How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet in 2015

Over the past year or so, I’ve been listening to the low, rolling hum around the Internet. It comes in as a wave on the shore of the cyber beach every few years, depositing questions and doubt like flotsam after a storm. You’ve heard it, too: the whispered rumor that blogging is dead.

It’s an important conversation for those of us who read and write blogs. It feels a little like that first time we watched The Sixth Sense – wait, he was dead the whole time? How did I not see that?! There’s a little niggling in the back of my mind – Does all this still matter?

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet

Though I know people have been asking the question for years now, 2014 was the first year I began to wonder if they were right. Is it over? Have we been dumped for Instagram and are too stubborn to admit it?

As I’ve been working on this post for over a week now (does that tell you anything about my process? I need blog writing to stay alive! I can’t think fast enough for anything else!) I saw a post Tsh wrote on this very subject in her state of the blog address. I almost considered scratching this half-written post and just telling you to read hers because she says everything so well.

Instead, I will tell you to read hers and read mine, too.

I needed to take the time to work through this in my own way. So I did the opposite of the Internet and took a walk on New Year’s Day, looked up and down and all around and thought about some of these things.

Now I want to think through them with you, okay? Okay.

Regardless of what changes, grievances, or transitions we might need to make, here are some things I know for sure about us (and by us I mean you and me):

We want more connecting and less competing.

We want more laughter and less shame.

We want more love and less fear.

Did I get that right so far?

This January marks the nine year anniversary of Chatting at the Sky. I started quietly writing here  when I was pregnant with our third baby, in the cracks of time I could find while taking care of twin toddlers. I needed an outlet for my scattered brain, a place to put thoughts I knew wouldn’t disappear, and to connect with a few friends who had blogs, too.

the girls 2009 and 2014

Now nine years, three books, and a lot of blog posts later, here we are.

I know a lot has changed in these nine years, both among blogs as a whole and here in this space. I know we aren’t going back to the old days when the comment box was filled with chatter, when you could write something online and know you had a good chance of being heard, and when most of the blog posts you read sounded like real humans wrote them.

With all the noise, we have to work harder than before to remember why we do this.

First, though, I wanted to say this: I’m hopeful about the future for blog writing.

How I Plan to Stay Sane on the Internet

Call me a romantic, but I still think writing on a blog is one of the most important things I do as a writer.

I still think it’s the greatest medium for communicating, for story-telling, for writing through what you think about things.

I still think it’s one of the most lovely outlets for an extraverted introvert like me who loves people but needs a little time to think before I say words to them.

This is where I discovered that I am, in fact, a writer. This is where I work out what I believe. This is where all my books were born and how I’ve met some of my favorite people in the world (the world, I tell you!)

Though it may seem like an oxymoron, consistently writing and reading blogs can offer kind company for our souls and help to encourage intentionality, slowness, and listening.

Here’s why.

Early last month, Steff Green wrote a post on ProBlogger giving examples of how blogging is changing and what you can do about it. This observation of hers stuck out to me:

“With social media platforms becoming the online communication too du jour, and with smartphones and other devices becoming for many the preferred platform, blogs have fallen to the wayside in favour of shorter, punchier messages specifically tailored to hit a reader’s buttons.” – from Is Blogging Dead?

This is one of my biggest motivations to keep writing on a blog.

Continuing to write here at Chatting at the Sky is my soul’s own quiet rebellion against the fast-moving world.

I write because I need room for my soul to breathe. And sometimes I have to write my way into that space.

I need a steady, consistent, and reliable online place that will serve my own soul in this quiet way. I bet you need that, too.

For me, that means embracing the short, punchier forms (because they’re fun and a great way to connect) but not at the expense of the longer-form blog writing, my first writing love.

But that doesn’t mean I plan to party like it’s 2008. I want to move with the changes rather than fight against them.

