I’m so excited for this chance to write devotionals, which I’ve felt God calling me to write in addition to my fiction. The theme for We Are Beautiful’s posts this month is vulnerability with references from Psalms.
Vulnerability is something that I struggle with, as I naturally try to control all aspects of my life. Check out my post on their website to learn how I’m working on giving up control and being vulnerable before God. I’d love to know what you think!
This is the first week of July, which means we’re at the halfway point of 2018, so I wanted to take a moment to reflect on my goals for this year and see how I’m doing.
Instead of making new year’s resolutions, I choose one word to guide me for the year. 2018’s word is focus, but so far I feel like I’ve done everything but focus.
I started this year off by wanting to focus on writing and on God, which would help me accomplish my writing goals of writing a draft of my work-in-progress, writing a query for that book, and reading 45 books.
While I’m right on track with my reading goals—having just finished my 24th book this year (53% of 45 books), I still haven’t written much this year.
The main reason for being behind on my goals is that I switched novel projects. I shared why I switched book projects in my post Write Through It. Doubts about my work-in-progress and medical issues had been keeping me from working, but then God finally answered my prayers by both telling me what to write and by finally healing my eye.
I’m so unbelievably thankful both that my eye works again and for this beautiful story God has asked me to write. And focusing on God by praying for these things is what eventually brought me healing and this new idea. But I feel like I need to take a step back at this halfway point in the year to take a deep breath and refocus.
That’s what 2018 is supposed to be about for me—focusing.
I need to put my past behind me. All of the pain and suffering. All of the self-doubt. All of the unfocused and lazy days. I need to focus on what is ahead.
Even though I feel like I’ve wasted half of a year by not producing anything, I haven’t. I’ve learned and grown. I’ve prayed more and trusted God with more of my life. I’m doing research for my new book project. I’m getting ready to write this book that I have a feeling will change my life.
So this is me refocusing:
I’m taking a deep breath.
I’m telling myself it’s okay to not write an entire book this year.
I’m reminding myself that I have to focus on God before I can focus on anything else, because without him our lives don’t mean anything.
I’m reminding myself that like my book project I am a work in progress. But that’s okay. I’ll get there.
I’ve had the privilege to be on Kelly Balarie’s launch team for her new book, Battle Ready, and I’ve loved this chance to read an advanced copy and to help launch this book into the world. Today I have a special guest post to share from Kelly about being battle ready. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
This book can seriously change your life. God is using this book to help me see how my thought patterns have been hurting me and how I can change my thoughts in order to change my life. Battle Ready is full of practical methods and mindsets you can adopt to help you be ready for all the battles you face. There’s a link at the end of this post to pre-order the book and get the accompanying prayer journal!
5 Tips to Being Battle Ready By: Kelly Balarie
If a baby bird never moves out of the nest, she’ll never fly. If a toddler never takes that one inch forward, fearing falling, she’ll never walk. If a woman never takes a small step, she’ll continually stay, nowhere.
A small step out of move-out faith is mission-critical. Why? Faith brings to life what we cannot see, but desperately hope for.
Where do you stand on the faith-scale? 1-10? Do you see new life arising from your hopes, hunger, and hardships, or are you simply staying stuck, where you are?
You know, my life has lived as a big struggle. I’ve gone through an eating disorder, depression, a health scare that threatened to take my walking legs, financial debt struggles, heart-breaking and joy-stealing relational problems, companies going under, and constant self-doubt. The list goes on-and-on…
Nearly every time, in these situations, I thought: There’s no way out. This is impossible. I don’t know what to do. I am going under. I don’t have the (time, ability, resources or wisdom) to get through this. God won’t really be there for me; He’s got better things to do. I am stupid for letting this happen. No one understands. I’m all alone.
If faith is hope in what we cannot see, I’ve lived hopelessness. If it’s “impossible to please God without faith,” no wonder I felt so displeased with myself. If God says, “everything is possible for those who believe,” I suppose I haven’t believed.
The inclination here is to be angry at myself saying, You always mess up. You always fall short. You never do anything right.
But this is not how God speaks to me. This is not being Battle Ready.
