Top 25 Christian books

My Top 25 Favorite Books

This space is to share my FAVORITE books. I have divided the books into 5 categories.

  1. Christian living
  2. Discovering Christianity
  3. Self help
  4. Business
  5. Memoir

Christian Living

  1. The Bible (if that wasn’t obvious)
    1. Specifically, I got this Bible last year and love the space for taking notes in the margins.
  2. Called to Create
  3. It’s not supposed to be this way
  4. The Best Yes

Discovering Christianity

  1. Mere Christianity
  2. Abolition of Man
  3. Reason for God
  4. Jesus > Religion
  5. Christian Beliefs

Self Help

  1. Girl Wash your face
  2.  5 – Second Rule
  3. Boundaries
  4. Crucial Conversations
  5. You are a Badass

Success/Business

  1. The Compound Effect
  2. The Tipping Point
  3. The E-myth Revisited
  4. Richest Man in Babylon
  5. The 4-hour Workweek
  6. Published

Memoir

  1. The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin
  2. If you only Knew
  3. Educated
  4. Handling the Truth (The Art of Writing a memoir)
  5. Where the Willow Weeps (It’s my book so it should be on this list right?)

 

How many of these books have you read? What are your favorites?

 

There have been several people who asked me about the writing process. I want you to share your story, I want you to know that although publishing takes work, it’s not impossible. I’m a very imperfect, normal person who self published a book. If I can do it, anyone can do it. This is just a brief description of the writing journey for me.

 

Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? First off I did some reading;“Published” by Chandler Bolt – he’s a little eccentric, and wants you to self publish your book (from blank page to published author) in 90 days. I am eccentric myself, and thought that sounded like a good timeline, (Ha!) but I am very happy I listened to the advice of my my boyfriend and friends who encouraged me to add a little grace period onto that. So my timeline was about 5-6 months. 

The steps in his book are very modern, and easy to follow along with. I have done my own research now and again because publishing has always been a dream of mine. Nonetheless, the book is written in such a way that even someone with less understanding of the publishing world than myself can understand.

Believe it or not, I didn’t know at first that I was going to write a memoir. I had gotten a part time job nannying specifically so that I could be a little less stressed and could write a book. I thought I was going to write fiction. I’ve had, and still have, a lot of fun ideas floating around in my brain. I also thought that someday I’d write a memoir about my experience in a cult. One day, but not today! Upon looking at things that I’m most passionate about though, and the story that I thought would bring God the most glory. I kept coming back to the memoir idea. Not the medieval cursed kingdom story line or a post apocalyptic hellscape – nope, I couldn’t shake the thought that this was the one.

So I started. I started by setting a timer for 15 minutes and mind mapping; consisting of writing “my book” in the middle and then lines out for every thought that popped up in my mind. Then, I took that jumbled mess and sorted out the different items chronologically into different seasons; those seasons would be chapters. Next I took it to the computer and outlined it properly.

 

The other book that I was reading at these early stages was “Handling the Truth, on the making of a memoir” by Beth Kephart. Not only was this book helpful for me, but it was so elegantly written and therefore a pleasure to read. It talks about heart motives for memoir, what’s appropriate and what’s not. How to go about the whole process, sharing insight into the hard parts and social etiquette of sharing a story that also involves pieces of others’ stories. If you are writing a memoir, I strongly encourage you to at least skim this book first, I doubt you will be disappointed.

 

On February 7th I started my 30 day writing challenge. I had my outline detailed for 11 different chapters. I posted all over social media about my challenge and told my friends so that I would have a lot of accountability. I faltered many times but the fact that hundreds of people knew of my commitment made it a little easier to stay on track. Little note here, don’t edit while you write, or you never will finish that crappy first draft. I prioritized my morning devotions above writing (and later editing too). Writing some parts of this book were particularly painful for me, and reading scripture first reminded me of the greater picture – it reminded me of who I was writing this book for. I was very grateful to know that my friends were praying for me and I was able to talk through it in my counseling sessions. I cried many tears, thought I might not make it, but ended up finding an editor on Fiverr and submitted my VERY raw manuscript to the editor on my birthday, less than 30 days later on March 7th.

Up until that point I had only told my friends nearby the nature of what I was writing, after that long hard month was over and the book was in the first editing, is when I posted on social media about what the topic was, which was also emotional for me. I knew at that point there was no looking back.

I brainstormed many different titles (about 30 or so) and had friends read through that list so that they could suggest new ones and point out the ones they liked best. Ultimately Where the Willow Weeps was a crowd favorite.

Since I had the title I could work on cover art. Sure, I am an artist, and a good one but I wanted to pass this task on. I commissioned 4 different covers on Fiverr and settled on the one I have.

  

I got my first draft back and did some more edits and revisions before sending it to my family. I wanted to be forthcoming with them. Some of them are out (of the Message/Branhamism) and some are still in. Although I knew that not all would agree with the fundamentals of my memoir, I still wanted to hear them out, and decipher if there were historical inaccuracies.

I then decided to add another chapter and do extensive revisions before sending it one final time to the editor. I decided to add a personal touch so I illustrated some pictures and inserted them into the book. Somewhere during this time I started setting up my book on amazon and ordered proof copies. When I got the final copy back from the editor I ended up formatting myself even though Fiverr had many people providing that service. I scheduled a friend of mine to do a photo shoot and we were on target. I kept social media up to date and finally I clicked publish on my book.

