Your Power Is NOT in Yourself But in His Spirit

FREE 4 x 6 Print to Encourage and Remind You

Even when we are excited, energized, and eager to pursue God’s calling on our lives, there are inevitably times when it gets scary. And if you’re not periodically frightened by the challenges you face, may I respectfully suggest you are probably living within your comfort zone rather than truly running hard after God’s purpose for your life. He rarely calls us to the safe and comfy boat and regularly beckons us out on the wild waves. So, for those moments when you feel in over your head, repeat the words of encouragement on the photo below.

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I’ve made you a free 4 x 6 high resolution version of the gorgeous photo by Roberto Nickson shown above. It includes the encouraging words from this post to remind you where your power comes from when you get discouraged! Click the button below and I’ll instantly email you a file that you can upload to your favorite photo printer (Shutterfly, Walgreens, Target, etc. or your home printer) and have prints made that will fit in a standard size frame.

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The Water May Not Always Be Smooth But Don’t Be Afraid!

One of my favorite passages is found in Matthew 14:22-33. This is the account of Jesus walking on water. Immediately after he miraculously feeds more than 5,000 people with five small loaves and two little fish, Jesus made his disciples get into a boat and head off across the Sea of Galilee. Jesus remains behind to dismiss the crowd and spend some time alone with his Father in prayer. Sometime between 3:00 am and 6:00 am, Jesus walked across the lake to catch up with the guys in the boat. They were battling waves and wind which can be fierce on the Sea of Galilee. Seeing what they thought was a ghost, the men were terrified. But Jesus said to them,

Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

Then Peter does the most astonishing thing—at least I find it extraordinary. He asks Jesus to call him out on the water with Jesus. And Jesus says, “Come.” Then Peter climbed out of the boat and walked on water toward Jesus! 

It was only when he became distracted by the wind that he faltered in fear and began to sink. He cried out to Jesus who immediately reached out and caught him. Jesus chided Peter, “You of little faith, why did you doubt.” And when they both boarded the boat, the wind and waves calmed and those with Jesus declared,

Truly you are the Son of God.”

It is easy to head out on your mission when the lake is smooth as glass. It is much harder when the winds whip the surface into threatening waves. Yet, either way, getting out of the boat would not be my first inclination. So, I’m impressed with Peter’s faith and “out-of-the-boat/box” thinking. He has the right idea. He wants to be doing what Jesus is doing and be where Jesus is. I want that too.

May God give me and you the courage and faith to follow Jesus onto the crashing waves.

Take Courage2


Praying Scripture for You

The same strength that raised Christ from the dead is the the power God places in us by his Spirit to empower us to do what he calls us to do. Like Peter, we may slip and fall sometimes, we may let the doubt and distractions creep in and crowd out our concentration on Jesus, but when we cry out for help, he will be there.

I couldn’t remember exactly where in the Scriptures I had read that the power we have access to is the same power that raised Christ. So I looked it up (It is found within Ephesians 1:15-23, by the way). Paul mentions it in a section of his letter where he conveys what he is praying on the recipients’ behalf. It was so beautiful, I want to pray those same sentiments over you now.

Glorious Father God of our Lord Jesus Christ, may you give to all whose eyes fall upon these words the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that they may know Jesus better. I pray also that the eyes of their heart may be enlightened in order that they may know the hope to which you have called them, the riches of your glorious inheritance in the saints, and your incomparably great power for us who believe.

That power is like the working of your mighty strength, which you exerted in Christ when you raised him from the dead and seated him at your right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And you, God, placed all things under Christ’s feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way. 

When we feel doubt or fear, remind us of the power that dwells within us. Help us fix our eyes on Jesus, grasp hold of his outstretched hand, and rise above the challenges to complete the work you have called us to. In the mighty and powerful name of Jesus Christ I pray. Amen!

Don’t forget your FREE Printables

After making the second graphic above, I decided I wanted a 4 x 6 of that for you as well. So click either or both buttons below to let me know which photo(s) to email to you. Enjoy!

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Your turn... What causes you to become afraid or overwhelmed while trying to answer God’s call on your life? What helps you through the fear/overwhelm? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

4 Simple Ways to Connect with Jesus In Your Busy Life

Experience more peace and less stress without undergoing a major schedule makeover!

Life moves fast these days and it seems like our schedules are more jam packed than ever. It’s easy to get so caught up with the world that I can’t seem to see or hear God. Personal experience and Scripture confirm neglecting my connection with Christ leads to becoming empty, burned-out, and not pleasant to be around. And the more compartmentalized I make my faith, the harder it is for me to find time to focus on Jesus. On the other hand, over the years, as I’ve integrated time with God into the everyday moments of my busy life, I’ve grown closer to Him, more at peace, and less stressed. Here are four simple ways I connect with Jesus in my daily routine.

