Showing posts with label Encouragement. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Encouragement. Show all posts

Nov 20, 2013

Interview with Jocelyn Green: Bestselling Author, Wife, and Mother

Being a writer, I'm a pretty picky reader - especially when it comes to novels. I'm also a history buff (and a published author of history-related books), so when historical novels stray from real history, I tend to get annoyed. But when I read Jocelyn Green's historical novels Wedded to the War and Widow of Gettysberg, I was impressed. Big time.

What's even more impressive, though, is the author herself. She not only writes novels, but she has several nonfiction books, too. Plus she's a mom and a homeschooler. Better yet, she's a sweet lady who loves Jesus and seeks to lead others to him.

That's why I interviewed Jocelyn (who kindly agreed to the interview even though she'd just passed a grueling deadline and just wanted to get her neglected floor mopped). But don't worry; she won't make you feel bad about not being supermom. Instead, Jocelyn tells it how it really is.

Me:  I love your novels - but I admit, I have a fascination with your personal life, too. You're a wife and a mom of two young children. How do you find time for writing?

Jocelyn: I have to fight for it, no doubt about it. Thankfully, my husband is very helpful, and my parents live 20 minutes away, so they help a couple days a week and when I’m on a deadline, too. But I’ve had to learn to let some things slide. I try to cook ahead of time and have dinners in the freezer during crunch time, but sometimes we eat cereal or frozen pizza. I don’t decorate for every season as much as I’d like to. I don’t vacuum as much as I should. Etc. I also don’t get enough sleep. It’s not a glamorous lifestyle at all, it’s just a lot of triage on my priorities from week to week, and sometimes from day to day.
Me: A lot of moms get so discouraged because they think they should do more. Thank you for being honest about the sacrifices doing more means. 

You recently started homeschooling. How do you work that into your schedule?
Jocelyn: I did! Ha! Well, to  be honest, our homeschool schedule was pretty light this fall while I finished my third novel. Now that I’ve turned it in, we are finding a rhythm that works for our family. We do school from about 8:30am to 2:30pm, and after that, I have some time to work with. Right now I’m just in the research stage for novel #4, and I can easily read while in the same room with my chattering children. But when it comes time to write again, we may need to take some “vacation days” from homeschooling, or I will just have them do independent work on their own. I really don’t know how it’s all going to work out, yet. I’ll let you know next summer.
Me: What tips do you have for moms who aspire to/need to work for money?
Jocelyn: I would say that many times, skipping the byline pays. My best paying writing jobs never gave me any “credit” but the work was steady and the income predictable. For me, that was writing for nonprofits, universities, and web sites. Work your networks and find out who could use a writer. Attend writers conferences to broaden your circle of contacts. Be willing to take smaller jobs first to build up your resume and references. Remember that being faithful in the little things will lead to bigger things. Keep in mind, too, that unless you are Karen Kingsbury or Max Lucado or Jerry Jenkins, writing books is not a lucrative venture. When I consider how many hours I spend on not just writing a book, but then promoting it afterwards, suffice it to say I could make more money working at McDonalds. Seriously. Writing books is more of a ministry for me than anything else. The actual incomes comes from writing stuff that is far less interesting.

Me: So true! Many moms have trouble juggling their mommy and household responsibilities and Bible and prayer time. How do you fit in private and family devotion time?
Jocelyn: I have my personal devotions with a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Then when the kids are eating breakfast, I read to them a devotion for kids. At night, we read straight from the Bible to the kids before bed, and before any other bedtime stories. We recently finished going through the One Year Bible with them. Granted, it took us almost two years, but we did it. 
Me:  Would you tell us a little about your journey as a writer? How did your first book come about? 
Jocelyn: My first book was Faith Deployed: Daily Encouragement for Military Wives. I was a military wife when I pitched the proposal, but by the time it was published in 2008, my husband was no longer active duty. (It took three years to get a contract.) When I was writing that one, I had a two year old and I was pregnant, and very sick. Thankfully, Faith Deployed was a compilation of devotions that 14 other military wives contributed to, so I didn’t write it all myself. That was really the key that made future book contracts so much easier...I had no interest in writing novels for years. But during the research for my nonfiction book, Stories of Faith and Courage from the Home Front, I was inspired to try historical fiction. I was so inspired by reading real diaries of women who lived in Gettysburg 150 years ago, I really wanted to give them a voice again and bring their stories back to life. I felt that a novel would be the most vivid way to do that. That’s when I conceived the idea for the Heroines Behind the Lines Civil War series.

