Staying Close to God During the Busy Holiday Season

5 Ways to Stay Close to God During the Busy Holiday Season at www.annswindell.com

This is my newest piece for RELEVANT Magazine.
You can read the whole article here.

Life doesn’t ever stop, especially during the busy holiday season full of to-do lists, parties, shopping and (hopefully!) worship and service opportunities. So how can we focus our hearts in a deeper way on the presence of God in our lives, especially during a time of year filled with increased opportunities and responsibilities? How can we stay close to God when everything around us is demanding our attention?

Here are some simple steps that I’ve found are helpful to stay close to Jesus during the holiday season.

Start with Scripture.

It sounds simple, but it can also be very hard to read the Word regularly. Still, I have found that when I start my day in the Bible, my heart and mind are better prepared to respond to God’s presence throughout the rest of the day. It’s like tying up my shoelaces before going out the door—it’s much easier to keep from slipping as I walk through the day.

During the holiday season, when time seems short, get creative about reading the Bible if you’re struggling to do so. Listen to the audio version of the Bible on your phone or in the car. Or read for five minutes before you get out of bed (or even touch your phone!) in the morning. You might even consider starting a special Advent devotional to help you focus on God during this time of year.

5 Simple Ways to stay close to God during the busy holiday season via @RELEVANT Click To Tweet

Make time to serve.

Too often, the holidays can cause us to focus on ourselves—what we want, what we wish we had and how much we have to do. But when we take time to serve others through our church and community, we are fulfilling a central call of the Gospel (1 Peter 4:10, Galatians 5:13).

Who in your church community needs some attention and love, especially this time of year? While it can be wonderful to participate in official service opportunities, sometimes the most meaningful chances to serve come by loving the people right in front of us with our time, our energy and our attention. Pray and ask the Lord who you can serve this holiday season, and then set aside time to do so.

Sometimes the most meaningful chances to serve come by loving the people right in front of us. Click To Tweet

Listen to truth.

In our home and car, I play music that reminds me of God’s presence in my life. Music seeps into my mind more easily (and mindlessly) than most things, so if I find myself humming a tune unintentionally, it helps my soul if it’s a song that reminds me of who God is. If Christmas music is your style, there are wonderful stations and streams to listen to that are full of Christ-centered Christmas music. And if you don’t love listening to music, find a podcast, radio station or audio book that declares the truth of who God is and turn it on while you’re doing mindless tasks around the house or even working out!

Read the rest of the article here, at RELEVANT!

 

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

How to Balance Motherhood and Writing

I’ve been a professional writer for the last decade, and for the last half of that decade, I’ve also been a mom. I deeply love being a writer, and I deeply love being a mom…but the two passions don’t always line up smoothly. Writing requires a certain amount of focus and quiet and time–three things that are often difficult (if not impossible!) to find as a mom. Kids don’t seem to appreciate the fine art of offering their parents uninterrupted blocks of quiet, focused time…

Still, I don’t think that writing and motherhood are mutually exclusive. In fact, I’ve found that the two can jive really well together–with some creativity and help. Over the years, I’ve talked with so many fellow moms who are struggling with how to stay connected to their passion as a writer while simultaneously holding down the fort at home (and also sometimes at work). And that’s why I’ve created The Writing Mom Course.

How to Balance Writing and Motherhood at The Writing Mom. www.thewritingmomcourse.com

This course covers the big questions and practical insights that women are looking for as they pursue writing in the season of motherhood, and I am SO EXCITED about it. We talk about issues of time, balance, writing voice, platform, and others–the list goes on! I’ve poured what I’ve learned as a writing mom into these six classes and worksheets, and I’d love for you to visit the new site, watch the video, and learn about how I want to encourage and equip you on your writing journey!

Also, this week only, I’ve knocked the price down to $39.95…which is cheaper than a family of four going out to eat! I’m hopeful that this can be a resource for you as you pursue your passion of writing as a mom!

Join me here, at The Writing Mom!

The Writing Mom Course at www.thewritingmomcourse.com

Stewarding Your Passions in the Season of Motherhood

How to Steward Your Passions in the Season of of Motherhood at annswindell.com

This is the start of my newest piece for The Gospel Coalition. You can read the whole piece here!

