“You can’t help but tell your story.” H says that all the time, and I have grown to agree with the sentiment. No matter who you are, your story is going to show through. You’ve seen it in others, I’m sure. Sometimes, you can tell a person’s story, even when they’re sure they’ve hidden it from you. The things that matter to us and that shape us and that live deep inside of us — our passions — are always there. Often, their DNA shows up like a halo of light, even though we might be trying to block it from getting through. Still, it shines.
When I started blogging, I was quite confident I would never write about faith. I didn’t want to put my foot in my mouth and offend someone. I wanted to keep my story about God and me under wraps, and not force it on anyone else. I didn’t want anyone to think I was being presumptuous, by writing about faith, especially when I knew there would be people reading who didn’t even know me. I didn’t want to offend, but I also didn’t want to be pigeon-holed.
I didn’t want to be lumped in with people who may live out their faith in ways I find hard to accept or that don’t reflect my relationship with God. So, I thought the best way out of all of that would simply be to just not talk about it at all.
But, more than anything, my faith in God is bedrock for me. It’s my primary identity in this world. No matter what I write about, my faith in God is always in there somewhere, because it’s always in me. Even when I’m not writing specifically about faith.
So, ever so slowly, faith started showing up on my blog. I don’t remember the first post that said something about faith — it wasn’t a big, bold statement, or a manifesto or anything — and I remember being terrified to publish it. But, publish it, I did, and lightning didn’t strike. There wasn’t even a hiccup. And do you know why I think that was? I think it was because, you can’t help but tell your story. So, even though I wasn’t writing about faith, I think, maybe, my faith came through a little bit and, when I finally wrote about it — out in the open — no one was surprised. In fact, the people reading probably yawned and said something like, “I wonder if I turned off the iron?”
Your story is in there. It shows up in you, and it shines through you. It may not be faith. It doesn’t have to be. But, it’s something. Of course, there is so much to consider when we talk about sharing our story. Your story intersects with someone else’s story and there are boundaries to consider, there is respect to be paid, and honor to be lifted up in all things. We can only tell our parts of the story, right? We don’t get to tell a story someone else is living and writing and growing — not without their permission.
But, we can tell ours. As we find our way, and as the light shines on our pathway. We can gently push the boundaries and find out where it gives, and we can hold back, too, to keep ourselves safe. We can let the light shine.
This week, I’m introducing you to Cultures and Cuisines. It’s not even live, yet, and it’s already beautiful!
Some questions for you: What is your bedrock? How do you identify yourself? Do you think you’re writing your story when you blog? Does it matter? Do you think there’s a difference between story and niche? How so?
I started blogging because someone shared their blog with me the week after I had a miscarriage. She was struggling with infertility, and reading her story helped comfort me during such a dark time. From her blog, I found other blogs and eventually landed on Angie Smith’s blog. She’d lost her sweet girl way before I started reading, but I went all the way back to post # 1 and spent weeks reading — I read every single post on her blog — it was part of my healing process.
I started blogging as a faith blogger right away. In fact, my tag line since day 1 has been “I’m just a girl working to keep the faith day by day.” At first, I wrote tentatively — a bit scared to really put myself out there. But in 2012, I had a health crisis, and I started writing brave… because when you almost die, you realize that you’ve got nothing to lose — no one else is going to tell your story if you don’t. I tell people that I found my writing voice in a hospital bed.
To me, “niche” means “my people.” I think my niche is real people who want to know God in a real way — people in the valley who are moving forward with hope — people who look forward, rather than letting the darkness consume them.
I am really loving this series, Deidra.
Blogging has healed me in some really big ways, too. It’s an incredible combination of working myself out with God through words, and then sharing those words in community. I’ve heard you say that before, that you found your voice in a hospital bed. I’m so glad you wrote through that season, and that God brought you through.
I like what yo’ve said about your “niche” and how hope is part of that crew. I just listened to Krista Tippett in a conversation with Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Near the end of their conversation, Desmond Tutu says, “…if you are devoid of hope, then roll over and…disappear, quietly. Hope says, ‘Man, hey! Things can, things will, be better, because God has intended for it to be so.'” Let it be so, for you and those who benefit from your ministry of words.
Blogging has helped me see the story that God is writing. I identify with so much of what you said because I shied away from the topic of faith early on as well. But I grew more confident with time, and through heartache and disappointment, and it was there that I really began to see blogging as a balm. Words kept me from spiraling into depression, and the connections that I made with so many wonderful people online gave me a circle of supportI wouldn’t have had otherwise. I found healing there.
Story vs. Niche? That’s such an interesting question! 🙂 Could it be that story has become a niche? I’d like to think that’s where I fall. And really, most of my very favorite blogs are storytelling blogs. Like yours. 😉
I’m loving this series!
God meets us in the way he designed us, doesn’t he? We writers are so blessed to have the Internet and this forum called blogging, and bloggers who “get” us. Sometimes I wonder what God’s got up his sleeve for the future, and what roads we’re paving, here on our laptops. He’s always up to something. 🙂
Thanks so much for reading along!
