The Key to Choosing the Right Path

smooth-path
We bought a new (used) car on Tuesday and a tree fell on it on Friday. People have mentioned – I think in an effort to comfort me – that maybe that was not the car that God intended for me.

It doesn’t matter if that is the one that God intended because I chose it and God allows me to make my own choices for the good or for the bad. That is just His nature. It is the enemy that comes to steal, to kill and to destroy – not the Father. God did not drop a tree on my car.

No matter how or why that tree ended up on the car the truth is that God can turn a bad situation into good if I trust him. Sometimes following His path and His directions are as difficult for me as understanding why a tree fell on my new car before I even had a chance to drive it.

Tips for Choosing the Right Path

    1. Don’t try to force it. God’s way may not be the “easy” way but it is smooth. He has cleared the path. Any time you are pushing and twisting to force a square peg in a round hole you might need to take a second look.

    2. Don’t rush it. It is important that you be willing to step out when God tells you to step out but you better not step out before then. It’s like standing at a busy intersection with cars and trucks zipping by. If you cross before the light tells you to cross then you might find yourself in trouble (and pain).

    3. Don’t do it on your own. Self-sufficiency is a sin. It forces you to take your eyes off Christ and focus on self. Choose to keep your eyes firmly set on and focused on God and you won’t be able to look at self. You can only focus in on one thing at a time even if you are a multi-tasker.

    4. Don’t move without knowledge. The most important thing you can do is to spend quality time in the Word of God. The Word should be like the air you breathe – coming in and out of you naturally without a thought. Getting in the word will guarantee you an ear that is hungry for God’s direction and an ability to hear from God.

The day after I filed the claim for our insurance I found another exact make and model of the same car. Almost everything that had annoyed me about the other car was different and better in the one I had found (the almost should have been my first red flag). I negotiated a price that I wanted or at least where I wanted to start the finally negotiations.

I spent the following day having my mechanic check it out. At the same time I received news that the insurance will not pay until after the title goes to the state and comes back in our name. If I wanted the vehicle I would have to figure out a way to make it happen.

I walked away from that deal. Driving back to the dealership I noticed a strange pull and give in the way the car was driving. My dad had gone along for the ride as well and he noticed it. By the time we got to the dealership we were both thrilled that I had chosen not to buy what was surely a lemon.

God will make a way. He doesn’t need us to push and tear and force our way into the place that He wants for us. The key to choosing the right path is obedience. Following Him, His will and His way will put us on the right path each and every time.

Dealing with Kids When the Heat Rises

kids-in-sprinkler

Children can be trying. Children that are hot and tired are extremely trying. Children that are hot and tired at a time when you are on a deadline and trying to balance the chores at the same time are just about impossible. The best way to keep from having to deal with impossible situations with the family is to avoid them altogether.

Tips to Avoid Having Trying Children

    1. Plan refreshments that are cool (as in temperature) and cool (as in fun). Let the kids toss around an ice cream ball that actually churns fresh ice cream as they play. Let them add fresh fruits to their vanilla ice cream to make it unique and at least a little bit healthy.

    2. Plan cool activities. Anything that involves playing in water will usually work. Put the sprinkler out and let them run through it, purchase water balloons and let them have a battle or just give them a bucket and a hose and let the fun begin.

    3. Have crafts planned to occupy their time. Let them paint the window with water paints or decorate the porch with chalk. Give them some finger paints and let them decorate the plastic lawn furniture. When the creations are done you can wash them off and wash away the creations at the same time – be sure to take pictures first.

    4. Schedule a movie time. Make the investment of renting a movie that they have wanted to see and post the time the movie will start. Let them pick out snacks and drinks to enjoy during the movie.

    5. Make plans for them to get out of the house. Ask a friend or relative to take them for the day or just for the amount of time that you need to get your work done. Make arrangements to reciprocate the opportunity in the near future for their kids.

    6. Let it go. Stop stressing over things that can be left behind for the moment and focus on the things that absolutely have to be done. If you are not stressed then odds are you children will be more relaxed as well.

Summer can be hectic for work at home parents or any parents that are not use to having their children around during the day. Be prepared for those melt down moments and you can keep your cool no matter how much the heat rises.

Getting into a Blogging Groove

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Making the habit of blogging regularly is one of the easiest ways to build your readership and open up opportunities to monetize your blog. The trouble for most bloggers is developing a consistent pattern for the posts. There are a number of different schedules, tips and ideas that can help you maintain a blogging schedule and can even help get your muse going.

Tips for Blogging Regularly

    1. Make a schedule – set a particular category that you can write about each day of the week. Knowing what you are going to write about can make it easier to blog and also help you to come up with blogging ideas. Start by making a list of topics that you want to discuss and that fit with the overall plan of your blog. Expand those as needed or just rotate the ones that you have. Your visitors will also like that each Monday they can expect an article about “how to” or what ever you choose to make Monday’s topics.

    2. Share the information – offer to guest post on other websites. There is no reason that your one article can not become more. Expand on the piece that you write for Monday and see about having a guest column at other sites. Create an article that is stand alone and that offers valuable tips to the readers but save some of the meat for your article alone. Be sure that you ask for a link that says something along the lines of “for more information on this subject.”