Instead, God restores me by saying, “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” (2 Cor. 12:9).
Knowing this prepares my mind to walk into fearlessness, boldness, and purpose.
God’s grace welcomes in new faith. This is a vital, because faith is our greatest battle weapon. It takes us places, it tames our trials and it forges us ahead, like doubt never can.
So, how do you walk out life-changing faith? Here are a couple tips from my vast arsenal of faith-building, doubt-reducing, and life-changing thought-strategies I’ve discovered on my many battlefields of hardship:
5 Small Steps To Building Battle Ready Faith
Envision Jesus one step ahead of you. If you know God is at the place you’re afraid of, how much more can you trust He’s preparing it for your arrival?
Hear in your mind, continually: God really cares for me. The more we believe God sees us, the more we’ll believe He’ll see us through.
Taste His victory history. If you remember how you felt when God came through last time, you can almost taste him doing the same thing again. Let your mouth water for His “new thing.”
Inhale the reality, God is with you. Sure, there may be bumps in the boat. This doesn’t mean Jesus is sleeping. He’s fully aware of all you’re going through, the path He has you on, and your perfect escape with Him.
Hold a light schedule. If you clear way in your schedule, you’ll make room to experience God’s Word in such a way where it can begin to dwell in you.
Pick up your shield of faith. When the enemy throws an arrow at you, like a random email that makes you feel sad or a rejection from a friend that leaves you disappointed, remember: God is with you, for you, and He is on your side. He is working out something in you and for you that’s even better than you expected.
You can become battle ready and live victoriously. You can prepare in advance rather than emotionally responding and reacting to the hardships that you face. God will give you peace as you learn His wisdom and strategies.
About Battle Ready: Train Your Mind to Conquer Challenges, Defeat Doubt & Live Victoriously
“The best time to be strengthened against the Enemy’s tactics of doubt, disappointment, and devastation is before he makes his first move toward us. We all desperately need the biblical guidance and preparation found in Battle Ready!”
– Lysa TerKeurst, New York Times bestselling author and president of Proverbs 31 Ministries
Battle Ready is a hands-on scriptural plan that teaches you twelve easy-to-implement, confidence-building mind-sets designed to transform your thoughts and, therefore, your life. You’ll gain practical wisdom, like how to:
make new habits stick in just five steps
disarm the seven most common attacks that plague women
exchange self-limiting thoughts for purpose-driven, love-releasing thoughts
implement thirty-second mind-lifters that deliver peace
create boundaries so you live life full of what matters
To download your pre-order bonuses and to get Battle Ready freebies after the book is released—printables, devotional reminders, a customizable daily Battle Plan, and the “Find Your Battle Style” quiz—visit: www.iambattleready.com
To order the companion Battle Ready Daily Prayer Journal that will help you practically change your thoughts, then your life, click here.
Kelly Balarie, an author and national speaker, is on a mission to encourage others not to give up. Through times of extreme testing, Kelly believes there is hope for every woman, every battle and in every circumstance. She shares this hope on her blog, Purposeful Faith, and on many writing publications such as Relevant, Crosswalk, and Today’s Christian Woman. Kelly’s work has been featured on The Today Show, 700 Club Interactive, Moody Radio and other television and radio broadcasts. When Kelly is not writing, she is chilling at the beach with her husband, a latte, and 2-toddlers who rightfully demand she build them awesome castles.
I have some exciting news that I wanted to share with you all—I’m going to be writing for the wonderful Christian blog We Are Beautiful!
For a long time I never wanted to write nonfiction. I thought that truths were better shared through fiction, and so I made that my focus as I grew as a writer. Writing this blog over the past two years has been fun though, and it opened my mind to nonfiction.
And a few months ago I felt God stirring a new dream and calling in me—to write for him directly. Not just through my fiction, but through Christian nonfiction and devotions.
The thought of doing this one day made me both excited and scared. I had no idea what I was doing with nonfiction. And I wasn’t sure if I had something important to say with my own life and with my own stories. Before, if I wanted to say something, I would create a story and a character to tell it. Now God was asking me to write about me, and that was terrifying.
