Friday, March 30, 2012

Lasting Beauty

I love spring, and one of the things I love is seeing all the daffodils blooming in the middle of nowhere. They were planted generations ago by ladies who loved beauty, and those flowers are still there, blooming every spring, long after the women are gone.

The ladies who planted those daffodils all those years ago still have an impact on the world. They're still making this a beautiful place to live, even though they're no longer here to enjoy it or even nurture it. That's what I want for my life. I want to leave lasting beauty for those coming after me. How do I do that? By planting flower bulbs? I could. But it only takes one pass of a tractor or bulldozer to put an end to their beauty.

Those daffodils remind me that I need to be planting seeds for eternity. Seeds that can grow, bloom and multiply long after I'm gone. Those are blooms that will last forever, not just for a season.

********

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” ~Matthew 6:19-21 (NASB)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Take Flight Easter Challenge

With all that's been going on, it's been awhile since we've had a Take Flight challenge. Sooo...

Since Easter is right around the corner,
  • tell us what your church is doing for Easter. 
  • Write an advertisement inviting people to attend. 
  • You can post pictures of past years' activities,
  • write a testimony of what a past year's Easter presentation meant to you, 
  • or even the significance of an Easter service or an Easter memory.

The objective: To encourage your circle of friends to attend an Easter church service or presentation.

Next Thursday, April 5th, I'll post mine and have a linky tool up in case you'd like to join us and link up--but you can post any time.

See you then!

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Desert Blooms

Ever feel like you're in a desert? That it's too barren where you are and that you won't ever bloom?


God made the cacti to bloom in the desert and their blossoms are some of the most beautiful I've ever seen.

I will open rivers on the bare heights
and springs in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water
and the dry land fountains of water.
~Isaiah 41:18

I will even make a roadway in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert.
The beasts of the field will glorify Me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
because I have given waters in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert,
to give drink to My chosen people.
The people whom I formed for Myself
will declare My praise.
~Isaiah 43:19b-21 NAS


Also, won't you join me at Joanne's today, posting about one of those really rough times in my life...Holding Elijah.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

It's the Little Things in Life


Welcome to this week's a 2 z: Take 2
and the letter L.

So often in Life, it's the Little things that make all the difference.

Like spotting a Mayfly on a dandelion gone to seed...

and a tiny Dutchmen's Britches plant that I thought had died out years ago, shortly after transplanting it as a memorial to the little ones I lost...


and being greeted by phlox at the end of my driveway...




So tell me, what little things make the difference for you?

If you're joining us for the a2z: Take 2 meme by posting on your blog this week about the letter L, be sure to add your name and the link to that particular post in the linky gadget here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Blog Niche vs. Blog Purpose

Click here for more post on making your blog work for you.
As writers, we're told to find a niche. We're also told to use that niche to build a platform. Sounds good, but it's not as easy as it first appears. First of all, how do you find a niche you want to blog about for months on end? A niche you're an expert in? A niche that people would want to read about? And what do you do when you're sick of writing about that little niche? Quit blogging? Find a different niche that interests you enough to write more than 10 posts on? And what about all those readers you had but might lose when you switch niches?

Some people have 3 or 4 blogs, each for a different purpose. Let me warn you away from that if you're just starting out. It's exhausting and it divides your time, energy, and results. (I'm talking personal blogs, not group blogs.) This is where knowing your purpose for blogging trumps having a niche. There's also a "business" benefit in knowing your purpose and keeping it in mind as you blog.

Terry Burns, an agent with Hartline Literary Agency, says that when you have an appointment with an agent at a conference, it's usually only 10-15 minutes. That is far too short a time to sell your book to them. His advice: Sell yourself. I don't think this applies only to conference appointments.

Some people think selling yourself sounds counter-Christian, but when you look at it from a business angle, selling yourself makes good sense. And you can do this without being "me, Me, ME!" about it. We need to look at our writing through business lenses occasionally and run our time in a business way so we can be efficient and effective—especially if we're aiming to do more than just blog for the sake of blogging.

