Guest Julie Arduini – When There’s No Plan B

Dear Readers, from time to time I ask a writer friend to share a little bit of encouragement from their personal journey, knowing that many of those emotions are woven into the fabric of their stories. Please welcome Julie Arduini as she shares a key lesson from her latest release.

When I wrote book one in my Surrendering Time series, ENTRUSTED, Trish Maxwell was in New York City fulfilling a dream job. Although Trish spent time in Speculator Falls, she made it clear that she resented the Adirondack mountain community. Of all the characters in the village, Trish definitely was not the nicest.

Fast forward and in book three, ENGAGED, Trish is the heroine. She’s back in Speculator Falls without a career, living with her parents. Life has not worked out like she planned. More than not having her dream job, she left her hometown in a hurry without saying goodbye to hardly anyone. The senior citizens she used to take care of at the senior center are angry. Her ex-boyfriend eventually got over his hurt and married the girl who replaced her at the senior center. Trish returns home with no friends and no prospects in her field.

Trish’s mom offers her a job at the department store she manages, and as Trish mingles throughout the community asking forgiveness of those she hurt by leaving with a superior attitude and without saying goodbye, they all ask the same thing—what’s next? She realizes her education and dreams were all invested in getting an events planning job in New York City. She has no idea what comes next.

ENGAGED has been fun to write and explore the theme of finding commitment when there is no Plan B. Trish gets in all sorts of predicaments as she tries to forge a new path as someone who can be trusted to stick around. When she meets paramedic Wayne Peterson, she also has to take him and his son into consideration as she decides what she wants to do. The department store isn’t a passion for her, but it’s close to home and helps her family. Creating window displays throughout the Adirondacks is something she loves, but it would require a lot of marketing, travel, and fundraising. And the bright lights of New York City haven’t completely dimmed for her. Trish has a lot on her plate as she discovers who she is and what she’s supposed to do.

I remember as a new college graduate, I was certain my adult life was going to be in Rochester, New York in public relations. Each resume I sent out was with visions of what my apartment would look like, who my colleagues would be. Not long after graduation I became a Christian, and even so new in faith, I realized doors were closing for my dream. Not only did I not end up in Rochester, I was back in my hometown, living at home. When I did get a job, it wasn’t as much publicity as it was human services. Only God knew that the job would be a decade long ministry adventure where I placed senior citizens fifty-five years and older into not for profit volunteer positions. That plan not only gave me many grandparents after never having any growing up, it gave me a delightful blend of characters you see in the Surrendering Time series.

Does Trish ever find what she’s meant to do? Can she be grateful for the death of her dream and exchange it for God’s plans? Well, you need to read ENGAGED to find out.

How about you? Have you ever had to exchange your dreams for God’s plans? I’d love to hear your story!

Julie Arduini loves to encourage readers to surrender the good, the bad, and —maybe one day—the chocolate. She’s the author of ENTRUSTED: Surrendering the Present, as well as ENTANGLED: Surrendering the Past. The last book in the series, ENGAGED: Surrendering the Future, is coming in June. She also shares her story in the infertility devotional, A WALK IN THE VALLEY. She blogs every other Wednesday for Christians Read, and also is a blogger for Inspy Romance. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two children. Learn more by visiting her at, where she invites readers to subscribe to her monthly newsletter full of resources and giveaway opportunities.

You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, and Goodreads. Find the rest of her books on Amazon or sign up for her newsletter.

Book Summary: Trish Maxwell’s back in Speculator Falls with egg on her face and a lot of apologies to make. She left the mountain town for her dream job in New York City, only to come back unemployed. With no prospects, she works at her mom’s department store and makes amends as she finds a new passion creating window displays for Adirondack businesses. She works hard and tries to convince the people of Speculator Falls she’s changed for the better.

