Buy An Ornament, Bless a Child

Ornaments-for-Orphans

There are over 153 million orphans living in the world today, children vulnerable to neglect, exploitation, trafficking, slavery, hunger and emotional trauma. Orphans are not the only children at risk. Last year the world lost 6.6 million infants and toddlers. Half of these deaths were primarily due to malnutrition or preventable disease.

At Ornaments4Orphans we believe that poverty is at the root of the global orphan crisis. Single mothers desperately want to keep their children, but they cannot afford the HIV medication which will sustain their lives. Relatives desire to take in orphans, but fear the expense of another mouth to feed. In the face of crippling unemployment, desperate widows turn to prostitution, depressed men abandon their families, and children grow up working in the fields rather than attending school.

Poverty is a complex issue, one that cannot be easily solved, but it is clear that poverty is much more than lack of possessions. It’s lack of opportunity. Without opportunity for regular, fair-waged work, cycles of poverty and broken families will continue.

At Ornaments4Orphans we strive to combat these big issues with small, unlikely things – Christmas ornaments! Ornaments4Orphans is an initiative designed to bless orphans AND bring economic opportunity to talented artisans in impoverished communities.

Ornaments4Orphans sells beautiful fair trade ornaments, nativities and other items handcrafted by talented artisans around the world. With their earned income, artisans are able to provide for their families. They put food on their tables, make rent, pay their children’s school fees and purchase the medicines that sustain their lives.

Ornaments4Orphans also gives back from our proceeds to help orphans in the communities where our artisans work and live. We partner with strategic ministries which invest in the care of orphaned children who are desperate for food, education and love.

The number of children and families now being blessed because of Christmas ornaments is astounding, and we have big hopes for the future! As Ornaments4Orphans grows, we dream of offering life-giving employment to hundreds more artisans and spreading hope to orphans everywhere.

You can help us increase the Ornaments4Orphans impact by becoming an O4O Coordinator! As a Coordinator you agree to host an Ornaments4Orphans tree at your church, school, workplace or home. We ship you a box of our ornaments along with all the literature and materials you need for your fundraiser. Sell the ornaments for $10 each and when you’re done simply return any unsold ornaments along with the proceeds you raise. It’s that simple.

Watch how it works. (Click here if reading in an email).

Your tree combined with other Ornaments4Orphans trees across the country helps men and women escape poverty and provide for vulnerable orphans who have no hope. The only cost is your time! Learn more about becoming an Ornaments4Orphans Coordinator at by visiting our website.

Also make plans to join us at our Opening Night Party at Allume! We’ll be decking the halls early and sharing our celebration with you!

Can’t wait until October?

Giveaway!

We’re giving away a set of our Banana Fiber Angel Ornaments to one lucky winner via this blog post!

Banana-Fiber-Angel-Set-1024x1024

Visit our website here, then comment below with your name, email, and favorite Ornaments4Orphans product.

Giveaway ends Monday, October 6th at 11:59 EST.

What It Means to Be An Advocate

Scenic Garden Bridge at Sunset. Summer in the Garden.

Welcome Work of Worth to Allume!

Anyone with success has advocates. Think of your favorite pop-star – they are an advocate magnet. They have the quiet “behind the scenes” type, who help them recognize opportunities, and see those opportunities become realities. They also have the bolder “door-holder” kind of advocates, those who share with others about the greatness they recognize.

Those without success lack advocates. Everyone has skills and abilities to bring to the table, but the revelation of those gifts comes from opportunities and advocates that help us tap into what it is we have to offer. We have come to recognize that those that need the most advocacy are those that don’t know they’re worth fighting for.

Anyone with success has an audience. Success brings with it a platform from which you have the freedom to share your experience and expertise. With the achievement of success comes the responsibility to advocate for the success of others.

You are your own advocate. To truly capture your success you must also recognize your own worth. You have to own it. You must believe you have something to offer. Owning your own worth is not an overnight process, but is instead a journey, during which you need advocates to walk alongside you. Unlike patriarchy, the goal of advocacy is to instill dignity until he or she can advocate for their own success.

