You’re Invited…

One of the best things about the Relevant Conference I attended last fall (now Allume Social) was the fellowship with other passionate, believing women. Imagine my excitement when they closed out the conference with the announcement of an idea to bring the fun and fellowship of a women’s conference to your own town – even your own livingroom! I signed up to be a host and I am really excited to invite you to my house next month…

You don’t have to be a blogger, you just have to be within driving distance of a group to join in – or, you can host your own! Answer your questions about this cool, wacky idea here, and check out this video to learn more…

Please feel free to email me for more information. Can’t wait to see you!

My Personal Cinderalla, Please!

The year I had my third child was the year I began dreaming the same dream over and over:

I wanted a hired hand. The children outnumbered the adults and the number of arms I had. The laundry was a living thing, threatening and growing. What to feed all these little animals was a constant question. And I had nearly lost the ability to engage in anything extra-curricular, like cleaning the shower or reading a book.

I found myself almost daily fantasizing about hired help. We couldn’t afford it, but still, I’d imagine what life would be like if I had someone to help me with a deep cleaning project (there was one calling to me from every room), do a bit of ironing, or just hang out with my kids so I could get something done without an interruption every 30 seconds.

This desire morphed into what I felt was a justifiable need while I was at Relevant. I met so many wonderful, type-A woman like myself who were doing it all – but freely admitted it was with help. Woman I respected like Crystal Paine and Angie Toplin said it was one of the best decisions they ever made. I headed home with the goal of figuring out a way to get my hands on my own personal Cinderella, feeling it was essential to my calling as a wife, mother, and blogger.

I brainstormed with my roomie on the long drive home about how I could pull this off, but my quest took a turn when she asked one little question. She wasn’t critical, just curious –

“Why?” Why did I feel I needed help?

I quickly filled her in on all of the above – I couldn’t do everything I was called to do on my own, and all the most productive woman at the conference encouraged delegation and getting help. But as I spoke, I heard tones of justification. Suddenly I began to wonder if this really was a valid need, or a selfish desire I was justifying with all my lofty goals.

It was the very next week that the Lord began revealing to me some pretty thick veins of pride running through my life - pride concerning my blogging goals, my household goals, my personal goals – pride was everywhere! And pride, get this, was at the root of my desire for a helping hand. “If I just had help, then I could do it all!” And doing it all was what my prideful heart wanted most. 

That’s when I let go of my Cinderella Dream. That’s when I saw it for what it was – a selfish, prideful desire, and began to trust the Lord that He would show me the way through all my desires and goals and dreams, and give me the strength to accomplish what He has called me to.

It’s been a journey, but I want to share with you what I have learned. About the Art of Sacrifice, The Beauty of Prioritizing, and, a Trick that’s actually made me feel as though I have gained an Extra Hand around the house (not to mention a large does of Peace of Mind). If you feel like you never will get it all done or make it through the challenging season you’re in, I want to encourage you. God will show you the way. And I’m gonna make room for you on the stepping stones I’ve found along the way…

Best of 2011 – Time and Balance

It all started with Amy’s book, Tell Your Time. Reading it opened my eyes to how many moments were actually available to me in a day if I would only take hold of them. I realized the goals and dreams I had as a wife, mother, friend, writer, etc. where within my reach if I was willing to make daily choices toward these goals. This involved a lot of prioritizing and sacrifice as my biggest time sucker was the computer.

All year I continued to be challenged and convicted to use my time more wisely, first with getting over my facebook addiction, next becoming purposeful about the blogs I was reading, and then taking my blog more seriously.  Taking notes from my own journey, I shared some practical ideas on finding balance on Passionate Homemaking.

My new, virtual mentor, John Maxwell, had a huge impact on decisions I made as my online presence morphed, and Relevant gave me a completely new, God-infused vision for why I’m here to begin with!