As Trish pitches in with community events, she meets paramedic Wayne Peterson, the one man who doesn’t seem to judge her. She even makes friends with Jenna Regan, who helps Trish when people demand to know what’s next in Trish’s life. Living in New York City has been her goal, but the more she’s around Wayne and the Adirondack area, the more she’s drawn to revising her plans. Just when Trish thinks the plan for her life’s coming together, a second chance comes her way that could give her every career goal she’s ever wanted, but threaten to tear her and Wayne apart. Can Trish surrender fears about her future and discover God’s plan for her?

Purchase ENGAGED on Amazon

Running My Race By Staying In My Lane

“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…” ~ Hebrews 12:1 NIV

“The strength of a river is between the banks.” ~ Writer Cara Grandle on Periscope

Sometimes it takes a different angle before we truly see the truth. Example? I know that familiar scripture about running the race set before me. Running. Effort. Perseverance. A goal line to cross. A crowd cheering me on. I’ve written about it before and still see a lot of truth buried within the analogy.

Then, I listened to Cara Grandle’s writers’ encouragement show on Periscope where she talked about the strength of a river being between the banks. That instead of spreading ourselves too thin into areas we were never intended to go, we need to focus our flow within the unique boundaries of our own journey. That perhaps instead of trying to do whatever marketing thing other people are doing, we need to give ourselves permission to stay where we operate best. In the area of our strength. In the path marked out for us.

She then drew the comparison to runners staying in their own lanes in a race. Of course, her point was that as writers and creatives, we each have our own individual projects and timelines but that we can encourage each other to keep moving forward. But the virtual lightbulb went on in my head.

God has a race marked out for me. It may be parallel to the journeys of others, but it is uniquely mine. There are books that I am to write. Authors I am to mentor. Writers I am meant to encourage. Children I am to parent. A marketing plan I am to execute. And so on. Like a lane on a track or the banks of a river, there is a path for my feet to follow.

And there is freedom there.

I don’t have to try to be like everyone else or fit my story ideas into a box of someone else’s making. I have only to seek God’s wisdom to see my path and then move forward in obedience. That’s why, as I cross the halfway point of this year, I am determined even more to run the race well…by staying in my lane.

What about you? Have you fallen prey to the comparison game and tried to run someone else’s race? Have you found yourself spread too thin and need to regather your efforts within your sweet spot?

Halfway There, But Still So Far To Go – Goal Setting In The Middle

I flipped the calendar page and felt a moment of panic. What happened to all of my goal setting strategies?

2017 started with such lofty goals. I had even sketched them out into four quarters with a big project designated for each three-month period along with a few other hope-to-get-done-too items. Books to write. A business to launch. Classes to teach. And new skills to learn.

Except life happened. (Doesn’t it always?)

First, the sporadic day job kicked into overdrive with a steady flow of work that met our family’s financial needs exactly when we needed the extra income…but ate into my available writing time and depleted my energy. Then, the non-fiction manuscript I thought would be around 25,000 words long turned out to be over 60,000 by the time I finally finished it. And the associated details of getting the information ready for publication took much longer than anticipated.

And so I find myself halfway through the year with so far to go to reach those initial goals. And here in the sagging, lazy, middle of summer, it is hard to find the energy to pick up the pace even though I know I need to.

Goal setting still works in the middle of the year…and in the middle of a project. Why? Because when bogged down in the muddle of the middle, I know exactly what has worked, what hasn’t, and what needs to change. With the clarity learned from evaluating the past, I can focus in on the future dream with more accuracy.

So, I’m checking in with all of you as my virtual accountability partners as I ask myself four key questions about my personal targets in the areas of faith, family, fiction, fitness, finances, and friends.

What did I get done? Thanks to all that extra work, financially we got back on solid footing, were able to pay cash for a new-to-us vehicle, and have some money set aside for emergencies. Even though I gained some weight during the beginning of the year, I’m back on an eating and fitness plan and feeling better. I’ve been more intentional about connecting with friends and family relationships have continued to be a priority. That “Abide” word for the year has begun to make more sense…and while I didn’t get everything I wanted written, I did write a complete new book, knock out the content and line edits from my publisher for next Spring’s release, and start personal revisions on the final book of that series. Not bad. Oh, and I got to teach writing to a bunch of kids …in a castle!

