Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Confessions of a Former Blog-Stalker: The Journey of a Blog


I tend to have a love-hate relationship with technology, with an emphasis on the "hate" (or, to be nice, we'll say "intense dislike"). 

I also struggle at sticking with a project for a lengthy period of time. I have so many notebooks with partially begun stories and journals from over the years; fragments that float with the memories of my childhood. 

So, I am occasionally shocked that I have been blogging for five years. 

Five whopping, crazy, wild, humbling, enlightening years. Looking back on my years of blogging, I've discovered so much about myself. I've seen growth and change from a hyper, crazy teenage girl, to a blog stalker, to a woman who now sees herself as part of the Catholic blogging community. I've learned some humbling lessons, rejoiced freaked out with some surprises, and I've had loads of fun in the process. For those of you who are new to the world of blogging, perhaps you'll find something in my journey that you can relate to. For those of you who are experienced bloggers, perhaps you'll have some wisdom to share. And for those of you who randomly stumbled across this strange blog, perhaps you'll be amused or shake your head and go, "Wow, this chick is weird." It's okay-I think I'm weird, too :)



Once upon a time, I discovered the world of blogging. One of my very good friends had a blog, which I really enjoyed reading. A couple other friends of mine-all of whom were a few years older than me-began starting their own blogs. At some point, I began to wonder, Maybe I want to start up a blog. But, I didn't feel that it was the right time, and eventually I decided that I would probably begin a blog sometime after graduating from high school. 

We may make plans, but God's are sometimes  often different, and this was one of those instances. Just a few months away from high school graduation, my first post ever was on the Solemnity of the Annunciation-March 25, 2011: "Begin at...the beginning!" I felt God prompting me to start this blog, so using my extreme lack of computer skills, I threw together this site. A lot of my initial posts in the following months were very random observations from my life, extremely quirky analogies for the spiritual life, and poems that I had scribbled in the back of my eighth grade agenda book years earlier. My blog was a bit of a journal, a space for reflecting and processing my thoughts through writing. A couple friends occasionally read my posts, and I didn't have many thoughts as to the future of my blog. 

About five months later, when I entered college, my blog adapted to that life change. It became a place for me to process and contemplate the wondrous adventures that God was bringing into my daily life as a college student. Whether it was pondering my break-up with Latin class or contemplating my first time ice skating, many of my random, enthusiastic musings found their way onto this blog. It was also a place for me to enthusiastically talk about my exciting life with my new friends (who all remained nameless on the blog). As I mentioned earlier, I process my thoughts by writing, and while my blog was slowly beginning to mature as I grew as a person and as a Catholic, my blog remained to be mainly for myself. 

However, in the spring of 2014, my blogging adventures took a bit of a turn when a post I wrote was featured on Chastity Project. I suddenly realized that through blogging, I could reach people across the globe, and that my words and musings could impact the lives of other people in ways I could not foresee. This was really a definitive turning point for me. I discovered that not only could my blog be a space for processing my thoughts or developing weird analogies, but it could also be an instrument of evangelization. From this point on, the way I dealt with my blog changed. Yes, I still wrote for myself (to develop my thoughts), but I also wrote to bring others closer to God, or to educate them about different aspects of the Faith. 

In May 2015, my husband and I graduated from college, and we settled in Oklahoma. As we began this new chapter of our adventure, I held a few objectives before my eyes: First, I wanted to take a break, slow down from the busyness that had been occupying my life for several years, and really acclimate to life after college. I also wanted to dabble in the daunting world of freelance writing. Finally, I wanted to take blogging more seriously. 

My enthusiasm was strong, and I immediately set out on this venture with gusto. I read countless professional blogging articles, spent hours redesigning the appearance and face of this blog, and made elaborate blogging schedules for myself. None of these things are bad, but the emphasis I gave them was not that great. I became more focused on pageviews and followers than on content and purpose. Within just a few weeks, I realized that I had started seeking my own glory before God's (to find out how St. Josemaria Escriva helped me see this, check out this post). 

