Life As Rocket Science, Part 2: Small Things

September 11, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Last week we talked about one friend who has been dieting and how her attempts at losing weight was like Thomas Edison experimenting with the light bulb.  He had lots of failures that all eventually led to the success he’s known for.  In the same way we are all “experimenting” with various things in our lives, finding out what works and what doesn’t.

Today I’ll turn my attention to a different friend of mine.  This friend was overwhelmed when I met her.  Haunted by a past she couldn’t change and wishing things could be so, so different now.  Seeing that trying to change everything overnight would not work, I instead suggested she try something radically new–small things.

We’re not even talking small like cleaning the kitchen.  We’re talking, being grateful for one minute somewhere in the day.

At first she was skeptical because what did she have to be grateful for, and what difference would that even make, but I challenged her to do one small thing.  The first day was interesting because I think she related to me one small thing she did toward God and like 7 she did away from God.  But the experiment was a success.  I got her to do ONE small thing.

The next day, I challenged her to do two small things.  She came back with a list of two small things and five things away.

Within a week, she had flipped the list six-seven small things toward God; two-three things away.  Then in two weeks, she had a list of 8 things toward God… and NONE away!

So very cool!

But here’s the thing.  She had come up with a lot of ways that life didn’t work, and she rehearsed them every day, nearly every minute of every day.  She had gotten very good at picking herself and her situation apart so that there was not much left.

However, it was in experimenting with very small changes that she finally found the key to turning life around.  It was in being willing to try something new that something new showed up.  And just like rocket science, it was built one small piece of knowledge and understanding at a time.

So when you’re thinking about experimenting with life, remember, you don’t have to do a whole-sale change to everything.  Choose some small things to change, to try, to experiment with.  Do those things and then add onto them.

You might be surprised how quickly your list of steps away from God and steps toward God flips!

*~*

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Being: The Sower’s Greatest Challenge

August 13, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

As you begin to sow Jesus Seeds in to lives around you, you will quickly come up against one of the biggest challenges of your life.

It’s kind of hard to put into words, but you will recognize it instantly.

It is summed up in two words being vs. not.

For example, let’s say that you are taking this whole Jesus Seed Sower to heart.  You are determined to sow some Jesus seed at work, let’s say.  Now at work there is a lot of strife–company strife, personal strife, and internal strife.  The company strife is due to pressures put on the company to remain competitive, to bring in new business, to serve current customers well, etc.  Personal strife might be the drama between co-workers.  You know the kind… this one doesn’t like that one, the other one did something three months ago that the other one is still mad about.

Then there’s internal strife–that’s the strife you carry around about yourself and your job performance, etc.

It can make for a very stressful situation.

However, you’ve decided to be a Sower.  So what to do?

The first thing is to learn to BE in yourself what you are not seeing in the world around you.  There is a very old song.  It says, “Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me.”  That’s great advice.  If you are not at peace, the situation can not be at peace.  And peace can’t start with the situation (okay, it can but it almost never does).  YOU have to BE the peace that you want to see.

It’s like when Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33

We, as Sowers, have to learn to take Jesus into the situation with us and be at peace in Him even when there is no peace in the situation.

It’s like the other day.  I was editing for a friend of mine who was freaking out over a major deadline.  Now, I knew she was going to meet the deadline with ease (she did), but she didn’t know that.  I had agreed to edit for her and had been working on the manuscript for several days.  I told her I had made a goal of doing 50 pages a day, which I knew would have the book to her in plenty of time.

Then life stepped in.  One Wednesday everything conspired against me to get those 50 pages done.  It was nearly 10 p.m. when I finally got to the computer to work.  I got 25 pages done, and that was it.  So I sent her those pages and told her I would edit more the next day.