 

That my dears, is the abbreviated version of the time between January and July 10th. Was it hard? Heck yeah, but the hardest part for me was the nature of the topic, not the self publishing process. There were a lot of mornings and evenings before and after work just sitting on my couch, listening to jazz and typing away. I was a lot of meticulous work, but it was worth it, and I’d do it all again. My goal for this blog post is to make the world of publishing just a little more accessible to my friends. If a normal gal like Charity Rissler can do it, then so can you. 

 

Hello sweet friends!

It has been several months since I’ve written a blog post. For my readers who don’t know, I’ve written a book. It seemed imprudent to be writing a blog post when I dedicated myself to finishing my manuscript. As it is now, we are a few short weeks from launch, so I am back on the blog!

I wanted to give ya’ll a little update about the book; it’s  a memoir on my faith journey. I’ll tell you about my childhood, about growing up in the Message (Branhamism), about how I discovered it was a cult. I’ll tell you about how I left, about how I, as a then sixteen year old navigated leaving. As mature as I thought I was, I was a child, a child who’s foundation of faith had crumbled beneath her.

I’ll tell you how the Lord placed people in my wake just as I needed them. How he answered my prayers as I sought Him out. I’ll tell you about how he revealed himself to me – and I ran. I’ll tell you about my relationship with religion. I had to learn to dissociate God with the misconceptions I grew up with.

I’ve shared the story on my blog in little details. At the time, I felt embarrassed to share to those of you who have lived enviously normal childhoods in comparison because I was afraid you would judge me, think of me as a freak… (Silly, I know) but the hardest thing about sharing those blog posts was something else. It was knowing what I, in my mindset of 6 years ago would have thought about me now. For by that knowledge it would be safe to assume that other similarly minded people still in The Message would view me that way.
Ultimately after writing and rewriting my first blog post on the subject, I couldn’t escape the thought that my writing may help someone. One person. If it helped one person but slandered my name in the process – if I was misunderstood, or only half listened to – I couldn’t let those fears be a deciding factor on whether I posted it or not. What should be? Whether I was giving God glory.
So after months of praying about it, writing it and rewriting it I finally clicked publish. Then I started hyperventilating. I had a panic attack right then and there in the morning in my little 2 bedroom apartment. My roommate walked in carrying groceries. I tried to act cool. “I posted it.” I said amidst gasps.

“That’s so great! I’m so proud of you friend!” She knew the late nights I’d been working on it and had been one of my faithful friends who’d encouraged me and prayed for me on the subject. My phone buzzed.

“People are liking my post about my blog – they’re gonna go read it – AHH! A couple people from The Message just liked it – they’re gonna go read it! What will they think?! AHHH” My breathing was labored and my hands were shaking.

“Hey,” she said. “You knew posting this was what you needed to do right?”

“Y-Y-Yes.” I gasped.

“Well, then turn off your phone, I’ll turn up the music and lets make breakfast together. It’s gonna be okay.” She hugged me, and I turned off my phone. We ate together, prayed together and then finally I opened back up my phone.
I started weeping tears of relief. Messages of encouragement and questions from people who were half in the message/half out were flooding in. Several of my social media followers had left. Of course, but the blog post served the purpose it was intended for.

Now, I’m experiencing all those initial feelings I was when I was writing and publishing that blog post – only not as much as I anticipated  feeling. If there was room for me to be misunderstood or misquoted in a blog post, there’s 30x more space in my book. Literally. My blog posts are close to 1000 words whereas my current manuscript is 35,000 words. If people want to misquote me – I’m giving them the ammo, and that should scare me to death, but it doesn’t.

Now It’s a month from launch (July 10th). Writing it was hard, but I feel peace about it. There have been hard days and I’m sure there will be many more, but I take comfort in the arms of the one who called me to write this book. Yes, it is a bigger deal than publishing a blog post, but just like that post helped some people, I trust this book would do that too, and thus be completely worth all my anxiety that comes with it.

I have to constantly be reminded of the fact that this isn’t for me. Publishing such a controversial book isn’t what I wanted my first book to be. I wanted a fantasy novel, or a sci-fi book (Yes PLEASE) and I may get the opportunity to write those books, but my first book had to be this. This book is not just me publishing a novel; It’s me holding out my hands to God and saying that I will boldly proclaim what He has done in my life. It is saying that I want Him to use my gifts for His glory, not mine. I am saying that I want what and who is on God’s heart to be on my heart too.
I poured my heart into the pages of my book, and I pray that God uses it for His glory, even though it may be hard, and I might not see the fruit of my labors right away – I know if it helps just one person in their walk with Christ; if it breathes hope into one persons life, all of this will have been worth it.

Thank you to all my loyal readers who are back on my blog reading this post after I’ve taken such a long break from blogging. Thank you to my friends and family who’ve been praying for me, loving me, encouraging me with scriptural truths, holding me accountable to my goals, and hugging me when I’ve given way to tears. I couldn’t have done this on my own, and I thank God for each and every one of you. <3

Update* You can find my book here.

This Artists Life - Why Church Going is all That

Recently I’ve been overwhelmed and overjoyed even amidst my struggles adulting here in Texas, at the wonderful blessing of community that I have found. I realized recently how all of this came about… a huge part being the fact that I sought out a church immediately after moving to Austin six months ago, and made myself very involved very quickly. Naturally it’s hard to find a great community without seeking one out, (not that you are guaranteed it even then) but I realized one of my most viewed blog posts is about how it’s not necessary to go to church.

 

Of course, after feeling the rich blessing that is a healthy community, I set about to read through my former post, and break apart my arguments. I was then, fully prepared to articulate how hypocritical my post was, and how I was manipulating my words to reflect where I was at that point in time spiritually.

