STSS: When You Need To Try A New Direction

I’m a writer … I hope you’ve noticed …otherwise I’m doing a really bad job of this.

In college I took a course from the local writer’s guild, and one of the authors said something that has always stuck with me: “Writer’s block is your brain’s way of telling you that you’re doing something wrong.” He claimed there really was no such thing as writer’s block, that when you felt stuck, you should just delete what you’d written and look for another angle, and everything would come together.

I found this super interesting because writer’s block is so often portrayed as this horrible thing that you can’t overcome. The muse is dead. You’ve lost your mojo. The imaginary people who live in your head have all gone into hibernation … and so on.

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http://amabaltimore.org/4082/how-to-sock-it-to-writers-block/

I much preferred the idea that you just needed to go in another direction, so I decided that would also be my philosophy about writer’s block. And guess what? …

It is so true. Anytime I feel stuck, I remind myself that I’m just going in the wrong direction. I delete, brainstorm, take off in another direction, and it comes together beautifully. My new idea is a thousand times better than what I had written before. And I propose that the same solution works for “Christian block.”

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff new

Simple Truth: When things aren’t working out for you, God may be pushing you in a different direction

 

Yes, it is true that as Christians we will face troubles and persecution. Sometimes we may be heading in the right direction and just have a lot of road blocks (more about that in my next Simple Truths post!), but sometimes it may be God telling you, “Let it go…”

http://imgur.com/gallery/ZPt55

Sorry couldn’t resist that Frozen reference, and I’m willing to bet it was the first thing that popped up in a lot of your heads, too!

 

Don’t stress if life isn’t going the way you think it should. God is in control & He has a plan. Don’t be afraid to try something new and take a risk. Unlike the writer’s muse, God won’t disappear when you need Him. He will lead you in the right direction, and it will be beautiful.

So, to sum it up short & sweet & just ready to tweet:

Beat Christian block by asking God to point you in a new direction

(Click to tweet)

Your turn to talk: Have you ever had Christian block before? Did you persevere through or have to go in a different direction? How do you think you can tell when you’re supposed to give up & try something new versus keep pushing?

How To Stay Close To Christ Despite Your Busy Schedule

In order to receive God’s blessing upon our dreams & goals and to use them to honor God, we must develop intimacy with Christ. If you’re alive today and not a monk or a hermit living in a mountain shack with a couple of goats, you probably spend a lot of your time being busy and may struggle with where to fit God into your schedule.  The old saying says that idle hands are the devil’s playground but the opposite is also, and sometimes even more so, true: Busy hands are the devil’s playground. As promised, I’m going to help you overcome this.

But first, I have to be straight with you: Growing closer to Christ is a personal decision, and if you want it, you actually have to make it your top priority – like not missing the latest episode of Once Upon a Time priority or keeping up with covering your gray hairs priority. The things we really want, we don’t miss. Sadly, they tend to be things that really don’t matter.

I’m so sorry, Rumpel. You do matter to me! Just not as much as God.

For example, for many years, I scheduled Bible reading and prayer as the first item on my daily agenda, but each time I ran behind schedule or needed extra time, it was the first task to get kicked off my list. “See ya tomorrow, God. I’m sure you understand; after all a thousand years is like a day to you.” But now that I really have made it a priority, I find a way to get it done. The other items are the ones that get taken off my list.

So, if you want to stay close to Christ, make it a real priority and don’t make excuses for yourself. 

Now, let’s break it down. How can you stay close to Christ despite being so busy?

Develop the habit of talking to Him throughout the day. If you’ve died to yourself and began a new life in Christ, then He has sent the Holy Spirit to live in you. Great news! The Holy Spirit and God are the same, so you are always intimately connected to God already. You just have to remember this & tap into it. You do not have to go to a special spot or be completely alone or sacrifice an animal (Thank God because that would sorely conflict with my dedication to saving animals!) to come into God’s presence. Just open your mouth & speak or do it mentally. I especially recommend the mental approach if you’re around a lot of people and want to avoid looking like a crazy.

http://survivingtheworld.net/Lesson424.html

Some ways to make the habit stick: set a timer on your phone to remind you to speak to God every hour, stick reminder notes at your work desk or wherever you most frequent during the day, ask a friend to practice with you & see who remembered to talk to God the most times at the end of day – hey, why not?

Start spending time with Christians who are also serious about growing close to Christ. Did you know that we tend to be an average of the 5 people we spend the most time with? For some of us, that’s a seriously scary thought!