Now I didn’t know this until this afternoon, but she said, “You know, I watched you, and you didn’t freak out.  You didn’t make an excuse or step all over yourself to apologize.  You just said, ‘This is what happened.  I will get more to you tomorrow.  I was really inspired by that because you’re just at peace with whatever happens. You don’t freak out and make a huge deal out of it.  You just do your best and trust that that’s good enough.”

I didn’t know I was being watched. 🙂  But I do believe by BEING at peace and living at peace, I can show others how to do that much better than just telling them they should be at peace.

Oh, I’m not going to say it’s easy.  But you either are BEING or you’re NOT.  You’re either being at peace or you’re not.  You’re either BEING merciful or you’re NOT.  You’re either BEING kind or you’re NOT.

If you’re not, then as a Sower, you need to learn how to BE… grace-filled, forgiving, hopeful, kind, peaceful, loving, joyful…

And the way you learn that is to plant a lot of Jesus Seeds in your own life and nurture them.  Pray.  Go to church.  Have a conversation with God.  Put things in His hands.  Trust.

When you do that, you will BE more than you will NOT.  And people will begin to take notice and slowly but surely as you conquer this greatest of challenges, your world will begin to change.

*~*

COMING Wednesday & Thursday, AUG. 15 & 16…

FREE ON KINDLE TWO DAYS ONLY!

August 15 & 16

Staci’s “Amazing!” novel:

To Protect & Serve

 “Reading To Protect & Serve, I’m taken away to another world, a world I want to be a part of and never leave. Staci’s characters are real with real everyday problems. I love that.

Oh, and the firemen in this story, they’re smokin’ hot! Especially the hero!”

–Debra, Amazon Reviewer

When control freak Lisa Matheson falls for handsome but shy firefighter, Jeff Taylor, it’s possible that life might just be going her way for a change. The only problem is she can’t control Jeff or the death wish he seems to have…

Will be Available as a free download from Amazon!

 Watch for more on Wednesday!

 


I Need Jesus: Step Three

April 5, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

We are working our way through the 12-Step Program which I believe is a great roadmap to follow if you are trying to learn to put your life in God’s hands rather than trying to handle life on your own.

So far we have looked at Step One, which amounts to:  I can’t do this anymore.

And Step Two:  There is a God and I believe I need HIM to come into this mess and help me.

Today we look at Step Three:

  • Step 3 Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood God

If you’ve ever said The Our Father, you’ve at least given lip-service to this concept.  The line:  Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven says in effect, “God, I want Your Will in my life.”

The problem is, too often, lip-service is about as far as this line goes in our lives.  Oh, it sounds good.  “Yes, I want God’s Will,” but do we really?  How many of us have a secret fear of God’s Will?  I mean what if I want to be a lawyer, and God decides He wants me to be a doctor?  Where does that leave me?

Further, what about when bad things happened?  A tornado rips through a town, a hurricane levels 100-year-old houses, someone close to us gets sick or dies.  Where is God’s Will in those, and if those are God’s Will, then honey, truth is, we want no part of it.

I think the bedrock of this step has to be a firm belief in the declaration of God in Jeremiah 29:11-12:  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.”

In short, we have to believe that God is good.  Bad things do happen, but they are caused either by the world that we were banished into after Adam & Eve–a world that is not kind and loving toward us OR that they are the product of direct evil in the world we have chosen.

For example, let’s take an earthquake that damages and kills.  Earthquakes are fundamentally a product of the tectonic plates that make up the earth shifting.  They shift because of orbital pressure in our universe.  If the earth was solid and the plates didn’t shift, the earth would not hold its orbit and would go flying out into space, disintegrating into trillions of pieces.  So, yes, earthquakes are bad, but the alternative to them would be worse.

And there are thousands of examples like this.  Fire is one of them.  Fire is a natural phenomenon that when used properly can heat our homes and cook our food.  It’s when fire destroys that it becomes a bad thing.  But fire, in and of itself, is not bad.  Same with water.  We drink it to stay hydrated, we water our plants and animals with it.  But when a child falls in it and drowns, it seems a bad thing.  So many of the things we rail against God for “letting happen” are simply the by-products of things that can also be very good.  It’s a matter of the world we live in not being a perfect place.

