Desiring Influence And Contentment

“God has equipped you and designed you to live out your unique calling and gifting as a leader. Your heart yearns for influence because it is a part of how he created you.”

- Jenni Catron in her book “Clout”

I’ve had this quote on the lockscreen of my phone since May. I put it there because I’ve struggled with how I’ve desired to influence and lead people in the past. I have felt like this desire was totally egotistical and full-of-myself. To think I had more wisdom than others to share with them, to lead them, to shape them - that felt rooted in my fleshly desires. I’ve worried that it was my great ability to manipulate people (something I have worked hard to keep strapped down and away) coming out of me for more.

And then I read this quote and it blew my mind. Could God himself have put the desire to influence others in my heart for his good? Really? That’s not me trying to control, manipulate, or influence for my own good? After searching my heart and filtering through my memories to try to understand why I have carried such negative feelings towards my desire to influence, I determined that Jenni was right. And since then I’ve kept her quote on my lockscreen to combat the lies from the enemy that try to demonize the desires that God put into me.

Another topic I’ve been grappling with for a couple of years now is gratitude and contentment. God has really taught Marc and I a ton about both throughout our process of paying off student loans together. Discontentment and a “woe is us” attitude plagued us pretty bad the first couple of years we were married. We pinched every penny and hated doing it along the way. Our newlywed fights were always about money and Marc still (unfondly) refers to one of our fights around new cardigans as “The Old Navy incident.”

God graciously taught us several things through that journey: 1) He’s provider and he’s bigger than spreadsheets, budgets, and gameplans; 2) Our attitude needed to shift to gratitude for what we had and were continuing to get; 3) Beyond gratitude, he was asking us to be totally content with what he gave us along the way. That last one was the hardest.

It was really easy to throw up a prayer of thanks and immediately follow it up with a prayer for the next thing we would like to be thankful for. I’d call this stage in our journey “grateful discontentment.” I mean, we had a better attitude, but we were still longing for more and quite discontent.

So this is my question and where these two lessons combine for me right now: how do we balance the desires God has given us with contentment for what we have now in our hearts? How do we drive forward towards next and more while being completely satisfied in who God is now?

This balance is something that only we can measure for ourselves. There won’t be too many people on the outside that will be able to check our hearts on this, maybe just our closest confidants and those God has put in our lives to call out our crap. But I think it’s going to be a daily struggle until we reach heaven, so how do we balance it?

One question I have started asking myself is “What if God has given me all the influence he wants me to have now? Is that enough for me?”

I’m not saying that God often puts limits on the giftings he puts in us as we try to follow after him. But as I wrestle with my tendency towards “grateful discontentment” I find myself trying to shape my prayers to be more wholly grateful for what I have now. Fully satisfied and content with what he’s placed in my life at this moment. And then, as I seek what’s next, I try to do it with even more surrender, palms up, fingers wide open willing to hold what I have and accept what comes next or what is taken away next with the same ounces of grateful contentment that I am experiencing now.

Some things that have been helpful to me so far as I wrestle past “grateful discontentment”:

1) Remembering the sufficiency of God.

“I don’t have a sense of needing anything personally. I’ve learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I’m just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I’ve found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” - Philippians 4:11-13 (MSG)

Paul is seriously goals here. The two verses leading up to America’s favorite Bible verse have challenged me for many years in my search for contentment. I love The Message version “hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am…” Yes. I’ve prayed this a lot of times before I get to asking for what’s next. This verse has also lived on my lockscreen for the better part of a year.

2) Remembering who I am, and who I am not.
In the same verse above The Message version translates Paul saying “I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.” Who am I? Who does God say I am? Well I camp out on about a billion verses where God declares that I am his well-loved child. A reflection of himself. Made in his image, but not God himself. I am loved by God. Forgiven, accepted, empowered, created intentionally, wired specifically, good, broken, partial in myself, full inside of God. I know that because of who I am, I will have all I need (maybe not all I want) at all times in order to do what God is calling me to do. (2 Corinthians 9:8)

What am I not? I’m not God himself. I’m not a substitute for the Savior. I am not a God manipulator - my prayers do not change his desires. I am not wiser than God, my heart is not better than his. My desires can get clouded and funky. Also I’m surely not above time and will never understand how all things will come together for the good of God at the right time. All of this is out of my reach. I am also not qualified in myself (2 Corinthians 3:5) nor will I have all of this mess figured out before I die. And I have to be ok with all of this limitation. This is where I get inspired by Paul again:

“Each time he said, ‘My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.’ So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” - 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“This is why I take pleasure in my weakness.” This is why I take pleasure in my limitations. This is why I take pleasure in my insufficiency. This is why I take pleasure in _________. There’s real contentment, grateful contentment. Satisfied in who God is, who he has made me to be, and what he hasn't made me to be. Wrapping all of that up together and sitting gratefully in each of those realities in every moment. Much easier said than done.

Let me pray for us…
God, you are so good. Show us how to align our heart with yours moment by moment. Allow us to see with your eyes. Light up our heart for what you have for us today. Move our steps towards where you are leading us next. Allow us to embrace your timing. Help us to see who and what are in front of us in this moment and to steward this well today. Help us sit with our palms up, carefully cradling what you give us, releasing what’s no longer ours to hold, and open to accepting what you bring about next. Help us to see ourselves with the same grace in which you see us, and allow that acceptance of ourselves to spill over into the moments and people before us. Allow our satisfaction in you to spill over into everything around us. We are gratefully content in you, Father. Amen!

Praying Circles


Early last spring Marc and I found ourselves at a crossroads, like life usually does. We were feeling challenged to step up and stretch, create big change in several areas in our lives.

I’m not gonna lie, it was stressful and felt really overwhelming and impossible. It felt like the things we sensed God leading us to in 2018-2019 were too much to accomplish.

After wrestling with dreams, goals, and spreadsheets we finally recognized that all of this was too big for our own power. Much of it was out of our control.

I came home one day and Marc was scribbling this out. He referenced the quote at the top, and he said, if God is calling us to this stuff, we are going to have to just pray for it.

We sat together and wrote out the prayers in each circle and hung it first in our bathroom and then over our bed. We spent the next several months diligently putting these prayers before God. Big, impossible, extravagant feeling asks. Requests that would only be granted because of God’s infinite love for us and his infinite ability to provide and fill in the gaps.

Steadily over last year, one door opened after another. We stepped through the first few cautiously and watched God provide again and again. By the time the last door opened (the student loan one, which honestly we preferred first) we were running through throwing more than we would have ever felt safe throwing at it a year before. It still didn’t feel totally safe to run through that last door, but our faith had grown knowing that there was a loving Father grabbing our hands to run through it with us.

Marc found this forgotten piece of paper going through the office the other day, but we will never forget the lessons this exercise in trust taught us. This paper is physical evidence of Matthew 7:7-8 in our lives.

As we stand at another crossroads, this paper has been a great reminder. It came at just the right time to remind us of the generous faithfulness of our God and his lavish love in our lives.

When I read the prayers we wrote now, I have to chuckle because God laughed in the face of our timing requests. Again and again, I’m challenged by God’s timing. It’s so frustrating and it’s what I’m currently frustrated by as well. But here on this paper are four huge prayers answered, out of our preferred order. And it doesn’t matter now.

Wait patiently for the Lord.
Be brave and courageous.
Yes, wait patiently for the Lord.

- Psalm 27:14

Seems simple enough when you read it like a poem in Psalms. Way harder in real life, even when you have tons of evidence that shows you that God’s timing has always been better than my own. Always. And stubbornly I dictate my timing to God. I get impatient and frustrated in the fog. I start fanning the fog to try to get it to clear more quickly, and then I just look like an idiot dancing in the clouds.

The fog always lifts. There’s always a next step where I least expect it and when I least expect it…usually because I’ve given up on it happening because I’m IMPATIENT.

You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.

- Psalm 139:5

He goes before me and he follows me. Meaning, he’s already in the future and he’s in my past. My past isn’t a screw up. Things aren’t happening too slowly. The future will come as it’s supposed to as well because he’s there. And he’s with me now in the fog, and he’s not freaked out by it.

Last week these song lyrics gut punched me while I whined about timing again:

“I know if I stepped aside and released the controls you would open my eyes…I’ll go anywhere you want me.”

- Mercury, Sleeping at Last

Redemption For All

Monday I was leading a book discussion with our summer interns, when I posed the question, “Do you think someone really knows God personally if they have no love for other people?”

In a few different words each intern came to the conclusion that if a person continually lacks love for other people, then they probably don’t know God very well.

It was a proud moment for me because my interns are the best and brightest.

It’s really easy for us to come to that conclusion in our brains. If someone consistently doesn’t love people, then they must not know God very well. But I’m ruminating on a spot where I think we get really stuck and where we actually cheapen or negate the idea of the Gospel.

I’m so deeply troubled with how easy it is for us as a collective, specifically in America because that’s the context I’m living in, to dehumanize other groups of people who we would prefer to not be in our collective.

It happens on both sides of the aisle here in the USA. I’m watching hyper-conservatives turn a blind eye to the fact that immigrant infants and inmates are given the same judicial proceedings to determine the country they will get to call home. I’m watching the far-left strip every mass murderer of their humanity and use terms like “animal” or “monster” to describe them. It’s far too easy for us to strip people of their humanity these days, and I believe that’s a direct affront to our Gospel.