 

I was taken aback however, when I read the words at the end,

”Before you say it, yeah, I can be a total hypocrite on this topic a lot of the time, but I want to admit that, and say that I don’t think church going Christians should be given any more credit than Christians who don’t”

… I realized the post I wrote back in February was written to a person like who I am now, not knowing of course how I would change and grow in my faith – a growth that was spurred on by the church I’ve been attending. I read through the post a second time, and realized in a way I was no different than I am now. I have no higher standing with Christ, I was a broken, prideful, ignorant sinner then, with my one saving trait  knowing that Jesus was my only saving grace and now, I am still that: A broken sinner knowing that I am not saved by my works, but because of Jesus. That includes the act of going to church, which doesn’t make me a ‘better Christian’. Is there even such a thing? Is the me today any better than the me that wrote that post back in February 2018? Nope. not at all.

We have all fallen short of the glory of God and the moment we start thinking we can somehow earn that grace that he so freely gives is the moment we are a pharisee. Yes, Jesus came for the pharisees too; to as many as would hear his words and receive Him that is. Our walk with Christ is a journey, and I wouldn’t be who I am now without who I was in February, or without who I was back when I was in a cult. My Christian faith has been a journey since I left that group back in 2014, but my one constant since then has been that I was seeking truth, and that truth is Christ, it’s always been Christ, and my understanding of him and relationship with Him has ebbed and flowed but through it all He hasn’t changed, the Truth has been the same. Jesus is the same Savior He always was and always will be, but the lense in which I’ve viewed Him has changed. I’ve gone through seasons of doubt, of anger, of appreciation, of running from him, and running back to him but He’s always been there seeking me out and giving me an abundance of grace.

I say all that because I want to point out that although my views have changed a little, namely that I now believe the church – or a good wholesome Christian community – is crucial. I made points in my former post about how good things that church is ‘intended for’ can be found elsewhere… but as I wrote those words I wasn’t really seeking out that community and worship the way I alluded I was. In other words, I wasn’t eating my own medicine. I thought foolishly that I was somehow more spiritually mature because I’d seen the wolves in sheeps clothing and lived to tell the tale. I’ve seen brutally unhealthy churches and communities and I’ve seen the Bible misconstrued – religion misconstrued. So I was ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Just because some churches are cults doesn’t mean they all are (preaching to myself here). Where there are people there will be brokeness, but when Jesus is pointed to as the healer of that brokeness instead of a person, thing, or set of strange doctrinal beliefs, then I’d call that a pretty good church – brokeness and all.

You are an average of your closest friends. You are what you eat. You are what you think. So if you can fill your time with things that are honorable – things like going to church, and spending time with people who want to exude Jesus’s love and character, and the more that you read the words of the Gospel, then you can’t help but be a blessed. Even when it’s hard – yes even then – especially when it’s hard.

 

It’s like that old hymn ‘We’ll Walk in the Light’. Walking in the Light is so much more than sitting in an old pew or a bunch of folding chairs and listening to a man get up and preach. It’s about a day to day journey with Christ, with what He has for your life. That journey is a lot easier with a little help from people on the same journey, and church going isn’t all that, but it’s part of it.

Hebrews 10:24-25

24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

 

 

This Artist's Life | Painting some Perspective

One of my hobbies is acrylic painting. I love to spend several hours, listening to music and watching a blank canvas transform into a glorious landscape. Grant it, it never looks quite as I pictured in my mind when I’m done, nor am I always completely satisfied with it, for that reason I do appreciate an art critic before I wash my brushes. Sometimes I’ve been staring at the canvas for so long it’s hard to step back and get a fresh perspective. If I don’t get that critique I often start nitpicking the painting the next day.

A common exclamation when I’d show a finished or almost finished piece to a family member or friend is “Wow, if you look at it from back here it looks even better!” As they back farther and farther away from the painting. As you step away from anything, the little details blur, the closer you are, the more it looks like what it is; imperfect blobs and swirls of paint applied to a canvas. Step back, and it looks like a landscape, and the farther away you stand, the better those details look. Both parts are true, the details and the whole are each a reality, but it’s up to us which we choose to focus on.

Often, I get so caught up in the details – in the business of making it perfect – that I forget to take a step back and look at how far it’s come. That’s true of my painting habits, and still more true when I look at different areas in my life. I’ll get caught up in the details of this blog, get all worked up about missing a deadline, or anxious about what impact a post may or may not have… that I forget to go and scroll through all the posts I’ve written. I forget all the conversations these posts have sparked, I forget how much I love sharing my story and how thankful I am for all the ways God has used this blog for others and for me.

Remember how far you’ve come, not just how far you have to go. You are not where you want to be, but neither are you where you used to be” – Rick Warren

I notice this tendency to get tunnel vision and not stop to smell the roses. Those imperfect parts to our story, the ripples and chaos – like a painting – from a distance, with time and perspective, turns into a beautiful masterpiece. I have a lot of big goals, and I get really caught up in those. What is all that progress worth though, if you don’t stop to stand in wonder at how it all has worked out? Isn’t it amazing how the twists and turns of life have lead you to this moment? Who would have thought?

I missed a deadline last week for my Etsy shop because I was too sick to finish it. Grant it, the deadline I missed was one I set for myself, but I take those very seriously. Like any decent boss, I realized I needed to let myself call in sick. Of course I’ll have to set a new deadline. The work will get done, I’ll just have to adjust. There’s been a decent amount of rippling in my routine since starting the waitress job, and it frustrates me that I can’t work on this blog or Etsy shop all the time I’d like. I know that slowly and surely I’m making progress. The little details and intricacies are adding up, and the more time passes, the more I see it compiling.