And so, my friends, as the month of August began, I put my main focus back on God. However, there was a problem: In the world of Catholic bloggers, I didn't know where I fit. So many of the well-known Catholic bloggers are the "mommy bloggers" who all write books, give talks, and have at least one child. Well, I was not a mom at that time, and I was younger than most (if not all) of the big-name "mommy bloggers." Where do I fit in this whole mix? I wondered. After some hardcore deliberation, I realized that I didn't need to question where exactly I thought that I fit; instead, I should focus on doing what God has leading me to do, and He'll create a place for me. With this in mind, I excitedly launched myself back into blogging. 

However, [there's always a caveat, isn't there?] even with these "lightbulb moments," I still had room for more learning and growth. Because, my friends, I discovered that I had become a blog-stalker. I would read and skim through one blog post after another, partially absorbing what I had read, following the lives and adventures of different people. This "blog-stalking" isn't necessarily bad, but I began to see that it was not very fulfilling. I had this "lightbulb moment" while listening to the Fountains of Carrots podcast episode with Kendra Tierney. As Kendra, Haley, and Christy all discussed navigating social media, I began to see that real community, relationships, and growth can happen through blogging. I realized that when I sat hidden in the shadows, "stalking" another person's blog without ever making my presence known, I was losing out on an opportunity to build bridges, engage in fantastic conversations, and provide alternative viewpoints. 

With this revelation in mind, I began to lose my "blog-stalker" status. While there were (and still are) moments when I legitimately don't have time to write a response to a person's post, I tried (and still try) to at least let the author know that I appreciate whatever he or she has written. Instead of drifting through a blog post in a rather aloof, stalker-ish manner, I began reading blogs as a way to engage in conversations, share thoughts and ideas, or challenge myself to look at various viewpoints. 

As I implemented this new mentality, over the next handful of months, I began to discover a beautiful aspect of blogging: through these simple webpages, God can create incredible community, forge friendships, and change lives. Whereas many people blog solely for the sake of having a community, I-as a writer-did not have that priority in mind. Yet, as I lost my "blog-stalker" status and dove into the blogging world, relationships began to spring up. Occasionally joining in link-ups, communicating with the women in the Blessed is She community, commenting back-and-forth with other bloggers, and taking part in e-mail correspondence with some women I met through blogging, I am continually amazed at the incredible work that God does in and through people. Prayers have been shared, hearts have been moved, support has been given, and challenges to greater holiness have been laid forth. 

In just five years, I have seen myself grow from a crazy teenage high school student to a slightly more mature wife and mother. In just five years, I have observed this blog journey from a series of hyper ramblings to an avenue for evangelization, community, and deep conversation. Yes, blogging has presented some pretty cool experiences, like being interviewed on the radio. Blogging also provides a splendid excuse for watching shows (it's perfectly acceptable to watch hours of Doctor Who when it'll all become a blog post eventually, right???), reading books, and taking excessive selfies. More than all of that, though, I have seen that God can do incredible things through blogging. Who knew, right? (Well, I guess a lot of people have known this, but to technology-hating me, it's been quite the revelation)

I continue forth in this blogging journey with no idea as to what lies ahead. And that's fitting, isn't it? Acting on a nudge from God, I blindly began this blog. And so, floundering forth rather blindly, I'll continue to blog where He leads. Where will that take me? I have no idea-but I'm sure that it will be awesomeThank you for joining me in this very lengthy ramble, and thank you for being a part of my blogging journey! I am excited for all of the adventures and wonders that we will continue to discover. 
"Come further up, come further in!" ~C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle

12 comments:

  1. Don't have a blog but have been a blog stalker for the past 12 years resulting in many changes of my catholic social and spiritual life by knowing the Catholic lives of others. Three of blogs I've read for many years if helped learn how and when to speak.

