Category: My Devoted Life

40 Days to Mount Hermon – Fasting and Prayer Week 2

DAY 8 – Friday

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12

Somehow, I woke out of a deep dream in time to get my son to school. Another full day ahead and a birthday on Saturday (my youngest turned 13) – I realized writing time would be minimal. Yet, I was feeling better than ever — really good actually! I was excited and felt confident about the changes our household was about to make for the good of us all.

DAY 9 – Saturday

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with him.” -John 14:23

My youngest 13th birthday so I started the morning off making birthday crepes. He had plans that evening so I knew the morning was my best chance to really dive into prayer and worship. I spent over an hour on my knees. Went through my prayer list from National topics to personal prayers for my children, my marriage, our finances, and finally for God to work through me in the stories that I am to tell.

As I went about my day, I felt the hint of a headache coming on, but I ignored it. I figured it had to do with my cleansing fast, so I just kept drinking my tea and water. Tried to nap but nothing helped. I figured it was a sign to just rest… body, mind, and spirit.

DAY 10 – Sunday

“Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.” Matthew 24:35

Headache had turned into body aches. I felt horrible and opted to stay in bed. Expecting to keep my normal pace while robbing my body of basic food was obviously unrealistic. If I did anything it would be reading in preparation for Mount Hermon Next Level clinic.

DAY 11 – DAY 15

Accepted the fact I was sick… having flu-like symptoms for the first time in a decade. Emphatic about continuing my sugar detox, I couldn’t take my normal remedies since they all contained some type of sugar or alcohol. But I did take some TheraFlu tablets on the 2 days I had to watch my grandson to keep from spreading my illness.

On the bright side, I had no appetite so avoiding taboo foods was easy!

40 Days to Mount Hermon – Fasting and Prayer Week 1

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My first week was primarily focused on fasting. Beginning with a 21 day sugar detox and changing up my evening routine to focus on reading and an earlier bedtime. The goal was to purge some bad habits so that my mind and body could be more in tune with God and His guidance in all areas of my life. But the ultimate goal was to eliminate distractions and find a way to incorporate writing tasks on a regular basis.

I meant to publish this on Friday, but my 2nd week of prayer and fasting took an unexpected turn. I’ll share more about that later.

For Week 1, my journey went as follows:

DAY 1 – Friday

“Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise. Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:20-21

I had a full day of obligations ahead of me between freelance work, getting my youngest son off to Winter Camp, and having my grandson in the evening. I didn’t get to sleep until after 11, but slept well. My main focus was adjusting to the detox diet. It went pretty good besides I got hungry in the late evening, but had a rich smoothie of coconut milk, avocado, and green-tipped banana to tide me over.

DAY 2 – Saturday

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” Colossians 3:12

Had to wake up early to bring my 15 year-old to work, and spent the majority of my morning and late afternoon writing the initial blog on my reasons and goals for fasting and praying for 40 days leading to the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference. By late evening, though, I found myself tired and irritable as I attempted to complete some accounting tasks for my husband’s business. I realized that during this fast, I can’t push myself too much mentally or physically otherwise I might give into temptation for a taboo snack or mind-numbing TV.

DAY 3 – Sunday

“You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous – how well I know it.” Psalms 139:13-14

After church, I made myself a cozy spot by the fire and read several chapters in two out of the three fiction books I’m trying to finish before the conference. Then my daughter called me from California and parts of our conversation had stirred up emotions regarding her plans to move back to Idaho. I found myself wondering about my role in her decision and wanting to support her while still seeking God’s will in the matter. By 9pm I was in bed feeling like I could sleep, but then my mind started wandering. I ended up not sleeping well at all but realized normally, I would have watched a couple TV shows and probably not thought about my daughter’s situation as I fell asleep. I considered it a good thing and brought the matter to prayer fervently on Day 4.

