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 

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?

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.

3 Ways to Kickstart Your Writing

This summer, I took an extended blogging break. We were moving from one end of California to the other, and between toddler-chasing and baby-growing, I had to let writing go for a season.

Even more, though, I felt the Lord calling me into something new. To focus fully on my family, accept my limits, and trust that I wouldn’t lose all of my readers if I decided to be quiet for a time.

So, I obeyed. It was hard, but wonderful.

Now, though, that season has come to an end. We’re all settled in (except for a few pesky boxes), and I’ve got the writing itch again. But where to start? What to say? When to write? I’m in a place where I’ve got to find my blogging groove all over again.

As summer comes to an end, I’m guessing many of you are in a similar place. So, today, I’d like to share three ways to kickstart your writing. Whether you’re coming out of a quiet season, like me, or just need a renewed focus, there are three key things you can do.

kickstart your writing

1. Pray

When you’re getting ready to craft words and pour your heart onto the page again, it’s hard to figure out where to begin. Prayer is essential! Bring your quiet heart, your empty hands, and your will to the feet of the cross. Ask God for your message, your story. It’s His name and His glory we’re writing for in the first place – He will direct our steps.

2. Plan

Oooh, planning is my favorite part! Once you’re back in the writing frame of mind, the ideas might be flowing like crazy! What does your first post back say? Do you start a new series? A new eBook project? There’s a lot to figure out. Take a few hours away if you can, and devote some time to planning what your writing is going to look like now. After a season of quiet, chances are your writing is going to look different than it did before. Allow yourself some grace, and give yourself the freedom to take things in a new direction or keep a new schedule.

My two favorite blog planning tools are Intentional Blogger and the “How They Blog” Blog Planning Kit These resources both have great printable worksheets for you to go through to create a mission statement, writing schedule, project planning, and more! I took both of these to Panera (along with some fun colored pens, of course!) for a blog planning evening. Afterwards, I had so much more focus and direction for where God wanted me to take my writing ministry. Planning is priceless!

3. Persist

Like I said, things are going to look different after a break. During my own writing break, my stats dwindled a bit, and gmail tabs were introduced. Both of those events meant that my readership was not as engaged as they previously had been. I now needed to cultivate that sense of community again, provide solid content, and give people a reason to read. I’m still working on rebuilding a bit, and some days it would be easy to just throw up my hands and give up. But I know, without a doubt, that writing is an important part of walking in God’s will for my life. So, persistence is key. It’s important that I keep doing what He’s asked me to be doing, no matter what the numbers look like!

Now it’s your turn! Tell us, did you take a writing break over the summer? What did you learn in the quiet? What’s your best tip for returning to the blogging world?

A story and a blogger’s prayer…

A Blogger's Prayer via @Allume

I was nervous when I attended Allume last year. In preparing myself to go, imagining meeting blogging friends included fighting feelings of being in middle school again, petrified at the thought of seeing everyone in real life and them not liking what they see, when they see me, and fearing being left on the outside of the circle — echoes from junior-high taunting still haunting

Yet, as real as those paralyzing fears may be, they weren’t my greatest concern. The condition of my heart was. Would I leave Allume wanting to make a name for myself? Would I leave feeling small and shameful about it, with the only way to rectify it being — pursue becoming big?

My fears weren’t realized, in no accounts, especially with the matters of my heart. The people I met were people. Just people, and beautiful ones, too. Realizing that dispelled most of my insecurities. And, I left Allume last year with new friendships made, and a greater desire to serve God, my family, and the readers I already had.

I don’t know how they did it. Every keynote speaker, and breakout session speaker, big bloggers and smaller ones alike, had woven into each of their talks the same message — your relationship with God and people, especially the ones in your own household, are the most important things to focus on. Period. Only the Holy Spirit could have orchestrated such unity.

 

At the end, my heart’s cry wasn’t for greater numbers, it was for a greater passion to seek and please God.

 

Yet, I’m human and broken. In the seasons between, I let go of what I knew to be true. Somewhere along the way I gave my blog away. In my effort to do what I thought I was supposed to do as a blogger, I began to sacrifice too many of the wrong things.

I lost control of my yes and no. I was saying yes for all the wrong reasons and saying no to all the wrong things, with people-pleasing all mixed in to create a toxic mess. I sacrificed things I was never meant to; my walk with God, my health, my children, my husband, my home, my true self. This summer, my one week blog break turned into two months, and I’ve slowly come back to blogging. Though, I am not the same.

Blogging has a different purpose for us individually, and collectively the same for all of us who call ourselves Jesus followers. Everything we do should be motivated by a desire to bring God glory. We live our purpose to represent Him on this earth, so others would know that Jesus was sent by the Father. It’s our holy privilege, even in blogging. We differ in how we go about it, and that depends on how we were designed by our Creator. But that’s another post, entirely.

Today, I surrender, again. I surrender it all. My prayer has become more fervent, “Let Your will be done in this place, and not mine, Lord.”

 

And maybe you can make it a blogger’s prayer for you, too?

 

May my blog be where others may find the Way, the Truth and the Life. 

May my blog never deplete my relationship with You, God, nor my family.

May it only ever point the way to the cross, and be a beacon of light for those who have lost their way to You.

May I be a faithful servant to the precious readers you have entrusted, no matter if they read quiet, and no matter how long they may stay. And as they grace these pages may it be Your grace they find.

And no matter where You may take me from here, no matter what I may find along the way, and I know there will be many distractions vying for my turn to the left or the right, may my most passionate pursuit always be of You.

And to the Father, I echo Your words, Jesus. “My food is to do the will of Him who sent me. And to finish His work.” John 4:34 

“May I glorify You on earth
By completing down to the last detail
What You assigned me to do.”

John 17:4 MSG

In Jesus Name. Amen.


Still living a life surrendered,

Michele-Lyn

Why Every Blogger Needs an Email Newsletter

Why Ever Blogger Needs an Email Newsletter by @TrinaHolden on #Allume

When you read yet another post enthusiastically encouraging you to start a newsletter, what do you think?

Probably the same thing I did for a long time: “That’s advice for bigger bloggers, bloggers who are marketing something, or bloggers with a clear idea of where they’re going online. But definitely not for me.”

But today I’m going to give you two key reasons why any blogger, big or small, casual or focused, ministry or marketing minded, would both enjoy and benefit from creating a newsletter. And then I’m gonna tell you exactly how to get started with the help of my techie, friend, Gretchen. Are you ready? Here we go!

1. Email is Tried and True

In the busy summer months, or anytime you don’t have a lot of time for the computer, what’s the last thing you hang on to? That’s right—your inbox. Facebook may get neglected, your favorite blogs pile up in your RSS reader, but when you just have a few moments, you still check your email faithfully. Why? Because email remains the most trustworthy way for people to contact you, and for you to collect information that’s important to you.

It’s also the most assured way that you can get in touch with your readers. Facebook’s algorithms may squeeze your statuses out of their feed, they may have forgotten to switch their RSS reader when Google reader died, but email remains steadfast. You don’t have to fight to be heard on Twitter or seen on Pinterest—when you offer your readers the chance to connect with you via a newsletter, they’re asking you right into their private inbox where it’s much quieter, and a personal note from a friend or blogger they enjoy will probably get top billing. Instead of fighting for attention on a busy street, you’ve been invited to the kitchen table to share your heart over a cup of coffee.

2. Email is Personal and Private

Have you struggled to connect deeper with your audience, pouring words out of your heart, but rarely hear even an echo back? There are several reasons (besides the hurry of life) that keep people from giving feedback on posts.

  • Your reader may not be as tech savvy as you and has trouble commenting no matter how easy you make it (a very dear relation of mine would certainly fall into this category!).
  • Your reader may have been too deeply moved by your post to be comfortable pouring their heart out in a place as public as a comment form.
  • Your reader may have a question or a concern they don’t feel like airing publicly.

Email resolves all of these issues, encouraging your readers to respond to you in a way that is familiar (“simply reply to this message!”) and private. When they realize that their communication with you will go straight to you and no one else, you may be amazed at how they open up, feedback increases, and relationship deepens.

Do you begin to see how even you and your audience may benefit from an email exchange? It’s the perfect tool for a deeper, more reliable communication with your audience. With a newsletter you can transition from one-way communication to a rich, personal dialogue with your readers in the comfort of your inboxes. So, let’s get started!

Gretchen Answers Your Newsletter FAQ

I know by now your head is full of questions about how this works and how much it costs. So my friend Gretchen is here to answer your questions:

How much does it cost to build an email list?

It’s free! I recommend MailChimp or Mad Mimi, and both are free for limited emails per month to less than 2,000 subscribers. (Check out the price breakdowns for more frequent emails and other services here.)

Isn’t this what FeedBurner or Jetpack already does with my latest posts?

Yes and no. You can use MailChimp or Mad Mimi to send out your posts by email (it’s called RSS to email). But what Trina is talking about here is offering an additional subscription option, a personal newsletter, directly from you to your readers’ inboxes.

I don’t know anything about coding—will I be able to set this up?

Both MailChimp and Mad Mimi are super easy to use, and have great tech support and helpful tutorials. Advanced signup form configuration may require coding help from a VA or designer, but setting up an email list and sending out a newsletter is pretty simple.

How do I get people to subscribe?

Put the signup form in your blog sidebar and on your Facebook page, create a special “subscribe” page on your site, Tweet about your newsletter from time to time, offer a free download exclusively to your subscribers, etc.

How do I get started?

Choose a service like MailChimp or Mad Mimi, set up your “list”, and get started creating your first campaign (that’s the fancy term for “newsletter”)!

Click here to check out Gretchen’s detailed guide to creating and building an email list over at gretchenlouise.com.

Now, what to put in this here letter?

Well, there are many types of newsletters, but the goal of most of the good ones I’ve received seems to be to serve the reader either info, inspiration, or a juicy combination of both.

The Informational Newsletter

Includes tips and tricks your audience would expect to get from you, plus multiple links to further content on the subject of the email, either from your blog or other’s. (Example: Amy Lynn Andrews)

The Inspirational Newsletter

Got a really special message the Lord has put on your heart for your readers this month, or a great new idea that’s helping you on your journey? Choose to make it newsletter content over a blog post. Perhaps include links to other related posts on your blog or books that have been inspiring you this month. (Example: Emily Freeman)

The Blog Wrap Up Newsletter

This newsletter, which is basically a synopsis of what your blog has offered in the last week or month, is a great way to serve your reader who’s been too busy to visit your blog every day or keep up with their RSS feed. Give them a brief rundown of what you’ve been writing about, and let them choose the links they follow. It can be automated through RSS to email campaigns, or you can code it yourself. (Example: Jeff Goins is one of many bloggers who offer this option in addition to his weekly Inspirational-style Newsletter.)

The Personal Update Newsletter

Do you have news or thoughts you’d rather not broadcast to the whole world, but still want your readers to know about? Consider using your newsletter in it’s simplest form—a traditional, newsy, heartfelt letter, just what you’d share if you were having coffee together. (Example: My newsletter falls into this category, though I’ve been inspired by all of the above styles at one time or another in the past year since I’ve been sending a newsletter.) If you do want your news to stay private to people’s inboxes, MailChimp gives you the option to disable social sharing, etc.

As you can see, there’s a whole slew of options to mix and match into the newsletter you’re uniquely equipped to write to your readers.  Once you decide what you want to convey, let the fun of deeper connection begin!

My Best Tip for Learning to Craft a Great Newsletter

My final tip for creating a good newsletter is to subscribe to some great ones! Besides the ones mentioned above, you may enjoy the newsletters offered by some of our very own Allume writers: ErikaGretchenJill, Kayse, KrisNatasha, Tricia, and yours truly. (And if you’re an Allume attendee this year, don’t forget to sign up for Allume’s own newsletter!)

Do you receive a newsletter you love? Please share the sender’s blog address in the comments, as I’m looking to fill my inbox with fresh inspiration! And if you have a newsletter, do tell us where we can sign up!

 

Tweetables:
  • Email was the first way to connect online, and it remains the best method to get in touch with people. (Click to Tweet)
  • Newsletters: Not just for bigger bloggers! (Click to Tweet)
  • Want to connect more deeply with your readers? Try a Newsletter!  (Click to Tweet)

5 Ways You Know You’re Doing Too Much

 

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I am a “go-go-go” person. I seem to somehow involve myself in everything. If I see a need, I usually volunteer. This isn’t a practice I’m encouraging you to emulate-but instead it’s something I’ve lately realized is quite a problem. After years of overcommitting myself, I now see a pattern. It’s a cycle of “go-go-go” followed by a swift crash and burn. When I fill my calendar to the max, my body eventually becomes physically spent and my motivation to be involved in anything outside of sleep waivers.

As writers, mom’s working inside or outside the home, wives, friends, daughters, disciples, and countless other roles, we tend to get involved everywhere, don’t we? We see a need, and we jump in.

And I wonder, have you stopped to look at how this lifestyle is affecting you and those around you? Do you burn-out? Do you recognize when a burn-out is around the corner? Do you recognize when you’ve overcommitted yourself? Only recently have I begun to slow down and truly seek His agenda for my time and energy. With that said:

Here are 5 Ways you know you’ve committed to too much….

