This weekend I traveled to Hot Springs for the fifth annual Arkansas Women Bloggers conference. We stayed at the beautiful Arlington Resort Hotel and Spa and enjoyed the cool history, architecture and ambience the downtown area had to offer. I roomed with my gal pal Amanda Farris and built more real-life connections with people I mostly "knew" online. But of course, we were also there to learn -- to learn our craft, new skills, and ways to take our blogs to the next level.
I sat through multiple workshops and listened as wise old pros poured out wealths of knowledge. I picked up several ideas and set some goals for the future. However, there was one revelation for me that overwhelmed the rest.
This is not the most important thing.
I sat in one session where people were popping off names of their favorite apps, enabling technology to run their lives from sun-up to sundown. They named apps that would wake them up, time their runs, count their calories, plan their meals, publish their blog posts, remind them to drink water, help them meditate, forbid too much social media, save articles for later, edit their photos, watermark their photos, keep their schedules, calm them down, put them to sleep, then wake them up and keep the wheel spinning. I glanced over at Amanda with narrowed eyes and said, "I just want to raise my kids and write a quick blog post at night."
She knowingly nodded and we whispered in agreement we'd never devote the time to our blogs some others could.
On my drive home yesterday I reflected on the keynote talk from the weekend, given by Rhea Lana Liner, CEO of Rhea Lana's national children's consignment sales. This lady inspired me and immediately earned by respect and admiration. She talked about building her company from nothing but a vision and a sense of determination. In 1997, she was a mom with three young children living in Conway, AR and an idea formed in her heart. She desired to add value to women's lives by offering them affordable children's clothing that still looked cute, as well as a way to make money themselves. She hosted her first sale with three racks of clothes in her living room, and today, there are Rhea Lana's consignment events in more than 70 locations nationwide.
She has a remarkable success story, but a couple of things stood out to me about her talk. She explained that the first seven years of her business were a labor of love. Her profits were not huge during that time. They increased slowly and steadily, and she fueled her labor by passion, not greed. These were the years, of course, when her children were young. She pointed out that success in her business could have come much sooner, but she would not sacrifice her family on the altar of success.
The following eleven years, her business skyrocketed. She franchised her company and it has grown substantially every year since. She calls her story the "7/11 Rule." For seven years she worked hard, put her family first, and patiently endured, and for the last eleven years she has reaped the harvest of what she sowed.
I have now been blogging for more than five years. Though it's read and loved by many, it's "small" by anyone's standards. It could be much more than it is and much more widely read if I elevated it to a higher priority and devoted more hours to making it "big." But although I love my little corner of the web and all the opportunities it's given me, it is not my top priority. I have children who are small and need more time and attention than my Google analytics or properly placed words for good SEO. (If that makes no sense to you, don't worry about it. Just keep readin'.) But who knows -- if I keep working hard, putting my family first, and being patient, perhaps one day I'll achieve the success of which I believe I'm capable.
During that session when everyone was popping off names of things that overwhelmed me more than helped, I thought about what my mission was. Why do I blog anyway?
I blog to encourage my people.
Of course there's more to it sometimes, but that's basically it. I blog to encourage and equip and empathize with women who know me and women in my town and neighboring communities who search for meaning in their "ordinary" lives. We all feed kids and work on our marriages and go to church and look for purpose and need others to encourage us along the way. I love the opportunities (and paychecks) blogging has given me, but more than that, I love when people come up to me at church or Dollar General and say how much a post I wrote encouraged them. I love when people message me on Facebook and ask what the best devotional is for their kids or where that camp was where we took our family. It is a privilege to use the little talent I have to bring God some glory, and that is why I blog.
I still respect and admire the women who devote countless hours perfecting and promoting their blogs. There are some true experts and professionals in our Arkansas Women Bloggers tribe, and I'm thankful I have them to learn from. I did pick out and take away a few things from the conference I hope to grow in and implement soon. But my purpose in doing so will always be to better encourage you, the readers, however few of you there may be. :)
FYI, one new thing I'm trying is Periscope. Follow me please, @kelciehuff! If you're not already on Periscope, it's free to download in the app store on your iPhone and easy to use.