Meet Gari Meacham

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

Watershed Moments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Sweet friends, your Watershed Moment will come.

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

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

Sweet blessings…Gari

 

faded favorite 2

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

Pass It On

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

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

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

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

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

Giveaway

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

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

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

Everyday Icing Auctions on Facebook

 

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

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

Pack Your Workout Clothes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But their vision does not stop there.

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

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

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

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

But it is not just about charity.

As Bono claims, “it’s about justice.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

End Bible Poverty

Please welcome The Seed Company

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

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

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

Tanzania The Seed Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tanzania TSC

 

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

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

Four Things I Appreciate

Please welcome Lindsey Nobles from Food for the Hungry…

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

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

Food for the Hungry

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

Abraham

 

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

Child Sponsorship at Food for the Hungry

 

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

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

fh.org

 

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

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-Lindsey Nobles
fh.org

My Hopeful, Breaking Heart

Please welcome Jessica of Sole Hope

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

Jessica Africa Pic Smile

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

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

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

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

update

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

update4

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

update6

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

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

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

update5

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

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

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

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

Full of Hope~

Jessica Shanor

Welcome to Moms’ Night Out

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

 

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

 

But don’t worry: it’s a comedy!

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

A Young Widow in Nepal Sought Peace, So Did I

Please welcome Gospel for Asia

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

shiuli

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

www.gfa.org/shiuli

 

Thomas

One in One Hundred Million

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

 OCC Connect Conference 2012- Stone Mountain, Georgia

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

– Alex Nsengimana

Finding the Perfect Blend

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

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

JustLoveCoffee_Rob

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

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

lovewall

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

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

JasonTryer

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

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

WebbFamily

 

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

Visit Just Love Coffee and share it with your friends.

Women Who Make a Difference

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

Women like Mary Makaranga in Tanzania.

World Renew

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

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

Mary’s work now includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Super Easy Switch From Google Reader to Feedly

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

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

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

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

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

Step One:

Go to Feedly.com

meetfeedly

Step Two:

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

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

Step Three:

Restart your browser when prompted.

timetorestart

Step four:

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

logintofeedly

requestingtoaccessreaderdata

Step five:

You’re done!

 

Yes, it was that easy.

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

 

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

feedlyispictures

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

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

justlikereader

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

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

See? Absolutely no trouble at all.

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

For the Faithful Blogger

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

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

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

Thank you, friend.

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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

THANKS

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

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

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

And know… you have my sincerest, deepest thanks.

In His Grip,

Monica

http://happyandblessedhome.com

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

How to Beat Discouragement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are a few others:

What you think or feel isn’t necessarily the truth

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

Your performance doesn’t define you

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

Life’s disappointments can make you stronger 

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

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

mikey20wedding20282_zps8f6ceac2

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

New Breakthrough, New Enemy

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 
 
photo credit

It’s Not Writers Block, Y’all

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 


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

Linking Hearts

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

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

165/365 Photo by A. Gutermuth

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

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

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

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

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

Sometimes God Says “Leave”

 
 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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


What has God been calling you to leave behind?

 

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11.

 

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

 
 

Practicing Consistency

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

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

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

Learn from my mistakes.

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

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

What will consistency do?

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

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

Blogging is about building relationships.

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

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

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

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

When Your World Won’t Stop Spinning

(photo of me, courtesy Lisa Tarplee )

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Servant Meal

“Servant Meal!” Dad calls out and we all know the rules for the coming dinner. No one is allowed to serve themselves. You may put your food in your mouth, but that is all. Someone else picks your food, puts it on your plate and serves your condiments. You can’t even ask for what you need or want. Why not? Well. . . because you are a servant, too, of course! A servant never asks to be served.

It is something fun we do as a family. The servant meal began as an activity at a youth retreat many years ago. When we saw the fun involved, as well as the spiritual application, we grabbed hold of the idea. The children enjoy serving each other and finding creative ways to make their needs known. The joy of serving often overflows into other parts of the day, which is our ultimate goal.