When you blog, keeping your purpose in mind, you'll be selling yourself—even if you post about three majorly different topics. Your niche will develop, and it might just be your voice, or sharing what God has put on your heart or is teaching you, or how you're coping with career, family and ministry, or some other angle you blog about out of love for writing about it.

Know your purpose.
It's okay if it takes time to find your purpose, your blog will accompany you on that journey. When most people start blogging, they don't know their purpose. They may try a niche blog only to run out of enthusiasm for the subject after three months. That's when they need to look around and refocus.

Allow your blog to travel with you on your journey. Then, after awhile, evaluate.
Here's some things to look for:
  • What posts were your personal favorites? Which ones did you love writing? Were there any that really fired you up? Pay special attention to these.
  • What posts did you get the best comments on? Not the most comments, the best comments. Comments that said people really connected to what you had to say in that post. Look for the quality of comments.
  • Common topics. If you're using labels, categories or tags, those will help you spot topics.
  • Common themes. You may find that you have 3-5 topics you post about fairly regularly, and as you study those posts, there may be common themes tying the topics together. You may even find one common thread that ties them all together, even if the topics are a world apart.
  • Ask your friends what they see your blog is about.

After going through that process, I was able to nail down my brand, “Finding the extraordinary God in our ordinary lives” and it clarified and simplified so much of my writing. That was the common thread running through almost everything, or it could be. Many times that thread is there without me intentionally adding it. My brand became the purpose of my blog.

Niches are great, if they aren't too confining. As writers we sometimes get caught up in the “writing blog” mentality, but that's a trap. We don't have to be writerly on our blogs! The “business” side of our goal is to develop a platform and garner readers. Readers are all about personality and voice and content. And there has to be take-away value for them—even if it's just a smile that makes them want to come back.

When you know your purpose for blogging it guides and directs you, without confining you.

So tell me, do you know your purpose for blogging?

Click here for more posts in this Blog at Work for You series.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Time at the Pump

Having a large vehicle means we spend a lot of time and money at the pump. Not only do we cover many miles because we live in the middle of nowhere, but we haul a lot of 'stuff.' Whether it's kids, tools, or building materials for a job, we really use our vans, which leads us directly to the gas pumps.

One of the habits that we've developed through the years is to make frequent stops there, without waiting until we're near empty. Rather than let our tanks run low, we hit the pump when we're at half-a-tank, and many times this has helped us avoid problems--like when we're running tight on time. Another problem we avoid is condensation in our tank, which would cause our vans to chug, cough, and sputter, and even stall out.

Life is similar to the cars we drive. No matter the make or model, we all need to spend time at the pump. The more you go and serve, the more time you need to spend there pumping in the fuel, otherwise you'll run out and be stuck somewhere with an empty gas tank.

God's Word, and time spent in prayer and meditating on HIM is our fuel—it's what keeps us going. Without it we run dry, stall, and burn out.

Sure, we can economize in our life the way we do with our cars and running errands, but that's certainly not the best and it's not what God has for us. We are created to bring glory to God, to serve Him.

“And do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased.”
~Hebrews 13:16

Christ has paid the price for us!

“For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.”
~1 Corinthians 6:19

We just need to show up at the pump and fill our tanks so we can do the running and work He has for us to do.

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” ~Romans 12:2

“I am the the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
~John 15:5

Don't wait until your tank is almost empty to hit the pump! Make frequent stops there to keep your tank topped off. You just never know when you'll be called on, and you'll want a full tank so you can go distance!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Travel with Me

I'm posting today at The Barn Door.

It's a site dedicated to the Midwest, but I have up pictures of my recent trip to Arizona. Mom, Cheryl, our younger sister, and I went to St. Anthony's Monastery and I wanted to share it with you. What beautiful grounds!!



The grounds were stunning, a photographer's delight. Flowers, chapels, trees, fountains. Photo ops every three feet. Needless to say, it took us quite awhile to make it through. LoL, Mom did a lot of standing and waiting on us.

