Today I say goodbye to a dream

6 years ago this very month, Seeking Christmas arrived on bookshelves. It was a dream I’d worked on for years. Roadblock after roadblock seemed to meet me along the journey. Eventually, I received the letter from the publisher that my proposal was accepted and they’d like to offer me a publishing contract.

Here’s what I asked my blog readers in August 2013:

Do you……

  • Find your anxiety level rising as Christmas approaches
  • Feel the commercialization overshadows what really matters
  • Wish you could simplify Christmas
  • Feel the hectic pace and busyness makes advent devotions impossible
  • Desire to capture the true magic
  • Long to create memories & traditions with depth & meaning
  • Wish there was a devotion for today’s busy family
  • Want more than just a devotion
  • Want an experience
  • Want to address all of the above AND complete half of your gift list

For 6 years I’ve prayed for Seeking Christmas to catch fire. Sadly, it never lived the life I dreamed it would.

Does that mean it was a failure?

I suppose that depends on how you choose to view the entire experience.

I hired a consultant while I developed Seeking Christmas. From the very beginning, he told me my path was never about the book. Honestly, I didn’t get it at all. In my mind, it was all about the book. I was deeply passionate about the family, traditions, and memory making. Of course, it was about the book.

He tried to help me see beyond this one project, that I had more to offer than a Christmas experience book.

I thought a publishing deal was the end. I thought it would release and the rest was history. I thought it would be the christian Elf on the Shelf.


I quickly realized ALL the marketing rested on my shoulders.

To that point I refused to buy into the “build a platform” idea. I said I’d NEVER speak publicly. God began to show me if I wanted to share this with the world, I needed to do the actual work of sharing.

I began speaking at women’s gatherings. It was one of my greatest fears. Turns out I fell in love with speaking and something I was terrified of turned into something that brought me incredible joy. Connecting face to face with women ignited something else in me.

This step led to the preparation for me to lead women’s ministry at my church. Again, I needed time face to face with these women to hear their struggles and understand their hearts.

Because of Seeking Christmas, I began to consistently write on my blog in very intentional ways. My writing skills developed right before the eyes of my readers. You’ve watched me grow through all kinds of seasons.

All along, the sales of Seeking Christmas were pitifully low.

I’ll be totally honest, part of me wishes I’d never published it. All the writing conferences I’ve attended, they stress the importance of a first success. If you release a flop of a book, you are toast for future books.

But then I look at all God did in me and this ministry, and I see that without stepping out to publish Seeking Christmas, nothing else would have followed. Seeking Christmas drove me to develop in areas I wouldn’t have on my own.

Mainly, Seeking Christmas taught me to say no to fear. It taught me to trust God when I can’t see “success” in the way I’ve always viewed it. It taught me that success occurs in the process rather than the end result. It taught me to release my fear of failure and accept that failure might actually be the success I needed most.

Over the summer my copyright attorney called to ask about updating some filings. I let him know I planned to simply let Seeking Christmas go. I would not continue to pay the publisher to keep it in the distribution system. I was done.

I’ve not fully processed my feelings over it yet.

The prideful part of me feels embarrassed. I look back and see how naive I was. Driven by passion and desire, full of hope that it would bring a gift to families I deeply desired they experience.

The cynical part of me wonders why I spend so much time trying to help people solve their problems or share my discoveries. Do people even care?

Then I look around at this loud online world and wonder why I’m even still here on this blog space.

Then I hear God’s whisper. He gently reminds me to show up for the ones who are looking for help, encouragement, or a dose of inspiration.

So today I officially say goodbye to a once held dream for Seeking Christmas. It’s no longer available on Amazon or online book retailers. I have in my inventory 15 copies you can buy from my store here.

Just for fun, let’s take a quick stroll down memory lane.

My family has cheered me on through every passion, idea, & project. They’ve encouraged me to follow my dreams and never quit. Today, is hard because it feels like a quit. But I think at times, we have to quit something to prepare for another.

Here’s a little trailer my family made with me 🙂

 

Seeking Christmas from Ernie D.–Clear Impact Prod. on Vimeo.

