If you’ve been around here for long, you know that I write occasionally for Southern Weddings Magazine. I write for them not only because they produce a beautiful wedding magazine which focuses on more than just a wedding day, but mostly because their staff of strong, faithful women inspire me to be better. I first became connected with SW through the owner and editor, Lara Casey. Lara and I actually went to the same high school, though she was a few years ahead of me. I didn’t know her personally. I knew OF her because she had this fantastic, blazing red hair and I would dream that one day I could somehow persuade my own frizzy mass of red hair to cooperate and be as lovely as Lara’s.
Somehow, years later, Lara and I became acquainted because our small businesses generated a lot of the same audience, namely young, soon-to-be married women or those who had just begun their marriage adventure. Lara and I have continued to foster a meaningful, professional relationship over the years, but I think it would be dismissive of me to stay that that was all I found in Lara. To be honest, she is an incredible mentor to me. She inspires me (and thousands of others) to live better by doing better.
There were times when I was first beginning to grow this website when I asked myself what it would become, if it would become anything. This was back when Chris and I were putting together our own WordPress themes with duct tape and glue in the basement of our house in Connecticut and calling it a brand. I was seeing my readership grow (no doubt that was DESPITE our WordPress themes, and not because of them…), but I didn’t know what to do about it. I had no next step. Well, actually, I did have a next step. I knew what I wanted to do, but I had no idea how to do it. And that’s when Lara came in with her magical compass to point us in the right direction.
Through a series of short video chats and phone calls, Lara helped me gain the confidence to grow my website into a small business. She told me that success was there in front of me, and I just had to take it because no one was going to give it to me. So, that’s what we did. We worked with a professional web design team to overhaul our website and launched this beautiful blog that you see here, crossing our fingers the entire way and praying that people would actually keep coming back. I also began to develop business plans for Marriage Confessions, and started setting goals for myself and my website. When I began treating this like the small business that it was, Marriage Confessions did just as Lara predicted. It soared.
Since the launch of this website in March of 2009, Marriage Confessions has had over 6 million pageviews from more than 433,000 unique visitors. On average, 17,000 people visit this website to read my writing every month. In 2010 and 2011, MC was nominated as Weblog of the Year, and in 2012 we actually won Best Topical Weblog. For a kitchen-table writer, it was a dream come true.
To say I have been blessed is an understatement. This website continues to bless our family financially and to fulfill me in ways that I didn’t even know I needed. It gives me a place to write, to grow, to laugh, and to learn. It is my passion and where my blood, sweat and tears are poured out. And those sky-high goals I set for my little website in the basement of my house several years ago have become a reality for me in large part because Lara pushed me to excellence when I was settling for mediocrity.
One of the things that is the most inspiring to me about Lara is her practical approach to success. She uses lists and steps and goal setting. Success isn’t some abstract idea floating out there. To Lara, it is tangible and it is our responsibility to use the gifts God has given us to achieve it.
To kick off the new year, Lara has been doing a series of blog posts on her blog about how to make things happen for yourself in 2013. She has been posting a 10-step process to goal setting over a series of three different blog posts (click here for Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four), and I have been reading and acting along with her. When she makes her list, I pull my little notepad out and make my own. Some of my goals are for myself personally, some are for our family, and some are professional goals both for my teaching career and for Marriage Confessions.
One of the parts of her series that I found the most helpful was choosing a word for 2013. Just one word that defines what you want to be and do and accomplish in this new year. Before I could choose my word for 2013, I had to look back a few years at where I have been so that I can figure out where I want to go.
In 2010, I battled depression that left scars much deeper than I realized at the time. That year was marked by change and anxiety and uncertainty. It was a year that took my enthusiasm for life and beat me back down until I felt silly for being excited about anything. How could I be so excited when everything was so bad, or when things could go bad so quickly??? If I had to give 2010 a word, it would have been languish.
Languish: Lack of vitality, grow weak. To fail to make progress or be successful.
In 2011, I was not just pulling myself out of depression, but was actually learning to be thankful. Our family was in a better place, we were thriving, we were flourishing, we were successful. I was digging deeper into my faith, and learning to be thankful for every good and perfect gift. I spent the year understanding how to accept help from others, and how to say thank you for that help. If I had to give 2011 a word, it would have been gratitude.
Gratitude: The quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
2012 found me pursuing new dreams and setting even scarier goals in the form of a book. This is a goal that I have continued to work towards, but the process itself has taught me how to have faith and trust in God’s perfect timing. Later in the year, my dad passed away and the loss overwhelmed me. Through it all, my family focused on our faith. We came together in prayer. We strengthened each other with scripture. We blessed each other with support and kindness. It has been and will continue to be our faith in the Lord that gets us through this grieving process. Because it was a year of trusting blindly in the midst of great trial and sadness, if I had to give 2012 a word, it would have been faith.
Faith: Having complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
I’ve been thinking about what my one word for 2013 should be. Faith was at the top of my list, but that wasn’t active enough for me. I’m tired of sitting on my knees in thanks. I want to be grateful in actions. I want to do something this year. I want to be JOYFUL. I want to be JOYFUL about the gifts in my life. I want to be JOYFUL about possibilities and opportunities. I want to be JOYFUL about disappointments and challenges. I want to be JOYFUL about my marriage and about my kids. I want to be JOYFUL at work every day. I want to be JOYFUL when I sit down to write. I want to be JOYFUL because I have a lot to be joyful about. My word for 2013 is joyful.
Joy: The emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing
what one desires. To delight.
Everything I do this year will be done with that word in mind. I will say yes to what makes me joyful, and I will say no to things that don’t make me joyful. I will live in a state of joy because…well…just because I can.
So many of you have been Tweeting your one word to me, and I keep retweeting them because they are so fantastic. I love seeing where people are going, and your one word is like showing people a map. So, leave a comment below and tell me, WHAT IS YOUR WORD FOR 2013?