This is so wise. You’re right about how our story shines through us whether we like it or not. Sometimes it comes through more strongly through imagined writing because it reveals who we are like dreams do.
I like what you say about boundaries and about how our stories intersect others and how it’s important to let them tell theirs or ask permission. Though those lines can get blurry and we can make mistakes. My bedrock is also my faith in the Lord and prayer like breath.
I am writing my story when I blog and find I repeat myself with theme maybe because seasons and chores/adventures that go with those seasons cycle around. There’s also wisdom way deep that I haven’t tapped and don’t know exactly how.
Well, you ask great questions. This series is great. Here’s a question for you. How do you get such great pictures? What kind of camera do you use? Thank you again for this series.
OK. Wait. I went searching for “imagined writing” and came up with just about nothing. Is it a thing? It sounds really interesting. Can you say more?
My camera really is quite cool. It’s way cooler than I. It’s a Sony a5000. It takes really great pictures and makes it look as if I know what I’m doing. I’ve gotten pretty good at taking pictures of inanimate objects, and of people who don’t mind standing still and holding a smile on their face while I take a few shots. But, I’d really like to get better at taking candid pictures of people; it takes real skill to capture a person’s spirit when they don’t know you’re taking their picture.
Imagined writing is writing that is more imagined than say memoir or journalism or blogging. It’s fiction. (All our writing filters through our imagination and perception and memory so is in some senses fiction.) But I think of imagined writing is stuff that comes more from my imagination than my life.
I’ll check out that camera. That’s what i need is something that can make me look good!!! Your pictures are great.
Dear Deidra … I’m on a blogging break, but please know that I’m just eating up your series one sweet, wise word at a time. It’s truly the most heartfelt, honest writing on this subject I’ve ever read.
When you wrote on March 8th that ‘while I may have set the table and invited you to a meal, when you arrived here at my front door, I let you in and then walked out the back door to somewhere else’ … well, the tears started to flow. You touched a tender hurt someplace deep because this has way too often been my experience.
Thank you. Thank you for going there and putting this on the table. You’re brave and courageous and I love you for it.
Please know that when I jump back onto the scene, I’m going to be sharing this series with the people in my world.
Linda, thanks so much for sharing these words with me. Please forgive me for the way/s in which I may have contributed to that hurt you felt. I’ve felt it, too. It’s not fun, for so many reasons. So, I’m truly grateful to you for sharing those words, here.
And, thank you for your enthusiasm about this series. It honestly showed itself to me as I was writing that very first post. It’s for me, just as much as it’s for all of us. Enjoy your break! See you again soon!
You’re a sweetheart in reassuring me that I’m not the only one, Deidra. Please know that l’m sorry for the ways you have been hurt, too. We all long to be welcomed and assured that what we bring to the table matters. No one wants to be excluded or feel ‘less than.’
Your kind words are a healing stream …
Wow, a great discussion is happening here Deidra – love it!
You know it’s interesting, when I write, I try to point people to God. I want them to see Him, not me, when they read the words. So I rarely feel like I’m telling my story or set out with that in mind. But ultimately, because I’m a child of God, my story is interwoven with His story. I can’t separate the two. I think that’s part of what you’ve found, as well. And I loved Kelli’s comment about story vs. niche. I think sometimes that our personalities define us so uniquely that we do create a niche within this larger community of bloggers.
I’m really enjoying this series!
This makes me think about the way we encourage writers at the High Calling. It’s a little bit different than what you’re saying. We encourage our writers to tell their story, and we trust God’s story will show up when our writers do that. We feel the same way you do: our personal stories are interwoven with his story, because of his deep and intimate relationship with us. God surely shines through both approaches; it’s wonderful to know he’s not limited by us. 🙂
Thanks so much for reading, and for your enthusiasm, June!
Carol Longenecker Hiestand
H is right. we can’t help but tell our story.
Niche/story? not sure about this. I know my purpose for blogging has to been to share what God is teaching me. It started as a place to share my grief journey through loss to help others. I had not been close to anyone who lost who was transparent about their real journey (as opposed to the public story). I felt so unprepared.
My spiritual mentor also taught me to “pay attention” to look around, look up and look down to see what God might be saying to me. It was a powerful thing for me and I want to encourage others to do the same.
we are headed on vacation and i anticipate some time to pay attention, see what God is doing and has for me and from there begin posting on my blog again. I have needed these weeks to be and not have the “pressure” of a schedule around my blog. .
thoroughly enjoying this series and looking forward to the Jumping Tandem Retreat in May.
It’s interesting to me to read how many of us have experienced some sort of healing through this art of blogging. It’s a good gift, isn’t it?
Enjoy your vacation, Carol! I look forward to seeing you in May!
