Tag Archives: engagement

Something like Heart Surgery.

Everything feels hard and fragile at the same time. And it feels that way because it is the way things are right now. That’s one of the reasons I haven’t been actively blogging for a while now. I was in the middle of a move so I let things slide and then I tackled true and real vulnerability which took all of the emotional effort I had at the time.

And then, November 2016 happened. The Cubs brought me great joy. America brought me great pain. I don’t even want to single out the president because yes, that’s painful too (growing increasingly worse) but what he revealed about this country, about us, about people I love, about institutions (like the Church) that are important to me was gut-wrenching. It still is most days. That night, when the results came in, I was torn to pieces in a way I did not expect and was useless for a week. You’d think I’d have put the pieces back together by now but I haven’t. I’m functional (because that is something I know how to do: function in a crisis) but I can’t go back to before. The scales have fallen from my eyes. The fact is, I am still processing (every single day since that dang day there is something new to process so I don’t even have time to ever really truly process…I’m sure some people can relate) and so to write things down, concrete things that will be here on the internet, well it just seems difficult and maybe even unwise. (I mean, I do it for a living but it gets more personal and less formal here).

But here I am.

My convictions are not weaker. In fact, they are stronger. But when I write something here, like this, I have to dig deeper than I do on Twitter or Facebook. And even though my convictions have grown deep and true roots, there are still things I am processing. Like my faith. I never stopped loving Jesus but I did stop loving people professing to be Christians (or at least loving them as easily as I did before). That’s a hard truth right there to write.

It isn’t what Jesus has asked of me (love God and love others). But, man, I wish I had the words to explain how hard I have prayed for help to love people who loudly profess ideas and ways of thinking that are hurtful to me, hurtful to other people I love, and so hurtful and destructive to whole groups of people. I mean, I have repeated Jesus’s command through gritted teeth to myself too many times to count. I have wrestled with God over all these people using his name for ugly at best and evil at worst. And yes, I know he’s got it. I know that what they mean for evil, he will use for good. But watching it…watching it hurts.

Loving people through gritted teeth has meant unfollowing some people on social media (not that big of a deal but it took me awhile to realize that was the loving thing to do instead of seething with anger and hurt over their ignorance). It’s meant not discussing politics with others and not because conversations aren’t important (I believe they are more important than ever…and I had/have them) but because nothing but a heart change was going to be effective. It’s meant praying for people I do not like very much. It’s meant grieving over the beliefs of people I love.

It’s meant examining my own privileges. It’s also meant admitting, “I don’t know” to questions and problems. Maybe if more people were willing to admit what they don’t know, the world would feel different. It’s meant clinging tightly to people who get it, who are in the struggle, looking for answers, coming back with nothing, and then going out and looking again. It’s meant new friends and saying goodbye to old ones. It’s been a time of grave disappointment in people I thought I knew but maybe I didn’t.

So while all that is happening, I have also been experiencing incredible happiness. I fell in love and we decided to marry one another. We’ve been growing together and we are getting marriedwe are getting married. I’m not one to gush but I truly do not know what this last year would have been without the discovery of two things. First, that I could love and be loved, deeply and truly and completely. Secondly, in the midst of such difficulty, I could know such happiness. I’m a different and better woman having met this man and working towards marrying this man. That is a blessing that could make me weep and those tears would not have anything to do with romance or mushy-gushy stuff but God’s mercy to me in bringing me and C together. Just like I can’t get past the incredibly tough stuff, I can’t get past God’s benevolence to me.

But the question I have struggled with is: how do I write from this place? How do I write from a place of such pain while some of my long-held dreams for my life are quietly coming true simultaneously? Some days I feel split in half so writing about it seems absurd. Literally every time I have thought, “I’ll write a blog post about the wedding, like how I used to. I’ll talk about colors and flowers” something horrible happens in the world and I am back to processing things.

I haven’t added my voice to the fray because there is such a clamor right now. That isn’t to say I don’t speak or use my voice, I just didn’t and don’t know how to do it here, in this space. So, I end up with this rambling thing that may not make sense but I’m going to push through because I’ve got to decide if I am going to maintain this space. And I can’t make that decision when I don’t show up. So I am going to try and show up and see how it feels.