The Gospel Message states that every human who has graced this planet was made in the image of God. (Genesis 1:27) Because of the brokenness of our planet and our rejection of relationship with God, people distort or cover the image of God within themselves. (Romans 3:23) The story of salvation tells us that God worked really hard to show us that everything is redeemable and welcome into the story of grace thanks to the testament and actions of His Son, Jesus. Everything. Everyone. Is redeemable.

I’m convicted this morning by how I’ve rejected the wholeness of the Gospel story. I don’t always believe that everyone and everything is redeemable. I cheapen the power of the Gospel with the brokenness I see. I believe that the brokenness wins. I believe that the stuff that distorts and covers the image of God in others is permanent and victorious. I believe that the redeeming power of my God is less than. Yikes.

I’m convicted today by my own beliefs, and I notice how we as a community, society, country, fall for this lie too. It’s easy to demonize an entire groups of people from other nations because we don’t believe that the worst of their worst is redeemable. It’s easy to dehumanize every gun owner because we don’t believe that the ones who have killed dozens in one sweep are redeemable. When we peel back the layers of junk, brokenness, fear, wounding, and judgement on the worst of the worst, we will eventually get to the sacred image of God that lies buried deep underneath. We will see that redemption - though harder for some to accept because of the layers of junk that stand in the way - is readily available for everyone and everything.

The message of the Gospel is audacious. Can I really challenge myself to believe that the heart of God even wants to redeem someone like Hitler or Stalin? That he wants to restore his image in child sex-traffickers and abusers? That he wants relationship with the darkest of sociopaths and the jerks who lace street drugs with lethal poison?

It’s hard for me to believe that the Gospel is that powerful. That it has the potential to redeem everything. And I get to wear and declare that possibility for all as a person who has accepted this redeeming power in my own life.

I’m convicted about how my fatalistic thoughts towards others has cheapened the work of the Gospel in my own life and the lives of those I influence. How my exclusionary faith has boxed in the power of God in my own life. And I’m amazed by the audacity of grace that allows me to see this truth now. And I’m kind of thrilled for what comes next.

Who have you believed is beyond God’s healing grasp? How can you challenge yourself to see their humanness and the stamp of our Creator God on their lives no matter how much they have erected to conceal it? Redemption isn’t exclusive. Redemption isn’t weak. Redemption has the power and potential to reach everyone. Can we believe this and allow this belief to affect how we see and love others? I think it could be a gamechanger.

“My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life…I am the good shepherd; I know my own sheep, and they know me, just as my Father knows me and I know the Father. So I sacrifice my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, too, that are not in this sheepfold. I must bring them also. They will listen to my voice, and there will be one flock with one shepherd.” John 10:10, 14-16 NLT

Compassion, Maybe Even For Me?


It just did. And I’m not going to get into all the ins and outs of why it sucked publicly on the internet, because I’m just not ready to go there right now. Maybe one day.

But what’s annoying about the crappy month that was July, is that it’s bleeding over into August now.

I’ve been in the very slow, low-pressure process of writing something. I don’t know if it will be a manifesto series of blog posts that kick off my next pursuits, a speaking series, or a book. But I’m taking a moment to be brave enough to admit that I’m writing it.

I’ve allowed it to be a low-pressure pursuit because I’ve recognized that I really don’t have the ability or capacity to make hard goals and deadlines out of it right now. If I’m going to be that intense about it something else will have to give, and I haven’t gotten the full clarity on what that might be in this season.

But what I’ve been doing is writing away during the solo creative space time that I give myself on Wednesday mornings. And I was doing alright with it and even plugging away through a hard season in May. And then July hit.

I haven’t gotten back to it since July rocked me. I feel like I’m still coming out of a mental fog that overtook me in July, and I haven’t had the chance to work hard at clearing that mental fog either. And I’m getting frustrated and annoyed by it.

My awesome counselor keeps reminding me to extend myself compassion, so that’s what I’m trying to do in this season. It might sound weird that cutting myself a break on all of this will actually get me motivated in the long run, but she’s right. The more pressure I put on myself the more I collapse, and I think that would just murder the project completely. Offering myself the compassion to pause and just not have it in me for a season is keeping the project alive, even if it’s not growing in the way I would like it to grow.

I’m learning that offering yourself compassion is something that lots of the people in my circles struggle with often. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by smart, talented, driven people more often than not. It’s a great crowd that keeps me sharp and motivated myself. But here’s what I’m learning about us: we create our own stress. Actually we might produce more stress for ourselves than anything else we’re creating in our lives. And the people I hang out with are productive too, and they produce a lot of content, actions, projects, products, etc. So it’s not like we are letting the stress stop us, but you know what I’ve decided? That stress is really unnecessary and unkind.

My crappy July forced me to reassess a lot of stuff in my life. And one of the biggest realizations that I came to is that I’m really tired of being stressed out by silly things. And what I mean by “silly things” is the unnecessary stress we impose on ourselves for not being fast enough, good enough, whatever enough that we hold over on ourselves. All of these lack-of-enough judgements we impose on ourselves are really stemmed out of the fact that we are stingy with compassion, and maybe our focus should just be to be compassionate enough to exist full of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control. Qualities that I have a hard time maintaining with self-imposed stress takes over.

Embarrassingly enough for me, because I thought I had long overcome it, every time my counselor looks at me and says, “Well Bonni that’s ok because you’re only human.” I cringe a little bit. We stinking hate admitting that we’re human. Even us “born again” types. We hate it. We want to be more than that. We want to be a bit of a savior, and we surely don’t want saving.

What’s ironic in my experience so far, is that the more I admit my humanness, the less I need saving, and I can offer (not impose) a lot more. The more I’m ok with what I can and can’t do for someone, the more beneficial what I can do becomes. The more I say “No,” the more powerful and effective my “Yes!” becomes.

Also when I have offered more compassion to myself, it becomes more natural to extend that offer of compassion beyond myself authentically. I’m not acting out of guilt, obligation, or passive aggressiveness (I admit it ok! geeze!), instead I’m acting out of genuine empathy, love, and grace.

Offering myself compassion sounds like it should be really easy to do. And falling for this lie actually makes offering myself compassion 8 million times more difficult. Continually giving yourself compassion is hard. Especially if you find yourself in contexts like I find myself. I mentioned my highly driven group of friends and family. They are awesome, and at the same time they can make it really difficult for me to offer myself compassion. Not because they are horrible, malicious people who don’t want me to be compassionate to myself so don’t assume that. But having the groups of people around me that I have makes it difficult to offer myself compassion for a couple of reasons:

  1. They too don’t offer themselves any compassion. Their standards are high. And though they would offer me all the grace and leniency in the world if I asked for it, but I know they would just take on my slack themselves to ensure that they are continuing to live up to their own high standards. There’s room for me to take a break, to get some grace, to slow down, but not for them. And because we humans aren’t dumb, we can sense this inner reality in our peers, and we stifle the compassion we want to give to ourselves, because we don’t want our peers to get the brunt of judgement from themselves. It’s a vicious cycle.

  2. I want them to succeed so I will bend over backwards for them so that they can. Even if someone in my life is good at cutting themselves a break and acknowledging their humanness, I still love them so much that I don’t want anything to slow them down. This comes out for me a lot with my son. He’s 2, he’s not really creating a lot of stress for himself these days (ah the joys of toddlerhood), but for his success, I have no room for error. I’m not sure what sort of ego in myself thinks that my weakness or humanness can totally derail another human’s life, but I sure let myself think that from time-to-time and I find myself bringing down the hammer on my own head on my child’s behalf more often than not.

When it comes down to it, the last reason that offering myself compassion is really hard is that it’s a new habit. And I’ve had the old habit for nearly 30 years. I trip myself up when I question the benefits of this new habit and if the practice is worth it. I trip myself up when my new habit shows up visibly to those in my life. Will they judge me or think I’m lazy? Will they stop depending on me? Will they cut me out of their lives because I’m not willing to try to be superhuman anymore? And then I trip myself up when I wonder if I’m even worth all this grace and compassion at my core. I have to linger on Scriptures that remind me who I am and how loved I am in order to combat this one. So much so that I don’t find myself in many other places in Scripture at times, and then I want to judge myself for not being diverse enough in Scripture. I have a hard time allowing myself to just dwell in the lesson that God wants me to learn in this season. See how all of this self-imposed judgement is a hard habit to break?

I’m catching myself more often these days. Extending myself the grace and compassion that God wants me to have and offers to me Himself. Slowly I see myself coming more alive than I’ve been in a while, more present with both pleasure and pain because they are both part of the human experience. More accepting of my strengths and my short-comings, because having each of those things is also part of being human. I think it’s going well. I’ll keep you posted.

Hey, in case you need to hear it today: It’s ok that you’re feeling the way that you feel. It’s ok to take that nap. It’s ok to miss that deadline every once in a while. It’s ok. You’re human, and you’re worthy of your own compassion.

Nine Is The Most Confused Number

I was just listening to a podcast with two professional speakers talking about the ongoing struggle of being your own voice and not imitating others. Not settling into a routine that works for someone else but isn’t you.

Hearing that two professionals really struggle with this still helped me offer myself a bit more compassion in this area, but I have to say I’m pretty annoyed with the journey of finding who I am and what God is asking me to do.

