It’s more than a hobby…(and a giveaway)

more than a hobbyThis past weekend I had the pleasure of attending Re:Write 2015, a writing conference unlike any other. Where some conferences focus solely on the nuts and bolts of writing well, finding agents, understanding the publishing world, etc., Re:Write touched on all of that (with sessions led by industry leaders like George Barna, Sandi Krakowski, Ted Dekker, Mark Batterson, Esther Fedorkevich, and so many others), but focused instead on the heart of the writer.

If you are called to write, the WRITE, anything less is disobedience. ~Mark Batterson (@MarkBatterson)

The heart of the writer can be a scary place. If you are not a writer, let me take you on a little journey.

As you walk up to the edge of the forest, you are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the trees that stand guard. They are strong and mighty, sometimes seemingly impenetrable. You see the scars that have been left, some cut deep through the bark, leaving that place vulnerable for a while until it can heal. The guard can seem intimidating and uninviting, but they serve to protect, not to harm.

As you step past those trees, you step into an open valley that was hidden from the outside. It is bright and welcoming, trusting to all who venture in. The flowers dance to the melody of the breeze, innocently opening to the sunshine above. But there are patches of burnt grasses that contrast to the gentility of the rest of the meadow. Where those burnt patches exist, a tree spouts to serve as a protector. That area will not be hurt again.

Venturing deeper, beyond the guardian trees, and the free-spirit meadow, you come to a ravine. The rocks are jagged and unsteady. A single misstep will guarantee a nasty fall. But despite the danger, you press on, finding a bridge that stretches the length of the ravine, guiding you to safety on the other side.

And once you reach the other side, you step into a place that can only be described as an Eden. The trees here are not so intimidating as they are comforting. The flora throughout isn’t blindly innocent, but rather confident in its beauty and identity. There, at the core, is where the magic of writing exists.

You see, the trees serve as protector against past and future naysayers. They guard the heart and can be perceived as abrasive and off-putting. The innocence of the meadow is the natural joy and childlike faith that is to be a part of every creative. We all have it. But when we get burnt, we try to protect ourselves as to not be hurt again. Then there is the ravine. That is the place of all of our fears and doubts. If we have been burnt enough times, that ravine can overtake the innocence of the meadow. But through trust and faith in Jesus, a bridge is built that connects the meadow to the Eden–the point of creativity and magic.

All writers have their world, and each world looks a little different. But what unites us is the irresistible urge to write and write and write. As Ted Dekker said, “Your writing is mostly your own spiritual practice. It is your healing.” It is how we worship God most purely.

I can make endless excuses not to write:

  • The kids are distracting
  • The house needs to be cleaned
  • Dinner needs to be made
  • It takes too long to get focused and I only have ten minutes
  • I haven’t showered yet and today I have to choose between the two (yes, this was actually a dilemma I have faced and contemplated)
  • and on and on and on…

But it comes back to that ever-so-important question that must be answered before anything else:

Has God called you to write? 

If the answer is yes, THEN WRITE!

I want to encourage any and all of you who are not writers, but are still dreamers. What has God called you to do? What is etched into your DNA like nothing else and you find yourself in a place of actual worship when you do it? Do that. Don’t worry about the details or the reasons not to do it. Step into the identity of who God has made you and own it!

I would love to hear what that is from you. If you don’t want to simply leave a comment below, feel free to email your answer to me at becca@simplylivingthelife.com

I’m going to give away a book to someone who answers, so be sure to respond! 🙂

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Aud Lang Syne

A year ago, my family and I were still living in Orlando. Florida– not in Texas.

A year ago, I never dreamed that I would actually have a physical copy of my book not only completed, but published by a highly reputable Christian publisher.

A year ago, I never imagined all of the spiritual growth I would experience in only a year’s time.

A year seems like so long ago–distant memories dancing through my mind more like a dream than a reality already lived. But in that time my dreams began to materialize into reality. Those ideas which seemed impossible are starting to form into a career that I only ever dreamed of.