But I could feel him stirring me to keep growing and learn how to do it. I started paying more attention to the devotions and Christian nonfiction I was reading. Like I do when studying fiction, I had to learn how to look past the story to see how the piece is constructed and what makes it work. And after a few months of studying, God has opened a door for me.
And that door is We Are Beautiful. WAB is a community of women that inspires one another and celebrates true beauty. With events, groups, and the blog I’ll be writing for, WAB helps women of all kinds find their true beauty in Christ.
I’m so excited to be writing for them. You can check out their website here, and I’ll let you know when my first post is published to their site!
God has shown up in my life in a very big way recently, and so today I want to share more of a personal story with you.
I’ve been dealing with eye issues for ten years now. It started with just dry eyes in high school, but for the last several years, in the fall through the winter my left eye has been giving me trouble. Each year it got worse, with pain and blurriness and light sensitivity. I’ve been seeing a cornea specialist, but we were never able to pinpoint what exactly was causing the pain, and thus never came up with a longterm solution.
These past several months have been some of the worst physical pain I’ve experienced. I’ve had to sit in the dark at home with most of the lights turned off and the brightness turned down on every screen. I’ve had to take a nap every day or my eye wouldn’t make it through the evening. It was nearly impossible to write.
A few weeks ago I went to Disney World with my mom and sister, and I’ll never forget watching the fireworks the first night of our visit. I was tempted to not even go on the trip because of how bad my eye had been, but with a hat and two pairs of sunglasses, I managed to get by even though it was extremely painful. But as we watched the fireworks, I just started crying. Not because of how amazing the show was, but because even with two pairs of sunglasses on I couldn’t keep my eyes open to watch the show. And I love fireworks. I think they’re so beautiful and they’re one of my favorite things to look at. But that night I was crying because I thought this was just going to be my life from now on. The pain had gotten worse every year, and multiple doctors couldn’t figure out what to do about it.
Just before I left for my trip to Disney, God had answered my prayers about what to write. I know I told you I was outlining a dystopian trilogy, but that story never felt like the right story to write right now. And so I prayed for months until God gave me a new story to tell. And he finally did, with a story I am unbelievable exited about.
A few days after my eye got worse than it ever had before.
And then we left on our trip, and I cried all through the fireworks.
A visit to my eye doctor just after we got back left me with no answers, again. And that weekend I had to skip a concert I was really looking forward to because I was in so much pain.
I had another concert to go to that following week. A worship concert that I would be attending with my fellow lead team ladies from my church. My favorite worship bands were going to be there, along with a speaker I was dying to hear. I prayed each day that my eye would get better. I asked God to take away the pain. And I complained that I couldn’t work on this amazing story he gave me to tell because my eye hurt too much.
I spent the morning of the concert crying. I wanted to go, but I remembered how bad the fireworks had felt just a week before. I didn’t want it to hurt. I couldn’t even drive to meet up with the other ladies who were going. But I felt a little nudge, like I just had to go, and I asked if someone could pick me up.
This concert changed my life.
A woman from Bethel Music shared a testimony that I will never forget. She told a story of dealing with chronic pain for twenty years. She said she kept asking God to lift the pain because she didn’t want it. But then he told her she had to sing through it.
As I stood there in the tenth row with my two pairs of sunglasses on and tears stinging at my already burning eyes, I heard God speak to me.
“That’s why you needed to come tonight. I know it hurts, but you needed to hear this. She had to sing through it. You have to write through it.”
Bethel Music then performed the song “Catch the Wind” and I knew what I had to do.
My whole life I’ve dealt with pain. If it wasn’t the crushing weight of depression and anxiety, then it was various forms of physical pain: a broken jaw, bad knees, a bad foot arch, asthma, horrible colds, allergies, stomach pain, mono which lasted half a year, and now incredible eye pain.
I kept complaining to God and asking him to lift this pain because I didn’t want it. I was done. I was tired of hurting.
But I have to write through it. I have a story to tell, a story of finding hope despite pain. God needs me to tell it. I have to write through it.
That was two weeks ago.