As an Enneagram 9 - a super 9 at that I’m pretty sure - I have that awesome vice of sloth which mostly manifests for 9s by self-forgetting. It’s a crazy defense mechanism that we’ve developed over years that basically works to bury ourselves for the sake of peace and others. We remove our own desires, opinions, and comfort from the equation in order to keep our external environments calm and collected. It feels like an easy sacrifice to make because the last thing I want to do most of the time is rock the boat, and the thing I have most control over sacrificing is myself. And so I have for a lot of years. I think more than I know.

Yesterday I actually tried to think back to a point when I was unapologetically myself for myself. Not to impress or achieve, or ensure an easy path. Just me. And I can’t really remember I don’t think. When I press really hard and try to think back over my motivations over the years I can get as far back as 6 years old. Then I have big chunks of time missing from 6-9 or 10. Then I have a horrible taste in my mouth about who I was when I was a middle schooler.

I was 6 when I understood salvation. And when I think back now, I see that my 6 year old grasp of salvation was far more theologically solid than my understanding of salvation when I was 22. I remember when I got it. When I understood. And it was all centered on the love God had for me. He loved me enough to send His Son to face potential death, just to be my friend. Just to be in relationship with me. I can even remember the Holy Spirit whispering His love over me quietly, but confidently. My 6 year old brain went, “Well why wouldn’t I want to be in a relationship with someone who loves me so much?!” and that was it. My life changed forever at a young age. I remember that it was so dang simple. I wanted that love so I let it in. And then I ran out of my room after I was supposed to be in bed to tell my mom. I also remember not feeling a lot of pressure at that moment to convince people that they needed this love too. I knew that other people would just get it one day.

I think being 6 years old was the last time I truly understood who I am - a really loved daughter of God - that’s perfectly it.

There are a lot of years of religion with good intentions that have muddied those waters for me over lots of years now. And there are weird experiences that have made me forget who I am, or told me that who I am shouldn’t take up space. And now at 30 I’m trying to get back to the motivations of 6 year old me in this 30 year old self.

Here’s one thing that I have been told to forget about myself and have tried for a long time, but I think I might start leaning back into it… I really dislike traditional evangelism. The idea of it has never sat right in my soul. And I have TRIED over the years to embrace it. I had the colored bead bracelets that walked you through the Gospel story. I picked up colorful tracts and put them in my backpack (even though I was at a Christian school, but whatever). I mean really I would stare and read through my church’s tract wall almost weekly ensuring there wasn’t anything new that finally felt right. I’ve done door-to-door stuff. I’ve done VBS plans of salvation. I was in the play Heaven’s Gates and Hell’s Flames a couple of times. I have done missions trips where we did a little of all of these things. I lived in New Orleans and I learned how to make beignets on a mission trip in Colorado… I have done traditional evangelism. The only thing they wouldn’t let me try was preach…cuz you know. 💁🏼

I’ve never related with the fear-mongering that traditional evangelism uses. Fire insurance. Whatever you want to call it. We tell people salvation isn’t fire insurance, but we use the idea of your house going up in flames to sell it. It’s always felt empty.

And when I reach back into my experience, back when Jesus showed up to me all the way at the tiny age of 6 what I remember is love not fear. I remember understanding the Gospel as something that built me up, not showed me how terrible I was. I remember the acceptance of that love was peaceful and joyful. Not difficult, not painful. I have a really terrible memory, so remembering these emotions and motivations is significant for me, and I think that’s what God wants.

I’m currently on a journey of figuring out who it was that I’ve buried over the years. Who I am that’s still down there trying to exist. And I keep circling around to that night as a 6 year old. It was November and it was a Wednesday. It was the night that God showed me who I am. The only bummer is that at 6 years old He wasn’t quite showing me how who I was would show up in the world for His glory. And that’s when I think Satan came in quick to muddy the waters and confuse the message.

I frequently admit that I get most frustrated over God’s timing. It’s so annoying. It never works out the way I would plan it. And I have to say, 20 something years of burying myself feels like really poor time management on God’s part. I know I’m not totally innocent in all of that, but there is also just some stuff I didn’t know until recently.

So here I am at 30 trying to figure out what God is calling me to do with who He made me. I sometimes feel like I get closer, but I think it’s like an archeologist digging up ruins. I get a small piece of something that doesn’t quite fit into the other stuff I found yet. So I have to study it and interpret what I think it could mean. I know the work of unburying is slow. I am pretty sure God’s timing in it is good. But the waiting and confusion in the meantime is annoying. I think to myself a lot “Can’t I just arrive already?!”

30 is still really young. I’m not dumb about this. Most humans hit their strides post-30. So while I’m still poking around in the dirt digging myself up, I’m trying to learn the lessons along the way. I’m hoping I don’t miss the significance of anything. I’m hoping I don’t give significance to a piece of trash that someone threw into the pile of my dusty life.

But you know what? There’s something very satisfied about being covered in dirt unburying and resurrecting something that’s been lost. The way it layers up on your skin makes you feel alive. The salty taste of the dirt you catch on your lips from time-to-time reminds you that you’re doing something significant, even though other people don’t see it. They just see you all covered in dirt looking like a crazy person in a hole. But you know, you’re up to something meaningful. You don’t know exactly what it is, or when it will surface, but you know it’s coming.

This is probably my most disjointed piece of public writing to date. It’s a stream of consciousness piece, and I’m not 100% sure why I opened up my blog instead of my journal to write it, but I did. Maybe it’s just to say, keep finding yourself. Keep looking. I bet, like me, your real identity is probably rooted in some identity of love as well. Happy searching, yall.

Fear of the Power of Words

The brother of Jesus, James, has a book in the Bible and he gets very serious about the weight and power of our words:

James 3:3-6
We can make a large horse go wherever we want by means of a small bit in its mouth. And a small rudder makes a huge ship turn wherever the pilot chooses to go, even though the winds are strong. In the same way, the tongue is a small thing that makes grand speeches.

But a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. And among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness, corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.

He’s talking about speaking, but I think that written word has just as much if not more power because written words echo unadulterated longer. They linger. You can be in denial of what you say out loud a lot more easily (heck our President shows you that you can deny what you say even when it’s recorded), but written words seem to haunt us forever. You may grow and change, your viewpoints may evolve, you may learn new lessons and see the world in a new way, but once upon a time you wrote those words. And they don’t erase.

I haven’t journaled regularly since my family fell apart when I was in high school. I’ve been chewing on this reality for a while now trying to figure out why that is, because when you’ve been called to use your words and there is some kind of subconscious mental block against doing that, you need to figure it out.

For a while I’ve thought that young me was motivated to journal for the benefit of other people still. Like one day my grandkids would read about me imagining myself holding hands with my 8th Grade crush. Like 8th Grade me wanted anyone to read that. This is a palatable idea for me because as an Enneagram 9, it’s comfortable to accept that I don’t do much for my own enjoyment or benefit because I barely know what that is. I’ve thought that maybe after my “perfect, admirable life” fell apart into a sham that I didn’t have anything perfect enough to write about so I just didn’t write.

But I think that there’s an uglier underlying issue that I don’t really want to confront. And when I look back in my life at other times I’ve buried myself, the motivation is similar - fear.

I really freaking hate this because I don’t like to believe that I’m a very fear-motivated person anymore. There was a time that my whole world was fear driven - as most sheltered kids experience - but I thought I had outgrown it. I thought I was more brave than this.

But I don’t know…

My teen years were the booming hayday for the new idea of live journaling - the thing blogs were before blogs were a thing. There was LiveJournal and Xanga and I was team Xanga all the way. As a 14/15/16 year old I religiously wrote entries on my Xanga. I bet it’s out there in internet land somewhere, and I bet it would make me squirm. All my thoughts and experiences rolled off my fingertips and into my Xanga entries, and I published with a flutter in my stomach and excitement in my heart. Everytime!

Coincidentally, this was about the same time that the crud in my parents’ marriage was really hitting the fan hard. We had just moved to a new state and the stress was showing true colors of a marriage that had been struggling for some time. Without their support system (and spectators) around them, the foundation was falling out and I was a hormonal teenager watching.

In one entry I wrote about a secret my family was trying to hide - and I didn’t know it. I wrote the truth and brought it to light, and people saw it. Then they asked questions, and that was it. It seemed like my words crumbled my family to the ground and obliterated it into a million pieces. A fight over a Xanga entry seemed to set a series of events into action that would rewrite the rest of my teen years and change my siblings’ lives forever.

Damnit. Words are really powerful. James was right. What right is it of mine to have or express thoughts and feelings outwardly. They just injure. They just destroy. They ruined my life.

I’m afraid. I’m afraid of the power in my words. And so I’m silent.

Here’s what I know about this experience now as a 30 year old woman: my words didn’t destroy my parents’ marriage. It was gone before I even knew it was. I can absolve myself of any real responsibility there and I know that. I’m married and a parent now and being a wife and a mom solidifies my understanding that my parents’ marriage was out of my 16 year old control all along.

That’s all logical, but for some reason the fear still resides deep in my soul.

I think to some degree a healthy fear of written words is going to be necessary to keep me grounded and inside of my call. Afterall, James didn’t spend all of that time talking about words for nothing. It’s wisdom to choose our words carefully, to speak them with humility and reverence. To know that our words are dangerous helps us wield them responsibly, like a weapon used to protect instead of kill.

