I’m Charmayne Hafen, a Colorado-based author of several elementary, middle-school, and young adult fiction novels.
Sometimes I think I’d like to live out life with the mindset of young wanderer but, I turned 50 this year, yes 50, and time seems to be crunching along faster and faster, as though I’m seated and antsy to be traveling the Cog Railway in haste to the cloud-shrouded top of Pike’s Peak.
It sometimes frightens me.
I glimpse strange and glorious scenery passing by outside my window, and small animals I have never been introduced to before. I have no vocabulary for what is going so quickly by me.
I want to slow down the days and appreciate what is.
This pre-election season in our global climate accompanied by a pandemic and never before experienced rioting in America has brought such suffering and yet, for me, so many God-given gifts. One of these is the gift of meaningful time.
Here, I am spending more time with my husband than I ever have in our 20 years of marriage. I’m discovering things about him I didn’t know. I have come to realize that his sometimes stern tone of voice is just a focused response, unintended to be harsh or even mean. He loves me so much more than I ever knew. He told me the other day that he would always rather be with me than alone.
Time spent is an investment in the future of a loving relationship. Time is our most precious commodity. If we spend our time with people that don’t support us or even tear us down, we are investing into a bottomless “whatever will be”, to our own detriment.
We tend to think animals live in the present, that they don’t have a future and don’t have a past. But we know that’s not true. They can use tools to fix something for the future. In a Swiss zoo, orangutans had a skylight in their cage and dismantled the whole thing. That way they could spend summer nights on the roof of their building. Then in the morning before the caretakers came back, they would go back in the cage and put the skylight precisely back together. So no one ever noticed. On a nice summer night, it was better to be on the roof than inside the cage.
To enjoy my calling to write, I must prioritize it and take the time to write.
In my middle-grade Trilogy, The Land of Twilight offers readers a time and space altered dimension. Sam and Lorna occasionally get lost between what matters and what is and what they wish could be. But, they are growing up and their inquisitive minds begin to discover answers to replace their usual acceptance of “whatever”.
In the most recent third book of my Land Of Twilight trilogy, Trouble In Twilight, my seventh-grade characters, Lorna and Sam, travel through time to learn how to save the dying Land Of Twilight. As they pay a visit to ancient Greece and the city of Nazareth, the friends grapple with what it means to have faith as well as faith in whom or in what you put your faith.
It takes the passing of time to reach different conclusions about faith. God is gracious and gives us this time.
I’ve heard, and I believe that God lives outside of time. He already sees our sanctified, perfected selves. We are the blind ones. We’re stuck in a timeline where living only for today or living in the past or even the future can be dangerous if we don’t have the cogs on the wheels to grip the cogs of the railroad machinery.
Ignoring the importance of time well-placed, this gift we’ve been offered to spend on our most important relationships can take our focus off of the One who calls us “holy” or set apart for a special relationship with our Creator.
If we focused more on who He says we are, that He made us for the purposes designed within our make up, and for Him, we might be free to live at last.
I pray I’ll maintain this investment of time with my husband even after things “go back to normal”, whatever that is compared to now. I also pray I will continue to slow down and take time with those I love and that God places in front of me.
Time is a precious gift to be given with full focus and care.
Charmayne Hafen co-owns and manages a petroleum testing company with her husband. Besides this dimension, she sets the pace for each day with her morning rituals of listening to music, painting and art, prayer, and writing.
Two days ago, I discovered a shoe box on a shelf in my closet.
For six and a half years, I’d been caring for a parent, hence most of my stuff had been closeted away all of that time.
I brought down the shoe box intending to toss it borne on a tad of disgust for the things one keeps. To my great delight, I rediscovered all of my favorite jewelry and hair clips inside! Even my wedding ring was there, and I might have tossed it away!
As I sorted through it, I remembered, however vaguely, that I’d put it all in there and hidden it under the bed when we were selling our old house so that strangers walking through the house wouldn’t find it. Then, when we moved to my parent’s house, I’d just stuffed everything I had into closets, including this box. I never imagined that it would be almost seven years before I’d find it again.
An elastic bracelet was one of the first things I touched. I slipped it on remembering the women’s retreat in which I’d made it. The letters read, C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-T. It was from the retreat in which a speaker helped us examine our names and the way we felt about ourselves. She had challenged us to lay our insecurities, failures, and sins at Jesus’ feet, and allow Him to do what He’d promised, to give us a new name. Then, the speaker asked us to make a piece of jewelry with the new name on it so that we would have our own landmark of His promise over us. It was a way to help us live in the new name.
I’m so glad I found that little elastic bracelet. It brings me to my knees in Christ, and it raises me up in the same instant to live fully in Him.
Some people have said they stand in awe of the things I’ve tackled and accomplished in life, but that just isn’t the way I feel. Naturally, I am never very confident when my eyes are on myself, my failures, my longings, and my attempts to figure things out. I do tackle things that others don’t try out, but then, I pay the price for trying because there usually isn’t a “how-to” list or a mentor to help me get ‘er done. So, like Peter who got out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus then began to sink when he looked at the waves, I also tend to sink in despair and self-loathing.
I knew a girl in college who couldn’t find her voice. She whispered whenever she spoke. Several years later, I ran into this sweet girl who was transformed and now vivacious! I saw that she had become a leader in her church and she’d somehow found the umph of her vocal cords. She was happily married, and people had only good things to say about her. She told me she’d found her voice when she read all about the Lord and His goodness toward her particularly, and His plan for her.
Some people struggle because of the things they’ve been told by a parent or someone in authority over them, things that are lies. Some people struggle because they do not feel beautiful or mentally or physically or socially well-equipped. How did the Psalmist get to that place where He could praise God for his mind and body?
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
My emotional life has honestly been a roller-coaster for good reason. However, when I take my eyes off of myself and put them firmly on the Lord, I can find the courage and confidence to keep on keeping on.