Grab the free cheat sheet of Simple Ways to Connect with Jesus in Your Busy Life

I say four ways, but really these are more like four general ways with many specific ways you could tailor each one to fit your particular preferences, resources, and routine. So, take these principles and get creative. You’ll be abiding more in Jesus without having to undergo a major schedule makover.

I’ve even made you a handy little checklist with ideas, apps, and other resources you might find helpful as you take these examples and customize them to fit your lifestyle and daily routine. Be sure and grab that checklist before you go!

1. Let Jesus Wake You Up

I hate—no make that HATE!!!—getting up in the morning. I’m a natural night owl who battles insomnia on a fairly regular basis. So once I get to sleep, I want to stay there!

My husband and I used to wake up to either the jarring sound of the alarm or the the inane chattering of the DJs on the local pop or country radio station morning show. Irritated, I then drug my bleary-eyed self out of bed at the last possible minute before I had to get my son up for school.

I wouldn’t connect with God until after I got the kids off to school and I settled in to read my Bible or devotional. This was usually an hour or so after I crawled out of bed. And, if I wasn’t intentional, I easily became distracted with my to-do list and skipped my morning time with God completely.

I knew I needed to connect with God in a meaningful way first thing in the morning if I wanted my day to start with less stress and more peace. So, I asked my husband to change the alarm to the local Christian music station. That simple alteration transformed my mornings. Now, I wake to a praise song and am able to lie there praising God before my eyes even open.

How could Jesus become a part of your wake-up routine? Check out the Cheat Sheet I made for you. I’ve listed several ideas and apps you may find helpful.

2. Commune While You Commute

Transform the time in the car to time to worship and commune with God.

With today’s technology, running errands, driving carpool, or heading to and from work are great times to integrate Scripture, prayer, and worship into your day.

I subscribe to several podcasts featuring sermons from great preachers (See the cheat sheet for a list of my favorites). I listen to these on longer drives and it helps me reflect deeply on God’s Word and his action in my life.

Shorter jaunts are great for some on-the-go prayer and Scripture “reading”. The daily prayer on the Abide app now features the daily Bible verse from the YouVersion Bible app. YouVersion has a feature that let’s you listen to the Scriptures so it is easy to hear the context of the daily verse. Before you back out of the driveway, cue these up and you’ll transform that time in traffic into time in prayer and the Word.

And of course, you can listen to Christian music as you drive. I made a playlist on my phone that features my favorite hymns, Gospel, and praise songs. I call it my “Worship on the Go” playlist.

I’ve linked to a few additional ideas and resources for drive time devotional ideas on the cheat sheet.

3. Exercise Your Faith and Your Body

I must confess, this is one I’ve neglected lately and I need to get back to it! Why walk alone when you can go with God? Pop in some earphones and turn on that “Worship On the Go” playlist and take a walk or hop on the stationary bike at the gym.

Alternately, if you have a workout buddy who is also looking to build more time with God into their daily routine, plan a way to incorporate a spiritual discipline into your exercise plans.

Maybe start with a short time of praying for each other, work on memory verses, or discuss the Scriptures you’ve studied. Be spiritual, as well as exercise, accountability partners.

4. Tie in Faith to Your Family Conversations

Another confession: I have not done a great job of training my kids to have set times of Bible reading and quiet time. That is something I really regret not establishing before they were old enough to push back. I am unstructured and didn’t grow up doing that myself.

However, I do try to naturally bring faith into the everyday conversations we have. Essentially, this is just putting God’s instructions (see Deuteronomy 6:7) into practice.

As they tell me about their day and the challenges they’ve encountered, I weave God’s character, his commands, and promises into the conversation. I want them to see their whole life is connected to God, not just Sunday mornings or “quiet times.” And I want them to value the wisdom of God’s Word and apply it to what is going on in their daily life.

Deut 6_7

Integration Rather than Compartmentalization

As we find ways to practice an awareness of and communion with Jesus in our daily lives, we develop confidence in Christ’s faithfulness and ability to sustain us in our ordinary moments. Challenge yourself to discover ways to worship God as you participate in your daily activities.

And don’t forget to grab the Cheat Sheet with a list of apps, podcasts, and resources you might find helpful. Just click the button below and I’ll email you a copy instantly!

Yes, send me the checklist!

How about you? What helps you connect with God throughout your day? Share a tip or idea in the comments and help the rest of us out! You can leave a comment by clicking here.


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Do You Need Strength? Tap into the Ultimate Source!

