Let’s Change the World

August 27th, 2016 // Winding through the canyon on Highway 49 Saturday morning, I listened to the very first episode of the STORY podcast, which you can find on iTunes. (It’s essentially a way for the people who attend this conference to stay connected to it all year around).

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And honestly I don’t think it was a coincidence that just a week after subscribing to it that when I went to the podcast app on my iPod, STORY’s first episode downloaded and Jeremy Cowart’s name was apart of the title.

February 2016 // But this really goes back all the way to February when Jeremy shared his  “I’m Possible” video on Facebook. Continue reading

Real Life. True Love.

Today started off like any normal Saturday for me: I went to the laundromat and when I got home I balanced the check register and updated Everydollar. And then I did something kind of out of the ordinary: I looked up directions to The Bookseller, a local bookstore in Grass Valley so I could attend the YA Author Panel at 1pm.

12:13pm // I was so proud of myself because I left early enough to explore the bookstore a little bit before the event.

Because of my car accident at the beginning of June, I’ve been chauffeured around for the past two months. Since our new-to-us car purchase last week, I’ve been driving myself again and I feel like a new driver in some instances. Today, I felt really proud of myself for driving up Grass Valley Highway. (I’m a nervous driver to begin with. The accident didn’t help with that).

And then Garfield (our GPS) told me to take Exit 182A 174/Colfax. If you didn’t know–because I didn’t until today–this is an exit only lane. And it was crowded. And because I am overly cautious and nervous I did not force my way in. I tried–I slowed down a little and my blinker was on–but I decided to just pass it.

Continue reading

WARNING: Don’t Do Life Solo!

I’m a bit of a sporadic blogger. I am a sporadic blogger at best. After I wrote about God being weird, I overthought my review post of A Thousand Splendid Suns. (I’m pretty sure I cried about it. Here’s my current review of it: just go read it). And Anthony and I decided I needed to focus on writing my novel because that’s my Number One. I’ve always wanted to be an author. But I’m also all about the Shiny New Thing. And blogging, for me, is that Shiny New Thing. (Similiar to Twitter, when I first signed up haha).

But tonight I needed to put something out there because it literally just hit me. I’ve gotten back into journaling recently (as in: I’ve been journaling again regularly for about a week and a half). It’s so good for my soul, people. I think 100s of things every day in response to what I’m reading – novels, Non-Fiction books, articles, Facebook posts, conversations at work – and by not journaling I push all those thoughts to the back and eventually it all comes out in tears and kleenex to my patient husband. (Which also might be why I love this space: I have another Thought Outlet).

Anyway.

One of my favorite Bible verses says:

“Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none of them.” – Psalm 139:16

I initially fell in love with this verse because it stood out to me during a struggle. God knew about that particular struggle. He knew about the trouble we would have with Anthony’s Ford Taurus. He knew we would owe money this year instead of receiving a refund. He knew about Hanky dying. He knew about troubles we’ve experienced at our jobs. He knew of all the past bad days. He knows all the future ones. And it might sound strange, but even when there’s no one who understands what you’re going through, it’s comforting to know that God knows. He didn’t cause the health issue or the flat tire or the Taurus to be in the shop for a week (maybe closer to two). But He did know about them. So, you can be mad at Him or be so thankful He’s walking with you through it.

There’s a flip side to this verse. One that I never considered until tonight (only because I experienced a very big, personal win in my life).

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#throwback to December 2015 when I received my NaNoWriMo Winner’s t-shirt in the mail. (Of course I put it on right away!) Just another adventure God knew about 🙂

David writes in the above verse that God knows all our days. So, if God knew all of our past bad days and knows all about the ones coming up, it’s safe to say: God knows all of our good days, too.

*sigh of relief*

This is great news, people! God knew that Anthony would be baptized and that he’s growing into a wonderful Christian man. God knew we would get married. God knew that Ant would surprise me for my birthday this year. He knew I would reconnect with my friend Monica. He knew we would find Moochy. He knew we would love our Auburn church family. He knew we would move to Meadow Vista. He knew we would paddle board together in Lake Tahoe and have bookish adventures in Clear Lake.

