Helpful Little Hack of the Hour: Introduction and Intent

My precious friends, gather in close for a second. How are you? No really… how are you?

We read each other’s blogs and we interact in the comments. We are able to make incredibly meaningful connections despite our distance and differences of all kinds. And yet I still wonder… is there a way I can be more helpful to you?

Introduction and Intent

I began this blog as a mom whose kids were becoming adults. Not just my own five children, but also the dozens, with no biological relation, who called me “Mama Lava”.

My original tagline was “A Dose of Maternal Love”. I intended to create a “comfy spot”, which I likened to hanging out on my Back Porch. I planned to share recipes and tips, and to encourage the next generation toward Godly living and maturity.

Somewhere along the way, as God knew from the beginning would be the case, my audience expanded. I think the median age of my audience is now closer to mine than my kids. I tried to adapt my approach to align with what God was doing.

I updated my tagline to read “A Place for Rest and Encouragement”. My “Back Porch” became a place of greater reflection. My focus has been to share the joy of the Lord and remind you, my friends, that even in these crazy times, God is always good.

I am so thankful to have this little platform from which I get to bless others with my words. And yet, it is not lost on me that words are just words. I wish there was more I could do.

I’ve been mulling this over for a whole year. I know because I wrote Words or Actions? 3 Reasons Why “Well Done” is Better Than “Well Said” last August. The question I’m wrestling with now is, “What can be done over a blog?”.

I wish I could help you with your chores. It would be fun to cook for you sometimes. I would love to show you some tricks I’ve learned that have made my life easier, and watch you demonstrate yours.

Sun rays bursting upwards and downwards from behind the clouds
The simplest prompt can lead to great inspiration!

Helpful Little Hack of the Hour

Today I had a sort of “ah-ha” moment, courtesy of Jillian Michaels and her fitness app. I logged on to fetch my workout and saw her “tip of the day”. I always like those. They are poignant and practical. Some of them I already know, some I disagree with, some amuse me, and others I find completely life changing.

I’ve decided to start something similar. It won’t be the same as being physically alongside you. But I hope it will be a way for me to pop in and share something I find valuable. Just a helpful little hack of the hour.

Don’t worry, I won’t actually send them every hour. But I do hope to send several in the remaining days of August.

I sincerely believe Jesus is the single, most valuable thing I can share with you. Any time I can testify of His goodness and love I want to do it. If I can encourage you toward Him in any way, that is my greatest intent.

In addition, I’d like to make daily living in this world, easier for you wherever I can. Helpful little hacks are a way to do just that… I hope!

It’s hard to know if an idea is a good one until you’ve tried it. Will you indulge me in this experiment? I’d love to hear your initial thoughts.

Do you like the idea of frequent, shorter posts, each containing a helpful little hack of the hour? Are there certain facets of life for which you could use a few helpful hints and tricks? How can I be more beneficial to you?

Thank you, my precious Back Porch friends. I hope I can add to you even a fraction of the value you bring to my life. You all are – you each are – a tremendous blessing to me!


This Is Why I Made SEO ‘Someone Else’s Obsession’

The crescendo had been building and the clash was deafening. It reverberated through my mind and deep into my soul. I’d been dancing with opposing ideas which could no longer coexist. I needed to choose. Was I going to submit to man’s wisdom or God’s? It could not be both.

Excuse the dramatic introduction, but this is what it had come to. From the beginning I knew God wanted me to put people first in my blogging. And yet I was strangely romanced by the idea of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and increased visibility on Google. A collision was inevitable.

This is why I made SEO ‘Someone Else’s Obsession’

I could do both, right? I mean, what would be the harm of optimizing my people-first blogs so they could be discovered and read by more people? If this is your approach, I am certainly not saying there is anything wrong with it. But it isn’t for me.

I wrote the title for this blog 9 months ago. That is how long it’s taken me to surrender to it. Since then, I’ve been trying to write the encouragement God has given me to share, while at the same time making little optimizing and self-serving tweaks to the messages.

There is a lot of advice on SEO. I’ve read it, I’ve saved it, I’ve experimented with it. I’ve intended to put it all together “one day”. And it has become a gate, of sorts, through which my writing passes as it leaves my head on its way to my fingers.

A brainstorm bubble about SEO
Photo by Tobias Dziuba on
SEO vigilance is literally a full-time job for some people!