What about disease and death?  Again, God didn’t chose this for us.  He created the Garden of Eden.  That was HIS plan, but first Adam and Eve and then wechoose not to live there.  In the Garden, Adam and Eve were perfectly reliant on God.  They CHOSE to follow Step 3 until Satan came in and convinced them that God wasn’t to be trusted.  It’s the same lie we are falling for when we choose to not follow Step 3 and put our lives in God’s hands and let Him care for us–no matter what the world and evil try to throw at us.

*~*~*

“Poignantly told, the story of these two soul mates’ REUNION will not soon be forgotten….”

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Read the first chapter!


Creation or Competition

February 27, 2012

by: Staci Stallings

In going through some old articles I had written about six years ago, I found this one.  It has been cut into two pieces.  The second will run on the blog Thursday, March 1.

Creation or Competition?

            This is a concept I’ve known intuitively for a long, long time. I grew up in a very competitive family that lived in a very competitive town that resided in a very competitive state, which was a part of a very competitive country, which was a small part of a very competitive world.  In one way I was not a competitive child because I was not good at sports—any sports in any way.  However, I see now how competitive I was in other areas like academics and band.  Mostly I didn’t compete with others; mostly I competed with myself, and often I lost.

One such competition I remember in the depths of who I am. I was in the fifth grade, and up until that year I had literally made A’s in everything.  Every subject.  Every six weeks since I’d been in the first grade.  And then I got that report card with a—gasp—B!  I was crushed, devastated, destroyed.

We found out that the B represented the underlying score of 89.4.  AN 89.4.  Not just one point  from an A, but 1/10th of a point from an A! Yet that 10th represented a chasm between who I thought I had to be in order to be worth something and who I felt like I now was.

It sounds so silly. How many people get devastated over a B? In fact, I’m sure if you didn’t get straight A’s all through school, you are probably saying, “Ah, poor baby. You got a B. It’s tragic.”  But understand, to me, it was tragic.  It was as if who I thought I was had died. Tears couldn’t bring her back. Sorrow and guilt over what I could have or should have done to gain that coveted 10th of a point couldn’t bring the opportunity back. Nothing could.

As this period of my life progressed, my family over and over explained that it was all right. They still loved me.  Slowly (VERY slowly!) I came to accept that I wasn’t perfect and that my worth wasn’t my grades, but it was immensely difficult, and in truth it took until I was in college to really believe them.

So I know what havoc living with a competition-mind set can wreak in a life.

Competition has several underpinnings that are present when it is. The first is a belief in separateness.  I am separate from those I am competing with, and thus, one of us can be better, smarter, more worthy of praise than the other. Another underpinning belief of competition is that the good things in this life are inherently limited; therefore, if you want some of the good stuff, you must necessarily beat out someone else to get it.

These two lead to the dominant underpinning of competition which is fear.  For if I am separate, I am alone, and if I must necessarily fight for the limited resources, my ability must be greater than that of everyone else who is competing, or I will suffer.  These all equal one thing:  Fear.

If I am in competition with you, and you get something I wanted, it follows that I will separate myself further from you, fall into greater fear, and believe more deeply that I must get better to get more.  We see the attempt to subvert the naturalness of this progression played out at the end of a game (whatever the game).  It’s called “sportsmanship.”  Win or lose, you should shake the opposing squads hands as a sign of respect.  But the truth is win or lose, you don’t want to shake their hand.  Why?  Because if you’ve won, this show of respect necessarily brings the loser back up if not up to your level than closer.  If you’ve lost, shaking the winner’s hand affirms they are better than you and something you valued has been lost.

The world’s dominant teaching is competition.  We are taught from early on:

You must “learn to play the game.”

