August 18, 2017

A Balancing Act - Gloria Guest

The young gymnast with perfect poise, seemed to move effortlessly as she manoeuvred on the four inch balance beam. Her name was Nadia Comaneci and she was only thirteen years old, the same age as I was.

I sat with other members of my grade eight gymnastics club, mesmerized by her. That night she received a perfect ten on the beam, an unheard of feat; but it was only the beginning. Nadia Comaneci was about to explode onto the athletic world stage. At fourteen, she would go on to compete in Montreal's 1976 Olympics, receiving seven perfect scores and earning five medals, including three gold. The rest is history.

 Back in my own school gymnasium, I'd try to be like Nadia Comaneci and perform the perfect cartwheel on a practice ‘beam’ which in reality was a low bench and a fair bit wider. But even then it wasn’t easy and I'd fall off more often than not. Over and over I'd practice it, but I never seemed to get it quite perfect and was definitely not ready to graduate to the actual beam. I felt defeated and clumsy.

My bigger failure however, was in failing to see the vigorous training that had been required in order for her to attain those few perfect moments; the many falls she had to have taken, the daunting sacrifices, the expert coaching. All I saw was the perfection.

I no longer attempt cartwheels, let alone on a bench, but life has often become a balancing act in other ways; balancing schedules, family life, personal time and my own pursuits of writing. And believe me when I say that balance in life has never been my strong suit. But since those days in the gym, I have come to accept that I will never attain perfection, on or off the balance beam. Sometimes the grace is more evident in the falling.

The same night that I was privileged to watch Nadia Comaneci, there were other competitors who performed well, stellar even; but perhaps they wobbled, or worse yet, fell. They weren't perfect. But they were able to get back up and compete as if it had never happened, a feat of another kind.

I just need to have enough grace, to get up and try again and to let others do the same.

*Originally published under the column entitled A Slice of Life by Gloria Guest in the Moose Jaw Express (2011)

August 17, 2017

Do you believe in things unseen? - by Rohadi

Writers do. We can pick floating ideas seemingly out of thin air and then...we turn them real.

Anybody can have an idea, but few people will do something about them.

What we do with those unseen ideas matter. Where most others will spend the time watching Netflix, a writer will satiate their ingrained human trait for adventure by creating.

Artists create, we execute, we produce, we ship. And it takes work.

Not only does it take work, but the craft is work, and if not treated as such, that idea, the book, the poem, the song, will never get done.

It may sound trite, but you have to, “just do it”.

The spiritual comparison would be the vicious cycle that prevents activity called “prayer”. Not prayer itself, but the excuses we use with it like, “I’ll pray about it,” which often translates into the veiled answer of, “I’ll do nothing about it.” We need to pray, “as we are going”….

When I decided to treat my writing as a job I scheduled the time as I would any other important task. It was still hard to fight resistance and do literally anything else, but adjusting my perception from hobby to profession helped me complete. It lead me to the place, through scheduled routine, where the idea that planted itself in my head turn into a tangible work one could see, read, touch, and feel.


Visit Rohadi at his blog.

August 16, 2017

Life and Writing: Striking the Right Balance by Nina Faye Morey

Finding time in our busy lives to fit in our writing is a challenge. However, I’ve discovered that “finding” is the wrong word. “Making” time is actually more “fitting.” How can I “balance life on and off the page?” This puzzle led me to read about time management and building good work habits. Knowing this conundrum faces most writers, my life and writing became predictably intertwined. The result was my “Mastering Good Writing Habits” workshop to share the knowledge and strategies I’d gained with other writers at the 2016 InScribe Fall Conference.

Time to Write

Our dream of becoming a writer is often suppressed by other demands on our time. Those close to us might not understand our need to write. They may discourage, or even disparage, the devotion we display towards our “gift.” But if we see our writing as a gift from God, we feel a responsibility to use it to His glory. Regardless of whether we’re writing in obedience to God’s call or simply dedicating our writing to Him, we must trust the Lord to give us everything we need to fulfill our writing ministry:

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you,
that you, always having all sufficiency in all things,
may have an abundance for every good work.
—2 Corinthians 9:8 (NKJV)

But in the end, the only one who can make you a successful writer is you! It’s up to you to make that happen. You can continue to just dream about it and talk about it, or you can act on it. In order to do that, you’ll need to develop good work habits and learn how to be well organized and manage your time effectively and efficiently. In her bestseller, The Creative Habit, Twyla Tharp said, “Creativity is a habit, and the best creativity is the result of good work habits. That’s it in a nutshell.”

