Make 2017 a Great Year

Happy New Year 2017 | encouragement for busy moms

Happy new year 2017!

My Facebook feed this week has been filled with friends bemoaning the last year. Apparently, it’s been hard for a lot of people — filled with stress, sadness, and hardship. The Bernard family has had our share of challenges, too.

So — I’m excited about the new year ahead! 2017 is gonna rock, and we’ll encourage one another to make it the BEST year yet. Where do you need encouragement for a great year? In what area do you most struggle? How can I help you?

Is it spiritual discipline? Is it health? Relationships? Job and money? Stress and anxiety?

Whatever it is, I want to work with you and encourage you to help you THRIVE in 2017.

Join me beginning January 1 on my blog Facebook page for a happy new year 2017. I’m going to take the first 17 days of January to share 17 ways to make your 2017 *SPARKLE*. I’ll post a brief video each day to share some ideas and encouragement.

Make sure you LIKE and FOLLOW my Facebook page so you can join the fun.

Because we all need more *SPARKLE* in our lives, right?

Seeking Intentional Simplicity

As God does so ever often in my life, he’s bringing me to the end of myself. He continues to move me from self-centered independence to a more Christ-centered dependence.

I’m so tired of being overfed, overstimulated, overzealous, overanxious, and overwhelmed.

The excess in my life is suffocating me.

I had been mulling over this principle for a few weeks, when I read a phrase yesterday that helped me better articulate my thoughts: the impact of excess.

That got me to consider what the impact of excess has been on my life.

Our culture is a sea of excess. I don’t have to tell you that, do I? The mentality is that if “a little” is good, then “a lot” must be great!

But, I’ve learned over and again in my life, that’s just not true.

My excess most often revolves around busyness and projects and participation. Because I struggle every day with “the good being the enemy of the best,” discernment is non-existent. God’s voice is always shushed—if not silenced altogether—by the cacophony of competing demands and deadlines. And because “the best” (in God’s economy) is counter-cultural and counter-intuitive, it either slips away quietly or zooms quickly past with little more than a flicker of recognition from me.

I’m too busy with focus on “the good”; I’m too distracted or too exhausted to have moments of clarity to be still and know that he is God.

I’m way too concerned with my pursuit of more and my piling of excess upon excess to ever decipher any message God delivers in moments of simplicity.

Because I can see the good in “the good,” I often cloud my radar with “good things.” Those “good things” turn into excess. For me, excess breeds fatigue, idolatry, and an insatiable appetite for more. Ironic, isn’t it? One would think that once I got my belly full, I’d be content, happy, and satisfied. But, no. It’s that lie that, Oh, just a bit more and I’ll finally be happy/fulfilled/content/smart/cool/comfortable, and so on.

I’m working through these issues right now and will continue to share my thoughts here. Right now, I’m seeking a God-centered and God-focused intentional simplicity.

I may not be blogging as much here or I may be here more. Really—honestly—I love blogging and being involved in the online community, but I am a bit uncertain as to what level I should be participating. As I said before, I’ll always write. But I may be writing in other venues.

So, I appreciate your reading and your feedback always. I covet your prayers, as well, as I and my family seek wisdom and discernment. 

What’s been the impact of excess in your life?

Image: Morgue File

Cutting Back, Living Intentionally, and Writing

You may recall that my new year’s resolution was to live intentionally.

So, what does that look like in my life?, I wondered.

Well, I know what it doesn’t look like.

It doesn’t look like worn-out, frazzled mom. It doesn’t look like worried mom juggling deadlines. It doesn’t look like fast food for every meal. It doesn’t look like the illusion of making money and “getting ahead” when, in actuality, the bank account is strained and debt continues to accrue. It doesn’t look like laundry and dish piles.

At least not for me. Not for us. Not for our family.

And so, I posted a plea for advice to you, my dear readers. You had great words of wisdom and encouragement. I felt good, at least, to know that I wasn’t completely crazy and alone, drowning in a sea of demands and deadlines.

Chris and I prayed, mulling over your words and ideas and re-evaluating our “intention” of intentional living in 2010 and decided that we were not, indeed, living with intention. We were being run by our circumstances. We were reacting, not proacting. We were slaves to the tyranny of the urgent demands of everyone and everything else besides those that were most important to us.

On March 15, I worked my last day at the most time-consuming of my four part-time jobs. I have all but closed shop on my Melaleuca “business” (although I am always happy to answer your questions and/or open a membership account for you—just ask). Our church is shutting its doors (another long story of emotional drain for our family—post forthcoming) at the end of the month, so I will no longer be employed there.

That leaves my writing.

I will always write. Writing for me is intuitive and effortless and cathartic. One of the negatives of these last few months is that I have not had the time I would have liked to devote to my writing.

