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Showing posts with label The Peony Project. Show all posts
Showing posts with label The Peony Project. Show all posts

May 5, 2020

Hospitality is a Posture of the Heart

Confession:  This is a repost.  But when we chose "Hospitality" as this month's Peony Project link-up prompt, I couldn't help but want to resurrect this one.  This is one of my favorite posts that I've ever written.  It allowed me to process the idea of hospitality in a totally new way and its definitely a reminder I need often.  So I hope you won't mind that I'm reusing my own words, but I honestly don't think I could write another (better) post on hospitality if I tried.

I've never particularly liked the story of Mary and Martha.  Probably because I can totally relate to Martha, and yet Mary is the one Jesus praises.  It always feels a little like He's chastising me when He says "Mary has chosen what is better" (Luke 10:42).

Truthfully, I feel bad for Martha!  She was just trying to be a good hostess after all.  I'd do the same.  The meal needed to be prepared, the table to be set, she probably had to tidy up a little bit.  She had opened her home not to just any guy, but the Lord...and I'm sure she wanted to make a good impression.

But when we get down to it, hospitality boils down to one simple truth: everyone wants to be invited in.  We've all been there...maybe you've been the new girl hoping for a friend or maybe you've seen the new girl and felt the tug to include her.  And when it comes to Mary and Martha, the reality is that things do need to get done.

But you can't keep working for people to be invited in.  If you keep washing the dishes or clearing the table, everyone else is going to feel like they need to be working too or not be included.

This post is part of The Peony Project's monthly link-up.

I don't know abut you, but I was raised to always offer to help.  And so, when I go to a party or gathering and the host stands up to start the clean-up process, my instinct is to pitch in.  And when I'm the host, I will often begin cleaning up when my guests are still around the table.

Don't get me wrong...I think the conversations that happen at the sink, with one person washing dishes and another drying, can be life-giving and relationship-forming.  My mom will tell you that she bonded with her sisters-in-law over sinks full of dirty dishes after family gatherings.  And watching them in the kitchen (and joining them) is now one of my favorite things about those family dinners.

But when we look deeper at the story of Mary and Martha, it's not just about doing work versus sitting at the table and spending time with others.  Martha comes to Jesus, with Mary at His feet, asking Him to send her sister to help her prepare the meal.  She was so worried by the work to be done that she couldn't see the importance in what her sister had chosen.

And when I examine my own heart, it's here that I can relate the most to Martha.  Because often, when I'm standing at that kitchen sink and there are people at the table who haven't offered to help, my heart turns bitter.  Thoughts of "why aren't they helping?" and "can't they see what work needs to be done?" run through my mind.

True hospitality is a posture of the heart.  It's not enough to just open your doors and invite people into your home.  No matter how pinterest-perfect and carefully planned a gathering is, making people feel welcome goes beyond a picturesque table setting and a delicious dinner followed by warm cups of coffee.

In reality, it doesn't matter how well you prepare, what people will remember is how well you cared.

There's beauty in sharing your home and your food.  Impact in being generous with your money and your time.  Inviting people into your life, no matter how messy and imperfect it may be at times, is worth it.

But it can be so much better, so much more impactful, so much more beautiful, if you "choose what is better."
Choose the conversation over the task list.
Choose to listen when the dishes are screaming at you.
Choose to include people in the relationship instead of the work. 

I'm not sure that the story of Mary and Martha will ever not make me feel uncomfortable.  And that's probably the point.  Because for me, it's easy to see the work to be done and do it.  It stretches me more to make the small talk and ask the good and hard questions.  But washing dishes isn't what Jesus asks us to do.  He asks us to take the time to see the need, to see the person, and to be His hands and feet.

What about you?  How do you embrace and exhibit hospitality in your life?


If you're a blogger reading this, and you've been searching for a community to call home; searching for people who will understand this part of your life, who will get the blogging world and who will be real friends for you in it, then I hope you'll consider joining us in The Peony Project.  that's our heart, after all...to be friends for the journey.

And if you just stopped by today to do a little reading, then I'm so happy you're here.  And I hope you'll either consider what peace means to you and join in on our link-up, or that you'll stop by a few of the other posts below and check out what it means to some other awesome ladies. 