Then along came Laura Booz and her book, Blogger Behave {which actually threw me for a tailspin as it really got to the foundation of why I blog and revealed a lot of pride} and her series, Social Media Behave. Then she wrote another series called the Chicken Principle. I tell you, by the end of that, I was *this* close to giving up blogging, till a wise friend reminded me that it really IS worth the daily fight for balance. She said, sure, it’s easier to walk away, but may not be the most fruitful, God-glorifying choice. Quitting could be a cop-out, when the Lord may have wonderful lessons of moderation, self-control, and self discipline to teach me in this place.

So, I’m sticking with it, folks, but you’ll be hearing more about time management and finding balance in future posts ’cause I AM a busy momma of little ones, but telling my story to the Glory of God is one of my priorities, and I’m willing to share how I get from there {laundry, dishes, homeschool, housework} to here {writing authentic blog posts and connecting with all my lovely online friends} as I journey along!

Have you read Tell Your Time yet? Did it change your life? I’d love to hear!

Relevant Highlight #2 – Connecting with Kindred Hearts

I’m still savoring all the wonderful connections I made in the halls and comfy corners made available for the attendees at Relevant. One of my favorite memories is meeting Angie and getting to talk and pray with her for nearly an hour on Friday night. She was so encouraging and such a ‘relevant’ contact for the Lord to send my way – she and her husband have a ministry to entrepreneurial couples – wow! That describes my husband and I, and we definitely need coaching and encouragement as we balance our relationship, parenting, and various businesses.

So, I was delighted to meet Angie, and even more delighted to connect with her after the conference via email. She sent me the link to her new site, Leaving a Legacy - check it out, it’s amazing! And then she went and awarded me the Liebstar Award. OK, now I’m totally overwhelmed!

The word Liebster is German meaning “dearest, friend, or love.” This award is shared and given to up-and-coming blogs that have less than 200 followers. I’m very honored to receive the award, but the best part is that I get to pass it on to 5 other bloggers that are dear to my heart.

So, here’s a list of some of my dearest bloggy friends — be sure to visit them – they are lovely gals, each one! (oh, and I’m totally breaking the rules on the follower count for two reasons – 1) I don’t know how many followers some of these gals have, and 2) I know they each think of themselves “less highly” and “esteem others as better than themselves”. They’re totally not into the numbers, and neither am I!)

Katie has a driving passion to help others find their true identity in Christ. She is a long-time friend and I’m so proud of how she is following God’s lead and developing her writing so she can reach a broader audience with her beautiful passion for God. She also writes at YLCF.

From Kateri’s lens…

Kateri is also a long-time friend who writes soulfully and poetically about her past, yet is living fully and gracefully in the now. Her blog contains some of the most gorgeous nature photography I’ve seen, as well as great gardening tips.

Persuaded was one of my Relevant Roomies – I am so blessed to have a growing friendship with this wise, lovely woman. Oh, and her blog is a true joy, with her laugh-out-loud funny writing voice and honest, whimsical approach to recording her life.

Gretchen was my other roommate at Relevant – so exciting to meet her in person last month! I’ve benefited so much from our friendship and from her blog, which is written from the same season as I am in — busy mommy of three with so many plates spinning — yet she finds time to weave words and share some great tips for everything from home to Facebook management! (She is also the founder of Young Ladies Christian Fellowship or, YLCF)

Hayley made my Relevant experience with her awesome per-conference series on how to define and rock your own personal style. (I don’t need to explain to you how it was just a teensy bit important to me to feel pretty during this weekend hanging out with a bunch of other beautiful women, do I?).

It was so cool to have the inner, heart transformation I experienced at Relevant correspond with the outer ‘reformation’ my wardrobe had undergone thanks to Hayley’s encouraging guidance. Then I got to meet her in person – woot! Needless to say, I’ve become an avid follower of her blog, and you will, too, once you visit! (She has the coolest about me page I’ve seen yet!)

Thank you, ladies, each one of you, for being a part of my life and my blogging experience. You have each become ‘Liebster’ to my heart in the past month.