I had another doctors appointment one week ago. And instead of switching between trying to read in the waiting room and rubbing my painful eye, I decided to pray. I prayed that we’d finally find an answer because though I was determined to write anyway, it sure would be nice for my eye to get a little better.
And then my doctor suggested that I try a new eye drop. Doctors have told me over the years that preservatives in my eye drops could build up over time, but they never said they thought that was what was causing my problem. I’d avoided using the preservative-free drops because I’ve sampled every eye drop there was and this one bottled drop always felt the best to me. Plus preservative-free drops cost a ton more. But my eye doctor suggested I use them instead, and I listened this time and bought a box even though they cost a lot.
My eye was better the next day.
It’s been a week now, I’ve been able to work all day without naps, keep the curtains open, and turn the brightness up on my screens. I can even write this very long blog post without putting in a single eye drop.
God just keeps showing up when I need him most. He gave me a story, and now he healed my eye. And I’m going to write through whatever pain I face in the future, because that’s what God put me here to do.
I’ve really enjoyed sharing some of my favorite activities when I’m not writing, like jewelry-making and watching muscials. And while crafting is probably my favorite of my other activities, serving is the most important.
Engage City Church is amazing. My husband and I fell in love with this church when it launched in fall of 2016. We couldn’t believe how loving this church was and we were blown away by the difference it was making in our community. We feel so blessed that God brought this amazing church to our community, and we’ve loved all of the opportunities we’ve had to get involved.
Over the year and a half that we’ve been attending Engage, I’ve been trying to do more for my church and my community. I’ve been trying to make my faith a big part of my life because God is the most important part of my life. And the best way to show my love for him is to serve him and to serve the people he’s placed in my life. I try to do this with my writing by creating books for people to enjoy and with my babysitting by caring for little ones. And now I try to do this with my serving at church.
As we like to say at Engage, we get to do this. We get to love on people. We get to help people. We get to create an amazing church-going experience for the people in our community.
At my church I watch babies in the nursery. I hold open doors and greet people. I help clean up after the service. My husband serves on the church board and helps run the lights for worship. Our small group spent our last couple meetings stuffing thousands of eggs for our 100,000 egg hunt in this Easter. (Yes, 100,000 eggs.) I try to do whatever I can to help out church and I want to keep growing and keep doing more.
Serving others is the best way to show people God’s love, and “We love each other because he loved us first” (1 John 4:19, NLT). I want to live out my faith with what I do every day, so I try to serve others whenever I can.
Last year I wrote about what I do instead of making traditional new year’s resolutions. I choose one word to guide me for the year, and I make an inspiration board that I can look at each day to remind me of my word. For my boards, I decorate a 12in by 12in piece of scrapbook paper with quotes, images, Bible verses, and song lyrics that relate to the word. I’ve done this for three years now, and my previous words have been Change, Grow, and Joy.
Only choosing one word seems like a small resolution, but I’ve noticed such a difference in my life by focusing on these words each year. Every day I see my word board next to my mirror and read something off of it, and then I feel ready for the day with my goals fresh in my mind. Last year especially, as I worked on Joy, I definitely learned to rely a lot more on God and find my joy in him. This is a great tool to increase your faith.
For 2018, I’ve felt God speaking one word on my heart for a while now: Focus.
I have a hard time focusing some of the time. I think part of that is because I work from home so I’m surrounded by distractions: my dog, housework, and all of the books I have out from the library. Another reason is because I have a tendency to feel overwhelmed, and when I see the long list of things that have to be done, I often end up sitting and staring at the list rather than doing something on the list.
But another big reason I have trouble focusing is that I always feel lost between book projects. Over the last six years I’ve written three manuscripts, usually spending one year working on it and one year staring at my computer, hating everything, and getting nothing done. 2017 was one of the off years, and I’ll be honest and say that I wrote almost nothing last year.
So that’s why Focus has become my word for 2018. But it isn’t just for my writing work. Throughout 2017 my husband and I became more and more involved in our church, and I definitely feel called by God to do even more. But I need to focus on him if I’m going to do anything important.
So this year I’m gong to Focus on my writing work, on my kingdom work, and on God. Here’s my board for 2018: