Word of the Year

Courage To Be Thankful During Difficult Times

blog post header titled Courage to Be Thankful During Difficult Times by Denise M. Colby

This blog post is about thankfulness. Several blog posts right now are covering the topic of COVID-19 and the Coronavirus. I myself have found it challenging to write something without addressing the elephant in the room. And thus, why I decided to share how I’m trying to focus on finding ways to be thankful (and the one phrase that started all this!)

When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, thankfulness overflows. Even in the darkest of times, we can praise God for his love, his sovereignty, and his promise to be near us when we call. Psalm 145:18

So let’s get started! The other day something struck me that I wanted to share.

I was really thankful we had three bathrooms for the five adults in our house.

And then my mind went to: I was thankful that the other four in my house were boys and not girls, and thus we used less toilet paper.

Oh, the silly things our minds go to, right?

But it got me thinking…what else am I thankful for in these challenging times? I found I could rattle off quite a bit of things.

I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds. Psalm 9:1

 

Here’s my list:

Family dinners every night.

That my family likes each other enough to want to hang out together, even after being around only each other for longer than three weeks.

Technology to connect with others outside our family unit.

The grace and caring I’ve seen from all my kids’ teachers.

The nurses and doctors and first responders who brave this new virus every day.

The hugs and prayers I’m seeing in texts, Facebook, and other social media.

Finding 80% of the items on my list at the grocery store.

For all the workers who ensure that those items are on the shelves at the store (that includes those that make, package, deliver)

The price of gas dropping significantly. $2.49 the last time I gassed up and that’s LOW for California.

I can find and order what I need online.

Daily walks with my husband.

Journals to write down my thoughts and feelings and observances (see my previous post Journaling Through Challenging Times – Ideas, Questions, & Encouragement)

Finding something new to learn and having mental capacity to try it out.

Getting to projects at home, that I haven’t had time for.

Watching the creative content such as the SGN network (Some Good News) by John Krasinski. 

I love seeing the creativity that builds because of limitations. Sometimes we are too busy to think out of the box and that can limit us as well.

Eleanor Roosevelt Quote about strength, courage and confidence over a wooden crate background by Denise M. Colby

My word this year is courage.

I chose it to have more courage in my writing. To take risks. To say no to things that would interrupt me finishing my book. But I also felt courage was a good word for my faith, to open myself to God more with  Bible reading and prayer.

Who knew that this word would be so applicable to what we are facing right now. Courage to trust God. Courage to adapt and adjust to this new normal.

I found these other verses fit with the thankfulness in my heart.

 

Praise the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever. Psalm 106:1

and

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7

and

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

What is something that you are thankful for that is new during these difficult times?

I’d love to hear it.

Journaling

Journaling Through Challenging Times – Ideas, Questions, & Encouragement

Blog Title Graphic Journaling Through Challenging Times- Ideas, questions, and encouragement with photo of person writing in journal while sitting outside

I have found it challenging to sit and relax over the last week or so. I haven’t been interested in reading a book (which is rare for me), nor have I had ideas for writing topics floating in my head like I usually do. So when I picked up my prayer journal this morning I realized I had not written in it for over a week, and my thoughts and feelings had been cooped up inside of me and I needed to get them out. 

So I took a moment to write an entry. It wasn’t long, it wasn’t poetic by any means, but it helped me focus and a few things became clear to me:

Journaling our feelings, thoughts, and fears can be helpful for several reasons.

What we are experiencing is unprecedented and uncharted. There is no normal, routines are mixed up, uncertainty is present, and each day new data points are brought to light. And we need time to process.

Journaling through challenging times allows us to capture:

  • documentation for this unique moment in our lives (this is how history will view this time),
  • identifying our emotions and how we are dealing with everything (this is to help you process what is going on),

AND

  • freeing up space in our brains to do something else.

I’m a firm believer in writing stuff down. Journals can help document, store, and be a great outlet to think. Sometimes we keep things in our head and it spins around and around in ways that prevent us from being able to focus on other tasks.

I’d been blank for what I wanted to write about for my monthly blog post. After I journaled, an idea became quite clear. I love to journal. I love to document. I love to express myself with words. And I would love to help you be able to do that do.

You can write in a journal book (any would do) or just a piece of paper. (If you are interested in sample journal pages you can download here under point #1). You can also type in a google/word doc, or your notes app in your phone. 

Question prompts for journaling during these challenging times.

Remember there is no wrong way to journal. The importance is getting your thoughts written down.

  • Describe what is happening today, right now in the world.
  • How are you specifically impacted by what’s going on?
  • How does this make you feel overall? 
  • Are your feelings changing moment by moment, day by day? What’s the range of emotions you are feeling?
  • Who are you worried about? It’s okay to write it in a paragraph or list format right there in your entry, or write it to the side or on another sheet. There is no wrong way to journal.
  • What are you most disappointed about?
  • What do you miss the most?
  • What is something you are able to do because of this, that you normally don’t do?
  • What is something new you have learned (either about yourself or skill) because of this situation?
  • How is this history in the making?
  • Where are you getting your news? What resources are you checking regularly?
  • How are you staying in touch with people? Who are you staying in touch with?
  • Are you communicating differently than normal? What exactly are you doing differently? 
  • How are these differences impacting you?
  • What is something you want to remember, so you can tell your grandchildren years from now?

You could give yourself intervals to answer these questions every three days or once a week.

Knowing that our “normal” right now will last more than a month or so, our emotions and feelings will most likely expand, change, float, and bounce around our homes. My prayer is that this is helpful for you as well as a fun exercise to document this time in your life. 

Let me know in the comments, any additional questions you might’ve come up with during your journaling time, and I can add them to the list.

Blessings,

Denise

Word of the Year

Living 2020 Full of Courage

Every year I pick a word to represent my focus for the year. For 2020, my word sort of chose me. My word this year? Courage! To live 2020 full of courage.

I couldn’t be more excited to dive into this word and use it to encourage, guide, and direct my life this year. 

When I looked up the definition of courage, it was described as showing bravery in the face of danger, but as I dug deeper, I found that it is also about facing difficulties and fear.

I’ve been writing and editing my first novel for the past six years and it has been a journey. A wonderful, beautiful, sometimes frustrating journey.

But as I’ve entered contests and done more writing, I find I’m afraid to put my work out there over and over, to get feedback (no matter how encouraging), and it’s daunting to know there is more work that needs to be done and I don’t know fully what that is yet. I want to keep working on it and not give up, even though I wonder at times why I keep trying.

This is the courage I want to have in 2020.

For my writing:

  • Courage to finish my book
  • Courage to show it to others and pitch it.
  • Courage to say no to the things that take me away from my goals

But the word courage can be applied in so many areas of my life:

  • Courage to obey God and trust Him fully
  • Courage to have the conversations with my kids I want to have and sometimes don’t
  • Courage to take those moments and make them worthwhile
  • Courage to not miss the moments that can be fleeting

And so much more. In some ways it’s taking last years word, Purposeful, and having the courage to live it out in abundance.

As I look back over my blog, I realize I haven’t always written about the words I’ve chosen each year (I have on other blogs), yet this small decision to choose one word to focus on has reaped so many blessings for me and I’ve grown in all sorts of ways. In a way they sort of build off of each other. I might need to still talk about them. They become a part of me. And I still get encouraged when I see them – like my word for 2017, which I did write about – strength.

Also, when I choose my word for the year, I pick a memory verse as my theme. There are a few that I like for courage, but the one verse that fits my heart the best with this word is:

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

Joshua 1:9

As you can see, the word strength is in this verse as well.

I also like to look up quotes with the word and loved what I found. I have quite a lot to inspire me:

Walt Disney Quote All our dreams can come true, if you have the courage to pursue them with blurred photo of Denise M. Colby leaping in front of Dream sign
Vincent Van Gogh Quote What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? with cursive writing in the background
Steve Jobs Quote And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition

So for 2020, I look forward to seeing how God will use this word to encourage me.

Is it to have courage to finish my book and pitch it for publishing?

To say no to things so I can have the time to work on my book and other things that are most important to me, such as my family?

Will I have courage to listen to God when he nudges me (which is exactly how writing my novel began)?

Whatever it is, I’m really looking forward to this year of courage.

If you’d like help in picking a word, this is a great website page with lots of ideas.

If you have a word picked out for the year 2020, I’d love to know what it is! Let me know if the comments below.

Faith, Hope, & Love

Where Is Your Confidence?

2 Corinthians 3:4-5 - Our competence comes from God

This morning I was reading in 2 Corinthians and the following verse made me stop and pause, so I wrote it down on my handy 3×5 index card for future reference:

Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God.     2 Corinthians 3:5

I want to be a writer. Notice I said I want to, not I am.

I’ve only been writing things for over twenty years – either marketing copy or fiction stories. No matter which, the reality is I struggle with believing in myself. My takeaway from this verse is God’s telling me if I believe in him, I need to believe in myself.

After getting the kids off to school, I took a walk and the verse rattled around in my head. But for some reason the key word competence turned into the word confidence (I wonder who put that there?). As I mulled around thoughts about confidence, I knew I needed to come home and look up the word in the dictionary.

I love words. Definitions, synonyms – all of it. I also love seeing connections words have with other words.  So here’s what the website http://www.dictionary.com says about

CONFIDENCE: full trust; belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance:

And I love the example they gave in a sentence: His lack of confidence defeated him.

Is my lack of confidence in my abilities as a writer defeating me?

I think about my writing and the nudges I have had over the past five years and I know without a doubt God wants me to do this, otherwise doors would’ve closed on me long ago. However I’m not fully doing what he wants me to do because I have not had the confidence to just do it.

I’ve been saying for a while now, I would like to write devotionals. I have this strong innate desire to share hope, encouragement and God’s Word with others. What I haven’t been sure about is the how and what. So I haven’t done it, period.

When I took my walk this am something clicked and I couldn’t wait to get back home because I needed to do this right now. God has confidence in me. He has given me the desire. He’s nudging me to do this. Why have I not done this? Why?

I’m afraid – that’s why. What am I so afraid of? Putting myself out there? Looking like an idiot? Is that confidence then? I know I’m not looking for accolades, not looking for stardom. I just want to write and share my heart. But I’ve been too scared to do that.

Then I saw the Synonyms for confidence – 1. faith, reliance, dependence.

And the Antonym – 1. mistrust.

Wow!

In a nutshell, my lack of confidence in myself (lack of faith) and the abilities God has given me (lack of faith, dependence) are holding me back from sharing something he wants me to share.

I’m not really trusting God then, am I? If I have faith, I should have confidence in what he’s asking me to do. And I need to depend on Him when I do it.

So here I am today. Writing a devotional and setting up a specific devotional page on my website. Only God knows what will happen. I just need to have the confidence to do it (already the nagging doubts are creeping in). I must rely on God with the rest.

But wait, there’s more. When I grabbed my Bible to write in the verse, I realized I made a mistake (was it really?) and the word was competence not confidence. Oh no! Do I scrap what I just wrote? Does it even relate? See maybe I shouldn’t be doing this after all. I paused for a moment then decided to look it up:

COMPETENCE: having suitable or sufficient skill, knowledge, experience, etc., for some purpose; properly qualified:

And the Synonym: 1. fit, capable, proficient.

No antonym. Interesting. There is no negative/opposite of being competent.  You either are or you are not. I may not be the best writer, but I know I am proficient. So what am I waiting for?

Then I looked at 2 Corinthians 3:4 Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God.

If God has given you skills – you are capable to use them for his glory. You just need to have the confidence through Him to do it. 

What abilities (competence) has God given you?  Where do you put your confidence?  In your own efforts, schedule, skills, voices in your head? Or do you trust God?  Do you have the confidence to put yourself out there with whatever it is?

God has given us all skills. We are all competent in something. Being competent does not need to mean you are the best at something.

Being competent means you are proficient. You can get the job done.

We let our own voices tell us we are not competent because we think we need to be the best or someone does it better than us and we let it affect our confidence which in turn affects what we do.    

Everyone’s path is different and God has one he wants you to follow. He has given you these skills for a reason. You just have to have confidence in Him that He is with you every step of the way.

God believes in you and I believe in you too!

Word of the Year

Finding Strength

Life is hard, crazy and stressful and in those moments when we search for answers, sometimes God connects things in a way that makes me stop in awe.

The last two years I have chosen a word to focus on.  Hope was my first word in 2015 and Believe was my word in 2016. 

For this year I have chosen – STRENGTH – and in searching up verses I am amazed to see how many fit where I am.

In my walk with God.  My daily struggles of life.  My writing career.  Everything.

Philippians 4:13 is all about strength in the Lord

I know I need strength as I begin showing my work to agents, publishers, critique partners, you name it. 

I need to be able to take criticism and suggestions and have strength to really hear the recommendations to make me a better writer.  I also want to lean on God’s strength in all aspects of my life.  As I get older, I realize that I can’t do life without him.

There are so many I want to highlight so for me to pick just one is really challenging.  So throughout the year, I will share different ones on my Facebook and Twitter accounts.  Here’s one though, I want to share:

Psalm 119:28 My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.

I love this last one personally.  Many days I feel weary dealing with everyday life.  And I know I’m not alone. I hope that these verses can offer you some comfort as they do to me.

So now that I firmly have my word set for the year, I look forward to seeing how God will use this word to encourage me, bolster me, show me things. 

And He will.  Not even a week after I selected STRENGTH, imagine my surprise when my Bible Study book I ordered – Priscella Shearer’s Gideon – came in and the cover had these words: your weakness. Gods strength. Oh how God knows things before we do.  The fact that I’ll be spending six weeks studying God’s strength?  I’m so excited.

I would encourage you to consider selecting a word to focus on.  Write down 3 or 4 that pop in your mind and then look up verses to them.  As you ponder each one, God will let you know what the right one would be.  And I hope that it gives you infinite encouragement in all aspects of your life, just as mine have done for me.

Blessings, Denise

Writing

Taking Time to Reflect…

black and white photo of clock face showing time to represent it's important to take time to reflect

Sometimes I look at my manuscript and feel I have so much to learn still, so much to do, before my work is print worthy, and this awful feeling of hopelessness overcomes me.  What am I really doing?  Will I ever get it right?  And then I start telling myself other authors don’t run into this same problem, do they?  Maybe I’m not cut out for this.

And then I go to one of my writing groups and realize I’m not the only one to feel this way.  Writing is such a solitary experience, yet when you get together with other writers you share all the same questions, concerns, and thoughts.  I love the writing groups I’m a part of. In person and online, I’ve met so many wonderful people and have learned so much. When I think about the meetings, online classes, and notes I’ve taken over the last two years, it makes me realize how important it is to take time to reflect back from where I started and see just how far I’ve come.

I knew nothing of the writing world terminology, yet I now can have a conversation and understand most of the lingo, spouting off terms such as ms, dialogue tags and gmc. I know now, authors don’t get it perfect the first time, sometimes writing through three to four edits after the rough draft.

I’ve learned about understanding your characters more, figuring out what the hero/heroine goals, conflicts and motivations are. I can throw stuff at them to see how they will respond. I’ve seen a character take a life of their own and get themselves into a whole heap of trouble. And how fun it is to watch it evolve on the page.

I’ve learned how to set up my website, social media accounts and write my author profile.  I’ve figured out my author brand, audience and the genre I prefer to write.  I’ve read several new authors, expanding my knowledge both as a reader and a writer.

