Meet Gari Meacham

The average eye blinks every 5 seconds.  That’s 17,000 times each day! Although this seems like a useless tidbit of information…it’s really got me flustered.  What if our lives are defined by moments that—like the blink of an eye—pass so often we don’t notice that we’ve blinked?

Watershed Moments

I’m a lover of moments.  Big moments, small moments—light, heavy, and meaningful moments—playful moments and moments dense with change. I don’t want to miss these holy markers that define my life.

Within this kaleidoscope some moments stand out.  They push themselves to center stage and shout “Watch me!”  These are Watershed Moments.  Turning points brought on by circumstances that stop us in our tracks. Some call it an epiphany.  A moment when everything changes.  A point in time when nothing is ever the same.

The first Watershed Moment I recall happened as I sipped a Coke on an airplane.   Between college semesters I was returning home from a visit to see my baseball playing boyfriend (now husband) who had just been drafted to play professional ball.  A new believer in Christ, I was drinking in the words to the first God-centered book I had ever read.  Tears streamed into my cup of Coke as I whispered a desperate prayer:

“I want to write books.  I have to write books.”

That day, nestled in the puffy clouds of sky and the drone of jet engines, a Watershed Moment shaped the dreams and vision of a young girl longing for purpose and a pen.  In the blink of an eye my life changed.  I knew my charge—I would be a harvester of words; a gatekeeper to meaning.

Somewhere in the back of my head I thought it’d be easy.  Get an idea…get an agent…get a book deal.  But easy isn’t one of God’s favorite words.  I think He prefers patient, faithful, enduring, trusting, and alert.  I knew I’d experienced a Watershed on that plane, but I couldn’t figure out why this process was so challenging.  The best advice I ever received was “Write for anyone who’ll give you a byline and a cup of coffee…”  And so I did.

  • I wrote for a small newspaper called The Colorado Christian News
  • I wrote sports features for a magazine called Sports Spectrum
  • I wrote mini-booklets for the International Bible Society
  • I taught elementary school for 16 years where I nurtured third graders’ love for writing and learned how to revise and edit like a pro
  • I wrote and taught bible studies God seared into my spirit through the prose of life
  • I blogged, Tweeted, and Facebooked messages to anyone willing to listen
  • I went to writing conferences and bravely shared my love for words

 

And finally, twenty-five years after that plane ride and a tear-filled cup of Coke, I got my first book deal.

 

I joined the Zondervan family with a three book deal that continues to thrill me.  My first book, Spirit Hunger, is a gutsy look at prayer and belief.  Watershed Moments (releasing in the fall) nudges us to notice the moments that bring clarity and change.  And the third book?  Not sure yet, it’s still being written on the pages of my mind.

So here’s what I say to those that courageously share their lifeblood with readers, and harbor hope for a “next step” with their writing:

Sweet friends, your Watershed Moment will come.

It may come in a conversation you have with just the right blogger who becomes a good friend.  It may come with just the right editor who loves your spark, or an agent willing to hold your hand.  Most important—it may come from your Father who whispers “Well done” as you offer your dreams as a word harvester to the one who causes your words to grow.

Can’t wait to put a hug around your neck at the conference this weekend!

Sweet blessings…Gari

 

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Gari is a writer, speaker, and a teacher.  She loves nothing more than sharing God’s word with anyone who’ll listen.  She adores anything shabby chic, and spends countless hours at baseball games as she and her baseball man have been in the pros for over thirty years.

Pass It On

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Generation to generation, we pass on the things that are important to us – stories, traditions, family recipes.  The comfort of re-creating with your own kids the same food your remember from your grandmother’s kitchen…well, it’s like a hug from someone you love.   But aren’t the best family heirlooms the ones with a story behind them, the ones that immediately remind you of your family’s values and history?

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At Eternal Threads, we feel that way about our products. They are more than simply jewelry, clothing or home decor. Like the best family traditions, they come with a story. Each item is handcrafted by artisans in developing nations, giving women a means to provide for themselves and their family. Many are made by women and girls rescued from human trafficking, now living in a safe house and provided a new skill and an income that represents a new direction for their life.

We want our stories, the stories of our artisans, to be part of your family tradition too, so we’re giving away a set of these colorful mother/daughter aprons.  We hope you’ll wear them with your daughter or niece or granddaughter and use the opportunity to have meaningful conversations about the importance of helping those in the world that are suffering.

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Visit our website for many more beautiful, handcrafted products from all over the world. Every purchase makes a difference in the lives of those living in extreme poverty.

We are thrilled to be a part of this year’s Allume Conference!  Come by our booth to see many more products made by our artisans and visit with us about how we can partner with you in connecting women in the U.S. to women around the world. Your support of Eternal Threads tells a story of hope, freedom, and redemption for women everywhere, and those are the kinds of family stories we all want to pass on.

Giveaway

Share your favorite family tradition and enter to win a mother/daughter apron set. {Please leave your email address so we have a way of contacting you if you win}

Giveaway ends Tuesday at 11:59PM EST so don’t wait!

Introducing Allume Sponsor, Everyday Icing ($100 Giveaway!)

Everyday Icing Auctions on Facebook

 

If you think Facebook is just for sharing cute pictures of your kiddos or catching up with your college buddies, you’re in for a surprise! Everyday Icing brings you a totally new way of shopping!  Each week, Everyday Icing offers our Facebook fans trendy jewelry and accessories at incredible prices!
A few key points about Everyday Icing:
1. Our Pop Up Sales are Monday nights at 9pm EST. Just “like” our page to participate.
2. Our prices are usually between $12-$30…easy on the wallet!
3. Shipping is always FREE!!!
4. A portion of proceeds benefit Compassion International
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Jewelry pieces are presented in an flash sale format with a photo, price and quantity. Fans of our page are able to buy our pieces by commenting “sold” along with their email address (first purchase only). The first people to comment before the featured item sells-out “wins” the item at the stated price. We email an invoice that can be paid by credit card or Paypal. Once it’s paid, we ship. That’s it! It’s so easy! And it’s fun! We send invoices by email and shipping is FREE!
Everyday Icing features both trendy and classic necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings and scarves as well as personalized items such as tote bags, clutches and jewelry. We offer between 20-30 different items during our weekly sales and our prices are typically between $12-$30. Your wallet will thank you!
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 Giveaway!

Everyday Icing is giving away a $100 gift card to one lucky Allume attendee! The best part is that you’ll be able to use your gift card to shop with us in-person during the Allume Conference! You’ll walk away with some fabulous new jewelry and accessories!
Simply “Like” our Facebook page HERE, and then comment below letting us know which piece is your favorite. A random winner will be chosen on Monday, 10/21. Thanks for entering!

Dear Allume, Can I Tell You Something?

Dear Allume,

I have been staring you down for 5 months.  Your stellar speakers, your sponsoring partners, your eager attendees, and an incredibly dedicated team have been on my computer monitor and in my heart daily.

Can I tell you something?  You are remarkable.

You host a community far larger than the conference, a vision much richer than any website could hold, and you are an exquisite storyteller.   You have done real life in the light of day, in the light of Him, and it moves people.

Keep moving and shaking.

Change the world, Allume.

You can.

You know why you can?

It’s because you believe.  You believe in the power of words and the presence of authentic living.  You know how to link arms with other kingdom workers to comb the fields and love strong.

You have knelt in prayer and charged the day with enthusiasm.  You have shared tears, years, and become mirrors.  You reflect each other’s strengths and the resplendence of friendship.

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You swoop underneath to become trusses of support during high waters and span the distance from seasons of sure footing to those over the raging river. You have become a bridge.  A bridge that carries the path to real light living.
And You do. You don’t do it without error and you don’t stand alone.  Other communities and conferences do it too.  The bride of Christ holds the banner in front and bids you to follow. Beckons you to bridge stories to the world around us.

All of you.

The quiet, sporadic blogger of 3 readers and the prolific wordsmith with thousands.  The writer, the author, the musician, and the artist.  You wrote for Him and I now write to you.  You are part of the reason why I write. You are a risk-taking, contentment-finding, hope-chasing people.

You are people, not a platform.

You are honing a craft and becoming empowered in the task.  You take the task to change the world seriously and as you become storytellers who also becoming do-ers, know I am cheering for each of you.

I am thrilled to be with the conference goers one week from today. I am also honored to be joining hands with the larger Allume community across this nation and overseas who lives well into the mission.

As you own your sacred stories, serve those near and far, and overcome time and time again– know we are so very glad you came to this space and know we release, with you, to the high calling of life we must mobilize to.

Real light living, Allume, you do it and you are remarkable.

With sincerity and zeal,

Nasreen Fynewever

Allume Production Manager

Nasreen

Nasreen is an educator by training and by passion.   Nasreen finds the stories of her students and the adults they become to be fascinating.

Adopted from Bangladesh, raised in Michigan, and living in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Nasreen draws on each chapter as she speaks and writes of her life story. She raises 3 little boys with her husband of 10 years and they call their life an adventure.

Nasreen has recently shared the stage with David Kinnaman (President of Barna Group) in his You Lost Me LIVE tour, produced Jumping Tandem: The Retreat with host Deidra Riggs, and been an active part of Holley Gerth’s God-sized Dreams Team.

She falls hard for those who have stories to share, dreams to believe, and Kingdom work to do.  As one who chases hope, with you, she blogs at nasreenfynewever.com

Meet the rest of the Allume team here.

Pack Your Workout Clothes!

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Brandon and Miranda Jones are creative writers who also enjoy fitness as well as spiritual growth. Both are from the south, and shortly after meeting they realized they had one major commonality, they were each raised by their respective grandparents. After dating for a year they married in Key West, Florida in 2008 and combined their family of three children, Meadow (7), Bailey (11), and Drake (11).

It is their passion to help others discover identity as well as to help them become spiritually and physically fit. Life was not always easy for them as children, though.

Both endured broken parentage, and know firsthand how difficult it can be in realizing Christ-identity outside the influence of an earthly father figure. Nonetheless, the absent father motivated them in finding their identity as well as helping others find meaning in their lives.

One example of this is their sponsorship of Jennifer Ortiz. Jennifer is a little girl from Ecuador who is being raised by a single mother; a mother who struggles to make ends meet in a country where they live in lack.

Miranda knows from experience how difficult being a single mother is as she was one before becoming a Christian in 2006. Things were hard. Times were difficult. She worked in a restaurant and had dreams of going to college and writing, but because she worked long hours, holidays, and had small children, she had little time to pursue her dreams.

It was only after meeting Brandon and marrying him that they were both able to become a team and pursue their dreams together.

Dreams and goal setting are another important aspect as they both now have a bachelor’s degree in humanities and are finishing their master’s degree. Also, they have both written books, which they are hoping to publish soon.

But their vision does not stop there.

They hope to help others with their words, wisdom, and desire to sponsor more children as well as raise awareness of that need.

Currently, they are working on building a community of writers and bloggers with respect to promoting the causes of others as well as helping other writers reach a greater audience.

They believe God is a giver and they know he is also just. So, it is their hope to help reach those in need, not only in their own community, but also through creative projects with the aim of reaching globally.

With AdvoCare as a source of income, they are able to do this. Not only does it allow them to work from home, but it also has provided them with flexibility and opportunities to reach others through their commitment of giving twenty percent of profits to charity.

But it is not just about charity.

As Bono claims, “it’s about justice.”

Since Brandon is a certified physical fitness trainer, he is also available in helping others develop meal plans and creative ways for getting fit.

In fact, “F.I.T.” is an acronym they use for their AdvoCare FIT Facebook page. It stands for: fitness, income opportunities, and training. Although they realize the acronym may be helpful in highlighting some of AdvoCare’s attributes, it may also be limiting as if placing something amazing inside a box.

AdvoCare simply offers way more than any acronym can do justice. It offers hope, health, fitness, financial freedom . . . the list goes on.

If you would like to know more, Brandon and Miranda are always available to answer questions, or sit down and discuss AdvoCare over a glass of Spark, a nutritious, sugar-free, energy drink.

They cannot wait to meet everyone. Please visit their vendor table and participate in the AdvoCare 24 minute workouts!

For the Allume conference, Brandon and Miranda will have a prize pack for the lucky winner, to be drawn on the last day of the conference. Entry forms will be available at their vendor table. Don’t forget to like and share their FB page www.facebook.com/brandonmirandajones for further details. God bless!

End Bible Poverty

Please welcome The Seed Company

If you can’t view this video, click here.

Stop to consider the impact the Word of God has had in your life. Do you enjoy hiding the Word of God in your heart, meditating on Scripture, memorizing Bible verses and letting God’s Word penetrate the areas of your heart for comfort, inspiration, hope and love?

Do you speak English? Imagine if you could only read the Bible in Chinese? Do you speak French? Imagine if you could only read the Bible in Tagalog. Do you speak Hindi? Imagine if you could only read the Bible in Icelandic.

Tanzania The Seed Company

What if you didn’t have access to the Bible at all?

That’s exactly what it’s like for more than 200 million people in the world today. They can’t open the Word of God and read what He has to say in a language they readily understand.

In this age of social media, Google translate, super computers and instant everything, it’s a tragedy.

That’s Bible poverty and we’re out to eradicate it. Will you help?

There’s a group of people in Tanzania, Africa called the Vidunda, who don’t yet have all of God’s Word in their language. Our goal is to raise $1,000 through the Allume Conference to help make their dream of access to the Bible become a reality. If you’d like to play a vital role in this eternal impact, we would love your help.

You can give to the Allume campaign  or create your own campaign in 3 minutes or less.

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A conference like Allume is focused on empowering women to make a difference in the world as we use our influence for God’s glory. Why not start now?

And when you get to Allume, visit us in the Prayer Room for reflection, prayer, a quiet place … and ask us more about the beautiful Vidunda people who will benefit from your help.

Four Things I Appreciate

Please welcome Lindsey Nobles from Food for the Hungry…

I started working for Food for the Hungry {FH} last summer. In the last year, I have gotten to see work around the world, from Bangladesh to the Dominican Republic, from Guatemala to Ethiopia. The more I travel and learn about FH the more I understand that this is an organization that does things right. FH does real development {the hard kind} and are working with people to transform lives and eradicate poverty.

FH’s work is child-focused. FH has a Child Focused Community Transformation model which means that it assesses the health of a community by looking at the health of the community’s children. While FH works throughout a community, the organization’s introduction and key interfaces is through the children.

Food for the Hungry

FH believes in relationships. This is Abraham. He is an FH social worker who serves 200 children and their families in Ethiopia. He loves each one of them like they are his family. How do I know this? Because I have heard one of the kids he serves {and her mother} say Abraham was like a father and a mother to them. A father and a mother to 200 kids. Now that is an important job. But it speaks to the level of intimacy FH has with the communities it works. Abraham is not the exception. How do I know this? Well, because I have spent time with Markos, Protap, Amalia, Domingo, Carlos, Maria…just a handful of FH workers around the world who have shown me what it looks like to the care for the orphans and widows.

Abraham

 

FH assesses the assets and needs of a community and implements programs to best meet their needs and maximize their strengths. Child sponsorship funding allows FH to be more holistic in its approach. Sponsorship lifts up not only sponsored children, but an entire community. In Ethiopia, FH’s Reforestation, Agriculture, Advocacy, Education, Hygiene, Malaria & HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention, and Food Security Programs, all serve the needs of children in the communities in which it works.

Child Sponsorship at Food for the Hungry

 

In Guatemala, FH educates families about agriculture and nutrition to combat chronic malnutrition that is inhibiting brain development and growth.

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In Bangladesh, FH works with schools and savings groups to improve literacy, develop small businesses, strengthen their communities, learn leadership skills, discover their rights, and prevent childhood marriages.

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And most importantly, FH empowers those in need. In the words of Darrell Vesterfelt, “The best part about the work with FH is that they are not just giving charity to people in need, they are empowering people to create lasting change in their own lives and communities. FH doesn’t give handouts. They give dignity.”

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-Lindsey Nobles
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My Hopeful, Breaking Heart

Please welcome Jessica of Sole Hope

At the time of my trip to Jinja, Uganda, I had been working for Sole Hope for over 8 months.  And prior to that I had been a supporter of the Sole Hope Mission.  All of that time spent volunteering, learning, going through pictures, sharing our mission could not have prepared me for Edrien’s (a little 7 year old boy) suffering.

