Flopportunities

 The blogging conference, Allume, was held recently in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Over 400 Christian women attended, each one representing a blog presence on the internet. Each one came to learn more about blogging.

One of the speakers was well known blogger “The Nester”. Her blog reveals this about her: “The Nester, who writes anonymously, is a home stager, re-designer and design school drop-out.  She’s one of the lucky few who has stumbled into her dream job working from home {writing a blog of all things?!} and encouraging women to create their own meaningful home at Nesting Place where the motto is:

“It Doesn’t Have to be Perfect to be Beautiful”. 

 Flopportunities and how I learned to blog with purpose

(four things I’ve learned from blogging all wrong)

Nester

 

1. Purpose – for yourself and for your readers

Get specific, sit down with paper and pen and ask yourself questions:

  • What do you believe? 
  • How do you want readers to feel when they leave your blog? 
  • What do you want them to do differently when they leave your blog? 
  • What do you want them to turn to your site first for? 
  • What are you obsessed with? 
  • What do you know? 
  • What are you an expert in? 
  • What feels like drudgery when you write? (STOP writing about it!!) 
  • Which post gets the most comments that means something to you?

“A successful blog is one that reaches its intended audience.” – Rachel M.

2. Time – use time wisely and fiercely protect time.

Create. Do not consume when you are most creative. Use that time of day to create when you are most creative. Don’t sit on Facebook, read blogs or do busy work.

Protect. Figure out how much time you have available and protect it.

    • “Being busy is a form of laziness…” 
    • ” Being overwhelmed is almost as unproductive as… ” 
    • “When everything is of equal importance then nothing is important.”

Say No.  Don’t find yourself saying yes because it’s scary to say no; or because you are afraid of missing an opportunity. Most things are flopportunities not opportunities. 

3.Create White Space – Give yourself time/space

What do I bring in? Is it a battle taking stuff out that does not belong? Is it hard to protect my time, my writing, my creativity? Leaving something out can be as important as putting something in. When decorating, empty white space is just as important as the space that is filled. Empty blocks of time are important. The problem with doing everything is that you have no time for doing nothing. Overloading squelches creativity and joy.  

God did not create hurry. Slowing down to rest in the midst of the undone (the dishes and the laundry will still be there) creates white space in your life. It can be hard to give yourself permission to stop and rest. Some use rest as a reward: I’ll rest when I’m finished. If the only down time is late at night then you don’t have enough down time.  We were created to need and use rest. True rest is trust in the Lord. Give yourself permission just to say: “No, I can’t do it.” without an explanation.

“A man is rich in proportion to the number of things he can afford to let alone.” – Thoreau 

4.The Secret Art of Saying No 

The more visible you are online, the more requests you will get. Don’t say ‘yes’ to stranger and ‘no’ to family; but fully embrace your ‘Yes’– the thing you will always say yes to. There are people/subjects/opportunities I will always say yes to, there are some that my husband and I talk about before I say yes or no and there are some that I have determined that I will always say no to. Constant evaluation of whether or not to say yes to something is necessary to maintain control over your time and creativity.

“A big part of doing your work is defending your time and your attention so you can do your work” – Seth Godin

To sum up Nester’s points in her own words: “Fiercely protect the true goal for your blog.  Doing Less and being more isn’t just a nice cliché’ it’s a real choice and the secret to getting there will allow you to become laser focused on growing your passion, your art, your hobby, your business, your blog.”

Quick Tips from The Nester

  • Know why you blog
  • Write what you know
  • Create something meaningful and share it
  • Don’t fall for distractions: focus
  • Decide you much time you can commit
  • Under-schedule and prioritize rest 
  • Determine your time, if you are overwhelmed you are too busy
  • If you have no room, you are over scheduled
  • Sometimes you learn the right by doing the wrong
  • Stop and evaluate

My {Big}take-away(s) from The Nester

Her comments about creating when I’m most creative- It’s easy to get caught up in FB all day or reading from blog-to-blog. Keeping up is important but not as important as using the “little grey cells” when they are all firing at once and I can get it down instead of losing it to the black hole that is my brain most of the day. I think determining when my “most creative time” is – is the challenge. 

The other intriguing thought she brought up was “white-space”. I’m cluttered. My home. My brain. My life. Some of it is self-imposed, some is from external influences. I don’t know that my blog will ever get to the point that I have to create white space because of it. But the whole idea struck a nerve.  I can’t control all of the clutter, but deliberately designing white space in my life can and will reflect in my writing. “Overloading squelches creativity and joy” will be the phrase I repeat to myself until I have enough white space in my life. 

