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Just a Note to Say…

coffee-cup-and-computerI’m still here!

I know it has been several weeks since I’ve posted. I’ve been working on a few writing projects that have taken up most of my hard-to-find spare time- a story for an upcoming Focus on the Family book (yay!), a few new articles, and a book review for my former professor, mentor, and friend Karen Swallow Prior’s new book, Booked: Literature in the Soul of Me. I’m in the midst of her review and will be posting a giveaway here soon so stay tuned.

A lot is happening in our home too. My husband has been thick into remodeling our master bath (quite the project!). As you can imagine with three young kids, it has been crazy. But we are so excited to be nearing the end of it. On Thursday, it will be two weeks until I’m due with our 4th child! It feels like yesterday that I was just writing the post about our surprise baby. Our baby boy will Lord willing complete our family so I’m really trying to savor all that’s happening right now.

I certainly value your prayers in this season of life. Feel free to drop a comment or email. I’d love to hear how you are doing.

As always, thank you for reading!

A Special Thanks to You, My Reader

My husband had a seminary professor tell him once that if you ever go into a church to preach or speak that you should always first thank your audience for having you. Because the truth is that no one has to listen to you. No one has to spend an hour under your teaching. It’s a privilege and honor to communicate to the hearts of your hearers and for someone to take the time to listen to what you have to say.

As a communicator, always thank your audience.

That was the gist of what his professor was urging his seminary students to do. I think his professor was also stressing the importance of humility and I thought it was great wisdom for writing as well.

No one has to read what I write on this blog or in any other publications. It is a privilege to even have an audience who will take 10 minutes out of their day to read a post or an article. And I’m grateful and humbled that you as a reader do this.

Whether it is one person, 10 people, or 50 people, I care about each of you. I care about what is going on in your daily life and I care about your relationship with Christ. In addition to my love and passion for writing, I consider writing as a ministry to you.

I also want you to know that I pray for you and think of you when I write any post or article. While many of my posts are personal narratives or begin as personal stories, I’m always thinking of you and how God might use my words to speak truth and life into your heart. I’m always praying that God would show you more of himself.

And in return, I love hearing from you even if it’s just to say “hi.” Your comments and feedback encourage me and spur me on in this journey. The Lord knows we all need it!

So… that’s all I really have to say. Thank you being the best readers any writer could ever want.

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?

 

Feeling the Crave

This is a guest post I wrote this past weekend for popular author and speaker, Margaret Feinberg. Margaret is the real deal and it was a privilege to be a part of her platform.

Immediately after my son’s birth, he was quick to let me know what his taste buds longed for. He craved milk for what seemed like every hour of the day and on into the night. Without that sweet, nourishing milk, he would cry out in absolute desperation. When his need was met, he was the most satisfied baby in the world.

The desire, frequency, and intensity that a newborn baby has for milk is the same kind of craving we’ve been exhorted to have for God’s Word. While I know that God’s Word is necessary for spiritual growth and maturity, actually spending adequate time in Scripture in the midst of life’s demands is challenging. And sometimes I feel like I crave everything else but God’s Word…

Read the rest over on Margaret Feinberg’s blog and join the conversation.

Welcome to the new site! – Migrating to the Standard Theme

For over a year now, I’ve wanted to convert my blog to the Standard Theme. I first heard about it on Michael Hyatt’s leadership blog and was very impressed with the layout and look.

What caught my eye was the crisp, clean look and how they designed the theme to focus on your content. I didn’t want my blog to have a lot of clutter. I also liked the admin panel and how features like sharing buttons and widgets were easier to activate. I was impressed with the Search Engine Optimizations stats, ad placement, and more.

But when it came down to actually installing the Standard Theme, it was much harder than I thought! I learned that I had to migrate my wordpress.com blog to wordpress.org (3.0 version) so that the Standard Theme would work. I had to dig into self-hosting and domain stuff which I knew very little about.

One night, my husband and I spent three hours trying to figure out how to migrate the site and we just couldn’t get it. I had heard from other people that it wasn’t easy. I grew really frustrated and found myself wasting hours on trying to figure it out.

Thankfully, we found a guy who my husband is in seminary with, Jonathan Huizingh,who is a web developer. He came over and was able to help us within an hour or less! He’s a genius. From there on out, my husband worked with him on all the behind the scenes stuff on the site.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been working on the pages in addition to connecting with my friend, Katie Bowman, to create a header that would go well with the theme’s design. After working with pixels, fonts, and images, I love what Katie designed. And believe it or not, it was her first stab at creating one. She’s amazing. Let me know if you’d like to connect with her for any design work.

Just last night, we launched the site and I have been pretty pleased. Of course, there is always more to be done and added but that will come in due time. I hope that you like it too.