Of Mice and Men and Pride

Prideful thoughts are kind of like mice. You know they’re there, but must of the time they stay hidden. Until one day that prideful thought grows a little too confident and goes public, like a sleek, fat mouse, suddenly waltzing across your kitchen in broad daylight like he owns the place.

This is not just a squeaky metaphor folks. It’s an all-too-accurate picture of my own life. Both pride and mice have revealed themselves to me this month in a big way.

I’ve never thought of myself as a very prideful person (I know – denial is a sure sign it’s a problem). I’d figured out my main weakness was more along the lines of fear, and pride didn’t rule me like some people. In fact, I felt like it was such a non-issue, I would occasionally ask the Lord to reveal areas of pride, just so I could feel a little more normal and have something to repent about in that area. Wow — writing this out is making it rather obvious this was a bigger problem than I thought. 

And then I went to Relevant. And learned about the concept of Upside-Down blogging. And I was smack in the middle of a community of passionate, God-following women for a whole weekend. And I was being my normal, ditzy, short-fused self, and I couldn’t hide it from my roommates. Or myself. Any longer.

Pride was alive and well in my heart.

You see, I hadn’t realized until then how much the cultural messages in the blogosphere had affected my blogging. All the advice about growing stats, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), finding your writing voice, networking, monetizing, and otherwise taking your blog seriously had disguised themselves as wisdom. I’d bought into it hook, line, and sinker. Whoops – mixing metaphors here. Let’s try, Cheese, Bait, and Trap. I said I wanted to honor God with my blog, with my online presence, but I was completely caught up in the way the world does blogging. Nearly everything I did online was centered around making myself look good, self promotion, and getting more people to think I was awesome enough to subscribe to.

Now, a lot of this was because I was trying to sell a book, and conventional wisdom said this was how one made money. And we needed money! But I was forgetting the God-factor. Yes, there were things I could prudently do to put my book out there. But stressing like I was and acting like it was all up to me — well, that was an entire lack of trust and a whole lot of pride.

And finally, just like the mice in my kitchen, my pride got bold enough to come out in the open.

It was on the drive home from Relevant with my roommate. We were just miles from the hotel when I made my first navigational error, causing us a 10 min. detour, confusion, and sweaty palms.

And anger. At myself. Why could I not just get from point A to point B without getting lost – even just once? The 30 min. ‘detour’ we took on the way down was enough to keep me humble, wasn’t it?

I expressed to my dear roomie my frustration, and in doing so realized how much I wanted to impress her with my navigational skills on the way home, if only to prove that they weren’t as bad as it had appeared on the trip down. Right there is where I saw the mouse – I mean, the pride. And suddenly, it was everywhere – it was in my appearance, it was in my conversation, it was in my blogging, it was in every relationship – it was an infestation!!!

I was overwhelmed. And that’s when my dear, sweet, roomie spoke words of wisdom that have given me direction as I try to deal with the infestation. She said,

“I always tell my kids, ‘embrace every opportunity to humble yourself, for if you don’t, God will have to do it for you, and that is a lot more painful.’”

Right there she gave me the secret to trapping the pride so I could toss it out of my life. Embracing humility means throwing down the mask of having it all together – in front of your friends, your husband, your kids, or the blogosphere. It means repenting openly and frequently when you recognize sin. It means trusting God with your reputation, your future, and your stats.

For me it means – no more worrying about subscriber count, if my writing is unique enough to get me noticed, or if my post fits the formula to go viral. It means just being myself here on my blog, and trusting that God will accomplish His purposes, with or without my harried attempts at fame. It means from now on I’m going to write what He leads, as honestly and openly as I can, with the simple, yet worthy goal of encouraging whoever comes my way. And praying daily and sincerely that He would continue to humble me and cleanse me from pride and all unrighteousness, which is His promise to those who confess their sin. (1 John 1:9)

Thank you for joining me on this journey. For coming to visit me even though the occasional vermin peaks his head around the dishwasher while we’re trying to converse. I’m doing my best to deal with the mice, and the pride.