Won't you join me at The Barn Door for more pictures of our time at St. Anthony's Monastery?

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Kin


Welcome to this week's a 2 z: Take 2
and the letter K.

This is the first day of Spring!!


This past week I've spent with my Kin--what better K word could I come up with? *grin*

The day my sisters and I flew in, we went to St. Anthony's Greek Orthodox Monastery. It was Mom and my two sisters, and I. Talk about incredible. Wow. The grounds were beautiful.



We had to dress appropriately...according to their standards, so we donned skirts, long sleeves and head coverings. It made for hot walking and some laughs, but it was worth it.



After Cheryl left we went to the drop zone hoping to see the sky divers. Due to the storm rolling in, no one was jumping so we went up to the wind tunnel. Oh. my. goodness. Unbelievable what they do in those things!!

Here's a shot of my mom and younger sister on the ramp leaving the wind tunnel...









And my dear Dad, as he is today...


Of course I can't post about about my kin without mentioning my kids. This is one of the most recent pictures I have of them--complete with ripped out work/play jeans. A typical day in my household. LoL. Minus the noise and chaos. Lucky you. ;-)







And one of my fave shots of me and my wonderful hubs, Jim.


If you're joining us for the a2z: Take 2 meme by posting on your blog this week about the letter K, be sure to add your name and the link to that particular post in the linky gadget here.


Monday, March 19, 2012

How to Make Blogs Work for You

Click here for more post on making your blog work for you.
My blogs work for me.

Early in 2008 I knew the next step God had for me was to start a blog. Why He would want me to blog, I had no idea. I mean, why put the effort into something no one would ever find, let alone read? But I had learned the hard way that running from God makes one miserable. Very miserable. So, with that in mind, I obeyed and fumbled my way through setting up a blog. I banged my head on the wall trying to figure things out because I was not tech-savvy. I almost hyperventilated when I clicked 'Publish'. I wanted to crawl into my attic and hide in the farthest, darkest corner up there. Instead, I comforted myself with the “fact” that no one would ever find me in the wide world of cyberspace.

Boy, was I ever wrong.

That was about four years ago and the beginning of my story. When I wrote a proposal for an agent last year, I worked the numbers—because we all know numbers count in the economy of things—and the number on my calculator stunned me. Four years ago a realistic number for my platform would've been 15. When I worked the numbers last summer the calculator read 5500+. Big difference, huh? I'm rarely on Facebook and I don't Tweet, so that number has come almost exclusively from blogging.

Here's why blogging works for me:
  • Posting when I want + Ability to schedule ahead = Needed flexibility.
  • I can put as little time or as much time as I want or have available in any given day.
  • It's an outlet for all those little things that run around in my brain.
  • As a testing grounds for ideas, it's hard to beat.
  • My blog travels with me, it's not confined to one project or one small corner of my world.
  • Blogging has provided the platform I need with little financial investment (I spend $10 a year on my domain), while still being here with my family 24/7.

So how did I grow the 15 to 5500?
Remembering the big picture.  God had called me to write and I knew I couldn't quit. Putting down my pen had landed me in the desert for 15 years and I wasn't anxious to ever go back there again. I needed to keep writing.

I had done my homework enough to know that I needed some kind of platform—and at that point I was a homeschool mom of 5 and home 24/7. My contact with the world was limited to church on Sunday and I was quiet enough some thought I was either backwards or a snob. Building a blog was the only option open to me at that time, and it scared me silly. Needing a platform and fear were a daily struggle.

Keeping the goal before me. Obedience was my over-arching goal, but as I looked at what I wanted to do, where submitting to God's will seemed to be pointing, I knew I had work to do. It wasn't enough to hone my craft, as important as that is. I'd heard agents and editors liked to see strong platforms. Well, being married to a contractor, I knew about building. Building anything takes time. I didn't want to reach the finish line (in my case, an agent or editor) and hear “Manuscript? Check. Platform? *buzzer Come see me when you have a platform built. Next!”