God also knows of all our future good days, too! All about Anthony’s future engineering/architecture career. When my book will be published. When we will be able to have children. Where we will live. He knows all of the fun, amazing, silly things we will get to be apart of in our future life together.

I love that.

Thank God, we don’t walk through dark times by ourselves. (Because I’ve tried relying on myself during hard times. All that results in is more tears, more guilt and shame, the higher more unattainable the expectations are). But this thought, this truth, that God is on the other side of our struggles: now that’s something to run towards. With God I can soar (a very loose translation of Isaiah 40:31). With God, all things are possible (Philippians 4:13). Because He’s giving me strength through the trial and He’s on the other side, waiting for me to see the joy that perseverance and trust in Him brings.

David to God (again):

“For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lights my darkness.” – Psalm 18:28*

We don’t have to do life by ourselves. Thank you, God, for walking with me through life’s dark times and being there on the other side of them. The joy and comfort this brings me is indescribable.

*and this is only one of the verses in the Bible about God being light in our lives. Start in Psalms and go through Proverbs with your pink and yellow highlighters so that the next time you need light in your life they stand out on the page.

God is so weird! (in the best way)

“giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” Ephesians 5:20.
Anthony and I filed our taxes over the weekend and ended up owing almost $200 (we kept pressing the “explain this” icon on Turbo Tax, but the explanation never seemed to be complete). We were disappointed, to say the least. I think I cried. It once again just felt like we had been shoved backwards after taking many small steps forward. The money we ended up not spending in February was going to fill up our Beginner Emergency Fund. Now it would  cover the amount we owe.
Sunday morning, we studied through the middle-ish of Ephesians, the above verse included – and I knew that even with $200 owed to the government, there is always something to be thankful for. The “everything” part was still a little elusive.
Fast forward to this evening, just a few hours ago.
We sat down together for our March Budget Meeting with the mindset of No Fun March. Besides paying off our owed tax money, the first three paychecks we apply for March are smaller than normal because one to days of pay are nonexistent in February. So we cleared out February’s items in EveryDollar and the amount still left to be budgeted exceeded $300. (Keep in mind that March is Car Registration Month for Mozzie, Auto and Renters insurance went up – on top of an extra payment to insurance because of the transition period between getting the Mazda and getting rid of the Taurus). And we had purposely decided not to spend money on too many extra items because getting $1,000 in the Emergency Fund is our first priority right now. (Our non-negotiables this month: boxers for Anthony and colored ink for the printer).

Even after our usual walk-thru of the house, we still came back to the table with nothing necessary needed. So, we adjusted Gas and added money to Special Occasions (for my birthday). But in the end we did what we consider to be fun: $208.17 was assigned to the Emergency Fund and $46.29 was added to the credit card payment (on top of $77).
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our debt free floor plan. the kitchen, the second smallest room, of our first home together represents our second smallest debt, the credit card. halfway done! {9.10.2015}
GUYS! Do you realize what this means??
Our Beginner Emergency Fund – which should really be renamed Peace Fund – will be full for the first time since September! AND the best part: the credit card will be UNDER $400. Three Hundred Fifty-two Dollars and Something Cents to be exact. The credit card will cease to exist in JUNE!
The “everything”part of Ephesians 5:20 was just defined.
“God is so weird!” I exclaimed as I tried to process what we would be able to accomplish financially  this month. “In the best way.”

 

I don’t know if it that was a spiritually accurate thing or a very Christian thing for me to say that. But I did. And, who knows, maybe He laughed over it. What I do know is this:

“giving thanks always and for everything TO GOD the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,” (emphasis added).

It’s not that God leaves and comes back when He feels like it. He’s not some big meanie who likes to watch Anthony and I struggle. It didn’t make Him happy that I cried over owing money. God is always with us. Always. Through the big and the small. It’s (obviously) not ideal to owe money when filing taxes, but he used March’s Budget Meeting to remind us to be thankful and He can do everything. We can accomplish everything we set out to because He is gives us the strength to carry on, to push forward, to take the next small step.

