The Christian Minimalist

Over the past couple years I have become increasingly interested in minimalism as a lifestyle. It started with a desire to pare down my wardrobe and from there it seeped into all the corners of my life. I began to evaluate every little thing I wanted to buy. I went on a decluttering spree through the house. Several times. I started to become overwhelmed with the sheer volume of stuff I owned. How did I get so much stuff? I asked. Where did it all come from? Why did I think I needed so many of this?

The questions kept coming, and the answers turned my reflections uncomfortably inward. Was I trying to fill a hole? Was I attempting to manufacture happiness by getting something new and shiny? Was I just buying things to mask the symptoms of a life of discontent?

As a Christian I knew I was supposed to find my fulfillment in a relationship with Jesus Christ. No one else and nothing else can fill that hole. So if my God-shaped hole was filled, why was I still searching? Was it an attempt to take hold of the reigns of my life, instead of giving them over to the One who knows what’s truly best for me? For the last several years it wasn’t uncommon for me to just buy little things, here and there, as a release from the constrains of very tight finances. I felt trapped by my circumstances when I should have been surrendering them to God, and that led to needing that consumerism-fueled release.

James 1:2-4 says, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” Looking back—and even looking at my current situation—I can see how God was and is using tight finances to teach me patience and reliance on Him. But now I have a different way of viewing my circumstances. I’m learning to let patience have its perfect work. The money is just as tight, but as I have moved away from materialism and consumerism, the need to fill the void with stuff for the sake of stuff has disappeared. I can count on one hand (maybe two) the non-food, non-essential things I’ve bought in the past six months, and they have all been calculated, carefully considered purchases.

God has been teaching me contentment with what I already own, which is so much more than enough. I live in a country blessed with abundance, where the term “need” is frivolously thrown around for countless things that are far from necessary for the sustainment of life and health.

It’s true that Joshua, Ryan, and Leo, as well as many other minimalist bloggers and writers, taught me the importance of carefully examining what I bring into my life, but it was God who taught me why it is important. All that extraneous stuff in our lives can easily “jam the signal” and keep us from hearing God’s voice. But when we remove what isn’t needed, we make room for the essential. We make room for the eternal.

When the rich young ruler asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, He instructed him to go and sell all of his possessions and follow Him. Sadly the man couldn’t bring himself to part with his earthly treasures.

While Jesus doesn’t call most of us to sell all we own in order to follow Him, the lesson is there for all of us: When our stuff owns us, it gets in the way of what’s truly important, including our relationship with our Savior.

Maybe we could all do with a little less stuff and a little more contentment.

NaNoWriMo here we go!

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It’s official! I’m signed up and ready to novel!

I’d waffled back and forth about participating in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) this year, as I had every year. In the past, I’d think about it sometime in September, forget all about it until November 3rd or 4th, and then kick myself for not planning better.

But this year will be different! What’s more, I’m not letting fear of failure stop me from  giving this my best effort. With two small boys, ages 2 years and 4 months, respectively, it’ll be no small feat. But even if I “fail” and only write 10k words, or 25k words, or 49k words, I’m that many more words closer to a complete first draft.

The biggest thing I lacked before was accountability and community. I was scared that if I told the world I was attempting to write 50k words in one month, it’d be that much more of a failure if I didn’t succeed.

If you plan to participate in NaNoWriMo, don’t make the mistakes I did! Take advantage of the great resources available to you. Create a free account on nanowrimo.org and find your local group. Read all the great material on the site. Connect with other writers on the forums. And plan to go to some local write-ins if your group is hosting them. Nothing can replace the positive energy and motivation from writing in the company of other writers!

Be bold! Tell the world you’re going to write your novel in a month! If you’re a NaNoWriMo-er, tell me what your book is going to be about in the comments below!

Happy writing!

Working Out and Writing

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Image courtesy of Ambro at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Working out and writing have a lot in common. They both require discipline and regular practice to really succeed. But it can be hard to find time.

For instance, I just had a really great workout. But you know what? It wasn’t perfect. I did my utmost to plan for success. I had good carbs for breakfast, I fed baby Jack, put him down for a nap, drank my coffee, got Wesley set up watching Thomas the Tank Engine, and previewed my exercises so I could set up for them in advance and not take a long time setting up for each one as it came.

Three exercises in, Jack started screaming. I went and got him, took him out to the porch with me (that’s where the exercise equipment is), set him up with some toys, and started where I left off. My 45 second rest between sets had turned into an 8 minute one. But Jack still wasn’t happy. I tried different toys, I held him between sets, but in the end, I sat him down and buckled down to getting my last three sets in so I could give him my full attention.

After feeding a very hungry Jack, he was happy. Giggly, even. And I was happy because I got a workout in even when it wasn’t an ideal time. It was a great workout though, because it was a workout I did.

I have a goal to become as disciplined in my writing habits as I am in my workouts. Jack and Wesley cry out for my attention all day. So do dirty laundry and dishes. It can be tempting to spend the whole day trying to “catch up” on housework that will never be done. And at the end of the day I haven’t written a single word. I’m always waiting for a chunk of time where I can really “focus” on writing. I need to learn to carve out 10 minutes here, 5 minutes there. To buckle down and do the work, like I do with my workouts. Sure, I might get far more done in one “focused” session, but I can’t wait for the ideal and squander the good enough.

