Journal

Coffee Date No. 16

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you how glad I am that it is starting to feel like fall in South Carolina. You know the scene in You’ve Got Mail when Tom Hanks is emailing Meg Ryan about New York in the fall and school supplies and sending her a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils? That pretty much encapsulates my love for fall. The back to school aisle in Target is my mecca. The weatherman says that it won’t get above 86 degrees all week, and when you live in South Carolina, that means fall is on the horizon. bring on the corn mazes and the crunchy leaves and the warm drinks and the boots and cardigans (imagine Julie Andrews singing about her favorite things).

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask how you feel about September being the new January. I’m a big fan of the idea that September is the new January. The wild of summer has begun to fade and be replaced by familiar routines. Even though I’m long graduated and don’t have littles of my own to carpool, take first day pictures of, and pack lunches for, something about September just feels like a fresh start with new rhythms and possibilities. I’m going to go ahead and blame my love of rhythm and routine on the fact that I’m an INFJ. I’m sure that C would laugh and call this an INFJ ex machina.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d share that this week is National Suicide Prevention Week. To Write Love on Her Arms‘ campaign this year is about staying and finding what you were made for, and I couldn’t be more in love with that. shared a photo on Instagram late last night and wrote about the healing power of staying. There have been times in my life where I have been tempted to jerk the wheel, and I honestly thought that no one would notice if I was gone. There are still a lot of days when I have to scream out loud that fear is not the boss of me. But I’m convinced that staying has been the most healing thing, and that fighting for joy is holy rebellion. And I’d probably go deep and ask what it is you feel like you were made for, because that kind of stuff seriously makes my soul feel so alive.

 

If we were on a coffee date, we’d probably chat about Harvey and Irma. Man, what a crazy, sobering month it has been. I cannot even imagine the devastation in Houston and in our neighboring countries to the south. I’ve seen the photos, though, and there are two that stand out in my mind above the rest: the first is of a Houston police officer carrying a woman and her infant through the water, and the second is of a black man rescuing two children. If I’m honest, I’ve been feeling something a little past jaded when it comes to our country lately, but I’m grateful for the America I see in their faces. They make me feel hopeful.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask what you’re meditating on in scripture lately. I just love The Bible so much. I don’t say that to sound super Christian-y, either. These days, I’m thinking long and hard on Ephesians 3. I whisper to myself about the mystery of Christ and being rooted and established in love as I load the dishwasher, and I know that God is showing me what that looks like.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about a podcast that C and I are listening to called Blue Babies Pink. It’s Brett Trapp’s 44 part story of being a gay Christian in the south, and I seriously cry at least once in every episode. I pray that Jesus would make me so, so tender to the needs of my neighbors. I cannot encourage you enough to go download every episode and listen. You can also visit Brett’s blog here.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you about the fire in my heart to write. I’m feeling so hotly steeped these days, and there’s that line in a Brooke Fraser song that goes “I know I’m filled to be emptied again.” I just want to pour it all out, and these words are the only way that seems to fit my soul. I don’t know how they’re going to come out, but I know I feel ready.

 

If we were on a coffee date, of course I’d ask about your heart. And I’d probably cry when I do this, because I’ve been crying a lot lately. I just hope that you know that you are the beloved, and that nothing could ever erase that birthmark.

 

What would you share on our coffee date? I am all ears.

manifest destiny: a love letter to my white christian neighbors

Dear you, dear me, dear us,

 

I was a fresh faced sophomore in college, packing to go home on a holiday break when the ping! of the headline reached through my smartphone and down into the soul of me: another shooting, another attack, another devastating loss of life. Like most millennials, I typically hear about current events through social media first, so I took to Facebook to read what major news outlets and the people in my circles were saying. And there it was, tucked in the middle of the collective grief: an Islamophobic post, followed by several equally furious and hateful comments. Their own tiny rally, snug and nearly hidden amidst the outpouring of emotions and Jesus, come soon‘s. The author of the original post was a woman who worked with my mother; a woman who had never been anything but kind and encouraging to me, and who, just the day before, had posted all about how much she wanted her life to glorify Jesus. I dared to toss my two cents into the thread, hopeful that this person would recognize that they were being watched and that their words were deeply damaging: Muslims are human beings, I said, and are worthy of dignity and kindness. I went on to say that it wasn’t fair to find the overwhelmingly peaceful majority guilty for the actions of the radical few.