Recipients of advocacy can’t resist paying it forward, which is why advocacy has the longevity to impact generations. The responsibility to advocate has nothing to do with the size of your platform. Those facts are mutually exclusive. Consider the voice of advocacy in terms of the family: a parent’s voice of truth is of the same value to one precious child as it would be to 10 children. This is true for both the number she advocates for and the number she advocates to. Advocacy is about sharing truth with those you have been given influence over, whether that audience is 1 or 1000.

Work of Worth is about bridging the gap for those who need an advocate. We can’t wait to meet each of you and to celebrate our voices together! Consider this your formal invitation to the movement of advocating for dignity.

-Kristy Griem

Dear Weary Mom,

Weary Mom

Dear Weary Mom,

I’m posting this around 7:00 in the morning, and if you’re reading this you’re already tired. Come to think of it, whatever time of day it is where you are, you’re tired.

You may have woken up this morning and before your feet ever hit the ground thought, “Man…I’m tired.” You might be sipping your fourth cup of coffee in less than an hour and find yourself thinking, “Man…I’m tired.” Or you might be headed to bed after a long day with a sigh on your lips and in your heart as the realization that another day exactly like the one that just ended begins in fewer hours than it really takes your body to get rested.

Man…you’re tired. 

I know this because I’m one of you. A weary mom dug down deep in the trenches of raising the two people I’m blessed to call mine. Just last night my littlest boy arrived in my bed around 2:00 a.m. trembling from a bad dream and spent most of the night pressed up against me, kicking me in the back.

It all sounds sweet except I didn’t sleep a wink. And now I’m—you guessed it—tired. I’ve found, though, that the weariness of motherhood is about much more than just a lack of sleep. It’s a weariness that’s kind of like holding a mirror up in front of all my ugly. Some days, motherhood brings out the worst in me. But I’m learning that’s okay.

Surprise, surprise.

Motherhood kind of took me by surprise. You too? Yeah, I hear that from a lot of moms I know who thought they had it all figured out before their own kids came. When my first son was born I had a terrible time nursing him, and it turned into the first of many, many things that just didn’t come easily to me as a mom. I remember being so angry with God because He wouldn’t change my situation and make things easier.

Anger.

An ugly word, isn’t it? But I found it in my heart, and as we all know, what’s in the heart comes out of the mouth (Matthew 12:34). Oh, weary mama, I’m honestly a bit ashamed of how many times I’ve been angry over the last seven years of my life. On the outside, I’m a grown woman who has her life together. I have a nice house, a hunky husband, and two seriously beautiful, talented little boys. But on the inside, I’m a two-year-old stamping her foot and screaming because she can’t get her own way.

All I want is for my boys to obey me. And to be quiet. And to stop wrestling all. the. time. And to put their toys away. And to stop goofing off at the table. And to stop spilling their drinks. And to stop wrinkling their noses at the dinners I work hard to fix for them. And to focus on their schoolwork. And to stop fighting with each other. And to be quiet (did I already say that??).

Do you find yourself nodding your head? Sighing deeply because you kinda know what I mean?

Yep, weary mama, motherhood brings out the very worst in me. But after seven years of battling, I’ve finally come to this:

I’m glad.

Lord, have mercy…what if all that junk had stayed inside of me all those years? What if my inner two-year-old with cute pigtails that bounce when she stamps her foot had been allowed to grow up into an intolerable woman with frizzy hair that didn’t look cute anymore?

Gives me the shivers.

I’ve known one too many women who were never called out on their inner two-year-old. It isn’t pretty, so yeah, weary mama, I’m saying it loud today…I’m GLAD my kids bring out all my ugly. I’m GLAD they keep me on my knees in prayer, asking, begging God to make me more like Him so I can be the kind of mom they really need.

So bring it, whiney two-year-old me. I know your game. And sooner or later you’re going to run out of steam, because I’ve got all the power of heaven on my side, and I’m determined to lay you down over and over and over again until you’re gone once and for all.

So there (sticks out tongue).

Now, where’s my coffee…

Brooke

Coauthor of Hope for the Weary Mom
Coming from Harvest House Publishers February 2015

P.S. In just two months, Brooke McGlothlin and Stacey Thacker will be launching their #ChooseHope campaign. To learn more, and enter to a beautiful cuff bracelet like this one, click here.”

Choose Hope

the single most important metric for website success

time on page, google analytics

Everyone wants to know what blogging success looks like. And the list of measurements most people look to contain the usual suspects… page views, social media likes/shares, number of followers on social media, and number of subscribers. Understandably, those metrics are simple numbers which show how visible your content is.