  1. You feel like you’re just ‘going through the motions’
  2. You neglect other responsibilities {family, home, job, etc.}
  3. You start to dread the things you normally love
  4. Your body tells you so {‘Can I just get a nap, please?’}
  5. You neglect your time with Jesus

A few years ago I had a very wise friend tell me (and I’m paraphrasing), “a need doesn’t constitute a calling“. This phrase runs through my head often. I now realize that I must sift very carefully through the needs and opportunities laid before me. Just because a ministry volunteer position opened up or someone needs a leader for VBS, doesn’t mean it is my duty, or my calling to step into those roles {even if it is a passion of mine!}. We must go to the Lord over each opportunity presented to us.

Sometimes us ‘go-getter’ types can get caught filling our calendars with what others think we’re supposed to be doing, rather than with what we really should be doing. Sometimes we neglect to pray about who He may want leading a particular ministry, or contributing to specific blog. Maybe He has that role reserved for someone else, and it’s our responsibility to turn down the opportunity on their behalf. Not only will this bless this intended participant, but it could also bless your life in ways not immediately apparent. Perhaps He wants to give you some much needed time to breathe and focus on your family. Maybe He wants you to focus more on your personal blog. Have you thought about that? Sometimes it is our job to pass on opportunities in favor of other women, women who may need the encouragement of another to step up and lead.

If you understand your purpose, it is easier to set boundaries.

-Hula Hoop Girl, by September McCarthy

Each season of life brings new opportunities and new limitations. Because He is the ultimate Ruler in our lives, He deserves to control our schedule, honing in on what we’re called to do for Him in each season. We must ask Him to show us when and how we can step back, give another an opportunity, and determine when He has truly opened a door He wants us to walk through.  We must properly sift through what’s on our respective plates, for if we do, He will not neglect to lead us exactly to where He wants us!

Happy sifting, sisters!

By,  Mandy Scarr

 

3 Truths About Social Media

3 Truths About Social Media

I hear the rumbles every time Facebook makes a change. I’m going to quit Facebook. I like Google+ way better.

And just like that, bloggers everywhere are ready to drop one of the most popular social media networks. Not because their readers have abandoned it, but because the bloggers themselves are fed up with it.

I shake my head and smile. Next month they will be frustrated with the new social media network they’ve chosen, because no one is on there.

The truth is, social media is consumer-driven. It is all about the relationships you are building with the people who are already there. And you can’t have social media relationships with your readers if you abandon the place they like best to hang out.

Of course, when it comes to complaining about social media, it’s not only Facebook that gets the blame. Twitter isn’t conversational any more. Everyone preschedules their Tweets: no one is ever really “there”. And too often, the negativity is what drowns out everything else. But as Christian bloggers, we need to lead the way in shining Christ’s light in social media as well as everywhere else we go online.

Here are three truths about social media to remember when we start to feel disillusioned:

1. Social media is consumer-driven.

It doesn’t matter how many fabulous posts I make over at Google+ if my tribe isn’t there to read them. The first rule of choosing a social media network is to find out where your readers are, and go there. Social media is about where the consumer is, not about where the producer would rather be.

When the majority of my friends and family are on Google+, then I will consider hanging out there more than Facebook. But maybe your tribe is on Twitter and never hangs out on Facebook. Perhaps LinkedIn is where you need to be making contacts. Or it just might be that those up and coming Google+ users are the readers for you. Wherever your readers are, go there. But unless they are techies, don’t expect them all to follow you somewhere new: another social media network is the last thing most people want.

2. The purpose of social media is to build relationships.

No matter which social media network we’re on, we need to remember the primary purpose of social media is about building relationships. It’s not about getting the most likes or the greatest interaction as judged by a computer: it’s about the real interaction of conversation and relationships.

Yes, it behooves bloggers to be good stewards of their platforms. It’s a good use of time to study Facebook marketing techniques and best Twitter practices. But no algorithm can measure the eternal heart-impact of a Facebook post. No graph can show the value of relationships formed through social media.

3. Social media needs good leaders.

What social media really needs is good leaders, who will do what they wish others would do, right where they are at. Miss the conversations that used to happen on Twitter? Bring them back. Feel like no one is sharing your Facebook photos? Share the photos of others.

No one wants to listen to a whiner. Negativity isn’t going to generate more likes, and complaining about one social media network isn’t going to gain you follows on another. Let’s raise the bar for the content we’re creating and sharing. Let’s set the standard high for our social media posts. Let’s lead the way in being positive and “doing unto others” right where we are in social media. 

Tweetables:
  • 3 Truths About Social Media – to remember when we start to feel disillusioned (Click to Tweet)
  • Social media is consumer-driven. (Click to Tweet)
  • No algorithm can measure the eternal heart-impact of a Facebook post. (Click to Tweet)
  • Let’s lead the way in being positive right where we are in social media. (Click to Tweet)

5 Ways to Honor your Husband with your Writing

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When J and I got married (4 years ago today!), God gave us a story. Yes, He gave us the story of how we met {totally ordained by Him}, but He also gave us a story from our honeymoon. I knew this testimony was not something I was to keep inside and knew God wanted me to share it. I knew He was supposed to gain glory from His redemptive work. But how would J feel about me airing our ‘dirty laundry’?

For a few years after our honeymoon, I prayed and I waited. J fully agreed that I was supposed to share this story, he just needed some time to process it. After a time of prayer one day, God gave me the go-ahead to ask J for permission. I wasn’t a blogger at that point, but I was and always have been a writer. I knew God wanted me to write about it, I knew He wanted me to share, but would J be on board with it? After a discussion, J gave me permission to begin sharing our story with the world, but I knew I needed to set some boundaries for my writing that would honor him.

My man is a quiet man. He’s personable, and does enjoy being around people, but he certainly isn’t an open book like his extroverted wife. I knew he was ok with me sharing this particular story, but beyond that I needed to be careful how deeply I allowed others to enter into our marriage. So here are some writing boundaries that I came up with and now follow:

 

5 ways I work to honor my husband with my writing:

1. Pray. If I feel called to share something about our marriage, or about my man, I pray about it first. Sometimes God gives my heart a peace about it, but other times God gives me a restless feeling which causes me to realize He’s closing the door on that topic {at least for now}. Going to the Lord first makes #2 a whole lot easier.

2. Talk to your man. If I feel called to share about an aspect of our marriage, I ask J if it’s ok. Being the analyzer that he is, he usually asks me a few questions {and sometimes requests to read the rough draft before I hit publish}, but ultimately he’s grown to trust my words. I believe that trust has been built because I have never posted about him without his permission.

3. Beware of social media. My man isn’t a huge fan of me posting his picture all over the social media sites I utilize. I try not to post too much about him on social media in general. Occasionally I post a picture of him on Facebook, but I try to ask him before I do that.

4. Don’t embarrass him online. My man can say some pretty funny stuff. He’s actually quite the comedian, but his introverted self can keep it bottled up when we’re outside the walls of our own home. There are times I would LOVE to share the funny things that J says. Occasionally he’s ok with it, but usually he gives me the, “are you sure you really need to share that?” look when I request permission to share it with my online friends. Despite my desperate desire to share with ya’ll how funny he really is, I realize that honoring him is more important than sharing a good laugh.

5. Don’t make him look like prince charming. I believe that by being honest about our marriage I am honoring God and honoring J. I don’t try to paint a picture of the perfect marriage, because Lord knows, we’ve had our trials. It doesn’t honor J if I paint him as perfect. He sees himself as a sinner saved by the glorious grace of God. He doesn’t want me to make him seem perfect, because if I did, that wouldn’t honor his Savior. In the process of portraying the real J, however, I must be respectful and invite him into the process so the trust we’ve built can continue.

I find that when I honor my man and respect who he is, the intimacy in our marriage increases. I have been known to slip up and break these boundaries from time-to-time, but I find that when I invite him into my writing, J is honored and God is glorified–it’s a win-win situation!

What boundaries have you set for yourself in this online world? How do you protect your husband and your marriage in your blog posts?

by, Mandy Scarr

 

 

How to Handle the Social Media Egg Basket

How to Handle the Social Media Egg Basket - @GretLouise on #Allume

Everyone knows it’s not a good idea to put all your eggs in one basket. But sometimes, I think we’re trying to carry too many baskets — especially when it comes to social media.

There’s always a new social media network. Something to try, something to learn. A new opportunity to get lots of followers and rise to the top of the crowd.

But sometimes, we spread ourselves too thin. In trying to be everywhere, we are nowhere. And the eggs break just as quickly when they hit the ground, whether we are carrying them all in one basket or spread out into more baskets than we can hold.

I love Twitter. Facebook is where my grandma is, so I’m not leaving it any time soon. Pinterest is pretty and easy to organize. And I know Google Plus is  a necessary evil for bloggers.

But I forget to use Delicious. I tried Tumblr to see if it was a more social version of a bookmark and quote site, but I never remember to use it. Instagram is fun but without a smart phone it’s a three-step-process to a #latergram if I’m not at home with tablet in hand. And Digg? StumbleUpon? Never even used them.

Whenever I start forgetting to post to a social network, I know it’s lost the social aspect. And when I stop visiting anywhere but private Facebook groups, I know I’ve spread myself too thin.

It’s then I remember the tried and true advice of those with more followers than I: find a few social media networks you love, and become good at them. You and I are each only one person. Unless we have a team of bloggers working with us, or a good social media manager behind us, we can only do so much.

And it’s when I pull back and enjoy the process of just hanging out on my favorite social media networks that I actually see fruit from my time spent there. It’s when I view social media as a place to connect with my friends rather than an item on my to do list that the benefits can be seen — and in more than just numbers.

Tips

  • Choose one day a week to hang out on less popular social networks (for me it’s Google Plus and Tumblr). You don’t have to be on any given social media network every hour of every day to have a presence there.
  • Ask questions on Facebook. Get to know your followers there again.
  • Use scheduler apps like Buffer for Twitter and Facebook’s built-in schedule feature so that you can be there without being there all the time.
  • Use plugins like Tweetily (to Tweet old posts) and Jetpack’s “Publicize” (to Tweet new posts) to automate your blog’s presence on Twitter (just don’t spam your followers!) so that you don’t have to worry about your blog when you get on Twitter, you can just be you.
  • Don’t just Tweet and Retweet — remember how much fun it was to have conversations on Twitter?
  • Stay off Pinterest.com and just pin from the sites you visit to avoid the Pinterest time trap.

How do you keep a handle on your social media involvement?

Tweetables:
  • Sometimes, we spread ourselves too thin on social media. In trying to be everywhere, we are nowhere. (Click to Tweet)
  • Whenever I start forgetting to post to a social network, I know it’s lost the social aspect. (Click to Tweet)
  • How do you keep a handle on your social media involvement? (Click to Tweet)

Photo Credit: Kateri Fahey of Dandelion Haven

The Benefit of a Blogging Mentor

allume

 

Do you have a life mentor? Do you have someone who pours their heart, wisdom, prayers, and love into your life?

Mentors have played a tremendous role in my life as a Christian. Over the course of my new life in Christ I’ve had a couple of different mentors. Each of these mentors has breathed life into my soul, showered me with their wisdom and loved me in a way I never could have expected.

After I began blogging I began to see that, just as in life, I had a lot to learn. I not only needed a deeper understanding of the technical aspects of blogs, but my writing required greater depth and insight. I wanted feedback and I craved constructive criticism that would help me progress toward my writing goals.

At first I started to “stalk” some of my favorite bloggers. I would look at the format of their blogs, watch how they hosted guests, ran giveaways, and shared their heart. Closely following these amazing bloggers taught me a lot, but I was unable to receive the personal one-on-one help I was craving.  

And that’s when I decided to step out.

I am blessed that I have an in-real-life friend who is already several steps ahead of me in the blogging world. I admire her writing, her passion, and her professionalism. I wanted to learn everything I could from her, and so I took a chance and asked her to be my blogging mentor. Although she is a close friend, I was nervous about asking her. She has numerous kiddos, multiple writing projects on her plate, and many professional business projects in the works. I was worried she would see me as another addition to her already highly committed schedule.

But after a few days of praying about it, she agreed to be my mentor.

This new phase of our relationship has been a huge support to me. Although we don’t talk about blogging on a weekly or sometimes even monthly schedule, I am grateful to her for the time and feedback she gives me. I have learned a tremendous amount from my seasoned blogging mentor, and I know I wouldn’t have grown as much as I have over the last year without her.

It was easy in the begining to “stalk” different bloggers, trying to learn what they were doing and why they were making the writing/blogging decisions that they were. As my blog grew, and as my dreams came into greater focus, I realized the importance of running my blogging/professional world just as I run my life – with intentionality.

Having a mentor who is willing to pour their wisdom and insight into me has allowed for me to become more intentional in all aspects of my life, and so I am grateful to have found a blogging mentor to help me find that same focus and intentionality in my writing and professional pursuits.

And so I wonder, sweet blogging friend, do you have a blogging mentor?

Sure, maybe you “stalk” other blogs like so many of us do, but do you have someone who you can boldly ask for their guidance? Maybe this person doesn’t yet know you exist, and that’s ok. Take some time to pray about whether or not this person is worth pursuing as a blogging mentor, and if the Lord is fine with it, I encourage you to humbly reach out to them about it.

You may not be able to find someone who can commit to mentoring you right away, but don’t get discouraged! Just continue to pray that the Lord may reveal someone who would fill that role. If you’re anything like me, this relationship is sure to help you grow.

