Back to Blogging {A Basic Starter Kit}

As we welcome a new year, you may have goals to get back into blogging (like I did!), blog more often or increase your reach, or even start a blog for the first time!  I have compiled a list of basic, simple, easy necessities for you and me as we dive back into blogging together.

This post may contain affiliate links. If so, I may receive a small commission if you choose to make a purchase at one of those links. As I am in the process of getting enough money together to be able to purchase my domain name and hosting for several years, your purchase really helps.

First things first… Content. It really is king. My goal for this blog is to engage and encourage young (and not-so-young!) women with practical advice, spiritual nourishment, and relevant content. I find my ideas from my own experiences and circumstances, as well as what God has been putting on my heart. I love BibleGateway for my faith-based posts.

After content, the other elements of blogging must be learned, but they aren’t quite as challenging as you’d think. These four guides can help us master the additional elements:

  • I love this free printable blog planner from A Virtuous Woman. It is so colorful and has many different printables as well as unique calendar tracking pages. Her Blog Post Planner page is one of my favorites.
  • This gorgeous and free blog planner from Jennifer Dawn is so pretty in pink. I love the Accounting page and the To Do page. Print as many as you need!
  • If you’re looking for a blog strategy planner, this guide with applicable questions from Create If Writing is spot-on! I’m looking forward to using this one in the upcoming future as I get my blog off the ground.
  • Building a Framework is an ebook and a collection of blog binder printables for new and established bloggers alike, and I cannot recommend it enough!  It was written by Abby of Just a Girl and Her Blog who has grown her blog into a full-time business, so she really knows her stuff. The ebook contains a list with descriptions of the ten essential pieces your blog needs, examples of good content, an entire section devoted to how to take good-quality photos and make nice graphics, several chapters about how to use various forms of social media, and tons of legal ideas I never would have thought of. I highly recommend it! This is the ebook that got me back into blogging.

Blogs are not novels… They need pictures! I use stock photos from the free website Pixabay for most of my images. I also like Negative Space and Minimography. The resources at PicMonkey are very handy for editing photos, adding text, etc. I also love Canva, and I especially love that it has an app for when I’m on the go. Attractive and inexpensive graphics are not hard to find or make.

Last, but not least… hardware. I love my Logitech wireless optical mouse. It has a cute chevron pattern and is much better than the limited trackpad on my laptop. This mouse has lasted longer than any other wireless mouse I’ve used.

When I’m not taking notes in my blog planner or on my iPhone, I’m sketching out ideas in my spiral-bound notebook. My absolute favorite is this teal notebook with gold polka-dots from greenroom. Unfortunately, Greenroom Co. products are only available at Target. Do you see another Target run in your future, perhaps?

Maybe you’re a more established blogger. What advice do you have for me and fellow “new” bloggers? I also recommend Jump into Monday’s more exhaustive list if you’re ready for the next step.

Finally, while we’re talking about blogging, why don’t we connect in the social media sphere? Follow me on Facebook and Pinterest!

The Adventures In Between

I realized today that even the “boring” stages of life are adventures.

I have really been struggling with the concept of growing up and being on my own. I think part of this struggle comes from feeling alone. I mean, even though I am blessed with friends who are making his journey with me and family members who are caring and supportive, sometimes I still feel like I’m doing this on my own. I must have the internal motivation to succeed. I must make choices that are right for me. I have to send out my own job applications and schedule my own interviews. I have to decide what time I’m going to bed and when I’ll wake up. I make the decision whether to have ice cream and coffee cake for dinner or to eat actual food (sometimes the ice cream wins out), but I’m making that decision myself. No one else will make it for me.

In that moment, realizing I’m free and yet somehow bound to my own limitations, I find myself fearful of what lies ahead. I was panicked at one time last month. I was incredibly anxious with all of my student teaching work to complete and with planning my next step. I fed my stress with junk food and lack of exercise (which, of course, is a completely healthy and mature way to deal with my problems).

the-adventures-in-betweengrace-upon-grace-blog


When I went to Thailand, I bought the audiobook version of Love Does by Bob Goff. If anyone is qualified to speak on adventure, it’s Bob Goff. Having just written resumes myself, I can’t begin to describe Bob’s resume. You can view his website here, but before I go any farther, you should know that Bob is a diplomat to Uganda, a lawyer who found an interesting way into law school, a hitchhiker (in his younger days), a father desiring to make his children’s dreams come true, a hiker and biker, the founder of a non-profit, a world traveler, a man engaged in life and whimsy, and an adventurer. He loves God and has a passionate for people and for showing people the God who loves them, too.

Listening to the audiobook version of Love Does reminded me of adventure. It is easy to “live the adventure”  when you’re dreaming of plane flights and rattling off new languages and hiking exotic waterfalls. But when you’re living with your parents and spending your time between job applications, running errands, and helping with yard work, it doesn’t really feel like an adventure anymore. How can I be adventurous at this stage in my life? Nothing stopped Bob Goff from being adventurous, even in the boring stuff. He sat outside the office of the law school dean for several days waiting and willing to be accepted to the school. When his Jeep was totaled, he rode a skateboard to work and asked his family and friends for rides to the airport and grocery store. Things that would stop me somehow didn’t stop him. He was still an adventurer regardless. Even if he failed, the failure was an adventure.