I say goodbye to the dream I held in my heart for Seeking Christmas today, but I look forward to what God has next, which I never would have stepped into without walking the road with this book for the last 6 years.

But you know what I will still have that I hope families will use? The ornament download. I’ll be updating my shop to offer the ornaments with a family activity. I hope the heart of Seeking Christmas will live on even if the book isn’t around. And now that I think of it, maybe this is the very best way. Maybe all along what I want most is families to get into the actual Bible together. Maybe this will simplify that for them in a hectic, materialistic season.

Hey, I appreciate you. You are the absolute best readership I could ever ask for. Sometimes I can’t believe you are still here with all that is available online to read. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

My job is not to make my kid’s struggle easier.

My job is not to make my kid’s struggle easier.

My job is to lean in and point them to the cross.

The struggle is real.

Life is a struggle. If we as parents continue to step in and right their world and make everything fair and perfect, what a disservice we offer them in the long run. Because ultimately we are creating a false sense of reality for them.

In my fierce attempts to protect my child from failure, mistakes, unfairness, and hardship, I elbow Christ right out of the way. I step in and say to the One who wants to be my child’s Comforter, Defender, and Rescuer, “I’ve got this. I’ll smooth this path for him and make it all better.”

Sadly, Christ is left out. Our kids aren’t pointed to the cross. Rather, they begin to see the world as a place that is supposed to be fair and good to them. In reality, this world is fallen and broken. In God’s mercy and love, He sent His son to make it all right. And on this earth, we won’t experience perfection and goodness in all situations. This is when we turn toward Him in faith and say, “I trust in You. You love me. You care for me. One day I will stand with you in eternity and see the world as it should be.”

I had a friend tell me stories of parents calling him when their adult children didn’t get the job. They wanted to know why their child wasn’t chosen. Parents calling the coach and demanding their kid be placed on a team they simply weren’t cut out for. Parents racing to school after the child left homework at home. AGAIN.

It is ok for our kids to struggle. It’s ok for them to fail so they can learn. If we consistently rescue them, how will they ever grow strong?

It’s hard to watch our kids struggle. But if we don’t let them now, while we can talk them through it, they will not be prepared when it really matters.

7 years ago I wrote a post about the importance of struggle. I shared a story in which I struggled to allow my child to struggle. 7 years later, I believe in this more than I realized I would. Click through to read that post with me. The Struggle with Struggle.

 

Which are you trusting more? Your faith or your fear?

 

The pier seemed to stretch to the middle of Lake Michigan. It was a clear divide. One side still as a summer night. One side as rambunctious as a toddler thrown down in full declaration of his will.

As I stood at the start of the pier, the end seemed completely out of reach. To reach the end, I’d have to face the strength of the wind to my right and the force of the waves as they pounded the walkway. Rather than a peaceful pier stroll, for me, it was a walk filled with the taunts and distractions of fear. The wind roared in my ears. My heart drummed so loudly I was certain it could be heard over the crashing waves.

“Why haven’t they closed this pier?” I wondered. It seemed far too dangerous. No guard rails held up their protective embrace.

My family felt none of the emotions I struggled through. They laughed and played all the way to the clear end. I, on the other hand, baby-stepped my way plank by terrifying plank.

“What if the wind sent Andrew in the water?”

“What if the brothers are goofing off and someone accidentally falls in?”

“What if they don’t see how slippery the pier is and end up fighting the lake that behaves like a sea.”

I never made it to the end of the pier. Fear kept me barely past the start, never progressing. Fear won.

Later I looked at the picture and videos I captured of that scene. If I turned to the left, the water was calm, still, and peaceful. If I turned to the right, the wind slapped water across my legs as it landed on the pier in repeat.

A clear divide separated peace and chaos.

On the side of peace, all lay still. The water glistened. Facing the side of peace, the wind was behind you, so the sound much less threatening. A turn in the opposite direction, the noise intensified, the danger warned to stay back.

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you.

Isaiah 26:3

Faith and fear don’t mix. When we choose faith, we silence fear. When we choose fear, we silence faith.

