blogging

Why I Switched from Blogger to Squarespace

In the internet world there are so many hot topics, every seasoned blogger or business owner has an opinion on where to host, who to use for design services, what to write about, how often to write...and the list goes on. For me when it comes to where to host my blog I pledge my allegiances to Squarespace until the end! Many creatives are making the switch over to this clean, user friendly platform. I haven't always been a Squarespace user, I previously used the free Blogger platform. However my blog began to grow, as did my love for design, and I began to feel very discontent with my set up. I knew it was time for me to step towards something more suitable for me.

Then I read this post by my sweet friend Lauren, and knew I had to jump ship. It was time for me to make a change, and I was eager to host on a platform that could grow with me and my business in the years to come. So queue Squarespace...and all the praise hands! Why did I switch, and why do I recommend this platform to every client I work with? Let me tell you! 

1. ANYONE CAN USE IT + Bye Bye HTML!!

With many platforms out there customizing your blog or website requires a knowledge of HTML/CSS code. This is a language of its own, and it not only difficult to learn but is incredibly tedious and time consuming. When I was on Blogger I had to use HTML or CSS for every little customization...it was so much work. With Squarespace anyone can set up a website and maintain the website, without having to know how to write code. (Can you hear the angels singing yet?)

I do know quite a bit about writing HTML/CSS code but due to the tedious nature of writing code (I mean come on...one little comma or dot makes the whole code break! YIKES) I prefer to avoid it if at all possible. Squarespace makes this possible almost all the time. There are a few rare occasions in which I choose to still write my own code, but 9 times out of 10 I do not have to. With Squarespace anyone can get a professional and unique website without writing code, which was seriously enough to convince me. 

2. it is EASY ON THE WALLET

I knew at the end of 2014 I wanted to make a change when it came to my blog. I was heavily considering switching to Wordpress, but was hung up on the cost. It was adding up quickly to self host, and pay someone to help me export everything, plus set up my framework...and so on. I was overwhelmed and had not nearly enough money for all that the platform required. 

Squarespace on the other hand offers the customization I was looking for but for a fraction of the cost. There are different monthly payment plans, none of which are more than $30, that meet different needs for users. I was able to transfer my current domain and select the package that suits my needs. I pay no more than $20 a month and that is perfect for where my little blog and business is right now. (I use the Business plan but the Personal would be suitable for most bloggers that do not use ecommerce, view payment plans here)

3.there are ENDLESS OPPORTUNITY FOR GROWTH

This is my favorite aspect of the Squarespace platform. It is not just for bloggers. It is for small business owners, creatives, churches, shop owners, farmer's markets, fitness studios...and literally anything else you can think of. Squarespace has the capability built into the interface for ecommerce, so users that sell products or services can sell their items in one place rather than using third-party sites such as Etsy or BigCartel. 

Users are able to integrate so much in one place. I think of it as a one stop shop. I can have a cover page, portfolio, blog, contact page, gallery pages, and a shop all one one website without ever setting up account on other site! Hello simple expansion! 

4. UPDATING IS EASY AS PIE

Easy is the name of the game with Squarespace. Everything is updated for you so you do not have to waste precious time updating widgets and your framework. This is done for you. (does this make you want to do a little happy dance?!)

In addition, Squarespace has numerous templates to choose from. Each template offers a very unique look that can be further customized to create a one of a kind look for each user. Switching from template to template is literally as easy as pie and helps create fresh new looks. (like the one Oh Simple Joys is sporting this morning, what do you think?) 

5. IT IS JUST PRETTY

As a designer I am drawn to things that are pretty to look at, and Squarespace is just that. Without customizing a thing the templates are a beautiful. They are the perfect place to start for those that may be new business owners or bloggers, and for those that may be looking for a custom brand and website, Squarespace lends itself to so much potential for personalization and beautiful design. It really is the best choice in my humble opinion, and this is why I personally use it and recommend it to everyone I work with (and everyone I don't work with too! haha)


I am a huge fan of this platform, and after making the switch I truly never looked back. I love everything about Squarespace and sing its praises to everyone that asks me about it. Are you in a similar spot as I was before making my switch? Looking to step up your blogging game but not wanting to mess with the hassle of HTML/CSS or the price of self hosting? Let's work together to create a perfect website for you and your business/blog! 




When Fear Leads to Freedom

"You are often paralyzed by fear. Instead of taking action on the things that keep pulling at your heart, you get out your phone and look at what other people are doing..." - Lara Casey, Make It Happen

These feelings were different than the "blogging burn out" so many talk about and warn against. No, after many days, weeks, and months of trying to figure out why in the world I could not write consistently, I have come to this realization. The uneasiness, the lack of motivation, the doubt, the questions...these seemed to be the Holy Spirit pulling on my heart. 

The past few weeks, well months really, if I am being honest, I have felt paralyzed when it comes to writing. I am sure many of you noticed I have been inconsistent with my posting and in and out here on the blog. I have had the hardest time articulating what has been happening within my heart and mind. For so long, I have been tormented with one question.

