Anna's Alcove

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Category: Writing (page 1 of 5)

What is your niche?

When you want to write for a website or guest blog, or even when you manage a website of your own, you need to have what is called a “niche.”

“What is a ‘niche,’?” you may ask.

The definition in the dictionary is as follows:

1. a shallow recess, especially one in a wall to display a statue or other ornament.
2. place or position (something) in a niche.

Ok, so to put something on display is kind of like showcasing what you know (so to speak). When a person knows a lot about a certain topic and is passionate about it (or at least very interested in learning more about it), they usually try to find a way to share it with the world.

When I started my blog for an editorial college class, I wasn’t sure how or when I would use it in the future. But then I started posting the articles I wrote as they were published in the school newspaper and moved on to writing about whatever came to mind, whether it be biblical, book-based or whatever inspired me to write.

That seemed to work pretty well at the time and helped to boost my readership as posts were published month to month.

Now comes the tricky part. I want to get into freelance writing, but most websites that are looking for guest bloggers/writers want us to declare a particular niche, a certain topic that we’re specialized in.

My husband sent me an article titled “The Surprising Benefits (and Pitfalls) of Being a Jack-of-All-Trades,” which talks about those of us who are interested and knowledgable about a variety of topics.

What was the solution?

“Take your time and pick a couple things to focus on.”

Just because you’re interested in a number of topics and activities doesn’t mean you can become a short-term specialist in that area. Pick a topic and start researching. Make that your hobby for several weeks or a couple months and see what you can learn.

DSCN3678Do you enjoy food? Then cook, take photographs, jot down notes of the things you changed in the recipe and write about it! Are you into photography? Then go out into the world and snap some pictures, research terms like “aperture” and “depth of field” and post it online with a short (or long) explanation about what you did for each picture. Enjoy playing with kids? Then write some tips about what you do to keep them entertained, healthy snacks that they’ll enjoy and educational games that enhance their thinking process.

There’s a world of opportunity out there waiting to be studied! The only thing that will make it stand out from similar posts on the Internet is by making it your own. No one can think like you do, see the world like you do, crack jokes like you do or explain an interest like you do.

I encourage you (and myself) to start becoming a short-term specialist in one of the many areas that catch your interest 🙂 Who knows… you may discover something you just can’t get enough of!

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We have the mind of Christ! (1 Corinthians 2:16)

Whether you’re new to Christianity or believed in Christ at a young age, you’re bound to hear that fact more than once.

But what does it mean?

Granted, it will be different for everyone. I’ve struggled with this verse off and on throughout my walk with Christ and still have yet to come to a full conclusion of what it means for me.

How can we, as humans, have the mind capacity of the Creator? There’s so much about God that we don’t completely understand yet, so how can we understand or comprehend the mysteries and knowledge of Him?

In 2 Peter 1:2-4, it says “Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature…”

The first part of that verse is easy to grasp. Peter is blessing the people receiving the letter in the knowledge of God and of Jesus (which is kind of like blessing them in the name of God). But then it goes on to say that through the knowledge of Him, we may be partakers of the divine nature.

What all does that encompass? When you think about your “nature,” what comes to mind?

Your soul, thoughts, feelings, personality, creativity… the very essence that makes you you, right?

Take a moment and realize what that means for us as believers.

Mind blowing, I know… and it gets better:

“Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1)

It is by faith, and faith alone, that we have a part in God’s nature. There’s nothing that we can do to earn it. We were made in His image (Genesis 1:26-27), so He pretty much imprinted Himself on our souls and being “partakers of the divine nature” and “having the mind of Christ” is a part of following Jesus.

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Getting access to all that knowledge doesn’t happen automatically when we believe, but we’re given a key. Once we realize that we have the key to the mind and knowledge of God and claim it for ourselves (fully believe it), that’s when things start happening:

Colossians 2:2-3 gives us a glimpse of what we could experience once we start seeking to know to mind of God and take ownership of our right to the divine nature: “… that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, and attaining to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

Wow…

I mean, as believers, this passage says that we have the right to seek after the mysteries and knowledge of God! Too many of us don’t take advantage of it and miss an entire aspect of our faith. God wants to reveal more of Himself to us, His beloved creation, and He’s waiting for His followers to actively start seeking after the divine nature that is rightfully ours.