A writer at Deeper Story wrote that her “white picket fence… looks like safety but feels like adventure.” The thing is, my current adventures are not super adventurous. They look like safety. I few months ago, I was obtaining visas, buying tickets, flying halfway around the world, and living and working in a country I had never been to before for three months. That felt like an adventure because everyone knew it was an adventure. I had sent out prayer cards and made a blog and raised some money. I needed a passport, a visa, and plane tickets. It was good and bad and fantastic and difficult and beautiful all in one. (Adventures are not perfect every day.)

The same is true for adventures that seem somewhat less adventurous. I don’t need a passport for my immediate after graduation circumstances. I don’t need plane tickets. I’m not raising money (although that’s not a bad idea!). Regardless, my after-graduation adventures are still adventures. They may be less initially mind-blowing (moving to Thailand for three months was a little crazy to many people), but they are still adventures. I still find the whole “after-graduation”/”on my own” thing really crazy. And I believe that whatever the next days, months, and years hold will be good, bad, fantastic, difficult, and beautiful all at the same time, just like my student teaching in Thailand. God is calling me to adventures, even adventures of living in one of my dad and stepmom’s extra bedrooms and job hunting for a few months.

Twenties

Because you know what? This stage of life is just as valuable as the three and a half months I spent in Thailand. This stage of life feels like an “in-between” moment that I would like to skip over, but it is actually important. I didn’t graduate college after a few months of fun-filled partying with my best friends. I spent four years, most of them engaged in hard work, in order to graduate. The same is true about this part of my life. It may be weird and uncomfortable and hard and boring sometimes, but it matters in the grand scheme of things.


Let us not forget two things:

  1. Wherever you are right now, it is not a waiting room. As Anne Voskamp says, “Real Life is Happening. Right Now.” God is working right now. Use the time you’re given right now.
  2. Bob Goff writes, “You don’t need to know everything when you’re with someone you trust.” I think that because we can’t see God and we usually don’t hear Him audibly, we have difficulty trusting Him, but we are called to trust him and rely on Him. He knows what He’s doing, and He knows what the people around us are doing. He’s got a plan, so it’s okay to trust Him even when we don’t know exactly what’s going on. In the end, God is good, and He works everything together for His glory and our good.

Even the adventures in between.

The Process of Discovery: First Half of 2014 in Review

In two days, it will be June, halfway through 2014 as we know it. I have spent the last five months in a whirlwind of settling and resettling, excitement and tumult, joy and tears, entry and re-entry, leaving and arriving, movement and rest.

So far, 2014 has seen me setting foot in four countries and three states. I’ve flown in eight airplanes and taken at least nine other types of transportation. By next week, I will have packed up and moved (in various capacities) over ten times. I have been a teacher and student (and graduate), traveler and homebody, leader and follower, roommate, housemate, friend, sister, daughter, volunteer, packer, organizer, and writer.

(I know I’ve been slacking on the “writer” part!)

Last December, I chose to make Discover my OneWord for 2014. While I am enjoying spending some time focusing on discover, I find that the word hasn’t hit me the same way grace hit me in 2013. Believe me, discover showed up in Thailand, both in print as I arrived and in my daily interactions of discovery, as I did those very things I thought I could not do.

Maybe, unlike grace‘s consistent appearance in songs, books, and conversations, discovery is showing up more in my attitude. Maybe instead of hitting me over the head like gracediscover is being embodied and grown inside me. Maybe it’s a gentle process of discovery… imagine that!

My next adventure, and one that I am loving so far, is leading an 8-week online Bible study group with Good Morning Girls as part of their “You are Loved” study. (Enrollment ends tonight, if you are interested in joining!) As I gear up for the study with the 14 or so ladies who are joining me online, I am praying for discovery. I am praying that these ladies and I would discover more about God than we knew before the study. I pray that what we discover would shape our lives and our interactions with others for the better.

Also before me is the adventure of moving to the city where my dad and stepmom live with two good friends. We are living in their home for a while, looking for jobs, and settling in post-graduation life, whatever that is supposed to be! Thanks for your prayers, everyone.

You Know You’re “Growing Up” When…

  • You can justify spending less time in the junior’s section and more time in the women’s section. Unfortunately,  the junior’s section is too scandalous and the women’s too dreary.
  • You have to figure out what size you are in women’s clothes, like pant suits and fancy dresses.
  • You’re not sure whether to shop in the “teen fiction” or the “fiction” section at Barnes and Noble, but you can’t find what you’re looking for in either place.
  • “We’ll let you know by the end of the week either way” turns into “You might be lucky to get a letter in the next week or two.”
  • You have to buy your own food, even at home (if the family is not going out or if you don’t want to eat your brother’s Beefaroni).
  • You choose to eat the Beefaroni anyway.
  • You have to cook your own breakfast at your grandma’s house, but thankfully, you can use her Keurig machine for free.
  • You are mildly obsessed with money, getting a job, and affording things like a car and an apartment, but you are entirely unmotivated to apply for jobs.

Keep on keeping on, fellow graduates! We can do this.

During Freshman orientation, a speaker once told us to take a deep breath, relax, and say to ourselves: “This is a good idea.” By the time classes started, we were repeating: “Relax… This is a good idea!” After graduation, a friend’s Facebook status recalled this moment and reminded us that four years of college were, in fact, a good idea. We discovered, by the end of our college years, that God had been providing for us all this time. As we begin the next stage and move on to a new chapter, I say it again:

Relax… this is a good idea.