It’s a trust issue. Do we trust faith or fear? One way or the other, we are making a choice. Intentionally or not, it’s a choice. Whose hand will I reach for to hold me steady? Will I reach toward my faith even though I’m scared to death? Or will I reach toward my fear with trembling arms?

See, either way I may be scared at the start.

It’s all about focus. If I am fixed on Him, I experience His calm, soothing voice. If I’m fixed on my fears, all I hear are the threats of what-ifs.

On the last leg of our family road trip, we each shared favorite moments. The pier walk did not earn a spot on my favorites list because it was clouded with fear. But you know what? It did earn a spot on the list of everyone in my family who silenced fear and enjoyed the stroll.

If I live my life with the voice of fear constantly allowed to speak, I will remain stuck and never arrive at the end of the pier and experience the beauty waiting. I’ll stand at the beginning and watch everyone else lean towards faith as they experience the joy of watching fear fade into the shadow of lies from which it dawned.

 

When God brings clarity to the path

In September I wrote a post titled An Update of Sorts & A Possible Answer To Your Prayers. It’s where I shared the three months that transpired after the Lord handed me a new assignment for a new season He was leading me into.

Years before God gave me a dream where He was telling me He was giving birth to something new in my life. I’ve loosely held that dream with curious wonder for all these years.

It’s been 10 months since I’ve updated you, so today’s post will be a bit of a catch up. I always trust when we share our personal stories, others will see their own stories tucked inside. So while today’s post doesn’t have an intentional lesson, I believe in the power of a story.

Unless you start with the previous post, today will make little sense to you.

When God prompts

When God continued prompting me to lead others on their own journey towards whole health, I saw a fraction of His purpose. I struggled against my pride, my desires, and my limitations in this pursuit.

For the last year I’ve been praying for God to show me if I am to release something, to let go of anything He doesn’t have in this season.

I’ve thought about discontinuing my blog, closing my shop, changing home school direction. I can’t possibly do it all I found myself crying out to the Lord.

Do people even read these blogs? Does anything come from me being present on social media? Does the world need another online shop? You get the picture.

But why God?

I’ve stayed in a state of asking God why He was leading me down a path of building a team and a business of helping people take control of their health and also how they can build their own business doing the same if they choose. Each time I’d ask, God would bring me a person who shared the darkness they found themselves in because of their health. Or someone who had run out of hope and needed someone to come alongside and hold their hand. Or simply a mom like me, tired of living tired, sick of feeling sick, worn down by feelings of anxiety and worry.

The company I’m a part of held its annual convention, which I didn’t see a need in attending. But I prayed, God opened the way, I felt His little nudge again, and I went.

God answers when we are prepared to receive

Over those 3 days in Las Vegas, everything changed. God showed me the magnitude of what He’d been inviting me into for the last year. The thing I kept wanting to figure out and understand.

God showed me the culture of the company firsthand. I listened to person after person proclaim Jesus boldly from the stage. I heard stories that left me in tears. God restoring health and life. God moving families into financial freedom so they could live radically generous lives and change the world. Dads retiring, coming home, and leading the family. Adoptions taking place. Homes created to rehabilitate rescued girls from sex trafficking. Some stories were jaw-dropping.

God was at the center of this company and this movement, and in His kindness, He invited me all the way to Las Vegas so I could see for myself a piece of the picture He knew I needed to see.

God gave me a vision for my future with this company that week.

He gave me everything I needed to come back and offer to everyone in my life the same thing I’d been invited into that is changing my life day by day.

I looked back on the last 13 years of my life and saw all the pieces God had been building all along in preparation for this.

  • How He’s been teaching me to listen to Him and follow even when I don’t understand.
  • Every season I’ve walked in has served a purpose.
  • Starting and closing an Etsy shop 9 years ago
  • leading a large team of entrepreneurs (failing miserably in the leadership department) 13 years ago
  • leading women’s ministry
  • growing a blog
  • learning new skills through technology
  • learning to develop myself and focus on personal growth and mindset.

All of these have been pieces that together make sense for where I am with this company.

I’ve learned

  • to listen and trust Him better than before.
  • even when He leads, it can appear like failure to my human eyes, but it serves a vital purpose.
  • to never stop growing and learning.
  • to tell fear I won’t let it stop me.
  • being scared is ok when doing something new, it’s only a problem if being scared prevents me from doing the thing.