I have noticed that bloggers are a lot like the children sitting at my table. Words are set before us on a daily basis. There is no lack of posts to choose from. What bloggers need are for their words to be heard and to hear the words of others. How can the needs of so many be met when the table is so large and the meal so overwhelming? Just like in my children, I have observed various personalities in bloggers. There are the quiet bloggers who come to the table once or twice a week and don’t stay long when they do. There are the party bloggers who have a lot to say, a lot of places to go, and a lot of people to meet. I have also noticed very serious bloggers who have a lot to say and a lot of business to tend to, but they do not have much time for dessert.

All personalities have a purpose and make blogging interesting. There is one type of blogger that stands out from the crowd,the servant blogger. She comes to the table as much as she can, but she is often busy in the kitchen, working behind the scenes. At the table, she only speaks when she has something meaningful to say. When she does speak, everyone listens. She knows how to make other bloggers feel special, serving up what each one needs. The servant blogger rarely leaves before having dessert because that’s the best time to share a good laugh and make someone’s day. If you haven’t seen her in a while, you can be sure she’s busy serving her family, church or community.

You know that because. . . well, that is who she is. While I don’t think it’s necessary to have a servant meal at the blogging table, I do think there is something to be learned from the servant blogger. If we follow her example, blogging can be just as much fun as the servant meal is in our home. Perhaps the most important thing to remember is that small bloggers need your service as well as well-known bloggers. While there is value in serving those you look up to, the heart of Jesus is to serve the least among you. Here are some ideas to get you started.  

In Social Networking

Share a post if you gained something from it, be it a lesson learned or a good belly laugh. Spread the word when something exciting happens to another blogger. Befriend new bloggers and help them find more friends. (#FF on Fridays is a great way to do this on Twitter.) Remember your manners. Say, “Please, thank you, your welcome and I’m sorry.”  

On Your Blog

Respond to comments. Sometimes just saying thank you is enough. Quote other bloggers and link to the post you quote from. Feature favorite posts of the week or introduce blogs with a kind review. Invite lesser known bloggers to write a guest post. (Make sure you know the blogger fairly well and trust her to write with integrity.)  

Behind the Scenes

Offer to help new bloggers by answering any questions they have or directing them to answers. Leave friendly and encouraging comments. Send a private message if you notice something that might embarrass the author, like a bad typo or misinformation. Support business bloggers by clicking on or purchasing through blog ads.  

These are just a few ideas. Do you have more? How have fellow bloggers served you?  

Image Source: Microsoft Office

Tereasa is the author of His Pen on My Heart, where she blogs about freedom in Christ, healing from spiritual abuse and raising special children. She is a story teller, painting pictures with words and drawing the reader close to her heart. Her desire is to encourage those who are hurting and point all to Christ, the healer of our broken hearts.

Fine

I’m going to be very real with y’all right now.

I found poop on my wall the other day. It had been there less than a week but more than a day.

Let’s visit a few important points about the sentences above:

1. I live in south-central PA and the “south” part of that statement makes it ok for me to say “y’all.

2. Also I like to drink out of mason jars. That’s southern. Right?

3. I have a 6 month old daughter

4. My life is a little chaotic at times

5. The wall is now clean

Now that we’ve gotten all the essentials out of the way, let me confess something else to you. It’s not easy for me to be real. I would much rather tell you that I’m fine, or tell you the funny “poop on the wall” story to distract you from the reality that I am struggling, feeling alone, and could use a hug. And some chocolate. Preferably dark chocolate with sea salt caramel.

I posted here about my issue with saying “no” and how I’m working on overcoming my need to please everyone and I’m realizing that this people pleasing persona that I’ve developed over the years has also turned me into a “fine” machine.

How was work today? Fine.

Actually it was wonderful. I was recognized by the CEO for doing a wonderful job and he wants to know how I would handle managing people. I also came up with a great idea that will save the organization money, and I bought a hot pink binder for the big project I’m working on. But that all sounds like pride and I don’t want to make anyone feel bad if they had a bad day or don’t have similar opportunities for advancement, so I’ll just stick with “fine.”

