Dear blog reader, Today I want to share four gifts from my desk to you. I haven’t posted here for a couple months now—not ‘cause I’ve had my feet up—but ‘cause I’ve had my bum in my chair and my fingers on my keys focusing on several projects for Revive Our Hearts. I want to share them with you now, in the hopes that something here will bless you today.
Gift 1: Living with the Difficult People in Your Life
From July 31 to September 11, I had the privilege of leading a seven-week Facebook Live study for our newly released Bible study, “Abigail: Living with the Difficult People In Your Life.” I taught two nights—once on God’s providence and the other night on the sticky Imprecatory Psalms. The other evenings I interviewed guests. I found Vaneetha Risner’s story on forgiveness especially powerful. Enjoy! (And thanks to my hubby for taking care of Iren while I recorded these live segments!)
Gift 2: Ten Truths to Set Leaders Free
I then contributed a chapter to this new ebook, which you can download for free. My chapter addresses the lie, “My ministry is insignificant compared to leaders with larger platforms.” Plus, read other lies and truths for leaders from nine other writers.
Gift 3: I Choose Truth
Three coworkers and I wrote this 30-day “I Choose Truth” email devotional. Here are the six weighty truths I covered:
“There is no one I cannot love.”
“There is no one I cannot forgive.”
“It’s not about me; It’s all about Him.”
“I can keep God’s commands.”
“The cross of Christ is sufficient to conquer my sinful flesh.”
Finally, today I’m over at TrueWoman.com writing about My Favorite True Woman Conference Yet. Trevor and I just got back late Monday. Usually, I’m holed up transcribing messages or writing blog posts, but this year, I co-hosted the livestream. Because I knew I’d need stories to share on the stream, I was “forced” to interact with women and not simply type on my computer. What a gift!
I wrote this post to share some of these women’s stories with you. Thank you for praying for them as many of them have just returned to difficult life situations.
I hope these four gifts from my desk to you encourage your heart today. I’m grateful for you!
I’ve enjoyed letting you peek over my hubby’s shoulder to see that I’m not the only writer in the family. You’ve read his Romans 5 hymn as well as his mock Chick-fil-A hymn. Today, I promised you one final installment of poems by my accountant hubby, just for fun.
A Shakespearean Sonnet
First, the Shakespearean sonnet he wrote over three years ago while flying west to propose to me. (If you knew the ins and outs of our dating relationship, you’d see that this is replete with symbolism and meaning!)
An unexpected blessing came to me,
A treasure from the realm of heaven sent.
‘Twas flown on wings across a digital sea,
The seed that grew into love’s bless’d event.
A bloom of life and love was found within
An unexpected place. A prairie flower
Grown in good soil she neither toils nor spins,
But drinks the rain, enjoys the Sun’s great pow’r.
I journeyed far to gain this precious rose,
By land and air, through darkness deep inside.
I’ll carry her through thorns and fears below
Held by his Hand in raging storms and tides.
The rising Day will banish soon the night.
Sojourn with me till then, and be my wife.
(How could a girl say no to that?!)
A Dog-Doo Shooing Strategy
So we wed and moved into the yellow house on the corner. No sooner had Trevor rid the house of fleas than we started finding dog poo in our yard. So naturally, Trevor wrote a poem. He placed it in a weather-proof sleeve, and attached it to our fence with some plastic baggies:
I thought to take a walk one day
All through the eastern wood of ’Cuse
But wait, my dog, he longs to play
I bring him too, I’ve no excuse
I walk down road and street and lane
And see my neighbors on the way
Oh no I have forgot again
My dog he has to poop today
I have no bag, nor sack, nor can
But wait, I think this lawn will do
He’s just a dog, and not a man
He leaves a number one and two
But wait, I see this baggie here
It’s free for all to clean the poo
Now I remember, oh so clear
My neighbor’s lawn is not his loo
DOG HAD TO GO? TAKE A BAG! 🙂
(I’ll leave it up to you to determine whether that solved or exacerbated the problem.)
I hope you enjoyed catching a glimpse into my hubby’s writing. Unfortunately he doesn’t have an up-to-date blog, but you can follow my hubby’s tweets at @gottheology.