Now I can devote my “free time” to my writing. Truly, I believe this is my gift from God. I feel that I’ve pushed all the other boundaries of my interests and skills. God has revealed to me that while I may be “OK” at many things, there are only a handful that are true gifts.

Writing. Writing here and at Faithful Bloggers and at Suite 101 is where you’ll find me now. I’ll be using my God-given skills for his glory.

If he chooses to bless us with money for that, then I rejoice. If he does not, then I rejoice!

I’ve decided that I will be intentional about living as he’s guiding me. The fact is that he’s placed certain circumstances in my life, which dictate his will for me.

He has called me to be Chris’ wife and all that that entails. He has called me to be mom to my three kids and all that that entails. He has called me to manage this home with the income that he has provided and all that that entails.  And he has called me to write. He has called me to write—since I could string together subjects and verbs in the first grade—for his glory and others’ edification.

OK, God. Show me my next steps. God, you promise that when you require something of your children, you equip them with the grace to accomplish it. I believe it, Lord.

I am intentionally and deliberately believing it.

Image: cohdra at

How Sin Deceives

From Grace Gems

The Deceitfulness of Sin!
by Jeremy Taylor

“Lest any of you be hardened through the
 deceitfulness of sin!” Hebrews 3:13 (read ESV here)

First sin startles him,
then it becomes pleasing,
then easy,
then delightful,
then frequent,
then habitual,
then confirmed!

I think this progression is particularly helpful in dissecting how sin takes root in our lives. I immediately turn to food.

As you know, I’ve been blogging about my New Year’s resolutions and my plan to eat intentionally. I confess that I have sinful issues surrounding food (overeating, emotional eating, idolizing food, and so on).

Sin is especially effective when it deals with our senses (first sin, anyone?). I’m startled all the time by the enticement of food. Oh! That looks good. Oh! That smells good. Oh! I have a craving for …

That “startling” often triggers a sense of urgency upon which I must act. I’m immediately rewarded because it tastes so good. Science has pointed out that eating releases endorphins (I think; it releases some chemical in the brain, anyway, that registers “pleasure”), so I’m pretty much hooked at this point. The “pleasing,” “easy,” and “delightful” aspects just affirm my engaging in this behavior. The “frequent” and “habitual” just serve to establish the habit and “confirm” it in the fabric of my character.

Think of Eve. Talk about being startled! A talking serpent with a “pleasing” proposition? It must have been quite startling to hear the challenge to God’s authority, character, and trustworthiness come from that snake’s mouth. The Scripture makes a point of saying that Eve found the fruit pleasing to her eye.

When were you last startled? Did that lead to a pleasing experience? Could it be the planting of sin? Guard yourself so that you see the deceptive progression of sin, which can prey on your sensibilities.

Intentional Eating in 2010

I continue with my theme of “Living Intentionally,” as I turn my attention to my diet.

Ugh. The diet. The eating plan. The “lifestyle program.”

I think there’s just something to the saying that “life catches up” to you. I’ll be 40 this year, and I know I’m much less healthy than I was a decade ago. Fast food, processed food, sugar—it just makes me fat. It DOES.

A few months ago, I started the Transitions program. Transitions is a low-glycemic eating plan. It begins with a one-week fruit and veggie detox followed by twelve weeks of making new habits of healthier eating.

I did OK at first, then the stress of the holidays arrived and my motivation, focus, and resolve to stick to any eating plan that didn’t involve butter on top of butter and chocolate dipped in chocolate vanished.

Today I begin Day 3 of my fruit and veggie detox week. I am doing well so far.

Here’s where the “intentional” part came in: I know part of my failure in the fall was due to inconvenience. When do I eat breakfast? Often running out the door. What is breakfast? Something I can grab.

So, I decided to set myself up for success.

That’s intention, people.

Preparation is key:
I mapped out my menus for the week. It took a long time, but I persevered and tried to be as realistic as possible. From the menus, I made a grocery list and went shopping.

Sunday afternoon, I spent about one hour cleaning and bagging fresh veggies. I washed the apples and grapes. I sliced cucumber. I washed lettuce and chopped it. I washed grape tomatoes and blueberries. All of the salad ingredients are ready to go. A healthy snack just needs to be pulled from the fridge.

I also boiled several eggs. A hard-boiled egg is a great breakfast food or snack. Totally portable!

It’s been so easy and convenient to eat right out of the fridge. Love it!

Sub the ordinary starches with steamed veggies:
I made spaghetti sauce and pasta for my family. I can have the sauce but not the pasta. Instead, I sliced some zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, and carrot and lightly steamed them. I poured the sauce over the veggies. Surprisingly, it was quite good.