But, one number is likely a better gauge of success than any of the others most think about. Work on this one measurement, and you’ll launch your blog to new levels. What metric is it?

Time on page.

This one measurement can tell you more about the behavior of your readers than anything else. Think about it. You write a 600 word post that gets 100 page views, and it gets an average time on page of 30 seconds. Since the average adult reads approximately 250-300 words per minute, then that means most people hitting your post aren’t reading very much of it. That realization can hurt when you know you’ve poured out your heart and soul to write something you think is amazing.

On the other hand, imagine the same post had an average time on page of 1:30 or more. Some readers lose interest and drop, but this would definitely indicate that what you wrote is resonating more with your readers.

Why is this important?

Two reasons, really. First, time on page speaks to the quality of your content. Increase this metric, and you’re probably getting at a more engaged, connected reader. Second, it’s a metric that Facebook is looking at in their algorithms to determine which link posts get pushed up/down in people’s news feeds. It’s a way for them to battle click-bait links, and push up good quality content.

Increase the time on page, and you’ll likely increase the number of visitors coming to your site. [Tweet this!]

Here are a few tips on how you can improve your time on page:

(1) write great titles

Your first, and most important task is to write great titles. The reader should be able to look at the title of the post, and anticipate what they’ll find when they click-through to read it. It also helps if the title contains some sort of emotional connection or value statement. What will they get out of reading your post? Not only does this help get them to click-through in the first place, but it also sets proper expectations. If they know what they’ll be getting, then they’re much more likely to stay on the post long enough to actually get it.

(2) write an amazing first paragraph

Once you have them on the post, then it’s the first paragraph which will set the tone for everything else. Your opening statement should hook the reader and give them even more reason to keep reading. If the title left any question on how long they should stick around, then the first paragraph should solidify that buy-in. Don’t feel like you have to give everything away up front. But sell your big idea right away, and make sure the reader knows what’s in it for them.

(3) improve the graphic appeal of the post (and whole website)

Using strong images has proven to increase the reader’s time on page. Think about the images your add to your blog post like adding art to the wall in a museum or art gallery. Good art will cause someone to stop, and spend time just looking deeply into to piece. They’ll analyze the colors and different parts in the work. They’ll try to figure out what it means, and what message it sends. If a picture is like a thousand words, then try using one that will get them to spend the time on your page equivalent to how long it would take them to read a thousand words. In addition to strong post images, there’s much to be said for keeping the overall visual appeal of your site clean too. Having a cluttered sidebar (or two) can create visual noise for readers, and cause them to disengage with the content.

(4) use embedded video

Having a video embedded in your post is not only a great way to bring in a different style of communication alongside your writing, it’s also a great way to easily boost the time on page. Even adding a one-minute video could quickly double the average time on page. But don’t just add any video. Make sure it’s relevant and engaging. Having a five-minute video on the page doesn’t add as much value if people are only watching the first 30 seconds. So filter this in the same way you would any other content. Make sure the reader has enough buy-in to stick through the whole video.

(5) make it easy to read

Lots of really long paragraphs can tire your reader and cause them to lose interest. One of the best things you can do is offer regular visual breaks and work on making the content easily scannable. Breaks can be created by using images or header tagged breaks. In fact, getting some of your desired keywords into H2 (or Heading 2) format can be good for your SEO. These breaks makes the content which follows them easier to read because it’s a smaller piece of content to consume, which increases the likelihood they will continue to work through it. This is particularly effective with long-form content.

last thought…

As you look at your average time on page metrics (or any others), it’s important to have benchmarks. One trap to avoid when benchmarking is comparing yourself to others or a magical standard published by some social media “guru”. The best numbers to measure yourself against are your own. I’m not going to tell you that ___ number of minutes on the page is what you should target. Instead, figure out where you are now, and simply try to improve that by 10%. When you reach that number, then try to improve by another 10%. Keep pushing yourself for a personal best, and make whatever adjustments are needed in order to get you to the next level. That’s when you’ll start to realize the greatest success with your website.

allume gatherings: part 2

In case you missed it, yesterday we shared part 1 of the Allume Gatherings (ok seriously, aren’t they just going to be incredible??), the heart behind them, and how you sign up for them.  You can find that here.

