Should IThe original version of this post appeared on “Tenacity,” Janet Sketchley’s blog.

Oo, shiny!

That’s how I often feel when I hear of a new opportunity. You too?

I have what I refer to as the Butterfly Syndrome. I love to flit from one thing to the next to the next and then back to the first thing. While I don’t think it will ever be my approach, I do admire people who are able to stick with a single task until it is completed before moving on to the next. There are definite advantages to this approach.

But since I have several interests (and am easily distracted), potential opportunities come at me from all sides. I am learning s-l-o-w-l-y that I can’t pursue them all—as much as I’d like to.

Add to my natural tendencies the fact that I’m a Christian and don’t want to miss an opportunity God brings my way and I’m off and running … figuratively speaking. The joke that says, “If I’m running, it’s because something or someone is chasing me” pretty much describes me.

But even as Christians, we don’t have to say yes to every opportunity, every request. (For more on this, I highly recommend Lysa TerKuerst’s book The Best Yes. She guides readers through the whys and wherefores of identifying when they should say no so they’ll be ready to give their best yes.)


Now, I believe there should be a progression in every Christian’s life, every writer’s life. Many of us, when presented with a new opportunity, think—or even say, “Oh, I could never do that.” (At least this is the case if we’re not busy flitting about, trying our hand at everything that comes along.)


As we learn more, we may come to the realization that just maybe we could write whatever it is. I’ve found myself thinking, “I could do that? Cool!” Hopefully, there comes a time when we realize we’ve learned enough to at least try our hand at a new writing project, and beyond that, that God has equipped us to do things we never imagined possible. This is an exhilarating mindset. And it’s very in-keeping with my “oo, shiny” attitude.


Not that long ago, the Lord brought me to a new realization. It may seem self-evident. And I wouldn’t blame you if you said, “Well, d’uh!” although I know you’re much too polite to do so. The final step in this three-step progression is this: when someone asks us to do something or we become aware of an interesting opportunity, we should … wait for it … we should ask, “Lord, is this something You want me to do? And if so, what should I set aside in order to do it to the best of my ability?”

I’m still learning Step 3. But it really is even more exciting than the second step. After all, knowing God will give me wisdom and direction and will guide me step-by-step … now that is truly amazing.

Will I always flit from one thing to the next? Most likely. But with God’s help, I will try to stay in the same corner of the garden—at least for a little while. Care to join me?


Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Are You Taking On Too Much?

Business Man RunningThis post first appeared on Janet Sketchley’s blog on Friday, February 26, 2016.

I usually have my post to Janet well ahead of the deadline, but not this month. In fact, I needed a nudge—even though I had a reminder in my day planner. Sometimes that just isn’t enough.

I have recently started covering for our church administrator while she’s on maternity leave. I enjoy the job, but it does leave me scrambling because of the other responsibilities I am also juggling.

This post may very well be a case of “do what I say, not what I do,” but here goes.

Just how can we determine if we should take on any given task? Here are six ways you may want to consider the next time someone asks, “Oh, could you . . .”

Pray About It

If you’re a Christian this may seem self-evident, but how many times do we take on something without asking the Lord for wisdom? We can’t do all the things that are asked of us—not even all the good things.

Evaluate the Task

How long will it take? Does it fit naturally into our schedule? Will we have to set aside something that should remain a priority? Will it hinder our ability to fulfill our current tasks effectively? Will it steal the downtime that is crucial to our mental and emotional well-being?

Give Something Up

I once heard a speaker say she never took on a new task without setting aside one she was already doing. Talk about self-control! I can’t see myself doing this—at least not yet.

Remember . . . No Is Not a Bad Word

Some of us have difficulty saying no when we’re asked to do something. We don’t want to let the other person down. We don’t want to miss an opportunity God has for us. This is another key reason we need to pray before we take on a task. God promises to give wisdom to those who ask. Plus, He will give us the ability to graciously decline if that’s what’s necessary. We must remember, too, that it is His responsibility to deal with how the other person responds. We shouldn’t buckle under pressure if we are confident God has not called us to a specific task—at least not at this time.

Consult Your Spouse or a Trusted Friend

If it’s going to put a strain on the relationship with our spouse, it’s likely best to beg off. I have such an easygoing hubby sometimes I don’t think to ask him what he things of such and such a decision. He is always gracious and never makes me feel bad about making up my own mind, but I really should keep him in the loop . . . and not always after the fact. And whether we’re married or not, a trusted friend can often give us a perspective we can’t see because we’re just too close to the situation.