Like I said, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around this and figure out what it means for me. But I’m working on talking with God more frequently and asking Him direct questions instead of wondering quietly to myself. Diving into His Word and discovering new meanings behind well-known passages has been one of the immediate benefits.

The Holy Spirit will be faithful and will open your mind to more of who God is. Strive toward Him. Claim your divine inheritance. Don’t get stuck in the lie that God won’t reveal things to us because we’re mere human beings.

Remember:

We have the mind of Christ!

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Adding “Home” and “Blog” pages to your WordPress

It’s taken me a little longer to get to this point that I expected, but I finally started working on getting my “Home,” “Hire Me,” “Blog” and “Contact” pages set up for my WordPress site! Yes, there is only the basic information there, but it’s a start and I do plan to embellish it a little more over time.

As I was looking at my site, I realized that I didn’t want my blog posts to be the first thing my visitors saw. I knew that one of the ways to catch a client’s eye is providing them with an idea of what you can offer, but while my posts can be helpful and encouraging at times, they don’t always display my true potential as a freelancer.

What I needed was a “Home” page, but I had no idea how to create one, much less what to feature on it.

So, I started researching and this is what I learned:

Static Home Page

Go to your Dashboard and select Pages. Click “Add New” and type “Home” in the title section of the page. If your template has a default home page template, you’ll find that drop-down menu on the right, under “Page Attributes” (not all templates have this feature). Scroll to the bottom of the page and uncheck “Allow comments” and “Allow trackbacks.” Click “Publish” (you can add information to it now or later).

Blog page

Go to Pages and click “Add New.” Type “Blog” in the title section. Scroll down and uncheck “Allow comments” and “Allow trackbacks.” Click “Publish.”

Set up

Go to Settings and select “Reading.” Under Front Page Display, select “a static page.” You’ll see two drop-down menus: Front Page and Posts Page. Select “Home” for Front Page and “Blog” for Posts Page. Save your changes.

Go to Appearance and select “Menu.” Your two new pages should appear on the left side of the page. Click the empty boxes next to them and click “Add to Menu.” You’ll see them appear on the right side of your screen. Save your work.

What to write?

So, now what? You’ve got your Home and Blog pages all set up, but what should you feature on your home page?

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Remember when you wrote an essay or short story for class and you had to come up with a hook that caught your reader’s attention? Think about the audience that you’re trying to reach, what they may need and how you can catch their attention. Why should they keep looking at your home page? What do they need that you have?

Be sure to list some of your areas of expertise, maybe feature some sample photos if you’re into photography and sell yourself (promote your new blog page too)! Don’t be shy about what you can offer to the business world, but don’t make it too wordy either. Too many words can potentially scare people away.

Want more pages?

It’s easy! To create more pages, such as “Contact” or “Hire Me,” go to Pages and “Add New” and fill in the title with whatever you want.

Once those are created and published, go to Appearance and select “Menu.” Be sure to click the empty boxes by your newly created pages, select “Add to Menu” and they will appear in your menu list on the right. You can rearrange the menus by clicking and dragging. Save your changes.

And that’s it!

If you want more information, I suggest you check out wpbeginner.com, as they have several great resource videos on how to get things set up on your website.

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5 ways to hone your writing skills

Freelance writer. Freelance photographer.

Sounds so professional, right?

But how does one go about becoming either one of those?

I did a little poking around the Internet this past week and came across a website called Innovative Ink, created by Elna, another beginner freelance writer, and found a series she wrote called “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies.” There was a number of valuable details about honing your skills as a writer, getting your name out there, landing a client, determining your rates and writing a contract.

Here are some of the points that caught my attention:

1. Portfolio

Many journalism students are strongly encouraged to keep everything they write throughout their college career, no matter how big or small it may be. Why? Because it can be added to their portfolio. Everything you write is a sample of what you can do.