Me: Tell us about your newest books.
Jocelyn: Widow of Gettysburg just released during the summer of 2013. It shows readers what the civilians experienced during and after the battle of Gettysburg. (For more information, including the book trailer, go here.) Next up is Yankee in Atlanta (releasing in June 2014), which follows a Northern woman who lives in Atlanta as a governess for a Confederate soldier’s daughter. Yankee is a story of divided families, conflicting loyalties, and hearts refined by fire. 

Me: I can't wait to read it! 

To learn more about Jocelyn and her books, please visit her website (which includes fun freebies like recipes, and helpful stuff like study guides) or follow her on Facebook.

Sep 13, 2013

Handling Pressure with Grace - Guest Post by Liberty Speidel


Being told your child needs some pretty serious medical treatment is the last thing a parent wants to hear. A year ago, I was there. My son, Xander, needed a bone marrow transplant. And while the last year has been anything but a picnic, through the ups and downs of his treatment, God has taught me a lot about grace. Granted, the following are more applicable during large blocks of hospital time, but maybe there's a truth here that can be helpful in your own brand of stress.

Ask questions
When you're faced with a lot of decisions that may affect the long-term health of your child, you can feel pretty helpless. While I frequently have to tell my husband "I don't know," I ask a lot of questions where Xander's care is concerned. Write your questions down—it's clich├ęd, but there's an app for that, so keep a list of questions on your smartphone, if you use one. That way you don't forget what you need to ask.

Find reasons to laugh
In July, Xander underwent his second surgery in five days (to replace his central line, which is used for giving IV medications and fluids over a long period of time). When I got down to the holding area, pre-surgery, the surgeon asked me what my expectations were of what would happen. “Central line placement,” I told him.

"There's not to be a bone marrow biopsy today?" he asked.

I stared at him, bewildered. "No," I said slowly. "That's not scheduled for a couple weeks."

Turns out, one of the physician's assistants on Xander's case had seen that Xander needed this procedure, so he thought he'd kill two birds with one stone—but hadn't informed anyone else!

In situations like these, it's easy to be upset—the left hand doesn't know what the right hand is doing—but the head doc on Xander's case was relieved when I laughed when she told me what had happened.

God's Got This
My pastor, Dan Sutherland, introduced this motto to our congregation in 2012. It became something I clung to during the past year. Very little in life is within our control, and when you're going through a trial, it's important to remember this. With Xander's transplant, we could choose the doctors who would treat him and the drugs they would use, but whether it worked—that was all in God's hands. While we've got a spunky three-year-old now, we know we're still wandering through the woods looking for the meadow as far as Xander's health is concerned.
Xander
Bible Time
I think my dependence on God got stronger throughout this whole experience—it almost has to when you realize how little control you have over this kind of situation. While I didn't find near as much time to read my Bible as I would have liked (or probably should have), I was able to sneak an earbud in and listen with the YouVersion app on my phone. Listening to God's word definitely was a quick way for me to get an attitude adjustment on my bad days.

Prayer
During this time, my prayers were frequently short snippets or sentences, dispersed throughout the day - not one long conversation at once, but a bit here and there throughout the day. If I had it to do all over again, I'd probably plan to do things differently, although with the irregularity in my son’s five month treatment, it might not have been possible to have a regular prayer schedule.

Grace
The biggest thing I learned through this whole experience is to offer everyone grace; even my husband had to receive it on multiple occasions. Stress leads to crankiness, making you lash out at everyone in your path. But if you offer everyone grace and keep a positive outlook, they'll thank you for it—and you'll show Christ to everyone you meet. You may even get a chance to share the Gospel with those who want to know how you keep such a positive attitude!


