Thursday, January 19, 2017

SEO for Mom


Hi everyone!

It has been a while since I have written, but with the New Year comes new opportunities.  This post has been on my heart for a while, but it just seemed like this was the right time to share it with you.

Usually when people think of the acronym SEO, Search Engine Optimization comes to mind.  In fact, being a computer science professor, you would think that is what I would think of first as well.  However, I am not your normal computer science professor and as such, for me SEO has a different meaning.  For several months now when I have thought of SEO Soul Enhancement & Optimization have come to mind.  Puzzled a bit?  Well let me explain. 
Yes, search engine optimization has helped us in terms of how we travel throughout the Internet, but as a mom I also want to optimize how I travel through life.  It isn’t easy being a mom in today’s fast paced world and a single mom at that.  So as I prepare to teach my own students about the Internet in the next couple of weeks, this idea of Soul Enhancement & Optimization just keeps coming to mind.
Webster defines the soul as follows. 

The spiritual part of a person that is believed to give life to the body and in many religions is believed to live forever; a person’s deeply felt moral and emotional state; the ability of a person to feel kindness and sympathy for others, to appreciate beauty and art, etc.

To enhance something is to “increase or improve,” while optimization is “an act, process, or methodology of making something as fully perfect, functional or effective as possible.”  For the record, this mom knows she can never be “fully perfect” on this side of eternity, so that part of the definition I did not factor in. 

Though as a single mom and a computer science professor with a strong relationship with the Lord, the researcher within wants to dive in and investigate this concept that has been on my mind for a couple of months a bit further.  How, as a mom can I experience “Soul Enhancement & Optimization?”  With my background firmly rooted in academia at a Christian institution, I had to start with the definitions and as a student of life, acronyms always seem fitting.

S – SOUL
Anyone who knows me knows how deeply and emotionally I feel about things in my life.  As a creative person, beauty and art are things that I observe in places that quite often others do not see.  But is this just something that I was gifted with or do some people miss out on art and the beauty that surrounds them because of life’s circumstances.  Let’s face it, there is not a single mom out there that hasn’t been so overwhelmed with life at some point that they didn’t want to just tell me, “Girl, observe beauty???  I have forgotten what that even means in the midst of bills, homework and life.”  Even in the midst of my own life it would be so easy to throw in the towel and block beauty out. Sometimes as moms, not just single moms but ALL moms, we get so busy trying to take care of everyone and everything around us to the point that we don’t know which way is up and if we do look up we often aren’t praying to Jesus, but merely expressing “Help me Jesus!” just trying to survive.  We remember what a soul was, but we have forgotten what it truly meant to feel something from the depth of our souls.  But how can we find our way back?  How can we ENHANCE the seeds that were planted within our souls before life became too much.        

E – ENHANCE
As a mom, how can I improve my life so that I am using the gifts that God has blessed me with in such a way that it enhance my kids’ lives and the lives of those around me?

O – OPTIMIZATION
Let’s revisit the definition of optimization once more. It is “an act, process, or methodology of making something as fully perfect, functional or effective as possible.” 

So wait a minute here, if we can figure out how to take what we once valued so dear within our souls and enhance it, could it be that in turn, through the very act of doing this that we could become more functional and effective as moms?  Would this work for all moms?  Is there an age limit? 

Well let me share my own experience with you and then you can pick and choose what may or may not work for you. 

The week before my new semester began last fall I came down with the shingles.  For those of you who may not know what that is, it is the same virus as chicken pox, but very, very painful.  I am normally one who is moving through life so fast my best friend often tells me that it’s like my hair is on fire.  Sometimes not so good things in life happen, not because we have done anything wrong, but merely so the Lord can slow us down and get out attention.  For our souls to truly experience an enhancement and thus optimization we have to lean in to the trials of life so that we can find the beauty in the midst of the chaos. 


Sometimes, in the midst of dealing with pain and uncertainty we are able to hear the gentle whispers that He sends to our souls and in turn we are enhancing our lives and watching every second of our day optimized, but not just for our sake.  It is through this process that He is allowing us to be a light for others in the midst of their own personal trial.  It also allows us to be examples for our kids. 


The beauty of this all - when we are truly leaning into life through prayer, the study of His word, giving & doing for others when He leads us, participating in worship, and reading books by other Christian authors who have done the same, we do see that are souls have gone through an enhancement and optimization.  This doesn’t mean that it makes the pain of the trials any less, but what it does allow us to do, moms and dads alike, is take a deep breath and know that NO MATTER what comes our way, He will allow us to use it in a way to glorify Him.   




So my 2017 is dedicated to leaning in to my own SEO experience and as new doors open and new opportunities appear I want to make sure that God gets all of the credit for the incredible things He has done and continues to do in my life.  As we watch this first month in the New Year quickly fly by it reminds us once again to make every second count.  Until next time…

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Healing Moments

Hi everyone!

