Finding Rest in a Storm

For you are my hiding place; you protect me from trouble. You surround me with songs of victory. (Psalm 32:7 NLT)

As the autumn winds whispered through our oak trees, dropping the leaves across our yard, my husband Dan mentioned that we probably wouldn’t see any squirrels playing in the trees that day. “In fact, if the wind is blowing when you want to go squirrel hunting in our area, you might as well stay home,” he said. “A squirrel will not move far from his nest on windy days, so you’ll have a hard time bagging any.”

Squirrels. A squirrel knows when he needs to be still and rest—not because he’s tired, but because that is when he is most vulnerable to predators. When the wind is blowing, a squirrel can’t hear the other sounds around him—his instincts are blurred by the wind-tossed branches and leaves rustling.

Dan said the same rule applies to deer hunting in our part of the state. Deer tend to not move around much when they cannot use their God-given senses to protect them from predators.

Storms. I continue to learn spiritual lessons like this one from nature. When a storm is blowing all around me, I need to be still and wait. It can be dangerous to sail into a storm.

I’ve lived in Texas and Arkansas all my life, and we’ve survived many storms—tornados and hurricanes. It’s difficult to prepare for any kind of storm. I’ve run away from hurricanes, and I’ve hidden in our “safe place” during a tornado. But I’ve learned that I can’t stop storms from coming my way.

Shelter. How can I apply this truth to my writing life? I hope to remember this truth the next time that I face serious setbacksparalyzing problemschaotic confusion, or even aggravating attitudes. I can’t stop them. But I can choose to find a safe hiding place.

Learning to find a place of rest in the storms of life isn’t always easy. I’m tempted to keep trying to protect myself. But once again, God reminds me that He is my true refuge during the storms of life. And I’ve found His Shelter to be a great place to rest.

Where do you find shelter on a stormy day?

Writing Life Survivor Tips

Photo/KarenJordanHow do you endure setbacks in your writing life? If you’ve embraced writing for publication, you’ve probably faced discouraging obstacles in your journey.

I’ve also faced a few stumbling blocks in other areas of my life, such as my health. After every health or family crisis, I struggle to get back on track with my exercising and walking program.

I discovered my desperate need for exercise after a minor foot injury last summer. As I climbed the very first hill on an asphalt trail near my home, my heart raced. I resisted the temptation to sit down at first. And by the time I made it to the top of that hill, I felt like I’d been walking over an hour. As I plodded on, in pain, the trail leveled. But I continued to struggle with each new hill.

Since I carried my camera, I paused several times to capture an interesting shot along the way. I only intended to walk for about 30 minutes. But when I checked the time, I discovered an hour had passed.

I learned some things about myself on the walking trail that apply to the other areas of my life, including my writing life.

  1. Recognize limitations and needs. I must allow myself the freedom to take breaks when I need them. I can cause more damage if I don’t stay off my feet with a foot injury. And in the waiting rooms of life, rest often provides what I really need the most.
  2. Keep going. Don’t quit when the journey gets tough. I need to remind myself of that truth, when the walking trail or the pace of my writing efforts becomes difficult.
  3. Set goals. It helps to have daily goals, even if I miss the mark or go beyond my goal at the end of the day or the project. When I planned to walk 30 minutes, I discovered that I could endure for an hour walk. If I forget to set some measurable goals in my writing life, I fail to recognize my progress.
  4. Enjoy the journey. When I walk, taking my camera along to capture a few of the scenes helps me enjoy the sights along the way and forget about the effort it takes to go the distance. In my writing life, connecting with other writers brings new friendships, insights, opportunities, and encouragement. Plus, choosing my topics and commitments carefully engages my creativity and serves as a motivating force when the writing process becomes overwhelming or difficult.
  5. Reward yourself along the way. The benefits from my walks and my writing life enhance other parts of my life. Of course, as my health improves, other areas of my life benefit, too. Also, my new photography interest contributes to our family albums, and my nature shots add some great content for my blog posts. My writing successes also increase my self-confidence and encourage me to keep going when the journey makes me weary.

What helps you survive your writing life when the journey gets difficult?

