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!>

Breathing Room

Please give a shout out to Revell, a division of Baker Publishing Group!

Breathing Room (1)

Hello friends! We had so much fun with you all last year, and we’re thrilled that we get to come back and hang out with you once again at Allume 2014!

We are honored to be an Allume sponsor, coming alongside so many others with a mission to spread the gospel and to encourage and equip the women who attend through community with a purpose. It’s such a blessing to be a part of this conference, to hear the passionate testimonies, to share in the laughter and the tears.

We will be sponsoring lunch this year and are excited to bring you a phenomenal writer and speaker, Leeana Tankersley, author of the upcoming book Breathing Room, who will be sharing her heart for women, especially those who may feel overwhelmed by life—those who secretly struggle and yet put on a brave front. Many of you will relate to her battles with comparison and self-criticism, holding onto pain and hurt much like holding your breath, and will surely learn from Leeana how to exhale and let it go.

We are also excited to share with you that a few other Revell authors will be speaking at some of the sessions at Allume, including Emily Freeman, author of A Million Little Ways; Jessica Turner, author of the upcoming book The Fringe Hours; Amber Haines (soon to be published) and Emily Wierenga, author of the beautiful memoir Atlas Girl from Baker Books.

Don’t forget to stop by our booth and register for some great giveaways!

Many of you are familiar with our blog tour program, but if you are not reviewing for Revell Reads, be sure to check us out at

It’s pretty simple:

  • Sign up and select the categories you’re interested in.
  • Receive email invites for available blog tours.
  • Choose which titles you would like to review.
  • We’ll send out your complimentary copy or send you a NetGalley link for your e-copy.
  • Write an original review within the blog tour dates and post to your blog and at least one consumer website.
  • Submit your link to Revell Reads.

We hope to see you at Allume!


Groove and Praise? Yeah, We Got This


Welcome to Shazzy Fitness!!

Years ago, long before the age of Zumba, I used to drive around Atlanta, following my favorite hip-hop dance instructors. For someone who is “rhythmically-challenged”, there is an indescribable feeling of a sort of…well…euphoria …when you find a dance class, with a teacher you can actually follow and most importantly, with music that makes you wanna move.

And once you found that class – it changed from being a “workout” to more of a hobby of sorts. Something you did, that you loved, that you wanted to get better at. Something that you would plan your week around and that made you smile when you thought about it.

And for that entire 55 minutes of grapevines and squares and single, single doubles, you were lost in the dream of being the dancer you had always longed to be.

In reality of course, I was still oh so average. Yeah, I could follow the mechanics (given several months of study & practice) but I never had the “flow”. That natural grace and beauty that’s inherent to every natural born dancer. It was during that time that I started to ponder the passion I felt for the “process” – the music, the instructor, the moves – and how that passion might be channeled in other ways.

Fast forward about 10 years. Zumba is all the rage, everybody’s doing it. Hip-hop dance classes are still popular and offered in countless classes around the city. I decide to try a few classes. For some reason (maybe cause I’m a mom now?), I am much more aware of the moves and the lyrics. Have they always been this suggestive? …this explicit? … this well… denigrating?

Does it have to be this way? Can’t we have dance and have fun and have music that we actually like and wanna dance to? And could that music be inspiring and uplifting and spirit-filled, without being too preachy or worse, lame?

That part gets most people. Is it really ok for Christians to dance? Ok for us to have fun? And with Christian music you say? Answer: YES we can. YES it is ok. YES! YES! YES!

Don’t believe me? Check out who we are and what we do.

I am a woman of faith. I am a wife and I am a mom. I remain a very reluctant entrepreneur still trying to figure this whole thing out.

Shazzy Fitness is for us. It’s for your best friend and your mother and yes, your grandmother. It’s high-energy, calorie-burning, easy-to-follow and yet still for all ages and all fitness levels. It will touch your soul and ignite your spirit. And best of all, you will have FUN. I promise!

I really hope to see you at our Gathering. And if I don’t see you, please come find me, and let me know what you think of our Youtube video.

I’ll be the one with the bright smile and hugging everybody I meet.


Shazzy Fitness is  ​looking for enthusiastic affiliates to help spread messages of fun, faith and fitness through the holiday season and into the New Year.  Sign up for our affiliate program AND our Gathering by October 14th and get entered to win a $50 gift card! Winner and gift card will be awarded at the Gathering – must be present to win! Click here to sign up for our affiliate program and earn 40% through January 31, 2015!