Finally . . . Pray Some More

Sometimes we take on something and it’s good for a season, but we just keep doing it even after that season is over. Praying over our schedule regularly is a good habit to get into. As I’ve often said, no matter how much I love my lists, the only To Do list that really matters is the one God has prepared for me. And the only way to discover what’s on that list is to dig into His Word and pray—lots!

So . . . are you taking on too much? Why not review these pointers and make changes to your To Do list as needed. I just may have to do the same.


Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor

Broaden Your Reading Horizons

bookstore2_squareAre all the books in your To Be Read pile in the same genre or on the same topic? I encourage you to read across a wide range. It’s amazing where we, as writers, find inspiration. At times, we even learn what not to do by reading something that has been published.

As you likely know, I’m eclectically interested. The same holds true of what I like to read.

Currently, I am actively reading a dozen books. (I know, I know . . . I’m kind of crazy that way.)

And speaking of crazy, the first book I’ll mention is Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. We’re reading this for our small group study at church. I was thrilled to find four of Chan’s books on Kindle for the price of one.

What happens when God gets hold of a former gang member and white supremacist? Well, He just may pave the way for said individual to visit the death camps in Germany and the poverty stricken in Africa. Mind-boggling! Is there anything too difficult for the Lord? You can read answers to these and other questions in Michael Bull Roberts’ Beyond the Hate.

I rarely pre-order a book, but this one I did. If you write for the CBA (and even if you don’t), you may recognize some of the contributing authors to Writing Success: among them, Karen Ball, James Scott Bell, Mary DeMuth, Tricia Goyer, and Susan May Warren. This book overflows with invaluable information for novice and experienced writers alike.

With my 2016 fitness goals in mind, I’m working my way through Fit for Faith by Kimberley Payne. Payne includes basic info, workouts, exercise descriptions, charts for the reader to fill out, and more.

Humble, Hungry, Hustle by Brad Lomenick is the most unique leadership book I’ve ever read. I admit when I think of books in this category, I think “dry.” This book blows that preconceived notion out of the water. I’m really enjoying it.

Do I say yes too often. <averts eyes and hums> The Best Yes by Lysa TerKuerst helps readers consider why they say yes when they shouldn’t. It equips them to say no in order to prepare for “the best yes.” The author is authentic and genuine and uses examples from her own life. I love that. I highly recommend this book as well.

Although my worldview is far different from the author’s, I am reading Wild Women, Wild Voices by Judy Reeves for an online book club and it challenges me to consider how to express my individuality on the page. And it’s never a bad thing to learn to respectfully express one’s differences of opinions. If we don’t allow emotion to rule the day, we can gain a lot from an insightful debate.

Andrew Gillmore is the son of longtime family friends. I was thrilled to offer him encouragement about publishing his first book. (It turns out he has it pretty much figured out. His book, The Red Fish Project, is quickly rising through the ranks on Amazon.) This is an honest look at living abroad. If you’re offended by certain topics and the occasional use of “colorful language,” you may not want to read The Red Fish Project. But I’m finding it extremely insightful.

My reading list also includes several novels.

During a recent trip to my local library, I found Jodi Picoult and Samantha Van Leer’s book Between the Lines. It’s unique. It’s fabulous. It’s delightful. Can you tell I like this YA novel about fairy tale characters whose lives are completely different when the book is closed? There’s a second book in the series too. I must add it to my 2016 To Be Read list.

Do you fear the day when gathering with other Christians means you’re breaking the law? When you may be accused of crimes you didn’t commit? When you may be hauled off for interrogation? Sara Davison does a wonderful job in her book The End Begins of revealing what things could be like, all the while offering hope through a spunky protagonist who is not afraid to speak her mind.

Have you ever started watching a movie you didn’t really want to keep watching but you couldn’t help it? Yeah, that’s this book, Eyes Wide Open by Ted Dekker. It’s as if I’m trapped in the psych ward with the main characters. I feel desperate and claustrophobic just thinking about it. But that’s probably a good thing. Talk about being drawn into the story!

From the beginning I knew The Language of Sparrows by Rachel Phifer was going to be unique. It drew me in. This is one of those books that makes me think, “I wish I had more time to read.” How can a mother help when her daughter doesn’t fit in? When she fears her daughter has inherited her late husband’s mental health issues? When her daughter begins to spend time with a solitary older man?

My 2016 list keeps growing and growing. As the saying goes, “So many books, so little time.”

What’s on your To Be Read list? (That may be a loaded question. It just may make my list far longer.)