    3. Post a head of time – bloggers using WordPress can choose to post articles well in advance. For articles that are not timely you can have several days, several weeks or even several months scheduled to post in advance. You can always change your posts if something timelier does strike your fancy you can no one will be the wiser. The best part about posting ahead is that you can take time off to focus on other things (as long as you build your reserve back up when you return).

    4. Use the regularly scheduled moments in your life to create blogging posts. It is easy to take the notes from Sunday’s sermon and transform them into a post or even a series of posts. Use the ideas and lessons you are learning from a bible study or a class to create blog posts. Any meeting or gathering can offer great material for a blogging category.

    5. Create a pillar article that can be the bases of other articles. Something similar to this article (only a bit longer) where there are several points for the views to learn from. Take each point and expand it into its own article (like “How to Create Great Pillar Articles”). Be sure to link back to the initial pillar article when you post the expanded articles on your blog.

Blogging is a habit that has to be molded and manipulated just like anything else. There are days when you will not feel like writing a single word. It is times when you are struggling that having a plan in place and a schedule can help you be consistent with your blog.

For Dad on Father’s Day

keith-and-the-boys-working-on-the-playset
This is the day that I try to remember all of those special moments. The times that were just my Dad and me -without a brother to be found. It is then that I realize how truly blessed I am to have a dad that was a parent, a mentor and now a friend.

Tips I Learned from Dad about Parenting and Life

    1. Make time for each child no matter what your schedule. Every Saturday my dad took me out for an early breakfast up at the state park. The tradition slowed down as I grew up but he began meeting me once a week during college for a meal. It was a time for us to share our lives, our thoughts and along the way our spiritual walk.

    2. Spend time listening. Each outing with my dad I was free to talk (and I’m VERY good at that). He rarely added a word unless I was looking for his advice. More often than not he served as a sounding block to give me the chance to work through life alone – but with a watchful eye.

    3. Share the Word. My dad often shared teaching tapes and other information that he was listening to or reading that was helping with his own spiritual walk in order to assist me in mine. He also encouraged me to ask him questions and to ask others questions when it came to the Word. He helped me develop a hunger for the Truth.

    4. Pray daily (sometimes hourly). Every morning my dad gets up and spends time reading his bible and praying. I have caught him at this more than once but he has also shared with me about his “quiet time.” I know that he is praying for me and the comfort of his prayers is sometimes the added life preserver I need to get through situations.

    5. Expect change. There was a time when I was my daddy’s little girl and in his heart I will always have that place. Over the years our relationship has been allowed to grow and mature as we each have grown and matured as Christians. Now we pray for each other and together – but I still call my daddy when I need encouragement, advice, comfort, support or a listening ear.

The best part about looking back on my relationship with my dad is that I can see beyond the mistakes into the love. I can also choose the good things that he did to emulate in my own parenting journey and let any negatives fall into the rocky ground where they can not take root.

Thank you Dad for all that you have done for me over the years. You have helped me to grow into my walk and my purpose and you continue to help me in that path each and every day. Know that this Father’s Day you are in my thoughts and prayers but more importantly each day you are in my heart and an essential part of my life!

Things to Learn at Writers Conferences

panel-at-scwc-2009
June is always the time of year that I travel down to Tuscaloosa, Alabama for the annual Southern Christian Writers Conference. Each year I expect to learn something, meet someone or gain something for my writing. This year I also had the opportunity to share a little of my freelance writing experiences.

Writers conferences are great tools for writers at all stages of their career. New writers can learn tips and techniques from those that have “been there and done that.” Experienced writers may gain a new idea, get a hunger for a new genre or meet that one person that begins to open up new doors of opportunity. And there is more than enough going on to meet the needs of those in between.

The Southern Christian Writers Conference was the place that reintroduced me to my passion for writing. This year it has given me a hunger to speak, to teach and to write in ways that I had not thought about previously.

More Things I Learned at the Southern Christian Writers Conference

    1. Getting an agent is a job and should be approached professionally. It is important that I understand who the agent is, what they bring to the table and that I have my side of the information (book proposal or completed manuscript) ready to set on the table. Greg Daniels presented two programs about “Finding and Working with a Literary Agent” but his insights into the publication process were as valuable as all the other mountains of information that he provided.

    2. Developing a platform is an essential part of getting published in this electronic age. “Platform” was the one phrase I heard time and again from the editors, agents and authors presenting sessions at the Southern Christian Writers Conference. Successful Freelance Writer is one step toward developing my own platform. Having a chance to give one of the opening speeches at the conference was another step. A platform is my way of getting the things I care about in front of an audience.

    3. Editors are not the enemy. Cecil Murphey was a keynote speaker but was kind enough to fill in for a session when one of the other presenters became ill. Editors are in the business of making my writing the best that it can be and they deserve that I treat them with a professional attitude that includes meeting (or beating) deadlines and putting forward writing that is checked, rechecked and checked again.

