Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Read My Writing: O Little Blog on our Blogroll

Not trying to be mysterious. Just elusive. My holiday vacation has started and I am putting our fun and inspiring series, "Read My Writing," on hold until the New Year. I hope you all are OK with that.

In the meantime, please read each other's writing. And wish one of our dear bloggers a "Merry Christmas" while you are on their site. We all love it when we know someone has read our writing.

My love and friendship to you as you serve all over the globe. Joy to the World!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Read My Writing: Compelled to Respond

When we read courageous pieces our hearts are stirred. Sometimes we are compelled to respond. This woman was. So our featured piece is her response to our post last week.

Prayer for Those Faraway

by Grace @ Sacred Space

I've been reading blogs this morning from sisters around the world that I am virtually connected to through Women of the Harvest . Real women with messy lives living in challenging circumstances. Many of us glamorize missionaries, or think that they are somehow more spiritual than the rest of us, that they've been given extra measures of strength to live in difficult circumstances. Not true. I so admire these women and families who have followed the Shepherd to the field where He leads them. And, I pray that all of us will listen to the leading of the Shepherd in our own lives and that during this Christmas season our feet will bring good news of peace to a broken, fearful world.

"Dear Jesus, I abide with you this morning for my sisters around the world who have left homes, family, familiarity and comfort to take your message of salvation to your children. It's December Lord, and good or bad, we all have expectations of what this month should bring.

I pray for those far from families they love and long to be with, comfort them Dear Comforter. Give them joy like Peter knew...beyond expression!

I pray for those who are lonely and disillusioned, strengthen them Lord. with the strength you gave David when he was in a foreign land feeling so alone.

I pray for those whose marriages are being tested beyond what they think they can handle due to internal and external pressures inherent in marriage, but exacerbated in foreign cultures; give them patience and endurance as they hope in Your ability to give them wisdom and discernment.

I pray for mommies who are trying to love, discipline and educate their children. That is a challenge in 'normal' life, but even greater on different soil.

Give us all sensitive ears to your still, quiet voice as You guide us each moment to the path of life, the path of peace, the path of restoration every moment. Bless my precious sisters, Your chosen daughters, abundantly this Christmas Lord. Lift their heads to You and not to people near or far that they feel could meet some need they have. Remind them of Your lavish love, Your deep delight in them, and let them hear Your voice singing over them, rejoicing that they are Yours. Hold them close. In Your tender mercy, amen."


Thank you, Grace. I love when the Spirit moves. Amen. [I couldn't help noticing that your prayer post was after a two month pause in your blogging--love that!]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Read My Writing: Courage

"What makes a King out of a slave? Courage.
What makes the flag on the mast to wave? Courage."

What makes you write posts that speak of things you've longed to say? Courage.

A WOTH Shout-out for those who bravely bared their souls:
  • @Sparrow Tracks: The toll ministry/church has taken on her soul in "slow burn"
  • Laura @ Laura in Lisbon: She muses about her mixed-up cross-cultural life in "Confusion..."
Our featured post:

shock, outraged and bitterly disappointed...

Not long after Stella played the piano while Ticha sang "I Surrender All," a small church in Kentucky has voted to ban interracial couple from membership.

The statement said all people are welcome to attend the church, but that the congregation would not receive interracial couples as members, "nor will they be used in worship services" and other church functions, according to a copy supplied to the Herald-Leader by a church member.

Seriously?! This is 2011 for goodness sake.

How is it possible for Christians to act this way?

Stella's father had this to say about the decision of the church:

"It sure ain't Christian it ain't nothing but the old devil working"

Tom and I married on December 13, 1981.

We faced this type of opposition back then. Twenty nine years ago we went shopping at a mall in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. A young blonde salesgirl asked Tom if she could help him with a pair of shoes. After getting him settled she asked if she could help me as I wandered around looking for another pair for Tom to try on. When I said "that's okay... we're together" she went into the stockroom and didn't come back out.

We were refused service at a restaurant in Missouri. In Kansas, back in 1985, when our first child was stillborn someone asked our pastor if it was because we were being punished by God for being a biracial couple. We moved to California in 1988 and left all of that behind. There we found more couples like us and our children grew up feeling they were part of a normal typical family.

Spencer and Nathan

When our oldest, on the right, was asked at age 5 by a neighborhood kid why his mom was black he quickly answered "because God made her that way!"

I am shocked by this church's stance. Outraged. Bitterly disappointed. Maybe these people have not read their Bibles. Maybe they don't know that Moses was married to a Cushite (Ethiopian)? Surely their Bibles include the book of Numbers. Maybe they just haven't read chapter twelve?

My prayer is that Stella and Ticha can find a more loving congregation to be a part of. I pray that they know that not all Christians think this way. I pray that they will have a long and loving relationship and that this bigotry does not stand in the way of that. And I pray that when they are counting down the days until their 30th anniversary this will be just a dim memory.

Thanks, Alida, for telling us more about your courageous life in the face of prejudice. Each specific incident, written simply and straightforward, spoke strongly to your readers. You are not alone in your outrage. As a follow-up to the story of the couple in Kentucky, the church reversed their decision...it looks like when we have the courage to speak up, it can actually turn the tide.

And Happy 30th Anniversary, Alida!