I’ve entered contests and learned what “on the nose” dialogue is, that passive voice does not mean the same thing as past tense, and to be really careful not to tell but show action and how hard it is to do. I’ve learned my initial writing is full of data dumps and I now can delete words without panicking. I’ve survived receiving constructive feedback and now know, it’s not the end of the world.

As I reflect back, I realize, even though I have so much still to learn, I have come so far and that is something to be really proud of.  It’s nice to know I have made many new friends who are rooting for me each step of the way. 

I am so thankful for these writing groups and all the wonderful writers who have opened their hearts and minds to share what they’ve learned to us newbies.  I look forward to someday being able to do the same in return.

Word of the Year

What Word Represents 2016?

What WORD would you choose to represent this year?

Over the last several years I’ve read articles about people selecting a specific word or phrase that represents the year for them. It could be an area to focus on or something God has put on their heart to study and live out daily throughout the year.

Last year was the first year I selected a word and after several days of listing out different words, I selected the word Hope.

It summarized for me where I was in my life – both writing and personal. I had hope for my writing and where it was leading me, that I wanted to write about hope to offer hope to others, hope for how God would provide for my family, hope for the future and so much more.

Several times throughout the year I found myself leaning on that word knowing God wanted me to never lose Hope, making sure it was in the words I wrote and in my actions.  It really did sum up my year when I reflect back. 

So this year I was excited to see what new word would fit me and my life.  I prayed about it and wrote down several words that I felt my heart leaning towards, but one kept coming up more than the others, so…

for 2016 I selected…..

BELIEVE

First and foremost I need to BELIEVE in God, believe he will meet my needs, and so on.  I also need to believe I can become a published author, believe I have something worthy to say, believe in this journey God is taking me on, believe in my family and their support, and so much more.

I looked up the word Believe in the bible and there are too many verses to count with the word believe in it, but as I read different ones it became even more clear that this was the right word for me this year.  So many of them spoke to me, specifically: 

Overhearing what they said, Jesus told him, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”  Mark 5:36

“If you can’t?” said Jesus. “Everything is possible for one who believes.”  Mark 9:23

Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!  Luke 1:45

Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.  John 7:38

I know without a doubt that this is the word for me this year. The year I’m going to believe in myself to show my work to agents, editors and hopefully become a published author.

I just need to believe

I encourage you to take some time to reflect and pray about a word for you for 2016. When we take time to listen to what God wants for us it is amazing how he can encourage and strengthen us in our journey through his Word. 

Let me know what word or words you choose for your focus word this year. 

Blessings to you throughout 2016. 

Denise

Personal

When Obstacles Hold You Back

image of a stop sign to represent obstacles stopping you from what you want to do Blog Post by Denise M. Colby
Don’t let obstacles stop you from doing what you were meant to do

There are always obstacles that seem to get in the way of what our real intentions are.  Interruptions such as phone calls, a computer that keeps freezing, kids who must find something right now or else,  or the dog who barks at you because he wants to go out again for the 12th time.

Sometimes while I’m driving across town, I hit every red light sequence making myself even later than before.  It’s at that moment, I feel God is trying to get my attention – that it’s time to slow down.

Of course I don’t realize it until I feel like I want to scream.

Whatever it is, obstacles can take a day that looks promising and make it very frustrating, so we have to find a way to refocus and get back on track so we don’t lose the entire day.

Anything can distract us – like the phone that’s now ringing (I’m laughing as the phone keeps ringing while I’m writing this).  So what if we took those distractions and saw them as God’s way of rerouting us?

That’s when I can take a step back and see that some obstacles are a blessing in disguise. 

A chance to evaluate what’s most important to spend my time on.  An interruption that makes you pause and refocus, especially when you have less time and you need to pick the one thing that needs to get done first.