How’s the little one? Fine.

Actually she is the light of my life, but she seems to hate sleeping, has a cold, is a bundle of drool, snot, and – apparently – projectile poop. Sleep deprivation is physically painful, I feel like I never make the right decision with her, I can’t figure out when/how much/how frequently to give her baby food, and I think she’s teething. But since that all sounds like complaining, I’ll just say “fine.”

How’s everything going with your husband? Fine.

Actually the sleep deprivation and stress of having a 6 month old is putting a strain on our marriage and it’s not easy right now. He is my best friend and I love him more than life, but we’re concerned about his job security and he’s hit the burn-out stage in the school year. But since I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea or think we’re not both on the same team fighting through it all, I’ll just say “fine” so they aren’t worried for us.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t think God wants me to be fine all the time. How do I rely on Him if I never have a reason to trust Him with the present or the future? And isn’t it a slight against the gifts He’s given us if we can’t use them for His glory? My love language, for example, is words of affirmation. If I’m always fine, am I keeping someone from using their gift of encouragement to speak love & truth over my life? And if I never give anyone a reason to affirm me, and my “love tank” stays on empty, how can I pour out into my family, coworkers, and friends? Let’s stop being fine, and start practicing being real.

So friends, how are you today?


 

Bio: Crystal Stine has a heart for encouraging women through the written word. She blogs at Shine where you’ll find posts about motherhood, marriage, friendship, God and more. Crystal spends her days working at a bank as a project manager and marketing officer and manages the worship band Stars Burn Down. You can follow Crystal on Twitter at @CrystalStine.

 

My Journey to 5000 Followers

Today’s guest post is from Courtney of Women Living Well. She has some wonderful tips and words of advice for you!

 

I have been blogging at Women Living Well for nearly 4 years. This is my journey to the first 5000 followers BUT I want to give full credit to God because it is he who has given the increase. It makes me squirm a little to share my numbers but I want to help. I think it’s only fair that I share the progress. Okay – now that I got the disclaimer out of the way – let’s get to it!!!

I began blogging in August of 2008…late one night I registered for http://www.womenlivingwell-courtney.blogspot.com. At the time, I had no idea that I had just chosen the longest and most difficult website address ever! lol! If someone found me and liked me – there was no way they’d ever find their way back to me without subscribing!

I started out blogging 5 days a week – Monday through Friday and I continued 5 days a week for the next 2 years straight with NO breaks – none! I remember blurry eyed nights and dark early mornings tapping away on my keyboard – praying that God would give me a word for my readers. I was not on Facebook or Twitter and Pinterest didn’t exist at the time, so there was not as much to “keep up with” as there seems to be nowadays.

One day – a year into blogging – I decided to make a YouTube video (which is no longer accessible…too embarrassing). I posted it and received next to no comments…but I did get a phone call from my best friend (who now runs Good Morning Girls.org) and she LOVED the video! I told her I was embarrassed and she said – “don’t stop – make another“! So I did…I made one titled “How to Be the Wife of Your Husband’s Dreams“. I completely winged it – it’s SO bad – I’m in my bathroom because it’s quiet there!

Obviously I had not read Problogger yet! But this is where my feeble preparation met God’s sovereignty. I posted this video on October 14th, 2009 and 15 days later I appeared on the Rachael Ray Show because a producer had found that video.

It was at this time that I decided I should get a Facebook page. So I started my page in November 2009 and the first record I ever wrote down of my numbers was in January 2010 (1 year and 4 months into my blogging journey). I had:

323 Feedburner followers

426 Facebook followers

I was averaging 300 readers a day…

Being on the Rachael Ray Show did not bring a barage of readers. My website was not mentioned on the show…so it did not spike my numbers (as you can see my numbers above reflect what I had 2 months after the show aired)…but it did give me confidence and some credibility as a blogger.