Here’s what staying sane on the Internet means for me, both as a reader of blogs and a writer of one:

As a reader:

  • Unsubscribe: I’ve unsubscribed from everything except my top, most favorite, can’t-miss blogs. That means I only regularly read less than 10. And it’s delightful.
  • Round Ups: I glance at weekly roundups to see what other writers have found that I’ve missed in various spaces.
  • Fun: Pick the shorter forms out of love and fun, rather than fear of missing out. My favorite is Instagram because 1) I love photos  2) It’s a great way to stay connected to friends and writers alike even though I may not read all their posts 3) It’s fun!
  • Rescue Time: I’ve installed Rescue Time on my computer so I can easily see how much of my time online is productive vs. distracting. Super helpful.
  • Identify panic triggers: When I’m online and feel my soul start to shake on the inside from a low-grade scattered panic, I ask myself why. I don’t have a great solution for this yet (sans shutting off the computer) but I’m starting to pay attention. For those of us who work online, turning the computer off isn’t always an option. So I’m paying attention to the panic triggers.

Those are a few ways I’m practicing sanity in my online reading habits.

When it comes to actually writing online, I started to record some tips that help me but discovered after listing them they felt hollow. Instead, I took some time to really listen to my desire, to the why behind this blog, and what that means for me as a writer. Here’s what came up to the surface:

As a writer:

  • I will tell stories.
  • I will be myself.
  • I will remember it’s “better to write for yourself and have no public than write for the public and have no self.” (Cyril Connolly)
  • I will refuse to romanticize the writing life.
  • I will write to connect, not compete.
  • I will remember fear is a normal part of the process, but courage gets the final say.
  • I will remember how ego feels pushy and afraid but calling feels kind and free. Most of the time.
  • I will remember people write online for a million little reasons and I will respect them theirs.
  • I will practice writing words I can’t take back.
  • I will refuse to write from a frantic place of hurry.
  • I will be gentle with myself when I choose to hurry anyway.
  • I will be relentlessly helpful to the souls of others.
  • I will write as a kind companion rather than a truth machine.
  • I will let love lead.
  • I will not be a jerk.

Though these are personal to me, perhaps they resonate with you as well. If so, I’ve included them in a simple PDF for you to download or print as you wish: A Manifesto – How to Write on the Internet Without Losing Your Mind. Maybe they’ll help you stay sane on the internet, too.

A Writer's Manifesto How to Write on the Internet Without Losing Your Mind

Blogging is only as dead as you treat it. I plan to have many more years of writing here, of carving out a little space in the corner to sit on a bench and connect with you. So here’s to 2015 – the year we learn to stay sane on the Internet. I hope you’ll continue to join me.

I want to be kind company this year, both for your soul and for mine. Sometimes we forget to be kind to ourselves, don’t we? If this sounds good to you and you don’t want to miss a post, you can sign up here to get them delivered directly into your inbox.

If that makes you feel crazy, maybe you’d prefer something a bit more infrequent but equally as encouraging. If so, you can join me on The Bench and receive my once-a-month newsletter (2nd Tuesday of the month).

Both options come with a free copy of my ebook Seven Little Ways to Live Art, sharing one way every day to take a soul breath.

I would love to hear how you’re staying sane on the Internet, both as a reader and a writer. Leave a comment here or join the conversation on Facebook.

hello, friends.

I thought about titling this post “Remember When I Used to Write on a Blog?” but that felt a little negative and self-indulgent in a weird sort of way (self-indulgent: a word I can never use without hearing Simon Cowell in my head).I 85 from CharlotteSo I’m just going with hello, friends. I’ve missed writing in this space more regularly. But October is coming and you know what that means? That’s right. 31 days of writing – a post every day. Can you handle it?!

Here are the series I’ve done in the past:

2010: 31 Days of Grace

31 Days of Grace

Because I have more to say about grace than anything else so it only made sense. Plus I was writing Grace for the Good Girl at the time so that was the only topic I thought about, ever.

2011: 31 Days to Change the World

chatting-at-the-sky

This was also the year Grace for the Good Girl released and the year I turned in Graceful.  We were a little ambitious in 2011.

2012: 31 Days to Hush

31-days-to-hush2-700x233

After a full and difficult 2011, I desperately needed some space. I was working on my third book at that time and October was a particularly discouraging time in my writing. I wanted to join in on 31 days, but the only thing I was motivated to do was to be quiet and listen. So I wrote about that.

And for 5 whole days of it I didn’t write at all because hush. #brilliant.

2013: 31 Days of Living Art

artful-living

This was last year’s series and it coincided perfectly with the release of A Million Little Ways, that book I finally was able to finish. I probably had the most fun writing this one but it was also the most work.

