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A Dilemma, A Prayer, And An Answer

The Dilemma

I recently wrote about my revelation that the life I’ve been yearning for has been in front of me for years. In that post, I shared that I want to withdraw from the online business rat race, that I’ve recently recovered a deep sense of joy and peace that I lost years ago.

Since writing that post, however, I’ve encountered a problem. After a nice, long (for me) period of rest, after my shoulders began to improve significantly and I began to want to be more active, my mind kicked back into high gear, as well.

It brought back the urge to teach, the feeling that I’m supposed to somehow share my knowledge and life experiences with other people.

At the same time, I don’t want to get sucked back into online marketing. Which is another part of the dilemma. These days, you can’t just start a blog or a YouTube channel, or publish a book on Amazon, and attract an audience without doing a lot of marketing.

For blogs, that means diddling around on Pinterest an hour or two every day, and/or working your buns off and/or shelling out big bucks to get backlinks to your site. For YouTube, that means committing to uploading at least one video a week, on topics a lot of people are searching for, and making the videos as appealing and “shareworthy” as possible. For books, it means spending a lot of money on advertising.

The thought of doing any one of those activities brings a twinge in my gut that means I’m going the wrong way. Also, engaging in those activities would pull me right back into competition mode. Not to mention that my eyes strain very easily when I’m on the computer, so most of the above activities can actually be deleterious to my eye health.

Competing with other people not only stresses me out, but it makes me feel guilty, as well. A lot of people who are saying the same things that I want to say genuinely need the attention of others, because that attention brings them the money they’re counting on to feed their families.

Could I just set up a YouTube channel and upload whenever and whatever I felt like? Or use this blog as a teaching vehicle? Write whatever books I want to teach whatever I want to get across, and just put them up for free without marketing them?

Sure, and all those ideas appeal to me.

But if I don’t engage in the appropriate marketing for each thing, my message would only ever reach a handful of people. Some might say, “Well, Emily, you should just believe God that those are the people who are supposed to consume your content.”

No offense, but that’s what I call a Christian cop-out. Taking the easy way out, then saying, “I’m believing God,” is the most effective way not to impact the world.

I guess my dilemma is, how do I promote my message without A, feeling like I’m unfairly competing, B, feeling like I’m promoting myself (as opposed to giving God the glory), and C, losing my peace over it – as I have ever since diving into the world of online business?

Maybe I’m supposed to just spend time praying every day for other people trying to spread the same messages that I want to?

But that sounds like a cop-out, too. After all, faith without works is dead.

See my dilemma?

The prayer

I was about to complete this blog post with the following:

Feel free to share your thoughts about it in the comments section. I’m all ears (er, eyes, I mean).

Of course, you are perfectly free to share your thoughts. 😉 But a few hours after I’d written that invitation and walked away from the article, thinking I was done with it, it occurred to me to pray about the dilemma.

I know that we are to be interdependent, not islands onto ourselves. We’re supposed to sometimes seek godly counsel. But number one, I hadn’t yet seriously prayed over the dilemma before writing about it. And number two, I think it’s the sort of thing that doesn’t require many counselors.

So I prayed. Sat silently.

Listened.

The answer

And, I got an answer.

Take one day at a time.

I knew it had to be God, since Yeshua instructs His followers to take no thought for tomorrow, because today has enough troubles of its own. The advice is really difficult for people like me, who have a natural tendency, even enthusiasm, for planning for the future.

Yet, I can plan for the next several months, and still pray each day what I’m supposed to do. Today, shall I make a YouTube video? About what? Write a blog post? Start a new novel?

That took care of the first part of my dilemma. But there still remained my instinctive dislike for marketing.

I sat on that for a day, and began to wonder if the red flags I’ve been feeling toward the online marketing sphere have been more about my disinclination to engage with people than about God trying to tell me that I shouldn’t spend my time marketing.