I love to write; it’s one of the ways I feel most connected to God. Before my daughter was born, I wrote for several publications. But when she came into the world, my writing life was put on an abrupt hold. I often wondered: Do I have to wait until my children are grown to return to my passions?

As Christian mothers, this question bubbles up often: How do we navigate the years of childrearing with our own desires to create and innovate and learn?

While there’s no one response for every woman, it’s important to ask the right questions as we consider how to steward our passions and live faithfully in our current season. Here are four such questions.

1. In pursuing this passion, do I have the support of my family and church family?

When Hunter Beless was still nursing her second daughter, she considered starting a podcast for women, but she hesitated. “I thought motherhood wasn’t the season to explore my own passions and desires, and I feared not having enough time or energy to do something outside of caring for my husband and children,” she recalls.

Still, she couldn’t shake the feeling that this was something she should pursue. “I prayerfully submitted both the dreaming and planning process to the Lord. After developing my ideas, I began to seek counsel from my husband, mentors, and friends. Things continued to align as I moved forward, which led me to ask, ‘Why not?’ At worst, it offered an opportunity to experiment, play, and create while my kids were sleeping, and at best it had the potential to encourage other women to glorify God.”

With the support of those around her, Hunter started the Journeywomen Podcast, which is growing rapidly and blessing women across the country and world. But it began with submitting her ideas to the Lord and her community, trusting him to guide her in the right direction.

2. What’s the ultimate end of pursuing this passion?

There are countless ways to pursue our passions, but we must always reckon with the centrality of the gospel. Is Christ at the center of this pursuit? Is the good news at the core of why I’m doing this? Whether you work a secular job, volunteer at a nonprofit, join a neighborhood committee, play in a tennis league, or serve in your church, it’s helpful to consider how this pursuit will give you opportunities to live out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18–20).

Dianne Jago started the magazine Deeply Rooted because she sensed a need for something other than what she was seeing in “popular Christian women’s ministry, which unfortunately included a lot of misuse and misunderstanding in the interpretation and application of the Scriptures.” She desired to see Christ exalted in media and to point other women to a right handling of the Word. Jago’s passion is anchored in the gospel, and it has borne beautiful fruit in her life and in the lives of readers.

Read the rest of the article here, at The Gospel Coalition!

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

When Your Dreams Feel Unseen

When Your Dreams Feel Unseen at www.annswindell.com

Last year, my daughter and I planted a cantaloupe plant in our front garden right before summer got into full swing. I am the epitome of a black thumb, so it was an act both of faith and of craziness, and I wrote about it in the last chapter of my book, Still Waiting.

That chapter is perhaps my favorite chapter of the entire book, and while it’s about this particular cantaloupe plant, it’s also about the ways in which God cares for us and meets with us even when our prayers seem unanswered. It’s a chapter about faith and looking ahead and trusting that often, what we can’t see is making way for something more beautiful than we could have ever imagined.

I’ve had some readers ask me about the cantaloupe plant that I reference in Still Waiting, and I wanted to give you an update, albeit a year later:

Cantaloupe and God's faithfulness at www.annswindell.com

Cantaloupe and God's faithfulness at www.annswindell.com

Yay! That little cantaloupe plant grew and grew–in fact, the vines overtook the whole of our tiny garden and eclipsed anything else in the plot. And finally, as summer turned into fall, my daughter and I celebrated the growth that God did in that tiny seed by eating the literal fruit of his faithfulness.

So, just a reminder for you today, friend: if it feels like your dreams and hopes are in the ground, unseen…God sees you. He knows your heart and he hears your prayers. There is a day coming when you will see the fruit of your faith. I don’t know when that is; only the Lord does! But he is faithful and there will be a day of reaping the spiritual harvest you have prayed for.

If it feels like your dreams and hopes are in the ground, unseen...God sees you. He knows your heart and hears your… Click To Tweet

If you haven’t read Still Waiting yet, can I encourage you to pick up a copy? No matter what season of life you’re in, my prayer is that this book will strengthen you in your own walk with the Lord and remind you that you’re never alone. 

