The How and Why of Blogging

“Human creativity is derivative and reflective, working within the bounds of what God has formed,” writes Os Guinness. As. C.S. Lewis put it, “an author should never conceive of himself as bringing into existence beauty or wisdom which did not exist before, but simply and solely as trying to embody in terms of his own art some reflection of that eternal Beauty and Wisdom.” Because of the Fall, we do not have a clear glimpse of Beauty or Wisdom; we see only a poor reflection. But because of Christ’s redemption, the arts can be restored. (How Now Shall We Live, Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, 1999)

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I have not always considered myself an artist, nor, for that matter, a writer.

In 2008, I began a family blog to chronicle the life of our first child, Emily, in such a way that relatives in neighboring states could observe her growth and development. That blog consisted primarily of captioned pictures and a smidgen of video clips. Later, in August of 2010, I began writing a ministry blog: Raise the Risk. Fairly quickly I came to love the art and craft of writing. I began reading other more popular bloggers and learned more about this creative outlet I am called to.

In 2011, I decided that writing two blogs was too much. I wanted to graft my family blog and ministry blog together. I also wanted the freedom to write about all aspects of my life; not only the ones that involved everyday risks. As a result of that decision, This Temporary Home was born. I now consider this blogging home a place where I can capture the days and express my thoughts through the lens of  a Christian worldview. It is my way of embracing everyday beauty.

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Interested in starting a blog of your own? There is no one way, however, I would love for you to learn from my past experiences in blogging and shorten your learning curve a bit.

  1. I suggest starting with your own website versus a Blogger or WordPress blog. I have used all three and would forgo the headache of transitioning from one to a dot com. To do this you need to purchase a domain name and secure a server. BlueHost is the server that I use. A detailed description of how to go about this can be found here on Amy Lynn Andrews’ helpful website for all things technical on blogging. As you decide on your domain name (web address) the easiest thing to do is use your name as a dot com. For example: www.brookecooney.com. I did not choose this for various reasons, however, in retrospect this may have been a better option. Using your name gives you the flexibility of changing your blog’s name without purchasing another domain.
  2. Next, begin writing. Once you establish a regular writing schedule, you will discover the theme connecting your posts together. You may begin a food blog only to discover you continuously write about the guests you have over for dinner! Once you develop your writing style, and the theme woven into it, then you can begin working on your branding. More about that next.  The most important element of writing a blog is consistency in posting. The more you write, the better you will become.
  3. Branding. By this I am referring to the web design and overarching message of your posts. These YouTube vlogs may be helpful in pursuing this idea further. I hired someone to design the look of my blog. I have no regrets for doing so. For a very reasonable cost, and much less anxiety on my part, a beautiful space was created for me to call my writing home. I would suggest that you look at your favorite blogs and websites and determine what exactly draws you to the look of those blogs. The look draws you, but the content is what makes people return again and again.
  4. Next, once you have blogged for a year, I would highly recommend converting your blog into a book. The company that I use each year is the Cutest Blog on the Block. These books are our family’s “scrap book” and also make for great gifts!
  5. One last piece of advice. When writing your blog and pursuing a reader base, always write with your audience in mind. In other words, try to tie in how the lessons you learn can impact your readers lives.

If you sense the Holy Spirit calling you to pursue blogging, be it writing, photography, cooking, or a creative how-to website, then I hope that the above suggestions will be of benefit to you. May you blog for His glory and for beauty!

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*Photography by Ron.

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To Kneel or to Break

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On Christmas Eve, I bent over to pick up Joshua and the spasm of pain in my already troubled lower back quickly communicated a costly mistake…I had bent when I should have kneeled.

Health professionals, or anyone with back pain, confess that kneeling protects the back by transferring the stress of weight to the legs. However, most people bend at the hips the moment they drop something. Bending is the easier action. Easier isn’t always better…bending causes more strain to the spine and may result in injury. Because kneeling is not our first reaction, more discipline and resolve are needed to use this better practice.

If we do not kneel we risk brokenness of body. Similarly, if we face the mishaps, temptations, and opportunities of today with a bent on our own merit and strength mentality, we succumb to brokenness of spirit.

Why should our backs endure that which was intended for the knees to sustain?

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather healed. ~Hebrews 12:12-13

When the mess is made, the expectation unmet, the diagnosis rendered, relationships severed, or the moment of opportunity knocks, will we bend with all our might or bow our knees in humble prayer?