I totally get what you’re saying here, Deidra. My first bedrock is that I am a child of God. The second is that I am a mom of young children. I didn’t start out with the intention of being a “Christian Blogger” or a “Mommy blogger” but being a follower of Christ and mother are core to who I am and shape nearly every moment of my life, so, naturally, the themes, truths, struggles, and circumstances related to my faith and my motherhood serve as the backdrop for my stories. I don’t consider myself a niche writer, but I am a storyteller. Like your H said, how can I not be? 🙂
Oh, keep telling your story, Becky. Niche or no niche, your story matters. People are changed when you share it. Blessings to you as you continue to build on the bedrock of your life.
I love this! I am a reader, a total bookworm. I jumped on the internet recently figuring I’d like to chat about books. However, I find it impossible to speak of books and ideas without being who I am – a Christian, a mom, a bit of a history geek. And so I’m starting to tell my story as I review my books. I thought I would be talking about stories instead of writing them but somehow, it all intertwines.
It does intertwine, doesn’t it? Whatever is bedrock for each of us, is so deeply ingrained in us. Sometimes we don’t even realize just how deeply committed we are, until we start to write.
I took a peek at your site, and I love it! I think you’d probably enjoy 50 Women Every Christian Should Know, by Michelle DeRusha. Have you read it, already?
Thank you! I actually haven’t read 50 Women yet, but it’s something I’ve been curious about. I’ll have to check it out!
Christ is my bedrock… but He hasn’t always been.
My identity is that of a simple country girl – because, well, that’s what and who I’ve always been. (But on that note, a bold friend recently told me that she thinks I hide behind my online voice. At first I was angry with her comment. And then as I read a book on childhood memories and did some freeWrite time with that… good night Irene, the unedited, uncensored stories that came out proved her observation as truth. In being the online me, I’d inadvertantly drawn boundaries around my own self, when in reality, I’m all sorts of bits and pieces crammed into the package of a simple country girl.
Yes, ma’am – no matter what we write, we can’t help but to shed some soul with ink.
Yes, it matters – that’s what we are, stories. And when we write, share, and read, we become stories stacked on one another’s shelves.
Yes, there’s a difference – story is what we share and who we are and how we live, love, and breathe. Niche is about how others percieve all of that… and whether or not it matters to them. And even if it doesn’t matter (or doesn’t seem to matter) to others out in blogLand, each of our stories matter to God. After all, He is the Master Artist and each of us is His. His creation. His child. A reflection of His story, His love. And, if He’s our bedrock, He’s also the full circle of us – whether or not we write in Christianese.
What do you think? Does niche create community or vice versa?
When I say He hasn’t always been (my bedrock), I mean that even in my pre-Christ self, I now know and see that He was working out a redemtion story — and as I came to know Him over these last 11 years, He’s not asked me become someone else, He’s asked me to become a better me, the me He desired long ago (maybe even as He flung the stars into the sky!). So, I’m the whole of it – the grit and gunk and mire. The grace and mercy and love.
(and yes, i do, i talk to my own self – at home, in public, and in the comment box) 🙂
I believe one of the most beautiful acts of worship is to become the best me I can be — the best me God created me to be. That’s not about me, working something up. No. It’s about me surrendering, more and more.
I like it when you talk to yourself. 🙂
Maybe it’s both/and? Maybe the two are not mutually exclusive? Maybe one supports the other?
Having blogged since 2009 (about some of everything), I never quite figured out what my niche was until I took this Branding Questionnaire a few months ago.
After that questionnaire, I started blogging about art and faith.
I read blogs and have found that when your niche and your story are blended that makes for a really interesting blog.
As for me, I found my niche…I just haven’t figured out how to put it all out there…story and niche.
Really good point, Tonya. Niche and story, blended together. I have always felt a bit scattered, here on the blog. I write about a variety of things, but I like this idea of trying to figure out how to pull it all together. Do you have a link to that Branding Questionnaire that you’d be willing to share?
The Branding Questionnaire was written by http://www.amandamillerlittlejohn.com/
Unfortunately, the questionnaire was for a limited time. The questionnaire was a free gift to those who signed up for a Woman’s Summit.
But, her website is loaded with info as well as her newsletter.
After completing that powerful questionnaire, I opened Good Artbox. I just started blogging not really knowing where it would take me. It has been about 7 months now since starting Good Artbox. This is the first blog (after a gazillion) that I am still kinda excited to post on after that many months.
So, she nailed it with those questions.
I probably need to purchase her Branding Box to figure out the rest of what I should be doing, but for my life right now, blogging about art (in some fashion) works for me.
Good news Deidra!
Although the Branding Questionnaire is no longer downloadable, if you sign up she will email it to you and here is the link to that!
Click the Download Your Personal Toolkit and that will open the sign up link!
Let me know how things turn out!
I’ve been blogging since 2006. At first it was to tell my story but now I know it’s not my story but His. Even when I intend to write about leadership, motherhood, parenting, recipes…I find His fingerprints all over each post. Since then I’ve learned to write about His peace, how He shines through the cracks of my life in mending me strong. I talk about the art of being redeemed, letting go, and imperfections. We all have a story.