Apr 14, 2020

Peace in Chaos // Finding Peace in Scripture

This post is part of The Peony Project's monthly link-up.

If you read my post last week, then you know that life has been a little bit hectic lately.  It's been the kind of hectic that's draining.  Worry hides around every turn and I'll be honest...it's hard to beat it down and to find peace.

I'm honestly not sure how anyone can face a cancer diagnosis (let alone two), or really, any kind of personal crisis, without Jesus.  Our faith and church community has sustained our family over the past two years, and I can't imagine going through all of this without knowing Him.

It can be really hard to find any sort of peace when your mind is plagued with concern or it's just elsewhere in general.  But if there's anything I've found to be tried-and-true in installing peace in my day-to-day over these past two years, it's memorizing Scripture.  

If you grew up in church, you were probably given countless memory verses over the years to study and remember.  I've never been terribly with memorizing Scripture, but I've also never been so compelled to as I have the past few years.  In 2012, I led a missions trip to the Dominican Republic for our youth ministry.  We gave our students a list of verses to memorize and encouraged them that while they were praying with people in the DR, if they were at a loss for words, they could always pray Scripture.

Since my dad was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, we've attended our church's healing ministry for prayer nearly every Wednesday night.  Time and time again, as we've sat in a small room with a team of prayer warriors surrounding my dad, I've listened to people pray Scripture over him.  These experiences have only further confirmed the importance and power in praying through Scripture.

Chances are that if you've every been through anything difficult or have struggled with anything in your life (who hasn't?), then you've gone looking for verses that will bring you peace.  If I've learned anything in the past two years, it's that memorizing verses and repeating them over and over again to myself can bring the biggest sense of peace.

One of my favorites is Isaiah 26:3:  "You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on  you, because he trusts in You." (ESV)

I think this verse encompasses the heart and power of memorizing Scripture:  keeping God's Word in your heart and mind helps you stay in His peace.  Even in the most turbulent of waters, there is a peace in knowing that Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever, and that this world is not our home.  

Here are a few other verses that I have found comfort and peace in memorizing and calling on in the moments where I feel lost, sad, or helpless:

2 Corinthians 10:5:  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up agains the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ. (NIV)

John 14:27:  Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (NIV)

Philippians 4:6:  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (NIV)

Isaiah 54:10:  "Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed," says the Lord, who has compassion on you. (NIV)

Matthew 11:28-30: "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (NIV)


If you're a blogger reading this, and you've been searching for a community to call home; searching for people who will understand this part of your life, who will get the blogging world and who will be real friends for you in it, then I hope you'll consider joining us in The Peony Project.  that's our heart, after all...to be friends for the journey.

And if you just stopped by today to do a little reading, then I'm so happy you're here.  And I hope you'll either consider what peace means to you and join in on our link-up, or that you'll stop by a few of the other posts below and check out what it means to some other awesome ladies. 

Mar 3, 2020

Leading the Simple Life

this post is part of the peony project's monthly link-up.

i tend to overcomplicate things.

decisions, my closet, life in general.

i'm one of those pro/con list kind of girls...i weigh every option and the longer i take to decide things, the more indecisive i become.  that can be manifested in the smallest of choices:  where to eat lunch or if i should donate that sweater that i haven't worn all winter (the answer is yes, but i overthink, and overcomplicate, and no matter how many times it lands on my "donate" pile, i will inevitably put it back in my closet).

this year, i've been trying to keep the word "simple" in the forefront of my mind.  heading towards marriage, and ultimately joining my life with someone else's, i know that i need to simplify my possessions, my commitments, and where my attention is focused.  and i genuinely want to let go of some things.  even if i weren't getting married in six months, i'm realizing that i feel overwhelmed far too often, and it needs to change.

so why is it so hard to give something up?  if you're anything like me, you struggle with the "i can do it all!" mentality.  i can be a superhero.  i can fit it all in.  i can have it all (figuratively and literally).