It didn’t take long at all for my fellow commenters to offer up some words just for me.

 

I was called naive.

Someone told me to “watch out for stones.”

I was called an ignorant sheep and told to “enjoy the burka.”

I was called arrogant.

A stranger told me that I was a “bad Christian who had clearly not read The Bible.”

 

Apparently, doing unto others as you would have them do to you and loving your neighbor as you love yourself are taken pretty loosely by some around these parts, more like polite suggestions and less like the commandments that they are. Because in case you haven’t noticed, we love ourselves an awful lot, but loving our neighbor at all, let alone loving them as we love ourselves, is a constant struggle. But I read the other day that admiration without criticism is simple infatuation: a short lived passion. 

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of watching pieces of myself be suffocated and die off at the hands of short lived passions.

 

This is not the death that we are called to.

 

It’s not how I want to go — not how I want to be remembered after I leave this life.

It isn’t the legacy I want to leave for my children and their children.

I suspect it isn’t how you want to be remembered, either.

 

We must examine ourselves.

 

It’s going to be hard, ya’ll — standing up and admitting that yes, we are capable of that kind of hate, that we’ve actively participated in or seen and heard racist actions and comments and not immediately shut them down because to even acknowledge them for what they are would be too uncomfortable or costly. Family members might not understand. We might have to give up our spot in the “in crowd” in our places of work and worship and learning.

We must own the fact that the depersonalization of an entire group of human beings has been so intrinsically woven into the DNA of our society that we hardly even realize that it’s there, that our entire existence as a country has been at the expense of those we’ve deemed as less than. We must own the fact that we have allowed fear to take root in our hearts and that we have allowed that fear to bully us into the belief that to acknowledge someone else’s worth takes away from our own. We have to call it what it is: white supremacy, and pure, unadulterated racism. 

I know what you’re thinking. You aren’t a racist. You would never do or say the damaging things we’ve seen and heard in the last 72 hours. I believe you. I wouldn’t, either. I know that for most of us, we genuinely believe that we’re doing the best we can. But it isn’t enough to just not be racist — we must speak out and condemn the words and actions of those who are. We must be the Esthers who are willing to acknowledge that if we have been given any privilege in this life, it is for the purpose of making sure that those on the outside have a way to get in.

It’s going to be hard. It might feel like the hardest thing we’ve ever done. But I promise you, if you ask Trayvon Martin’s mother about the hardest thing she’s ever done, she’s going to tell you about burying her baby. If you ask Diamond Reynolds’ four-year-old daughter about the hardest thing she’s ever done, she’ll tell you about begging her mother to be quiet so the cops don’t shoot her, too. And if you had the chance to ask Heather Heyer if she would choose to show up again, my gut tells me she would say yes.

 

We owe it to them. We owe it to our neighbors. We owe it to our children and our children’s children to tell a different story with our lives starting from this moment forward. Because when we dare to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, it changes the narrative of our lives. It changes the narratives of our families and our schools and our churches and our civic organizations and our communities.

We owe it to our neighbors and our children’s children to educate ourselves: to listen to our black neighbors and believe them when they share their experiences. We owe it to them to not make excuses or turn their narratives into partisan debates. We owe them our eyes, unafraid to look at the scars and the pain and the centuries their souls have traveled barefoot. We owe it to them to not just say that black lives matter, but to show it.

We owe it to our neighbors and our children and our children’s children to hold our leaders accountable for their words and actions — to let them know that we refuse to let them boast hatred and plant fear for a single moment longer.

 

We owe it to our neighbors and our children to pick up our crosses and die to ourselves, abolishing any shred of manifest destiny that isn’t directly tied to the everlasting Kingdom — killing off any seed in us that is at odds with a free spirit. Because the Jesus whom we so proudly boast on our bumper stickers and Twitter bios and business cards came down to tear down every single barrier. He came to put our shame to death; allowing his own flesh to be ripped open so we could have a new name.

 

Beloved.

 

So you can feel free to call me naive. You can tell me that justice and equality are dreams that will never be realized on this side of heaven. I’ve heard it before. But I wholeheartedly believe that Jesus wouldn’t have asked us to pray for the Father’s Kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven if that wasn’t a prayer he was ready and willing to answer. Mother Teresa said she “used to believe that prayer changes things, but really, prayer changes us and we change things.” And I want to be in on the answer. I won’t be perfect at this. None of us will be, but that’s no excuse to not go there, and I hope you’ll join me. 

