—even if we really don’t have enough time or energy to take on one more thing, no matter how small.

And, as Christians, a whirlwind of thoughts may rush to mind:

  • What if this is an opportunity God has placed before me?
  • What if I miss something He has for me?
  • If I have the ability to do what is being asked of me and there’s a need, isn’t that enough indication that I’m supposed to do it?

And what about those other questions, those questions we may not actually verbalize?

  • What will so and so think of me if I say no?
  • Who will do it if I don’t?
  • I’m supposed to go “the second mile.” Right?

I’ve recently experienced the necessity to do both: to say enough and to push through. And I believe both decisions were the right ones to make at the time.

Last weekend, for a few reasons, I didn’t get away on my annual writers’ retreat. However, I did deem it a “staycation.” I didn’t clean the church or attend the Sunday service. I didn’t cook for my family and only cleaned the kitchen because I wanted to, not because I expected or required it of myself. I did some writing and reading I wouldn’t have done otherwise and headed out of the house with my laptop to do so out of my day-to-day environment.

I also vegged more than I possibly should have, but all in all, it was a very good weekend. I got some physical rest and some mental rest, which may have been even more important.

This week, however, was different. My hubby generously shared his cold. I spent the day Tuesday down and out, sleeping and binge-watching Netflix. I didn’t have the ambition to do anything else. While I’m still fighting this virus, which has decided to settle in my chest, I was able to put in a full day Wednesday and Thursday and am facing another full day today.

This weekend promises to be a busy one. And although hunkering down for some extra rest sounds like a great idea, I am so very thankful that the Lord is giving me the wherewithal to focus on one task at a time and push through. Because this is not my natural tendency, there is no doubt that He deserves all the glory.

So, how can we tell when it’s right to decline a request and when we should step up?

Here are a few questions we may want to ask ourselves:

  • Have I prayed about it?
  • Will it jeopardize my current responsibilities?
  • Will it be a “one and done” project or will it lead to a long-term commitment?
  • How long will it actually take?
  • Do I know someone else who would enjoy taking on this task?
  • What is my real motivation to say yes?

These are only a few of the questions we could ask ourselves. What are some others that come to mind? (Please scroll down to add your suggestions.)

Tweetables

Know when to say enough and when to push through. (click to tweet)

Will taking on this project jeopardize your current responsibilities? (click to tweet)

Have you prayed about it? (click to tweet)

6 ways to tell when to say enough and when to push through. (click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

The Light Shines Through (Good Friday guest post)

Light streaming through trees. "Even on this, the darkest day, the Light shines through."

Image source: Pixabay

The Light Shines Through

by Steph Beth Nickel

Today, Christians around the globe will gather to solemnly commemorate Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. Whenever it is overcast and rainy, we think, “How appropriate.” It is truly “the darkest day” of the year—no matter what the weather.

The sinless Saviour was humiliated, beaten, and then nailed to a Roman cross. While we won’t go into detail, suffice it to say it was one of the cruelest forms of execution ever devised.

As busy people, we rarely stop to consider the implications of this fact in any more than a fleeting manner. How often do we take the time to contemplate what the Lord did and allow ourselves to be overcome with reverence and gratitude? This day—or any day—is a good one to do just that.

But as we consider the darkness, we must also focus on those cracks of light. Even as the Saviour went to His death and suffered more than we can imagine, the Light shone through—and continues to shine to this day.

The Light Shines Through

Jesus prayed for those who put Him to death. In Luke 23:34, we read, “And Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do’” (ESV).

Knowing Jesus prayed for those who crucified Him should amaze us. Though He was fully God, He was also fully man and suffered as any other individual who had been put to death in this way. And more than that, He actually became sin for us, as it says in 2 Corinthians 5:21. Talk about suffering! And Jesus knew all this would happen before it did. Still He prayed, “Father, forgive them.”

He was not only thinking of these individuals, when He was dying, the Son of God was thinking of His mother, Mary. In the midst of that kind of suffering, few—if any—of us would be thinking of anyone or anything besides ourselves. But Jesus knew His mother would need someone to care for her after He was gone, and He assigned this task to His beloved disciple, John. What an expression of selflessness and love! The Light was shining brightly.

Yet another of Jesus’s final declarations is found in John 19:30. Many a sermon has been preached on this verse. It says, “It is finished!” (ESV). We know it wasn’t only the fact that His suffering would soon be over. Jesus knew all along that, to make the way for us to be right with the Father, He had to take our sin upon Himself and suffer the punishment we deserved. This is yet another truth that should cause us to stop and marvel at what He did for us.