Aren’t you getting SO excited for Allume? We are!

Today, we want to introduce you to five more Gatherings.

 

She Reads Truth (Think Tank)
She Reads Truth: In-Person & Online Bible Study
When we read the Bible together as sisters in Christ, something beautiful happens. We are affirmed in our identity as daughters of the one true God; reminded we are not alone in our struggles; and we are challenged and spurred on by the faithfulness of our sisters and our God. In this gathering, Raechel Myers, co-founder/CEO of She Reads Truth, and Amanda Bible Williams, She Reads Truth Editorial Director, will discuss the joys and challenges of leading women to the pages of God’s Word. They will share some of the important lessons they’ve learned in welcoming, hosting/facilitating group study, and provide practical direction and encouragement to equip you to gather women to Read Truth, both online and in person.

 

Shazzy Fitness (Ballroom H)
Dance RockOut Party
Shazzy Fitness is a fun, easy-to-learn dance fitness program that fuses hip-hop dance moves with the hottest Christian hip-hop music. Our family-friendly moves + Christian music are perfect for moms and kids, plus it’s easy-to-learn for all skill levels – even if you’ve never danced before! Get physically energized and spiritually uplifted at our beginner-level dance session with Chief Mompreneur Kristy McCarley and actor/lead choreographer Apollo Levine as he shows us step-by-step how to do the dance moves from our hit Christian Hip-Hop DVD “Shazzy Fitness: A Time to Dance”. Come SHAPE what the Father gave ya!

 

Mary & Martha (Teal)
Goods Party
Here at Mary & Martha we are all about Gathering! In fact, we have a unique name for our in-home parties: Gatherings. We love to Gather! Let’s talk about the power of gathering and the biblical meaning of hospitality; a little extra can make your guests feel valued, honored and held in regard. Then it’s on to the hands-on piece. No worries if you’re not the crafty type! We’ll show you super simple and fun ways to bring the sweetness to gathering and hospitality! We will dive into some creative projects for ‘at your table’, ‘around your home’ and in your community! Yes, there will be party favors and door prizes too!

 

Noonday Collection (Azalea)
Hosting a Trunk Show and Styling Tips
Gather with Noonday Collection to get styled and change the world! When you open your home and gather your community for a Noonday Collection Trunk Show, you create economic opportunity for the vulnerable. Join our Noonday Collection Founder Jessica Honegger and our team of world-changing Ambassadors to style, share and shop! We will tell you the stories behind our gorgeous collection of jewelry and accessories. Everything we sell is handmade by artisans around the world. Learn how Noonday is using fashion and design to restore dignity to abandoned women in Ethiopia, empower communities in Ecuador, and create business opportunities for Ugandans. Join us our Noonday Collection Ambassadors for fashion, fun, styling and storytelling!

 

Help One Now (Plaza)
Garage Sale for Orphans
Help One Now and Simpsonville First Baptist are partnering to bring you a LIVE Garage Sale for Orphans at Allume! In many countries, excess is not an option and sustainability is a struggle.  GS4O is a hosted garage sale where proceeds go to one of our projects that benefits orphans in one of our seven communities. By selling your excess you can build a home for a widow and her children, pay for a teacher’s salary for an entire year, build a preschool for children that were saved from trafficking!  100% of the funds will go to one of our projects! Come learn more about what it means to redeem excess items that our culture has grown accustomed to!

 

We are so grateful to these amazing organizations that are going to be bringing you these Gatherings!

Questions about Gatherings? Leave your questions in the comments, we’d love to answer…

 

Photo Credit: Kim Deloach

allume gatherings: part 1

We know that you have been paying  super close attention to all Allume announcements. We also know that many of you have combed through every little detail of the Allume schedule with great anticipation. And we know that some of you have noticed that there is a fun new addition to the schedule this year; something called “Gatherings”. Up until this point we’ve just kinda left you hanging about what exactly these Gatherings are (don’t you just hate when people do that? wink, wink)….

Well today is your lucky day…

Our heart behind the Allume Gatherings is to be able to give you the opportunity to really invest….in one another, in causes, and into digging deeper in your life.  We want to connect your heart with the hearts of one another and with our incredible partners as they share with you what God is doing in their ministries and companies and how they see His Gospel being spread.  This is a chance to gather…sometimes for a reason, sometimes around God’s word, sometimes for a cause, and sometimes just to build community.  So join us as we gather and invest in friendships, purposes, and passions that invite us outside of ourselves!