 

 


For your continued viewing/reading:
These thoughts from Brene Brown
I Will Not Be Silent, by Rachel Dawson
How to Heal When Your Heart is Tired, by Daje Morris
After Charlottesville: The Question We Absolutely Have to Answer, by Lisa Sharon Harper via Ann Voskamp
These words from Brittany Packnett
These words from Shveta Thakrar
Proximity > Politics, by Shannan Martin
Small Great Things, by Jodi Picoult

Disclaimer: I’m going to leave the comments open on this post, but please know that if you post something rude or hateful or troll just for the sake of creating division or shame here, your comment WILL BE REMOVED, and I won’t feel the least bit upset about doing it. In the words of Rachel Held Evans, the definition of these terms is left solely to me.   If you must critique, please do so constructively.  Let’s share our stories in this space before we share our opinions– not to prove a point or promote an agenda,  but to move closer to one another.

Coffee Date No. 15

Hi, friend. It’s nice to meet you here! If you’re new here or maybe you’ve been coming for awhile and are curious about these coffee date posts, let me fill you in. Once a month, on the second Monday, this corner of cyberspace turns into a table for us to have coffee over and share what’s been going on in our lives. There aren’t any rules, and nothing is off limits because there is more than enough grace here to cover our messes. If that sounds like something your soul needs, we would love nothing more than to add a virtual chair for you here. Bring your favorite yummy beverage, and we’ll spill it all together. Linking up is easy, but if you don’t have a blog, please feel free to share your conversation in the comments below.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask to meet up at one of my favorite spots downtown. Brews is a local coffee and craft beer bar that the man and I are regulars at, and the atmosphere there is just the best. I would order a huge mug of something hot because even though we’re only halfway through August, I am fantasizing about autumn. The pretty colors and cooler temperatures cannot get here soon enough!

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would probably warn you ahead of time that I might cry. Because the world can be so ugly, but my Jesus, he is so beautiful. So just know that the tears might come. My soul feels so stirred up and my heart is so tender these days, and that has never felt more okay to me.

 

If we were on a coffee date, chances are, we’d talk about Charlottesville. It’s all I see on television and social networking these past couple of days. I’m tempted to say that I can’t believe what is happening in our country, but the truth is, I can absolutely believe it, and it makes me sick to death. It makes me feel so deeply ashamed of us. I have a feeling I’ll write more about this later, but for now, this is all I’ve got.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d share this playlist I made about life in the wilderness. And I would tell you about how God is keeping me quiet lately. I come here to write, and he says not yet. So I’m trying to be obedient and follow where he leads, because I’m learning more and more about the beautiful plan he has for me in this space.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d talk about the addiction of being distracted. Because it is so real for me right now. I’ve been opening my Bible more lately, and the moment I do, I’m interrupted by the irresistible urge to check all the things online. I’m tempted to unplug again, or go to a coffee shop with my Bible and a journal and just leave my gadgets at home. I want to crave communion with the Holy Spirit more than cheap likes with a thousand people who aren’t actually invested in the inner workings of my heart.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would have to share an incredible podcast with you. Generally speaking, I don’t listen to a lot of podcasts. It isn’t that I don’t like them, I just honestly don’t think of them that often. That’s starting to change, though. Recently, my friend Megan told me about Jonathan David and Melissa Helser’s podcast. In case you don’t know who they are, Jonathan wrote a little song awhile back called  “No Longer Slaves.” Anyway, the episode that Megan shared with me was a sermon that Melissa gave on being hopeful in seasons of disappointment, but it turned out that wasn’t the sermon I most needed to hear. Instead, I scrolled down and listened to the episode entitled “growing roots,” and Jesus used it to blow my heart wide open. Even if you’re not a podcast person, you seriously have to go subscribe to theirs. Life = changed.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you to go preorder this bookIt comes out later this month, but I was fortunate enough to read it before it is being made available to the rest of the world. It has wrecked me in the most beautiful way, and I cannot say enough good about it. Suffice it to say, God knew I needed these exact words at this precise moment in my life. I can’t wait to see them in the hands of everyone I know.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would ask about your heart. I would ask about the ways it’s broken and how God is putting it back together again. I would beg to know about the soil of your life, and whether you’re feeling hard or soft these days. And I would ask how I could pray, because lately, that seems like the only thing I know to do.