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As a college student, I was a reporter for the school paper and kept PDFs of every piece I wrote. Which was great, but I graduated from college three years ago and haven’t really written an article since then. I had dealt with plenty of online briefs and press releases during my employment at The Morning Call in Allentown, but I have nothing to show for it except for my knowledge and experience.

So how do you keep building your portfolio?

2. Blogging

Why blog? Because it’s a way to determine where you fit in the interwebs. What is your niche? What are you passionate about? What inspires you to write? It took me a while to figure that one out, but soon I would hear a quote or a song or snap a picture of a breathtaking view and suddenly I was inspired to write a 6 paragraph or longer blog post in under an hour. Anything you write can be used in your portfolio, whether it be professional writing or for fun. So, if you’re not in school or don’t write something new every day for work, do it on your down time in the evenings or on the weekends at home.

Which brings me to my next point…

3. Write Daily

This is very important. If writers make it a point to write something every day – a paragraph, their rambling thoughts, a letter – it’s almost guaranteed that their writing will improve and they’ll be able to figure out what their niche is as a writer. Do you have an interest? Write about it. Do you like to cook or bake? Write about it. How about that crazy awesome book series you just finished? Write about it! (just don’t give away the ending)

4. Guest blogging

This is similar to the second point, but the difference is that it’s for another person, not for yourself. I’ve always wondered how to get into writing on another blog. When I started researching how to become a freelance writer, many sites suggested being a guest blogger. Ok, but how do I go about finding blogs that I can write for? That’s where Innovative Ink helped. She listed Google searches to try and a way to sign up for opportunities to guest blog for money (yes, apparently that is a thing at beafreelanceblogger.com). It’s just a matter of getting your name out there and letting the cyber world know what you’re capable of before you fly solo and land your own clients.

5. Social Media

This has already been a major part of getting the word out about my blog. I’ve been working on my blog since 2011 and it contains a wide variety of writing samples – poetry, devotionals, short story, news articles, features and more. By the time I moved my blog over to this website, I was nearly at 7000 views! That’s all from sharing my latests posts on my Facebook, LinkedIn and Google profiles. What I learned from blogging for fun is that social media has to be a big factor in getting the word out about my freelance career, my clients and what I can offer to the world as a writer and photographer.

So there you have it. Be creative! Write! Build that portfolio and have fun with it 🙂

I would highly recommend checking out the “Freelance Writing Jobs for Newbies” series, as it has helped me to form a game plan for starting my career as a freelance writer.

Thanks for reading!

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And so the adventure begins…

Welcome to my new site!! Here’s the story of how it got started and my plans and dreams for what it could become in the future:

Everything was going fine and dandy. I had just married the man I love, we had a wonderful, relaxing honeymoon in the Poconos and, with both of our full-time jobs, we were well on our way to paying off debt by the end of the year.

But it didn’t last long. The week after the honeymoon, I was back at my desk in the newsroom, trying to make some sense of the hundred or so emails I had received,  when I was called into the conference room. There the head editor and my boss gave me the bad news: the company was downsizing again and they were forced to cut my position.

As any normal person would be, I was bummed that I lost my job and the steady income, but I knew in the back of my mind that God has an ultimate plan in all of this…

.. but it was nice having the extra money.

Anyway, after spending a week getting our house set up and wedding gifts put away, I took the first step of job hunting, applied for unemployment and registered my name, email and resume with two career search sites: JobGateway.com and Monster.com.

In order to get job openings that you may be interested in, the sites recommend setting up “saved searches,” which are ongoing searches according to your pre-set career choice and where you would prefer to work. I set mine to “administrative assistant,” “writer” and “editor” near Doylestown and Quakertown and selected the daily email alerts option.

DSCN2507This was a helpful tool. I get emails every day, letting me know if there are new opportunities to apply for jobs in the area, but there are days where there is nothing new.

It is now week three, I’ve applied to at least 10-12 jobs and have either been told that they’re looking at more qualified candidates or haven’t heard anything back from them.

Then I got to thinking – what if this is my opportunity to get my dream of being a freelance writer, editor and photographer off the ground? I already have a blog that’s been an off-and-on thing since I was a junior in college and my husband created a website for me (ta-da!) to use as a foundation for freelancing and photography.