By, Mandy Scarr

 

 

 

What a Christian Writer Does with Self-doubt

I’m an Allume contributor, in the company of brilliant, beautiful writers. And perhaps that sets me apart in your mind, somehow better than you because I’m here. Maybe?

I have thought it before, and still do at times. I see a fellow blogger and friend get chosen for an opportunity that I would have liked, and the first thought that triggers an avalanche of negative others is, “What’s wrong with me that I wasn’t chosen? Am I not good enough?”

But what if I told you I’ve written my post 3 times? As in, I have 3 distinctly different drafts written for the one that was due today. None of them made it here. This one did.

The reason there are 3 drafts is not because I’m a terrific writer, but more like a terrified one. And it’s failure I’m afraid of. And the problem with fear is that it’s not from God.

What if I told you I feel like a tidal wave of self-doubt has overwhelmed me, and rather than be writing right now, I want to run and hide my words? Would you still think being an Allume blogger makes me better than you? Oh, I hope not, friend. I hope that you find I’m just a person like you. I’m a women who still struggles with self-doubt, comparison, distraction, and competition.

I confessed it to a friend, though it scared me to, “I have a love-hate relationship with being a contributor or guest posting because I feel pressure to please and perform. The numbers, the Facebook likes and shares, tweets and pins, they show everyone, and boast my success or shout my failure.”

It’s not because anyone else has imposed that pressure, but because I have. It’s debilitating and draining, and I know it’s prideful, wayward thinking, self-doubt and fear talking. And I can’t be passive about it.

What do I do when there are moments and months when self-doubt hovers like a heavy dark, brooding cloud over head? There are lies that incessantly seek to penetrate my mind, and beckon to be believed and acted upon to lead me to an end. To end this race I’m running. And to end writing about it.

I must look at my fear, not only as a weakness on my part, but an attack, and a very real temptation to be overthrown.  <– Tweet

While I’d like to tell you the battle is over, I cannot. But I’m going forward — courageously afraid. And this is part of what a Christian writer can do with self-doubt. I’m practicing.

  • Speak Truth: God’s word is our only offensive weapon listed in our Armor, so wield the sword of the Spirit. (Eph 6:17) Speak aloud His word because faith comes by hearing it. (Rom 10:17) And it renews our mind, as we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Cor 10:5) “In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Rom 8:37)
  • Go Low: Surrender it all daily, hourly if necessary. Sometimes we really are in the midst of a spiritual attack and the devil prowls like a lion seeking whom he may devour. (1Pet 5:8) After we submit to God resist the devil because he must flee. And “…don’t try to impress others. Be humble.” (Phil 2:3) For God gives grace to the humble. (James 4:6)
  • Obey God: If God has called us to do something than our success is as sure as our obedience, though He measures success differently than us. I’m almost certain He’s not counting our Facebook likes, but rather lost souls that have found Him because of our courage to write His message.
  • Be You: We don’t need to try and be anyone except who God created us to be. When we do, the world misses out on the facet of God that He’s chosen us to display. We are accountable to live the life He gave us, and no one else’s.
  • Be Vulnerable: Hiding our weaknesses can isolate us, because we are afraid God or others will see them and wound or judge us by it. But we need to know we are not the only ones struggling. “Our vulnerability draws God to us. Our helplessness reveals His Presence. Our weakness makes known His strength. Our confessions prompt His grace.” — Dr. Les Parrott
  • Write Afraid: Sometimes what we fear sharing most, is what’s most important to share. “We are more naked and needy before words that we write than perhaps anywhere else. We fear this, so we avoid it. But reality is where God shows up. Reality may be painful, but if we want to meet God we have to go there.” — Dan B. Allender

Do you ever struggle with fear or the temptation to quit writing? Will you tell us how you overcome?

 

I’m trusting Him,

Michele-Lyn at A Life Surrendered

 

5 Reasons to Write What is Real {not just what sells}

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I was all set, fixed right up with a shiny-new email list powered through mailchimp.com. Now I just had to figure out what to giveaway (like the experts tell us) to convince people to part with their email addresses so that my platform could grow.

I thought about writing a mini ebook on meal planning. I could picture this beautiful cover:

mock-cover @allume

Except people would probably be a little bit disappointed when they read my meal planning advice:

1. Open cupboard. 2. Pull out some type of starch (bread, pasta, potatoes, squash, beans). 3. Open fridge. 4. Pull out some type of meat and two vegetables. 5. Cook. 6. In four hours, repeat process.

Okay. Scrap that idea.

I thought about writing a book about scheduling. Oh, it would be glorious! I could create these beautiful printouts except, well, I probably wouldn’t have time for all that since I’m the worst scheduler ever.

Oooh, cleaning! Cleaning books go over really well. But then I looked over at the chair piled high with papers and books. Bad, bad idea.

My shiny-new email list sat for some time. Oh, I sent out a few fluttering newsletters. Ten faithful followers took the time to open and read them. (Dear, dear, people.) 

Then a neighbor and friend asked if I would be willing to speak at a women’s banquet about my book Pain Redeemed. It’s not a fun book, you know. There aren’t any pretty printables and there certainly aren’t 6 easy steps to anything in it. People haven’t lined up on my blog (hilarious word picture there, just in case you missed it) to purchase a copy.

It’s a book about pain. A book where I peel back the layers of my heart and brutally, honestly, share about my walk through infertility. It’s the book that God called me to write last year. The one I faithfully wrote and self-published because I knew that I needed to share the story now, while I was still clawing my way through the darkness.

And when I stood there, in front of 120 women from my in-real-life community, and shared about where God was in the middle of my sorrow, as we cried together and connected, I knew. I knew exactly what I was suppose to write and give away.

Dying of Thirst at the Side of a WellSo I sat down and wrote a really long poem, then wrapped it all up into a mini ebook.

It isn’t going to go viral, folks. I know that.

But I want to give my readers something real. Something of me. And this is me. 

Here are five reasons for you write what is real about YOU:

  • Real = Lasting

When you sit down and create something out of who you are (not just what is pretty or sells well) it will last. In your life. In the lives of those who read it. {and I’ll add in right here: if who you are is someone who creates awesome meal-planning lists– write a book about it! I’d love to read it. And if you need a cover, we can tweak this one up for you. :)}

  • Any decent writer can create “what sells” but only you can write the real things from your heart

I’m the only one who can share about my journey through infertility. It might not be popular, but I know from personal experience that it can be profoundly moving to the one who needs it. 

  • It requires more than your own strength

For me, to write about one of the subjects I mentioned would be simple. I could just design lovely printables to go with my 6 easy steps to whatever. But it wouldn’t require much of God in the process because it wouldn’t be tapping into who I really am. When I write real, I am forced to depend on Christ. I’d be too afraid to press publish otherwise.

  • Your readers will keep coming back

If you write real, readers will keep returning. They’ll read a little sample and then come to your blog and keep coming back. Maybe it will only be 10 faithful followers at first. But ten who return are better than 10,000 who take your freebie and then disappear.

  • It’s honest

I have at least 3 speaking engagements coming up this year, and possibly more, all based on my book. What if I had written a book on a subject I didn’t really care about? What if I had created something that didn’t interest me or mesh with who I was in real life? Ouch. 

Last year at Allume, Kat Lee shared a session on Blogging as a Ministry. She told a story about something her soccer coach told her when she offered to switch positions with another girl. He gently turned her down and said,

I really need someone in that spot who knows her position and isn’t going to constantly chase after the ball.

Play your position. Write what God calls you to. Faithfully, consistently. Don’t run around and chase after what looks shiny or fun.

We are all given passions and stories. If your passion is cleaning, then write about cleaning! If your story involves meal-planning or scheduling then write about it. If, like me, you have a story that scrapes raw don’t hide your real-story to tell one that sells better. 

Don’t waste your time on things that aren’t really a part of who you are. Because who you are is enough story and passion in itself. God created you. Write the words He has inscribed into your DNA. Be you. 

still striving to write as real as possible,

Natasha

The Super Easy Switch From Google Reader to Feedly

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

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

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

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

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

Step One:

Go to Feedly.com

meetfeedly

Step Two:

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

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

Step Three:

Restart your browser when prompted.

timetorestart

Step four:

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

logintofeedly

requestingtoaccessreaderdata

Step five:

You’re done!

 

Yes, it was that easy.

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

 

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

feedlyispictures

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

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

justlikereader

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

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

See? Absolutely no trouble at all.

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

When You Write

Sword of the Spirit

When you write what the Spirit whispers, all the hosts in the heavenlies bend to listen and adore to the praises of their King.  On coal-burnished lips they whisper holy over the soft sound of beating wings.  The word echoes through eternity in unending repetition, holy, holy, holy.

But in the shadows where the light has cut the line and fenced the darkness, the hosts of hell take up arms.  It is not their habit to let a battle-cry go unanswered, and you have raised the colors of an enemy King when you wrote His words.

This is war, whether you realize it or not.  The battle rages in highest heaven and deepest earth and you have been uniquely equipped for a place in the battle by the power of your pen.  It is a pen that shreds the veil and open eyes because they are not your words, they are His, and His words have the power to ruin and restore with a single thrust.

Do you take that task lightly?  It is no light task to listen to what the Spirit whispers and to write “Thus sayeth the Lord.”  When you write those words, eyes are opened and swords are drawn.

God’s Word is powerful.  Effective.  Game-changing.  It is no less powerful in the hands of little-known writers or back-woods pastors.

Sword of the Spirit

And that is the truth that makes the underlings rise when you dare to lift your pen.  Because oh, if you realize how sharp is your sword and how mighty is He who is on your side, their ruin would be sure.

Their ruin is sure.

So they respond with the coarse whispers of those who must crawl on their bellies and grovel at the gates of the Kingdom.  They must speak in lies and half-truths because there is no truth in them, and no love.  Where there is no love there is only fear, so it is with fearful words they speak.

You must not listen.

But then, you will not hear them, not with your ears.  You will feel it with your heart and with your emotions and even with your will.  And if you listen, those lies will work their fear into you and fell you.  They will keep you on the ground when God has called you to arm yourself.

They will keep you from your sword.

You have been there, perhaps more often than you wish.  You have been crushed by something you cannot see.  But it is no less real.

When you cannot get up, when you cannot write more, it is because deep inside, you heard the cadence of lying tongues and in your weakness, you believed it, and they won.

Ephesians 6 12

Listen, Writer, from your place on the ground and know this: the power they hold over you is nothing like the power that lifts you up. 

That is what they fear, those demons who lurk in the shadows, working the truth over forked tongues and causing you to believe you are nothing more than a writer with a word.  They fear that one day, you will come to understand the truth of your calling.

You are a writer with The Word

You are armed with a sword that always hits its mark.  It has never returned to its sheath in shame, and it never will.  When you pen truth, you thrust that sword right into the den of the liars.

They will claw and fight when they find you there, and you will feel the blows.

But this is not the time to shrink back.  You must get back up.  Secure your armor, take up your pen, and write.

 –Yours in the fight,

Kristen

Confessions of a Twitter Adolescent

Confessions of a Twitter Adolescent @allume

 

image source

I’m not very birdlike.
I mean, seriously, the only feathers I have are safely tucked away in my down-comforter.

When my Mastermind Group decided to discuss our Twitter presence last year, I had to go dust off my account and click that “forgot password” button.

I decided to really work hard at establishing this so-called Twitter presence, which was a great ambition but completely comical since I didn’t have any idea what I was doing. All those # and @ signs meant so little to me. In fact, they mostly annoyed me. I would try to read someone’s status and BAM #@?! Which immediately made me think that all these tweeters really needed to watch their mouths. I mean, it was great that they substituted symbols instead of writing out the actual words, but seriously guys, learn to talk proper. Errr, tweet.

The good news for anyone else who is still sitting there cross-eyed from all the hashtags and @ symbols, you do eventually learn to read around them.

#TwitterAdolescent

 

image source

I have this friend, Mandy, who is like, the awesomest tweeter ever. (Yes, I understand that “awesomest” isn’t a word, but you have to know Mandy.) I love reading her tweets. I love it when she goes to a conference and is constantly sharing tidbits of wisdom. (Hello, I pretty much stalked her Twitter feed during Allume last year. It was almost like being there!)

And I’ve thought (many times) “Oh, to be a grown-up tweeter like her!”

But, the thing is, I probably won’t ever be. I don’t have a smart phone and don’t see myself getting one in the near future. I don’t carry my laptop around with me (mainly because the battery dies in like 2.03 seconds). And, honestly, my farming life isn’t set up for being able to type out 140 character comments at the drop of a hat. (Well, I guess I could but then my phone would permanently smell like manure, which doesn’t seem like a good option.)

But I have learned to use Twitter.

confessions of a Twitter adolescent

image source

Oh, I don’t follow rules very well. And sometimes weeks or months go by with only my blog post tweets going up. (I know, I know. That is way bad. I’m pretty sure it’s supposed to be like 20-80. 20% your promotion and 80% promoting other people or creating witty one-liners or asking thoughtful questions, or, well, something like that. Forgive me, dear followers. I’m not really as conceited as it may appear.)

And I tried to join a Twitter party once. Uhm. Yeah. That was a nightmare. We’ll just leave it at that.

I’ve come to a valuable place though. I’ve realized that I’m human.
And some humans can tweet pretty birdlike but I just don’t have that talent.