What is next on the horizon? Keep up the faith, family, fitness, financial, and friendship routines. I’m teaching an online class in July about The Author Toolbox content and so I need to finish up the little details on the associated blog posts, format the book version, design a book cover, and set up various promotional pieces for that business to launch. I also need to finish revising book three of The Wardrobe series and am considering upgrading my website to a new design. Once the business side of life is in order, there are a few projects around the house to get done including catching up on the family photo album and sorting my collection of recipes-ripped-from-magazines into an organized book.

What am I excited about? Based on the non-traditional book ideas churning in my brain, I’m looking forward to creating something outside my normal genre and experimenting with different lengths of fiction. These ideas may turn out to be only for my own creative outlet…or I may become a hybrid author by self-publishing a few of them. We’ll see. But for now, there are characters calling for my attention and their adventures are my incentive for getting the other business and home-related projects out of the way.

And what should I let go? First, I need to let go of the guilt. There were plenty of valid reasons why I’m behind my idealistic timeframe for the year, and I’m letting go of the self-imposed deadlines in favor of a list of projects to cross off whenever I get to them. I’m also letting go (at least temporarily) of my quest for a literary agent and perhaps even of the desire to see a certain award-winning story about a waitress traditionally published.

What about you? How are you doing on accomplishing your goals for the year? What have you learned so far and what adjustments can you make to ensure future success?

Life Lessons From a Rubber Band

The last month around our house has been a tad stressful. For me at least. The month started with a castle trip (fabulous!) and then a Special Olympics trip (good memories but blazing heat), followed by several weeks of revising a very-rough first draft manuscript, putting the polishing touches on The Author Toolbox blogs, planning the class I’m teaching next month, switching our family from cable to live streaming services (complete with a new internet provider and multiple hours on hold to cancel accounts), and several doctor’s appointments for the kids…plus a day job project that came along mid-month and a renewed determination to whip my body into shape before a family vacation rolls around.

To say I was stretched a little thin was an understatement. To say I was almost at a breaking point several times was more accurate. To say I learned several life lessons from a rubber band would also be true…and I’d like to share a few of them with you.

First, rubber bands come in all shapes, sizes, and colors. There are the tiny neon ones my youngest son is supposed to be attaching to his orthodontic braces daily and the giant inch-wide variety that held together a stack of papers until my oldest son found it and launched it across the room. I’m unique and so are you. There’s a rubber band for every job so stop the comparison game.

Second, rubber bands can stretch further than we think possible. Just when you think you’ve reached the end of your patience or energy, there’s a tad more stretch to devote to the next task or next family member who crosses your path. And as moms, it’s usually possible to add one more thing to your already-never-ending-to-do list.

However, third, when stretched too far (or for too long), rubber bands break. So stop stretching them before they reach that breaking point. Duh. Take a nap. Go for a walk. Read a book. Listen to some music. With a little time off for good behavior, you’ll be re-energized and strengthened to get back out there and stretch again. (Oh, and dried out, old rubber bands are also likely to snap when asked to stretch, so make sure to hydrate along the way.)

Fourth, rubber bands are flexible. They can bend into all sorts of different shapes. And when you press on them, they adjust and move as the circumstances change. Rather than stick to a rigid set of rules or routines, rubber bands can go with the flow and adapt to a variety of situations…which is an important trait for working moms during the summer when baseball games get rained-out and then rescheduled onto a night you already had other plans or a looming deadline.

Last, rubber bands can be used to make music. Remember those rubber band guitars from childhood? Different thicknesses stretched to different tensions made different sounds when plucked. So when all else fails, use your life to make some music and cheer up someone else’s day.

What about you? Are you being stretched too thin lately? Are you flexible under pressure? Are you making music with your life? What other lessons can be learned from a rubber band?

Thy Word Have I Hid…Just Not Exactly

Once upon a time, I excelled at Bible “sword drill” and Scripture memory challenges. As a pastor’s kid and general all-around overachiever, I could fan the pages of my well-read Bible and start reading a certain passage faster than most. And if there was a verse to be learned by next week, I had it memorized by sundown. After all, as the Psalmist wrote, “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against thee.”