Tonight is just one of the moments that Ant and I will be able to look back on in the small things, when Life is hard and it feels like we’re spinning our wheels. Tonight will forever be a reminder that it is God who takes care of us.

I’ll leave you with a quote from a friend of ours:

“Faith is all around us. God (practically) demands it of us.” – Phil C.

Even when we owe $200. Even when it feels like we’re going backwards. Even in the same routine of work and school and making ends meet. There’s always something to be thankful for. I trust God.

Bob & God

Note: This post was supposed to roll out Monday evening. And naturally I would live up to every word in this blog post. Instead, Life happened like it likes to. Monday night I dealt with bugs and couldn’t concentrate. Tuesday I stayed an hour later for work. Last night was Bible Study. I came home last night just so grumpy and irritated, picking at Anthony and frustrated with myself. I cried because the only productive day it felt like I’ve had was all the way back at the beginning of this week: Sunday. It seems like a distant memory  now. Then last night I read Nicole Dianne‘s words: “…you have to be the one to take action. As with most things in life, hobbies and interests don’t just land in your lap…when you pursue creativity, it too will find you.” Amen. So, without further ado, I present you “Bob & God.” Happy Thursday, Friends! May you give yourself enough grace the rest of this week to pursue your dreams.

I’m currently reading Love Does by Bob Goff. On page 133 he writes this:

“I think God is more of a Half Dome traveler than a Hampton Inn traveler. Jesus doesn’t invite us on a business trip. Instead He says let’s go after those things that inspire and challenge you and let’s experience them together…”

Bob Goff is one of those people who just talks so relateably about Jesus and Life. The things that inspire and challenge me – writing, reading, church, devos and Bible studies, relationships, my attitude, health – I struggle with viewing those areas of life as God experiencing them with me. I’ve always viewed them as for God. There’s a difference. The latter implies sacrifice (which Bob talks about in Chapter 13) and working and not a loving relationship with a loving God, more like a relationship you have with a supervisor or manager. The former makes life a whole lot easier to look at, a lot less lonely, and more than just bearable – it’s fun! With God I’m not just not tired, I’m running. I’m soaring! (Isaiah 40:29-31).

“…You don’t need a lot of details or luggage or equipment, just a willingness to go into the storm with a Father who’s kicking footholds into the steep sides of our problems while we kick a couple in ourselves too…”

I love details. And lists. And plans. Routines. I love crossing things off. Which is why I’ve finally once again planned out a daily schedule for myself and given myself goals for this month. Two living, breathing, attainable goals. (“Intentionality, people!” – Dave Ramsey) But there comes a time when I’ve planned too much, made too many lists, taken too many notes, sat through too many classes, live events, and webinars. When life is overwhelming and everything runs around in my head, I tend to go to the extreme: Do Nothing. Goals don’t exist yet here. Dreams stay dreams. Chances are I will absorb some new/interesting/fun information related to my genre or readership or the craft of writing in general or about Christianity, attitude, living, or health, but what’s the point of absorbing information if I’m not giving myself the time and space to process any of it? If I could, I would be a Forever Student. Well, I am one because I’m always learning wherever I am. But I would really go back to school just to be in school, taking a whole bunch of random classes that add up to nothing except a major in Life and Fun and Learning. I love being a student. However, that’s not the point of college. A degree helps you specialize in one area. Which is why I don’t see myself going back to college anytime soon because 1) it’s not in the budget to send me to school for fun and 2) my focus right now is Writing.

I rarely see Life as the adventure it is, let alone an adventure with God. I NEED to be better at remembering- knowing – He is on the journey with me. He isn’t my supervisor or manager, who observes me working down here on earth or sits in His office. He is my Father. He is walking with me. He’s trying to lead. (Am I letting Him?) He is my peace (Ephesians 2:13-16) in the Half Dome-sized problems and seemingly insignificant ones, too.

