TBR . . . Later

IMG_4635Just when I think I have it under control, my TBR pile inexplicably grows. Well, I say inexplicably, but that’s not entirely true. I know why it grows. There’s a plethora of interesting looking books out there, and I lack self-control. But it’s more than that.

With the Thanksgiving holiday I found myself looking forward to four precious days off work. Four whole days to read, write, and get caught up on writing projects. I wanted to be honest with myself so I lowered it to three days. After all, Thanksgiving Day would put my focus on my family not my to-do list. I was blessed to spend the day listening to laughter and conversation with my entire family. It was more than a fair trade off with not being able to get work done.

Friday, I managed to complete a blog post and remind people on my social media feeds to check out the Literary Feast Facebook Fiction Party I’m participating in on Monday. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can do so at https://www.facebook.com/events/283923535583862/.) I also responded to some commenters on a guest blog post I did this week. And even though I refuse to Black Friday shop in town, I managed to finish over half my Christmas list through online shopping.  However, I struggled with a headache all day which left me unable to focus for actual writing or reading.  That’s day two.

Today, I admit I got distracted. I’ve never been a fan of cleaning, but I do want to decorate for Christmas in the coming weeks. I can’t do that if my house is a mess. So, I dusted and vacuumed and organized the front room in my house in preparation for our Christmas tree. I’m not putting it up today, but I did get my snowmen set out. And because we need to eat, I did my grocery shopping. I have to say I’m a fan of online shopping with same day pick-up. I shopped this morning and will go pick everything up this afternoon. Day three is half-way over, and I’ve not accomplished much.

Tomorrow I have church and an anniversary lunch for my in-laws. That will take a huge chunk out of the day. I know there won’t be a lot accomplished in the writing or reading departments. Then, it’s back to work on Monday. Four precious days off work, and I’m not going to have a lot to show for it.

Part of me is frustrated at myself for taking it so easy these last few days. I had a lot to accomplish. I’m working on book three and waiting for new edits from the publisher on book two. I’ve written a Christmas devotional and memory journal, and I’m planning a Christmas get-together as a trial run of how it will work as a women’s ministry tool. I needed to get things in order for that next weekend. I’m part of a group planning a women’s retreat as a ministry and fundraiser for our local church camp. I needed to get some work done on that as well. My posts for Monday’s Facebook party should already be written and scheduled. They aren’t. My list doesn’t even include reading the next book to review, but it should.

Then I think of the story of Mary and Martha. I know it related more specifically to giving ourselves so fully to preparing for Jesus that we miss our chance to really be with Him. But I think there’s an everyday message too.

I spent time with my husband, children, and grandson these last few days in addition to my parents and in-laws. We laughed a lot, and I watched my sons play with their nephew. His face lights up when his uncles are around. I spent a normal afternoon taking a walk at the mall with my mom and my grandmother. Her struggles with age and dementia left her needing a change of atmosphere yesterday, and I needed to get out of my house for a bit too. I decided to go with them, and knowing Granny’s days are diminishing, I’m glad for that memory of an ordinary afternoon with her.

I could have spent my time on my to-do list. I could have spent it on doing things. Those things need done, and they’re good things. Instead, I chose to spend it with the people I care about. And I think it’s like Jesus told Martha. Choosing the people is choosing “the good part”.  Everything on my to-do list and my TBR pile can be taken care of later.

Wait Just a Minute

Hold on a minute. Let me check my email. I’m expecting a few, and they may need my immediate attention. Okay, I’m back. But the cat is whining by the back door. I really should go let it out. Back again. You know I haven’t checked my posts on Twitter and Facebook in a couple hours. I really should do that. It’ll only take a minute, and once I’ve done it I won’t have to think about it anymore. Hello, again. I really hate it when my documents folder gets congested with a lot of different documents. I should take some time to get them organized into sub-folders. That’s better. Now, I can concentrate on what I really need to do. But my husband just got my grilled ham and cheese done. I should eat it while it’s hot. Hey, he even added some chips and French onion dip. Score! I’ll be back just as soon as I’m done eating.

Believe it or not, this is exactly how the last hour has gone at my house. Well, I guess you’d have to add in a couple deep sighs with my head thrown back on the couch in frustration and an episode of New Girl. Oh, and chocolate.

I had every intention of sitting down, getting right to work, and having my post written and up in no time at all, leaving the rest of my evening to work on my novel’s sequel. But once I turned on my computer, my plans changed. I still wanted to write the blog, but I was met with a blank page. Some days there is nothing as difficult as facing a blank page.

What do you do when that happens? I don’t know about you, but I procrastinate. It’s not that I don’t intend to do whatever I started out to do. I will. I know I will. Just not right now. Maybe if I wait, I’ll come back and the page will magically be filled with words. How sweet would that be? Maybe if I spend just a little more time doing other things, things that don’t take a lot of thought, I’ll come back to that blank page and the words will start flowing freely from my fingers. Probably not.

The things I’m filling my time with aren’t bad. Eating is necessary for life. Chocolate is too. My documents folder really did need some organization to make it more user friendly. And I’m waiting on emails from a few authors answering Main Character Monday interviews and one from the person making a book trailer for the release of Faith’s Journey. Those aren’t unimportant. Plus, if they have questions, I do need to answer them promptly. Besides, the documents folder and emails are all part of this business of writing. They do need attention. Just maybe not right this minute.