Free Step-by-Step Guide

I’ve been feeling a little disconnected from my church family lately. I used to teach in both an adult Sunday School class as well as our Women’s Bible study group. Last year, I stepped down from both of those positions. It was the right time and it has been the right decision. But I have missed the blessings that only come from walking alongside others in a small group. So, as Lent approached, I decided to seek out a small group which would challenge my spiritual comfort zone. Last week I began participating in a spiritual formation class which is certainly stretching some spiritual muscles I haven’t exercised in a while. And one of this week’s exercises led me to pray a passage of Scripture specifically for you.

paraphrase of Ephesians 3:18

I’ve prayed Ephesians 3:14-21 for each of you who are a part of the Making It Real Ministries community before. It is how I closed the post How to Strengthen Your Relationship with Christ in Ways that Work with Who You Are and Your Season of LifeAnd this week, I did so again.

My Prayer for You

Using the words penned and prayed by Paul, here is what I prayed over and for you:

I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name and  I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV)

Strengthened with His Power

While most of us like to think we can live life in our own strength, the truth is we can only live powerfully through the power of his Spirit dwelling in us. Our weakness allows God’s strength to be all the more apparent to us and others. (see 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Much like one is better able to see the stars illuminated in the night sky of the countryside rather than in the harsh glare of the city lights, one is able to recognize the capability of God when it is contrasted with our inability.

Flipping a light switch on and filling a dark gloomy room with a comforting glow can make us feel self-sufficient, while standing alone in the inky isolation of a rural Texas pasture gazing up into the heavenly lights brings to mind the Psalmist’s words:

Psalm 8:3-4, NIV (Psalm 8:3-4, NIV)

It is precisely in those moments where our unworthiness is most vivid that we find out how well rooted and established in love our faith is.

This foundation upon which our faith rests is not the Hallmark love of cards, candy, and fleeting sentiment, but the deep, abiding, never-failing love of God; a love so solid, so amazing that we can only grasp the breadth, width, height and depth of it by the power of God’s Spirit revealing it to us.

God’s self-sacrificing, redeeming, and transformational love transcends our human understanding. It makes no sense to creatures who naturally are self-centered. Yet it is the very manifestation of God’s nature. God is love. (1 John 4:8,16 NIV )

When Christ dwells in our heart, we are able to face the true answer to the Psalmist’s question: it is not because of who we are that God is mindful of us; it is because of who God is. It is not our worthiness but his grace.

He knew before he even created us that we would need his forgiveness and redemption (see Ephesians 1:3-10). And in his mercy, he planned to sacrifice himself to meet our need.

Christ Dwelling in Your Heart

Christ dwelling in our heart can bring about more than we can ask or imagine. As we submit to him and cooperate with him, we will stand amazed at what he brings about.

In my own life, I’ve seen him transform messes into messages, cynicism into hope, and division into unity. I’ve tasted the fruit produced from abiding in his presence. It is glorious. And it leaves no doubt as to its divine source.

Strengthening Your Relationship with Christ

If you are not feeling rooted and established as deeply and strongly as you would like, maybe, like me, you need to step a little further out of your comfort zone and let him reveal himself to you in fresh new ways. Or, maybe you need to find ways to relate with God that are more in line with your current season of life.

Whatever the reason, if you desire a stronger, more intimate fellowship with God you might find it helpful to go through the process outlined in this free step-by-step guide.


I pray God will use it to guide you to meaningful ways of abiding in him and him in you. Just click the button and request your copy and I’ll email it to you instantly.

Yes, send me the guide!

How about you? How is your relationship with Christ? What do you do that helps you abide in him and keep you aware of his presence in you? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Five Benefits You Can Expect When You Follow the Christian Calendar

FREE Printable Calendar

Have you ever thought of how many different calendars influence our lives? What goes on your schedule at any point depends on which type of year you are focused. For instance, the recent changing of the calendar year on January 1 set off an avalanche of New Year’s resolutions. The fiscal calendar brings to mind budgets, bills, and taxes associated with various checkpoints of time (end-of-the-month, quarters and year-end). And for all of us parents, the school calendar dominates many of our plans. In fact, a look at one’s calendar quickly shows where one’s priorities are. Does the calendar framework you use keep the first thing first? What should be our first priority? Well according to Colossians 1:17-18, first place goes to Jesus Christ! And guess what, there is a calendar framework that is ideal for helping us keep Jesus in his rightful place.

But many people are only vaguely aware (or maybe not at all aware) of the Christian calendar. I’ve decided to intentionally structure this year’s ministry calendar on the foundation of the historical Christian year because of the many benefits it provides. If you’d like to reap these same rewards in your life, keep reading and be sure to grab the free calendar I’ve made you!