You must maximize your ability to win (or get run over if you don’t).

You have to do your best.

Study hard.

Work hard.

Play fair.

Make success your goal.

Accomplish. Triumph.  Win.

All of these are the aims of a competitive world.

*~*~*
Picture from:  http://lovemidori.tumblr.com/post/162266052/beautiful-cupcakemugshot-let-there-be-light
*~*~*

Read the story that is a direct result of the “Creation or Competition” theme…

Princess

by:  Staci Stallings

For Amazon Kindle

For B&N Nook

Read the first Chapter!


Walking by Faith, Not by Sight

February 23, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Maybe you know me and know this already about me.  Maybe you have guessed it about me in reading my posts.  But I’ll let you in on a little secret:  I like control.  I like to know where I am.  I like to know where I’m going and how I’m getting there.

It’s just how I was wired, I suppose.

Sometimes my plans get bigger than my ability to pull them off, but most of the time I’m working toward something with a definite plan in mind and a map of how to get there.

That’s definitely true with the marketing of my writing.  With the writing itself, I’ve learned to turn that little slave-driver in me off.  But when I’m marketing, sometimes it’s a whole different story.

I think that’s why God throws little and sometimes BIG hitches in my plans.  To remind me, once again, that I’m not the one in charge and that we will go in His direction and at His pace.  It’s humbling to say the least.

And so it was Feb. 1, 2012.  I had been planning for that day for several weeks.  It was the first day my book, “Coming Undone” would be on Free Kindle, and I had a lot of things set up–articles on other sites, Facebook pages to contact, tweets for Twitter all ready to go.  I was SET I tell you… Ready, Set, GO!

I even had a spreadsheet set up so I could track the downloads and learn nuggets to help me better do this next time.

Feb. 1 started, and I noticed something strange on the Amazon reporting site almost immediately–my rank on the page was going down, but I wasn’t adding any sales.  In fact, it hit 89 downloads and stopped completely!

I was patient for as long as possible and then I emailed my writer’s group to ask if anyone else was experiencing this.  Sure enough, it was an everyone problem.  One of the guys wrote in, “Great!  Staci Stallings just broke Amazon!”

HAHA!  I needed that laugh.

As the day progressed, my book’s rank kept climbing into the #200’s and then the #100’s.  The problem was, half the time, I could no longer even see my rank.  The other writers were updating me, but my rank (what I could see) was all over the place. It would be in the 500’s and then 100’s then the 200’s then the 100’s again.  I had watched these things for a long time, and I had never seen this.

As the day wore on, I was getting more and more irritable because I had no clue what was going on!  I couldn’t see my sales numbers and my ranks were not consistent or logical.  And then I got an email from a friend, “YAY! You’re number 54!”  Which meant I had broken into the Top 100 Free Kindles on Amazon!

I was jazzed, but it sure would have been nice to see it.

Frustrated, I opened a book of Bible sayings and came across the one for Feb. 1, which was tied to the verse:  We walk by faith, not by sight. Ah-ha!  Finally I understood.

Finally after all day, my spirit relaxed.  Here was the message God had wanted to give me all along.  “Staci, you’re gonna have to trust me even if you can’t see what’s going on.”

Someone sent me a link to the Top 100 page, and suddenly I got a glimpse of what was going on.  The rest of the evening and into the next morning we watched in the Top 100 as my book climbed ever higher until it had reached #11 in Free Kindle Store.  Two days later it was climbing the Paid side, finally ending its ascent at #98 in all of Amazon, and #1 in Religious Fiction and in Religion & Inspirational.

It was a wild ride.

And it was a whole week before I got a real understanding of just how many downloads that represents.

Let me tell you, walking by faith is not easy for a control freak.  I’m just glad God was kind enough to give me the lesson in a way that I can’t miss it.  That sure did help!

Check out Staci’s New Website that’s all about her books:  Ebook Romance Stories… You’re gonna love it!