 

Reflections of Allume

Now that I’m home I have been able to digest things I wrote while I was at the conference and here’s some of what came to me:

This blank page cries out to witness to the fact that it is here waiting for the words to be etched upon it.

Words that bring hope, love, freedom, charity, community, joy, healing, consolation, encouragement, commiseration, appreciation.

Words that banish shame, pain, wounding, bleeding, breaking, pride, arrogance. Words that express facts over the emotions of the moment.

Words that say balance, seek first the Kingdom, and write to your reader. 

Words that remind us to be generous, to walk with that sister out in the dry and lonely places, and to lift another up in prayer.

These words were also spoken without a sound- the look exchanged when a word made the connection, a hug, a squeeze of a shoulder, a casual arm around the waist, a fleeting smile, the deep down belly laughs waiting for the next pic to snap, the tears flowing.

And then, the words in metered rhyme across the page spoken out bravely and the stories told. The true expression of community’s meaning in the midst of the living, breathing community- we are here for you, we want you to give out your words, we want to hear them and breathe them in as you breathe them out, and  breathe them out again when we go back home. You have touched us in our inmost parts with the words The Word has given you to speak over us.

We left with clarity, joy, fulfillment, purpose, vision, new friends in real life, and so much more that He has graciously given from His Hand- and knowing we are better for it.

I realize this is fragmented, but those days were fragmented- I took the bits that were offered and they were indeed as nourishing as those cupcakes and cookies were- sweet to the taste!

“How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Psalm 119:103

 

 

Allume: Lit Up and Shining

This past week I experienced a very large dose of sisterhood. 400 women in the same space, of the same mind, in the same spirit, of similar humor all talking at once. I have learned from past experiences that all of that fun and joy spilling out can be a bit much for my spirit to be immersed in- so I escape, and sit back and observe until I can re-enter the fray so to speak. However, there is joy in observing, too!

The fun was watching those beautiful ladies laugh, love, hug, hold onto, and pray with each other and for each other.  We came not knowing what, if anything, to expect other than to hope to recognize the real person from their FB and twitter pics.  The joy was seeing that it was Real Love in action, authentic, transparent, see Jesus shining through them {Love}.

Our hearts resonated with the words balance, pride, bigger, smaller, community, Blog schedules, RSS, SEO and a multitude of other terms that I now have to refer to in my notes.

Our hearts bled and broke with the stories we heard, especially from that sweet grown up baby girl of a father in prison who experienced love through Angel Tree of Prison Ministries. All because of a promise and a present at Christmas time over the years.

I’ve been blogging for about a year and whenever I meet other bloggers for the first time they always say: “So, what’s your blog about?” I hem and haw, searching for the appropriate tag for it, but failing miserably, I mumble “I just don’t know how to describe it.” 

I think people have been asking me that question all my life- “So, who are you anyway?” is how it usually is thrust into my face. Haven’t been able to answer that question either – except with surface answers. You know the ones: wife, mother, nurse, Sunday school teacher, bible study attender, etc.

But something has been happening over the past year in my life- God has started showing me about me- and since the conference I do believe that I’ve been able to put words to who I am-

I am the encourager, I am the one who sees God in every situation, I am the mama-surrogate hugger, I am the one who “gets it” when I look in your eyes.

And Why?

Girls, I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, that dark side, the side where if only someone would really look in my eyes and understand, the side where I’m the exhausted mommy and can’t put three words together in a sentence, the side where my heart is breaking because of family, the side where I’m the only stay at home on the street, that feels left behind when the “girls” go to lunch during work and I have the kiddos so that won’t work, the side- well, you know, all of you know.

I was blessed by God immeasurably by those few, those Godly women who came along side at the critical moments in my life. And I’m here to tell you- I will be that woman if you need someone in 3D or over the phone for a phone hug and need to know that someone is out there praying for you. I’m in your corner. You can all do great things – that is after all what you were called to do- YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. 

Love,

Your Encourager

Community

The word “community” has been floating to the surface recently in the language of the church in the same way that the word “engaged” took on new meaning in the education world a few years back. Community is a challenge for me. Community is what I desperately needed as a child in a world I didn’t understand.

“Why?” you ask.