I try. I join in the game. But when my “tweets” come out sounding like an adolescent teenage prank, it’s okay.

I’ve learned to use buffer to spread things out (which is great because otherwise once a month my followers would have to wade through a whole slew of my favorite blog posts from around the web).

I’ve learned to do a little “chirp” now and then, asking questions, throwing out a Bible verse or two that helped me through my day and might help someone else.

And when I completely forget that Twitter even exists for three weeks at a time? That’s okay too.

Now it’s time for your confessions. Are you a Twitter baby? (i.e. you read this post and said, “Uhm… so, what’s Twitter?”) Or an adolescent like me? Maybe you’re all grown up? (If so, drop this novice a few tips, would ya?) 

Confessions of a Twitter Adolescent

image source

 

#stillalittlebitconfused,

@natashametzler

Is Your Blog Truly for Him?

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Photo Credit

God has been digging deep into my blogging world lately. He’s been digging into my heart, asking me to check my motives behind my writing. He’s been probing me to think about whether or not my blogging space, my online home, is really about Him. He’s been asking me to think about whether I promote Him, or I promote myself.

And although I’d like to say that He uncovered a heart purely for Him and a blog solely focused on His glory, that would not be the truth.

If we’re not careful, this blogging world can teach us that in order to “succeed” we must promote ourselves. It can teach us that we have to put ourselves out there to make our face and name known. Although I do believe most readers want to know about the writer they are connecting with, it’s easy for us to push Him to the side, making our online space about our own self-promotion, allowing for those ugly “self-hyphenated” words to get in our way of truly living for Him {Words like self-promotion, self-centered, self-sufficiency, self-absorption, self-exaltation, self-indulgence, etc}.

He has given each of us bloggers a platform, and whether it’s big or small, it is a platform. It is a place where He allows us to share inspired words with those willing to listen. It is a privilege.

It’s so easy for us to portray Him as the center of our words. It’s so easy for us to look as though He is the reason we are doing what we’re doing. But is He really? Our readers may not know our heart, but He certainly does.

For He knows the secrets of the heart“- Psalm 44:21

We can so easily deceive ourselves into thinking we’re making it about Him, when really we soak up the comment love we receive as praise to ourselves, our skills and our words. We so easily claim His blessings and His favor as our own accomplishments.

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of relying on my online space to give me value. I’m tired of the number of comments I get or the number of shares I receive dictating my mood or the direction of my day.

His heart-check was successful, and He’s asking me to lay my heart {and blog} down before Him.

And so I’ve started laying these things before Him each time I sit at my computer. Every time I log on to disseminate thoughts and feelings to those who visit my online space, I give it over to Him. I ask Him to be in, through, and over my writing {Ephesians 4:6}. I ask Him to make my heart, my words and my motives purely about Him. I know it seems simple, but I’m so quick to claim the words I type on the page as my own, instead of asking Him to cover them, anoint them, and guard them.

And so I encourage you to go before Him every time you write. Ask Him to show you your heart. Ask Him to dissect your reasons for putting those words on the screen.

Is it for His glory, or is it for yours?

Because it you’re anything like me, you may desperately need a heart-check.

By Mandy Scarr

Escape the noise. Find quiet. Find God.

“The fear of letting go is strangling the freedom of rest.” I read these words at Jacque’s place tonight as I was editing this write, and they served as confirmation.

It’s difficult to let go, unplug and walk away from online life, even if it’s just for a week. It takes faith. I wonder every time, but less and less, “Will my voice go unheard because I’m going quiet?”

Last summer I decided every seventh week, I’ll unplug. Six weeks of blogging and social networking, and the seventh week — rest. I schedule and plan around it.

  • Refresh and rejuvenation for my spirit and soul, drawing in close to God and waiting on Him to breathe new life.
  • Refocus to see clear the vision God has given me, turning my heart and actions to Jesus and His purpose for me.
  • Renew my devotion to the God, guarding my heart above all else, proving that I have a blog and the blog doesn’t have me. <–Tweet

It can be hard.

But it’s harder to write from a tired place. Everything is hard when tired. In that place, I find myself battling falsehoods I should be far from believing.

Feeling as if that blogger’s success amplifies my failure.

And why should I bother when there are a thousand others saying the same thing?

And how can my one voice be heard out of a million others?

Lies.

Before I can catch myself I’m being overrun by the waves that come crashing — rogue waves of discouragement. The pummeling pounds me down. I feel lost, shrouded in darkness that presses in on all sides. While trying to find my footing, I wonder, “What hit me?”

The un-likes, un-follows, and un-subscribes knock the wind out of these sails. Who am I kidding?

Knocks. Me. Over.

And I see the dishes have spilled out and over the sink — overtaking the counter tops, too. And mounds of clothes cascading out of their baskets and covering the laundry room floor slowly creeping their way into the hallway and kitchen. And they might knock me over, too.

And books sit shelved I’m to be reviewing, and friends I want to be tweeting, and kids I should be teaching, and maybe I’ll catch up on Dowton Abbey, instead.

I’m running this race, and perhaps I’ve entered the wrong one. Maybe I should go this way. Or perhaps — that? Being double-minded, tossed to and fro makes one unstable in all their ways. (James 1:8)

“And you should be writing right now,” I tell myself as I switch back and forth from Facebook and Twitter, and get swept into the never stagnant stream. And do I notice, my stream has become stagnant, and the river has stopped flowing and words have run dry?

And I falter under the weight of the burden I carry — wife, mama, daughter, sister, friend. I realize again I’ve taken the place of the Burden-bearer and have been doing it in my own strength.

I’ve gone off course as I’ve gone to the left and then right, eyes on what everyone else is doing rather than where God’s leading — His Voice growing more faint. And mine, too.

And can I say it? I. Want. More. Readers. But what about the audience of One?

Somewhere in the midst of the busy and the noise my loyalty to the One has been divided and the “one” un-like and the “one” un-subscribe steals the desire to hear the applause of the One I’m supposed to be writing for.

I pour out and I give. I give when I feel I have nothing left. What good am I to anyone in my family or even God, if I am running on empty? This is not light-living — becoming disconnected from the Vine, trying to connect to everyone else. <–Click to Tweet

And I’m confused, and I’m weary, and I’m maybe I should just quit. Just. Quit. Blogging.

And I know I’m missing the mark — His mark.

And when I’m in need of rest is when I struggle most.

“Jesus left the crowd and went into the house.” (Matt. 13:36 NCV)

Though surrounded by possibly twenty thousands fans, He turned away from them. Christ repeatedly escaped the noise of the crowd in order to hear the Voice of God.” — Max Lucado

And maybe we need to also. Every blogger — escape the noise — find quiet.

And find God.

I’m talking about burn-out here, and how I endeavor to prevent it. What about you, friends? How do you guard yourself and your family against it? I’d love to hear.

 

 

 

One Week to 3500 Subscribers { How I Built My Email List }

I am a smaller blogger, no doubt about it. I’ve got around 700 trusty readers and followers on Facebook. Not too shabby, but not BIG, by any means. Just a few months ago though, I had plateaued around 300 followers. My numbers grew slowly, if at all, and I began to look into how to reach more people.

Then, I heard about email lists.

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What’s the Big Deal About Email Lists?

According to blogging and social media gurus like Jeff Goins and Derek Halpern, your email list is the most important thing to focus on. The idea is that even if you’re not selling something, you’re still selling something – your content – and email continues to be the most direct form of marketing.

Even if your blog is a ministry, and you don’t receive any income at all from it, you have a message that you want to get out to the world. The hard truth is that your message isn’t going to get out there on it’s own, you have to market it. Sending out a monthly newsletter that includes exclusive content and a solid, relevant message is a great way to do that. Even if you’re not selling something right now, you may be in the future, and now is the time to build your audience.

Um, What IS an Email List?

I’m not talking about how many people sign up to receive your blog posts through feedburner. Email lists are built when people agree to give you their email address because they are interested in receiving what you are providing. They want MORE than just your weekly posts. Often, this comes in the form of a newsletter.

Ok, So How Do I Build An Email List?

First, you need a newsletter service. I love MailChimp. I’ve tried some of the more popular services, and this one takes the cake. Easy, effective, and FREE for up to 2,000 subscribers.

You can then install a sign-up form on your blog (MailChimp will walk you through that), and invite your readers to start signing up! Easy-peasy, you’ve got an email list going.

However, building your list that way takes a lot of time. And, honestly? People are more motivated to sign up for something when they get something out of it.

So, I wrote an eBook, and gave it away to subscribers. For free.

A year before, I had written a blog series on home management that turned out to be pretty popular. I took that series, revamped it a bit for the eBook, and included a complete set of home management printables. Sign up for my newsletter, get the eBook, including 30 printables, at no charge.

My goal was 1,000 subscribers.

I opened up the sign-ups for the newsletter, and launched my eBook on December 31. Word spread quickly thanks to a few blogging friends, and in six days I had 3,500 people sign up for my email list.

From zero to 3,500 in less than a week. I actually had to cut off the free eBooks because I had exceeded my goal, and needed to start charging for the book so I could pay for my MailChimp service!

My email list continues to grow, because the content I provide through my newsletter is exclusive and relevant. I try to throw a free printable in when I can, and share real, encouraging stories of faith and family. My newsletter sparks email conversations, and I am getting to know my readers on a more personal level than just through blog comments. Now I have a growing, invested audience, and a group of dedicated readers who will support my next project (like my book that’s coming soon).

Email lists. You need one. Give away something for free (anything you’ve got that is relevant and valuable!), and watch your numbers exceed your expectations. It will bless your socks off, I promise.

Blessings,
Kayse :: kaysepratt.com

 

*Disclosure: Affiliate link used.

Fostering Community on Contributor Blogs

One of the most beautiful thing about contributor blogs is the community found therein. But sometimes, especially if you’ve been managing the blog awhile, the community can begin to feel stymied and in need of being revived.  Here are a few ways I’ve used to help foster (and revive!) the community on a contributor blog.

4 Ways to Foster Community on a Contributor Blog

1. Make community the central goal.

It’s easy to think that once we’ve scheduled great quality posts, we’ve done our job.  And if we were only publishing a magazine, maybe we would be done.  But blogging has unlimited potential for building community in and around those posts, if only we can tap into it!

“The community surrounding your blog is what gives it life.”
-Christin Slade in Blog at Home Mom

In the comments.

I don’t expect any blogger to respond to every comment on every post, but it is nice — especially on a contributor blog — when the post author is interacting within the comment section on their post. Work with your contributors on the post scheduling date if necessary, to make sure they are around to promote their post and reply to the comments to it.  Then use plugins like Comment Reply Notification, Subscribe to Comments Reloaded, Jetpack, or the Disqus comment system to keep the conversation going.

Asking questions on social media.

Ann Voskamp’s Facebook page is a great example of people responding to simple questions on social media.  Ann will give a simple “Joy Dare” for the day and the comments pour in as people count and celebrate their “1000 Gifts”.

With link-ups.

Link-ups are a great way to generate community among your readers, but only if a large percentage of your readers are bloggers!  The Better Mom Mondays and Women Living Well Wednesdays are great examples of community link-ups.  SheLoves Magazine calls their link-ups “synchroblogs” — I love the descriptiveness of that term!

During Twitter parties.

The #FMFParty is a great example of a community developing around a blog and link-up through a Twitter party!  Each Thursday night Lisa-Jo Baker hangs out with people on Twitter for the hour before the Five-Minute Friday post topic is announced.

Through Twitter and Instagram hashtags.

The #Allume hashtag is one of my favorite places to hang out on Twitter.  I love the community that’s available within a six-letter hashtag named for my favorite conference!  On Instagram, #Togetherin10 brings together the busy moms in search of quick fashion ideas who read the Together in 10 blog.

2. Bring the contributors’ community into yours.

From their blog.
I’ve begun asking my contributors to publish a post on their own blog on the same day their post goes live, using a different title (for best SEO) and only a brief quote from their post, directing readers to the contributor blog to find the rest.  Not only does that bring fresh readers to our blog, but it brings their own regular readers into the comment section.

From their social media.

When Ruth Schwenk mentioned in her Allume session on “Building a Successful Contributor Blog” that she asks her authors to mention their posts on social media two to three times the day their post is published, I realized that was something I’d never asked my writers to do.  Sure, they did often share their posts, but it was okay for me to actually ask them to make sure to do so!  Only about half of my team is on Twitter, so I’ve just begun asking them to promote their posts on their own favorite forms of social media.  And it’s fun to watch the momentum build as their friends share the posts in turn as well.

3. Expand your horizons.

The contributor blog I manage is represented everywhere from Goodreads to Tumblr.  When a contributor asks about Kindred Grace being on some new form of social media, I’ll usually answer: of course, if you’ll do it! I don’t know the first thing about Tumblr, but our resident Tumblr fan does a beautiful job with our Tumblr account and shares our posts within a community we might not otherwise have reached.  And while I find Pinterest too time-consuming to hang out on, and too much to pay a VA for at this point, we’ve invited a few team members to contribute to our Pinterest boards to keep them active (after giving them clear guidelines, of course!).

Making the community a team effort has allowed us to expand our horizons without spreading ourselves too thin. Not only does delegating and crowdsourcing take the load off of the people in charge, but it frees them up to do the tasks that only they can do, while allowing each person on the team to focus on the areas that are truly their strengths.