Jesus said very little about being confident. He only said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No-one comes to the Father, but by me.” John 14:6 We often skip over the first bit and go directly to the piece of evangelism, but does this verse say Jesus is the life? Does that mean He wants me to live fully and pursue the dreams in my heart and to increase my skill and to be a good steward of my relationships and things? Why YES!
The Bible is clear that He also “was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of humanity.” John 1:1-4 — Okay, that’s a WoW!
To clarify, “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.” Genesis 1:26-27 This says to me, that you and I have been given relationship, assertiveness, creativity, ideas, and the abilities to articulate and to make things happen in teamwork as He did.
I can be confident to initiate and also to ask for help. The Triune God acts as one mind and spirit. Wouldn’t it be great to act in unity with each other, helping one another succeed? Confidence is about a solo act, but it does begin with an understanding of who I am in God, and beyond that, who I am hidden in Christ in God.
Those who trust in their riches will fall, but
the righteous will thrive like a green leaf. Proverbs 11:28
This is the confidence we have when approaching God:
that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 1 John 5:14
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go. Joshua 1:9
In Him, and through faith in Him, we may approach God with
freedom and confidence. Ephesians 3:12
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him. Jeremiah 17:7
“[. . .] With him is only the arm of flesh, but with us is the LORD our God to help us and to fight our battles.” And the people gained confidence from what Hezekiah the king of Judah said. 2nd Chronicles 32:8
Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16
God bless you and all you accomplish as you put your faith in Him! Here is a benediction to lift up your life forever. This is what God says:
I will change your name ... You shall no longer be called Wounded, Outcast, Lonely or Afraid. I will change your name ... Your new name will be Confidence, Joyfulness, Overcoming One, Faithfulness, Friend of God, One Who Seeks My Face. - Isaiah 62-4
As a teenager, I remember rambling with my mom through her favorite shopping mall and getting the treat of the best chicken sandwich with pickles and mayonnaise whenever we arrived at Chick-fil-A’s wait line. It was perhaps the first “addictive” food experience I ever encountered. I asked, “Why wouldn’t they want to have a free-standing piece of real estate near our neighborhood like the burger joints had?” — And soon the pizza parlors?
My mom didn’t know the answer, but it was the first realization I had that Chick-fil-A® chose to do its own thing while the world was doing something else.
Atlanta Georgians wondered the same thing. And, somehow, they were first in line when free-standing Chick-fil-As were built.
Shortly after opening the first free-standing Chick-fil-A in 1986, founder Truett Cathy created a new restaurant that replicated his first restaurant, the Dwarf Grill. Beginning in the late 1980s and through the early 1990s, Cathy oversaw the construction of multiple Dwarf House restaurants located around the metro Atlanta area. Designed to honor the history of the Chick-fil-A franchise, these restaurants offer sit down, counter and drive-thru service.
Truett’s Grill was originally opened in 1996 to commemorate Truett Cathy’s 50th anniversary as a restauranteur. There are now three locations in Georgia, and the restaurant has the look and feel of a 1950s diner. Truett’s Grill offers sit down, counter and drive-thru service, and features the full Chick-fil-A menu alongside Southern dishes including Fried Okra and Collard Greens.
Many people consider Chick-fil-a a household name, as restaurants and fast food joint go. But not many people know the name of the man S. Truett Cathy, who founded the chain, or what his aim was. We may assume that to make bushels of money, a CEO must take the tact, the sky is the limit, right? Isn’t making more and more money every business owner’s aim?
Not necessarily. Not at the expense of 1) quality and 2) rest for a dab of weekly humility. So thought a wealthy man named S. Truett Cathy.
“S.Truett Cathy was a devout Southern Baptist; his religious beliefs had a major impact on the company. The company’s official statement of corporate purpose says that the business exists “To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us.”
“Founder Truett Cathy wanted the company’s name to reflect the top-quality customers should expect each time they visited a restaurant. That’s why he chose Chick-fil-A: “Chick” to represent our signature menu item, and “fil-A” as a play on the word “filet,” with a small twist. He replaced “et” with “A” to represent the “Grade-A” quality of our chicken.
“And while some aspects of our restaurants have changed over the years, that commitment to “Grade-A” top quality has never wavered. From the big things, like rigorous safety standards, to all the little things, like the “my pleasures,” we want customers to know – no matter which restaurant they visit – they will receive the high-quality food, service and hospitality that they’ve come to expect from Chick-fil-A.” Snagged from the landing page, “Where Does the “A” In Chick-Fil-A Come From?”
Safety and cleanliness is as popular inside Chick-fil-A, as the “my pleasure” responses of the kids and crew catering to my meal.
The Human Need for Rest
I’ve been following Chick-fil-A for almost a lifetime now. Through it all, I admit I’ve yearned for a bite of chicken sandwich after church at times, but I’ve never found a Chick-fil-A to be open on a Sunday.
In the past few years, it has caused me to pause and reconsider Moses’ commandment to honor the Sabbath, but I’ve wrestled with that language since Sabbaths just do not make sense in a nation where commerce remains open seven days a week and sometimes all through the night as well. And, is Sunday the new Sabbath?, I’ve wondered.
My socio-religious existence is bathed in guilt whether it be for lack of rest on a Saturday or lack of rest on a Sunday because I have found it unpleasant and difficult to buck the cultural swing and groove which makes our own work ethics and playtimes. In my culture, after an hour or two of Sunday teaching and worship, we all go out to eat and “fellowship” causing staff to wait and work for us and money to change hands. Beyond that, there are the gardens to tend and home afterward and projects to build every weekend.
God can’t still be serious about this day-of-rest thing, can He?
Why Then, Closed Sundays?
“It’s no secret that the founder of Chick-fil-A, Truett Cathy, was a devout Christian, and the ‘corporate purpose’ on the company’s website even reads, ‘To glorify God by being a faithful steward of all that is entrusted to us and to have a positive influence on all who come into contact with Chick-fil-A.’ It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, then, that Cathy’s ‘closed on Sunday’ policy originally stemmed from his religious beliefs.