Of course, I later learned that the real Psalmist didn’t write those particular words in King James English. As I grew, I discovered other translations and paraphrases of the familiar verses and by the time I got to college at a Christian school, many of the versions I’d heard through the years had melded into an amalgamation of words in my memory. I had hidden God’s Word in my heart…but sometimes it was harder to find it again.

The specific reference for certain verses was the first thing to go. Instead of quoting chapter and verse, I was more likely to remember it was in a certain book of the Bible, on the lower right side of the right-hand page, and underlined in blue ink. (What can I say? I’m a visual learner.)

The next memory slip came when I could recall only a phrase of a verse and had to paraphrase the rest. The essence of the truth was still there, but the precise wording was gone. Thy word have I hid in my heart…just not exactly.

In the grand scheme of things, my faith hasn’t suffered for my lack of memory. I continue to read Scripture and meditate on certain passages, therefore adding new verses or solidifying existing entries in the memory banks.

The real problem comes when I’m writing and need to find that verse I want to use. Often, I only remember a phrase and searching for those words may or may not lead me to the verse I was thinking of. To make matters more complicated, I also must be able to document for my publisher which exact translation I used so that we can add the proper citations to the copyright page. And then the words I use in my book have to match that translation precisely down to the punctuation.

For example, I recently finished line edits for a novel coming out next February. One phrase from Jeremiah 29:11 pops up several times in the book as somewhat of a theme verse. In my mind, God tells Jeremiah that He knows the plans He has for him, plans for good, to give him a “future and a hope.” Except that particular phrase isn’t in most of the translations. Instead it’s written as “hope and a future.” Since we had to cite it correctly for the version my publisher uses, I changed the wording in several spots. It felt weird at first, but then I came to appreciate the fact God gives hope first, then the future.

Another example. In a pivotal scene, one character reads a verse from Psalm 23 where “goodness and mercy” will follow her all the days of her life. Mercy. That’s a great word. And this was a phrase I’d heard over and over growing up…except it wasn’t in the version my publisher wanted me to use. I had to write “goodness and love” instead. It just didn’t roll off the tongue as easily and I was almost tempted to find a new verse for that scene. Except the unfamiliar wording drew attention to the word “love”…which tied perfectly into the theme of the entire book, Focus On Love.

I’m still writing Christian fiction, so verses from the Bible are still likely to pop up here and there in my stories and in the minds of my characters. However, until it’s time for another round of picky line edits, I’m not going to worry that my wording is not exact. After all, that’s part of making the story real.

What about you? Do you still remember things you memorized as a child? Can you recite it perfectly or have a few phrases changed over time? Does it matter as long as you remember the essential parts?

Guest Kimberly Rose Johnson – His Faithfulness Never Ceases

Dear readers, from time to time I ask others to share their stories of faith, hope, and love in order to encourage us all. If you have a story to share, you can find my guidelines under the Connect tab. In the meantime, welcome Kimberly Rose Johnson!

Sometimes it feels as if life is one challenge after another. In my case I caused my own problem. I had received the rights back on a book and wanted to get it re-published before Valentine’s Day—which I accomplished.

My readers started asking when the next book would release. I panicked. The book had originally been written as a stand-alone novel, and I wasn’t prepared to write a sequel.

I realized, to keep their interest I needed to get a book written and published, and I needed to have that book ready for readers no later than June. That might not be a challenge for some writers, but for me it was. I knew there was no way I could do it on my own, but all things are possible with the Lord.

I have a small group of women that I presented my challenge to and asked them to pray for me daily for the next month.

I had a plan. If I wrote 2,000 words five days a week, I would finish in time to get it to the beta readers and then my editor and on down the line to proofreaders. But, I knew I could not write that fast without the Lord’s help. I didn’t have time to chew on the plot and make a gazillion changes if things didn’t work. The story had to be right the first time I wrote it, and I needed the words to come to me fast.