but the reality is that i don't have to.  and living a life filled with hustle and bustle and too much means i'm not living my best life.  i'm not living the life that god has for me, which is filled with so much more than running from task to task and then falling into bed at night, my mind racing with the things still on my to-do list.

and so i'm learning.  i'm learning to say no to things that will drain me emotionally, physically, and spiritually.  i'm learning to release the tight grip i have on certain possessions, like that vera bradley purse i got in middle school and will probably never use again (which really, means releasing sentimentality to some degree).  i'm learning to simplify my schedule by choosing the things i really want to give my time to.

matthew 6:21 says "for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also," and the thing i love about that verse is that it reminds us that not only is our ultimate treasure not on earth, but the things we do value here on earth capture our heart.  and leading a life of simplicity means choosing well the places and things that you value.

it's not easy, making those choices.  sometimes it's about choosing to thin out your closet, and sometimes it's about choosing to thin our your commitments.  simplicity gets a bad wrap...the word "simple" so often is used to describe things that are lacking.  but i think when you flip your perspective, living a simple life is lacking in the right ways.  the girl who leads the simple life can lack feeling run down and weary from her to-do list.  she lacks being buried in clutter and commitments.  sure, stress will come and there will be times when life isn't straightforward and simple, but making an effort to simplify your life can help you to focus and can bring clarity to what matters most to you.

and so, i'm making an effort to simplify this spring.  i'm ready to say no to the clutter and yes to simplicity.

what areas of your life could use some simplifying?


if you're a blogger reading this, and you've been searching for a community to call home; searching for people who will understand this part of your life, who will get the blogging world and who will be real friends for you in it, then i hope you'll consider joining us in the peony project.  that's our heart, after all...to be friends for the journey.

and if you just stopped by today to do a little reading, then i'm so happy you're here.  and i hope you'll either consider what this new year and renewing means to you and join in on our link-up, or that you'll stop by a few of the other posts below and check out what it means to some other awesome ladies. 

Feb 3, 2020

Choosing to Be Content in All Seasons

contentedness is something i've never been good at.  when i was in high school, i dreamed of college, of having boyfriend, of what my life would look like someday.  i'm a planner, and i always thought i knew exactly what my future would hold.  attend college as a pre-med major, start seriously dating someone, get married soon after graduation, and then on to medical school or grad school and eventually have a career and a family.  but oh, if only the twenty-five-year-old me could have coffee with seventeen-year-old betsy.

i headed off to college north of boston with the intent of not dating my first year so that i could "figure out who i was."  a noble thought, in my mind, and surely god would honor that commitment and reward it by bringing the perfect guy along at the perfect time....in my sophomore year!  i worked on being content throughout that first year, and honestly, i'd say i did a pretty good job of it.  i focused on school and my friends, and just enjoyed my freshman year.  but then, when i hit my second year of school, the expectations and pressure of what i hoped for weighed on me.

discontentment began to seep into my relationships with others and with my school, and i ended up questioning nearly every decision i had made that got me to where i was.  that year was the hardest of my college career, but also probably one of the years that made me grow the most.  i didn't understand at the time (or even at my graduation, when my life looked so differently than i had imagined as a freshman), why god wasn't giving me the desires of my heart.  and of course, i didn't have the foresight that he has.

on the other side of those college years, and now being engaged to my best friend, i'm so glad that i trusted god's timing.  but that doesn't mean that the waiting period was easy.  in fact, there were times during those years where my heart physically hurt within my chest and i questioned if god ever would fulfill my desire to become a wife and mom someday, or if that season of loneliness would ever end.  and i know it sounds cliche, but it really wasn't until i had found a place of true contentment in my season of singleness that aj walked into my life.

after i graduated, i had gone through a pretty hurtful few months with a guy that i liked, and i decided that no man that god would give me would ever make me feel that way.  and in that time, one of my friends suggested that i listen to andy stanley's sermon series, the new rules for love, sex, and dating.  in those messages, he talks about becoming the person that the person you're looking for is looking for.  (confusing, i know)  and i realized something:  i wanted to be a girl who was so in love with jesus, that it was evident in everything i did, and that no guy could get to me without going through him first.  and along with that desire can a true sense of contentment.