Include God in all of your activities. Before you begin a new project at work, say, “God, help me do this.” If you’re watching TV at home, say, “Thank you, God, for this time to just relax.” Acknowledge Him in all things & you will eventually develop a constant dialogue with Him.

Speaking of TV, cut out some of the meaningless distractions in your life. A huge one … social media (Except for my blog, of course, don’t stop reading this!) Most of us have been guilty of it at some point – the slow scroll, where you mindlessly scroll down, down, down the endless feeds on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and more. Wow, what a waste of time! Cut some of that out and you have time right there to spend in prayer or Bible reading. If you can’t control yourself, there are programs that can help: Cold TurkeyStay Focused, Focal Filter, Self Control (Mac)

stop_wasting_time_on_facebook

http://www.quertime.com/article/how-to-effectively-stop-wasting-time-on-facebook/

When you are talking to God, don’t force it. You don’t have to be eloquent or in a deep state of spiritual bliss or really long-winded. God knows your heart already, so it’s totally OK to say, “God, I’m not feeling very spiritual right now, but I love you and want to grow closer to you. Please keep working on me.” Then, be done. It can actually be worse to try to be super spiritual and then realize 5 minutes later that your mind has definitely wandered off to what you’re having for dinner and something funny your friend said yesterday. If you feel your focus start to wander, say, “God, I am going to stop praying now because I can feel my attention slipping and I don’t want to disrespect you. Thank you for being patient with me.” Then, let that mind wander. It’s fun.

At the end of the week, review: Was I too busy for God this week? Where did I waste time? What are some things I can cut out of my schedule? How can I remind myself to talk to God regularly?

 

Your turn to talk: What did I miss? How else can we keep close to God during the day? What benefits have you seen in your life when you do maintain a close relationship with Him? I’d love to share sample “schedules” for staying close to God with my readers, so please share what works for you!

STSS: Why You Should Live Proactively

I really don’t get why so many girls complain about their curls and how much they wish they had straight hair. I love my curly hair; I love its uniqueness, its springiness and how epically big it can be. But in truth, I admit, there is one thing that I don’t like about it:

It is a pain in my butt to wash and condition and comb out and put in leave in conditioner and curling creme and mousse and a finishing oil. Oh my gosh, I’m sweating just thinking about it.

But since I’m being truthful today, I’ve also got to admit that it’s really not that much trouble when I condition regularly. It is only when I put off conditioning my hair for a myriad of excuses, none of which are good – except for when I was in Africa and we didn’t have much water, and what we did have was freezing – that those adorable curls sink their teeth into one another and hold on for dear life, waging war against me and my comb so that the aftermath of our battleground looks like Chewbacca uses my shower.

You would think I would learn and I guess I do. I always tell myself, “I’ll never do that again. As all this dead hair that just got ripped out of my head as my witness, I will condition my hair every day or every other day!”

And yet so easily I lapse back into, “Ugh, I’ll do it tomorrow.” I wait until my curls are really knotted up and realize I absolutely can’t put off the washing anymore rather than proactively defeating the problem, and that’s just dumb.

 

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff newSimple Truth: Life is better when you live proactively instead of reactively.

 

If you’re always reacting to problems instead of planning for them, you’re going to respond to negative situations with negative responses.

Example) If you know that every day when your husband and kids get home around the same time, the house turns chaotic and you turn frantic and snappy, don’t just dread it every day and do nothing. Plan for it! Cover that time in prayer. Talk to your family (not during the trouble time) and tell them how you feel and one way they can help – perhaps set an expectation that the kids go to their room and play and you’ll bring a snack to them rather than have them all under your feet shrieking like baby birds, perhaps the husband can give you a hug and ask you how your day went.

The same concept applies to being proactive about productivity. If you’re always reacting to whatever tasks get dumped on you instead of proactively working to complete goals with a bigger picture in mind, you’re only ever going to accomplish minutia in life

To sum it up short & sweet & just ready to tweet:

Don’t let life trip you up. God’s soldiers plan ahead. 2 Tim 2:4 via @tiffanybiagas

 (Click to tweet)

2 Timothy 2:4 “No one serving in the army gets entangled in everyday affairs; the soldier’s aim is to please the enlisting officer.”

 

Your turn to talk. Agree or disagree? In which parts of your life can you improve your proactiveness? I’m thinking laziness is the number one culprit for living reactively instead of proactively. What do you think?

There Is No Point To Life Unless …

Bad news: There is no point to life … unless you’re living for something bigger than yourself.