Guess what? Our Lord never fails. The Bible says He is always with us, and He never fails. I sensed His hand on this story as I wrote. I knew He was with me, helping me knock out those 2,000 words each day. I tackled one day at a time and didn’t allow myself to panic as my deadline drew near, and I was still writing the first draft.

I’m happy to say I beat my deadline as I had several days where I wrote close to 5,000 words and got ahead—that is unheard of for me. Again, I credit the Lord.

Yes, I created this situation for myself by not thinking ahead, but I also knew this was something I was called to do and that if I asked the Lord would help me.

The story I’m talking about is An Encore for Estelle. As it happens the main characters in this story had to overcome their own challenges and they also turned to the Lord for help.

I am comforted knowing that He is always there for us no matter what. All we need to do is ask Him and trust Him.

Kimberly Rose Johnson married her college sweetheart and lives in the Pacific Northwest. From a young child Kimberly has been an avid reader. That love of reading fostered a creative mind and led to her passion for writing. She especially loves romance and writes contemporary romance that warms the heart and feeds the soul. Kimberly holds a degree in Behavioral Science from Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington. She is a member of American Christian Fiction Writers.

Book Blurb: The theater ties them together but a painful past could pull them apart.

At a crossroads, former movie star Estelle Rogers, returns to the place that set her life on a new course. Although she expects a rough reception she is pleasantly surprised and quickly settles into her new position at the local children’s theater. But her road back to acting isn’t as smooth as she would like.

Tragedy brought Blake Price to Oak Knoll, Oregon, but it’s love that keeps him there. His late wife and daughter loved acting, and he owes it to them to honor their memory with the children’s theater, but his new assistant is making changes he isn’t ready for both at the theater and in his heart. Can he forgive himself and move forward, or will he forever be tied to the biggest mistake of his life?

Buy the book now on Amazon.

You can sign up for Kimberly’s newsletter via her website, or follow her on Amazon, on Facebook, or on Twitter. (Or all of the above!)

Reflections From a Castle Tower

Yes. That’s where I stayed for several days last week. In a castle. In Colorado. With a room at the top of the tallest tower featuring floor-to-way-over-my-head arched windows.

Officially, I was chaperoning a group of middle school writers and teaching them about plotting fabulous stories. Unofficially, I was dreaming up stories of my own and soaking up the inspiration.

During the day, I was busy from dawn until dark staying ahead of giggling, energetic kids that reminded me of my youngest son at home. Between meals, teaching classes, mentoring during individual writing times, and games, the trip was a non-stop adventure. Despite rain that drove us inside to roast marshmallows for our S’mores over a butane food-warmer-flame instead of at a campfire, the afternoon thunderstorms while inside a castle made it extra magical.

But before breakfast and after lights-out each night, my fingers itched to romp through story ideas set in the regency, medieval, or fairy tale eras. You know. Times where people really lived in castles. From the servants’ tunnel starting at the carriage house to my room at the top of the tower and all the antique features in between including a suit of armor in the main lobby, my imagination spent the days in overdrive and it was all I could do to stay ahead of the brainstorm and record every random thought or idea. (Thank God for notebooks and pens, but mostly my mobile Scrivener app so that all my ideas are already somewhat sorted by topic.)

Even when I fell exhausted onto my pillow at night, my mind still wandered the halls in my dreams. What kinds of people would have lived here or in similar castles? What would it have been like to be a servant and relegated to the shadows or forced to hoist heavy tea trays up narrow, steep servant staircases? To be the pampered child receiving (and expecting) the royal treatment? Would it be easy to fall into an entitled position of false superiority or would a sense of responsibility for the manor translate into compassion and care? This particular castle was home to a young woman suffering from tuberculosis so what other pain did castle-dwellers mask behind a veneer of wealth and privilege?

Castles like this one are filled with secret passages, hidden doors, disguised nooks, and forgotten attics. Just like our lives with secret pain, unfulfilled dreams, and untapped potential. I have to admit that while I learned how much I love (and am good at) brainstorming plots with other writers, I am equally if not more intrigued about the possibility of writing a collection of stories with a castle setting and an exploration of servants vs. royalty through the lives of new characters. (Of course, I’ve got two projects to finish up first, but these castle stories are clamoring for attention as the perfect carrot toward the end of the summer.)