I haven’t made much progress out of Dreamland since my epic river jump at the end of last summer. In 4 months and 11 days I accomplished things. Anthony and I saw Jim Butcher, author of The Codex Alera and The Dresden Files series, at a Copperfield’s book signing. (Now that was an adventure!) I attended Michael Hyatt’s online Influence and Impact Summit. I won a 1-year free membership to Platform University as a result of that Summit. I got like three colds. We learned our cat is allergic to a White Fir Christmas Tree. I did win NaNoWriMo with 51,000+ words – a HUGE step out of Dreamland, but the first draft still isn’t finished. I reblogged this post about infertility and scared my sister – and possibly confused others. (For personal reasons, but not quite in the same capacity, I relate to infertility posts. And I admire those who are so honest and vulnerable on the internet about their personal lives and struggles).

Getting out of Dreamland is hard. Some days it takes sheer determination and doesn’t always feel like an adventure.

“…He guides us into those footholds with His strong hands while we’re safely tethered to Him by a bright red rope of grace, which holds us securely…”

However Thursday, February 4th became my new January 1st. As previously mentioned, I now have a schedule of my daily life. Novel Writing is scheduled between 8 and 9 o’clock at night during the week. (While it’s a priority, it still comes after Anthony and I eating dinner and washing dishes). Somewhere between 3 and 4 hours of writing time will happen on the weekends. Home and Health – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual – are priorities this year as well.

I have a Bullet Journal in the works that I’m actually using (!!!).

February is Operation Finish Amy Story First Draft.

Also, God will be the start to my days! I know I am a much nicer, happier human after I’ve spent time with Him. And it will help give my whole heart and mind to my day job.

“…the terrain we navigate doesn’t seem as scary either, because when you’re on an adventure with God we’re too excited to be afraid and too engaged to be thinking of anything else.”

And thanks to Bob Goff I’m not just working for God, I’m living right alongside Him. He is holding my hand, asking me to continue to put my faith in Him. I’m still holding a piece of paper with my scribbled details and questions but I’m looking at it less often. Because I’m connected to Him.

So, until my novel’s complete first draft is resting peacefully in my desk, this may be the last post for awhile (which isn’t unusual for me at all). Look for me in March-ish: while Amy’s story naps, I will become a student of WordPress.

I know I’m a month behind, but I don’t want my lack of movement in January to dictate the next 11 months of 2016. I am dreaming Big Dreams this year and planning Baby Steps to accomplish them.

Fare thee well, Readers, God and I have a story to write!

Ripple Effects

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This is not Clarks Hole. This is the river near the Mountain Quarries Rail Road Bridge. It’s also the best shot of ripples we got today.
The coolest thing happened today.

I jumped.

Off of a 7 or 8 foot high rock into the North Fork of the American River just past the Foresthill Bridge.

It was one of the most terrifying, fun, courageous things I’ve done in awhile.

The thing is: the majority of the time I sat on that rock, psyching myself out, hundreds of metaphors filed into my mind. “So many metaphors are coming to me,” I told Anthony who was back on the rock next to me after his first jump. “Sometimes being a writer is a curse.”

A couple of other people were on the rock next to us just jumping into the water. I think they came back three times while I sat up there.

“Why can’t I be that brave?” I asked out loud.

“If you can ride roller coasters, you can do this,” Anthony said to me. “You’ve just got to do it, babe.”

Of course this advice applies to every aspect of my life. If I can jump off of a rock, then I can:

  • get up early and exercise or do yoga before bed
  • write a story and see it through to publication
  • overcome vaginismus
  • never be tied to credit cards
  • grow my little internet home into something bigger

If I can jump off of a rock, then I can do anything – I can do everything – I set out to do and be.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.

– Lao Tzu

A published book on a shelf at Barnes and Noble starts with me putting words on paper.

The journey to Financial Peace starts with budgeting and getting out of debt.

The journey to a healthy body begins with putting an exercise routine into place.

Back on that rock, the momentum built up. I wanted to walk away. To just go back into the water the way I came. But there’s a reason they say the best way to get used to cold water is to jump in.