There’s so much a person can do with a writing major, including editing books and articles for publishing, so I’ll be writing weekly updates on my journey toward a career in freelance, as well as other wonderings and ponderings about life.

As I discover what works, what doesn’t work and how to establish your writing in the world of freelancing, I hope this becomes a helpful resource to those interested in a career in freelance writing.

Thanks for reading!

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Everyone Has a Story to Tell

“Hi, how are you?” 

“Good. You?”

“Good.”

Believe it or not, this could considered to be an actual conversation. It may be short, but this is all the interaction some individuals need in order to feel like they’ve done their duty in acknowledging the existence of someone they may pass on the street or in the hallway.

What could that say about our society today?

To me, it seems like communication and real conversation has gone downhill lately for several reasons:

1. People may feel as if they’re going to get stuck listening to someone’s life story if they stop and ask them how they’re doing.

2. The other person may be unsure as to how much they should share and whether or not the other person really wants to hear about it.

3. Nearly everyone has some type of technological device that keeps them in constant contact with their family, friends, co-workers, etc… without actually having to talk with them face to face.

This kind of reminds me of the song “(Everybody’s Gotta) Song to Sing” by Group 1 Crew:

“Everybody’s got a song to sing, so won’t you come now and sing with me,
It doesn’t really matter where you’re from or what you’ve done.
Everybody’s got a story to tell, times we’ve tried and times we’ve failed,
So when you feel like hope is gone, keep holding on
This is your song.
Everybody’s got a story to tell.”

I love that! And it’s something that our culture has shoved to the wayside. Not many of us actually take the time to intentionally ask how someone is doing in order to find out how things are going in their life.

We all like to put on a face when it comes with interacting with other people. Technology helps a lot with that and people have gotten so used to hiding behind their cyber personality, that it’s hard for them to have a real, face-to-face conversation with someone.

While surfing the Internet on this fun site called StumbleUpon (you click the “Stumble” button and, according to the interests you selected in your profile, it takes you to random sites that you may be interested in), I came across a website called Humans of New York.

This site has a homepage full of portraits of people the photographer had met around New York City: old folk, toddlers in brightly colored outfits, men with six-inch gauges, women with full-sleeve tattoos… you name it, he’s probably met someone like that.
Each individual featured in their own photo and each photo has a quote from that person. Some of them are longer than others, yet even some of the shorter ones can be very profound and moving, such as:

“I’m afraid of sliding back to a place when I didn’t have the tools to be strong.”

“Sometimes, when I go home to see her, I think: ‘Nobody should be this happy on a Tuesday.'”

“When I was 20, I made a plan to get a good job and be secure. Now I’m 35 and I need a plan to be happy.”

“I’m trying to keep him away from all the negativity so that he has a fighting chance. There are so many cracks to fall through. But I already got his older brother to college.”

See what I mean? This is what you get when you take an interest in someone’s life. You discover that there is more to someone than what you first see.

You ever hear the saying “Never judge a book by its cover”? It applies to people too!

That creepy guy on the corner? He has a story to tell.

That group of young boys skating down the sidewalk and attempting tricks that they’re not quite ready to do yet? Each of them has a story to tell.

That shy girl you pass in the hallway every day at school and who everyone else seems to avoid because she seems odd? She has a story to tell.

That NFL football linebacker who seems to be living the dream? He has a story to tell.

As Group 1 Crew says,

“Yo, everybody has a story and it needs to be heard,
So let it play and resonate from the hood to the burbs,
Whether your sky is gray and you been through it all,
There is somebody on this earth that is singing the same song.”

Each person in this world is on a journey. A journey to find themselves, to discover who God is, who He wants them to be and a journey to find out what life has for them.

Each journey results in a unique story. We may go through similar trials and experiences, but each person has a different perspective on life which brings about a variety of results. No one experiences life in the same way and it’s interesting to hear how others see the world.

So take the time to be intentional about the questions you ask. When you say, “Hi, how are you?” try actually making eye contact and stopping to talk with the other person instead of rushing off to the next thing on your schedule.