eventually, i learned that contentment doesn't mean giving up the things that we dream about or want most, it means learning to balance the tension of wanting those things with the peace that god's timing is best.  ultimately, it's believing with everything you have that christ is enough for yesterday, for today, and for tomorrow.  and it's looking at whatever season you're in as an opportunity to fall even more in love with jesus.

i'm convinced that discontentment is one of satan's favorite weapons.  he whispers lies to us and plants seeds of discontentment in the slyest ways, and we live in a culture that promotes discontentment.  we're wired to always want the next best thing; to desire to look or act a certain way;  to have accomplished all of the things before our neighbor.  and that life of comparison and want leaves us robbed of joy.  but god wants so much more for us.  he asks us to be content with him and to lose ourselves in him.

see, discontentment doesn't end when you get the dream job or find yourself in a relationship with the perfect guy.  it's always there, and it always tries to snatch away your joy.  contentment is a choice that we must make every day.  it's a battle that we face every time we turn on the tv or flip through a magazine or step outside.  contentment isn't a switch you can flip; it's a learned attitude, and it's won through intentionality and hard work and a whole lot of prayer.

no matter where you are in life, being content is a choice.  how are you choosing to be content right now?

Jan 6, 2020

Refresh, Renew

this post is part of the peony project's monthly link-up.

i'm not one for new year's resolutions.  not to sound pessimistic, but i never keep them.  i like small, attainable goals.  i'm motivated by those; those, i can manage.  if i cut up a goal into tiny bits, i feel like i can handle it.  i imagine that goes hand-in-hand with my love of detailed to-do lists and check boxes.  

this year, however, i made one of the most cliche resolutions anyone could make:  to get healthy.  in a way, i sort of hate even writing that.  i went to the gym yesterday and was immediately overwhelmed by how crowded it was.  my favorite treadmill was taken and the locker room was packed.  of course, that was to be expected...it is january, after all.  but in the moments walking in, i wished i had a t-shirt that read "i'll still be coming here march 1st", just to prove i wasn't jumping on the new year's resolution train.  

i hit a point last spring where i was running nearly every day.  my average distance hung between three and five miles and my longest topped out at ten.  i felt good, and i felt strong.  and then, somewhere in the midst of the summer heat, i broke down.  i still ran, but most days, i convinced myself that it was too hot or i was too busy.  this trend continued and continued and here we are and it's 2015 and before yesterday, i'm not sure i could remember the last time i really pushed myself.  and so i feel ready for a change.  

and sure, i'm motivated by the freshness of a new year, and i'm extra motivated by wanting to look great on my wedding day.  i also want to get more organized and save more money and get more sleep.  i'm realizing that i'm ready for a totally fresh start.  but mostly, i'm learning, that this resolution thing, no matter what it is, needs to begin with a renewing of the mind.

romans 12:2 instructs us, "do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  they you will be able to test and approve what god's will is--his good, pleasing, and perfect will."

we all know what the patterns of this world are...to please oneself, to often give in to sluggishness and greed and worldly desire.  but it's the second part of that verse that strikes me the most.  to be transformed by the renewing of your mind will enable us to discover god's good, pleasing, and perfect will.  i love the demonstration of christ's love for us in that verse.  that his will is good; it is pleasing; and it is perfect.  

and so no matter what new years resolutions we've made for ourselves; no matter how we hope to grow or change or what we want to accomplish in 2015, it needs to begin with a renewing of our minds and a refreshing of our souls.  

how will you renew and refresh this year?

if you're a blogger reading this, and you've been searching for a community to call home; searching for people who will understand this part of your life, who will get the blogging world and who will be real friends for you in it, then i hope you'll consider joining us in the peony project.  that's our heart, after all...to be friends for the journey.

and if you just stopped by today to do a little reading, then i'm so happy you're here.  and i hope you'll either consider what this new year and renewing means to you and join in on our link-up, or that you'll stop by a few of the other posts below and check out what it means to some other awesome ladies. 