But I know I’ve got to get out of this paralyzed state of fear. A healthy fear has crossed a line into a tool of Satan that traps me somewhere.

I’m afraid of this post. I’m petrified of these words. But I’ve got to shake the dust off somehow and begin unburying myself. You have to use the sharpest part of the shovel with the hardest force to first break the ground, right?


Humans are so weird, right?

We have a consciousness and we love it and hate it; and want everyone to know what it thinks, and then feel insecure about those thoughts all at the same time.

I was driving to my weekly creative space and really taking note of a bumper sticker, and it hit me. Bumper stickers are so dang weird. We humans want to be heard and known so deeply that we’ll slap our thoughts on the back of a car.

The internet is full of those of us who want to share our thoughts, maybe too full sometimes.

We humans, we value our voices.

Most of us.

I’ve struggled for years now, deeper than I knew, to value and give weight to my own voice. To make the thing God put inside of me known - even to myself. I fall for the lie that no one cares, no one asks, no one needs to hear. I will say and do what I think you want. What might sustain my family in an acceptable way. I will say that for a while and fall silent because no one affirms it. Then it’s a vicious cycle of lies:

I won’t talk because no one cares. No one asks. Oh here was a pretty cool thing I learned, and it fits who I’m supposed to be. Ok I will say this because it’s what they want to hear, it will benefit them. No one said anything about what I said. I won’t talk because no one cares. No one asks…

It’s been the cycle of my adulthood.

Recently, I realize that I’ve been buried. For years. Buried. Buried by myself. Buried by my circumstances. Buried by culture. By my pain. By my fears. Buried. And now God is unearthing me.

In His fantastic and fascinating grace. In His gentle call towards growth. In His strong and nurturing hands. He’s pulling me back to the surface and it’s terrifying.

Still there’s a deep lie I believe. No one cares. No one asks. No one wants what you have put inside of me. They buried it.

But God.

He asks. He excavates my soul. He reveals truths through pain and pleasure. He cradles me and tells me, “You, child, are my masterpiece and this is what I’ve put in you. So speak.”

I’m wrestling with that. Is it ego or God? Am I brave enough to unleash my own voice? Will it even matter?!

God says to me, “Speak. Write. Unleash.”

His fingerprint is on each of our souls. Mine too.



My whole life I thought I would be a stay-at-home-mom. There was no other option in my head. I even picked a degree where a successful freelance career was a viable option so that I could stay at home and make a little side cash.

And then I grew up.

When Marc and I got married and moved to Maryland, I was disappointingly unemployed and had no job prospects in sight. Those first few months of being at home I had nothing to do, nowhere to go, and no answer to the nondescript call I felt in my soul. This sunk me into a depression where the most impressive accomplishment I could claim was pounding several seasons of Hoarders on Netflix. (Why did I even do that to myself?) This was my first indication that stay-at-home life might not be for me. I quickly dismissed the doubt to not having a baby around to keep me busy and binged the next season of Hoarders.

Fast-forward to August 2016. My pastors kept saying to me "if you decide to come back after the baby comes," and I was laughing in their faces and saying, "You're going to have to try harder than that to get rid of me." So what changed in those 5 years? Confidence in my call.

God has clearly called me into the role I'm in professionally. And God has called me to be a mother (sooner than I was planning to be...but that's another story for another time). 


I don't think God calls us to be one-trick ponies. I think he calls us to seasons of slowing, seasons of minimizing, seasons of intense focus on one thing, but they are just that, seasons.

Hang on, before you stomp of in a hissy because you think I'm attacking SAHM status, chill out and finish reading.

God calls each of us in different ways. For me, I can confidently leave my son with his sitter day-in and day-out because I know he's calling me to be Caleb's mom and a full-time leader at Severn Run. Some of my friends are rocking part-time job status. Others are totally rocking full-time SAHM status. But I also see lots of moms losing track of their call, and suddenly they can't find their "and" anymore. Why is that? What distracts us from discerning our divine callings?

It has to do with who is at the center of your universe. Discernment of your call only comes one way:

But it was to us that God revealed these things by his Spirit. For his Spirit searches out everything and shows us God’s deep secrets. No one can know a person’s thoughts except that person’s own spirit, and no one can know God’s thoughts except God’s own Spirit. And we have received God’s Spirit (not the world’s spirit), so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us.

When we tell you these things, we do not use words that come from human wisdom. Instead, we speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit’s words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren’t spiritual can’t receive these truths from God’s Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them and they can’t understand it, for only those who are spiritual can understand what the Spirit means. Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others.
— 1 Corinthians 2:10-15

In order to have a clear understanding of your call, you need to have God's Spirit in you, driving you. This means Jesus needs to be the center of your universe, always.

For most of us it's probably way easier to keep Jesus at the center of our universe pre-baby, because the only one you're kicking out of that center spot is yourself. (Let's be honest, you were the only other person you were letting into the center spot, sorry hubs). Enter baby. Those cute eyes, chubby cheeks, and gummy gums wriggle their way right into the center of your universe before you even know what's going on. That's when everything changes. That's when you dismiss your "and." That's where insecurity, discontentment, judgement, and a host of other things sneak in and try to take over. Suddenly you're in a whirlwind of feedings, poo diapers, emotions, and tears and you can't see anything else...because your baby is at the center of your universe. No wonder we forget our “ands."

And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith.
— Portions of Hebrews 12:1-2

If your kid is at the center of your universe, you aren't keeping your eyes on Jesus. If you aren't keeping your eyes on Jesus, you're going to start missing out on your call. 

😱 "But if I don't make sure that my kid gets everything he needs to be successful, who will?!" 😱

Jesus will! And Jesus will through you. And he will equip you with the resources you need at the times you need them in order to ensure you successfully be mom and ________ .

And God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.
— 2 Corinthians 9:8

You cannot ignore your call to be God's daughter, to keep Jesus at the center of your universe. If you're reading this and noticing that your kid is the center of your universe, take a step out of the whirlwind and shift your center. Pray. Fast. Read. Ask your friends to join you in the journey as you rediscover your call, your "and." Once you do, you can confidently take steps knowing that you are living your call and that your child is well-loved and cared for, not just by you, but by your Father in Heaven as well. Take the time to discern your calling, and then act! Your calling may not be a career calling. Stay-at-home-mom is very much a calling, and most of the SAHMs living in their call will tell you that they also have "ands." Maybe it's baller church finance volunteer, or go-to babysitter, or a volunteer mentor at an inner-city women's program. Our calls are going to look different and come in varying sizes, shapes, and colors. Remember the end of 2 Corinthians 2:15: "Those who are spiritual can evaluate all things, but they themselves cannot be evaluated by others." Know your call, and confidently walk in it! Imagine what the Church of the Living God can do if we, mothers, make sure that we aren't getting sucked up into the crazy of kids and instead gloriously live out our "ands" in Jesus' name.

What "and" have you been ignoring? It's time to readjust your universe, sister, you got this.

One Bite At A Time

I recently joined a fun Facebook Group called "Church Communications" (side note, remember when Facebook groups were things like "Blue is the best M&M" and silly things like that? We've come a long way). Anyway, a question popped up there right after I joined:

Trying to start a Communications team so that I am not the only one doing all the work. Do any of you have documentation that you can share? Do you have a budget for subscriptions? I need a proposal for our administration to show my plan and the need and what kind of money we need. Do you have a schedule for posting? Any other helpful information and documentation would be great.

When I mentioned that I had some resources to share, lots of folks wanted in so I thought a blog post (it's a long one, hang on) would be the best way to distribute this stuff for now.

Background: I'm the Communications Director at The Church at Severn Run. Right now we are about 1,300 folks and growing. When I started three years ago we were holding at 800 folks on average. Now I'm a full-time staff member, but when I started I was very part time, so I immediately starting building a volunteer team to help me do all the things we needed to do in order to build a previously non-existent Communications/Creative/Marketing Department. Three years, and a lot more hours per week later, I still heavily rely on my volunteer team to get things done for a couple of reasons: 1) There is only one of me and lots to do; 2) My teams are better at the things they do for Severn Run than I am; 3) The body of Christ should be involved in making the church great! See Ephesians 4:11-13 for inspiration.

So how do you get started building this team? You know that silly question, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time." Same. Start one piece at a time and then slowly build. It's taken me three years to get a team functioning as highly as it is now, but it is still undergoing some restructuring and reorganization regularly to make sure we are doing things the best way. Below outlines how I started, and how I think you can start too.

1) Create Your Team - On Paper

Here is an example of my most updated Team Commitment Document, which is really fun to compare to my very first team meeting notes from 2013 which I have kept for sentimental reasons on Google Drive (to your advantage). This part is pretty difficult, but absolutely imperative in order to have a well functioning team. It puts you all on the same page right from the get go.

Elements to be aware of:

Overall team purpose: this should be closely in line with your church mission. You exist to support the church!

Continual Team Goals: these are the goals that stay the same year in and year out. They will very rarely change and they exist to help you sift through the myriad of project requests you will receive. If you get requests that do not line up with your goals or purpose, it's much easier to say "nope can't do it!"

