Guest Posts · just write life · writing

Slow Down and Dwell

The first new friend I made at the Florida Christian Writers Conference this year was Lucinda Secrest McDowell. She beamed a smile and a southern welcome and gushed with excitement when she heard about my Edisto novel. Then she connected me with her Edisto friend who can help me get this book into the hands of readers.

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All before we finished a meal. Lucinda is genuine, faith-filled, and delightful. When we met up again at Blue Ridge for another conference in May, it was my pleasure to buy her new devotional book before the bookstore had finished unpacking the box.

Dwelling Places offers a one word pondering for each day of the year. Categorized by seasons, and so very timely for my own life right now, it is my honor and pleasure to share Lucinda’s words with you today.

 


 

Driving through Pebble Hill Plantation I saw the road sign that caused me to grind to a halt.

            “Slow Down. I Mean It!”

And Pansy Poe, the owner of this beautiful estate outside my Georgia hometown, had signed her name to give it more authority.

Actually, God could have authored that sign as well.

I believe He sends signs warning me to “Slow Down” all the time, but I’m usually running by too quickly to notice. Missing what God has for me – “My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.” (Isaiah 32.18)

Or, as one seasoned pastor advises, “You must ruthlessly eliminate hurry.”

When was the last time you really rested? Hard to do, isn’t it? Our environment is constantly depleting us with noise, distractions and the compulsion to always be in a hurry. We are just too busy to rest.

“Busyness does not mean you are a faithful or fruitful Christian. It only means that you are busy, just like everyone else,” claims Kevin DeYoung, a pastor and father of six who struggles with finding true rest. “It’s not wrong to be tired. It’s not wrong to feel overwhelmed. It’s not wrong to go through seasons of complete chaos. What is wrong – and heartbreakingly foolish and wonderfully avoidable – is to live a life with more craziness than we want because we have less Jesus than we need.”

Do you want more of Jesus and His rest?

I believe our greatest threat is distraction. Did you know the root of this word is the Latin word distractus which literally means “to draw or pull apart?” No wonder we feel torn in every direction!

The author of “Sanctuary of the Soul” says that we have noisy hearts. “The fact that our schedules are piled high and we are constantly bombarded by multiple stimuli only betrays that we have succumbed to the modern mania that keeps us perpetually distracted. The moment we seek to enter the creative silences of meditative prayer, every demand screams for our attention.”

How can we quiet our hearts and discover these “undisturbed places of rest?”

Unplug. Sign out. Turn off. Hang up. Be ‘Closed for the Weekend.’ Clean up your surroundings so fewer projects call out your name. Put sleep and ‘nothing’ on your agenda and then keep those appointments. Determine your greatest distractions and energy-drainers and decide to be proactive about curbing their power over you.

And then go to Jesus and rest in His care. “Faith means resting – relying – not on who we are, or what we can do, or how we feel or what we know. Faith is resting in who God is and what He has done. And He has done everything.”

Slow Down. I Mean It!

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Lucinda Secrest McDowell is passionate about embracing life — both through deep soul care from drawing closer to God, as well as living courageously in order to touch a needy world. A storyteller who engages both heart and mind, she offers “Encouraging Words” to all on the journey. A graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and Furman University, Cindy is the author of twelve books, including Dwelling Places, Live These Words, Refresh!, Amazed by Grace, Quilts from Heaven and Role of a Lifetime. Whether co-directing the “New England Christian Writers Retreat,” mentoring young moms, or leading a restorative day of prayer, she is energized by investing in people of all ages. Cindy’s favorites include tea parties, good books, laughing friends, ancient prayers, country music, cozy quilts, musical theatre, and especially her family scattered around the world doing amazing things. She writes from “Sunnyside” cottage in New England and blogs weekly at EncouragingWords.net

faith · Guest Posts · just write life · Margin Mom · writing

When Saying No Means Yes

Step on up to the front porch and welcome Kirsten from Sweet Tea & Saving Grace. We’re blog friends and heart sisters because y’all know you’ve heard me say this before — no is a word I need to use more often. Check out Kirsten’s site sometime this week. Her content and heart are sweeter than McDonald’s tea. I promise.

The alarm next to my head began to buzz at the usual 5:00 am, alerting my body and mind that it was time to begin yet another day – a day of a 3-hour round-trip commute to a job I hated, a quick dinner with the family, and working on my blog until I couldn’t hold my eyes open any longer. Wash. Rinse. Repeat.

But this particular morning when that alarm began ringing, something felt different. Something felt off.