By the following January 2011, I had:

3,059 feedburner followers

3,824 Facebook followers

And I hit my first 5,000 exactly one year ago in May of 2011 (2 years and 9 months into my blogging journey).

What practicial things did I do to get to my first 5000 followers?

1. I wrote 5 days a week for 2 years straight. Which equals discipline (5 days a week) and diligence (2 years straight). Sometimes we may feel that someone got lucky -like being on the Rachel Ray Show…but don’t underestimate hard work.

2. Content is KING! People follow and spread “amazing” not blah. It’s not possible to create “amazing” five days a week but we can’t predict what post will spread like wild fire. Some posts I agonize and spend hours on and get 5 comments. Then others pour out in 15 minutes and they get 55 comments. I honestly have no way of predicting which post will get the best response (if I did – I’d write it everyday lol!) so keep writing.

3. I left my link after my name everytime I commented. I know that some may feel this is bad ettiquette but I welcome it on my site :)! I think if you are taking the time to read someone else’s content and are leaving a thoughtful comment (not a spammy comment) the writer is thankful your comment popped up. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to another blogger and their community.

3. I built friendships with other bloggers. I privately email many bloggers. Get to know them on a personal basis – brainstorm together, dream together, encourage each other, promote each other and pray for each other.

4. Try something that none of the other bloggers are doing – I made a video in my bathroom – I mean – who does that? lol!!! But seriously – it was a game changer for me. Don’t be afraid to be different and swing for the fences. I felt terribly awkward making videos! Without my friend’s encouragement, I would have stopped making videos…but now nearly 500,000 views later – I’m so thankful I didn’t give up on the ideas that were bouncing around in my head.

In year 2 everything changed! I joined Facebook and Twitter – made nearly 20 YouTube videos – and because a speaker was unable to attend Relevant – I was invited as a fill-in speaker at the Relevant Conference.

In year 2 these are some of the new things I did:

1. I participated in a gazillion link-ups! THIS was a traffic bonanza for me! And once I discovered it – I maximized it! I HIGHLY recommend you participate in these – they work! Ashley has a great list of link-ups – start with these.

2. I joined Facebook and began interacting. At first, Facebook was like a baby. I fed it every 2-3 hours! Some are going to have boundaries and not approve of this…but here’s my truth. My Facebook page is growing rapidly and it’s like a toddler. I feed it about every 4 hours, 6 days a week.

3. I joined Twitter because everyone else was doing it! I only visit twitter once a day to check for mentions and talk back. I have it set up so when I post on Facebook it automatically posts on twitter. Sometimes, late at night I’ll hop on Twitter and read :) It’s an interesting animal.

4. Guest posting and contributing – In year 2, I was invited for the first time to contribute on two different group blogs. Participating in link-ups were more effective than contributing but it was an honor to be asked and I love the community and friendships I’ve made as a contributor on group sites.

5. I started a second blog with a partner. I had started Good Morning Girls groups on my blog and they began to take over my site…so I needed a second site to spin off and my best friend Angela was up for the challenge and has done a beautiful job running GoodMorningGirls.org!

All of the above brought me to the 5,000 follower mark.

Since then I’ve cut back to writing 3 days a week. I’ve done summer book clubs, created series and challenges for my readers, I’ve asked a real life friend to contribute once a week to give me a break, I’ve started a weekly Wednesday link-up, (open to all types of bloggers :) – hint!), I’ve joined Pinterest and just started offering a free ebook to subscribers this year!

Last June I moved from that very long blogspot name – to WomenLivingWell.org. I added a tiny word at the end of my header ~ “Ministries.” My blog started out as a hobby, a passion, a joy, an overflow and a labor of love and it has birthed into a ministry. I encourage you to surrender your blog to God’s purposes, to never go to your computer until you have first opened your day in prayer and God’s word, and to remember that “the integrity of your writing starts at home. Your family is the first book your readers will ever read.”~Sally Clarkson.