View More: http://kimdeloachphoto.pass.us/allume2013

Today and tomorrow we are going to introduce you to these amazing Gatherings and Wednesday registered Allume attendees will receive a newsletter (via e-mail) to sign up for Gatherings.  We are so excited we can hardly stand it!!

It’s important to note that you can only sign up for ONE Gathering AND that gatherings are on a first come, first serve basis. SO….you’ll wanna get to signing up first thing Wednesday morning. Slots will fill up fast and slots are limited.

And in the name of not making you wait any longer….we’d like to introduce you to some of the exciting Gatherings we’ve got planned for you…

 

blood:water (Plaza)
Lemonade Stand
Join Blood:Water and make a stand for clean water in Africa… a Lemon:Aid stand that is! We are on a mission to bring an end to the water crisis in Africa. We believe you are the fuel to make that happen. One way you can help is by selling lemonade for Africa at the Gathering or by stopping by and picking up your very own Lemon: Aid stand kit. You can then host your own Lemon:Aid stand in your own community. We can’t wait to see you there! Next time, when life gives you lemons, make a difference!

 

Sole Hope (Magnolia)
Shoe Cutting Party
Want to make a difference in a child’s life today? Dru Collie, the director of Sole Hope, will be sharing stories about living in Uganda while fighting the chigoe flea epidemic which is affecting the lives and livelihood of children in East Africa. We will be cutting up jeans and preparing them to be made into shoes by the Sole Hope Shoe Makers who reside in Uganda. Come empty handed we will have everything ready for you.

 

Preemptive Love (Ballroom G)
Handmade Crafts for Iraqi Children
For children across Iraq, a lifesaving heart surgery doesn’t just mean they get their hearts back – it means they get their childhood back. Join Jeremy and Jessica Courtney, founders of Preemptive Love, and make toys that will help provide essential physical therapy for children inside the hospital and endless smiles and giggles outside the hospital. While you create together, listen to on-the-ground stories that will fill you with hope, faith, and love for the people of Iraq.

 

Seed Company (Prayer Room)
Prayer
The Word of God is alive and powerful (Hebrews 4:12 NLT) and someday we will stand shoulder to shoulder — every tribe and nation — worshipping together before His throne (Revelation 7:9). What about today? How well do we know our eternal neighbors? Local Bible translators need our prayers. Over a billion Bibleless people are missing the full joy of God’s presence without His life-giving Word. Together we will pray that God’s Word would be unfolded in our lives and among the nations, pray for a network of over 800 global partners working together to make God’s Word available in the heart language of every Bibleless people group on Earth. We’ll also get creative making an interactive prayer craft for women at Allume.

 

Check back tomorrow to learn more about the rest of the Gathering opportunities.

Have any questions about Gatherings? Leave it in the comments…

Photo Credit: Kim Deloach

See The Song: It’s Not Just a Love Story

The Song One-Sheet

 

When it comes to movies, if it isn’t making me laugh or featuring an alien or a car chase, or a funny alien in a car chase, I’m kind of lost.  When I was asked to prescreen a movie called The Song, I had no idea what I was getting into.

Spoiler alert: there are no aliens.

This movie messed me up.  It’s been a week and I’m still kerfuffled.  (Stick with me, because I’m going to tell you why I think you should see it.)

Modern Day Solomon

The movie is about Solomon.

As in, son of King David.

As in, guy who built the temple.

As in, guy who wrote the sexiest words in history, and also the most desolate.

I’ve always puzzled over how someone could write beautiful lines about love and sex to his wife the Shulammite in Song of Solomon, but end up with thousands of wives and concubines writing “Everything is meaningless” is Ecclesiastes.  How does the wisest man in history who loved God end up worshipping false gods?

It’s a puzzle, one that this movie unlocks a little for me.  It’s set in modern day, about a singer named Jed King, son of David King (See what they did there?), who finds his muse in a girl named Rose…from the town of Sharon (Fellow Bible nerds, prepare to geek out about all the parallels between King Solomon and this rock star Jed.).

