It all began one year ago today.
Actually, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint when exactly this blog started, because it went like this:
I got this crazy whim to start a blog – kind of as an online journal of what I was doing with my kiddos at home: a way to motivate me to try a few more creative things with the boys. I was heavily pregnant with my third child at the time. My first two boys were three and two years old, respectively. (Clearly, timing is not my strong suit.)
I set up a Blogger account with a spectacularly awful free template and wrote a handful of lame posts that nobody ever read. This was the first: Indoor “Sandpit” – sensory play with rice.
Then, 4 weeks later, I had a baby, and spent the next 6 months focussed on important things such as facilitating wartime negotiations between siblings, trying my darndest to make enough milk to feed my baby (not such a success), averting toddler tantrums, and locking myself in the toilet where no-one could find me. (Unfortunately they always did.)
All that time, with my fizzled not-quite-blog set squarely on the back-burner of life, I couldn’t shake it out of my mind. I didn’t know exactly how I would fit it back into my jam-packed life, but I knew that when it came time to re-launch, I wanted to do it properly. One thing I’d learned in my brief foray into the world of blogging: it kinda sucked writing stuff that nobody would ever read. I definitely didn’t have time for that.
So I kept toying with the idea, and gradually as I emerged from the fog of newborn sleep-deprivation, it became more clear and real and exciting to me. I started reading up about it. Spent months, in fact, researching a whole heap of stuff. Began analysing blogs I loved to see what made them successful, and what tips I could glean from them. Decided that I needed to expand my original concept of the blog as a kids’ activity resource to also incorporate my passion for interior design, which I’d been doing freelance for years. Set up social media accounts to promote the blog. Bought my domain name. Paid to get a proper site design made. Learned how to use a DSLR camera and how to use Photoshop to create “pins”.
Exactly one year ago today, in fact….
I took a deep breath, and launched.
And A house full of sunshine was born.
This was my very first post from the newly minted www.ahousefullofsunshine.com: (You can click on the image to take you to the post)
I’ll scatter more blog images from this past year throughout the the rest of this post – from the popular to the forgotten favourites. It’ll be fun to see how many you remember! Just click on any image to take you to the post.
From my floundering, amateur start, it seems almost surreal to me today that A house full of sunshine now gets well over 160,000 page views every month. We have over 1500 subscribers in this community, and 7000+ followers across social media. I still have to pinch myself that all this has happened in just one year.
On the other hand, I don’t feel in any way as if I’ve “arrived”. It may sound strange, but I still battle with my own high expectations of where I want to be. Really, I’m a very, very small fish in a very, very big pond of amazing home and mummy bloggers. I’ll be honest and admit that I still fight feelings of failure quite frequently. Whenever I put up a post that gets no comments, I shrink a little bit inside. People might be commenting all over Facebook and sharing and pinning, but no comments on a post still leaves me feeling a bit…. exposed. Like a performer who finishes a routine and nobody claps. It’s quite an odd feeling. Not even an accurate feeling, of course, because I know the truest expression of appreciation people can give is to share a post with their friends, and I’ve been blessed with the most generous and kind-hearted sharers in all the blogosphere. And so many of you do take the time to comment regularly, which I know is not always easy with the busy lives we all lead. I’m honestly so grateful for that.
Well. I didn’t mean to get all deep and philosophical when I started writing this post. I guess it comes of taking stock and reflecting on this blogging journey. The day-to-day of running a blog is so intensely busy that I guess I don’t usually stop to think about it too deeply. But milestones have a way of causing you to reflect.
And that’s a good thing. I think I’ve been so focussed on the “now”, keeping up with the daily demands of blogging, and on the future – looking ahead to where I want to be – that it’s easy to lose perspective. It’s like I’m halfway up a mountain, most of the time staring at my feet as I slog up a steep path one step at a time, occasionally lifting my eyes to the faraway peaks with a little swirl of discouragement in my belly at how far there still is to go. At how many things I still need to fix, sort out, do better, figure out. I see other climbers far ahead of me on the path and sometimes wonder if I’ll ever catch up.
But today I’m taking the chance to stop and look back at how far I’ve come. And the amazing thing? The view is beautiful from here.
I see the path I’ve walked curving down away from me, a path that represents hundreds of hours of hard work and effort, of one foot placed in front of the next. I think of the word God gave me at the beginning of this journey, my “One Word” for 2014: FAITHFUL. And that’s what I’ve tried to be, to honour the God who called me to this journey.
I’ve worked up a sweat, walking this path. I’ve battled anxiety and exhaustion and overwhelm. At times, it has all felt like too much. I’ve struggled with how to fit in the sheer quantity of hours required to do this blogging thing “well”, when I already work full-time as a Mum, and part-time as a decorator. There have been more late nights than I can count. Times when I’ve just longed to do nothing in the evening, read a book, watch TV, have some downtime, instead of finishing up my day-job with the kids and then turning around already exhausted to begin the night shift with client work and blogging. At those times, one word has kept me going. FAITHFUL. I’ve chosen to be faithful, even when I couldn’t see the results. Even when it felt so often in the early days like I was talking to myself. Even when I was tired. (And what Mum isn’t?) Even when struggling to balance work with the demands of life.
