Skyscrapers are Moved When Dominoes Fall

Skyscrapers are moved when dominoes fall

Sometimes in life, we exist as one domino in a row of many, poised and positioned to fall in the most glorious ways … changing one another’s lives forever.

She emails to tell me of the farm lady with the blog. But I know nothing of blogs in January of 2011. And it’s not until I’m standing in line at the Ft. Lauderdale airport I pay attention. It’s her text this time, “You HAVE to get this book for your flight home….”

I download the book before I board the plane, and the five-hour flight seems only five minutes long as I pour over her profound and poetic words.

I scour her site and read every word, and it’s at the bottom I see it: a link to a place called (in)courage. I click on it, and am ushered into a world of writing I’ve never known before…

One which will change so much for me.

One  in which He’ll use even me, to give hope to other broken hearts.

“Because God intends to use each one of us to change the world.” ~@RichStearns [Tweet that]

I discover blogs. Countless blogs. With words, link-ups, and communities of real people.

But it’s not until September when I learn of The Relevant Conference (now called Allume). A conference for bloggers who long to be used in real and relevant ways, to bring the light of Christ to the world through their writing.

And the conference is already sold out.

But little did I know, even God can use Twitter to accomplish His plans.

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I stalk the Twitter stream and gain enough courage to send a tweet: “If you’re needing to sell your ticket, I’d love to buy one…”

And it’s a stranger named Denise in Bloom who responds. She doesn’t know me at all, but sweetly offers to watch for a ticket. And it’s through her help, a way is opened for me to go.

Less than two days later, with a last-minute conference ticket in hand, I quietly tweet to ask if anyone needs a roommate.

And this time it’s Annie at Home from New York who replies. She’d been on the waiting list and obtained a last-minute conference ticket too. We chat on the phone and it doesn’t take long to feel like we’ve always been friends.

But since Annie is driving to the conference, she won’t be there the first night I arrive.

So I meander onto Twitter again, to ask if anyone has room for me to stay with them for one night.

And it’s Erin from Home with the Boys who tweets back, generously offering me to stay with her and Brooketwo close friends offering to open up their room to welcome me, a complete stranger! Their kindness overwhelms.

Airplane Flying Over the Clouds

Before I know it I’m on a plane to Pennsylvania for my first blogging conference ever. I know no one and have only read a couple of blogs. And as the plane lands, I have no idea I’m about to encounter some of the most generous and kind women on the planet. Women whose dominoes are about to fall into mine.

“God creates elaborate plans with spiritual dominoes, and the chain reaction begins with one domino at a time.” ~@RichStearns [Tweet that]

We stand at baggage claim and watch the suitcases circle around. She tells me her name is Kat, and that she’s from Texas. And standing with her weight on one foot, she leans against her suitcase and asks about me. I tell her I’ve been blogging only 3 months about mercy and grace. And she fills my heart with encouraging words. Welcoming me to the blogging world and inspiring me to write as God leads.

I go to dinner that night with my new friend Annie, and we inconspicuously sit at a table in the back. But they’ve seated speakers at each table who rotate tables to meet us. And at our table I’m introduced to the down-to-earth and inviting Emily Freeman, the good girl full of grace, who interacts with us just like a close friend.

After dinner a woman with a smile as wide as Colorado tells me her name is Kristen. I tell her I’m new, and she tells me not to worry about that. Not one. little. bit. And throughout the conference, she tracks me down, and hugs me tight, time and time again. As if it’s her personal mission to make me feel like I matter and know I really belong.

Allume friends

At lunch the next day, I sit by a quiet girl with long flowing hair, who subtly leans over to say hi, and tells me our names rhyme: Myquillyn and Jacqueline. And we commiserate over the spelling challenges of our names and chuckle about the ways people get them wrong most every time. We chat about everyday down-to-earth things over salad and chicken, and I leave feeling better for having crossed her path.

With such an unusual name, I wonder if she blogs. And it’s then someone tells me that the Myquillyn I met, whose name rhymed with mine, is none other than The Nester. Who is also the sister of Emily Freeman. I had no. idea. And neither did she find the need to tell me. What humility and grace.