I can feel it even now.  I’ve had this idea for this blog topic all day and due to a variety of things, it’s now 5pm and I’m finally writing it.  But I didn’t want to not do it.  So many times I have an idea and I don’t go for it and then later I can’t remember what it was I wanted to write down. In a way, the frustration forced me to say if there is one thing I do before I start dinner, what is it?

So when you feel obstacles getting the best of you – do not give up. 

Walk away and focus on something else for a bit. 

Write a list of what’s on your mind. 

Go drink a glass of water. 

Whatever it is, you need some sort of momentum and progress in order to help overcome the moment. 

Don’t stop.  Keep pushing forward.  Don’t give up!  Even 15 minutes on task is 15 minutes more than before.  And the determination that comes from refocusing can help you gain greater progress.

Take a deep breath, say a prayer and ask God to help you. That’s what I did and I really think this message is more from him than me because of it.

Blessings,

Denise

Faith, Hope, & Love

Love & Hope, 1 Corinthians 13:7

Heart Clip Art 55

Depending on the moment, certain bible verses can stand out and speak to us in a new way.  As I work on my overall theme for my writing, I know I want to write about hope. Hope in Jesus and hope in our lives. 

I also want to write about love. Jesus’ love and romantic love. I came across a bible verse that jumped out at me with this exact theme. Then I opened my bible to find it and what I read was completely different.    

It took me a minute and then I remembered there are lots of different translations of the bible. I wanted to find the specific one I saw. So I dug a little deeper and of course, Googled it.  Sure enough the version I was looking for was the NLT (New Life Translation). It reads like this:

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful and endures through every circumstance.  1 Corinthians 13:7.

I looked a bit and found a few other translations.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres – NIV

Bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. – NKJV

I find it interesting the different words that are used to say the same thing and how they speak to us differently at different times. 

I like the idea that in a romantic story a couple who find “true love” have withstood whatever conflict has been thrown at them. They ultimately did not give up on each other and what they have ended up with is something wonderful and special.

I like how this verse can communicate that. 

But after pondering a while on all that, I could see a bigger truth in this statement.

God’s love never gives up

God’s love never loses faith

God’s love is always hopeful

God’s love endures through every circumstance. 

That no matter where you are or where you are going, God loves you. 

Always (NIV version), in Everything (NKJV).  And his love will bear all things. God’s love always protects. God’s love always perseveres. He’s not going to shelter us from things happening.  But his love for us will help us persevere. Through anything.

There’s a peace in that thought.  Something to take root in our hearts.  Because when we are full of HIS Love, then we can love others the way God wants us to.

Personal

God-Sized Dreams Are A Lot of Work!

Have you every realized the God-sized dreams are a lot of work?

I’ve got this great DaySpring calendar I’m using called “You’re Made for a God Sized Dream” by Holley Gerth.  Every day there are inspiring words to encourage me to pursue my God sized dream. 

That dream is being a writer/author. 

I’m not sure where it came from.  I always enjoyed creative writing when I was a kid and I love to read.  But somehow over the last few years, this nudging that has been going on, is telling me to do something. 

But it was really easy for me to find reasons not to pursue it – time, energy, cost, how hard it would be.

So with the blessing from my wonderful husband and family, I’m on this journey of following God’s nudge.  And this God-Sized Dream calendar fits in perfectly with that.  So some of the messages make me want to shout out my thoughts to the world that affect me so much.

Take for instance this one:

God-sized dreams are a lot of work.  It can seem because we have this grand vision that it will all just fall into place.  But that never happens.  Ever.  You have to be prepared to do the work.  Over and over again. 

And so I’m trying to do just that.  It’s encouraging when I just got a critique that made me feel like I would never “get it”.  That what I think is okay for my writing isn’t.  But then I read this and I realize that is what I am doing. 

I’m doing work and not giving up. 

Because now that I’ve started this journey, I don’t want to give up.

Which leads right into the next day’s message:

In order to get a lot out of a God-sized dream, you’ll have to put a lot into it. 

Here’s to putting all I have into this dream.  God, it’s all in your hands.

Blessings,

Denise