Are you all enjoying reading one another's lives per blog posts? I am. Not sure what next week will hold, that depends on what you write...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Read My Writing: Topical Points of View

One subject, many points of view. I went out to the blogroll and found a plethora of Thanksgiving posts. Many of you have even moved on to Christmas, leaving all things orange and brown in the dust. But we will pause with thanksgiving today and read what you have to say.

I've included two excerpts that I found interesting from a cross-cultural standpoint: one tells of making a traditional Thanksgiving dish in another country, the other tells what it is like being from another country in the midst of an American holiday.

A WOTH Shout-Out to those of you who wrote topically this past week about Thanksgiving:
Happy Thanksgiving! As you wake up this morning, I will be putting the finishing touches on my part of our Thanksgiving feast. We are celebrating in the evening as it is just a normal workday here in Turkana. Here is a small wordy glimpse into how I have to cook...my job is to fix the green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, my grandma's apple salad and to bring the cranberry sauce.

...The sweet potato casserole brings its own challenges. We do sometimes find sweet potatoes here in the small shops in Lodwar. I found some yesterday. The thing is, they are white on the inside not orange. One Thanksgiving two of my teammates decided that they wanted orange sweet potatoes so they used food coloring. At one point we had bright pink mashed sweet potatoes and we were all rolling on the floor in stitches! They did eventually get them to be orangish. This year I found a recipe that uses both carrots and sweet potatoes. So, I am hoping the orange carrots will help get the color right. This recipe calls for 1 cup of sour cream. You can't just run out to the store and get sour cream here. So, I use a canned cream and mix it with 2 Tbs of vinegar to make it sour. [for the rest of her yummy menu "Turkana-style," click here.]

Dear Americans,

I have to admit that I feel ambivalent about your Thanksgiving.

Giving thanks is important, I acknowledge that and I practise it every day. And I appreciate that your holiday gives us a 3 1/2 day weekend at CAJ — a welcome break from school and work. But it is your celebration. Not mine. It is full of things that you grew up knowing, food and fellowship that you will always associate with good times.

Where I grew up, this time of year was associated with the increasing heat of the days and nights. With exams, tests and assignment and the imminent end of the school year. With end of year parties. With the anticipation of a long summer break. The cricket season was heating up and the school year winding down.

But never did I associate the end of November with all things orange and brown. Never did I think about turkey or pumpkin pie. Never had I even wondered what holiday Americans celebrated at this time of year, before I came to Japan. We Australians have no equivalent to your Thanksgiving. Our history is very different to yours in so many ways...Your Aussie friend, Wendy. [for the complete post, click here]


Thank you, Lynn and Wendy! Here's what stood out from your posts: the visual of pink potatoes (Lynn) and a point of view I had never considered and the courage to write it (Wendy). To the rest of our writers, here's my prompt for you: Is there something that would take a bit of courage to write about, something that you've been wanting to get off your chest, something that you've been wondering if you are alone in the way you feel? Then I challenge you to "do a Wendy" and write it out...I'll come looking for it this week :).

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Read My Writing: Have a Banana

Last week I encouraged the use of dialogue in your blog post. Here are 3 who found the quotation mark key on their computer and put it to use to convey a bit of their musings. For those of you who would like to use dialogue but need a tutorial, these two past posts might be helpful in writing and punctuating dialogue correctly (thanks Robin for asking!).

A “Well-Done!” WOTH shout-out goes to:

The next featured blog post comes from Missy @ Till All Have Heard. She has just returned to Papua New Guinea from home assignment. I’m sure most of you can commiserate with her question: what's for dinner? And those of you who live in remote or underdeveloped regions of the world know the answer is more than just looking in the pantry for a few food items; it is an all-day affair.

Pay attention to how she uses detail to aid in telling her story of preparing meals in another culture: price of items, utensils used, time, distance, food items. It's what adds interest and draws in the reader. She had me at the $15 chicken.

I think this would be a great piece to add to your support newsletter or in a church/agency communication. All can relate because eating is universal; fixing dinner, a necessity.

What’s for Dinner?

By Missy @ Till All Have Heard

There is a bit of heaven here in this mission community—especially the way families eagerly sign up to cover the first three days worth of meals for new arrivals to Ukarumpa. With all the unpacking, settling in and finding your way around the center, it’s very nice not to have to concern yourself with cooking. But when you’ve arrived on a Friday and the store is closed till Monday, and McDonalds is just a mirage from another life, the “meal list” is pure necessity.

But now the honeymoon is over and I’m struggling to make three meals a day for this family. This ought to be old hat by now. I mean, I have lived in PNG for 5 years already. And I really didn’t even take advantage of all the convenient and microwaveable foods available when we were in the States. I guess I just wasn’t prepared for the changes that have taken place in the food department of PNG during the past three years.

Yes, I knew prices were high, but $15 for a chicken! I haven’t even seen the prices for beef yet, because the store hasn’t had any since we arrived. And what do we eat for breakfast when cereal is over $9 a box, eggs are $7/dozen and oatmeal can’t be found? The answer is bananas and toast (if I remembered to make bread the day before.)

