faith

Happy New Year!

Did you know that the very first Times Square Ball was dropped on December 31, 1907 and it comes from the instrument ‘Time Ball’ which was created in England in 1829 to help ships keep time at sea. I won’t go into the details of how it works because quite frankly I don’t understand.

However, I do understand that things don’t always go as planned. The start of 2015 is no exception.

I’d spent the last two weeks of December preparing for the new year. I put together routines, schedules, agenda’s, for blogging, writing, exercising, and managing my time. I had it planned out to a ‘T’ and I was more than determined to stick to it.

On the 30th of December, my dad was admitted to the hospital when he started showing symptoms of a spider bite. He spent New Years Eve and New Years Day in there and was able to come home on Friday. It turns out that it wasn’t a poisonous spider bite, but only that he had an allergic reaction to the bite, which is common for ground crab spiders. We praise God for his health which is still strengthening with each day.

That being said, my New Years resolutions really fell through on this one. I was stressed, mentally exhausted, and didn’t get any sleep. We ate more fast food since no one was feeling up to cook, and I drank a Dr. Pepper on more than one occasion because–yes, I’ll admit it–I’m addicted. So my plans didn’t pan out. All that prepping, and things took a different turn, one that I didn’t see coming.

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the Lord.” -Isaiah 55:8

As an average person, I might wonder what plans God has for me by putting my daddy in the hospital and watching him go through so much pain. But as a Christian, I don’t want to ask those questions. I don’t want to argue with God for answers I’m not going to understand. I do know this, though. That during those days when I wasn’t sure what was going to happen, I grew closer to God.

I’d made the decision to trust in Him no matter what, I refused to grow bitter towards Him. Because He is my God. I made that decision a long time ago, and nothing is going to change that. My love belongs to Him first and foremost.

Besides the fact that I would have taken away my daddy’s pain if I could, I wouldn’t change what I had to go through personally. I became humbled before my Savior in a way that I’ll cherish every day of 2015. It wasn’t the ideal way to start the year, but it was what was best for me. I discovered a deep, rich longing to grab hold of my Master’s robe and bow before His feet. And on the day I walk into Heaven, I pray I will be able to do that very thing.

I know people roll their eyes when someone mentions their ‘New Years Resolutions.’ You know, the New-Year-New-Me speech that most people lose sight off after a few days, if not a few hours. I’ve never been able to uphold a new years resolution. But this time around, I’m jumping headlong into my plans.

Here’s my list of things to accomplish in 2015.

  • Lose 20 pounds. Cliche, I know. Everybody wants to lose weight. But 2014 showed me exactly what I can accomplish if I put my mind to it. In 2014 I lost 10 pounds, went on a Mission Trip (out of my comfort zone, but definitely on my heart,) and attended my first writer’s conference…by myself, which turned out to be a wonderful experience.

    Either way, my weight-loss plans are to lose at least 5 pounds a month, finishing in April at my ideal weight, 140 pounds. And in May I’ll start workouts that target area’s of my body; arms, legs, back, stomach. I’ve never weighed less than 146 pounds (not since I was a child,) so I’m excited to discover this new me, and 2015 has the privilege of being the first year to see her.

  • Run a mile a day. I’ve always admired those people who could get up at dawn and run a few miles before they head off to work, like it’s nothing at all. So, using the C25K app (from Zen Labs) on my phone I should be able to run a 5K in 8 weeks…I’ll keep you updated.
  • Blog consistently. You guys who have been my faithful companions from the get-go probably know by now that I don’t post often here on my blog. That’s because I don’t always use discipline to sit down and write what’s on my mind. Procrastination-Princess over here has a bad habit of putting things off until it’s too late. I’ve got a dozen different blog-post drafts that are way past their due date.
  • Write consistently. Again, this Princess of Procrastination has a ton of stories and characters running around her head, waiting to leak out, but unless she’s knee-deep into a story it’s tough to be dedicated to a messy, pathetic first draft.
  • Get published. I’m not expecting to get published over night. Nor do I expect to get published in 2015, for that matter. But I do want to get noticed by some agents and editors who can guide me, give me experience, and help hone my craft to perfection.

“If you can quit, then quit. If you can’t quit, you’re a writer.” -R.A. Salvatore

I do have a bunch of little carry-over resolutions. You know, resolutions that carry over from year to year because I didn’t do them last year. Like learning how to play the $300 dollar guitar sitting in my room. Learning French from the college textbook on my bookshelf. Or read a hundred books like I said I would on Goodreads.

Until Thursday, my friends, I leave you with a prayer.

Father, I ask that You would watch over the person reading this. I ask that You would draw them close to Your heart during the start of this new year. I know You have plans waiting for my dear friend and I believe in those plans. I trust that You have magnificent things waiting in 2015. Lord, I ask for good health, financial stability, unconditional love, and a place to call home. May Your mercy abound in their life, in all that they do. For grace, peace, and joy, we pray in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tell me about your new years resolutions or what your hopes are for 2015. I’d love to hear them. 🙂

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Faith, Family, Fiction, and Fitness: How to Balance Life as Writer

I found out the hard way that you must–and I cannot stress that word enough–you must have balance in your life.