I work up my courage to approach Lisa Jo Baker, the host of Five Minute Friday. As a new blogger I’ve been learning to write with her community, and I blurt out my confession as soon as we meet face to face, as if to alleviate the secret guilt I’ve been carrying all three months of my blogging life.

“I have to admit to you I cheat on FMF posts,” I confess. “…I set the timer for five minutes, pause it every so often to think, and turn it back on to furiously type.”

She throws her head back in laughter, and hugs me tight like we’ve been friends for a decade, melting my anxiety into a puddle on the floor.

And across the room I recognize Christin in the lounge. Hers is one of the few blogs I’ve read. And I rush over to thank her for her words at Joyful Mothering. We eat cupcakes and talk into the evening.

Ann and Jacque 2011And it’s the next day, I meet the farm girl. Ann, full of grace. I wait at the end of the line, and when we talk, I cry the entire time. Eyes-pufffy, tears-pouring cry. And she locks her eyes on mine, as if I’m the only one in the room. And she tells me I am loved … that God wants to use me too.

Oh the grace and kindness of each heart I encounter.

Rich Stearns, president of World Vision, U.S. describes how God has big plans for us all … how He always uses ordinary people to change the world.

Yet in God’s story, we are dependent on one another. Because together we can do things we could never accomplish alone.

Did you know it’s been shown that if you create a chain of dominoes, each one 1 1/2 times the size of the previous one, the cumulative effect of their fall is exponential. So much so, that if the first domino in the chain is a mere 5mm high and 1mm thick, the 29th domino to fall would be the height of the Empire State Building?

One tiny domino falling with the tiniest force, has the potential to effect the kind of change that could fall a domino the size of the Empire State Building!

“Only God can multiply seemingly insignificant things to knock over skyscrapers.” ~@RichStearns

In His plan, God places us in the right place, perched and ready to fall at the right time, by His Divine providence alone.

And as He sends us opportunities, He whispers:

Lean in. And fall.

And when we do, He magnifies the results to accomplish things we never dreamed were possible.

Introductions and smiles, and conversations at meals … all of them connections.

One domino leaning over to fall the next, as God orchestrates it all in His time.

I become friends with Denise in Bloom, and in time become a contributing writer at Sisters in Bloom. I find sweet friends among the writing team there. And it is Amy Bayliss, one of those Sisters in Bloom, who gives me the life-changing advice and push I need to share my story of how Mercy Found Me.

“You are a domino precious in His sight. Be willing and say yes … be available to be used.” @RichStearns [Tweet that]

Through the random kindness of Erin and Brooke, we become friends. And in time I begin to write for The MOB Society, and later for Team Hope, the team of women who encourage weary mama-hearts at Brooke and Stacey’s place, Hope for the Weary Mom.

In time I figure out who Kat is and find the Hello Mornings community.

And I continue to receive Skype calls and cheerleading from the sweet and generous Kristen Strong.

Because of Lisa Jo, I become connected with (in)courage, leading an (in)couragers group. And I’m honored to participate in the video footage for (in)RL 2013, sharing my passion for community. And in more time, Christin emails me and invites me to write for the Allume blog.

Certainly when I arrived at the conference in 2011, I never anticipated how it would change my life. I never imagined how I’d encounter such gracious and humble women–women and writers without pretense, who display such a pure love for Christ.

His love compelled them to reach out in kindness to even me–a newcomer and nurse who never imagined she’d be a writer at all.

We are dominoes falling into one another, with skyscraper moments ahead.

“Because skyscrapers are moved when dominoes fall.” @RichStearns [Tweet that]

Are you ready for Allume?

Are you standing tall in your domino spot?

Are you ready to lean in and fall, that your life may change another?

As you prepare for Allume, poised and positioned in the exact place God intends, get ready sweet sisters.

Get ready for the divine appointments He has waiting for you.

May you expect them,

Watch for them,

And find them.

And as you do, may we one day see the skyscraper-size impact He accomplishes through each and every one of us.

One smile, one hug, and one conversation at a time.

I can’t wait to see you there!

 

How have you been changed by Allume?

What are you most looking forward to?