Now let’s lock arms together as sisters in Christ and go into all the world and pierce the darkness!

Matthew 5:14-16 “You are the light of the world…let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Walk with the King,

A Common Woman: An Uncommon Courage

Courage by Nikole Rae Greer

I am constantly floored by how God chooses to grow and stretch me as I walk with Him through life. There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t ask him… “Are you serious?”… “When can I just be over this?”… “Weren’t we done with issue awhile ago?”

As I continue to try and understand what God has for me in this life as an adoptee, adoptive mother, and Christ Follower, I become more and more convinced that I won’t ever figure it out until I’m face to face with Him and he is explaining this craziness to me.

Do you ever wonder, like me, why God chooses what he does to make me “up” my game? Why did it have to be this event, or that person, or another issue? Why does He think this is what I need to become the person He is trying to make me?

God seems to regularly remind me of the story of Esther. She was such an amazing woman in the Bible and she had immense courage!

  • The Event: A Jewish woman adopted by her cousin Mordecai and raised to unexpected royalty when King Xerxes chose her as the new queen.
  • The Person: Haman hated Mordecai and therefore wanted all of the Jews killed.
  • The Issue: Esther had to decide if she would have courage and risk her life by going in front of the king uninvited(cause for death in the day) to share the plot by Haman against her people.

This story romances my faith every time I read it because Esther was an adoptee… a different ethnicity from those in the land she lived… a “common” woman who loved God and wanted to honor Him above all ~ even to the point of death. My favorite line in this story is when Mordecai states;

“Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?”

That statement has hung with me ever since I read this story because every time I am challenged by this event, that person or another issue, I think to myself ~ What if God put me here in this place for just such a time as this?

Will I have the courage it takes to risk it all for what is right in God’s eyes?”

What if I am an adoptee because God wants me to help other adoptees’?
What if I experienced prejudice in a foreign land so I can educate others and give voice to a sensitive issue?
What if I experienced an identity within the world and who the world says I am so I can relate to and comfort others struggling to make sense of who they are?
What if I experienced rejection multiple times so that I could minister to others that have felt they didn’t belong or fit in?
What if I am an adoptive parent because God wants me to voice the unique perspective of experiencing both sides of the adoption equation?
What if God planned for me to say “Yes” to Him later in my life so I could testify to the beauty He made out of the rubble, pain, and brokenness?
What if…?

What are your events, people and issues? Do you see any part of your own story through Esther’s? What prevents you from having the courage you need to act? What gives you the courage you feel in such circumstances?

Do you believe God put you in this place for just such a time as this?

I think He did because that is the beauty of His plan and not ours. If it were our plan there would be no event. no people. no issue. There would be no obstacle. no challenge. no pain. There would be no sacrifice. no forgiveness. no redemption. There would be no eternity.

Thank you Jesus for putting me in this place for just such a time as this!

I am a Korean adoptee, wife, adoptive mother and orphan advocate. It’s a privilege for
me to serve God and share the beauty of his redemption in my life. You can read more
on my blog “Smore Stories…life and contemplation in a racially mixed family.”

Telling Stories

I see my little one struggling under the weight of this season. Dark clouds loom overhead. And it’s hard for this Mama to watch the rain.

How do I tell her that there will be more days like this? Hard seasons. Happy ones too. How do you give a daughter what she needs for the road ahead?

A few friends and I are meeting once a month with several younger women to tell our stories and share our faith. My friend Dianna said she wished someone would have been honest with her about this life with Christ, all those years ago. So we gathered, Friday night on Dianna’s back porch, and went around the room telling our stories.

The words spoken were pure poetry.

As I anticipated taking my turn to speak, I felt my face grow hot. I could have melted in the chair and faded away for fear. I looked at Dianna, who knows me inside and out, and hoped for a reprieve – maybe a “you-can-wait-‘til-next-time”.

Didn’t happen.

Instead, she prompted me to start at the beginning, “Lynnie, why don’t you start when you were a little girl and your parents divorced.” I swallowed hard and began my story when I was seven years old – the place when I became keenly aware of my need of a Savior.