As we close 2014 and usher in 2015, it is easy to default to the old resolutions that never make it past noon on January 1st.

  • Lose x amount of pounds and have the body I had when I was 18
  • exercise daily and eat only healthy foods–no exceptions
  • never speak out of anger–especially when I’m tired, sick, exhausted…
  • memorize the entire Bible–every last word

I’ve never taken to the idea of New Year’s resolutions. That’s not to say that I don’t see the advantage of setting goals and the new year is as good a time as any to do just that. I just don’t see the point of making goals that I know the second I make them I am going to break them. That’s not to say I don’t set God-sized goals and dreams–I just trust God for them rather than myself.

Would I like to lose another 5 pounds or so, work out daily to improve my health, and have enough will-power to not love Chick-fil-a and peppermint ice cream as much as I do? Of course, but I also believe that everything should be done in moderation–including the good stuff. Focusing on my weight versus my health clouds my self-image and causes me to be more judgmental of my post-baby body than I should ever be. Forcing myself to work out every day for an hour would actually cause more stress than it would release. A better option would be to set practical goals that don’t just add one more thing onto my list. And Chick-fil-a is just a gift from God so…you know, moderation.

But my goals and dreams are more than that. They are an expression of my soul. They are those things that I admit only to myself, for fear that I will get laughed at if I were to tell them to anyone else. Things like getting my book published. Things like my longing to become a speaker that empowers women in their identity in Christ. Those are dreams that I think about at times like New Years Eve. Those are the dreams that I can not achieve through any power of my own, but only by God’s grace and will for my life. Those are the dreams that I must continually give back to God, knowing that whatever His will is for my dreams, that will be the very best thing for me.

What are your impossible dreams? You know, those things you only admit to yourself and God? I want to challenge you to take some time and pray about those dreams. The biggest challenge I face is to truly submit them back to God, knowing that He may choose to change my path. But I know that if God doesn’t want that for me, I shouldn’t want it for myself either.

I pray that you all have a blessed 2015.

If you’d like prayer and accountability in your dreams, please feel free to share them in the comments! I’d love to pray for my readers as we enter the new year!

It’s time to awaken your soul

What makes you feel alive?

Not what gives you the greatest thrill. Or even what makes you the happiest.

What awakens you in the very depth of your soul that no matter how difficult you just have to do it?

We are so inundated with information overload, I find it a challenge just to quiet myself enough to even think about this question, let alone find its answer. Cell phones, while convenient, have taken over conversation and normal human interactions. Computers have taken the place of quiet libraries brimming with knowledge and possibility in each beautifully musty book you take of the shelf. Televisions light up our living rooms each evening in the place of laughter and games and genuine conversation.

But removing those distraction and allowing God to speak quietly to you– to the very core of who you are– may allow for an opportunity for Him to stir something inside of you that you never knew existed, or at least had long forgotten.

What makes me feel alive is encouraging others to discover their true identities in Jesus. I love to speak to others and share my heart to engage them in new ways, awakening them to the possibility that they are royalty as sons and daughters of the King of the universe. I love to draw upon the insurmountable potential that lies inside each and every one of us, just waiting for a reason to light up and take off. To encourage people to escape from lives of apathy and mediocrity because we are created for so much more.

How about you? What makes you feel alive?

The life of a rose

my sister and I cutting roses with Mama Ruthie (my great grandmother)

my sister and I cutting roses with Mama Ruthie (my great grandmother)

I realize that I have gained quite a few new followers as of late. I’m ecstatic to grow that “following” (I don’t actually know what to call it. Fan base is the other phrasing but it’s weird to think of having fans.) But as the readership grows, I recognize that many of you know little to nothing about me. Of course, I recommend going to my about page, but I want to share a little of my heart with all of you.