Mastering good work habits helps free up your mind to think more creatively because you’ll have established a regular writing routine. The words will flow onto the page with less effort because you’ll feel more energized, engaged, and focused on the writing process. There’s no longer any need to waste time and energy on psyching yourself up, making decisions, or struggling with self-control. There’s nothing to distract you from the task at hand, and you’ll finish your day with a real sense of accomplishment.

The bestselling Japanese writer, Haruki Murakami, has won numerous awards for his novels and short stories. He said this about the importance of developing a daily writing routine in a Summer 2004 interview with John Wray in the Paris Review:

When I’m in writing mode for a novel, I get up at four a.m. and work for five to six hours…. I keep to this routine every day without variation. The repetition itself becomes the important thing; it’s a form of mesmerism. I mesmerize myself to reach a deeper state of mind.

Schedule Time to Write

One of the best ways to fire up your time management skills is to identify your goals. You’re dreaming about writing that 100,000 word Christian suspense novel? If you aim for just 275 words a day, you’ll finish it in one year. You have 168 hours every week. Allowing forty hours for work and fifty-six for sleep leaves you seventy-two hours—plenty of time―right? Right! (Was that you being cynical?) In order to manage those left-over hours better, you’ll need to analyze how you’re spending them now. Then make your writing a top priority—schedule time for it and avoid distractions. Learn to say “no” without giving a reason or feeling guilty. Only have a few minutes today? Keep a notebook handy, and jot down a couple of ideas or observations. Taking just these few simple steps will start you on the right path to fulfilling your dream!

August 15, 2017

The Secret to Balance - Tracy Krauss

WARNING: This post may turn into a sermon! 

"If I only had more time!" How many of us have said that? I know I have. Lack of time seems to be the number one barrier to reaching one's writing goals - or so most people say. What if I said you could actually increase the amount of time you have for writing - or at least make it much more effective? Read on...

We're talking about 'balance' - specifically, finding balance between our writing life and the 'rest' of life in today's time driven world. A few months ago, I would have said things like, "Set SMART goals." "Make a schedule." "Just get your butt in the chair and do it!" I've always been 'big' on all of the above, and I've managed to be quite productive despite a busy life of ministry, working, and raising a family. I've always maintained that if something is important enough, you'll find a way to fit it in, no matter how hectic your life.

While all of those bits of advice are still valid, I've discovered that none of them is actually the real secret to 'finding more time'.

God has launched me on a different trajectory these past few months. For those that don't know, I had an unexpected heart attack in May and subsequent open heart surgery. For the first while I couldn't do much but pray and listen to scripture and worship music on my phone. I had been longing for more time to work on my writing projects, but now that I HAD the time, I simply didn't have the energy.

As I began to recover, God gave me a new thirst for His Word. As I got stronger I could have jumped all over that list of writing goals I had on my bulletin board, but instead, God prompted me to keep on soaking in His Word with the promise that He would help me finish them in His time.


I believe God has shown me the 'secret' to living a balanced life. Actually, it's no secret at all. It boils down to one thing: Honour God with the BEST of your time and He will honour you by multiplying what's left. 

It is the same principle we see in regard to tithing. It doesn't make sense to give one tenth of your income away, especially if things are tight. I've heard people say, "I can't afford to tithe right now." The truth is, people can't afford NOT to tithe! When we follow God's principles, He supernaturally gives us increase. It's just one of the ways that the laws of the spiritual realm operate.

The same is true of our time. This is where my post might turn into a sermon, so hang on to your seats and and keep reading if you dare!

How much quality time do we really spend with God? REALLY? Five minutes each morning? Ten minutes? Half an hour? If we applied the tithing principle to our time, we should conceivably spend two hours and forty minutes per day studying, praying and worshipping. I suppose one could factor in the times praying in the shower, listening to worship music while doing other chores, or going to mid-week Bible studies, but I suspect we'd still come up short.

Unfortunately, many Christians feed themselves with, "A chapter a day keeps the devil away." Some are on an even leaner diet of, "A verse a day," or substitute the solid food of God's Word with one of those little devotional books. (I'm not knocking the devotional books, but if that's all you're getting, it amounts to a starvation diet.)

Our rebuttal might be, "But I go to church every Sunday." This brings me to another point, even more serious, I believe, than how much time we spend in daily time with God: Very few Christians keep the Sabbath.

Please don't be offended! (And I'm not talking about keeping a certain day of the week - I will leave that up to individual interpretation.) Instead, we each need to examine our own habits. (I'm examining mine as I write!) God commanded us to keep the Sabbath. Not only is it one of the ten commandments, but it is His first ordinance right at creation. He 'rested' on the seventh day, not because He was tired, but as an example to us. It's that important! Taking an entire day for rest and reflection is a gift for our benefit, not an imposition. It says in Genesis that He 'blessed and sanctified' the Sabbath day.

This is hard for us to hear in our modern 'pressed for time' world. I don't have time to take an entire day off - every week, no less! It seems there's always some chores to be done on a Sunday afternoon; things to prepare for the next week... on and on and on... even down to the 'work' of writing. And so I continue to scramble about trying to 'fit' everything in and hopefully squeeze some time in for writing along the way.

Except... God has promised to BLESS us if we are obedient. I'm beginning to see that God truly can redeem the time if we honour Him FIRST. If I spend quality time with Him each day as well as an entire day once a week, I actually get more accomplished - and with less stress!  Go figure! It doesn't make sense logically, but God's spiritual laws work. Just like tithing doesn't make sense to our natural mind, neither does keeping the Sabbath or spending more personal devotional time make sense in our super-charged-gerbil-on-a-wheel world.

Sermon over. Now for the challenge. 

1. For the rest of this month, spend double the time you normally spend in prayer and Bible study each day. If you spend five minutes, make it ten. If you spend half an hour, make it one hour.

2. Purpose to set aside one entire day as a Sabbath each week for the rest of this month. If Sunday works for you, great. If you want to try the Jewish custom of Friday at 6pm until Saturday at 6pm, that's cool too. You don't have to read your Bible and pray the whole time, although doing that is good, but God made the Sabbath for our enjoyment. Prepare a special meal and eat together as a family or invite friends over. Play games, go for a hike, do something fun with people you love. Fellowship. Socialize. Just don't do any WORK.

3. Keep track of how much more productive you are with the rest of your time. Write it in a journal or just in your head, but I can almost guarantee that you will get more done with the time you have left. Of course, Satan will try to thwart your success, but ignore him and you will be fine!

4. (Optional) Report on your success! I would love to hear about your experiences if you choose to take up this challenge. Comment here, or email me privately:

In today's fast paced world I think one of our biggest struggles is lack of time. The enemy has tried to rob us of time with God by making us 'too busy'. Take back your right to time with God and you will be surprised at how 'balanced' the rest of your life will become.

Tracy Krauss writes - and rests - from her home in northern BC. Visit her website:   
-fiction on the edge without crossing the line- 

August 14, 2017

Joy, Prayer, and Gratitude: Finding perspective and balance as a writer - Ruth L. Snyder

Recently I listened to a webinar where writers shared their challenges and needs. When asked what the biggest challenge in writing was, most answered, "TIME!"

We all feel the crunch. Many of us have families. Many work, at least part-time. When we do squeeze in time for our writing, we are also told we need to research markets; find a group of beta readers; rewrite (several times); work with an editor to hone our manuscript; figure out whether we are self-publishing or working with a traditional publisher; maintain a website; be active on social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, and others; and market our own work, plus support fellow writers in their marketing efforts.

As Christians, there is a whole extra layer to the demands. We write because we feel called by God to share a message He has laid on our hearts. We write because we see it as a ministry. We write to be a light in a dark world.

It's so easy to feel overwhelmed! 

Sometimes we quit, because it's so difficult.
Sometimes we quit, because we doubt our god-given abilities.
Sometimes we quit, because we listen to others who don't understand our calling.
Sometimes we quit, because we fail to put on our spiritual armour and fight against the devil's schemes (Ephesians 6:10-19). 

I Thessalonians 5:16-18 says, "Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus" (NIV).

Be joyful is translated, "Rejoice," in the King James Version. These words come from the Greek, "chairo," a verb which means to be full of cheer or calmly happy. Hmm. Calmly happy. It would seem that God wants us to choose to be cheerful. And calm. With four active children, the only time our home is quiet is when everyone is asleep. However, as I go through my day to day activities with my husband and children, and my writing, I can choose to be calm and happy instead of reacting and getting angry.

Prayer is definitely something that helps me maintain a calm and cheerful attitude. I notice when I don't get up early in the morning and have my quiet time before everyone else gets up. (I think others notice too!) Having time to read God's word and pray sets my whole framework for the day. Although I can't spend my whole day on my knees in prayer, I can talk to God throughout the day. Short snippets of conversation:

"Wow! Thanks, Father, for a beautiful sunrise."
"Lord, give me wisdom to know how to motivate my son without giving in to anger."
"Father, you know that I was planning to write today, but my mother-in-law needs a ride to town. Help me to do it cheerfully, for you."
"Lord, I feel sad and angry. I give you my hurt feelings. Help me to respond in love."
"Father, guide my thoughts as I write."

A recent sunset in Alberta
Giving thanks or gratitude is not something that comes naturally to most of us. This too is a choice. Sometimes it's easy to be grateful - for a good harvest, for children who love us, for a welcoming church family, for a contract with a publisher. Other times it is extremely difficult to choose gratitude - when we get a diagnosis of cancer, when our teenagers rebel, when other Christians criticize us for taking a stand against sin, when we get those rejection letters.

For me, finding that equilibrium in my life and writing boils down to two words: relationship and trust. When I have a healthy relationship with my Heavenly Father, the Creator of the universe, then I am able to walk each day with trust in what He allows. I am able to trust that if He has called me to write, He will provide the opportunities and the ability to write. I can trust that He will guide me to the audience He has for me. I am also able to trust that a rejection either means my writing needs more work or it is not a good fit for that publisher or their audience.

Does this mean I am always calmly happy, praying, and giving thanks? Definitely not. I have asked, "Why?" many times. I have pouted. I have blamed others instead of taking responsibility myself. But then God reminds me of His will and the choices I can make.

Each new day, we have choices. God wants us to choose joy, prayer, and gratitude. I'm working on it. How about you?

Ruth L. Snyder
Follower of Jesus. Coach.
President of ICWF.
Creativity is my passion.
My mission is helping other creative people achieve their goals.
How can I help you?
Find more at

August 10, 2017

Life: A Delicate Balance by Sharon Espeseth

Life: A Delicate Balance
Free Pixabay Image
Wisdom from Julia Cameron in The Artist's Way

In her June post, Sandi Somers mentioned The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron. I found this idle and previously unused book on my shelf and started reading. I quickly decided this book might help me get from feeling stalled and stymied to accomplishing some of what I believed I was meant to do in life.

I was the blocked creative Cameron was talking about. I was the flower seed crowded out by weeds of care and concern for everything and everybody. While trying to fix everybody else, I was short of the sunshine and elbow room I needed to grow myself. Low on sunshine and nutrients, my growth was also stunted by a creative well run dry.

Cameron lists ten Basic Principles, which coincide with my beliefs. Sample: "Creativity is God's gift to us. Using our creativity is our gift back to God."

Two of her Basic Tools are Morning Pages and The Artist Date, which she says are a non-negotiable part of her "recovery" program.  Morning Pages are three pages written first thing each morning; the Artist Date is a session of approximately two-hours set aside each week and "committed to nurturing your creative consciousness, your inner artist."

Cameron's program, which is designed to help us recover from blocked creativity, is divided into twelve weekly units. For each week, the author provides motivational material, quotes, and activities  suitable to that week's theme.

I have faithfully done my Morning Pages for 58 days. This works best for me when I rise early and write in solitude. I am on Week 6, Day 4. I have been a willing participant in the Morning Pages as this activity seems to keep me moving in the right direction. Often my writing is prayerful.

Not quite an Artist's Date as I am not alone
The Artist Date is something you plan and carry out on your own, which has been more challenging to me that Morning Pages. Sometimes I sit out on the front porch or the back deck and read or write, but I don't go off by myself as the author suggests. Does this mean I'm resisting this assignment? If so, I need strength and determination to overcome this reluctance.

Two weeks ago the assignment was to go on an extended date, one that lasts longer than the two hours. "Julia" suggested a more adventuresome outing. Yeah, right, I thought. If I can't do a two-hour date by myself, how am I going to pull this off? 

Wisdom and Synchronicity Making the Date

I hadn't been to Edmonton by myself since October 2015, when my sister Joan passed. Because of my husband's health, I didn't feel comfortable leaving him home alone. As we get older, Hank has become more protective of me also. I was gearing up for the Wednesday luncheon with my teaching girlfriends from my Fort McMurray years. Hank was going to drive me to the restaurant and wait for me in the hot van, which seemed ridiculous!

On Tuesday evening, Hank wrote down the time for Wednesday's Blue Jay's game. I reminded him we wouldn't be home on time, because, as I'd told him, I wanted to meet my niece and my sister for a dinner. His face fell. Was this an impasse? Would I have to give in and come home after the McMurray Girls Luncheon without seeing my people?

I reminded the Norwegian that I used to drive a lot and I'd be fine. I would pray for safety for both of us. He could pray instead of worry about me.

I would be going by myself. It was too late to make arrangements with my niece, Billie, or my sister Shirley. I'd  call them from Edmonton. Driving on my own was an unexpected pleasure. Comfortable and confident, I felt focussed. I shopped before the late luncheon. Billie-Jo met me for dinner in the evening. I stayed overnight with my daughter and family in Leduc. My sister from Calmar met me in Leduc for brunch on Thursday morning. I was home by 3:00 p.m.