What about you? Are you a young mom trying to find time to write or be fit? Instead of trying to “find the time,” maybe you should be looking at the time in-between. It only takes a few minutes here and there to start the forward motion towards your goal.

What I learned at my first writing conference

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Image courtesy of anankkml at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This is the first blog post on my new website. I struggled for a while to decide on a topic for it. It should be something meaningful, right? But not too self-important. Informative, but without claiming an expertise that isn’t mine. Then I thought, why not write about the experience that birthed this site? My first writing conference.


On April 24th I traveled the vast distance from Grimes, IA to Omaha, NE. Two whole hours of drive time. (said sarcastically)

The Omaha Word Sowers Christian Writers Conference was a one-and-a-half-day event. Manageable, I thought, for a first writing conference. I didn’t expect a life-changing experience or even to be nervous. Ha!

While to call it life-changing might be a bit strong, it did leave me encouraged, motivated, and very inspired. And yes, I was nervous.

So what did I learn? The first lesson actually came long before the event:

You’ll never be “ready” for your first writing conference

I’ve been dreaming for years about going to a writing conference: saving, planning, researching my “dream conferences…” But I kept putting off committing to one, thinking that to get the most out of it I needed to have a completed manuscript, a book proposal, perfect my elevator pitch, do this, prepare that, and be ready to land a big-time publishing contract or the ideal agent. Not that I was asking much of myself. I just wanted to milk every last iota of opportunity from the experience. Oh wait…

The truth is I was never going to be ready. But going to a writing conference could give me some of the tools I needed to get there.


The highlight of my weekend just might have been the coaching session I had with Rj Thesman. I asked her questions I’d asked other writing industry professionals before, but her answers were so much more clear, and I came away feeling like my question had been answered. Here’s some of the best advice I got:

Note: I’ve paraphrased and condensed her answers for the sake of this post and because I don’t have a recording or written transcript of the session. I’m working off of notes and my memory. Dangerous, I know.

Me: Everyone tells me I need to have a speaking platform for my book, but I write speculative fiction. What in the world am I supposed to talk about?

Rj: Take your main character’s weakness–in this case, fear–and speak on that topic.

My main audience are teens. Teens have a lot of fear. I should know, it wasn’t that long ago that I was one. I was afraid of not having any friends. I was afraid of going to a party and nobody talking to me. I was afraid the guy I was secretly in love with didn’t like me. I was deathly afraid of playing piano in public. Scratch that. I’m still deathly afraid of it.

Me: I’ve heard short stories are a great way to break into the market, but writing speculative short fiction is hard. What do I write about?

Rj: Write a short story about a character–or characters–from your novel. It can be a stand-alone story, but you won’t have to start from scratch building worlds and back stories. And later, when that novel is published, the short story can be a great way to draw from the interest of an existing audience.

Me: Do I need an online platform as an unpublished fiction writer?

Rj: Yes, and you need it now! The sooner you start on a website, newsletter, FaceBook, and Twitter, the better!

Me: But what do I post about?

Rj: Post about what you’re reading. Post quotes or memes about reading or writing. Post about the progress you’re making on your book–or the struggles you’re having with it. Post snippets from or about your book to entice future readers. Post questions on subjects dealt with in your book that spark controversy. Controversy breeds interest. You don’t have to self-promote. In fact, please don’t!

Rj had so much more brilliant advice, but I’m writing a blog post, not a book, so I’ll stop with the big three.


So what else did I learn?

The #1 thing:

Stepping out of your comfort zone can have unexpected results

Several editors and agents who didn’t attend the conference in person were available for on-the-phone interviews with attendees. At the urging of the leader of my Word Weavers critique group, Elaine Cooper, I signed up for one with Rowena Kuo, the managing editor of Brimstone Fiction.

I wasn’t planning on pitching my unfinished manuscript–editors don’t usually want to hear about those from unpublished writers–but Rowena asked me about my book. Even though I stumbled through the synopsis (translation: I butchered it), at the end of our conversation she surprised me by asking for the complete manuscript and book proposal with it was finished. Mind: blown.


The rest of the day was a whirlwind of information. Writing craft workshops, Lunchtime conversations with writers and editors, a session about how to be a DIY techie by Angela D. Meyer–which was very helpful these past couple weeks as I’ve been setting up my web presence–and of course, all the fellow attendees I was able to connect with! Who knows? Some of those acquaintances might even become friends.

Closing Thoughts:

If you’re reading this post and you’re a writer or an aspiring one, here’s my best advice:

If you haven’t gone to a writers conference yet, make it happen this year.

Pick a small, local conference. One day long, maybe two. Believe me, a low-key one will be more than enough for your first conference. And ready or not,  step out of your comfort zone. Because you’ll never be “ready.” But why let that stop you?


Now it’s your turn:

Have you gone to a writing conference before? If so, what was that first experience like? Did you learn something you didn’t expect to? If you haven’t been to one yet, are you planning to?

Comment below!