As my summer break came to a close, so many life events started unfolding at once.  Always one to see how many mountains I can move at once, the past several weeks taught me some very important things.

Don’t wait to get your life in order before you start living life because in the blink of an eye everything can change.  If you don’t take time to stop and smell the roses, or in my case the incredible scented candles in my cottage, then your body WILL make you stop one way or the other.  You WILL have to slow down.


Now having sickness hit at the most inopportune time is never a good thing, but through it so many things were brought into focus for me.  It’s so true, it isn’t who we have with us when we reach the top of the mountain, but who are the people in our lives that have been helping us climb all along.  

A dear friend of mine recently told me that when she was near me Ruth always came to mind and tonight I received the most beautiful and precious God wink.  I took some time to go out to my cottage and when I looked up from writing Ruth’s words seemed to light up my cottage brighter than the candles that illuminated the space.

“Wherever you go I will go & wherever you stay I will stay.” ~ Ruth 1:16


Sometimes the Lord just wants us to rest, to stay where we are because He is working on our road map and before He wants us to continue on our journey He has to align everything so that it fits into His will for our lives.  Yes, sometimes we wait due to illness or natural disaster or divorce or death or various and other assorted ways.  


The key though is that no matter how long it takes, we must wait and hold on to our faith, even if that faith is only the size of a mustard seed, because the storms of life while pass, the sun will shine again.  But while we wait, we need to hold on to those who bring sunshine into our lives, even on rainy and somewhat stormy days.  


Accept their unconditional love like a fresh cut bouquet of flowers – forget nothing about these times, both the good and the bad moments, because it is both the good and the not so good times in our lives that mold us into the “one of a kind” gifts that God created us to be. 



Take time for what you love and for who you love – trust me, it is THE best medicine ever!!


Sunday, July 17, 2016

Finding My Voice

Hi everyone,

Wow, the summer seems to be flying by and with the passage of time I am also finding other areas of my life beginning to take flight.  It’s amazing how often times dreams that we once held dear, dreams that we once thought were lost can suddenly appear on the horizon.  


The impact can be just as breathtaking as a rainbow after a storm, just as calming as the sound of mourning doves in the morning.  The last time I wrote it was about crying out to the Lord, but time and again I have found throughout life that He so often answers prayers that maybe we only acknowledged within our souls and never to anyone else.  This timing for this post is a perfect example of that. 

Many, many moons ago I use to sing in choir and at choral competitions.  I also had a Minnie Pearl skit that I would perform for functions as well.  But time and life got in the way and after college this was an area of my life that I never thought I would revisit. However, God’s plans and timing are often so very different from our own. 


I have felt for several years that I wanted to sing again; that I was meant to do something with my voice.  So one Wednesday night after church I asked Octavia, who is our Worship Leader at church and a PHENOMINAL artist, if she would listen to me.  It had been over 30 years, maybe the internal nudging for me to sing was nothing more than a 50 year old woman trying to reclaim her youth or maybe this was something that my internal GPS was on course with.


So in a little room, on a summer evening, I sang Amazing Grace.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was a start.  And it was in that moment, when Octavia suggested that I take some voice lessons to polish up what I had put aside for so many years, that I realized I was finally finding my voice.  Octavia suggested Laine Miller, an INCREDIBLE voice teacher, performer & director of musical theater. 


My voice lessons have become such an outlet for me.  And an added God Wink was when Laine gave me the piece New Life from Jekyll & Hyde to sing.  It is so fitting for this time in my life.  


Preparing to sing this song takes patience, perseverance, and practice.  These same elements are also very important in my writing and really when I create anything.  However, when I am patient, when I persevere, and when I practice the task that I am working on then I will find my voice, either in song or on paper. 


We all have a voice that we can use in some way.  We all have some gift or gifts that God has given us and when we use them we are then letting the world see the beauty that He has placed in all of us.  We are using our voice, whether spoken or through our actions to show the world Him through us.


And in a world that is turned upside down; in a world that seems to have lost the song in its heart, maybe it is time we all look within to find the beautiful voice that He has given us and sing to bring comfort to this heartbroken world.  May each of us use this week to seek the voice that He has placed inside of us to help comfort those around us.



Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Cry Out

Hi everyone!

For the past several days when I have first woken up Third Days’ song Cry Out to Jesus has been on my heart.  When this first happened I thought about it – in the stillness of the morning I cried out.  I have friends who are sick, some with lift threatening illness; friends who have lost loved ones; friends who are lost; and children trying to see where God is leading them.  The list doesn’t even begin to address my prayers and petitions.