“SHAPE what the Father gave ya”
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 dance music are perfect for moms and kids, plus it’s easy-to-learn  – even if you’ve never danced before!
Join this AWESOME hip-hop dance party as lead choreographer Apollo shows step-by-step how to do the dance moves from from the hit DVD “Shazzy Fitness: A Time to Dance”.
um…did we mention door prizes? :)
​We think we have the best Christian hip-hop dance workout on the planet :)

Check out a sample of our moves and the music at

Hope to see you there!


Kristy McCarley

CEO, Shazzy Fitness

speaker interview with ashley & jamin mills

He’s tall and thoughtful, she’s short and spunky, and together they are just quite honestly a super cute couple!  Ashley and Jamin Mills have always loved creating things together, and so after years of working on their home and sharing projects on Ashley’s blog, The Handmade Home, it’s became clear that this blogging thing wasn’t just for Ashley, but for their whole family.  So Jamin quit his day job and now they are living, working, and creating together full time!  They are the family we’d all love to have next door and we are thrilled to pieces to have them join us to share more about their journey into full-time blogging this fall at Allume.  You’re going to love them if you don’t already…we most certainly do!  Please enjoy getting to know Ashley and Jamin Mills!

Jamin & Ashley MIlls

When was the last time you chatted with your neighbor?

When we both rolled our other neighbor’s house.

If you could only do one thing for a whole year what would you want it to be?

Dance like an octopus.

If you could learn to do anything what would it be?

Michael Jackson’s Thriller. We tried to learn it on a cruise and failed miserably.

What do you do with 30 minutes of free time?

Wrestle an alligator.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Wait. What? We have to grow up?

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

Ashley: Italy. The shoes. The art. The food. How can you lose?
Jamin: Tahiti. The diving. The ocean. The hammocks. Catch ya on the flip side.

What’s in your purse?

Ashley: My wallet, a bunch of misplaced receipts, and half eaten snacks from our kids. Maybe a couple of ants. Jamin’s purse is more organized than mine.


Head on over to get to know this hilarious and delightful couple a little better :: Website /// Twitter /// Facebook

speaker interview with jessica turner

Jessica Turner is the mastermind behind her blog The Mom Creative.  She plans parties, writes blogs, scrapbooks, makes a living on her blog, is mom to 2 littles with one on the way, AND she holds down a full time job.  Seriously, I’m tired even after just writing all of that.  She is amazing, and is bringing her spirit and knowledge to share with us at Allume this year. For real, put your hands together…this woman is incredible!

Jessica Turner - Allume 2014

What was your favorite food as a kid?
My mom’s homemade lasagna. It’s still a favorite today!

What chore do you despise the most?
There are too many to list!

When was the last time you chatted with your neighbor?
This past weekend.

If you could only do one things for a whole year what would you want it to be?
I would love to spend a year traveling the world. I have not had many opportunities to travel outside the country and dream of seeing more of God’s beautiful creation.

If you could learn to do anything what would it be?
I’d love to learn how to do mosaic tile or painting.

If I was coming to your house for dinner, what would we have? 
Something that I made in the crock pot because it is my favorite! Probably red wine pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, salad and bread.

What are your 5 favorite books?
I love fiction. A few favorites: The Light Between Oceans, City of Dreams, Someone Knows My Name, The Orphans of Race Point and The Shoemaker’s Wife.


Jessica is wife, mom, marketing professional, and founder of the lifestyle blog The Mom Creative. Find out more about Jessica by getting to know her here :: Website /// Twitter /// Facebook /// Instagram /// Pinterest

End Bible Poverty With The Seed Company

God’s Word is life-giving. By it the oppressed are liberated, the lost are reconciled. His Word makes a tangible, daily difference in our lives. His Word changed my life. tea_and_bible   Not having access to the Bible is a hard-to-grasp concept, right? Bibles are everywhere. In libraries and bookstores. Church pews and hotel nightstands. Tucked away in the backseats of our cars. But around the world? There are 1 billion people who don’t have His Word in the language they understand best. That’s why I joined the Bible translation movement. I didn’t move off to some unknown land. Just a cubicle surrounded by everyday office artifacts. Laptops. Printers. And books. Piles of books. I walked by those books everyday. Never giving them a thought. Why? Because I couldn’t read them in the language I know best. To me, they were just piles of books with foreign titles. Meaningless. Those books were Bibles. Can you imagine? There I was, working to #endbiblepoverty and completely ignorant to the nearness of God’s Word. Likewise, there are 1 billion people who pass by piles of English Bibles and Hindi Bibles and Spanish Bibles because they can’t read them. Africa_113 copy   It’s an injustice we can change. That’s why we are coming to Allume. We know you can help people experience life transformation. People like the Angika and Quechua and Tetun Belu. And a billion more. It starts with prayer. Prayer illuminates the way forward. For all of us. Join us in the Prayer Room at Allume and let’s pray for each other. And then let’s pray for the nations. Tetun Belu_2012_06 copy   The Word became flesh and blood, and moved into the neighborhood (John 1:14 MSG).@justmarilynn, staff @theseedcompany

A Future Free of HIV

Please welcome Blood: Water Mission.