My goal: Not to have a mega-blog but rather, to be a well-rounded person and writer for the next step of whatever it was God had for me to do.

Realistic expectations. I knew what I wanted from blogging: writing practice and experience, and a platform (readers!). I knew it would take time, persistence, and work—and I committed to those things. I also gave myself room to make mistakes, grow, and change—and it's a good thing. My blog has journeyed with me.

Two things I've learned along the way:
  • Persistence pays off.
  • If you don't like the results you're getting, change what you're doing.

Blogging works—if you're willing to invest in it.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Answer to Daffodils

As we drove into town one time, my very observant youngest child asked a profound question.

“Mom, why does everyone else have pretty daffodils in their yards but we don't?”

It was like being smacked with a rolled up newspaper.

Being the full-of-wisdom mother that I am (not), I gave him a deep answer. “Because you have to plant them and we haven't planted any.”

The silence in my soul echoed with that truth.

So many times I've asked the same thing. “Lord, why don't I have ____ in my life?”

And God's response is like mine to my son. “Because you have to plant it and nurture it to have it.”

Matthew 7:7 says “Ask, and it will be given to you, seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” How many things are missing from my life because I haven't asked God for them? I'm not talking about a whole-foods chef to cater for my husband, or a personal assistant to keep track of the million details of being a mom, among the other things I do. I'm talking about 'spiritual' things. Things that I see in the lives of my sisters and think, 'Wow, I wish I were joyful (or whatever) like she is.'

So instead of whining about what seems to be missing from my life, Matthew says I'm to ask for it. Boy, that's a tough one. I've had a little girl in one of my classes who whined her questions. “So-n-so got a piece of candy. Can I have one?” She's cute as a button, but when she whined like that... um... it just didn't work for me. You know what I mean? How do you think it sounds to God when we whine our requests?

It's so much better when we just ask.

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.” James 1:5

Do you want to want to be an encourager? How about more hospitable? Or do you want to do better with the class you help with?
Ask God.

Just like if we want flowers in our yards, we need to plant them and nurture them.

“If your seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the LORD, and discover the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:4-5 NAS

So we ask.
And we seek.
It's so simple. But sometimes the simplest things are the ones overlooked, forgotten or ignored because of their simplicity.

Matthew 7 goes on to say “For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened.” God wants good for our lives. Like a parent gives good gifts to their child, God, who is infinitely good and knows what is best for us. “...how much more will your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!” (Matthew 7:8,11 NAS)

So what are we waiting for?
Let's plant some daffodils in our lives!

Let's ask God for those things that are true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and excellent. And let's seek and nurture those things in our lives.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

How To Build A Platform

Last week's post, Platform Schmatform, leads us naturally to today...

 How can you build a platform?
  • Blog!! Oh, don't tell me you didn't see that one coming?! LoL.
  • FB and Twitter. They make me shiver but they work super well for others.
  • Participate in forums and loops that deal with your book topic.
  • Public speaking...
  • Ladies' groups--small groups, added to others, add up!
  • Bible studies--This is one of my favorites because it's something I've done and there are other benefits, like helping those of us who struggle being in front of people.
  • Toastmasters--Excellent for gaining speaking training and experience.
  • Book clubs
  • Teaching opportunities--look for them.
  • Special events in class rooms on your topic, whether they're topical or about a historical time or event that you're knowledgeable about, especially if you write historical fiction. Some teachers would love a writer to come in for a day to speak about the topic, or maybe even teach a short creative writing unit.
  • Write a lot of free material and get it out there. This seems counter-intuitive to many, but has been proven worthwhile time and time again.
  • Write articles as you research for your book.
  • Newspaper column. Even a small newspaper column, probono, can gain you an audience and grow into far more than anticipated.
  • Newsletters (Dee's News keeps Dee well connected with the former Amish she writes about and provides her with a great platform, Margaret Brownley started out writing the church news and was encouraged to start writing fiction as a result.)
  • Get out into the volunteering areas in your writer organizations, and other organizations. This can be HUGE! Almost all groups need workers and if it's related to you or your book, it can be beneficial for all involved.