Don’t forget that you can subscribe through email in the right sidebar or through Google Reader at the top. ** To my knowledge, those of you who were subscribed to the old site will have to resubscribe to this site. Sorry to hassle you with that. **

Special Thanks again to my husband, Jeremiah Krieger, and to Jonathan Huizingh and Katie Bowman for putting in the hours to make this a reality. So grateful to each of you.

You Write the Title, I’ll Write the Post

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For my next blog post, I thought it would be fun to include you in the creative process.

I’d love for you to write the title for me! Then, I will write my next post based on your title.

If there is a certain topic you’d like for me to write on, you might want to include it in the title. Here is an article from CopyBlogger on how to write catchy titles. Don’t think too hard though. I want this to be fun for all of us.

Feel free to also go through my Archives to see titles written in the past.

I’ll choose the one I think I can tackle and praise you for your great work.

Ready. Set. Go!

Heartshot Headshots with Katie Bowman

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My friend Katie and I recently went on a little excursion here in Dallas to a district called Deep Ellum and a trendy little coffee shop called The Pearl Cup that serves the best chai tea lattes in big porcelain mugs.

The purpose of our outing was to take some headshots for this blog and for Start Marriage Right.

Katie is a very gifted photographer, writer, and do-it-yourself guru. Both of us have seminary degrees, our husbands are both currently in seminary, and we both live in seminary housing. Go figure! We also went to the same college in Virginia and have spoken on/taught abstinence in public schools (Katie still does).

I guess you can say that we’re like peas in a pod when we get together.

It’s always awkward to have pictures taken of yourself (with no one else in them). It can feel vain and weird, but I knew Katie would be the best person for the job. She did an amazing job putting me at ease and captured exactly what I was hoping for. And it helped that she always has a way of making me laugh!

Head on over to her blog, Shades of Grey, to check out her work and give her some comment love.

10 Tips to Becoming a Better Blogger

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In September 2007, I attended the North Texas Christian Writer’s Conference. At that time, I was a year out of getting my Master’s, I’d interned for two well-known Christian publishing companies, I’d been published in several magazines and contributed to two teen books.

But I was itching for more. I just couldn’t put my fingers on what it was.

That’s when I sat under the writing workshops of authors James Watkins and Christopher Maselli. I took to heart their advice:

Every writer needs to have a blog.

Christopher had a workshop dedicated solely to helping you start a blog. I wrote down all his notes, came home, and started what you’re reading today on WordPress.com.

I didn’t know much about blogging, I just wanted a space to write and the opportunity to hear from readers. The same is true today.

Sure, I research how to write good blog posts. I subscribe to CopyBlogger.com. I frequent blogs of writers and authors I enjoy and respect. But at the end of the day, I simply write from my heart. I figure a day will come when blogging is no longer cool, and that’s okay because I’ll still keep writing.

One of my newest readers, Meg Pieroway, asked if I had any tips or advice about blogging as she’s launching a Christian blog soon. I smiled when I read her comment because I was already thinking about writing something about my journey in blogging. So thank you, Meg, for the nudge.

I hope these tips will help many of you as you pursue your passion to write.

10 Tips to Becoming a Better Blogger

1.) Be Yourself. You’ve heard it over and over, but it’s true. Learn and grow from bloggers you love, but remember their voice is not yours. Take advantage of the fact that there is no one like you in this world and that’s how God wanted it to be. There is someone who needs to hear your voice.

2.) Write When You Don’t Feel Like It. Emotions come and go, but the truth is that you love to write. Take the first step and start typing. I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love again and get hooked into some kind of post. Either way, you’ll be glad you chose discipline and commitment over your feelings.

3.) Never Publish Your First Draft. Writing is an art and takes time to craft. Write your post, sit on it for a few hours or a day, and come back to it to edit, shorten, proof-read, simplify, and tighten. You’ll be amazed at what you want to change and reword to make the post better.

4.) Don’t Get Hung Up On Blog Traffic. It’s exciting when you get 500 hits a day on your blog and you check the stats throughout the day to watch them soar. But in my experience, blog traffic can be a major distraction and can put you in a good or bad mood.

You’re writing for God, yourself, and your tribe or niche. Stats are important to make sure people are actually reading, but keep first things first.

5.) Reply to Readers’ Comments. Your readers are responding to your posts partly because they want you to know they’re reading. And deep down, they’d love your response. Who wouldn’t? This doesn’t mean you have to respond to every. single. one. but you want them to know you care.

6.) Work Hard at the Craft of Writing. Discipline always requires sacrifice. The writing life isn’t an easy road and success doesn’t happen over night. Some bloggers are successful right off the bat and their blog turns into a book. But for the majority of bloggers it takes years to hone your skill, know your audience, and find your voice. Writing on a regular basis will pay off.