 

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

 

Writing Your Story Can Change Your Life

I started writing my story years ago; long before I was anywhere near a book contract or a marketing team, I felt that the Lord was inviting me into a process of writing my story down and–in the process–meeting him in the middle of it. I’m not sure I’ve done anything more powerful in my personal spiritual journey than write my memoir.

Christian Writing Course at www.writingwithgrace.com

Memoir is the genre that I love the most, because it’s the genre that allows us–even gently forces us–to re-examine the lives that we have been living as we write them down on the page. A good memoir isn’t autobiography, and it isn’t a personal journal. It’s the true story of our lives written in such a way that others can understand, access, and be changed by it.

I’m not sure there’s a more dynamic form of the written word.

Our God is the God of story, and he loves making himself known through our stories; it’s how he’s wired us. We start loving stories as children, and we inherently know when a story has a satisfying or unacceptable ending, because we were made to long for resolution, peace, and hope.

Our God is the God of story, and he loves making himself known through our stories. Click To Tweet

If you’ve always wanted to write your story, or if you’ve been wondering how you can tell your story in a meaningful way, I’m going to suggest that writing your memoir might be one of the most powerful things you can do in your personal journey with Jesus. Down the road, might your story impact hundreds or thousands of people? I hope so! But in these days and months, writing your story will transform you most of all. I know that it has transformed me; I got to see Jesus at work all over again as I’ve written my memoir over the past years.

I just opened registration for the Writing with Grace Memoir course that I’ll be teaching this September–October. To say that I’m thrilled about this class is an understatement; I’m practically jumping out of my chair!

You can use the code WRITEMYSTORY to save 10% on the cost of the class.

Registration is open for Writing with Grace: Memoir! www.writingwithgrace.com #amwriting Click To Tweet

I’d love for you to join me over at Writing with Grace–you can even see the video that we created just for this course.

If you’ve been aching to write your story, this is your time. I can’t wait to see you there!

 

 

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell

Waiting and the Gift of Unanswered Prayer

I’m always honored to write for Desiring God;
this is the start of my newest article for them.
You can read the whole of the article here!

The Gift of Unanswered Prayer at www.annswindell.com

I have been praying the same prayer for healing for more than twenty years.

If you’ve been praying for one particular thing over months or years or decades, then you know how exhausting and difficult it can feel to keep returning to God with the same petition.

I was just a child when I developed trichotillomania — a hair-pulling condition — and while it’s not a life-threatening condition, it has been life-altering for me. Imagine not being able to stop pulling out your own hair, even though you hate how it makes you look — and feel. That’s been my daily experience for more than half of my life.

I’ve been asking God to do what no doctor, therapy, or medication can: heal me. I have tried various therapies and supplements, and I continue to seek to walk in healing, but there’s no clear “cure” for trichotillomania. I know that if I’m going to be healed, I will need a gift of grace from God himself. And while I wholeheartedly believe in God’s ability to heal me, I also know that he hasn’t healed me over these last two decades. Not yet.

Therefore, I wait.

Why Waiting Hurts

 If I’m honest, waiting is something I would prefer to avoid on any level, from waiting for a prayer to be answered all the way down to waiting in line at the grocery store. Why? Because waiting elicits the feeling of helplessness — of having to rely on someone else to act on my behalf.


Waiting forces me to come to terms with my own weakness.
It’s what waiting does to all of us: when we can’t work harder to get what we want, or when we can’t manipulate life to turn out the way we want it to, or when we can’t pay enough money or get enough help to achieve what our heart desperately desires, we are left with the truth of our own insufficiency: we are weak.

God is with you in your waiting: he has heard every prayer, listened to every cry, kept track of every sorrow. Click To Tweet

And we aren’t in control. Not even a little bit. We have to rely on someone else — on God — to act on our behalf.

It’s difficult and humbling to come to terms with our own inability to make anything happen. When we have prayed and longed and hoped and begged and done all that we can and still — still — there is no change in our circumstances, we are forced to stop our striving and simply wait, in large part because there is nothing else for us to do. We must stop and pause and look to God to act. And in that waiting, at the end of our proverbial rope, we will become aware of our inability to attain anything of lasting value on our own.

Read the rest of the article here, at Desiring God!

Still Waiting by Ann Swindell