How can a professional wall-flower build a successful platform without hyperventilating or moving into a rubber padded room?
  • Remember we all have both sides in our nature, we just need to learn how to bring the other side out. We're different at home than we are at work, or with friends, or in the grocery store. We understand our roles in those situations and present ourselves accordingly. Our writer self is no different. We need to understand our role and present ourselves accordingly—putting our best foot forward. More about this in April and May.
  • Be transparent without specifics.
  • Realize your writing is a business. Even if it's ministry, you need to run it like a business.
    “Think of your work like a store. If you had a store, you'd advertise. If no one knows about it, how much product will move off your shelf? ~Angie Breidenbach
  • Don't get ME-focused. It's the attitude we have while doing things.
  • Make sure you're always giving value, not just flapping your jaws.
  • Know the image you want to convey and then create it.
  • Build your persona and USE your persona. (More about persona in April and May)
    Focus in on who you are as a writer and let that part of your personality take over when it needs to. ~Karin Beery


Click here for more posts about building your platform.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Full Circle


This week I've been able to be with my family--the family I was born into. Just the five of us for a few special days. Yesterday I posted a picture of us 30-some years ago. So I thought I'd share how we are today. Well, yesterday...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Journey to my Roots


Welcome to this week's a 2 z: Take 2
and the letter J.

Today I get to be with my parents and my two sisters. Just the five of us. Something I don't think we've done for around 30 years. Hard to imagine that much time has passed. Although we've been together many times over the years, our families have been with us, creating a wonderful chaos of kids. But for a few days, it'll just be us five again.

Just for fun, here's our second prayer card--the one taken shortly before going to Ecuador as missionaries and I think the last one with Cheryl in it.


One of our friends from Maine scanned this and sent it to me awhile back--a treasure. Thanks, Dan. I really need to dig out the others and scan them in. Well, maybe. Some of the others aren't near as nice. LoL.

And here's my sisters and I 2 1/2 years ago... If you look at the picture on the mantle behind us is a picture of my younger sister's family with our parents--it was a few years old when this picture was taken--her boys are much bigger now. =)


I'll try to post a new picture of the five of us soon, to bring this full circle. But for now, I'm soaking in my family and enjoying my roots.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
If you're joining us for the a2z: Take 2 meme by posting on your blog this week about the letter J, be sure to add your name and the link to that particular post in the linky gadget here.

Monday, March 12, 2012

March's 12 in 12

It's March 12th already? Wow.
In case you're wondering, this week's blog and platform series will post on Thursday and then go back to Mondays. 

So, here's my list and progress report...

  1. I already posted my list of 9 writing craft books to read in '12. I want to add 3 books to that list and read 12 writing craft books in '12. *sigh* Didn't read a single page but I have one packed to go with me to read on the plane.
  2. Do 12 short vlogs. *gulp*  Nope. bummer.
  3. Go out once a month (brrrrr) and snap pictures--not just 12 outings in March through October like I usually do. Why? To slow down and look for the beauty all around me on a regular basis, even if it's freezing out there. Yes! I've been out clicking several times and even started Walking with Grace on Wednesdays so I'd have a place to simply post a picture or two. ;-)
  4. Go somewhere scenic here in Southern Illinois that I've not been to before--there's so much here that I've never seen in the 20 years I've lived here. Not yet--waiting for more scenic weather. hehe
  5. Talk to 12 people about the history of this part of Southern Illinois--my older friends, museum personnel... Not this month. I want to do some research first.
  6. Visit the local museum. It's closed for the winter.
  7. Visit the coal mining museum in town. Not yet.
  8. Visit the miners memorial in town.  Nope.
  9. Hunt down the old mine portals and take pictures. (Do you see the trend here? LoL) No, I kinda got sidetracked.
  10. Stop at the WF Lake and simply be still.  I hope to this month so I can see it in spring--hoping for Red Buds or Dogwoods.
  11. Go to R Lake and follow some of the paths. This is a spring or summer item!!
  12. Walk through the woods this spring. hehe. Will do either this month or next. I've been up to the fence row a few times and found the Dutchmen's Britches I was hoping were still there--delicate lil flowers I hope to catch in bloom this year.