 

What would you share on our coffee date?
Join the conversation by linking up, or by sharing in the comments below.

A few things that I’m loving this summer.

Jonathan David & Melissa Helser’s podcast. // This is changing everything for me right now. I crave Jesus so much more because of this couple.

Shannan Martin on how proximity changes how we look at politics. // From the first time I encountered Shannan’s words, she has been a hero of mine. I can see the fruit of her passion for Jesus and his kingdom. She’s living it, and I’m constantly in awe.

My favorite lip balm for any time of year.

Our dear friend Kevin chatting about letting people come past our front porch. //
Because people won’t feel welcome in our churches until they feel welcome in our lives.

Just plain good advice.

The Big Sick // We laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. One of the sweetest, most honest movies I have ever seen.

So many pretty, pretty things.

Trips home, and trips that take us 1,000 miles away. (Happy 4th anniversary to us! ♥)

Such an incredible honor to help get this wild, beautiful book into your hands.

Kaleb’s thoughts on prayer. // “God hangs his reputation on the work he is doing in you.” (Sermon starts 25:57).

Feed me this spaghetti and tell me you love me.

This drugstore mascara outperforms one that costs three times as much.

“Love, wounded a word as it may be, love can see all of it. I am determined to see all of it. I do not get to go blind again.” // Say it louder, Buddy.

 

What are you loving this summer? Let me know in the comments below.
Sharing is caring!

Coffee Date No. 14

via All In.

 

Hi, friend. It’s good to meet you here. Just in case you’re new to this corner of the interwebs, let me give you the skinny on these coffee date posts. Once a month, on the second Monday, a group of gals meets at a virtual table for an unfiltered chat about whatever is currently going on in our lives. Nothing is off limits, and there is more than enough grace to cover our messes. So if that sounds like the kind of thing your soul might need, we would love nothing more than to have you pull up a chair, bring your favorite mug filled to the brim with your beverage of choice, and we’ll spill it all together. Don’t have a blog to link up? That’s totally fine. Tell us what you would share in the comments below.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d take you to my new favorite spot. Living within walking distance of one of the biggest college campuses in the state does have some perks — one of which is All In Coffee Shop. They have a very nice outdoor seating area, but I’d suggest that we sit inside, because the heat in South Carolina has been in the high 90’s for what feels like ages, and according to the weatherman, it isn’t going to get better any time soon. I’d definitely be drinking an iced coffee — maybe something with caramel or lots of chocolate.

 

If we were on a coffee date, you might ask about mine and C’s recent trip. In the month since we last chatted, C and I celebrated our fourth anniversary by taking a road trip up the east coast. Maybe you’ve seen the pictures on Instagram. We went to Washington DC, New York City, and Boston. Craig drove up the coast with his dad and brother last fall, but I actually hadn’t ever been north of Maryland before he and I took this trip. It was wonderful. We went to the top of The Rockefeller, which was my absolute favorite part of the trip. I was pretty hesitant to go to the top of anything, but it was seriously the most beautiful, peaceful part of our day in NYC. And we topped it all off by seeing U2 in Boston, which was absolutely incredible. Happy anniversary to us!

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask how you and God are doing these days. What are you learning at church and from scripture? What has your quiet time looked like recently? How are you engaging culture? Lately, I feel like he and I are on the cusp of something really big. But of course, I don’t know exactly what that is yet. Do you ever feel that way? What do you do to unpack it?

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d have to gush about the fact that LG is going to be a big sister! I haven’t talked about this on social media at all, so it will probably come as quite the surprise. Her mama is actually due to have another precious girl this week! I have to say, I’m a little bit anxious to think about how much this will change things for us, but my excitement to meet this beautiful new baby far outweighs that nervousness.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask how you handle it when friends move away. Our best friends recently told us that they are moving two hours away. I have been totally devastated, even though I know that two hours isn’t that far. It just feels far away because of how much we love them. We’ve pretty much been inseparable since C and I moved to South Carolina, so I know that there will be lots of long weekends spent going back and forth between here and Charlotte to see each other.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask what you’re reading. I’m slowly but surely working my way through Louie Giglio’s new book, Goliath Must Fall. Have you ever just known that a book was written for you? That’s how I’ve felt about this book from about page seven. With every page turned, I say, “okay, God, you have my attention.”

