You Are an Influencer

These days, there’s a lot of talk in the marketing world about INFLUENCERS.

Just what exactly IS an influencer?

According to the Cambridge English dictionary, an influencer is “a person or group that has the ability to influence the behaviour or opinions of others.”

As a marketing strategy, companies will often identify influencers their ideal clients likely follow on social media. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on ads, the companies will pay influencers to use and showcase their products on social media.

This strategy often works remarkable well.

But what about everyone else?

The truth is, we all have our own circle of influence. This is true in real life AND on social media.

Obviously, the people who know you in real life are going to watch how you live…..especially if you claim to be a follower of Christ. The will see how you handle struggles and disappointments, as well as the good times. Hopefully, you will have a chance to witness to them about Christ.

In addition, your followers on social media are watching you, too. Even if you have just 32 followers. Or 320 followers. Or 3200+ followers. You STILL have something to say and a platform on which to say it.

It’s no accident that you were born in this time…..

…..with the amazing capability of  influencing all kinds of people……so make sure it’s for good and not for evil. Be known more for what you stand for, rather than what you stand against. Encourage and edify, rather than complaining and tearing down.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.     Ephesians 2:10-14

God has placed each of us on a different path. But we all live in this modern time. It’s an era in which we can have a HUGE impact around the globe thanks to modern technology.

So… up for people on your social media pages. Be a voice of hope, compassion, encouragement, and love!

What good works has God prepared for you?

Where does God want you to serve?

How will you influence the people around you this week?


photo credit:


Creativity Takes Courage

Ask any artist…..ask any designer…..ask any creative entrepreneur….and you will find out that


This simple fact is often the very reason that some people choose not to create.

Because, when we create, we pour part of ourselves into the work. Whether it’s a piece of unique art, or the way we edit a photograph, or the way we delicately arrange flowers…..the final product is a piece of us.

That can be an amazing thing…..IF we’re happy with the product. And if others like it, also.

But what if you don’t like what you create?

That’s just something that must be faced every time you create. Failure is a very good teacher, as long as you don’t give up.

I recently read about a fascinating pottery class. The professor divided his students into two groups. One group had to produce ONE fantastic pot. That group was graded on the quality of their one, final pot.

The second group of students in the pottery class were required to produce a minimum of forty pots. Their grade was simply based on whether or not they produced forty vessels by the end of the term.

Which group produced the best pots?

Believe it or not, the students who were required to produce forty vessels also had the best vessels. The reason was simple. In the process of making all of those pots, they LEARNED!

By repetition and practice, students were able to improve their skills. They ended up producing amazing work!

This drives home the point that, if you want to be good at something, you need to practice. You need to work through your failures and setbacks.

And that takes COURAGE!

People who are afraid just give up. Or don’t even try.

And when you feel like God has given you a specific talent and/or called you to do something creative…..He also provides the courage you will need.

One of my favorite verses is 2 Timothy 1:7

For the Spirit God gave us does not make us timid, but gives us power, love, and self-discipline.

Time after time, we are told in the Bible to have courage. If God has given you a dream in your heart to do something creative, and you know you are in His will, then GO FOR IT!!!





Three Sides to Following God’s Will

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Following God’s will can look very different from one circumstance to another.

(1) Sometimes, you are right exactly where you need to be.

Good. Keep going. God has you right where He wants you…..poised for great things!

(2) At other times, God is calling you to step outside of your comfort zone.

This can be frightening, especially when we’re not sure how things will turn out.

Perhaps God is calling you to take on a new responsibility. Maybe He’s wants you to go on a mission trip. God might be prompting you to learn a new skill, or be more verbal about sharing your faith.

Regardless of what it is, God WILL give you the strength and power for the task He’s calling you to do.

                           Then he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by                                                  power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.   Zechariah 4:6

(3) Perhaps the most difficult scenario is when God is calling you to step away from something that you love.

It’s not necessarily something bad…’s just not right for you at this time. And it seems like failure.

BUT, do you really want something in your life if it’s not God’s will for you?

Perhaps He’s calling you to give up a hobby. Or maybe there’s a trip that you’ve been planning, but you sense that it’s not the right thing to do.