WHAT IS THE POINT OF MY BLOG? 

This question (and my inability to answer it) has haunted me. In a fearful panic, I began chasing after anything and everything to make my blog feel put together and official. I would be a "cooking/helpful tips" blog...or no, I could be a "handmade/small business" blog...or wait, maybe I could be a "design/inspiration" blog. Yet, still I was uneasy, refusing to sit down and write out my thoughts for days on end because, honestly, I did not know what to say. I could not move forward into those "things that keep pulling at my heart" as Lara Casey says in her new book, Make it Happen

These feelings were different than the "blogging burn out" so many talk about and warn against. No, after many days, weeks, and months of trying to figure out why in the world I could not write consistently, I have come to this realization. The uneasiness, the lack of motivation, the doubt, the questions...these seemed to be the Holy Spirit pulling on my heart. 

I began to see that I needed to step away and critically think through the purpose of my blog and presence on the Internet before I could move forward. As I have spent concentrated time thinking this through and talking with my husband and several others, here are a few things I have found to be true...

First, I struggle with desiring affirmation from others, so, naturally, in this online world that is closely affiliated with likes, followers, stats, and page views, I tend to fall into my flesh and sin.

First, I struggle with desiring affirmation from others, so, naturally, in this online world that is closely affiliated with likes, followers, stats, and page views, I tend to fall into my flesh and sin.

I have realized I need to posture my blog in such a way that doesn't allow me to feed that affirmation-craving beast hidden deep within me. I love reading how-to blogs, design blogs, food blogs, and business blogs, yet I have seen that, if Oh Simple Thoughts were solely one of these blogs, I would be able to justify my selfish desire for more followers, more likes, higher stats, and more page views...those are part of the business blog world, after all, right? This is a necessary part of these blogs, so it is not bad in itself, yet it feeds a sin in me with which I struggle. So lesson learned, I cannot allow my blog to become driven by numbers, or I will undoubtedly fall into a pattern that I see as unhealthy for my spiritual, emotional, and mental well being. 

Second, I have realized that my online and offline life must be balanced in a healthy way and that my offline life needs to take first priority. 

Community is a big buzz word online and in real life. We all desire to experience community, be in community, and share community with others. Yet, true community is about life on life. It is messy and inconvenient at times, and, most importantly, true community takes away our ability to have total control. This is scary, but necessary, to experience deep, real, family-like community. It is about people showing up unannounced and seeing our messy houses, imperfect marriages, and our sin...community has to see it all in order to truly be what it is, a family. 

When it comes to blogging and the internet, I often see the opposite of this. We say we are pursuing online community, yet, in reality, everything is under our total control. We dictate when we show up and when we shut the door, we filter what is put out there, we edit our words and images to fit our "brands". So while I believe elements of community can exist online, I am not sure that true Biblical community can ever fully be experienced on the Internet alone. 

Don't get me wrong. I have been blessed to meet so many amazing and inspirational women through the internet (honestly, some of my very best friends), yet I am learning something very important about online community....it is, by default, limited. This is why I feel my biggest priority must be placed on my physical community and then on my online community. 

Yet, true community is about life on life. It is messy and inconvenient at times, and, most importantly, true community takes away our ability to have total control. This is scary, but necessary, to experience deep, real, family-like community. It is about people showing up unannounced and seeing our messy houses, imperfect marriages, and our sin...community has to see it all in order to truly be what it is, a family. 

Finally, I have learned that my deep desire is to write, blog, instagram, tweet, share, and all the other social verb words for Jesus' name. 

Oh Simple Thoughts is about Jesus. I do not want it to be about me or my amazing recipes or my perfect marriage or my great fashion sense or my successful small business. Can I let you in on a little secret? None of those things exist...so why would I make an entire blog about fake things? I mess up in the kitchen on a regular basis. I fight with my husband and sin against him. I struggle to prevent my love for fashion and handmade business from mushrooming into discontentment and materialism. I struggle to keep my small business surrendered to the will of Jesus. I am soo far from perfect, and that is what Oh Simple Thoughts is about. 

This blog is a place to share real life. The good, the inspiring, the messy, the convicting, the challenging, and, sometimes, the stylish, yummy, and handmade. 

There has been a lot of learning happening within my heart the past month, but now I am here. I am ready to commit myself to this space and to show up here regularly, for the Lord's glory. I will be posting only 3 times a week and focusing on our community here in Starkville with more of my free time. But I am here friends, and I am eager to see the Lord make much of himself here at Oh Simple Thoughts. 

I have a heart so see the Internet used as a tool to bring glory to the Lord, and want to encourage others who have an online presence to consider the same thing. Will you join me tonight for my second #ohsimplechat on Twitter to talk about these things? I will be hanging out asking some questions for whoever wants to join in from 7-8pm CST tonight. 