I’ve learned that when God leads me, it might not make sense to anyone else. And that is ok.

Others may not understand

When I started I had people advise me to stop. They told me I would ruin my ministry if I changed course, particularly if I made money while doing it. All of the advice was driven by fear. I’ve learned God doesn’t use fear to speak to us. But the enemy sure does.

Money Mindset

I want to share one more piece of this story with you. Money and ministry is something I’ve struggled with until this year. When I wrote Seeking Christmas a friend told me they’d be supportive if I donated all my profits to charity. As if profiting at all would be wrong. Though if I were a “real” full-time writer, writing about something other than God, it would be ok to be paid for my time and talents. If I’m honest, deep down I’ve felt that way too.

When I started my blog I refused to monetize it. Deep down I held to this belief that money was wrong. Again, if I worked outside the home, being paid for my time and skills would be perfectly legitimate. As long as it didn’t mix with faith.

When I led women’s ministry, I accepted the position free of pay. Though others in ministry were paid for their time and talents. Somehow I continued holding onto the devaluing of the ministry if money were involved.

I went through a season of extreme guilt when we experienced financial growth or wins.

And then one day, I felt God whispering to simply thank Him. To release the guilt, thank Him, and live generously free.

I believe all of my misplaced money views played a role in my inability to simply yet boldly share this business opportunity with others the Lord invited me into.

Seeing the generosity of this company and the people who represent it, changed everything for me. People are changing the world. Kingdom work is happening. And God was inviting me to participate with Him.

Money can be used for evil and kingdom work. I was reminded of this yesterday at church. A leader spoke to the congregation regarding a season our church is in called All In. We are building a building, but it’s more than a building. And each person who stepped in faith is seeing the blessing of going All In with God, giving uncomfortably, and watching God do miracles.

This leader used a $5 bill with the example of how in the wrong hands it can be used towards evil of all kinds. But in the hands of a believer, it can be used to change the world.

And that is exactly what God showed me at the convention. We are vessels. We are here on this Earth for a very short time. If we live and move with God with open hands, He can funnel blessings through our lives we could never imagine.

So why do I share all this with you? Well, partly, because many of you feel like family to me. This blog was the beginning of this journey. Also, I’m fatigued of feeling like my life is compartmentalized. As if this space here is solely for devotional type sharings. Sometimes I simply miss the blogging days of sharing a day in the life or a season in the life. It’s all God’s.

Here’s the other reason, spend a little time looking back at your own life when you question where you are going. Has God been putting pieces together all along that felt so fragmented? Maybe they are more cohesive than you realized.

I love you, friends. As always, thank you for taking the journey with me.

If you want to take a look at this company that God is using to bless so many lives, send me a message. I’d love to share it with you.

 

How do you handle when someone else gets what you want?

Have you worked so hard on a project only to watch someone else receive credit for the work hours you labored through?

Have you watched a co-worker receive a promotion you felt was undeserved? Maybe you wonder if the powers in charge realize how much time she wastes on Facebook on company time?

Have you poured your heart and soul into a career path only to watch others receive what you can’t seem to reach no matter how hard you work?

Have you done all the “right” things but can’t seem to catch a break?

Depending on our mindset, if we aren’t careful, our thoughts can lead us to grow bitter heart roots. At the very root is often envy and jealousy. I recently listened to a devotion on the Abide app on healing from jealousy. I shared this, which I heard on this app, on Instagram. “At the root of jealousy is the belief that God is not good. It says ‘If God is good why won’t he give me what he’s giving other people.’”

Jealousy leads to bitterness.

I attended a convention recently where the keynote speaker, Bob Heilig, gave this challenge. Get better not bitter.

If you follow me on Instagram and my personal Facebook page, you know I’m passionate about proactive, natural health, particularly gut health. I spend a good deal of time corresponding with people who reach out to me. I send videos, ingredient sheets, testimonies, basically whatever they are requesting. This typically leads to the person deciding to try what I’m suggesting or deciding it’s not for them right now. Occasionally, something else happens.