My whole day seems consumed by planning and preparing the next meal. Jon tells me to keep it simple. But what does that mean? Carrot sticks aren’t even simple when you have to be at the market between 6:00 and 7:30 AM on Monday, Wednesday or Friday to buy them. Wash them in a water and bleach solution. Pare them without the aid of a decent vegetable peeler, and slice them with the equivalent of a butter knife. (I’m serious…the house we’re living in did not have a single sharp knife—not even a dull, sharp knife. I shudder to think what I’d be doing if I hadn’t brought my own from home!)

I wonder how long the kids will accept my suggestion of “have a banana” for a midday snack?

But I truly do thank God for the market where the local people sell their garden produce three mornings a week. I can find just about any type of vegetable there and many tropical fruits. Prices are pretty good—comparable to your home-town grocery store. So let us eat fresh veggies, and roasted veggies and minestrone soup, beans, and more beans, and for dessert…bananas.

The upside…maybe in three years I’ll be thinner and healthier. Or maybe I’ll just resemble that banana.


Thank you, Missy! How’s your Thanksgiving menu shaping up in Papua New Guinea?

And for the rest of the writers, perhaps writing about the nuances of your cross-cultural Thanksgiving dinner would be fun to blog about too. I’m always intrigued with who can scrounge up a turkey-like meat for the festivities and who brings out their long-concealed can of pumpkin for the pie.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear writers! You are expanding God’s Kingdom and for that, we at Women of the Harvest, are grateful.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Read My Writing: Make Your Writing Interesting with Dialogue

In requesting permission from Sarah @ Whispers on the Journey to publish her post, I told her that I loved the use of one little slice of life story, accompanied with actual dialogue, to capture an aspect of her cross-cultural life. I found it quite interesting. See what you think.

Answering Awkward Questions

by Sarah @ Whispers on the Journey

I answer really awkward questions without blinking.

I didn’t used to. I used to have a filter.

But tonight in my auto ride with a chatty driver – I realized just how far my American-filter for awkwardness has been stretched and disfigured. He was asking me questions about salary figures, marital status, why I chose to wear South Asian clothing, and my opinion on world politics and religion.

And I answered all of them. I chatted freely about my choice of clothes, the nature of man and Christianity. About how I’m not married because I’m “waiting for God’s choice” (this is the best answer that gets my parents off the hook for not currently searching for a husband).

The even weirder thing is – I now ask these questions too. I once struck up a conversation with a random girl in Dominoes pizza. We were both waiting for our take-out order. I plied her with questions. Married? Work? Where? Live with your family? Why not? And they’re ok with that?

She saw nothing wrong with answering all of those questions and more. I saw nothing wrong with asking them of a complete stranger.

There’s only one question I hate getting asked now.

But it’s not the one you might expect.

I hate getting asked how much I paid for something.

Not because I necessarily mind the question or find it impolite. But because if it’s a South Asian friend asking, my answer will inevitably be followed by “tsk tsk” and a lecture on how I could’ve gotten it cheaper somewhere else. (Or, I like to insert here, if I looked more South Asian!)

My neighbor once saw me coming in from the market with a bag of rice. She asked me how much I paid for it.

“26 rupees a kilo,” I replied innocently.

“Aww – you can get it for 23 rupees a kilo around the corner!”

So if it’s about where my money comes from, what I do every day, whether or not I’m married, if I live alone, what I think of corruption in politics and why I chose to wear the clothes I do – please ask!

If it’s about how much I paid for my rice – keep it to yourself!


Thanks, Sarah! Comments, writers? Could you all, in the next week or two, use dialogue to convey an incident between you and a national, and post it on your blog? This is the technique used in fictional pieces: telling the story through dialogue. I think it works great for telling about your cross-cultural lives too. I know you run into all types of interesting characters...why not introduce your readers to them.

And just to give us a peek, what if you posted a brief conversational exchange in the comment section this week...kinda like I said this, then he said that, etc.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Read My Writing: My New Addiction...what???

Read My Writing continues with this post, "My New Addiction," from Robin @ A Common Woman. It proves that a good title will draw you in. Addiction??? Is this a woman of God confessing something that could potentially be scandalous in her line of work, on her blog, for all the world to see? Confession may be good for the soul, but it also makes for good reading. Click goes my computer.

Once I've landed on her blog and read it, I am doubly endeared to her: I love her humor and find that I share her interest in collecting pottery. Robin casts all fear aside in the possibility of her readers judging her "addiction" and reveals not one, not two, but multiple pieces in her collection. In her own funny way she busts the myth of missionary women living lives of extreme deprivation. Women on the field enjoy lovely things and even use their money to buy them.

Can you relate?

No guilt or condemnation here...I'm just breathing a sigh of relief, because you see, "My name is Cindy...and I have an addiction too, I collect Homer McLaughlin pottery."

My New Addiction

Yes, I have addictions. Some are small, and inexpensive. Like Peanut M&Ms. I like to pretend I always have them on hand because Darling Husband loves them, but I do too. I believe Peanut M&Ms are healthier than the plain kind, because there is a peanut in the middle. And nuts are good for you!

My newest addiction revolves around Polish pottery. I love it. I yearn for more pieces to grace my shelves. My husband doesn’t get it.