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit  in your inner being, so that…you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ~Ephesians 3:14-16, 19 (emphasis mine)

Kneel and be filled… bend and break. The choice is ours.

Today and everyday this week, why not kneel to retrieve and then kneel your heart in prayer? Obedience begets obedience and discipline begets discipline. May 2013 be marked by the discipline of prayer over self-powered attempts, and kneeling rather than back-breaking grasps.

For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost. ~Luke 19:10

And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he (Jesus) departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. ~Mark 1:35

And going a little further, he fell on the ground and prayed…~ Mark 14:35 (emphasis mine)

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Instruments of the King


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Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. ~Romas 6:13

As strings glided upon strings and strokes of keys resounded, our Father was praised and His Body edified.

Lifeless wood emits sound only as skilled as the hands that craft the instrument and string its cords. So too is a life.

I once was dead in my sin; absolutely blind to the God of the universe. His spoken word, spilled blood, and resurrected Son brought the newness of life that I walk in.

Paul instructs us to present ourselves to God as instruments of righteousness. Sunday evening I was soul-blessed by a Christmas concert of the Annie Moses band. I heard what instruments yielded in the hands of skilled artists produce. Similarly are the lives of men orchestrated by our righteous, holy God.

Music such as I heard last night takes hours and hours of practice to produce, so too a righteous life. Discipline begets discipline and holy obedience in turn a holy life. Patterns and practices of holiness are the result of one choice upon another to obey Christ with faith that we will be fully rewarded. Further, faith that His ways are truly best.

This created instrument has been used for both righteousness and unrighteousness. When my last note is played and I am laid in an earthen case, it will be the symphony of His story that will play on. May this instrument present herself for righteousness as the skilled hand of the Creator plays out His grand story.

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Peppermint Treats of the Season

The peppermint tastes of the season are many this year. If you haven’t tried the following, then you are missing out:

  • Mint MM’s
  • McDonald’s Peppermint Mocha
  • Starbucks Peppermint Hot Chocolate
  • Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake from Chick Fila
  • Peppermint Bark Squares from Ghirardelli

These temporary taste bud teasers are being savored at our house this season… and if I am not careful will be the cause of holiday weight gain on my part!

This isn’t earth shattering, life-changing news at This Temporary Home, but I cannot wait to tell you tomorrow about my latest read. I was afforded the wonderful opportunity of two hours uninterrupted reading at Starbucks last night by my sweet husband. Thanks to Ron, we will have plenty to discuss tomorrow afternoon on What I Am Reading Wednesday. See you then…but first go grab a peppermint treat. 🙂

What are your favorite peppermint treats and recipes?

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For When You Don’t Want to Trim the Tree

I lay on my unmade bed, “I don’t really want to decorate this house. I have the nativity up, isn’t that enough?”

Decorations were strewn all over the bedroom and living room and I was strewn on the bed in desperate need of a mental and physical break.

Wasn’t I the woman who had all her Christmas presents purchased before Thanksgiving for a few years in a row? Wasn’t I the one who occasionally decorated for Christmas prior to leaving for Thanksgiving celebrations with family in Alabama? My how things had changed.

Then I recalled Emily’s quip, “The tree looks beautiful mama!” This after I had only plugged the lights in! Then it came to me: I am no longer decorating for myself; I am decorating the house for the kids now.

I lay there a little while longer and let this reality set in. Even decorating the house for Christmas has taken on a selfless twist with the dawning of parenthood. Ashamedly, this was novel news to me. I always thought my mom decorated because she loved Christmas, but maybe it is always for the ones she loves?

After brainstorming what remained of the decorations, I began my quest to decorate the house in such a way that the kids and Ron would happily reflect upon in years to come. The new flannel Christmas sheets hit the mattress, the second nativity the dresser, garland and ornaments for the chandler, and the finishing ornaments on the tree.

Truly, Christmas was never about the presents nor the decorations it’s always been about man’s sinful heart which needed to be redeemed by the sinless Messiah.

The decorations in our home are an outward reminder and a marker to share the story of redemption. The story that all started when the Son forfeited Heaven to lay down in a bed of hay and start our journey Home.

 *A special thanks to the wonderful Neely Farms. We look forward to our traditional after Thanksgiving Day visit every year.

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What I Am Reading Wednesday: The Harbinger

The World Trade Center Sphere in Battery Park

Freedom Tower

 The Empire State Building

The bricks have fallen,

But we will rebuild with hewn stone;

The sycamores have been cut down,

But we will plant cedars in their place.