And so here is the place where I’m supposed to tell you what I’m going to write about this year and invite you to read along. But I don’t really know the answer to that yet. The only thing I have is a deep desire to write more consistently here. And October is a great time to do it.

Screen-Shot-2014-09-17-at-10.15.11-AM

In fact, this year my sister has rolled out a brand new website designed just for us 31 Dayers. If you’re thinking of writing on your own blog everyday in October you should definitely check it out and join in.

Meanwhile (a word I can’t say without remember I used to think it was meanwild – didn’t everyone?) I will continue to take notes and jot down ideas.

I’d love to hear from you in the comments if you have any topics or thoughts in particular on what might encourage you from me here in October. Trust me, it could be anything. I’m debating writing about TV, kittens, and Oreos for the whole month because that would be fun, adorable, and delicious.

Home at Chatting at the Sky

Seriously, though. I just want to write out a few simple lines and share a lovely image everyday next month. That may be all there is to it. It may not have a fancy name or an interesting catch.

But it will be me and there will be you and I will be writing here again. And I just wanted you to know.

One Question No One Ever Asks Me

question

Want to hear an interesting question no one ever asks me? You do?! Here it is: What are the most visited posts on your blog? It’s true, no one ever asks me this because really, who cares, right? But it came up in conversation with Flower Patch Shannan while we were in Indiana so I thought it might be mentioning here.

I actually told her wrong – I thought it was a different, but when I checked my stats, the post that has the most all-time views here at Chatting at the Sky is this one: One Thing Your Daughter Doesn’t Need You to Say. It was one of those I-wrote-it-while-my-neck-was-splotchy-in-frustration kind of posts. As it turns out, frustration is a great motivator for the writing as it seemed to hit a chord with a lot of people.

Of course, I wrote it quickly and hit publish immediately, not fully explaining some of my reasoning. Inevitably some people misunderstood my intent (which is what everyone who has ever written a post that has gone semi-viral says – If I would have known so many people would read it…!)

[Dear Writers Who Put Words On The Internet, Always assume so many people will read it. That doesn’t mean write scared or change what you write, but just know and be prepared and don’t be that girl who tries to backtrack or over-explain. Just write it, own it, know not everyone will get it, and move on. Also have a cookie. Love, emily.]

The second most all-time viewed posts here is this one: 12 Things Your Daughter Needs You to Say which was a sort of follow up to that first one. It’s been a year now since I wrote those posts and they still get hundreds of views everyday, even thousands every now and then.

Both of these posts are written for people who have influence in the life of teenagers, which if you think about it, is basically everyone at some point in our lives.

silly

If you were to ask me what I miss the most about youth ministry, my answer may change depending on the day. But today, I would say the laughter. Nearly a year after John stepped down from his job in student ministry, I am missing the fun parts. Teenagers have this remarkable ability to be deeply thoughtful in one moment and insanely silly the next.

The light-heartedness left-over from childhood hasn’t quite worn off yet. I learn a lot from them.
Graceful (For Young Women) by emily p. freeman

One of the most heart-breaking things to happen in the lives of our young women is to watch that light-heartedness start to fade. It’s one thing for our girls to begin to take on more adult responsibilities, to begin to see the bigger picture and all the world’s sorrow, to begin to recognize her place among it and to feel the normal weight of struggle that comes along with growing up.

But the part where I start to get angry and neck splotchy is when I hear the gospel used as a burden-maker rather than a burden-lifter, when girls start to see their faith as another thing they have to do, another stick by which to measure their okay-ness, another burden to carry around in order to prove something.

Even though John and I don’t work directly with students right now, we will always have our eyes and our ministry trained in their direction. As we begin to get graduation announcements in the mail this week, I’m thinking even more about students, particularly teen girls, their friends and their families.

Graceful (For Young Women)

I sometimes assume you already know I wrote a book for teen girls, but I still hear from regular readers who don’t know and are looking for something similar to Grace for the Good Girl (the book I wrote for women) but would like it for a younger audience.

So here is your friendly reminder to grab a copy of Graceful as a graduation gift for that senior or a thank you gift for your babysitter or a summer book club pick for your high school small group. Here are the direct links to buy Graceful, bearing in mind that right now CBD has the best price (only 7.99 plus shipping).