P.S.  Anyone have any tips for trapping the mice? They are not at all interested in peanut butter in the traps – I think there is just too much great food available, risk free, around the toddler’s chairs in the dining room…eeek!

Thrill Therapy

There is something therapeutic about riding a Roller Coaster.

As a mom, I have so much responsibility. Three small children, managing a house, cooking 3 meals a day, being a wife, running a business – so much depends on keeping it all together. Some days I feel like the Elephant in “Horton Hears a ‘Who’” when he makes the sobering realization – “I’m the one holding the spec!”

Climbing into a roller coaster, getting strapped in place, rattling up to the top of the first hill I feel completely out of control – there’s nothing I can do – any moment the world is going to drop out from under me and I’m going to be screaming at the top of my lungs with fear.

Yet everything is actually fine. The safety bars and padding hold me from falling or experiencing any injury – even when I’m upside-down!

And suddenly I feel very free. I’m totally out of control, but I’m ok. Something bigger is holding everything together.

It feels really good.

Kind of like remembering that God is ultimately in control.

But then, a gentle carosel ride feels good, too.

Where are you? Carousel or Roller coaster? I’m definitely on the latter right now, holding on for dear life as God leads me into the realm of Upside-Down Blogging. I just have to keep remembering He built the track, and has His hand on the levers and switches. I’m trying to enjoy the ride!

Coming Back to Reality From Relevant

I rose at 5:30 after nursing my alarm clock. (I have found an alarm clock that you can’t hate no matter what time it goes off – a warm, cuddly, rolly-polly, snuggly little boy child who has learned to call ‘mamma!’ in the morning).

No, I don’t get up this early every morning – only on the mornings I’ve actually slept through the night (second time this month, peoples – look out world, here comes Trina-minus-sleep deprivation!)

I slipped downstairs with my journal and Bible (ESV lately – loving it) turned on the crockpot for my first attempt at crockpot oatmeal (oatmeal recipe in my book, crockpot method in the testing phase) Then I curled up on the couch, delighting in the two hours of uninterrupted me-time ahead.

I have come to know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that the only way to make it through one of my crazy days is to start with God.
Uninterpreted time with my Lord, including prayer, reading, and listening, actually happens only about once a week in this season, but I’ve come to accept that reality without guilt, and put it on the ‘try-to-do’ list every day anyway. He has rewarded my feeble attempts with His faithfulness over and over. I’ve experienced such love and understanding as I seek His face, that I’m finding grace and wisdom for carving out even more moments with Him because it really does help me through my day.

This morning it was no exception. I got His perspective, and unloaded all my burdens onto His willing shoulders. Then I spelled out the word I got with my new letter blocks Dayspring gave me at Relevant.
The word was - 

“This charming, nine wooden block set, provided with letters, symbols, and Scripture, can be used in creating words for daily reminders of God’s amazing goodness in your life.” I’m not selling them, just telling you about them ’cause they’re really fun and beautiful!

For the rest of the morning, as I fed children, tried to make a dent in cleaning, laundry, and organization, and then sat down at the laptop to check on my online responsibilities, I kept seeing the blocks and stopping to take a deep breath and remember to trust.

And as I worked my way through my inbox and RSS feed, checking off things on my online-to-do list, I kept coming across links that encouraged me to do just that. Then there was the announcement from Sally Clarkson and Sarah Mae about their new book “Desperate – Hope for the Mom Who Needs to Breath” – timely, no? I was being gently reminded to trust.  To trust that

IF God made me this way – this passionate, this driven, this purposeful and with so many ideas and goals and plans to help and encourage and inspire those around me – (and if Relevant did nothing else, it confirmed that in my heart like never before – He made me this way and I’m not abnormal – there are a lot of other women just like me – how cool is that?!)

