Wednesday, June 14, 2017

10 Free Online Easy-To-Use Tools for the Everyday Bloggers

-       Summer     Series     of      Seriously    Awesome     Resources        -


Hello, my dear friends! It has been brought to my attention that I apparently have a wealth of information on a number of different topics that you have been interested in me sharing more about. I've decided to start the summer off with a series of blog posts where I will be sharing with you on those various requested topics. Many of you have been asking me about what tools I have been using to construct my blog posts, maintain my blog, drive my blog traffic and such, so what better topic to start with than that! But if you are interested in ballet technique, biblical research, and/or shopping stay tuned because more seriously awesome resources are to be revealed on these topics and MORE in the blog posts to come!






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The following links are to the online tools and websites that I love most and use almost every time I sit down to blog and are FREE! Of course, most of these websites also offer upgrades and premium programs that you can opt into for unlimited services, but I'm telling you the free services are just as satisfactory and what I am recommending for you to try out today. The first couple links pertain to text editing. The middle three links pertain to picture editing and the last several links pertain to networking, driving traffic and analytics.




#1 Titlecapitalization.com
So I know it is kind of lame that I rely on this website for double checking my titles and that I am using the proper format of capitalizing instead of just memorizing the rules, but this tool is just so convenient and easy to use! Check it out!


#2 Grammarly



Grammarly is an online automated proofreader that is fairly new to the world wide web and is understandably gaining much popularity fast! It's thorough spell checking and grammar checking services are provided via a number of different products, but my all time favorite is the free browser extension they offer that once downloaded will proofread practically anything you type online. From cleaning up your Facebook comments to perfecting your blog entries, you will find it hard to publish mistakes with Grammarly by your side. Who never a little green arrow could give one such peace of mind when writing!



#3 Wufoo.com


This is a great easy-to-use website if you need help creating a contact form for your blog or any form for that matter!



#4 Pixlr.com


Pixlr is by far the greatest graphic editing tool that I've found online that is for free! You've got to check this one out! Honorable mention goes to Lunapic.com which I've found specifically helpful for color editing and making image backgrounds transparent.


#5 Canva.com


Canva is a great website for embellishing your photos, adding text to them, and for making stunning eye-catching graphics for social media. Honorable mention goes to Fotor.com



#6 Pixabay


So maybe unlike me, you are a really good photographer and take all your blog photos yourself. Even if that is the case though, In my opinion, I think every blogger (awesome photographer or not) should have a place to go to for instantly accessible royalty-free photos. Sometimes you just don't have time to snap all the photos you need for your blog or you just don't have the objects you desire to take a picture of. That is when stock photos become handy. You can find photos of anything on the world wide web, but royalty-free is key if you want to play legal and fair. Pixabay.com is the best stock photo website I've found offering all free images.

#7 MailChimp


Create newsletters, track data, and expand your email list using MailChimp. MailChimp is one of the most helpful free websites out there! If you have a blog and are looking to increase your audience and build your brand then having a MailChimp account and utilizing all the tools it has to offer is a great place to start!


#8 Hellobar


Offering stylish professional looking pop-ups and/or email submission bars for your blog page, Hello Bar is another great tool for capturing your visitors' emails for your newsletter list turning them into devoted followers.


#9 AddThis.com


Step up your blog's social media game by adding the AddThis social media sidebar to your website and explore the rest of what Addthis.com has to offer that will grow, convert, engage, and educate your visitors for free.

#10 Bloglovin


Last but not least, I recommend to you Bloglovin.com which is a great website for networking. Find like-minded bloggers. Read their blogs and get them to follow you! They also have a great domain on their website called Activate for connecting with brands and monetizing your influence. You have to check it out!



That's all folks! I hope you enjoyed this post and found it helpful!
Let me know in the comments below what other topics you would like me to cover this summer.
And stick around for the next seriously awesome post coming up in this summer series.
Thanks for reading! 

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Monday, June 5, 2017

June's 30-Day Hand lettering and Illustration Challenge

Cultivate creativity on a daily basis. Join me in the fun and in the challenge of committing to sketch or hand letter something at least once every day. Your creations don't all have to be elaborate masterpieces if you don't want, but just enough to get the creative juices flowing. The fun is in sharing each other's creations with one another and seeing what we each come up with! Comment and share your experiences with this challenge below and any thoughts you may have. Also, hashtag/link your creations on Instagram or Facebook to #oqpied or @oqpiedoptimist. I will periodically share mine on my Instagram as well. Follow me on my creative journey at my Instagram HERE! and Happy Creating!




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Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Receiving Grace and Mercy

My two-week summer break back home in Pennsylvania has been going quite well. I've filled most of my time with just relaxing around the house with my family or being alone; Just me and my laptop, buried away in our living room with the door shut trying to learn choreography from videos for this upcoming season with Ballet Magnificat.


This past weekend my housemate from Jackson, Mississippi, Maggie was passing through Lancaster from visiting extended family in New York. We decided to meet up and together with Maggie's parents and brother we went to see the production called 'Jonah' being presented at Sight and Sound Theater. It was such a phenomenal show! And such a fun day!


