Writing and The Ups & Downs of Social Media

I’m linking up with Sarah Markley today discussing social media in the writing world.

In college and seminary, I wrote primarily for magazines. I had no idea who my readers were personally. I didn’t have a blog, Facebook, Twitter or an i-Phone.

Shortly after I got married, I joined Facebook. Then after a writer’s conference in 2007, I was encouraged to start a blog. A few years later I joined Twitter for the purpose of networking with other writers and authors but I wasn’t sold on it for a while. I questioned:

Do I really need one more thing to put my energy towards? Will this become a distraction? Do I really need to be on it?

After becoming a stay-at-home mom in 2010, I started to see that being heavily involved in social media was a big deal in order to be a successful writer. You had to let others know about your work and gain a following. And you needed social media to build relationships that could lead to being published.

I understood the necessity of having a good platform but my love and passion for writing was getting shoved under the bus by the hype and noise of social media and self-promotion. I realized this more vividly through Jeff Goins, who helps writers get back to the basics of loving the craft. I wondered:

Could I just write for writing’s sake because I loved it, felt close to God through it, and wanted to encourage others?

Social Media and the Heart of it All

I felt like I couldn’t keep up with everyone else in the social media world. I found myself overwhelmed rather than enjoying it as a tool for connection, edification, and outreach. My heart desired to be noticed by others and my mood was sometimes dictated by how many retweets, responses, blog stats, comments, likes, and shares I had.

After a lot of wrestling the day came when I realized I had to make a choice. My time spent on social media would have to be limited and I would have to be okay with not being excessively involved for the sake of my relationship with the Lord, my husband and children, and my love for writing.

As I started to ask God to help me live in moderation, I found more freedom from the desire to people please, compare myself to others or feel like I wasn’t “being” or “doing” enough in the online world.

The Art of Disconnecting & Connecting

I wrote when I sensed God leading me to write something. I got on Twitter and Facebook a few times throughout the day but it wasn’t the end of the world if I went several days without sharing anything or reading other feeds. I practiced the art of turning my phone on silent so I didn’t feel the urgency to respond to every chime or notification. I set limits on how often I would check email and blog comments. It was more challenging than I thought!

I connected with people and readers more individually through email or a personal message rather than publicly. I started to enjoy the benefits and blessings of social media rather than feeling exhausted or overwhelmed. 

With the ability to share posts on Facebook and Twitter, God has given me the opportunity to connect with friends and readers I never guessed were reading and minister to them in unique ways. He’s also given me the opportunity to guest post for authors that I love and to become a contributing writer to a few sites.

I’ve learned new things and gained fresh insight through social media. And probably the thing I love most is getting to know readers and connecting with them in a more personal way that can’t be done through magazine writing.

Life is Happening Where You Are

I don’t have it all together when it comes to balancing the benefits of social media. It’s a daily choice and discipline to make sure my heart is in line and I’m using it for the right purposes.

Will I continue to use social media in the future? Absolutely. But as a writer, wife, and mom my time will be guarded. Life is happening where I am right now and I don’t want to miss out. There will always be time later to post, share, reply, connect, and write.

What about you? Do you ever struggle with finding a balance with social media? What do you like/dislike about it?

 

Finding Peace In God’s Presence

A few weeks ago I headed out to run an errand at the end of the day. I was tired, feeling discouraged, and had anxiety about God’s plan for our future. Jeremiah is in a career change right now and we’re in a season of waiting. You can read more of the detailed story over on his blog.

Well as I was driving, I felt this great tension between trusting God and trusting in myself for answers. I questioned God:

Are your promises real, God? That you will never leave me or forsake me?

Are you going to take care of us?

Do you really love giving good gifts to your children?

Deep down, I wanted to know if God was truly involved in what we were going through. I had prayed a few days ago that He would show himself in a real way. I even prayed for some “signs” to know he was there. And let me to tell you I’m often hesitant to do so because I know that my faith shouldn’t be placed in the “sign” or the miracle alone but in God himself.

But I also know that God gives us signs to encourage us along the way and that if we ask for anything, in his name, according to His will, He will do it.