Liberty Speidel is a wife, mom, and writer of mysteries and science fiction who blogs at Word Wanderings. Though happiest at her computer creating fictional worlds, she enjoys baking, yarn crafts, hiking with her family, and taking very long walks with her family's Labrador Retriever. She and her family reside in Kansas. You can learn more about her son's medical struggles here and here

Oct 19, 2012

A Proverb 31 Woman's Priorities

There is a lot of pressure in the Christian community for everyone to "have a ministry." What are you doing for the church? What are you, specifically, doing for God? However, if you're the mother of young children, this is problamatic.

Every mom learns pretty quickly that if she wants her family to have a great home life, she has to juggle many things. She needs to not only care for her children's physical needs, but also spend time with them so their emotional and spiritual needs are met. She wants to keep a reasonably clean house and cook serve healthy meals. She needs to keep the laundry pile under control. To increase her family's health and self sufficiency, she might also want to do things like garden, preserve, and sew. She might also home school. And then there is her husband: She needs to maintain a good relationship with him, which also requires times and effort. That's a lot for one person to do! And then a Christian friend actually asks "What is your ministry?"

The Proverbs 31 Woman did many things, but she kept them in balance. She didn't teach a women's Bible study but let her house turn into a scene from Hoarders. She didn't donate time to the local shelter but neglect to spend time with her husband. She didn't keep a blog to encourage other women but leave her children feeling like they never got much time from mom.

Balance is only possible if you have priorities. So, biblically speaking, what are the proper priorities for a mother?

1. A relationship with God. Matthew 6:33 says "But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" and in Mark 12:30 Jesus says the most important commandment is to "love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." Remember, too, how Jesus told the ever-busy-housekeeping Martha that her sister Mary had "chosen what is better" by seeking God first. For the modern Proverbs 31 Woman, this means reading the Bible daily and praying continuously throughout the day.


2. Husband. It's not politically correct, but yes, our husband is next in line. 1 Corinthians 7:34 hints at this by saying one of a married woman's top concerns in pleasing her husband. The reason for this is pretty simple: First, God created woman to be her husband's (not her childrens') helpmeet. Second, husbands and wives are to set an example for their children - an example of how to live godly lives, which certainly doesn't include neglecting our spouses. (1 Thes. 2:11-12; Prov. 22:6) Finally, once the children are grown and out of the house, you'll want and need a solid relationship with your husband; that won't happen if you neglect your husband now.


3. Children. God tells us to create "godly offspring" (Mal.2:15) and in Timothy, we learn that a woman's ministry is "bringing up children." In Deuteronomy, God says parents (not teachers) must teach children the ways of the Lord. God gave you children to to care for. They grow so quickly; don't busy yourself with other things and neglect the important ministry - your children - that God has put squarely before you. Remember, when they are older, you'll have more time for other ministries - but why would God entrust you with those if you've neglected the ministry of your children?

4. Home. Like it or not, the Bible says one of the signs of a godly woman is that she cares for her home. This doesn't mean she should be Martha Stewart-esque or that she is a slave to housework. It's simply a recognition that if we live in sloth and ugliness, our attitudes and personalities will be affected negatively. If our homes are reasonably clean and comfortable, however, the entire family benefits. Husband, children, and wife can take refuge at home, feeling less stress and more peace. Proverbs 31:27 says a godly woman "watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness." 1 Timothy 5:14 says young unmarried women do well to marry and "to manage their homes..." And in Titus, we are told it's good for women to "love their husbands and children,  to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands..."


Those four priorities are huge. It's the rare woman who can successfully add more and keep a good balance in her life. In fact, it's interesting to note the Bible never mentions mothers with children at home doing anything else. No where does Jesus or anyone else in the early church ask moms, "What is your ministry?" Because their ministry is being a wife and mother. And that is a full time job.

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Feb 24, 2012

The Power of a To-Do List - and a FREE printable

Recently, I've re-introduced the daily to-do list into my life - and I've been amazed how much more productive I've become!