Jessica Africa Pic Smile

On Tuesday, June 21st- I traveled with my team to the small remote village of Wakisi.  Sole Hope had been there before and had seen children suffering from the jigger epidemic.  [A jigger, also known as Chigoe flea or Tunga penetrans, is a tiny insect that burrows into bare skin (often feet) and lays eggs by the hundreds, which are encased in a sack attached to the jigger.  If a jigger is not removed quickly, the egg sack will grow and become incredibly painful and can lead to gangrene and loss of limb.]

As we pulled up to the site of our first medical clinic we were greeted by the school children singing for us!  It was a precious site.

Our team (made up of travelers from North Carolina, New Hampshire, Colorado, and locals from the region) began to set up in the church building, which doubled as the school.  The first area was for foot washing.  Volunteers, including myself, would wash the children’s feet and identify those who were suffering from jigger infestation.  If we saw evidence of these buried jiggers and their growing egg sack, we would have these children passed on to the next section of our clinic:  jigger removal.  The last station was for giving shoes to those children who had suffered from jigger infestation.

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It is here that Edrien comes into my story.  He was one of the first children in line to get his feet washed and he was in a lot of pain.  We immediately put him in front of the nurse that Sole Hope had contracted to join us for the day.  About 2 hours later  I had finished my job washing feet and noticed Edrien was still getting treated.  I sat down beside him to provide some comfort.  Over the course of about 10 minutes my role shifted to holding his feet as he jerked and writhed in pain.

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As mentioned above, these jiggers lay an egg sack that becomes incredibly large, about the size of the top of my pinky finger.  It is repulsive.  The method of removing jiggers is to scrape away the top layer of skin with a safety pin and razor blade and then dig out the jigger and try to keep the egg sack from repturing.  The host, in this case Edrien, had been walking around in terrible pain for a long time.  We knew that even though he was suffering from the removal, he would be free from these terrible jiggers at the end of our time there and that provided so much hope.

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It took the nurse over 3 hours to remove over 50 jiggers which were buried in his feet, sucking the very life from his body causing pain and infection.  He was crying out as she removed each jigger with attached egg sack over and over again.  Holding his legs down became increasingly difficult and our hearts broke for him.  I had to turn away at one point to shed some tears.  I became so angry with myself.  How could I cry when I was not in any pain and here was this brave and courageous little boy sitting next to me fighting for his freedom from pain through his suffering?

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There was an anger that rose up in me.  We HAVE to fight this epidemic.  We have to educate the local people about the chigoe flea.  We have to give them hope that they can take care of the children in their villages (often orphans) and they can do something in this fight.  We have to employ more shoemakers to make more shoes to give to these children.  We have to raise awareness back in the US and across the globe that this is happening to innocent children.  And this little boy beside me should never have to suffer like this again.

I shudder to think about what would have happened if Sole Hope hadn’t done a clinic that day.  Edrien’s life would surely be at risk for gangrene, tetanus, secondary infection, loss of limb and potentially the loss of his life.

After his feet were bandaged, he was given a pair of closed toed shoes, which will keep him jigger free. Sole Hope sprayed an insecticide in his home as well as inside the school building and the yard surrounding the school.

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Sole Hope continued to contract with the nurse who attended to Edrien for follow up care.  She returned less than one week later to be sure that his wounds were healing properly.  I am thrilled to report that he is doing remarkably well and still sporting his new shoes!  I believe his story will be a testimony to share and give hope not only to the village leaders and to the surrounding area but to all of us.  Edrien’s story is not uncommon.  Sole Hope continues to fight this terrible epidemic that the Ugandan Government is ignoring.

In September, Sole Hope launched a campaign through Pure Charity to raise the funding to provide 2 full time nurses with stable income plus all of the transport costs and materials.  It is a goal that must be met so we can give hope to these precious little children!  Please join us and help us meet this awesome goal.

We will be hosting the Friday morning breakfast at Allume and attendees will hear more about Sole Hope as they participate in a shoe cutting party!  Your old jeans will be used to make shoes for children like Edrien!  (Sign up for our Impact Opportunity here). Please also visit our booth at Allume.  I look forward to meeting each of you!

Sole Hope offers HOPE, healthier lives, and freedom from foot related diseases through education, jobs and medical relief.

Full of Hope~

Jessica Shanor

Welcome to Moms’ Night Out

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Do you ever stop and wonder when your life became so chaotic? When did going to church mean getting multiple people dressed and ready? When did a special night out with your friends or husband became a foreign concept?

 

Next year, a movie called MOMS’ NIGHT OUT opens in theaters across the country. You just may find yourself wondering who was taking notes at your house to craft this movie script. Yes, your life is about to come to the big screen.

 

But don’t worry: it’s a comedy!

 

Meet Allyson, who longs to find the time, energy, and words to blog about her life. She and her friends are looking forward to a peaceful, grown-up evening of dinner and conversation . . . a long-needed moms’ night out. But in order to enjoy high heels, adult conversation, and food not served in a bag, they need their husbands to watch the kids for three hours. What could go wrong?

 

Chances are, you know the answer to this supposedly rhetorical question. The joy (and the laughter) is in the journey, especially with this cast along for the ride: Sean Astin, Patricia Heaton, Trace Adkins, Alex Kendrick, and Sarah Drew—Dr. Kepner on Grey’s Anatomy. Sarah brings a unique perspective to her role as Allyson, the mom of three young children. Here’s what Sarah says about how her life intersects with the movie:

 

I fell in love with this story immediately because it spoke to my heart in a very personal way. I became a mom two years ago, and my life has completely changed. All of my best friends are moms, and what I’ve noticed is:

  1. Moms are superheroes, and …
  2. Moms are not celebrated for the superheroes they are in our culture today, especially stay-at-home moms.

As moms, we are hungry for opportunities to be refreshed. To laugh and relate and feel like what we do is important and valuable. We moms need to hear, “You are enough, you beautiful, wonderful, glorious women! Stop trying to be everything for everyone, and just be. Just rest. You are loved.”

 

MOMS’ NIGHT OUT declares this while making you smile, laugh, and cry. That’s what’s beautiful about this film. It displays the emotional paradox we find ourselves in every day as we care for our children. Motherhood is joyously exhilarating, epically hilarious, and traumatically terrifying—all at the same time. I spent all the time before having my son paralyzed with fear, afraid that he was going to change my life and I’d lose my freedom and I’d be forced to be less selfish.

 

Then I discovered once he arrived that I would literally jump in front of a bus for him if he were in danger, giving up absolutely anything for him without hesitation. And I’d do it over and over again. Becoming a parent changes your DNA at its core. This film celebrates and honors the struggle and the release, the terror and the joy, and the hilarity and sobriety of it all.

 

My hope for this film is that mothers across America will walk out of the theater feeling like the true superheroes they are, feeling like this film nourished and encouraged them in their innermost being. I hope it encourages you to hug your husband and your children tight, hit with a tidal wave of gratitude for the family you care for. I want you to feel honored and celebrated. That is my hope. So grab your friends for a moms’ night out to see MOMS’ NIGHT OUT and then go back and see it again on a date with your husband. You won’t be disappointed. I promise.

 

That’s the heart behind our Friday event at Allume: Girls’ Night In. Harken back to the days when you could unwind with your friends without the chaos of everyday life pelting you upside the head like a handful of cheerios thrown from the car seat behind you. Plan to come and get comfy–Logan and Sarah Mae will be in their pajama’s!

Also, if you want to participate in the Open Mic Night, be sure you bring your post ready to read. The theme? Why YOU need a mom’s night out.

Stop by our booth during Allume to register to win movie tickets for your own MOMS’ NIGHT OUT. We look forward to meeting you and can’t wait for you to see the movie next year. Together, let’s celebrate the beautiful mess called parenting.

 

A Young Widow in Nepal Sought Peace, So Did I

Please welcome Gospel for Asia

As I was thinking about a story we shared about a woman in Kathmandu, Nepal named Shiuli,

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I was thinking about my own life too. As part of my role here at Gospel for Asia, we share stories from places like Nepal, to let people know what God is doing in South Asia.

 

Shiuli lives among 700,000 in Kathmandu, yet she was entirely alone.

 

In this story Shiuli loses her husband, left to fend for her three daughters all on her own.

 

My life story is not as tragic, but what follows in her story is very similar to my story.

 

Shiuli goes on to seek peace through many religious centers in Nepal. She offers sacrifices and seeks peace from religious figures. She finds no peace.

 

I remember my search for peace, although I didn’t have the same struggles as Shiuli,

my predicament at the time felt horrific. I sought out many different ways to find peace, most led me to a dead-end or dark hallways.

 

Even though Shiuli sought out peace for herself, the messenger came to her. It was a typical place where Shiuli first found out about Jesus, women passing by shared about Jesus with her, they shared about how Jesus could take all her burdens.

 

When I was at rock bottom, I had many burdens, many problems and no peace. Amidst all the junk I was into, all I really wanted was peace but none of my solutions helped. It was my first year at college and I was a mess.

 

One night my friend stopped by and casually suggested to read the Bible. Nothing more, nothing less.

My friend left and I was alone. I read the Bible and God spoke to me, right where I was at,

as the total mess I was, God gave me peace.

 

The story of Shiuli is similar, she found peace in the Jesus these women spoke of.

All the other gods she looked to had offered her nothing. It was only in Christ that she found true peace.

 

As I serve here at Gospel for Asia, even though we are worlds away from the people we seek to help, we are closer than we think.

 

We have so many brothers and sisters around the world, and we all share in that true peace of God.

 

May we be lights along the way, to share that true peace only found in Jesus, whether stateside or in South Asia.

 

If you’d like to read Shiuli’s story in full, click here:

www.gfa.org/shiuli

 

Thomas

Making the Leap to Book Publishing

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When does a writer become an author?

 

Every successfully published author I know (who writes his or her own books) was a writer long before becoming an author. But the underlying question I hear from so many aspiring authors is, “When and how does that transition take place?”

 

Is it after hitting “publish” on her 1,000th blog post?

 

After his social media followers surpass a certain magic number?

 

Or when she gets “discovered” by the right editor or agent at a conference?

 

As usual, the answer varies. While there are certain patterns and principles at play—which we’re eager to share with you at our sponsor workshop!—each writer’s path to “authordom” takes unique twists and fortuitous turns. But yes, there certainly are steps you can take now to prepare for future publishing success.

 

One of the best things you can do for yourself in the meantime is to keep writing. Discover your own unique voice through trial and error. Write about what you love and what you hate, what you learn and what you wonder. And when your inspiration runs dry, be quiet for a spell; be still and observe; engage in a physical activity that energizes you. And of course, read authors whose work challenges and delights you.

 

In the process of writing and listening and observing, you’ll develop. You’ll move forward. You’ll not only become a stronger writer and a more interesting person, but a more true and dynamic version of yourself. And who knows, in the process, you may attract the attention of a literary agent who you’ll love working with.

 

One of the many things I adore about my work as an agent is finding new authors and introducing them to the reading world. You could even say our agency—D.C. Jacobson & Associates—specializes in launching fresh voices with a powerful message. The very first book Don Jacobson (agency president, industry veteran & all around great guy) and I pitched 7 years ago was Crazy Love by Francis Chan, which has now inspired more than 2 million readers around the world. And currently I am working on projects with a number of past and current Allume speakers and attendees who are taking the leap from publishing blog posts to also publishing books—including Tsh Oxenreider, Jessica Turner, Nish Weiseth, Bianca Juarez Olthoff, Amber C Haines, Alli Worthington, and Jamie Martin. (Also, Sarah Markley and Allume’s incredible owner & host, Logan Wolfram, are represented by Don.) What an incredible line-up of communicators, and what a joy it is to serve as their cheerleader, coach, advocate and guide along the publishing path!

 

This summer, as Don and I have prepared for Allume, we’ve been asking ourselves how we can best help you. How can we help you aspiring authors take the next step on your personal path to book publishing?

 

In our sponsor workshop, we’ll divulge to you our “Book Publishing: Top Ten Things You Need to Know”. Meanwhile, we want to hear from you!

 

What questions do you have about publishing? If you could ask a literary agent any question, what would it be? We will take your concerns and special interests into account as we shape and finalize our talk.

 

 

Ask & Win!

Leave a question in the comments and you’ll be automatically entered to win 1 of 5 Advanced Reader Copies of Tsh Oxenreider’s upcoming release, Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World (February 2014, Thomas Nelson). This is a book I am incredibly excited about personally and am eager to share with five of you.

**Please note: please leave your email address in the comment form. If you do not leave your email address, we cannot count your entry because we will have no way to get in touch with you. Giveaway end Friday at 11:59pm.

Thanks so much. Don and I look forward to meeting you at the conference!

JENNI B

Jenni Burke

Literary Agent

D.C. Jacobson & Associates

www.dcjacobson.com

Let’s connect on Twitter! @jenni_burke @donjacobson

Meet Phil Vischer at Allume This Year

All of us at What’s in the Bible? are thrilled to be a part of Allume again this year.  We thought about trying to share our enthusiasm and excitement for Phil Vischer’s workshop on Friday afternoon in words, but we realized who better to share this big news with you than our very own Buck Denver. Plus, we think he’s secretly starting to love this whole blogging or “vlogging” thing…

If you’re reading in your email, click here to watch video.

We know from our past experiences what an amazing experience Allume is, so we want to help more people attend.  We’re giving away one ticket to the conference.  You can enter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Meet Vibrant Faith

Hey, Allume-goers!

We are so very excited to be a part of the conference once again. We had a great time meeting everyone last year, and can’t wait to re-connect in just a few short weeks! But before we all descend onto South Carolina, we’d love to introduce ourselves.

Who we Are:
Vibrant Faith Ministries is a non-profit, located in Bloomington, Minnesota. VFM is a catalyst for Christian congregations, communities and households striving to practice vibrant faith in a dynamic world. We desire to equip, encourage and empower families to practice faith formation at home, because we believe home is church too!

What do We Offer?
We created the free website, www.vibrantfaithathome.org, for the same reasons. This free service is chock-full of faith formation activities to do with your family, whether it’s a young family, teenagers, grandparents… there’s even a section just for kids! The content rotates with each season, so it’s always relevant and fresh. VFM also sells resources to help families feel comfortable having faith-based conversations, recognize and celebrate milestones, and equip their children. photo VFMallumeCollage_zps4791fd0f.png

In addition to the resources for households, we offer congregational coaching and youth ministry certification school. Our 21st Century Faith Formation Training events have been attended by nearly 1000 people across the country, and our congregational social media coaching is able to be fully customized for your staffs’ level of tech savvy.

Why Allume?
In the past, we have partnered with amazing bloggers to review our products and website. All of our partnerships are compensated, either by gift cards (to places like Starbucks or Target) or free product. We recognize the influence each of you hold, and truly need your input, platform and voice. We believe that you – Allume bloggers – minister to and reach the same households we would love to be a part of, and we want to connect with you at Allume to become that bridge.

At Allume, We Will…

  • …have our favorite resources for sale (at a discount!)
  • …offer demos of VF@Home and our apps at our table
  • …have giveaways every day of the conference
  • …be building a more directed bloggers newsletter with opportunities for reviews & features
  • …jump in with both feet! We’ll be at meals, in sessions, and at the table.

So be on the lookout for Patty and Anna from the VFM team (coming all the way from chilly Minnesota), and be sure to say hello! Connect with us beforehand as well, on Facebook and Twitter, and visit us at www.vibrantfaith.org.

The Power of Perception & Preemptive Love

PLC 5

“Honey, please never go to America! I don’t want those children to kill you, too!”

That was my Iraqi friend quoting his wife a few months ago over tea. While channel surfing one evening, she had the misfortune of landing on the 1984 horror flick, Children of the Corn, and was thereafter convinced that rural Middle America was utterly unsafe.

I laughed it off, set my tea down, and assured my friend that movies aren’t reality, but then my friend said something insightful: “Last night, that movie was reality to her.”

Upon reflection, I realized that this might sum up one of the most important things I’ve learned over the past few years of living and working in Iraq: experiences—be they positive or negative—shape perceptions in a big way. They become reality.