4. Provide a method for contributor collaboration and brainstorming.

There’s nothing better than a unified contributor blog that feels like they are working together as a team.  Their unity spills out into the entire readership, creating a firm sense of community.  A private Facebook group or Google Plus community provides a great way for your contributors to collaborate and brainstorm — participation is not required, but there when they need it.

Private Facebook Groups

Everyone is on Facebook, even when they are supposed to be writing!  When we started a private Facebook group for our writing team, it harnessed all that Facebook time and turned it into productive brainstorming sessions.  The community within our team has really blossomed through the Facebook group.  It has also allowed new members to be welcomed with open arms and get to know the rest of the contributors on a more personal basis.

Google Plus Hangouts

Google Plus Communities offer a lot more organization of discussion threads if you’d rather do your brainstorming somewhere quieter than Facebook.  So far, I’ve only used Google Plus Communities for the purpose of organizing a Hangout.  When you don’t live close enough to meet face to face over coffee, Google Plus is a great alternative (and you can each bring the coffee!).

Conference Calls

There are many free conference call options that allow you to hear each other’s voice, without any need for webcams or fast internet.  As soon as we can figure out a time when most of our worldwide team will be awake, we’re going to have one.  The key will be for everyone not to talk at once!

E-mail

Don’t let group collaboration replace clear communication. Private social media groups might streamline communication with your writers, but they won’t replace regular email communication.  Make sure you don’t leave your contributors out of the loop just because they don’t spend all their time on Facebook: send out an email at least once a month in plenty of time to remind them of the upcoming deadline and mention future month’s topics.

I’ve met many of my closest friends through the community that has grown within the contributor blog I manage.  And my prayer is that our readers would experience that same friendly embrace each time they visit our contributor blog or one of our social media outlets.

What are your favorite ways to participate in a contributor blog community?

Thanks for sharing,
Gretchen Louise

May You Fail

 Vision

Today, three fans took the time to unlike me on Facebook.  Three.

I stare at the number in disbelief and wonder what I’ve done to cause three people to unlike me all in one day.  The heavy weight of fear and inadequacy presses down on me.  There are dishes in the sink and an unfinished post and a houseful of children who have waited while their mommy writes and for what?  For three less fans than yesterday.

My gut hurts.

I hide for a while, but God finds me.  I am a bit ashamed to see Him here because I have failed.  I have failed to make a return on my talent.  I have failed to live up to my calling.

God bends to whisper a prayer in my ear.  May you fail.

May I fail?

May you fail to make this gift your identity.  May you lose a few readers now and again to remind you that you are already adequate, already loved, already enough.  I have formed you, and I know you.  I knit you together and wove this gift of writing into you so that it is almost inseparable from you.  Almost.

But you are more than the sum of your followers, you are more than the success or failure of your last post.  You are more than a writer.

You are my beloved child. 

And I have chosen you for this.  But I love you in spite of this.

When you fumble with the words, I do not love you less.  When you pen something powerful, I do not love you more.  Separate yourself from the gift enough to know that I am the only thing that defines you.

May you fail at penning words that have no power.  It is tempting, isn’t it, to fill a page with beautiful, soulless words?  It is tempting to write for men rather than Me.

But you—you have the words of life.  You have the gospel, the very words that shape eternity.  Write them even if they earn you no earthly fame.  Write them boldly.  Write them well.  But do not fail to write them.

Some will hear and turn to me.  But others will hear and turn away.  Leave it up to me, Child, to change the hearts of your hearers.

May you fail at growing numbers without growing your heart.  Let the words rumble around and refine you first.  Tell your story from the cracks because that’s where my light shines the brightest.

Can you see me glorified in your brokenness?  Press your pen into it.  Strive to be transparent, a little broken, and a lot redeemed.  Let people in to your story—all of it.  Leave out the parts that leave out grace.  Trust me to work in and through and in spite of your weaknesses.

You may be surprised to see how I can make something beautiful of it after all.

May you fail at doing something great for me.  Let me do something great through you.  I do not need your offering, Child.  I do not need your sacrifice.  All I want from you is your humble availability.

Be willing.  Be moldable, and do not worry about what I have given to someone else.  Be more interested in my vision for you than in your dreams for yourself.  It may not look the way you think it should, and you might stumble and trip along this path.  You may fail in the eyes of men, but not in mine.  I will accomplish my purposes in you. 

There is no failing in that.

Kristen, Five in Tow

3 Ways to Maintain Momentum & Quality on a Contributor Blog

It’s one thing to set up and manage a contributor blog, but when it comes maintaining the excitement and the quality, a blog with multiple contributors can hard to keep going for the long haul.  Especially when your contributors are busy bloggers themselves!  But here are a few methods I’ve used to help maintain the momentum on the contributor blog I’ve managed for over 6 years.

Momentum & Quality on a Contributor Blog

1. Give clear direction for post topics.

“What should I write about?” is the most common question I get from guest authors and contributors.  A lack of specific topic ideas seems to be one of the primary things that keeps my contributors from writing consistently.

Set loose weekly or monthly themes.

Setting loose themes for each month generates lots of ideas and brainstorming within my team at Kindred Grace.  We talk about books all month long every March, and have an annual link-up topic for readers to join in every October.  In between, we come up with monthly themes that vary from year to year (though we always try to love on our singles during February!).

Maybe you’ll have one day per week where a specific topic is discussed (like the Smaller Bloggers series on Thursday here at Allume) or a clearly defined theme for each month like SheLoves Magazine.  Just make sure your contributors know whether or not it’s okay if they write a post that is off-topic for the month (I failed to make that clear in the beginning and had one contributor who often didn’t write because she couldn’t fit her writing inspiration into that “box”!).

Respond to specific readers.

Most contributor blogs receive a lot of emails with questions from readers.  Few of us have time to answer each email individually, but often, an email or more personal comment will spark a post idea.  When I receive an email on a topic that is particularly close to the hearts of specific team members, I’ll forward it to them and ask if any of them feel led to answer personally or with a post.  Whether the post is written as a Q&A, or just responds to the general idea of the reader’s question, it’s answering a specific need within our readership and is usually very well received.  And when a writer is floundering in the sea of ideas, writing with a specific person on their mind and heart is often the making of a very powerful, personal post.

2. Have more contributors than posts per month.

“But how often do you want me to write?” is the second most frequently asked question among my contributors and potential contributors.  For the busy women who make up the majority of blogs I read, writing has to be fit in around life, work, and motherhood.  Few women who are not writers by trade feel comfortable making a firm commitment to writing one post per month: even the most dedicated contributors have emergencies or months when the well of words has run dry.

Allow freedom.

My team has appreciated the freedom to write as the Lord gives them words.  Combining a firm monthly submission deadline with the grace in the knowledge they do not have to write a post each month has worked well for us.  But in order to give them that freedom, I’ve found it works best to have more people on the contributor team than there are post slots per month.

Ask for easier commitments.

Maybe your contributors would be willing to commit to one post every other month — that simply means you need to double your contributor list!  Some months, one contributor will write more than one post.  Others, everyone is brimming with ideas and we have an overflowing post calendar.

And when one contributor is extra inspired on a topic that doesn’t fit the month’s theme?  I keep those posts ready for the months we’re lean on time and inspiration — they are ready-made filler that I don’t have to go looking for.

3. Don’t sacrifice quality for quantity.

It’s easier for me to say yes to a poorly written guest post because I need a post and don’t want to say no than it is to go out and find a quality contributor. But if I don’t take responsibility for the quality of the content on our contributor blog, then it reflects badly on everyone who writes there — including me.

“God has given you a [platform] to be able to speak to so many others. It is so important that you are discerning in what you put out there, because you will be held accountable for those words. We want to point people to Jesus…  I don’t take that lightly.”
Ruth Schwenk in “Building a Successful Contributor Blog” at Allume

Get good at saying no.

It’s a hard balance between encouraging budding writers and lowering the quality of your blog by accepting guest posts that don’t fit or are poorly written.  The first screening of guest posts requires the ability to say no.  Maybe you can hire an editor or VA who will be better suited to the decision of which posts are worth keeping.  But it’s a post by post decision that has to be bathed with a lot of prayer.  When I’ve had that nagging feeling that I shouldn’t publish a post — at least without some edits — and have done it anyway, I’ve always regretted it.  However, other times when I haven’t been able to find a good reason to say no — even though I really didn’t like the post — it’s been used powerfully in the lives of the readers (much to my humbled surprise).

Ask for a guest post before ask them to contribute full time.

I’m too quick to ask someone on as a full time contributor the moment they are recommended to me.  I’ve found that it’s always safer to ask someone to guest post a few times before you express interest in a long-term commitment.  Not only does it give me an opportunity to see their unedited posts, how capable they are of following our guidelines, and how we work together, but it gives an opportunity to see how they interact and resonate with our readers as well.

Be willing to edit.

I raised my hand in Ruth Schwenk’s session on “Building a Successful Contributor Blog” at Allume because I wanted to know: “Do you have to edit some contributor’s posts much more than others?”  Her simple answer was that yes, some people required a lot more editing than others, but it was okay, because she had asked them to contribute their unique message.  I’ve learned that my choice is simple: I can do some hard editing work (often times exercising more editing freedom than my editor would) or I can let a piece with a lot of passion and potential remain unpublished.  Some months I don’t have the time to invest; others I can tear the post apart and put it back together and send the author the edits so she can see and learn from the difference. But whenever we edit beyond simple grammar and punctuation, I always run it by the author before final publishing!

Remember that less is more.

I don’t read many blogs that publish something every single day — I don’t have the time, and neither do most of my readers.  Whenever I start getting stressed out about a leaner month, I remember what a friend told me once: her husband’s favorite blog only published one or two posts per year.  Some weeks, we publish on Tuesday and Thursday, others Monday/Wednesday/Friday.  And some months — usually the ones I was worried and started really praying about — the Lord fills up five days per week with posts for His glory!  But whenever I start feeling like we’re publishing more posts than I myself can get read, I try to step back the publishing schedule.  Because in the noise of social media and blogging, less is often more.

“As new media make the Internet more crowded, quality will be the easiest way to get through the noise.”
-John Mark Reynolds in The New Media Frontier

The beautiful thing about contributor blogs is that there is power in numbers — you can make up for each other’s ebb and flow.  With a whole team of people who are passionate and excited about its potential, a contributor blog can actually be easier than a personal blog to maintain for the long haul. It’s all in the way you maintain it and the One giving you the momentum.

What helps your contributor blog keep going for the long haul?

Thanks for sharing,
Gretchen Louise

The Starving Blogger

When I read to my teenage daughters, a lesson from Habitudes, by Tim Elmore, hoping to prepare them for life, I didn’t expect the message to be for me. The lesson began with the story of the starving baker.

Do you know that baker?

It’s the one who spends so much time baking bread for others to eat, that he neglects to eat. He was so busy serving bread to the others, he never stopped long enough to feed himself.

I’m nearing the end of a 31 days series on my blog. Writing everyday has been an incredible experience for me, and all-consuming, too. Though, I am careful to make sure the family is taken care of first, and I hope they know they are my priority, all of it combined can be taxing.

The minutes turn into hours. The hours turn into days. I’m studying and writing for everyone else, and I don’t even know I’m starving. Starving, not for the food I consume when my belly’s hunger pangs remind me that I’m hungry, but for the Bread of Life that sustains my soul, and provides the nourishment necessary for strength, growth, and health. (John 6:35, Matthew 4:4)

I’ve been working assiduously to produce content for my blog series. Pouring over books and journals, tapping out words with a desire to help others recognize their God-given potential, rekindle passion, and help foster growth in their life. And I enjoy doing do so. However, I cannot allow myself to become the starving blogger in the process. And neither should you.

The story of the starving baker shows us; we must nourish ourselves before we feed others. It is a selfless thing to do, to nourish our own soul, so we are giving out of the overflow of our life.

And it’s not just my own writing, but there are a number of online communities I am part of, and contributing to. I’m helping promote others and supporting them in their dreams. Connecting on the networks to encourage and pray for others. I am homeschooling my children and everything is done from home. The same home that beckons for my attention, needing laundry, floors, dishes done.

As a blogger it is tempting to live life for the content of the blog, instead of truly living our life. Though, my words are not lacking, I notice when my walk is. And if I am not living what I’m writing, I am not living authentically.

The number one problem of leaders in my generation is that they traffic un-lived truth.” — D.L. Moody

Trafficking un-lived truth — for more blog traffic? May it never be.

Here are some safeguards I have in place to prevent neglect of my own personal growth.

  • Accountability: It can be a scary thing to give your spouse, children or a friend permission to speak into your life when they notice something isn’t right, but there is safety in it, too.
  • Allowance: I allow myself regular blog breaks. My guideline is to take every 7th week off of social networking and blogging. It helps me refocus, renew and keep my priorities in order; God, family, friends and blog.
  • Awareness: Just like our bellies remind us with hunger pangs we need to eat, our souls do the same. When I am becoming weak, impatient, clouded or negative I know I’m growing hungry and need nourishment — for me, not more blog content.
Have you ever found yourself tending more to the growth of your blog than your own personal growth? What is your plan for personal growth?

journeying with you,

Michele-Lyn at A Life Surrendered

Before You Hit Publish {4 easy editing tips}

When I wrote my ebook, I had an editor that checked my grammar, fixed typos and advised me on general readability. Some changes she suggested were small and others involved moving entire chapters around. The end product is vastly different (and much, much better) than my original book. I love my editor. 