Imagine this:

You graduate from college all shiny-eyed and ready to take on the world. You get a job, probably not the one you imagined, just something to pay the bills. But that’s OK. You have to be realistic after all. Once you’re on better ground, you’ll find something better. Most likely you meet someone instead, and you have kids, and now those bills are piling even higher, so there’s no time to pull that dusty dream down from the shelf. You leave it in storage and glance at it nostalgically every once in awhile, but in the meantime, you’re growing older. And your life is filled with ups and downs, some of the most beautiful and most tragic moments ever, and it may be overall good or overall bad but too soon, before you even realize it, it’s over. And you’re laid in the ground and the world moves on without you until you’re not even a thought in anyone’s head.

The Bible tells us that this world is not our home, and our soul longs for eternity and purpose which is why the scenario I just presented tends to be a big downer for many people.

The good news is that there is something bigger than yourself you can live for:

Christ

And the even better news is that He desires a relationship with you, and He plans to give you a great purpose. We just have to be willing to step into that role, and that is exactly what I want to help you do.

 

All I want for this Christmas is to help you  – dream it, do it, let God shine through it.

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We’re going to start off practicing increasing our bravery for Christ, learning ways that we can stay close to God regardless of our hectic schedules and getting our hearts in the right place with a special 12 days of Christmas challenge. And you don’t want to miss it, so be sure to subscribe to receive emails (only 2/week!).

Subscribing will also gain you the chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card! Current subscribers start off with 2 entries. So get excited and get ready to live for something bigger than yourself. Comment below & let me know what you’re most excited about changing in your life.

 

STSS: Swerve

During our first week at our new home, I learned something horrifying about the location.

At night …

Creatures crawl out of the lake (on the bright side, we have a lake!) and then …

They hop onto the roads and stupidly sit there, resulting in a bloody froggy massacre every night (And as a bio major, I feel compelled to point out that most of them are actually toads).

And that is why I had to swerve left and right, left and right as I drove home, expertly avoiding frogs while Eric sat in the passenger seat saying, “I hope you’re not going to do this every night.”

My response: “We’ll just have to not drive past a certain time.”

I noticed a group of people walking on the left side of the road with two little kids on bikes, but I didn’t think about what they would think of my slow swerving down the road until I noticed the dad take a couple of longer strides to catch up with his daughter and put his hand on her shoulder, steering her closer to the edge of the road.

“Oops!” I straightened up and scooted further right, making it clear that I would stay on my side and not swerve right into their family. I was so focused on saving frogs that I didn’t think about how it probably looked like I was the new neighborhood drunk.  My mind immediately went to the fact that I was making a bad first impression on our new neighbors and how easy it is to let personal circumstances affect our choices and not realize or sometimes even care how it looks to an outside observer.

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff new

 Ephesians 5: 1 – 2 “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.”

 

So, um, that’s a pretty big calling.

To truly “live in love,” we have to put aside our personal circumstances and think about how we appear to others. What are your actions really saying about you? About Christ?

(Highlight to share!)

For example, let’s imagine I have a really bad day so when I get stuck behind an incredibly slow truck on my way home and decide to abuse my car horn privileges, I don’t feel bad at all. In fact, I feel good about getting some of that frustration out … BUT as an imitator of God, I am failing horribly, and that’s not OK. 

Listen, God does care if you’re having a bad day but that doesn’t mean He’s going to forgive the bad behavior … well, He will because He always offers forgiveness thanks to Jesus, but you know what I mean :)

Step outside yourself and think of others before you act.

 

And on the flip side, be careful about making quick judgments. You may look at someone’s actions and assume they’re a bad person, but it could turn out that they’re just saving frog lives.

 

 

How to pray your dreams into reality

Mark 9:23 “Jesus said to him, ‘If you are able!—All things can be done for the one who believes.’

If you want to hear more of this story, read Mark 9, but the basics are that Jesus has been asked to do something “if he is able.” I love His response. He’s like, “Really?! Yeah, I’m able, dude. Are you able to believe?”

 

I’m here to tell you that God is more than able and He can fulfill your greatest dreams, and I want you to start praying about your dreams and goals.

 

Now here are  the things you need to know/remember about praying for your dreams:

First, it’s NOT a one way ticket to getting what you want.

Even if your prayers never bring your dream to life the way you think it should, praying about it will bring you closer to God, shaping your heart like His and eventually your desires to be more like His.

 

BUT… God does still know that you have dreams and deeply felt desires – after all, He put them there!! (Unless of course, as I mentioned before, your dreams are just plain evil. Sorry, those who dream of world domination.)