I was a transient child. I went to 14 different schools between kindergarten and graduation. I learned early on that my safe place was church. But even that came with a caveat. You see shunning doesn’t only happen in the Amish way of life. At church, I was the outsider usually, the “new girl”.  I didn’t warm up easily, and perhaps my behavior revealed just how starved I was for normal.  I struggled for some sense of identity and belonging even though I didn’t understand it then.

Community has a lot to prove to one who has discovered she is still not sure she trusts in the meaning of that word. I realize that I’m happy as a clam all alone most days and I’m ok with people I know really well; that is my true comfort zone.  The easy route would be to stay at home in a velvet prison of my own making.

I’ve been in community. I’ve been involved in work that required my accountability and made me responsible in ways I was no longer willing to accept. I stepped out of that community when I stopped working and have been floating alone and with family and I like it. “But,” I hear you say, “family is community.” Well, yes, it is, just not the community I’m talking about here.

The idea of being a part of a community implies more accountability and responsibility and frankly, I’ve been worn out by those two words and taking that on willingly- well, that means stepping back out into the unknown It goes beyond the ties of blood out to ties that bind our hearts to one another through the Holy Spirit. God has told me that He designed me for community and that I have something to contribute and He wants me to be a part of a community.

So, Lord, what does that look like in Your eyes?

I think I may be about to find out…

I’ve been given an opportunity to throw myself into community in a big way this week; Allume is a conference for Christian women who are bloggers. Like me, they write, type, and carve out their feelings, their impressions, and lessons they’ve learned along the way to share with others who are traveling similar paths. They know that the Father is the Author and Creator of the universe; they share the same Spirit with me. We are IN Christ. Some have become entrepreneurs or published writers as a way of providing income and the ability to stay at home with their children.  Most of these women are much younger than me and may have babes in tow and new recipes, and ways to parent on their minds right next to finding the best bargain ever.

I’ve lived through that part of the journey and am in a different season of my life. I have no expectations from these few upcoming days other than to learn, to see how God fits me into community, and to walk away knowing a few new Christian Sisters who are on the same journey-seeking to be a part of community.

If that’s you, I feel like I know you already!

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” Proverbs 18:24

 “Just as iron sharpens iron, a person sharpens the character of his friend.” Proverbs 27:17

10 Reasons I will not have a Roomate at Allume

Dear friends- I will be attending a 4 day blogging conference for Christian Women later this month. My decision to attend Allume was a God thing. Totally from Him. So I have no idea how this is going to play out for those 4 days. I signed on for this before I knew anyone at all in the blog world. And my new blogging friends have really raised the bar of expectation with all of their “things my roomie needs to know…” So I thought I would write this as a way of explaining why the only roomie I will have is me, myself, and I -quite a crowd sometimes!

I tend to shy away from people in groups that I don’t know. I don’t initiate well and have to make myself participate until I know the lay of the land. I like being a wallflower, actually I hate it, but there is something to be said for obscurity. It allows me to get comfortable in the surroundings I find myself in before I engage.  Moving right along…

1. I snore, I have allergies, it’s not pretty (so my husband says).

2. I like the anticipation of being alone- totally- for at least some portion of time- an escape.

3. I’m slow moving in the morning – I don’t talk until I’ve had something hot to drink.

4.I have to concentrate on getting myself together and any distraction ie: someone talking to me is liable to ensure that I will be late. You see, I have to stop and think about what the other person said and then formulate an answer. I don’t multitask anywhere well except with kids and in the kitchen.

5. I have insomnia- regularly. I can fall asleep faster than a rock hits the floor but wake usually a couple or three hours later and can’t go back to sleep. That is not conducive to a roommate’s sleep.

6. I can talk to the wee hours or crash and burn with no notice.

7. I’m messy.

8. I can’t decide what to wear until I’ve tried on everything I’ve brought at least twice.

9. I’m usually cold when I go to bed but that can change at a moment’s notice.

10.  I’m getting old in my old age! Notice- this was all about me-ha

I realize that this paints a pretty bleak picture (or some pretty lame excuses)- of a grouchy old bird, but once I make a connection it’s all good. I’ve had years of practice of making myself participate- all those nursing conferences didn’t go to waste! So once I find the comfort zone- yee haw!! Besides, I’m counting on you Better Writer girls to spur me on.

Oh, and Mandy? I can be bribed with chocolate, too. Just no bacon, please?