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / CBD / LifeWay / DaySpring

Graceful Small Group Leader GuideAnd if you want to lead a discussion with your daughter or a group of girls, here is a free small group leader guide for you to download and print that might help you out. Simply click on the image to the left to access it.

And just for fun, the post I told Shannan was the most all-time viewed is actually the third most all-time-viewed: My Stitch Fix Reviews because I thought it was. Turns out that is the most consistently viewed, but not the highest viewed.

Fourth place is this one: Dare You to Paint Your Cabinets Black. And coming in at fifth place is one of the posts I wrote from Uganda: Choosing the One You Least Expect.

Happy weekending, friends. I’ll be back tomorrow with a blessing for the finishers – this time of year, we’re all finishing something, right? See you then.

 

Survey Results and A Kind Thank You

The last time I checked, over 1500 of you have offered your feedback in the survey I sent out last week. And though that number only represents a fraction of you who are reading, your responses to the 8 question survey have come at just the right time.

chatting at the skyI expected to get an idea of what you’d like to see more of, to see less of, and to get some insight into where my passions and your needs intersected a bit more specifically.

What I didn’t expect was for your answers to those 8 silly questions to so profoundly remind me who I am and why I do this.

So thank you for taking the time to affirm and confirm some things for me. For example, when I asked you if you could only choose ONE topic to read about here, this is what you said:

favorite topic chatting at the sky

1. Everyday Faith (39%)

2. Rest & Simplicity (11%)

3. Art (9%)

4. Courage (7%)

5. For Your Weekend (7%)

These five categories made up 73% of the favorites, with the remaining 27% spread out among the other 17 categories. When I asked what topics you didn’t want to read about here, 932 of you straight up skipped the question. I take this as a good sign.

This isn’t the kind of place you come to because of a specific topic, even though I know many of you have some specific interests you prefer.

For the most part, you come here to pause,  take a breath, and to remember the simplicity and depth of your faith in a fast-moving world. And this is exactly why I write here. I’m glad we’ve found each other.

On to the most important question of the survey (or at least the most fun), here is where our lives are reflected back to us in the form of primetime television:

If your life was a TV showI love us.

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to weigh in on the survey (there is an opportunity to write in feedback if you so choose), you can do that here.

Thank you all again for joining me as we walk, crawl, struggle, and sometimes run in faith together.

Tomorrow we’ll be sharing What We Learned in March – I hope to see you back here then!

In Which I Ask for Your Opinion

chatting at the skyIf you and I ever go to a movie together, I’m sure we will have a lot of fun. We will share popcorn and I’ll forget the napkins so one of us will have to run out during the previews to get some. And by “one of us” I mean you because I love me some previews.

Half-way through the movie, I will pull out the king-size bag of peanut M&M’s from my purse and you will pull out the family pack of Twizzlers (red not black, obviously) and we will share and share alike as we enjoy our film and gain exactly 14 pounds each and promptly pass out into a sugar coma.

When the movie is over and we wake from our coma, I will be so glad we came and it will be a lovely night together. Unless you turn to me just as the credits begin to roll, eager look on your face, loud words in your mouth, and say, “SO? WHAT DID YOU THINK?!”

If you do this, I will still like you, but I will not answer you. I will stare at you with wide-eyes, willing  you to stop all that talking. I will continue my silence at least until we leave the theater, preferably until we get to the car. Because Emily doesn’t talk about movies while she’s still in the theater.

Strange? Yes. Absurd? Probably. Controlling? Absolutely.

Offering my opinion while the credits are still rolling is not something I do. I would prefer to wait a week until I gave you my opinion, but that’s ridiculous and I am a reasonable woman. It isn’t that I don’t have opinions, I just like to hold them close at first. And I certainly don’t want the strangers behind me to hear them.

Today, this blog is our movie. And I want to respect your right to your own opinion because I know how important that is. I also don’t want to be your annoying (but well-meaning) friend who loudly asks you what you think in a way you aren’t comfortable with, which is why I pretty much never ask you your opinion on this space.

But the truth is, I would like to know what you think about some things. In the car. On the way home.

After eight years of writing online through various seasons of my own life, I have found a comfortable rhythm here, what I sense is a fairly strong connection between what I enjoy writing and what you want to read. I’m thankful for that, thankful for you. 