 

It’s easy to pray for your dreams. Just tell God directly what you want – don’t be embarrassed or try to explain why your dream will really be in His best interest. He already knows what you want, and He’s got that best interest thing down. Don’t be afraid to ask for what you want because God might not give it to you, and then you’ll have to question His power or goodness or even existence.

Too often we give God cop outs to “protect Him.” But He doesn’t need our protection. Elijah clearly wasn’t worried about whether God felt like bringing fire when he challenged the false prophets (1 Kings 18). Elijah expected God to show up, and He did.  God is God! He can say yes or no or not right now or whatever He wants and still be God – even if you don’t like it.

So ask for what you want and believe that He can deliver. He loves and rewards faith.

Do your homework. God is not a genie. If you want to accomplish something, then put in the work. You’re not going to blow the world away like the next Taylor Swift (Gosh, I love her, btw) if you sing like Scuttle from The Little Mermaid and put no effort in to improve.

 

Ask God to purify your desires. Sometimes our dreams really are just selfish or they’re not good for us. If we pray openly and don’t keep a closed mind, God will change our mind if it needs to be changed.

Ask for wisdom, guidance and patience daily. Pray throughout the day as you work on your goals. Don’t expect a lot of help from God if you’re trying to accomplish your goals and expecting Him to help, but you’re not even bringing Him into the work. Talk to Him as you go. For example, if you’re about to start a photography class, as the class starts ask God to give you a good instructor, give you courage to ask questions, for understanding and retention.

Hugely important!!!

Pray in hope. God loves us to praise Him and proclaim His greatness, so state that you believe in Him, that you know He is powerful enough to bring about your dreams.

I found this great prompt at http://christianteens.about.com/od/christianliving/qt/A-Prayer-Of-Hope.htm

You know my dreams, Lord, and I know it is a lot to ask to realize those dreams, but I ask that you hear my prayer of hope. I would like to think that my hopes and dreams are all part of your plans for me, but I trust that you always know better. I put my dreams in your hands to mold and fit to your will. I surrender my hopes to you.

Last but not least, ask for God’s blessing and favor in the things you’re doing right now.  Maybe God has a different plan for you but you won’t see it until you excel where you are now. On that same note, praise God for the good things He has done/is doing now. Don’t agonize over what you don’t have.  Dreams are important, but life is too short to be miserable pining over an unrealized dream.

Don’t forget:

Forgive those you are holding a grudge against and live in God’s will. 1 Peter 3:12 “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer. But the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.”

 

Join the conversation:

What are your dreams? How can I pray for you about them? Do you think it’s selfish to pray for your dreams when there are people in the world who are praying just to survive?

STSS: When I Didn’t Care About My Mom

Quite a while ago, back when I was still Queen of Eating Whatever I Wanted With No Weight Gain, I came home to find that my mother was making cheese dip – because my dad wanted some – and cookies – because my sister wanted some.

I said, “Cheese dip and cookies?! What is this, my lucky day?” I laughed. 

But my mom’s response killed my laughter pretty fast.

“More like my unlucky day.”

Suddenly I realized that my gain was coming at a cost – the extra time and effort my mom had to put in to make these two delicious treats in addition to dinner and doing laundry, dishes, cleaning up after the kids and more.

 

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff new

Philippians 2:4 “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.”

 

Everything we do affects someone else. It might be small; it might be a long time coming, but we don’t live in a vacuum and so our choices do have effects. 

 

Humans are naturally selfish, but if we’re going to truly be God’s children, we have to fight against that nature. Go out of your way to lift others up and think about the potential consequences of your actions. If you’re in a bad mood and you snap at a coworker, you don’t really know how that’s going to affect him. Maybe his wife left him and he needed just one word of kindness today. If you ignore your neighbor when she waves at you, maybe you’re pouring into an ocean of loneliness that she’s been drowning in for years now. 

 

Really look and listen to the people around you. Find ways to bless them and think before you act.

 

Join the conversation:

When have you acted thoughtlessly and really regretted it later? How can we be more purposeful in our how we interact with others?

Yearn to Learn

I must admit I was a child who hated school.  But I always understood that there was a difference between school and learning.  Now, learning – that I loved, and the older I’ve grown, the more I’ve realized that learning should never end. Just check out what some people with more clout than me have said about learning:

“There is no end to education. It is not that you read a book, pass an examination, and finish with education. The whole of life, from the moment you are born to the moment you die, is a process of learning.” — Jiddu Krishnamurti

 

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” — Dr. Seuss

Highlight either of the above quotes to share.

I especially love the way Dr. Seuss put it. Knowledge is a gateway, a bridge, a door to this big, big world. The more we know, the more places we can go.