I’m now home again and back in my real world of laundry, dust, dishes, and endless meals…but my heart remains in a castle tower. And some day, either on another teaching trip or in my imagination, I will return to the castle life.

Guest Angela Couch – Waiting For Her Turn

Dear readers, from time to time I ask others to share their stories of faith, hope, and love in order to encourage us all. If you have a story to share, you can find my guidelines under the Connect tab. In the meantime, welcome Angela Couch!

April was a great month for me. My historical romance, The Patriot and the Loyalist, was released, I was busy getting ready for a move into a larger home, and I was entering the second trimester with my fourth pregnancy—yay, no more morning sickness! And then, about a week before our move, and at 14 weeks along, I threatened to miscarry.

But everything was going to be alright.

I stayed in bed catching up on edits, promoting my book, and enjoying a “When Calls the Heart” marathon, while my poor hubby tried to keep up with kids, packing, and a little work on the side.

Everything was going to be alright.

Thursday the 4th of May we had the moving truck booked and friends lined up to help us pack up our home so we could make the three hour drive south Friday morning, (my husband’s birthday). But by two in the morning, I knew plans were going to change. I’d given birth to three babies. I knew what labor felt like. Only this was six months too early. And there was way too much blood.

Prayer brought peace, but not the kind I wanted. With that peace came the understanding that I wasn’t having a baby this Halloween. The understanding that I needed to stop fighting my body and let nature take its course. The hardest thing I’ve ever done.

By eight in the morning I came home to my house of boxes, no longer pregnant.

Yet God did not leave me alone.

I told my husband I wanted to go ahead with the move on schedule. No sitting in limbo. I honestly just wanted the distraction, the busyness around me though I would be of no help. I believe that in itself was a gift from God. And that peace that continued with me. The wonderful understanding that God held my baby…and that someday I would hold him or her, too. I just needed to wait for my turn.

Gradually it became so the miscarriage wasn’t about “losing” my baby. The Lord whispered “patience” to me. His timeline, his plan for my live, and that child’s life, is the perfect one. All I need to do is trust.

To keep from freezing in the Great White North, Angela Couch cuddles under quilts with her laptop. Winning short story contests, being a semi-finalist in ACFW’s Genesis Contest, and a finalist in the International Digital Awards also helped warm her up. As a passionate believer in Christ, her faith permeates the stories she tells. Her martial arts training, experience with horses, and appreciation for good romance sneak in there, as well. When not writing, she stays fit (and warm) by chasing after three munchkins.




Back Cover:

Completing his three years in the Continental Army, Daniel Reid still has no desire to return home-not after losing the woman he loves to a British Captain-so he volunteers to ride south through enemy lines and deliver a message to Colonel Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox. With his temper needing a release and a dark haired beauty finding her way into his broken heart, Daniel decides to join the Swamp Fox’s efforts against the British. Little does he know the British still have the upper hand.

Lydia Reynolds has learned that love comes at a price, and she refuses to pay. Better to close her heart to everything and everyone. When her brother-in-law won’t grant her passage to England, where she hopes to hide from her pain, New Englander, Daniel Reid, becomes her only hope-if she can induce him to give her information about the notorious Swamp Fox and his troops. When the British grow impatient and Daniel evades her questions, Lydia must decide how far to take her charade. The poor man, already gutted by love, hasn’t grown as wise as she. Or so she supposes. . .

Until the truth is known, the muskets are loaded. . .and it is time to decide where true loyalties lie.

Buy links:  On Amazon and At Barnes and Noble

A Season of Growth – Part 3

Spring has sparked a new season of growth for my whole being in body, mind, and spirit. I’ve already talked about growing stronger physically and growing sharper mentally. This week, I’m focusing on growing richer in my spirit.