I’ve discovered a great many ex-pat women living in Europe suffer from the same addiction. There seems to be a secret competition to see who can collect the most Polish pottery. Pottery also signals a woman’s intentions. If a woman says she is returning to the States for a short visit, BUT takes her Polish pottery with her – she's not coming back. Home is not where the heart is, it’s where the Polish pottery is.

Last week, I had the opportunity to go to Boleslawiec, Poland and buy pottery. I may not know how to pronounce Boleslawiec, but I know it is the birthplace of Polish pottery. Imagine, store after store stacked to the rafters with pottery. The Disneyland of pottery – my happiest place on earth.

If you aren’t able to make the trip to Boleslawiec, I’ve heard that T.J. Maxx sometimes has Polish pottery in stock. I’m hoping to check out the rumor the next time I’m in the States.

In the meantime: My name is Robin, and I have an addiction……


Thank you, Robin! Your photos are beautiful and artful. They add to the pleasure of your words. Well, writers, what is your response to this post?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Read My Writing: What For?

We’re beginning a new series, Read My Writing, which will take us through to the end of the year. It will look different each week. By featuring someone's writing from the blogroll weekly, we will discuss and give feedback to an element—topic, style, genre—of her writing. It is my hope that this will begin to feel like a writers group where iron can sharpen iron and friends can encourage one another.

Suzanne is our first featured writer. There's a header on her blog that caught my eye: "What For." With curiosity aroused, I clicked through. Here's what she posted.

What For?

by Suzanne @ www.suz-mae.com

I write for the delight it is to put my day into words and photographs. My kids. My husband. My experiences. My thoughts. The things we do. The stuff I cook. Things change for me when they go from swirling around in my over-stimulated multi-tasking head to being typed in black and white 'Georgia' font on my screen. Things become clearer. I get perspective. I see God more. I appreciate more. I see more beauty. I have more joy.

I write for my children. I want my kids to know that caring for them and their father every day is one of the most important, the most rewarding, the most special thing I have ever done. And that their stories, our stories as we build this life together are worth recording, archiving, reading and re-reading. Daily they each hear me say "You are one of the best things that has ever happened to me." I mean it. I mean it with my whole heart and this blog proves it.

I want them to be able to picture their childhoods abroad and at home. I want them to know the adventures they went on. I want them to know that they were a part of something much bigger than themselves. I want them to be able to read my words and feel the joy they have brought to me every step of the journey through those words. I want them to know that their Mama loves them more than life itself and that I take joy in their every accomplishment. But also that I struggle, I share, I laugh, I think, I cry and I write about it all.

I write for my sixty-year-old self. I want to remember all these beautiful moments in our life as a family learning, loving, living together. The good, the bad, the hysterical and the heart-melting moments. I don't want to forget a thing.

I write because my kiddies' grandparents, aunties and uncles are half a world away. We miss them. They miss us. I want my words and photos to bring us a bit closer.

I write for Jesus, that He would be glorified in my life and in my writing.

This blog is just me living life. Walking it out. Cooking stuff. Learning to hear God. Raising my little blessings. Attempting to do the right thing. Making people laugh. Trying to be Holy. It's me creating, processing, thinking. This is my life, my heart, my journey.


Thanks, Suzanne, for letting us see your "What For's." Now, writers, what about the rest of you? Please articulate [in the comment section] a few reasons you write your blog, your journal, your stories. We'd love to read your writing.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Break Time

Hi Writers!

We're taking a break this week, but you keep writing...see you next Tuesday.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

About Face[book]: What's Your Personality?

So what makes a good status update?

"Personality," says Adam Ostrow, editor in chief of Mashable.com, an online publication that covers social networking. "Personality is really what drives people to (follow) you…”

Anne Trubek, a writer and associate professor of composition and rhetoric at Oberlin College who is studying status updates as a developing 21st-century literary form, sorted them into four categories for her column in the online magazine GOOD:

  • The prosaic (Jill is baking bread);
  • the informative (Jack loves this article from GOOD, followed by the link);
  • the clever and funny (Johnny thinks Obama should be sworn in a few more times, just to be EXTRA safe); and
  • the poetic or nonsensical (If Jim were a cloud, he would rain Earl Grey tea).1

So what’s your personality? Clearly you can deviate, but I’m sure each of us has a predominate style.

Now let’s talk funny and clever. We’ve learned [myself included] through this Facebook blog series the following: stay positive, use photos/videos, and be funny when you can. I say be funny at least once a week. As I perused my FB friends I found I have very few funny friends. Is that a reflection on me? Am I too serious? Or have we all forgotten how important humor is in everyday life?

I have the only three examples of humor that were connected to my circle of FB friends and they made me laugh.

First is just a status update from an 18 year-old that garnered 17 likes:

“Cigarettes are a lot like hamsters, perfectly harmless until you put one in your mouth and light it on fire.”

Next, keeping with the rodent-related humor genre, this photo secured 19 likes with 9 comments, many of which contained “LOL.”

And finally, this one proved all the research correct…it was shared 184 times.

I like these comedians-Tim Hawkins (on Corporate Worship Songs), Anita Renfroe (In Tha Mutahood) - and am starting to use their material for my Friday post on the WOTH FB page. Know any others?

If you have some funny, humorous, and clever resources, please share. I can't think of a better ending to this Facebook series than laughing…out loud.