I know, I know. That isn’t earth-shattering news, but sometimes I think we forget that our God can change overwhelmingly negative, car-bomb-induced perceptions—He can even reverse them!

Even the nastiest stuff you think of when you hear the word “Iraq:” Suicide bombs; rogue soldiers; chemical warfare; chronic violence. The cynicism and negativity fostered by these things can be healed because God is capable, and God is in the business of changing hearts and minds.

In fact, the more negative a person’s experience, I believe, the more positive an experience often needs to be to redeem the perception. Our God is in the business of doing BIG things—and this is good news for all of us! The deep-rooted fear of the unknown—or, more often, the partially known—is poisonous. But GOD’s love for people serves as the antidote, and He calls us to share it.

And that’s why my friends and I form a group called Preemptive Love Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to providing Iraqi children with lifesaving heart surgeries, where we witness God doing big things every day.

PLC 1

Because sometimes it takes something as big and dramatic as mending a child’s dying heart to show an Iraqi family that you aren’t their enemy. We call this mind-changing work preemptive love—a love that jumps in headlong to serve another with the hope of offering a new, more hopeful reality.

We are so looking forward to connecting with you at Allume in a few months and hearing your stories of preemptive love. In the meantime, we’d love to connect our worlds by reading your comments below.

So what about you? How could/do you, in your community, partner with God in changing perceptions through preemptive love?

Matt_280 Preemptive Love

Matt Willingham lives and works in Iraq as the Communication Director for Preemptive Love Coalition, a nonprofit dedicated to eradicating the backlog of children in Iraq waiting for a lifesaving heart surgery. Connect with him on Twitter: @mehtin

Live Intentionally

If you’re reading in email or a reader, click here to view video.

Live intentionally.  This is something that as Christians and moms we aspire to do every day.  However, making time for thoughtful consideration and action is easier said than done.  There are many things in our lives that are important and demand our time.  This often means that something gets the short end of the stick.  In many cases that is money and planning for the future.

Yet, when we talk to moms we hear that building knowledge, confidence, and taking thoughtful action on their money and finances is important to them.  Why?  Probably because mothers are a guiding force in the financial lives of their families.

Whether they work in or out of the home, moms are:

  • Decision makers on family expenditures
  • A primary source of learning and values creation for their children—including children’s earliest attitudes towards money, spending, saving, and sharing
  • Planners building the safeguards and savings for their families financial future
  • Major economic contributors through the tasks that they take charge of both in and out of the home

So with everything else on their plates, how can Christian mom’s find and use relevant resources to help them with their critical roles related to money?  That is where we come in.

Brightpeak financial is a new division of Thrivent Financial, a hundred year old not-for-profit Christian membership organization. Our mission is the help young Christian families build financial strength & embrace the future with optimism.  Stronger families mean stronger communities because people who are more financially secure are also more generous and better able to help each other in times of need.

Like you, we are Christian adults, moms, and families.  And as part of our call to serve other Christian families, we offer a wide variety of educational resources to inspire and educate.

We invite you to explore our resources for yourself and to share the ones you find valuable with your network of Christian women, mothers, and families.

Live intentionally

Whether it’s your job as your kids’ chauffeur, the family chef, the household CFO, or teacher-of-the-year, you’ve got a lot on your plate. These resources should help you save time, money, and sanity so that you can get back to those special moments that come with being a mom.

8 Creative Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money + a Free E-Book

Learn simply

At brightpeak, we understand that confidence around finances doesn’t come easy. That’s why we create financial basics resources to help you feel good about your money decisions.  Look for resources around money management & debt, retirement & saving, financial safeguards and giving & generosity.

How to Get Started Saving

Work with purpose

All of us strive to live a purpose driven life, but often it is hard to find that purpose. Here we provide resources for learning, growing, overcoming and serving in our work, careers and other opportunities so that you can better live out your purpose.

5 Tips for Choosing a Second Job

Visit us at brightpeakfinancial.com to explore our resources and access blogs, e-books, videos and more.

One in One Hundred Million

Samaritan’s Purse is praising God for providing more than 100 million shoebox gifts through Operation Christmas Child since 1993. Each of those boxes represents an opportunity to share the Good News of Jesus Christ, and everyone who has packed a box has been a part of God’s plan to impact over 100 million children. There is “Good News, Great Joy” in one simple gift, and Alex is just one of the children whose lives have been touched by a shoebox.

 OCC Connect Conference 2012- Stone Mountain, Georgia

“I was born and raised in Kigali, Rwanda. My mom died when I was very young, and I never knew my dad so my grandmother raised me.  Growing up, Rwanda was going through a time of war that later took my grandmother’s life. There were many times I could have been killed. Looking back I realize that without God’s grace and protection I would not have survived.

 

After my grandmother was killed, I began living with my aunt. She became ill and decided to put me in an orphanage. A few months later, she also passed away. I was left in an orphanage without hope. I asked myself, “If there is a God who cares for His people, why would He let a million people lose their lives?”

 

I was seven when Operation Christmas Child came to my orphanage and delivered shoeboxes. I remember how excited I was to receive that gift! A gift that planted a seed of hope and love in my life. Opening my shoebox and seeing all the items in it was a special moment that I will never forget. Something as small as a candy cane brought a smile to my face and ultimately changed my life. I hope and pray that I will get to meet the person who packed my shoebox. If not here on earth, in heaven!

 

Later I got the opportunity to travel and sing with the African Children’s Choir. While I was with them, I was being taught about God’s love for me, and the plans that He has for all His people. I started to see and understand that God was with me all the time. I saw how He saved my life and that it was not a coincidence, but a part of His plans. That’s when I accepted God into my heart.

 

Operation Christmas Child uses simple gifts to meet great needs in Jesus’ name.  God uses the shoebox gifts to remind children how much He loves them no matter what they are going through. Every box tells a child they are loved. And they are not forgotten. I was one of those children. I am very thankful for what God continues to do through Operation Christmas Child.”

– Alex Nsengimana

Finding the Perfect Blend

Just Love Coffee is our official coffee sponsor this year! Their story is a-mazing!

The backstory of the founder of Just Love Coffee Roasters is not your typical one. Rob Webb was two years old when his father started Webb’s Coffee Service in 1976. He grew up around coffee and around a dad who persistently embedded the ideals of the business owner and entrepreneur into his son.

JustLoveCoffee_Rob

I didn’t want anything to do with the family business. When asked what I was going to be when I grew up, I made a point of answering, “A musician, not a coffee salesman.” Rob studied classical piano from the time he was 7 years old through completing his Masters degree in piano performance. Living in Nashville and having a knack for technology, audio engineering came easily to him, and he was soon bouncing from studio to studio in Nashville as an audio engineer/producer. “After 7 years of being in the music business I began questioning whether this was the path for the rest of my life. I loved what I did, but was becoming weary of the lifestyles of some of the people I had to work closely with on projects.”

After 12 months of deliberation, he decided to leave his dream job behind and go into the family business. Five years into the family business, Rob began a journey of trying to figure out what his contribution to life was supposed to be. He was feeling unfulfilled and in need of some direction. That led him to picking up the first of what would become many homeless men in Nashville. “I would pull over and convince the guy that I wasn’t crazy, and we would drive to a restaurant or just a place to hang out and talk. It became addictive. I was spending my weekends rolling through the projects, walking through the tent city in Nashville looking for an opportunity to get to know someone and see if I could ease someone’s anxiety for a day. We had this one cookout at the tent city which was amazing. We grilled steaks, venison, chicken and ribs. The most surreal picture I remember was seeing a very wealthy businessman I had invited sitting on a rock talking to a man would had absolutely nothing. It was beautiful.”

lovewall

After about a year of this, Rob’s wife Emily asked him what he thought of adopting, not just one child, but two older children. He was immediately on board with the idea. The only compromise though was that he and Emily both agreed that he would need to limit his involvement with the homeless and focus on his family since they were about to double their children. After much discussion and study, they both agreed that Ethiopia was the best place for them to adopt, and they quickly signed on with an agency and started the process. While going through the process they were reading as much material as they could on adoption and Ethiopia. They wanted to learn the culture, the language and the history. In doing so Rob became intrigued with the coffee history of Ethiopia.

Rob had always wanted to get into the roasting side of the coffee business, but the family business just wasn’t suited to roast the kind of coffee he wanted to roast. At the same time he and Emily were following newsgroups and blogs of other adoptive families and quickly saw the need that families had for additional funds to pay for adoptions that range from $15,000 to $45,000+. In January of 2009, the idea struck Rob about creating a brand new company that would roast specialty coffee under a brand name that could efficiently and effectively help adoptive families and other benevolent nonprofits. Rob began making phone calls to vendors to educate himself on the business. He ordered a little home fluid bed roaster and started roasting samples in the break room at Webb’s Refreshments. He drew up the plans for the unique backend system for the online storefront and then went to the bank with the idea. Upon returning from Ethiopia with two of his daughters in May 2009, he began advertising on Facebook targeting adoptive families who were in need of fundraising ideas.

JasonTryer

Because of a deal that went bad on his equipment, he only had about $1,000 in the bank for working capital, no weigh fill machine, and no batch grinder. “It was stressful. I was so beside myself that I had to make an appointment with a therapist the Friday before I launched on the following Monday.” Monday came, the web programmer made the website live and Rob stared at the computer monitor in his 800 square foot facility. “It was exciting and terrifying all at the same time. It was sink or swim time. I didn’t have enough money to weather a few slow months getting started.” However, orders started coming in within a matter of minutes, and by the end of the day, he had more orders than he could handle. “On the way home that afternoon I called my college buddy, Jason Smith who had just quit his job as a child counselor for at-risk kids and who had been roasting his own coffee in his home for 10 years and asked if he could help me with the orders. I told him I had enough cash to pay him through the end of the week. After that I just wasn’t sure.” Well, Jason went from roasting a few hundred pounds a week to over 70,000 a year in a short 3½ years.

Today, Rob’s dream has rapidly grown to include a team of 13 people who play a part in roasting some of the finest sustainable coffees in the world and changing lives in the process. They have given over $350,000 to adoptive families, nonprofits and clean water projects in Ethiopia.

WebbFamily

 

Watch this amazing video of how they are helping families in multiple ways through their business. (Click here if you’re reading this in an email/reader so you can watch the video)

Visit Just Love Coffee and share it with your friends.

Women Who Make a Difference

Working for World Renew, I get to meet a lot of incredible women.

Women like Mary Makaranga in Tanzania.

World Renew

Mary is a development officer with one of our partner organizations. She is just one example of women being salt and light in a hurting world. She was recruited by her denomination’s youth department in 2003 to help communities to improve their health, particularly in relation to the high HIV and AIDS rates caused by the transient population in the region for the gold mining industry. Through the program Mary taught people how to prevent HIV transmission, how to support those with HIV or AIDS, and to adopt new behavior, habits, and attitudes towards those living with HIV and AIDS.

Mary’s involvement in the diocese quickly grew to include teaching local churches how to care for orphans, vulnerable children, elderly people, widows, and community members living with chronic diseases like cancer, TB, or disabilities.

Mary’s work now includes:

  • teaching entrepreneurship and savings skills to around 400 small business owners.
  • mobilizing 15 local churches and communities to take charge of their own development and future
  • leading a team of 25 home-based care volunteers in providing health services and house visits in their communities. Each volunteer provides regular care to 20 to 30 households.
  • overseeing the palliative care (homebound) program of the church.
  • continuing community training in HIV and AIDS education and support for orphans, widows, and people living with HIV and AIDS. Each community may have more than 100 orphans or vulnerable children living among them.

Mary says one of the hardest things about her work is finding orphaned, abandoned, or neglected children. She has seen babies left alone all day while the parents go to the field to work, children with severe malnutrition, or children whose guardians no longer want them.

Mary has responded by taking in five children who were either orphaned or abandoned. Domitila was brought to Mary in 2010 because her parents died from HIV and her other relatives refused to support her. Domitila was 9 at the time but only weighed 9kg (20lbs)! People were afraid to look at her because she looked so sick. Mary took her under her care like a daughter. After three years of love, care, good food and medical attention, Domitila is now a happy healthy girl. The change is astounding. She is in grade 1 in school, is very independent and is even learning English. She said, “I am very happy living with Mary, and she is so wonderful to me.”

Domitila is a powerful example of Mary’s heart for service. Mary explains, “I have been called by God to help people like this because that’s what Jesus did. How could I stop doing this work when it is God’s? I will continue to serve the community and the hurting and lost like this until I die.”

It is a privilege for World Renew to work alongside and equip wonderful people like Mary Makaranga.

You can make this work possible through your financial gifts, prayers, and by helping World Renew tell the story to your audience. Sometimes I think people get tired of hearing about all the problems in the world. I urge you to help us spread the word that there are women like Mary who are making a difference in their own communities! We in North America do not have all the answers or solutions.

Sending material goods and money is easy, but then you miss out on being a part of this transformative work and getting to know stellar women like Mary.

Living in the “&”

The world keeps telling me the benefits of a ‘balanced life’.  As if I can reach some measure of perfection, nirvana, and platitude of peace.

If I can just get the scales to even out in a straight line.

If I can just balance one more bean in the ‘don’t spill the beans’ game pot,

If I can just pull one more block from the Jenga tower,

If, if, if.

 

Or if the world isn’t telling me to balance they are telling me to choose. As if life is an either or proposition!

You can have a career or be a mom,

You can like country music or rock n roll,

You are either a sporty girl or a Barbie.

You can be outgoing or sensitive

You can be a Mary or a Martha

Or, or, or

 

But I know (and I know that you know), that life is messy and life can be, lived in the &.

It’s not about the perfection of a well-balanced life, it’s not about this or that, it’s about ‘&’!

 

I want to live in the &! Are you with me?  Why can’t I enjoy life as it comes, why do I have to choose?   After all, He is mercy & justice, grace & truth, beginning & end, the lion & the lamb…

 

We can be sporty one day & a Barbie the next, can’t we?

We can have a career & be a mom, can’t we?

We can be the life of the party & the quiet one, can’t we?

We can be passionate & compassionate, can’t we?

We can have beauty & depth, can’t we?

We can eat healthy & have a brownie, can’t we?

 

At Mary & Martha, we are all about LIVING IN THE ‘&’.

 

Entertaining can be meaningful & simple.

You can have a business & a ministry

faith & work!

You can prepare & listen

You can love God & love others.

You can engage in worship & service.

 

Women are Mary & Martha; there is no reason to choose.

Mary & Martha were better together.

 

We can hardly wait to meet you at Allume and share our deep desire to:

Radically reimagine what home is all about.

Transform homes where people are loved on

Shift homes from drive-thrus, (pick up what you need and go) to a place to stay

 

Take routines to meaningful steps

Shatter the illusion that it must be perfect

Remind ourselves and others that…

 

It’s not about a perfect home; it’s all about the people!

Blog Post logo

See what we’re all about…

 

 

We love this tray & mugs

& we know you will too,

& we want to give away one of these, so…

 

Mug&Tray

 

 

Leave a comment about how & when you would use this tray of mugs, & you just might find yourself the owner of a tray & six mugs!

 

We invite you to be our guest at the opening night party & receive a fun Mary & Martha somethin’- somethin’!

 Giveaway ends Friday, August 23rd at 11:59EST. U.S. residents only. 

See you at Allume!

Finding Writing Inspiration When You Have None

allume-pen-writing

If you write, you know the torture that having a lack of inspiration can be. It can be hard enough just finding spare time, but finally getting a chance to sit down and write can be plain disheartening when you open Microsoft Word and spend precious minutes staring at a blank white screen.

Regardless of whether you write fiction or blog posts or poetry, you are always drawing from a well of inspiration. Some of us are very skilled at capturing that inspiration when it strikes as we’re in the shower or caught in traffic. Some of us are less skilled at recording our prompts, and you might even feel like you don’t have any ideas left. In reality, your well of prompts and ideas is self-sustaining, as long as you learn to properly capture your ideas.

In addition, we often lose our inspiration because of the lack of change. You run out of things to write about, because you haven’t changed the way you approach your writing for so long that the well runs dry. We need those changes, those catalysts, to spur us forward.

By learning to capture ideas when they strike you, and learning how you can change things up, you should never have another fruitless staring contest with your screen or your notebook.