Writing Life: Taking Time Out

A high-altitude tyre blowout and series of unf...
Photo credit: Motographer

When you have a flat tire, you must stop long enough to change it. (Dan Jordan)

When life sends us a “flat tire,” it forces us to take the time to stop and deal with it. If we don’t, it might destroy the tire and the rim. Then, we will have an even bigger problem.

Flat tires. The “flat tires” of life are different for each person. You may discover another problem with your car, like a strange knock in your car’s engine. Or you might find a virus on your computer. But you’d better not ignore them.

My husband manages a lot of the business problems at work. And when people get computer viruses, they often tell him that they don’t have time to deal with them. But he usually goes straight to the root of their problem. He reminds them that if they don’t stop and take care of the virus issue, eventually it will corrupt their work and shut their computer down.

Health.  It’s hard to just stop what you’re doing at times, right? Even if you experience a health issue, like chest pains, a back injury, the flu, or an allergic reaction to something? In fact, I almost killed my husband with my guacamole once—he had an allergic reaction to some overripe avocados. So, we both had to stop in the middle of our dinner to deal with his unexpected breathing problem.

I’ve learned that I can’t ignore symptoms of health problems, especially as I’m getting older. But even if you have a newborn infant, you can’t ignore some symptoms. My youngest grandson experienced a bout with the RSV virus. I’m so grateful that his mom didn’t ignore his first symptoms—he might not have survived without her intervention.

Spiritual. You can apply the same truth to a spiritual problem. Sometimes, I refuse to stop and seek God for guidance. But God’s Word encourages us, “Step out of the traffic! Take a long, loving look at me, your High God … above everything” (Psalm 46:10 MSG).

Work. So, when I complained about some work-related problems to my husband recently, he just repeated his “famous” statement to me. “Karen, when you have a flat tire, you must stop long enough to change it.”

Honestly, I had ignored Dan’s advice earlier, and my “flat tire” had put me out of commission for awhile in my work. And for me as a writer, that meant totally laying down my work and seeking God for new direction. But I still struggled with the decision, since I knew that I couldn’t explain my decision to everyone. “What would people think? I’ve made all these commitments!”

Then, I remembered a promised from God’s Word:  “Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don’t worry about missing out. You’ll find all your everyday human concerns will be met” (Matthew 6:33 TNIV).

I hope you remember to stop and check out the “leaky tires” in your life. Don’t wait, like I did, until you’re stranded in the middle of a busy highway, without a car jack or any help in sight.


Do you see a problem that you need to take care of today?

Four Ways to Untangle Your Writing Life

Image/ There’s something about chaos in my home office that infuriates me.

As I attempted to help my husband install a new computer, the jumbled mess of wires overwhelmed me. Lying on the floor, flat on my back, reaching under my desk, I needed more than a flashlight and my glasses to see where to plug in the cables. I wanted something to calm my frazzled nerves.

At times, I also find myself overwhelmed with the tangled web of my writing life. I have so many projects going at once that I can’t focus on the most important ones.

So, how do we unravel the emotions and confusion of our writing lives?

Stop and take inventory. As I inspected the knotted wires behind my desk, I saw that each wire needed to be threaded back through a narrow space under my desk and poked through a small round cutout in the desktop, before I could connect my new PC. I took a deep breath and thought about my angry reaction to my husband’s request. We had purchased the new computer for my writing needs, and he needed me to crawl under the desk because of his old college knee injuries.

Since I tend to overreact at times, my routine frustration over my harried writing schedule serves as a warning sign for me to stop and reassess my priorities. I try to remember to seek God first for guidance. Have I made too many commitments again? Do I need to redefine the boundaries of my work and my everyday life? 

Make some space. After we pulled the computer desk away from the wall to allow space to work, I found that the electrical supplies to my paper shredder, stapler, hole-puncher, and phone charger complicated my task. I unplugged all of them and moved the equipment, so I could focus on just the computer wiring.

Sometimes I also need to back away from my writing life to gain perspective, especially before making new commitments. My other activities, projects, and life issues contribute to my inability to manage my time. I’ve considered enrolling in the course, “Managing Multiple Priorities,” but I could never find the time.

Sort through the maze. Before I unplugged our old computer, I decided to tag each cord at its connection to each device. Then, I sorted the cables and bundled the wires with plastic ties. 