Team Structure: My team is made up of several skill teams that are led by volunteer leaders: Writing, Marketing & Social Media, Graphic Design, Web, Photography, Videography, Fine Arts, and Stage Design. You will need to really assess your own church's needs and resources to determine what teams you want to create. For instance, if you are a really small church with very limited financial resources, you may not want to have a Videography team because there are resources like Igniter Media and Worship House Media for sermon illustrations and services that can help you make video announcements. This is probably more affordable than buying up all of the equipment that you need to do these types of projects well yourself. Once you figure out the teams that you need, these Skill Teams will really help you spread the workload out quickly!

Team Member Expectations & Commitment: These are so important because it allows you and your team members a way out that is clear and agreeable if it ever gets to that point. Newsflash! Creatives are especially flaky when we are given all the freedom in the world. When you are clear and concise with your expectations, most of us will rise up to the occasion and rock your world. My favorite commitment here is to learn how to create with an open hand. This leaves room for you and your team leads to provide feedback without it coming across as controlling. When you expect feedback, it's easier to receive. The hardest expectation is communication, hands-down. Be ready for lots of texting and phone calls because email communication is the WORST. I love Basecamp for team communication, but there is a learning curve in getting team members to use it. So prepare your phone, leader.

Time Sensitive Goals: Break these up to yearly, quarterly, monthly, and daily commitments based on what's happening in  your church that year.

Leader Guidelines

Because you want to divide up the workload, the next step will be to create similar expectation sheets for your Skill Team Leaders. I have one for each team leader with specific expectations of how they should communicate with me, their teams, and ministries as well as what projects they should focus on and how. The temptation will be to wait until you have a leader before you make these expectations, don't do that! This sheet will be a great recruiting tool for you so get on it first.

2) Recruit!

Now that you have your team on paper, it's time to start recruiting. Spend every second you have on the weekends at your church talking about your new team, to anyone and everyone who will listen. One-on-one conversations are great for recruiting this team. You will get references and people will start pointing others they know to you. As you recruit have two things ready: your team commitment, and your first meeting date and time.

3) Team Meetings

These have ended up being much more important than I thought they would be! I'm an introvert and like to just get things done quietly most of the time, but it turns out that creatives doing volunteer work do really well when you can remind them why they are serving and how they are making a difference. When we first started at Severn Run, we met as a whole team monthly. It helped us establish a culture and get to know each other, and we were small. We had 4-10 people coming regularly and we grew close and really turned into the core of my team now. This is really hard on you, leader, but worth it in the long run. It can be difficult to stay encouraged when you hit lulls, fail at a project or two, or lose your first team member, but hang in there and keep teaching your purpose until you are blue in the face. It will catch on, and even better your team leads will take notes from you and be able to do this when they start meeting on their own.

Now, my skill teams meet monthly, I meet with the leaders quarterly, and we meet as a whole only yearly around Christmas to celebrate the year we had and get ready for the year ahead. As we have grown, people have become much more specialized so our skill teams needed to meet more regularly than our overall group. This is our first year doing this and so far it has been a great model for our larger (think 40 person plus) team.

4) Nuts & Bolts

Now you need to start working with your team leaders to create tools that will help your current team members do projects well, and new team members to jump in easily. Also you want to have resources for ministries, small groups, and events so that they can work with your team effectively. Here are a few resources I have created for my church (click the title to see an example):

Special Interest Ministry Communications Plan
This is for our ministries, small groups, and events that reach less than 80% of our congregation. Large events and ministries that reach 80-100% of our audience get pretty much whatever they want, but we had to keep things clear for the smaller ministries who might feel like they are just getting ignored instead of helped in a strategic way.

Communications Pyramids & Social Media Expectations
This really helps my marketing and social media team most of all. It makes it really easy for me to guide this team on how they can best market (especially on social) announcement requests. I determine the priority level based on the ministry and relevance at the time of the request.

Mini-Brand Guide (In-Progress)
This is for designers mostly. It's missing some stuff (like fonts) but it's still in progress. Not surprisingly, my graphic design team is the smallest team I have right now because I tend to just do design instead of delegate it (my background is graphic design).

Writing Style Guide
This really helps marketing, social media, writing, and web. It helps us sound consistent and unified. We are going to be adding our favorite MLA rules to this guide as well.

Social Media Posting Cheat Sheet
Not going to lie, this one hasn't taken off for me yet. My social media team is awesome and we have a solid group of folks who have really found their niche in our social story, but I'm actively recruiting someone to help with the more boring "sales-y" posts. Once I find someone called to this, I think that this resource will help a lot!

5) Experiment with Collaboration Tools

There are so many tools that help volunteer teams who have to work in different locations at different times to collaborate. You need to assess what will work best for you and your team based on your needs, your personal abilities, and your financial resources. Here is what we use with my teams:

Basecamp - Project Management and Communication
I LOVE Basecamp. We recently switched to Basecamp 3 and it's absolutely phenomenal. It's great for each of my team members because you can keep up with it via email, an app on your phone or tablet, or via your web browser. There's really no excuse to not check it regularly and it's crazy simple to use. Also with Basecamp 3 you get UNLIMITED PROJECTS! Amazing. This let's you break up your teams easily and even projects within teams easily. Click here to watch a thrilling video of me explaining how I planned for my Marketing & Social Media Teams to use Basecamp 3. It goes into each available feature that Basecamp 3 offers. Also I recently heard that Basecamp offers a 25% off rate for Non-Profits, I haven't gotten that yet, but I will be looking into it. Find their pricing here. By the way, I doubt you will need clientside, so it's really pretty affordable.
Basecamp alternatives: Trello, Asana, Slack, Google Drive.

Buffer - Social Media Scheduling
Buffer is amazing for my social team. We used to use Hootsuite, but I was not a huge fan and it was harder to add team members to in the long run, also more expensive. Buffer has two levels of permissions for team members, Content Contributor and Admins. Content Contributors can create and schedule posts for whatever accounts you give them access to, but they will not post without approval. All of my team members, except my team lead, are contributors so that every post gets two pairs of eyes on them. This catches so many typos, and a typo, especially on Twitter, lives forever. The only bummer with Buffer is no Instagram scheduling. It has great analytics, easy posting, a browser extension, image creator, and a great app. We have the "Small" business plan for our team AND Buffer offers a 50% discount for non-profits. Check out their pricing here.
Buffer alternatives: Hootsuite, Sprout Social, Facebook Scheduling. - Mass Emailing Service
We use Mailchimp to send out our nice church-wide email updates, a weekly devotional, and our weekly discussion questions. Mailchimp is great because you can have multiple team members contribute to campaigns and there are varying permission levels that will allow team members to make changes, but not hit send. Again, this is great for proofing! Mailchimp is also very user friendly. There are lots of drag-and-drop templates that you can use, or if you are a coding ninja you can code up your own templates as well. Mailchimp pricing is based on how many subscribers you are sending to, and many of you with smaller churches will be able to use it for free! See their pricing here.
Mailchimp alternatives: Constant Contact, Sendicate

Google Drive - File Sharing
We use Google Drive (which Google Apps for Businesses are free for non-profits and you get extra storage) for a lot of our file sharing, especially for the video team. Raw footage and final videos are exchanged via Drive so we aren't sending giant emails or exchanging hard drives in parking lots. My only gripe with Google Drive is accidental deleting. I once wiped out every stock photo we had. Dumb. Luckily I managed to recover them.
Google Drive alternatives: Dropbox

SmugMug - File Sharing
This is our NEWEST tool, suggested to me by my new Photo Team lead. SmugMug is cheap and allows unlimited storage of any file type. You can make public and private/password protected galleries and it's easy to tag, sort, and search for files in your SmugMug account. We are using SmugMug publicly to share baptism and event photos with our congregation, and we are using private folders to share resources around the Creative Team. Check out their pricing here. We are using their cheapest plan and it's working well so far!
SmugMug alternatives: Cloud Servers

Church Community Builder - Large Group Communication
We use CCB at Severn Run so I do have a large Creative Team group there as well. I use this group to send out full-team updates, scheduling events for the team, and recruiting. It is my least used tool right now. This is a huge investment that your entire church would make so I'm not going to get into the bonuses of how you can use this here.
CCB alternative: Facebook group, Slack - Stock Photography, Vectors, and Video
Lightstock is an amazing company with high-quality products. This year I joined their subscription service and their products have been a life saver for sermon graphics, social posts, and general advertising. They also give away a free photo & vector weekly and a free video clip monthly. There are a couple of subscription plans to choose from, or you can buy credits as you need them. Lightstock specializes in imagery for the church and they are getting better all the time with diversity in their images.
Lightstock alternatives:,, and many, many more.

*By the way, I'm not getting paid to endorse any of these services.


The last part of the question above was about budgeting. This is the hardest part, especially for creative types.