Posting schedule, number of words, trending keywords, proper format, headline length… all this effort offered on the altar of the almighty search engine. And for what? For popularity, to be noticed, and yes – to get my message to the masses.

Human wisdom says SEO. You know what God says? 3 things come to mind.

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 6:33

Ok, this scripture isn’t talking about optimal google rankings, but it is saying that God knows what I need. And if I seek Him first, He will make sure I have it.

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”

Matthew 6:24

I can’t be completely devoted to both God and any temporal offering of this world. Not money, not fame, not glory, not success.

I like a definition I recently read for the word “despise”. It means “to have it in for”. Yes, when two things battle for supremacy in my heart, one will get the top spot and the other is going down.

Well, SEO, I have it in for you. As far as I’m concerned, from now on you will be Someone Else’s Obsession. I will write what God puts on my heart to say. I will write it when it needs to be written in the way it should be said. I will not abide by your rules or give you any power over my blog anymore. I do not write for you.

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.”

Colossians 3:23, 24

Writing for Google or any other search engine is no longer an enticing idea for me. I’ve laid it down, put my priorities in order and solidified my resolve to blog for the Lord with all my heart. The rewards He offers will be my fixation instead.

My dear reader, I’m not telling you how to manage your blog. But some of you may need to hear this. You may need someone to tell you what you already know. If God is nudging you the way He has been me, it’s okay – it’s wise – it’s imperative and necessary to make SEO Someone Else’s Obsession!


Surprise! This is a Back Porch Happy Birthday Social!

You’re here! I’ve been waiting for you – Surprise! This is a Back Porch Happy Birthday Social and you’re a guest of honor!

This weekend, the Back Porch Blog turns 1! And because of you (yes, YOU!), my cherished reader and friend, this is something to celebrate.

Mama Lava’s Back Porch has become a special place. I always look forward to meeting with you on this site, enjoying social connection, and sharing both the heaviness and happiness of our lives. I pray you’ve been blessed here as much as I have!

I want to publicly thank
God for giving me the motivation to write,
You for spending your time reading and conversing with me,
and WordPress for providing the planks upon which the Porch is built.

Happy Birthday written on a chalk board
Photo by cottonbro on
This celebration is because of YOU!

The other day, someone asked me to name the best thing that happened in my life last year. I had to give two. The first was my daughter’s wedding. The second was the birth and growth of the Back Porch.

Those were big things, but in all honesty, every day has contained happiness. Since the Back Porch was designed as a place to be encouraged, I thought it would be fitting to celebrate with 12 happy things, one for each month of the year.

And Surprise! This is a participatory party. I’m counting on you to help me emphasize the happy in this birthday. Here is a list of 11 things that make me happy. I want to hear yours for number 12. As you read, be thinking about what you would add. Don’t be nervous, there are no wrong answers!

My List of Happy Things
(in Alphabetical Order)

  1. Activity – dancing, sleeping, hiking, playing, the ability to both move and rest
  2. Fragrance – cookies baking, fresh laundry, country flowers, ocean air, newborn skin, the wafting aroma from a barbecue
  3. Humor – creative chuckles, finding the funny, belly laughs with tears of joy, the art of being silly
  4. Lights – sunlight, firelight, twinkly lights, city lights, the miraculous beauty of illumination
  5. Love – The unconditional love of God, romance, friendship, familial ties, the discovery of a kindred spirit
  6. Salvation – the free and unmerited gift from God. “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:8, 9
  7. Scripture – encouragement, admonition, the instruction it contains. “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17
  8. Solutions – immediately given or finally found
  9. The Sky – the glow of dawn, the colorful burst of sunrises and sunsets, the moon, sun and stars, billowy, feathery, and fluffy clouds, birds, airplanes, the expanse of blue
  10. Unique Creation – the colors, sizes shapes, contrast, depth, and dimension of people, animals, plants, bugs, and topography
  11. Vibration and Sound – music, laughter, chirping birds, a heartbeat, pounding surf, dripping rain, the song of a cricket

Now it is your turn! What happiness would you add next? If you wholeheartedly agree (or disagree) with one or more of mine, let me know. With all of the negativity threatening to pull us down, it is good to remember all that we have to smile about.

Thank you so much for helping me put the happy in this surprise Back Porch Happy Birthday social, and for all you’ve done to make this first year so fun!

Colorful, helium filled balloons: Surprise Back Porch Happy Birthday Social
Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash
“Together” is how we put the Happy in Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday, Back Porch… and here’s to many more!