This Movie Will Churn Stuff Up

The trailer says it’s based on the book Song of Solomon, but it’s also based on the book of Ecclesiastes, because you can’t tell the story of Solomon without both, and I’ve never understood how both could be written by the same man until now.

As soon as I realized who it was about, I saw what was coming, like the first time I saw Titanic. That ship was going to hit that iceberg whether I screamed at the screen or not, and I felt like that as The Song unfolded.

This movie is gritty and unsettling, and I can’t quit thinking about it.  I think it challenges us to a deeper conversation about marriage and sex than the Church has been willing to have, and as it’s tethered directly into scripture, we can’t squirm out of dealing with Solomon’s journey and choices and how relevant they are today.  If you’ve had a marriage that’s struggled or have walked that road with a friend or family member, this movie will churn stuff up.

I don’t watch a lot of dramas or romances, but I love talking about marriage in all its beautiful mess.  Marriage is so freaking hard and we don’t always get everything right and this movie pulls no punches.  Sometimes it’s easier to watch “happily ever after” movies, about the gooey stuff leading up to the marriage, but that leaves us at the beginning of the story.  The Song gives us gooey, but it doesn’t leave us there.  It wades deeper, into the work of relationship with jobs and kids and pressure.

I was ready to run back to my funny aliens and never tell you about it, but the truth is, I can’t get it out of my mind.  You’ll love some of the characters then hate some and we all might have different feelings about them.  I, for one, wish for once in a faith-based movie the God-girl got to be the one covered in tats. 

A New Aspect of Scripture

Tattoo stereotypes aside, though, I really appreciate this modern day look at King Solomon and the ups and downs of his reign.  Art is a terrible preacher, but a tremendous conversationalist.  And this piece of art, this film, reveals an aspect of scripture that’s new to me.  It helps me fathom a wise man in love with his bride and his God, who somehow ends up really far from home.  It’ll make you look at your own marriage and what you’re capable of.

I’m impressed with how well they translated King Solomon into rock star Jed King.  From the verses woven throughout the movie to building the temple, to worshipping false gods, it works.  There’s even a vineyard.  I know nothing about music, but if you’re into the Nashville music scene, there are many instruments with people playing them a lot (Forgive me.  Maybe if aliens were the ones playing the instruments, like in Star Wars….).

Often times we – I, me – criticize faith-based movies for feeling the need to put a bow on everything.  I do that with blog posts, too.  ”Everything is really horrible and hard, but here’s the spiritual lesson I’m learning and how it’s all working out so yay for Jesus.”  The Song doesn’t stick arbitrary bows on things.  I feel like it’s the real deal.

When I realized this movie was a love story, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to get into it, but it’s so much more than that.  It’s not just a love story; it’s a life story, one that resonates both in my heart and in the pit of my stomach.  On a gut level, it sinks in and stays with you.

Agghh, go see The Song so I have someone to talk to about it.  Here’s the trailer:


I’m excited to be part of THE SONG Blog Tour. To learn more and join us, CLICK HERE.

-Melanie Dale

This post was used with permission by Melanie Dale 

speaker interview with Kristen Howerton

The first time I (Logan) ever read Kristen Howerton’s blog, Rage Against the Minivan, she was writing about one of her kids riding a bike through a pile of poop and it slinging backwards off of the wheel and onto her.  I laughed til I cried.  And over the years, Kristen has had me vascillating between laughing and crying whenever I read.  She has a gifted way of asking hard questions and cultivating conversation.  And whether we always agree or disagree doesn’t matter so much as the fact that we can always have honest, open, and thoughtful conversations that respect one another.  She is funny, real, wise, and a gifted communicator.  We are blessed to have both Kristen and her husband Mark (both licensed marriage and family therapists) joining us at Allume this year to talk about Blogging and Marriage.  So please welcome, our friend, Kristen Howerton!

Kristen Howerton
What chore do you despise the most?
I don’t mind loading the dishwasher but I HATE unloading it!

What sound do you love?
My kids making up their own songs

If you could paint a picture of a place you have been what would it be?
Cinque Terre, Italy

If you could learn to do anything what would it be?
I would love to play guitar

If you could pick anyone as a mentor who would you pick?
Lynne Hybels

What do you do with 30 minutes of free time?
What’s free time? I don’t understand the question. :)

What would the dream birthday present be?
A trip to a beach somewhere warm.