                         Delight yourself in the Lordand he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4

My prayer, lately, has been for God to put His desires in me. That way, the things I want and yearn for are things that HE desires for me.

God’s ways are always the best ways.

How is God prompting you and working in your life?

May God give you the courage to trust Him completely and follow His will. No matter what!

Should My Side Hustle Be a Secret?

Susan Avondale 01.jpg

Hi! My name is Susan, and I am a teacher.

It’s me, Susan. I’m a wedding and portrait photographer based in Jacksonville, Florida. I’m also a full-time teacher at a small private school. (In case you’re wondering…..I teach physics, chemistry, physical science, and yearbook.)

Should that be a SECRET?

I’ve been advised that, if I want to grow my photography business, I should hide the fact that I have a “day job.” On my personal social media accounts, I’m supposed to highlight my photography and minimize all references to the fact that I’m also a high school teacher.

The logic behind only talking about/showing my photography business life is that my friends and family will come to think of me PRIMARILY as a photographer. Then they will be more likely to recommend me to others in need of my services. They will also respect me more as a “professional.”

But what if that doesn’t feel right?

Honestly, I followed that advise for awhile. I showed a lot of photography stuff on my Facebook timeline–both edited images and behind the scenes work. I didn’t talk about my life at school.

However, it didn’t feel right to exclude a major part of my life. I love my students. I love my school. I love the people I work with.

In addition, I’m a runner, and I coach the cross country and track teams….which is a HUGE part of my life. How can I just ignore that?

I ‘ M   N O T .

The most important parts of my life are my faith, my family, photography, teaching, running. And I have decided that I’m not going to go out of my way to hide any of them. They are part of who I am.

Of course, there are tasteful ways to share. And I don’t have to share everything all the time. But I’m certainly not going to actively hide these areas of my life.

There’s also the idea of “attract and repel.” I seem to get a lot of clients who are also runners. And who also value their faith and family.

There’s no shame in a SIDE HUSTLE.

I have decided that I am not going to let ANYONE (another creative professional or family member or friend) let me feel inferior for only being a “part-time” photographer. That’s just where I happen to be now. In fact, that’s where I may stay for a very long time.

If that’s where God wants me to be, I’m OK with that.

Real is better than perfect.

In fact, I think people in general are more interested in following the life of a REAL person. And by being myself, I can also share my passions and dreams. I am free to create and be authentic. There’s risk in authenticity. You know it. And if you don’t know it…………go find out!

How about you? What is your side hustle? How do you manage your creative passion and your “day job”?


Wind Chimes | A Lesson From Hurricane Irma

“What are you doing, Mom? I can’t believe you would do that to your wind chimes!” pronounced my oldest son with great disgust.

What are you talking about?

“A hurricane is like the Super Bowl for wind chimes. I can’t believe you would deprive them of the most important experience of their lives!”

As Hurricane Irma approached, I moved all of my wind chimes into the garage. The idea was to keep them SAFE during the storm. I didn’t want them to be smashed into pieces. In addition, I certainly didn’t want them to be launched as projectiles at my house!

And yes, it’s true that wind chimes are supposed to rustle and make charming sounds in the wind. However, they aren’t made for hurricane-strength winds! In my wisdom, I deprived them of their “Super Bowl,” choosing to protect them from harm instead.

That’s how it is with us and God. [Note: I am in NO way claiming to be God or anywhere nearly as wise as God.]

But here’s the comparison:

We often think we know what we want: to land a certain job, to be able to turn a hobby into a full-time career, to move to a different city…..the list goes on. We often believe that whatever it is that we desperately want will be THE ULTIMATE…..the very best thing that could ever happen to us.

…..but in reality…..

God always knows what’s really best for us. And it may NOT be that thing that we so deeply desire. He may say NO and shelter us instead. God may even move us in the exact opposite direction. When this happens, it can be quite disappointing. Downright frustrating, even.

However, we must accept His perfect will. In fact, the thing that we covet or think we MUST have may actually be the worst thing in the world for us. And God chooses to protect us, which is so merciful. I’m so thankful He always acts in our best interest. Every time!

lessons from wind whimes

In the Midst of the Storm

in the storm

I live in Jacksonville, Florida. The past few days have been full of changing information, indecisiveness, panic, frustration, and abnormality.