So there you have it. I didn't do as well as I'd hoped this month, but that's okay!

How about you? What have you done that's outside the box for you?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Puddled

Driving past an empty field the other day I saw a pair of ducks floating in a puddle. I wanted to stop and tell them that there was a beautiful farm pond only half-a-mile away, but I realized the silliness of the thought even as I sped past.

I think I'm like those ducks--contentedly sitting in my muddy puddle, satisfied with so little when God has so much more for me. I sit and twiddle my toes in mud instead of moving to the place God wants me to be—a place of blessing and great riches. A place where God can use me.

Why do I do that? It's easier to stay in my cozy hole than it it to face the unknown. It's easier to sit in my puddle than to spread my wings and fly to a spot I've only heard is 'just over there'. It's easier to mind my own business than to possibly embarrass myself.

I cannot know the riches of His glory while sitting in my little mud puddle. I need to move to the pond God has for me in order to experience the surpassing greatness of His power. Father, open the eyes of my heart that I may know the hope of Your calling.
*******

“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened,
so that your may know what is the hope of His calling,
what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,
and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe.”
Ephesians 1:18-19 (NAS)

Thursday, March 08, 2012

Jennifer Slattery's Reach Out to Live

Today I'd like to welcome a friend that I've enjoyed working with, Jennifer Slattery...

Do you ever catch yourself saying something, then clamp your mouth shut with the realization you’ve become your mother? Or maybe you’ve glanced behind you to see your child rolling their eyes…just like you…at something that normally gets you annoyed. It’s rather sobering how pervasive a parent’s reach is. I find it quite humbling. And challenging. Each day as I watch our daughter grow I’m reminded of the power of my unspoken words.

Lately my daughter’s talked a lot about her future dream–or perhaps future mission would be more accurate. It’s quite a unique vision, and one that brings tears to my eyes. When she grows up she wants to get her veterinary license and treat the pets of the homeless. She plans to open a private practice to fund her mission. (Now obviously, she’s thirteen, so her plans may change.) This dream unites her two loves–animals and others, in a Christ-centered way.

But here’s the funny thing…I’ve never told her she needs to serve the homeless. I’ve never talked with her about her future ministry, except in terms of living life in full surrender. However, she’s served with us at homeless shelters. She’s helped distribute bagged lunches to those standing on street corners. She’s stood beside me as I’ve talked with them, shaking their soiled hands and taking the time to look them in the eye…. And clearly, those moments have left a lasting impact.

This “on the job training” applies to every area of life. In our home, we all serve together.  Not only because it’s great family time, but because we want our daughter to develop a servant’s heart. We want her to understand church isn’t a place to rest your behind, but instead, where you extend the love of Christ. We are here not to be served, but instead to serve. Only lectures, no matter how logical or eloquent, won’t produce the results we want. Our children learn best by doing. By living life in community and continual surrender and by watching their parents do the same.

You see, compassion is caught as much as it is taught, and our children watch us very closely. When we turn up our noses at the less fortunate and pop off justifications for walking by, they learn to do the same. When we speak words of judgment, they develop an attitude of cynicism.

Their hearts are pliable, easily swayed by every experience.

Jump forward twenty years. How might our world be if we modeled lives of compassion, raising children with compassion who created positive change in their world?

Our family took a mission trip to El Salvador last year. Although missions are important, that wasn’t why we brought our daughter. Our primary goal was to train “others” thinking. During our visit, our daughter experienced what life was like for the impoverished. She spent time among girls her age who live in an orphanage without a mom or dad to tuck them in each night.

The experience changed her. And it is our prayer, our hope, and in many ways our confidence, that her experience will in turn lead her to initiate change.