This past spring, my husband James and I welcomed our first child. Watching my belly grow was a constant reminder of how fortunate we truly are.

You see, we work for two organizations that provide health care to HIV-infected and affected people in Africa, and we have been given a unique window into the lives of many girls, women and babies in countries like Kenya, Uganda, Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Central African Republic.

Blood Water Mission

Try to imagine being a mother of three young children and praying that your children will die before you. As an HIV-positive widow in Kenya, my friend Pamela’s greatest fear was that she would die and no one would be left to care for her three children, who were also sick. That prayer was her reality.

In Lwala, Kenya, 16-20 percent of the adult population is HIV-positive. The Lwala Community Hospital is providing more than 1,000 HIV patients with life-saving medical care. Many of these patients are moms and moms-to-be. In fact, 15 percent of pregnant women in Lwala are HIV-positive.

Blood Water Mission 2

When a HIV-positive mother is pregnant, her baby is at risk to HIV exposure in three different phases: during pregnancy, during labor, and during breast feeding. That’s a reality that is changing. Today, HIV-positive mothers not only have the ability to prevent the transmission of HIV to their unborn babies, but they can also live to flourish and care for their children as they grow up. When HIV-positive women are provided with antiretroviral therapy before, during, and after pregnancy this reduces mother to child transmission of HIV to 2 percent or less.

At Blood:Water we believe a future free of HIV is possible, and a key place to start is with the babies. Stop the spread to newborns, slow the spread of the virus across the world, and eventually, wipe it out altogether. But achieving this will not be easy. Every pregnant mom will need to be tested. Each woman who is HIV-positive will need to be enrolled in antiretroviral therapy, which is lifelong drug treatment. These mothers will need special social and educational support to make sure they understand how to reduce the risk of transmission during breastfeeding. HIV-exposed babies will need to be tracked and tested to ensure they remain HIV free, until they are weaned from breastfeeding.

Blood Water Mission 3

This is all possible, but it takes careful planning and it takes resources. Blood:Water has found that $1,000 will save an HIV-exposed baby from infection and give a mother the medicine, education, and support she needs. We are defeating AIDS one baby at a time.

As my husband and I welcome our newborn baby, we invite you to join us in the fight to end the HIV/AIDS crisis in Africa. Will you join us?

Jena Lee Nardella

Blood:Water Co-Founder & Chief Strategy Officer

Our First Words

My son, Nathan, will be 10 months old tomorrow, and he’s just started babbling. His quiet voice, trying out sounds for the first time, is a much welcomed change from the loud screeches of the last few months, let me tell you!

My daughter’s first word was “mama”, much to my heart’s delight, so, of course, I’ve been saying “mama” over and over to my boy, in hopes that he might catch on and follow suit. No luck. This kid gives me nothing but smiles. No matter how many times I say “mama”, he just grins, goes in for an open-mouth baby kiss, and grins some more.

For daddy, however, it’s a different story entirely. Nathan LOVES his daddy. Jon enters the room and Nathan’s head snaps to attention, and then he starts clapping. Talk about a warm reception! So, what do you think my son’s first word is?

“Dada.” Obviously.

Not just his first word, mind you, his ONLY word. And now he says it all day long. While he’s eating, while he’s playing, while I’m rocking him to sleep – “dada…dada…dada…dada…” He says it to me, he says it to himself… it’s his answer to everything!

As I put Nathan in his crib for a nap this afternoon, he clasped his hands together and whispered, “dada,” right before he fell asleep. And I watched him with a melting heart while my son taught me his first lesson about the Lord.

His daddy’s name is the first thing off Nathan’s tongue in the morning. It’s the last thing he says before he goes to sleep. It’s the song that he sings all day long, the focal point of every “conversation” he carries. It’s the most natural thing – why would he say anything different? He loves his daddy.