It wasn’t raining and hadn’t rained all day. As I turned right to get on the ramp, out of nowhere I looked up at the sky and saw half of a rainbow. It wasn’t even half really, more like a quarter of a rainbow. The sun shined brightly and some shades of grey peeked through the clouds. I kept gazing at the rainbow while trying to keep my eyes on the road.

And it was as if God was saying directly to me,

“This is for you. See, I’m here. I’m really here.”

My eyes filled with water and I smiled. I took another glance to savor it before turning. After I got off the ramp it was no longer in my sight. Instead it was like a seal upon my heart.

I’m so weak, God. My faith is small. But You are big and you are actively involved in creation and in my life. Thank you for your presence.

It has been a month since this job transition for Jeremiah. He has been working like crazy at applications, networking, and interviewing for temporary nursing and full-time ministry positions. As of now, we haven’t sensed God’s leading in one particular position yet but we are trusting.

On the days where I’ve been panicky and tried to take things into my own hands, God continues to remind me that He is here and I often think about the rainbow in the sky.

The Next Step

It has felt like boot camp every time I’ve gone. The women to my right and left are trim, toned, and can lift the heavy weights. My mid-section is a bit pudgy being six weeks out of having my third child and I have to choose the light weights as a beginner.

As we dive in to chisel class, my fitness instructor, Galey, wastes no time through each workout and each set within the workout intensifies. My arm, back, and leg muscles strain and ache from the barbell lunges, squats, and dead lifts.

During pushups and abs, my arms are shaky and I wonder if I can keep going. I gaze at the clock wondering if I’m at the end yet. I’m starting to feel a little sick, but I know I can do it.

“This is hard,” Galey yells while crunching her abs. “Remember that’s OK!”

Finally, the ab drills are over. My whole body feels like jello and I can barely muster up the strength to do the stretching exercises. I put away my barbell and hand weights and smile at the other women. We all have that look of relief on our faces.

As I head out the door to pick up my kids from childcare, I overhear Galey talking with a new member of the class, “The key to these classes is you have to keep coming. Then you’ll start to get the hang of it and get better.”

I nod my head as I hear her talking. I know that the key is faithfulness if I want to see results. But not only would I need to be faithful…

Read the rest on Ungrind.org

That Moment When You Truly Find Life

hand-stamped Scripture spoon by jessicaNdesigns (Etsy)

Last night, we had our good friends Josh and Jenny and their little girl Jayla over for dinner. Jeremiah grilled some tasty barbeque chicken drumsticks and we had corn on the cob and asparagus for sides.

Our little Rebekah, who barely sits still for 5 minutes, was fussy the whole time and wouldn’t eat. It was difficult to talk among the noise and my plate was neglected. I kept trying to get her to eat something but she only ate a few bites. I got up to clean her off and shortly after I sat down, Jeremiah asked if I could get him a napkin. I had used his on Rebekah.

“I just want to eat my chicken bone!” I said in desperation.

Josh and Jenny started laughing. They understood the life of a mom and they were quite amused at the way I expressed my frustration. Jeremiah ended up getting his napkin and we all started chuckling. When I finally got the chance to eat, my chicken was cold. In fact, my whole plate was.

It’s funny… that moment reminded me that there’s so much that “I” want to do in life, similar to wanting to eat my chicken- in peace preferably.

  • I want more time to myself. You know, more breaks as a stay-at-home mom.
  • I want to take a trip with my husband. Just the two of us. Somewhere romantic. Really romantic.
  • I want more time to write and blog. I have a lot on my heart, but little time.
  • I secretly wish I could drive to Starbucks every morning, plop down on the sofa with a latte and just write and read my Bible alone.
  • I want to make a difference in the world. Not just a scratch, but a really big dent.

But really, is life all about me and my dreams and desires or is there something more? 

Scripture says that even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45). And that when we lose our life for the sake of Christ, that’s when we truly find it (Matt. 16:25).

The lie, however, tells us that we’re happier if we look within ourselves to find true joy and happiness. The lie tells us to hold on tightly to our life and to reject Christ’s authority.

But my selfish, sinful nature wages war against my spirit. And living in a culture where everything is about me, it’s difficult to remember that life is about bringing glory to God and that is most often fleshed out through serving others…

Even when it’s difficult, inconvenient, messy, or unpredictable.