Pre-child, I frequently used a to-do list, but somehow when babies came along, I rarely wrote one. Now I'm so very glad I'm using a list again. Not only am I finding it easier to do the really important things in life (like read my Bible, pray, and make special time to play with the children), but my house is tidier, too! I also feel far more encouraged about my home making skills.

I think there are several tricks to making a to-do list work. First, it has to be realistic. You can't just make a list of everything you need to do and hang it up on the refrigerator where it will mostly serve to discourage you. Instead, write down only things you can truly accomplish in a day. You might have to experiment with this until you discover how many to-do activities fit into your daily life. For example, I've found that more than 10 on a given day is completely impractical for me. I'm better off with perhaps 8 - but if I'm homeschooling that day, even that is too much and I'd better aim for a few less.

It's also important to realize that sometimes life gets in the way of your to-dos; there's no need to beat yourself up if you have a day or two where your list is largely ignored. What you don't want, however, is for this to become a habit - which is why writing down a realistic number of to-dos is vital.

In addition, it's helpful to prioritize your top three most important things to do each day. I put these at the top of my to-do list, in their own special spot.

If you struggle with things like getting down on the floor and playing with your children, or finding time to read the Bible, don't neglect to put these on your to-do list, too.

Be sure to break down large tasks into individual steps. Instead of putting "clean the house" on your list, write "dust," then "vacuum," then "mop," and so on.

Finally, check off items as you accomplish them. It will give you a feeling of satisfaction, and will encourage you to accomplish more. And if I end up doing additional items not on my list, I always add them to my list. Then, at the end of the day, I can have a realistic look at all I've done. (As an aside, seeing my completed to-do lists has helped my husband appreciate what I do even more.)

I've created a simple template for my to-do list (incpired by TshOxenreider's Organized Simplicity). It includes the date, an area for marking down what's for dinner that night, a place to write my top three priorities, check offs for my to-dos, and a section at the bottom where I can make notes - often about home keeping projects I want to add to my to-do list in the near future. I print (and fill out) a fresh template every evening so I can look back on old lists and feel encouraged. But you might slip yours into a page protector and use a dry erase pen to create a new list every day.

You can download my template in Word format or .PDF format. I hope it helps!

Jan 3, 2011

When You're Overwhelmed


"...I will cry to you when my heart is overwhelmed."
Psalm 61:2

I think every mom feels overwhelmed at least some of the time. But if you're going through a prolonged period of feeling stressed and overwheled, it's time to take action:

1. Worship God. Nothing gets things in perspective quicker than dropping everything and worshiping the Lord. While you're at it, make sure you're finding time to read the Bible and pray. When we're busy, these things can all too easily fall by the wayside - yet they are often the very cause of our stressed out feelings. We need to spend time with God.

2. Go to church. It sets the mood for the entire week. Go by yourself, if you have to.

3. Sleep. I've argued before that sleep is one of the main things every mom truly needs. Get more rest and you may be surprised how your perspective changes.

4. Do only essentials. There are many good things we can do here on earth, but if those good things are interfering with our mental health or our ability to do a good job at the first task God's given us (to be great wives and mothers), then we need to stop and focus on essentials. Sometimes the essentials are easy to spot...sometimes they are not. For example, while it's probably a good thing to try to organize and de-clutter the house, if it's making you feel overwhelmed, stop. Come back to it another time, when your responsibilities aren't so overwhelming.

5. Cut back work. If you have a job besides your chief position as wife and mother, consider quitting. Analyze your family budget and cut non-essentials; reconsider your lifestyle. Although not ever woman can quit her job, a relaxed, loving Proverbs 31 Woman is a lot more important than having a big house, dinners out, or a subscription to Netflix.

6. Find time for yourself. How long has it been since you took a walk? Read a novel? Went to the gym? Took a soak in the tub? Finding even just a little time for yourself is essential. And if you can combine it with exercise, you'll feel all the better.

7. Focus on one thing at a time. Often when I feel overwhelmed I find I'm trying to juggle too many things. Stop. Breathe. Choose one thing. You'll enjoy life more and you'll do a better job at whatever you're doing.

"For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control."