  • The first thing you want to do is get a hold of your church calendar. Figure out what's coming up and find out if stuff is missing. This will help you determine what you need to market. Find out your biggest church events and be sure you understand what has been done in the past and if other departments have covered advertising pieces in the past. Now that your department exists, will you cover those costs or will they? Come up with some basic marketing ideas for each event and give yourself a nice cushiony budget to work with, and when the time comes to market that event, pretend you have very little money and do your best to stay in budget. Use recourses like, and to see what kind of pricing you can expect on printed materials. Don't forget to factor in digital ads wherever you might want them. 
  • From there build your own calendar and plan in meetings, work nights, etc. Keep in mind that you will probably want to get snacks and drinks, maybe even meals for your team events.
  • Now factor in the tools you want to use. What subscriptions do you want to have? How much extra should you factor in for those times you can't find the perfect image on Lightstock? Is there any shiny new equipment that you want in the next year? What about programs like Adobe Creative Cloud (by the way, get a non-profit rate for Adobe CC through Genesis Technologies)? Might your Mailchimp list grow and bump you to the next payment tier? Try to consider all the options and factor them in.
  • You will want to consider team and leader appreciation. I try to get my leaders a gift each year and provide delicious food for the teams when I can. Anything I can to say "Thank you for what you do!" 
  • What about you? You need to learn and improve as well. Consider conferences, online seminars, and learning resources that you might want to use yourself and add those in as well. 
  • Here's an example of my spending lines for the year (note: the Gear Shop is a totally different ministry from what I've been sharing about above):

So, I think by now I've covered everything in the original question, but this is a lot of info and frankly, I could write an entire post about each section easily. I'm not blogging super regularly right now, but as specific requests come in, I'm happy to do my best to answer them when I can! Feel free to leave a comment below if you would like further explanation on something OR if you have an additional alternative resource to add that I may have missed (which I'm sure I did along the way). 

Keep up the good work, Communicators! Your job is difficult, but you can do it. And you can find your people and build an amazing team to support you and your church along the way. I will be praying for you!



We handed out almost 1,000 of these jars on Sunday at The Church at Severn Run

Yep, tiny jars with a $5 bill in it.

Every person who sat through the end of our service this weekend got one, well every person who came forward to get one I guess...

Now you're probably thinking, "Who the heck wouldn't come get one of these?!" I'm not sure how many people skipped the $5 jar, but I bet a few did, because we got an assignment with this jar, one that we could take on, choose to ignore, or skip altogether.

Multiply. Gather. Grow.

Hang on, let's learn some back-story.

The Church at Severn Run is an amazing church. It's one of those churches that is known for its amazing people, not it's great building, great worship, or great sermons even though we have all of those things in my opinion. Our people are game-changers, life-changers, world-changers and they've taken on every crazy challenge that we've thrown at them over the last couple of years. And they haven't been easy challenges.

  • Take 30 invite cards and distribute them with your personal invitation. Done.
  • Put this sticker on your car. Done.
  • Join a Connect Group. Done.
  • Serve. Ok!
  • Write your God-given dreams on a wall for everyone to see. Done.
  • Paint a mural in Inner City Baltimore. Done.
  • Fast. Food, all of it, for a whole day. Done.
  • Post one of your biggest "asks" online for all to see and expect God to come through for you. Done.
  • Fast again. Your choice, but make it a sacrifice, for 21-Days. In-Progress.

These are just a few of the things I can think of that my church community has taken on and totally demolished. All the while faith has grown and people notice.

People notice because this doesn't exist in Maryland, especially not in the Baltimore-DC corridor. It's very post-Christian here. People here don't need church, don't need Jesus, don't need God. That's the norm, and it will stay that way until they see people who have Jesus. Not just the metallic Jesus that rests on a crucifix on your neck, the real Jesus who turns your world upside-down, shakes it out, rearranges it and then sends you back out as a radical world-changing agent. That's the Jesus that Severn Runners are face-to-face with each and every week in our gatherings. Many of them have taken on a personal relationship with that Jesus and are wrestling with him and growing with him daily, and people are noticing.

They're noticing because we're lead by a fearless pastor who hears from God and doesn't make excuses to avoid following him. The man is on his face (literally, yall) in prayer in his office for more hours than I sleep in a week, seeking God's next steps for our church. The craziest part of this whole ritual is that we actually do what God puts on his heart during those power-prayer sessions. Every stinking time. It's scary, challenging, stressful, stretching, and amazing.

For some reason I have gotten the crazy awesome privilege to not only be a part of this church community, but a part of the team who leads it. Here at the Mace Place, we're all in.

Multiply. Gather. Grow.

That's my paraphrase of the challenge. If you want to hear the heart of the whole thing, I encourage you to listen to this message to understand where it comes from: 

We were each asked to take this $5 and listen to how God would challenge us to use our gifts to grow this small investment. So here's how I'm doing it. With you! The only reason I didn't make social media part of my 21-day fast is because it's part of my job, so what better way to redeem my personal social media habits than by using it to grow what God has given me through my amazing church.

I would love for you to consider donating just $5 to my church right now. It's going to this all new Capital Campaign we're launching called, "On The Road." OTR's goal is to raise $6 Million to help us pay off our building and begin the nest egg for whatever the next logical step is in our overall goal to grow to a community of 5,000 Severn Runners (that's what I call these amazing life-changing Christians). Right now we are a growing community of 1,200 and space is getting extremely tight! We're already talking about launching a 4th (yes 4th) service time this year to help accommodate new folks, but we can only do so many services in one weekend so a new space will be needed sooner than later.

In a few weeks I will be introducing a more involved challenge to you, my online community, about how you can be more involved in this amazing journey (along with a bunch more information I've been working on with my team). But for now, could you drop $5 in my online "jar." I will be giving frequent updates on what this has done, but I'm making it a goal to bring in $1,500 this way by March 5. For now, keep it to $5, if you want to get more involved, hang tight, because I will be giving you an opportunity to do that later!

Here are some nuts-and-bolts on how this works. I've set up a Friends & Family page. That means that when you visit the link, don't click that checkbox about goods & services. Leaving that unchecked will allow you to donate $5 without any of PayPal's fees getting in the way. For now your donations are going into one of the Mace accounts and on March 5 we are going to make a withdrawal that includes all of your $5 donations plus mine, and bring it to Severn Run on March 6 as a part of the celebration we are having that day. I will be sure to tell you all about that day. I can't wait to share!

Thank you so much for participating in this crazy request! I'll see you in a few days with an update.


Cliché. That's how I feel right now. Only a brave impulse will actually get this post published. We will see if it happens, I guess.

New Years are always so weird. It's a chance for a "fresh start" but you're still living the life you were living 24 hours ago. I'm pretty cynical about the whole thing honestly. Maybe because I'm not much of a goal setter, or I've just never had high expectations for my year's achievements outside of getting decent grades in school, which I've been done with for several years now. I've only kept one New Year resolution in my whole life and it was to not add salt to my food (with the exception of my mom's cooking), which isn't really a great resolution. And now I'm back to salting things so...

My new year, new goals cynicism is such a bummer for my husband who is a goal-setting machine. He has always encouraged me to set goals each new year in several categories, but I never do, until this year. I think he almost choked on something when I told him I wanted to talk about 2016 goals the other day. He couldn't believe I was initiating that conversation. Honestly, it was weirding me out that I was initiating this conversation, and I actually avoided starting it for a long time because I still don't really want to set goals. But I'm going to...

2015 was just a shitty year for me. I don't even want to use a euphemism. I'm not sure that the internet will ever get to hear about why I hated 2015 so much, but I just did. I progressed in nothing. I re-read the only four posts I made in 2015 and I can see myself descending into the nothingness that 2015 would be. A couple of good things came out of 2015, don't get me wrong, but for the most part I was really not a fan.

The good news is that God is faithful. And he continues to whisper encouragement and growth into my life even when I'm firmly against it. And that's where this goals conversation came from. The whispers of my faithful Father. I told him several times I didn't want to do this or tell my zealous husband about it, but he disagreed with me, and ultimately he always wins.

So here are my unconventional, seemingly simple goals. They seem simple, but remember, I'm actually pretty new at this and I'm rebuilding myself this year. Each day I will do these four things: create one thing, read something, pray for one thing, clean one thing.


These goals will stay open ended and simple. Sometimes I will post a photo of my accomplishments. Sometimes I won't. Maybe this year I will create a few more blog posts. Maybe my sink will stay empty, and I'll vacuum the stairs finally. I might finish a book this year. I might be a part of a miracle. Only time will tell. Here's what I know for sure, this year will be different from last year, and it will be different than 2014, 2013, 2012, or 2011...and that's ok. In fact, it's a good thing...I think. :)

I've got a few additional self-disciplines I'm throwing in the mix this year too. But they are just tools that will help me do these four things each day. They are also pretty simple:

  • Don't come downstairs until I'm able to walk out of the house wearing what I will wear for the day (except for on slow Saturdays with Marc).
  • Only watch 3 half-hour episodes (or less) of Netflix/Hulu alone per day. Good bye binge watching.

2016 is here now. It's time to try this mess out. I'm definitely going to fail some days, but I'm giving myself the grace I would extend to anyone else this year. Here's to a new year and new things, friends.

Positive Affirmation

Did you see that Super Bowl commercial with Jeff Bridges? I sort of did, but it actually caught my attention when it reappeared on Squarespace's Twitter account. Obviously, I checked it out because it's silly. He's got this one Sleeping Tape Track called "Good Vibes" and it's hilarious. My husband and I laid in bed a few nights ago cracking up at it. Though I find this particular track of positive affirmation to be hilarious, the principals behind positive affirmation are awesome (and Biblical), and one I'm trying to practice with myself more often. I'm not quite to the out-loud part of positive affirmation, but you know, I think affirming thoughts to myself. Maybe I will get there?