What can you do today to show your children the world beyond them? You see, our first tendency is to look upon ourselves. As parents, we long to shower our children with blessings and shelter them from every difficulty. But surrounded by abundance, what kind of adults will our children grow up to be? They already know how to look out for themselves. It’s our responsibility to help them turn that focus outward.

I’d love to hear from you. How has serving helped you train your child to be a fully devoted follower of Christ? How has it helped you draw closer to God? How has reaching out to someone else changed your perspective or blessed you in some way? Share your “Reach Out to Live Out” stories with us so we can spur one another toward good deeds. To participate in my “Reach Out to Live Out” campaign, send a photo, video, or story of you reaching out to someone else and tell us what you gained from the experience. To find out more shoot me an email at jenniferaslattery(at)gmail(dot)com, and make sure to visit my devotional blog at http://jenniferslatterylivesoutloud.com

~*~*~*~*~*~



Jennifer Slattery lives in the Midwest with her husband of sixteen years and their fourteen year old daughter. She writes for Christ to the World Ministries, Internet Café Devotions, Jewels of Encouragement, and the Christian Pulse and maintains a devotional blog at Jennifer Slattery Lives Out Loud.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Caption Contest: March


Last week, after those big storms rolled through, bringing lots of rain, my youngest spotted this crawdad in the ditch in front of our house. It was a "Come see, Mom!" moment, so I grabbed my camera and ran out.  The crawdad was fun to watch--making himself as threatening as possible, even though he was sooo much smaller than us. Not to mention Puppers who followed along for the fun.

So, here's the deal: Caption Contest for March.



Leave your captions in the comments and I'll post the winner in a couple weeks.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Introducing My Baby


Welcome to this week's a 2 z: Take 2
and the letter I.

Okay, so I've been holding out on you guys. Quite awhile back we had a new addition to our family and we've just kept it under wraps, but now it's time to introduce you to my baby...

Toby.

Toby is a six year old white face capuchin monkey. He's my perpetual 2 year old who ran straight into my heart and anchored himself there with all five appendages. Let me tell ya, that tail of his is force to be reckoned with!

Back a few weeks ago, Toby went to visit the vet. Other than become irate because he couldn't throw a toy out of his carrier, he did fantastic. Of course, the trip home was much quieter in the car than the way there. By the time we were on our way home, it was nap time and he dozed off as I stroked him through the grid-doorway.

I'm amazed at how similar he is to my five children. Toby is my "other child" and is very much considered part of the family. Even more than our beloved dogs and cats--because he lives in the house with us and he changed our lives so much when he came. When Jim and the kids come in from work or school they have to go straight back to say hi to Toby because he can hear them and will screech until they go back. He may not be in our main living area of the house, but he's very tuned in to all the goings on and participates from a distance.

When Toby is good, he's very good.
But when he's bad, he's very bad.

The nice thing?
He lives in his cage and comes out when we take him out. Always on a leash, always fully supervised.

Toby changed our lives. In a good way. He drastically changed my life since I'm his primary care-giver and trainer. It's been a good change and has added a whole lotta monkey business to my life. And that's a good thing, even if it makes me maid-to-a-monkey. =)

So now you've met the whole family. I just couldn't wait for the letter M so I chose I to Introduce him. LoL.

If you're joining us for the a2z: Take 2 meme by posting on your blog this week about the letter I, be sure to add your name and the link to that particular post in the linky gadget here.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Platform Schmatform

Last week I said that one of the huge benefits of blogging is platform building. That leads naturally to a good question...

