I remember when I started toying with the idea of starting a blog. I was in my early thirties, ten years into marriage, two kids, STILL trying to figure out how to become a real, live grown up.
I don’t know what it is about your thirties—somehow you start doing a lot of self-examining, trying to figure out why you are the way that you are, and eventually, you start to accept some things about yourself that are probably not going to change. It was around this time that I realized I am never going to be a June Cleaver-type wife, even though I’m a stay-at-home mom. I just didn’t have those look-at-this-perfect-pot roast moments that some women have. In fact, it was somewhere around then that I actually set a fire in my kitchen and unwisely doused the entire area with a fire extinguisher. (If you ever accidentally set a fire, be completely sure that you want to fully commit to the whole fire extinguisher usage. I’m pretty sure a charred kitchen would have been less trouble to clean up than the mountain of white powdery mess that I had sprayed all over our tiny house.)
In this midst of all this self-discovery, I decided it would be a grand idea to start a blog. I wanted to leave some tangible part of myself for my kids to read someday. I decided that this blog would be my little love letter to my babies, something for them to read through and learn all kinds of things about their childhood, about their mama and what I believe and how much I adore them. So, I did it. One day I simply got on WordPress, downloaded a free template, named my blog, and just like that, I was a blogger. Literally anyone can do it.
It’s been said that blogs are the ultimate outlet for the self-obsessed. And, I believe that it’s true. Blogging forces you to think a lot, about how you feel about things. About how a certain moment in your day affected you. It causes you to look at all of your life as potential material for your blog. Maybe that’s why all of my friends and family live in fear of winding up as a featured story in my corner of the internet.
I started my little blog right there at our kitchen table in my pjs back in 2010, and my parents and Chad and a few really dedicated friends were reading it. But, pretty soon it started growing. These days my posts often travel all the way around the world. And, I’ve learned a few rules to live by during my adventure.
First, we shouldn’t let people who don’t know us tell us who we are. One of my early viral blog posts was on what turned out to be an extremely controversial topic. The post was about the actor Matthew McConaughey and a speech he had made at the Oscars. Well, I can tell you with ALL certainty that this world we live in ADORES Matthew McConaughey. And, it wasn’t going to stand for me suggesting that he shouldn’t be idolized.
The comments started pouring in. In just a few days hundreds and hundreds of people had chimed in, and a large portion of the comments were downright abusive. People were mean. They told me they feel sorry for my kids, that I’m what they hate about Christianity. They said that all sorts of terrible things should happen to me. People even sent private emails to me, calling me names and telling me I must be the most miserable person alive.
To tell you the truth, I was pretty miserable. It was killing me that so many people in the world seemed to hate my guts. I wanted to be liked, not ridiculed. On their blog, Time magazine even featured a piece about what I had said, making fun of me mercilessly. An atheist message board picked up on the controversy, and they spent several days discussing my ignorance.
I took every word said about me to heart. My stomach was in knots, and I wished I had never uttered the name Matthew McConaughey. But, then Chad said something that changed my perspective. He assured me that I had spoken the truth. And, he told me that strangers don’t get to tell me who I am.
The truth is that the internet is a brutal place. It’s easy to be mean when you’re hiding behind a computer screen. But, I learned that I don’t have to take every opinion about me that shows up on the internet as the gospel truth, any more than I should let a real-life bully’s taunting define who I am. You and I get our identity from God. His word and our friends and family are the ones we should allow to speak into our lives, not because they are always going to think we are doing everything just right—they won’t—but because they see who we really are, the whole person. Not just some soundbyte on the internet.
Once I realized that the things that strangers were saying were based on a vague idea of who I really am, I started being able to read disagreeable comments without getting so upset about them. I think this carries over well in real life. Not every criticism of you is valid. If it’s not, don’t take it to heart.
Blogging has also taught me that we need to encourage each other.
I saw a cartoon that showed a girl in the 80s, clutching her diary, yelling, “You READ my DIARY???” Then it showed today’s girl, looking at her computer screen, yelling, “My blog only got 200,000 views???” That really is what it feels like sometimes to be a blogger. Our personal lives and thoughts and feelings are going out there to the world, and for some crazy reason, we want them to be read.
I often sit up late at night and write blog posts. Sometimes I’m so tired that I’ll dose off mid-sentence. Some days the blog gets slow, and I get discouraged by how few people have read what I stayed up way too late to write. But, then I get an encouraging comment. I get an email from someone telling me how God spoke to them through something I wrote. And, just like that, just because someone took a few minutes out of their day to tell me something nice, I get energized to keep going, and I can pull another late night if I need to, and sometimes it helps me to pour out my heart like an 80s girl with a diary.
Blogging is one of my main jobs right now. When people encourage me in it, it helps me to do a better job. The kindness of strangers and friends who send me encouraging words has made me see that all of us need encouraging in our various callings. And, by the way, when a stranger tells me I’m a decent writer, I DON’T say, “Oh, he’s a stranger, so he doesn’t get to tell me who I am.” I say, “He obviously knows me well.”
Finally, having a blog has taught me that our stories matter.
Blogging is very personal. It brings stories out of you that maybe you never thought you would share with anyone, much less with the big world out there. But, the more I have blogged, the more I have realized that my stories actually do matter. And, so do yours. Story-telling is the oldest form of human connection. When I hear your stories and you hear mine, we realize that as humans we all have struggles, we all have flaws. And, on some days, if we’re really listening, our stories can point each other to Christ.
So, don’t stop telling your stories. Whether you have a blog or you just tell stories from your own childhood to your little girl at bedtime, don’t make the mistake of thinking that your own adventures in life don’t have meaning. I’ve been downright shocked by how God can use my mediocre story-telling skills for His glory. I’ve watched him take my stories and work in hearts and minds, and I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunities that blogging has given me to make His name great in my little corner of the internet, and even all over the world.
I’m glad that I acted on that little notion to start a blog six years ago, sitting right there at my kitchen table in my pjs. God’s plan is always just so interesting. I encourage you to act on some little notion that you’ve been toying with. Create something. Reach out to someone. And, see how God can use your stories.