The spirit is a harder concept to grasp, even if you come from a faith perspective like I do. All I can say is there’s a part of me deep inside my heart or chest region that reacts and responds to beauty around me. A part that longs for more. That sings a new song when inspired. That overflows with abundant love and joy. A part of myself that can just as easily feel parched and isolated and empty.

Just like I feed my body with food and feed my mind with information, my spirit gets fed with beauty. Much of that beauty comes from communication with the Creator of all beautiful things through my quiet times of reflection in the Word of God, prayer, and worship. In the rush of a busy life, this area often gets short-changed so I have to be deliberate and disciplined to protect this time on a regular basis.

I’ve also found that it’s harder to find times of silence when everyone else in our household is out of school for the summer. That’s one reason why I enjoy getting out of the house and heading to a park, the path alongside a lake, or even the nearby mountains. When outside in nature, I’m reminded of the Creator and easily slip into a conversation of thankfulness that in return fills my spirit. Of course, there is also research to show that “forest bathing” through a simple walk among the trees reduces stress and has other health benefits, but I personally think that’s because all time spent in creation feeds the spirit because I feel the same refreshing alongside water or watching the surf roll in on a beach.

There is also inspiration to feed my spirit found in other areas of creation like a powerful musical score, a gorgeous piece of art, the fluidity of dance, and even the laughter of children. So, I’m going out of my way to find these other sources and then pause to soak them in while I can.

Between my quiet times, walks in nature, and other sources of creativity, it’s a season of growth in the way I care for my spirit. How do you feed your internal being and find refreshment?

A Season of Growth – Part 2

Spring has sparked a new season of growth for my whole being in body, mind, and spirit. Last week, I talked about my desire to change, baby steps to get there, and rewards along the way as I transform my flab to fit and tired to toned. This week, I’m focusing on growing my mind.

Confession time. I am an avid reader. Shocker, I know. But I usually read fun books as an escape from the stress or as a reward for getting my boring day job’s work done. Whether they are romance, suspense, historical, or dystopian, I like easy reads where I don’t have to do much in the way of thinking about individual themes or theological concepts. I could spend days on end falling deeper into a world of unending stories.

However, a mental diet of light fiction is like a physical diet made up primarily of chips and soda. There are times we need to chew on the protein-packed meat in order to strengthen our muscles. Likewise, it’s also important to sometimes really dig into a deeper topic and dust off those unused areas of logical thought in the recesses of the brain. That venture might be in the form of a non-fiction book or even a biography of an inspirational person, but either way, the choice must be deliberate.

So, during this season of growth for my mind, I’ve moved a few buried treasures within my to-be-read pile to the top of the teetering stack. Of course, I’m also setting aside time for reading, likely on my front porch where I can sit outside in the nicer weather for a change but still feel like I’m doing something productive. I’ll admit that I’m also alternating fun reads between these heavier books in the stack, but those will be my built-in reward for reading something outside my normal choosing.

There’s also a lot to be said in the field of neurological research about the importance of learning new skills or exercising neglected areas of our brains in order to prevent or hinder dementia or even Alzheimer’s. While I’m only in my mid-40’s, I’m determined to dust off a few areas of critical or logical thought. That’s why I bought a magazine filled with logic puzzles and hope to solve one a day in order to remind myself how to think outside the box. It’s not a huge step, but it will help move me in the direction I want to go by sharpening my mental acuity. Plus, the ability to connect seemingly unrelated things should help with the plotting of my next book.

At our last meeting, one of the member’s of our local writers’ group presented us with an overview of how to use Photo Shop and the cheaper Photo Shop Elements program to create layers with a picture. She will be doing a follow-up session specifically on how to create full book cover layouts for indie publishing and since my writing career is likely headed back that direction, I am looking forward to learning more about both this program and this process while I acquire a few graphic design tools along the way. I’m not exactly artistic so this will certainly stretch my mind by actively learning the program, but the reward will be the ability to create my own book covers on a budget I can afford.

Between books, puzzles, and a self-taught class, it’s a season of growth in the way I’m taking care of my mind. What are you doing to exercise your brain?