Feed the Well

Adding to your well of inspiration is an ongoing process. If you do not commit to attempting to capture ideas and saving them for later, your writing will be less efficient, and you may have trouble getting a good story out.

Here are some great ideas for catching ideas, as they occur to you:

  • Keep a journal. You’ve heard it before, but it’s one of the best ways to collect ideas. Some people prefer to make their journal specifically for writing ideas and creative thoughts and separate it from the traditional uses of a journal or diary; others combine it. Experiment with journals in different formats; you may find that Evernote or an art journal works better than traditional pen and paper.
  • Keep track of writing prompts that work for you. It doesn’t matter if you use a prompt 50 times, if it keeps working for you.
  • Map out the ideas in your head. Mind maps, or other forms of spacially-related note taking, are great for piecing together factual information, like for blog posts or a memoir.
  • Love your words. Whenever I come across a word I love, I always jot it down in a certain section of my notebook. While this doesn’t always result in much, there’s never anything bad about keeping a collection of impressive words!

Writing Catalysts

I like to continually change things up to be sure I’m always trying out new styles and keeping things interesting. Unlike prompts, which are ideas for things to write, catalysts are actions you can take to start creating, with or without a prompt.

  • A change of scenery. If writing in your normal spot just isn’t cutting it, take your writing somewhere else, like a bustling café in the early afternoon, your neighborhood library, or beside the pool. One of my favorite places to write is while sitting in a lawn chair just inside the open garage door while rain is pouring outside.
  • A change of method. If you normally type, write on paper, or vice versa. Try collaging into your journal or using a different kind of spacing on the screen.
  • A change of pace. Write slowly and methodically, picturing everything in your mind and describing it. Or write at a frenzied pace, go go go!
  • A change of subject. Write about something you’ve never written before. Write about something boring. Write about something you don’t understand.
  • A change of attitude. Write as though it’s the last day of your life. Write as though you have an audience. Write to the stranger at the next table.

Remember that what you write when you are writing from prompts or catalysts isn’t always going to be useable, but it’s never a waste. With refinement, many exercises can become polished pieces. Anything that helps you get into the writing mindset is not a waste.

What are your favorite writing prompts or catalysts?

AdrienneErinAdrienne Erin is a studio art major turned career development professional turned freelance writer. She enjoys writing about everything from happiness to drug rehab programs. When she’s not writing, you might find her speaking French, cooking overly elaborate meals in her tiny kitchen, or collaging. No matter where life takes her, she always enjoys the ride.

 

 

 

Photo Credit

4 Ways to Make the Most of Failing

 

Successful woman onlineA few Fridays ago I hosted my blog’s first Facebook chat to kick-off the first day of summer. I whipped up snazzy graphics and posted announcements all over Facebook and Twitter. The day of the chat, I was giddy with anticipation as I tried guessing how many people would join in. 10? 20? 30? Or, maybe even more? In the end, you know how many people showed up? Two. Just me and one of my blog’s contributors. Thirty grueling, drawn-out minutes spent hoping and waiting for the crowd to arrive. But it wasn’t to be. (Granted, a few others eventually chimed in with comments in the days to follow.) I was disappointed…and quite embarrassed if I’m honest. For a hot second, I considered deleting my Facebook page and ditching blogging. What’s the point of it all, I questioned. After feeling sorry for myself for a few minutes, I was reminded of countless success stories lined with bumps in the road called failures. So why then, would I let this blip derail me? Instead, I decided to F.A.I.L. like a boss. Here’s how…

1. Have Faith

Failure undoubtedly causes fears to rise. Do I have what it takes? Does anyone care? How can I make it when there are already so many great _______ out there? Instead of believing these lies, trust in your calling. Forget the numbers. Forget how long it takes to get where you’re going or who’s doing what. You must believe in your dreams first.

2. Check the Attitude

When plans don’t go the way you expected, your true motivations often show. Are you out for your own fame or praises, or are you truly seeking to do the will of God? One will let pride and embarrassment stop you, the other will push you to persevere. If giving up comes easy, check the attitude.

3. Investigate

Step back and look at the failure objectively. What could you do differently? Are you lacking certain skills or resources? Is there someone with the expertise to help you? What does a trusted friend or mentor have to say?

4. Listen

Go to a quiet place. What does God have to say about it all? Perhaps He is using the moment to draw you closer or teach you something new. Instead of complaining or whining about how things turned out, take time to listen for His voice.

 

While failures can seem like an end to a dream, they certainly don’t have to be. Have you ever been sidetracked by a failure? How did you get back on the path to success?

kacey-bess

As one of the voices behind Next Level Mama, Kacey has a heart for leading mamas to parent with purpose. By day, she analyzes numbers as a budget analyst, but it’s her “job” as mama to three little ones that’s her most challenging and enjoyable ever. This die-hard Texas girl can’t get enough of blogging, Kindle books and desserts. You can catch her tweeting away at @nextlevelmama.

Is This a Picture I Really Want People to See?

ThisisWhatYouDoI had been huddled under a small umbrella for the better part of an hour as the rain poured down. I was soaked and shivering. The kids, on the other hand, were giddy.

We always like to claim one day during the summer when the kids can swim in the neighborhood pool while it’s raining. I have to agree that it’s something of a spectacular experience. There’s just something about sharing smiles and exhilarated shoulder shrugs as you go for one more dive into your pool-turned-stormy sea. That is, until the lifeguards blow their whistles and declare your playground too dangerous and then you huddle under a too-small umbrella, wrapped in wet towels with your mom. Game over.

Then finally. Finally the rain eased up and a sliver of sun peeked out. I saw our chance. We had a hill to climb, bodies to dry, lunch to make, a movie to watch.

We quickly threw everything into the wagon and set off, hoping to make it home before the heavens opened again. My oldest son took off (why wait when you have long legs?) and the middle one and I walked along, pulling the little one. Slowly, slowly.

That’s when she called out to me.

My friend had taken shelter under the pavilion, several stories above me. She called down to me, holding her phone in her hand.

“Let me get a picture of you!” she called.

Oh, well, I stammered. I just got caught in that rain, you know. My hair. Oh, my hair.

She smiled (a mom of three boys herself) and clicked the picture despite my stammering. I dreaded seeing it, actually, because I felt like a drowned rat and who in the world would want to remember that?

Then she sent me the picture.

I looked it over and thought, well, it’s not that bad. I thanked her for sending it because it was nice of her to capture us that day despite the circumstances. Not a picture I’d necessarily put out there, of course, but still. It told a story of our day in the rain, that’s for sure.

That’s when she e-mailed me these words:

“I just don’t think moms are captured enough in their day-to-day memories of what they do. This is what you do every day and it’s so sweet.”

Oh, my.

That picture. It is what I do everyday.

I fill wagons and fold towels and give opportunities to swim in the rain. I am a grin watcher, a hair dryer, a shoulder hugger and stuff lugger. I walk miles back and forth from here to there and back again–often times feeling like it’s uphill both ways.

I brave cold water and bad hair and dark circles under my eyes. I’m an independence giver, a hand holder, a hurry-upper and a movie watcher. I’m a lunch maker, a forehead kisser, a negotiator.

I’m an anchor and a pusher, a cheerleader and a task giver. I squeeze boys (at least those who will wait) into pictures and smile because despite the chaos, I love the exact spot on this earth that my feet are inhabiting. Holy ground. All of this.

This is what we do–us moms. Every day. It can be messy, alright, but it’s beautiful.

My friend of three boys? She knew enough to capture the moment. My beautiful, wet-haired, soaked-to-the-bone, random Monday, perfect-in-its-imperfect moment.

“This is how I always think of you,” she said. Wise woman, she is.

I think it would do my heart good to think of myself this way as well.

 

What would your beautiful, messy, perfectly imperfect mama moment look like today?

100_3028Katie Kenny Phillips lives in Atlanta with her husband, Jeff, and their three hilarious boys (Bigs, Middles and Littles). Their home is made up of two parts Legos, one part dirt/sticks/rocks/acorns and all parts “whose underwear is this and why is it in the middle of the family room?” She and her husband just started an orphan/foster care ministry at their church and are excited to become foster parents themselves this month.

Katie writes at Operation: Leap of Faith and is a proud contributor over at Next Level Mama and at The Forgotten Blog, sharing her family’s journey into foster care. You can also find her on Twitter @opleapoffaith

God Sized Dreams

God-Sized Dreams

Can I make a confession? I have a God-sized dream buried deep in my heart.

It has been there as long as I can remember, but I’ve only recently gained the courage to give voice to it.

Maybe you do, too. Maybe you have a dream so big that you keep it tucked safely away where this world of disappointments can’t touch it.

I’m reminded of a movie I watched a few years ago, Win a Date with Tad Hamilton (don’t laugh!). In this movie, one of the main characters (Pete) is secretly in love with the female lead (Rosalee). And the wise bartender challenges him to go after her. Here’s part of their exchange:

Pete: I’ve tried everything.
Angelica: What did she say when you told her that you love her?
Pete: Well, actually, maybe not everything, but…
Angelica: What did she say when you kissed her?
Pete: OK, maybe it’s more like two things I haven’t tried.
Angelica: Well, what have you tried?
Pete: I have very unsubtly implied how I feel about her.

Aren’t we a lot like Pete sometimes? We have this dream. A dream so big that it fills our hearts with longing, and we just have to follow after it.

But we can’t.

Fear holds us back. Doubt and insecurity hold us back. Feelings of inadequacy hold us back.

Because, if we don’t try, we can’t fail.

But God says we are more than conquerers in Christ Jesus. If God planted this dream in your heart, He will equip you to carry it out. He will finish the work He started, and help you conquer it.

But you have to put one foot in front of the other. Take the first step, and then another.

Maybe you’re more like me and stuck in that waiting place of only hinting at your dream. Waiting for your children to grow up, for more education, until you’ve perfected your life or your faith. Maybe you’re waiting for an elusive state of being “good enough”.

Dr. Seuss has a great description of the waiting place in his classic “O, The Places You Will Go,” and it’s a place to be escaped and avoided.

I have to interject here that there are times when waiting is a good thing. Sometimes it’s God telling us to wait for His perfect timing, or so that He can prune, and grow us. So that He can prepare us.

Other times, God might be changing our hearts to make room for another dream. And in these cases, letting go (at least for now) is the best thing we can do. His word says He will give us the desires of our hearts if we delight in Him, but sometimes only He knows what will truly satisfy our souls.

Sometimes our waiting is caused by fear. And God’s word tells us that He has not given us a spirit of fear, but one of power, love, and a sound mind.

What would it look like if we started pursuing our God-given dreams with power instead of fear?

I’m not talking about trying to force something to happen outside of God’s will. I’m talking about being faithful, taking reasonable action, and persevering through obstacles. Being willing to press on toward the goal that God has given us for our lives, and allowing Him to finish the work He started, whatever that may be.

Do you have a dream that is yet unfulfilled? What steps can you take to get closer to achieving it? What’s holding you back?

Crystal Brothers Bio Pic

Crystal Brothers is a daughter of the one true king, wife to a forest ranger, and homeschooling mama to 2 rambunctious little boys. She is also a dreamer of God-sized dreams and blogs at Serving Joyfully, a place where her desire is to encourage women in faith, homemaking, and motherhood. Visit her blog, Serving Joyfully.

When the Small is Really the Big

The mountains in our lives are mole hills to God, but even the mole hills
are not hidden from His gaze. A week ago I was praying hard. I was praying hard
for things that I couldn’t see.

Sometimes you pray for small things when what you are really asking for are
enormous, if-God-doesn’t-show-up- we-will-not-make-it sized things.  Our
life is full of unexpected right now and there are more questions than answers
scattered along this faith road, but still we walk and we hope.

I had a hope. A flicker of a hope in the midst of a tighter than tight
budget that I might return to Allume this
year. Last October I gathered with women from all over to talk all things
blogging and Jesus. It inspired. It grew my vision. It made me just a bit more
fearless.
I was hoping to go this October, but we’re about strike out into
a new God-sized dream and funds are limited to say the least.

While praying for a means of purchasing my ticket for Allume I felt God’s nudge.

Do you know what I mean? 

That moment when you know God is saying more than what meets the eye through
your circumstance. 

He gave a nudge to my heart reminding me to not stop short in believing for
the small things. I’ve got to believe Him for ALL things. If I am willing to
pray that God would provide for a ticket to a blogging conference then how
could I shirk back from believing that He will provide everything for where my family is
headed
?

The little stuff and the big stuff
are all the same to God.

That is why it really shouldn’t have come as a surprise when I opened up
twitter to see that a friend, an anonymous friend, heard this need. This woman
heard it in her heart from the same God, by the same Spirit, that speaks to me
and loves me and calls me, that she should be the hands and feet of Jesus in my
life.

I’ve got a ticket to Allume because someone listened to a God-sized nudge, a God-sized voice. 

I was humbled, humbled right down to the holy ground that is all of life for
anyone who dares to follow Christ.

I want this person to know, whoever they are, that God used you in a big way.
Yes, you bought my ticket to Allume and
that is a tremendous gift, but you also showed my weak faith that every step on
this journey my family is about to leap into without a net is already taken
care of by a God who sees me and even cares whether or not I go to a blogging
conference.

How much more does He care that we have enough to pay the bills, to fill the
empty, to meet all of the ends? If our end is Christ then all our ends will meet in Him.

In the end all of it is God-sized and the dreams we dream with pursed lips
and through blurry eyes filled with tears are heard by the heart of God and sometimes
whispered to others on our behalf.

If we believe the small we can believe the big.

Some of you are walking through impossible
circumstances and every little thing seems to require a mountain of faith. Some
of you are hoping for your own anonymous Allume
ticket. 

He knows the plans that He has for
you. 

Walk strong in Him, pray even when your words falter, believe that God is
for you and will supply every need. His riches are endless.

Thank you sweet anonymous friend. Thanks be to God who shows up big in the
seemingly small.

Jessica Hoover is a wife, mama, writer and grace lover. She lives in the hills of North Carolina where her family serves with a missionary training organization. She dabbles as a birth doula and loves chocolate, {hot or iced and
always sweet} tea, British dramas, cheering on other mamas and heaps of good conversation. She blogs about her belief that grace is the biggest kind of brave and can be found talking about it all on twitter and facebook.

God Has All the Momentum You Need

God has all the momentum you need. That holds true for new bloggers as well as those who have been writing for years. If you are a new writer… write. If you are a seasoned writer… write. Move into your vision, because God has all the momentum you will need.

It’s hard. I know. Worthwhile things usually are the hardest to tackle for many reasons. However, life is worth sharing. Your life is worth sharing.

Practically since the day I made an entrance into this world, I have had a desire to write. My mom told me that I started carrying a pen and paper {and I think a calculator which explains my frugality!} at a very young age. Yes, I wrote. Poems. Doodles. Letters. Then as I grew older that progressed. Articles. Newsletters. Cards. The stuff I enjoyed creating visually. That turned into a career in media. Woo Hoo! I made it!

Or so I thought.

What I didn’t get right away after starting my first blog was this: I had not made it.

God had made it for me!

Oh, I was thanking Him all along, because I knew it was not MY talent, but HIS gift. But I didn’t really “get it”. That He had done it all ahead of time. I listened intently as He began to show me that all those years – since toddlerhood – He had been preparing me for THIS.

Encouragement and Love.

He laid those two words on my heart and a bell went off so loud that I nearly jumped off my chair. Yes, God! YOU prepared me. YOU gave me the vision. YOU gave me momentum!

As I pray over these very words, and the words I write every time I pick up a pen or lay my hands to rest on a keyboard {which is often wet with my tears from joy and sometimes from the memories}, I am reminded by His gentle loving tug – “I am loving others through you, Heather.”

{Here come those tears. Just from that sentence alone.}

I urge you, dear ones, who feel a tug to write or speak what God has done for you and through you, pray and ask Him to show your unique way of doing it. Jump out there. He will bless it.

EmmLeImagesCrane3

Wherever you look is where you will follow. Look to Him and you will follow His perfect lead in His perfect timing. I used to be hard on myself for waiting so long to really pour out my heart and soul on my blog and in my books. But then I listened. It was His timing. It was His momentum.

I followed His momentum.

He is waiting for you to follow. Go, dear ones. Fly!