 

Photo Credit 

Jacque Watkins

Lover of heartfelt chats and chai tea lattes, Jacque can’t wait to connect with you. As a Labor & Delivery RN and mama to five, she fights to see God's gifts amidst her chaotic days. Over a decade ago, in the aftermath of an affair, Jacque was found by God’s mercy and changed by His grace. She's a mercy-lover and champion of second chances, and longs for you to know God loves you for you, and His grace is enough, no matter what. You can connect with Jacque on her blog Mercy Found Me, or on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

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When Comparison Crushes Your Heart and Steals Your Joy

When Comparison Crushes Your Heart and Steals Your Joy

It’s close to noon and she’s huffing and puffing, feeling the pressure to push.

Another nurse gives me a break, so I can inhale my food in the nurse’s lounge before my patient delivers. I escape for a while and open Feedly, to catch up on words I love, written by writers who make me better for reading.

And it’s the title of the last post I read, which stirs feelings that are always residing just beneath the surface: Comparisons Will Kick You in the Teeth and Hijack Your Dreams Every Time.

It reaches out and grabs me by the throat. And wouldn’t that title trigger a tsunami within any woman? As if comparison is one of the genes on the x chromosome.

I finish her post and I’m a mess–a tears-streaming, nose-running mess, as I realize my teeth have been kicked and my dreams are being hijacked. And it’s been happening for a long time.

Thankful I’ve eaten alone, I do my best to pull it together. Because when someone’s having a once-in-a-lifetime birth moment, it’s never good to lose your I’m-so-happy-for-you presence.

Her delivery ends up being all she hoped for–a moving moment without a dry eye in the room. But as I wipe off her squiggly vernix-covered newborn, crying and squinting under the warmer’s bright lights, my mind still ponders the post and questions still simmer in my mind…

Do I matter?

Am I good enough?

Do the words I write make any difference at all?

But the words of her post echo, pushing against my questions with the resistance of a fierce wind…

Don’t waste even a moment of your own beautiful life comparing it to mine…
Let’s choose to rejoice with one another…
Let’s not trample what we’ve been given in order to get to what we wish we’d got…

I marinate in her words for a few days, letting them soak and tenderize places deep inside.

And it’s on a walk, a few days later, I pass a planter filled with flowers of different sizes and at different stages; some budding, some blooming, and some just finishing their bloom.

When Comparison Steals Your Joy

And it’s as if God screams it to my heart:

Flowers don’t bloom all at the same time, and neither do any of you.

I stand stunned at the realization; convicted and relieved at the same time.

Convicted because comparison’s been crushing my heart and stealing my joy.

Why do I assume I should bloom alongside everyone else?

Why do I think I’m further behind than I should be?

Why am I never fully satisfied right where I am?

Yet relieved because I’ve been asking all the wrong questions … trampling all I’ve been given in an effort to try to get to what I wish I’d gotten, and failing to see the beauty that is my now.

The truth is, I’m in my own stage of development, and SO ARE YOU–the very stage God has planned from the beginning of time, for each one us. For now.

And when we long for the next thing, we are rejecting the now thing He gives. [Tweet that]

There are invisible moments before a bloom … preparation and work and cultivation … a maturing God longs to accomplish before the full beauty of our blooms can be realized.

God prepares all things and all circumstances.

He sets blooms in His time and in His way, to bless and beautify the whole world.

He cultivates a garden of alternating blooms, so their beauty will last over the longest time,

To bless the greatest number of people, for His purpose alone.

She was right. Comparison does kick us in the teeth and hijack our dreams. Every. Single. Time.

So will you join me?

Let’s save our teeth, and keep our dreams.

Let’s embrace our stage in God’s garden, allowing Him to bring our blooms in His time.

Let’s be faithful in our now thing and stop longing for our next thing… [Tweet that]

Each of us a member of a body…

Functioning together…

To bring the most glory to His name.

May we surrender our comparison, to be used by Him in the now thing He has planned for us, whatever that may be.

 

What does comparison do to your heart?

What is the now thing God is asking you to do?

How can we cheer you on?

Jacque Watkins

Lover of heartfelt chats and chai tea lattes, Jacque can’t wait to connect with you. As a Labor & Delivery RN and mama to five, she fights to see God's gifts amidst her chaotic days. Over a decade ago, in the aftermath of an affair, Jacque was found by God’s mercy and changed by His grace. She's a mercy-lover and champion of second chances, and longs for you to know God loves you for you, and His grace is enough, no matter what. You can connect with Jacque on her blog Mercy Found Me, or on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest.