~Isaiah 9:10

“The prophecy, in its context, concerned ancient Israel. But now, as a sign, it concerns America.”

“How?”

“It is the sign of a nation that once knew God but then fell away, a sign that America is now the nation in danger of judgment…and now given warning and the call to return.”

“So it was originally given to Israel, but now it’s given as a sign to America?”

“Yes. So if that same prophetic message, that same warning of judgment, once given in Israel’s last days, should now manifest itself in America, it will be a sign–a sign that America is now the nation that once knew God but then fell away and is now in danger of judgment and now given warning and a calling to return.”

“So if that word should be manifested in America, it becomes a harbinger of America’s future?”

“A harbinger,” he answered, “and more than one.”

~The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future by Jonathan Cahn

Grab your copy and join the discussion next week on What I Am Reading Wednesday. I am off to read the second half of this book…

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Quietly Working

We are well here at This Temporary Home. It has been a very fast paced week with our newest edition. I continue processing it all so that whatever the Lord prompts me to write might be shared with you.

This week will be another quiet week on the blog as Ron and I have a writing deadline. We are each writing two chapters for a book that will be published in 2013. It is our very first book project and we are truly honored that Dr. Jay Strack would ask us to be a part of this collaborative book for teens.

Please pray for Ron and I as we finalize our chapters. Pray that we would write with God’s wisdom and for such a time as this to speak to the hearts of the teenagers and youth workers that this resource will find its way to.

I look forward to returning to my schedule of posting next week. Thank you so much for your prayers for our fostering and writing. God is working.

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Reflections on Mission

Reflections Day 1

Consumerism in the form of western food chains met my eyes first. The dirty, crowded streets of this capitol city in  Tegucigalpa are not unlike that of most other capitol cities in the world…at first glance.

Driving through the city to AFE, we first passed a shopping mall with appearances equal to that of any in my own home state of Florida. But upon further driving I quickly saw why this is a third world country.

House upon house on this mountainous land are stacked one upon the other and side by side. The windowless houses are made of crumbling bricks and  gray stone with the occasional brightly painted dwellings rising to the surface in bright blues, oranges, and yellows.

House upon house, row upon row of crumbling dwellings turn into cardboard shelters built upon resourceful foundations of tires piled five high to protect against erosive rainy seasons.

Beautifully dirty, brown skinned children walk home from school, slide down one-rail banisters into busy streets. Roads filled with the constant sounds of beeping horns vying for taxi customers and right of ways primarily void of stop signs and traffic lights.

As we near AFE’s school campus, the smell of trash wafts through the air. I am reminded  how this woman was once a girl who avoided Saturday’s trip to the land fields most weekends has now grown into a woman purposely seeking out the poorest of the poor in the trash dump of Tegucigalpa, Honduras.

In the foe leather seats of the school bus, I remember that missions is God’s love poured on the saved inviting them, commanding them, to serve His created people and make disciples of all nations. God has invited me into His glorious work among a loved people whose outward poverty and physical uncleanliness signify the filthy rags of righteousness I offer Him.

AFE, Amor Fe y Esperanza, translates to Love, Faith, and Hope, and is the ministry we are partnering with through Lakeland based Student Ministry Essentials. AFE works strictly with the people of Teguicigalpla that live and work on the trash dump.

We were given a tour by one AFE employee, Adam. He told us of the daycare/preschool program for the babies of workers who would otherwise join thier parents’ in a days work on the trash dump if it were not for this program at AFE.

Each day 14 brown-skinned, brown-eyed toddlers are brought to AFE for bathtime, two meals, and two snacks. They are taught skills commenserate with their learning leavels and are loved on with the hands and hearts of God’s servants at AFE.

Next, Adam invites us to go into the building and look at the school rooms and see the children. It is nap time and the room is dark.

Approaching those sleeping or resting children their cautious brown eyes stare out of railed cribs; some stacked two cribs high. I instantly want to touch them with the love God has given me for children. I desire to speak a blessing over them and extend the love that is theirs for the taking.

I smile and wave as I follow team members doing the same. I slip my camera away as some moments are to be soaked and simply remembered. These are God’s children wordlessly communicating why we have come.

I lay my right hand on a sleeping boy who reminds me of my own precious son miles away and pray a blessing over him. As I turn to look again at a timid little boy intently watching our white-skinned team invade his haven, I see a male teammate trying to keep the puddles in his eyes from getting the better part of him.