I had a wonderful time and I suspect Hank did too. Julia Cameron would consider this episode synchronicity. When I set out to do what I set out to do, God was there helping with the details and keeping me safe. Everything lined up and I was grateful to all parties, especially my Father in heaven. I also whispered a thank you to "Julia" for giving me the gumption to venture out on my own.

Wisdom from Others

Lacey just trying to be herself
Recently I asked our seven-year-old grandchild, Lacey, "So, how are things going for you, Lacey?" "What have you been up to?"

"I'm just busy trying to be Lacey."

Interesting! I'm thinking, I'm just trying to be Sharon, to be who I believe God wants me to be.

A couple weeks ago, Connie Inglis, our InScribe spiritual advisor, shared her thoughts on Romans 5: 1-5. Because of my following The Artist's Way, the words of verse 2 especially touched me.

"For because of our faith, he has brought us into this place of highest privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to actually becoming all that God has had in mind for us to be."

 Maintaining Balance in the Ups and Downs of Life

Yesterday was a topsy-turvy day and I struggled to accomplish what I needed to do, i.e. write my blog, and take care of what my loved ones needed from me. For this, I took another look at the New Commandment Christ gave us.
What the good book says!

Jesus said, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and then, "Love your neighbour as yourself." Sometimes we cannot, nor should we, meet all our neighbours needs. They must look after some of their own needs. Many of their needs are met by God, which leaves some needs for which we are responsible.

Help me to love my neighbour, Lord, as I love myself, and give me the wisdom to know which duties are mine. Amen.

August 09, 2017

Where's The Passion - Shirley S. Tye

A person with passion for something has deep interest for that something and because of the passion has energy to complete the task.  Passion is the driving force.  Well, that’s what I’ve noticed. 

When I was a distributor working from home, my leader asked me; “What are you passionate about?” She was trying to discover what motivated me so that I could apply that passion to that one thing and thereby increase my sales.  But alas, I couldn’t answer the question because there were and still are many things in which I’m interested.  I couldn’t put my finger on the main point of focus and so needless to say, I wasn’t successful with that home-based business even though I liked the products and the company, and the company’s philosophy.

I simply lack focus.  I have eyes like a housefly; compound eyes composed of many individual visual receptors which create a board field of vision. Perhaps I’m subconsciously afraid to miss out on something if I increase time on one thing and reduce the time on others. Must we sacrifice something to accomplish what’s important to us?  

The only thing that forces me to focus on one thing and get the job done on time is a deadline.  But of course, then I push everything else aside and pour all my energy into that one job.  That is focus but it isn’t balance.   

Doing what is important to us without neglecting our responsibilities to our families and employers can be a tricky balancing act. Time is a difficult thing to slice into equal parts so that there is enough to go around. I really must discover what is important to me now and prioritize those things.  Perhaps then I’ll be able to focus and finish some of those writing projects that are collecting dust. Oh, my, this will be like panning for gold.  But here I go.

August 08, 2017

Poised for the Final Act - Dayna Mazzuca

To be strong is to be balanced. The Bible talks about being "bold and stout-hearted" as the work of God. The finished work. That He delights in our strength. Our boldness.

This means reconciling the act of revelation (e.g. writing our best thoughts as they come to us through the inspiration and direction of the Holy Spirit) with the act of relating well to others. Of speaking bold, strong and true (e.g. finding our voice and trusting God with the rest). And then standing, as they come to the microphone to say, "Wow." or "Thank You."

As people come forward to say, "Congratulations," the goal is to stand tall. Do not demure or back away from what you put forward in faith. Stand behind your words.

This way the world will not only hear what you have to say from the front of the room. They will be able to receive what you have to offer face to face. The circle will be complete. You will have done your job. Yay!

This is what it means to balance the last bits of the writing life: the completed project with the congratulatory response, which can be unsettling and put you off balance.

The Final Act of the Writing Life: The words on the page read out loud to an audience. The message delivered. The truth spoken. The story told. Bravo!

Balanced with the Human Response to Praise (always a danger to an unsettled ego): The response to what you read and how you read it. The pats on the back. The flowers and champagne. The new outfit. The reward and hugs all around. Way to go!

To Write Strong to the end: we need only be true to the call of God on our lives.
To Respond Well to Others' Response at the end: we need only remember
God is pleased with us (too!).