7.) Share Your Blog Posts on Facebook, Twitter, & Other Social Networking Sites. Who needs one more post in their news feed, right? Well your post might be the one that someone desperately needs to read on that particular day. Social networking sites are a perfect way to get the word out about your blog and to connect with readers. And they’re great for finding other writers with your interests.

8.) Be Discerning With Self-Promotion. In the publishing business, having a platform and being willing to market yourself is crucial. That’s just the rules of the game. As writers who follow Christ, there is a fine line when it comes to the sins of pride, vanity, and boasting.

I haven’t figured all of it out yet, but be cautious and discerning in the ways you let others know about your work. Check your motives and your heart. Is your purpose to draw attention to yourself, or to edify and equip?

9.) Mark Your Writing with Authenticity. Our generation craves it and the Lord knows the church needs more of it. Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable or share your weaknesses and struggles. People will relate to you all the more if they know you’re human.

When I read posts, I often ask: Where is the conflict or struggle? If one doesn’t exist, I question it. Conflict is a natural part of life.

10.) Don’t Ever Give Up. I wanted to quit blogging at one point. It was difficult and I wasn’t seeing the results I wanted, in the timing I desired. I eventually discovered that it was all about me and God showed me I needed to get out of the way. He had bigger plans for my writing. And he used many people to encourage me in that, especially the words of a friend and reader, Scott McCreedy.

There were also times I wrote to please people and that did nothing but hinder me. So I renewed myself in my passion to write and didn’t worry about those latter things. Now, I see blogging as another tool for God to use my writing however he wants and I’m just happy to get to do what I love.

If writing is a gift God has given you, push back whatever lies are roaming around in your head and keep at it! This world needs your voice.

Now it’s your turn to chime in. What have I left out? Blogger or non-blogger, what do you think it takes to be a great blogger? 

Above photo credit: lsgeekster.blogspot.com

Remembering Scott McCreedy: Friend & Faithful Reader

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Scott McCreedy left a mark on so many lives with his smile, genuine spirit, and servant’s heart. I met Scott in the 6th grade at Southwest Middle School in High Point, NC.

I remember taking classes with Scott, that he was a gifted soccer player, was one of the first guys in our class to grow facial hair, and that everyone liked Scott (especially the girls!).

I graduated from high school with him in 2000. From 2000-2009, I didn’t know Scott but when we reconnected on Facebook a few years ago, I found out he had served our country in the Navy as a rescue swimmer and I was so proud of him.

In July 2009, he sent a Facebook message to me out of the blue that I had saved. Here’s what it said:

Thanks.

Hey Samantha,

I just wanted to let you know that I am really enjoying reading your Blogs… I am going through a tough transition in my life and your thoughts/words are really helpful… thanks and god bless…. keep reaching out, there are alot out there who need it.

Best for you and your family,

Scott

I didn’t know Scott was reading my blog and ironically, I was going through a time where I wanted to quit blogging. His note encouraged me to keep pressing on and that God was speaking to his heart. Just a few weeks ago, he “liked” a new Facebook page I had created and a quote I posted by A.W. Tozer. I was very appreciative of his continued support and encouragement with my writing.

That was the last I really “heard” from him and yesterday I found out the shocking news that he had taken his life. I had trouble sleeping last night and my heart just breaks again today. My husband has been helping me process it all.

Scott’s father wrote a very thoughtful post on Facebook explaining Scott’s struggle with depression and his request that we pray for God’s mercy and love. I appreciated that his father took the time to share his heart. It helped bring peace to my heart.

Many people I know battle with depression, anxiety, and hopelessness on a daily basis. I have dealt with some anxiety and depression (postpartum) after having my second child. No one ever fully knows a person’s situation or struggle and the darkness they feel. I think it’s important to be compassionate and not judgmental towards those who are experiencing such inner turmoil and pain.

I am thankful that on the cross, Jesus crushed sin and death once and for all and that today, our ultimate hope is in Him. The historical resurrection of Christ is our present hope that Jesus will fulfill his promises in the future when he will heal the hurting hearts and bring life to those who love and trust in Him.

I believe that Scott is with His Savior and that all his tears and pain have been wiped away. My heart is sad because his life has been cut short, but I’m looking forward to when we will all experience a fullness and an abundance to life that none of us have yet seen or known.

We love you Scott and you will be missed greatly.

** Additional resources if you’re grieving the loss of a loved one:

Coping with Death and Grief- Focus on the Family article

What Happens When You Die? John Piper Audio Sermon and article

A Christian Perspective on Grief- audio

Subscribing in a Reader: New Feed Address

Danielle helped me realize that the Reader for my blog needed to be updated. She wasn’t receiving updates from my site. I’m sorry if you haven’t been getting updates in your reader either!

I created a new feed address so you’ll have to resubscribe if you’d like to receive blog posts through your preferred reader. Just click on “Subscribe in a Reader” on the right sidebar or click here to subscribe. That will be my feed address from now on. Thanks so much for reading!