DAY 4 – Monday

“Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” 1 Corinthians 15:58

Another full day of freelance work, and running errands with my kids and grandson. Still primarily focusing on sugar detox cleansing. Other personal matters also came to light and I started to see the need to address things that have been neglected due to the busy-ness of life and shutting out the stress every evening. I was also feeling extremely frustrated with several people, feeling the burden of their choices landing on my shoulders. From agreeing to a solid financial plan that accounted for inconsistent income, to parenting issues with our older teens, I brought up the issues to my husband. These were not on my original list of “cleansing and detox” issues, but I knew they were important and trusted that God was bringing them to the surface for resolution. I experienced a gamut of emotions as we talked through it all. A needed cleansing and purging of built-up frustrations eventually led to agreeing on common ground.

DAY 5 – Tuesday

God’s word brought to light one element I had not considered on Day 4 — the need to forgive those people I felt had offended me. My frustrations were built on unforgiveness or keeping a record of wrongs. I was amazed that I hadn’t even thought that was where my unsettled feelings had manifested. It started with reading from What Happens When Women Pray – Chapter 3 Forgiven as We Forgive. Then the scripture verse for the day was also the one that our pastor used to close Sunday service and it all became clear.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-5

Yet more dross coming up to purify my heart, mind and soul! I was starting to feel pretty good on all levels. I was energized, finally getting 8 hours of sleep, eating well and on track with my PiYo despite a busy schedule.

DAY 6 – Wednesday

“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

Nearing the one week mark, I assessed my progress so far. My journal notes helped me to summarize all the days up to this point. I felt I had overcome the “feeling worse before I felt better” hurdle. Ready to shift my focus into worship and prayer over the next few days, words from Wednesday night women’s Bible study resonated. We did have the ability to move heaven and earth through prayer.

DAY 7 – Thursday

“I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” 1 Corinthians 1:10

Woke up earlier than usual. The only day of the week I didn’t have my grandson, I was hopeful to accomplish a lot. Had a good morning of reading, prayer and worship. Then tackled my to-do list of housecleaning, freelance work, and an afternoon doctor appointment for my oldest son. This was where things went downhill a bit. I hadn’t eaten much all day and the doctor appointment took longer than usual. I started hitting a figurative wall when we got home, but still needed to handle some work tasks. I got to bed about 10pm and slept so hard, my alarm didn’t wake me.


Week 1 Conclusion

Instead of feeling discouraged that writing tasks were hardly a blip on the radar, I saw every day as step toward purging the toxins I’d allowed to take over my daily life.  I’d stuck to all aspects of my plans — avoiding sugar, reading scripture and praying daily, and learning to go to sleep without the need for TV each night. My week 2 focus would start with heavy prayer and writing tasks over the weekend.

Week 2 Update will publish soon.

 

 

 

A New Thing Springs Up: A New Life and a New Story in Preparation for a Return to Mount Hermon

Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV

Last year at this time my life was in a severe upheaval. Since my husband and I had lost our jobs nearly a year earlier, we’d moved twice (locally) and started new jobs. Though we felt more appreciated than at our former employers, the work didn’t pay nearly as well, and the work and commuting demands were taking their toll on us both.

Our living situation wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t ideal either and we honestly didn’t like the little town we had ended up in.

After nearly five years in California (having relocated from Idaho at the end of 2011), my husband was certain he heard God’s call for us to return to Idaho. He had a job offer that, and though it didn’t pay much more, it would be sufficient for bare-minimum Idaho living. Not to mention our oldest daughter was in Idaho and a newlywed. The possibility of grand babies was on the horizon and he knew I wouldn’t last long as a long-distant grandma when the time came.

Even though we’d be scraping by, I wouldn’t need to work away from home, since I’d be transferring my current job into a freelance gig with reduced hours.

I know there are plenty of writers out there who work full-time and write books and have families. During the time we were in California I managed to write two, almost three books, while working full-time. But our family dynamics are different than most people. I have chronic health issues (pain, fatigue, and depression) that make it very difficult to keep going day in and day out, week after week, month after month – without my health suffering.

In this state of mind and in a constant state of pain, it’s really hard to get creative and focus on writing. Top that off with uncertainty about our living situation, how pay our bills or feed our family week after week and I think you get the picture. Even if I felt inspired to write, I felt guilty about doing so since the needs of my family were not being met.