Live Blessed ~ Heather

Heather MertensHeather has spent 40+ years wandering through life – at first aimlessly and now at last with drive, passion, and commitment to Christ who called her out of the darkness. Her life has brought depression and healing, death and life, destruction and repair, sadness and victory – and above all else … LOVE. Her prayer is that as you read through her life in an intimate way your eyes and hearts will land upon words that make you long for God even more. “When a life is touched, a life is changed. Sometimes that life is changed so drastically that it must speak.”

Heather writes at: 40 Year Wanderer
You can also find her on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.

 

The Super Easy Switch From Google Reader to Feedly

When my Mom called me in February to ask what I was going to do now that Google Reader is shutting down, I laughed in her face. Not the most respectful or gracious reaction, I realize, but the demise of Google Reader seemed an impossibility, nothing more than a ridiculous rumor.

I’m still not sure how she found out about the demise of Reader several weeks before the official announcement, but she did.

The rumor has been substantiated and the impossible is definitely happening.

I think I’ll cry now. Google Reader is part of my daily life. Hourly, if you want to be real about it. I follow so many blogs right now, there is absolutely no way on earth I am willing to go back to clicking on each of my bookmarks to see if thereís something new. No. Never. Ew.

But somewhere between crying over a techno-gadget and feeling lame for mourning a website’s demise, I found the solution! And guess what? It’s going to be so easy, even my Mom will be able to make the transition easily.

Step One:

Go to Feedly.com

meetfeedly

Step Two:

Click the maroon button that says “Get Feedly For [Insert Your Browser Name Here]” (it will detect automatically) and allow the program to install. (The Browser App is available for Chrome, Firefox, Safari as well as Android, and iOS.)

(Note: you may have to click a few extra times to confirm you want to install, to bypass your security settings, and to allow popups, depending on your browser’s settings.)

Step Three:

Restart your browser when prompted.

timetorestart

Step four:

Sign into your Google account (easiest will usuallly be to simply open your Gmail) and then click on the little green Feedly button that has now appeared right next to your address bar. Feedly and Google will communicate and then ask you whether you want to allow Feedly to have access to your Google Reader Data. You do.

logintofeedly

requestingtoaccessreaderdata

Step five:

You’re done!

 

Yes, it was that easy.

In the first seven hours after I installed Feedly to Firefox and downloaded the App for my Nexus 7 Tablet, I already understood why Google decided to do away with Reader and why their usage has declined. Anyone still using Reader is stuck in the dark ages: Feedly is BETTER! (And Iím pretty sure thatís the first time Iíve said anything negative about any Google product.)

 

I love the aesthetically pleasing layout — there are photos and blurbs, not just lines of text!

feedlyispictures

Feedly doesnít merely give new content in chronological order, it automatically is filtering by popularity and ranking; I know at a glance which posts I need to read first and which can wait until another time. (How they do this? I have no clue. Iíll leave it to their masterminding.)

(But if you still want to see only the most recent posts, you can view by “Most Recent” and see only a list of post titles that looks exactly like Reader.)

justlikereader

Oh, and Feedly integrates fully and seamlessly with Twitter and Facebook, allowing for easier sharing to those platforms and allowing me to following what my Facebook and Twitter peeps are sharing with me.

Plus, Feedly is fast. Way fast. The same pages on the same internet on the same tablet load in half the time on Feedly. Not sure how, but it does. Itís also faster and easier to email links to my friends straight from Feedly.

See? Absolutely no trouble at all.

 Jennifer Head Shot
Jennifer is a daughter, a sister, a wife, a photographer, a storyteller, an adventurer, and (most recently) a patriotic America learning to love her new home in Canadaland

For the Faithful Blogger

By Mathias Klang from Göteborg, Sweden (friendship) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

By Mathias Klang from Göteborg, Sweden (friendship) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dear Faithful Blogger,I read your post. every. word.I can’t tell you all the ways you’ve impacted me because I’m not even sure I can explain how, except to say:ThankYoutrans
Thank you for pouring a bit of yourself into this sleep-deprived mama’s life. I was reading your blog at 2 AM when my 3-month-old woke to feed in the middle of the night.Or the time you made me laugh with that funny thing you wrote about being married to your opposite and I’d just wept over a disagreement that I had with my husband.Or that post you wrote that gave me the courage I needed to try engaging more with my little ones at home even though I have no formal training in working with preschoolers.

Thank you, friend.

I think back to the time when you told me a story about how you allowed God to love on you; because I really needed it when my baby was in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Your blog posts poured into me when I was restless due to Braxton-hicks contractions, or when I was looking for ways to breathe new life into my relationships.

Thank you.

The bloggers who astound me and to whom I owe special thanks are:

– Bloggers who aren’t afraid to include their beliefs and faith in their blogging
– Bloggers who get personal and give you a glimpse into their homes and hearts
– Bloggers who reach out and build relationship – they e-mail you back, they leave comments
– Bloggers who host link parties or facebook groups and want to build community

God laid this word picture of “THANKS” on my heart and I thought I’d share it with you.

THANKS

Your words are a healing balm to a weary and weathered world.

I encourage you to run the race with patient endurance ever mindful of the eternal prize. Throw off everything that hinders and the doubt that entangles (Hebrews 12:1).

I’d like to read more from your heart. every. word.

And know… you have my sincerest, deepest thanks.

In His Grip,

Monica

http://happyandblessedhome.com

Monica Pruett is a Christian mommy blogger at HappyandBlessedHome.com and can be reached on her blog or on Facebook. She’s the mother of two adorable boys and is married to her best friend Jimmy. Her passion is to be an encouragement to moms and she publishes free printables and crafts for preschoolers, devotionals for moms, and ideas for having fun together as a family. She currently visits over 100 blogs a week and truly enjoys connecting with others and sharing what God is teaching her in the areas of mothering, parenting, discipleship, and marriage.

A Reluctant Blogger

Write from Obedience .jpg

The word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew  you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.” Jeremiah 1:4-5

I’m not like many of you. The ones who write because you love it, because your words flow out like honey and because you must write as it is your life source. I’m not super poetic with my words, I’m not even funny (well, sometimes I’m funny) yet I have reluctantly come to the realization that I too am a writer.

I’m not so much passionate about writing as I am about Jesus.

My journey to writing or most specifically blogging began two years ago. I was studying the book of Ephesians and though I had read it many times before, this time I was struck by Paul’s ability to encourage the church at Ephesus through his letters despite the challenges that must have come with writing during that time.

I marveled at how easy it is nowadays to share Jesus with someone through an email, Facebook post, tweet, etc. And I wondered why don’t more people do that? And then wait, why don’t I do that?

And very clearly I felt the Lord nudge me to start a blog where I could share my faith and encourage others.  I thought OK, maybe except for the fact that I don’t actually like to write and that no one really wants to read my thoughts anyway, right?

But the Lord said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ You must go to everyone I send you to and say whatever I command you. Do not be afraid of them, for I am with you and will rescue you,” declares the Lord.

So I did nothing for a while, sure that the Lord would be OK with me ignoring Him this one time and that the whole crazy writing idea would just pass.

It didn’t.

He spoke to me through friends, other blogs, and church sermons.  Until finally, I could ignore Him no longer.

So I played it safe and started a family blog, thinking at least my out of town family might occasionally read just to get caught up on our news and I could sprinkle a little bit of Jesus in there somewhere.

And that’s exactly what I did for about a year because, really, I wasn’t a writer.

Yet the passion that stirred in my heart to share written words of encouragement grew to the point that I even approached our church’s women’s ministry director about starting a blog where ladies could share their faith stories and encourage one another. She thought it a great idea and I became the editor for our collaborative blog.

I was convinced other people would have great stories to share that would be way better than mine.

And then just a few weeks ago I found myself getting increasingly frustrated with the lack post submissions for our women’s ministry blog. I kept thinking don’t they know how important this is? Don’t they understand how their words could be used to bless others?

And then I felt it very clearly. No, they don’t.  And that’s OK because I didn’t call THEM to write, I called YOU.

And I cried. Because I knew the Lord was telling me what I had been trying not to hear.

Not everyone is called to write. Some are called to minister in other ways. Just as not all of the apostles wrote letters.

We know Paul, Peter and John did but does that mean the other apostles didn’t work to expand the kingdom as well? Of course not, I’m sure they used their talents and calling to bless others as well.

I had to stop focusing on what others were not doing and finally accept the task the Lord had given me.

To share my voice and write because He wanted me to. 

There may be others of you reading like me. Reluctant bloggers/writers that write out of a sense of obedience to share the gospel rather than out of just a love of writing.

Today I want to encourage you because you too have been called and you are writers.

Because it’s not about how good of a writer you or I think we are or how many followers, likes or shares we get, if you’re called to write and you answer the call, He will give you the words.

Then the Lord reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I have put my words in your mouth. 10 See, today I appoint you over nations and kingdoms to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Zohary
Zohary is wife to her sweetheart and bf Tim and mom to 4 ages 3-16. She above all a receiver of grace and as a counselor and coach loves to use her words to encourage women in their walks. She also loves a cold coca-cola,  and anything mint chocolate. She’s writes about living grace-fueled at zoharyross.com

 

In Search of Joy, Mother?

That wind blows hard today. And those trees dance wild. It’s just 5 days after a groundcover of solid ice that made statues out of those oaks. A southern girl, ice is big news! Blog worthy news. It’s a change from normal. Beautiful, and yet so undesirable. It’s my heart when I’m His and when I’m not.

Because aren’t there so many days we’re not? Like when your mind fills with schedules and big plans? Facebook and laundry? Smartphones and selfishness? Clean this, pay that. They look up, our little ones. Up into our weary eyes. And rather than a tender countenance, they see ice cold faces frozen with burden and burnout. Did He really mean for it to be this way? Because there’s no getting around the hard days. Temperatures creep low and ice inhabits. Even in the warmest dwellings.

It doesn’t matter if you have 8 mouths to feed or 2, if you work outside the home, or spend most of your waking hours within its walls. Days can be chilling. Life happens. When the hours seem to run together day after day after week and you unload that dishwasher twice before the sun goes down. When he tells you he has to work late again, and one of the kids are sick, and you miss him so. If you can just get to the bottom of the laundry hamper. Or the mail pile. Or that soaking pot of stubborn crusted oatmeal scorched this morning because someone needed you!

Ugh, that ice is thick. Where on earth is joy? Where are you, happy contented motherhood?

I took my 3 outside on the morning of our ice spectacular. Beckoning them like the music of an ice cream truck, they trudged through, all smiles in their rubbers. They can find it anywhere, that joy! My children, that you would always find the true, pure, honest and the lovely things of the whatsoever. That you would think on them tirelessly. Because this trip we’re on, it’s icy. Seek joy in all things! Look for it everywhere.

The youngest boy, he’s 2 now. He found a chunk of ice with a blade of grass perfectly frozen smack dab in the center . And he was dazed by it. Me and my sweet neighbor, we watched him try with all his might to pull it out, to tear into that rock solid block. He wouldn’t give up until it broke and the grass was free. We pounded firm on that wooden log until the shattering. And he said, “Kank you mommy.” And it’s really that easy? To break through with one smack and find the joy you’ve been searching wildly for?

Look! Stop and really see how transparent the ice. It’s so stone hard. Thick! So very very cold. Mothering can be so hard.They wake up with the sun, and just as blocks being stacked too high-too quick will surely fall, it’s not quite lunchtime and you’ve lost it, dear mommy. I know, I know.

Yet that ice is clear enough to peek right into all that is to come. All the potential that reaches far and wide. And whether you beat it down, or let it melt away in slow motion, there’s something there to behold. The way everything works together, like fresh laundry when they’ve just run out of underwear and you saved the day. Like their favorite dinner you cooked in a hurry, but they eat until it’s gone. And you, feeding their souls and filling their tummies, like only you can. Like that smiling baby who’s more content because you just changed him for the 11th time today and he’s fresh and free! It’s like the way those branches keep spreading wide and beautifully holding together firm. Like when they dance wild in the spring, when all things are new. It’s wanting you desperately when they are frightened, sick, and no doubt starving. Look hard. Find it. It’s there! That redeeming joy.

That David, man after God’s own heart, he wrote of it.

Ps 16:11 You will show me the path of life: in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand there are pleasures for evermore.
Ps 30:5 Weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.
Ps 34:1,2 I will extol the Lord at all times; his praise will always be on my lips. My soul will boast in the Lord; let the afflicted hear and rejoice.
Ps 35:9 Then my soul will rejoice in the Lord and delight in his salvation.

So for the hard days, those that joy hides ‘neath the muck of mothering, may we ever seek and find! That we chisel away at the ice unrelenting ’til we too dance with the simplest of joys as our children marvel at our feet. When we find simple joy in the narrow places, we have strength enough to endure the vast, and to walk felicitously!

For HIS joy is indeed our strength. YES!

Kristen Williams

Kristen is wife to a man who calls her lady and mama to 3,  five and under.  On Tuesday’s, you might find one of them wiggling on her lap as she teaches piano lessons from her living room to community children.   She tells the story of seemingly ordinary days with real life photos and fresh words that fill her heart at nap time.   She cherishes childhood.  She values home.  She embraces life.  And she celebrates them at www.littlehousejoy.com.

 

The Hope for Success

I’ve heard it said time and time again, “If your blog changes the life of one person, then it’s worth it.”

Every time I hear this the sarcastic, pessimist in me wants to cock my head to the side and say, “Really? Because, you know, that’s easy to say when you have 2,000 subscribers, contribute to multiple sites, speak at conferences, and have multiple eBooks?”

The whiny “That’s not fair!” keeps going, “But what of the rest of us? What of those of us who, when we log into our analytics see the graph pitch all the way to 10 views? What about us who shell out hundreds of dollars for blogging conferences and only a handful of people will ever know our name? Is it worth it then?

Can’t it feel that way?

It doesn’t matter if what they’re saying is true, when you’re not coming from the same place it can feel false.

It’s hard to write and pour your heart out in words and then be met with an echo so low you have to lean in to hear it. I’ve been there, eagerly waiting for a comment or two on a post I fell in love with and no one comments or tweets or…anything. Flat silence. It’s frustrating when you have idea after great idea, but not the audience to make it work. Or when you’re trying to find your tribe or niche and you just don’t fit in.

Being a “small blogger” is hard. It requires a faithfulness that’s different from the headlining act. Staying in this place where you feel called, even compelled to write knowing few are listening, takes passion and conviction.

After nearly 8 years of blogging and having no measurable success, I’m finally coming to realize, and convincingly know, I must do this because I love it not for the hope of success. “Success” may never come or it may be an opportunity waiting just around the corner. Whatever it may be, when I look to the right and to the left and see the opportunities pouring in for other bloggers I must be content. I must be thoroughly convinced where I am is where I am supposed to be.

My audience, my words, my influence…in the end none of that really matters. Not even how many lives my words have encouraged and changed. In the end, the only real success will be measured in my faithfulness.

Have I been faithful to my calling? Have I been faithful to the Truth? Have I been content in the measure of my giftedness?

Will I press in and press on even when I feel out of place in this blogging world? Will I let one other than the King define me? Will I write for the sheer love of it–or is my heart tangled in promotion and praise?

Or have I set the praise and accolades of man higher than the comforting, guiding hand of the Father?

You want the advice of a mediocre blogger and aspiring novelist?

The lists and the have-to’s and the metrics–use what is useful, but don’t let it define you. Write in the freedom and restoration of a heart embedded in the King’s good pleasure.

Be the fresh air. Be the small voice resounding Truth. Be faithful to your calling.

Success, true success, will only go as far as your faithfulness. Enjoy what you do. Find pleasure in the writing, in the abiding, in the faith-walking. It may not have the look of success, but it will have the look of grace, of praise, of faith.

And faithfulness? It’s the only true success.

 

Jessica is a sojourner a bit reluctant on the journey. She writes on faith, the beauty and art of everyday life, the writer’s life, and pursuing justice for the voiceless. Redemption is her favorite word. You can join the journey at The Reluctant Sojourner or tweet along @Jess_Reflects.

The Road to God’s Grace

 

 
forgive
 
 

Forgiveness. It’s a word that’s been so hard for me to say, let
alone act on.

Coming from a world of hurt when I was a child, I grabbed up
my heart, worked hard to build walls, and set up camp right in the middle of
bitterness.