Not only does that work add up, but all the times I don’t give myself a break, that adds up too. That adds up and manifests in ways like colds, like burn out, anxiety, panic attacks, and self doubt. The details do matter, but some of my best ideas have came to me when I took a step back and took a break. Just like taking a step back from a painting would allow me to see some new colors that could be added, other changes that needed to happen, or new energy to finish. Don’t forget to step back out of your routine sometimes, and let other people speak into your life with a fresh perspective too. 

 

This Artists Life | When Life Gives you Lyme

There was an itchy spot on my thigh. Resist the urge to itch, it’s just a mosquito bite. Nothing a little benadryl can’t fix right? It was the end of summer 2015, and I was feeling pretty good. I was waitressing and saving money for the next school semester, running farther and faster than ever (nothing really impressive, but I’d made real personal progress), my health was at its peak, I really felt like I was kicking asthma in the a** (although I was too pious to say a**),  I was volunteering as an archery coach, I had just recently started dating someone, I had a new group of friends, was attending a super wholesome church with a loving community, and regularly attending a Bible study with friends I adored. My room was consistently clean and I was feeling really freak’n productive, for the first time since leaving the cult, I was feeling happy and content.

 

But that wasn’t a mosquito bite, it was a tick bite. The next few days I got a fever and couldn’t stay awake. I was in a haze. I felt like I was going to die. Thankfully the little bite swelled up into a bullseye rash – I say thankfully, because not all people who have lyme disease get the signature rash, but if you get that rash then you have certainty, and can get treated sooner. By Sunday I started the 6 week stretch of taking antibiotics. That escalated quickly.

Little is known about the autoimmune disease spread by little black insects, other than it has a bunch of various symptoms, often misdiagnosed, it’s hard to know you have it without a blood test or the bullseye rash, and it may or may not affect you for the rest of your life depending on when you catch it. Most lyme disease symptoms never even see a tick on them (I never did). Each day between the Lyme carrying tick bites you, and starting antibiotics could mean the difference between a lifetime of sickness, or a suppressed/conquered disease.

 

At that time however, there was really no way of knowing if I’d caught it soon enough. I cried myself to sleep, and in the morning, I tried to be brave, put on a smiling face, take my meds which made me nauseous, fatigued, moody, and extremely sensitive to the sun (yeah I was basically a vampire). Then I tried to have a productive day.. But, where had all my self discipline gone? It took all I had in me to get out of bed in the morning, to eat food, and not snap at my family members. Prior to learning that I had lyme that I had opted to take a semester off of school. Thank God for that, because I don’t know how I would have juggled family responsibilities, work, the financial stress of school, and homework with Lyme Disease.

 

I learned a valuable lesson that semester. One that I sometimes forget, but one that was vital to my personal development. There was the real possibility that I’d never really feel healthy again. Something I took for granted – something we all take for granted – could be gone just like that, with no warning. Good/decent health wasn’t something that I had to work too hard for up until that point. I mean, I lived in a 3 story house most of my life and I got a decent amount of daily cardio climbing staircases. It wasn’t too hard to be relatively fit. After that there was the few years at the house in the enchanted (Read: *tick infested) woods with ample views to encourage leisurely (Read: *deceptively peaceful) scenic strolls or hikes.

I was finally making an effort to go beyond that, I was trying to take ownership of my asthma and strengthen my respiratory, and physical health by running… and then of all times.. when I was at the peak of health, it crashed down and I never felt more unhealthy in my life. I had never felt so physically tired, or so sick. I remember forcing myself to get to work, change my diet to be more palatable with the meds, and tried to continue running, although failing miserably. I went from getting 7 hours of sleep and feeling full of life to getting 11 and feeling like I was sleepwalking. I remember cooking dinner for my family before heading out for my evening waitress shift and feeling too nauseous to eat the food I’d made, later sneaking crackers on the shift to settle my stomach. I remember trying to encourage my family and also take care of myself, and realizing that it was hard. Really hard. Really freak’n hard. It was frustrating because it felt like I had to put in twice the effort for half the results, and there was the possibility that I wouldn’t get better, and realer still was the fear that I might actually get worse. What if I couldn’t do it on my own, what if I couldn’t be the strong independent woman I was so proud of, what if *gasp* I had to ask for help? What if I lived like that for the rest of my life?

I remembered that there are people, wonderful inspiring people who have disabilities who are happy. There are people who have literally no choice but to to rely on others for their daily needs but God could still use them to be a blessing to others in some way. All I had was Lyme. Life gave me Lyme instead of lemons and I had to make do. I came to peace with the idea that I would just have to make the most of it. If I was to get worse, then I’d make the most of that too. I knew I’d have to learn to simply work with what I was given. After all, since when was good health a guarantee?

 

I thank God for His grace with me, that after 6 weeks of antibiotics and more time gaining back my strength, it became apparent that the fears I had come to terms with wouldn’t be my reality. That being said, I know health is not guaranteed. 3 years later, despite highs and lows, my health is in a good place. I can run over double the distance compared to what I could back in 2015 before Lyme, I can hike a mountain like nobody’s business and I consistently feel pretty energized. Like all gifts from God we should try to make the best of it, invest in ourselves and he’ll bless us. However blessing doesn’t always mean that he’ll give us more of the same, what I do think it means is he’ll give us strength to get to where we need to be. Sometimes that means allowing things like Lyme to cross our path so that we can learn, so that we can find strength in Christ where we previously thought we were making it on our own. Perhaps just as important is contentment and gratitude.