1source: http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/2009-06-09-status-writing-online_N.htm

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

About Face[book]: Linking to the Cause You are Passionate About

Back in February we asked the question: Is Marketing a Dirty Word? The writer, Elizabeth Givens, put it well when she answered with this: "I've just spent the morning writing "marketing" materials. My goal will use what I've written to secure prayer, funding, and people for the least-reached of the world. I have no underhanded motives--but as I wrote, I targeted each piece to a different audience." Utilizing your personal and ministry Facebook pages can help you target those you want to reach with a specific message as you serve out your cross-cultural life and the cause which you are so passionate about--expanding God's Kingdom.

As we continue, I'm working from the premise that:

1. Most of you have personal blogs.
2. Some of you have ministry blogs/websites.
3. Most of you have an agency website.

Using one of our unsuspecting bloggers listed in our sidebar, I am going to show how to get some interest going for you personally and for your ministry simply by posting on your FB pages.

1. Jamie Jo has a personal blog...and she has a personal FB page [with friends she feels comfortable enough with to talk about...] On her personal blog, she tells stories that appeal to her best girlfriends, but also she tells of things she'd love them to know about so that they can pray more intimately with her.

Weekly FB Plan of Action: post her current personal blog post (link) on her personal FB page with a funny blurb to go with it: My Favorite Body Builder.

Reason: Keeps your cross-cultural life in front of your friends so they don't forget you!

2. Jamie Jo has a ministry blog...but I'm not sure if she has a ministry page on FB. So I'm advocating she create one. Then she can start a campaign for her supporters to "Like" this page when she sends out her next email newsletter.

Weekly/Monthly FB Plan of Action: When she posts her detailed ministry updates on her ministry blog, she can alert her supporters on the ministry FB page to go check out what's going on in her field of service with this provocative status update/link: What caused this teen to say, "I was abruptly stopped in my tracks of selfishness." Of course, she can post this on her personal FB page too!

Reason: Keeps your cross-cultural life in front of your supporters so they don't forget you.

3. Jamie Jo works for a particular agency that has a website full of current interesting information.

Occasional FB Plan of Action: Link out directly to any articles, information highlighted on the website that would be of interest to her supporters/friends.

Reason: Keeps your friends/supporters informed on the bigger picture of expanding God's Kingdom.

Keeping your friends and supporters engaged in your life overseas is crucial. Facebook is a tool that can make that easier for you. Being a good writer can only help in this process. A cleverly worded FB status update with a great photo will generate a curiosity that will drive people to your current blog post and read about the life you are passionate about. I want to commend Jamie Jo for posting a gift that contained chocolate last week on her FB page...it looked so yummy and beautiful that I was drawn in for a closer look. She obviously read last week's post on the "Topics People Love."

What have you done on Facebook to garner interest in your cross-cultural life?

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

About Face[book]: Content is Queen

Once you’ve established your goals for your Facebook page, the next step is to post content that accomplishes your purposes. Keep in mind the three “somethings” as you type out your 420 characters for your friends to read. Will you want them to do something, think something, and/or feel something?

Kivi Leroux Miller from NonProfit Marketing Guide.com has some positive marketing tips that can work well for your personal and ministry FB pages. She suggests letting the 3 G’s influence your content:

Be Genuine: This is where your personality can shine through and you can build up that rapport that makes people love your cause. Think about whether the post helps your core fans/friends to really understand you better and to see your personality.

Be Generous: It’s all about being a helpful human. The story isn’t about you. It’s about being helpful to your supporters, friends, etc. Give them stuff that helps them in some way. This includes resources from other organizations.

Be Grateful: Being grateful is what you do in response to generosity from others. You can say “Thank You” directly or you can go the “actions speak louder than words” way and share a link, retweet, or otherwise pass on information from others who have been kind to you, as a way of saying thanks.

What to Write

  • Entice people with questions (how/why questions are the most shared) Ask for advice with a question posed: People love to give their advice.
  • Conjure an air of mystery: Posting an update that is mysterious leaves your FB friends asking for more. “In 5 more days…”
  • Keep your kids’ stuff to a minimum. You are interesting, you know.
  • Don’t think too hard on what to say; just be succinct.
  • Give them something…a recipe, a link, a video, a new tune
  • Give users a specific call to action. Directly ask people to “like” or “share” the post if they, too, enjoyed or agreed with what you posted.
  • Encourage Shares/Mentions.
  • Create polls to get people to interact.
  • Put fans in charge: post 3 photos and ask them to vote on the best.
  • Reward you loyal followers: re-post photos they submit; give a shout-out, etc.
  • Be witty in your wording, twist a phrase, use a song/movie/book title to express your thought.

Discuss Topics People Love

These are topics that have a proven track-record for getting a response.
  • Music: bands, songs, etc
  • Chocolate
  • Current disasters
  • Current sporting events
  • Seasonal changes
  • A cause you’re passionate about
  • Gifts you’ve received or given
  • What you should be doing instead of posting on FB.

(Gentle Reminder: All these topics are enhanced because you have the international locale to draw from.)

Your adventurous spirit of living the cross-cultural life will lend itself to posting some interesting topics that are new to your audience—stateside or living in another culture. Even posting something as simple as “Received this from my next door neighbor” along with a photo of the unusual cultural gift is captivating to those of us living in the land of Walmart and Target.

