Working hard and making room

I made that choice, when the next glass of milk was spilled,
to choose a thriving response, rather than the surviving one.
— Joanna Gaines

We all go through these seasons, right? Thriving and surviving? Or maybe, like that quote I loved in Chip & Joanna's book, The Magnolia Story, there more like moments than seasons. I feel that-- each day, I make both choices to thrive and to survive. 

I've been thinking a lot about hard work lately, partly due to an essay Mindy Kaling wrote in her second book (which I just enjoyed listening to on audio). I have a lot of dreams, but am I willing to actually do the hard work to accomplish any of them? 

It's usually easier for me to either a) just be lazy, or b) let life scatter me, mess up my direction, and throw me into survival mode. Which, let's be honest, is usually just me, once again, being lazy.

We do have a new puppy in the house and a lot of other stuff going on-- both on the schedule and in our hearts-- but all those things become excuses for me. The truth is, if I want to thrive in my quotidian life and in my dreams, I really do have to buck up a bit. 

So this is me calling myself out. To do the hard work, and make the choice which is often the tougher one for me, responding in a thriving way, not a surviving way to the curve balls that come my way.

Surviving is yelling at my kids when they spill milk; thriving is taking a deep breath and dealing with the inconvenience calmly.

Surviving is talking a lot about writing but spending my bits of free time doing who knows what; thriving is using my time wisely and doing the dang thing, as Leslie from Blue Crush would say.

Because here's the thing. Thriving means my life is full of light. It's full of peace that transcends understanding, and a gospel-centered (not self-centered) life. It's full of living life to its fullest instead of mindlessly wading through the muck. 

Have I been reading too many dystopic novels? Maybe. But I really don't want to be a mindless drone. I want to grab my life and make the most of it. I want to tell stories and let stories fill my soul and make my mind think deeper thoughts. 

I'm determined to start making room for light in my life. Making room for thriving. Making room for doing hard work and hopefully accomplishing some things that I feel like God has called me to do. 

In another blogging life, I would have started an upbeat series about all the ways I'm making room in my life. But I know myself better these days; I know that I'm not known for following through on that sort of thing.

And also, I have other things I want to spend my words on (like finishing the last 5 chapters of my novel's first draft. And starting another one. And another one. See? Lots of dreams).

I do want to share the process with you though. I think I'll be more successful that way.

In most contexts, I think I'm what Gretchen Rubin would call an Obliger, which is to say, feel free to hold me accountable to this.

And if you want to join me in trying to thrive and do hard work, even if that means making room for it by saying no to other things, I'd love to walk through this together.

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You may consider sharing bits and pieces of this on Instagram with the hashtag #makingroomforlight. I'd love to see what this looks like for you. I'll try to do the same thing. 

Let's do the hard work; let's make room for light and see what shines through.

2 resources to encourage your walk with the Lord

I've gotten really picky about the books I receive or request to review, mostly because there are just so many things I want to read out there that I just can't read them all. But recently a few things have caught my eye; a few things in fact that are great resources for the spiritual journey (ours, and our kids-- you can check out my review of The Radical Book for Kids over on our homeschool blog). scripture-doodle-pray-atoz-1

Today the books I have to share are timely, too, because I think they would would bless you , and that they would also make great gifts for a gal who loves Jesus in your life.

One thing I struggle with in my relationship with the Lord is prayer. I just can't seem to get in a good rhythm with praying for things that are important to me. I pray sporadically, when someone comes to mind, when a friend asks me to pray, before dinner, during the day when I'm feeling desperate.

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I even have reminders on my phone to pray at 9am, noon, and 3pm, which was an idea I got years ago to pray at set times from Ann Voskamp's blog-- often they are just a quick re-centering which is always helpful. But I like the idea of having a bit of specific direction with my prayer, and this new book, Pray A to Z, is a wonderful resource for that.

Pray A to Z is a book of prayer prompts that guides the reader in "a practical guide to pray for you community." Each letter of the alphabet lists a few topics to pray for (like adoption, pain, neighbors, missionaries, etc.) along with a couple of praise topics that thank God for his character (like mercy, righteousness, & dwelling place). It's a great starting place for spending some time in prayer as I start the day.

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The second fun book I want to share today is actually two editions of the creative journaling book Scripture Doodle (the second one is Scripture Doodle God's Promises). These books combine devotional/worshipful scripture readings with the "adult coloring books" phenomenon. The author/artist April Knight gives mini art lessons and guidance for doodling scripture (and for hand-lettering as well) as a way to memorize verses and hide the word in our hearts.

I wouldn't call these books a super deep, gospel-focused devotional or a substitute for reading the Bible itself but they are a really fun and beautiful way to interact with God's word while also functioning as a creative outlet. As Litfuse put it, "Each of the creative worship prompts in this interactive guide includes biblical encouragement and ideas for worship through art." The books themselves are beautiful as well, and would be great gifts for both adults and maybe even a tween or tween.

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(a spread I colored while watching a Hallmark Christmas movie)

Thanks to Litfuse for the review copies of these books. There are affiliate links in this post; thanks for reading and supporting the blog.