I let no one in. 

I thought Jesus was as mad at me as my past was. I didn’t take the time to get to know Him, or even think about what salvation was.

I lived for myself. I hid behind people. I didn’t grow into
my skin. I looked for answers in the wrong places. I didn’t bury my past- I let
it define me. I let it reach in and take hold of my gears and rule me.

A few years ago, I got so blessed when I found my husband.
Both lost souls looking for something more, we found Jesus together. It took
hard work, and lots of prayer, but we made it. We held each other accountable.
We held one another up. We prayed for one each other. We weathered the storms.
God started working on my heart the moment I fully surrendered. I wanted so
badly to be free of my chains. The binds of the past.

My full circle moment came the moment my first born was laid
in arms. I was scared to death to be a mama. After all the hurt I had been
through, I didn’t know if I would be maternal. I didn’t know if I had the gene
to be selfless. But you know when they say you just know when changed? That day
I never looked back. God’s purpose is for me to be a mama and wife, and it has
utterly changed me from the core. 

Do I still struggle? Everyday. I am working
hard to prove who I was wrong. I needed to forgive. I wanted to show my
children that their mama did what was right for Christ. I still felt an ache in
my soul, a part of me that couldn’t grow. I still had work to be done.

Forgiveness is a journey. It’s a hard, in your face voyage.
One that you have to do alone. Nobody can forgive for you. I had to go back and TELL people I was sorry, and I had to tell some
people “I forgive you”.
At first I didn’t want to, the old part of me
wanted to run and hide, scared and in fear. But we don’t have to fear in
Christ. We can be redeemed and be brand new in Him. My first steps of deliverance
has been to say out loud and act on
forgiveness
. It’s a state of mind. A tough battle you must win by being
brave. A chance to get it right and leave it, truly, behind. To start new.

It’s taken 26 years, but I am just now beginning to grow
into my skin.

The skin of Christ. The skin of love. The skin of forgiveness.
The skin of repentance.  I had to leave my old flesh behind.

I had to peel back the layers and dig in, to find who I
really was, and what I needed to do to be brand new in Him. It was worth it.
Every “I’m sorry” and every “I forgive you” no matter what was done in the past.
Facing that fear, and then realizing it
wasn’t so big and scary to begin with. Letting
it go. For good.

Today, God is still working on me. I am a work in progress.
I fail, slip up, but I know that I have a God that forgives me in an instant. I
am so grateful. That is the lesson I am forever learning. Instant love.
Because, He first loved us.

 

 This means that
anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a
new life has begun! 2 Corinthians 5:17
 
Ashley is a southern girl living in the beautiful state of Tennessee. Her husband, Walter and their 2 baby girls are everything to her. You can most likely find her in her kitchen. God, her family, cooking, homemaking and drinking coffee is what is most important to her. She is a simple girl writing for Jesus. You can find her here.
 

How to Beat Discouragement

Have you ever wondered why you get so upset when things don’t go as you’ve painstakingly planned? You may be thinking, that’s a stupid question, it’s normal to be upset when things don’t turn out like we want them to; end of story. But is it?  Yes, disappointment is an inevitable part of life, but if it’s leading to discouragement or depression, it’s time to take a look at what could be driving it.

Disappointment is the result of a blocked goal, a hurt; or perceived loss of some kind. This usually gives rise to feelings of anger, hurt, or rejection. I wanted something to happen that didn’t, or I didn’t want something to happen that did. The most important thing to consider is the message your disappointment is trying to convey. 

All of us have attached a meaning to the situations and events in life that have caused us pain or disappointment. When those add up it’s easy for discouragement to set in. How do you know if you’re discouraged? Here are a few ways:

  • Chronic feelings of anger or depression
  • Consistent negative self-talk
  • Feelings of inadequacy
  • Feelings of worthlessness

Our beliefs provide clues as to why we struggle with discouragement. So we need to notice the negative attributions we’re making about ourselves that are keeping us stuck. Here are some examples– see if any fit for you. 

If things don’t go as I plan, I tend to believe the following:

  • I’m a failure
  • I’m inadequate
  • I’m not good enough
  • I won’t be happy unless…

Most of our discouragement comes from judgments we make about our performance or our intrinsic worth. If you said yes to any of the above statements, you’re forgetting a very important truth. You are full and complete exactly as you are—apart from your performance! How do I know that? Because Jesus said we have been given fullness in Christ (Colossians 2:9). In I Peter 1:3 he said, “His divine power has given us everything for life. The word everything here means everything! So whether you feel like it or not, the truth is, you are adequate in Christ. That’s the best discouragement buster I know. 

Here are a few others:

What you think or feel isn’t necessarily the truth

Feelings aren’t facts, but we make them into facts in the following ways: I FEEL inadequate, therefore, I BELIEVE I’m inadequate, and so I ACT in ways that demonstrate I’m inadequate. We have to STOP negative self-talk, and START replacing it with God’s truth 

Your performance doesn’t define you

We all want to do our best, but in the process we’re perfecting ourselves to death. We spend so much time basing our intrinsic worth on what we “do” we’ve forgotten that developing a sense of who we are is far more important to God 

Life’s disappointments can make you stronger 

Disappointment is a part of life. How we deal with it can generate growth and possibilities. In order to bounce back from discouragement we must cultivate a resilient spirit by focusing on our strengths, refusing to quit, cultivating our dependence on God, and looking at the big picture

What disappointments are you facing today? What beliefs are robbing you of the joy that is already yours in Christ?  Begin today to cultivate an attitude of gratefulness by refusing to let life’s disappointments steal your joy. 

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Rita A. Schulte is a licensed professional counselor in the Northern Virginia/DC area. She is the host of Heartline Podcast. Her show airs on several radio stations as well as the Internet. They can be downloaded from www.ritaschulte.com/category/podcast or on iTunes at Heartline Podcast. Rita writes for numerous publications and blogs. Her articles have appeared in Counseling Today Magazine, Thriving Family, and Christianity Today, Kyria. Her book on moving through the losses of life will be released in Fall 2013 by Leafwood Publishers. Follow her at www.ritaschulte.com, on Facebook  and twitter @heartlinepod.

affected by trafficking :: let’s be part of this freedom movement

Let me tell you a little bit about an organization that I love, and one that frees women.
 
Freeset is in business for freedom. Freedom from human trafficking. Freeset is a fair trade business that sells bags and t-shirts, made by women freed from human trafficking in Calcutta, India. The women are able to have a job with dignity, making products, instead of being the product. Every woman receives three times the wage they would receive in line (the prostitution line), learn to read and write, daycare for their children, have medical insurance and retirement benefits. Women were tricked, trapped, or trade and find themselves seemingly without a choice. Our goal is to change the economic scope of Sonagacchi, Calcutta’s largest red light district, to one of freedom, instead of the sex trade. Watch our video, shop our bags, change lives.
 
 
When you buy a Freeset item, you are part of the freedom story-part of stories like Sonhita’s:
 
“My mother’s life was very hard, but she did it for us – my brother and I,” Sonhita says of her mother who worked in the sex trade.  For Sonhita, growing up in a red light area meant her life was constantly affected by the sex trade. “All the time there were customers in our room. When I was young it was hard to study because of this, I had to stay outside and play in the street with friends.  It was really difficult.  When I got older it got even worse – many customers wanted me.  I thought, ‘If only I could just grow up and get married to get away from this’… but my mother didn’t have enough money to give me in marriage.”

It was a relief for her then, when one day she noticed some foreigners spending a lot of time in the area. “I saw Kerry, and asked him if I could work and he said OK, come. Freeset has brought a big change in my life – it solved lots of my problems,” she says.

For one thing, Sonhita was able to get married, “My parents were not financially strong enough to ‘give me away,’ so I got married with my own savings from working at Freeset.” 

But life still presents her with tough challenges. Sonhita’s three year old daughter has suffered from serious medical issues since she was very young. “The money I get from Freeset for my daughter’s treatment is a lot higher than the salary that I draw. If I hadn’t received that help from the Freeset family, it would never have been possible for me to pay for my daughter’s treatment” she says.

She is quite certain of Freeset’s place in the community, “People always say that due to this place many women have been able to quit the line. Their uncertain lives have found certainty.” 

 
Visit the Freeset Facebook page and let them know you heard of this amazing group from me, and 1 reader will receive a Teal Cluster bag!

Thank you for reading.

-Kristi  {for freedom}

The Need is Great

36,558. That’s the number of boys and girls who, right now, all across America, are still waiting and hoping to receive a gift this Christmas from their parent in prison through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree program. 36,558 children who just want to feel loved by mom and dad, who want to know that someone, anyone out there, is thinking of them…especially their incarcerated parent whom they miss dearly at Christmas.

Amanda was one of those kids. Her dad, Jeffrey, was arrested and incarcerated for his role in a million-dollar casino heist some years back. While in prison, Jeffrey applied for Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree on behalf of his then-six-year-old daughter. Imagine Amanda‘s surprise when she received a Christmas gift from her dad at an Angel Tree party hosted by a local church. That Christmas day, she spoke with Jeffrey via phone and excitedly told him what the church’s pastor had told her: that God had forgiven Jeffrey, that Amanda could love her dad no matter what, just like God did.

Two years later, on the day Jeffrey was released from prison, Amanda was there to greet him. In her hands was a still-wrapped Candy Land game box she had waited two years to open so that they could play the first game together.

Jeffrey credits Angel Tree as the catalyst that God used to bring him to salvation and transform his life. Today, Jeffrey is a seminary graduate and serves as a chaplain in Southern Louisiana. His soon-to-be-published autobiography, Thief in the House, begins with the story of how God used Angel Tree to change not only his life, but that of Amanda and their entire family.

Isn’t it amazing how God can use just a simple gift at Christmastime to make such a big difference in someone’s life?

Generous families, volunteers and individuals all across the nation will bless some 370,000 children nationwide this holiday with the gift of Christmas and the hope of the Gospel through Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree.

In this special season, God gives you the opportunity to bless your best friend or your spouse, to bring joy to your son or daughter, or to change the heart of a prisoner or a prisoner’s child through the powerful act of cheerful giving.

Find out more about how you can raise awareness of the Angel Tree need. There are still 36,558 children not yet assigned to a church that will help provide gifts. That means we still need 914 additional church partners to host Angel Tree in their congregations so that these kids will know they’re not forgotten by their incarcerated parents or by God this Christmas.

Proverbs 18:16 says, “A gift opens the way and ushers the giver into the presence of the great.” (NIV)

Have you received a special gift that greatly impacted your life? What did it mean to you and how has it impacted your life or relationships for the better?

 

Pure Charity

Pure Charity is a community of people like you — people who want to make a difference in the world. Pure Charity can turn your every day purchases into something good, benefiting amazing non-profit projects to help people in need.

Pure Charity doesn’t encourage you to spend more money, rather it harnesses what you’re already spending and puts it to good work. If you buy diapers online, purchase plane tickets, need a new printer, pride yourself as an Amazon Prime member, your clicks count.

The Future of Philanthropy from Pure Charity on Vimeo.

In 3 easy steps, you can make a difference. Here’s how it works:

  1. Sign up at Pure Charity.
  2. Download the webapp bar. This little app in the corner of your screen will make it easy for you to know if one of the 800 retailers is a Pure Charity partner. You can just go about your online business and when you shop, click the webapp to make sure you get giving credit for your purchases. 
  3. Fund a project. Here’s where it gets fun! You can add a debit/credit card to your account and put money into a project OR as you shop, your giving fund will accumulate and you can choose projects to give it to.

——–>Amazing truth: With just a simple yes (click), you can help fund projects that you care about! It’s free, it’s intentional, it’s a small way to make a big difference!

Grow your giving power with Pure Charity simply by making every day purchases with top retailers and brands, and by sharing promotions and projects with friends. It’s a free, simple way to advance hope – together.

Join Us. Live Generous. {Are you ready for your Blogger Basic Training? Kelly Stamps from Kelly’s Korner is a Pure Charity Catalyst. In this brief video, she shares all the answers to your questions about Pure Charity and how to use it with your blog and readers.}

Community Catalyst – Basic Training from Adair Creative Studio on Vimeo.

 

New Breakthrough, New Enemy

 

Breaking through the clouds this morning. #fb @myen #KCStorms

I recently launched an eBook on how to become a virtual assistant. God placed the desire to write it on my heart almost two years ago. It was then that I started to see an increase in the number of emails I got each week from stay-at-home parents who wanted to learn how to do what I do so they could be at home with their kids and still contribute to the family finances. Realizing the need for concrete information on this topic, I said “yes, Lord” and made writing the eBook my goal.

 

But you know how it goes, I’m sure. It’s hard to accomplish lofty goals when life just keeps on happening at full speed. In my case, it was difficult to set aside time to focus on the eBook when I had tons of client work to keep me busy, a house to maintain, and a husband I happen to like spending time with. So the project stayed on the back burner, and the enemy no doubt delighted in my passivity.

 

The Lord certainly knows how I tick and how to get my attention. I don’t understand subtle. This past spring, God opened up my schedule (as in, suddenly none of my clients had any work to be done – which had never happened before, and definitely hasn’t happened since) and reminded me about this goal we’d created (more and more emails from stay-at-home parents started flooding in “randomly”). So I started researching, writing, reaching out to folks, and working on the eBook website. An incredible amount of work was accomplished in a really short period of time. I felt God near. A launch date was set in June.

 

But June came and went without the eBook being launched. When I should have been finalizing details and wrapping up the writing and editing, I was spending most of my day in bed or on the couch in front of the TV, finding it hard to eat, and lacking all focus. My grandfather – a wonderful man that I was blessed with for 26 years – passed away in June and, for this girl who had never experienced the death of a loved one, the aftermath was a bout of depression.

 

Some days I cried (on the drive following my grandpa’s burial, I had a full blown freak out in the car). Some days I didn’t really experience any emotions. Old health problems returned.

 

But, actually, I thought I was “fine”. I didn’t even notice my behavior. I just thought I was “a little bit sad”. I couldn’t connect the dots on why I wasn’t feeling well, which is what I told my mom on the phone one evening.

 

“I haven’t been feeling well. I’ve been having some dizzy spells. My stomach has been hurting. I mean, I don’t think it has anything to do with Grandpa’s death. I just think maybe I have a bug or something,” I told her.

 

“Well, you’ve been feeling pretty great recently though, right? Maybe it’s this – new breakthrough, new enemy. Like Joyce Meyer says,” she replied.

 

My mom went on to say that she didn’t really think any of it was a coincidence, but rather the enemy raising the stakes in his attempt to keep me from living the life God has called me to lead.

 

See, when you make your plans known and you press forward with the desires God has placed on your heart, you open the door for attacks. The enemy will be waiting to knock you down with every new goal you reach. If there’s one thing the enemy doesn’t want, it’s you making a difference for God’s kingdom using your talents and skills.

 

Once my mom spoke that truth to me (bless you, Mommas – God is using you in your kids’ lives more than you know), I was released. I prayed that God would restore my mind and my body so that I could continue on with the eBook and bless others with it. Each day I woke up feeling a little bit better. I powered through and successfully met the next launch date I set.

 

If God has placed a desire on your heart, I urge you to press on – despite the bumps in the road that no doubt await you. Those bumps are affirmation that you are on the right track and that you’re making a difference in God’s kingdom.

 

Have you experienced any breakthroughs recently? What roadblocks were waiting for you? How has this idea (new breakthrough, new enemy) played out in your life?

 

Lisa Morosky is a Christ follower, a proud wife to her amazing husband, a homemaker, a real foodie, and a lover of all things simple and natural. She’s also a blog helpera virtual assistant coach, and author of the new eBook The Bootstrap VA: The Go-Getter’s Guide to Becoming a Virtual Assistant, Getting and Keeping Clients, and More!. You can find her at The Home Life {and Me}, on Twitter, and on Facebook.

 
 
photo credit

Meet Annie.

I bought trouser jeans because a blogger said they were cool. I figured if I was going to be in a conference full of bloggers that I read, but actually did not know, I needed to look the part. And here I was, in the Old Navy dressing room, buying a pair of pants that I did not understand because a blogger blogged it.

 

I also bought a blazer. A navy blue blazer.