My dream is to be an author and speaker. While my first book is in it’s final design phase (SUPER exciting BTW), the speaker thing is still in it’s infancy. As a mother of two young girls, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. There is a lot going on but I will welcome the opportunities when they do come to fruition. Within both of those realms, one thing that I never want to loose is the genuine sincerity that I feel toward the things that I write about and the topics I speak on. When I write and when I speak, I ask God to reveal himself through my words. That’s the goal. In everything I say, whether through the written word or spoken, I want to bring God glory.

So I view my life kind of like a rose bush. You see, when you first come upon a rose bush it is–for all intensive purposes–a thorn bush. People are put off by it. No one particularly goes out of their way to buy, let alone plant a thorn bush in their yards and gardens. But then as it begins to mature, buds begin to develop. When they first reveal themselves, they are often muted in color but precious and beautiful. They can be perceived as innocent and untouched. Then the excitement really sets in as they open up into a mature rose. Colors radiate and astonish, varying in degrees of pinks, reds, purples, oranges, yellows, and white. The smells are unique to the variety and almost intoxicating. But I especially love as they continue in their maturity, just before they begin to wilt.

My great-grandmother loved roses. She had a rose garden on the side of her home, in full view from the Florida room so they could be enjoyed no matter the weather. Because of this, she often had roses in different vases and dishes throughout her home. A few were still just buds, but what I remember seeing the most were the ones who had been cut and initially displayed at the peak of their maturity. Though, as time passed, they continued to mature and open to that point just before wilting and eventually browning. The color wasn’t as vibrant as it once was. You can see where insects or frost have damaged some of the petals. But in that state, open to the world, there is a genuine peace that is displayed. The rose has grown, matured and fully blossomed. It’s as if it is saying, I’ve fulfilled my purpose and I am completely satisfied in the life I’ve lived.

This is how I understand my life. When I was born, I was born into a world of thorn bushes. We all were (are) a little rough around the edges and if handled incorrectly, we won’t hesitate to prick you. But when I accepted Jesus as my Savior and began to mature, innocent and precious buds began to form. They brought excitement and energy–there’s hope for her after all! But what I am so excited about is that while I am no longer a rose bud, I know that I still have yet to show the true brilliance of colors that God has designed for me. The unique fragrance of my passions and dreams. They splendor that is shown when opened up to the world at just the right moment. Even beyond that, what I look forward to is in the years to come, long after that splendor fades. I look forward to those moments, like my great-grandmother’s roses, when I have matured and allowed God to utilize me for His glory. I look forward to resting peacefully in that satisfaction that while I may have some bruises and signs of wear and tear, I have done what God has called me to do to the very best of my ability.

So as I continue on this journey, and as I invite you to come along with me, know that my desire is to be real, genuine, and sincere. Sometimes that shows itself through my thorns and for that I apologize up front (kind of–depends on what it’s about). But I want you to know that I am so grateful to have people to journey with.

Believing in the Impossible

picture credit to Author Solutions (https://plus.google.com/104839451103703850821/videos)

picture credit to Author Solutions (https://plus.google.com/104839451103703850821/videos)

I don’t think it will come as any real surprise but I consider myself a dreamer. I’ll play out an entire conversation of company pitches, possible speaking topics, and even conversations that may have the potential of taking a negative turn. I’ll imagine opportunities and dream of what our family will look like five to ten years down the road.

When I submitted my manuscript to WestBow press, I never imagined what may come from it. But when presented with the cover proofs, seeing my name actually gracing the cover of a book or the chance to have a full blown marketing campaign to promote me and my book to the world I find myself humbled to the point of dumbstruck.

It’s a quandary that I don’t know that I’ve experienced before. Essentially, I trust wholeheartedly in God’s ability to provide exactly what we need, I just don’t know what route to choose. To believe but to just not know what to do next is such a weird juxtaposition. The dreamer side wants to jump into the deep end and experience EVERYTHING. The logistical and (somewhat) practical side wants to take smaller steps within our means and abilities.

So when do we as believers jump in, trusting in God’s provision and when do we take baby steps, being good stewards of that which God has already blessed us with.