Yet, on the brink of moving back to Idaho there was one thing I had not yet done since moving to California. And that was attending the Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference. I had heard of it during my first weeks of becoming a member of the Inspire Christian Writer’s group in Roseville. But for one reason or another, it had not worked out.

So, I asked my husband for his blessing. If I could save from my own income, and get a scholarship, could I stay an extra two weeks and attend the conference before joining him and our boys in Idaho? We would have to move out completely from our current rental, and I would need to stay with my mom, who conveniently lived in Northern California 10 minutes away from my job versus the 30 minutes drive from our house, and about an hour closer to Mount Hermon.

It was hard to explain it to him, but I also felt that this transition time would help release some of the stress that had been building over recent months. And it would help me to focus on writing again. Of course, I would miss him and our three boys, but I would be only taking care of my own needs, getting myself to work, and have down time each evening with my mom and my adult daughter who was living with her at the time.

Honestly, a year later a lot of the details are a blur. I remember having a really bad migraine the day before the conference. I had a final doctor appointment already scheduled, but he prescribed me something different, which in turn made me sick halfway into the night.

Somehow, I got a few hours of sleep, woke up early, and started the drive to Santa Cruz with my crossover packed full of everything that wouldn’t fit into the moving truck. I had my song list ready to play, and I was determined to worship the Lord the entire way. I didn’t know why he allowed me to get sick the day before the conference. But I knew he had something for me there. Because of how exhausted I was, and my lack of appetite from the medicine side-effects, I was in a fully frail state when I arrived.

A tad backstory here – I was born in Santa Cruz. I hadn’t live there very much of my childhood, but I ended up living there a few years as a teenager after my parents divorced. One of my favorite past times was walking through the woods up in the mountains off of Summit Road, making up stories in my mind. Back then I didn’t realize what drew me to those mountains. There was something magical about the trees hovering high above, the scent of dirt and petals and various animals emanating from the sunlight that streamed through branches and breaks in the forest. The mixture of cool earth and shadows with glimmers of warmth and light.

When I drove into the entrance at Mount Hermon, it all came back to me. One of the first books I ever started writing, happened in these mountains. These mountains were where I was first inspired to become a writer at the tender age of 11, and mostly at that time as a means to process the pains and confusion of my parents’ divorce. It was a blend of the old and the new.

I eventually found my cabin and settled in. My roommate wasn’t there yet so I took advantage of being alone and just rested my heart, my mind, my soul, and my body. I wrote in my journal, read through the conference packet, and prayed for God to connect me with those who I needed to be connected with, to allowed me to be honest and to accept whatever words of advice and wisdom I received from those I met during the week.

A little note about that scripture verse at the top of this post – Isaiah 43:18-19. When we’d first moved back to California in 2011, God had given me that verse as a promise. And I’d held onto it for nearly five years, waiting to experience the fulfillment of those words.

So when Mona Hodgson quoted those exact words in the introductory session, I knew without a doubt that God was telling me my new life, that “New Thing” was springing up in that moment. In all the radio broadcasts, Bible studies, and church events I’d sat through, this was the first time anyone had spoken those words since God had back in 2011.

And that’s when the tears came, a different type of tears than I think I’d ever cried before. They weren’t the tears of frustration, anger, or discouragement that had flooded from my eyes numerous times in the months prior. They were tears of cleansing and refreshment and knowing that the palms of my Heavenly Father were beneath me, holding me securely in His plans to prosper and not harm.

The first couple of days were brutal. I cried a lot… A lot! If anyone remembers me from last year, they probably remember that I cried the first couple days. I cried during the General Sessions. I cried at meal time. And I cried in between the workshops.

But it was during these times that I ended up meeting some of the most wonderful people. Marcy and Angela became my surrogates. They told me their stories as struggling writers, mothers, and wives. And they kept checking on me through the week.

I didn’t feel alone and I didn’t feel like a stranger.