IF SO – THEN He’s going to make a way for me to live with myself. To reconcile, balance, prioritize, and find space to breath and take joy in the midst of it all.

Thank you for your patience, support, and encouragement as I work to sort out who He created me to be, and how to balance it all. I may be posting more or less, deeper or more practical, pictures or lots of words – I still don’t know all the ways that Relevant impacted my bloggy vision. But I do know God has a plan for this place, for what I put here, and for the people who read it. Thanks for joining me on the journey. 

Oh, and if you’re in the middle of finding the balance as a mommy blogger – or any season of life with a blog in the picture, you’re gonna want to check out the new book, Blogger Behave, by Laura Booz. Sarah Mae is giving away her book (31 Days to Clean) when you buy Laura’s today!
I’m off to go delve into it myself…

Relevant Highlight #1

Laura Booz was my favorite speaker, handsdown, at Relevant.  With Ann Voskamp, Amy Andrews, Lisa Jo, and so many others, how was Laura my top pick?

  • Because she was the most relevant to me. She’s a homeschool mommy of 3, and FULL of passion!
  • Her enthusiasm and joy made her talks some of the most memorable of the weekend.
  • She’s incredibly practical in her approach to teaching and inspiring other moms and bloggers. 
  • She gave me a free copy of her new ebook, Blogger Behave (but that’s another post)

Imagine my delight upon returning home and finding she’s launched a brand new blog, Homschool Baby. And she’s having a party over there with a whole week of giveaways!

If you’re a new homeschooler, your gonna want to come hang out over there with me. Trust me.

The Most Memorable Moment of Relevant11

I’ve just got back from a weekend in Harrisburg, PA, attending the Christian Women’s Blogging Conference, Relevant. It will take months to process and recount to you all the beauty, inspiration, and practical insight I received from this conference, but I simply can’t wait to share with you the Most Memorable Moment I exeprienced.

  • No it wasn’t hugging the necks of all the wonderful woman who have mentored, inspired, and changed my life forever – Amy Andrews, Sally Clarkson, Lindsay Edmonds, Lisa Jo, or Emily P. Freeman – the list goes on!
  • Nor was it talking past midnight and bonding with my lovely roommates, Diane and Gretchen
  • It wasn’t even getting caught on the stairwell with Ann Voskamp when the blizzard took the power out – memorable as that was!

No, it happened when, in a moment of quiet back in our hotel room, I heard a slight buzzing noise and realized my phone was vinbrating. I saw I had three missed calls from my husband, so I quickly called him back, aplologizing for the difficulty in getting a hold of me, and asking him what was up?

“Jesse has something he wants to tell you.”

My heart skipped a beat. I had a guess what this could be.

“Hi, Momma! I prayed to Jesus and asked Him to take the sin out of my heart!”

My first born, Jesse, and I

Oh, how my heart swelled as I tried to take in, with too-little sleep and with the miles seperating us, the wonder and significance of this sweet, sweet revelation. How I wished to hug my little boy and see for myself the new light in his eyes. Through the sobs in my throat I told him how excited I was to hear the news and asked him if he knew I had been praying for this very thing?

“Yeah – Daddy told me that.” He assured me, matter-of-factually.

How could I stand it, you ask? How could I handle missing this milestone in my son’s life? This first decision to step on the path of following Christ? I pondered the question after I closed my phone, bewildred at the joy-minus-grief in my heart. I contributed the grace and peace I felt to two things:

  1. Jesse and his little heart were in good hands – Daddy did a fine job talking him through his questions and leading our son to the cross. I heard all about the conversation first hand from Jesse last night when I got home and knew God was there.
  2. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was supposed to be there, at Relevant, that weekend. My weekend was like one great, big, 4 day-long, many-armed hug from God. I knew He was in control, and I thanked Him for yet another gift to cherish from the weekend. 

I can’t wait to tell you all about it! (Now back to laundry and cooking and getting caught up on my sleep!)