One thing has not changed and that is my trust and belief in God. I will be the first one to say that I don’t get it. I don’t get how a sovereign God is at work right now but I believe he is. I have been beyond disappointed in the Christian machine this past year (specifically white evangelicals). I didn’t realize how insidious and disgusting this cancerous way(s) of thinking had spread (which shows you and me my privilege) in the community I used to call home. Maybe that’s why this is happening? Maybe our racism, our sexism, our xenophobia, all of our ugliness that we have internalized needs to be exposed.

When my mom was in her twenties, she found out she had a large hole in her heart that had been there her whole life. It was now compromising her life but this hole–the circumference of an egg–went unchecked for over twenty years. Until a strange exhaustion set in. Until her entire color changed. Until all these symptoms revealed the very real problem that required open heart surgery.

Maybe what’s happening all around us is surgery. The thing about surgery though is that it hurts a lot. Its goal is to heal but man, does it hurt and it is incredibly violent when you consider it. You have to cut and bleed before you can stitch and heal. Then, there is a long recovery. So my hope cannot even be in the process because that sounds horrible. My hope is in the Surgeon. But this is so hard.

I think of my mom, the scar she still bears so many years later.

“But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake, I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.” Philippians 3:7,8 ESV

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Engaged!

I meant to write this awhile ago and I just didn’t (I even wrote a draft in a notebook that now I am completely ditching). But, if you don’t follow me on social media, here’s what’s up: I’m engaged.Pink with Diamond Icon Photo Engagement Announcement

The past few months have been filled with peaks and valleys that are just a part of life but all the while my relationship with C has deepened. He is an incredible teammate, kind, patient, and funny. It’s been a few weeks since he proposed and it still feels surreal even though we are in full wedding planning mode.

If you would have asked me if this is where I would be one year ago, I’d have laughed. And I know that C can say the same. The way God knit together our story is so unique. Parts of it are so special that I am keeping them private. At the same time, I want to share our joy and excitement with you all since you have been with me through other seasons of my life too.

We are better together than we are apart which is what makes it so cool. At the same time, I’m very aware of the parts of myself I am stubborn or prideful over. Like all things, God is using this relationship to sanctify both C and I. I’d just say this feels very intense at times. And from what I’ve been told from what married friends, that will only become more intense. I’m more aware of my need for Jesus than ever and we are both keenly aware that our relationship needs Him too. He is, after all, the author of it.

So, some questions you may have…

How did he do it?

I always say I want to be surprised but I also am so impatient that they never work out. So the day it happened, I knew it was coming. But when he told me the plan for the day he talked about going to several places that are important to us and dinner. It made me think he would do it then obviously. Instead, he surprised me as I was getting ready for the day as in if he would have done it two minutes later, I might have been wearing a face mask and there was a podcast blaring as I settled in to “get ready.” So I didn’t imagine I would be in the middle of washing my face with wet hair but it was perfect. He ended up actually proposing in front of a piece of furniture I helped him to make. (He is a woodworker as a hobby and I was his assistant on his project). I cried. He cried. I whispered the word, “Yes,” way more quietly than either of us imagined and then leaped into his arms.

When are you getting married?

March! C is a teacher so to a certain extent we are the mercy of that calendar. Originally, we considered doing it over winter break but the way the holidays fall this year would have made it very difficult for the people we love and would like there so: looks like Spring Break!

How is planning going?

In fits and bursts. A lot of things have (thankfully) fallen into place in a beautiful way. C has been helpful and both of our families have also been supportive. The main stuff is booked and now we just have random things to nail down.

We are also making the conscious choice not to just be planning for a wedding but a marriage. So it means premarital, financial courses, etc. That’s really important to us, building a foundation, and knowing that it doesn’t just happen. But that’s something that is just important to us. Everyone and every relationship is different.

Dress?!

Not yet. I’m waiting to be able to share the day with my mom, who isn’t local. So that will be in a few weeks. I have no idea what I want except that I would like it to be flattering and comfortable.

To be honest, one of the biggest challenges to wedding planning has simply been that I never really thought I would meet the guy and get married. So I never really was that little girl who pictured some things. I had some vague ideas like I would like for it to be in church (Spoiler: it’s not because of my chronic illness we are doing everything in all one place because I want to make it through the day and to my wedding night too! I’ve waited a long time. Ha. So that means cutting down on anything that would expend more energy than necessary and one of those things is travel in the city. What a nightmare.).