Unfortunately, I can’t afford to hire her for every blog post that I throw out into the world. And I’m guessing you don’t have a budget for an editor either. But the good news is that a blog post is much more forgiving than a book. (yay!) 

I’ve spent a lot of time reading blog posts about writing blog posts (think about that for a minute… :) ).  And I have been convinced that SEO or other traditionally important “blogging tips” are minor compared to one important feature. What really matters is simply, readability. 

 

You can have a hilarious, touching or incredibly insightful story to share… but if your post is not readable it won’t go anywhere. So before you hit “publish” on that amazing story of yours, check out these four things:

  • Is your post formatted properly?

Check for any long paragraphs. Utilizing white-space is extremely important. That means there should be blank areas around your writing. (i.e. short paragraphs, not too many advertisements, etc…) A paragraph that goes on and on is extremely difficult to read online. 

Are your paragraph lengths varied? Twelve two-sentence paragraphs = boring and monotonous. Split things up a little. If there are more than 2 or 3 paragraphs of the same length in a row, add to or take away until they vary. 

Is your color scheme a hindrance to readers? Not to be boring, but black/very dark words on a white/cream background is almost always preferred. I understand if you love bright yellow. Just don’t let it touch your words in any way. 

  • Read your post out loud at least twice. 

Reading out loud will identify the places that trip up your audience.  If you stumble on the same sentence both times change it.

It also utilizes your other senses (i.e. hearing) to locate any words that you may be unintentionally repeating. When at all possible, do not reuse the same word in a paragraph (unless you’re doing it very purposefully) and definitely not in a sentence. 

  • Ask yourself, “Is this paragraph necessary?” 

I love reading blog posts.  I especially love reading real-life-stories. I have a very short attention span. Pretty much, you have to be an incredibly engaging writer to convince me to actually read a long post. That means there should be no wasted words. Look at each paragraph and pose the question:  Does this paragraph serve a purpose? If it can be cut and the story goes on without it then cut it. 

  • Highlight key thoughts.

See how I used bold and italics in this post? Utilize this feature. Don’t overuse it, mind you, just utilize it. A reader should be able to skim your post and catch the most important parts of the story. (And hopefully, be drawn in. :)

What makes you read or not a read a blog post? Leave your thoughts in the comments! 

In Him, (and always for Him), Natasha

  

Noise at Dawn, Turning Up Silence, and a Top Three List.

Sometimes I get tired of words. All the words. Everywhere. Including my own. Facebook. Twitter. Blogs. You know. 

I went through a time earlier this year where I was obsessed with words. With all the words. I’d wake up to my alarm, and before I gave anything else a second thought, I was staring with one eye open at an endless feed of thought — statuses, opinions, angles. Daily, before I kissed the freshly-awake head of my little girl, or even uttered a desperate prayer, I had filled my head with noise. 

My mind tried to sort, and file, and toss and keep, but just like any filter, when things start getting clogged, not much good of anything gets through. My heart weighed heavy. Anxiety went through the roof. Lies seeped deep and shouted when I was weak. Peace unraveled like a stray thread on a handmade sweater. I felt a continual weight of not good enough, not smart enough, witty enough, theological enough, beautiful enough, you-name-it enough. I found when I sat to write, I didn’t even know what my voice was. What did I believe? What did I want to say? Was my contribution even worth making?

(And even now as I write this, I can still feel it all crouching at the door.) 

I was listening to so much, and adding my own noise, that I had lost sight of the point. The point of why I wrote, designed, created. Why did I want to be the girl who did these things? And did I even know anymore what God was whispering in my story before I shouted my noise to the masses?

I needed to turn down the noise. Turn up the silence. Take every thought captive. Tune into my heart. To the Gospel and what anchored me steady under the waves. 

The rest quieted my soul and when I sat back to stammer out my meager helpings, I tried to focus on three things. Here they are. If you find that you’re hearing more noise than music, read on. (Feel free to interchange write with “design” “create” “draw” “sing” “play”, etc.)

1. Write to witness beauty. — I’ve heard several men who I respect talk about finding joy in God by doing the things that bring us joy. When we participate in the beauty of cultivating something we love, it becomes less about the “thing” and more about the wonder of enjoying the gift that the Creator gives to us. The stories I live become portals of love, and I get to experience them all over again when I tell them.

2. Write to remember beauty. — There have been seasons where I wrote as a weary traveler. Divorce. Affairs. Sin. Loneliness. I would make small altars of words, pour out my heart, and light them on fire in hopes my Father would see, hear my prayers, and remember us. At the time, it felt quiet. Now, I look back and while I remember how bleak it all was, all I can see is redemption. Grace. Sustenance. I wrote so that me now, years later, would see God is good and faithful.

3. Write for clarity. — Edward Albee said “Writing has got to be an act of discovery. . . . I write to find out what I’m thinking about.” In this case, seeing is believing. Or sometimes, seeing is knowing what it is that I need to un-believe. 

And finally, don’t be afraid to turn down the noise and take a breather. It’s loud out there, and none of us will be crushed if you finally say you need a break. Silence is beautiful, and God is near. 

 Throw deep anchors and rest.

One Step at a Time

 

 

I came home from the Allume Conference full of goals and aspirations. I took diligent notes and was determined to make big strides both as a blogger and as a writer. I wrote down steps I wanted to take, goals I wanted to accomplish, and new dreams envisioned. I made new contacts, friends with whom I could partner. I got a ton of new resources (hello swagbag), and was so stoked to step out and make all of these things happen.

In the last {almost} two weeks since my return home, I have not accomplished a thing.

I haven’t made changes to my blog.

I haven’t reached out to the new {amazing} bloggers I met and would like to partner with.

I haven’t engaged with my readers, and really haven’t written any fantastic content.

I feel paralyzed.

You see, this is how I often feel when I come back from an amazing “high” experience. It’s how I felt after I attended a Women of Faith conference and came home determined to kick my temptation to the curb. It’s how I felt after attending a women’s retreat about prayer, where I was determined to spend more time on my knees before my Lord. My intentions were good, my heart was in it, but the feat seemed too great and I became paralyzed.

Do you ever feel that way?

Do you ever leave an exhilarating experience, newly equipped to run the race, and you end up feeling paralyzed?

Instead of making change, even taking just a small step, you find anything else to fill your time. Laundry even seems enticing as you avoid stepping out in faith. Anxiety gets in the way, and the enemy begins to convince you that the information you learned wasn’t meant for you, that you cannot take the steps necessary to reach your goals and that your goals are too lofty and impossible. Fear grabs you, and you decide to stick your notes {and dreams} away until you have “more time” to pour into taking action.

That’s where I’ve sat since returning from Allume. I’ve remained paralyzed in my fear.

Today, however, the Lord spoke to my heart. Today He gave me a {loving} kick in the booty. He reminded me that it wasn’t about tackling every single goal at once. He showed me that it wasn’t about starting with the big dream, but instead it’s about starting with the small steps. It’s about saying “yes” to today, checking one thing off the list, and leaving tomorrow in His hands. He showed me that it was my fear that was leaving me paralyzed. It’s my fear that convinced me to put away my notes and my dreams for another day. It’s my fear that convinced me that my dreams were not valid, that He would never use me for that big dream. And He reminded me that He didn’t give me a spirit of fear.  

 For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. – 2 Timothy 1:7

So today, instead of remaining in fear, I’m stepping out of it. I’m stepping out in faith. I’m going to pull out my notes, re-read my goals, my dreams, and my new-found visions for my ministry, and I’m going to take one step; one step towards growth, one step towards my goals, one step towards my God-given dreams. Just one. I won’t worry about what step I’ll take tomorrow, for today I just need to take one. Tomorrow I’ll take another step, and one each day after that. 

Day by day I’ll continue to kick fear to the curb and take it one step at a time. Will you join me?

 

  By, Mandy Scarr at Zealous for Him

 

The Number One Thing To Remember, Christian Blogger

On the other side of the screen, with a heart just like mine and just like yours, is a woman. A real, flesh and blood, stinky morning breath, possibly in need of a pedicure woman.

She may be sleep deprived because of a baby’s cry. She may be living her dreams. She may be soul-thirsty in the middle of a hopeless mess. But however her spirit, for a few quick moments she skims through your blog. And then just like that…she’s gone.

 


photo credit

 

As a blogger, if I live consumed with me or my numbers or how cracked up something looks, then I could miss that just-like-me-woman. I’ve walked that route before. She may move on to the next thing still wondering if God sees her, or loves her.

But if I remember why I write, then I start each post on my knees. Because each word is ultimately for His glory. Each post is an act of service to my sisters.

You and I have a platform. He has given us a sliver of cyber-space. But only He can pierce hearts. Only He can anoint our words.

Whether we write about motherhood or coupons or faith. Whether ten or ten-thousand people read our blogs. If He goes before and behind us, then our words hold great power. If we seek His guidance and trust Him to graciously speak to that woman on the other side of the screen, then amazing things can take place. Lives can change.

The call to action is pretty simple…in theory. Let’s give it all back to Him.

Practically that means we make prayer a priority. We pray for His wisdom before we start typing. And we pray for wisdom while we form the sentences. We pray for those who will read that day and pray for those who comment.

I suppose I could be effective without Him. I could grow an audience through sheer determination. But if I want to be used for eternal things, I have to follow His lead. I have to ask His opinion and trust Him with the results.

So as I click “publish” I pray He uses this post to inspire all of us — including myself! — to lay the blog as an offering before Him…again.

How do you stay purposeful in the blogosphere with your writing?

Written by Lara, ToOverflowing.com

I Don’t “Do Pretend”

 

Photo Credit 

I am tired.  I am a busy mom, a frazzled wife, and a delinquint blogger.

It seems as if I am overwhelmed with life today.  The whole month of August has seemed to be a little much.  Life doesn’t stop moving for me to take a break, and certainly doesn’t afford me the luxury of taking time off.

I am sure some of you are feeling the same way right now.  School supplies, new schedules, meal planning, deadlines, and  jobs adjustments can keep us feeling like we are skimming through life, and not even touching on what is really important in a day.

There is no room for pretending. 

I…do….not….have…it…all….together.

Women who gather at Allume are real. 

They have dirty dishes in their sink every night, clothes in the washing machine, jobs to attend to, and responsibilities outside of the blogging world.  They fight sickness, discouragement, and never have the right thing to wear.   We live real lives of hard work, play and nitty-gritty details.

As a veteran attendee of Allume, I am asked a lot of questions from those that are planning to go for the first time.  The most common concern and question that surfaces is – “I am not really any one special in the blogging world, and so how will all of “those women,” feel about me?

I don’t “do pretend.”   And neither do the women who attend Allume. 

You may be overwhelmed with life today.  Perhaps you are trying to figure out how to blog and live a balanced life?

This is what I have to keep reminding myself:

-My life is defined by Christ.  Not by what I do, where I live, who knows me, or how many followers I may have.

-Christ makes me complete.  Period.  Motherhood is my exclamation point, and writing (blogging) is a comma, the pause in my life – like a break in a sentence.  At just the right time, giving room for a breath, and making the sentence complete. 

-When I elevate my “need” to write or blog, or expect greater things from the blogging world than my life has room for, it becomes more of a question.

-What should I write about?  Rather than allowing inspiration to pen my words.

-When will  I find time to fit in a post, or a link-up?  Rather than it being my reprieve or a rewarding break.

-Wondering why other bloggers seem to have it all together.  The need to compare versus being complete.

Let’s be real.  Finding time to blog is a sacrifice.

Blogging is beautiful – expressions from the overflow of our lives. But, it doesn’t need to define you.  It is not your exclamation point.

 Or IS it?

Living IN the Light requires me to stay focused on the Lord first.  The more we know God, the more others know of Him –  through us.  Real….Life….Blogging.  When I am drawn in to a new blog, it is always because there is no pretense, but a genuine need for Christ and community.

Allume in October will bring you Real Life Bloggers….some armed with lap tops, some with diaper bags, and some with both. Excitement to attend should not be deterred with a fear of being less than another blogger, or not knowing any one “special.”

Will you be there this October?  Let’s “get real” today –  I would love to meet you!

Oh, please share your story with me.  I would love to introduce you to everyone. 

Are You Called to be Small?

MacBook keyboard

image via alcomm | flickr creative commons

 

Friends, I’d like to ask you a question today: Why do you blog?

Not “why do people in general blog” or “why do you think you should blog”, but why do YOU, really?

Each of us started with something in mind when we first took that deep breath and nervously hit ‘publish‘. Was it merely a way to share photos of baby’s adorable toothless grin with faraway relatives? A love of words and stories that needed an outlet? The need to earn extra income to support your family? A desire to connect with others?

Whatever your reason, you made the commitment to put yourself out there, and that’s no small accomplishment. But somewhere along the way, it’s easy to get caught up in the game. You know, the one where that cunning little voice whispers “bigger is better” and “numbers are important” and “you have to keep up!” You’re stressed out, checking stats every hour, snapping at your kids and cursing under your breath wondering which link-up you’ve forgotten.

Before you realize it, you’ve tied your sense of worth to your notoriety (or lack thereof). 

Not that I would know about any of that. Ahem.

As one recovering comparison-junkie to another, I sympathize. It’s tempting to believe success lies in your number of followers, comments, sponsors or re-tweets. If your blog is any good, it will grow. Right?