To My Dear Readers - A Letter of Honesty & Changes

So, I have had so many things swirling around in my heart and mind lately in regards to this little blog. I have taken a long time to stop, ponder, and really work through my feelings and thoughts the past few months. So, I wanted to take a few minutes to be very honest with you and share my heart. I love Oh Simple Thoughts. This blog means so much to me and has served to mold and shape me in so many ways since it's beginning. This space has allowed me to share my life and passions with so many people I may never meet face to face, and that is amazing. I have been doing this a little over two years now and cannot express the joy that this hobby brings me.

Don't worry...this is not my "I am quitting the Internet post".

I began blogging to document mine and Ben's life together, but quickly this space grew into something so much bigger. It has become a place for me to share my passions for food and handmade goods and to share openly and honestly about how the Lord is shaping me and teaching me. 

However, lately I have been coming to this blog worn down, empty and lacking the words and inspiration I have had in the past. I have been spinning in a million directions and feeling as if I am being pulled in a human tug of war match. I have felt inadequate, overwhelmed, and honestly like a disappointment. I have found myself sinking in the notion that "blogging success" must be quantified by x, y, and z...when in all honesty I am not sure x, y, and z are what I want this blog to be about. 

I went through a season of being totally consumed with the numbers, the stats, the profitability, and the followers of my blog...when, in all reality, none of these things make my blog successful in my book. I blog because I love sharing my life with you as my readers. I read other blogs because of the writer's honesty and life-giving words they share. I desire to grow this blog in order to see my mission of encouraging women to use their unique gifts for the Lord embraced by more readers. I truly want the Lord to bring more and more eyes to this little blog...but not at the expense of my sanity. 

When I stress about likes on Instagram, Twitter followers, page views, sponsors, comments, and how much money I am making...my blog is no longer accomplishing the goal for which it was created. When these things become my focus, then my blog has become about my own pride and my own vanity. I wrongly make this space all about me, myself, and I...and y'all, that is just not why I set out to write. 

So I have seen that the Internet can be such a life giving place, but that comes with boundaries and a balance. The constant pull to pour over Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and Bloglovin' day after day has drained me, and the Lord has made it very clear this is not what he is calling Oh Simple Thoughts to (though he may be calling you and your blog to that! Praise the Lord! I am behind you, and praying alongside you and cheering you on!). I naturally struggle to say no to good things...and blogging, and sponsorship, and promoting bloggers we believe in are all GOOD THINGS! However...I am in desperate need of saying YES to just a few really great things right now. 

I have just launched my Etsy shop, Oh Simple Joys, and have such fresh vision for this store. I have so many ideas and awesome products that will be rolling out in the months ahead, and I want to be able to focus my time and energy wholeheartedly in that venture. Also, Ben and I are part of new church plant that is wading through so many big, exciting changes...changes that require me to be fully present in our church member's lives on a daily basis. And when it comes down to it, I want to be living a full life, so that I can share that fullness with others virtually and in real life. The Lord fills me so that I can pour more out, and when I am not at a place of fullness or thriving, I cannot use this blog the way I feel the Lord desires me to. 

I am saying all this to say, I am stepping back, taking some deep breaths, and setting out to find myself again in a place of thriving. I have eluded to little changes and feeling overwhelmed here and there the past few months, but here I am laying it all out and truly walking in the way I feel the Lord calling me to walk right now.

I will be changing my sponsorships to fit what I feel the Lord is asking of me. I will still offer sponsorship spots, however they will no longer include things such as tweets, pins from pinterest, and the like. They will simply be a sidebar ad, plain and simple. I will do one post a month on all my sponsors, and I will keep offering this option as long as interest in the spot is around. For all current sponsors things will remain the same and the new sponsorship spots will be available beginning January 1st, 2015. There will no longer be monthly giveaways, just simply the occasional collab giveaway and giveaways to support businesses I believe in. I hope this all makes sense.

Nothing will change for sponsors that are lined up right now; everything will change in January. I am hoping this can be one little step I am able to take toward a place of refreshment, fullness, and thriving. I am saying

no

to some really awesome things in order to say

yes

to hopefully even better things. This may not make sense, but all I can say is that I am fully convinced this is what the Lord is asking of me, and so, therefore, I am walking in obedience to his calling as best I know how.

I praise the Lord for each of you that comes to this place and reads my words, comments, and follows along with our life. I pray you stick around, bear with me, and continue to seek out Christ in this space!

-Rachel

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BEST GIVEAWAY EVER!

I have been counting down the days for this post to go live...I have the most exciting giveaway to date for you all. I am just giddy about it. I am teaming up with

Jenni of Frankly My Dear

, my new kindred spirit that I met in real life last weekend at the Renew Retreat to bring you all something HUGE! We have teamed up with a large group of bloggers to bring you not one but TWO tickets to the Influence Conference 2015. YES! TWO ladies will get tickets for the conference next September, for FREE!!! 

Photo Credit -

Madison Wetherill

I found out about the

Influence Network

through Jenni. Which is why she was the first one I contacted about teaming up with me on this...she introduced me to this amazing community that I want each and every one of you to be a part of. The Network is just incredible. It is full of creative and God fearing women who desire to use their online influence for Jesus and his glory!! Hello?! Count me in. They offer classes, and community groups, and a opportunity to connect and "network" with women just like you. 