According to a Chick-fil-A press release from 2009, “Cathy’s practice of closing his restaurants on Sunday is unique to the restaurant business and a testament to his faith in God. Within the first week of business at his Dwarf Grill restaurant in Hapeville, Ga. more than 60 years ago, Cathy knew that he would not deal with money on the ‘Lord’s Day.’ … Cathy believes that being closed on Sunday says two important things to people: One, that there must be something special about the way Chick-fil-A people view their spiritual life; and, two, that there must be something special about how Chick-fil-A feels about its people. Cathy believes that by giving employees Sunday off as a day for family, worship, fellowship or rest, the company attracts quality people…”
A committment to rest on one full day of each week has not stopped Cathy’s son, Dan Cathy, from being innovative and successful. He has taken an unconventional, yet personal and professionally rewarding approach to Chick-fil-A leadership.
“Dan Cathy literally grew up in his father’s restaurant – he jokingly says he’s been in the restaurant business since “roughly nine months before I was born.” When he and his siblings (younger brother, Donald “Bubba” Cathy, and sister, Trudy Cathy White) were very young, their father would take them to his Dwarf Grill restaurant where they would entertain guests and perform odd jobs. Dan remembers, “Dad would give us each a butter knife so we could scrape the chewing gum (and other things) from the bottoms of each table. We would do that almost every day. It was all very glamorous,” he smiles.” – from the Chick-fil-A website’s board of director’s landing page for Dan.
The leadership at Chick-fil-A keeps a good sense of humor and human warmth, as most experience in their encounters with the organization.
Yet the Chick-fil-A description continues, “under Dan’s leadership, Chick-fil-A has experienced tremendous growth — not just in numbers of restaurants and sales, but also geographically. With recent restaurants going up in cities like Los Angeles and downtown Chicago, Chick-fil-A opened its first restaurant in the Big Apple in 2015, where the Manhattan location enjoys nearly constant out-the-door lines.
In addition to his focus on physical growth, Cathy is also a key figure in championing digital expansion through development of the Chick-fil-A One app, which held a notable reign as the most downloaded app on iTunes with more than 4 million downloads in its first three days.”
“Over the years, Cathy has become known as a respected leader, speaker, and influencer in the business community. He regularly shares his life lessons, business practices, trade secrets, and unrelenting spirit of generosity as it relates to leading others well. “Selfless, servant leadership is about action,” he says, “and the bottom line is that what we say and what we believe will only be as effective as what we are also willing to do.”
“To Cathy, service is not just something he does; it’s something he lives. Service is helping. Service is smiling. Service is a handshake. It’s the Golden Rule. From helping mothers with children to their tables, to refreshing a guest’s beverage, to a very simple, but meaningful “my pleasure,” Dan believes that every moment of every day is another opportunity to encourage and bring happiness to others by serving them well.”
A Renaissance Man
“At home, Cathy is first and foremost a family man. He and his wife Rhonda live on a farm south of Atlanta, where they regularly host gatherings with their two sons, Andrew and Ross and enjoy time with their three grandchildren. There Cathy spreads his time developing a myriad of interests. “Believe it or not, Chick-fil-A does not define me,” he says. “It’s a huge part of my life, but there are a lot of other meaningful things that make up who I am.”
“A musician known to pull out his trumpet inside and out of the office, Cathy also enjoys the quieter hobby of gardening and landscaping. He’s a former competitive wrestler and lifelong athlete who’s completed multiple marathons. A member of the “Moo Cow Bikers,” he hits the open roads on his motorcycle with friends, and he is also known to take to the skies piloting small jets. On Sundays he teaches Bible study to high schoolers.”
A Community Influencer
“Cathy’s passion for his community can be felt through his involvement in numerous organizations, including the Eagle Ranch, the Carter Center, the Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, and the Georgia Aquarium. He is also a member of the Atlanta Committee for Progress, and in 2015 was awarded the Four Pillar Tribute by the Atlanta Council for Quality Growth.
He serves on multiple boards and remains actively involved in various ministries, philanthropies, and nonprofits, including: City of Refuge, Passion City Church, The Rock Ranch, and outreach ministries that make up the WinShape Foundation, an organization created by his parents in 1984.”
A Lot of Lost Revenue
A September 27, 2016 article in Mashed by Karen Miner claims, “But Chick-fil-A doesn’t care about your desire for instant gratification — at least not on Sundays. The chicken sandwich purveyors are famously closed on the seventh day of the week, and not even a big-time food delivery service can hack that schedule.
“When a restaurant is as popular as CFA, why in the world would they close 52 days a year? It turns out the answer is a little more complicated that you probably thought.
“…The Los Angeles Times reported in 2012 that the amount of lost revenue due to the company’s Sunday closures hovered around $47.5 million. Given how much CFA has grown in the years since then, we can only assume that number has gotten bigger and bigger. Any way you slice it, whether it’s $50 million or $100 million, it’s a whole lot of money to leave on the table.
In 2019, Super Bowl LIII was played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, where CFA happens to have a location. But fans hoping to grab one of their iconic sandwiches were in for a whole lot of disappointment when instead of a delicious deep-fried chicken patty, all they could score were some french fries. That’s because Chick-fil-A didn’t budge on their policy, and Fries Up took over their space for the day, selling only french fries with toppings aplenty, which might normally be fine if you weren’t craving “mor chikin.”
“Restaurant Business says Chick-fil-A’s once-a-week closure helps in giving a “perception of limited supply,” but there are other important ways that the policy works to the company’s advantage. For one, it’s “respectable.” RB explains that it shows that the company is willing to miss out on some revenue to give franchisees and employees a guaranteed day off each week, and in turn allows the franchisees to use it as a perk in recruiting. Happier employees mean better business, right? All in all, it’s a win for the company, even if their bottom line suffers a bit.