Maybe — or maybe not.

As Christians, we believe God has a plan for our lives. Are you ready to consider that His plan might look different than you thought? Friends, I want to encourage you that you just might be called to be small. On purpose. For your blessing and His glory.

A small bird perching on a branch

image via phonton | flickr creative commons


God can do amazing things through your small blog that might never happen at a bigger blog.

Your intimate platform can allow you to connect personally with your readers, build real relationships and touch hearts in ways no overflowing comment box ever could. Your blog’s compact size can be the very thing that makes you approachable. Some of your readers may even become real-life friends. (I can tell you from experience, it’s true!)

I’ve had the amazing privilege to petition the throne of God on behalf of my readers, interceding for them personally in the presence of our Abba Father. This isn’t small, friends, it’s HUGE

As you prayerfully consider His plan for your blog (and your life), I hope you’ll remember this: No amount of fame or accolade will truly satisfy until you grasp the truth that you are Christ’s beloved. Your worth lies in His unending love for you, not in your stats or followers. You were bought with the shed blood of Christ, adopted into His family, and He has a plan for you.

It’s taken me a while to get to this point, but I honestly don’t want to be a mega-blogger anymore. I love the interaction and connection I have with my readers. I love recognizing the names and avatars that pop up in my comment box, and knowing the stories that accompany so many of the faces. I have a busy life and a family that needs my attention. (And honestly? Who can keep up with 200+ comments on a post anyway?)

Sweet sisters, don’t shortchange yourself by chasing someone else’s version of success. Give your blog over to Him and enjoy the bountiful blessings God has planned for you.

 

So, tell me, friends — why do YOU blog?

Jana Driggers is an ordinary woman grateful for the extraordinary grace of her Heavenly Father. She loves discovering God’s grace in the everyday mess and longs for a quiet moment to sit at Jesus’ feet. You can usually find her in the carpool lane, singing loudly and embarrassing her kids. Jana writes about faith, family, and encouragement for the journey at Grace for My Mess, and is a contributor to Sisters In Bloom.

Tell Us Your Story

I’ve been blogging for 7 years. Back in the day before WordPress was popular and Money Saving Mom’s old blog was still a website. In 7 years, I have had no measurable success as a blogger. No conference has ever asked me to speak, not one of my posts has gone viral, I’ve never had haters in my comment box, I’ve never made any money from a faith blog, and it’s been almost a year and I’m still working on my first eBook.

What can I tell you about blogging, you ask? My story.

I have been everywhere as a blogger. I’ve blogged about books, faith, babies, marriage, frugality. I’ve tried nearly every link-up and blog carnival out there. I’ve tried to do all the things a successful blogger would do and follow every how-to step.

It wasn’t until I realized these things weren’t making me happy and only increasing my dissatisfaction with blogging (and life) that I stopped. I came back to the reason I started blogging—I love writing. I had to reorient my attitude toward blogging to reflect my passion.

What did I learn?

Be authentic. Don’t hide behind masks. Don’t try to be someone else

Write from where you are and where you’ve been. When you have a few helpful tips on how to make your house, life, or kitchen more organized in 7 easy steps share how you learned those tips and tricks. 

Be authentic in your words. Don’t encourage to fill up a word count. Mean what you say. Believe it.

 

We’re done with Jesus-lite.

We’ve had enough nonsense, enough sparing for stats. Let’s leave the game behind and just tell our stories. Whatever niche, whatever post structure.

You will always be a more powerful, effective writer and communicator when you share your story. Don’t just give us your conclusion, tell us what brought you there.

Give us something compelling. Let us wrestle with you. Show the gritty side of your faith–whether it be in the homeschool room, church pew, traffic light, or DIY project gone wrong.

Instead of simply giving a directive, share your journey. If you learned how to be a more purposeful mother, then give us the back story. If you’ve discovered going grain-free or minimalist or fill-in-the-blank has improved your quality of life, tell us more than how, share why. Tell us how you got there. Give us the in-between.

Don’t be afraid to say life is messy.

We know life is messy, but we need to know ours isn’t the only one. We need to know behind that photoshopped beauty of a counter are crumbs and piles of last month’s mail.

When we hear a story it becomes a mirror reflecting our own need. It has the power to bring light to the crevices in our own lives. When it does it becomes a more efficacious tool for change than a bullet list shaking its finger in our face.

Story will always go farther than perfect.

Tell us your story.

Jessica is a contributor for Sister In Bloom. She writes about the everyday life, faith, mercy and justice, as well as her passion for writing at The Reluctant Sojourner.

Tips For Taking Photos


When I was growing up and our family went on vacation my dad always had his camera with him. He would stop every few steps to take a photograph of an interesting building or a beautiful flower, while my sister and I rolled our eyes and waited impatiently. Now I am that parent! I can’t help myself. I love to take photographs, and I do not discriminate, although I’m partial to photos of my kids. I’ve realized that I look at the world through a lens, often thinking “Oh, that would make a beautiful picture!”.

As a mom, photos are a way to capture memories of my husband and children, daily life and the extraordinary too. I take great joy in photographing them. As a craft blogger, photos are a big part of my content. There are tutorials and reviews that require a multitude of photos, and they need to look nice. Over the years I have taken thousands of photos, and though I do not consider myself a pro by any stretch, I have learned a lot and have improved by leaps and bounds. I’d love to share some photography tips with you, if that’s alright.

1. Use natural light whenever possible!

There is nothing better than natural light when you are taking a photograph. Sometimes the circumstances won’t allow it, but if you have it, use it! It makes a big difference. You may have to use a tripod, set up near a window, or just wait for a sunnier day, but it’s worth it.

No flash, evening, low light

No flash, daylight

The second set of photos looks infinitely better than the first. The colors are brighter and it looks intentional. Take advantage of that light.

2. Get a little closer.

When photographing food, a close up can make all of the difference. Get down on the level of the beatiful creation you’ve just made a zoom in! Don’t be afraid to get a tight shot… make ’em drool.

It works with people too!

3. Use a few props.

Props can add a lot of fun to a photograph and they are super easy to make. The props shown in this photo can be found here.

 

4. Use a back drop when photographing objects.

I create tutorials for my blog and really like to have a clean, solid background for my photos. When you are creating step by step instructions it helps to eliminate as many distractions as possible. I purchased a large piece of white board from our local grocery store. It’s actually white on one side and blue on the other. It works for all sorts of projects and only cost me less than $2! This photo is from an upcoming tutorial for making a travel-sized minky blanket.

5. Wait for it!

Sometimes a great shot takes preparation and patience. The best photos are rarely the first ones that are taken. I can’t tell you how many photos I delete. That’s the beauty of digital photography! I took this series of photos last fall on a family vacation. I crouched down in the ocean and prayed that I wouldn’t drop my camera in the water while I snapped away. The last photo is one of my favorites that I have of my daughter.

The joy on her face is priceless! I was able to capture it well because I was willing to wait.

There are many things that you can do to improve your photographs. These are just a few, but I hope that maybe you have learned something new. The most important thing is to have fun and take photos of things and people that you love! You’ll enjoy it so much.

Thanks so much for letting me share with you today! If you’d like to see more of my photos you can follow me on Instagram at sidac, Followgram, or follow along at The Southern Institute.

Jenny is also a contributor for Sisters in Bloom.

Diary of A Preschool Blogger :: Playing Nice

My name is Stacey and I have been writing my blog, 29 Lincoln Avenue, for a little over two years. So really, in the blog world, I am only a preschooler. I still have much to learn. The neat thing about the Allume blog, is we can learn together and continue the conference experience all year long. It is like the conference without the swag. (Hint. Hint. Swag here would be really cool).

What I loved about Relevant {someday we’ll call it Allume} last year, was the conversation woven throughout on sisterhood. My favorite session was called “Upside Down Blogging” with Ann, Amy & Courtney. They said all sorts of awesome words like:

“Blogging is a team sport. There is not finite pie. You don’t get your share. Your Father owns everything. He chooses to divvy it up how He wants to. Can you trust Him? Concentrate on what He has given you. If you spend time just looking at what other people have, then you will at best not be doing anything with what He gave you.” (Amy Lynn Andrews)

“Seek good things for yourself, seek them not” (Courtney)

“Blogging is about washing the feet of our sisters” (Ann)

As a preschool blogger I’ve been thinking, what if we as a community really bought into this idea of sisterhood? What if we loved to love each other? What if we played nice every day and shared our toys (blogs)? After all, isn’t it the first thing we learned in preschool? Well, maybe it was the second thing after don’t eat the play dough. But still, playing nice is a valuable lesson we all could benefit from if we grew a little in this area.

Okay, so you are intrigued and ready to make friends more like sisters. How far are you willing to go to play nice? Will you:

Pray for her
Applaud her loudly
Leave a comment on her posts
Tweet for her
Share your blog home
Step aside so another can shine instead of you

Are you ready for some honesty? Last year, my number one post was not written by me. That’s right, I am not even #1 on my own blog. Does that hurt a bit? Well, sure it does, I’m a girl, right? But when you get down to it, 29 Lincoln Avenue is not really my blog. It belongs to Jesus. I’m only renting the space.

Since we are uniquely girls, we are going to mess up at this sisterhood thing from time to time. We still wear flesh, and until the day we don’t, we will fall short. So when that happens, what if we gave grace? What if when our sister missteps, instead of talking about her, we prayed for her? What if when we were forgotten, we used the time to sit at the feet of Jesus and ask Him who we could encourage?

A beautiful thing happens when we play nice. Jesus gets all the credit and we get a chance to meet, engage and collaborate with women who passionately use their gifts for the Lord. The truth is, working with women like this makes me better on every account. Where I lack, they shine and sometimes that rubs off on me. And for a preschool blogger, that is a pretty good thing.

Next time, let’s talk about the best part of preschool—nap time.

Stacey Thacker is a contributor for SistersInBloom.com and find her blogging at 29lincolnavenue

If God Had a Blog…Finding Your Niche

You’ve all read the bible, right? Our Father isn’t exactly the type to narrow down His focus. Thank goodness for that! He likes people, animals, plant life, water, scenery, complicated formulas and He is all about mystery.

And we are made in His image.

I often hear about how we should hone our blog focus or pick a niche. For a girl like me who has 11 new interests each year that can be a bit complicated. How do I narrow myself down?

Then it dawned on me. We don’t need to narrow down our blog topics. We simply need to develop a honed perspective.

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” This is the first and greatest commandment.
Mathew 22:36-38

God narrowed down the entire contents of the law to one perspective through which everything else can be filtered through. It isn’t a subject, topic, or niche. It is a perspective.

For most of us, in finding our blog’s purpose, we have discovered that our purpose doesn’t necessarily fit into a niche. Instead it encompasses much of our life experiences and things we are learning. These are called transformation blogs and it is important for us to allow them to transform.

In fact, even if your blog does fit into a specific niche it is important to allow it a bit of transformation room. Times change, we change, and our blog should follow suit. The one thing that doesn’t change is His Word so we must keep Jesus Christ as the foundation of our blog. Yes, even if our posts aren’t directly referencing Him.

We simply keep Him as the foundation to have faith that as we transform (thus our blog) that we are in line with His will.

In the past, I know that I have felt compelled to post this content or that content because I felt it was expected of me. I also put pressure on myself to follow through with things my flesh had promised my readers but that my spirit told me to humble myself and back out of. On more than one occasion I have felt the need to apologize for my absence from blogging. This is one instance when it is key to remember just who’s glory we are blogging for: ourselves or Him?

And there is nothing wrong with niche blogs. I LOVE them. I am simply not someone who can maintain one. I would be completely bored by day three. Some of us were designed that way. Look at our own Ms. Sarah Mae. You can’t put her in a box. Try to tell her to focus on one thing. Yet, she is wildly successful. If we keep Him as our focus and let Him give us our perspective then we can’t help but bloom.

God didn’t create us all out of molds and there is no need for us to try to make our blogs that way either. Blog freely.

On occasion we need to step back and reevaluate. We need to institute changes. We need to allow Him to transform us and let that reflect on our blogs so that we can be a testimony to those in need of witnessing it. We don’t belong to our readers. We won’t answer to our readers on judgment day. We will answer to Him and I don’t want to miss the opportunity to be used to help in the transformation of the life of someone else.

If out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks then out of the overflow of the heart the fingers must type. Stay in His word. Remain in prayer. Serve His people. Allow Him to transform you. Let your fingers type a reflection of that change. Depending on your gifts and talents that may make an appearance as a photograph, a recipe, a craft project, or even as a bible study. As long as it is what He has led you to and what you are sharing for His glory then we are doing the right thing.

If God had a blog I know it would be vast and beautiful. The categories would be endless. The one thread that would connect each one would be love.

What’s in your heart?

Amy Bayliss blogs at Cajun Joie de Vivre as well as contributes to Sisters in Bloom.

Plagued with Comparison



Oh, how you wish you were she.

She has followers galore and why wouldn’t she? She is pretty and sweet. She always seems to have the most captivating things to say. She weaves her magic with social media in a way that makes you feel like you are in kindergarten and she is earning her doctorate.

And you look at what is in your hands and it’s dirt compared to her masterpiece. Everyone loves her and no one seems to even notice you. Or perhaps they do notice you but you know that you are still so far behind her. After all, numbers don’t lie. They tell you who wins the popularity contest. Right?