Don’t pretend to be texting/talking on your phone in the hopes that the person walking past you won’t try to strike up a conversation.

Take the time to listen. I can tell you from my own experience that it’s a really awesome feeling knowing that someone cares enough to listen to what you have to say.

Like I said, everyone’s got a story that’s worth listening to 🙂

Oh, and if you’re interested in that Humans of New York site (it’s completely worth checking out!!), I recommend the first story I read: The Boxer. Check it!

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“Counterfeit Gods”

“You might say, “I don’t believe in God,” but the Bible says, “Not possible,”
Everyone has a God, whether or not it’s the God of the gospel…
Even the dictionary defines God as “whatever we make supreme.”
It’s a theme, a thread, it’s inside of all human beings,
The fact we all worship, and no it’s not just about singing.
I know some of you already like “Jeff I don’t worship, I put that on the shelf,”
But I say technically we all do, we just worship ourselves.”

This is the beginning of “Counterfeit Gods,” a spoken word piece by one of my favorite artists, Jefferson Bethke. He has made a number of videos that touch on a lot of hard issues that we, as Christians, face in our every day lives… tattoos, sex, identity, relationships and idols.

Many of us don’t like to admit it, but we tend to place our own personal interests higher in our priorities than God at times (and I’m speaking from experience here):

The anticipation of logging onto the social networks to see who commented on a post or who has the most “likes” on a photo.

The adrenaline rush movies and books provide; giving you the opportunity to escape from the real world and go on crazy adventures all without leaving the couch.

Having a knight in shining armour (or in a really sweet sports car) come whisk you away to live happily ever after!

It may not seem like we’re outright worshiping idols, but think about it… what are we really doing when something of the world takes priority over the God of the universe? Aren’t we just gently pushing Him to the side and asking Him to wait for when we have time to spend with Him.. special time that we set aside for devotions, prayer or journaling… when, in reality, He should be infiltrating our entire existence?!

“Yet, we mock and we laugh at the Israelites Golden Calf,
But we do the same right back; it just looks different than that.
So question, what’s on your throne?
What do you chase so you don’t feel alone?
So what defines you, what do you give ultimate worth?
And what if taken from you would bring ultimate hurt?
Now see, that is your God”

I know I’m getting deep on this one, but God did state in the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20:4-6
“You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God”

Did you catch that the second time? Our God is a “jealous God”! He can’t stand the thought of anything taking higher priority in our lives. Yet, we do it over and over again, sometimes without realizing it.

“And you ladies, no guy can love you more than Jesus already has,
So stop getting your worth from Magic Mike. Jesus is so much better than that.
I know you’re thinking,  “So Jeff, are you saying we should hate money, hate drinking, and never have sex.
No, I’m not saying that. The Bible says enjoy it all; in its proper context.”

While God is over here trying to tell us that we’re the most beautiful thing He has ever seen, we end up comparing ourselves to the friends in cyber world who have the most “likes” or settling for the fact that we’ll never live up to the Hollywood version of “perfection.”

Without even realizing it, we get so caught up in dreaming about what lies ahead for us (boyfriend/girlfriend, marriage, a career, fame), that we tend to forget that God is already taking care of our past, present and future.

So I ask you… does God have the priority spot in every little part of your life, including your things, friends, social networks and countless other way that you connect to this world? Have you given it all to Him? What would happen if it was all taken away in the blink of an eye? Would your world shatter to pieces around you, or would it stand firm on the solid foundation of Jesus Christ?

“He exchanged himself for us, absorbing all our sin.
God put on flesh and do you see how we treated Him?
The ultimate war veteran, because He was killed for our freedom.
Nonetheless, He was thinking of you and me, with every whip that beat em,
And to think he did that knowing full well we’d say, “Nah, we don’t really need Him.”
But like a Father, He couldn’t bare His children to not be free
So He thought up that tree, paid our fee, for specs of dirt like you and me.
So my plea is let Him restore His proper place,
I promise you He loves you right now. Just trust in His grace.
Because before I leave, I’ll leave you with this:
What of those other things you worship took nails in their wrists?
Or how about when was the last time money or sex forgave you?
When’s the last time your boyfriend set you free from all you’re enslaved to?
What else is there that died so you could be made new?
Or when’s the last time the world promised satisfaction, and actually came through?”