There are others as well, but these two stick out to me the most. I’m really hoping that they will be there this year. I’m looking forward to sharing what a crazy time 2016 was, but how God brought me back to experience Mount Hermon in a whole new way.

I wish I could say that I’ve been writing like crazy since the last time I attended. But that’s not the case. I finished and submitted my second book in the No Eye Has Seen Series, but I didn’t do enough marketing of the first one, so I’m in a stand still when it comes to that story. It’s tentatively set to publish in June, so I really won’t know how that turns out until later this year.

2016 was more about getting to a place of stability and health, so that I could really focus on writing without having survival at the helm.

So, with what I hope is a more permanent living situation, plenty of income to cover our needs and some wants, and for the very first time ever… drum roll please… a writing office that has a door! – I am preparing for my return to Mount Hermon. 

I have an entirely new story that I’ve started, not finished, but that’s okay. I’m not in a rush at this point. I believe my story premise is solid, and I’m fairly sure I’ve got the basics of my writing technique and style down, though I know there’s always room for improvement. What I’m looking for is honest critique and one-on-one instruction so that I can take the beginnings of this WIP and be confident I’m on the right track as I work toward completing it through the remainder of this year.

I’ll be attending the pre-conference and the morning mentoring sessions to reach my goal. However, I might be looking forward more to relationship building than I am to building my story. But either way, I know I will get a lot out of the Mount Hermon conference this year. Since I know a little of what to expect this time, I’m sure I will feel more relaxed and comfortable.

For any first-timers out there, feel free to come say hi, get a hug, and share with me if you feel the need. I’m happy to pay forward the love, understanding, and encouragement I received last year.

As a final note, I am a grandma now! My grandson, Kadyn, is an adorable, happy baby and will be almost 7 months old in April. My latest Grammy pic is always on my phone in case you want a glimpse at his cuteness!

[Kadyn @ 4months old with his Grandpa…my supportive second half]

Breaking Free of Relationship Killers – Overcoming Apathy for Abundance

Am I really more Apathetic than Active when it comes to healthy relationships?

John 10:10

I mostly cried through the entire Sunday sermon at church. Feeling vulnerable and unable to hold back tears, I ended up expressing all my pent up frustrations to the first woman I encountered after the service. I knew I could trust her to simply listen, and was more than willing for her to pray for me after I’d cried out my list of all the things in my life that had kept me from writing during the past six weeks or so.

If I take an honest assessment of the root of every problem, it’s my attempt to avoid conflict in one form or another. What I didn’t realize was that I was building a wall between myself and every relationship in my life. I was actually acting out a form of apathy to avoid conflict.

Why? Mostly because I am tired. E-X-H-A-U-S-T-E-D actually! If I could avoid a conflict, then I could avoid the energy it would involve to resolve it. But some of the conflicts have festered for well over four years. The wall needs to come down now, or a fear it will crumble right on top of me.

So when my Pastor started his message, he had my full attention. He might not know my struggle, but God does. I’m not experiencing God’s abundance for my life because I have given in to apathy among my relationships.

And because my heart was willing and eager for an answer and a solution, I heard what I needed to hear.

Avoiding Apathy by Facing the Conflict

“Sometimes we’re not willing to enter the conflict to fight for the relationship.”

What did he mean by that? He was talking about the need to fight it out sometimes—put all the cards on the table, no holds barred, leave no stone unturned (or brick demolished).

If the relationship is worth having, it’s worth working through the conflict by talking or arguing for as long as it takes to get to the other side.

Because if we don’t do this with the important relationships in our lives, we may find ourselves in a place where we no longer care.

Then he said something even more profound.

“Apathy is a counterfeit to true relationship.”

My mind rushed through a mental list of all my relationships and how one or the other of us had avoided conflict in an effort to maintain the relationship. Did that mean none of my relationships were authentic?