Basically, our normal lives stopped sometime around Thursday evening. Most of the people in my area still have power. For now.

But, as Hurricane Irma approaches, we will most definitely lose our electricity. Last year, when Hurricane Matthew rolled through our area, my house was without power for five days. It was pretty awful. But at least we didn’t have any damage to our property last year. That is more than some of my neighbors can say.

This time, it’s a new storm yet the same uneasy feelings. But God is always God. He is not surprised by Hurricane Irma. He knows her path. And God is there for us. Whatever happens, He’s allowing it for our ultimate good.

That’s one of the wonderful things about being saved by grace. If we trust God with our salvation, then we can also trust Him with our day-to-day living conditions. Only our Father can give us perfect peace in the middle of a hurricane.

You keep Him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.

Isaiah 26:3

We don’t know what will happen in this storm. Or in the next storm. Or even in the next tragedy that strikes us–that’s not even a storm yet just as devastating. However, we DO KNOW God works all things out for good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.

I’ve prepared my house and family for this storm as much as I can. Now it’s time to wait and see what happens…..all the while trusting in God to protect and act according to His will. It’s storms like these that build our faith. And they build character, too!

in the storm

Jesus Is Enough

you are enough

I’ve been seeing the sentence, “You are enough,” all over the place lately.

The basic sentiment it is completely OK that you are not perfect. You can’t possibly do everything and please everybody all at the same time. The idea is that we should accept ourselves for who we are. We should stop comparing ourselves and worrying about what everyone else thinks.

And that sounds really nice.

But what haunts me is that, in ourselves, we really aren’t enough. I’m sorry, but it’s true. We’re far from perfect. We make mistakes. We fail. We fail again. Over and over.

Apart from Christ, we miss the mark pretty much every time and in every way.

It’s OK to be weak and imperfect–not because we say that its all right–but because we depend on God. Through Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross we have grace and forgiveness. Jesus bridges the gap between our shortcomings and a perfect God. Through a relationship with God, we can begin to make sense of this crazy thing we call life.

Paul describes this well in 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 when he asks God three times to take away HIS weakness–some kind of thorn in his flesh.

Be He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more                                      gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with                                                        weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

It seems that God’s answer to taking away Paul’s weakness was a firm NO. And that was actually OK with Paul. It kept him humble. It kept him dependent on God. Paul knew that, in himself, he was NOT enough. But that’s where God’s power came into play. God provided Paul with everything he needed to complete the tasks he was called to do.

And so it is with us. We will always be lacking in some (and, in my case, MANY) ways! However, God is faithful to make up our deficiencies and provide what we need. When He does, we absolutely know that it was ALL GOD and not us.

It is dangerous when we tell a nonchristian that he or she is “enough.” Our weaknesses and limitations and our sins are EXACTLY what show us that we need God’s forgiveness and grace. Claiming to be enough gives a false sense of security.

It is also reckless to tell a Christian that he or she is “enough” apart from Christ. Because we absolutely are NOT. Pride in our own abilities and reasoning is a sin that drives a wedge between us and God. And that’s never a good situation.

May we always know that we are enough in Christ, and in Him alone!

God Didn’t Call You to a Life of “Fine”



christian entrepreneur

Perhaps you’re familiar with the story of Jesus walking on the water told in Matthew 14:22-33. I know I’ve heard it many times since I was a child.

The focal point of the story is usually how Jesus walks on water during a terrible storm and saves the disciples.

But let’s talk about Peter for a minute. I can identify with Peter in many ways. He was impulsive. Bold. Action-oriented. Often spoke and acted without thinking things through. Yes, I can definitely see myself in him!

When the disciples saw Jesus walking toward them on the water in the storm, they thought He was a ghost!

It was Peter who called out to Jesus for proof.

                 “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 

                  He said, “Come.” 

                  So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.

Matthew 14:28b-29

Peter didn’t have to call out to Christ. His feet could have stayed in the boat with the other disciples and let Jesus come to them. And that would have been fine. Just fine. We can play it safe. We can stay in our comfort zones and not take many risks.

