Friday, August 3, 2012

Building Community

Last night I had an opportunity to participate in a Google Hangout session with some lovely ladies.  We all sponsor Mrs. Pate Writes and Tiffany had contacted us to see if we'd be interested in a Hangout this week.  I haven't ever done that with a group of fellow bloggers before, so I was pretty excited.  In addition to Tiffany, we had Jennifer from Finding My Way In Texas, Kelly from The Houtz House Party, Jac from babEblessings, and Brittany from These Happy Times.  Of all of these ladies, I know Tiffany personally and am a "bloggy BFF" with Kelly.  I have been getting to know Jac lately and I had visited Jennifer's blog before but didn't really know her.  Brittany's blog is new to me!

I was really excited to just sit and chat with these ladies for a while last night.  It was a much needed "time out" for me.  I don't get a lot of time to really just sit and talk with friends lately, so this was perfect.

I am seeing a lot of chatter in the blog world lately about people getting back to their roots or trying to reclaim their blog.  I'm not sure what happened suddenly that many bloggers are suddenly seeing the need to do this.  

And you know what??  I think it's wonderful.

In my own mind - for quite a while - I've been trying to figure out my own blog.  There is a reason why I blog.  We all have a reason.  I try my hardest to stick to my original vision for my blog.  July threw my life into a tailspin with Peyton being so sick.  I think the content of my blog in July wasn't necessarily as true to my vision as I would normally want it to be.

But I also had things going on that I wanted to celebrate.  I did a big 500 follower giveaway because I wanted to celebrate YOU.  The fact that 500 of you, for whatever reason, decided to click a button on the side of my little blog.  I honestly try not to obsess about the numbers.  Yes, I find the statistics fascinating.  Where people come from really interests me.  At the end of the month, it fascinates me to see the growth.  I also have sponsors that I want to showcase through feature posts.  They deserve the shout-out.  After all, they either paid or won an ad spot and they deserve to have their time of recognition.

Ideally, I don't want this blog to be about fillers and fluff.  That's not my vision.  This blog was started at a time when I was so desperate to see the goodness in my life in a time when our situation was pretty grim.  Peyton was so sick a couple years ago - for over a year - that we weren't sure what was going to happen to her.  It was dark and scary.  It was depressing.  I needed an outlet - but one that would be used for good.  I needed to write and share about the joys and blessings.  The more I wrote about those, the more I really truly began to see them in my life.  It did me a whole lot of good to focus on these things.

I am trying to get back to the philosophy of "if you build it they will come".  I don't participate in tons of linkies - but I don't have a problem if you do.  I currently participate in two.  One is Into The Word Wednesdays, which I co-host with a few other bloggers.  This is a link up where you can come on by and share what you are learning in the Word.  I also host Thankful Thursday.  This is a link up where you can come by and link up your posts that share the goodness, blessings and joy in your lives.  I don't have a problem with linky parties.  Whatever genre of linky you choose to participate in is totally your call.  Whether you participate in mine or not is your call.  

What I do want you to know about my linky parties is this - these linkies are directly related to my vision.  This blog is about faith and God's goodness in my life.  I want to be able to share blessings and joys with you.  I want to be able to share what I am learning in the Word.  I am not trained in theology, but my "everyday" insight that I have in the Word just might have an impact on someone.  A lot of bloggers are talking about the fact that we have influence with our audience.  I don't pretend to have all the answers, but I know from reading other blogs that sometimes there will be things shared that really strike a chord with me and make a difference to me in terms of how I think about something or how I can handle a certain situation.  Because I write and share from my heart, I've found many times that I've had this same impact on people who come by my blog.  I'm not saying that to toot my own horn, but it's just to say that I've seen how having a blog gives you some influence in the world out there.

Whether it's Into the Word Wednesdays or Thankful Thursdays, I think that these are important linkies to hang on to.  Why?  Because whether it's my post or one of the ones that have linked up, there is a lot of goodness and truth to be shared.  That's not fluff.

On the subject of guest posts, I've seen it suggested in a few places that this is another example of a filler and not something that truly reflects the blogger's real purpose for their blog.  I want to say this.  I do allow guest posts.  I don't ask people to write specifically about a certain topic.  Generally, when I am asked what topic I'd like them to write on, I tell them to go ahead and be themselves.  Why?  Because I want you as the reader to get to know someone who has taken the time to invest in my blog. Why?  Because I want to help other bloggers get the word out about their blogs and help them grow.  I don't invite guest posters for the purpose of bringing traffic to me.  In my heart and mind, I am wanting to help them.  

With this said, I'm going to give you a heads up - I am going to be having a lot of guest posts coming up on my blog.  I've already scheduled several.  You see, we are taking Peyton up to Boston to go to the Children's Hospital for some very much needed second opinions.  We're driving.  It's 18 hours away.  Then we have several doctor appointments lined up for the time that we are there.  Then there's the fact that, while this is a "medical trip", we are going to be in a new place and will likely be checking out the sights, within our ability since we'll be limited with Peyton's health and accessibility issues.  I can promise you this - every single guest post that I have lined up is worth the read.  I have them scheduled from the 11th to the 19th.  We have recipes, thoughts on family, prayer, and posts that are truly coming from the heart of these ladies.

I typically would not have this many guest posts in one month, especially over the course of so many days.  Here's the thing.  The reality is that we have a pretty darned sick child who needs help.  We're taking this trip because it's in her best interests.  I love blogging and I love sharing with you....but I love my child and her health more.  While I am away, I'm not going to be going out of my way to be sure there's a post being done, so I asked for help from the blogging community.  Because relationships are being formed in the community, I am able to call on people for help - and people responded!  I truly believe that they responded in the spirit of helping out a fellow blogger and not as much out of interest in self-promotion.  It's people stepping up to help out a friend.  And, friends, you have no idea how much this is appreciated.  For the record, I already have one post on the schedule that was written by me!

What last night's Google Hangout showed me is an example of how we as bloggers can build community with others.  Commenting on blogs helps.  Emailing helps.  Chatting helps.  But I think that having some face time with these people who are in your sphere of influence is wonderful.  I have been amazed at the relationships that have been forged in the blogging community - whether it's my own relationships or others that I witness while scrolling my Twitter feed.

Once the craziness of illness and traveling has passed, I really hope to be concentrating on getting back to my own vision for my blog.  I hope that I haven't strayed too far and I apologize if you feel like I have.

What are your thoughts on this?  How can we improve and build a sense of community here?

Thanks for following.  I really appreciate that you take the time to be here!

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