I have reaped rich benefits from being a member of the network, and I have purchased my ticket for the conference next year, as has Jenni (we will be roomies!). So not only will you get a free ticket if you win this giveaway, but Jenni and I and several other ladies helping host this giveaway can hug your neck in person in September and pray with you, and maybe even grab a meal together! How amazing would that be?

A big thank you to all the ladies that are helping give these tickets away! You are all so wonderful! I hope everyone will show them some love today as they are all HUGE in making this happen! 

What is the Influence Network?

TWO lucky readers will win a ticket to the 2015 Influence Conference. The conference is a three day event held in Indianapolis, Indiana at the Westin Hotel. You will meet women from all over the country who are seeking to learn the right tools for their passions. There will be workshops, classes, speakers, coffee, & shopping. There will be bloggers, mothers, small business owners, writers, and the list goes on & on. 

Two Places At Once

    //    

What She Saw

    //    

Rivers & Roads

Oaks & Oats

    //    

Amy Cornwell

    //    

Simplicity Relished

She Lives Free

   //    

Elah Tree

    //    

Mandy Living Life

Vallarina Creative

    //    

Camp Patton

    //    

23 and 9 Creative

Wetherills Say I Do

     //    

Oh Simple Thoughts

    //    

Frankly My Dear

You do not have to be a member of the Influence Network to enter or the giveaway OR go to the conference but I can personally attest to the growth I have seen in my life through the network and the relationships I have built through it.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

**Please note that this giveaway is in no way sponsored by The Influence Network. 

We are a group of independent women who are joining together to make this conference happen for two of our readers. The two recipients will only receive tickets to the event & are responsible for ALL other expenses, including but not limited to travel, lodging, meals, parking, etc. If for some reason either of the winners cannot attend the conference they will be expected to contact one of the hosts immediately so that another winner can be chosen.

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Reflections on Renew

I have briefly mentioned my trip to Gatlinburg the past two days but wanted to take some time to share more, and reflect some on all that happened while I was there.

I was so anxious prior to the weekend. I kept thinking about how crazy it was that I was going to meet 14 ladies that I follow online for the FIRST time ever in real life. Looking back now it was so silly for me to be anxious...the Lord brought us together this past weekend and it was beautiful! Absolutely beautiful. 

The minute I was in the same room with Madison, it was as if we have been best friends since elementary school...seriously. The level of comfort we felt around each other was something I have not experience with anyone since college, and was truly good for my soul. 

So thankful for this lady and her constant encouragement in my life. Madison listens to me panic, complain, and stress on a regular basis and she always points me back to the Lord. It is such a comforting thing to be her friend. 

Also, the coolest part of the weekend was how myself I was able to be. These ladies understood me. They got my creative desires, and my entrepreneurial instincts...and it was awesome! 

Sadly I hardly have any pictures with other people on my camera...fail. I know there are pictures on other cameras so check out everyone else's blog that was in attendance to see more pics! 

Madison

/

Rachel

/

Christin

I am having a hard time really putting into words what this past weekend meant to me. It was the restart button for me that I needed when it comes to blog land. I was beginning to feel so defeated and burnt out as many of you noticed lately. Being around passionate and Godly women was exactly what I needed to reawaken motivation for this blog. 

I was able to see for the first time in awhile that the Lord has given me this space for a purpose, and he has brought me followers and readers for His glory, and I am to be a good steward of that gift. I am so excited to dig deeper into what that means for this space! 

Cannot for the next time I am able to hug each one of these ladies in person...my heart aches for them, but I am so deeply grateful for our time together this weekend! 

What a little taste of the weekend? Don't forget to enter my

"swag bag" giveaway

to win a swag bag from the retreat! 

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Stepping Away, Recharging, and Being Present

I want to begin this post by saying how much I love this space. I love my little blog where I can share my thoughts, recipes, and stories with so many of you. I love the sweet friendships I have made through being a blogger and I love the creative outlet that this blog is for me 90 % of the time. I truly love all of those things.

However, there is that other 10% that I find myself plagued by guilt because I cannot reply to every comment, email, and shout out. I am distressed and overwhelmed because I am not scheduling posts as often as I want, falling through on commitments left and right...and honestly just defeated. I have been dwelling in that 10% this past weekend/week. To the point that it was affecting my mood and relationships around me. 

It is not anyone's fault really, but I am seeing that too much of a good thing can sometimes be a bad thing. When this little blog begins to pull me away from family, friends, and my community here so that I can "keep up" with posts, and comments, and reading blogs...it is time for me to step back. And when this space begins to cause me anxiety and constant feelings of guilt, it is time for me to step back, reevaluate and come back after a period away. Being present and invested where the Lord has me and my husband is so important. Starkville, MS and the community here is what I am called to first and foremost...and I have to remember that. 

