Living in Faith, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

Embrace the fact that you’re an encourager

I have always been a predominantly optimistic, glass-half-full kind of person. That’s not to say I don’t get discouraged or say negative things or sometimes play the “what if something terrible happens” game — because I do. Two important realizations related to this struck me a few weeks ago:

I’m not just a person with a positive attitude. I’m an encourager.

never feel bad about being an encouragerI need to own that fact and stop apologizing for being an encourager. And that includes no longer feeling guilty about looking for positive things when surrounded by negativity or stifled by the weight of situations. No more feeling “less than” when other people might think my mindset is ill-founded.

My ah-ha moments came while listening to a workshop from this year’s Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. Author/editor Lisa Crayton led a workshop called “Writing to Encourage.” And although she was addressing writers, many of the things she said apply to each of us as Christians.

Here’s one gem:

“We are the keepers of encouragement,” she said. “We have the Spirit of God in us to encourage others.”

The keepers of encouragement. I love the perspective. Those of us who follow Christ have the best news in the world to share and the biggest reason to hold onto hope and help others do the same.

God wired us to be encouragers. And if ever there was a time when people need to be encouraged, it’s now. Click To Tweet

Bible verses in both the Old and New Testaments tell us to do this. Here are just a few:

  • Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. (Ecclesiastes 4:9)
  • I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong— that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith. (Romans 1:11-12)
  • And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching. (Hebrews 10:24-25)
  • Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)

I know there have been times when people viewed me as a Pollyanna who doesn’t want to acknowledge negative things. They’ve looked at me as less worldly or less mature, as someone wearing blinders to the harsh realities of life.

And I’ve let them do that. I’ve kept my mouth shut or downplayed the encouragement or optimism I could have shared because of how I believed they would view it. Because I didn’t want to see another round of eye rolls or “she’s clueless” glances or hear the “yeah, right” huffs.

Their attitudes toward me are wrong, but so is my response.

I can’t control what they think of me. I can control how I react.

We can make a difference in people’s lives by showing them the encouragement we know as followers of Christ. Click To Tweet

In her workshop, Lisa Crayton also said, “Christian writers are uniquely positioned … to lead readers out of their place of discouragement to finding the encouragement that they need.”

I agree with that statement 110% as a Christian writer, but also as a Christian trying to get through each day in this unpredictable world.

As Romans 12:8 says, If your gift is to encourage others, be encouraging. If it is giving, give generously. If God has given you leadership ability, take the responsibility seriously. And if you have a gift for showing kindness to others, do it gladly. (NLT)

Encouragement doesn’t have to come across as preachy or goody-goody or out of touch. I’m not perfect at it and there are plenty of times when I don’t follow through on an opportunity as I should. But I — we — can get better at it if we’ll ask for God’s help.

be encouraging to othersWhy should we bother? Because God wired us to be encouragers. And if ever there was a time when people need to be encouraged, it’s now.

It can be as small as telling someone you hope they have a great day. Or sending a text to someone you haven’t connected with in a long time. Or letting the person in line behind you at the grocery store go first because they have five items in their basket and your cart is crammed full.

If “official” encouragement feels uncomfortable right now, we can encourage from behind the scenes. Prayers lifted on someone’s behalf can do wonders, even if they don’t know you’re praying.

So take heart, fellow encouragers! I believe it’s time for us to step up and share this gift we’ve been given without being timid or intimidated. Without apologizing or feeling self-conscious.

An unapologetic encourager. That’s what I want to be.

Will you join me?

We can make a difference in people’s lives by showing them the encouragement we know as followers of Christ. How can you see yourself doing that for the people around you? Leave a comment to share an idea and encourage others who stop by.

Be blessed today, my friends!


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Book Love, Christian non-fiction, Writing life

Happy book birthday to Work from Home Moms’ Devotions to Go

During one of my many clean-out sessions of the past year, I stopped for a few minutes to flip through a little book I haven’t paid much attention to in a long time: Work from Home Moms’ Devotions to Go. It’s my first devotional book, the one that allowed me the privilege of saying I’m a published book author.

Work from home moms devotions to goIt also turns 15 this year, which is a bit crazy to wrap my mind around. To celebrate, I’d like to share the story of how being a work-from-home mom led to a book.

I began working from home when our son was about five months old. It wasn’t under the most ideal circumstances; I’d learned a few weeks after returning to work from maternity leave that positions currently held by four people would be consolidated into a single role. To make a long story short, I wasn’t the person chosen to continue in that role.

I had handled a few freelance writing or editing projects over the years and my husband and I had talked about how great it would be if I could find enough freelance work to stay at home once we started a family.

As much as I liked the idea, I have to be honest: I would have never had the nerve to leave my job and try full-time freelancing.

God knew that and put me in the position to try. And He blessed me with work all the years I was at home.

A while after my work-from-home journey began, God nudged me in another direction I would have never imagined.

I had looked in bookstores and online for a devotional book written for moms who worked from home. I even called stores and asked them to search their systems for such a book. No one found anything.

The longer I searched, the more frustrated I became. Working from home wasn’t as common as now, but it also wasn’t unheard of. Surely there was a devotional book for women juggling families, work and everything else under the same roof.

My answer came as I mulled it over once again while rocking our son to sleep for his nap.

Write it yourself.

Three simple words that rang as loudly in my mind as if someone had spoken them beside me.

Whoa. Where did that come from?

Again: Write it yourself.