The old adage runs true, that if you’re not moving forward then you’re moving backwards. I’m not saying that we should be content with where God has us in this moment. I believe that we should strive to meet our full potential, to make use of the gifts God’s given us, but we also need to stop comparing our triumph’s with others, or where we were at a different point in time. We are all on different journeys, and have different capacities. Personal growth is still personal growth even if it’s not super impressive, God looks at the heart, and growth/personal development that might be particularly hard for you, and not so noticeable to those around you, is still growth. As a self-help book addict and someone who always tries to be the best version of myself, it’s hard for me to accept weakness, but without our weaknesses there would be nowhere for God to show his strength. There would be no testimony to give God glory.

 

2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

 

This Artists Life | Count it all Joy

It’s been cold and rainy the past few days here in Texas. If you don’t know this about me, I LOVE the rain. My first memories of rain as a child was watching the rain form a massive puddle outside our side porch. The Pennsylvania house I grew up in was an old Victorian mansion standing like a beacon in the countryside among fields of corn and pastures of sheep. The mansion was three stories, with a basement and tower which was just barely taller than some of the 30+ foot pine trees which swallowed up the property.

Before you get the idea that my parents were wealthy, you must know that when they purchased the home my family lived off one income as my mom home schooled all 13 of us, so money was tight. The mansion was a house big enough to fit all of us, plus there was a haunted house sign out front, which brought the price down a lot. The shutters were falling off their hinges, the tower had holes in the siding large enough to harbor bats and birds which would sometimes find themselves trapped inside the house trying to find their way out of the maze. The pipes burst the first time someone took a shower, which caused it to rain in the dining room, and the wiring was so old it almost started an electrical fire a few years after my parents purchased it.

The hot water heaters had burst (or were for some reason out of commission) so every winter all 15 of us (Including my parents) would wear our winter coats and gloves inside every room except for the kitchen where we huddled around a small wood stove which had to be filled with wood from the woodshed at least half a dozen times each day, or stock piled in a corner where massive wolf spiders would nap. The warm air from the wood stove never really impacted the other rooms much, so the rest of the house’s temperature favored whatever was happening outside. If the house was a freezer in the winter, than it was a furnace in the summer. AC was a foreign oddity to us come summer, and we would all hustle to try to find working fans to blow on our faces as we slept in the humidity, sometimes waking up in the middle of the night and taking a cold shower before returning to try again. Sometimes borrowing a fan from another room of someone who was already sleeping.

          When it’s raining outside I think of standing on that side porch as the water rotted the wood pillars a little more, as the ill placed drainpipe flooded that one spot on the grass. I think of the relief from the humidity as I would step far enough towards the edge of the porch to feel the stray raindrops hit my bare feet as I watched the lightning in the distance.

          When it’s raining outside I think of times my family spent away from home touring D.C. and it would rain and we had to scramble to get on the metro, knowing full well there was no hope of staying dry, but knowing that back in the hotel lobby would be hot chocolate packets to warm our cold bones. That knowledge enabled us to laugh at our misfortune and how funny the large bunch of drenched home school kids must have looked to other people.

          When it’s raining outside I remember all the people I love, and I remember confidently that this too will pass, and I know it’s a good excuse for warm fuzzy sweaters and for steaming beverages, and wool socks. It’s a reminder of all the fond memories and bonding that happens when the skies are grey.

          Rain for me, is something that reminds me to find joy in the sad times, find humor in situations that don’t go as planned, perseverance in the hard times, and it reminds me to take joy in the little things. I may have woken up to bats flying in my bedroom a few times as a child but now I’m a little less squeamish. I may have cried, locked myself in the bathroom, and prayed my guts out whenever I was home alone in that rickety ( Read: haunted*) mansion but now it takes a lot to rattle me if I stay home alone in a non-rickety (Read: Not noticeable haunted *) house. I might have almost turned into a Popsicle watching my breath in the morning when I woke up on a February morning as a kid, but now I’m usually the first one to fall asleep on a camping trip, no matter the temperature. It may have been hard growing up in such a large family with so many responsibilities, but it’s helped to shape my character and work ethic as an adult. It may have been hard leaving a cult 4 years ago, but I would never be as theologically sound as I am now if not for that.

          I guess all I’m getting at with these stories is this: Everything happens for a reason and there is a silver lining to everything, even if you don’t see it right away. You will be stronger, you will have more courage the next time around, and you will have a story – a testimony to tell someone else to help them through their struggles, and they will then be able to do the same. It’s a wonderful cycle, and yes, it’s cliché, but so is sitting by the window drinking hot chocolate and watching the rain, but I’ve done a lot of that and it’s done my soul good.

          In the next part of this rainy season, my prayer for all my readers is that you’ll be able to look into your past hard times, at times where things were out of your control, or didn’t go as planned, and I challenge you to see the good that came from that, I challenge you to look at how far you’ve come. Then, look around, and encourage another person this week with one of your stories.

          Also, ya’ll if it’s still raining out there, go ahead and dance. Or stay dry inside with hot chocolate, it’s really your call.

         

James 1:2-4

2 Count it all joy, my brothers,when you meet trials of various kinds,3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

 

This Artists Life | Facing my Fear & Why I moved to Texas

 

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I found this true when the flight attendant got on the loudspeaker and said  ‘we are beginning our final descent into Austin…’ I felt this really warm feeling – Of course, part of that warm feeling might have had something to do with the fever my East Coast cold was entertaining, but I’m pretty sure most of it was something else. In that moment as my ears rang from the pressure of the airplane, I understood that phrase, “Home sweet home”. It is good to be back home.

