Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Welcoming Spirit Has Moved

Oh friends - big news! I've launched a podcast and now work as a life and career coach.

You can find everything here:

Welcoming Spirit: at its new blog location: http://www.jumpstartyourjoy.com

You can also find the podcast on iTunes by clicking here.

Jump Start Your Joy

I sure hope you'll stop by for a visit!
Much love -

Monday, May 11, 2015

Finding Balance: Defining and Defending Harmony in Your Life

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If you are having trouble accessing the page, please email me at welcomingspirit at gmail dot com and include the original password you received. I will be in touch with more information. Thank you for your patience!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Embracing our Brokenness, Accepting Ourselves

Perhaps you've seen the photo by Tyler Shields of the ballerina's feet? The left foot is wrapped, looks beautiful and graceful, wearing a ballet slipper while the dancer balances enpointe. The right foot is bear, showing multiple bandages, bruises, blood, cuts, worn toenails. It is showing the raw beating that a foot takes to dance enpointe. You can see the image here. It is what inspired this post I originally made during Lent.

I was taken aback when this image showed up in my Instagram feed on Thursday. Dance, broken-ness, projected image, perfection, practice, things hidden and those revealed, all rolled in to this one picture.

Each of us has flaws and our own brokenness is inherent to who we are. Even the most practiced of ballerinas, embodying beauty and grace, has her own brokenness, some of it hidden just below her shoes. Just below the surface. The scars of her practicing, her falling, her getting back up one more time then she falls to try again. And she does it all to fulfill what she is driven to do.

It is love and passion and failing that brings us to life, in our entirety, in our wholeness. We dance greatly because of our imperfections, they are what has formed us, what made us stronger, what gave us such strength and focus and purpose.

Like the ballerina, each of us has scars, our own equivalent of bruised toes that have supported our whole weight. Some of the the scars are emotional, some physical, some run so deep that we are nearly swallowed by them some days, while other days we stare it down and tell it to "be still." But each morning, we rise, we muster faith, we cover up what we can with pep talks and emotional bandages, and we keep going.

It is all a story of Crucifixion. It is all practice of dying and rising, getting ready for the final dying and rising. Our brokenness, our scars are reminders of dying. We sit with suffering. We are given opportunities to rise, to live out and past our pain, but for now, this is just practice. Practicing the dance and practicing living and falling and dying and rising.

"And great mystery: to redeem our brokenness and lovelessness the God who suffers with us did not strike some mighty blow of power but sent his beloved son to suffer like us, through his suffering to redeem us from suffering and evil.
Instead of explaining our suffering God shares it." - Nicholas Wolterstorff, Lament for a Son

Jesus is showing us how to do this;  He is the exemplification of sitting with the suffering. And on Easter Sunday, we will witness the trans formative nature of His suffering, His sharing in our suffering, as he Rises and our brokenness and lovelessness is redeemed.

If we embrace our brokenness we can accept ourselves in this moment, and accept the invitation to rise again. For today, we sit with broken-ness and see how it is intimately woven with love, with wholeness, with balance, and that it is all a part of the dance.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

I Want to Help Others Fly

A year and a half ago, I was working with a life coach, and was looking to leave advertising, and find a job that would give me better balance, that would shorten my 4 hour daily round trip commute. At the time, I was also trying to decide what I wanted to do next. I had an interview with a large financial industries company as part of this journey, and wrote the following post (which I haven't published until now).

Even at the time, I could feel that my reaction to this interview was different. It was a a solid realization that I truly wanted to move in to something new, in a role where I could support and uplift others.

I can't quite pinpoint what was so off putting about the interview. Maybe it was the one guy who asked how many hours I currently work a week, and when I answered between 55-60 he asked, “so you are comfortable with that kind of work load?” Or the beige cubicles with wine colored stripes. Or that I heard the term “fire hose” used repeatedly.

I found myself staring beyond one of the men interviewing me, past his ears, past a leggy plant, out the window. Where there was freedom. Big buildings needing to be explored. A vast view to take in. There was beauty beyond the walls.

When I was in first grade I had a similar experience. Math class made me feel claustrophobic. It never quite made sense. The rules were oppressive. So, instead of doing the math, I’d sit and stare out the window. There were stories out there. There was a world to explore. My life beckoned.