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He Calls Me By Name: A Fresh Perspective on Personal Branding

A Fresh Perspective on Personal Branding“Hi there! I’m Gretchen.”

It’s how I introduced myself the first year I attended Allume. But no one recognized my name.

Until they saw my blog address scrawled on my nametag.

“Oh, you’re the little pink house!”

Well, actually, I am not the little pink house. That’s what I called my blog, because that was the color of our house when we got married.

But I smiled and said yes. In the sea of vaguely familiar faces, I was just glad to find someone who knew me–even if it wasn’t by name.

It didn’t take long before my Allume roomie Trina Holden started trying to convince me to rebrand as myself. And, despite several objections I had to the idea of rebranding, I began to consider the idea.

If you’ve wondered whether personal branding is right for you, perhaps you’ve asked these same questions, too.

Why would I use my name?

When I began to consider embracing my personal identity online, the verses about how Jesus calls His sheep by name kept echoing through my head. As I thought about the importance God placed on names throughout Scripture, I realized the significance of embracing my name as my brand. If names are that important to God, then wouldn’t He be glorified by my use of the name He impressed upon my parents’ hearts as my own?

“My name is not only known to Him—it is precious to Him. He is not only acquainted with but passionately interested in the details that make up my life. Nothing is too unpleasant a task for His ministering hand. He cares for me every bit as tenderly as I do my flock of seven [sheep]—every bit and a universe’s worth of more. And when I follow Him, my joy is second only to His.”
-Lanier Ivester in “He Calls Them By Name” on Kindred Grace

Our names are important to God.

With God we’re not a number, we’re a name He chose before we were born. In Biblical times, some parents were able to name their child without the help of today’s gender-revealing sonogram because God told them what they were having and what the child’s name would be (think Isaac, Solomon, John, and Jesus). Branding with my own name was simply an acknowledgement of His creation of me as a unique individual. (Click to Tweet that.)

“I chose personal branding because God’ vision for my words and my life is constantly evolving – by not choosing a ‘niche’ specific name, I have the freedom to grow my brand in any direction without starting fresh every time. Also, it has helped people identify me with my writing and my passions when we meet in real life – they put a literal ‘face’ to my online ‘name.’”
-Crystal Stine

Is using my name prideful?

It felt strange, almost prideful, to think about using my own name for my blog domain. And yet, I wondered if it was even more pretentious to bestow a “brand” upon my blog. Anything I could think of either lacked originality or would be as outdated as my “little pink house” within five years. Branding as myself was the simple answer. I sign my name on every email I write. I put my name in the return address of every letter I mail. Why should my blog be any different?

“When I started blogging in 2003, it seemed an obvious choice to connect my online presence with my name, like people would be meeting me online. I never thought of it as ‘branding’ nor did I think I was pointing a big finger at me rather than God. I felt that the online me was pretty similar to the real-life me, and that felt genuine. Sometimes I write blatantly about God just like I sometimes talk blatantly about God, and sometimes I talk and write about iron skillets. That’s Ann Kroeker, online or off.”
-Ann Kroeker

God’s Writers Have Used Personal Branding for Centuries

Biblical authors like Paul needed no explanation or certification except, “I, Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ.” There was nothing trendy about Paul: his tagline was the same as all the others. He was honest, straightforward, and humble. Paul’s name was what set him apart from the other apostles. And two thousand years later, we still know their books by their names. It’s not pride to let your work be associated with your name, it’s simply practical. (Click to Tweet that!)

“I am growing in my understanding of God’s vision for my life. Following Him is a day-by-day, walk by faith and that is as true in my personal life and family as it is in my ministry in this online space. In addition to a writing ministry, God has opened doors for speaking and teaching. Using a name specific domain erases some of the limits I tend to put on myself and allows me to follow whichever direction God leads.”
-Erika Dawson

Is now the time to rebrand using my name?

It was overwhelming to think about the rebranding process, but I knew it was time–and that it was easier to do it sooner than later. My first blogging conference signified a new season in both my blogging and my business, and my rebranding represented that change. Why shouldn’t my blog become a true extension of myself in name as well as in content?