At times I spend time answering all the questions and helping them however I can for them to respond something like this. “Thanks so much! I have another friend who does this so I ordered through her.” When I first started, this drove me bonkers. I wondered if they didn’t understand that I get paid commissions and bonuses but not a salary.

Recently, I experienced this scenario with a twist.

Turn vent session into prayer session

When the person thanked me for all my time and help and informed me they reached out to a friend they knew who represented my company, I felt immediate disappointment. I vented for a minute then prayed. I’m working on praying out my vents to God so He can speak to me in the middle of the feelings and thoughts I need help with.

My prayer went a little like this: “Ok, God, I’m super frustrated. You know how much time I spent and how I’ve prayed to help more people. She wanted help and now I feel I wasted that time that could have been helping others I could continue working with toward their health goals.”

Immediately Bob Heilig’s words popped in my head, “Get better not bitter.”

“God, don’t let me grow bitter roots. Thank you for all the people you’ve brought my way. And I pray blessings over this person and the friend she will work with. I pray blessings over her business. Thank you that with you there is always more than enough.”

God steered my thoughts instantly by showing me a picture of a gal like me. One who is praying big goals and big dreams. He showed me I don’t know the whole story.  He reminded me that He loves me and cares for me, and that is enough.

He is enough.

The company I’m part of is unlike anything I’ve experienced. The culture is of true oneness with generosity at the very core.

If I had stayed frustrated and focused on the negative, no good would come from that. What we focus on expands. I heard this multiple times at convention. I find it true in my life. When I focus on what I don’t get, my feeling of lack only grows. But when I focus on gratitude, my joy increases.

After my vent turned prayer session with God, I walked away feeling free and light. I felt true joy, true happiness. I didn’t have to carry the burden of jealousy and bitterness in my heart. I was free to walk hand in hand with God knowing He is for me not against me. He is the giver of all good things to all His children. And I really love that about Him.

 

Go deeper with God

Are you looking for a way to connect and grow with God? You are invited into a 14 day journey to know Him better, His character and His heart for you. Illuminate is available in audio and ebook versions. Grab your copy today! Maybe one for a friend as well!!

When death and life happened at the same time

About a month after moving into our Nebraska house years ago, in a hot second, all chaos broke out as one of our boys began crying out that dead bunnies were in our backyard. It all happened so fast. Boys screaming and crying. Us trying to figure out what killed all the bunnies. Seeing blood on our sweet dog’s face. Us screaming at the dog. The confusion of how something like that could happen.

Then one of my boys began to cry as he relayed the sadness of the mama bunny nearby watching all her babies die. He was t0rmented by the sound of their death. To Bristol’s ears, it was nothing more than a squeaky toy he might play with on any given day. To us, it was pure sadness.

A nest of bunnies lived in the protection of one of our hosta plants. A freshly sprouted and blossomed spring hosta. A place of new life, for the plant and the bunnies. And in a second’s time, death happened where new life lived.

I associate that particular hosta with the death scene of that day I wish I’d never seen.

Spring arrived this year as it faithfully does. I walked by this site and stopped. In the middle of the dead from last year, new growth sprouted. It happens every year. We know this. But I felt the Lord remind me that I can focus on the death or I can focus on the new life.

Christ had to die before He resurrected. We celebrate His resurrection power every day we take a breath. I ponder His death. But daily I raise my heart in praise over His resurrection.

How often in my life am I focused on the death of something rather than the life produced later?

When God renews something in my life, I typically find something had to die first. A sin pattern perhaps. An idol. A false belief about who He is. Something died to make room for the life God desired to grow inside. If I stay focused on what died, I fail to celebrate what lives. I miss out.

I see this in relationships at times. They change over time. We change. People change. Life shifts. Parts of us die. Parts of us are refined or renewed. In the process this can be painful as we look back at how things “used to be”. Sometimes we realize that something has died and will never be again. Despair enters when we fail to mourn and then look at the new growth opportunities taking place.

So God reminded me to focus on the life blooming before me rather than the death that took place first. For too long I see that spot and think death. Yes, death happened, but new life comes over and over with each year.