Happy Reading

Contributed by Stephanie Nickel, CES writer and editor


We’ve been offering critiques for some time now . . . and clients have been excited about Picturethe help they have received.

How about you? Could you benefit from a professional critique of your manuscript? It’s an extra fee . . . but one that could save you money in the long run and help you bring your manuscript to the next level.

Perhaps you have completed your first draft . . . but you don’t know where to go from here. Maybe you are stuck part way through writing your book. Or perhaps you need some professional guidance before you pay for editing or send your work to an agent or publisher. A critique can help you!

The CES editors on our critiquing team thrive on helping authors excel.

Bethany McShurley

Bethany McShurley
Critique Specialist

Bethany McShurley is an encourager at heart. Whether she is helping authors perfect their messages prior to print or condensing inspirational trade books into workbook format, she uses her eye for detail to strengthen discipleship efforts and to spread the message that a relationship with Jesus can radically transform every aspect of life.


Jen Miller
Critique Specialist

Jen Miller is a published author, seasoned editor, and writer who takes great joy in mentoring Christian writers. Jen has a passion for her family, Jesus Christ, and sharing the truths of God’s Word.Jen began writing seriously in 1978 and has been honing this passion ever since.

Robyn BurwellCritique Specialist

Robyn Burwell
Critique Specialist

Robyn Burwell has a fervor for the written word and a desire to teach. A graduate of Abilene Christian University, Robyn became an English professor at ACU, teaching composition, rhetoric, and literature. Robyn later became the Managing Editor at ACU Press & Leafwood Publishers, where she had the opportunity to assist authors in every aspect of their writing.

Maureen Tisdale Batty Critique Specialist

Maureen Batty
Critique Specialist

Maureen Tisdale Batty worked nearly 20 years in daily newspapers as an award-winning editor and writer. One of her favorite endeavors is providing feedback through critiques. As a newspaper editor, she helped reporters with honest feedback that encouraged strengths, uncovered needs, and offered suggestions for solutions.

Interested? Read more about our critique services here.

Getting to Know You: Phil Wade

This is the second in our “Getting to Know You” series featuring CES team members. Phil Wade is a valued CES editor and writer.


Phil Wade

I know the Lord brings us to himself in many different ways, some of them quite remarkable, but I’ve always thought my story of salvation is a bit unique—perhaps a bit American too.

I grew up in a Christian family. My dad has almost always lived around Chattanooga, Tennessee. My mom grew up near Lima, Peru, as a missionary kid. In the seventies, they joined several families from their church inside the Chattanooga city limits to start a new one on Hwy. 58. That’s where I learned to worship with others, memorize the Westminster catechism, and taste coffee for the first time (I wasn’t ready for the coffee).

My mom got involved with Reach Out Ranch, which has since become Precept Ministries, and took me to children’s Bible studies in their big red barn. I don’t know how many classes I attended, and I vaguely remember the room and the teachers, but all of that instruction taught at least one thing: Christians were different because the Holy Spirit transformed them.

That difference struck me as significant during my seventh summer on earth. A few small things happened. A few things were said—I don’t remember—but I concluded from these things that all my friends had become Christians, and if I was going to have any fun with them, I needed to become one too. Christians had different kinds of fun, I thought. So on the ride home from the ranch one day, I told my mom that I recognized my need to surrender to Christ. Would she help me become a Christian? She was overjoyed to help, and we prayed in her bedroom several minutes later.

I found out later that summer my friends had not become believers, but it was too late for me. My heart and mind had been changed. It’s funny that my childishly mixed motives were not a barrier to receiving Christ as my Lord and Savior. The Lord has saved many people with self-centered intentions and answered many self-centered prayers. Praise his name. He is more gracious than I can understand even today.

I hope to focus on the wonder and beauty of our Lord and his creation in whatever I write and edit, though I doubt that I do. I get caught up in the cares of the world easily. Still, if there’s anything truth in what Dostoevsky said about beauty saving the world, I want to find it.

I have worked as a wordsmith in different capacities for many years but never full-time until this year. I was employed as a graphic designer for thirteen years and spent the last few years of that job editing videos. Learning new software has never been a problem for me, but words enthralled my heart years ago, leaving me discontented with other arts.

I blog with a friend about books and culture at Brandywinebooks.net. My twitter handle is the same, @Brandywinebooks. You might enjoy seeing some of the graphics and links I put on my Tumblr page.