Dec 2, 2020

Advent // Walk in Light & Be Courageous

this post is part of the peony project's monthly link-up.

there's this place not far from my hometown called christmas village.  it's literally only open during november and december and the place is just covered in christmas lights.  you can see it's glow from far away, peeking over the hills as you approach.  its light guides you, and it's hard to miss.

light is a funny thing.  it seems so simple, and it surrounds us every day, yet it's so powerful.  it gives life, it guides, it helps.  and yet in the bible, light is one of the most moving pictures of christ's coming.

one of my favorite verses in the bible appears in isaiah 9:2.
 the people walking in darkness have seen a great light; 
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

years before the birth of christ, isaiah predicts his coming through the symbolism of light shining on a fallen israel; a people walking in darkness.  and then, at his birth, light is used to guide the magi to him.  and with his birth he brings glorious light.  he humbles himself to live amongst us.  emmanuel.  god with us. 

i won't pretend to know what god was thinking when he sent his son down to earth.  but from time to time i wonder if jesus knew, even as a baby, what he was getting himself into.  this fall, i read let's all be brave by annie f. downs.  it's all about leading the courageous life god is calling you to.  it's one of those books that is riddled with great quotes, and one of the absolute best ones in the entire book is found towards the end and is just six little words:
courage was born on christmas day.

i'm sure jesus knew exactly what his becoming flesh among men meant.  and i'm sure it took courage to come and live a life that was less than glamorous in order to save a people living in darkness. emmanuel. god with us. 

the other thing about that verse in isaiah that i like to think about is how the people would have responded.  after trudging around in a deep darkness, wouldn't you want to dance in the light?  and christ's birth didn't only signal courage for him, but for the rest of us as well.  because he chose to live amongst us, we get to revel in the glory of his courageous light.

as we enter the advent season, i invite you to think over that verse, and that quote.  

in what ways are you walking in darkness?  what areas of your life need light?
maybe there's a relationship in your life that needs mending, or maybe you've been turning away from god in pursuit of other things.  maybe you're facing this christmas without someone you love, and that's painful.

how is god calling you to courage this advent season?
is god nudging you to invite your neighbor to your church's christmas eve service?  to step out in faith financially and give generously to a family in need?  to open your home to someone who has nowhere to go this christmas?

allow the light of christ to dawn over these areas of your life and then embolden you to make bold and courageous steps toward his light.  and live as a people who have seen a great light.

we showed this video in church this past weekend.  it features an excerpt from a sermon by charles spurgeon, and everything about it gives me chills.  i hope you take a few minutes to watch it and be encouraged by the power of christ in us.


if you're a blogger reading this, and you've been searching for a community to call home; searching for people who will understand this part of your life, who will get the blogging world and who will be real friends for you in it, then i hope you'll consider joining us in the peony project.  that's our heart, after all...to be friends for the journey.

and if you just stopped by today to do a little reading, then i'm so happy you're here.  and i hope you'll either consider what advent means to you and join in on our link-up, or that you'll stop by a few of the other posts below and check out what it means to some other awesome ladies. 

Nov 4, 2020

Find Your People

this post is part of the peony project's monthly link-up.

think about the last time you sat down with a good friend.  you know, the kind of friend who you can go a year without having a real, heart-to-heart, belly-laughing, dream-sharing, soul-bearing conversation with, but as soon as you're together, it's like no time passed at all.  i don't know about you, but the older i get, the less i find myself making time for those conversations.  it's not intentional; it's one of those life-gets-in-the-way types scenarios, and every time my best friends and i have dinner together, we always part ways sincerely hoping to see one another more.  

there have been a few times in my life where i've found really intentional community with friends i know will always be a part of my life.  these are the celebrate-each-other's-weddings and tell-them-big-news-in-person friends.  growing up, i went to a week-long summer camp in lancaster, pa.  as campers, we were divided into small cabin groups with others who were our age.  most of us were from pennsylvania and delaware, brought together by a common tie to a particular children's pastor who had spent time at each of our churches.

as a fourteen-year-old, i probably never would have guessed that some of the girls i spent a week with in a bug-filled cabin, riding horses, cheering on our teams at each night's challenges, and eating every meal together for a week would someday become some of my best friends.  once we all went to college and got facebook (because when we went to school, you still actually needed a .edu email address to get into facebook), we friended one another, and then one magical summer, the fates aligned (ok, it was jesus, actually), and we ended up back at that same camp...but as counselors.