And what a year it’s been. We’ve just undergone our second house move in the space of one year. The first move came four weeks after launching this blog, which was the same month we learned that our daughter had a rare medical condition and required eye surgery. We’ve completed our first development, I’ve decorated two houses (the second is the one we’ve just moved into – photos coming up next week), I’ve taken on lots of private decorating clients for the first time since quitting commercial decorating post-kids, and I’ve also written and launched a book. It has been one of the busiest years of my entire life. Looking back, I don’t even know how we managed it all – all I can think is God’s grace.
But as I pause today on the side of this mountain, I feel a sweet breeze cooling my damp skin. I see vistas opening up below me, a view I never would have been able to see had I not struck out on this journey and toiled so hard to carry it through. And I know beyond doubt that God is the one who is faithful. He could always see what I could not. His view is so much higher than mine. My job has just been to put one foot in front of the other. And that’s what I’ll continue to do for as long as he tells me to.
When I look back over this past year? The most overwhelming feeling I have is one of gratitude.
I’m grateful to all of you who’ve stuck with this community, despite my often erratic posting schedule as I’ve found my blogging feet and struggled to balance motherhood with work.
I’m grateful for the ways God has confirmed that this is exactly what I’m meant to be doing, right now, in this season of my life.
I’m grateful for blogging, which has given me the creative outlet I desperately needed.
I’m grateful for the ways it’s spurred me on to finish projects, carry through on my plans, and make our home a beautiful place for our family to live in. Yes, it’s been hard work, but I could not think of a job I could possibly love more. To have the chance to do creative projects, decorate, organise, brainstorm new kids’ activities… all the things I’m passionate about and love to do… and then share the inspiration with others: it’s a dream come true.
I’m immensely grateful for the readers who reach out with a beautiful note or letter of encouragement, often right when I most need it.
I’m grateful I even have readers, from all over the world, which is something I can still hardly get my mind around.
Yes, I have a heart full of thankfulness. And I’m excited about 2015. One of the biggest changes I’ve made in recent weeks is to hire a VA (a virtual assistant) to help me manage the back-end of blogging which I was getting so bogged down in. She’s an angel straight from heaven who is helping me out with administration and social media, and already it’s freeing me up to spend more time creating fresh content and thinking big-picture with the blog.
I would love to start seeing some financial return for the time I put into this blog. That is especially important for my husband, so he sees this as a legitimate business venture and not an all-consuming waste of time. Ha! I get it, I really do. I need to contribute to this family, and my time has value. So, I need to study and learn. I do know that for the amount of traffic I’m getting, I should be earning I lot more than I currently am. Blogging is no get-rich-quick scheme, let me tell you. I earned more working at Pizza Hut when I was sixteen years old.
Another big goal I have for this year is to balance the home and kids posts better. I plan to have one kids’ activity post and one home post up every week, so you better know what to expect in your inbox. My aim is to also include a third post each week, whether it’s a recipe, some thoughts on parenting, or a round-up of craft or decor ideas from around the web. There’s honestly SO MUCH I want to blog about – my brain is constantly buzzing with excitement and new ideas I am dying to share! – but I have to be realistic and work with the time I have.
So, another goal is to achieve a better work/ life balance. I would like to go to bed before midnight and get a decent night’s sleep again. I need to build in some margin for downtime, because this pace is not sustainable. I want to read books for pleasure again, and not feel like I’m “wasting time.” Toward that end, I’m aiming to launch a book club in the New Year. One novel per month. If you’re a reader, I hope you’ll join me.
I have more goals – up-skill myself in photography and particularly photo editing, guest post more, comment on other blogs more (I know how much it means to me!), submit to magazines.
But for now, I’m taking my eyes off those distant peaks and pausing in the journey to feel the breeze and the sunshine. I’m looking back at the path behind and thanking God for how far he’s brought me.
Is it too honest to admit that I’ve been teary several times in the writing of this post? This blogging thing… I never expected it. The immensity of it. The challenge, and also the reward. The feeling of being right in the centre of God’s will, and also knowing it’s going to take every ounce of courage and determination I have to stay there. And, the joy. The rush that comes from making over a room and sharing it with others; the fun of learning photography; the pleasure of stringing words together (I love words, love to write); seeing the spark in my kids’ eyes when I show them the fun activity I have planned; coming up with creative new ideas for my home; forming connections and friendships with bloggers and readers from all over the globe; launching my first book baby out into the world and getting heartfelt letters from people saying how much it’s meant to them. Yes, it’s been a joy.
Here’s to One Year, A house full of sunshine. What a year it’s been.
THANK YOU, friends, from the bottom of my heart, for being here with me.
To express my thankfulness, I’m offering a Blogiversary giveaway, just for being here. This giveaway is for $100 PayPal CASH to help with that Christmas shopping. It’s open worldwide. You only need to complete one option of your choosing in order to enter, but each additional option you complete will give you extra entries into the contest if you so desire. Good luck! And please feel free to share with your friends so they have a chance to enter, too.