Unlock Five Wonderful Benefits By Following This Calendar

If you don’t have a background in a liturgical congregation, you might be unfamiliar, and possibly even uncomfortable, with this calendar. You may hear the word “liturgical” and think ridged, monotonous, arcane rituals. Or, you might just scratch your head and wonder, “So what?”

Or, perhaps you are somewhat familiar with the seasons of the church year. The words Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter are not total strangers to you, but these seem like islands in an otherwise unconnected tide of days, weeks, and months.

A Proven Method for Building Unity in Diversity

The concept of reverently experiencing and sharing the story of Jesus and the Gospel message through a Christian calendar dates back centuries upon centuries to the time of the early church. Yet, no place in the New Testament do we have God commanding set dates and schedules for observing feasts, fasts, and other sacred days as God did for the Jews in the Old Testament.

Thus, there is not one, uniformly adopted version of the Christian year. There are many variations as to the specific dates, vocabulary, and color-schemes associated with the liturgical calendar across the church universal (and even within some denominations). For example, the pattern and dates used by Eastern Orthodox believers differs from those used by the Protestants and Roman Catholics. Even within denominations, you’ll find variations in how the calendar is observed.

However, as I researched this topic, I discovered that despite the many variations, all versions of the Christian year are anchored by the two high holy days of Christmas and Easter. Whatever the date, color-schemes, or names given, the calender lays out a clear cyclical progression beginning with Advent and concluding with a time of growth in our discipleship as followers of Christ as our sovereign King.

Both from my study and practice, I believe you will experience at least five benefits from making the Christian calendar the foundation on which you build your schedule and through which you evaluate all the other calendars fighting for control of your life.

Colossians 1:17-18 NRSV

Five Benefits of Ordering Your Life According to the Christian Calendar

When we familiarize ourselves with the cyclical pattern of the Christian calendar and begin to build all of our others upon this foundational structure, we will experience many benefits. As we observe the different seasons and study their corresponding passages in Scripture, we can expect to:

  1. Recognize the presence of God and the rhythms of our relationship with him in our day-to-day life.

The secular calendar insures we remember to honor our Mother, Father, Sweetheart, Veterans, and so on, but only the Christian calendar keeps Christ front and center. As we purposefully prioritize our relationship with and worship of God, we will more readily be sensitive to his presence and prompting.

The time-tested format provides different perspectives on and opportunities to engage the mysterious yet revealed Emmanuel (God With Us).

  1. Counteract the priorities and values espoused by the world with those espoused by God.

Intentional journeying with Christ through the trials and triumphs of his story disciplines us to avoid the lure of instant gratification, hedonism, and pursuing our own personal agendas at the expense of heeding the call to self-denial, sacrificial service, and the taking up of our cross to follow Jesus.

As one whose been in a life-long (and often losing) battle for self-control, I’m looking forward to the rest of this year-long trek with Christ producing a harvest of that particular fruit of the Spirit. Of course, I realize I’m probably in for a season of pruning before I see that harvest.

  1. Be equipped with both the truth and grace necessary to live victoriously in a fallen world.

As we regularly and deliberately abide with Jesus, we will better recognize our need for him. And in truly experiencing our need, we better appreciate and enthusiastically receive what our Savior provides.

The framework of the liturgical calendar prevents us from skipping over the uncomfortable parts of Christ’s story (and our own) so as to hang out in the less challenging events, Scriptures, and doctrines. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never grown when I was comfortable.

  1. Unite more closely with the Body of Christ as a whole by focusing on what we have in common rather than on the less essential differences.

Instead of seeing our brothers and sisters in other congregations as “the competition” for church attendance and tithes, we will recognize and embrace the reality of our shared head, Christ Jesus.

As we come together across denominational lines to worship, serve, and glorify God we will gain new appreciation and affection for one another. And in the process of doing so, we may find our faith deepened and enriched by taking the time to listen to why and how others do and think differently on the less essential aspects of the Christian faith.

  1. Cultivate our understanding and experience of traditions, rituals, and celebrations.

For example, the Christian calendar provides a lens through which the many and beautiful facets of the Lord’s Supper and Baptism become apparent. Consider how our hearts will be quickened in a slightly different way as we receive the bread and cup during Lent as opposed to during the Christmas season.

We will become more conscious of how the various themes, stories, events, and people of the Bible fit together in one overarching story of the redemptive work of God in Christ.

How I’ll Be Using the Christian Calendar on the Blog

Actually, I’ve already been using the calendar to inform my choice of topics for my blog posts. So you may not notice much of a difference. Since the ministry officially began in late 2013, I’ve struggled to stay ahead of my deadlines. This year, I’m doing more intentional planning for my editorial calendar. It just makes sense to be guided by the traditional liturgical pattern.