 

If we were on a coffee date, I would tell you that we went to an event at church and met two of the nicest couples. Guys, meeting people is hard. I don’t consider myself to be a shy person, but I can be terrible at instigating new friendships. For now, I’m going to take the easy way out and blame this on my INFJness. Of course, the underlying current of thought is that it is especially difficult given that we’re still adjusting to new surroundings after an ending we didn’t ask for or see coming. Starting over is just plain hard, but we have to come to a point where we realize that people are worth fighting for. We are worth fighting for, too.

 

If we were on a coffee date, you know I would ask how your heart is. Because small talk makes me itchy, and I want to get down to the nitty-gritty, no holding back space. You know, the space where you can laugh or cry or curse or pray or whatever your heart most needs to do. And I would ask if you know what you’re made for, because I’m starting to get tiny glimpses of my own meaning and there’s nothing I would love more than to call out those things that are beautiful and alive and growing in you.

 

What would you share with me if we were on a coffee date?

Coffee Date No. 13

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d be drinking an iced caramel latte. And I’d have to ask if you say care-amel or car-amel. I am in the first camp. Anyway, I’ve been on something of a caramel kick lately. And I might add a pump of vanilla. I’d let you choose whether we sit inside or outside, because I could go either way.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I might tell you that I’ve been feeling pretty restless lately. First, practically speaking, it has just been a busy month. We’ve seen both sides of the family, C has had a lot of projects for work, and I feel like we haven’t had dinner at home in ages. Honestly, a staycation never sounded so dreamy. But then, I’ve also been feeling restless in my soul. Do you ever feel that — like you’re not where you’re supposed to be (or not where you thought you would be), but you can’t quite pinpoint the why? I have a nagging feeling that my why has to do with discipline. So I’m praying through some small changes I can make in order to feel more at peace.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d share about the sermon series we’re in at church. It’s called “No Ordinary Family,” and it’s all about how God calls the Church to be different: diverse, unified, and living into the tension of being made well. I’d tell you that every single Sunday has just gotten better. Each sermon has made me love the Church more, which is honestly saying a lot, because sometimes that is hard to do. And I’d ask you what you would want to say to the Church if you had the chance?

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d tell you that I’m praying for renewed faith. I want to run after Jesus harder than I ever have before, and for the power of the gospel to really transform my life in practical, tangible ways. How are you seeing your faith growing, and how do you want it to grow?

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask you what you’ve been reading lately. This weekend, I finished “Letter to My Daughter” by Maya Angelou, and let me tell you — if you haven’t read it, you need to. I have loved Maya Angelou since my junior year of high school, when I was chosen to recite her poem “Phenomenal Woman” during our poetry unit in American Lit. Her words are just so lovely and unpretentious, dripping with wisdom and grace. Her thoughts about America are so relevant, even a decade after the book was published.

 

If we were on a coffee date, I’d ask how your heart is, and I’d try to really listen. Because I think we all just need someone to really notice us. And we would probably laugh and cry, both of which are more than okay, because life is funny and sad and beautiful and really really hard.

 

What would you share on our coffee date?
Link up your own post below or tell me in the comments.

 

Thoughts on safe spaces and how to survive the world.

I wake up early, turning my alarm off and scrolling to see that #HowToSurviveTwitter is trending. The irony of this isn’t lost on me: these social networks designed to bring us closer together are actually enabling seeds of bitterness and division to flourish. My heart feels so heavy lately that I wonder if any words will wander in at all, for fear that this weight in my chest will suck the life right out of them. And I don’t know if I can handle any more death. Some days, it feels like nothing is safe or sacred or beautiful anymore, and I know when I get these spirally feelings, the only sure solution is to unplug — to immerse myself in scripture and an extra hot bath.

 

The truth is, I’ve spent most of my life trying to save myself. Trying to measure up. Trying to prove to you that I am worthy of love and that I’m not too much trouble. I’ve been trying to preserve my own way of thinking and acting and I hold onto my own comfort so tightly that my hands burn and blister raw. I’ve looked for safety in all the wrong places.