“From a business perspective, it makes sense for the name on my book cover to match the name on my blog. For me, the move to personal branding was one way to be a good steward of my word-ministry. For years, my name was attached, as a byline, to news stories in many metro newspapers. Now, it’s attached to the Good News.”
-Jennifer Dukes Lee

God often changed people’s names to signify a new season or calling.

In the Bible, God changed people’s names to signify a change in direction, a new phase in their walk with Him. Sarai became Sarah at God’s command, her new name representing the coming fruit of her womb. Ruth’s mother-in-law Naomi changed her name to Mara to signify a season of mourning. Jacob became Israel when God revealed that He would be the father of a nation God would call His own. Changing my blog domain to my own name became a memorial stone on my blogging journey.

Rebranding can actually be a very natural part of taking the next step in what He’s called you to online. And, if done correctly it can actually strengthen your presence and impact online. Introducing yourself by name brings an authenticity to your online presence, and authenticity is a hot commodity.” (Click to Tweet that.)
-Trina Holden

Find out why @GretLouise @TrinaHolden and @AmandaMedlin_ chose personal branding!

Gretchen Louise:
“I wanted the freedom to just by myself online, whether interacting with clients or connecting with readers. Now that I’ve rebranded I don’t have to fit my posts to my blog’s brand or theme–my blog is a representation of me and everything I’m interested in, an extension of myself in name as well as content.”

Trina Holden:
“We are here to build relationship. We need to introduce ourselves the same way we do in real life—by announcing our name. I know this can sound a bit egotistical, but really, it’s not. You’re simply removing barriers and making it easy for people to find you and talk to you. It’s a favor to your friends and anyone you meet online to be consistent in your online identities. Having a solid brand is as simple as just being yourself wherever you go.” (from “The Best Personal Branding Advice I Ever Got Or Gave“)

Amanda Medlin:
“As a blogger, I struggled to find my niche. Although I loved my blog’s name, I sometimes felt trapped by it, as though I could only blog about natural living and natural parenting. Those are both very much a part of who I am, but just a part. When I chose to rebrand using my name I finally felt the freedom to blog from the season of life I found myself in, rather than trying to keep up with a specific theme or genre.”

Beginning Branding Tips

  • Choosing a domain name is a long-term decision. Use something you’ll still want to be known by in five or ten years. (If you’re single and hoping to be married, this may mean using your middle name rather than a last name.)
  • It’s a lot of work to change your domain name, but it’s easy to change the name or tagline on your website. Just because your blog address is yourname.com doesn’t mean you can’t use a different title or tagline for your blog!
  • There is no one size fits all branding advice. But it’s easier to start with your name than change to it later. As Trina says, “using your name will help you when and if the Lord calls you to opportunities beyond your blog.” (Click to Tweet that.)
  • Click here for more personal branding tips and resources.

“As an author, I have plans for many series and many books. I want my brand to extend past one book or one series and encompass anything I might write. It seemed easier to use my name as a umbrella to cover anywhere my imagination may take me!”
-Vicki V. Lucas

I rebranded in 2012 as Gretchen Louise, choosing just my first and middle names because it took Trina two years to learn how to spell my last name, let alone pronounce it. I changed my blog domain and redirected my old domain to my new one, changed my social media usernames (creating new accounts as necessary), and set up a new email address. It was a long process, but it was worth it to feel like I could truly be myself on my blog. And because I used my name this time, I don’t have to worry about rebranding again!

I’ve come to wholeheartedly embrace personal branding, and encourage my clients and anyone looking to solidify their brand to consider the practical simplicity of going by their God-given name. (Click to Tweet that.)

How about you–have you embraced personal branding?

I’d love to hear why!

Sincerely,
Gretchen Louise

Graphics and editorial input by Trina Holden.

Gretchen Louise

Gretchen Louise is a farmer’s wife and mommy to three curly-haired children. When she’s not working in the family business, hanging out laundry, or washing dishes, she writes in CSS, HTML, PHP—and English. You'll also find her blogging about inner beauty and outward adornment at Adornabelle, as well as managing the community over at Kindred Grace.

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