Prioritizing my writing projects requires more than plastic cable ties. The process motivates me to evaluate my passions and interests to see if each project meshes with my overall plans. My impulsivity often leads me astray. And someone else’s requests can produce unnecessary and avoidable stress.

Go forward. After installing my new unit, I expressed my appreciation to my husband for his help, and I thanked the Lord for giving me the patience and the helping hands I needed.

The writing life offers temptations and distractions daily. I’d prefer to believe that I have my writing life in order. But with every new task, I experience a learning curve. I’m well aware that I’m still a work in progress.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith …
(Heb. 12:1 NIV1984).

Writing Life: Facing a Spiritual Battle

Have you ever been annoyed about someone else’s bad attitude? Then later, you look into the mirror and think, That’s me!

How do we abandon destructive attitudes and thoughts?

The other day, I found myself at my wit’s end—in one of those brutal, self-deprecating moods. I felt depressed and frustrated about being isolated in my home office, even though I needed solitude to work on my writing projects.

Through the years, I’ve struggled with the seclusion that being a writer brings. And often my frame of mind distracts me or tempts me to go back into the workplace for more social interaction and close relationships.

A spiritual battle. This particular day, I decided to pray about how to win this battle, instead of dismissing it. I knew it was a spiritual battle—an attack from the enemy of my soul—trying to discourage me. So, I decided to revisit a familiar passage in the Bible.

I thumbed over to Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (NIV).

As I read the passage, my mind focused on the word “lovely,” and I wondered, How on earth can I find something “lovely” to think about? I wasn’t feeling “lovely,” and nothing around me seemed “lovely” either. But I continued to focus on the scripture, even questioning God’s purpose in leading me to this specific verse.

A way of escape. Struggling with my angst, I carted my portable office outside to our backyard patio (a benefit of working from home). I hoped this scripture could possibly help me refocus—away from my negative thoughts.

As I sat down to read again, a rustle in the branches of our Bradford pear tree distracted me. Two squirrels, playing tag, tumbled from the tree and scampered up the wooden fence, as a large blue jay drove them from his territory.

I enjoyed God’s creation, surprised at nature’s battle right there in my own backyard. The leaves rustled in the breeze, and the sun peeked through the branches, casting moving shadows. Surrounded by shades of green, I settled into my lawn chair.

Lovely. I thought, “This” is lovely!

A lovely thought. The word “lovely” swept across my mind again like a stirring wind. In a sudden and unexpected way, a calm settled in on me, and everything seemed right with me once again.

Then, blessed by the “lovely” moment—bathed in the shades of green and focused on God’s Word—I returned to the peace and solitude of my office to begin my next writing project.

How do you win the spiritual battles in your writing life?


Three Ways to Focus on Editing for the Web

“Real writing begins with re-writing” (James A. Michener).

I began blogging in 2008, and I’ve visited many websites to determine the most effective way to communicate online. I developed a helpful web-editing checklist below from my research for a writing workshop using three photographic terms—the panoramic, macroscopic, and microscopic viewpoints.

Panoramic View. Begin the editing process by determining the overall, or broader view, of contents and evaluating your audience, purpose, context, and the design elements.

  • Read aloud from the reader’s perspective (not the writer’s).
  • Find main point and sub-points. Can you summarize your piece easily?
  • Examine benefits for reader (take-away value).
  • Use appropriate fonts (not fancy or distracting to your content).
  • Use subheading in boldface type to introduce more points.

Macroscopic View. Take a closer look at paragraphs, word usage, and tone.

  • Place main topics near beginning of each paragraph and sentence.
  • Limit each paragraph to one main idea.
  • Use shorter units of text with more breaks.
  • Use an introduction for a “teaser” paragraph (preview for content).
  • Avoid long texts that break content into several pages.
  • Provide a brief summary or table of contents hyperlinked to each section for text over 500 words. Use lists, hyperlinks, and extra white space for a long document to break up dense patterns of text.
  • Avoid slang, jargon, and inappropriate humor.
  • Use nondiscriminatory language (e.g., bias based on gender, race, ethnicity, religion, age, sexuality, disability).
  • Use common words (appropriate for target audience).
  • Avoid vague words.
  • Use key words to describe the site in the first 50 words of text.
  • Build verbal bridges to connect text (transition).
  • Use action verbs rather than passive.
  • Incorporate single links into content (embedded into the text).
  • Make short, bulleted lists of links.
  • Use “Find Out More” links, when details are needed.