Balance Between Transparency and Setting Boundaries

I jotted down three examples of how I or the other person in one of my close relationships regularly practice apathy:

  1. By avoiding (or denying) the conflict exists in either our personal struggles or the relationship itself.
  2. By criticizing or blaming the other either directly or indirectly and not taking responsibility for our part in the problem.
  3. By creating the appearance of “peace” and “love” by responding with positive (but empty) words or giving the “appropriate response.”

I need to feel safe to be transparent in my relationships. I need to have the ability to be vulnerable and not put off a “life’s perfect just because I believe in Jesus and go to church every week” attitude.

Toward the end of last week and my brink of breaking down, I summed up my feelings with this:

I used to be the kind of person to let things go easily. I try to forgive and move on and always examine my part in things. But I think it comes down to me trying to be someone I’m not. It’s okay not to be okay with less than ideal circumstances or people who expect more than I can give. But I need to communicate from the start and not let things build. If you’ve been on the other end of my “final straw” I hope you can forgive me. With that said, I need to know I can express my thoughts and beliefs without being ridiculed or talked to like I was born yesterday. If you care you will respect my perspective and not try to make me be like you.

In so many ways, what I am saying here closely reflects my pastor’s next point.

“Healthy boundaries are needed to sustain relationships.”

Perhaps you can see the connection here if I didn’t confuse you too much. All the questions and concerns and self-examination I’ve put myself through in recent weeks are answered here.

FIRST – I need to feel safe to be truthful and not avoid conflict because the person I’m talking to may not receive what I have to say in an ideal manner.

SECOND – If that relationship is worthy, then once the conflict is realized and both sides have had their say, we need to be able set boundaries and have them respected.

How to Remove the Wall of Apathy

All of this leads me to the conclusion of the message:

“Relationships are part of the abundance Jesus has for us.”

Okay, so we’ve covered the what and perhaps the why of things. But what about the how in moving forward?

Pastor Scott Suggests Four Steps to Demolish the Wall of Indifference and Find Your Abundance

  1. Honestly Look in the Mirror – this involves taking responsibility for my own life and assessing my honest expectations of myself and others and how I respond (or react) to their actions and words toward me. Each act of apathy has become a brick in the wall.
  2. Go Find a Sledge Hammer – demolish ALL the walls! It might be brick by brick and take some time, but the hammer needs to fall.
  3. Repeatedly Practice U-Turns – make a choice to change my ways as a broken person with broken walls. Don’t be afraid to reach out to others willing to support and encourage my efforts with God’s guidance.
  4. Re-Establish a healthy dialogue with God and the Other Relationships in my life – Be willing to explore the intimacy of deep discussions (even if it means staying up all night because the conversation is THAT good!)

I admit I’m still feeling pretty raw regarding all of it. I’m not at the point of not caring, but I am at the point of needing space so I can get back to who I truly am.


The Pastor Inspired message for this post can be found at  Harvest Community Church Sermons Page, Part 2 of Breaking Free of Relationship Killers. Message by Pastor Scott Flanagan.

Releasing Myself of Expectations

2 Corinthians 12:9 over large orange flower

I hit a breaking point yesterday. This past week I released myself from fulfilling the expectations of keeping my emotions under control. It can be exhausting at times – holding back my instincts due to some expectation of how I should act or respond in a certain situation.

Why should I exercise self-control when there are times other people don’t care to control their own reactions?

Why should I stop and consider where the other person is coming from when they don’t seem to consider my perspective?

It is utterly exhausting trying to live up to others’ expectations (real or perceived), putting up a guard to avoid coming off the wrong way, or scooting around certain phrases or not speaking my mind on a matter to avoid “offending” or making someone feel “judged”. Of course there is a time and place for these discretion but I’m talking about the moments when honesty is needed to resolve the matter.

Do I think I’m right all the time?

Do I think I’ve figured out how to overcome all the challenges in life?

Absolutely not.

But I do think I’ve earned some credibility and that those closest to me would respect that. I also think that the foundation of overcoming every major trial in my life should be recognized instead of ignored.

Am I diverting from my point? Or am I getting to the core of the matter?

Could it be that deep down, I have been EXPECTING recognition and because I am getting unsolicited advice instead, my frustration has built like a pressure boiler.