This Howard Thurman quote comes to mind, the one that has made its way around the internet about a billion times about not asking what the world needs. Incase you haven’t seen it, it goes like this:

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

-Howard Thurman

Howard Thurmond was a smart and accomplished man. And I agree with him, I do. Too many times in my life I have looked outside of myself to figure out what other people think I’m supposed to do rather than listen to my own life and move as an artist who actually has a mind of her own.

But when it comes to a group of people I already connect with and serve – you – it could be helpful to ask now and then what this particular world needs. Now that we’re several years into it, it seems wise to venture out of the theater, find our way to the car, pull the door closed and look you in your eyes.

So, what do you think?

Don’t worry, you don’t have to answer that cold. I would be ever so grateful if you would take two minutes and answer these 8 multiple choice questions to help me sharpen my focus here a bit. I don’t plan to change things as much as I plant to focus. Of these 10 things I enjoy writing, which ones do you most enjoy reading? That kind of thing.

If you also subscribe to my newsletter, you received a link to fill this survey out yesterday. If you did already, thanks so much! Your answers are already surprising me a bit. I can’t wait to see what the rest of you might have to say. Would you take a moment and give me your anonymous and optional opinion? (I can’t wait to see which TV show you are!)

take the survey

One question that isn’t on the survey but that this post has made me wonder about – As a readerwhat do you need? I’m not going to put any restrictions on that question, if something comes to mind, would you put it in the comments? You’re the best.

4 simple tips to know before you write your first book

This past weekend I spent some time in Charlotte at the She Speaks Conference, a training conference for writers and speakers in ministry. I co-led a session about writing with my editor, Andrea Doering. Before the conference, a friend asked me “Is there anything you wish you knew before writing your first book?” I planned to answer that question at the end of our workshop but we ran out of time.

There are a thousand things I wish I knew before I wrote my first book, but I’ve picked four to share here.

write your first book

simple tips to know before your write your first book:

1. Your writing will never be 100% ready.

I was reminded of this while reading Bossypants by Tina Fey. She said this is something she learned from Lorne Michaels while working at Saturday Night Live. He said, “The show doesn’t go on because it’s ready; it goes on because it’s 11:30.”

After writing on a blog for many years, I always knew this about writing in general, but I didn’t realize how much it would apply to book writing, too. I always thought once you write a book, it won’t be published and sold until it was pretty much perfected. It’s true, it goes through many drafts, a whole team of editors, not to mention the countless writing and re-writing on the author’s part.

You will work hard and do your very best and strive for excellence. But there is a point where you have to agree that you have done all you can do even if there is still room to grow.

You have to release it and move on. I didn’t realize how hard this would be when I started, but now I understand it’s part of the process.

plane

2. Book writing is more like a plane than a helicopter.

For me, blog writing is a lot like a helicopter. I have learned to write in faster spurts, to move quickly from a blank screen to a finished blog post with a beginning, middle, and ending. If I have an hour, I can sit and nearly finish a post (many people can write posts much more quickly than that, but an hour is about what it takes me. This post, for example, has taken me 2 hours. Blerg.)

When I started writing my first book, I approached it the same way – Oh, you’re taking the kids to the park for an hour? I’ll just work on my book! 

I would sit down in the small crack of time I had and try to work on the book, becoming quickly frustrated when I would still be struggling to get started as they walked through the door after their outing.

I have had to learn that book writing feels more like riding in an airplane than a helicopter. I need a long runway to get in the headspace to work on the book and I also need a long runway to come back down. This is probably not true for everyone, but it is for me.

Because of that, I schedule my time accordingly. I choose certain days during the week or the month that are assigned for book writing days – these are the days when I know I’ll have a minimum of three consecutive hours to work. I save the cracks of time to work on other kinds of writing, like articles or blog posts.

3. It’s okay to use your name in your blog title. 

When I started this blog, I didn’t plan to write books. I just wanted to write. Now that I have books, it has been a bit confusing for people sometimes that my blog is Chatting at the Sky rather than just my name. I’ve heard Ann Voskamp say similar things about her blog, A Holy Experience. But we’ve learned to make it work.