But anyway, because I hadn’t dreamt of this day my whole life, only just hoped I would someday be married, I didn’t really know what I liked or wanted. After a lot of talking with C and pinteresting, we definitely have a vision and a vibe.

But as for a dress, I just want to be comfortable in the dress and in my own skin

Where’s the ring?

I’m a little paranoid so I have been really careful about what I post on social media and here too. I did want an engagement ring but I had no idea what I wanted so C suggested I go look. I fell in love with a yellow gold setting but he surprised me with the shape of the center stone and I’m so in love with it. It’s everything I never knew I wanted and I can’t imagine anything else on my hand. Although I am still getting used to having it on my finger and will be for a long time. I feel like I can objectively say it’s beautiful and classic with a twist (which is the perfect mix of me and C to be honest. Ha!)

If you made it this far, you’re kind and sweet. I am so behind in announcing it here but I do want to chronicle the wedding planning process to a certain degree. So…here we go.

xo

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Blogging Basics: Content is King but Engagement is Key.

PinterestengagementA couple of years of ago, and even as recently as a year ago, this phrase was tossed around a lot in marketing and sales: content is king. It applies to blogging as well. It’s almost always the number one piece of advice when it comes to growing your blog. If a blog doesn’t have quality content, who is coming back to read? Not me and probably not you either.

What I love about my real life job and blogging is that sometimes one informs the other. It’s always funny to back up an idea at work with: “Well, I have this blog I am growing…” It’s also a bit embarrassing but I digress. I was in a meeting and we were discussing how consumer trust is at an all time low, that content matters, but really engaging with your audience is just as important.

Here is the thing: even if you blog once a week and are not interested in growing (which is totally fine!) the people who read your blog are consumers. They are consuming that great content you are providing. So the truth of it is: content is king but engagement is key.

Untitled-3It’s as simple as building relationships within the blogging community and especially with your readers. It’s responding to comments. It’s taking a conversation offline (meaning email or something that is not public). It’s asking questions of your readers at the end of the post. Anything that engages your audience with you and your content is engagement and this is extremely important because in a world filled with phonies (and with a limited amount of my day dedicated to reading blogs), the blogs I make a priority of reading and commenting on every day (or close to it) are the blogs where I feel connected to or engaged with the blogger and her content.

I could have the coolest content in the world–killer DIYs, amazing stories, photographs like it’s National Geographic over here–but if I am not authentic, will you stay?

I’ve been hearing about engagement for months now at work and recently it clicked why some blogs just plain turn me off even though they have incredible content. It’s because, I, as a reader am not stupid. I know that the blogger is churning out content and working so hard to grow her blog and kudos for that. But without engagement, I can only stick around for a little while because as a consumer of your brand (because that is what a blog is), I won’t continue to read if all your content is self serving.

I get it. You want to grow your blog. You want content to be pinable. But it’s like the cartoon characters with money symbols in their eyes. I can see through every post that your end goal is not to engage with me or foster community, but to grow your own space as quickly as possible no matter what it takes. And as I said, those blogs that churn out great content: I give you a pat on the back because it is hard work and you are doing the hard work.

The problem is that I can see your hard work. I can smell the desperation (and I seriously don’t mean this negatively because I’ve smelled of desperation plenty of times in my life). And it turns me off because while I want to grow my blog too, there has to be an understanding that people–real live people–are the ones consuming it. I want you to feel loved and cared for (which may sound so cheesy) and like I am real with you at all times. Consider some of your favorite brands’ presence on social media and their advertising.

Do you know how much people read today? On the internet, on their phones, and tablets? Would you prefer an audience that is extremely loyal to you because of your engagement with them (because it does take extra work to engage) or an audience who could take you or leave you, who forgets about you as soon as the post ends?

Plus, let me just say, even as a writer who wants to grow, one of the most rewarding parts of blogging has been the people I have met online and in real life. The community is real and important. If you aren’t engaging with your readers and the community, you are missing out.

So while content is king, engagement is key. One without the other cannot sustain growth for any blog or any brand, to be honest.

Do you agree? How can I be better engaging with you guys because I actually do care about you? That’s why I am constantly talking about authenticity here. Is there a topic you would like me to explore from a marketing perspective when it comes to blogging?

Talk to me, buddies!
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