That’s the problem with procrastination. It’s easy to get sidetracked by doing good, helpful things and convince yourself that it simply has to be done. But just because they’re good things to do, doesn’t mean they are the right things to do at this time.

The procrastinators of the world understand that this doesn’t just apply to writing or work or unpleasant things. It can carry over into our spiritual lives, and we have to be careful not to let it overtake us there. Sometimes God asks us to do something unpleasant. Maybe we are supposed to witness to a perfect stranger. (I know, that’s not unpleasant for some of you. For others, like me, it’s a level of unpleasantness that ranks right up there with a root canal.) Maybe God’s asking you to forgive someone that hurt you or forgive yourself for sins He’s long since forgotten. Perhaps what God is asking isn’t unpleasant, but it’s new for you and that makes it uncomfortable to begin. The unknown can be a scary, and begs for us to avoid it through procrastination.  Maybe He wants you to start using the gifts and talents He has given you to minister to others.  Maybe you’re supposed to start a new ministry or set aside a specific daily time to spend in prayer or God’s word.

Whatever God is asking of you, it’s easy to let ourselves get sidetracked by other good things. It goes something like this, “God, I know you want me to spend one Saturday a month feeding people at the shelter, but I don’t know anyone out there. Besides, that’s when the choir practices, and I was thinking of joining them.” Singing in the choir isn’t bad. It’s a good thing. But if it isn’t what God is telling you to do then it isn’t a God thing. In fact, when we know God is telling us to do something, and we keep coming up with excuses why we can’t right now, it’s worse than just not being a God thing. It’s actually a sin. James 4:17 tell us, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.”

We like to make the excuse that we aren’t not doing it, we just aren’t doing it right now. According to James, that doesn’t cut it. We can come up with a million and one reasons why we shouldn’t, but if God is telling us to do something none of those things matter. We can replace what God wants with a hundred other good, spiritual things, but if they are not what God is asking us to do, we are sinning. Turns out, there is no time for procrastinating in the kingdom of God.

By the Book: Spend some time searching your heart to see if there are things God has asked you to do that you’ve been putting off. If so, ask Him to forgive your unwillingness to do it and help strengthen you to follow through with what He wants.

Easily Distracted

Tonight as I watched the newest Hallmark Christmas movie (Yes, I have a problem. But no, there is not a support group for that.) I was sidetracked by a realization. The main character was a writer. When working, he sat down at a clean, orderly desk in a clean, orderly room. He wouldn’t be embarrassed if a delivery man rang his doorbell. In fact, he could’ve been working in an office job with the way he was dressed. When music interrupted his quiet, he was unable to work.

In almost every movie I’ve seen about writers, the professionally dressed writer sits at some variation of the same highly organized desk in their quiet working environment. I must have missed the memo on proper writing spaces and attire. In theory, this dedicated, peaceful place to write sounds wonderful. I may even dream of someday being able to write full-time and setting aside a room in my home for that purpose. My reality is very different.

Though my passion is writing, it has yet to pay the bills. I work a full-time job as a receptionist. I live in a house with four other people. There is no room for a dedicated work space. More often than not, I write in sweat pants while stretched out on the living room couch. I’m interrupted by the cat who can’t decide if it wants in or out. My teenage sons need help with homework, something to eat, or questions that must be answered now. My husband calls to see if we need anything before heading home at and usually wants to chat too. Silence for writing? I think it’s a myth.

Some days the distractions pull me from my course. I set out with an admirable goal of writing that next chapter only to find myself hours later with one measly paragraph on the page. I turn off my computer frustrated at the wasted hours and disappointed with myself that I couldn’t get something done.

Disorder and distractions are part of my writing life, but I can’t let them keep me from what I love. Instead, I manage them. I don’t come home from work and jump straight into writing. I know I have to make supper. So, I do that first. Then, I leave it so they can eat as they arrive home.

I’ve mentioned writing to music because it sets the tone for what I’m writing, but that’s not my only reason. The music is ordered sound. It helps me block out the chaotic sounds of three teenage boys whether they’re talking, playing video games, or listening to their own music.

Distractions can do more than derail writing time. They can be a powerful source of frustration and disappointment in other areas of life as well. Distractions in our spiritual lives try to pull us from getting closer to God. There are times when our own desires provide the distractions. We let other things we want to do come between us and our personal time with God.

Other times, we shift our attention from God to what the world offers. Consider Peter’s venture onto the stormy sea. He let what was going on around him move his focus from the only one who could help him to the wind and waves. Then, he began to sink. He’s not the only one. When the people of Israel sent the twelve spies into the land God promised them, only two of those ten men kept their focus on the truth that God promised them the land. The other ten focused their attention on the challenges in front of them, and their distraction caused the people of Israel to lose out on seeing the immediate blessing of God’s promise.

Instead of becoming distracted, we need to “seek first the kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33). We need to remember that God’s greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). When we do these things, our relationship with God will become stronger. We’ll begin to see what God wants to do in us and through us. We can become the people God intended us to be when we get rid of the distractions.

By the Book: Read the story of the twelve spies in Numbers 13-14:38. Think about the things that distract you in your relationship with God. What steps can you take to rid yourself of those distractions?