You must believe there is nothing mundane about the life you are living overseas. So start sharing it with brevity. I’d love to know what kind of chocolate you can get in Turkey. Have you found some cool music in your country of service? Oh, and don’t forget to link us out to funny videos, passionate news stories and clips, stirring photos and all things that creatively show your cross-cultural life.

Next week: Maximizing your FB presence to enhance the "cause you are passionate about."

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

About Face[book]: You Only Get 420 Characters

When I say that you only get 420 characters, I’m not talking about how many people you can "friend" on your FB page. Nope. I’m referring to the total sum of letters, punctuation, etc. you are given to write each status update. Did you know that 5 trillion pieces of content are shared each week on Facebook? Was your status update one of those?

Maximize your 420 characters with these tips. Hopefully, it will help increase your fan/friend base and keep you connected to your supporters. For example, did you know sharing increases when you post in the morning? And another proven tip: Always post on Fridays. That day has more active viewing than any other day of the week.

More tips:

First, apply these researched tips (complete with graphs!) from Dan Zarrella of The Science of Social Media and improve the odds of getting your posts read, liked and shared.

1. Simple language gets shared more.

2. Use these words, get shared more: How, Why, Most,World, Facebook.

3. Positivity gets shared, negativity doesn’t. Look for the hope.

Second, use these grammar tips.

1. Use nouns and verbs. Avoid adjectives and adverbs.

2. Write direct and succinct: 1-4 lines max with 1-2 lines the best.

Third, be personable.

1. Post a profile photo; if you can’t for security purposes, use an avatar.

2. Complete the info section; show how interesting you are.

Fourth, include these elements.

1. Posts with video/photos get read more.

2. Add links.

3. Use humor. (remember: positivity gets shared; negativity doesn’t)

Next week we will cover content, including humor. Specifically, what you can write about to keep your 420 characters, I mean, your friends/fans engaged and coming back for more.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

About Face[book]: Goals for Your FB Page

The stats are in about the subscribers to the WOTH onlineMagazine: 75% are on Facebook. The majority of you have personal pages keeping you connected to your stateside family, friends, and supporters. Some of you might even be running ministry, business or even public figure pages as well.

Facebook is not the latest cyber-fad. With 200 million active users logging in daily worldwide, it seems (in the U.S.) every business, non-profit organization and ministry is using some form of Facebook to get their message out. Slowly the American public is being trained to go to Facebook to see what these entities have to offer. Case in point, as I was shopping in Goodwill on Saturday, the message overhead was promoting the Goodwill Facebook page with this enticement—coupons. And yes, I went to check it out.

It works to ask people to visit your FB page, especially if you give them a reason to come. This is important for you to know. Even if you find yourself a bit skeptical and resistant to use it, rest assured, many of your stateside support-base are on FB daily.

Wanting to tap into that audience, many of you may be wondering how to get a healthy following on your Facebook page. From the words you choose to the content you post, I will cover in upcoming posts proven techniques in making your FB page a center of lively conversation and a beacon for what God is doing in your life and in your ministry.


Please consider this first before you start building this presence. Make sure you can commit to keeping it current. Can you post something at least weekly, once a day max? Ask yourself: What’s the goal of maintaining my FB page? If you are writing not only for a personal connection, but as a ministry one as well, consider these 3 choices to frame your goals around. Will you want people to:

  • Do Something: support you, join your ministry, pray for you, share your posts.
  • Think Something: be informed about your life/ministry and the people you serve in your corner of the world.
  • Feel Something: develop a deeper connection to you by conveying posts that will allow them to feel a range of emotions about what it’s like living overseas.

With those goals in mind, next week we will get down to how to meet those goals successfully. If one of your goals is to get people to hit the “share” link, here’s a teaser from next week: Research has shown that the posts that get shared the most are succinctly worded in 1-2 lines.

I encourage to go out to www.facebook.com/womenoftheharvest, see what we’re doing on FB and Like Us!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blogroll: Show Us What You've Got

It's time for you to quit reading about writing and let us see your work. I know you are writing. I just don't have your address to get to it.

So, I am taking this blog hostage for the next 4 weeks. I won't hold you against your will...you are certainly free to move on to a more passive post somewhere else. But since you are reading this sentence, I believe you are still captivated and intrigued by the thought of letting someone read what you are writing.

Secretly, you need me to push you. You want someone to look at your words and see if it is conveying what you intended. But I know you are a bit scared to show your work. How do I know that? Because I know you. And I know myself. To show your work leaves you feeling a bit vulnerable, right?

Well, if we promise to be gentle with one another, could we try something new?

Share our writing with one another...through our blogs.

I am starting a blogroll for this blog with the sole purpose of featuring you and the other women writers who frequent this site. I want us to read each others work. I want us to be challenged to write blog posts that take what we are learning and show that we are applying that knowledge creatively in our daily blog writings.

I want us to leave encouraging comments on each others blogs, expressing what we enjoyed reading--a phrase, a sentence, a well-crafted story.

Just as I discovered our latest WOTH Blog writer, Sarah @ The Yellow Dress Blog by reading her personal blog, I know that there are more of you out there waiting and needing to be encouraged to keep at it.