Microscopic View. Zoom in on the elements of grammar, mechanics, and punctuation.

Self-editing should distance you from your piece, so you can examine it without the emotional attachment. You can see your actual words, rather than just intentions. Consider these final ideas to help you edit for the web.

  • Create style sheet/guide with some common problems, to avoid repetitive research of the editing rules (e.g., grammar, mechanics).
  • Find someone to read and edit your work (e.g., critique group, another writer).

Remember: “You write to discover what you want to say. You rewrite to discover what you have said and then rewrite to make it clear to other people” (Donald Murray).


Do you have any tips for editing for the web?

Sergio: A Memoir from My Writing Life

My writing life continues to take me to places that I never dreamed possible. A few years ago, I decided to go back to college to pursue a degree in writing. And my academic journey gave me the opportunity to study a second language in another country.

In Spain, I learned more than just the language—I learned about their culture, their history, and the every day life of the people there. I also learned things about myself and human nature. Plus, this experience provided numerous stories to share, like this one about my young friend, Sergio.

One of my best language teachers proved to be a five-year-old boy named Sergio, the grandson of my hostess, Beni.

Sergio would sit with me every day at the kitchen table, after the others had finished their meals and retreated to watch television. He enjoyed pretending to be my teacher.

Child Teacher. As Sergio picked up each piece of fruit, one-by-one, from the ceramic bowl on the kitchen table, he would hold it up and wait for me to say the name of the fruit in Spanish. If I didn’t respond fast enough, he would look at me with his big brown eyes and teach me the appropriate word.

“Me-lo-co-tón,” Sergio said slowly, as he held up a peach and waited for me to repeat after him. And after I responded, he would flash his bright smile, clap his hands, and applaud, “¡Qué bien!” [Great!]

Then, Sergio would grab another piece of fruit and continue to quiz me, until he thought I had mastered each Spanish word. When he grabbed a banana, I would always laugh as I responded, “Ba-na-na.” [Sergio didn’t know we used some of the same words in English.]

I bought Sergio candy and toys to express my gratitude to him. One day, I gave him the mini-flashlight that I carried in my purse from home. As he ran to show his mother, he danced around the apartment snapping the light off and on.

Sergio reminded me of my own grandson, Miles, who was just a few years older. And Sergio helped me fend off being homesick, as I interacted with him.

Adult Student. In studying Spanish as an adult, I experienced both humiliation and judgment. My host family often seemed very impatient that I had not mastered their language. And since I was somewhat shy, the looks they exchanged when I tried to speak in their tongue embarrassed me. They would sigh heavily and roll their eyes. Then they would speak slowly with raised voices as they repeated phrases toward me.

I felt ignorant when I couldn’t find the words to express what I wanted to say. But Sergio always responded to me with patience and kindness. He helped me because he wanted to be with me, and we both enjoyed our time together.

Life-long Learner. I suppose I was too stubborn to give up on my goal of becoming bilingual during my studies in Spain, even with the difficulties I faced. I now appreciate the Hispanic population in my own community and the struggles they encounter in a country where most people do not understand their native language.

I discovered some surprises about myself in my efforts to learn another language. My husband, Dan, became more aware of my weaknesses than anyone. I’m sure he’ll never forget the night he walked into our family room at midnight and found me on our carpeted floor in a fetal position—crying because I had received a “B” in a conversational Spanish class.

I laugh when I think of that moment now. But at the time, I didn’t see the humor in the situation. Learning a new language proved to be one of the most humbling and difficult experiences of my life. But it gave me insight into teaching others to write, and I later became a writing instructor. In fact, I discovered that learning to write is much like learning a second language–but that’s another subject for a future post.

And in spite of the hardships and disappointments I encountered during my language school experience in Spain, my most memorable and effective teachable moments came with my young friend, Sergio.

Where has your writing journey taken you?

Five Ways to Handle Stress in Your Writing Process

Are you overwhelmed with stress in your writing life? The book of Lamentations offers a clear word on how to deal with stress. “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear” (Lam. 3:28-29 MSG).