However, I believe God doesn’t want us to settle for a life of JUST FINE. No! God calls us to depend on Him and step out of the boat on faith. For Him. Outside our ability. Outside our wildest imagination. Just depend on Him. He wants us to live a life of extraordinary faith!

                 Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders. Let me walk upon the waters wherever You would call me.
                 Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander, and my faith will be made stronger in the presence of my Savior. 

(Oceans | Joel Houston / Matt Crocker / Salomon Ligthelm)

[Listen to “Oceans” here.]

Yes! Our fullest life and purpose are found when we listen to God and follow Him….depending on His strength. Peter began to sink when he let his focus fade from Christ and turn to the crashing waves. But Jesus was right there to grab him and save him. And He does that for us, as well.

So don’t be afraid! What does God want you to do right now that requires absolute trust and supernatural power from Him? Where is He leading you? Follow Him. Never settle for a mediocre life of JUST FINE.


Christian entrepreneur

Nicaragua Mission Trip

mission trip to Nicaragua

Going to Nicaragua on a mission trip was one of the highlights of my summer. While this was my fourth trip to Nicaragua, I can definitely say it was one of my BEST mission trips, EVER!!!

My family and I joined with several other people from my church. We had a really strong mission team. All of us but one had been on previous mission trips, so we already had an idea of what to expect. As usual, though, each mission trip is different from all others. And that’s a very good thing!

We flew from Jacksonville, Florida to Managua, Nicaragua on Saturday, July 15th. After arriving in Nicaragua, we spent our first night at the Word of Life Nicaragua headquarters in Managua. We work with Guillermo Aguilar and other missionaries at Word of Life Nicaragua. They work with us before the trip to come up with an itinerary that supports local churches.

When we arrived in Nicaragua, WOL handled everything. We had six translators that traveled with us and worked with us all week. In addition, WOL took care of our transportation, lodging, and food. This was a blessing to us, because it allowed us to focus on ministry.

mission trip to Nicaragua

After spending our first night at the Word of Life headquarters in Managua, we drove for several hours on Sunday morning to a smaller town called Juigalpa. That is where we ended up staying for much of the week. Instead of finding a hotel, we bunked in an old orphanage. We were very excited to have air conditioning in the bedrooms at night. There was no hot water, but it was pretty clean, compared to other places we stayed in the past.

Even though we stayed in Juigalpa, that’s not where we did any of our ministry work. Instead, we drove an hour away each day to work with a church in Santo Domingo. The people of Iglesia Filadelfia welcomed us warmly! Their town is so small that there is not even a hotel there. We really enjoyed working with them during the week!

In the United States, it’s typical that the “main” church service takes place on Sunday morning. However, Nicaraguans tend to emphasize the Sunday evening services. Troy and Mike both spoke in the two services. The first message was on marriage, followed by a regular service. Two other ladies and I sang a trio in Spanish. The song was “Wonderful, Merciful Savior.” I was VERY nervous about singing in Spanish because my Spanish is TERRIBLE! It went fine, fortunately.

mission trip to Nicaragua

On Monday, we went to a neighborhood in Santo Domingo where the pastor of the church we worked with lives. We split up into groups of two. With an interpreter, each group went door-to-door, witnessing to people in their homes. A few people got saved! We were also able to invite people in the community to Bible studies that take place in that neighborhood.

mission trip to Nicaragua

On Monday afternoon, we sponsored a soccer (football) tournament. It took place in a park in the center of Santo Domingo. We were surprised to find that it had a giant covered basketball court with a stadium. They played soccer right on the basketball court, but the ball was smaller than usual.

During the tournament, we had a few of the youth that were with us give their testimonies. Joshua shared the Gospel through the Evangicube.