 

Why did I move to Texas three months ago? This is a question I’ve been asked so much the past few months. There are so many reasons. I was  searching for something, searching for myself. Searching for the me I’m meant to be, the me I strive to be. After moving to D.C. last year, I knew that Pennsylvania wasn’t my home, but D.C. didn’t really feel like that home either. I had friends there, family there, I loved the hustle and bustle of the city, the ambition – but something was missing.  

 

“Do you know what you’re doing?” I kept asking myself that, and being asked that by family while on the East Coast this past trip back. On the trip were 6 of my older siblings (9 including my siblings in law), my parents, and AZ Grandma, most of which didn’t hesitate to share their varying opinions on what they thought I should do with my life, both now and in the future – Which dreams I should pursue, new dreams I should take upon myself… and of course, all the plot holes in the story I’m living, and all the things I should be worried about – all the fears they would have if they were in my shoes…. Nothing like a healthy dose of fear to get you out of bed in the morning! (I’m being facetious if you can’t tell)

 

It’s been a little overwhelming, even though I know they spoke those words out of love and concern, and it’s not any one person’s fault that there was proverbial line of people who wanted to get a word in. To my surprise however, my younger siblings kind of balanced it out. Ever since I moved out of my parents house to to live in D.C.,I’ve been concerned for my 5 younger siblings. I have an irrational worry for their well being without me. Feeling like I’ve abandoned them, not being there for them to encourage them, and help them grow up. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, that’s my parents job – and you’d be right, but that didn’t stop me from taking on, and feeling a lot of responsibility for them as their big sis. To my surprise, they flipped the tables on me, and instead of me trying to be that encouragement to them, they were that for me. One of my younger brothers, with a sparkle in his eyes told me he thought I was SO BRAVE. Every time I think about it brings tears to my eyes. Brave? I don’t feel very brave, I feel scared. They thought what I was doing was so cool, so different, and so exciting. I know I’m missed, but it gives me new energy, knowing that I’ve got little people back on the East Coast cheering me on, watching to see how my story plays out, plot holes and all.

 

I’ve never been so simultaneously scared and excited. Since I moved here, that has been a recurring theme. I’m an advocate of doing things that challenge you, things that seem impossible for you. Taking calculated risks and being okay with failing, but respecting yourself enough to know that it won’t be for lack of trying, or lack of perseverance.

 

You know, fear of failure used to be my greatest fear, and if I’m being real, it totally still is. I’m terrified that all the fears of my family are well founded. I’m scared that I won’t measure up. Scared that I will never be good enough or strong enough. Scared that moving to good ‘ol Texas so far away from my past life was a huge mistake. Scared that I’ll wind up embarrassed at the risks I’ve taken and that none of my series of dreams will pan out. It’s a fear that could be crippling me, and some moments it does. Some moments, like when I got back from visiting family last week, and I felt too sick to do anything and my head was so foggy I couldn’t think, balancing a headache and all the old fear and new fear hitting me at once- Desperate to not let my younger siblings faith in me be misplaced, delirious from my fever and all the voices in my head, all I could do was sob. That being said, somehow I was able to see passed it all. I was able to take courage in that ultimately I should be seeking the approval of my savior – and to Him, I will always be good enough. If my biggest fear is a reality; and I’m a failure, that’s okay, because the love that my God has for me WILL NEVER FAIL. That will always be there, no matter how much I screw up, or how much I feel like a failure.

The next day, I got up, did my devotions, prayed for God to give me strength, did my hair and makeup, cried all of it off after listening to ‘Strong Enough’, blew my nose dry, reapplied the makeup, applied for some jobs, went in for a couple interviews while pretending I wasn’t still delirious with fever, trying to embrace the awkward voice my sore throat bestowed upon me, and secured a waitress job. Then I got home, thanked God, ordered my uniform online, watched a comedy show, drank enough tea to drown an elephant and hopefully my cold too, and went to sleep at 8 PM because I was EXHAUSTED.

I’ve never been this scared, or this challenged – and that says a lot. As I said though, I’m also excited. I know that I will come out stronger on the other side of these challenges, and that if I fail, I’ll be that much closer to success. I’m in love with this place I’m in, with this city, with Jesus, and with the challenge. Yes, it’s complicated. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, sometimes I feel like the answer to the question ‘Do you know what you’re doing?” is “No, in fact… not at all… but I’m learning?” It’s not the answer I’d like to give. I’d like to say I’ve got everything figured out, but I don’t. I have a lot of plans, and a lot of goals. They’re riddled with plot holes, but that’s OKAY, because I know someone else has a master plan that is so much better, than mine could ever be. I’m learning it’s okay to not have all the answers.

Back in May while I was in D.C., not knowing what God wanted for my life or where I was meant to be, I started doing some research, some prayer, and ended up here. In a place that on paper, looked like a great place for me to work on my dreams, face my fear of failure, and maybe just maybe, a place for me to call home...And so it has been in these few short months.

 

The fact of the matter is I didn’t have to move, and even with all the reasons I can offer I can totally see how someone would see it as risky and a little extreme maybe. That being said I can’t say with 100% certainty that moving here was the best of all the choices I could’ve made but I knew I had to make a change, and I felt called here. That’s the short end of it, and I don’t know why God wants me here. If nothing else, I’ve had to lean on Jesus a lot more than I thought I’d have to. I’ve found that faking it just doesn’t cut it. I’m learning to be honest with myself, and see that no matter what I do, all the good I do is like filthy rags compared to with my savior’s majesty.