No matter the career without balance there’s very little chance for genuine happiness, and even peace.

A few years ago there was a stretch where I got so comfortable with my writing that I didn’t do much of anything else. And I’ll humbly admit that I still experience those days. Sure, we probably all will at times. That’s okay.

But a lack of balance can be unhealthy when it becomes a daily pattern. Here are some ways to help balance your life that I hope can encourage you.

  • Faith. This one comes first on the list of priorities. Like the airplane safety instructions that advises you to put on your oxygen mask before helping someone else with theirs, you cannot expect to be a light for Christ if you’re neglecting your spiritual life. You have to make time for your relationship with God before anything else. What is the point of risking your walk for the sake of your career or even your family. If you truly want to have a relationship with Christ, then you have to actively pursue one.

Draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you… –James 4:8

  • Need some inspiration? Make it a priority to spend time in the Word as soon as you wake up in the morning, if you don’t already. Set an alarm on your phone to help you to remember to pray throughout a busy day. Download the Bible App and check out the scripture of the day for a fun reminder. Make it a point to take away at least one important lesson from your Bible study each day; don’t just read the Bible, learn it; quality is better than quantity. You could even try Verse Mapping, something I recently took an interest in. If you’re truly concerned about the lack of time you spend with God, then don’t just consider these things. Do them. If you feel a small urge on your heart to crack open your Bible and look up a quick verse, don’t write it off. Just do it. Make an effort, because without the effort you won’t get results.
  • Family. In my opinion, most people would agree, family falls on the list right below faith. I can honestly say I wouldn’t be the person I am without my family by my side. We aren’t perfect, but God perfectly chose each one of us to make a family that serves and delights in Him. It’s not hard for me to spend time with my family since I love them so deeply. I very much look for any opportunity to spend time with them, whether that means watching a movie with them or taking a Sunday drive through our hometown (but not during football season.) Family is very important to most people and usually isn’t a hard priority to balance.
  • Do you find yourself struggling to make time for family? If you keep a schedule, actually make time in your day to spend with your family. Whether it be one family member or the whole clan, pencil them in. Don’t devalue your loved ones by pushing aside your time with them for something that you think is more important. If something else comes up, don’t let it be your family that has to miss out on spending time with you. Because believe me when I say nothing on earth is more important than family. Make a date with your spouse. Go bowling with your kids. Cook dinner for your parents. And watch a movie with your siblings. Whoever you call family, whatever it is you’re interested in, just do it. If you’re on the lazy side and don’t keep a schedule (like me) then make an effort to show your family you love them. Steal their chores 😉 Give them a hug. Share a smile. When you get that incredibly annoying urge to argue, try something crazy for once and don’t argue. Just stay silent, even if you have to bite your lip. Take a moment to listen to what they have to say, even if you don’t agree with it. And more than anything else, make sure you actually say the words “I love you.”
  • Fiction. Okay, I know not everybody writes for a living, but that’s what I do (actually it’s not a living yet, I don’t technically make a paycheck, but I’m not giving up.) Whether you’re a writer, a doctor, a teacher, a student, a cashier, a bank teller, or a fast food cook, you have to balance work just as well as every other priority in your life. Sometimes this isn’t a hard one if you work a nine-to-five. For some of us–especially those of us who work in their pajamas, hehe–it may be a little bit more difficult. I have three waves of advice for different careers, so here goes.
  • Writers: For the professional procrastinators (like me) you may need to start a schedule to keep up with your work; keep a calendar, set your alarm, write in a notebook what you have planned: your daily routine, your meetings, your achievements. Even more than that, write down your goals and with all the self-discipline you can gather, work towards those goals. For the professional non-procrastinators, you probably don’t have a hard time getting to work, and you might not even have a hard time leaving work, but even if you do, be sure in the process of balancing your life you don’t overdo it. Keep God first, family second, and work at the #3. It doesn’t mean you have to slack off or miss out on your goals. It doesn’t even mean that you can’t have the occasional late night/early morning writing/plotting/reading/editing streak that makes you want to sleep-in and overdose on coffee, but don’t let that become your career. Remember to make time for God (keep a Bible nearby to your writing area) and time for your family (take your laptop, book, or notebook to your family room and at the very least work in the same room. It may be distracting or frustrating, but before you do nothing at all, at least sit in the same room with them.)
  • Nine-to-Five’ers: For any other career–and I carefully lump these together–take time to enjoy what you do. First of all, if you’re not in a job you love, I strongly encourage following your dreams and passions with equal amounts of prayer. If you don’t love your job but you also don’t have a choice, ask for the Lord’s blessing or ask Him to help you see the blessing every day. Buy a pack of sticky notes and write one good thing about your job or life every single day and stick them where you can see them. Pessimists might find this hard to do. Optimists are probably staring wide-eyed at the computer screen right now with a stack of sticky notes in one hand and a pen in the other. If you love your job, love it in doses. Keep in mind that this is a guide as to how to keep things in balance. So in reaching each topic, I award nine-to-five’ers with this: love your job, but don’t love it too much. In other words follow closely to keeping God first and family second. Schedule your work and stick to that schedule, even if it means turning off your cell phone when you leave work and come home. Make a time slot for everything and keep everything in its time slot.