    4. Every day I should be working to get better – otherwise there is something wrong with where I am. My best is never enough. I need to be working for my “even better” each day, each article and even each idea that I present to readers, editors or agents.

    5. I am not normal. I am an irregular person living a peculiar life in a “normal” world. If you knew me or have now met me then you already realized this was true. The truth is that we are all irregular and that’s what makes us unique.

    6. There is more in me than I ever imagined possible. I stood up and spoke in front of almost 200 people. If that wasn’t enough, I used a microphone. I still get butterflies just thinking about it, but I did it. And I know that just like with my writing the next time will be a little easier and a little better. The important thing is that I be so certain of who I am and where I am going that nothing else matters. Vanessa Griggs motivated me to put as much attention into the details of my writing as God puts into creating a flower.

    7. It is all about the details. Carol Evans of Birmingham Parent reminded me again that details do count. Information that I provide in my articles should be verified. My mistakes do not just reflect on me and my writing but on any magazine that publishes my work.

    8. Proof reading is more than just checking the spelling and the grammar. Proof reading is “proof” that I am putting my best work forward. Rene’ Holt from Mature Living gave me the encouragement to make my writing more than just words on paper but to create an image and fill a need with those words.

    9. Friends can be made in the bathroom. Sorry Susan – it had to be said. When we are open to the people around us then there is opportunity to bond with those people. Friendships can be formed in just a few moments shared in the Ladies bathroom, walking to a session or sitting at a meal. It is these friendships that can provide us with the courage to continue pursuing our freelance writing career or to expand our writing into another calling.

    10. The speakers are not the only ones that can teach. Small groups at the meals, break out sessions and other down times can all provide learning experiences. Writing is a group activity even when we are typing out on the keyboard alone. It is other writers and readers that can give us the ideas, guidance and inspiration to start a new project or push through an old one.

The Southern Christian Writers Conference is just one of the many opportunities that all writers have at their disposal to expand their industry knowledge and hone their gifts. This year the conference reminded me that my freelance writing career is just one of the steps that I am taking to pursue my passion and follow my purpose.

Dealing with Unexpected Circumstances

wrecked-suburban

If a tree falls on the car at night and no one is around – does it make a noise?

The answer to that question is apparently yes and according to my husband (who has never heard a tree fall on a car before now) you know exactly what the sound is and can feel the pain of the crushed car.

Circumstances happen and they will continue to happen as long as there is life. The difference between those that succeed and those that fail are how they deal with the circumstances that come along.

Dealing with Circumstances

    1. Have your paperwork in order. It makes things much easier if you know exactly where the title to the crushed car is sitting, where to find the information for the insurance company and any other information that you might need in the event of an unexpected situation.

    2. Have multiple copies. Just having something in the glove compartment of the car will not help when there is a tree sitting on top of that glove compartment. You do need to keep copies of important information (but NOT the deed) in your vehicle in case the circumstances come up away from home as well.

    3. Have a support system. You need to have someone that you can call when circumstances prevent you from doing what needs to be done. Having a ride for the kids to their activities or just a way to get around to get the situation worked out will go a long ways towards giving you peace.

    4. Remember the ultimate truth. It’s stuff. As long as no one was injured during the circumstances then the stuff can be replaced. The sooner you realize how unimportant stuff actually is then the easier you can face the unexpected circumstances.

Just three weeks ago our family vehicle was hit by another driver and totaled. It took us two weeks to work through the circumstances and purchase a new vehicle. The new vehicle is the suburban in the picture and the picture was taken just four days after the purchase was made.

Circumstances happen. It is the attitude that comes when circumstances are faced that will determine the outcome of those circumstances.

How do you deal with the unexpected circumstances in your life?

The Attacks WILL Come

attacking-army

Just when you think it’s safe to go back into the water . . . or to park your car next to the house . . . the attacks start all over. The question is not WILL the attack come but WHEN will it come. If you are doing what you are suppose to be doing then the enemy is going to try and stop you.

It can be easy focusing on the attacks. Each one is another reason to slow down or to just give up altogether. That’s what the enemy wants and it’s what he is counting on. If the next problem, situation or trouble causes you to quit then he wins and his job is done.

It is MY job to push through. Some attacks are easier to survive than others but survival of any attack will come only by following a few basics steps.

Surviving an Attack by the Enemy

    1. Now the battle plan. Digging into the Word and spending time with God EVERY DAY is the only way to understand His purpose and His plan and to continue to walk in it no matter what you might face.

    2. Stay focused. Drawing a straight line from point A to point B can only be accomplished it you stay focused on where you are going. Do not turn to the left or to the right but look straight on.

    3. Use your words. The enemy will try to use words to destroy but you can use words to build up. Speak positive things over your life and over the situation.

    4. Remember the ending. It is easy to get caught up in this world and to lose track of the ultimate end and where we will be “tomorrow.”

    5. Remember the point. We are ambassadors to this world and not residents of this world. Everything that we do and everything that we have is for the furthering of our ambassadorships.

I recently heard Vanessa Davis Griggs speak at a conference and she said that the only time the enemy tries to stop you is when you are going to succeed. Knowing that success if one more push away should be enough to drive you past any attack that you are facing.