Two different thoughts helped me here. First, God knows the world isn’t perfect. He knows what it’s become, and if He gives a specific person a specific message that He wants widespread, He knows that marketing is going to have to happen. So if I believe a certain message is from God, and is supposed to help a large piece of the population, He’s not going to be against my marketing efforts. I just have to make sure that when I am in the world, I don’t become like the world.

The second thought had to do with what I read in the book A Year Of Living Prayerfully. The author provided more than one quote, and more than one commentary, that reminded me that believers who want to follow hard after Yeshua are going to be active in sharing themselves and their faith with the world. A classic book by Andrew Murray on obedience that I subsequently read confirmed those thoughts.

Again, faith without works is dead.

What it all comes down to…

I need to trust the Lord to guide me every day. And if I have zero peace or joy about a certain activity, I need to pray to make sure it’s not just my own fear.

And no matter what, if something doesn’t lift up Yeshua, or if it pulls me away from Him, I need to run away from it as fast and as far as I can.

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The Curse Of Self

One day, I’m going to sit outside early in the morning and listen to the whippoorwill sing her song until dawn breaks and her voice fades into the chirping of the daytime birds. And I’m going to silently praise God for His creation, and let the peace of the morning saturate my soul.

One day, I’m going to go on a hike with my teenage son and say nothing but what he wants me to say, follow his lead, and enjoy his company. No matter how silent the company may be.

One day, I’m going to leave for work early so I can grab breakfast for the homeless man who’s been sitting on the corner three blocks away from the office for the past month.

One day, I’m going to find a charity that needs the extra money I’ve been spending on clothes I never wear.

One day, I’m going to call an old friend – call her, not text or e-mail her – and thank her for the support she gave me so many years ago when I was struggling and had no one else to turn to.

One day, I’m going to surprise my husband with a love note on the driver’s seat of his car every day for a week.

One day, I’m going to get to know that young neighbor who often walks by our house with a baby in a sling and a toddler in a stroller. And I’m going to offer to help whenever she needs it.

One day, I’m going to do all that. But not today. Not right now.

Right now, I’m too busy.

Too busy living for my Self.

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B Complex For Hot Flashes?

There are a lot of natural remedies floating around that are supposed to alleviate, if not eliminate, hot flashes in women going through menopause. A high carb, all-raw diet. Magnesium. Certain herbs, such as He Sho Wu.

I’ve always eaten healthy – a lot of fruits and vegetables, little to no meat. I’ve supplemented with magnesium and vitamin C for several years. And all this has helped to diminish the number and intensity of my hot flashes. After I started taking two droppersful of He Sho Wu, the hot flashes disappeared altogether.

I’ve been taking, in addition, a B complex vitamin to ease anxiety and boot out the mood swings. It helps.

Back to the hot flashes. Up until around a week ago I hadn’t had a hot flash in months. It’s been awesome.

Then, I started spending more quiet time with the Lord, started praying throughout the day, and as I did, I realized I’d rediscovered the mental health benefits of staying filled with the Spirit: His joy and peace infuses, driving out all anxiety and depression.

So I decided to do an experiment. I decided to stop taking the B complex for a week to see if I needed it for my mood, now that the presence of God was keeping my serotonin at high levels.

It’s been over a week now since I started the experience, and my mood has remained stable.

But.

The hot flashes came back.

Not many a day, so far. Not as hot as they’d been, and not with the pre-flash aura of an impending sense of doom. Maybe because I’ve been taking the He Sho Wu.

But, they came back, nevetheless.

After I quit taking the B complex supplement.

Hmm.

Guess what supplement I’ve added back into my health routine?

I’ll let you know if the hot flashes go bye-bye again. 😉

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The Life I’ve Always Wanted

I loved my childhood home. I didn’t figure out why until I was an adult living in one of the largest cities in the United States.