Progress

February 20, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

Consider this a progress report on my writing/publishing life.

First off, God has blessed me with an amazing cover designer.  He’s a 24-year-old graphic artist from Malaysia (yes, you read that right… isn’t God AMAZING?!).  So far we’ve done 4 covers together, each is more beautiful than the last.  To see them all, click here (and you can vote on which is your favorite).  The one for Cowboy was done by another friend of mine.  Aki’s covers are:

Deep in the Heart

Dreams by Starlight

Reunion

If You Believed in Love

I wish I had time to just sit and look at them all day!  Thanks, Aki!

Secondly, as you can see by the above post, I have a new website for my romance novels.  Over there, you can read the first chapter of every book, as well as excerpts, reviews, and thoughts on the titles.  Enjoy and share!

Finally, February has been quite a month.  Coming Undone hit the #1 spot in Religious Fiction and Religion & Inspirational on Amazon.  Cowboy hit the #9 spot in Top-Rated Religious Fiction.

Thank you all for being on this journey with me!  I’m so grateful for all of you!

Staci


God’s CONSTANT Input

February 16, 2012

by:  Staci Stallings

One of the most interesting aspects of the rise of Coming Undone through the Amazon book ranks at the beginning of February (it was #1 on Religious Fiction and Religious & Inspirational, as well as #11 on the overall Free Kindle Store) has been the reviews.

What interests me is the 2 1-star reviews I have received so far.  The first went like this:

“Coming Undone, My Dear Lord!?!

NONONO! Why?  God has to work very hard in this one. Why?

I guess without his CONSTANT input we can’t deal with life.”

This is not a spoiler for the book, but in it the heroine, Kathryn works in a hospice unit as a social worker.  Now think about it for just a moment.  She deals with death, families going through death, and the people who become her friends losing the people they love over and over and over again.  So it’s not like she’s asking God for help purchasing a latte.

But even without this heightened need for God and His help, I want to ask this person and the other who left a similar review decrying the characters’ reliance on God… what’s the alternative?

What is the alternative to relying on God every moment?

Doing it yourself?

Isn’t that the very definition of Original Sin?  “I don’t need God.  I can do this on my own”?

And even if you don’t want to go that far with it, let’s look at it from a relationship standpoint.  Let’s say you have a friend, and this friend is someone you greatly admire and even say you love.  Now let’s say that the only time you ever talk to this friend is when you are in desperate need of help.  I mean, otherwise, you don’t need this friend, so why talk to him, right?

How would you feel if someone did that to you?  How would you like it if the only time this person showed up at your doorstep was when they had messed everything up, everything was horrible, and they needed you to fix it?

Yeah.  That’s what I think too.

We wouldn’t want to be treated that way, so why do we think God does?

I think some of this “don’t rely on God all the time” mentality goes back to the unBiblical saying, “God helps those who help themselves.”  I’m curious who in the Bible really “helped themselves” the way this saying seems to tell us to do.  Abraham?  His helping God turned into a disaster we still haven’t recovered from.  Moses?  Would that “helping himself” have been the part about killing the Egyptian or the refusing to go talk to Pharaoh because he couldn’t talk well?

What about Mary?  When the angel showed up, did she start making a list of all the things she’d better do and accomplish to earn being the Mother of God?

Or how about Jesus, Himself?  Have you ever noticed how many times the Bible refers to Him going off by Himself to pray?  Why?  Because He thought He could do it Himself?  And He was GOD!

Yes, God sometimes has to work very hard in our lives.  Why?  Because we need Him!  We need Him to show up, to help us, to guide us, to protect us, and yes, to love us.  And He is more than willing to do that if we will just ask.  So yes, I need God’s CONSTANT input in order to deal with my life.  I hope you do too!

*~*~*~*

Read the other reviews for Coming Undone, an Amazon #1 BestSeller in Religious Fiction & Religion & Inspiration…

Click here!