The tears welled up as I poured out my heart and dark, red splotches covered my neck and chest. Raw emotion tumbled out in what felt like root ball clumps.

There it was. The “me” that’s underneath the mascara and hairspray. Exposed.

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And He died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for Him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 NIV

It took several days to recover from all the uncovering.

Why put myself through the whole nervous ordeal? The love of Christ compels me. Stretches me. It takes me out of my comfort zone of religious platitudes and shallow conversation.

Love is the overflow and expansion of joy in God, which gladly meets the needs of others. Love is not merely the passive overflow, but the aggressive extension and expansion and completion of joy in God.

John Piper, The Dangerous Duty of Delight

Christ’s love compels me to share my story in order to spill His love on to someone else – maybe someone sitting on a back porch on a Friday night…or a daughter.

 

I’m a wife, mother, lover of Jesus and yes, a former beauty queen. I write about life, messy faith and real good food over here. You can also visit me on Facebook.

Why You Need to be Desperate

 

It seems I have a taste for Discovery Channel’s reality shows that involve desperate searches. This year it’s “Gold Rush”. Families hit by the economic downturn make a mad dash to Alaska to find fortune at best, and at the very least, money for mortgages.  They are somewhat rookies.I’d say they are brave ones too.Who wants a camera following your every move, highs and lows and then broadcast them for an entire nation to see you in all your “glory”? Who would put themselves on the line to tell their story especially when someone else is in control of editing and production?

Who would be willing to take a chance that might fail in front of millions of viewers?

Desperate folks, that’s who. I watch “Gold Rush” and think, this is when you can appreciate blogging small. Failure is limited in {small} numbers.

But I’m challenged; not only as a blogger, but as a Christian too.  We always fear man or his/her opinion of us. We fear judgment, especially unfair ones. We fear our reputation ruined by gossip. We fear others not liking us. We fear raw writing. We fear failure. We fear success.

We fear. Fear. Fear.

We’re not gladiators bleeding for an audience for entertainment. We’re not victims looking for sympathy.

As Christians {and bloggers}, there is a purpose.

But we are called to die, not just once {at salvation} but every day. If we’re real honest, to sacrifice like Jesus, is hard.  Some days it can be downright fitful.

Death may be agonizing for a season. We may bleed from the process. We may feel abandoned at our greatest need.

But we must continually be buried and resurrected.

Isn’t this what being a Christian is all about? Humility that dies to our reputation and fear of man. We can’t do it alone, in or of ourselves. It takes His power. And practice.

We don’t have to go to Alaska to be rich in Christ. We don’t need to dig for gold nuggets to pay our “mortgage” to Him.

We are endowed with riches through His power.

“I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” Ephesians3:16-17 NIV

But it’s not the kind of power-hunger we human-flesh seek here on earth.

This kind buries us.

Oh sure, He rolls the tomb stone of our rock-hard facade and raises us from the stench of death. But first, we are humbled on the cross.

Humility isn’t timid and weak. It’s bold and courageous. Because humility doesn’t care what man thinks, only what God thinks.

Humility sets out to do whatever He says, even when the cost is our self.

Desperate seekers of God count the loss as the way to gain and richly live, despite the risk {or their fear of it}.

“Our right to ourselves in every shape and form was destroyed once and forever by the death of Jesus, and we have to be educated in to the realization of what this means in all its fullness.”Oswald Chambers, “The Philosophy of Sin”

 

Tammy blogs at If Meadows Speak where she looks for the Creator while living in two worlds, the natural and the supernatural. She once said she’d never move back to Texas, yet that’s exactly where she lives today. So much of her past is a smattering of dark spots but she’s found God quilting them into Christ. She’s discovered {God} dreams really do come true for us, even ones lived in Texas.

 

 

Marriage: Honesty

We’d been married for half a year already when my new husband told me some things: some very important things about his own past that hadn’t been shared yet. Six months in and on a dark mountain road on the way up to a church retreat he began to talk.

