A Decade on the Blogosphere

Ten years ago this week, I set up my first blog on Blogger (!!!) and shared my first post with the internet.

I had wanted to launch one for a while and after an emotional month of loss and trials, I knew it was time. Summer 2011 was also one of the hottest seasons on record in Oklahoma, with 60+ days of temps over 100 degrees. Wowza. As the sun scorched the land, my soul also felt scorched, burnt out with the fire of loss and grief. While I only partially realized it at the time, I knew that launching a blog would help me process some of the grief I was dealing with. In fact, the first post I ever shared was an editorial I had written for the school paper on the death of my grandpa. And I was right. Time and again, writing has proved to be a touchstone in processing big life moments, be they triumphant or tragic.

Blogging has proven to be quite a journey. The blog itself has undergone multiple upgrades first titled “Note to Self” then “A Word in Season” and finally everything to do with my writing and editing services resides at mrshanni.com. While July 2021 finds me in a very different phase of life and work, I still remain grateful for the outlet of sharing my thoughts in the hopes of inspiring and encouraging others. And I’m grateful for the ways I’ve been able to capture milestones and the development of my business through this blog.

Here are some of my favorite posts from over the years:

Whether you have been around the blog since the early days, or are a new reader, thanks for being here. Honestly, I’d still be writing even without readers, but boy it makes the journey so much more fun with you all here.

Why I Write

Revised from a January 2012 post.

This week is National Words Matter Week and I couldn’t let it pass without sharing some thoughts on why I love the written word. The roads that lead us to the writing profession are varied, but we wouldn’t be here if words weren’t imprinted on our souls, or part of our blood. This is just a tiny glimpse into why I love writing.

My mom’s best friend from high school made me a coloring book for my seventh birthday. One particular page was blank, except for some simple script at the top that read “What I Want to Be When I Grow Up.”

I listed different things on that page over the next few years. My occupations of interest ranged from reference librarian (Don’t judge me, the mom on Wishbone had this job) to a dolphin trainer (What kid hasn’t wanted to be this?!) and several other um…random careers.

However, one occupation was listed on every entry, without fail: author.

I got to make that dream a reality at age 26, but for as long as I can remember, I have read and been read to, and consequently developed an abiding love of reading and writing.

In honor of “Words Matter Week,” I wanted to share three reasons why I am passionate about writing.

“We Write to Taste Life Twice.” (Anais Nin)

While perusing the journal aisle at Target several years ago, I saw this quote on a journal.

I have never felt more understood as when I read that quote. We taste life as we experience it and as writers, we enjoy it a second time as we relive the moments in our head and carefully select words to frame those moments. I wouldn’t give up that rhythm for anything.

We Write to Find Connection

In one of my undergrad classes, we focused quite a bit on why people will always read stories about other people. There is an innate pull in all of us to make some kind of connection between our life experiences and others’ life experiences. Whether it is an in-depth profile piece or an anecdote or a comedy bit, we enjoy it, we laugh at it, and we remember best the stories that make us say, “I’ve done something like this,” or “This is something that has happened to me.” Through this, we see that writing is so much more than just the transmission of facts. In his book “Talk to Me,” author Dean Nelson shares this perspective, speaking specifically to the interview process, “When interviews are done well, they have the potential for a human connection that goes past the level of merely gathering information. They become an experience where you are fully present with that other person, and she is fully present with you…

That’s the power of a well-written story.

Writing is Therapy

Writing is a creative activity and a therapeutic one. Two for the price of one, y’all! Whether I jot down thoughts in my journal (I’ve been keeping journals for 16 years now!) or am working on a piece to be published, I have found that it truly clears my head and allows me to move past certain emotional or mental blocks. This is certainly not a groundbreaking observation. In their book “Expressive Writing: Words That Heal” authors James Pennebaker and John Evans write, “Since the mid-1980s, an increasing number of studies have focused on expressive writing as a way to bring about healing. The first studies indicated that writing about traumatic experiences for as little as twenty minutes a day for three of four days can produce measurable changes in people’s physical and mental health.”

Life can be hard, and I want to use all the tools at my disposal to be my healthiest, balanced self. If one of those tools happens to be what I do for a living, well, no complaints here.

Whether you are just starting out on your writing journey or have been traveling this road for a while, know that you and your words are valuable and needed in this space. Beyond that, we all have immense power with our spoken words which those in our circle experience every day. Let’s wield that power for good.

The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.