One way around this is I also own emilypfreeman.com so if you go there, you’ll find a landing page that will bring you here. But if I had it to do over again, I would probably have used my name from the beginning in conjunction with Chatting at the Sky. It isn’t ego-centric to do this – it just makes it easier for people to find you. I still love the title, Chatting at the Sky, but I also have plans to incorporate my name more into the front page of the blog for people who are new.

Here are some authors who do this well: Nish Weiseth, Shauna Niequist, Holley Gerth, and Ally Vesterfelt.

4. If you publish a book, you don’t have to become a speaker.

I’m ducking now to avoid all the darts the marketing geniuses are aiming my way.

One of the reasons I was terrified to write books at the beginning was because I assumed I had to become A Very Polished Professional Speaker and that just isn’t me. I thought maybe my publisher would require me to speak a certain number of times a year or something. They do not.

I am a homebody and I have three young kids still at home. I don’t like to fly and I get twirly in crowds of people. A Very Polished Professional Speaker I am not.

It’s true, speaking is a great way to get your message out, to meet people, and to sell books. But it isn’t the only way. I am learning to enjoy speaking more and more as opportunities come up, but I feel released from the pressure to do it a certain way.

I have a lot to learn, but I’m learning at my own pace and giving myself the freedom to try things and learn as I go.

This fall, for example, I have committed to seven different events between August and November. Here is a partial list of my fall schedule with a few events I’ve yet to announce. This is more speaking than I’ve ever done in that span of time. I didn’t start out speaking very much. It has grown over time, as it fits with my family and our season of life.

With John being home now and my next book releasing, we figured this is a good time to commit to say yes to more events than usual. Maybe we’ll never do it that way again, I don’t know.

Don’t let your fear of speaking keep you from writing. Go in with your eyes open, but don’t let it paralyze you. Write what you feel called to write and don’t worry yet about all that might come along with it.

There are many more things I could share here, but for now I’ll stop at four. If you are interested in learning more about publishing, might I suggest the Re:Write conference in Austin? My agent Esther Fedorkevich started this conference to connect writers with people, resources, and knowledge to help grow their careers.

That's me with Esther and my sister, The Nester. Esther represents both of us - she's the best in the business!

Me with Esther (left) and my sister. Esther represents both of us – she’s a genius at what she does.

I’m excited to join her in Austin in October. If you register for Re:Write, you can use this promo code for $100 off your ticket: FREEMAN2013. Space is limited to 150 to keep the setting intimate. And if you attend the conference using this promo code, you’ll receive an invitation to a small gathering just for us while we’re there.

If you are interested in learning more about my own personal publishing story, I recently shared it with Tsh on the Simple Mom podcast. I’m no expert, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned along the way.

why I want to subscribe to your blog (and why I hope you’ll subscribe to mine)

I hit play on my answering machine (yes, we still have one) and a woman robot tells me not to hang up because this could be the most important call of my life.

phone

Then “she” says her records indicate I may not have health insurance.

And then she promises help is on the way if only I will press one now.

But I should be prepared to experience a short wait due to the tremendous response.

So basically, a robot wants to change my life, but I’m going to have to be patient.

Say it with me now – Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Needless to say, I didn’t press one. I wouldn’t have pressed one even if I didn’t have health insurance. Even if I needed the thing the robot was offering, I wouldn’t have wanted it that way. One, because I’m not a fool. Two, I have no respect for a robot on my answering machine (which is essentially robots leaving messages for robots if you really get down to it).

I want to talk with people, not robots. And especially not a robot who is also a telemarketer.

When I started a blog back in 2007, I started it for one reason: I loved to write. People start blogs for all kinds of reasons, but that was mine. I still love to write, but now writing is also my job. And in this business, you’re supposed to have a blog because it’s part of your platform.

blog

You already know my inner conflict with the word platform. I feel the same way about networking (hello colorful wires all tangled up). I wrote about the day networking died because here’s the thing: I don’t see writing on a blog that way.

Having a platform and creating a network aren’t bad things to do – I think they can be necessary. But I also think those words have some baggage attached to them, extra weight that isn’t welcome here in this space.

The kind of community writing we do on our blogs – you and me, writing on the internet and having people read it – is powerful. You share your joys and your losses, your favorite books and the funny thing your kids say. We write what moves us, what grieves us, what scares us, what delights. You share photos of your homes, your families, your favorite recipes. You show us what you wore on Wednesday, what you ate on Sunday, what daily gifts are saving your life.