I use these Glad Steaming Bags, which are excellent. You just throw in cut veggies and microwave for about 3 minutes. There’s a handy tear edge. The veggies are perfect. No mess. No clean-up.

Seasoning Is Vital! 
Garlic, onion, salt, pepper, cumin, vinegars. Liberally season the veggies and salads to enhance the flavors. Bolder flavors are more satiating. I pour balsamic vinegar on everything, and I love it!

A Neat Water Alternative
I’ve just discovered flavored sparkling water. Canada Dry makes one, which I like. But this week, I discovered La Croix sparkling water in berry flavor. It has a hint of cherry Icee flavor to me. No calories, no sugar, no artificial sweeteners. Very good. Quite refreshing. And a little more exciting than plain water. I got this idea from a water-hating friend.

I feel good about this second try. I feel intentional. Intentionality for good health involves a CONSTANT reminder and affirmation that every decision is important. Nothing is slight. Every GOOD decision is an affirmation that I’m heading in the right direction. Every NOT-SO-GOOD decision is an opportunity to be more intentional.

This is hard. Oh, so hard. But by God’s grace, I will persevere.

Intentional Blogging in 2010

A few days ago, I posted my personal New Year’s Resolutions for 2010. I wrote that I had a lot of “little” goals but that my overarching goal was to create an “umbrella” of living with INTENTION this year.

The Savvy Blogging gals have issued a challenge for bloggers to create our blogging goals for 2010. So, I’m taking their challenge and posting my goals at Savvy Blogging.

I believe the act of giving my blogging a list of goals is INTENTIONAL, which is exactly where I want to be in this area of my life.

I am a writer and I have dreamed of being a paid writer for as long as I can remember. I see my blog as a natural extension of my profession. I would love for my blog to become a “syndicated column” of sorts: a place where a dedicated “several” check in. I want my blog to be a place of inspiration, encouragement, and thought-provoking entertainment.

My Blogging Goals for 2010

Audience: I want to increase and broaden my readership. It’s not just getting MORE readers, but it’s also finding those readers who need what I have.

Posting: I want to increase my posting frequency to at least 5 days/week.

Content focus: This is still a work in progress. I’m trying to become more focused with my content. My posts vary among funny mom stories, theological and political observations, recipes and homemaking tips. Sharpening my focus is terribly difficult for me because I have so many interests.

Design: I’m in the process of getting a customized blog design. I’m hoping the aesthetic will help crystallize some of these other ideas for me.

Income: I would like to continue to grow the income from my blog. I am paid to write, and I don’t see why my blog would be any different. But increasing the income means that I will need to more deliberately treat my blog as a business. I have decided I will do one “business building” activity each day, whether it’s finding new PR relationships or learning more about SEO. I will press myself to leave my comfort zone so that I can grow.

(In February, I’m attending my first blogging conference, Blissdom. I am so excited I can’t stand it! I anticipate having a revised list of goals after this conference.)

What would you like to read more of and about at The Writer’s Block? 
I’d love to hear feedback from you, dear reader. 

I Am a New-Year’s-Resolutions Kind of Girl

I like the tradition and practice of making New Year’s Resolutions. I know a lot of people don’t bother, saying they never keep them anyway.

And OK, I know I’ve started the “read through the Bible in a year” routine more times than I can count only to abandon it around mid-February.

But this year, I’m going to approach this whole resolution thing in a different way. I have one resolution, which I hope will serve as an umbrella to everything else in my life. That one resolution can be summed up in one word:


I resolve to live with intention.

This week, I managed to finally—FINALLY!—get my “office” set up. This involved moving and rearranging furniture and cleaning out old papers. It was way overdue. But in the process of thumbing through old receipts and grocery lists and recipes and wrapping paper scraps (really??? I kept all of that stuff???), I realized something important.

I had failed to live with intention.

The pile of paper was a tangible result of living in reaction and in the tyranny of the urgent.

So, maybe some of it was inevitable. I am, after all, in a season of life that sucks every drip of energy out of me.

But getting rid of all of that paper was so liberating. It geared me up to live with intention.

My goals for this year involve pursuing a closer walk with God, improving my health/losing weight, and growing my blogging and writing endeavors.

But those things must be attacked from a posture of intention.

Intentionality also assumes a sense of priority. I say that my faith, my health, and my writing are important to me. But I have not always prioritized them and made an intentional effort to work at them.

Above all, the older I get, the more I realize how big God is and how small I am. I am confronted by his strength made perfect in my weakness. I am more convinced that my primary purpose—whether I’m on an elliptical machine, posting to my blog, or cleaning out my desk—is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever.

I want to be INTENTIONAL about living out God’s purpose for me in 2010 and beyond.


I added this post at The Happy Housewife and at Steph in the City. Visit and read some more 2010 resolutions.