I’m still learning, just like you… so I ask that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, please pray for each other to not become to attached to the world around us. While it may be enjoyable for a while, it’s never gonna last.

But there’s one thing that can never be taken away… our awesome God who is overflowing with unconditional love and never-ending patience.

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Learning to Dance in the Rain

What is the first thought that pops into your head when you wake up to a steady rain? You know the kind… large drops of water falling from the sky – not too hard, not too soft – just nice and steady all day long.

Many people consider it an interruption in their plans or a nuisance, but, for some reason, I don’t see it that way at all.

I love waking up to the sound of rain and knowing that it’s going to last for a while. Nearly everyone thinks I’m weird for enjoying it, but think about it… when it’s raining outside, it makes being inside so much more satisfying!

That feeling of getting my work done and out of the way and knowing that I have absolutely no other obligations. I mean, come on… the rain is obviously telling you to save the yard work for another day and to stay inside as much as you can! You don’t want to end up like the Wicked Witch of the West from”The Wizard of Oz,” now, do you?

Ok, that was a tad corny, but let me try to explain…

You know that scene in Disney’s Beauty and the Beast where Belle and the Beast are sitting by the fire, enjoying each others company and reading a book while the snow came down outside? Or in “Little Women” when Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy sat by the fire either working on their sewing or enjoying a book and just spending time together while the rain poured down outside their house.

Those two scenarios (and I can easily name a bunch more) are exactly what my idea of the perfect afternoon is! Hearing the constant drumming of the rain on your roof while you’re all cozy and dry in the house is what makes it so great.

Even though you’re stuck inside, the possibility are endless: you can explore new worlds between the pages of a book, watch a movie you haven’t seen in a while, play games with your family and friends (like actual board or card games), enjoy a mug of something hot, make goodies to pig out on at night while enjoying a movie/TV show marathon 🙂

When it’s gorgeously sunny, you feel almost obligated to go spend at least a little time doing something outside, whether it’s driving to the store, going for a bike ride or getting some yard work done. Don’t get me wrong, I love the warm, sunny days and I’m definitely your outdoorsy-type of girl… but not when it’s rainy and deliciously wet outside 🙂

So, the next time it rains (which might be tomorrow!) instead of complaining about how gloomy and disgusting it looks… look on the bright side. Here’s an opportunity for a guilt-free stay-
indoors day to do whatever may tickle your fancy! Read a book, watch a movie, play a game, get that project done, be a complete bum for a day….

… or literally go dance in the rain (it’s completely worth getting soaked) 🙂

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“Be Present”

“I tend to think of life in terms of movie clips or tweetable moments… [my wife] referred to my phone as my ‘black wife.’ Now, I thought it was funny and I’m no expert, but I don’t think she was kidding… she talked about some other stuff that I don’t really remember because in my head I was too busy composing a tweet, where I would quote her with some sort of clever hashtag about marriage and about how much I love her, to be paying attention to her at that moment…”

These are the opening lyrics to “Be Present,” by one of my favorite spoken word artists, Propaganda. I chose this song to talk about because it deals with one of my pet peeves… technology!

Well, ok, I don’t hate technology (it does have a ton of perks, otherwise I wouldn’t be writing this blog), but it seems as if the quality of communication has gone down the more technology progresses.

These days, people can access Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, FaceTime, Snapchat and other social options, any time, any place. We call it multi-tasking – thinking we’re accomplishing things and making the most of life – but in reality, we can get so lost in the cyber world that we forget to pay attention to the reality that’s going on right in front of us.

“Only when you lose her, you learn to appreciate her. Like when I’m with her, I’m itching to get rid of her and she only gives you one shot, blow it and she’s gone… You can’t rush her or slow her down…. she will slip through your fingers like sand. Her name is TIME. She said multi-tasking is a myth. You ain’t doing anything good, you’re just doing everythng awful. She begged me to stop stretching her thin and stuffing her full, stop being so concerned with the old her and future her but love her now. Her presence is God’s present and you should be that.. present.”