It wasn’t as if he had been keeping these things from me, it was just that we hadn’t “gone there” yet.  And we talked for an hour, alone, trying to make it safely up the winding road.

It was honest and it was very, very good.

We all know that marriage is supposed to be a place of intimacy and beautiful give and take in a place of extreme honesty. We know that marriage thrives the best when we can be 100% open and vulnerable with our spouses. And we know that the best relationships are built on the trustworthiness and integrity that this kind of openness involves.

Maybe we start out that way, whether it’s before the I do’s or a little while afterward when we feel the vulnerability easy before us like a dark, safe car with only your new spouse. We open up our “suitcases” on the floor of the metaphorical bedrooms and invite our spouses to peek. We give up the details of past relationships, past indiscretions, old sins, and the hurts and pains we’ve collected as we’ve grown up. We allow him to gently move things around, ask some questions and show his love and concern about the past.

But as time moves on, things slip a bit. We are busy building families or careers, we don’t have as much time to talk as we’d like to. Our life stages don’t lend themselves to long walks on the beach any more.

Sadly.

It’s not like dishonesty is ever the goal, but when he’s busy and I’m busy, I’d rather just deal with my own struggles myself. When I’m worried and he’s worried, I’d rather just work it through without bringing him into it. It’s a slow, self-preserving dishonesty that disguises itself as independence.

The fact is for our marriages to work right we have to be honest: both in the beginning and continuing through the hard, busy and endless stages of raising families.

Chad and I have gone through different iterations of honesty in our marriage. Early on it came out in his dishonesty with me (porn addiction) and my dishonesty with him (an adulterous affair). And there has been our dishonesty with ourselves: that we didn’t need to get help.

And then in recent years, the slow, selfish dishonesty that, on the surface doesn’t seem that bad has begun to pervade our lives. It looks an awful lot like independence but it really is a shade of dishonesty.

In any healthy intimate relationship, honesty is crucial.

The simple, most helpful piece of advice I’ve ever received about creating a healthy marriage from an unhealthy one is to begin to tell the truth. Begin telling the truth to your husband, to yourself, to the people around you who love you. Begin opening and sharing your heart so that the two of you can come back to a place of emotional intimacy and interdependence.

I won’t lie: honesty is scary. The reason we DO keep things from each other is because we are scared of what he will do, what he will think or what might be required of us. But what we fail to realize is that freedom lives on the other side of the scary.

Honesty releases us from having to be perfect and from having to be someone we are not. And in honesty is where God can begin to create the marriage you’ve never had or bring you back to the place you thought you’d always be.

Today, if you do one thing for your marriage, try to be honest. Even in the things you don’t think are that important. The more open we are, the more intimate we can be and the healthier our hearts and our marriages grow.

 Do you struggle with honesty in your marriage? When have the two of you been the most honest? What factors led to that?

By Sarah Markley, Allume 2012 speaker who blogs about grace, second chances and relationships at sarahmarkley.com. She’s actively trying to work to be more open, more vulnerable and more honest in her own marriage daily. You can read her marriage story here, find her on Twitter here and join her community here.

Join Sarah on Tuesdays this month when she’ll be sharing some of what she’s learned about marriage in the last 16 years.

5 Ways to Shine the Light When Your Blog Isn’t Faith-Based

candle at night by ashley, on Pix-O-Sphere

As a Christian who blogs about food, I sometimes struggle with the occasional feeling of a lack of spirituality because my blog isn’t very… well… spiritual. It’s about food, you know? The gospel doesn’t always come through clearly in a recipe for chicken or a tutorial on yogurt-making. I actually have seriously considered – more than once – scrapping my food blog and starting over with a more faith-focused blog that concentrates on teaching spiritual things.

But God has clearly shut that door on me – more than once – and stresses on me the importance of being a light where I am. On my food blog. And isn’t that like real life? We aren’t all missionaries, preachers, and Sunday school teachers. Some of us are just normal every day people who love God and share His love in a million different, little ways in the day-to-day minutiae of life.