Why is it so hard for others to recognize my triumphs? To give me kudos instead of corrections?

Why do others feel the need to change me and mold me into who they think I should be or how they think I should act or react to a certain situation? And why are they rarely willing to be on the other end, to hear me out, or to attempt to see things from my perspective?

This past week, I’ve dug deeper trying to find the answers, but it seems impossible. No matter how I look at it it’s all a waste of time and energy. I will never live up to the expectations of others, and they will never live up to mine.

With all these thoughts brewing, several blog posts crossed my path that seemed to explain parts of my dilemma in various ways.

First, a Proverbs 31 Ministries post on the topic of Comparing, written by Renee Swope:

Renee Swope Quote on Completing and Competing

After reading this, I was compelled to share the post on my personal Facebook page, and made a comment I hoped would resonate with all the women in my life. It reveals a part of the problem and a simple solution we can all ask ourselves when we are feeling conflict brewing with another woman.

Are we making comparisons or embracing our differences?

If I examine each of my relationships and our typical conversations, they are almost all focused on comparing and not completing (or embracing our differences). And at the core, isn’t this also about expectations?

When we say to each other things like, “Well, I _________ in that situation.” Or “You should just _____,” in an attempt to resolve the problem, are we not both comparing ourselves as well as impressing our own expectations on the other person?

We compare when we don’t accept the others struggles for what they are—a struggle and not a cry for advice or being told we are not putting in enough effort.

We compare when we think we can’t choose or react in the same way as the other person. Be it one who brushes off the problem as if it doesn’t matter, or another who insists I take a specific action to resolve it.

We compare when instead of truly listening, we wait for our first chance to share how we would approach the struggle.

We submit expectations at the same time, because if the “advice” is not heeded, then we collectively fall short in our own eyes while falling short in theirs.

I am willing to admit I’ve played a part in this negative cycle of reaching out to other women only to feel like a failure at the end of the conversation. But I’m tired of it!

When I’m struggling, I want to hear the words, “Sorry to hear you’re going through a rough time. Is there anything I can do to help?”

I want the option to just vent and let it out. I don’t want to feel like I’m not doing enough and that’s why I’m in the struggle to begin with.

I don’t want to hear what I need to do differently. I simply want to be heard.

This morning, I discovered a blog post written by Jan Kern. The connection between comparing and expectations becomes clearer.

In her post simply titled Expectations, she asks this question:

What if I live up to my expectations, my goals and dreams, my prayers and understanding of God’s love for me—instead of the expectations of others?

What if? This is such a loaded question I’m not sure the answer can even be put into words.

First, I need determine what those expectations are.

When I attempt to answer that, there are too many voices in competition—I can’t put aside the expectations of others to discover what actually belongs to me.

So, I’ll start at the end. What is my understanding of God’s love for me and how does that lead to what I think He expects of me?

After a few moments of contemplating what could be a very complicated answer, I recall the simple 5-finger mantra I learned back in 2004 while completing the Believing God Bible study taught by Beth Moore.

1. God is who He says He is.
2. God can do what He says He can do.
3. I am who God says I am.
4. I can do all things through Christ.
5. God’s Word is alive and active in me.

I’m Believing God!

I know God doesn’t expect perfection. If He did, he wouldn’t have sent Jesus to die for those imperfections on the cross.

I know God loves me deeply and looks beyond all my insecurities and doubts and unrealistic expectations of myself and the type of wife, mother, sister, daughter, and friend I think I’m supposed to be.

I know God has given me a desire to take my life experiences and present them as an offering to Him and the world through my writing.

I know He intends GOOD and not harm.

I know He sees my heart above all else, even when I speak, act, or react in ways that do not honor or glorify Him.

Finally, I know his mercies are new every morning. I need not dwell on the past but embrace today as a new opportunity to live by His grace, which more than overcomes my greatest weakness.

When I stand strong on these truths, I will be able to set all other expectations aside and have the confidence that I am acting and speaking according to God’s expectations alone.

Grace is Sufficient with border