As it says in James 4:14, “What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” Think about that. It can feel as if life will never end and that we have all the time in the world, but in reality, life is short. If we’re not careful, we can waste so much time “socializing” on our phones, iPods and other technology instead of investing the time and effort it takes to make real-life relationships work.

I’m not saying that social networking is a bad thing. I love it just as much as the next guy and it is very helpful in connecting with people, sharing ideas and having a broader presence in the cyber world. But on the other hand, it can be a danger.

We can become so addicted to checking our Facebook accounts every 10 minutes or feeling the need to create a cute tweet or status about something we heard or did, that we neglect the moments we’re given to have face-to-face conversations, experience life and create new and lasting relationships.

So, before you go to check any of your social network accounts or post that awesome status, hashtag or tweet that you’ve been working on… take a moment to “smell the roses.” Sounds quirky, I know, but, seriously, take a minute and invest in the friends and family that are around you. Put aside your phone and focus your full attention on listening and conversing with someone, enjoy the outdoors and live life… be present!

“So, I guess you could say I’ve been through a divorce. My phone and I are no longer married.”

“I think I’m ready to be here… now.”

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“So many books, so little time”

Books… the smell of the pages… the feel of the paper turning in your fingers… the soft corners of the cover tucked snugly between your hand, so many lands just waiting for you to explore, adventures to be had, friends to meet and mysteries to be solved… all behind the covers of a book.

If you’re an avid reader like I am, you’ll understand when I say that there is a world of adventure between the covers of a book, just waiting for the right person to come along and lose themselves among the words. As you start reading, the story takes hold of your imagination, drawing you deeper and deeper into the pages until you lose all track of time. And if it’s a really good book, there come a point where you feel like you’re actually living it and the world around you just seems to fade away.

Each book contains an entire world full of people, animals and places you never seen before or even dreamed of. You can explore across the Western United States with Lewis and Clark, solve mysteries with Sherlock Holmes, steal from the rich and give to the poor with Robin Hood and soar through the clouds on the back of a dragon – all without leaving your room.

Honestly, I was into books since I was born. Well, ok, maybe that’s not completely true… my parents have read to me ever since I was a baby. The day I discovered that I could actually understand and read the words on the page for myself was the day my addiction officially started. The library never even stood a chance. I would take out a large pile of books (maybe 10 or more) and would finish them all that same day.DSCN2519

While I enjoyed reading on my own, having my parents read to us was (and still is) a guilty pleasure of mine. My Dad read “The Chronicles of Narnia” by C.S. Lewis to all of us older kids at night and my Mom read “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien, “Eragon” by Christopher Paolini and many other books to us as part of our school day (since we were all homeschooled).

Some of the books I would consider my “best friends” would have to be “Between the Lines” by Jodi Picoult, “Hood” by Stephen R. Lawhead, “Redeeming Love” by Francine Rivers and “Emma” by Jane Austen, just to name a few. Believe me… there are plenty more where they came from! I’m pretty sure I have more friends in the world of books than I do in real life.

DSCN2520My reading speed has definitely slowed down as I’ve gotten older (haha, yeah, I know, 23 isn’t THAT old, but it can feel like it at times) and my schedule has filled up with working full-time, Bible studies, friends and family-time, but I try to get in a little reading whenever I can. If you know me well enough, you know that I always have a book with me wherever I go. There are plenty of moments where you’re forced to just stop and wait for a long period of time (waiting rooms, waiting for rides… you get the picture) and it’s nice to know that there is a book just waiting for you pick it up and get away from reality for a few minutes or longer (depending on the wait).

There’s so much more I could say about books because I love them so much and I’m pretty sure I’ll be writing about them again in the near future. One of my suggestions if you’re ever stuck on what to read is this: look for authors that you know you enjoy or be brave and try something new. You can always put a book down and pick up a new one until you find the perfect fit.

Like I stated before, each book is an entire world just waiting for you behind its covers… just waiting to be discovered and explored. Go ahead… I dare you… read 🙂

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