With the establishment of a WOTH Writer's Blogroll, I'd like to start featuring your good writing on this blog and even in the WOTH onlineMagazine. Sometimes a blog post is simply an article waiting to be published...the article, "No Rules Left to Break," by Deborah Berruti, in the current issue of the WOTH onlineMagazine, was originally a blog post on her blog.

Let's get this rolling!
Submit your Blog URL to

Also Coming up: How to Facebook: tips on writing well so you are well read; how to connect FB with your Blog/website; creating interest and support in your ministry through FB and beyond; and a fun and imaginative online writing project just for WOTH Writers!

~Cindy Blomquist, Editor

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Writing with an Open Hand

In 1991, I completed writing the biography of Larry and Shirley Rascher, missionaries to Irian Jaya (Incessant Drumbeat: Tragedy and Triumph in Irian Jaya). I have never felt more strongly that the Lord wanted me to do something than to write that book.

I knew I was supposed to write the book, so I figured publication was up to the Lord. I would be faithful in submitting it to publishers and see what He had in mind. But frankly, I felt so strongly that it was His project and not mine that I wasn’t discouraged by the rejections. One after another, Christian publishers declined, replying “no one buys missionary biographies.”

One day Shirley Rascher suggested that I submit it to Christian Literature Crusade, a small Christian publisher with a book ministry around the world. I called their office to learn the name of the editor to whom I should address it, so that it wouldn’t languish in the wrong pile. The receptionist said that their senior editor had recently retired, and gave me the name of an interim one.

I sent it to him and he quickly replied, accepting the manuscript for publication, saying that he and his wife were missionaries in Indonesia when the Raschers were there, and “were touched by their story, as were people around the world.” So you see, for this slice of time a man was in the publisher’s receiving chair who had great respect for the Raschers and their story.

Not only was the Lord involved in securing a publisher, He also oversaw the timing of publication. When I received the book’s galleys to proof – a proof for which the book is formatted in pages, so it looks like a book – Larry Rascher was dying of cancer. When we began the process, he was hearty and well. I took the galleys to his home, where the Rascher children had gathered from around the world, and showed it to him. It was to be his legacy. Little did we know at the outset.

I cannot claim that every book I’ve written has had God’s handprints on it so certainly. But I have learned that God cares about the gift He’s given us to write, and He wants us to use the gift. The “good” that comes from any one project may simply be to hone our craft so that another project, a project of His particular blessing, will be the best that it can be.

So write. Journals, columns, manuals, essays, articles, books. Be available and obedient. Write, keeping your projects in your hands that are open, palms up. Long ago I listened to a tape on writing where the speaker said that unfortunately too often among Christians the writers aren’t livers, and the livers aren’t writers. Sometimes you will be in a season of life where you’re living so fully that writing isn’t possible. That’s good! Live. Write. Live. Write.

[Editor's note: I had the rare treat of stepping away from my computer and actually meeting Mary Beth for coffee last week. I love that! She is so kind and generous with her writing expertise, and like a true journalist and writer, very curious in nature and eager to know my story too. Mary Beth is currently in the midst of writing a novel and launching her personal historian business. In fact, she is headed to a Personal Historians Conference in Las Vegas in October...for all of you interested in that, here's the link to the Association of Personal Historians website and conference. Thank you, Mary Beth, for inspiring us to write. ~Cindy Blomquist, WOTH Editor]

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Tell the Story | Think Small

Sometimes a writer has a great story to tell. But sometimes the story is someone else’s, and the writer is the vehicle to bring the story to life.

In my blog post last week, I mentioned writing the story of Larry and Shirley Rascher, missionaries to Irian Jaya. My husband Alex and I met Larry at our church’s missions festival many years ago. He was the missionary assigned to tell stories to our fourth grade Sunday school class. Larry was a born storyteller, and brought a skull, spear and shield as props. After class, the three of us lingered and Larry told us about the drowning of his two children. He said he didn’t know why he was telling us; he never told that story unless someone asked him. The story haunted me for weeks.

A year later I ran into Larry at a conference. “Hi, Larry. I met you….”

He remembered me. “Aren’t you a writer?” he asked. Had I told him that? It was my secret identity; in real life I was a busy stay-at-home mom.

“Well, yes,” I said, flattered.

“People have been after us for years to write our story,” Larry said. “Would you consider doing it?”

My mind reeled. But I’d have to go to Irian Jaya! I thought.

At the same time he said, “Of course you’d have to go to Irian Jaya.”

I left our brief meeting in a fog. Somehow I knew that I, the stay-at-home mom, would write this story, and that I would travel to Irian Jaya. And I did. It was more than twenty years ago and remains the greatest adventure of my life.

If you have a big story to write – yours or someone else’s – don’t let the entirety of what you’re attempting overwhelm you. Writer William Zinsser suggests this:
…think small. Don’t rummage around in your past – or your family’s past – to find episodes that you think are "important" enough to be worthy of including in your memoir. Look for small self-contained incidents that are still vivid in your memory. If you still remember them it’s because they contain a universal truth that your readers will recognize from their own life.
Here’s an example of what I think he means. When I flew to Irian Jaya by myself - because the Raschers were to meet me there – I cried the entire flight from Denver to Los Angeles. What in the world was I doing, leaving my husband and three young sons at home to do this wild thing? Yet I’ve never felt more strongly that this was the Lord’s will.