1. Go off by yourself. Solitude often seems impossible for me, even with an “empty nest.” But Jesus knew the importance of spending time alone with His Father. When He needed to listen, He would pull away from everyone. Matthew 14 says that after Jesus fed the 5,000, He “climbed the mountain so he could be by himself and pray. He stayed there alone, late into the night” (23).

2. Enter the silence. When we seek God in silence, often the accuser (Rev. 12:10) tries to distract us with fear, like in the story of Hannah (1 Samuel 1). Hanna’s husband had two wives—talk about stress! And her husband’s other wife taunted her year after year, blaming and accusing God for Hannah’s inability to conceive children. Then, when Hannah prayed, her spiritual leader misunderstood her. “Hannah was praying in her heart, silently. Her lips moved, but no sound was heard. Eli jumped to the conclusion that she was drunk” (13).

3. Bow in prayer. Prayer can be as natural as talking with a good friend or as intimate as sharing a secret whisper. It can occur any time of day, no matter where you are or what you are doing. God promises that if we call on His Name, He’ll listen. “And if we’re confident that he’s listening, we know that what we’ve asked for is as good as ours” (1 John 5:15).

4. Don’t ask questions. My questions often interfere with my communication with God—I’m talking, instead of listening. When Jesus taught His disciples, He asked them on several occasions, “Are you listening to this? Really listening?” (Matt.11:15).

5. Wait for hope to appear. Waiting rooms seem to bring out the worst in me, like my impatience or frustration. But waiting does not have to be hopeless. The psalmist speaks of “waiting” in Psalm 40, “I waited and waited and waited for God. At last he looked; finally he listened. He lifted me out of the ditch, pulled me from deep mud. He stood me up on a solid rock to make sure I wouldn’t slip” (1-2 MSG).

Reflection: Matthew 6:30-34 advises, “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes” (MSG).

So, remember, “When life is heavy and hard to take, go off by yourself. Enter the silence. Bow in prayer. Don’t ask questions: Wait for hope to appear” (Lam. 3:28-29 MSG).


What helps you handle the stressful times in your writing life?


Embracing Sacred Moments

Lake Cortez at dawn

Have you ever wanted to hold on to a moment in time and savor the amazing experience a little longer?

The radiant fog bank settled just above Lake Cortez at dawn, a stark contrast to the winter landscape surrounding my home. I tried to focus on my writing deadline, but I halted my work to observe the breath-taking view.

The glowing mist at sunrise brought a familiar Bible verse to mind, encouraging me to embrace the moment. “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone” (James 4:14 NLT).

Such memorable experiences happen when I least expect them, and they vanish without warning. But I always want to hold on to those special moments longer than possible.

The first time I heard my child’s heartbeat, I tuned out everything else, as I wondered about the new life inside me. Etched on the tablet of my heart, I recall those firsts—feeling him move, seeing his face, and holding him in my arms.

Those rare occurrences happen in my writing life, too. When I received my first contract to write an article for a well-respected publication, I held the envelope close to my heart a long time before opening it. Then, I unfolded the letter with great care and examined every word to be sure I didn’t skip any details.

Another momentous occasion occurred in December, as I shopped for Christmas gifts with my grandson Miles. “Wait, wait,” I drew a deep breath and raised my right hand to stop our conversation, so I could read the e-mail on my iPhone.

Confused by the interruption, Miles offered me a wrinkled brow.

“Seriously—wait,” I exhaled. “I’ve got to hold on to this moment.”

I read the message again, basking in the power of the encouraging words. “They like my proposal! And she wants to discuss signing me as a client!” I couldn’t restrain myself from expressing my thanksgiving and praise. “What a great Christmas gift!”

Later that week, my heart raced again when the agent called to confirm her offer. I found it hard to suppress my enthusiasm and joy, so I could listen to her instructions and tell her about my writing goals and dreams.

When my husband, Dan, asked about the details of my phone call, I still couldn’t gather my thoughts because of my excitement. “Maybe I should have taken notes,” I admitted.

So how can we embrace our sacred moments? We know such blessings vanish as fast as they appear, just as morning fog dissipates when exposed to the first rays of sunlight.

We can capture the essence of our experiences with descriptive words and well-chosen phrases in our narratives. And through this writing process, others will also be encouraged to tell the stories that matter most to them.


Did my story remind you of a sacred moment in your life? Write that story!

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