We step back outside into the sonlight and more of our team file out. Jesus loves the little children and uses them to speak to His beloved bride and we await more words from Him this week as we serve.

I want to leave you with some prayer requests for the ministry of AFE. In our tour of the school challenges were conveyed so as to paint a picture of the culture and everyday lives of the students within their ministry. Adam did not mention any of these specifically to pray for; this is what I walked away with. Please take a few moments to pray over these today.

1. Pray for the retention of male students. In a culture where males are pressured to work as early as possible and start families of their own. The delayed gratification of a greater return with a completed education is marginalized.
2. Pray for the direction of the school that they may continue to know and do the will of God with the resources He has blessed them with.
3. Pray for workers; specifically for medical partnerships in the community to address the many needs of the students and their families.

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Favorite Posts of the Week

This week I discovered wonderful blog posts for Christian women on topics that we are usually hesitant to talk about. These edifying posts are shared in hopes that if you are struggling with these topics, have struggled, or know someone who is, you can find hope and direction. Additionally, since these are favorites, I am linking up with the wonderfully sweet Rachel over at Finding Joy.

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1. I  am constantly second guessing what I am wearing. Do you ever wonder if what you are wearing is appropriate? Truth hits the spot, so this might be helpful: Dressing to Attract via

2. The author of the post above also wrote The Hot Mom Syndrome which was so insightful and honest. With billboards, movies, and society telling women a message quite contrary to Christ’s this is an encouraging counter-post from:


 

 

 

 

3. Mary DeMuth’s blog is one that I read regularly. She posted A Story for Those Thinking About Leaving Their Marriage. Ron returned from a youth pastor’s conference this week and was challenged by Josh McDowell’s presentation about reaching and losing this present generation for Christ. Josh emphasized that this generation looks at pastors and deacons who leave their marriages and then surmise that God’s Truth isn’t any truth at all because it doesn’t work. I was so thankful for Mary’s story that encourages married couples to show that the Truth works. Perhaps you need this story as a personal encouragement today?

4. On quiet days, I need this…Give Yourself Grace via

Finding Joy

5. Where Do Introverts Fit Into the Church? This one is for both men and women via

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I hope that you find these as interesting and insightful as I did. Blessings on this Friday!

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A Look at the Lenten Season

Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! ~John 1:29

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As we prepare our home for foster children I keep reminding myself that this will only be temporary. Yes, we hope that one of the children will become our forever child. However, going into this I need to remind myself that that may not happen soon, nor honestly, even at all.

Jesus too knew that his time on this earth was temporary. He reminded Pilate that His kingdom was not of this world (John 18-32-34). To his disciples, “a little while and you will see me no longer” (John 16:16).

Jesus came on a temporary basis so that he could prepare an eternal home for us in heaven.

He came to crush his heel on the serpent’s head. He came to redeem us by paying the death penalty for our sins.

What is Lent?

Lent-among Christians originally the period of prebaptismal preparation, later of public penance. Finally it became a forty-day devotional preparation for Easter traditionally based on Jesus’ wilderness fast:

And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him. Mark 1:13

~Harper’s Bible Dictionary

Traditionally, the observance of Lent calls for a 40 day fast from some thing or food of your choosing. Yet the overriding message of Lent is repentance that leads us to the cross of Christ.

This is what the LORD says, “Turn to me now, while there is time. Give me your hearts. Come with fasting, weeping, and mourning. Don’t tear your clothing in your grief, but tear your hearts instead.” Return to the LORD your GOD, for he is merciful and compassionate, slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love. He is eager to relent and not punish. Who knows? Perhaps he will give you a reprieve, sending you a blessing instead of this curse. Perhaps you will be able to offer grain and wine to the LORD your God as before.  ~Joel 2:12-14

Today as we embark on the season of Lent that will lead us to Good Friday and Resurrection Sunday, may we spend some time in repentance. Confessing our sins before Jesus and asking Him to give us a heart of righteousness.

Perhaps you will choose a food to abstain from during this period leading to Easter Sunday. Each time the cravings overtake us we can use this to remind us that heaven is our real home, Christ is the giver and sustainer of life, and remind us of our utter dependence upon the Lord.

Lenten Resources:

Ways to Intentionally Celebrate Lent and Easter as a Family by Lindsay at Passionate Homemaking.

Uprooted for Good  by Danice at Beautifully Rooted.

How to Prepare a Family for Lent by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience.

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