 

So yes, fear of failing is my biggest fear… but I don’t want that fear to control me or stop me from pursuing what God is calling me to. I hope that as you read this, you will recognize what it is that you’re scared of – whatever it is that is holding you back from being the person you know you can be –  and surrender it to God. He is greater than anything that could possibly stand between you, Him, and your dreams.

 

2 Timothy 1:7

for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.

This Artist's Life | Not Just Where the Wind Blows

My two weeks with family on the East Coast which started in Pennsylvania and ended up in The Outer Banks of North Carolina came to a close yesterday. If you don’t know, I have 12 siblings, 4 siblings in law, and 2 nephews and 1 niece. My family is scattered about between Pennsylvania, Northern Virginia /Washington DC, Arizona, Texas (That’s me!), England, and Germany. Within these couple weeks I’ve gotten to see most of them. I wasn’t expecting to get to visit the East Coast so soon after moving to Texas (it’s been 3 months), but when I heard my family from Europe and family from Arizona would be there, I knew I had to make the trip.

My prayers and goals for this trip were to make a decision on what my focus will be for the end of this year, build a budget to stick to when I get back, (trips are expensive!) and of course, to enjoy time with family. To be a blessing and an example, to keep calm in conflict, to listen, and to help but know when to step back.

It’s been a long couple weeks, but it’s also given me perspective. You’ll remember from my last blog that I’ve learned that I need to focus, to give a project the full attention it deserves, vs half haphazardly focusing on a myriad of different projects. I stated too, that I’d have a decision by the time the trip is over, that I’d be ready to commit to something. I was leaning towards a new project, or rather, breathing life into an old project, by rewriting an old manuscript I have, vs focusing on my Etsy shop and trying to get that off the ground.

The truth is, I was already pretty set on that from the start of this trip, but my tune changed. I’ve been praying about it daily, seeking counsel from my family, (and boy! Did they have a lot to say!), and looking at the pros and cons of both of my main options.

I created my Etsy shop as a constant- something that once going could be a way for me to share/utilize my art and provide a bit of a residual income for me when the next hot idea strikes me… It was meant to be a little bit of financial stability when I’m off to live in Columbia for a few months, get my real estate license, ready to flip a house, start a YouTube channel, or want to finish and publish one of my book ideas. Yes that last one has been my current daydream, so you could say I started my Etsy Shop for a time such as this.

People won’t stop me, because I get so passionate and it’s hard to step between me and a dream. Which CAN be good. I’m finally going for my dreams and taking risks… Like moving to Texas! I did the research into different places to move, looked into how I could make it happen, turned the thought into action and before I knew it, I was unpacking my stuff 1400 miles from my former home. I see the world as endless opportunities and I want to take every opportunity to grow and learn. That’s a skill I’ve cultivated through pushing myself out of my comfort zone over the years… but it’s getting to the point where I’m thriving with starting new things, or rejuvenating old things, but when it comes to maintaining things I’m falling short. You may have heard me mention my greatest weakness: having a hard time knowing what to focus on because I’m passionate about so many things! 

Well here I am, when my mind has started to wander from my Etsy shop… I see that pattern, of going where the wind blows – where the passion is, but not necessarily seeing it through because I see another project I could do the same thing with. I can just see it now- the writing process the editing, the cover art, the marketing… I can see a book going from start to finish… and I feel like a kid in a candy store. I CAN ALMOST TASTE IT! But I know as great as that dream is – truly wonderful, to share a story like I do on this blog. If I lose sight of my Etsy shop dream; because it’s not at a place where it can stand on its own two feet, it’ll collapse! It’ll collapse and I’ll wish I had waited. Knowing me, there will be another dream – perhaps the same dream that’s distracting me now (writing a book) that will be there for me when my Etsy shop can stand on it’s own. For now though, that needs to be my #1 focus. So I’ve chosen to commit to my Etsy shop and blog for the next 3 months. I’m looking for a waitress/bartender job to do so that I have a steady income again. And we’ll see where my shop is come New Years, and what I should focus on then. For now though, I haven’t fully focused on that, and I need to respect each dream enough to give it the attention it deserves.

I need to savor the proverbial candy in my hand before I reach for another. Or I’ll be left with a bunch of half finished candies and a tummy ache ‘to boot! I LOVE this blog, and sharing my story with ya’ll (yes Texas is getting to me, and saying ya’ll makes more sense than ‘you guys’!) and I’m so excited about what I’ve done so far with my Etsy shop, and I’m excited to build it further, and I can be excited to work on the nitty gritty maintenance things like marketing if I keep my goal in my mind. I’m excited to make this dream something real, to stick with it, enjoy it, build it, and if it fails, I don’t want it to be for lack of effort on my part.

I guess sometimes God does say ‘wait’, and ‘stay where you are’.  It makes me laugh to think about it…! Considering the post I wrote last year called Waiting on God, thee Ultimate Excuse. The premise of that blog post, that you should be looking for and taking opportunities, and God helps those who help themselves – that still rings true for me. But as I mentioned in that post, there are sometimes things that build upon each other, seasons of time where you have to wait. That’s what this is for me… and It’s a bitter pill for me to swallow, because I don’t want to think of myself as a lazy person who’s not gonna take a great opportunity. Fact is, I just don’t have enough bandwidth, and the skills I need to learn and develop for my Etsy shop deserve more attention than what I’ve given it thus far. I’m learning to give myself grace, and say it’s okay to put off something. Because giving 5 projects each 20% of my attention doesn’t equal 100% in anything.