This might sound like too much joy. Too many balloons floating against the ceiling. Too many bubbles in the bath! This might sound like a strange way to achieve balance in the writing life. But I believe that getting this part right will give us capacity and patience and endurance to do what we need to do to get to this point. This is where we want to be. In total Happiness Overload. Crazy successful on the page and off. With publishers and with people. But mostly—mostly with ourselves and with our God. The rest is all—as they say—gravy!

But I say - without the gravy, who wants to sit around and peel 100lbs of potatoes?! But with the gravy... bring on the peelers! bring on the writing schedule. bring on the writing/life balance along the weekly way - so we can get to the Good Stuff at the END: the Very Happy End!! - Where we nail the writing! nail the reading! and nail our response to others' (very positive!) response. That is GRAVY. BRING IT ON.

(or do you think that sounds a little crazy?)

August 07, 2017

The Search for Equilibrium by Glynis M Belec

There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1
The Balancing game. I sometimes think it is called the Juggling game; at least in my house. And some days it even shifts from juggling to struggling to tight-rope walking. 
But am I complaining? Nope. I am rejoicing. I am rejoicing in my season. I do get a little frustrated because of my lack of available hours, but I plod on and use my agenda faithfully, reminding myself that God has me exactly where he wants me. 
I think that is the best advice I can give anyone who is dealing with a juggling act - plod on and trust God! And use an agenda or list of some kind - device or pen and paper. Doesn't matter as long as you have a reference. Balance for me comes at the end of the day when I feel accomplished and see that I crossed off at least half of my list and everyone was fed and happy along the way. 
Summertime adds to the number of balls I am tossing in the air, too; my darling grandchildren spend lots of time at my house. But how can I complain about that? Just part of the joy of having a home office and a flexible schedule. [Not many know of my late nights!] 
Maintaining an equilibrium works for me most days, although like I said, I don't get everything done in a day and battle frustrations and a temptation to feel sorry for self and drift into a depth of despair while planning my own pity party. 
But then I am reminded by God's Word that, yes, there is a time for every event, including solid writing time. Seems no one likes to attend a pity-party anyway even if I serve a delicious dose of 'why me' and generous helpings of  "how can I cope'.  It's much more fun when I rejoice in where I am instead of whining about where I want to be. 
Juggling things takes effort. Jesus is a good place for me to look to see how to juggle things properly. He had the same 24 hours I have now and the demands on Him were greater than I can even imagine. I only have to cook, clean, write, take care of people I love, run a business, and put up with hardship now and again. Jesus had to put up with huge demands of the day, not to mention the weight of the sins of the world. 
Ah, yes. Part of my pursuit of balance is suddenly replaced by the realization that no matter what I do (want, hope for, long for, write on my list) it will never be perfectly achieved. All I can do is my best and remember that God is going to be there to catch me if I fall (or drop a juggling ball or two!) 
And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:17

August 05, 2017

Finishing School. Book Review by Brenda Leyland

Finishing School.
The Happy Ending to That Writing Project 
You Can't Seem to Get Done
by Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton

TarcherPerigee 2017
An Imprint of Penguin Random House LLC

“Not finishing a piece of writing can feel like the death of a dream. That bright and beautiful impulse to express something truthful represents the very best in you, the part that wants to connect with other people and share with them how you make sense of the world. Many writers start strong, with big ambitions, but eventually reach a crisis of completion.” – Cary Tennis 

Sound familiar? Has your beloved writing project reached a crisis of completion? Maybe you don’t know how to finish it or something keeps getting in the way of finishing it. Maybe you don't even want to finish at this point, though you know deep down you do. And, when you think about working on it, often feelings of shame, failure, and guilt show up, which certainly don't help.

If that's the case, dear reader, take courage -- I might have just the book you need. Hot off the press, Finishing School promises to help writers out of their slumps and get back on track.

“Finishing School restores order to your work. It helps you set aside a realistic number of hours each week and define a task that can be completed in whatever time you have. Every week you finish something and, week by week, you get the project done.”

I really enjoyed reading Finishing School -- it felt like a breath of fresh air. Bestselling author Anne Lamott is quoted as saying, "I love Cary Tennis's mind, and heart, and work." I would have to agree. The book is filled with great personal anecdotal material by the authors who are both established writers. It does not give advice on how to write better. There is no reading aloud in front of a group or showing your writing to anyone else for critique. And, no banging on the head for being a sloth. It’s not about being better organized or more disciplined. Tennis and Morton offer a simple method, without fuss or too many rules, to help you complete the project. Without judgment.