In my case that evening around the dinner table, I was tired of Rebekah’s fussiness and I wanted to eat. I wanted to fellowship. It had never crossed my mind that helping her was pleasing to God. It was an act of worship. And patiently serving her was exactly what I was called to do in that moment.

Later on in the night, I realized that serving her, every day as a mom, is such a gift. An eternal investment that will impact future generations. Serving her is an opportunity to teach her about God’s love. Most of all, serving her is serving God. I determined to be more aware of that the next day.

Yes, God cares about the big and small desires of our hearts. Even lattes and getaways. But He doesn’t want us to be consumed by them because He is already taking care of those things for us. Greater joy in life is found in giving ourselves away to the people God has put in our lives.

Article: Kitchen Wars

* Today I’m writing for StartMarriageRight.com on conflict, love, and the power of the gospel in your marriage. *

After a long day of traveling home from this particular summer vacation, my husband Jeremiah and I got into a big argument. We were over-tired and not thinking straight. Words flew carelessly in the air and we threw verbal punches at each other.

Shortly after the conflict, I reflected back on one of the evenings during our vacation that Jeremiah watched the kids so I could hear Christian songwriter Sara Groves in concert where we were staying.

In between songs Sara told usContinue Reading over on StartMarriageRight.com

On Man’s Sinfulness & God’s Goodness

Since hearing the tragic news about the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, I have wanted to write out my thoughts because everything in my heart seems so jumbled.

Many bloggers, authors, journalists, newscasters, reporters and more have an opinion and a voice they want to bring to the table in light of such a tragedy. I think in some way, we all want to voice our feelings. But at the end of the day, more than anything, we want to know why? 

More specifically, why God?

I was flipping through Twitter on Friday morning and saw a tweet about praying for two people who had been shot in Colorado. I wasn’t sure what it was all about so I went to Fox News and that’s where I saw the story. My heart grieved and my mind instantly went back to my high school days when the Columbine shooting hit the news.

I can vividly remember my fears as a junior in high school. I remember the bomb threats our school had and being let out of school early because of those threats. Of course, the being let-out-of school part wasn’t so bad.

But here it was again in a different town. Darkness, evil, and sin exposed like no other. This time not in broad daylight but at midnight. In a movie theater of all places where people go to kick back and relax and have a good time. My heart raced as I read more details and it broke for the victims and the shooter.

As a follower of Christ who loves Jesus and strives to live by faith, I have struggled and wanted answers. I have wondered if God is still good in the midst of such horrific evil. I have questioned:

What in the world will God do in all of this? Is He concerned? In control? What about the victims who didn’t know Christ? Why do innocent people have to die? Will justice be done?

Then a few days ago I read a post that went viral by a woman named Marie who made it out of the theater with her two teenagers. Marie’s post didn’t answer all my questions, of course. Only God has most of those answers. But these words did strike a chord with me:

God is always good.

Man is not.

Don’t get the two confused.

I thought about the historical event in the Garden of Eden when God gave man a choice to obey or disobey his commands. He didn’t force Adam and Eve to follow His ways but out of love, He gave them a choice. They could choose to eat from the forbidden fruit or abstain.

Tragically, they ate from it, choosing sin over God. And their sin ushered in death, brokenness, and pain for all mankind. For you and for me. No one would be exempt from such a consequence.

The bottom line is that left to himself, without God, man is not good. And does not choose good on his own.

But thankfully, God already had a plan in place to restore what had been lost. He had a plan to heal all brokenness and to help man choose good again, instead of evil. He sent his Son Jesus, in place of you and I, to die a horrific death on the cross to save us from ourselves.

Jesus’ death allows us to live. To know Him and live life to its fullest. But we have to accept His gift of grace into our life. We have to acknowledge that we are broken sinners and cannot make it in this life without Him. We have to allow Him to change us from the inside out.

This is the gospel story that you and I have heard countless times but we can’t allow it to get old. We must embed it in our hearts and remember God’s story isn’t over.

Thank goodness.

In the midst of trying to make sense out of such evil, God continues to welcome our questions, doubts, anger, and frustrations. And even though we may not receive the answers we want in our timing and even though some questions remain unanswered, that’s okay because God is still working and God is always good.