Don't worry, I am not quitting the internet by any means. I will still be blogging, and often I hope! But I am going to be taking the rest of this week to spend time in the present, and recharge. I will be meeting up with some sweet blog friends for the Renew Blog Retreat in Gatlinburg on Friday and spending the weekend resting and being present with some awesome ladies! 

So just know that I haven't fallen off the face of the earth, I love each and every one of you that come to this blog time and time again to read my words, and I am just stepping back to recharge and spend some time being present with my friends and family in hopes of returning with a renewed heart and mind next week! 

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I am an open book -- Ask Away!!

I have LOVED the question and answer sessions I have seen on some of my favorite bloggers spaces lately. I think it is a brilliant idea, and really allows for you as the readers to get to know the person behind the blog. So today I am doing just that. I would love for you all to ask me all kinds of questions...it can be anything from things you want to know about me, marriage, our puppy...anything. I would love to be as transparent as I can be, and open myself and my life up to you all a little bit more.


So just use the form below and enter your questions. All of these will be anonymous, so no worries about that! I cannot wait to see what questions you come up with. I will be posting my answers in a video in a few weeks so yay for the second blog video, and a chance for you all to hear my apparently rather southern accent again! 



Also, meet one of my sweet sponsors this month, who recently just did a Q&A session herself, Bailey Jean of Brave Love Blog! Bailey is a sweetheart, and it is so evident to see how much she loves life and Jesus when you spend just a few minutes on her blog. I love her post on what kind of blogger she is, and her 101 in 1001 list, they are both so inspirational. Make sure and hop on over to Bailey's blog and show her some love today!

What is your favorite smell? 
Oh, girl, tough question! After working at Anthropologie I fell more in love with the Voluspa Volcano candles than I thought was possible. They have a relatively new scent call Blue Jeans in the same signature blue container and it is divine. 

What song always puts a smile on your face?
Summertime demands a good country playlist in my book, and I have to admit "Play it Again" by Luke Bryan is a recent favorite. Really anything with a little bit of twang is the sweet tea to my summer, and his Crash My Party album has been on repeat  ;) 

What is one thing you have learned this month?
This past month was my in-between month, transitioning from Seattle to Texas to wait for the start of grad school in Oklahoma next week. I have learned that transition is not an excuse to forego discipline, especially when it comes to spending time in the Word and taking care of my physical health. It is easy to put things off with my routine out of whack, but the Lord has graciously taught me that every person and every place on my path is purposeful and an opportunity to seek His will for my day-to-day, even when each day looks different than the last.


If you are interested in joining my sponsorship team for September hop on over and use promo code COFFEEDATE for 50% off all spots TODAY ONLY! I would love to have you on the team and work to grow your blog or business!

Happy Weekend friends! I am unplugging this weekend, and stepping away from social media to enjoy some sweet time with my little family. So enjoy the weekend, and rest with those that you love! 

It's My (Blog) Birthday! 2!!!

It is Oh Simple Thoughts' SECOND BIRTHDAY you guys! How crazy is that?! I started this blog as a place to keep family and friends updated on mine and Ben's engagement/marriage, and over these past two years it has changed into a creative outlet and inspiring hobby for me. I never dreamed I would invest so much time and engery into this website but I seriously would not change a thing. I am so thankful for not only this space, but for the tool it has been to meet some dear friends, and to share Jesus' name with others.

Today, as a way for my to reminisce and celebrate I wanted to share some of my favorite moments at Oh, Simple Thoughts. And to keep up with the theme of 2, it will all be in pairs. 

TWO FAVORITE POSTS- 

Our Love Story

Why We Saved our First Kiss for our Wedding Day

TWO MOST VIEWED POSTS- 

52 Almost Free Date Nights

Life Lately

TWO TUTORIALS-

Anthro Inspired Snow Globes

Pom Pom Garland

TWO FAVORITE RECIPES- 

Bakery Style Chocolate Chip Muffins

Tomato Marinated Chicken and Barley Corn Salad

TWO PERSONAL POSTS-

The Hardest Post I May Ever Write

Joy vs. Shame

TWO MOST POPULAR GUEST POSTS-

HTML Basics for Bloggers

Simplifying - The What, Why and How

TWO LESSONS LEARNED- 

1. I think one of the biggest things I have learned is this is a creative outlet, and is a way for me to explore my gifts, passions, and thoughts in a unique way...it is not something that should consume me, or something I should look to in order to define me by how many pageviews, followers, or unique visitors I have each month...it is to share my passions. This is a place to inspire others to be Godly women by using their gifts.

2. Reach out. Always ask questions, and step out in faith. I found that 9 times out of ten when I asked a blogger a question about coding or sponsorships they almost never ignored me, and almost always helped me with my question. I have had great success and encouragement from just simply being willing to reach out to others and not be prideful in my ignorance or uncertainty. 

TWO GOALS FOR YEAR 3- 

1. I want to further develop my mission statement. Not only for the sake of my content and my readers but for myself, so that I am able to stay focused on my goals and directions as a blogger, and remember why I am here. 