Then in the quiet of my morning, with the only sound being that of the animals He created, I cried out.  In that moment, it was like time stood still, like He stopped everything just to sit and listen.  I couldn’t help but smile because one of my best friends in the world will do the very same thing.  When I need to cry out, he will stop whatever he is doing and simply listen.  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying he is a god, what I am saying is that if I have a friend on earth that is that attentive, that if he is willing to stop everything in the middle of his busy day and listen, then how much more willing is out Heavenly Father to stop and sit and listen. 

We know from the Bible that “Jesus wept.” He hurts when we hurt.  He cries when we cry.  Yes sometimes life gets messy and complicated, but He is there to help us with the mess.  He is there to mend out broken hearts.  He is there to give us direction.  He can make what seems impossible, possible.

Several months back I heard a sermon where it talked about if we weren’t careful Satan could take even the most precious desires of our heart and use them to entrap us.  The sermon came when I was finishing up my cottage.  A cottage that I created for writing, but as the process of putting it together continued I knew it was meant to be my War Room.  It is no accident that in that sermon the preacher warned that as we get closer to what God has for us Satan will use whatever He can to distract us and throw us off course.  It is no accident that my best friend is sick and that it has caused me to slow down and cry out. 


We have become a society that lives at such a fast pace, grabbing a few seconds with Jesus through apps on our cell phones, that the idea of stepping away from technology and spending time with Him, crying out to Him, seems foreign to us.  My best friend and I recently bought one of the new journaling bibles that have artwork that you can color.  I think coloring in my new bible, while not artwork for me to put on display, has helped me to slow down and reflect on His Word and my life.  The youthful illustrations that I color help me to quiet my surrounds, examine the weight on my shoulders and cry out.  It brings calm to the chaos associated with life.  It doesn’t mean I have all the answers or know where life s going after I cry out; it simply means that I have taken time out of my day to give it all to Him.  He knows what He is doing.  He knows where He wants to take me.  He knows the desires and promises He has placed in my heart. 

Crying out helps me to stop and remind myself that He knows what He is doing.  His timing is ALWAYS perfect.  It helps me put my trust back in Him and to stop trying to make life happen on my own.  If I have learned nothing else from this life, it’s that if we get ahead of God’s plan, life can go terribly wrong.  By quieting our minds, hearts, and souls for just a portion of our day we are able to truly breath, relax, and let THE one who created us take the wheel. 


Wishing you the best!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Waiting on Santa in the Summer

 Hi everyone!

As I welcome in this beautiful evening I can't help but reflect on how drastically my life has changed in the past year. 

Years ago I dreamed of having a cottage in my little woods where I could create. Months ago I wrote about it, thinking it would take years to come to fruition and then out of the blue, God had a change of plans. What I thought would take years only took a couple of months.


It was a gently reminder of His perfect timing because my vision, while beautiful, so paled in comparison to what He actually had in store for me.


Isn't it funny how that happens? Isn't it funny how no matter how many trials He brings us through, no matter how many God winks & modern day miracles we see Him perform in our lives, if we aren't careful we find ourselves clinging to our mustard seed and loosing heart when it comes to the promises that are so close to our heart.


So what do we do when that happens? Well since I am in the middle of this journey what I have chosen to do is surround myself with 3 of THE most precious friends a girl could ask for. 


And music - music just makes everything better!! Hey, my neighbor's haven't complained about me serenading them yet!!



I don't know what is more beautiful, watching the stars come out one by one or watching the light bugs begin their evening dance one little light at a time.  Yes, at times I have to remind myself or my friends gently remind me, that if God can make the stars, if He can give a tiny bug the ability to light up the sky, then God has not forgotten about the desires of my heart.  


Sometimes I just have to slow down, take a deep breath, look around at the incredible blessings He has right in front of me and trust Him with the rest.


If He could help me turn what was once a plain little building into my own little magical retreat, just think about what He may have in store for me next??!!  It’s like waiting for Santa in the middle of the summer!!!  Until next time...






Sunday, March 27, 2016

Just a Girl & Her Son

Hi everyone!

With Spring Break now here I can play and create for a week.  As my break started I found that I was overcome with waves of emotions.  


Good Friday fell on my mom’s birthday this year and oh how I miss her terribly.  So instead of the family crawfish boil, I cooked for my daughter & her husband as they settle in with their new edition to the family.  


As I rocked this precious child Friday I couldn’t help but cry – cry because I wish my mom was here to see him – cry because I realize that the our kids grow up in the blink of an eye – cry because I am so very proud of Sarah & Jacob and I am so proud of the incredible father Jacob is and as a mom, to me the care, love, and support he gives my baby girl is worth more than anything on this earth.