My teacher put me in a small walled-in cubicle. She didn’t want me to see out the window. Even with no view, I’d daydream. I didn’t want to do what she asked me to, she didn’t understand and she’d closed me in. So I would sit. I would think of stories in my head.

Next, the teacher gave me a kitchen timer, put it next to me and would tell me I had to get my work done before the time was up. The claustrophobia would rise, the anxiety would mount. I would get so upset that someone would cage me, time me, pace near me, decide what was best for me.

And there was something about that office, that team, those people, that gave the same feeling I'd known in first grade. Something about managing people through that environment that made me feel the roles were about to reverse. That I’d become the one that caged others, who defined their days, decided their priorities, that clipped their wings.

When really, all I want to do is to help others to fly.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Our Wedding Dance, or Dancing in the Kitchen

Sean and I got married in October, and we chose to have our first dance in the kitchen of the small reception hall. That's right, the kitchen.

Sure, he's a chef, and that's cute and all, but there's a lot more to our kitchen dancing than his profession.

Dancing in the Kitchen, Wedding Dance on Welcoming Spirit
Our first dance, photo by Matt Welch of Munkee's Eye Photography

It started way back when we were living together in a one bedroom apartment. The kitchen was modern and huge and it was a great space to dance. Many nights we'd just stand there, swaying back and forth, usually without any music playing.

Just dancing in the kitchen.

We moved before Zoom was born, and again we had an ample amount of space in the kitchen. While I was pregnant, it was comforting to stand and dance, and the kitchen was our favorite space. Those months were filled with me picking out about a million "perfect first dance" songs, which I'd insist we play, and we'd dance.

Right there in the kitchen.

When we moved into our new home, again a smallish home with just 2 bedrooms, a reliably open and inviting dance space is in our kitchen.

Zoom will sometimes start a dance party there, and we will play loud music, jumping, dancing, laughing in our kitchen. And there are nights, after a long day, that we still just hug and sway, in the dim light of the kitchen.

So when we looked at our reception hall, there was a clear space for a dance floor. But when we thought about where that first dance should be, well, I asked if we could have it in the kitchen. Sean loved the idea. The caterer didn't mind (but had never had anyone ask that before).

Dancing in the Kitchen, Wedding Dance on Welcoming Spirit
Our first dance, photo by Matt Welch of Munkee's Eye Photography

For us, dancing in the kitchen embodies so much more than what at first glance might seem to be a quirky place for a first wedding dance. It is in its simplicity, it's everyday-ness that we have found it to be sacred. It's a dance that can be done any day, regardless of mood or circumstance. It can (and should be) done in any home, with or without music. In pajamas or wedding gowns, with chicken pox or after gardening. After a hard day, or to celebrate something, we dance in our kitchen. It's the heart of our home, it's a symbol of our togetherness, both as a couple, but also now as a family. It reminds us that we are close, no matter what, and we are loved, no matter what.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Tiny Biz Tuesday: What Small Businesses Can Learn from Big Advertising Campaigns

Our Tiny Biz Hustle group is talking a bit about the mechanics of a large scale advertising campaign this week. I found this great post about the "10 best ads of all time," and I gotta say, this one is right on the money. I might add the original Apple Mac advertisement, but otherwise, I'd say yes, those are some of the most iconic, memorable, and best executed campaigns in history.

One more I'd add though is Mastercard's "Priceless" campaign. I know you know it. It launched in 1997, and it's been in use for 18 years. The formula is this (and I'm totally making this example up using a gratuitous shot of my own son, Zoom):

 Airfare to LAX: $300
Entrance to the Happiest Place on Earth for a 2 year old: $0
Iconic mouse ears: $15
Seeing your child's sheer joy of riding the teacups for the first time: Priceless

You get it. You know it. You might have even written your own version of this ad at some point.

So why does the Mastercard ad work so well, and why would I argue it's one of the best campaigns to date?

1. It follows a Simple Formula

It's a formula (3 things that you pay for, ending with an experiential moment that is labeled as "priceless.") that works for a lot of different situations and demographics. It sets up a simple story that we can understand, and the word priceless offers a satisfying resolution for the reader. We've come to expect and anticipate the priceless tag. It's satisfying.