Once there was a young man who was such a rabid Chick-fil-A fan he reworked an old hymn about it:
Trevor’s Chick-fil-A Hymn
Guide me O thou cows of Cathy
Pilgrim through this chikin-less land
I am weak, and very hungry
Hold me with thy powerful hand
Buttered bread, so lightly toasted
Feed me till I want no more
Feed me till I want no more
Open now the crystal fountain
Whence the sweetest tea doth flow
Let the fiery chikin sandwich
Lead me all my journey through
Tastiest fast-food, kindest service
Be thou still my flavorsome fill
Be thou still my flavorsome fill
When I tread the lands without thee
Bid my hungry fears subside
Death of thirst, and hunger’s destruction
Land me safe in thy drive-thru’s line
Many thank you’s I will ever give to thee
“It’s my pleasure” I will ever hear from thee
Sparks Fly at Chick-fil-A
Alas, this young man lived in New York, far from “the Promised Land” (as he lovingly referred to his beloved Chick-fil-A).
But as luck would have it, he bumped into a girl over Twitter who lived near a Chick-fil-A. After they’d talked online for about four months, he asked what she’d think of him visiting her for a long weekend.
Knowing how much he loved Chick-fil-A, she arranged for them to meet for the first time in person in “the land flowing with sweet tea and lemonade.”
Their friendship was forged even deeper over that long weekend. So much so that at their parting breakfast—over his spicy chicken biscuit—the young man let this girl know that he was interested in more than a friendship. And right there in the Mishawaka Chick-fil-A, they became boyfriend and girlfriend.
The boy and this girl dated, got engaged, and then wed on October 3, 2015. Three weeks later they traveled all the way back to Michigan to celebrate with their friends over . . . yes, Chick-fil-A sandwiches.
Every chance they got they stopped at Chick-fil-A on their travels until one day . . . they learned that Chick-fil-A was coming to a town near them!
In Line for Free Chick-fil-A
The young man knew exactly what he would do. He would rise early and wait in line in hopes of being one of the first one-hundred customers. If he was successful in his mission—assuming he spent that day doing community service—he would win a free Chick-fil-A meal each week for a year!
Suffice it to say, you can now spot that young man and his wife through the Chick-fil-A window as they save money many Friday nights by taking advantage of this free meal on their weekly date night.
Chick-fil-A: You’ve been good to us.
Karen Wilson, we don’t know if you’re still serving as the Marketing Director at the Chick-fil-A in Mishawaka, IN, but thank you so much for donating part of our reception meal back in 2015!
And Dan Cathy, my hubby loved meeting you when you flew in for the Chick-fil-A opening in Syracuse. You have created a beautiful business, and it has blessed us personally in significant ways.
To my readers: Thanks for your patience. A couple months ago I shared some of my hubby’s writing with you and promised this Chick-fil-A hymn plus two more poems. Watch for the final installment of his writing next Monday.
I’m the writer who married the accountant, or so they say. But I’ll let you in on a secret: Trevor is the real writer in this family.
Words are as familiar to him as numbers are. (Numbers and I, on the other hand, just don’t jive. In a recent game of Wits and Wagers, I guessed that the longest highway in the U.S. was 800,000 miles long–or was it 800,000,000 miles long? I have a habit of liberally throwing in zeros as if they’re chocolate chips going into cookie batter–the more the merrier.)
This man, though . . . he can not only crunch numbers, he can whip up poems and hymns lickety-split.
Trevor often texts me a short poem to start our day. Here’s a stanza he wrote recently based on this sermon we’d listened to the night before:
Lord we confess that deep within Desires blur and mix with sin Wholly incline our hearts today To seek your kingdom this we pray
And then there’s this hymn he wrote based on Romans 5 that needs to published and sung, in my humble-but-proud-wifey opinion:
In the beginning, God made man,
Adam lived with God in peace.
But through that man came sin and death;
Adam died and so shall we.
The seed of death, the stain of guilt,
Deep in Adam’s progeny,
But Second Adam surely brings
Death to sin, how can this be?
The Second Adam came to us,
Grace to end sin’s tyranny,
He to conquer death by death,
As You died, Lord, so shall we.
United to the risen Lord,
Bound to Him eternally,
The king of old is now dethroned.
As You live, Lord, so shall we.
Now Lord we give ourselves to You,
Christ, our Life, who set us free.
To sin we died, for You we live;
Slaves of God now shall we be.
There’s more though. He doesn’t just write hymns to express spiritual truth. This month I’ll share three poems he wrote and used to get:
A wife (yup, that’s me).
Chick-fil-A for his wedding reception free-of-charge.
PPS: To be sure you don’t miss these three poems from my hubby, type your email in the box to the right under “Don’t Miss a Post!” and you’ll receive my blog posts in your inbox. (If you’re reading this on your phone, click on the menu button at the top and choose “Subscribe by Email.”) You can unsubscribe at any time.