I moved to a lower “shelf” of rock. Anthony moved to the one I had just recently vacated. He looked at me. “Jump with me. On three we jump. You ready?”

I said no at least twice. What could’ve been the third time he asked, I said “no” again quickly followed by a “just keep counting anyway.”

He did.

Three.

I jumped. Screaming on the way down.

I need to hold my breath.

Splash!

Back up for air, swimming toward the opposite shore with a racing heart and wobbly legs. (I’m not the best swimmer.)

Today, I jumped. Off of a 7 or 8 foot high rock into the ice-cold water of the North Fork of the American River. It was the most fun, terrifying, courageous thing I’ve done in awhile.

Writing metaphors are everywhere in my life. I am aware of them more than I’ve ever been and I’m pretty sure it’s because of this blog, because my heart of hearts beats to the drum of Writer. It just takes a single jump. It may be incredibly terrifying. Actually, if it’s something you could do the rest of your life and love it in spite of  how hard it will be, there is 100% chance it WILL BE terrifying. But I promise you: it’s so much fun on the way down.

If I hadn’t jumped, this positive, confident blog post wouldn’t have been written and posted today. Because I jumped I am going to – for the hundredth time – create a writing schedule. I have writing dreams that are stuck in Dreamland because the only person who can move them into Reality is unhappily comfortable residing in Dreamland. One day at at time. One step at a time. One jump and many ripples are created.

What is one step you can take today in the direction of your dream?

P.S. There is no epic photo of my husband and I in mid-jump. There will be no iPhone filter enhancing the brightness of the river water or the rays of sun streaming from the left-hand side. I was totally tempted to yell across the river to my sister to grab our iPhone-turned-camera-only and just start snapping pictures of the entire jump. Afterwards, I even voiced my wish that it had been documented. But, thinking back on it, I’m kind of glad there isn’t one because I can see it my head. I know how bright the sun was today. I know how clear the water was. I remember what it was like to plunge straight down into the icyness and fight my way back up. I can see our hands in the air. I hear myself screaming to give myself momentum. I will always remember the day I jumped. No photo necessary.

P.P.S. Also, the “thing” that held me accountable to jumping: the person who jumped with me, counting to three. He’s been jumping beside me for five years. Anthony Paul, thank you.

<img class="wp-image-16 size-medium" src="https://tracyerler.files.wordpress.com/2015/09/26-17.jpg?w=225" alt="jumping together since 2010 jumping together since 2010 ❤

Childhood Books: Welcome Here

In 2006, I read The Lost Colony, the fifth book in Eoin Colfer’s Artemis Fowl series. Fast forward nine years to Today: I have finally completed the series as an adult.

I found Books 6, 7, and 8 thanks to Goodreads. I marked them as “to-read” without any plans to make them a priority since I’ve spent the majority of my adult life reading adult YA books. However, friends of ours asked Anthony for a list of books I would like for my birthday – series books specifically. Artemis Fowl was at the top of that list.

Last night after reading the last page and closing the book, I had the familiar “It’s over” feeling that accompanies every book series I finish. It’s a mix of sadness, relief, and joy.

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I finally own them all 🙂

After sleeping on it, however, I am thankful for the chance I had to finish the series. I was given a chance to read and own any book series and Artemis Fowl was the one I chose. That chance gave me the opportunity to live out and return to a piece of my childhood. Holly, Artemis, Commander Root, Foaly, and Butler flooded back to the forefront of my imagination for two short months. I will never know for sure, but I am almost certain these characters introduced me to my love for fantasy and magic. They helped prepare the way for the stories of Harry Potter, Kvothe, Eragon, Tavi, and others.

I will miss them and their adventures, but they sit on the book shelf in the officey-writing corner of our small house where their lesson will not soon be forgotten:

Books I started reading in middle school do not have to stay unfinished because of my age. They are welcome in my grown-up home.

I am excited to take a closer look at other series my younger self has started.

What about you? What books from your childhood do you wish to finish?