And that is enough to trust Him in our lives today.

The Birth Story of Hannah Kate

Our daughter, Hannah Kate Krieger, has arrived! She came into the world on Saturday, June 30, 2012. We praise God for her birth. Here is the story…

2 days old - photo: Shades of Grey Photography

On Friday, June 29th, Jeremiah and I packed Rebekah and John into the van for a trip to the mall. I knew that more walking might help trigger me into labor. Besides, it was my due date.

The Dallas heat was over 100 degrees and I felt like I was going to pop. At the mall, we ate some Paciugo gelato, let the kids run around in the play area, and took John for a train ride.

We headed home around 7:30 pm, put the kids down and enjoyed some time together. At 10 pm we went to bed but both of us had a hard time falling asleep. At 11 pm, I started having contractions that were on a pain level of about a 4 but I wasn’t sure if they were true labor pains. I was exhausted so I fell asleep, knowing that if they were the real thing, I’d wake up.

At 2 am, I woke up to more intense contractions- the kind I couldn’t sleep through. I called my doula, Melissa, and told her what I was feeling. She suggested I take a warm bath to make sure they wouldn’t die down. But within 15 minutes, I knew I didn’t have time to take a bath and that labor was really kicking in.

My pain level increased and the contractions felt the exact same as when I went into labor with John and Rebekah- like a sharp knife pain. Jeremiah called Melissa to tell her to meet us at the hospital.

I called my doctor’s office answering service and they connected me to my doctor, Dr. Harris. I told him my contractions were coming every 5 minutes and lasting for 1 minute and my pain level was intense.

“It looks like this is it. I’ll see you at the hospital,” he said.

I called my mom to let her know to meet us at the hospital. Jeremiah and I packed a few more things into our bag and waited on his sister Charis to come and stay the night at our house. My contractions continued to feel like knives in my lower abdomen.

Each time one came, I grabbed onto the wall and did my breathing exercises. I insisted that Jeremiah come right to my side when I was getting through one. I knew I couldn’t go natural again without his support and encouragement. He was right there with me through every one.

Checking into Baylor Hospital

1 week old - Photo by Tammi Ambrose

At about 3:00 am, we drove to Baylor Hospital and arrived at 3:15 am. When I came through the doors of labor and delivery, there were pictures of babies all over the wall who had been born at Baylor.

That brought comfort to me knowing I was about to meet mine. Everything was also very familiar to me as I had just been here 20 months ago to have Rebekah.

When we arrived at the check-in desk one of the nurses said, “Aw, you look like you’re in a lot pain.”

Really, no kidding?! I’m about to push a baby out. I thought.

I nodded at her.

Then another nurse said, “You’re doing great through those contractions.”

I smiled and said thanks.

After Jeremiah filled out the necessary paperwork and I continued to endure each contraction, a nurse guided us to our room.

“Are you going to want an epidural?” she asked on the way.

“No, I’m planning on going natural.” I replied. “I was able to with my other two children and I’m hoping I’ll be able to do it again,” I told her.

Despite all the pain, having unmedicated births in the past had proven itself to be a fast labor, good recovery, a greater connection to the experience, an alert baby, and overall very empowering. But I also knew that anything could happen in the birthing process so I had to go into it without any expectations.

The nurse was fine with that and continued on, “So, no IV? Nothing?”

“No.” I said and drank from my big cup full of ice water.

“Okay. That’s easy.”

She seemed really positive in the fact that I had previous births that went well. So I was encouraged. I had nurses before that I felt doubted my ability to go natural or maybe just thought it was crazy.

When we got to the room, I dressed in the hospital gown and answered all the list of questions. The nurse checked my cervix and I was dilated to a 5. On Tuesday, I was only at a 2 1/2 so I loved seeing that I was progressing. I got out of the hospital bed and walked around, mainly clutching tight to the bar in the bathroom and hanging on to Jeremiah to get through each contraction.

My mom arrived shortly after and then Melissa. Jeremiah got the video camera set up to give to my mom.