What is a platform?
Your platform is the number of people who have contact with you and your writing. It isn't necessarily anything about your book.
“It’s what you have that can give you access to people, then you learn how to use that access to also promote your book.” ~Terry Burns



So why do we need a platform?
  • So your light is seen and your voice is heard! After all, we aren't given our light so we can hide it under a basket.
  • The competition is greater than ever.
  • Agents and editors look for more than just a strong storyteller. They look for an author with a platform so they can tell people about their books. Michael Hyatt says a strong book hasn't been enough to stand alone for 20 years now. He says: “Writing a great book is half the job. The other half is promoting it.” Platforms are a must.
  • Publishers expect the authors help with the marketing.
  • To sell yourself, not just a book you have out.
  • Your target audience needs to know you exist.
  • Actors market themselves by getting in front of their audiences through public appearances—public parties, interviews and speaking for charities. We need to do similarly and get in front of our audience.
  • Building a platform is being a good steward of the gift God gave you. We need to work hard to spread the message we're bringing.
  • God's given the story, the message, for His purpose. Keeping silent won't accomplish His purpose.
  • Build readership.
  • Connect with readers.

All that said, I think it all boils down to one key thing: connecting with people. It's not about marketing, as important as the bottom line is to agents and editors. It's not all about you and me. It's about others and reaching out to them.

It's about bringing glory to God.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Dueling Doubt

This month I'm participating in Seekerville's Speedbo—a write-as-much-as-you-can-as-fast-as-you-can dealie-majig. Some of us (like me!) have modest goals. Others plan on writing a book in this month of March, and there's every goal in between the two.

My goal: 10k (10,000) words in March, even with taking a week off to visit my parents. It's doable if I can maintain about 500 words a day, and to be honest, that's more my goal than 10k this month. I want to be writing some every day. That habit will carry me further in the long run than blitzing and somehow managing a book in a month (which I know people do all the time, but I never have). It's a writing-muscle exercise that will enable me to grow from there.

Even as I toed the start line yesterday morning I was hemming and hawing. The ol' hissing voice started. “Are you sure you want to set a goal like that? Especially this month with all the other things you have going on. Look at how you did last month: only half way to your goal. Are you sure you want to do this? Are you sure you want to set yourself up for another failure?”

I was properly cowed.
Totally.

Until I did my Bible reading that day. Isaiah 37 and King Hezekiah. Check out how the king of Assyria attacked initially.

“Thus you shall say to Hezekiah king of Judah, “Do not let your God in mwhom you trust deceive you, saying, “Jerusalem will not be given into the hand of the king of Assyria.” 'Behold, you have heard what the kings of Assyria have done to all the lands, destroying them completely. So will you be spared? Did the gods of those nations which my fathers have destroyed deliver them, even Gozan and Haran and Rezeph and the sons of Eden who were in Telassar? Where is the king of Hamath, the king of Arpad, the king of the city of Sepharvaim, and of Hena and Ivvah?'” Isaiah 37:10-13

Just like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the king of Assyria attacked Hezekiah initially by planting seeds of doubt in him. All those other nations and kings had been destroyed. Did Hezekiah really believe God would deliver them? The other gods hadn't...

Doubt is a tiny seed that grows into a huge, suffocating plant if it's not plucked out and destroyed. The doubt planted in Eve destroyed her but Hezekiah shows us how to battle and defeat doubt.

The Hezekiah took the letter from the hand of the messengers and read it, and he went up to the house of the LORD and spread it out before the Lord. Hezekiah prayed to the Lord saying, “O Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, who is enthroned above the cherubim, You are the God, You alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. Incline Your ear, O Lord, and hear; open Your eyes, O Lord, and see... Isaiah 37:14-17

Hezekiah went straight to God. He took those seeds of doubt and poured them all out before God. He just laid it all out there, acknowledging the truth behind what the letter contained (all the other nations really had fallen before the king of Assyria) and acknowledging that God was and is far greater than the most powerful king out there.

And I love this part...
Then Isaiah the son of Amoz sent word to Hezekiah, saying, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel. 'Because you have prayed to Me about Sennacherib king of Assyria, this is the word that the Lord has spoken against him... (vs 21 & 22)

Hezekiah's prayer made a difference. Later we see in verse 36 that the angel of the Lord struck 185,000 Assyrians while they slept in their camp. It was enough to send Sennacherib home to Ninevah. Hezekiah's prayer went to God's ear and God took care of the enemy.

Prayer is the best way to duel doubt.

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