In a brilliant move, franchise owner Carmenza Moreno decided that rather than barricade her restaurant’s parking lot every Sunday, she’d open it up to allow fans to park (and pay). “Barricading the parking lot seemed a little unfriendly and anti-community in spirit,” she explained to The Chicken Wire. But the money doesn’t pad Moreno’s pocketbook — it all goes to the groups who man the lot each Sunday. In four years, the parking lot fundraiser has generated more than $62,000 to local organizations, and if Chick-fil-A was open seven days a week, there’s no way that would be possible.”
The Atlantic covered the 2014 Supreme Court ruling on the Hobby Lobby v. Obamacare case related to the company’s religious prerogative in national forced insurance contraception here, citing also Chick-fil-A’s lawsuit regarding the company’s Amendment One prerogative regarding gay marriage.
“Chick-fil-A ‘forgoes significant profit by closing every Sunday for religious reasons, for example,’ said Chairman Amy Ridenour. ‘If it were not possible for a corporation to exercise religious beliefs, Chik-Fil-A would be open on Sundays.’
“Chick-fil-A’s principal founder is a devout Southern Baptist, and the restaurant became the darling of the conservative movement — and drew ire from the Left — after its CEO spoke out against legalized gay marriage.
“The restaurant reference came among a chorus of conservative reactions to the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling, which exempts certain closely held companies from the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. “Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky: Today’s Supreme Court decision makes clear that the Obama administration cannot trample on the religious freedoms that Americans hold dear. Obamacare is the single worst piece of legislation to pass in the last 50 years, and I was glad to see the Supreme Court agree that this particular Obamacare mandate violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).”- Matt VasilogambrosNational Journal June 30, 2014.
Then, with the Pandemic of Covid-19. Restaurants, bars, and grills closed temporarily, and then permanently. Not Chick-fil-A.
Every day, the lines at Chick-fil-A remain a consecutive, then multiple line for mor chikin. Except Sunday.
Seeing this on a regular basis, and experiencing the efficiency of these lines myself, praise bubbles up thanking God for His blessing over this faithful group. At the same time, I wonder how my own blessings would change should I copy this model of one full day of rest from work, with more trust in God for enough.
Today, passing by the early brunch line of cars driving through our local Chick-fil-A, I experienced another breath of joy and prayed my usual prayer of blessing over the company and employees.
Admitedly, it’s a wondering praise of a prayer for God’s faithfulness to those who consistently practice His day of rest from work, the standard of trusting a magnificent God Who’s miracles defy natural disasters, and Who obviates nationally enacted laws to bless His own.
Coming from Captive Audiences, where highlights of passion and purpose come together, I’m your interviewing host, Laura Bartnick.
I’ll just dive right in because this discussion will include a lot of subjects and take some time and space.
First of all, CONGRATULATIONS, Meg, Mimika, Doctor Michelle, Tina, Misty, September, Michelle, and Kate! for ranking among the top 50 female podcasters list featured in the May 2020 Podcast Magazine!
I saw where the Podcast Magazine lists a significant group of editors for specializing in many diverse interests including: comedy, fiction, technology, t.v. and film, society, culture, news, history, education, music, science, religion, government, health, gadgets and gizmos, and sports. Whew! What a comprehensive list! I don’t expect these ratings to come from hosts who’ve just been reading Podcasting for Dummies, but who knows? Let’s check these gals out!
Now, your ratings came in a Mother’s Day Special Edition, so gals, are you all focused on motherhood? Will you briefly name your podcast and tagline or give us the purpose for your podcast?
Mimika Cooney: “I’m from Johannesburg to North Carolina, and places in between, I have Mimika TV Podcast an interview-chat show connecting you with today’s inspiring thought leaders. My show offers advice, inspiration, encouragement, leadership tools and tangible tips for empowering Kingdom minded leaders, entrepreneurs, authors and ministers of faith. We dive into important topics like faith, purpose, business, marketing, leadership, personal development, and mental health. Just like coffee with a friend, we get to the heart of the matter so you walk away inspired for action. I also run a boutique publishing & marketing agency at Mimika Media LLC. I connect the dots as a motivational speaker on ‘Discover Your Purpose’.”
Kate Brown Battistelli, from Franklin, Tennessee: “I’m the author of The God Dare. And, I also speak for events and I’m a mentor. You found me because I’m 1/3 of the MomtoMomPodcast.com. We’re three generations of moms who have experience nearly every season of motherhood. Our tagline is, “a podcast for every mom for every season”. We don’t have all the answers, but you can be sure that we’ll always point to the One Who does.”
Meg Glesener: At Letters From Home Podcast “Everyday Extraordinary Faith Stories”, we cover a lot of territory, from Tennessee to California to Washington. We love sending audio letters of encouragement to your doorstep! We bring you a new real faith story, every other week, from people of all ages and demographics. You will hear their dreams…their struggle…their pain…their life changing encounters and extraordinary moments. We pray that our listeners leave each episode, loving their God and their community more deeply. II Cor. 3:3. You can reach me at: email@example.com
“I’m Tina C. Smith: Raising Kids On Your Knees. I’m definitely focused on parenting and motherhood. This is a ministry dedicated to equipping parents to pray and parent life into the lives of their children.”
Michelle Bengtson: “Motivational speaker hailing from Greenville, South Carolina, I’m a board certified clinical neuropsychologist, blogger, and international speaker at Dr. Michelle Bengtson, and I speak and write about mental health and health issues, overcoming adversity, and finding hope, peace, and joy in the midst of difficult circumstances. I’m the author of three award-winning books: Breaking Anxiety’s Grip: How to Reclaim the Peace God Promises, Hope Prevails: Insights From a Doctor’s Personal Journey Through Depression, and the Hope Prevails Bible Study. I’m the host of the weekly podcast, Your Hope-Filled Perspective with Dr. Michelle Bengtson where we talk about every day real life issues but from a biblically-based, hope-filled perspective.”