Here are some positive affirmations I'm reminding myself of after a Sunday. As church communicators, we all know that Sundays are crazy, and if you aren't careful and intentional, we can walk out of every Sunday gathering deflated and discouraged. So remind yourselves of these truths with me, church communicators:  

"You are uniquely wired by god to be awesome at your call." - Tweet: You are uniquely wired by God to be awesome at your call.

"You are capable of leading, because God called you to lead others as you follow Christ." - Tweet: You are capable of leading, because God called you to lead others as you follow Christ.

"You are more loved than you know." - Tweet: You are more loved than you know.

"You are probably over-analyzing that flaw." - Tweet: You are probably over-analyzing that flaw.

"In your weakness, God is glorified, so think of it as a privilege and chance to glorify God when you need extra help along the way." - Tweet: In your weakness, God is glorified, so think of it as a privilege and chance to glorify God when you need extra help along the way.

"Through your efforts, people will come to know Jesus." - Tweet: Through your efforts, people will come to know Jesus.

Now get out there and change the world. 

How We Marketed Christmas 2014 at Severn Run in Print

UPDATE: I made some changes (2/2/15) in the results section after I realized that despite my husband's help, I still wasn't asking the right math questions. #embarrassing

We did something crazy for Christmas 2014 at Severn Run: 3 high-invite events. It felt crazy, but it’s what God was calling us to do. We hosted a concert event featuring our in-house band, The Worship Tribe, an all out Christmas Party to encourage connection between our folks, and then our traditional Christmas Eve Service to be the cherry on top of it all.

As you can imagine, marketing these things in conjunction with one another while giving the proper justice to each event in itself was a challenge. Add that to a tiny budget, and you’ve got an even bigger challenge.

Here is what worked best for us in print this season:

Ultimate Invite Packs

I absolutely love (no they did not pay me for this endorsement...I wish). They make getting high quality print work ultra cheap, and it’s fantastic. Because of this amazing and affordable resource we chose to create an invite card for each event, each one a different size (based on our emphasis: connection). I made the highest return event (our Christmas party) the largest card, and our lowest return event (Christmas Eve) the smallest in order to make them easily distinguishable for Severn Runners.

Ordering cards is easy, but the distribution strategy is where a lot of churches get hung up. In many cases, print ends up being a waste of money because we aren't sure about the best way to get these materials into the hands of potential guests. This is where your congregation is key. We have the best core at Severn Run. The folks who are committed are die hard and all about our vision and reaching our community for Jesus which makes them our greatest resource. I bet you have a great core of people too. Know that they love your church, and they are looking for easy ways to invite people to experience it with them. Use your congregation as a resource!

Ok, you probably knew that, but how do you get them to participate and participate well? To make it simpler on our crowd, we took 10 of each of these cards and bundled them together with a packet of hot chocolate, one of our handy Severn Run 2.0 (brand building campaign) stickers, and a Livestrong style bracelet with our outreach phrase “Go After” printed on it. We called these bad boys the “Ultimate Christmas Invite Packet." We put these packets in our Atrium in a little area we call the Serving Spot, and the Creative Team manned this station for 5 weeks. Each time a member of Severn Run came up for a packet, my team gave them tips on how to best distribute the cards and how to talk about each event in a compelling, connecting, relational way.

Here's why this was helpful. It kept our over-zealous from grabbing up 1000 cards that they would not be able to effectively hand out without tossing 10+ cards on a Starbucks table. It also challenged the shy to take on a manageable, but impactful amount of cards. And it gave the lazy a break from counting. We also print these cards to be handed to individuals in the form of a personal invitation, because that is the most effective way to use print materials, which is why we had Creative Team members manning the Serving Spot. Their helpful tips gave people the confidence to strike up conversations with their oldest friend and the guy who rings up their groceries.

Finally, we issued a challenge from stage. Hear me when I say this: at Severn Run, stage time is now sacred. You only get on stage if you can engage 80+% of our congregation. So whatever is said up there is really important and our folks know it. So from stage, we told them how many packets we had (250) and how quickly we wanted them out in our community (4 weeks). This put the responsibility into a lot of hands, with a deadline. I’m so pleased and proud to say that all 250 packets were gone after week 2 of packet promo. And that's only because we told people what was important, why it was important, and how to get the job done. The math tells me that potentially 7,500 cards were out in our community beckoning folks to our events.

You might be thinking to yourself, "Well that's nice and all, but that's impossible at my church." Keep in mind, we are a congregation of 1000 (1100 on a good day) and we are putting out 7 times that in invite cards...all for under $700. Scale to fit your needs, set goals that are achievable (or just over achievable + a lot of prayer) for your church, and then watch how well this works for you!

Our results*:

  • For our Christmas Concert 1133 people attended, compared to the 1046 in 2013 (8.3% increase)

  • At our Christmas Party 1049** people attended, compared to 845 in 2013*** (24.1% increase)

  • At our Christmas Eve Services 1167 people attended, compared to 1104 in 2013 (5.7% increase)

  • For some perspective: Our 2014 average attendance 1046.31, our 2013 average attendance 988.58 (5.8% increase)

Let's do a little comparison here. The average return on a direct mail campaign is anywhere between 0.5%-2%, and direct mail is much more expensive than our Ultimate Invite Pack Campaign. We saw an average increase of 11.8% across our three Christmas events from our print campaign alone. That's a return of 4.7% on our printed card campaign. For the less math inclined, for every 100 cards distributed 5 first time guests walked through our doors, compared to the 1 or 2 people per 100 invites that would have attended due to a direct mail campaign. (We did a small amount of Social Media marketing, but not enough to those outside of our audience to be measurable).

As you can see, the events that we emphasized more with the card size and spoken influence from stage, saw a greater increase than our Christmas Eve Services (which we emphasized the least of the three). All in all, it was a great Christmas season for us, and we are continuing to see the positive results of this season into 2015! Just today, I received our attendance numbers from Sunday only to see that we have had our second consecutive record breaking "normal" Sunday attendance at Severn Run! We are so excited to see God moving in our community and rewarding our financially responsible marketing strategies. He can work in your communities too as you do the best you can with the resources you have!

What are some affordable and effective print campaigns that you have done? Do you have anything in mind for marketing Easter 2015? Leave a comment and let's see if we can all bounce some ideas off of one another!

*Thanks to my awesome husband, Marc Mace, for all the math help. Thanks to him these numbers are mathematically sound.

**This number is a low estimate. Many folks never made it to the Worship Center for the abbreviated service and only participated in party activities. I later found out we only tracked attendance in the Worship Center which resulted in this low number.

***For our Christmas party week, the corresponding week in 2013 was a typical Sunday. No special events were promoted.

Easter Inspired Spotify Playlist

How is your Easter planning going? We are just getting started at Severn Run, and I already feel behind. Isn't that crazy? I mean, it's January! I'm not quite used to the church world calendar even though this will be my third Easter. I'll get there eventually, right?

Anyway, I decided for this year that I would make a playlist with artful, Easter inspired music to help our Creative Team come up with amazing ideas. Turns out, it's pretty short, so I thought I would ask you for help!

Well, I find that music, though I know very little about it technically, really influences how I create. I bet it does for you as well, even if you haven't realized it yet. We are all different, so we will all be inspired by different sounds, lyrics, and tempos. Finding a few artists who draw out your best creativity while you listen really does improve those "buckle down and get serious" times.

Here's the link: Easter Inspire
It's an open playlist which means you can add to it, so please do! And then you can also use it as you are working on your Easter plans to be inspired. While you're at it, follow me on Spotify and let us know if you have any "Get the creative juices flowing" playlists to share. Leave a link in the comments here so others can find it too! I will continue to build more intentional playlists for sharing as well.

Come back next week for some marketing inspiration!


So I took an unannounced break over Christmas and New Year. It was nice and lazy! Once that little sabbatical was done, I jumped into my role at The Church at Severn Run on a FULL TIME basis! Yay!

I finished up my first week on Friday, and I'm now moving in to my second week as a full-timer. Having 40 hours each week to do my job at Severn Run was amazing last week! The unforeseen consequence of this is that I have to refigure my writing strategy. I don't have any content built up to schedule out quite yet either. So that's why I've been silent. Sorry!

That being said, blogging is a huge challenge for me, but I will keep doing it. And I will get better. In the mean time I wanted to follow up on my promise to be real and vulnerable to my readers by checking in and posting this ill thought out, un-proofread, late night post. So since I'm being real, and it's still early enough to claim "New Year" posts as ok, here are some ways you can pray for me in 2015:

  • Pray for this blog. I will rationalize quitting it as life gets busy. I'm still learning that my experiences have value. It's pretty easy for me to believe that I have nothing real to add to the world. Pray against that lie in my life.
  • Pray for my self disciplines this year. I'm attempting my reading goals again. I've established a place in my home for reading, praying, and quiet time (see photo) and I need to use it. It's crazy to me how much harder the mental/spiritual disciplines are than the physical ones were last year.
  • Pray for my work/life/freelance balance. I need to be more intentional in relationships this year.

How can I pray for you? What are you hoping to accomplish or improve in this year? Leave me a comment and I will take it to my new praying chair!

Here's to an awesome 2015!

Watch Yourself, Millennial! Ways You Accidentally Offend: Part 3

If you missed Parts 1 & 2, be sure to check them out here and here!