Isn’t that all we want at the end of the day? Isn’t safety the driving force behind everything we do, from buying organic eggs to dropping bombs?

Our craving for safety leads us to lock our doors, and fear bullies us into locking our hearts. What we don’t realize when we throw away the key, though, is that we haven’t only insulated ourselves from brokenness — we’ve also actively refused the remedy for our anxieties.

He who wishes to save his life must lose it.

 

If there’s one thing I know for sure now, it is that the answers are rarely as simple as we want them to be. An old friend told me recently that we are all being thrown into shades of gray, and I tend to believe that’s true. So I’m trying not to be too prescriptive these days — except when it comes to love. I believe that we can choose to love because God loved us first, and he so loved our world.

 

Love begins with the willingness to see. And when we open our eyes, we will see the brokenness of the world — the differences that seem to refuse reconciliation. That same friend asked me the other day how we can choose to love each other in spite of these differences, and my only thought was that we simply hold onto each other, leaning into the tension together until all is reconciled. Because we know that the story ends at the table, with a family. We know that in the end, all will be made well. Fear has an expiration date. When we open up our eyes, we will see the beautiful parts of the world — the evidence of redemption. And sometimes, we will see that the line between ugly and beautiful gets blurry — like how the scorch of the forest fire makes the soil more fertile, or how a seed must be buried and break open in order for what’s inside to reach the surface.

And we can choose to be kind, because there isn’t one of us who isn’t feeling more than a little buried and broken, and sometimes it is hard to know which way is up.

 

We can go out on a limb and tell the truth when someone asks us how we’re doing. Sure, it might be shocking at first, but I’m learning that it is only when we lay down our own fig leaves of fine that other people will feel freed up to do the same. Instead of shouting our opinions from the rooftops of Facebook and Twitter, we can choose to boldly whisper our stories in the presence of friends. We can put down our devices long enough to learn the names of our neighbors and listen to the worries of our kids.

When we open our eyes and our ears and our hands, we begin to see that the issues we go on and on about affect real people on our own streets, and I’m convinced there’s something about looking into someone else’s eyes that shocks our own hearts into rhythm. When we crack open the doors to our own truths in the presence of others, we crack open the doors to healing. This is how we move from being spectators to the redemption story to being participants with Christ.

He looked us in the eyes wasn’t afraid of us sticking our hands in his wounds.

 

I know that living this way, broken wide open, will hurt, and I can’t tell you with any certainty that it will ever hurt less. That is the ugly-beautiful tension of it all: the surgeon’s cut is always the first step towards surviving and healing.

 

This isn’t meant to be a political statement. I just mean to say that I’m tired of being afraid. The days of injustice are numbered, but love lasts. And don’t we all want to be part of something that lasts? I’m learning how to be a safe space for the people I love. And I’m learning how to find safe spaces in them as well. The world needs safe spaces. Because I know that if we are going to survive, it will be together.

With each other and for each other. And that will be enough.

 

How to start a blog: 8 steps to telling your story.

 

I have been something of a wallflower in the blogosphere for more than eleven years now. What began as a space to overshare bad poetry and an abundance of teen angst has, over the past decade, turned into a haven for me to grow and change and break and heal and learn. It has helped me stretch my wings and build community, and it has seen me finally find my footing just to leap all over again. And lately, I’ve been asked a handful of times, often by people I haven’t seen in years, how to start blogging. In fact, I’ve fielded the question so many times that I thought it would be best for me to just go ahead and share some thoughts and tips here. I am by no means an expert — these are just little pieces of advice that I have collected over the years and found to be helpful in my own writing and blogging. They’re not meant to be prescriptive, so by all means, feel free to pick and choose what you think will work best for you.

 

Number one: pick a platform

Over the past 11 years, I have used Tumblr, LiveJournal, Blogspot, and WordPress.com (all free), and now a self-hosted site through WordPress.org (paid). I know a ton of people who have used Squarespace, but I don’t have any experience using it, so for the purposes of this post, I’ll stick to what I know, which is WP. While it might not be the most user-friendly, I have found that if I am willing to do a little bit of research and put in some elbow grease, I can generally get the look and feel that I want.

 

Number two: own your name.