When a relationship or situation shifts seasons, maybe it’s time to properly grieve what we’ve lost. And then. Open our hands to the new thing giving birth. Sometimes in that very same relationship or situation. Sometimes in something completely new altogether. Wherever our paths lead, if we are holding hands with Jesus, we can trust He will keep us steady along the way.

How a simple song can shift everything

When I hear God

I seem to hear God the clearest when I’m in the shower or on a run. Maybe because I can’t multitask or fall into distraction with the ding of the phone or the hum of life. On one particular day, I lingered in the shower as the Lord dropped in my mind images and instructions from His Word.

I recently found myself in situations that felt like a constant assault from the enemy. One thing after another. I found it so easy to fall into despair and discouragement.

When I don’t like what I hear

I felt the Lord say, “Sing.” My initial thought went something like this, “I don’t feel like singing.”

I heard the words of a friend saying to do the right thing doesn’t have to come from feelings first. In fact, often we must make a choice to do what we don’t feel like doing. It will feel uncomfortable at first but over time, the feelings may follow. I’ve pondered that because my feelings stop me from doing the right and good thing far too often. When that person is wrong according to me, I don’t feel like showing love. Yet, I should.

Sometimes I have this interaction with God where it’s a back and forth volley. I am giving all my reasons and justifications for why what He says makes no sense to me. Yet, He patiently listens then offers maybe a word, or a picture, or a scene, or a song.

On this day as I told Him I didn’t feel like singing, He brought to my mind the scene from the Grinch where Christmas was stolen and they gathered and sang. It wasn’t circumstance that propelled them to sing. It was from a place of deep contentment and satisfaction. God wanted me to sing from a place of trust.

But there’s another part of that movie I’d forgotten, the part where the Grinch is describing his disdain for the Whos and their love of Christmas. The Grinch says, “And then they’ll do something I hate most of all….” He describes the Whos gathering close together and doing what he hates. “They’ll start singing.”

The Grinch envisioned them singing and became more agitated as he leaned into his dog, Max’s, face saying, “and they’ll sing and they’ll sing, and they’ll sing, sing, sing, sing, sing.” The narrator goes on to say the more the Grinch thought of the singing the more he realized he must stop the whole thing.

We are familiar with how the story goes. He steals Christmas but he couldn’t steal their joy. He couldn’t steal their singing. The material Christmas gone, they gathered and sang anyway.

What God speaks is for our good

The enemy hates singing. Singing is a proclamation that we are firm and steady despite the current situation.

Within minutes of God reminding me of this scene, a song came to mind. I raise a hallelujah. Side note: Do yourself a favor and play this song.

I looked up the lyrics.

Verse 1

I raise a hallelujah, in the presence of my enemies

I raise a hallelujah, louder than the unbelief

I raise a hallelujah, my weapon is a melody

I raise a hallelujah, Heaven comes to fight for me

Chorus

I’m gonna sing, in the middle of the storm

Louder and louder, you’re gonna hear my praises roar

Up from the ashes, hope will arise

Death is defeated, the King is alive

Verse 2

I raise a hallelujah, with everything inside of me

I raise a hallelujah, I will watch the darkness flee

I raise a hallelujah, in the middle of the mystery

I raise a hallelujah, fear you lost your hold on me

Bridge

Sing a little louder

In the presence of my enemies

Sing a little louder

Louder than the unbelief

Sing a little louder

My weapon is a melody

Sing a little louder

Heaven comes to fight for me

Tag

I raise a hallelujah

 

What My Singing Actually Proclaims

I remember reading Beth Moore’s book Praying God’s Word and her saying our peace is a secret weapon. When we sing despite our storm, we proclaim our peace out loud.

As I read the lyrics to this song, I realized what I was singing is who God is. He is King. Our hope is alive. He reigns, no storm I face is bigger than my ruling and reigning King. Our hope is in Him not our circumstances here.

A song changes what is happening in my heart by redirecting my attention and affection to God. Off myself, onto God Himself. A song proclaims His goodness. A song sends the darkness away. A song allows Heaven to fight on my behalf.

 

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing!

Psalm 100:1-2