Until I was sixteen and a half, my parents, three siblings, and I lived in a house in the country. Though the house of our nearest neighbor was mere yards away from our property line, we lived in relative seclusion on almost two acres. My parents had two large garden plots, and we kids still had plenty of room to run around.

Then there was “across the road.” The property was owned by some distant farmer who never used that particular strip of land, which he allowed to grow wild. A stream, hidden by several yards of tall grass, weeds, and trees, ran parallel to the road that separated our property from it. My siblings and I spent many hours during the summer playing by the stream, which grew wider and deeper the further down the road it ran.

Our house was on top of a small hill, which was a perfect place for sledding in the winter. Two sides of our property were covered by a strip of woods.

Ignoring the annoying sound of dump trucks that seemed to drive by all day long every day of the summer, it was an idyllic place to grow up.

I spent a lot of time outdoors.

When we moved to our house in Rochester, I continued to spend a lot of time outside, though most of the time I was confined to our front porch. When I began attending college, I spent a lot of time on the Quad, a large, grassy area with a pond in the middle.

I loved being outside. Being outside brought me peace. Centered me. Helped me feel closer to God. (I only realized recently that starting in my teens, I’d begun struggling with low-level anxiety and depression, and that being out in nature cures it for me.)

Then, I had to grow up and become responsible.

By the time I was thirty, my biggest wish was not to find a loving husband, nor to be a best-selling author (though both were high on my list). My biggest wish was to be able to move out into the country, preferably on a wooded acreage, and write.

I was teaching elementary school at the time, and by the end of my first month on the job at age twenty-three, I realized it was not going to be the enjoyable joy I’d always pictured. Most subsequent years only served to confirm my initial feelings. By the time I was thirty, I was tired of the stress, the noise, the being forced to work with people I didn’t like and deal with parents.

I was especially tired of city life.

Then, there was the whole nun thing.

When you’re a girl being raised as a Catholic, which I was, becoming a nun is (or at least, used to be) a possible and (usually) acceptable “career” choice. Though until recently, I thought that having to spend so much time in daily prayer would make me want to pull out my fingernails, the idea of living in a quiet community where the members grew their own food together and worshipped together, living simply without being weighed down with all the keeping up with the Joneses mentality, appealed to me.

Even as an adult, even after turning my back on Catholicism.

Out of the rat race…

When we moved to our current home, five acres in beautiful eastern Oklahoma, the plan was to grow as much of our own food as possible and live as simply as possible. When we didn’t have to be doing chores, we could pursue our individual interests. Or spend time together having fun as a family.

But the move didn’t happen until I’d spent the previous four years desperately trying to replace my husband’s income with money from a blog. Or my MLM business. Or YouTube. Or self-publishing e-books. I became deeply entrenched in the make-money-online sphere.

Though I denied it, I’d become deeply entrenched in greed.

By the time we moved to our new rural home, I had convinced myself of two things: first, within a few years I’d be making enough money online so that we would no longer have to live on our investments. Second, God had called me to make money with YouTube and e-books, possibly even with a blog.

Another long story short: I’ve spent the past seven years living in a beautiful area of the country, all my needs (and many of my wants) provided for, stressed to the max.

I’d gone from the rat race to a demolition derby, and the things that were being demolished were my peace and joy.

I finally got it.

At the end of 2020, when everyone else was praying for a vaccine, I was praying about God’s will concerning my writing. Particularly, whether I was supposed to continue writing novels, if so, how many a year. Advertise? Write stories mainly for my own pleasure and not worry about how much money I made?

I was praying because I felt like nothing was going anywhere. I was frustrated and discouraged. Kept looking at how much money all these other authors were making, and fighting envy at every turn.

Then, 2021 started with a bang for me. That is, a bang to the ground after I tripped. At the time, my right shoulder felt sore, but I didn’t think I’d really hurt it. In February, I sustained an injury to my left shoulder, and by then my right shoulder was showing obvious symptoms of injury. So the recovery of both shoulders began at the same time.