Wow. That man knew about more than just red fish, blue fish.

Image from www.innovativestencils.com

So I challenge you, dare you, urge you to start actively learning. Learn new skills, research a topic you’ve always been curious about, improve your work or hobby skills, discover what is going on in the world around you.

 

There are 3 super easy ways to learn now: 

  • Read a book

  • Google

  • Ask someone

 

 

Luckily for us, we live in an age of technology and advancement. The hard work is done for us. There is a book or at least a web article on every topic you could imagine. Visit your local library or order a book on Amazon. Type anything you want into the search bar of your web browser … or just ask someone. 

 

The world is filled with knowledgeable people, and most of them like to talk. Offer to buy someone lunch in exchange for a chance to pick their brain. Plan out your questions ahead of time & take notes. 

 

If you took just 20 minutes a day or one hour a week to learn something new, you could open yourself to a world of new possibilities for your dreams, your job, your family and you relationship with God. I dare you to start today.

 

Join the conversation:

What topic or skill do you want to learn about? What kind of opportunities could this provide?

STSS: Why I Ruined Something Beautiful

Last fall I saw two miniature perfectly shaped pine cones. I admired their artistry and then immediately crushed them beneath my foot. Then I thought, “Oh, they were so cute and perfect and just adorable right next to each other and I ruined it thoughtlessly.” 

 

hippy girl holding up peace sign

Yes, I was mourning the destruction of pine cones. I appreciate nature, man. (image courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net, by Witthaya Phonsawat)

 

I stomped those pine cones for two reasons: I didn’t really notice them – notice them until just before my foot came down on top of them, and it is my habit to step on pine cones for the wonderful “Crunch!” they make.

 

I think we also “crush perfect pine cones” as Christians sometimes.

 

Simple Truths from Simple Stuff new

Philippians 4:9 “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put into practice.”

 

God wants us to practice His Word because – we’ve all heard this – “practice makes perfect.” The more we live out God’s commandments, the more natural it becomes. But it also works in reverse. The more we live selfishly and without regard for God, the more natural that becomes.

 

We need to examine our habits and determine what kind of person we are becoming. Do we crush beautiful things or lift them up? Do we notice when people have hurt feelings or do we contribute to their insecurity? Do we stomp all over people without even noticing or do we put them above ourselves?

Join the conversation:

What is your best habit and what is your worst? I want to pray for you to strengthen your good habits and destroy the bad ones. 

 

 

How to get yourself to do something you don’t want to do

We’ve all been there, right? We know we should do a certain task but we just don’t feel like it or don’t have the time.

 

For example, I’ve been putting off getting my inspection sticker because I have had NO time this summer … and now I have a ticket. I’m telling you, I am a cop magnet. Unfortunately, my magnetism only draws them into pulling me over. It does not help at all with charming my way out of a ticket – probably because I am very uncharming when I get pulled over.

 

So how can we make accomplishing difficult or annoying tasks easier?

Let’s discuss over an imaginary breakfast, shall we? Oh, but we can’t because I always say I will prepare enough eggs and sausage to serve as breakfast for a week but I never do.

 

The first step to overcoming this road block to our imaginary breakfast (and my real breakfast each week) is to identify the #1 obstacle that holds me back. For me, it’s the time it takes to get it done. I’m no Betty Crocker and I’d much rather spend my time doing something else. 

 

So, I timed how long it took me to cook the breakfast: 29 minutes and I always end up waiting on the sausage because I prep the eggs first and then they cook way faster than the sausage which needs to simmer for a while. 

 

So to decrease the time it takes me to cook, making the time variable less of an obstacle, I need to adjust. I could prep the sausage first and get it started and then cook the eggs, which would bring the cook time down to about 20 minutes.  I can also wake up 20 minutes earlier on those days to account for the cooking time so that I’m not losing any precious minutes on eggs and sausage. I don’t even like eggs and sausage that much.

Recap: Identify the #1 obstacle, gather information that will help you and then adjust.

The second thing you can do is find ways to make the task more enjoyable. Listen to a fun playlist while you cook, clean or pay bills online.  Ask a friend to join you for your daily exercise.  Reward yourself with some chocolate for organizing a stack of files. The possibilities are endless, which is great because there are an endless amount of boring/difficult things you will have to do in life, my friend – not to bum you out, but it’s true which is just one more reason why it is so important for you to dream big and go for your goals.

 

Join the conversation:

What task do you hate doing? Following the two steps I suggested, how can you make the tasks easier to deal with? What tips did you have for doing things you don’t want to do?