Transition Time

Fifteen minutes later, the nurse checked my cervix again and I was already at an 8! Contractions were growing more intense, frequent, and close together. I felt like I had to use the bathroom  and that everything was going to fall out of me. During transition, I felt like I could never catch up as each contraction came so close together and so intense. I groaned and moaned and fell into Jeremiah’s chest during every one.

I sat on the toilet and rocked back and forth to keep things moving like Melissa encouraged. I tried to fix my mind on the precious little girl that was about to be born instead of the pain I experienced. My next goal was to dilate to a 10. I stood up and walked out of the bathroom into the room, staying close to Jeremiah’s side.

Dr. Harris sat at the end of the bed with his gloves on. The nurses were quiet and watching me. One nurse chimed in:

“You’re doing so well.”

“Am I almost there?” I asked.

“I’m just waiting for you to make that sound,” my doctor replied. “Then we’ll know it’s go time.”

I knew exactly what he was talking about.

“You are so close. You’re doing amazing. You’re going to meet her soon.” Jeremiah said.

“Yes, it’s going so fast. It will be over before you know it,” Melissa added.

I was hungry and continued drinking from my water cup. I felt weak and ready to give up. But I knew I had to press on. And I could eat when labor was done with. The room was so quiet as if the world had stopped. Then all the sudden, I had the urge to push!

“I need to push!” I yelled and headed to the bed. Everyone got in position.

Photo: Tammi Ambrose

Dr. Harris broke my water and with the next contraction I pushed but felt like I got nowhere. I waited for the next one, but didn’t feel an urge.

“If you don’t feel the need to push in those contractions, that’s okay. You don’t want to force it,” Dr. Harris said. “Let’s wait for the next one.”

Then out of nowhere, Hannah’s heart rate dropped. I wasn’t sure what that meant, but the nurse put an oxygen mask on me because she needed to breath. The mask annoyed me because I wasn’t used to it.

I wondered if I had done something wrong in the pushing. I didn’t have contractions for a little bit and it was as if my body knew I needed the break. They monitored me and Hannah and thankfully after a few minutes her heart rate came back up.

The next contraction came and I pushed with everything in me.

“I H-A-T-E pushing! I suck at pushing!” I yelled. I moaned and groaned, moving my head side to side. My eyes felt like they were going to pop out of their sockets. I could feel the tearing from all the pushing. I could feel stretching, numbness, and stinging like a ring of fire.

“Mom?!” I yelled out. “Mama?” Like a little child I just wanted my Mama in the pain.

“You’re doing great, Samantha,” her voice encouraged me to keep going.

The next contraction came in no time. I pushed through it, long and hard- grabbing on to Jeremiah’s arms. I just wanted to see progress and feel her head coming out. I pushed again and felt Hannah’s head crowning. Jeremiah said her arms were coming. Dr. Harris grabbed the rest of her tiny body and a huge relief fell across my whole body.

The Arrival

Hannah Kate Krieger arrived at 4:50 am. She was 7 lbs. 15 oz, 19 1/4 inches long.

She barely cried. I wondered if she was okay. He lifted her up into my arms and cut the umbilical chord. She was beautiful with a little bit of dark hair on the back of her arms, lower back, and on her head. Her eyes were dark brown and eyebrows were a blonde color. The vernix coated her skin and I couldn’t stop smelling her. The smell reminded me of John and Rebekah when they were born.

As I held her, I was also in so much pain from the tearing. I said “Ow” probably 10 times and kept asking when the pain would subside. I had a 2nd degree tear. After the placenta delivered, Dr. Harris gave me the localized anesthesia and spent 20 minutes stitching the tears. I finally felt some relief after 15 minutes and was able to enjoy her more and soak the whole experience in.

I asked Melissa if it was a good time to breastfeed. She agreed it was. Hannah latched on perfectly and sucked for a long time. This was our time now to bond- one of the best feelings in the world.

My nurse kept leaning over my shoulder to watch Hannah as if it was the first time she had seen a newborn latch on. She was mesmerized and I thought it was so sweet how she observed us.

“Aw,” she said. “I wish all my patients were as easy as you. I didn’t have to chart anything.”

I smiled and said thank you and that it was all God’s grace.