I am pretty much known for listening to music and singing from the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep, with a million ideas of what I want to create next bouncing through my head.  So yesterday morning the song on my heart was Brandon Heath’s song, Just a Girl.  Traditionally this is a Christmas song, but for me, as a mom it took on a different meaning.

As I rocked my precious grandson and then let my baby drive me home I was reminded of how time flies.  As I listened to this song, as a mom I could not help to feel that gut wrenching agony Mary must have been feeling.  


I have three children, she had one…one child that she watched endure bullying far beyond what we watch our own children experience today.  She watched them do unspeakable things to her baby, and yes, though he was a man, no matter how old our children get they are always ours babies. 

So think about it, God used an ordinary woman, like me or you or your mom and He knew that He was sending this child into the world to carry our burdens, to die for our sins, not any sins that he himself committed.  And through this all, Mary had to sit back, watch and trust that God knew what He was doing.  How many moms, how many helicopter parents could sit back and do this today?  How many of us would want to see out children die so that others could be saved? 


Mary was an ordinary woman.  Think about all of the other people in our present time who have had an incredible impact on this world that had just “plain Jane” moms.  My point is this, God can use ALL of us, the “plain Janes” or in my case “Jennifer Jane” to do incredible things in His name.  

It is not about where we attend church, it is about us knowing and listening to Him, watching for the God winks and in this fast paced, often crazy world letting people see Him work through us.  Maybe it is in reaching out to those that are hurting to offer help; maybe our stories provide hope to the hopeless; maybe it is just giving someone a hug so that for a minute in time they can feel the burdens of the world lifted off of their shoulders.  What this looks like will be different to each and every one of us, but make no mistake about it, we ALL can take the unique gifts and talents that He has given us and use them for good in this world.


Mary was just a girl who did not have all of the conveniences of today, who didn’t have a crazy mom and step mom to help her welcome her son into this world.  She was an ordinary mom who gave birth to an extraordinary son who died to save me & you.  That is more precious than a chocolate bunny in an Easter basket. 


So this morning when my boys went with me to church to sing and praise with their crazy momma, I hugged them a little tighter.  To watch my almost grown boys praise and worship the Lord, unashamed – I just have to tell you that is such a precious gift to me.  


I thank God for using me, an ordinary plain “Jennifer Jane” mom to teach them what an incredible relationship they can have with Him.  I have has always tried to teach my children to listen for God’s voice because going where He leads will provide them with a life that provides more fulfillment than a paycheck can ever give them.

Yes, Mary was just a girl who watched her son die for me and you.  What a completely humbling thought that is on this Easter Sunday! 


Happy Easter everyone!  


Thursday, February 18, 2016

Soup on a Sunny Day

Hi everyone!

Over the past several days, though life has had me slow down a bit to deal with this cold, I have found that the result has been a wave of new material for my books.  It is exciting, yet a tad bit overwhelming at times.  

I have come to the conclusion that often times writers aren’t born, life just makes us that way.  

Literally during some of the most unpleasant times in my life I have had friends like Sarah Bernard tell me, “WAIT, WAIT – like I know what you are going through is really horrible, but I can only think about your books.  YOU HAVE TO WRITE THIS DOWN!!  I’m sorry, but when I talk to you I just always think of how you need to put this into your books.  Your life is like this tragic comedy, but you have to write it down because no matter what you go through, you always come out okay.”  

Yes, there have been times when we have laughed through the tears and the pain that I have reminded her, “BELIEVE me – I WILL NOT FORGET THESE DETAILS!”
 
So I guess not only do I now have a creative tribe of friends, but I also have an incredible group of friends that have become by surrogate family tribe as well.  My friend Kathy has been rock and has walked with me through one of the scariest times in my life.  Yet we filled notebook after notebook with the tails of this unfortunate adventure, because some things are so unbelievable I just can’t make them up.  My Cajun friend Kim has spent many years on this journey with me and she knows me better than almost anyone.  The list could go on and on and I don’t want to leave anyone out, but that really isn’t my point tonight.


As I made tortellini soup, a favorite at my house when we aren’t feeling well, I couldn’t help but think of how much our lives are like the things we cook.  Sometimes we have to put things that might not seem appetizing at first into our recipes, but when we are done we have created a culinary master piece.

Aren’t our lives like that too?  Sometimes we have to go through times that may seem wonderful at first, yet turn into a disaster, or unpleasant at first - may be hot to the touch, or cold in terms of how we are treated, but isn’t it this combination of hot and cold, sour and sweet, that in the end can lead to the most delectable of creations that becomes out life?


Yes, sometimes life has us slow down a bit so that we can celebrate the aroma of what is around us and what we have been given.  So we can tell what needs to be added to our life and what we need to take away, so that in the end, like food, we feel, warm, comforted, and loved.

Until tomorrow…. 



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