Here are the five writing goals I didn’t meet . . . and why:
Get published on TheGospelCoalition.com. I didn’t get far with this goal, as I never even submitted a potential post to them. I should have set a deadline, determined what to write about, and researched what person and email address to contact them at.
Publish 48 posts. Here’s what I did do right: I calculated that I needed to post four times a month to reach this goal. I started strong (five posts in January and five posts in February), but then I began to fizzle out. After giving birth to my son, Iren, in May, I didn’t post at all in June, July, or September. My total post count for the year was a mere twenty-one.
Have Tim Challies mention me in his 12/17 Top Bloggers post. Hah! I would have had to post quality content way more often to even make me a contender. (Here’s who made Tim’s 2016 list; I’m still watching for his 2017 list.)
Complete content audit on PaulaWrites.com. I first heard about the concept and importance of a content audit in this podcast. It’s a pretty overwhelming project. I chipped away at it throughout the year . . . but barely. Again, I should have set weekly goals in order to hit this goal.
Double email subscribers and social media subscribers. I feel like a broken record. I needed a plan, not just a goal.
What I Learned from My Unmet Writing Goals
Some people might quit after such a dismal performance, but I’m not discouraged. If I hadn’t set any writing goals, I wouldn’t have written as much as I did.
More importantly, I learned from the experience: I won’t reach my goals without a plan.
So this year, I’m freshly motivated to do things different. This year I’m setting quarterly writing goals rather than annual goals. This should keep my writing goals front-of-mind throughout the year—not just in January and then in December.
I’ve already scheduled quarterly goal reviews on March 24, June 23, September 22, and December 17. I will use those times to review my progress and finalize the next quarter’s writing goals. (For accountability, in the future I’ll share my 2018 goals with you . . . as well as my progress.)
How about you? Are you setting any goals for yourself this new year? (Any you feel free to share?) More importantly . . . have you put a plan in place to execute your goals?
Learn from my failure: You won’t reach your goals without a plan.
I told you I ached to write. I promised you more personal blog posts. That was two months ago. You deserve an explanation.
Where in the World Is Paula?
The good news is . . . I have been writing. I’m sorry I haven’t posted here much. But let me fill you in on what I have been working on.
A friend has started watching Iren Mondays so I can explore the possibility of writing another book. (Yesterday that included soaking in a bubble bath while reviewing journal entries I’ve written since meeting Trevor. Not bad huh?)
I’m currently outlining four potential manuscripts. I don’t know for sure that any of them will materialize, but it’s worth exploring. Especially because I imagine our family will continue to grow, and carving out time to write will only become more challenging.
I’m also still writing for Revive Our Hearts ten hours a week. I try to put in two hours each weekday, preferably while Iren is napping.
“How Would You Feel About Having Ten Kids?”
The last project I completed for ROH was watching the Revive ’17 messages and writing descriptions for them. Iren helped.
He said something like, “Let’s see if you still feel the same way in a week.” He knows me well.
More than the number of children we have, Robyn’s message challenged the way I think about children. She also encouraged me to really enjoy them. (Thankfully that’s getting easier and easier. Five-month-old Iren is a delight.) It was fun to hear some of Robyn’s practical examples of what she does as a mom as well.
I actually did write a post for this site, but at the last minute I sent it to Desiring God, and they plan to feature it on their blog November 7. It started out as a fun post about Trevor and morphed into a post about hospitality.
All that to say, thank you for your patience with me. I still plan on posting here!
If you haven’t yet subscribed to my blog, type your email in the box to the right under “Don’t Miss a Post!” and you’ll receive future updates in your inbox. (If you’re reading this on your phone, click on the menu button at the top and choose “Subscribe by Email.”) You can unsubscribe at any time.
Twice now Kimberly Wagner and I have traveled to exotic locations to speak at an event together. We met in Brazil in 2015, and a month ago at the Gospel Coalition Conference in Prince Edward Island, Canada.
Prince Edward Island . . . Or Bust
This past speaking engagement in Canada has been on our calendars since 2015. Our host kindly offered to let us stay a couple extra days with our spouses to be refreshed. It didn’t take more than a few seconds for Trevor and I to agree, “Prince Edward Island? Um . . . yeah!” Kimberly and her husband, LeRoy, also planned to take our host up on his kind offer.
That was before I was pregnant and gave birth to our son. And before we learned that Trevor wouldn’t be able to travel with us, as it fell during his busiest season at work.
It was also just before LeRoy began experiencing strange symptoms. These undiagnosed symptoms persisted for the next two years—right up until the conference. In spite of his declining health, LeRoy insisted that they keep their commitment. He and Kimberly set out from Arkansas the day after my mom, my son, Iren, and I left New York.