and in one week, those covenant friendships, with their groundwork laid in our early teen years, were sealed.  i've celebrated each of their weddings, been there when they announced the first babies in the group, and have prayed in parking lots after laughter-filled dinners with these girls.  they know me.  no matter how much time passes.  they're my people.

alayna, becca, kassia, me, and hannah

one of the most intentional communities i've ever been a part of was a crazy group of people that i got to live with during my junior year of college.  we were all accepted into a program at gordon called the elijah project, where we took a year to really study work and vocation within a christian context.  we also lived in a house together for a year....fourteen college students, sharing dinners four nights each week, house chores, spending time in class and in fellowship together.  it was easily the most intentional community i've ever been a part of, and it was probably one of the best years of my life.  

those people became my people...and in the same way as with my camp girls, i've gotten to witness some of their milestones and we are still a part of one another's lives. 

just a few of my housemates, in front of our little white house just off-campus at gordon.

i think what makes each of these communities so beautiful is that in each of them, i was known.

colossians 3:12-14 gives us a perfect example of what community should look like:
therefore, as god's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.  bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.  forgive as the lord forgave you.  and over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.  

when we're in community with others, we're called to be gracious:  compassionate, kind, humble, gentle, and patient.  but beyond those things, we're told to love one another.  and loving a person means knowing them.  loving a person means cheering them on and getting excited for the things they get excited for.  it means encouraging and advising and challenging one another.  it means celebrating each other's wins and picking one another up after the falls.  

when you find your people, the ones who will laugh with you, cry with you, celebrate with you, and push and encourage you, hold onto them.  because that's the best kind of community.  it's the kind that lasts a lifetime and spans long distances.  it's the kind that will travel for you or celebrate from afar, and will truly mean it.  

and maybe you're reading this today, and feeling like you don't have a place where you're known.  i've been there.  because even, and especially, when you've gone through seasons of your life where you've been in close quarters with some of your best friends, you're also bound to find seasons when those friends are far away.  and those deep conversations where you don't need to explain yourself are few and far between.  i know that in those moments, it can feel really lonely.  

but i promise that there is a place for you.  i promise that there are people who want to know you and who want to be those covenant friends for you.  your people.  the ones who understand you, who you don't need to explain yourself to, who will love you and be that colossians 3 community for you.

if you're a blogger reading this, and you've been searching for a community to call home; searching for people who will understand this part of your life, who will get the blogging world and who will be those covenant friends for you in it, then i hope you'll consider joining us in the peony project.  that's our heart, after all...to be friends for the journey.

and if you just stopped by today to do a little reading, then i'm so happy you're here.  and i hope you'll either consider what community means to you and join in on our link-up, or that you'll stop by a few of the other posts below and check out what it means to some other awesome ladies. 

Oct 21, 2020

When Online Friendships Become Real...

there's a beauty in this online community.  it's always hard for me to talk to people in real life about the blogging world, because if you're not a blogger, then it's kind of hard to understand.  when i started the peony project back in june, i was really just looking for a common space where bloggers could find community and conversation, as well as encouragement and collaboration.  i hoped that it would breed friendships as well, but i was never really prepared for all that it has blossomed into.

natalie texted me a few weeks ago and asked if i'd be interested in attending a dinner party for a bunch of our members at the university of valley forge, where she's a senior.  i immediately said yes, and was so excited to meet some of these gals in real life!

it ended up being a gathering of eight bloggers and a baby, and we had tons of good food and great conversation.  i left feeling with a full heart, and a fresh perspective on why i'm doing this whole blogging thing.

so, meet the ladies that were there!  (i realized as i was editing these that we never got photos of jessice of the adventures of a wild thing!  so go check out her blog and her awesome adventures across the globe!)

bonnie of strong and sweet

kelly of i am kelly

natalie of a tiny traveler

tori...tori doesn't have a blog...yet.  
but i think we did a good job of convincing her she needs to start one!

me!  and since you're here, i guess you don't need the link to my blog...

these seven girls made me even more passionate about cultivating online community.  meeting them face-to-face instead of just through a computer screen brought their blogs to life and made me so exceed for the things they're dreaming about for their online spaces!  i can't wait to make more of these meet-ups happen...and if you're not a part of the peony project yet, we'd love love love to have you!