Divided into two parts, the book starts out by identifying “The Six Emotional Pitfalls” which hold back many aspiring writers, often causing them to give up. Perhaps you recognize some of them: Doubt, Shame, Yearning, Fear, Judgment, and Arrogance. Co-authors Cary Tennis and Danelle Morton share their own struggles with these powerful emotions, giving helpful insights and advice on how to stick handle your way through these emotional pitfalls -- advice I could have used ten or twelve years ago when I was sorting some of these out for myself.

In the book's second half, the authors talk about the Finishing School method and how it works. Cary Tennis convened the first class of Finishing School and Danelle Morton became one of his first pupils. Both had a languishing project they were desperate to get done. What they learned and discovered in this first school, where writers met once a week for two hours, became the basis for this book.

One line Cary Tennis said caught my eye. During Finishing School, Tennis encourages writers to give their project the status of “most important work in your life”. This sets it in a ‘sacred’ place in your mind and reminds you to honour your commitment to it.

Although the book was written for writers, the method used is easily transferable for anyone who has a large task they want to finish.

As Tennis says, “If finishing this project is something you really want to do, you have to go after it with everything you have within you.” Finishing School is the book that could help you do it.

Sensitive Reader Discretion: A small amount of cuss words are scattered throughout the book.

Brenda Leyland is working on her Project 60: gathering the memories of a lifetime lived thus far. She invites you to visit her blog at It's A Beautiful Life and connect with her on Facebook.

August 04, 2017

Fuel for a Balanced Life by Susan Barclay

Maintaining balance is important! offers 31 definitions for the word 'balance' so clearly even the best minds have difficulty with this subject! The meaning that I'm going to use is number 11, "the act of balancing; comparison as to weight, amount, importance, etc.; estimate."

When I first read the topic for August, my thought was: "Balance. Ugh. Is there such a thing?" The way I look at it in light of the above definition is that the art of balancing means I've correctly evaluated life's priorities and am proactive to address them in their proper order. And while I think I've successfully accomplished part A of that equation, I've a long way to go on part B.

It's not that I haven't tried. I've used my calendar to create detailed schedules, outlining devotional, family, work, writing, volunteer and other commitments. I've tried 'to do' lists and apps, a white board, computer sticky notes. I've read books on the topic, and I've tried saying no to all but the essentials.  So far nothing has worked long-term.

This well-known phrase strikes me as true: "life would be easy if it weren't for other people." One of the major obstacles to attaining balance has to do with others in my life. To put it simply, my husband, my young adult children, my mother, my employer, all have needs and expectations. My husband longs for an uncluttered home (as do I, for that matter!). My children are torn between dependence and independence. My mother is getting older and requires more frequent check-ins and visits. My employer expects my presence and hard work at the scheduled times. Of course I don't want these people out of my life, but where do my own needs and desires fit in? I know I have the same number of hours in a day as Mother Teresa, etc., but I am not Mother Teresa!

In Dancing Through Life, (which I admit I haven't read yet), Candace Cameron Bure says,
“The pace of life is often so fast, we don’t always have time to pause and spend time with the Lord. We must take advantage of the time we do have so His Word is stored in our hearts and can be our fuel in the busyness of life.” 
God's Word is fuel!

Therein lies the answer. In belonging to God, His strength and wisdom are mine! I know that Jesus took time to rest and commune with His father. I know that He is my example. My new challenge  is to search the Bible for more on what it says about living life in balance. If anyone has any scriptures to get me started, please leave them in the comments!
Susan maintains a website at 

August 03, 2017

Basking in the Sonshine by Steph Beth Nickel

I wrote the following post for HopeStreamRadio, and it seems to fit with this month's theme quite nicely. I gave it the title "Treasured Rest," but "Basking in the Sonshine" works as well. Be encouraged.

As I write this, I am officially on holidays. Although I have a very full day ahead of me, getting things done around the house, primarily in my home office, I look forward to a couple of weeks of rest and relaxation. As I finish up this devotional, I am approximately eight-and-a-half hours away from taking off for Alberta.

While I am thrilled for this opportunity to visit the Rockies with my husband of almost 35 years—and know he and this trip are gifts from God—that is not the kind of rest the Lord is referring to in Matthew 11. This is a more amazing type of rest, one that we can enjoy while on vacation or in the midst of our most busy, demanding day.

God's Idea of Rest

In verses 28-30 of Matthew 11, Jesus says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (ESV).

If we come to Jesus and accept the gift of salvation He purchased, it’s highly unlikely He will remove all the people and circumstances from our life that we find burdensome and exhausting. However, we can discover a peace that overshadows even the most challenging task or individual.