Misty Hinckley Phillips: By His Grace Podcast– Empowering YOU to live By His Grace. She is the author of The Struggle is Real: But so is God Bible Study, and the Spark Podcast Planner. (www.MistyPhillip.com) Misty is the founder of the Spark Christian Podcast Conference (www.SparkChristianPodcastConference.com), the first conference exclusively for Christian Podcasters. She is the Co-Founder of The Rocket Podcast Community (www.RocketPodcast.co), an online membership subscription community to coach, train podcasters. She currently serves as the Houston Connect Leader for Christian Women in Media. Misty and her family reside in the Houston, Texas area.
Laura Bartnick: How did you first characterize your audience, or how did you find out who was listening after you’d done your podcasting preparation and starting promotions?
Misty: Between analytics and social media interaction, I have access to a pretty good understanding of my target audience.
Laura Bartnick: What kind of analytics do you use, or is that a plug in or part of a software program or email platform?
Misty: I use a combination of analytics from my website, podcast, social media, and my email subscriber list.
Kate: Our audience is moms, typically from age 25 through 55.
Laura Bartnick: How did you find out who was listening?
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: I’ve found through social media, and those who leave comments and share episodes that our audience tends to be middle-aged to older women who are going through life’s struggles and want to hear from someone who has been there, made it through, and can offer a hand to one who is in the trenches now.
Michelle Diercks: My audience is primarily women 35-55. I’ve learned this through my Instagram and Facebook analytics. I also have an email list and my audience engages with me through my email and on social media.
I’m going to pose this question in a way that sounds strange to my ear because the singular form of criteria is criterion. The standard and most common plural form is criteria; less common is criterions, so with that aside, do you know what the criteria were for being listed in Podcast Magazine, what surprised you most about this listing?
Misty Phillip: Our podcasts were voted on by peers and listeners. I was happily surprised to see so many faith-based podcasters in the top 50.
Laura Bartnick: Yes! So was I. It is always surprising to learn that so many faith-based programs come floating to the top as the cream, but welcomed to know. Hey all, were you tuned into a particular podcast, whether a story podcast or a self-help podcast, before you started podcasting yourself? Which one and what was your inspiration to learn about podcasting?
Meg: For me, it’s kind of crazy, but I started my podcast having only listened to 2 podcasts, 1 episode each! I hit the search bar in Apple Podcasts, and couldn’t find what i was looking for…and this thought popped in my head…maybe i should start a podcast? And what encourages me most, is hearing real life stories. As i followed this thought in my head, 30 faces popped in my mind, of beautiful, everyday people, like you and me whose lives I consider extraordinary, and have captured so many of these stories on Letters From Home Podcast. As i began podcasting I realized, what a wealth of wonderful podcasts are out there, like all of these ladies in our conversation. One podcast, that captivated me early on is “Terrible, Thanks for Asking.” Nora McInerny, draws u into each life’s tale…as they walk through calamity, and share how their world changes. I learn so much!
Tina: Interestingly, I never listened to podcasts until I started podcasting.
Laura Bartnick: Oh. I wonder if that is because podcasting is a relatively new media form?
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: I wasn’t a big podcast listener either, prior to starting my own show. I occasionally listened to More Than Small Talk or That Sounds Fun, but not on a regular basis. Interestingly enough, I felt in my gut that I was supposed to start a podcast for over two years before I took the leap.
Laura Bartnick: Okay, so being new to public broadcasting, it couldn’t have been an easy row to hoe. Please tell us about one technical struggle you’ve had and how you surmounted it. I mean, did someone mentor you in the difficulties?
Meg: Editing has been a challenge for me. In February 2020, I went to Spark Christian Podcasting Conference, where i met Misty, one of our other Top 50. One of the speakers Misty had lined up is Thomas Umstattd Jr. His talk packed so much into my apron pockets! Since then, on his suggestion, I have upgraded to Hindenburg. It is user-friendly and has cut down 3-4 hours of editing time per episode, what a gift!
Laura Bartnick: That’s amazing. I did an interview with someone this year who was very sick and had coughing fits while we were recording, so Hindenburg editing would have been useful to delete those episodes quickly between minutes and seconds to the second her voice recovered.
Tina: Yeah, the sound of a voice is so important. I started out with the wrong kind of mic. Eric Nevins helped me to find a mic that worked well and it totally changed the sound and quality. so the amount of editing changed drastically, saving tons of time.
Laura Bartnick: Ah! Nevins has helped me with several things too, the recording equipment, editing, and introducing me to Zoom. What a great guy, and I’m also a fan of his chat-based podcast, Halfway There.
Mimika: When I first started my show in 2013, I launched it as a live broadcast. This was before the days of Facebook or YouTube live so there were more challenges. I used a company that streamed the feed of my guest and I at a cost of $350 an episode! Obviously, the cost was prohibitive, so I switched to pre-recording the interviews on Skype, editing them myself and syndicating to YouTube and iTunes. When Blab came out and allowed live broadcasting through Google+, I was excited to go back to live shows. I personally enjoy the live format because of the audience interaction. After Blab shut down, I reverted back to pre-records using Zoom, post production edits, and syndicating to all audio platforms plus YouTube and my website (since mine is a video show). Now that we are at home dealing with home schooling and other responsibilities, I decided to revert to hosting the show live on Facebook to engage the audience in real time and reduce my post production efforts. So far, I’m loving it!
Laura Bartnick: Wow, Mimika, I thought I had tenacity. Just listening to all of these redirections and stuff makes me realize how incredibly flexible you had to be, and willing to research and do the new work. You probably also had to set aside any misgivings of making yourself look foolish until you learned the ropes. I’m impressed, Mimika.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: Starting out, the editing presented my biggest challenge. It was a steep learning curve for me. Fortunately, I had a friend who was in radio who taught me some of the essential basics and then I grew from there.
Michelle Diercks: I am involved with a group called Hope*Writers. Alana Dawson who is now a Podcast coach, helped me work through the technical issues. She directed me to Pat Flynn’s Youtube channel. In the Hope*Writers group there are a number of podcasters, so I would post questions to them and they would help me.
Laura Bartnick: Michelle, that’s interesting that Hope*Writers sees the benefit of incorporating podcast hosting into a writer’s platform. Thanks, I know a lot of writers will be interested in knowing this.