I’d never had such a thing happen. Lord, if that’s you …

The thought latched on and I continued to pray about it while doing other things as our son napped. By the time he woke and we were getting ready for a walk around the neighborhood, my prayer had shifted to, “OK, Lord, I’ll do this if you want but I don’t know what to write.”

Because God is God (and because for some reason this was His plan), He answered my puny challenge. Ideas for devotions related to being a work-from-home mom popped in my mind so quickly during our walk I could hardly keep them straight.

I scribbled down as many as I could remember when we got back home. More than 30 ideas filled the page.

And that was the day that led to Work from Home Moms’ Devotions to Go. It was a long process full of ups and downs, starts and stops, that eventually led to a publishing home with Extreme Diva Media. I had the chance to meet and work with amazing women including our publisher Jean Ann Duckworth and fellow authors Marilyn Nutter, Sherry Cummins, and Shelley Galbreath.

God was so good to turn my personal desire for a devotional book into something that others might enjoy. Even all these years later, I only know of one other devotional book written for moms who work from home – and it’s written by a woman I connected with during this process who endorsed it.

Many parents have learned to simultaneously balance work, home, and family during the past year. If you know someone who might like reading Work from Home Moms’ Devotions to Go, it’s still available in print (through me or some used book sites) and as an eBook.

Thanks for humoring my trip down memory lane. It’s reminded me anew how God can use all of us, even when we have no clue what we’re doing or where we’re going.

What nudges have you felt from God that might have led to unexpected places? Leave a comment and I’ll enter you into a drawing to win an autographed copy for yourself.


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God sightings, Scripture verses, What I've Learned Lately

Stepping (or floating) away from the rest of the world

getting away from the rest of the world

When was the last time you got away from the world for a while, just stepped away and enjoyed the peace and quiet without checking your phone every few minutes?

My husband and I spent several hours Sunday afternoon doing something we haven’t done together in years: fishing. And when I say years, I mean I can’t remember fishing together since before we were married (and we celebrated #31 in April!).

He’s gone with friends and has taken our kids over the years and has even fished in creeks or the surf when we’ve gone places. But just the two of us in a boat together? Not since our dating days.

Our church is currently sharing a pastor with another congregation, which means our service is over by 10 a.m. Afterwards, I picked up lunch while my husband got the boat ready and we headed to one of the local reservoirs.

It was a gorgeous afternoon, sunny and calm with a sky so blue it looked Photo Shopped. We heard lots of frogs on the bank and I could count on one hand the number of other boats we saw or cars we heard.

Lovely time away from all the other “things” — absolutely lovely.

Lots of things have changed for us as we’ve adjusted to life as empty nesters in the past year. Our schedules have shifted and we’re finding ways to fill the hours (nights, weekends) that used to be focused on the kids and their things (not that we ever regret those days — it’s what makes parenting parenting). It’s nice to find new things to do together or get back to some things we enjoyed years ago.

Stepping away from the rest of the world and its busyness can be tough to do, but it’s vital for us physically, mentally and spiritually. We need time away by ourselves and time away with those closest to us.

Jesus got away – so we can, too.

After all, if Jesus could take time away from the world in the midst of His ministry, who am I to think I don’t need a break myself? Sometimes Jesus got away by Himself (such as in Matthew 12:22-23, Mark 1:35) and sometimes He took a few of His closest disciples with Him (such as in Mark 14:32-42).

In both situations, Jesus set the example and sent an important message: it’s okay to step away from the world to relax and recharge. No guilt necessary. 😊

I think it’s also important to pay attention to when Jesus carved out these getaway times. They often were after something monumental had happened, when He needed focused prayer time, or when He was on the brink of a decision or change.

Sound familiar? Those are the times when I need to step away, too – and maybe the same is true for you.

When you realize that time is needed, how do you recharge? Sometimes I go somewhere by myself, such as the Monastery of the Holy Spirit that’s not too far from our home. Other times it’s nice to go with someone. I’m glad I said “yes” to fishing on Sunday and “no” to the other things I could have done. Because guess what? Those other things still got done later.

Plus, I started the week in a better frame of mind after getting away for a while. I hope you make time to step away from the busyness in your world this week, too. What will you try?

 

Dear Lord, our days are so full of things to do, things to plan, things that fill our minds and keep us busy, busy, busy. Help us slow down. Help us step away to rejuvenate ourselves and to reconnect with You and the people we love. Because when we slow down, we’ll see You. When we see You, we’ll be changed. And that’s what we want. Amen.


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Book Love, Christian fiction

Find a new Christian author through the 2021 Selah Award fiction winners

One of the biggest and most respected conferences for Christian writers was last week: the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in North Carolina. They celebrate on the last night of the conference with the Selah Awards, which cover multiple categories of Christian fiction and nonfiction works that were published in the past year.

Books that win the Selah Award are definitely worth checking out, so I wanted to share them in case any look interesting to you.

This week I’m sharing the winners from the fiction categories, complete with links if you’d like to learn more. Next week I’ll share the nonfiction Selah Award winners. Happy browsing!

First Novel

Novella

Contemporary Women’s Fiction

Historical / Biblical Fiction

Historical Romance Fiction

Contemporary Romance Fiction

Romantic Suspense Fiction

Mystery/Suspense Fiction

Western Fiction

Speculative Fiction

General Fiction

YA Fiction

Middle Grade Fiction

What’s your favorite genre to read? I’ve added several of these titles to my own to-read list; would love to know if any look interesting to you.

If you’d like an even easier way to find new authors in the genres you enjoy, you can also sign up for my e-newsletter and get a free download of “75 Clean Fiction Authors Worth Reading.” It’s a great way to find a new favorite author this summer!


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