I, who has always struggled with the concept of relaxation, was forced to relax. I could type, but not hold a phone or camcorder in front of me to make videos. That was also around the time that the Arctic front hit most of the United States, so we were all stuck inside for about two weeks straight. Thus, I was unable to record the songs I’d planned to record for a new YouTube channel or make the videos for another new channel. It was too cold for J and B to be out of the house the amount of time I needed in order to make the videos.

So I’d already developed inertia as far as moving forward with my new YouTube channels. By early March, I was seriously enjoying the lack of stress involved with trying to impress people with my great singing/comedy/opinions. I was already 90% of the way decided that I was finished with YouTube.

I had also figured out that though God has called me to write, I have leeway as far as what to do with my writing, how to bless people with my words. I’d decided that I would only write a book or series if I could have fun with it.

In other words, I was no longer going to write a novel just because I thought it would sell.

Then came A Year Of Living Prayerfully

I reviewed the book A Year Of Living Prayerfully in this post. I was halfway through reading it when I realized that I’d been trying to quench my thirst for a deeper spiritual walk by engaging in frenetic money-making activities. I’d been seeking fulfillment in all the wrong places.

The Lord used the book in concert with all the thinking I’d been doing during my forced time of rest to show me that the life I’ve always wanted has been at my fingertips for the past seven years.

Which life is that? A quiet one. A simple one. One where I have the freedom to spend as much time in prayer and worship as I want. One where I can be outside in nature whenever I want. One where I’m free to pursue my interests and use my talents without constraint, or expectations from other people.

Life is good. Life is awesome.

I thank God for His grace and mercy every day. And I pray that many more people will come to the revelation that I have – hopefully at a younger age – so that they won’t waste time chasing after shiny objects which will one day disintegrate into worthless dust.

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Years ago, I read the classic little book, The Practice of the Presence of God by a guy commonly known as Brother Lawrence. He was a monk for the latter half of his life, living in a monastery in France from the age of around forty until he died in his early eighties.

Back when we first acquired the book, I dove right into following the steps Lawrence himself had followed in order to experience God’s presence all day long. And it worked!

But even though it worked, I eventually quit. Raising my son when he was little was hard work. J was constantly stressed on his job. I was putting pressure on myself to try to make money online so that he could quit his job.

So my practicing gradually slipped away until I was only experiencing His presence during a corporate worship service. And then, that didn’t always happen. We eventually gave the slim paperback away with dozens of other books when we began to downsize.

A few weeks ago, spurred on by the wonderful book, A Year Of Living Prayerfully by Jared Brock, I looked for Brother Lawrence’s book at the Project Gutenberg website, which makes available many books in the public domain available for free in e-book form. And…I found it! I downloaded it, put it on my Kindle, and re-read it. Began to follow the monk’s instructions. Again.

Now, I wonder why I ever quit. It was backwards. When I most needed the presence of God in my life, when I most needed an obvious sense of joy and peace in my spirit, I pushed Him to the side.

Isn’t that just human nature, though? We so easily get caught up in the demands of life, in activity we believe to be necessary to survive, if not thrive, that we forget the One who loves us so much that He gave His only begotten Son.

When we need God the most, we push him to the side. In favor of our imperfect, flawed mental processes, in favor of activity that is often unhealthy because it’s based in worry and fear.

We relegate Him to a church service, and maybe to morning devotions, then let our minds fret the rest of the time. And even at those specific times of devotion, our minds often wander away from that devotion and into the worries and what-ifs of tomorrow.

Even though we’re commanded to keep our minds stayed on Him.

And that’s what Brother Lawrence discovered back in the 1600’s: as constantly as you keep your mind fixed on Yeshua, on Father, His presence will remain in your life. The sense of His love, the joy unspeakable and full of glory, the peace that surpasses all understanding.

I’m practicing the presence of God again. And this time, I ain’t quitting.

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