Wait, What did You Mean by That? The Second Nature of Second Guessing

“Just to clarify…” If I had a dollar for every email I sent with those words, I don’t think I’d have to send them anymore. I’d invest those dollars and retire. I am frequently second guessing my understanding of things. Can you relate?

I have noticed that people seem more distracted and less prepared lately, me included. Those qualities do not make for clearer communication. I frequently want to interject “Wait, what did you mean by that?”

And sometimes, even with our best efforts and preparation, our words land with meanings which are different than we intended. It can be a good thing when someone second guesses their first inclination about what we meant. Written words are especially prone to misinterpretation.

The texting world is a great example. I think emojis are intended to help me understand the spirit with which a message is sent, but still I second guess. Apparently, each emoji has an assigned emotion, but I don’t know what they are. I have to interpret the face and let’s be real, a wink could mean a lot of different things!

I saw something like this the other day. I have recreated it as I remember it.

Font matters: Wait, What did You Mean by That?  The Second Nature of Second Guessing...
Words alone aren’t always enough to convey a message!

When I saw the graphic, I read the two notes to myself in very different voices. It was second nature to me to assume one was a promise and the other a threat. Contemplating this brought to mind two other instances I’ve encountered lately where I second guessed the meaning of a message and its implication.

The first was when someone told me that I seem very content. I smiled and thanked them, because it made me feel good. But then I second guessed their motives. Had that been a compliment or an accusation? What did they mean by that? I am happy with what I have and who I am. But did they mean it to say that I should driving and striving for improvement? I’m still not sure.

The other thing was something Jesus said. And it wasn’t so much a matter of not understanding what He meant. His words are living and active (Hebrews 4:12), meaning they hit differently, depending on the condition of my heart. This is what He said:

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:6

If I read these words during my quiet time, with my Bible open and my heart pure, they are sweet, aren’t they? They reassure me that, even when nobody else can see me doing the right thing, God sees. It makes me feel like I don’t need anybody else’s recognition or praise.

But yikes! The words here say that God sees what I do in secret. What if I’m doing something sneaky and naughty? This verse takes on a whole different meaning under those circumstances, doesn’t it? Suddenly, it is anything but reassuring. I feel like a deer in the headlights, second guessing what I think I’m getting away with.

To be honest, I don’t think we can ever get away from misunderstandings entirely. Maybe we all do well to cultivate a second nature of second guessing. But I want to focus mine to be more productive.

Instead of fussing with insecurity and obsessing over what was meant by the little comments people make, I want to use my second guess to give people the benefit of the doubt.

Sometimes, believing the best of someone will literally mean I need to wait and find out what they meant. Other times, it will just be a decision I make in my heart to believe the best of them. After all, God knows the truth and He rewards what nobody else sees. And I never have to second guess His word!

Are you a second guesser? Do words return to your mind with an uncertainty as to what they mean? Or maybe you are characterized by confidence and rarely think twice about things. I guess we all have a second nature inclined one way or the other. What is yours?


Three Birthday Cakes, a Turkey, and a Veil

Does that sound like the beginning of a bad joke? Three birthday cakes, a turkey and a veil walk into a bar. Or stand at the pearly gates. Nope, it isn’t bad, and it isn’t even a joke. Although, I must admit that seeing humor in it helps diffuse the stress!

Three birthday cakes, a turkey, and a veil is the description of my upcoming week. My husband’s birthday is on Thanksgiving, my daughter’s is a few days after, followed by my son’s girlfriend’s birthday the next day. And then, two days later, the big event takes place – my daughter is getting married!

Oh, I just caught my breath saying all of that! These five celebrations happen within the span of one week. It is going to be crazy! And so fun!

The title for this post probably could have been “Three cakes, Sushi, and a Veil” because sushi is my husband’s favorite, and he gets to choose on his birthday. I love that his special day falls on Thanksgiving from time to time, because honestly, aside from Jesus, my hubby is my biggest blessing. He just camps out, right there, at the tippety-top of my thankful list!

Sushi: three birthday cakes, a turkey and a veil
Photo by Alexandr Podvalny on
Birthday sushi for Thanksgiving? Sure! Why not?

This post is a bit unusual. I have a slightly ulterior motive beyond the peek into my charming chaos. Friends, can I ask your help with two things?