  • Stay-at-Home-Moms/Dads: This is very much the category in which I’d like to be placed. Unfortunately, I’m only listed under writer. But I do know stay-at-home-parents well. This can be a full-time job no different from a nine-to-five’er. In reality this is a 24/7-365 job–with sleepless nights and unpaid overtime. Tough. But like any other job, your time parenting also needs balancing. This might surprise people, but when you put parenting into this perspective, you might see stunning results. Moms and dads, don’t forget to spend time with God. Make that difficult effort to wake up an hour before the kids to spend time in the Word alone. Or if you’re up with that baby, keep your Bible near your rocking chair or crib. If you have older kids, spend time teaching God’s Word to them. Do Bible studies or hands-on lessons that are helpful to the visual learners. Making time for your kids probably isn’t a hard one for the stay-at-home-parent; but making time for your spouse may be a different story. I can’t for the life of me remember who said it (so if you’re reading this then thank you so much for saying it,) but a woman once said that she made it a point to save her energy throughout the day so that she can spend time with her husband. When I read that, my eyes were opened to a whole new version of what a marriage looked like. She went on to say that she would put off the small things throughout the day that could wait or that weren’t that important in order to spend real time with her husband instead of saying she was tired or had a headache. So take this advice parents; make time for your spouse. Don’t get yourself bogged down. If you’re tired, take a nap when the kids go down for a nap. Finding time for your spouse should be no different from finding time to go to the grocery store. Plan a date night and make sure you actually go out on a date (movies, dinner, a walk, or just a board game at home snuggled on the couch.) Don’t forget to be selfless when it comes to your spouse; make an effort to do what he likes to do and make an effort to try the things that she likes. It may not be the most pleasant, but you’d be surprised by how the other person begins to show a selfless, giving attitude when you do it first. Also, and this is for married eyes only, mind you: make sure that you save some “special alone time” for you and your husband or wife. This is even a Biblical matter, so take it to heart. (1 Corinthians 7:5)
  • Fitness. Last, but certainly not least. This one is probably going to be ignored a lot of the time. I can say for a fact that I’ve been ignoring this point for the past six months or so. I was on a roll in my getting-fit-spree and had lost ten pounds when I sprained my ankle and confined myself to the couch for 8+ weeks. I mean, honestly, I didn’t need to be on the couch, but I had a terribly hard time getting back into my exercising groove. And here on the week of Thanksgiving, I’m still having a hard time eating healthy. (Although I do have plans for December.) But, needless to say, fitness is definitely one of those things that needs to be folded into the mixture of things that needs balancing when it comes to life.
  • So here are my tips for fitness: Set a goal. Do you want to lose major pounds? A few pounds? Get in shape so you’re not out of breath after taking the stairs? Get into a certain pant size? Whatever the goal may be, write it down and make it realistic (meaning don’t be hard on yourself by saying I want to loose 600 pounds when you only need to lose 10. I would even recommend not putting a deadline on your goals because when you get closer to that deadline and see slow results then you’ll get tempted to give up. Don’t do that to yourself.) Eat healthy. That should probably be the first thing you want to do. It’s not always easy skipping over that piece of chocolate cake or vanilla ice cream, but it goes hand-in-hand with getting fit. Get outside. Even if your main exercise equipment is located indoors, hit the trails sometimes, even if it’s just walking outside to get your mail. Move. Get out of your desk chair and walk from one end of the house to the other. Push yourself. Just do it and don’t let yourself think twice about it. Personally, when I think too long about stuff then I tend to over analyze things and that usually leads to justifying bad choices. Get into a good exercise program. The Nike Training Center (NTC) App is free on the android (not sure about the iPhone and whatnot) but it’s a great exercise program with a virtual coach and timer, not to mention videos that instruct you how to do the moves. I use used this one, it’s good if you want to get in shape and loose pounds but I’ll warn you that it’s brutal. If you really want to sweat then get this one and you’ll see results within the month. For something less brutal you could try jogging, walking, or swimming. Whatever your fitness fave is, get into it. Make a goal and work towards that goal, even if it takes a lot of time. Starting now is better than missing out on it later.

So there you go. Jessica’s Guide to Balancing your Life. I never promised to give you the secret to easy living, but I hope something I’ve said can encourage and inspire you to help keep balance in your life. But like I did say at the beginning, balancing your life gives you a good chance at genuine happiness and peace.

Because when your life isn’t in order then you find it hard to sleep at night. And when you find it hard to sleep at night then you accidentally put potato flakes in your coffee maker. And when you accidentally put potato flakes in your coffee maker then you accidentally drink potato flakes with your sugar-water. Don’t drink potato flakes with your sugar-water. Get your life in balance today. 😉