An Amazing Example

There is a dear senior saint in our congregation who will likely go home to be with the Lord before I return from holidays. Although I haven’t gone to see him in hospital, our pastor has—several times. And his report? That Harry never fails to be an encouragement. He has a big smile on his face and reassures everyone that he is ready to enter eternity. Even his wife and daughter shared this with me recently. That’s the kind of peace that surpasses human understanding.

And that same peace is will be what sees his family and friends through the challenging days ahead.

Invitations and Commands

Although the verses in Matthew 11 read as a wondrous invitation—and they are—there are actually three commands in the passage. We are to come to Jesus. We are to take His yoke upon us. And we are to learn from Him. These are not suggestions. They are imperatives.

We must come to Him, originally for salvation and then day by day for comfort, guidance, direction, etc. We will not experience His ongoing gift of true peace and rest if we neglect our time with Him and our fellowship with other believers.

Second we are to take His yoke upon us. Remember what Jesus says in Luke 9:23: If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

In human terms, we think of rest as a break from our routine, possibly to sleep in, sit on the beach, and read a book. While all of these may, in one way, be restful, they have little, if anything, to do with taking up our cross.

As we learn what the Lord would have us do with our life, and we willingly lay aside our own agenda, we will experience a rest that makes vacationing seem insignificant in comparison.

The last command the Lord gives in this passage is the directive to learn from Him. And that will take a lifetime.

Learning from the Lord's Example

How do we learn from Jesus?

We study the gospels. John is my personal favourite.

Next, we must prayerfully ask the Lord to show us how Jesus’s example translates into our own life. 
We must seek to live according to His example and instruction. This won’t happen in our own strength. We must rely on the Holy Spirit to give us the desire to do so—and the insight as to how to follow the Saviour’s example.

We ask for forgiveness when we fail to do so. As believers in Jesus, we can rest assured that He has already done so. Talk about a cause for peace!

Whether we’re on vacation or in the midst of our busiest time of the year, these pursuits are crucial.

A life of godly rest may or may not include a vacation in the mountains. It will, however, include sacrifice, denying oneself, and hard work. But even more than that, it will mean partnering with the Lord Himself, walking side by side with Him, and finding deep soul rest because of His grace.

August 01, 2017

Writing and (Other Areas of) Life: A Balancing Act by Sandi Somers

Our lives are often busy with many responsibilities that can interrupt our writing life. “Maybe life IS the interruptions,” wrote Janice Dick in her blog. “Maybe my writing is the commentary I fit in as often as I can. I call it my vocation, my career, my job. But it will always be a balancing act with what happens off the page.”   (Read her blog here.)

 Our writers this month explore what balancing life on and off the page means to them. How do they balance the two? What insights will they share with you, our readers?

"To everything there is a season. "

This spring I had a lot of yard work to do. My fence needed painting, my flower beds needed redesigning and my shrubs needed trimming. I had to catch up from a couple years of benign neglect. My writing, it's true, got behind. But while painting, planting and trimming, I thought a lot about this month’s topic and how writing is a commentary on life.

Each season brings a different phase of life. Like the different seasons, different activities come and go. It’s true that in summer I’m usually busier with family—and yes, with yard work. The outdoors calls me to go bird watching, and right now, to go pick saskatoons with a friend. And therefore summer is a time when I don't have time for too much writing. However, in winter I’m more indoors. When the wind howls, the snow falls and the temperature plunges, I feel like I’m in a cocoon, curling up with my writing for most of each morning.  During this time I normally accomplish the bulk of my year’s writing. 

Life is holistic. Writing and the other areas of my life are not mutually exclusive. Writing is one part of life, along with relationships, responsibilities, relaxation and more. And all parts are integral, adding richness to life. I also find that experiences and responsibilities and people add a deeper understanding of God and how He works, and this understanding adds depth to my writing.

Writing is fed from ongoing life. I’ve found that the richer my ongoing life, the richer my writing will be, as it draws from deep resources the way a tree draws refreshment from deep within its roots. I well remember an interview I heard with Wayson Choy, a Chinese Canadian writer, who said that he gets to live his experiences twice: once in real time, and a second time as he relives those experiences in writing.

Each season brings its own adventure, and I focus on the positive as much as possible, rather than the limitations. To illustrate this concept, I think of my friends who live on Vancouver Island: each trip off the island means scheduling a ferry ride—that part of life is bound up by the ferry schedule that can sometimes be a burden. Whereas as a tourist I find that the ferry trip is part of the adventure of travelling to the island.

Each season is a time to appreciate God’s goodness. I look at Ecclesiastes 3 where the writer says that there is a time for everything. And then in a beautiful poetic style, he contrasts the different seasons of life. He concludes with, “(God) has made everything beautiful in it time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

God has made beautiful what happens both on and off the page.