Laura Bartnick: It’s interesting to me why you each have a different host platform. Can you explain for us why you chose the podcast platform host you have?
Misty: As an author and blogger too, I chose Blubrry as a host because because I have a Wordpress blog and their plugin seamlessly integrates with my site MistyPhillip.com.
Meg: I chose BuzzSprout after Googling videos on best podcast hosts, as well as consulting fellow podcasters regarding their hosts, pros and cons. BuzzSprout has been a very easy switch from Anchor. They have a nice interface, with design choices. They also have an easy plugin for websites using WordPress.
Tina: Honestly, I chose Anchor.fm because it was free and it was easy.
Michelle Diercks: I chose Libsyn because I was already using it for some audio devotionals that I had recorded.
Laura Bartnick: Thanks everybody. So tell us, what kind of personality interviews or programs pique your interest for featuring in your shows?
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: Wow! Well, I had my production calendar fairly set, and then COVID19 hit. Because I’m a neuropsychologist, speaker, and author with expertise in mental health issues, and depression and anxiety specifically, it became obvious to me that anxiety levels were escalating at unsurpassed levels. Because of that, I decided to throw my production calendar to the wind and opted instead to do an 8-week episode series about defeating anxiety during times of crisis. It has been a very popular series and a good fit for my listening audience. I’ve also had a lot of experience being interviewed on radio, so many of the questions I’ve been asked as a mental health expert have been turned into episodes on my show.
Misty Phillip: I look for interviews that both pique my interest and will also serve my audience well. On my show we center each topic around the struggles we face in life and we focus on how God gets us through.
Laura Bartnick: After you decide on a show, what kind of research do you do?
Dr. Michelle Bengston: my program is typically an interview format. Once I’ve learned of a potential guest who is interested in being on the show, I have them complete an introductory questionnaire to help determine if they are truly a good fit for my program. I research them on their website or social media, and if they’ve authored a book, I will read that ahead of time to help prepare me for the interview.
Misty: By His Grace Podcast, works with a combination of guests and friends coupled with a variety of PR firms who send me media kits for each of my guests. These media kits include biographical information, online presence, social media links and talking points. I will look for a unique angle, and research to best serve my audience. If they are an author, I will typically read their book before our interview.
Meg: A huge part of what I do at Letters From Home Podcast is personal, since it involves someone sharing their story, oftentimes difficult. Beforehand, I want to know how they are feeling about it, what they aren’t wanting to share, the major chapters of their lives, and some fun facts. Afterward, we always text or chat a couple of times. It is encouraging to hear how their families and friends are being inspired by their stories.
Laura Bartnick: How many people work on behalf of your podcast, and what are their duties?
Meg: Oh boy, it is definitely a family affair, Team Glesener! We have 8 kids, and every single one has been on the podcast, as well as all three grandkids. I love incorporating them as they are willing. Our daughter Hannah created the artwork, our teenage son Jordan has been my technical director, has created music for the intros and outros, and has done voice work. Our theater son, Josiah has also created music for the intros and outros, voice work, and was my first guest. Our daughter Eden has co-conducted interviews, & has been my millennial appeal consultant. My husband does teaching moments. In the day to day though, this Mama does 99% of everything.
Misty: I currently have a team of three. I am the host and do all of the marketing, promotion, and communication. My husband handles all of technical side of my website, and podcast production. My son is my assistant who helps with some graphic design and data management.
Tina: My son writes the music for my podcast and he does editing when needed.
Laura Bartnick: I’m seeing a trend here. It helps to have family members who are willing to help and are knowledgeable, or at least interested enough to learn some skills.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: Yeah, three to four of us work on any one episode of the program. I’m in charge of hosting the show, researching guests, marketing and promoting the show. My husband has co-hosted with me on numerous episodes. My youngest son helps with editing. An assistant will help with the back end and create graphics.
Laura Bartnick: Hey, so at what point did you start realizing that your listeners had spiked?
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: After I had been podcasting for approximately six months, Your Hope Filled Perspective really started gaining some traction, although I don’t know what to attribute that to.
Laura Bartnick: That spike happened to one of our authors, Tonya Jewel Blessing after about two and a half years. We never knew what caused it, but it has continued to grow steadily.
Meg: Letters From Home Podcast has had a steady growing general interest audience, too.
Laura Bartnick: Maybe it’s like a new author whose content is well-written enough that it takes off through word-of-mouth.
Are you following the Podcast Magazine on Twitter https://twitter.com/ThePodcastMag/photo or some other social media, sharing the love? When I went to Twitter to follow Podcast Magazine, I mentioned this interview. How do you layer publicity or reuse content?
Meg: I have been very active on Instagram and have followed and supported Podcast Magazine there, through posts and live stories. I love celebrating fellow podcasters, and podcasting in general. It is fun to use #’s and @’s, to draw attention to great podcasts, people might not know about. Twitter is a newer social media venue for me, and Podcast Magazine is one of the first accounts i followed.
Dr. Michelle Bengston: I’m much more active on FB and IG than I am on Twitter. But I love sharing other people’s podcasts, and support Podcast Magazine there.
Laura Bartnick: Do you find that posting upcoming interviews or shows helps you stir up interest or gains you followers?
Misty: I have a very engaged and growing social media presence. I use a variety of platforms to share about the podcast, and I definitely think it helps stir up interest.
Meg: Absolutely. It can be a win-win. Posting and tagging in stories ahead of time, can alert our listeners to a new author, podcaster, story, etc.; and if the interviewee is on social media, it can also alert their followers to a whole new audience.
Tina: Yes, I use Instagram and Facebook to announce my podcasts.
Mimika: When my show was pre-recorded, I put all my marketing efforts into pushing views after the show aired. Now that my show is hosted live, I can promoted it as an event and I’ve found it garners much more attention with the live format.
Dr. Michelle Bengston: I usually share about upcoming episodes on social media a couple days before a new episode drops, and then again on the day it releases. I think it helps build interest.