What's also impressive about this formula is that it can be used with various situations; it can be serious, humorous, informational, and apply across a myriad of topics from family events, sports, cooking, vacations ... it has endless applications.

2.  It has a a Simple Message

In essence, Mastercard is telling us that while money is the means to get to our dreams, it is not the most important thing. It's the "priceless" event, memory, or situation that matters. And, by offering the message, they are insinuating that Mastercard can help pay for these special events.

3. It's Aspirational

A credit card has the challenge of not selling an actual product, but offering a service. So, unlike a shoe company that can show images of their sneakers, they have to find something else to focus on. They can show images of the card itself, but that can have limited applications in advertising (there's only so many static images of credit cards that people want to see).

And, in essence, they make their money by getting people to sign up for a card, or by having people use their card more.

The great way to get people to sign up for a new card or use the card? Show amazing scenarios of people "like you" that are enjoyed "priceless" moments that were brought to them because they were able to fund some of the experience with a credit card. They've tapped into an emotion, one that runs deep, and makes us want to experience that thing, too.

4. It's Ownable and Recognizeable for the Mastercard Brand

Perhaps its because of the fun, puzzle like nature of the campaign, people took to "priceless" quickly, and it led to it taking on a life of its own. As Avi Dan observes in his Forbes article, "In a sense “Priceless” became a viral, social campaign years before there was a social media."

Much like the campaigns of "Got Milk," and "I'm Lovin it," Mastercard had tapped into something that became a phenomenon on its own. As a campaign, "Priceless" stands on it's own, and has inspired many spinoffs (both serious and satirical).

The cool thing is that spinoffs only help to solidify the validity of the campaign, because each time someone presents the formula in a spinoff, or just the tagline of "Priceless," they are spending time with the Mastercard brand (myself included). And, subtly reminding those who see the spinoff of the original brand as well.

So what in the world does this have to do with a small business? Why spend so much time with these big campaigns?

I love the Mastercard example because it really does highlight what a good advertising campaign does, and these lessons can inform what a Small or Tiny Business should look to do with both their business plans and marketing plans. Let's break this down.

1. Big campaigns are clear on their objectives.

These big companies do a lot of work to come up with very clear objectives around a campaign. For many, it's to raise awareness about the brand itself. If we're looking at what a Tiny Biz is trying to do, the lesson here is to be clear on what you want to achieve. You can only go after success if you have defined what it looks like.

2. Successful campaigns present "brand attributes" that resonate with potential customers.

If you're running a Tiny Biz, it's good to think about what image you want to put out into the world. What are your brand attributes? Are you or your brand aspirational? Serious? Funny? Pick three attributes and use them. As we see with Nike and McDonalds, present an image, a feeling that you want your potential customers to feel when they think of your brand. Picking some attributes will help people identify with you.

For example, Ellen DeGeneres is humorous, inclusive, generous, and contemporary. I like this, and to put this into ad agency speak, I like that she "executes" on those "brand attributes." She's pretty upfront about WHO she is and WHAT her brand stands for, and so if you were to tune in to her show for the first time, you'd know pretty quickly what to expect.

Think about how you can use this for your own brand, or for that of our business. What attributes define you? You need to get specific about this and then start using them to inform how you present yourself to the public.

3. Sticking with a successful campaign over the long haul creates consistency in the mind of the customer.

The other reason people return back to Ellen, or to Nike, is because they know what to expect. I know what Ellen stands for, and it resonates with me. And in turn, she creates a daily show that is consistent to what each of us has come to expect of her. If she changed that formula drastically or suddenly, or didn't stick with a consistent kind of content, her audience would not know what to expect.

If you're a Small or Tiny Business owner, consistency is important.
From a customer standpoint, it's hard to remain loyal to something that doesn't have a consistent message or product or offering or theme.

Additionally, customers may take awhile to "get to know" your brand. If you're offering a service, they might need a while to understand what you're offering, and if you're a coach or consultant, it may take a while to gain the trust of those customers. Offering a consistent brand image, and aligning your brand with specific attributes, emotions, and topics can help potential customers become more comfortable with an eventual purchase.