Let’s go on to consider not only the cracks of Light we can see as the Saviour was crucified but also what happened when He expelled His last breath and “gave up his spirit,” as it says in John 19:30.

Invited into the Light

One of my favourite verses in all of Scripture is Matthew 27:51. In the ESV, the first part of the verse reads like this: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom.”

It’s a brief verse and easy to skim over, but it is truly awesome. The fact that this curtain (or veil) was torn in this way is miraculous. The fabric was 60 feet long, 30 feet high, and as thick as the palm of one’s hand. It would have been virtually impossible to rip from bottom to top, let alone from top to bottom. This was no act of man.

And most awesome is what this act of God represents. No longer are believers denied access to the Holy of Holies. We are invited into the Throne Room of Heaven because of Jesus’s death. Now that’s something to marvel at—especially since His presence was reserved for the High Priest, who could only enter the Holy of Holies once a year.

Now, because of what Jesus accomplished on Calvary, we are invited to come before God any time of any day. Of course, we must do so in reverence and awe. But if we have asked Jesus to be our Lord and Saviour, the way is open to us. In fact, Jesus is the Way, as we read in John 14:6.

So, while we will celebrate the Light bursting from the grave on Sunday, we can see that even on this, the darkest day, that same Light shines through.

Our meditation on these truths should not be restricted to one weekend a year. Will you consider setting aside time to do so on a regular basis?

And when your life seems shrouded in darkness and you can’t see the way out, will you turn your eyes toward the One who is the Light of the World (John 8:12)?

Tweetables

Even on this, the darkest day, the Light shines through. (Click to tweet)

When life seems shrouded in darkness, turn your eyes toward the one who is the Light of the World.  (Click to tweet)

Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

Quilting… and Christian Suspense

Did you know that Ruth, the heroine from Heaven’s Prey, is a quilter? And the villain, Harry Silver, has a quilt connection too? Pop over to Cleo Lampas’s blog and read my guest post.

Resolutions Worth Keeping (Guest Post)

Resolutions Worth Keeping

by Steph Beth Nickel

Whether we call them resolutions or goals, this is the time of year many of us consider the 12 months before us and what we want to change.

Instead of trying to change everything at once, why not set monthly goals (aka resolutions)?

Below are six suggestions. I look forward to hearing what goals you plan to achieve in 2018.

January

During December healthy eating habits often get set aside. Various social engagements and family gatherings can make it difficult to eat as we should. January is a great month to begin eating well once again.

If healthy eating is new to you, it’s best to take small steps in the right direction. For example, increase your water intake the first week of January; then, the second week, add more vegetables to your diet. During the third week, begin to limit your intake of restaurant and processed food. The last week, begin to limit dessert to the weekend. (These recommendations are for informational purposes only. It is advisable to consult your doctor or other healthcare professional before making significant changes to your diet.)

Of course, it’s important to continue with these new habits throughout the year, but always remember to “factor in the cheats” and give yourself grace if you revert to old habits.

February

Since Valentine’s Day occurs in February, it’s a good month to schedule more time with our loved ones. There is always more work to be done and we rarely feel as if there are enough hours in the day. However, it’s vital that we devote undivided time to those closest to us—and to others. What a great month to begin doing so!

May

It’s important to get adequate physical activity. Achieving and maintaining a healthy weight is only one reason exercise should be part of our daily routine. When we’re active for even 30 minutes a day, we’re likely to notice the benefits. Exercise helps us think more clearly, work more efficiently, and sleep more soundly. It even improves our outlook and mental health. These are all great reasons to find something we enjoy—or can at least stick with—and get more active.

June

Hopefully, you’ve done so already, but if not, this is a good time of year to factor in downtime. Pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read. Take up a new hobby, one that relaxes you. Schedule a regular date night with your spouse or BFF. In our high pressure society, we feel as if we must be productive at all times. However, our physical, emotional, and mental health will almost certainly suffer if we don’t “step back and take a breath” regularly.

September

The kids are going back to school. Sounds like a good time to take a course. There are several free and inexpensive online options. Interested in sign language? Photography? Creative writing? You name it, there are countless courses available. Udemy, Teachable, and Reedsy are only three sites you can check out.

October

While not a proponent of Halloween, I was inspired to challenge you to do something that scares you. There has been a meme going around Facebook for some time asking what readers would do if they knew they couldn’t fail. Maybe it’s time to risk failure to do something we’ve been putting off, something we either know we should do or something we really want to do but haven’t. Let’s face our fears this month and see what happens.

And there you have it … examples of doable resolutions worth keeping.