Aug 20, 2020

Blog With Purpose

call it cliche, but if you ask my why i blog, i'm going to tell you that it's because of the community.  the more this space grows, the more i find that i love meeting other bloggers!

when i first started blogging, i had no idea that there was even a blogging "community" out there!

i can't tell you how many times i've had those "friend crush" moments...when i've found another blogger who i identify with and just know that we'd be great friends, you know?  that's what it's all about for me, and i'm so blessed in the fact that i can say that i have some really great blogging friends out there who i regularly connect with!

1.  reach out // when you find another blogger that you really connect with, don't be afraid to shoot them an email to tell them that!  i can't tell you how much it means to me to get an email from someone telling me that something i wrote touched them in some way or that they enjoy my blog!  but you know what feels even better?  writing that email to someone else!  and what's just the best is when that initial email sparks a conversation.  you never know until you reach out to someone, and those bloggers that you connect with can turn into potential collaborators, mentors, and friends.  the same is true with bloggers that you want to work with...whether it be advertising with them, guest posting, or co-hosting a linkup or giveaway, you will never get a "yes!" from someone until you reach out.  just be sure to work on establishing a relationship before asking for big favors!

2.  be active // in order to get people stopping by your blog, you need to be active in the blogging community!  read and comment on other blogs (and be real with those comments!  don't just say "great post!"), respond to emails and comments that you receive, advertise on other blogs, and promote other bloggers!  i once read that you will get much more engagement when you promote others than when you promote yourself, and i totally believe that's true.

3.  join a group // this has to be one of the best pieces of advice that i can give you!  there are tons of facebook groups out there for bloggers, (in addition to other intentional communities like the influence network), and this is one of the easiest ways to actively engage in a community just for bloggers!  there are also a number of blogger networks for different genres of blogging and areas of the country!  i'm a member of the northeast blogger's network, where i'm able to connect with other bloggers in my area!  utilize these groups to grow your blog and network with other bloggers, but just like #2, remember that there's more to networking than just self-promotion!  ask questions, leave feedback, and be encouraging to other members!

4.  attend a conference or meet-up //  this is something that's on my personal blogging to-do list.  my friend natalie recently found this post that gives you a calendar of blogging conferences throughout the year!  meet-ups and conferences are a great way to meet other bloggers in person, network face-to-face, and really build relationships!  meet-ups tend to be much cheaper (sometimes even free!) compared to attending a conference, and can help you connect with other bloggers near you.  if you can't find one that's already in the works, consider starting your own!  another option to an in-person meet-up (because sometimes it can be hard to find other bloggers in your area) is to host a twitter party or google hangout.

5.  be authentic // if you're looking for organic, true community, then you need to be authentic on your blog.  this means that you need to break down the wall between you and your readers.  be vulnerable once in a while; let your readers in!  you don't need to overshare or give specifics about personal situations, but sharing your heart and letting your readers get to know you a little will create relationships.  think about some of your favorite bloggers...why are they a daily read?  chances are it's because you feel connected to them, and you probably feel that because they've let you into their lives.  even if you love reading a beauty blog or a diy blog, i'd be willing to bet that while 90% of their content might be focused on a certain topic, they still give you a peek into their personal lives the other 10% of the time!

no matter what you blog about, if you desire true community in the blogging world, you need to be you.  people want real...there are so many websites and blogs out there that it can be hard to get readers to stop by, let alone stick around!  if your main goal is to build up community around and through your blog, then you need to connect with your readers on a deeper level.

what do you think?  what are some of your best tips for engaging and building a community around your blog?

want more blogging tips?  check out some of the other posts in my blogging series here:

Aug 12, 2020

Learning to Lead

...i want to be an encourager.
...i want to build others up.
...i want to teach and mentor and help others take ownership.