God’s Faithfulness

While sweet Hannah laid peacefully in my arms, I was reminded of God’s faithfulness during the whole pregnancy and childbirth process. I had prayed that she would come on her own and that I wouldn’t have to be induced.

I prayed that there wouldn’t be any complications and that I would be able to endure yet another laborious labor. I even prayed that she would come on my nephew Parker’s birthday, June 30th! And she did. What a gift for them to share birthdays together in the years to come.

All my prayers were answered regardless of the doubts, fear, and worry I had at times. Through the whole process, it was as if God was always saying, Will you trust me? Don’t worry about anything else in this world, but trust that I’m taking care of you. I know the exact day of your daughter’s birth and she will come in my time.

His faithfulness has spurred me on to love and trust him in my life all the more.

I’m so thankful for my doula, Melissa. She taught my first childbirth class and was one of the first women to encourage me to try going natural. She has played an integral part in all our children’s births and has been there for every one right by my side, cheering me on and showing me techniques that I would have never known how to do on my own. I love her passion for mommy’s and babies and wouldn’t have made it through without her.

I’m so thankful for Dr. Harris, who evidently loves his patients and his job. His heart for God and for people inspires me and it has been the greatest honor that he has delivered all our babies.

I’m also so thankful for all my mom’s help in preparing for Hannah. She was here for several weeks taking trips to the grocery for us, planning and cooking meals, watching John and Rebekah during Dr. visits, painting the nursery, and being on call for whenever we needed her. She is one of the greatest servants I have ever known.

Photo: Tammi Ambrose

And last, I’m so grateful for my husband Jeremiah. He is my best friend and the man I love spending all the days of my life with. He was my shoulder to cry on, speaking words of truth and encouragement the whole way through. I would have never gotten through it without him. It is a privilege to be his helper in marriage and an honor to grow our family together.

I know we have a lot ahead of us in the weeks, months and years to come with a 3  1/2 year old, 1 1/2 year old, and a newborn. But I know that God is faithful and He will continue to carry us through. He always has. He always will.

Welcome to the world Miss Hannah Kate. You are loved with an Everlasting Love.

Trust, Truth & Sexual Purity in Your Marriage

“What words come to your mind when you think of trust?” 

I asked my husband while we were driving down the road the other day. I told him how I wanted to write my next article on trust.

While he thought about the question for a little bit, I chimed in: “Because you know, marriages fail or succeed based on trust. What’s the point of being married if you can’t trust the other person?”…

Today, I’m talking honestly about sexual sin and healing in marriage. Continue reading over on StartMarriageRight.com and feel welcome to share your thoughts.

Poll: What Should Our Baby’s Middle Name Be?

* Before you vote, please see below *

[poll id=”3″]

I thought having you participate in a little poll on my blog would be fun! Our baby girl is due to arrive at the end of the month and we’d like to have her middle name decided on before the delivery room.

We are 99.9% set on her first name being Hannah. It flows well with our other children’s names: John & Rebekah (biblical, traditional names, named after Jeremiah’s dad and my mom). We love the meaning of Hannah: Grace; favor in Hebrew. I’ve always loved the softness of the name and how feminine it sounds.

Now, to the middle name. There are 4 options below that are our favorite as of now:

Kate– Jeremiah likes the name a lot. I do too. I think it’s cute/sophisticated and might be fun to call her by both names: “Hannah Kate.” There would be a hard “k” on the middle and last name however, but that might not matter so much?

Elisabeth– Significant for author Elisabeth Elliot. Her writing has greatly impacted my mom’s life and my own. We also think it flows well.

Grace- It seems like every girl’s name sounds good with grace in the middle, right? It is a popular one.

Madison– just because.

If you have any other ideas, feel free to share them in the Comments. Thank you!

When God Interrupts Your Story

image: DevotionalDiva.com

God interrupted my story the summer after I graduated from college.

I interned at a Christian publishing company in Nashville. I loved my work and what music city had to offer. I wanted to plant roots there but two weeks before my internship ended, I felt God leading me to pursue seminary.

The funny thing is that seminary was never in my thoughts…

Today, I’m excited to be guest posting for author and speaker Renee Johnson on DevotionalDiva.com.

Read the rest here and join the conversation.

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