Here’s the thing: when your blog is not a faith-based blog, you’re going to attract a wider spectrum of people, people who may or may not have had a lot of exposure to God’s Word or the gospel. It’s a great opportunity to show His love to those who haven’t experienced it and may not even know that they’re looking for it. The deeper the darkness, the brighter the light!

So how can you, practically speaking, shed God’s light in the middle of a bunch of recipes, pictures, and tutorials?

Name It

In your Welcome section or About page, make it clear that you are a child of God. Truly, your position in Christ is your identity just as much – or more than – your position as wife, mother, chef extraordinaire, or chief bottle washer. There are a lot of ways to say it that can put the spotlight on it besides just saying, “I’m a Christian”, or “I’m born again” or “I love God”. People have heard those words before and might just skim right over them. Think about what your identity in Christ really and truly means to you, and put it on your bio, front and center. I chose the phrase “redeemed and forgiven by the blood of Christ” because I felt like it encapsulated what it means to me to be a Christian – not that I’m any great person, but that God redeemed me in all my sin.

Testify

A real-life friend of mine writes a personal blog that journals her daily walks and activities. She’s collected quite a following of like-minded folk who enjoy her thoughts and musings. Some of them are fellow Christians; some of them are not. She only has 3 pages on her blog, and one of them is her testimony. I wonder how many people have clicked on that page and read about the gospel for the first time, just out of sheer curiosity? Her light is shining brightly; no hiding under a bushel for her!

Let it Shine

Once you get into the habit, it’s actually not all that difficult to weave the truth of God and His Word into the daily fabric of your blog, whether you’re talking about food or crafts or the latest hot deal. After all, God’s truth is woven through the fabric of our daily lives, so it only makes sense that it would shine through in the words on our blog! Our perspective is of another world, and we shouldn’t be afraid to make that known. As a food blogger with a focus on healthy, whole food, I often reference God’s design in creation that guides my food choices. After all, the Bible says: Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God! Don’t be afraid to say that you went to church or a Bible study, or that you do (or don’t do) XYZ because you want to honor the Lord. Don’t be afraid to boldly proclaim God as your Creator and Lord. It shouldn’t be a secret to your regular readers that you are a committed Christian.

Tame that Tongue

The more followers you have, the more chance you have of coming across someone who disagrees with you. It could be something as simple as the choice of ingredients in your recipe or as profound as your beliefs on sanctification and eternal life, but I can guarantee there is somebody out there who disagrees with you and they will find you. And they will attack you. Or at least that’s how it will feel. But don’t despair! Here is a chance for your light to shine ever brighter, to show the love that Jesus said would mark us as His disciples! Be gentle, be kind, be sweet. Heap coals of fire on their head. Crystal (the Money Saving Mom) is the expert in this regard: I have always admired how she diffuses the crankiest people with her humble spirit, and my desire is to emulate her. (I have a little ways to go. But I’m working on it!)

Put on the Spotlight

Because of the personal nature of blogging, it actually is possible to write a post every now and then that totally veers off the typical subject matter. Your readers are curious about you, and what it is that drives you and motivates you. They’re interested in knowing your thoughts and feelings on a variety of topics besides your latest menu plan or epic craft failure. So give them a taste now and then: write a post that specifically addresses your beliefs or something God has been teaching you lately. One of my bloggy friends typically writes about cheap healthy food – just like me – but she’s not afraid to delve into discussions about her time serving God in Africa, or how her young family celebrates Easter. Far from turning her readers away, those posts actually generate a lot of healthy discussion, and, I think, make her readers feel as if they know her even better.

These five things only scratch the surface of your ability to share the light of God’s love on your niche blog – other ideas come to mind even as I’m typing! But maybe these will inspire you to go shine your light a little brighter. Remember the old kids’ song: “Brighten the corner where you are!”

Do you have a niche blog? How do you shine your light?