2. Host another Renew Retreat that is even bigger than this years. I am beyond excited about the retreat coming up in October. I hope to see this become an annual thing, and a great network and community of godly women to join us in this in the years ahead!

And because what is a birthday without some goodies! Here is one awesome birthday giveaway for you all. One year subscription to the lovely printable library of Elle & Co. Design (if you want to learn more check out my

previous post

), motivational coffee mug, and a retro camper headband!

A big thanks to all these lovely ladies for celebrating my blog's birthday and helping to make this giveaway possible! Make sure and give them some love!

How to Write a Mission Statement for your Blog

One of the biggest lessons I have learned as a blogger is the importance of focus. I cannot write about everything under the sun, well I could, but it is not smart to do that. If I write about every thing, then I am not known for anything really...I want to have focus, and direction. I want this space to reflect myself as well as my mission and goals in life. I want to have a purpose behind this blog, and I want that purpose to be evident to my readers.

So I began developing a mission statement a few weeks ago. It has been great already for me to have this printed out and in my binder where I see it several times a day. It helps me stay focused, and reminds me why I blog, and what I am setting out to do by blogging. 

I think this is huge for bloggers who are ready to take their writing and blogs to the next level. So here are some ways to kick start you into writing your own mission statement. 


Start with a blank sheet(s) of paper and a pencil, and answer these questions. 

-Why do I blog?
-What is the purpose for my blog?
-What do I hope a reader leaves knowing about my blog?
-What am I setting out to accomplish by blogging?
-What are the most important things I want to share with my readers?
-Describe your blog in 3 words. 

Now, once you have thought through all these questions, underline key words that you see repeated over and over in your answers. Some of my key words were women, gifts, gospel, marriage, pursue, inspire, encourage. Write these words on a new sheet of paper and try to begin your mission statement. 


A mission statement is a short one to three sentences that cast the vision of the mission/drive behind a business or organization. So these two to three sentences should sum up your brand, your blog, your goals, and your purpose. It should be descriptive and concise, and should draw your readers in and appeal to their emotions. They should be able to identify with what you are saying quickly, so it is important to eliminate unnecessary words and phrases that are "fluff". And it should always be changing as your brand and business changes. 

Here is my mission statement for Oh Simple Thoughts (use your own creative mind, do not copy this statement pretty please!)

The mission of Oh Simple Thoughts is to encourage women in pursuing the unique gifts the Lord has given us, and to help us discover how to use those gifts for the glory of the Lord in our marriages, homes, and in every area of life. The goal of Oh Simple Thoughts is to inspire women of all life stages to "look well to the ways of your household, and eat not the bread of idleness." (Prov.31:27) while creatively proclaiming Jesus in the big and small arenas of life.

So this is short and simple. It tells that my goal is to push women to creatively use their gifts in their marriages, homes (kitchens, parenting, hospitality, cleaning, crafting) and all areas of life (fashion, friendships, small businesses, blogging)...it covers all the topics I write about in a very compact and concise way. 

So what do you say, how do you feel about writing a mission statement for your blog? I would love for those of you that choose to do this to share your statement in the comments if you feel comfortable so I can see and encourage you! 

Tips for Editing Photos (quickly and without hassle)

Guest posts are always so exciting to me! I love handing over the reigns from time to time and I enjoy seeing what others come up with to share. One thing I get so excited about is when the guest post is on a topic that I want to learn more about, like photography! So today, Meg of Me with the Three is here to share some photography tips. We all know blogging and pictures go hand in hand, so kick back and enjoy this awesome post, and make sure and head over to Meg's blog and show her some love!


We've all done it.

Started snapping away and didn't change the camera settings, and out came a really poor photo.

The times I find myself doing this most is when I go from a poorly lit location to a bright or artificially lit location.

I've learned a simple two step fix to help "recover" these photos.

Black and white. 

I know, sounds simple. But it really is! Converting to black and white takes away all the distraction of the colors and lighting being wrong, and creates great contrasting images.


In the photo above, the original was taken under bright florescent lighting and it threw the colors off.  There were also a ton of colors in the photo, which is sometimes good, but I wanted to create a more dramatic effect.

Here's my simple process that can be done in most any editing program (I use Lightroom, but the idea stays the same across the board).

1. Convert to black and white. Most programs have a button you can push to do this automatically.
2. Don't stop there though. More than likely, you now have a very flat, mostly grayscale photo, with not much contrast or drama. The next step is to bump up your highlights and lights, while bumping down your shadows and darks. (This is the language used in Lightroom, but again, you should be able to find the Tone Curve of any editing program you choose.)

Really simple! And it creates, I think, a more dramatic photo that's easier on the eyes and more pleasing to look at.

Here's another example.


What do you think? Or what's your favorite way to edit "bad" photos?

Fresh Starts + Fun Lists


So as you all can see the blog has a new look. I have been dying to simplify it somewhat, give it a more mature but equally whimsical face lift...and after hours of slaving over it yesterday here we are. I have been debating making the switch to Wordpress...but for now this change will tide me over until I have the money to do so! 