First, we had dinner at the Park City Diner in Lancaster.    Image Source

Me with Maggie


I ordered this beautiful crispy chicken salad. Talk about presentation!


Mini Van Selfie on the way to Sight and Sound


Sight and Sound Theater   Image Source


Maggie, her brother, and I posing with some merch.

If you are in either the Lancaster, PA or the Branson, MO area I highly recommend you catch this show at your local Sight and Sound Theater when it tours near you! I know that people from all over the country and the world come to Lancaster to see the productions put on by Sight and Sound Theater. I'd seen a show by them before many years ago, 'Noah' I believe it was, and though it was a memorable experience I did not have very high expectations for seeing 'Jonah' this time around, but boy! I enjoyed 'Jonah' SO much more than I ever thought I would! Take a look at the preview below!





Perhaps the reason I was able to better enjoy the biblical presentation put on by Sight and Sound Theater this time around is because I am in a different and better place with God in terms of my faith and our relationship than I was previously. God spoke to me so clearly through the musical presentation of 'Jonah'. I almost wished I would have taken my journal so I could write everything down that he was speaking into my heart. I love that the awesome character of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ was so clearly displayed in the show, not to mention the character of the man of Jonah, who I found to be so relatable. Everyone needs to go read the book of Jonah right now! It's only 4 short chapters. You can do it! And then when you are done, read below the 4 reasons why I think Jonah is so relatable.

Four Reasons Why Jonah Is So Relatable to Me:


#1  Jonah runs away. At the daunting direction of the Lord calling Jonah to do something he didn't want to do (delivering a message to the Ninevites), Jonah ran the other direction in fear and disobedience. The fact that I can relate to Jonah about running away from God's direction sure does make me feel better, but it doesn't make it right. We have the advantage of learning from Jonah's account as we see the repercussions that occur due to his selfish decision to run. I love this quote from Sight and Sound's 'Jonah'

"Whenever you run from something, you run to something else, and that is usually worse..."

I love that though Jonah fled in disobedience, God still made a way to glorify Himself in the situation by the sailors having witnessed His power and might and coming to faith in Him! God doesn't waste anything, even when we make mistakes, and that brings me encouragement.


#2  Jonah fights with God about the 'unjust' outcome of Him sparing the Ninevites. Everyone knows about how Jonah gets swallowed by a whale. (That was a spectacular scene at the Sight and Sound show!) God spares Jonah and after three days and three nights, God has the whale spit Jonah out. When God called Jonah a second time to deliver the message of destruction to Ninevites, this time Jonah obeyed. Unexpectedly, the message Jonah delivered to the Ninevites brought them to a place of humility, fasting, prayer, and repentance in hopes that God would then relent and spare them, which He in turn did. Another surprise at the beginning of chapter 4 is when we find that the mercy God had on the Ninevites provokes Jonah to anger (he didn't like the Ninevites)! Mercy and grace are hard things to grasp for us humans, especially with our culture, but they are such beautiful things. 
In the Bible study book that I am going through with the ladies from my church called "Seeking Him" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, it explains:


Sometimes the mercy and grace that we so desire and need for ourselves is the same mercy and grace that like Jonah, is so hard for us in our flesh to give to others. This is the second way to which I can relate with Jonah. I love these song lyrics found in a song called "Be My Escape"  by the Christian music band 'Reliant K' that say, "The beauty of grace is that it makes life not fair" (for Jesus!). God has been SO gracious to us, his rebellious creation. I can only pray that through him I might be able to extend the same grace and mercy to others. 

“With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." 
Matthew 19:26
(out of context, but the truth still remains.)

#3  Jonah focused his attention, cares, and concerns on trivial matters. I loved reading about the part in chapter 4 when Jonah gets all worked up and disheartened (and quite dramatically!) over the plant God gave to him for shade, and then took away. I hate when my plants die. I take care of them and love them as if they were my own children, but in all reality, they have no importance in life compared to other things. 😂 I can relate to Jonah with how it is so easy to let something small distract us from what we should really be concerning ourselves with; God's plan and not our own. 


#4  Jonah's motives. The production I saw of 'Jonah' that Sight and Sound Theater presented this past weekend developed ideas of why Jonah may have fled in fear and disobedience, more than the Bible presents us with! While some could consider this heretical, I don't believe that it would be entirely wrong for us to speculate on what Jonah's motivations were. After all he is human just like you and me, and we almost always have motivations for our actions and for the choices we make, whether it be a past hurt or bitter root, protecting one's reputation, or maybe feeling oppressed with condemnation. It's interesting to think about.


I am so thankful to have this God of Jonah as my God too! I am thankful for the Word of God as well as all the examples of the people God chooses to include in it that have gone before and have made mistakes for us to learn from. Nobody was perfect then, and nobody is perfect now. The Bible says in Romans 3 that "all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God," BUT it also says "all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus." If you would like to learn more about redemption, what it is, and/or about Christ's beautiful act of redemption on the cross, click HERE!  And let us repent to our wonderful merciful Savior when we find ourselves "missing the mark".

Thanks for stopping by!
Did you enjoy this post? 
What other books in the Bible or characters would you enjoy reading about?
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