 

Because I had a finished book proposal. And I figured that if I was going to sign up for important adult meetings, I should wear a blazer. It was time to talk about My Book and to see who would want to publish it and how quickly they would want to give me money for it and by the way,

could I get that in $20s so I can fill a bathtub with cash? Thanks.

 

I was nervous. But I was confident. All joking aside, I felt like God has given me some words to share with teenaged girls and my trouser jeans and blazer were going to convince the publishing people of that as well.

 

I’ll get right to it: I didn’t get a book deal at that conference, though I will say that I looked sharp in that blazer and minimally sequined top. But I got a lot of other things that made the weekend beyond worth it, in time and money. Let me make a list for you.

 

1. A Twitter handle. Yes, at that conference, @annieblogs was born.

 

2. I got to meet some bloggers/writers that were very influential in my writing life.

 

3. Friends. I didn’t let myself scamper away to my hotel room between sessions (even though I wanted to because I was a scared little puppy) and my life, for the last five years, has been all the better because of the women that I met that weekend.

 

4. Inspiration. I still look over those notes, from that first conference. I remember the things I was taught- from the importance of having a solid brand across platforms to the importance of having a solid foundation of truth under you.

 

Five years later, and a handful of conferences to boot, my book Perfectly Unique is a real hold- in-your-hand book. Thanks to Zondervan Publishers, I have gotten to share the words that God put on my heart those years ago with lots of women. And I get to speak next weekend at Allume about the power of writing in the season you are living.

 

So for you, my bloggy friend, I say keep going, don’t quit. Buy the skinny jeans and get your business cards ready. Bring your book proposal or your next great idea or your brainstormed plans. This may be the weekend that God changes everything or this may be the weekend that sets you up for the next big thing. Or, this may be the weekend that you meet a lifelong friend.

 

And to make it a bit easier on you, I’ll start.

Hi. I’m Annie. I’m glad we’re about to be friends.

Annie F. Downs is a writer, teacher, speaker, and blogger based in Nashville, Tennessee. Flawed but funny, she seeks to highlight the everyday goodness of a real and present God. Along with her blog, AnnieBlogs.com, she has written for various print and Internet outlets, including Susie Magazine and monthly contributions to www.incourage.me, a women’s website run through Dayspring. By weaving together personal stories, humor, and Scripture, she invites the reader to experience a fulfilled life with a living God who loves deeply. Annie is a huge fan of the Internet, singer/songwriters, waffles with peanut butter, and sports of all kinds. Visit AnnieDowns.com or her Facebook page to find out more.

Setting Women Free Through Freeset

How do you combat such a global issue? What is the solution?

Because of you, Freeset is a part of the solution.

We are honored to be a sponsor at Allume again, and treasure each one of you. Some of you have joined hands with us already, and others we will meet for the first time. We look forward to meeting YOU and joining you in the Kingdom work you are involved in. You are touching the lives of women and families, making a significant impact. Will you join us?

Freeset is a fair trade business that helps free women from human trafficking in Calcutta, India. We would like to invite you to be a part of the freedom story. By purchasing a Freeset item at our online store (or at Allume!), you are part of freedom for 200+ women. You are making a difference in the lives of women and mothers by providing healthcare, reading and writing classes, retirement, day care for their children, and most importantly, a job with dignity.

Women are treated with worth and value when they walk through Freeset’s doors. Life is precious and treasured for all those who enter. Truly, you are changing lives for eternity. You can make a difference in the lives of women and mom’s in Calcutta, India. Generations are being changed forever, the cycle of poverty stopped.

What you are doing is special and unique. Who God has made you is amazing. And we are humbled to join you and be a part of it. We can’t wait to meet you and get to know YOU and all you are doing. See you soon!

 

Kristi Griem, Freeset (USA)

You’re Invited To An Open {Blogging} Mic Night at the Allume Conference Friday Oct 26th

We’re bloggers. Words are our food and bread and appetizers, main course and dessert. Words, like food, are fellowship.

We love ’em. We write ’em. We read ’em. But there’s something especially special about hearing a blogger read her words out loud, isn’t there?

So if you’re going to be at the Allume Social blogging conference this month, we’d love to invite you to join us at the (in)courage coffee house for hot chocolate and sweet words.

It’s open mic y’all and everyone’s invited!

We want to hear you read your very own words. Out loud. If you’re feeling brave, go ahead and sign up for a time slot to read. One post, per person please. Each focusing on some element of community. Because that’s what we’re about. Connecting Christ’s daughters to his heart through one another. Bring your stories about friendship, about community, about the body of Christ. We can’t wait to hear them!

CLICK HERE to submit your posts. We’ll notify you if you’ve been added to the lineup via email. Since spots are limited, we can only feature 10. And we’ll email if you’ve been added to the open mic line up. #Excited See you soon Lisa-Jo, community manager for (in)courage and cheerleader for kind words

Video Streaming from Teach Them Diligently and Allume

Isn’t it funny how the Lord chooses to work? Honestly, how many of us can say that 10 years ago we would have imagined what our life would look like today? Would you have imagined that God would have called you to share your heart with thousands of others every week? Would you have imagined how wide the borders of your ministry to others would become thanks to the internet? God is so good to allow us to serve Him in ways that we would have never imagined, isn’t He?!? Our family is certainly in the “never would have imagined” boat! For years God has allowed us to serve with a mission organization called Worldwide Tentmakers, and last year, He blessed us even more when He allowed us to start Teach Them Diligently Convention as an offshoot of that mission. Since it’s inception, we have stood in awe of how God has worked in relation to that endeavor. And since all profits from Teach Them Diligently Convention pour directly into missions, last year’s convention poured thousands of dollars into a mission work we are starting in Poland. See! Isn’t it amazing how God works?? Now, we need your help in promoting our events!

Teach Them Diligently Convention

Teach Them Diligently Convention is a distinctly Christian homeschool, discipleship, and parenting convention that was first held in March 2012. Many of you know us well, but some of you are just getting introduced to us. If you are just getting to know us, you will quickly learn that there is nothing quite like a Teach Them Diligently Convention. It is our hope that Christian families, whether they homeschool or not, will come to be encouraged and equipped to continue to shepherd their children’s hearts and to prepare them for what God has called them to do with their lives. Last year, about 7,000 people crowded into the facility and the atmosphere was WONDERFUL! We look forward to seeing what God will do this year as we expand into three markets in May 2013—Spartanburg, SC, Nashville, TN and Omaha, NE. With a speaker lineup that includes Pam Tebow, Sally Clarkson, Ken Ham, Voddie Baucham, Heidi St. John and many others, we know your family will find many sessions that will be exactly what you need for this time.

Special Opportunities at Allume

I am really looking forward to seeing all of you at Allume in a couple of weeks! I hope you’ll take time to stop by and chat! When you come by our table, you can register for a special gift that we’re sure you will be excited about. We believe strongly in the work and reach of the blogging community, and we have created a program that we would love to talk to you about. In your gift bags, we also have a special gift for you. You can even use that gift to try to win a free family registration to your choice of Teach Them Diligently Conventions! When you get that special gift, stop by our table, and I’ll let you know how. If you’re not able to join us at Allume, we have a special surprise for you as well! The keynote sessions from the Allume Conference will be available through an exclusive video stream on the Teach Them Diligently website within hours of the sessions. Stay tuned for more specific information about that! Counting the days until we all get together!

Leslie Nunnery

A Special Note and Conference Announcements from Revell

Dear Allume 2012 attendees:

We are thrilled to see you again! After hanging out with all of you fun ladies last year, we couldn’t stay away.

First things first— stop by our booth this weekend to register for some great giveaways. We have two $25 Starbucks gift cards and one $100 DaySpring gift card—just for you! And since we know you can’t keep off Twitter during Allume (why would you?), there is a special giveaway of a super cute Holley Gerth/DaySpring swag bag for one lucky lady.

Follow @revellbooks now and during Allume, tweet “@revellbooks, I love @HolleyGerth! #RevellAllume.” We’ll announce the winners before the end of the weekend.

As your sponsor for Friday night’s dinner, we are bringing in the fabulous Kathi Lipp for a visit with you! Kathi recently wrote Praying God’s Word for Your Husband and is a speaker extraordinaire. She will get you laughing and then talk about the most important thing we can do for our husband—and it is probably not what you think…

Also at our booth, talk to Robin and Deonne about becoming a part of our blog tours. We need women like you who love books! Sign up to review our fall favorite, the New York Times Bestseller, Nowhere but Up: The Story of Justin Bieber’s Mom by Pattie Mallette. Pattie struggled much in her growing up years—from sexual abuse to abandonment to even a suicide attempt. Read her amazing journey to faith and how God completely changed the trajectory of her life. We couldn’t put this book down, and know that you won’t be able to either.

Hope to see you at Allume!

Twila Bennett and the entire Revell team

 

 

Buck Denver and “Allume”

What’s in the Bible? is excited to be a part of Allume again this year and has some exciting news to share about the opening night dinner & party.  Who better to share this news than our favorite newsman: Buck Denver.

 


Watch more from Buck about Allume and his previous attempts at “vlogging” today at whatsinthebible.com.

God’s Word for Every Language – In This Generation

Last year’s conference was our first splash into the Allume community. If there’s one takeaway we gained, it’s that:

The Allume community is passionate about the Word of God. Can we get an amen?

You see, at The Seed Company we’re all about ending Bible poverty.

What is Bible poverty?

Photo by: Amy Dane

 

Surprisingly, Bible poverty takes many forms. For more than 350 million people, it’s living without access to even one verse of Scripture in the language they understand best. For others, it’s not a matter of access so much as it is engagement. If we have God’s Word, are we engaging in it?

“There are millions of people who don’t have the luxury of even one verse of Scripture in their own language, and here I have nearly a dozen at my fingertips.” —Rebekah McBride, Virginia, 2011 Relevant Conference attendee.

“We are so rich in Scripture! But are we? It’s only any good to us if we read it. I know I don’t read it as much as I should. Do you?” —Rachel Ramey, Virginia, 2011 Relevant Conference attendee.

Bible poverty is a big deal.

For those without access to God’s Word, it’s a justice issue. The truths of Scripture are foundational for community development, and access to God’s Word empowers people with God’s perspective and promises on social, economic and gender issues.

For those of us who have God’s Word in our own language, it’s a heart issue. Will we regularly invite God’s Word to speak into our lives, that we might be transformed?

Can you embrace this cause?

Two statements define what it means to live out the cause of ending Bible poverty:

I will be rich in Scripture.

I will help others be rich in Scripture.

Want to know more? Visit www.theseedcompany.org. You can follow us on Twitter (@theseedcompany) and Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/theseedcompany).

We’ll see you again in the Prayer Room!

Our team can’t wait to serve you in the Allume Prayer Room in just a few weeks! 

Johanna (@johannafenton), Laura (@lauragish) and Jesse (@jessedlane)

It’s Not Writers Block, Y’all

I have a plague and I’m afraid it’s incurable.

 
If you are reading this, then chances are that you have it too. I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you will most likely wrestle with this illness the rest of your natural life. We’re not alone. Many have been misdiagnosed, some label it writer’s block. 
 
Let’s start by taking an assessment. Check over the list below and make a mental tally of how many of these you have experienced:
 
  • Over-thinking phraseology
  • Thoughts get caught in the mind-trap 
  • Frustration freeze limits typing time
  • Brainstorm graffiti abounds but fails to flesh out
  • Everyone else has good ideas
  • Constant comparing
  • Fear of rejection
  • Stats obsession 
  • Vanishing joy
  • Nerves
  • Non-committal
  • Failure to Launch

 

So? What’s the verdict? Maybe I’m alone here, but I battle all of them.
 
I love to write. I start out in the zone and nothing can stop me. Then I get about half-way through and the words stall out. I try to knock out the concept and no matter what I write it seems lame. I try again. Lame, again. Write, delete, write, delete, cry, slam computer closed and stomp away ticked off. 
 
I may not actually do this, every time, but it’s an all-to-frequent occurrence. I show up to write, but nothing gels.
 
I have so many thoughts and ideas bouncing around in my brain and heart that I can’t get them out fast enough. I feel like a volcano that’s telling the hot, ready-to-erupt, lava: “Hold on a sec there, hot lava. Don’t come out yet.” 
 
All day I tell my inner-voice, “You can come out one hour here before the kids wake up, and maybe during nap if everyone sleeps, or tonight if laundry’s caught up.” Then when the time comes to put fingers to keys, my inner-voice takes a hike while my right pinky finger gets all too familiar with the delete key.  
 
This, my writing friends, is not writer’s block. This is something much more serious- 

The Perfectionist Plague 
Image Credit
 
Initial symptoms at on-set:
 
  • I should write about…”
  • “No, that’s already over covered.”
  • “Great! She stole my idea.”
  • “What if nobody understands me?”
  • “Is this good enough?”

 

Within a very short time span the disease will progress. Potential risks associated with Perfectionist’s Plague may include but are not limited too:
 
  • Obsessing over word choice, milking for awesomeness
  • Writing sessions that conclude in exhaustion and disappointment
  • Hesitancy to start any idea for fear it won’t work
  • Failure to finish and “ship” completed work 
  • Satisfied only when accepted by the masses

 

Constant striving toward the perfect blog post or article is painful and destructive. I am a recovering perfectionist and I will always struggle. This tension reminds me of my need for Him, smack dab in the middle of everything I say, do, and write (type.) It’s a good thing, this plague. It points me to Jesus.
 
I am a new writer. I am going to write like a new writer whether or not I like that. I am going to look like a fool sometimes. I am a terrible speller and depend too heavily on spell-check. I couldn’t pass a sixth grade english grammar test if my life depended on it. And for some reason, God is still using me. I can’t stop writing when I feel debilitated by my illness. I must press on. 
 
There is no pill or quick-fix for this epidemic. There is Jesus. He is patient when I’m impatient. He is wise when I am unwise. He is loving when I am judgmental. He is peace when I am chaos. He is The Word when I have no words.
 
His grace is enough.
 
Write on, oh sickly ones! 

 


Lindsey Carlson is a (very) young, painfully un-hip 30-year-old,  attempting to maintain her youthful zeal while raising four small kids and driving the mini-van she never hoped to have. Most of the time she can be found pulling boys off countertops and other furniture, throwing away wet pull-ups, or tracking down the next big adventure in parenting. When all her kids are sleeping, she enjoys writing about God’s faithfulness; it seems to get the crazy out. She blogs regularly @ By Faith The Carlsons.

Linking Hearts

Faithfully Parenting Fridays linky party (designed by Singing through the Rain)

I talk to God a lot about my blog. When I write, it’s a conversation with Him, for Him, and about Him. I strongly believe He brings people together, by heart. For many months after my son was born, I struggled with feelings of loneliness as a SAHM. I entered the blogging world desperate for a place to find other mothers who shared my most precious value: parenting with deep faith in God. A few weeks into blogging, I discovered a linky party. I have to admit I spent a full nap time reading and commenting. Although my page views showed increased traffic, the real excitement came from something else…a deeper feeling: People who shared Christian values? People who returned to visit my blog after I commented on their work? Questions I asked answered? This was for me. So I entered more link-ups. Being of a rather obsessive nature, I began to ask other bloggers about “proper ethics” as I visited link-ups. “God, I’m a newbie…could I do this? Could I host a linky party?”After a lot of praying, I made the decision. I chose a topic, parenting with faith, that I could write about with passion.

165/365 Photo by A. Gutermuth

Every Friday, I host Faithfully Parenting Friday, when bloggers link stories or tips of parenting with faith. My linky party isn’t about bloggers gaining high page views. I’m hoping to foster a community where mothers can share and support each other. I also want my non-blogging readers to have a place to select special stories along the same topic that they are interested in reading.

So how’s it going? I’m a rules girl. It’s hard for me when someone links up a post that does not fit my guidelines, few as they are. At first, I thought I would delete these posts…but I just can’t do that to someone’s writing. Now, I’ve chosen to comment with gratitude on all posts that do relate to the topic. As a blogger, I LOVE writing these posts.

Deep connections with some incredible women have developed. A few linkers each week have joined me in this past month. I believe people will join me again if they believe in my cause, not in page view numbers. It gives me such joy to see fellow linkers comments of support on each other’s posts.