So what do you think? I am in love with it...the neutral colors, and muted pink make me swoon, and the header is actually my hand writing! So it is all one of kind, and totally me I think! I am pleased, and now I need to sleep for a few days. Staring at a computer for hours on end zaps me!! 

Because I spent oodles of time yesterday working on this design, and tackling numerous coding issues...I neglected the Community Brew, so today I am catching up on all your lovely posts about marriage, replying to comments and emails and finishing up design orders before we head to the beach with my family in a few days! So bear with me, you all mean so much to me, and I want to get back to each one of you! 

In the meantime here is a fun list of things going on in my neck of the woods...(stole this from the lovely Rachel of Our Yellow Door)

Making | yarn pom poms...lots of pom poms, for a fun little project next month! 
Cooking | breakfast for dinner, or BRINNER! It is a favorite easy meal around here.
Drinking | lemonade...strawberry lemonade, blueberry lemonade, peach lemonade...get the picture?
Reading | 1,000 gifts....yes I am still reading it. Hoping to finish this weekend at the beach.
Wanting | a Chemex coffee maker
Looking | forward to some alone time with my husband in the car 
Playing | bluegrass music...my husband has a killer playlist, and it makes me more productive I think!
Wishing | for time to slow down...how is July already halfway over?!
Enjoying | slow nights, walks after dinner, cuddling watching TV...the best!
Waiting | to start my new JOB (surprise!!!!) I just got a part time job at a new funky bakery in town!
Wondering | how many licks does it take to get to the center of a tootsie pop?
Loving | my sweet Piper girl...but y'all all knew that already
Pondering | What does it mean to love my city like Jesus?
Watching | The Office...and Food Network...don't know why we pay for any other channels
Marveling | at the beauty of my Creator in nature
Wearing | shorts, simple tee, and chaco's
Buying | groceries for the beach...does this count? unexciting I know! but it is all I am buying...
Getting | a free trip to Destin compliments of my awesome parents!
Bookmarking | pages in Blog Inc. I started flipping through it and it is loaded with information!
Giggling | at Piper and Ben playing in the living room...she loves playing tug of war with him!
Feeling | so overjoyed for this blog design to be finished!! WHOOP!



Coffee Date vol. 2

Good Morning, Friends! Happiest of Fridays to you all! I have been looking forward to this day all month. It is time for another coffee date. Last time we had a virtual coffee date in March, it was a rich blessing to my soul. I was not expecting so many people to link up, but the numbers were a sweet testimony to the desire we all have to know ourselves and to be known by others! Amen and Praise the Lord that he has designed us to live life with others; he never intended for us to go at it alone!

So, welcome to the second Coffee Date. This time I have a lovely co-host joining me. Madison of The Wetherills Say I Do has become such a dear friend...like we text every single day...basically all throughout the day. She encourages me in my new design pursuits, and we talk through so much about blogging and friendship with each other. It is so precious! So we are joining forces today to just create space. Space for you to share, space for you to be heard, understood, recognized exactly where you are. We want this to be a time of sharing but a time of encouragement more than anything. My biggest prayer all week is that someone linking up or reading would see, for maybe the first time, that they are not alone...that they would feel seen and understood. So please, reach out to each other and connect! 
Okay, so now onto coffee talk... I have been going through a time of transition, in my job, my friendships, in a whole lot of areas. This has left me feeling very lost or maybe just unable to wrap my mind around what all is happening. As I wrote earlier this week, I have felt the Lord awakening me to so many new things I was unaware of in my heart until recently. I have begun to discover passions and desires I did not know I even had the capability of having. It has been exciting but also terrifying to realize maybe I do not actually know myself or my unique gifts as well as I thought.

I am naturally a doer, I thrive on action and completing tasks. So when I find myself in a place like I am in now, with lots of transitions, and not as much responsibility, I often crumble. I sink into a pity party, and feel sorry for myself that I have nothing to do. I convince myself that I am without purpose, and fall deeper and deeper into this cycle of sadness and pity. 

On Wednesday I spent about an hour an a half tuning into Lara Casey's LaraLive video chat, and wow, was that good for my heart. Lara shared about starting fresh and owning where you are and the place the Lord has you. I was really fascinated because this is basically opposite of what I want to do. When I feel lost, I want to figure out the problem, fix it, and move on. I hardly ever stop to ponder why the Lord has me experiencing the situation...but that is what I should be doing. How am I doing today, what am I believing in, what am I trusting in, where does the Lord have me now, and how can I learn from this place...answering these questions has been so helpful for me to own the season Jesus has me in right now. 

Another thing that has been bouncing around in my mind is the idea of being known by others, or being vulnerable with each other. Why is it important, why do we crave it, why is it scary...all these things have been swimming in my brain, and I am not sure where I have landed yet, but it has been so exciting to discuss this with others. The idea of being vulnerable is what has inspired these coffee dates, I want to identify with others, and I want to know others. I want others to feel identified with and to know with certainty they are not alone. I love this verse and asked Madison to add it to the button for this coffee date, "We have spoken freely to you...our heart is wide open." 2 Corinthians 6:11. This is my goal - to have my heart wide open to you as readers, not to talk about how awesome I am, but so you can see the work of the Lord and how he does great and mighty things in and through his children.