By sticking to the historical framework, I will better cover the whole of Scripture. At times, that will no doubt prove more challenging than just writing whatever happens to be on my mind that day. However, I have no doubt the Holy Spirit will reveal new things I need to work on and areas in which he wishes to help me grow. Hopefully, the process will serve you well and we can all grow together as we experience the benefits listed above.

Get A Handy Printable Calendar

I’ve created a calender for you to print out and keep at your desk, on the fridge, or wherever you generally do your scheduling.

On one page, you’ll find the seasons and special days along with their themes explained. On the second page, you’ll find the dates specific for the 2015-2016 Christian year. [FYI, this is now updated to show 2016-2017 dates!] I’m using this as I plan my blog content and classes. I hope you find it helpful as you make your plans, too.

If you’d like me to email you this calendar to print (or to keep on your phone or computer as a PDF), just click on the button below. I’ll email your copy instantly!

Send Me the Calendar!

And the winner is

Last week I asked for your help in selecting the cover for my newest resource. I’ve designed a Sermon Notes journal with many helpful features for recording and retrieving key insights and Scripture references. It will be available in both paperback and spiral bound versions and it could also be used to take notes in a Sunday School or Bible study class. I just couldn’t decide on a cover.

So, I asked my readers and social media followers to help me out. The votes are in and the as the chart below shows, Navy/Silver won with 51% of the vote!
voting results

FYI, a few people left me notes and even an invitation to coffee but didn’t leave a name in their survey comments. So I don’t have a way of identifying and contacting you. If you left me a note in your survey response, please shoot me an email and I promise to respond!

Thanks for your help! I’ll be sending the book to the publisher later this week. If you’d like to learn more about the book or to be notified when I start taking pre-orders, please just click the following button! I’ll send you a coupon code for a special pre-order discount!

Get Coupon Code!



My Readers’ Favorite Posts from 2015

Plus My Favorite Five Posts of the Year

I write what God prompts me to write and what I think will serve you well. I founded Making It Real Ministries as an act of obedience not as a pursuit of visibility. So I rarely pull up Google Analytics and see how many people viewed the posts. However, at the end of each year, I check in and see what posts were read most often. It helps me see what topics interest you most and where I might be able to provide more help. So, in today’s post, I share with you the five posts most viewed from 2015.

Featured image Top Posts 2015

Top 5 Posts Published in 2015

Of the posts I wrote this past year, these five were viewed most by the visitors to my website.

  1. How to Discern God’s Will When Faced With Choices
  2. Flying Above the Fear on a Wing and a Prayer
  3. Do You Know How to Disagree Without Discord?
  4. How I Made Peace with the Mystery of Suffering
  5. How God Got My Attention with a Fruitless Fig Tree

Top 5 Posts Overall in 2015

When you include the posts published at anytime since the blog began, these are the top five posts viewers read in 2015:

  1. Hope Floats! 10 Scriptures to Encourage You in Rough Times
  2. How to Apply God’s Truth in Your Daily Life—An Easy to Follow Guide
  3. How to Enjoy Reading the Bible and Get More Out of Your Time in It
  4. Four Things We Can Learn From Peter’s Failure and Jesus’ Response
  5. How to Discern God’s Will When Faced With Choices

My Favorite Five

Several of the posts that are my favorites didn’t make either list but I want to share them with you. These are special to me because I’ve heard from people (either via email, phone, social media, or in person) that God used the post to impact their life in a positive way.

  1. Did I Fear of Fear Not? Let’s see…
  2. What to Do When There Aren’t Enough Hours in the Day
  3. How To Have the Courage To Put Down the Mask and Be Authentic
  4. Despairing of Hope? Let the Lord Fight for You!
  5. Do You Settle for Off-the-Rack when God Offers You Custom-Made?

Will You Help Me?

While I don’t pursue numbers for the sake of numbers, I would be foolish to ignore them entirely. Part of exercising good stewardship over this ministry is to make sure I’m doing what is necessary to insure it is able to continue having a positive impact on my readers.

As I reviewed the analytics for the blog I realized we nearly doubled the number of readers since last year. In 2015, nearly 10,000 people stopped by the website. That just floors me!

What moves me isn’t the abstract numbers, but the fact each number represents a real person with hopes, dreams, struggles, and challenges. It is a huge privilege to minister to you and I pray God blesses you with his presence, grace and truth throughout 2016.