What do you miss most about being a kid?
Not having to take care of anyone or anything

If gifted an all expenses paid vacation to anywhere where would you pick?
Capetown South Africa

If everything in your life aligned exactly as in your dreams, what would your life look like? Where would you live, what would you do?
Honestly, it looks pretty close to how it looks right now . . . being a writer and living near the beach in Southern California. If I could see that beach from my backyard, that’d be cool.

If I was coming to your house for dinner, what would we have?
Chicken with roasted poblano pepper cream

What’s in your purse?
About 3 burts bees lip balms, an ipod cord, some stray receipts, a kids’ necklace, my wallet, my sunglasses, and my phone.

 

Love to know more about Kristen? You can find her here: Website /// Twitter /// Facebook

Hope Made Flesh

Please welcome Project 143 to the blog today!

P143 letterhead (1)

Our summer started off THE moment school ended… back-to-back trips followed by a two week mission trip… and yet… here we were… the day had arrived… and we were about to burst wide open with excitement.

waiting (1)

Families from all over the Southeast gathered and shared stories about the faces on their banners. Plans for summer activities were being shared, anxious questions about what to expect were being asked, nails being bitten and hearts stirring… strangers walking by and wondering what all the fuss was about.

All three of my children… also once orphans… wanting to know what the delay was… giddy with hope… bouncing with energy…making plans for forts and races and snacks… yes… snacks. Gotta have good snacks!

Customs. Customs was the hold up and over 20 little orphans were filed in a line in a room we couldn’t see. Their little minds full of questions, hearts racing in their little chests, hands sweating and eyelids getting heavy from the long journey over… over to the unknown… to the families waiting to embrace them with hope and love and opportunities.

I have been a part of these arrivals for over three years now. I call it “holy ground”. There is something holy about hearts embracing in the presence of the One who created them and holds them in His hands. There is something pure and holy about little hearts trusting and simply embracing love… pushing fear aside and just revealing themselves in an instant… in a moment that will never be forgotten.

But this time was different for me. Usually I am the facilitator… calming nerves of others, praying words of encouragement over them, sharing details and timelines. It has been four years since I was a part of this holy wonder as a host family. That particular hosting brought us our daughter, Taylor. It opened our eyes to the mighty bridge hosting creates for older orphans who are mostly overlooked and so sadly forgotten. After that experience, we jumped in with both feet… we joined Project One Forty Three (P143) as volunteers and advocates for orphans.

And here we were again, hosting TWO littles. Our hearts were the ones racing with anticipation. My eyes were the ones peering into the crowd of people exiting international arrivals.

Finally, after what seemed to be way too long… their little yellow and orange hats appeared… bobbing in random fashion… their heads stretching to catch a glimpse of us. And I saw him first… our 8 year old host child. I could not believe how little he was. Then there she was… coming out from behind a taller child… his 7 year old sister… and they took each other’s hands.

Everything in me wanted to run over and scoop them up. But I had to wait for my name to be called. Was I holding my breath? Yes.

Breathe. Breathe.

Then our name was called… permission to run forward. Before my feet could move, their eyes locked with ours and smiles took over their cautious faces. Then she was running. This tiny little girl abandoned and neglected by love… ran to me… embraced me… squeezed me tightly… and would not let go.

first embrace (1)

 

Oh my heart. What have I done? I have entered in. I am on holy ground.

I am almost unaware of anything around me. I hear and feel her breath on my neck. The strength of her little arms wrapped around me catches me off guard. She is holding on… she has entered in… she too is on holy ground.

holding on (1)

I was undone. My heart intertwined with hers. I stood up… and she held on. She didn’t move. She just held on. Her little body fit around me perfectly and I was undone. Her mother left her. Yes. But God has given her a mother for this summer.

And for five weeks I will be Christ’s love to her in every way possible… to her and to her brother. And God will unfold His will… and we will be obedient.

This is hosting. This is love. This is HOPE made flesh. This is Project One Forty Three.

Dawn~

 

www.p143.org

Follow us on Twitter- @P143Org

Facebook- www.facebook.com/p143host

From Bandwagon Blogger to Blog-Trail Blazer

Social media concept in word tag cloud on white background

The most popular girl in school strode past my locker. She carried an air of confidence — the kind that eluded me. I wondered if the mysterious patch on her jeans had anything to do with it. There was something about that triangular patch. You know, the one with the question mark?