So we've already talked about two big ways we accidentally offend others, and the third one is a little bit different:


This one is unavoidable, and it's not actually your fault. This part comes from a bit of unexpected personal experience, and I'm sure you will run in to it as well on your journey. I hope this post will at least make you more prepared for it.

The truth is, people don't like being led by others who are younger than they are, even worse if you are significantly younger than they are! I get asked at least once a week at Severn Run how old I am. Once I respond (and I do, because I'm not ashamed!), more often than not I hear "Wow! I have kids your age!" Here's a response you are welcome to steal if you often hear this as well: "Wow! So does my mom/dad!" This response has been wildly successful for me and here's why:

Generally, people tell you that they have kids your age as a way to either 1) put themselves down for their own age and accomplishments, or 2) give themselves permission to treat you like one of their children instead of as a leader. I've noticed my lighthearted response has been able to snuff out both of those underlying intentions quickly and with a laugh, which is always a good thing. It also removes your age as your defining factor and provides a little humanness to you.

Unfortunately, not all of these types of situations can be solved with such a lighthearted response. So far, I've only had one really bad incident of offending someone with my twenty-something leadership, and it was really tough! It happened on a Sunday, during services, and ended up with me being completely chewed out by the person that I offended right in the middle of our very populated atrium. Let me tell you this, I'm from the deep south, and I really take respecting folks seriously because, growing up, if I didn't, I was in deep, deep trouble. I'm so thankful for this ingrained character trait of mine (thanks mom & dad!) and honestly, I go over the top to respect those I lead who are older than me (and younger too). So when all of a sudden I thought I had disrespected someone, it tore me up quite a bit. I didn't sleep well that night because I was replaying every single bit of my interaction with this person over and over again trying to figure out where it was that I had crossed the line, and I just couldn't find it. I went to work the next morning, and the story of my public berating had gotten to my Executive Pastor. He called me to his office and we went over the entire situation a few times. By the time we were done, he assured me that he was taking care of this situation, and for me to not worry about it, oh and, "Welcome to ministry..."

We will all face people who are offended by our leadership because of our age. As I said earlier, this isn't our issue, but we do need to make sure that you are leading well to remain confident in this fact. In order to do this, first get yourself a good, professional mentor. Allow this person to call out the good and bad in your leadership situations, and take their advice to heart. Second, make sure that you are always following Jesus. If you are wholeheartedly seeking Jesus in your leadership you will be able to confidently look at anyone, any age and say "Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ." - 1 Corinthians 11:1

Back to my story, two weeks later I found myself in a meeting with the individual I had offended, my Executive Pastor, and another co-worker...and it was suuuuper awkward. My EP and my co-worker knew (and still know) that I'm seeking Christ in my leadership, so after a lot of talking, apologizing, and explaining it was really easy for my EP to call the situation as it was...a problem of age. This isn't a sunshine and rainbows story — from what I know, this individual quit their ministry and still hasn't rejoined because of my leadership — but I am still leading confidently because this is not an issue of my heart. I still pray for this person regularly, and I still go over the top to show respect to the people in our congregation, but I also stick behind my leadership decisions confidently, even though I'm only 25.

Another thing you should take away from my story is that you should be leading in an environment and under leaders who love and respect your leadership no matter how young you are. And be sure to remember that scripture backs you up, "But it is the spirit in man (or lady), the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right." - Job 32:8-9 (emphasis added); "Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity." - 1 Timothy 4:12. This problem is as old as time itself, so don't take it personally when someone (inevitably) disrespects your leadership because of your age.

Keep following Jesus. Keep moving forward. Keep leading. The church needs you. And one day when you are one of the old farts in the world, you'll remember what it was like to be a disrespected young leader sometimes, and your choice to instead respect young leaders will bless them (and you) immensely.

Watch Yourself, Millennial! Ways You Accidentally Offend: Part 2

If you missed Part 1, be sure to check it out here.


This one goes back to growing up along side the internet. Seriously, the Internet and I went through our toddler phase, and even awkward adolescence together (Xanga anyone?). It's no wonder we are so quick to turn to the Internet to solve all of our problems and answer our questions. And I have to admit, I am an awesome Googler. I have legitimately impressed some of my older co-workers with my lightning, fast and uber-efficient search engine skills. This super-power really makes me feel like I can find the answers to almost anything quickly. Add that on top of my disdain for loitering and inefficiency, and this can make me a total jerk at times. When there is a problem that needs to be solved, or an answer that needs to be found, I want to go right around the human experience in front of me and jump to the searchable experiences online.

What I've learned is that even though there is a lot of information on the Internet, it is still missing some things. More than that, sometimes it's just nicer to hear a story or experience out of the mouth of someone in front of you than jumping to Google. And I've got another theory that God works more through your human interactions, where you choose to love well through listening, than he does through your keystrokes in a search query. You never know how the Holy Spirit will work through an interaction that you choose to have instead of skipping out on it and choosing to be a know-it-all. Let someone else's experience speak, if it doesn't change you, it may change them.

Here's what I mean by that: You never know when that person was last offered the opportunity to add their own personal value to a situation. I think we tend to forget in the day-to-day at times that even though we are communicators and marketers, our number one call is to minister to others in our community. Sometimes that means ministering to others who offer us very little to no value. People are lonely. It's an epidemic that Satan himself created I'm sure. If God is love and love is relationship, that means that loneliness is a side-effect of God's absence. Any time we can offer someone the connection and relationship of our listening ears, we win for Heaven. Even if that means spending half an hour to find a solution to something we already know or could have taken 5 minutes to learn. Honestly, even if they are telling you that they loved Chris Hemsworth as Captain America and want to tell you all about it (even though you know it's actually Chris Evans as the Cap), you should just let them, because maybe you are the only person they are going to meaningfully connect with that week. And hey, you can find a loving way to share that it is actually Mr. Evans who plays Captain America, then you've both "discovered" something useful.

So, next time you are tempted to pull up "Let Me Google That For You," set it aside and practice your listening skills. Then meaningfully respond. Slow down for a second and love that person well!

Read Part 3 of this conversation!


Watch Yourself, Millennial! Ways You Accidentally Offend: Part 1

My generation is...misunderstood. Actually, I don't understand us all the way. We are a weird breed. We grew up as the internet was beginning to take over, which is a new thing for this world. Then there was social media, and now smart phones. We've become accustomed to wearing our hearts on our digital sleeves, but we are pretty darn oblivious to a lot of things. Here are a few of the things I have learned to avoid by being a Millennial in leadership, and I hope they help you out too.

Photo by

Photo by


I'm so guilty of this, ask my husband. I pick up my phone the second I'm bored, and I get bored fast. I quickly realized that my habit of boredom-induced phone usage was even creeping into my conversations with people. That's not good. I would walk away from a conversation that ended abruptly only to realize I had gotten my phone out during the conversation, and then I would feel like such a turd. Most of the time I would pull it out innocently, you know, to google a fact, to make note of something to remember, something like that, but they didn't know that. I just looked like a total jerk. So our conversation ends quickly. Potential ministry to that person is lost. Then there have been other times where I would just get bored (usually in a group conversation) and start checking Facebook or Twitter. I was listening, don't get me wrong, I was just...multi-tasking.

I've made a serious conscious effort to avoid even touching my phone when I'm talking with someone now. If they approach me when my phone is in hand, I immediately try to set it down, or stick it in my pocket. If it's not in my hands, it's less tempting to check. Now I only pull out my phone in a conversation if it directly benefits the person I am talking to, and when I do, I explain why I'm pulling it out. For instance, sometimes we are setting up a meeting time and I want to add it to my calendar (if I don't I will forget about it), I explain to them why I'm pulling out my phone when I do. Once I explain, they usually give me a second to get everything saved, and then we continue our conversation and my phone goes back on the desk face-down or into my pocket.

This habit is so important to master because this behavior says so much about how you value the person you are chatting with. We tend to downplay our phones as a distraction because everyone does it, but we need to see that giving a person our undivided attention is a way that we can love a person well.

Read Parts 2 and 3 of this post!

Woah! Thanks!

So it's been a full week (whew!) since I launched my blog here publicly, and what a fun ride so far! I wanted to take a time out and say "THANK YOU!" for all of the amazing feedback I've received so far. It's been really humbling to see where you guys and girls are, and how my adventures tie in to yours.

If you are new here! Welcome! I hope you like the little bits I have so far, and that you can embrace my web construction in exchange for some fun content. I'd love to hear what you would like to read more about!

Here's the being honest and vulnerable part of the blog I was talking about coming to you now... So I've got to build more content. My awesome friend, Alane Pearce (check her out at offered me an awesome content generator so I'm going to get busy using that over the Thanksgiving Holiday. Oh and I'll be doing a lot of praying over it too. I'm genuinely excited to see where this thing goes in the future, as well as my consulting venture. Thank you for the outpouring of support (already) and I'm looking forward to sharing more!

Here are some posts I'm hoping to do soon, vote for the one you want to see first or submit your own idea:

Have an awesome Thanksgiving Holiday and I will see you back here soon!

Passion vs Calling

Passion burns out and quits after a while. Calling keeps going after the fire burns out. Calling finds more fuel for the fire and keeps pushing when passion runs out.
— John B. Smith

Sometimes my Executive Pastor and I have deep conversations. Thanks for the truth bomb, friend.

PS - that is his real name.