We celebrate the small graces of the everyday and we have a community here who celebrates with us.

Some of you make money from your blog, a lot of money, and I applaud you and cheer you on and I will click on your ads so you’ll make more. I want to support you and help you pay for your kids’ braces or buy those cute pillows from Target or build that school for the children in Haiti.

Your work is beautiful and important.

Some of you write in quiet spaces with words you don’t think anyone reads, but you keep writing because writing makes you come alive. And I cheer you on because you’re doing what you love, you’re pushing through and finding your voice and sharing your words as an offering.

Your work is beautiful and important, too.

What you write is deeply personal to you. And what I write is deeply personal to me. And sometimes my writing touches your life in a way neither one of us expected and yours does that for me, too.

That is why words like platform and networking are hard for me. Because this feels like a community, not a conference. It feels like a letter, not a business card.

I hope it feels that way for you, too. I apologize for the times when it doesn’t.

I hope you’ll subscribe to Chatting at the Sky because that means you want to come back. Even as I write it, I know that subscribe is another one of those words with baggage (hello magazine salesman at my door who is going to promise me something he isn’t going to deliver).

But that’s the word they use on the internet for people who sign up to get your writing for free. And I realize I’m not sure I have ever formally invited you to subscribe because it feels a little like asking you to press one now.

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But I want to fight through that baggage and reclaim the subscription for what I think it really is:

I hope you see something human here, something hopeful, something that calls courage out from places within you that maybe you forgot were there, something that resonates with you as a person. I hope you see something here that reminds you that you’re not alone.

Those are the kinds of blogs I subscribe to and I hope to be that kind of place for you, too.

I would love it if you signed up to receive these blog posts in your inbox and I want to take a minute to tell you how you can do that if you’d like.

How to subscribe to Chatting at the Sky for free:

I’ve recently switched to Mail Chimp for my email subscribers which means the blog posts look a lot like the blog itself, with the header and everything right there in the email. It will average out to be about 3 posts a week because that’s about how often I’m posting these days.

You can sign up to get blog posts delivered straight into your inbox by entering your email address here and checking the button next to “blog posts.” It asks for your name but you don’t have to put that. All I need is your email address. It’s free and it’s easy.

But writing these posts isn’t the only thing I’m doing these days.

How to sign up for my newsletter for free:

Tomorrow I’m going to send out another newsletter. What? She still does that?

She does. Not very often, but she does.

The newsletter is something different from the blog posts. My goal is to send these out monthly, but so far it’s been more like quarterly. Ish. It’s free to sign up, and it’s where I share writing I won’t publish anywhere else.

I also share links to books I’m reading and favorite posts from around the internet. But mostly, the newsletter is just me, sharing a little something of myself with you and hoping it inspires courage for your day. It’s just another way to connect with you and have you connect with me.

If you’re interested in signing up for the newsletter, you can do that here and check the button next to “newsletter.”

I know a lot of people visit the blog straight from the internet and want to reduce email clutter so you don’t plan to subscribe. No explanation needed, of course. But for those of you who like having everything in one place, I wanted to let you know about the option to subscribe by email and also let you know a little more about the newsletter.

Finally, I hope you know I’m thankful for you. My husband and I pray in the mornings together, and it’s normal for him to bring you up, the community of readers who stop by here. We pray you will be encouraged and see hope in dark places. We pray for courage and for endurance. And we thank God that you come at all.

Thank you for reading, for commenting, or for reading and not commenting. I would write even if nobody read, but it’s much more fun this way.

state of the blog, brought to you by the color pink

Last Saturday I loaded up my car with five of my small group girls and we headed down to Charlotte to do a little shopping because we could and also it’s fun.

pinkBefore heading home, we stopped by my sister’s house because “she has a blog and is awesome and like, famous!” I don’t think they even know I have a blog. Or wrote two books. I mean, I’ve been on TV in Canada. But whatevs.

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She had Valentine crafts for us to do because she’s The Nester and that’s just the kind of girl she is. They loved every minute of it.

pinkObviously. Goes to show that sweeping your floors and making your bed is one way to prepare for guests. But iced coffee, pink gum balls and paper streamers will mean more.

craft day at the nester's

valentine craft

hello gloves

While these photos have little to do with the state of the blog, I had to share them because 1) they’re cute and 2) after tomorrow it will be too late because Valentines Day will be over.