After our presentation, we split up the people in the crowd into groups of six to ten and spoke with them more.

mission trip to Nicaragua

Santo Domingo is a really sweet town, and we enjoyed working there for the week.

mission trip to Nicaragua




mission trip to Nicaragua

One of the favorite things we did was host a retreat for the youth of Iglesia Filidelfia (plus others from nearby churches.) We used another church in the country that had more room for games. Several of us gave testimonies. We talked to the kids about discipleship and purity.

mission trip to Nicaragua

We also did a VBS for the kids that attend school during the week at Iglesia Filadelfia.

mission trip to Nicaragua


mission trip to Nicaragua

Nicaragua is absolutely beautiful! We enjoyed a gorgeous drive each day from Juigalpa to Santo Domingo.

On Thursday afternoon, we made our way back to Managua.

mission trip to Nicaragua

Friday was our last full day in Nicaragua, so it was our “tourism” day. We visited Volcano Masaya first. It’s an active volcano, and we could hear it churning below us. There was also quite a bit of smoke coming from it. The higher areas were closed off, so we couldn’t hike to the very top this time.

mission trip to Nicaragua

In addition, we visited a local pottery shop. The owner did a demonstration for us, and a couple of us got to try our hand at making a pot!

mission trip to Nicaragua


mission trip to Nicaragua

After we finished at the pottery shop, we visited a local market. For lunch, we ate at a restaurant build on the shore of a lake. The lake is actually a filled-up extinct volcano. Several of us went swimming in the lake after lunch!

mission trip to Nicaragua

As you can see, Nicaragua is a gorgeous country! We were so blessed to be able to work with the missionaries and a local church. It’s very encouraging to see that God is working in a different country and in a different language! God is definitely doing amazing things!

mission trip to Nicaragua

Many of my friends are surprised to hear that we don’t go to Nicaragua to build things and/or pass out food. Instead, we focus on carrying the Gospel to the people of Nicaragua. It is a communist country, and it’s the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. However, we believe that people need the Gospel more than anything else. Rich or poor, people need Jesus!

mission trip to Nicaragua

Dealing with Unexpected Sickness when You’re a Creative Entrepreneur

When you’re a creative small business owner, being sick in bed for six days straight is pretty much NEVER on your agenda.


Last week was supposed to be a busy transition from my mission trip to Nicaragua to getting prepared to starting the next school year as a teacher. I had a couple of personal photography projects planned. I was going to get ahead and write a few extra blog posts for when things get busy. (Trust me….they will….fast!) I was also going to get caught up some loose details for my photography business. In addition, I planned to do a thorough cleaning of my house so that it would be at least decent for the first few weeks of school.

Instead, all of those well-intended plans came to a screeching halt when I came down with a horrible flu virus. I’m talking about a lay-on-the-couch-sleeping-all-day kind of sickness. The days just kind of ran together. The fever, headache, and  a lot of other horrible symptoms made sure that I got NOTHING done. Zero. Nada.

Yes, I ended up going to the doctor. But, of course, since it’s a virus, there’s nothing they can really do. And my school year starts tomorrow.

I can cry and mourn the horrible death of my to-do list. On the other hand, I can try to figure out what God is trying to teach me through all of this. He certainly wasn’t surprised by my sudden illness! Perhaps God wants me to depend on Him MORE and myself LESS. He will show me what’s important. And it is God who will give me the wisdom and strength to accomplish the good works He has planned for me.

So I will not cry over my loss of productivity. Instead, I choose to recognize the blessings of God’s provisions in spite of my sickness. I have family members that stepped up (mostly my husband) and taken care of some things around the house for me. I also had the blessing of good healthcare and a comfortable place to rest during my sickness. In addition, I have the benefit of actually feeling better! I still need to do some things for both my business and around the house, but I’m going to have to let go and trust that God will provide the time I need to get these things completed.

Expect to see more about my mission trip to Nicaragua soon, but one huge takeaway from this trip was that most Nicaraguans have a peace with time. They go through the day and let it happen. They don’t stress through things and fight with the clock like I so often do. I want to be more like that–> content with the time I have and the tasks that need to fill it. On the flip side, Nicaraguans don’t have to cram every second full. They don’t have to be constantly stimulated. Such a great reminder!

The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.  Proverbs 16:9 (ESV)

This unexpected week of sickness taught me that my plans are not really that important, afterall. God knows best, and He is able to give me exactly what I need. It’s up to me to trust Him for it.

God's Timing