In the midst of my dumbstruck response the other day, I found myself on my knees in prayer. God directed me to a verse that He spoke to me about a month ago over a slightly different (yet connected) situation.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. (Deuteronomy 31:6 NIV)

There were some of the last words that Moses spoke to the Hebrews. He had just named Joshua as the next leader and knew that he would never step foot into the promised land.

Do you remember the story of the spies? When they first went into the land promised to them by God they saw a multitude of obstacles that were impossible to overcome on their own. They ran back, stirred up fear and lost all faith that God would ever allow them to enter into the land. All of them, except for Joshua. Joshua believed in the promises of God and in his first address to the Israelites following the death of Moses, he calls them to this same level of courage.

Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. (Joshua 1:9 NIV)

I long to live a life of bold faith. I want to teach my children to not just go through the motions in their relationship with God but to trust Him and know that He wants an active relationship with each and every one of us. I know that God called me to finish the book, to seek a publisher, and to jump in, believing in Him every step of the way–including in the places that seem impossible.

What areas of your life do you need to step out in faith and trust that God will go before you?

I pray that each of you will experience the strength and courage that can only come from God. Trust in the promise that Moses shared with a terrified group of people, “He will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Prayers for my Princess

Tcrown sketchhe book/devotional I am currently working on is called Ever After (I know super girly, but I love it. I even have Disney Princess wallpaper that rotates every hour on my laptop). The tag line is (work in progress): rediscovering who we were made to be as daughters of the King. (like I said, it’s still a work in progress but it gives you an idea of the focus and direction I’m taking it.) As I’m writing this particular book, I tend to look to my daughters to accurately capture that pre-“the world and all of it’s realities have dashed my innocence”.

Through MOPS and bible studies, I have been (kinda) indirectly encouraged to savor the wonderful ciaos that is motherhood of young children but more than anything, I am recognizing the wonderful trove of wisdom that my sweet girls can teach me.

About a month ago, I journaled a prayer of sorts that I want to share with you guys this week.

Sooo, here you go…

(from July 21 at 11 pm)

Before heading to bed, I walked quietly to each of my daughters’ rooms. I said a prayer over each of them and then stood, humbled and amazed as I watched my oldest sleep. (Yes, all parents watch their children sleep at some point. No, it’s not weird or creepy.)

As I watched her sigh quietly as she dreamed, a tightness formed in my chest. I gazed over her princess night-light, her fantastically pink comforter, and even her pink, ice cream jammies. She is as “girly” as it gets right now. All colors directly relate to a princess (purple=Jasmine or Rapunzel, green=Tiana, blue=Cinderella, yellow=Belle, and so on.) Anyone wearing a dress is considered a princess. Her favorite thing in the world is to dress up in her Cinderella dress and dance around the house, acting out (and quoting line by line) any and all Disney movies (especially the princess movies).

Her wonderful innocence is reflected in the crease-less peace on her face as she continued to dream.

How is it that childhood fantasy is shattered? When? How long before my precious child is thrust into the cruel, unforgiving realities of life? I know that day will come, but for tonight I pray against it. (this is still as true today as it was then)

I pray for the innocense of my child. I pray for her to know peace. Samara means protected by God, and I pray that to be true in her life.

Her Zune player lulls the next song on her playlist and the unassuming, lyrical voice of my husband’s grandmother echos in the hallway. “Sleep my child, sleep. Rest in your Father’s arms.”

I don’t look forward to the day my precious girl no longer runs into my arms, screaming “Mommy! Mommy!” excitedly as she snuggles in close. But I know, just as she will not always believe that everyone wearing a dress is a princess, she will not always seek my arms for comfort. I desperately pray that the words of that song, however, will always be true. That she will rest in her Father’s arms and know (and believe) that she is a princess because her heavenly Father is King.

I pray that you will find encouragement and humbleness in my words. I would love to hear how your children have taught you or how (if your are a student or simply don’t have kids) looking at the world through the eyes of a child can change your perspective and how God can speak to you through that?