Tweetables

Instead of trying to change everything at once, set monthly goals. (click to tweet)

Let’s face our fears and see what happens. (click to tweet)

===

Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

First Things First (Guest Post)

First Things First

by Steph Beth Nickel

Raise your hand if you’re crazy busy.

One, two, twenty … yep, that’s all of you.

Busy with holiday preparations. Busy with your day-to-day workload. And, if you’re a little crazy like me, busy trying to hit 50K in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

It’s so easy for our priorities to get all jumbled at this time of year. We try to keep up with our year-round responsibilities while adding countless additional ones. As trending punctuation would have us express ourselves … It’s. not. going. to. happen.

So how do we choose what stays and what goes on our To Do list? Let’s put first things first and ask ourselves some questions:

Keep first things first this holiday season.

Can it wait until after the holidays?

We must humbly accept the fact that we can’t do it all—not if we don’t want our health and relationships to suffer.

Let’s take a look at our agenda and reschedule what we can.

Does a particular project bring us joy or does it add stress and weigh us down?

While not everything we must do fills us with joy and anticipation, holiday preparations should—for the most part at least. Have we taken on too much? Because it’s expected of us? Because we always do whatever it is? Because we don’t want to let others down?

Maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our workload, committing to those things we truly enjoy (and a few we may not) and passing along some of the responsibilities we just don’t have the time or ambition to accomplish.

Can someone else do whatever it is?

This year I’m doing my Christmas baking via two young women I know. Both are raising money for a worthwhile cause by making homemade goodies. I get several dozen Christmas treats made with love, and it doesn’t add any extra work to my holiday season. Win-win!

Is there anything you could pass along this year? Baking? Cleaning? Decorating?

Would it be better for our family and friends if we spent time with them rather than spending hours cleaning, decorating, and baking for the holidays?

Sometimes sitting down to play a game or watch a Christmas movie would be a better option than spending another evening up to our elbows in sudsy water. (Sounds like a better option to me most anytime actually.)

Let’s look at all we want to accomplish, decide what’s the minimum we can get away with, and settle on something in the middle. And when we’re busy with our holiday responsibilities, why not do things together, making it a bonding time rather than just one more stressor?

And, as Christians, we must ask ourselves if our endeavours enhance or distract from our relationship with the Lord.

Are we neglecting our quiet time? Forgetting to pray? And making excuses to play hooky from church? Not good.

Let’s keep the reason we celebrate in the forefront of our mind and our preparations. Let’s keep first things first.

Tweetables

Let’s keep first things first this holiday season. (Tweet this)

Settle on something between all you want to accomplish and the minimum you’d be okay with. (Tweet this)

~~~

Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

NaNO? NaYES! (Guest Post)

NaNO? NaYES!

by Steph Beth Nickel

Most of you are likely scratching your head.

What on Earth does that title me?

Well, those of you who are writers have likely heard of NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month. The goal is to write 50K words in 30 days.

Crazy? Some may think so. But thousands of people all over the world are sharpening their pencils and limbering up their keyboarding fingers.

Although I have participated in the far more flexible Camp NaNo a number of times, I’ve never taken the plunge and actually signed up for NaNoWriMo. All that changed this year and I’m diving in.

Sh! Don’t tell anyone, but I hope to make significant progress on a story I’ve had in mind for a very long time. The point of the challenge is to write the first draft—or close to it—of a new novel during the month of November, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized I really want to write My New Old Life.

So how can I set myself up to “win” NaNoWriMo? How can you set yourself up to achieve your goals—whatever they may be?

Learn from those who’ve gone before. (Tweet this.)

Although it may feel as if you’re alone, there are those who have gone before you, who know what you’re facing, be it an exciting new challenge or a heartbreaking situation.

I’m so thankful for those who have gone before, who know the pitfalls to avoid, who know how to plot a course (or a story), who know sometimes you just have to “feel the feels,” as the saying goes.

I would encourage you to learn from those with a positive attitude, who are further along on the journey. I have listened to some NaNoWriMo veterans on YouTube who shared great advice. I have also listened to some who share more about what went wrong. That’s not necessarily helpful or encouraging.

Plot out the journey—at least the highlights.

For the most part, I’m known as a pantser in writing circles. Come to think of it, I kind of live life that way as well.

I love paper planners and journals. They enable me to dream and pretend to be super organized. But I’m the kind of person who doesn’t mind getting to the end of the day not having checked everything off my To Do list. In fact, I can’t remember a time I actually accomplished everything I’d set out to do on any given day.

But when it comes to crazy big goals, like writing 50K words in a month, some plotting comes in handy. If I know the major plot points I want to hit in the story, it will keep me moving in the right direction.

And if we know the major points we want to hit along this journey called Life, we will have a better chance of achieving our goals as well.

Plan to succeed. (Tweet this.)

While it’s okay to participate in NaNoWriMo and write 30K, 20K, even a few hundred words—after all, it’s more than we had written at the beginning of November—it’s best to go in planning to win.

And that’s the way it is with other things in life as well.

I’ll never have a clean, organized home. So why bother trying? They’ll never hire me for that job. Why even apply? I’ll never be thin. Why bother eating healthy and exercising?

It’s so easy to give up before we even get started. Let’s set ourselves up to succeed instead and take one step at a time in the right direction.

Don’t give up when things don’t go as planned. (Tweet this.)

We all know that it doesn’t matter how carefully we schedule our day or plan our life’s course; things will always come up that have the potential to derail us all together.

While we may have to reconsider our plans and dreams, it doesn’t mean we have to abandon them altogether. We just have to be willing to reprioritize as needed, and, as Christians, we must believe the promise in Romans 8:28, that God is working everything out for our good.

Fireworks image with the words, "Celebrate the victories -- no matter how small."

Celebrate the victories, no matter how small.

Many NaNo participants set up a reward system for achieving word count goals during the month of November, the more words, the more extravagant the reward. This kind of system keeps some pressing on.

Whether or not you choose to reward yourself when you make progress toward your goals, it’s a good thing to celebrate in some way. Too often we become discouraged when we don’t achieve our ultimate goal, when we don’t cross off everything on our To Do list.

Let’s celebrate the “small” victories in our life—and in the lives of those around us. (Tweet this.)

===

Steph Beth Nickel

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

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

Life’s Perplexities (Guest Post)

Life’s Perplexities

by Steph Beth Nickel

I originally wrote this devotional for HopeStreamRadio, but it may encourage you as well. Be blessed!

Have you ever been disappointed by a brother or sister in Christ?

Have you ever prayed a prayer that God hasn’t answered—at least not as you wanted Him to?

Have you ever read a portion of His Word that left you shaking your head?

It’s fairly easy to understand why others disappoint us from time to time. After all, they are only human—just like we are. When a fellow Christian—or anyone really—lets us down, we must extend forgiveness. This isn’t always easy, but God will give us the desire and wherewithal to do so. We need only ask.

And that brings us to the matter of prayer.

We stand on promises like the following:

Matthew 7:7-11 says, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (ESV)

Do I believe the promises in these verses? I do. Do I always see them come to pass exactly as I hope? Definitely not. Many, if not most, of you would say the same thing.

I know there are those who say God always answers. Sometimes He says, “Yes.” Sometimes He says, “No.” Sometimes He says, “Later.” I, however, think this is an oversimplification.

When He says, “Yes,” do we remember to thank Him? I do—sometimes.

When He says, “No” or “Later,” we must remain prayerful. Is there something He wants us to do or a spiritual lesson He wants to teach us? Is He increasing our ability to walk in faith despite disappointment and heartache? Is He working for our good and the good of others—even though we don’t see it at the time?

As I mentioned, I think wrestling with these questions and seeking answers that are true to His Word and His nature are sometimes part of the process.

But again, we must not question His goodness, His holiness, His righteousness. Although we can’t always understand what’s going on, it doesn’t mean the Lord’s character has changed. In fact, it never has and it never will.

We can count on Him to fulfill every one of His promises—but not necessarily as we expect or would like.

No matter what the outcome, we must remain prayerful.

And when it comes to portions of the Scriptures we simply can’t understand, portions that may cause us to bristle and squirm, we must learn to “rightly handle the word of truth,” as it says in 2 Timothy 2:15 (ESV).

Here are a few things we can do:

In the face of life's perplexities... Pray. Study. Obey.

Pray

We can—and should—pray before we open the Word, asking the Lord to help us understand and apply what we read.

Study

When we come to a difficult portion, instead of skipping over it or deciding it must mean something other than what it seems to mean, we should commit to studying it further. Keeping a separate journal where we keep notes on these portions of the Scriptures could benefit not only us but also others who are struggling with the same passages. We must refuse to put our Bible on the shelf, deciding we’ll never truly understand it anyway.

Obey

We must seek, with God’s enabling, to apply the portions of His Word that are clear.

Philippians 3:12-16 is a wonderful and challenging passage:

“Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. Only let us hold true to what we have attained” (ESV).

In the face of all these perplexities, we must continue to pray, confident that in His time and in His way, He will work all things out for our good, as He promises in Romans 8:28.

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

Steph Beth Nickel

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

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