In LA I boarded a fourteen-hour Indonesian airline flight that refueled in Hawaii (in the middle of the night – ha!). As we crossed the Pacific in darkness, the Big Dipper was perfectly framed by my little square airplane window. As I gazed at it, I had the sense that the Lord was pouring out his blessings upon me. He knew where I was going. He would protect me and be with me.

Rather than giving a travel log from Irian Jaya, I believe Zinsser is saying tell about the small, telling moments like this.

Capture these stories, one after another without concern for order or form. Then spread them out on the floor and see what theme arises, see what order seems right.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Writing in Sorrow

Just as there is a time for every season, there is a time—and a way—to write about a heavy trial or great trauma in your life. Frequently I will hear a friend who has lost a loved one to death or suicide, or has been stricken by disease or has suffered a desertion say: “I want to write a book about this.”

This compulsion, I believe, is often fueled by the need to process a horrific experience –and writing is an excellent tool. Definitely it is a time to journal feelings and happenings while they are fresh and even raw. But in the throes of intense emotion is rarely the time to write a book—at least one aimed toward publication. Rather, it’s time to let the experience of writing work its healing potential, perhaps for your eyes, or for a few eyes, only.

Our son, Drew, was a junior, sitting in class taking a chemistry test at Columbine High School the day that two disturbed students opened fire in his school. The layers of tragic and heroic events and the spiritual warfare that followed in the community made my writer-juices bubble and boil. I would write a book on Columbine: stories of healing and hope.

Thankfully, publishers were not interested and I had the sense to drop it, as days, months, and years rolled on that were filled with hope in our community, but also dissension and sadness. Finally, ten years after the event two well-researched books have come forth, with the needed perspective on the event. It was my season to journal about Columbine, but it wasn’t the time to write a book.

In 1989, I wrote Incessant Drumbeat, the biography of Larry and Shirley Rascher who were career missionaries in Irian Jaya (West Papua, New Guinea). Their story included a shipwreck during a tsunami and the drowning of their two toddlers. They had rarely even talked about the story with their older surviving children who were not on the boat that day.

I’ll never forget the end of my first evening of interviewing the Raschers, who at the time lived close to me. “I have one thing to ask of you,” Larry said on the front porch, as I was leaving. “If we’re not going to finish, let’s not get started.”

He and Shirley would have to re-live that time. They were up to it for good purpose, but not if it would come to naught.

Be sensitive to the time, and the way to tell a difficult story. And remember that there are great blessings from journaling—from writing for oneself, or one’s family and friends. Whether or not to seek to publish a story is a different matter that may well need time and perspective.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Co-Authoring: What is Your Strong Suit?

When Mimi Wilson and I began writing together, we each had three young children. Mimi was extremely creative, and had rich experiences from having grown up in Africa. She was a gifted communicator through the spoken word, but she was dyslexic, and my role was to record and “word-smith” her ideas.

When we self-published the original edition of Once-A-Month Cooking in 1982 (titled Freeze and Save – her husband called it Thaw and Chaw), Mimi had devised this cooking method to save time in the kitchen, save money, and be prepared at all times to extend hospitality.

She called me one day in 1981, and told me that she had just prepared 30 dinner entrees one after another for her freezer. Would I like to see if the Denver Post wanted us to write an article on how to do it, she asked.

“Why don’t you call the Denver Post,” I said. Mimi has marketing savvy – and more guts than I do. She called them, and they sent a photographer and a reporter to her home within the week to do a food feature. A year later, when the Rocky Mountain News expressed interest in an article, we wrote up the cooking method in book form – Freeze and Save – to offer for sale.

This started an adventure that has taken us through the production of a demonstration video, a CD-ROM version, and numerous updated editions for Christian publishers and a secular publisher. We’ve experienced “way down” as well as “way up, ” moments, and perhaps the greatest benefit of our partnership has been the ability to share it all. No one quite understands like your writing partner.

But at one point I began to feel second-rate, unimportant. Mimi was the primary speaker, the “up front” partner, and sometimes, even in front of me, people referred to it as “Mimi’s book.”

One day I was in the bedroom ironing when the Lord spoke to me. Not audibly, but it is one of the few times in my life when I can say He did with certainty. He said, as I ironed, “If she is Moses and you are Aaron, what is that to you?”

This may sound obtuse to you, but it made perfect sense to me. We each had individual roles that coincided with our giftings from God. Why should I covet her gift – or her exposure? Was I not thankful, and did I not enjoy, the job God had given to me?

From my long-time partnership with Mimi that is precious to me, and also from the experience of managing a book brand for MOPS International (Mothers of Preschoolers), I have learned that although writing and speaking usually go hand-in-hand, most communicators are either a writer who also speaks or a speaker who also writes. In Mimi’s and my partnership, although we both do both, she is definitely the speaker who writes, and I the writer who speaks.

Which are you? Determining this, and giving more weight to your “strong suit” can be freeing and enable you to soar as God has intended for you. It has been a great strength of our collaboration that Mimi and I are differently gifted and don’t “step on one another’s toes.” Are you a writer who speaks, or a speaker who writes?


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