An Exhausting Day of Travel
In spite of the fact that Iren is a peaceful baby, our travel was exhausting. After several delays, we arrived in Prince Edward Island twenty-two and a half hours later. Our luggage, however, did not.
Thank the Lord for the kind man at the front desk of our hotel. He fetched robes, toothbrushes, and deodorant for us, and we stumbled into our beds—and Pack ’n Play—at 4 a.m. Thankfully, I didn’t have to speak the next day.
Kimberly, however, was not so fortunate. She also arrived at 4 a.m., but she had to speak at 9:00 that same morning.
And while I got to see my protector-husband at his finest (Trevor went to bat for us, tweeting at and calling Air CANADA in search of our bags), Kimberly had to support her husband. Literally. Within forty-eight hours of their arrival, he couldn’t walk without her help.
I got to connect briefly with LeRoy and Kimberly at the conference, and you would never have known they were going through so much. They were as kind and others-centered as ever.
Once the conference was over, we said our goodbyes (I wanted to get back to my hubby!), but LeRoy and Kimberly had planned to stay a couple extra days to relax.
More Delays . . . with A Layover in the Neurology Hospital
Our travel home wasn’t much easier than our travel there. I’ll take our delays over Kimberly’s any day, though. While we were delayed hours, she and LeRoy were delayed weeks.
LeRoy collapsed in the hotel lobby while they were still in PEI, and he couldn’t get back up. They arranged for an earlier flight home with a connecting flight in Texas, so they could visit a neurology hospital in Dallas. That layover and ER visit turned into an unplanned eighteen-day stay. LeRoy was finally discharged . . . with more questions than answers, and a whole lot of medical bills.
The Journey from Here
This journey is far from over for them. Would you cry out to God on their behalf? Here’s the latest update so you can pray knowledgeably.
I texted Kimberly asking if they have insurance, and she told me they’re a part of Samaritan Ministries. She’s hoping that will cover a large portion of the hospital cost (which they have to pay up front), but it doesn’t pay for LeRoy’s medications. And these meds aren’t cheap. These dear friends are looking to God to provide, and you can help answer their prayers.
Thanks for taking the time to read our stories, when I know you have your own delays, illnesses, or other challenging circumstances. Big or small, may you walk intimately with God today, knowing that He is in control, and that He is good.
Hello there! It is so good to get back behind these keys post-baby.
In the past three months I’ve pushed out a baby boy, survived the early days of insomnia and a new baby routine, prepped three new messages for a speaking engagement, and traveled out of the country with my son for said speaking engagement. Whew!
The Baby Part
I don’t want to paint myself as some kind of wonder mom. Truth is, God blessed us with “Wonder Baby.” That’s what I call him. I do so quietly, though, so all the other new moms aren’t filled with envy.
Meet our son. Iren Daniel Marsteller joined our family on May 20. He was big. Over nine pounds. When the pediatrician first measured his head, he exclaimed, “How did you get him out?”
The answer to that would be “Trevor.” I never could have done what I did without his coaching; encouragement; and constant, strong pressure on my lower back.
I still can’t believe we did it. I don’t even want to look at the hospital when we drive by, and Trevor–with a twinkle in his eye–says he now understands how some people have PTSD. We’re not huge fans of the process.
But the result is so worth it.
We finally landed on our son’s name just before we were discharged from the hospital. (It’s a requirement, folks. The hospital turns into a prison until you land on a name for that little one.)
Iren means “peace,” and Daniel means “God my judge”. We named him that so when people ask about his name, we can briefly share with them that our greatest need is to find peace with God the judge through Jesus.
Pray that Iren will find peace with God through Christ, and that he will cling to Jesus from an early age and point many to Him.
The Blogging Part
In the weeks to come I’ll share more about my struggles with learning I was pregnant, to life as a new mommy, to the three new messages I prepped and our travel to the latest speaking gig, and much more.
I haven’t been this excited to write in a long time. I ache to write, the way I ached for Iren when his grandparents took him for the first time for a few hours.
In addition to continuing to write for other blogs, I want to do more personal writing here. Trevor and I do a lot of hospitality, and I’d like to welcome you into our lives. Complete with baby pictures. If that sounds like something you’d be interested in, type your email in the box to the right under “Don’t Miss a Post!” and you’ll receive future updates in your inbox. (If you’re reading this on your phone, click on the menu button at the top and choose “Subscribe by Email.”) You can unsubscribe at any time.
Now it’s your turn. What has occupied your summer? What are you getting back to, now that summer is drawing to a close? I’d love to hear.