Phew. So that's my take on what small businesses can learn from big campaigns. What do you think? Any favorite campaigns? I'd love to hear from you in the comments! :)

*this post is not an advertisement nor an endorsement for any brand mentioned here, nor am I getting any compensation for this post. The views are my own, and based on 15 years of working in advertising on a major credit card brand.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My Free E-Course to Help You Find Balance in Your Life

Edited as of May 2015: This ecourse has been reworked, and will be available in the upcoming Multipassionate Must Haves bundle. Over the past couple of months, I've been working on something I'm pretty passionate about. It's a free five day e-course, focused on helping you identify your priorities, and then defining balance in your own life.

This course came out of the work we led on our October retreat. We spent a whole day going through exercises that helped our participants narrow down a list of what's most important to them. In turn, that list got reworked in a couple of different ways, allowing each person to identify the things they want to keep in their life, and ultimately helped them to define the top things for them to keep doing.

Along the way, we talked about things we might let go of, or say no to. Saying "no" to things is an important step in finding and maintaining balance.

I'll say upfront that this is not easy work. It takes making time for reflection, for digging deep, and for getting honest about what YOU want for your life, and what you want and need to keep in your life.

That said, there's also no better time to tackle these things.

What you'll get from signing up:
- an email every day for five days
- a link each day to a new, thought provoking worksheet for you to download and keep that I created just for this course
- opportunities to join in a larger community conversation as you go
- prompts to journal and brainstorm on your own

Here's a peek at why my own first brain dump looked like the day of the retreat. I wrote this list out in front of our participants as an example of everything that was stuck in my brain that day, on my never-ending mental to-do list. It's not fancy, and I didn't use a filter on what I put on the list. As it hit my brain, I wrotie it.

This is where you'll start, with a brain dump of ALL the things are you're balancing.

As a side note, I've already done the thank you notes from our wedding, and gotten my windshield wipers changed. I've started writing and blogging more. Even just getting the first step done offered me more brain space and the ability to take a look at a few of the things that I need to tackle.

I encourage you to start, right now! We got such great feedback that day that I knew I HAD to share these exercises with you.

"Never get so busy making a living that you forget to make a life."

Oh, and P.S. "Nose" is the name of our fish. Just in case that line made you do a doubletake. Zoom named him.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

2015 is The Year of 'No Toggle'

"No Toggle" is a phrase I first heard in a Jess Lively's podcast, during her interview with Kris Carter.

In a nutshell, Kris is striving to live his life as authentically and intentionally true to his purpose as possible. It means that he strives to be the same person at home as he is at work, with his friends as he is with his family. He's giving every aspect of his life his all, and all of his TRUE SELF.

And from the moment that I heard that I knew that it was what I had to do. I wrote out the words "no toggle" on a post it note and put it on my desk at work.

You see, for a long time I have embraced what is likely the opposite of this idea. That my life has partitions, distinct sections, for work, for home. For retreat leading. For blogging. For working in advertising. But something in my own head has always stopped me from intermingling most of these parts. I hide away aspects of my spiritual self from my work life.

To be honest, I can not figure out why I have created this artificial distinction.
In college I was a religious studies major and in a sorority. 
I was often asked if I wanted to be a nun, to which I would answer, "no," but I know part of me wanted to consider ministry of some sort.

I went to Yale Divinity School but was so careful to announce to everyone who would listen that it was "an academic pursuit." Even when they did not ask.

And yet there was that time that I called my Pastor and asked what it took to become a Lutheran minister.

At Divinity School I fell in love with classes like "Performance of Biblical Text" because when I acted out the gospel of Mark those moments in Jesus' life came alive and were so real.

And now, when I lead a retreat, I get lost in the preparation, the ideas, the heady discussions with people at the retreat about what it means to be alive here and now, in this crazy digital age. I love how the stories of the Bible intertwine with our lives to provide depth and insights, that these stories are still so timely, impactful, and remain so contemporary.

"Do More of What Makes You Happy"

I can see now that the path that has led me to this point in my life was no accident. I can also sense that 2015 is my year to figure out what it means to live in a "no toggle" state. I'm excited for this, I welcome it, but it means stepping outside of my comfort zone.

I know that I want to be a life coach and a retreat leader, and maybe a small business digital media coach to help other people. I want them to know that they are good enough, that they are more than the messages they hear in advertising. And that they have a divine purpose that they are here to fulfill. Something that was planted in them before they arrived here, that they are being nudged towards, even if they have heard themselves deny it out-loud. Or followed a different path for awhile because it seemed pretty or like what they should do, or like what other people wanted them to do.

