Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Our Annual Christmas ... er, Easter ... Letter


Well, I have a confession to make. I wrote the following post back during my Christmas break ... and just now (three months later) discovered that I never pressed the "publish" button! So, for those of you who have been holding your breath in anticipation, here is my annual "Christmas letter." Almost in time for Easter.

Taking a week off work around Christmastime has become a tradition, and also a great opportunity to get that annual review of our year done!

For me, there are three primary highlights of 2011: 1) My job transition at World Vision, 2) becoming grandparents, and 3) the growth of the young adults ministry God has blessed us to lead.

World Vision's Media Relations
website is packed with good info
for journalists.
1) The Web Guru Does Social Media

For those of you who are unaware of this, I've gained several "unofficial" titles during my 18+ years at World Vision. One of my favorite is "Dark Lord of the Web" (bestowed on me in a chapel by our president, Rich Stearns, after I got World Vision's initial internet program off the ground back in the late 90s and early 00s). Another is "Web Guru," which was actually the official job title bestowed on me by my friend and boss (approx. 2006), Robert Coronado (who also helped launch the first website on April 25, 1997).

I had transitioned, prior to that time, from our Marketing Dept. back to our Communications Dept. in order to focus on web content and editing our monthly e-zine. When I began work for Robert I helped with the relaunch of our homepage, as well as implementing search engine optimization and analytics technologies for our new site, and running a usability testing lab. I was secunded for a few months to start an emergency relief extranet for our international office, then took a three-year assignment with World Vision's public radio program, developing two web properties (one supporting daily spots on Christian radio stations, and the other supporting our hour-long weekly public radio show) as well as social media efforts.

But in March of this year my team was informed that World Vision was ending support for the radio program, and I actually got a layoff notice, which was a first for me. I and my radio team colleagues had a few months to wrap up the show and begin looking for new assignments. I applied for four other positions within World Vision (and several without), and in April was offered a position as social media strategist with World Vision's innovative and highly successful Media Relations department.

In many ways this has been a dream job for me, and I have been enjoying it very much. I work long and hard hours, managing the Media Relations internet site (with the help of several very able interns) as well as working on our social media strategy (connecting with journalists on social media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Linked In), including blogger relationships, internal PR and other related special projects.

I get to do some (limited) writing -- mostly limited to 140 character Twitter posts, several times each day! -- and blogging, including occasional guest blogging for World Vision's corporate blog site, which I actually started back in 2005 but which has come a long way indeed since those early days.

And now since I am an official "social media strategist" I also find myself paying a lot more attention to my personal blogs, where I have been trying to post engaging content at least once or twice each week, and nursing my "Klout score" (currently 45 ... my goal for the New Year is to get it up over 50, and eventually I hope to match my age!). Editor's note: Klout score now up to 54! I'm now half as influential as Justin Bieber. Supposedly.

Klout, by the way, is one measure of social media influence. Most people who are just starting out and "playing" with social media have a Klout score in the teens. You can get up in the 40s if you work at it and have a very decent influence within your networks. If you are a public personality, a highly visible organization like World Vision, or really experience success connecting on social media, you can get it up into the 50s and beyond. If you are a Lance Armstrong (70) or a Guy Kawasaki (85) you can rise further. You may even aspire to Justin Bieber, who tops the Klout scale at 100 with his nearly 17 million Twitter followers. 'Nuff said.

Anyway, I wander. Reigning it back in, hopefully you can tell I'm enjoying my new role with World Vision and am looking forward to whatever the next wave (Google+? Pinterest?) brings. It really is a blessing to work with such great people and to use my gifts and skills, and to indulge my fascination for new technology, all for such a great cause as being the hands and feet of Jesus to the poor!

Annabelle Ivy celebrating Christmas
at our house!
2) Can You Say Gramps?

2011 wasn't technically our first year as grandparents, as Annabelle Ivy Teeter was born on December 22, 2010. But it was our first full year. We were able to visit with Annabelle three times during the year: First in June, when the Teeters (including Mike's parents) flew out to Seattle and we launched a week-long road trip to Southern California, where we visited every grand tree betwixt here and there (and saw many other grand sights as well, including the always-breathtaking Yosemite Valley). Then again in the fall, when Darlene and I were able to spend a weekend on the Teeter farm in Osterburg, Pennsylvania. And most recently, during our Christmas vacation week, where we were able to stay at our favorite B and B (with Nathan and Becky too) in North Bend; take a horse-drawn sleigh ride in the snow and then follow it up with a nice German dinner and a walking tour of Leavenworth; and then celebrate family Christmas at home.

I know everyone's grandbaby is the cutest in the world, but all those others are imposters and for us it's true. Annabelle took her first real steps while she was here, which was very exciting. She is one of the happiest babies we've seen. She has pretty, dishwater-blonde hair and blue eyes and is very thoughtful, funny and creative. We were very sad this morning to have to put them all back on the plane.

This photo was taken at 11:11:11 p.m.
on 11/11/11, while we were celebrating
the wedding of two of our members.
3) Elim has a Pulse

Elim is our church, one of the first Evangelical Free churches founded in the USA (back in the 1880s), and Pulse is the young adults group that Darlene and I started there 10 years ago this coming summer. For several years we struggled to gain traction, but now the group is a steamroller, with 50 young adults on our list and 20-30 at many events. We typically have several events each week, including a Friday night meeting and a Sunday morning book study at Starbuck's.

The young adults in our group are awesome! They love Jesus, they serve selflessly each other, our church, and needy people in our community, and they are growing in their relationship with Christ and one another. We couldn't be more blessed with this group, and we are looking forward to seeing what the next decade brings.

Well, I have tried to include photos illustrating all our year's blessings, though I realized I really didn't have a good photo of my team at work (I'll have to take one as soon as I get back) so I put a graphic of our website there instead.

In closing I realize there are many more highlights to our year than those I was able to mention above ... our niece (Lauren's) wedding; Elim's freezing nights ministry, a great mushroom season, and many more. But most of all, we are grateful for the love and companionship of many friends this year; for good health; that we both have great jobs despite all the difficulties in the economy; and for the protection and blessings showered on us by our Savior who loves us! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

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