This post from the archives has been freshly updated and expanded with my three main tips for those who want to write a book. Enjoy!
I often hear from aspiring writers asking for tips on how to make their dream of becoming a published author come true. Here are three steps I recommend for those whose eyes are set on a writing career.
Explore Your Motivation to Write
Why do you want to write? Why do you want to publish a book? Motivation matters—big time.
In 1 Samuel, we see the Israelites demanding the prophet Samuel to appoint them a king. There was nothing technically wrong with wanting a king (see Deuteronomy 17:14–20 for proof). The problem was why they wanted a king. Here it is, straight from their mouths:
“There shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles” (1 Sam. 8:19–20, emphasis added).
God had a flawless record in fighting their battles for them, but they wanted a king who looked and acted like the kings of the nations around them. This was a direct rejection of God:
And the LORD said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them” (v. 7, emphasis added).
God gave His people the king they wanted, but He warned them through Samuel that the day would come when they would cry out to God for relief from their king. On that day, God would not answer them (see vv. 10–18).
Motivation matters to God. And it should matter to us.
I’d encourage you to take some time to journal through these questions. Ask God to search your heart. Why do I want to become a well-known writer? Why do I want to publish a book? If you find less-than-lovely motives (or more like when you find less-than-lovely motives), confess them to God. Ask Him to cleanse you from sinful desires and to replace your ungodly motives with pure ones.
Write Like You Mean It
If you want to become a writer, you have to write. And write. And write. Dreaming won’t put words on the page.
If you’re anything like me, it’ll take you awhile to figure out what routine fits you. Try different options until you’ve figured out what works best in this season of life.
Are you an early riser . . . or could you be? Wake with the roosters, and write at a set time each morning.
Do you need a good amount of time to “get into the zone”? Maybe an extended Saturday date at Barnes & Noble would be just your thing. Consider inviting a friend along for accountability and an occasional laugh.
Warning: This will feel like work. Hard work. Because it is. This is why it’s important to know why you’re writing (back to that motivation thing). You’ll need a solid reason to sit down at your laptop again when others are out enjoying the sunshine with friends.
Don’t always choose writing over time with friends, though. You’ll need to read diversely and live well so you actually have deep thoughts to ponder, adventures to write about, questions to answer.
Once you’re into a rhythm of writing regularly, you might want to think about starting a blog (I recommend WordPress), so you can begin to grow an audience and so others can benefit from your words.
Once you’ve mastered the discipline of writing regularly, there’s one more thing to do.
Something Your Profs Won’t Tell You
Bestselling author Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth (author of nearly twenty books, with more than three million copies sold worldwide) never set out to become an author. She was approached by a publisher for her first book when she wasn’t well known. When I first heard that, I thought, Well, that worked for you, but then . . . you’reNancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. You’re special!
But then, miracle of miracles, it happened for me, too. Unbeknownst to me, a publisher had been reading my blog, and then they approached me about writing a book. Professors never even tell you that’s a possibility when you’re sitting in Writing 101! They spend all their time warning you that you’ll have to submit countless query letters and will receive scores of rejection letters.
There’s nothing wrong with sending query letters, but I think those writing profs would do well to also remind hopeful students that they live under God’s providence. While we were still unformed, God wrote in one of His books every day that was formed for us (Ps. 139:16). This same God opens doors no one can shut and shuts doors no one can open (Rev. 3:7).
Wait on God
One of the twelve “Cutting-Edge Commitments” of Life Action Ministries (the parent ministry of Revive Our Hearts where I’ve worked for the past eleven years) is faithfulness. They say it like this:
God has not called us to be “successful,” as the world measures success, but to be faithful. It is not our responsibility to promote ourselves or the outward, visible growth of our ministry. If we will take care of the “depth” of our lives, God will take care of the “breadth” of our ministry” (1 Cor. 3:12–14; 4:1–2).
So my counter-cultural advice to you would be rest. Wait. Stay close to Jesus. Be faithful with what God’s entrusted to you, even when it looks like no one is watching, when you don’t know how this could possibly be advancing your own dreams.
Regularly talk to God about your dreams. He will most likely ask you to die to them. But then, He is the resurrection and the life, and I’ve found He will often resurrect dead dreams when you least expect Him to.
How about you? What dream could you begin to work toward today?
As I share in this post to college grads, be patient if it doesn’t happen right away. Trust God and know that He doesn’t waste anything; He is still writing your story. True contentment is found in Him; not in a dream job.
Pursue your dream job (as long as you don’t have to sin to do your job), and trust God to open and close doors in His perfect, infinite wisdom.