Laura Bartnick: How do you let your listeners know about an upcoming podcast so that they can tune in if they are particularly interested?
Mimika: I’ve always been a big believer in nurturing an engaged email list. By having loyal followers, I can ensure that every new event, podcast interview or book launch is received well. I think email marketing is one element of the marketing mix that many podcasters dismiss and focus too much on downloads and numbers. At the end of the day, we are creating content to support, nurture and empower listeners, so if they already love what we offer, why not make it easier for them to listen by sending an email?
Michelle Diercks: I use both Social Media and my email list to let my listeners know what is going on with the podcast.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: Absolutely! It helps to remind your audience of your program because life is busy, they’ve got a lot on their mind. It also helps create conversation and learn what my listeners’ needs are.
Kate: We use Instagram and Facebook. Both of these are sharable announcements in case our listeners want to introduce someone to one of our podcasts.
Laura Bartnick: I can imagine that gaining new audience exposure is always a struggle. Do you use social media to announce your podcasts?
Misty: Yes! I use a variety of social media platforms and have found this very beneficial.
Meg: Always. On Instagram I do three posts per episode ahead of time, one with a photo of their family, one with a quote from their story, and then the episode cover. I just started using BuzzSprouts, free audio clip on my IG/FB stories, to give a sneak peek.
Mimika: Yes, utilizing my social media platforms is imperative in letting my audience know about the show. I love to repurpose content and recycle old interviews because I’m attracting new listeners on a regular basis, listeners who would enjoy past episodes too. It takes a lot of effort to create a podcast show that every piece of content I create needs to be re-usable, repurposed, or promotable on an evergreen basis.
16. I’ll admit, in both writing and publishing, there is a very lonely, agonizing element to the writing, the waiting and the marketing aspects. Okay, all of the phases are basically agonizing. Finding a tribe or community is helpful. In what ways do you act as a community of this female podcaster club or is this a competitive field?
Meg: Zero competition, 100% celebration. I view every female podcaster as part of my tribe. We are not alone. right? And personally, I love being surrounded by all of these wonderful women, trying to get more encouragement out to our hurting world.
Tina: Um-hmm. I find seeing other female Christian podcasters as competition is counter-productive to the calling we all have on our lives. We all have different voices and each voice is important. Our voices, together, are much louder in the grand scheme of things.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: We are better together. I don’t look at others as competition—there’s enough room for all of us. And when someone finishes reading one of my books or listening to one of my podcast episodes, they are going to look for another book to read or podcast to listen to. So, if I can help promote other podcasters, it helps my listeners, which is ultimately my goal.
Michelle Diercks: I don’t see other female Christian Podcasters as competition. Each one of us brings something different to the table through our stories and the stories we share about others.
Misty Phillip: I have created a variety of communities to celebrate other podcasters both in person and online. Locally I’ve run a Mastermind group of authors, bloggers, speakers, podcasters, and entrepreneurs to foster education and community for the past four years, and currently serve as the Houston Connect Leader for CWIMA. I also created Spark an online community and live event for Christian podcasters, and most recently Eric Nevins and I have partnered to form the Rocket Podcast Community which focuses on coaching and community. I believe all of our voices and messages are needed in our world today and I love to champion and collaborate with other women. In fact over half of the women in this article have been guests on my podcast.
Laura Bartnick: The world has been altered in the pandemic, but I’ve also seen some wonderful things come of the experience; how did Covid-19 change you, good or bad, or change your podcast?
Meg: One thing I have loved about COVID-19 is the sense that we are all in this together. A few weeks ago, i was feeling that my family was getting complacent, involved with good things-homework, cleaning, projects, but not thinking globally. So, we took a prayer drive through downtown Seattle. We stopped at 4 hospital parking lots, a jail, the police headquarters, a homeless encampment and a cemetery, and prayed in each parking lot, each family member at each stop. We prayed for the elderly, for the sick, for the front-line workers, for the cleaners, for the launderers, for the homeless, for the imprisoned, for the firemen, for the engaged, for those having to bury family, for teachers, for young moms, for families, for governments, and for the countries of the world. We went home, remembering, we are all in this together and every little bit helps.
Kate: We typically air every 2 weeks, but we added several episodes to help out since everyone had to suddenly homeschool during the pandemic. As all three of us are homeschoolers, we added extra episodes to give guidance to women who had never homeschooled before and were caught off guard and didn’t have any clue what to do now that their children were home from school.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: Covid-19 put a temporary halt on my traveling, but the positive side to that is that I’ve had more time at home with my family and it’s given me time to batch record dozens of upcoming episodes. Covid-19 has made me much more grateful for the little joys in life. It has also helped change my perspective from “I have to,” to “I get to” which lets me live from a place of peace rather than panic.
Michelle Diercks: I added on some Facebook lives and events. My audience responded well to them. I think they were looking for a better connection and more interaction during this time.
Laura Bartnick: What kind of interviews or subjects will you be featuring in this upcoming year?
Meg: Holland Web! He’s one story I look forward to sharing. He’s a Dad who adopted two boys. Holland is a single young man in his twenties, and he just put out a wonderful parenting book, “Adventures in Fatherhood.” His story is remarkable.
Laura Bartnick: Yeah, wow, that is so rare, a single young man who has such a strong sense wanting to nurture! So, usually, people ask very productive women, “How do you get all of that done?”, and in this case, I’d want to pose that question to Holland.
Meg: I also have a friend who had an affair, that nearly ruined her marriage, but didn’t, so I want to interview her regarding how they worked through all of that.
Another friend has a ministry where she and her friends bring care packages to strippers.
Laura Bartnick: Oh, love that! I have a friend whose daughter died. Then she found out through her daughter’s friends offering their condolences, that her daughter was a dancer-stripper downtown with the majority of them. What a shock. But, she turned that experience into an array of new understandings and relationships when she began inviting them over.