But it was never meant to be a comparison. It really wasn’t.

When God called you to this thing called blogging He didn’t look at you to compare you with her. No, He looked at you to fulfill your role and her to fulfill hers. Yours was never meant to look like hers.

It’s really only He who can promote you. It looks like its followers and traffic but it’s not. It looks like you were in the right place at the right time and connected with the right people but it’s not. It is His hand on your life. It’s His purpose for you being fulfilled in His perfect timing.

Our gifts and dreams started in God’s heart. When you understand that it is all His it is so much easier to lay it down on the altar and let it be all for His glory. When it’s all about Him then no part of it has place to be about you verses she.

It’s a beautiful tapestry He is weaving together with all of our dreams and gifts. Her part is no better than yours IF you fully embrace your place and don’t let comparison distract and deceive you.

When you learn that it’s God’s handiwork flowing through you it is easy to appreciate the beauty and uniqueness in each person. When you learn how He works then you can rest in knowing that you are so valuable. You are His favorite you!

So what’s a girl to do who is plagued with comparison?

  1. Ask yourself why you are doing this anyway? Is it really your calling? Is it a dream He has given you? If so run with it only while running after Him, putting Him first.
  2. When you feel tempted to compare remind yourself who is doing the tempting and take your thoughts captive. The Holy Spirit does not tell us to compare ourselves with others. We are only to compare ourselves to what God’s word says is true about us.
  3. Remember that God is for you! He has a perfect plan for you and if you only run after Him and His plan without the distraction of running after being like another person, then He will bless and promote you. He expands your territory as you are faithful with what you have been given.
  4. Always return to your source. You need His reminders daily of how much He loves you, how precious and valuable you are, and that His plan for your life is good and perfect. When you hear from Him regularly then you will be so much less likely to look to others to affirm you and give you value.

Have you been guilty of comparing {I’m the first to raise my hand}? What makes you unique as a blogger (experiences you’ve had, gifts and talents, etc…)? Think about it and please do share! We’d love to hear from you!

Kristin Lemus is a contributor for Sisters in Bloom and writes about being purposeful and living in freedom at Purposeful Homemaker.

On Finding Your Passion

Last year, at the (then) Relevant Conference, I sat in on a session with Emily Freeman. Emily’s advice for finding your ‘calling’ or passion– “pay attention to what makes you cry.”

Her words gave me goosebumps then and even now, as I re-read them, my skin pricks with the chill of knowing, of recognizing and no longer living afraid of owning my passion.

And her advice is good. When you’re staring at that blinking cursor, or sitting with your journal open in your hands and you will the words to come, and they don’t, think about what moves you. What is it in this life that stirs your soul, what is it that forces the lump in your throat or excites you? What are your favorite books, what are your favorite movies, what is the theme that runs between these things and connects them. Is there a cause you get fired up about? Write it down. Let it breath on the page. Ask God what dreams He has for you, pray for discernment.

Some tips for finding your passion:

  • Make a list of the things that stir emotion in you (any emotion, even if it’s something that makes you angry or sad), list them privately, perhaps in a journal.
  • Take your list and circle the top three that stand out at you. Are they related to each other? If they are, how so? If not, can you find any type of common theme (it may be less obvious, but try)
  • Pray for God to reveal your passion to you, ask His opinion on the matter, seek His direction for using your passions for His glory- you are designed with specific passions and desires unique to you, God knows what they are so don’t be afraid to ask Him to reveal them to you!
  • Ask your “kitchen friends” what they think your gifts are. ( I have a friend who believes me to be gifted in hospitality, though I hadn’t considered this for myself, after hearing her expound on why she felt this way, I can see why she said this and it has helped me to discover more about who I am and what moves me to serve- the point is, you might be surprised by what your friends know about you!)
  • Answer Emily’s question, “What is it that makes you cry?”

Now choose one word from your list and free-write whatever comes in to our head related to this word. Don’t be surprised if this is some of your best writing. When you write from your sweet spot, your writing will be most authentic. When you write boldly about what moves you, don’t be surprised when your words move others. Passion is contagious.

Finding your passion is not always an instant thing. My passion for writing has grown over time as it has been nurtured and exercised. I recommend you do these exercises privately because this is not necessarily the time for everyone to add their two-cents to your processing. You may feel less inhibited about being honest with yourself as you name your passions, when you know that no one is peeking at you. I believe that once you have uncovered your niche, or passion, you will feel peace about it. Not that everything you do within the realm of living out your passion will be peaceful, but you will know that you are doing what fulfills you, what God has called you to do.

Have you found your passion? Can you feel the difference in your writing when you write about those things which burn deep in your soul? I’m dying to know.

Kris is a contributor to Sisters In Bloom and you can follow Kris’s musings at her personal blog, Always Alleluia .

Standing On Your Soapbox – Finding Your Platform

If you have a blog in place, or if you are planning a blog, did you know you could stand on your own soapbox and tell the world about your passions? From this soapbox you can share your joys, sorrows, vent, instruct, teach, train, encourage, entrust, show, and flex your writing muscle. In other words, your blog can be your platform. Why have platforms? This is helpful if you ever want to consider publishing, as in publishing stuff you write, as in books, eBooks, etc. Your platform is an excellent place to help market your writings.

Let me be clear, you do not have to write with the intent of publishing any further than your own blog. Many prefer to write just for themselves and their readers, not caring if they ever have an opportunity in having their works published. However, you will hear of more bloggers opting to publish their posts into eBooks, even commercial publishers are approaching them offering book deals. You may decide that you enjoy writing so much; you want to put forth effort into writing a book.

Whether you think you may want your writings published beyond your blog right now, you should at least be open to the possibility for the future. One thing a commercial publisher looks for is whether a writer has a platform or not. If you have a blog in place and if your blog focuses on the book you’ve written, then you have the “platform” they are seeking.

If you are just starting your blog, think ahead to what you want your main point to be, your mission. It may be a blog detailing your day as a mom. It may be one where you write about the craft projects you do with your children. It may be one where you talk about your daily struggles with an illness or chronic condition. It may be one where you highlight your walk with the Lord. It may be one where you generalize your life and talk about it all, family, children, home projects, cooking, etc. Really, there is no set rules to coming up with a platform, except you need to question why you are starting your blog.

If you are starting a blog with the intent to earn an income with it, you really should think about your platform. If you wish to cover several different topics, like for example, family issues, cooking, and your walk with the Lord, then make sure your categories are well defined. Put all your “recipes” under your cooking category. Family issues under “family” category, and so on.
By doing this, if you wish ever to publish a book, when you approach a publisher or agent with your manuscript, you can honestly tell them you already have a platform (your blog). This will go a long ways in earning points with the potential agent or publisher. Be sure to make the most of your “platform,” set your blog up by creating email lists, to sign up or opt-in for your newsletter and RSS feeds. Having a nice sized list will also impress any future publishers. They will see you with great marketing potential if these things are already in place.

This post shared by Lori Ramsey, a contributor for Sisters In Bloom. You can find Lori’s work at her brand new site LA Ramsey where she writes about her novels and her faith.

Why We Blog

Why We Blog

You, my friend, have something to say.  You are created with a purpose all your own, with a story written into your DNA that only you can tell.

Do you believe this – that He has given you a voice?  Do you believe you have a story?  Do you believe He is working in you?  Do you believe your vulnerability — your trusting Him with your words — will bring forth something amazing?  Do you believe you are enough?

You are beautiful.

You do have a voice.

You are His beloved.

You are perfectly enough.

You are a work of His creation, designed exquisitely in His image, to communicate, with that heart of yours, His words He gives.

Isn’t that, at our core, why we blog?

The ‘why we blog’ question might bring to mind the word “mission” or “ministry”. The purpose might be to generate income, or to share a personal passion with the world.  But, at the core of it all, the motivation for blogging stems from one thing: The Father gives each of us a language, all our own – His voice in us — to share. 

So we do.

We blog because we must.

We blog because we believe it glorifies Him and brings healing, through Him, if we entrust these words He’s given us, poured into our hearts, and share, with our family, in Christ.

We blog because we trust that He shapes our hearts when we write.

We blog because finding words to articulate ourselves helps bring us closer to Him and helps us to process the work He is doing in us.

We blog because our hearts written down might model, for His children how, in whatever place they are, they have a voice, a story, a passion to give up to Him, too.

We blog because we can’t keep His words in us to ourselves.  We blog because we believe that by hitting “publish” and sending His words in us for the world to see, that He will carry the message to whom it is meant.

We blog because we have been given a gift and we can’t hold it in.  To accept the gift, we must give it back, on His terms.  He has a good plan, and we believe it.

We blog because we were made for this.

He is the giver of all good things.  He gives — and for us to keep the gifts locked up, squandered away, the talent buried in the ground, what glory is that?  What obedience is that?  What faith is that?  (Matthew 25:14-30)

And friend, in the act of surrender, in our blogging, He translates our hearts. It is an act of obedience to trust Him with our words, trusting that our surrendering them, for His glory, will bring healing, through Him. 

There is a beauty in vulnerability, in rawness, in hearts stripped bare – for then, we are desperate for Him, and we can be used, for His glory.

We feel most alive, most filled up by Him, when we do.

With what He gives, give back to Him, for His kingdom, and He will multiply the gift, in us.  He will use it.

You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven (Matthew 5:14-16).

You have a story – one that continues to unfold, growing richer, with more healing, more beauty, with each word you surrender.

Only you can tell the story the Father writes on your heart.  He makes you an author of your life, with each action you take, each word you express.  Deciphering the life-story, articulating, through language, the life He gives, is for you to do.

This post shared by Jennifer Camp, a contributor for Sisters In Bloom. You can find Jennifer blogging at You Are My Girls, where she writes to remember the truth of her identity in the Father’s eyes and to encourage other women to remember this as well.

We’re On A Mission For Such A Time As This

We are gathering, weaving words, speaking truth, and spilling our heart words out through blogging.  Social media is a fantastic tool to bring about goodness for God’s kingdom.  There has never been such an opportunity as this, where within minutes we can spread a message through Twitter and Facebook.  We can shout out from the mountaintops about the faithfulness of God and find people who will listen.

I believe we are in a window of time like no other, and it’s a perfect opportunity to jump in and be a part of a movement and a mission through our blogs.  There are hungry people searching for truth, for encouragement and for hope.  As the world is rapidly changing all around us, have you ever considered that social media and bloggers are being raised up and sent forth for such a time as this?

The media looks to bloggers to be game changers. The face of advertising and publishing has taken a favorable turn to blogging and social media.  Authors are being birthed, orators are springing forth, and ministries are flourishing all because of this exciting platform.

Don’t you want to be a part?
 God calls us to be the light, and to shine that light to the lost. Just as this Allume site has the mission to “Live The Light”, we can come together and be the next wave of mission-minded bloggers for God’s purposes!

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light- Ephesians 5: 7-9

So where do we start?  Jumping into social media can grow weary if you don’t have a clear mission and focus. Speaking as a fellow blogger in this arena, I can quickly get discouraged, start comparing myself and wonder why I am blogging.  We can all have the best of intentions to be a mission-minded blogger, but not have a clear mission in the first place!

The most important secret I have found to keeping my eyes on the One whom I blog for, is to write out a mission statement.  By having a mission before me, I can reign in my focus when bloggers all around me seem to be doing more, writing better, and getting better opportunities than me. I highly recommend to any blogger whether new or experienced to write a mission statement for their blog and any online pursuits. Here is why.

Why we need a Mission Statement

  • You will stay focused.
  • You will keep blogging when you want to quit.
  • You will be able to combat all the outside “noise” of other blogs and alleviate comparing yourself with others.
  • You will be able to recognize how you are going to reach your audience with your unique message.
  • You will feel confident in who God created you to be.
  • You will see the unique value you have as a blogger.
  • You will be a game changer!

How To Create A Mission Statement

Answer the following questions:

Who will be my audience?

(women, moms, families, what is their age?, do they work?, do they stay home?)

What kind of content will I provide for that reader?

(instructional, devotional, practical, inspirational)

 Why do I want to blog? 

( income, ministry, a cause, creating a platform, hobby, creative outlet, to equip, instruct, encourage)

How will my readers find me?

(social media, networking, contributing, guest posting, ebooks, speaking)

What aesthetics do I want to achieve in my blog design?

(clean, simple, warm, old fashioned, modern, crafty, literary)

What image do I want to portray? 

(friendly, informative, business, helpful, girlfriend, mentor, coach, teacher, speaker, writer)

After answering all of these questions hopefully you will now have a better idea of where you are headed and feel more confident in your blogging. Keep in mind, when you write a mission statement, it isn’t set in stone and can be changed. You can keep your statement private and to yourself and review it often. I personally never show readers my mission statement. However, if you have a contributor site, like Sisters In Bloom, or a collaborative project, it is a good idea to share a common mission so everyone is on board.

Here is one of my overall mission statements which I use as a compass for all online pursuits.

I exist online to glorify God through my writing and interaction with others. I seek to blog with intention not perfection, and always inspire and encourage other women in their hearts. I long to always promote community and authentic relationships while writing online.

 

I hope that through the process of writing your own mission statement that you will see your unique value, and how you can be a mission-minded blogger for such a time as this! Together let’s shine the light to the world!

This post by: Denise Thompson, founder of Sisters In Bloom and Denise In Bloom.

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