Because somewhere, in their heart, in the depths of their soul, they resonate with a calling. With a desire to be, to be something, do something, bigger than what they are right now. I know, because I feel it, too.

I know because this year I will be following it. And I sure hope you all come along for the ride.

Shared on: The Sunday Showcase

Tiny Biz Tuesday: A 2015 Calendar with Marketing Topics

Happy 2015! One of my big goals this year is to post once a week about how to apply marketing to your tiny or small business. And, in the spirit of tapping in to my project management background (and my same 15 years of marketing), I knew that I needed to map out content for the 12 months of the year. So, without further adieu, here's my plan for the next twelve months.

The idea is this: Each month my Tiny Biz Hustle friends and I will tackle a big topic. We'll chat about it on our Facebook group (want to join us? It's still an open group!) and keep each other on task and motivated. And each week there will be a "mission" for "just one thing" that will help us take steps in furthering our small business or blog.

It's gonna be a ton of work, but I'm super excited about taking this step to share my expertise in the digital marketing field.

It's time to rock 2015. And you've totally got this!

If you're interested in learning more, and getting updates via email, please sign up for the Tiny Biz Hustle email list too:

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Simplifying my Wardrobe, Grocery Shopping, and Getting a Toddler Ready in the Morning

For the past couple of months, I have been focused on making some changes because there were a few things that were bugging me. Getting out of the house in the morning with a four year old was painful. Picking out my own clothes wasn't fun. I didn't like that I was feeling run ragged by the end of the day. Or feeling like my mind was constantly somewhere else, not in the present moment, not able to focus on whatever was in front of me because of the constant, running to do list.

And so I embarked on looking for answers, or looking for ideas on new ways of doing things. I'm already seeing some positive changes. Just the other night, I had this very sweet moment when I was playing a memory card game with my son. I realized I was just playing, enjoying time with him, and that I wasn't feeling torn or distracted, or like I should go fold the laundry.

I'm surprised that this moment happened four days before Christmas because that's usually when things feel the craziest.

So what have I started doing differently?

1. I started a capsule wardrobe. I picked out 9 pairs of pants, 15 tops, 2 dresses, 2 jackets, and 9ish pairs of shoes. It's all I'm wearing until March.

Why this simplifies things:
I know what I have to wear, and I know that it fits. I picked each thing because I like the way it looked on me. (you can see my trial runs on Instagram). I know that if I do my laundry every week and hang up my clothes, I have enough to last through the work week and I don't have to think about it. I don't really think about shopping for clothes because I've already agreed with myself that I'm not buying anything until February. And, it no longer means that I do that thing where I try on 20 things in the morning and feel defeated and crazy because I "haven't got a stitch to wear."

2. We changed how we approach grocery shopping and meal planning. We've started having our groceries delivered, and I now am exploring a new slow cooker meal each week. (you can follow my choices on my "Adventures of Gluten Free Slow Cooking" Board on Pinterest).

Why this simplifies things:
We spent A LOT of time running to the store each week because we didn't plan out meals and shopped day to day. Now my husband and I talk about our menu for the week, load up our cart on Safeway.com, and we place an order to be delivered on Monday evening. It means we don't spend the time in the stores, and we don't spend extra money during those daily trips. It also means we can stand in the kitchen, check if we have something, and if we don't, we just add it to the cart. This also results in fewer trips.

My one slow cooker meal a week trial has had great results. It means we spend less time making the meal that night, and we have left overs to cover us for another meal that week (and sometimes enough to freeze for a following week!). We free up time we can spend with the family.

3. I created a morning routine for my son and I. I'm trying to wake up earlier, but we now have a set routine that we follow every morning.

Why this simplifies things:
My son is 4. He doesn't listen, he has ideas, and he likes to do his own thing. This meant that he often derailed our morning because he was honestly just doing what toddlers do. That's when I put this checklist on our refrigerator, with little magnets for him to use to check each thing off. Now that he can see what needs to happen, he's actually doing the steps by himself. Instead of me yelling, or getting frustrated, I can say "let's go see what we have to do next" and then we move along naturally. It get us out the door faster and with a lot less frustration.

So, what have you been working on to simplify your days?