Getting to Know You: Stephanie Nickel

The next few weeks you will see a number of Getting to Know You posts. Each one will help you get better acquainted with one CES team member. Enjoy!

This first one introduces Stephanie Nickel. Stephanie was one of the first to join the CES team. She serves as a CES writer, editor, and coach. If you’ve not yet signed up to follow her CES blog, Monday Motivation, please do. Every week you will receive creative writing prompts and some great writing tips.

Here’s Stephanie . . .


Dave, my hubby of over 30 years, and I live with our daughter in southwestern Ontario, Canada. Our sons have flown the coop, one to Saskatchewan and the other to Scotland.

I had the immense privilege of coauthoring Paralympian Deborah L. Willows’ memoir, Living Beyond My Circumstances, which was released by Castle Quay Books in January 2014.

I am currently working on three ebooks: a series of devotionals from the gospel of John; a collection of writing prompts taken primarily from my CES blog, Monday Motivation; and a collection of fitness tips, many of which have appeared on Christian fitness professional Kimberley Payne’s website.

In October, I participate in OctPoWriMo (October Poetry Writing Month) and write 31 poems in 31 days. In November, rather than participating in NaNoWriMo like so many other writers, I get involved in PiBoIdMo (Picture Book Idea Month). I hope to have my picture books published at some point in the future.

I am a freelance writer and editor, a labor doula (I offer physical and emotional support to moms as they birth their babies), and a former personal trainer. I also love taking nature pictures and am in the midst of starting a photographer’s website.

The Lord drew me to Himself when I was just a child. Amazingly, I continue to experience many “ah ha” moments as He teaches me new things through His Word, my interactions with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and the many books I enjoy reading, both fiction or nonfiction.

I am an active member of The Word Guild and InScribe Christian Writers’ Fellowship. I blog about my many interests . I’d love for you to follow me Facebook . . . and on Twitter . . . and visit my website:

New Services at ChristianEditingServices.com!

NEW! Coaching Services

I am excited to introduce our new coaching services for writers. Maybe you want to write a book but don’t know where to begin? Or you may be stuck with a work in progress or need motivation to meet your writing goals. Consider our coaching services.

You can begin by signing up for a free 30-minute phone or Skype consultation with one of our coaches. The two of you can use this time to get acquainted. Your coach will encourage you to share the vision you have for your book (or whatever you are writing). This initial consultation will also help both of you understand which coaching services may be the best fit for you.

Read more about our great coaches and how our coaching plan can benefit you.

NEW! Critique Services

And another new service! Critiquing.

Maybe you have completed your first draft . . . but you don’t know where to go from here. Perhaps you need some professional guidance before you pay for editing or send your work to an agent or publisher. A critique can help you!

Our critique team is made up of CES professional Christian editors who thrive on helping authors excel. Want to learn more? Read the details here.

Stephanie Nickel

Stephanie Nickel
Coaching Team

Robyn Burwell

Robyn Burwell
Coaching and Critique Teams

Jen Miller

Jen Miller
Critique Team

Bethany McShurley

Bethany McShurley
Critique Team

Congratulations, Dixie!

Dixie Phillips is a long-time – and greatly valued – member of the Christian Editing Services team. Along with being a devDixie Phillipsoted pastor’s wife, mother, and grandmother, Dixie is an award-winning children’s author. She also sings, writes and edits for adults, and writes songs. Dixie and her sister-in-law, Sharon Phillips, recently won the Grand Prize for The 2012 Singing News/Solid Gospel Songwriters Search with their song “Hidden Heroes.”

Read more about this exciting honor and listen to Dixie’s and Sharon’s song here.

You may also be interested in reading the blog Dixie writes for Christian Editing Services: From the Heart of Dixie. As you read about Dixie . . . read what she has written . . . listen to her songs . . . and perhaps even work with her as she edits your project . . . you will begin to see Dixie’s heart. Jesus Christ is truly first in Dixie’s life and His light shines through her into the lives of countless others . . . including me.

What’s on Your Writing Agenda for 2013?

What’s on your writing agenda for this year? And how can we help?

We can edit or even help you write your book, article, website copy, research paper, play, devotion . . . or whatever. And our services don’t stop there. We can format your pages and design your cover. We can get print-ready files ready for you and/or your printer. And now we can even format what you have written as an e-book and submit it to Amazon.

Please email me with your questions or ideas. No obligation – I’ll work with you to prepare a plan for making your writing dream a reality.

May God richly bless you and your family throughout this coming year. And may you accomplish His purpose for your journey!

Karen Burkett