Advent and album liners

christmas-cds There's something sweet and nostalgic about hearing the 9-year old singing along with a song, using the CD liner notes (because who buys CDs anymore?) to read the lyrics from.

It's a CD as old as she is, part of a dated collection that comes out of a box and gets placed in the car every December, and hasn't been added to in years.

And then a song you've been listening to for nine years, sung by your sweet girl, makes you tear up and have a spontaneously worshipful moment on the way to school.

And the first time That You opened Your eyes did You realize that You would be my Savior And the first breath that left Your lips Did You know that it would change this world forever

To look back and think that This baby would one day save me In the hope that what You did That You were born so I might live To look back and think that This baby would one day save me

And I, I celebrate the day That You were born to die So I could one day pray for You to save my life

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And then a song plays that she connects with because we're currently reading The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

A song speaking more truth into our hearts during this advent season. She sings along to a song of hope, expectant hope, because the curse has indeed been lifted, and Jesus is coming.

It's always winter but never Christmas It seems this curse just can't be lifted Yet in the midst of all this ice and snow Our hearts stay warm cause they are filled with hope

And everything it changed overnight This dying world you brought it back to life And deep inside I felt things Shifting everything was melting Away oh away And you gave us the most beautiful of days

Cause when it's always winter but never Christmas Sometimes it feels like you're not with us But deep inside our hearts we know That you are here and we will not lose hope

(Thanks, Relient K.)

YA, KidLit, cyborgs, & more {reading update!}

what i'm reading 2016 It was a good summer of reading! Now that we've entered fall, I thought it was time to update the ol' reading list here on the blog. I had a lot of fun with the audioblog in my last book update and after so good feedback, I decided to do another one. This audioblog will be available in my free newsletter, which will hit inboxes on Saturday, October 29th. (The newsletter is meant to be seasonal, but as it turns out this will be my first one of 2016-- oops!).

Read More Coverget the scoop

If you haven't already signed up, you can do so here. When you sign up, you will receive a free copy of my eBook, Read More, and you will also have access to my second audioblog... where I discuss all these books including which series has surprised me most (which will hit inboxes soon)!

So without further adieu, here is what I've been reading lately:

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I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've read any of these books! And don't forget you can listen to all my thoughts on these in my audioblog which will arrive via email on Saturday morning, Oct. 29, 2016. If you're reading this post after the newsletter goes out, just send me a quick email (hello @ nicolevbennett . com) and I'll forward it to you! :)

This post includes affiliate links; thank you for reading and for your support.

Delighting in the days

delight-2 In January, I chose delight as my word for the year. I'm never very good with followthrough and this one word exercise is usually no different. But recently as I thought about how I was feeling these days with our lovely summer and our new fall rhythm/schedule/day-to-day life, I realized that things had been quite... delightful... and that without particularly trying, I had in fact been delighting.

Last spring was hard. I felt like a chicken with my head cut-off with three kids doing three different things school-wise, plus sports, church, and other activities. It was crazy. I felt like if I could just make it through till summer; it was a season with little delight in some ways, but it was also a season of embracing my writing life right where it is, and pressing on and moving forward intentionally, which is in its own way, a form of delighting.

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Through the chaos, and then into the peace of summer, my delight in the Lord has been strong though. This year I've taken on a Bible reading plan that my church recommended and it has kept me in the word consistently. My prayer life has been lacking still this year, but in reading the word I have felt a growth which is powerful.

Summer was beyond delightful. Beach days, camping trips, long days, family camp (ahhh-mazing!), swimming, barbecuing, reading, baseball, relaxation, concerts (Coldplay!) time with family and sweet friends-- it was all the lovely things of summer that I adore-- the very definition of delight, thank you, Jesus. I was incredibly sad to see it go, as much as I always love the start of a new school year.

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And as we've entered the new fall season, a season which can bring with it chaos and busyness, I'm delighted to say that things have, amazingly enough, not gotten out of hand, and in fact, I'm quite delighting in our days and enjoying the rhythm of things right now.

We now homeschool three days in a row (Monday through Wednesday), and then, the kids all go to school all day on Thursday and Friday, a gift to this mama that has brought blessings galore in just the first month. Lunches, brunches, coffees, mama outings, peaceful errands, days to clean and prep, writing time, and moments of quiet have been amazing.

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I'm relishing this time and trying my best to use it wisely and keep it from getting over-scheduled. And just like I expected, it actually has me looking forward to our next homeschool days... and despite all the solo-time benefits, even missing my kids a tiny bit. ;)  For our family, and for me, it is the perfect fit.

So all this to say, even though many days I'm still tired (from knowingly burning the candle at both ends) and there are still overwhelming moments and feelings of inadequacies and frustrations with schoolwork and parenting challenges galore...

There is amidst it all a strange feeling of r e s t.

There is p e a c e.

There is d e l i g h t.

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And there is gratitude. I'm very thankful for this season, and for the ways the Lord, in His grace, has orchestrated this time. May I use it for His glory.