2corinthians611
"Be messy, because it allows others to be messy" - Haley Morgan. I have said it before, and I will say it again. I pray often that no one comes to this online space and leaves thinking I have this awesome perfect life devoid of problems. I want to share my "mess" with you, with wisdom and discernment, in order to allow space for others to see Jesus more clearly and to know him more. 

The goal is Jesus, pushing others to Jesus, pursuing Jesus, making his name known. It is all about him. So in light of that, how are you doing today? How is your heart? What areas in your life could use some light brought to them? What is bringing you joy? Where does the Lord have you right now? How are you owning that place?

It is not too late to start fresh. It is not too late to seek Jesus in whatever place you are in, and to strive to own that circumstance. It is not too late to pursue the lesson the Lord has for you in this situation, and it is not too late to surrender to his grace, authority and will for you. IT IS NOT TOO LATE. Rest in that sweet friend! 

Thanks to every single person linking up today! You all bring me such joy, and this online community blows me away. If you could please grab the button below and include it in your post. Also, comment on at least two other blogger's posts, we want to foster community so encourage another blogger who is opening up! Also use #acoffeedate on Twitter and Instagram so we can all follow each other!! Finally, I would love to pray for you, so please comment how I can be lifting you up in the comment section or shoot me an email at rach.elizabeth.915@gmail.com. I would love to connect with you!



Check out my sweet sponsor this month, Jenni of Frankly My Dear!





HTML Basics for Bloggers (Guest Post)

Good Morning Ladies! I am so happy to share this post with you all and have one of my favorite bloggers give us all some really great tips for using HTML when blogging. Jana of Life Could Be Dream is one of my all time favorite ladies in the blogsphere. She helped me figure out how to start my sponsorship program, advertises her sponsors like a pro, and gives the best blog advice around! So sit back and enjoy this treat of gleaning some wisdom from this lovely lady! :)

Hello beauties! I'm Jana. When I'm not chasing my crazy toddler around the house I blog over at Life Could Be a Dream and I'm also the designer behind Jana Tolman Design. I opened my design business last May and I have been creating custom blog designs and pre made blog templates ever since.

As far as graphics and web design goes, I'm completely self taught. I've learned a lot since I started designing blogs and I've come to have an incredible appreciation for the aesthetics of blog design and good blog maintenance. I think it's imperative that bloggers know a little bit of basic HTML so they can give their blogs a little TLC DIY style. :)



Lesson 1: Centering

Centering sidebar gadgets

In order to create clean lines on your sidebar, it really helps to center. There is an incredibly simple HTML trick to center content: <center></center>. To use it, simply place the content of your HTML between the <center></center> tags. For example, if I wanted to center an image on my sidebar I would use: 

<center><img src="IMAGE URL HERE"></center>

Center your page list and header

template available in my Etsy shop

To center your page list and header, you will need to go to the template designer, click "Advanced" and click "Add CSS". In the CSS field, copy and paste the following to center your pagelist:

.PageList{
text-align: center !important;
}

.PageList li{
display: inline !important;
float: none; !important;
}

The following to center your header if it's an image:

#header-inner img {
margin-left: auto;
margin-right: auto;
}

Or the following if your header is text only:

#header-inner{

text-align: center;
}


Lesson 2: Links and Images

Say you wanted to add text to your sidebar, but you want it to click through to a link. Easy peasy. This is the code you would use:

<a href="LINK HERE>TITLE OF LINK</a>

But what if you wanted to have an image that is clickable to a link?

<a href="LINK HERE"><img src="IMAGE URL"></a>

Lesson 3: Adjusting Margins

This is probably one of my favorite tricks for cleaning up a blog design. If you have sidebar gadgets that are too close together, or for some reason one of your gadgets just isn't centering, this is the trick for you. It might seem a little complicated, but I'll walk you through it. 

First, you need to find the Widget ID of the gadget you are trying to move. You can do this by opening the gadget by clicking "edit" from your blog's layout page, or by clicking on the tool icon next to the gadget from your blog's homepage. 

From there, expand the gadget window. Look at the very end of the url to find the Widget ID. 


Second, we apply the CSS using the Widget ID. Go to the Template Designer, click "Advanced", then click "Add CSS".

To adjust the margins of the gadget you want to move, use the following CSS:

#WIDGET ID{
margin-top: 0px;
margin-right: 0px;
margin-bottom: 0px;
margin-left: 0px;
}


Simply adjust the pixel value until the widget is moved where you want it be. Positive numbers will move the gadget farther from the specified margin and negative numbers will move it closer. 

I hope this has helped you a little bit! For more blogging tips, feel free to stop by my blog and say hello. Thanks for having me! :)







Check out my sweet sponsor this month, Jenni of Frankly My Dear!