How You Can Help

As part of being a good steward of this ministry, I need to put more attention into growing the number of visitors who become subscribers. My mentors tell me that for a blog to remain viable, one needs to reach at least 1,000 email subscribers. We are growing our email list slowly but surely. However, with only about 230 subscribers we are a long way from that point of long-term viability. So I’m asking for your help.

Become a Subscriber

If you have benefited from the articles on Making It Real Ministries, would you please consider subscribing. There is no cost to subscribe and once subscribed, you’ll get an email whenever I update the blog.

I’ll also send you a free guide: How to Strengthen Your Relationship with Christ in Ways that Work with Who You Are and Your Real Life. As a subscriber, you also get special discounts, offers, and early-bird notice of special events. Just click the button below to subscribe.

Optimized_Free Guide How to Strengthen

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Already a Subscriber? Encourage Your Friends to Subscribe!

If you’re already a subscriber, would you please share your favorite article with your friends and encourage them to subscribe. It is super-easy to share a post. Just click on the share buttons above or below the post to post it on your social media or to send an email to a friend. When you share the post, consider letting them know why you find it valuable to be a subscriber.

Then throughout the year, if you enjoy or benefit from a post, please remember to share it with your friends and encourage them to subscribe to the blog.

With your help I know we can reach that 1,000 subscriber goal and insure we are able to keep sharing God’s truth and grace through Making It Real Ministries!

How about you? What was your favorite post this past year? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

What To Do When There Aren’t Enough Hours in the Day

Download the FREE Guide with Tips & Resources

Recently, one of my readers, Pete, asked me for advice on how to get more done in the same amount of time. For many of us, the next few months are some of the busiest of the year. So, I bet Pete isn’t the only one with this question. If you share Pete’s concern, today’s post and resource guide should help!

Get Your Free Guide to Getting the Right Things Done

“Our normal, everyday activities now are very hard to keep up with,” Pete told me. Then he explained he and his family have activities and opportunities on the horizon that will add even more to an already crowded schedule. “I don’t know how in the world we’re going to manage all of it.” I heard similar thoughts expressed by those who responded to my survey about the challenges you face during the holidays.

I confessed to Pete I would have to answer from the perspective of a fellow struggler. Productivity is still a battle for me, though I’m better now than I used to be.

My strategy for getting more done is actually better expressed as getting the right things done as efficiently as possible. And there is both a philosophical and practical aspect to the strategy.

In addition to the overview given in this post, I’ve also created a free guide with a summary of the key ideas as well as some links to content curated from others who are much better at this than I am. You’ll find links to the books, blog posts, and podcasts I’ve found most helpful. I hope it helps you learn, remember, and apply these ideas to your own life. Click the image or button below to get your cheat sheet emailed to you instantly!

Send Me That Guide!

So, what helps me determine what to get done and how to accomplish it as productively as possible?

Philosophically, a Perspective Change Is Needed

Until a few years ago, I habitually thought in the same terms Pete used when he presented his situation. “There are never enough hours in the day!” That scarcity thinking kept me trapped and overwhelmed.

However, the “there are not enough hours” belief is the root of my problem; and it’s a perspective problem not a sufficiency problem.

God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. And there was evening, and there was morning—the sixth day.”  —Genesis 1:31, NIV

God established time and set the boundaries on our days, weeks, seasons, and years. We all get the same number of hours in our day. Each one of us gets 24 hours and 7 days each week. No more, no less. And God designed our bodies, minds and souls to function best within the patterns of time our Creator established.

So, I don’t need more hours, I just need to exercise better stewardship over the ones he has provided me.

There are three key mindset changes you’ll want to make.

1. Focus on What You Can Control

If I focus on something I can’t change (for example, adding more hours to my day), rather than what I can change, (what I do with those hours), I feel helpless and overwhelmed. String together a few days like that and hopelessness sets in as well.

On the other hand, when I focus my energy on the things I can impact, I feel empowered and hopeful.

What’s Within the Realm of My Stewardship?

I can control my attitudes, desires, feelings, and responses. I determine how I will give and receive love. I have dominion over my body and to a certain extent my material possessions. I can control what I believe, value, and think. These are the realm over which God has given me stewardship.

And he holds me accountable for how I manage the blessings he has entrusted to me within the borders of that realm.

Productivity increases when I keep my focus within this realm of stewardship.

2. Get Clear On Your What & Why

If I don’t know my goal (what I’m trying to achieve) and why I’m trying to achieve that goal, I work hard all day but don’t ever seem to accomplish anything.

I’m very “squirrelly”. If you’ve seen the movie Up and remember the squirrel-chasing talking dog, you’ll know what I mean. The least little distraction sends me wandering off the path of productivity.