2 Tim. 1:7

Nov 27, 2010

What We Can Learn from the Pilgrims

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
Is. 41:10

Yes, this is a Thanksgiving-related post, two days after Thanksgiving. I'd plan to write this on Friday, but a 103 degree fever and a severe sinus infection kept me from it. But now that my fever is down, I want to share with you some of the things my husband and I were discussing this holiday.

The Pilgrims came to the New World certain that was where God wanted them. But did they still feel they were in God's will when they all started starving to death? Or when sickness wiped out so many families? The answer is yes, they did.

What about Squanto, who did so much to save the Pilgrims who did survive that first winter? His life was one tragedy after another, yet one of the Pilgrim leaders, William Bradford, compared him to Joseph in the Old Testament. All of us were taught Squanto spoke some English, but what most people don't know is he was kidnapped and sold as a Spanish slave. Monks bought him and taught him about God. Trying to get him back home, they sent him to England, where he'd be more likely to find a ship sailing to the New World. Ten years after he was stolen from his family, Squanto finally went back home...only to discover his family - his entire village - had been wiped out by illness. Then Squanto learned of the Pilgrims, and his heart went out to them. He taught them about the New World and how to survive in it. And he remained with the Pilgrims until the day he died. They were, after all, people who loved God as he did.

But if you'd been Squanto would you have been discouraged? Would you have felt you must not be doing what God wanted of you? Or that God was punishing you somehow?

When difficulties come into your life, do you assume you're on the wrong path?

Sure, we all know the apostles had a rough time of it after Jesus left the earth. But they were teaching the Gospel - clearly God's will. It's the smaller things in life that often bring us down and make us doubt.

I know in my own life I often show discouragement when difficulties are present. I might start a diet, but if I haven't lost weight in a week or two, I give up. Or, as recently happened, I might loose the manuscript for a book I was sure God wanted me to write - and suddenly think I wasn't in God's will at all.

But let's be like the Pilgrims and Squanto. let's pray for and know God's will, then proceed bravely and without discouragement - even when it seems everything we do is an uphill battle.

"Humble yourselves, therefore, under God's mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
1 Pet. 5:6-7

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."
2 Cor. 12:9-10

Nov 20, 2010

Count Your Blessings






I'm uber busy, but I wanted to post something encouraging today about counting our blessings - especially when we're feeling down. I really can't say it better than author Barbara Curtis does, however, so I'm just going to send you over to her blog.

Nov 18, 2010

It Is Well With My Soul

I'm having one of those months. You know, the kind where everything is a struggle. Both my kids are quite sick and very clingy, my computer is broken, my backup computer is slower than a snail, the most important files on my broken computer appear to not have been backed up by Mozy, we discovered mold growing in our family room, my dad is supposed to visit for Thanksgiving and I haven't had time to de-clutter or clean the house, and I've been finishing up my 5 year old's Colonial Party costume for school. I'm weary - and often teary-eyed.

What do you do when you have a month like this? Certainly I pray a lot and read the Bible in stolen moments. But the one thing that instantly melts away the stress is music. Not ordinary popular music. That narcissistic stuff actually tends to make me tense up more at times like this. No, I need music about God. Hymns are my favorite, since the lyrics remind me of deep biblical truths, God's promises to me, and God's love and mercy for me.

Unfortunately I have very few CDs with hymns in my house. Fortunately, however, I can get virtually any kind of music I want through Pandora - Internet radio that's 100% free. So give some hymns a try next time you're having a tough day, and see if your soul doesn't feel more comforted, too.

Mar 15, 2010

Weary Mom, Do You Need Encouragement?

I've had a discouraging few months. How about you? Could you use a little (or a lot!) of encouragement? God is the best place to find it.

"The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged."  

"Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go."

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the LORD, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.'"
"The righteous cry out, and the LORD hears them;
       he delivers them from all their troubles."

"The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
 my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
       my shield and the horn of my salvation.
       He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior—
       from violent men you save me."

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart
       and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him,
       and he will make your paths straight."

"The LORD is my light and my salvation—
       whom shall I fear?
       The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
       of whom shall I be afraid?"

""Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called."

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