Rewind to about six months prior when a book found me. I didn’t go seeking this book, mind you. I was in a local bookstore looking for a new Bible study when I stumbled across “Anything” by Jennie Allen. I had recently read a blog post about her and suddenly she was showing up everywhere, including on this book shelf in this bookstore. Something compelled me to pick it up and read…and as I read, I was immediately convicted, and wanted more.

That afternoon, I read the book cover to cover, then re-read it several times over the following months.

Jennie tells the story of she and her husband and their willingness, albeit with noted apprehension, to give God “anything”…and to mean it. She talks about how reluctant we are to give God the big things, the really important things, the things that are already His but we refuse to relinquish complete control. And she tells of a prayer she & her husband prayed finally letting go and telling God, “Anything. Anything you want, it’s Yours.”

So I prayed. More times than I can count over those months that passed, I prayed, and repeatedly gave God my “Anything”.

Now, I’ve been a Christian my whole life, and yet here I was expecting the clouds to part and angels to sing every time I prayed that prayer. I knew better. I knew that God would take my “anything” whenever He wanted, not when I was ready to give it to Him.

Six months pass. I had all but stopped praying that prayer. I was 3 ½ years into building a blog that I hoped would turn into a business. I spent countless hours throwing every ounce of time, energy, and money into it and was oddly pleased when my only return was an increase in pageviews and Facebook fans. But I somehow felt I was finally at my peak.

I woke up on this ordinary morning with a heaviness on my chest. And I knew.

Beyond a shadow of a doubt, I knew God had come to collect my “anything”, and I knew what it was. Yet, I resisted. I argued. I went through the motions of my morning – shower, makeup, hair, outfit – all the while, arguing with God that I wasn’t ready to give up my blog, that I was finally seeing success, that if He would give me just six months, I’d walk away.

Suddenly, I was hit with such a force in my chest it felt as if I’d been punched hard, and it brought me to my knees. I couldn’t see my own reflection in the bathroom mirror anymore. Instead, my head was filled with visions. I saw my daughter, almost 12 years old, dealing with hormones she’d never experienced before, questioning everything, needing answers. And I was in my office working on my blog.

I saw my husband, alone on the couch, watching TV and eating dinner without me. I was in my office working on my blog.

I saw missed opportunities for quality time spent with friends, family… I saw my own health deteriorating because I didn’t make time to care for myself.

Finally, with tears streaming down my face and me in a crumpled heap on the bathroom floor, I surrendered.

Immediately, I felt relief. The weight in my chest vanished and I felt peace. My vision cleared, yet I continued to cry. I told God that yes, He could have “anything”. And I meant it.

After a while, I cleaned up my face and headed to work. As soon as I sat down in front of my computer, I typed out a blog post – what would be my last for more than six months. I told this entire story to my readers. I emailed people with whom I had made commitments and apologized, but told them I could no longer honor those commitments.

And I quit. Just like that.

Now for those of you who don’t blog, you might not see this as such a big sacrifice. But my blog had become my passion, my identity. And walking away was like tearing off a piece of me and abandoning it. I had spent 3 ½ years of my life nurturing this thing, building this thing… It was mine. It was me!

But it never was. It was His. And He took it back.

Over the six months that followed, I began to realize what I had been missing. My relationships with my husband and daughter improved dramatically, and I began to realize what it was about blogging that I was so passionate about to begin with.

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Kirsten, daughter Marley, and her mom

It wasn’t the pageviews, the Facebook followers, the “status”. It was the stories and the community. After a while, I began to ask God if I could start over with my blog, but do it His way. And in May of 2014, He said “yes”.

I rebranded to Sweet Tea & Saving Grace, but the name wasn’t the only thing that changed. My entire mindset has changed since then. I no longer chase numbers, and I will never allow myself to get lost in the to-do’s.

Since my return to blogging in May of 2014, God has blessed me and my family tremendously. I’ve created an entire business that allows me to work from home and teach other bloggers and creatives how to build their own brand of success with their own rules. It’s a dream come true.

I’m often asked how I “do it all” – handle being a wife and mom, run a business, manage two blogs, host events, speak at conferences, work with clients. And the short answer is, I don’t. Nobody does.

The longer answer goes more like this:

Before I ever picked up my proverbial blogging pen again in 2014, I made a list of my priorities. Every decision I have to make for my blog or business gets weighed against those priorities. When an opportunity arises, I ask myself if the opportunity will (a) benefit my business and help me grow, or challenge me professionally, or (b) if it will either benefit or take away from my priorities.

I’ve learned to take things off my plate when life gets too stressful or busy, and I do so without the guilt I used to feel. I always have dinner with my family at the dinner table. I go fishing with my husband on random Tuesday afternoons. I step away from work to go for a walk with my now 14-year old daughter who, remarkably, actually wants to spend time with me, so I soak it up.