but can i be really, totally, transparently honest with you?  one of the biggest struggles i have is relinquishing control over things.  i've seen this tendency (maybe it's even a twinge of jealousy?) rear it's ugly head at different times in my life, and i hate it.

earlier this summer, i began building a community for bloggers.  its off to an awesome start, and i love watching that community build and flourish.  and as it grows, and i dream bigger dreams for it, i realize that there's no way i can be the only one managing and cultivating it.  if it's going to become something truly awesome, it needs more than just me at the helm.

but that means releasing a little control.  that means handing over responsibility and ownership and stepping back and letting things happen without my direction.

i work for a church, and we often talk about raising up leaders and replacing ourselves.  as a staff, we believe very strongly that it's important to build other people up and find someone who could replace you.  not because you plan on leaving your position, but just as jesus discipled the twelve and then sent them out, we're supposed to acknowledge and develop characteristics in others that will help them become the person god made them to be.

but replacing yourself?  man, that's tough.  especially for someone who likes to be in leadership positions and is a do-er (*raises hand*).  i know what the root of the problem is...its my human nature that wants to be the best at whatever it is i'm doing.  to be irreplaceable.

but that's not the true mark of a leader.  a real leader surrounds themselves with others who are passionate and amazing at what they do, and then collaborates with them, giving them the freedom to work within their calling to make the project or organization thrive.

i love reading paul's epistles.  he is an ultimate example of what it really means to lead...he went, he planted, he trained others up, and then he sent them out.  so many of his letters open with "i'm sending you so-and-so, listen to them"...paul handed over authority to those he raised up.  he asked them to lead, showed them how to, and then said "go do it!".

i'm not saying that i'm an awesome leader by any means (in fact, i'm kind of saying the opposite).  but i desire to be.  i desire to encourage and inspire and build others up and help them realize and develop skills within them.  and i'm working on it.

Jun 24, 2020

Introducing The Peony Project!

i'm so excited to be announcing the start of the peony project to you today!  lately i've been longing for a community that really understands the creative (and blogger) within, and i've been struggling to find the perfect niche community to satisfy that need.

i love the blogging world and the community that it creates, but i often feel like it's not very cohesive.  i know that there are plenty of places and spaces out there that aim to bring this blogging world together, and maybe this will just become another one.  but i hope not.

i hope not because lately, i've been feeling my heart whisper for something more.  and for the past few months, i've been saying "ok heart, i'll work on it, but it's not going to happen until it's ready, until it's perfect."  and then a few weeks ago, i wrote a post about summer goals and i started thinking that maybe starting small isn't such a bad thing after all.  maybe it doesn't have to start off with fireworks and it's own website and a whole slew of other perks for members.

maybe it can start as simply as a facebook group, a common space to share posts and get ideas and ask for advice without the fear of being laughed at.  and maybe someday, we'll be gathering all together for a conference (aka, the big dream i never talk about to anyone).

so, if you're craving community...
if you want to celebrate what jesus is doing through us in each of our little corners of the world...
if you want to partner with and encourage other bloggers...
if you're looking to make friendships over this crazy thing called the web...
...and you're committed to being intentional and honest and real...

then join the peony project!  click here, choose "The Peony Project Membership" at the bottom of my ad shop (if for some reason it's not showing up, then check out my ad options on the passionfruit site here) and finish the checkout process...joining is totally free and you'll be emailed an invitation to join the group!  i hope to see you there!

Jun 23, 2020

Grateful Heart // Summer Edition

i'm starting this {very busy} week off with a grateful heart today!

since summer is officially here, i thought i'd list some summer-y things that i'm particularly grateful for today:
iced passion tea from starbucks
vbs (this week, we'll have over 1,000 kids at gt!)
bike rides with my dad
days at the beach
dresses and shorts and sandals
ice cream
road trips
a playful puppy
meetings held outside

as usual, i'm linking up with ember grey for grateful heart monday! emily runs the grateful heart link-up every monday, and it's open all week…i encourage you to go check it out, read some of the other posts, and consider participating!

oh, and tomorrow i'll be making an exciting announcement about the start of the peony project...a group dedicated to creating community for bloggers...head on over here to join!

what are you grateful for today?
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