Proverbs 12:18

Remembering Elisabeth Elliot

Today marks five years since Elisabeth Elliot passed away at the age of 88.

Elisabeth Elliot was a missionary, author, mother, and wife of slain missionary Jim Elliot and perhaps no other Christian author has had a bigger impact on my walk with the Lord than she has. I was first introduced to her story when I was in middle school, and ever since I read the story of her and her husband and their missionary team moving to Ecuador to reach the natives there, I’ve been captivated. I even had the privilege to hear her speak when I was 11 or 12. Sadly, I didn’t grasp the significance of who I was listening to that day and don’t remember much of what was said. Youth is wasted on the young…or something like that.

As I read about her life, her decision-making process, how she spent time in the word, and how she always put God first in everything, I remember it gave me such a sense of freedom to be who God called me to be.  She shined a light on the path of what it meant to be completely sold out to Christ.

“The fact that I am a woman does not make me a different kind of Christian, but the fact that I am a Christian makes me a different kind of woman.”

Elisabeth Elliot, Let Me Be A Woman

In more recent years, I’m finding her works on suffering to be encouraging through different trials that I have faced, once again shining a light on how God draws so near to believers who are suffering and how some of the most precious, tender lessons are learned in the fire of trials.

“Of one thing I am perfectly sure: God’s story never ends with ashes.”

Elisabeth Elliot, These Strange Ashes

Back in 2015, the New York Times published a great article on her life and her work, and it’s still up today. You can read it here.

I would love to be able to say thank you for the impact her books have had (and will continue to have on my life). I guess I will get to do that one day.

Previously published in June of 2015. Revised June 2020.

Marking Milestones in a Pandemic

Last week marked one year since launching Bloom Book 3. But instead of feeling joyful, I found I had more mixed emotions than expected. As I started to dissect why I was feeling this way, I realized those thoughts could have some value for others as we move into a month known for marking milestones: end of the school year, graduations, weddings, etc. You may not get to mark those milestones in the way that you’ve anticipated, and for that, let me pause and say I am sorry. From my own experience, I want to encourage you to find some way to mark your milestone during this pandemic. In whatever way is meaningful for you, do it. Your future self will thank you.

So back to last year.

The process of writing Bloom took four years, the time it would take to get another college degree. So not only was it the launch of the book itself, it marked the end of my first major writing project. Yes launching a book is “marking the moment.” The launch party we held was also meaningful. But I didn’t personally bring those chapters to an end before I blazed into the next one.

The day that I launched Bloom Book 3, I also finished teaching at a local homeschool co-op. It was my first year of teaching and I had such a great experience working with juniors and seniors on their writing abilities. The day after I finished teaching and launching the book, I started working with my husband in an office job, not related to writing. I had worked with him a few years prior, so while the job wasn’t entirely new, it was still going to be a big transition because at least for the first month, the job would be full time.

Marking milestones in a pandemic

In the week leading up to these transitions, some big emotional things were happening within my circle. While I wasn’t involved personally, I was affected deeply by the situations that were transpiring.

End of one job. End of huge writing project. Start of new job. Emotional aftermath. All of this resulted in way too much to process. And it sucked.

I gave the example in my Insta stories last week of laying a path with paving stones. To build a functioning path, all the pieces need to lay next to each other, not on top of each other. In my heart and mind, it felt like all these pieces were piling up, creating an unsteady tower rather than a functioning path. Much like a path leads us forward to a new location, I needed a path to walk on through these transitions, but I didn’t have one.

I hadn’t marked my milestones.

As with most things, time helped unkink the knots in my heart and mind and I was able to move forward. But those lessons came up again as I celebrated my 30th birthday in quarantine (with an amazing birthday caravan!) and wrapped up my final year of teaching in the midst of the pandemic, separated from physically being with my students. This time, I’m not neglecting to mark the end of one chapter before I move onto the next.

Marking milestones in a pandemic
Chai latte + reading in the park after my last day of school.
Socially distanced of course!

You are probably facing a lot of missed milestones as well or at least ones that will unfold in an unorthodox manner. I would again encourage you to find some way to mark them! It may not seem like it matters now, but it will matter further on down the road. I’m not the first one to point out that celebrating milestones and cultural rituals affirm our sense of community, aid with transitions, and provide structure in a hectic world. I’m just adding my voice to the chorus that, yes, it matters. Endings and transitions do matter, even in the midst of a global pandemic.

I want to hear from you now. What milestones are you celebrating this month or have celebrated in quarantine, and what unique ways have you celebrated them?