So this spontaneous person is grounding herself, if only for 3 months, It does mean getting a not so fancy job like waitressing or bartending to pay the bills, but I’ll be respecting my dreams. I won’t be going wherever the wind blows, I’ll be focusing on the projects I’ve already started, and trusting that when the time is right, the passion and opportunity for the next big thing will be there, and then you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll take it.

 

This Artist's Life | Stewarding time | Choosing Focus

 

As I write this, I am awaiting boarding for my flight to visit my family back on the East Coast. My flight was delayed 3 hours, so I’m sitting in a little airport cafe and despite the overpriced half finished coffee in front of me, I am so tired. So mentally, physically, and emotionally drained. Since the termination of my proper job a couple weeks ago, I’ve been thankful for all the new time I have, while also feeling the weight of responsibility as I chose how to fill that time. I felt the pressure to fill up that time with productive things, using this time as a time to work on my own projects and invest in my future. Which means it’s been a productive couple weeks. Which while a good choice ad very fulfilling, also exhausting.

 

One of my pet peeves is when people (including myself) say ‘I don’t have time’ for this thing or that. After all, we all have the same 24 hours in a day and we choose how we spend that time. Saying you don’t have the time, is saying that you have other priorities. Which is fine, but what do you do when you’ve created too many priorities for yourself or have to choose between multiple ‘good’ uses for your time?

 

Ephesians 5:13-15 ESV “‘Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.’  Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the best use of the time, because the days are evil.”

 

I’ve also purchased the book ‘the 4 hour work week’ which has been recommended to me by various people. So on my morning run, I put the book at 2x speed, and was able to move that long standing item off my ‘to read/listen list’.

 

Even though I have cut back dramatically on things I deem as an inefficient uses of my time, like the social media black hole, watching a lot of comedy tv, or conversations over texting when I know a phone call would be more efficient… The book left me with some pretty strong convictions with how I should steward my time and I’m trying to be still more productive. Especially as I have to make some choices about how I’m going to spend my time and resources when I get back in Austin in 2 weeks. It has helped me by providing practical tools with how to actually get stuff done. While also scheduling time to relax, but I must admit… that latter part has been hard. I was hardly able to relax, with my brain buzzing with plans, stresses, and decisions I need to make.

 

James 4:13-16 ESV “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” 16 As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.  So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.”

 

I have a goal for 225 items in my etsy shop by October 1st. I’ve almost made it there, and have created many designs that I need to list on my shop. I am hoping to finish those items early in the morning, early in this family trip. Once that is done I have 2 goals for this trip: Relax, and plan.

 

Luke 14:28 ESV For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?”

 

If you know me, you know how ambitious I am… I’ve been embracing so many of my goals and dreams in the last few years, and making those things a reality, racking up those failures so that among those I can learn and find some success. Final quarter of the year is upon us  however, and I had been thinking I would continue to maintain this blog, my Etsy shop, maintain my active social life, book reading, art creating, and running plan while adding working as a waitress here in Austin for steady income (that is what I’m thinking for when arrive back home from this trip, a job that will at least leave my mental space clear for my other goals), serving at my church, getting my real estate license and rewriting a novel manuscript (which lacks a conclusion) by the end of the year.

 

Yeah. I’m gonna need another latte if you please. Just typing that is making me stressed. Finishing my manuscript, If it is to be done by the end of the year means approximately 5000 words or 20 pages to Rewrite/edit per week if I start October 1st. Not too mention illustrations for the book which would also take a lot of time. I’m leaning towards postponing the real estate license, seeking help with some of my projects and putting my novel as my priority… but I’ll be praying about it a lot on this trip.

 

I don’t want to limit myself, but I also don’t want to experience the fullest meaning of burnt out – and roll into the new year a flaming mess. I don’t want to kill my passions or split my attention to such a degree that I don’t give each goal, or the people in my life, the focus they deserve. I need to make some plans, and still have time to be still, smell the roses, and feel God’s peace in my busy life.

 

I’m realizing that time is our most valuable gift, outside of our salvation – which boasts a life beyond the grave outside of time. It’s through time that we are able to experience all the other gifts God has given us.

 

With this in mind we shouldn’t take our time lightly, we should use it wisely, seeking knowledge, wisdom, seeking to spend our time in ways that positively shape our current and future reality, and helping others to do the same. At the same time, not seeking busyness for busy’s sake, but listening to the still small voice, unplugging ourselves from our phones, cherishing moments… For we aren’t guaranteed tomorrow. If there’s one thing nobody should have time for, it’s regrets.

 

Psalms 90:12 ESV “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

 

The part I’m most struggling with at the moment, is indecisiveness and split focus. I have some decisions to make, and they need to be made soon. So I’ll be doing some praying, perspective gathering, and making a plan by October 1st about what I’m going to prioritize the next 3 months.

 

If you have favorite passages of scripture on time, or decision making, feel free to drop me a line in the comments. I’d like to finish out this year strong, and make sure that in all I’m doing I’m putting God, and the things on His heart above my own selfish desires. Easier said than done, but I’d like for us all to finish out this year strong.

Proverbs 16:9 ESV “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.”

Well, looks like it’s about time to head back to my gate, so that’s all the time I’ve got for this post (Thank goodness, because it was becoming quite the ramble)! Bye for now Texas, I’ll be back home soon, with some new resolutions and decisions made!