Within a few weeks, more girls showed up at school proudly wearing the question mark on their right buttocks. This newfound patch assumed the supposed weight of popularity. But I couldn’t begin to guess why.

Nevertheless, I begged my parents until I too owned a single pair of Guess Jeans. Except they didn’t make me more popular. They didn’t even feel different.

The whole affair struck me as silly. I followed the crowd without knowing why.

Today, I give thanks to God in heaven I’m no longer in high school. It took me awhile, but eventually, I found my own way. And it didn’t involve following the crowd.

Trends, of course, still come and go — whether we’re in high school or not.

In the blogging world, a new trend can permeate the online scene with great force. Blogging gurus inundate us with innovative ideas and vogue plugins. Many of their suggestions are great too. But sometimes the constant tide of new technology leaves us feeling like we’re electronically etched in the dark ages of blogging if we’re not mastering the latest technological gizmo.

For instance, when I visit other blogs, I see a variety of social media icons. They’re usually in the upper right corner of a blog. And they represent the various places we can connect with that blogger.

So when I had my website redesigned earlier this year, I wanted the full plethora of social media icons in the upper right corner of my blog too. Clearly, this was the “in” thing to do. These icons, of course, would need to link with real social media outlets.

So I made a list of blogging goals for 2014:

      • Begin participating in Instagram.
      • Figure out Pinterest.
      • Investigate Tumbler and Linked-In.
      • Upload some videos on You-Tube.
      • Learn how to schedule tweets and Facebook posts on Buffer or Hootesuite.

Across the bottom of my list, I penned my biggest and best goal of all:

      • Hire a virtual assistant who can do all of the above for me.

Well, we’re midway through September, and I’ve done none of the above. Because I had to ask myself:

Why do I feel this pressure
to have an online presence on every social platform?

Am I following the crowd because that’s what trendy blogging looks like?

There’s nothing wrong with participating in any of these social media venues, as long as we’re doing so with a genuine desire to connect with the people there. But I’m afraid my cute little icons in the corner of my blog had become a new patch for me — just like the patch with a question mark that my friends wore in high school.

What’s more, I wondered if my desire to be in every social sphere online was really an attempt to become omnipresent.

Has the Eve-old sin of trying to be like God re-fashioned itself in my generation’s attempt to be in all places at all times?

Only God is omnipresent.

So what’s my real goal here?

After reflecting on my real purpose for writing — to bring glory to God’s name — I decided that I don’t need my name everywhere. I need to be true to who I am. I’m a writer, yes, but I’m also a mom and a full-time English teacher.

As bloggers, we need to invest our time wisely because we are not limitless beings.

I’m comfortable with Twitter and Facebook, so for now, that’s where I’ll connect online.

We all have a unique set of strengths, and the most “successful strategy” for any blogger is to stay true to who we are.

Some bloggers are savvy with social media.
Some bloggers are awesome with affiliates.
Some bloggers are terrific with technology.
Some bloggers have a way with words.

Blogging trends come and go. But who we are — at our core — remains the same. I don’t want to be a bandwagon blogger. I want to be a blog-trail blazer. And the only way to do that is to stay true to who I am.

I no longer run out and buy a new pair of Guess Jeans just because everyone else is buying a pair. I don’t generally follow the blogging masses either. Instead, I stay informed. Sometimes the latest blogging hype is just that. Hype. But sometimes the newest gadget, or widget, is a fantastic feature that enables bloggers to accomplish online feats they never thought possible.

The blogging world doesn’t have to be a re-creation of an old high school soirée, where the “in crowd” knew all the best brands. You and I can make a difference. No matter how big or small our blogs may be. Our voice matters. And a lack of technical expertise or social media experience shouldn’t prevent anyone from starting.

We can master this crazy world of blogging we’ve grown to love. And going to conferences like Allume is the perfect way to get a jumpstart on all things blogging!

I’ll be there. And I’d love to meet you there too.

Which social media venues do you enjoy the most?

 

From Bandwagon Blogger to Blog-Trail Blazer @Allume <Tweet this!>

The most “successful strategy” for any blogger is to stay true to who we are.  <Tweet this!>

Blogging trends come and go. But who we are — at our core — remains the same.  <Tweet this!>