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Fishing with husband, Mark, on a random afternoon

I work because we have to have an income, and I’m fortunate enough to have work that brings me joy. But at the end of my life, I won’t be thinking about all those blog posts I wrote, or the clients I helped. I’ll be reminiscing of all the experiences I had with the people I love most.

I’ve learned that saying “no” often means saying “yes”. We say “no” to things that don’t honor our priorities in order to say “yes” to the things that matter. We can’t do it all. Nobody can. Well, God can. He can do “anything”.


 

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Kirsten is the owner of Sweet Tea, LLC, which is home to all of her educational content, including blog posts, tutorials, webinars, ebooks, courses, 1:1 coaching, email services and a future membership site. She also blogs at Sweet Tea & Saving Grace, a Southern Christian lifestyle blog, where she shares her home, life and faith with anyone who wants to mingle on her front porch.


Kirsten lives in the suburbs of Atlanta, Georgia, with her husband Mark, teenage daughter Marley, and their three dogs, Savannah, Dakota, and Daisy Mae. She thrives on sweet tea & sunshine, has finally learned to embrace her natural curl, and says “y’all” entirely too often.

faith · Guest Posts · writing

My Dreams Chased Away My Depression :: Guest Post with Andy Lee

Today it’s my pleasure to welcome the lovely and talented Andy Lee to my space. I met Andy at my very first writer’s conference and remember being in awe of this tall, beautiful lady with the wide smile and absolute persistence in the belief that someday her book was going to find a home. Well now, it’s sitting in my morning pile alongside my Bible, a thrift store concordance, My Utmost for His Highest, and a journal that needs some extra attention during my busy season.

A Mary Like Me is the story of strong women who walked with Jesus. But today, Andy is sharing a bit of her story. It’s not all that different from mine, and, I suspect, many of yours.

Blessings, friends. Thank you for being here.


 

I sat on the sands in a tidal pool of self-pity.

My cup of blessings overflowed, but I couldn’t shake the sadness. I’m sure sleep deprivation played a major role in my mommy depression, but that day as I listened to one of my favorite Christian artists, her words about dreaming streamed through my earphones straight to the pit of my heart.

As the tears poured down my face, I realized this was the key to my sadness. As a child, I loved to dream, but try as I might, I couldn’t recall one of them.

sad-505857_1280Before this revelation of lost dreams, my sorrow was a betrayal to my blessings. I didn’t want to hold onto my sadness and nurture it, but I couldn’t escape from the shadows. So, I had petitioned and wrestled with God, asking for forgiveness and questioning why this had such a hold on me. Why was I so miserable?

God always answers these kinds of petitions—the kind of prayers that beg Him to bring you closer to His will. His joy. His goodness.

Knowing the root of our depression is the first step to freedom.

In my tidal-pools of self-pity that life-changing day, my friend sitting next to me grabbed my hand and told me to sing. She reminded me to worship the One who made the waves rolling toward our feet and gave those waters their boundaries.

The sorrow didn’t immediately fade nor did the dreams appear at once, but day by day, as I worshiped and prayed asking God to help me love my blessings, I began to remember my dreams.

One summer a need arose for an aerobic instructor for my Bible study group. I had never actually led a class, but I memorized one Kathy Ireland routine; my nine year old daughter made a music tape, and I taught that same routine to the same music every week. We had a blast. About halfway through the summer session, God reminded me that this was once a dream of mine.

And that’s when I knew that God would be faithful to remind me of my dreams and open the doors in His timing and creativity.

One of my life verses became: Delight yourself in the Lord and HE will give you the desires of your heart (Psalm 37:4).

As the years rolled on, the Lord let me experience many small and big dreams. One of those dreams was to write a book—this story is part of it. It’s written to encourage women to follow their God dreams and calls.

Please remember:

  • Empty can be a good thing. God wants to fill us first with Himself.
  • If shadows of depression threaten, ask God to reveal the root.
  • Worship Him.

 

My dreams chased away the depression. What helps you when depression settles on you? Leave a comment to enter the drawing for a giveaway of a signed copy of A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called.

 

Finding Purpose in our Dreams,

andy

 

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Andy Lee is a wife, mom, recovering people pleaser, speaker, and author of two books, A Mary Like Me: Flawed Yet Called (Leafwood) and The Book of Ruth: A 31-Day Journey to Hope and Promise (AMG). Her blog, Finding Purpose Beyond Today (wordsbyandylee.com), encourages thousands of viewers each month, and her morning Periscope broadcast, Bite of Bread, inspires those who join her as she digs into a Bible verse for the day. To invite Andy to speak at an event, or to find out more about her ministry visit wordsbyandylee.com.