Squirrel SM

I’m also a recovering people-pleaser so saying no to the requests of others can be difficult. I’ve worked at developing the boundary-setting skills needed to do this. I now have a “healthy boundaries toolbox” that makes this much easier than it used to be.

3. You’re Guided by Your Why

We can set all the goals we want but our why is what motivates our actions. And our why takes us to the destination naturally associated with it—even if we consciously claim to have a different destination as our goal. I will be ruled by my why. So I better get clear on it!

If you want to know what someone really believes, look at their actions. Those more accurately reveal beliefs than words. They may say they believe in the golden rule, but do they consistently live like they really believe it. (We all mess up from time to time, but that is different from our consistent patterns of behavior.)

It works the same way with goals. Your why determines your actions. So spend some time honestly evaluating why you want to accomplish the goal you set.

Practical Application Tips for Better Productivity

Once you shift your mindset and know your true motivations, the following tips can help you steward your time and blessings more productively.

1. Design A Plan That Reflects Your Priorities

When you float down a river, the current causes you to drift to a particular destination. Likewise, your why produces actions aligned with your why and which lead to a destination or result aligned with your why.

Without a plan, you are basically drifting rather than purposefully fulfilling your calling.

If the why behind one of our goals is weaker than the why of another goal (even if we don’t consciously realize we even have another goal), our actions can become counter-productive. At best, we take a more circuitous route than needed to reach our intended goal. At worst, we end up somewhere we never intended to go.

For example, one of my goals is to lose another 30 pounds. However, the past few weeks have been very busy and overwhelming in terms of our family’s schedule. I didn’t do my meal planning, shopping, and other pro-active planning and follow-through related to my weight-loss goal.

So, even though consciously my goal remains weight-loss, the why behind that goal (better long-term health) has been weaker than my why behind grabbing fast food and ripping open a bag of chips instead of steaming some veggies (convenience and instant gratification). Without a good plan, my actions followed the stronger why and the scale drifted up instead of down.

A plan gives you a rudder and a motor so you reach the desired destination much faster and more efficiently.

A plan that takes into account the relative priority of each of your goals also acts as a map. So, when you reach a fork in the river the decision has already been made as to which way to go and you have the resources to take the necessary actions to move in that direction.

Rank your goals in order of priority. Knowing the relative rank of your goals helps when you have to decide between two good choices.

Recently, I had to choose between saying yes to a dream-come-true speaking invitation and watching my son’s football game. I wrote about that in a previous post. But essentially, it was easy to make the decision to go to the game because I had already clearly established my goals and why each goal was ranked in what priority within my plan.

2. Know (& Live Within) Your Limits

I regularly under-estimate how long tasks will take and over-estimate how much I can realistically and responsibly handle. Thus, I tend to stretch myself too thin and get burned out.

My peace and productivity goes up when I acknowledge and live within my limits and needs. How much sleep do I need? How much time do I need to nurture my relationship with God? My husband? My boys? My friends? And so on…

Michael Hyatt has some fantastic advice when it comes to productivity. In the cheat sheet, I’ve curated some links to his blog posts and podcasts I’ve found most helpful. One thing he says repeatedly is “What gets scheduled, get’s done.” And I’ve noticed that as I’ve become better about spending my time on paper first, I am happier with the results in real life.

3. You CAN’T Do It All Right Now!

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but it is healing medicine once you get it down. We are finite beings. We were not made to do it all. And thinking we can or are supposed to do it all is actually a scarcity mindset in disguise.

If we think we should be doing more and more all the time, it reflects an attitude that what we have and are doing is not enough. Recognizing appropriate limits allows us to appreciate the abundance and sufficiency of what we do have and exercise good stewardship over it.

My Scripture Memory Team Verse #21 is Ecclesiastes 3:1 which says,

()ptimized_Ecc 3_1 NIV


This may sound like a contradiction to what I just said about not being able to do it all, but it isn’t. It is actually the key to making peace with our limits.

God made seasons as well as hours, days, and weeks. We can’t do it all right now. When you’re in a season in which you are parenting young children or caring for elderly parents (or both), your limits will differ from an empty-nest season.

Embrace the season God has you in right now and live in harmony with it.

Putting It All Together

  1. Prayerfully discern what God is calling you to do (your goals) and clearly acknowledge and articulate why you want to accomplish each goal.
  2. Rank your goals in priority order based on the relative importance of the why behind each goal.
  3. Map out a plan that acknowledges your limits so you can be a good steward of the time and blessings God has given you.
  4. Say no to things that don’t fit your plan or your particular season of life.
  5. Work your plan to the glory of God. (see John 15:8 and Colossians 3:17)

Be sure and get your FREE resource guide!