  1. Please pray for me – I don’t want to get so caught up in the craziness of ALL that is happening that I don’t see EACH thing for the blessing it is and the celebration it deserves. I want to cherish each person and the gift they are from God; and there will be so many people. For an introvert like me, it is overwhelming to think about.
  2. Pen a few words to my daughter – I would be so honored if you would take a minute to write encouragement, inspiration, or practical advice from God’s Word. Just a sentence or two, for my daughter and her husband-to-be to read. If you are willing, type it in the comments section below, ‘to Kevin and Mikayla’. I would like to copy and paste your sentiments into a hand-made card or booklet to add to their wedding gifts. I think it would be such a blessing for them!

I know I have access to an incredible wealth of experience, knowledge, and Godly wisdom on this platform. You who visit the Back Porch are top notch! Thank you for coming alongside my family and me in these ways. I am sincerely, from the depths of my heart, awestruck and grateful for each of you.

I have pre-scheduled some posts about different things, so there shouldn’t be too much interruption to the blog in the coming weeks. I look forward to getting back to a regular routine on the flipside of three birthday cakes, a turkey (sushi?) and a veil. God bless you all!


3 Types of Blogs & 6 Bloggers I Really Enjoy, and Think You Might Too

You are amazing and oh, so appreciated! Yes, you! My loyal followers and precious readers, I adore you. I am humbled and honored by the gift of your time and friendship. You are what makes this Back Porch a hang-out spot worth visiting.

Today I want to treat you to something different. I am going to highlight a few blogs and bloggers who have given me joy this year. There are so many great sites out there, and I would love to shine a spotlight on all of them. But for my first attempt at an applause post, I decided to appreciate some which are very different from mine. I’ve narrowed it down to 3 types of blogs & 6 bloggers I really enjoy and think you might too.

Applause: 3 Types of Blogs & 6 Bloggers I Really Enjoy, and Think You Might Too
Photo by Guillermo Latorre on Unsplash

1) Fiction

Oh, how I admire good story tellers! And when a tale is told with a worth-while moral and a valid lesson to be learned, I just cannot get enough. On her blog, Deeper Waters, Sandi Meadows Carlson kept me impressed and intrigued as I followed her fictional cast, the Lancaster family, from week to week. “Blessed Assurance: A Story of Hope” has just come to ‘The End’. Lucky you! If this is also your cup of tea, you can binge read this delightful account at your leisure!

2) Short and Punchy

There was a time I was pretty active on Facebook. It was my go-to scroll for waiting in line, 2-minute mental breaks, and the like. But there is so much on there now that I just don’t want to read. I am sure you know what I mean.

Instead, I am loving short and punchy blogs. Two of my favorites are Beth’s blog, called I didn’t have my glasses on…, and Fred’s site titled Abba’s Art. Both combine pictures and words to make succinct and creative points. These bloggers provide brilliant, quick diversions.

3) Different Angles

My posts come out of my life circumstances. These next three bloggers write from different angles than I do. They each have unique perspectives born of experiences, locations, and values specific to them.

Arrows: 3 Types of Blogs & 6 Bloggers I Really Enjoy, and Think You Might Too
Photo by Javier Allegue Barros on Unsplash

I cannot recommend The Book of Joe highly enough. Visit her page, and you will see that Rhonda Price has a way with words that just sparks the soul. She is raw and honest and a natural born teacher. She has taken a step back from weekly writing, but everything is still up on her blog and you should definitely pay it a visit. It was a gift every time her new posts showed up in my feed.

Speaking of anticipating posts, Cheryl Loreglia’s genius, showcased on her blog Living in the Gap, is always fun to read. She is entertaining and makes a real connection with her readers. I feel as if I’m part of Cheryl’s family because she is incredibly adept at writing their portrayals and has completely drawn me in.

And that brings me to Winds of Change. Reading this blog just feels peaceful. The author’s posts about her quiet days of normal, blissful imperfection bring with them a steady calm, which I crave in my 100-mile-a-minute life. She also pens vivid imagery on occasion and just knocks it out of the park. I cherish the genuine, friendly comments we exchange and consider it a precious part of my day.

Thank you, God: 3 Types of Blogs & 6 Bloggers I Really Enjoy, and Think You Might Too
Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

The above are 3 types of blogs and 6 bloggers I really enjoy and think you might too. If these sites are not familiar to you, please go have a look! If you have some to suggest to me, let me know in the comments. Your time, your posts, your comments… YOU bring me joy and I sincerely thank you! You make the Back Porch the blessing that it is.