As perhaps you can imagine, my blog has undergone as many identity changes as it has platform swaps. This was, at least in part, due to the fact that I was trying on new identities, too. For example, for awhile, my blog was called Egypt and Courage, and then it was called A Life like the Lilies (which is now the working title for the book I’m fantasizing about). But now, eleven years later, I feel like the only thing that fits is my own name. Claiming my own name has helped this space feel more settled and more like home.

 

Number three: choose a theme/design based on how you want your blog to feel to both you and your reader.

For my tastes, this means a theme/design with a lot of white space (which feels like fresh air to me), but your own tastes might be totally different. The great part is that if you’re willing to stretch yourself and put in the time, you can come up with a design that is totally you. WordPress has a ton of free themes that you can practice on, several of which are super customizable. And I’ll let you in on a little secret about me: I know next to nothing about HTML and CSS coding. My blog looks the way it does right now thanks to a few hours of copying and pasting and searching forums for answers to questions like how to center my post title and how to widen page margins. Don’t fret when it comes time to ask for help, because chances are, someone has already asked the question you have, and with any luck, it has already been answered.

Tip: it has helped me to check out a few blogs here and there for decoration inspo. Here are a few of my faves: 

Hannah Brencher

Jess Connolly

Erin @ Reading My Tea Leaves

Bailey @ LoveBaileyJean

Alannah @ Rose & Bliss

 

Number four: ditch the niche. Burn down the wheelhouse.

This is where I often get stuck, to be perfectly honest. Because there’s nothing I love more than writing about Jesus, but I also really like this lipstick, and one of my recent guilty pleasures are those “what’s in my handbag” posts. I’m also interested in politics and would like to highlight causes that are important to me. And I would love to do a home tour (provided I would ever clean my house, but I digress!). But then I get a little dizzy and start feeling a bit guilty, because those things aren’t my “wheelhouse.” More and more, I see people telling bloggers to stick to what they know, and it is absolutely infuriating to me, because we are multifaceted human beings with diverse gifts and interests. So if you want to write about your faith and your latest ride or die mascara, that is what you should write about. If you want to write about politics and that incredible pair of jeggings you picked up last week, then please write about those things. If you want to write poetry or creative fiction and do a home tour, you would be doing us all a great disservice to not write about those things. Don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t share on your blog.

 

Number five: just start.

Let’s just get this itchy fact out of the way: your blog won’t be perfect. But don’t ever let that stop you from writing. 11 years later, there are still things I want to change about my site, and I still find plenty of typos in my posts. If you spend your time freaking out about the things you want to change, you’ll lose focus on why you started blogging in the first place, which is to tell your story.

 

Number six: click publish and share your story with the world.

Trust me when I say that it is so incredibly easy to fall victim to the lie that there is not enough room for you at the table. There are other people who are better writers, take better pictures, and have more followers — so what makes you think you can cut it? If no one has ever told you this before, allow me the honor: the world needs your story. It sounds wildly cliche to say that there is only one you, but it is true. No one else can tell the story the way you can. Let me say it again. The world needs your story. 

 

Number seven: remember that the numbers mean nothing.

This is, of course, not the case if you’re trying to monetize your blog. WP has a statistics page which shows you how many people have viewed your site, which post they looked at, how they got there, and where in the world they are reading from. This is a really cool feature, but it can quickly become dangerous if you start to find your worth in it. So as a general rule, I try to avoid looking at my statistics page, but honestly, I’m not always successful in this. A few months ago, I shared a letter I wrote that meant a lot to me. To this day, it is one of my favorite things I’ve ever written, but the stats on it aren’t all that great. I had to muddle through my disappointment for a few days before realizing that regardless of who did or didn’t read the post, writing it had changed me. And that was enough.

 

Number eight: keep a junk drawer and write it down now.

Have an open document, either a draft on your blog or a file on your computer of words that haven’t found a home yet. You never know when you could be working on something new and find the perfect place for those words that you worried would never belong. And if something comes to mind that you want to share, don’t wait to make a note of it. I can’t tell you how many times I have stumbled upon some new idea that I wanted to write about here and then forgotten it completely because I failed to write it down somewhere since it came at a time when I wasn’t able to craft an entire blog post.

 

Last words:

“All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence you know.”
— Ernest Hemingway

 


If you’re curious about more specifics about WP
or how I started blogging, I’d love to chat with you.
Feel free to drop me a line here.