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And here are a few of my other blog posts that touch on some aspect of this general topic.

How about you? What helps you avoid overwhelm and get the right things done? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

How To Have the Courage To Put Down the Mask and Be Authentic

Friday I spent the day sewing (badly) a costume for my son. He was helping out at our church’s Masquerade Bash and wanted a non-scary but cool costume. He loves Lord of the Rings and so he wanted to be Faramir, Captain of Gondor’s Ithilien Rangers. As I sewed (and ripped out and re-sewed) the seams of the costume, I was thankful most of my efforts would be hidden under the beautiful cape sewn by Justin’s grandmother. He ended up liking the costume so much he decided to go trick-or-treating with his friends this coming Saturday. And that got me pondering how often we pretend to be someone we aren’t so we can get “treats” from others.

Get A Free Checklist

I’ve made you a seven-step checklist to remind you of the key ideas covered in this post. Implementing these seven steps will help you have the courage to put down your masks and relate authentically with God and with the people in your life! If you’d like the checklist, just click on the image or button below and I’ll email it to you right away!

Give Me That Checklist!

Tricking Others to Get Our Treats

It is so tempting appear to be someone we aren’t to gain the blessing, approval, or favor of others. But, while that seems like a shortcut to what we want, it never produces the actual result we are after.

Consider how Jacob dressed up as his brother Esau to grab the blessing and favor of his father in Genesis 27.

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Despairing of Hope? Let the Lord Fight for You!

Join me at the Promise of Hope Retreat!

This past week marked the second anniversary of Making It Real Ministries. My team and I reviewed our past, assessed our present, and looked ahead to 2016. I must confess for much of the past two years I’ve identified with those who followed Moses into the Wilderness not knowing where they were going, how they would get there, or how they would survive the journey. They had to learn to trust God and move forward in obedience in the face of seemingly overwhelming obstacles. And you and I must do the same as we follow God’s calling in our lives. Have you ever faced a seemingly insurmountable obstacle or apparently hopeless situation? Are you in one of those predicaments now? Then read on friend and be encouraged!

The Lord will fight for you while you keep silent. Ex 14:14 NASB

Click Here to Get Your Printable Verses

As part of our reviewing the past couple of years, my husband (and CPA), Matt, did the books and showed me the financial situation of the ministry. And let’s just say I felt like I was staring into the wide Red Sea with the clamor of Pharaoh’s chariots growing louder and louder.

At about the same time, a dream-come-true speaking opportunity was offered. Yet…

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Does Your Marriage Need a Makeover? Try this…

FREE Marriage Makeover Checklist

Last week Matt and I celebrated our 25th Anniversary. And as we reflected over our nearly three decades together, we recalled the ebbs and flows in our relationship. Every marriage goes through ups and downs. How you go through those is what makes the difference. So, if you’re currently in a rough patch, there is hope. In today’s post, I share the process that helped us get things back on track over the years.

And since theory and thinking only goes so far, I’ve made you a Marriage Makeover Checklist to help you put these steps into action in your own relationship. Click here to request your copy and I’ll email it to you instantly!

Recapturing Love and Intimacy

You can recapture the love and intimacy you used to have in your marriage. After all these years, we have a fantastic marriage and enjoy spending time with each other now just as much as when we were dating.

But we’ve had more than a few times during those twenty-five years when things looked bleak.

Great marriages and families don’t just happen. They require intentional planning and action. They also require constant monitoring and a willingness to course correct along the way before things reach a crisis.

That is what this process is going to help you do.

6-Step Makeover Process

These steps are not complicated and can be completed in a short period of time if you are both invested in making it happen. Print out your checklist, schedule time to work on this makeover, and then enjoy the results!

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Transform Your Schedule from Overwhelmed to Just Right in 7 Simple Steps

Take the "Goldilocks" Quiz and download your FREE "Just Be" Checklist

There is something about planners and organization supplies that sets me day-dreaming about how my life could be different: less chaotic, more goals accomplished, less stress. Then I look at my calendar and the piles of paper on the counter related to the kids’ school projects, my Bible study, extra-curricular activities for the kids, and on and on. When I’m not intentional about what “yeses” fly out of my people-pleasing mouth, our whole family ends up stressed out and spread too thin. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

What if I was intentional about crafting my schedule (and that of our family)? What if I had time to do the really important things that add up to an abundant life? Rather than a drowning under a jillion “just because I always have to (or think I’m supposed to)” tasks and places to be?

Would you like to join me in purposefully crafting a “Goldilocks schedule” that strikes the “just right” balance between getting things accomplished and keeping our sanity and soul intact? Then be sure to take the little quiz below and download your FREE “Just Be” Checklist.

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