Meg: Auralee Arkinsly, an author, gave me one good connection awhile back. It looks like a great list. I also have a friend who lost 125 pounds and is now leading Refit classes and podcasting about health. So many inspiring stories lined up, my guest list is so full through next year.
Misty: On my podcast we talk about the struggles we face in life and how God sees us through. So everything goes through that filter. We provide content that we believe will educate or inspire my audience.
Dr. Michelle Bengtson: I’ve got some guests on upcoming episodes that have fascinating victory stories. I interviewed a former airline pilot, who earned the nickname “Miracle Man” because he suffered a traumatic brain injury on the job and shouldn’t be alive today but is. I also interviewed a woman who was involved in a motor vehicle accident and accidentally killed another individual and has had to live with that in her thoughts on a daily basis. I also interviewed a woman whose family went through financial devastation but has come out on the other side. So many amazing guests are coming up in the next year.
Michelle Diercks: My podcast focuses on God’s Word and helping women find Peace in God’s Presence, in all circumstances.
Laura Bartnick: Wow! This has been a special opportunity getting you all together for an interview. Thank you again for coming together for a lively and technical discussion – wait, can lively and technical be used in the same phrase? Well, it’s the definition of sparking- so thank you for coming together for a sparking conversation with the authors at Capture Books and Captive Audiences where highlights of passion and purpose come together.
Here’s a colorful picture of the hope. Lying on the ground are many colorful leaves.
Winter is approaching, but these leaves are making their statement, and a photographer was clever enough to memorialize the image.
Here, we believe that hope is realized in community.
Within the Books For Bonding Hearts agency, we share the author journey with many varied and colorful authors and speakers. We gather contacts for our author mailing lists. We help authors reach out to libraries and gather their publicity tools. We vet advertising opportunities. We record interviews for Captive Audiences or refer our authors to other podcasters, radio opportunities, and audio book companies see our first book Mister B or The Big Creek Series by Tonya Blessing, recorded by professional voice actress Courtney Patterson.
Books for Bonding Hearts is the agency helping a boutique publishing group, Capture Books.
Are you one of these colorful leaves on the ground? Tell me, what are you hoping for?
So many creatives swing on this pendulum between “spiritual talk” and “pragmatic living.”
Occasionally, the two ends of the pendulum meet up for coffee, and they discover what time it is. A piece of art should be born. It is born. Viola!
In fact, I met with a friend in the middle one day to ask her about her intentions regarding her own writing skills. “It’s time,” I said.
“Funny you should mention my writing!” She said. Many years ago she’d surprised herself by writing a piece of poetry in her history class. It seemed good to her, and so surprising. So, she decided to memorize it.
“What? Have you ever told anyone?”
“Not that I know of, no.”
“Do you still remember it?”
At the age of forty, she roundly quoted the whole thing without a hitch sitting in the passenger seat of my car.
And golly, it was good. When I told her so, she shrugged and sighed and said that since she had also written a song once, and then this poem, she was convinced that there was some creativity stuffed inside of her somewhere. But she had no idea where to find it again. She had been living between the “spiritual talk” and the “pragmatic living” for a very long time.
Creatives need community. We need to breathe where there is a view to grow the precious seeds of color. We need to keep track of time gained and time lost. We need to give each other assignments that bring our brains together with our spirits and cast that vision for a perfect landing.
We need to touch each other’s lives with our own creative voice, not just spiritual talk, or pragmatism. Our souls need to be filled with mojo!
If God’s grace isn’t guiding the actionable hours of your day, the choices and relationships you make, and your own creativity, then honestly? I wonder if you are hobbling God’s purpose squirming around inside you on the ground.
It was kind of fun to sew together the many small pieces so that I could take a good look at the bigger picture, that is, why we do what we do. My little exploration into video making, that is.
Why do we come alongside of authors and entrepreneurs?
Making the video was a discovery experiment, but it touched something inside me so valid and sweet, like piercing a shaken up can of soda, and the pop spewed in wonder like a fountain.
SEWING CREATIVE BITS TOGETHER CREATES VALUE
When someone uses his or her unique voice, it joins a variety of things together, as two pieces of fabric can be sewn into a shirt, a sleeve added, and buttons.
The cloth becomes larger than the sum of the parts when it becomes a shirt. It doubles its value.
This is why we are desperate for community. We use creative juices like threads sewn together for the purpose of creating a shirt, a pair of pants, a dress, or a pair of socks. Bits of fabric are no longer random. Like the need for tailoring the raw sheets of material into a garment, the threads of fabric find their purpose.
We need to find the meaning for the poetry of our existence.
An author might enter into an author co-op, or a hybrid publishing company, and discover that creative juices in many areas exist, not only do they exist, but they swell to overflowing in such company!
This is because
When authors see the benefits of applying business to their craft,
When they add up the expenses and profits and create line item budgets,
Then they open up a new brain synapses that
Triggers a sum where places of personal worth and value can land.
Understanding the quantum physics of a group effort in publishing and marketing is the math which defines the bottom line. This bottom line can trigger a God-given energy and value to a creative goal never before articulated, perhaps never faced.
Joining a publishing and marketing co-op puts a framework to creative dreams and hobby writing. We need to understand the costs, the additional work to build a goal. We need to be inspired by the possibilities of sales and speaking opportunities.
Joining a publishing and marketing co-op makes you accountable to be your own magnanimous best friend. A group like you! You can see the way then to invest in yourself. The group will help you understand that your God-given gifts are not only meant to make you curious, but they are meant for a greater good.
Welcome to the Shivoo! I wrote this book all about the power of community in publishing your prized manuscript and then making sure you reach the audience thirsting for it.
When we give ourselves this gracious gift of time to rest and dream and process in an community fashioned for accountability, it means that we are able to give a reason for the hope that lies with us on a very personal level in a uniquely styled expression.
May you rise up into your own Resurrection Day through Christ Jesus, and through His community, His Church, His body. May you unhobble that precious inner soul that God gave to you in hopes that you would use it. No one else was created like you.
Only you can speak your wonder into your world. Let’s go for it, shall we?