God, I accept and know that there may be ups and downs with my heartfelt way to connect mothers of faith. Please guide me in serving you in this way. I am reminded of the first link up party, when a sweet blogger responded to my writing in the most touching experience I have ever had blogging. She reminded me that after all, everything in life is all inHis time.” How has joining a linky party been a light in your blogging world? Inviting mothers of faith to link up for connections of the heart.

  Michy is a Christian Stay At Home mother writing with passion about her loves: faith, parenting, and healthy living. She is a past Special Education teacher and Elementary Literacy Specialist who loves learning. You can visit her on facebook or at her Loving Our Journey blog.

Sometimes God Says “Leave”

 
 

From the very first time I hit the publish button in blogger I felt as if I’d found my calling.  I was sharing things that people actually wanted to read about.  This was unusual to me because I thought the things I liked really didn’t matter. 

 

It was easy for me to put my desires and dreams on hold or not think about them because no one ever encouraged me to put it out there.  Blogging changed those views.  The blogging community encouraged me to be me without regrets.

 

As the time crept closer to my blogging anniversary things began to change.  I felt lost.   I no longer felt purpose in what I was doing and I became discouraged because I hadn’t attained all of my blogging goals.

 

Perhaps my discontent stemmed from the dwindling comments or the drop in traffic. I was no longer happy with the quality of work that I was producing.  Feelings of envy and resentment were stirring around in my spirit and it left me feeling worthless. 

 

God began to speak.  My intentions were called out and my heart was convicted.  Out of three hundred posts written in the course of a year, one would have to do some serious digging to figure out I was a Christian.  

 

Why didn’t this occur to me before?  I shared everything else about my life but I rarely talked about the goodness of Jesus.  I didn’t think that my readers would care.  To be quite honest I was scared of offending and scaring off my readers.

 

That was the problem.  I was focused more on the needs of my readers than the needs of my soul.  More focused on my problems, my life, and my adventures than considering how God wanted me to use this tool to minister to others.

 

I decided to take a break from blogging, fast, pray, and seek direction from the Lord.  It didn’t take long for me to gain some.  God eventually spoke LEAVE into my spirit.

 

God asked me to LEAVE my former blogging identity behind and blog for Him.  I tried for a few months to incorporate subjects involving my faith into my former blog although my spirit remained unsettled.

 

I was trying to incorporate His command into what I already had going on.  I ignored the parts that were too uncomfortable for me because I didn’t want to lose all the work I’d put into building my brand.

My previous blog was all about my glory, The Scott’s Crib.  It was a reflection of a selfish point I had reached in my life.   In order to submit to His will I had to completely LEAVE my old blogging identity behind..

 

One morning as I rose peace settled within my spirit as I realized what I had yet to do.  I took the time that day to LEAVE and move forward.Without further hesitation I gave my blog an overhaul and changed my domain name.  

 

As I typed in my new domain my palms became sweaty because I knew that this meant I was truly starting over.  All of the guest posting and those previously coveted pins on Pinterest would be gone. My former identity in the blogging world would be gone with the push of a button.

 

This step was crucial and I couldn’t continue to ignore it.  God changed Abraham’s name when he told him to leave his country and that he would bless him greatly.  

God told me to leave my old blogging identity so that I could gain peace and move forward with His plans for me.


What has God been calling you to leave behind?

 

“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.” Jeremiah 29:11.

 

Latoya is a work at home mom of a precious two year old, married to her husband of three years.  She is learning to yield to God’s mighty hand and following Him into the destiny which He has prepared.  She blogs at A Peaceful Crib where she is content on living out Colossians 3:17 “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.”  You can follow her on Facebook here.

 
 

Practicing Consistency

(Me and my best friend on my 14th Birthday)

When I was growing up we moved a lot which meant I was often the new girl. My mother taught me the best way to make friends was to be consistent and keep showing up. I learned others would trust me to be who I was, but sometimes it would take a little bit of time. Over the past nine years in the blog world I have learned the same can be said about blogging.

No matter where you are on this journey of sharing words in public forums, the topic of readership has been on your mind at least once. It seems we are all looking for the exact equation which will build our readership to mega-blogger status in a short time. The problem is even in this era of instant gratification people need time and reasons to trust you.

Learn from my mistakes.

As a blogger I have made a lot of mistakes. I have changed how I blogged, deleted years worth of posts, and moved my blog numerous times. I have had times when my inconsistency with how I presented myself on the web caused a loss of readership and friendships. I can say the loss of connection was greater than the loss of numbers.

Starting over is sometimes harder than starting anew, but in both cases the rule is the same: be consistent. If you want to touch lives, as most bloggers I know do, then you have to be present for a period of time to prove you will be there for the long haul. You need to give them a reason to trust you.

What will consistency do?

I cannot promise you consistency will grow your readership to mega-blogger status. What I can promise you is consistency will allow you to interact with people in a way they will learn to trust. This will allow you to touch those lives and make an impact. In other words, consistency will bring connection.

Readers know when you are trying to play them to add another number or when you sincerely want to be there for them. To be quite honest, it shows over time. This is why readers are slow to commit to supporting a blogger. This is why you need to be consistent even when things don’t seem to be happening.

Blogging is about building relationships.

Most of the work in the quiet time of blogging is going on in the heart. As you share what’s on your heart, they take it into theirs. Even before a comment is written, a heart connection can be made. Eventually, after you have proven yourself by showing up and they have learned to trust you, they will share their heart with you also. You will receive a note or comment explaining how much you mean to them, and how your words have had a positive impact on them.

Through consistency we will improve our writing, deepen connections with others, and increase the number of lives we are able to impact. Until we have proven ourselves none of this can happen.

My mother would need to remind me after each move how it would take time to make friends. It isn’t always easy. It will require hard work and discipline. However, the results of being consistent are worth it. Let me remind you: the same is true with your blog.

Stacey Lozano recently moved to Oklahoma, two years ago. She has been married to the love of her life for 20 years, eighteen of which were spent homeschooling her boys. As she prepares for the junior year of her youngest, she also waits for her oldest to head off to Basic Training. Her heart has forever been changed by moments which have and will soon happen. Join her regularly at Stacey’s Daze or at Pinterest where she just restarted her boards.

When Your World Won’t Stop Spinning

(photo of me, courtesy Lisa Tarplee )

Another box arrives at the door, filled with books for homeschool. I carry them to the school room and begin the process of unpacking and organizing them. Breathing out an audible sigh, these books remind me that summer is nearly over. The rest, relaxation, and the slower pace I have enjoyed will soon end. My mind spins with the to-do’s I keep adding to my list.

A new school year means that Scouting starts up soon. The ladies Bible study I teach will begin as well. The projects I haven’t finished this summer loom large. My stomach tightens as I think, “I can’t get everything done. There’s too much to do.” Does your world spin too? Life keeps going no matter how prepared we are for it. Even with all our modern-day technology, we’ve yet to invent a way to add more time to our lives.

It’s when we get an opportunity to rest and relax that we realize just how busy we’ve become. As much as I love homeschooling and all the activities we have this fall, part of me wants to remain in summer. Life is simpler. Peace is plentiful. God seems closer. Perhaps it’s because I know that the burdens of life will creep back onto my shoulders once summer ends. Maybe I fear that life will spin so fast, I won’t be able to hold on. What if I lose this close intimacy I’ve found in God? Does summer really have to end?

While the warmth of summer will end and invite brisk cool air in its place, the peace and simplicity of summer does not have to leave. The peace we carry in our hearts comes from our relationship with God. He is with us not only during periods of rest and relaxation but every day. It’s only when our lives become cluttered with distractions, lists, and responsibilities that we don’t feel close to His presence. Yet, it is possible to live our lives with more peace and deeper connection with our Savior. To keep the peace of summer always in your heart:

  • Live in the present and not the future: The responsibilities of life often keep us focused on tomorrow, next week, or next month. In doing so, we miss out on today. Scripture tells us to take joy in today (Psalm 118:24) Our eyes have to look at the world around us and rejoice in what He’s given us today. Take the time to marvel at His creation, to enjoy a child’s laughter, and to breathe in the gift of this day. Leave tomorrow in God’s hands.
  • Give your time to God: To-do lists are good for they keep us organized and help us remember things we might forget. But they become a problem when they rule our lives. Make your lists but give them to God. Ask Him to help you accomplish what He wants you to accomplish today. Be at peace knowing that whatever is not completed will be completed in His perfect timing.
  • Let go of your burdens and worries: We all have issues and problems that lie heavy on our hearts. Each day, be intentional in giving God all your worries. Be always in prayer, submitting your cares to Him. Trust Him to handle them.
  • Weed out distractions: Evaluate the things in your life that are unnecessary. We all have activities that clutter our time. Weed out those time wasters. Clean out the physical clutter in your home as well. In simplifying life, it frees you to spend time on what’s truly important.

 

Christina Fox is a writer, blogger, coffee drinker, and homeschooling mom, not necessarily in that order. She is a licensed mental health counselor and Bible study teacher who desires to encourage women to develop deeper trust in their Savior. You can find her sharing her faith journey at www.toshowthemjesus.com and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ToShowThemJesus.com.      

I Am a Writer

 

I want to share a small piece of my world. As small bloggers, we need to be reminded of the fruits of faithfulness, how little we are in control, and how much God is in control. 

I am thirty. I have lived a life surrounded by the mundane for the past thirty years. Until now. I have been praying for deliverance from mediocrity for at least ten years and these past few months the Lord finally pulled the scales off my eyes and let me see all the work he has been doing in my heart without me ever realizing. 

I have always felt the call to write and speak for the glory of God but have denied this calling. Instead I stayed trapped in fear and shame, assuming that it must be my sinful ego calling me to greatness. It was not. It was the call of God on my life.

And he has graciously opened my eyes to it.

I committed to Jeff Goins’ fifteen day challenge because it happened to coincide with a fast that the Lord had already called me to through Logan @ Allume. Thinking it was coincidence, but hoping it was his sovereignty, I agreed to accept the challenge. I bought Goins’ e-book and began reading.

Each subject that Goins wrote about had already been placed on my heart by the Lord. In the spirit’s own unique way, before ever reading the words of a man I had never met. When I opened the book, it gave me assurance that I was indeed hearing the Lord’s voice.

I can’t tell you how many times I laughed out loud in wonder at the goodness of the Lord in my life – through the words of someone else. If the spirit could do it through him, why not through me? 

For two years I faithfully and sporadically stewarded my mediocre blog, pokily waiting to be noticed. God’s providence and timing provided me with confidence to finally grab what’s been waiting there the whole time.

I called myself a writer. I did it loud and I did it over and over until it felt a tad less awkward. I have been doing it confidently for a month now. 

I have four kids under seven. My husband is a pastor and in seminary. I don’t have time for hours of networking and commenting on everyone’s sites. But, I just checked my blog stats and I’m shocked.

In one month of intentional submission to God, with little effort to gather fans and feedback, my traffic increase points to God’s harvest, not mine.

I went from 443 visits/ 247 individual users / 606 page views  to 824 visits /424 individual users / and 1721 page views. IN ONE MONTH. 

I’m a newbie and I recognize that I have a ton to learn. But this is pretty supernatural, is it not? You deserve to see some of my fruit, in case you haven’t noticed your own yet. It has to start somewhere. 

God is awesome. I am not. 

Lindsey Carlson is the wife of a worship pastor and mom to four under seven – Mad, Collie, Joodle Doodle, and Spence. She loves to write, sing with her husband, and pick up the occasional free-lance photography gig. After eight years, she has finally come to grips with the fact that she is an official Houstonian. She hides from the unbearable heat and humidity as she documents individual steps of faith in pursuit of a lifetime of faithfulness. Follow her journey at By Faith The Carlsons

9 Lessons From My First 3 Months Blogging

Hello! My name is Mary Beth, and I am a Smaller Blogger.

Sidewalk Messages I started my blog, New Life Steward, in May of this year. I have been an avid reader of blogs for the last four years. I was a lurker, you know, the kind that hangs around and never comments. I always had a secret desire to be a blogger though. I only mentioned this to a few friends because I thought it a silly notion–seriously, what do I have to say? Who would listen to me?

Then earlier this year as I was mapping out some goals for myself, the Lord pressed upon my heart the idea of starting a blog. The idea stayed in my brain and festered until it grew into something that I just could not hold in my brain anymore. I begged my husband for the money to buy a domain name and hosting, and New Life Steward was born. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I was determined. Now here I am, 3 months later, and I’ve learned a few things I’d like to share with you, my fellow small blogger–although I believe these apply to anyone in the blogging world.

9 Lessons from My First 3 Months of Blogging:

(PS: It really stresses me out that there are 9–I really like even numbers, but oh well, 9 goes nicely with 3.)

  1. Just write and keep writing: There will be moments when you sit and stare at the white screen and that blinking cursor will mock you. Just write something, anything. Push through. At least then you’ll have something to start with. Some of what I thought we my worst posts have been quite popular.
  2. The difference between Twitter and Facebook: Let’s be real here, if you are blogging, you are probably on Facebook or Twitter or both plus Pinterest and Instagram. I have observed that Twitter is a great place to make friends with other bloggers and get quick answers. I share my posts on Twitter, but get very few clicks. Facebook, on the other hand, brings a large portion of my traffic. I’ve discovered that Facebook is a great place to connect with your fans and share your posts. I’m still learning how to utilize Facebook to its fullest potential.
  3. Go to Twitter School: I read most of that series during my first few days/weeks of blogging, and boy did it make all the difference. Twitter is a confusing world with symbols, norms and a language all its own. Make sure you understand it, so you aren’t being annoying and to maximize its potential!
  4. Link Up and comment: The only link-up I knew about when I started blogging was Top {Ten} Tuesday. I wrote specifically for that link-up the first few weeks. Then I read Courtney’s Guest Post: My Journey to 5000 Followers in the Smaller Bloggers Series and realized there were oodles of link-ups! I followed here advice and found the link-ups from this tidy list that fit well with what I blogged about and began linking up daily to multiple sites (I’d love to have you at my link-up WIP [Work in Progress] Wednesday!) I also faithfully comment on the post linked up before and after me on every link-up. This has been a huge traffic/reader booster! I’ve also met some GREAT women through these link-ups!
  5. HTML: HTML was very intimidating to me at first. Then I realized that a lot of it could be accomplished with a simple copy/paste. The few things I needed to know (like centering a graphic in a widget on my sidebar), I googled. My most helpful idea with HTML has been to create an HTML document on my desk top. I save all the HTML code that I use frequently on that document for quick access when I’m writing a post. I have all the link-ups organized by day, my various blog buttons, a Feedburner subscription box, a text box, and various other items all saved on that document.
  6. Be brave: Whatever idea you have that gives you butterflies in the pit of your gut, do it! Tweet the person you really respect. They almost always reply (and who doesn’t love a Tweet!). Submit that guest post. You may get turned down (I have!) but you might not (Here I am, guest posting!). Start that series or link-up or book study. Whatever it is, take a deep breath and jump! You never know until you try.
  7. Set boundaries: I’ve found that its highly important to set boundaries in regards to time spent blogging. I have set parameters for when I blog, check Twitter, Facebook, and e-mail. I have to admit that I’m not perfect at keeping these boundaries, but if you don’t set them, you will most likely go overboard and get burnt out or neglect other responsibilities.
  8. You cannot do it all: We are human after all. When I first started blogging, I joined every challenge, book club, whatever that I came across. I found myself way over-committed and unable to really enjoy any of them. Lots of things look fun to be involved in online. Prayerfully consider what will be most beneficial for you.
  9. Stay true to who you are in Christ: If you only remember one of my lessons, remember this one. Stay true to who you are in Christ. I found that writing a mission statement both for myself and my blog helps me keep focus. I know what I’m aiming for and what my standards are. Write yours and then stay true to that. We don’t need a bunch of cookie cutter blogs. We need YOU.

My first love is Jesus Christ followed quickly by my husband and my son. I am now a stay at home mom, writer, and blogger. My career was first in teaching and then in Marriage and Family Counseling. Living in a small, Southern town in Mississippi, we enjoy SEC football, walking around barefoot, and playing outside. A day to myself would be spent napping, blogging, and reading with a bit of reality TV mixed in! Please come chat with me on Twitter!

Photo Credit: ClickFlashPhotos