Now a few words about the state of things around here. Every few months I think about all the things I would put in a sidebar if I had one. But since I don’t, I have to put them in a regular post like this one. Warning: I might start to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher in 3, 2, 1 . . 

  • Oops: An apology if you received Monday’s post twice in your inbox. We are in the process of transferring all readers who subscribe by email from Feedburner to MailChimp and that post accidentally went out twice. If you normally receive Chatting at the Sky blog posts through email, this is how they will look from now on.
  • Podcasting: I’m now one of Tsh’s regular podcast guests, which basically means there is a record of Tsh and me having a phone call and chatting it up about writing, parenting, and Friends once every six weeks. It’s more fancy than that because we don’t use regular phones we use microphones. Actually, if you have seen the microphone we use, you would call it a macrophone. Because it is huge, people. The podcast won’t change your life, but it makes folding the towels more interesting, no? 

podcast mic

It’s backwards here, but you get the idea.

  • Book 3 Update: I’ve been working on my first round of edits for book number 3, what has affectionately become known as The Art Book. That isn’t actually the title but among friends, that’s what we call it. We finished the cover (!!) and I can’t wait to show you that. Soon!

small group at the nester's

  • Readings for Lent and Easter: I will be reading Bread and Wine during the season. It’s a collection of writings by some of our favorite writers: C.S. Lewis, Henri Nouwen, G.K. Chesterton, Amy Carmichael and many others.
  • Footer: We’ve added stuff to the footer! When a blog has no side bar you learn to cram stuff into the footer. As we have now done.

What about you? Any fun updates? Great dinners you’ve made lately? Favorite blog post you’ve read? New design? Put on your Al Roker hat and tell us what’s happening in your neck of the woods.

one task impossible to complete while watching TV

I had every good intention of finishing this weeks Artists and Influencers post while I watched the Super Bowl by myself last night. But there are three reasons why that wasn’t going to happen.

One. To finish something, you need to have actually started.

Two. My writing-something-coherent-while-watching-TV super power expired in 1995 after trying to write a paper while also watching the season premiere of 90210.

And three? It was all just a little too distracting. The Sandy Hook choir. That really tan sign language interpreter. Beyoncé and her hair. The Clydesdale and the troops and the farmers. The power outage!!

downton

And then as if all that wasn’t enough, I go hang out at Downton Abbey for barely 15 minutes and I see on Twitter that the whole game turns *almost* around. Just so you know, by the time I switched to Downton, I had abandoned all hope of finishing an actual post.

All that to say, even though I planned this series to last only in January, I think I may extend it into February. I hope to be back next Monday with a complete Artists and Influencers post. I would say I’ll just post it tomorrow but I know I won’t so why would I say that?

In closing, I leave you with What Really Made Mary Ingalls Go Blind. Simply because, as the article says, “This is the sort of thing that is extremely interesting if you are interested in this sort of thing.”

What’s your favorite thing to do while watching TV? Mine is fold towels because towels have corners and you can fold them without actually looking at them.

the only topic I can write about for 31 days in a row

When I wrote 31 days of Grace back in October of 2010, I had just turned in my first book. It was a book about grace and I had a lot to say about it. I still do, but it comes out differently now.

Last year when I planned for 31 Days to Change the World, I was feeling brave. Full of courage. Hopeful.

31 days of quiet

Sometimes there is something you need to say.

Other times, there is something you need to learn.

Most times, it’s both.

This October I will do 31 days a little differently. I thought about not writing at all, as I will be traveling a lot in October. But the 31 day practice is good for me. Doing it in community feels right and encouraging.

This time I don’t plan to write on a topic as much as I feel compelled to write through one. Even in the midst of this active season, I can’t shake the pull to stillness. Quiet listening. Spirit submission.

I’m not sure I have a lot to say about it, but I have a lot I would like to learn. And so I’m going to write through the learning during the month of October.

This feels vulnerable, but also right.

I haven’t named it yet. 31 Days of Curious Listening? Quiet Spaces? Soul Breathing? Stillness? Shutting up?

I will write as I go, a little each day. A very little each day.

What is a topic you could write about for 31 days in a row?