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    1. Joseph, that is so great that God has worked in your life through blogs! Like you said, knowing the Catholic lives of others can really work wonders in all of our lives. It's really cool that God can bring people, Catholic witness, and ideas together through social media :)

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  2. It's great to hear about your blogging journey! I'm not all that tech savvy either, so learning the technical aspects of blogging has been a challenge.
    I totally understand not knowing where you fit when so many female bloggers are "mommy bloggers." I was childless when I first started blogging, too. Then I had my daughter and, as you know, will soon welcome another daughter. I should feel like I "fit in" more now, right? ;-)
    After reading this I feel encouraged to continue following God's leading in my own blogging journey. Thanks!

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    1. Shannon, I'm so glad you enjoyed this and were encouraged! Oh yes, the technology has been a big challenge/learning point for me. It's been a good way to learn more, that's for sure!

      As I've thought more about the "not knowing where to fit in" uncertainty, 1 Corinthians 12 keeps coming to mind-just as there are many parts to the body, and many different gifts given by God, so also, there are many types and variations of blogs that can all bring something utterly unique to the world.

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  3. I also came to blogging by reading the blogs of real-life friends. None of my real-life friends blog anymore, though. My first blog was mostly pictures of family adventures for relatives back in the USA to keep track of us. After I moved out, I started "The Random Writings of Rachel" but wrote only very occasionally until about the week after I graduated from college--I've kept at it faithfully ever since. I need a writing outlet of some sort, since I no longer write research papers, and I like the writing + community aspect--much more fun than writing in a journal. My blog still helps meet the function of keeping in touch with far-flung family members--everyone from my great-aunt to my young cousins read my blog. And I do like the opportunities for writing about faith that blogging has brought me, though writing silly stories about funny everyday misadventures is more my comfort zone. Blogging put me in touch with the lady who runs "Quite Women Company", and I've written for her website periodically for years--they've recently changed things up and started putting out monthly devotional ebooks that I write for, and I've loved that that has put me in contact with a whole different group of Christian women. Thanks for sharing your blogging journey! You've kept with it a long time!!

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    1. Rachel, thanks for sharing a bit of your story! I really, really like how you noted that blogging is different from a journal because of community-maybe that's why I've been able to stick with blogging, but have never been able to keep up a journal! I think it's awesome that blogging connected you with that group-the communities and connections that God can bring about are fantastic!

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  4. I love this! You hit the nail on the head with the community that blogging can provide. It's the thing that surprised me the most. I started blogging as a scrapbook for our family, and a way for relatives to far away to see pics of the kiddos. But I've been so very, very blessed by the many women I've "met" through blogging. It's called me deeper into my faith, provided encouragement, and been a lot of fun. I'm glad that you are finding your place. I always enjoy what you write, even if I don't always comment!

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    1. Ann-Marie, thanks so much for your sweet comment! I'm so glad that you liked this and that you've enjoyed what I write. I think it's really cool how even if you, myself, and other people all had different motivations to begin blogging and various focuses, we all come together and can inspire each other. I've loved keeping up with you and your family through your blog!

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  5. Yay! Happy five years! Loved your story!

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    1. Thanks so much, Laura! I'm glad you liked it :)

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  6. Just getting around to commenting on this now, AnneMarie, but it's very wise advice! I'm often shy to reach out to bloggers I read or participate in conversations going on in the comments section, but I'm learning that if read about people's lives without interacting with them, I'm missing out on so much. Reaching out to other bloggers reminds me that they are real people, not just producers of content for me to read, and it turns my reading into a conversation, where I can be drawn into a greater community. You do a great job of building bridges and making connections by leaving thoughtful, interesting comments on other blogs, and it's good to hear that you've gained a lot through blogging! :)

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    1. Thanks, Erin! I think it's cool that you've been learning these kinds of things too! It's actually really relieving to hear you say that you'll get shy about reaching out to bloggers, too! I don't think of myself as a shy person, but for the longest time, the thought of e-mailing another blogger freaked me out, because they all seemed so professional and intimidating! It's probably silly to think that, when so many bloggers, like myself, don't have it all together, but I've still thought that anyways.

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