I’m trying to be more mindful of this in my own life. So often, I’m guilty of chasing my own agenda as soon as my feet hit the floor, but I want to be a woman who pursues God first. I want my Father’s name to be the first thing on my lips in the morning. I want His love story to be the song I sing to my children all day long. I want to write words for you that carry His hope, that speak of His plan for your life. I want to talk with Him before I fall asleep, acknowledging that everything in my day is because of Him. I want my words to be a natural extension of our relationship, because why would I say anything different? I love my Abba, and more incredibly, He loves me.

My own agenda aside, I want to live my days as a wife, a mom, and a writer who shares the hope of salvation, every moment of the day.

The adoration that my son has for my husband serves as a reminder for me, that I have a Father who is more than worthy of my adoration. My son’s singular word reminds me that my own words need a singular focus as well.

May we all be challenged to be mindful of our words, both spoken and written, that they may reflect the glory of Christ in the everyday.

Finding Joy in “Enough”

A warm welcome to Compassion International.

Discuss: What has God given you “enough” of? Write it down on a piece of paper.


My name is Olive Aneno. I’m a social worker in Atlanta, Georgia. My family and I belong to a local church and are surrounded by friends and family who love us. In my free time I play on a recreational volleyball league and spend time with my four-year-old son, Felix. Thankful for a safe home and plenty of food on our table, we have all we need.

This hasn’t always been true. As a young girl, I lived in the Kitgum district of Northern Uganda. My sisters and I lived with our grandparents, Baba and Cara, in a circle of family huts. Kitgum was a rural community where families grew most of what we ate, including oranges, mangoes, sweet potatoes, peanuts and corn.

When we had extra food from the harvest we’d carry it to our church, where my grandfather Baba was the pastor, to share with families in need. Other families did the same with their extras. Sometimes we had enough food; other times we did not. In all circumstances, Baba assured us that we could put our hope in God. He taught us that, because all we have belongs to God, we should use what we need and we offer our “extra” to others.

Today that’s a value I’m trying to nurture in Felix. Graciously, Felix consistently has enough: enough family, enough water, enough hope, enough safety, enough education and enough food. In fact, he’s probably like a lot of kids you know. He loves pancakes and mac-and-cheese. He’s dying to ride a big yellow school bus to school next year. He plays educational games on his tablet. He clicks Lego blocks together. And, like most kids, he’s learning to share his toys with his friends.

As you come to the Allume workshop on “Mo-omm, Why Can’t I Have a ________?”, as you and I purpose together to live from enough, we’ll all be learning what it means to share with our friends from the abundance God has given.

Scripture: Philippians 4:11-13

I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength.

Pray: Thank God for the variety of ways that you have access to “enough.” Pray for those who don’t have “enough” and ask God how he wants you to share your “more than enough.”

Action Item: Tape your “enough” list to your fridge. Then, this week, and this month, notice where God has provided “enough” in your life and add to your list.

Visit Compassion’s website.

speaker interview with emily freeman

One would be hard pressed to meet a kinder or more eloquent writer.  Emily Freeman, certainly not a new Allume family member but nonetheless, we wanted to give you a peek into why we love her so much. Her words, both written and spoken spark a creativity and encouragement that few are blessed with.  She is admittedly quirky, nerdy, introverted with a huge splash of gracefulness.  Sweet friends, meet Emily Freeman ::

Emily Freeman

When was the last time you chatted with your neighbor?
Last night – we live in a cul-de-sac and always see our neighbors outside. My husband’s brother and his family live next door so we are always hanging out with them. One of our favorite places to be at our house is in the grassy area in the center of our cul-de-sac where we sit on benches and watch the kids play. It’s simple and it’s home.

What sound do you love?
The sound of a southern summer night.

If you could pick anyone as a mentor who would you pick?
Ruth Haley Barton.

What is something new you learned last week?
That Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s baby North is a GIRL. (What?! I thought she was a boy THIS WHOLE TIME. I haven’t been paying close enough attention. That’s what I get for canceling my People Magazine subscription).

What do you miss most about being a kid?
Kittens and the ice cream truck.

What’s in your purse?
Phone, makeup bag, Target receipts, wallet, church bulletin, a pair of socks, a checkbook, lots of pens, random change, empty gum wrappers, Tums, clear nail polish and Advil.

Emily has blogged faithfully for eight years, leading to exciting opportunities like the publishing of three books: Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life (2011), Graceful {For Young Women} (2012), and A Million Little Ways(2013).

Find out more about Emily : Website /// Twitter /// Facebook