I can’t believe I have been writing this blog for ten years! Where has the time gone? Today I’ve decided to share a few thoughts with you about my blog.
First, a few facts. I posted my first blog on Monday, February 13, 2012. That reflection was entitled “Why Sunflower Seeds?” In it I introduced myself and explained why I chose this name for my blog: “Sunflower Seeds: Celebrating Everyday Spirituality.” Since then I have written more than 500 reflections. That number amazes me. My blog has generated over 11,300 comments from you, my readers. Officially I’m listed as having about 535 subscribers, but I question that figure. For example, last week’s blog drew 1,621 visitors on just Monday and Tuesday alone. That number is pretty typical for Monday and Tuesday. Perhaps I have many readers who are not subscribers. Not sure.
Writing a blog was not my idea. I always blame (or credit!) my friend and colleague, Sister Susan Wolf, SND, for turning me into a blogger. When she first proposed the idea to me, I was very reluctant. I came up with the usual excuses: I don’t know how to blog… I’m too old for this kind of thing… I’m too busy… what in the world would I write about every week? Susan’s persistence and guidance led me to give it a try. She recited the old maxim: “The Church must go where the People of God are.” And many of them (like you) are online. From the very beginning, I also sensed that writing a blog each week would somehow nourish my own soul. And it certainly has.
Readers are always telling me how much they enjoy the pictures and (even more) the videos I use. In the beginning I sometimes took my own pictures because I knew I couldn’t use copyrighted pictures. (I had heard the horror stories: someone posting a copyrighted picture on their blog and getting a bill for $10,000!) Then my friend Susan introduced me to Pixabay and Pexels. These websites (and others) offer free non-copyrighted photos. This is a way for photographers around the world to get their photos and names in circulation. To help them out, I try to give credit to the photographers beneath each photo. For the first 2 1/2 years, I didn’t use any videos. Then on October 6, 2014, I wrote “Why I Like the Piano Guys” and I attached one of their videos at the end. A couple of weeks later for Thanksgiving, I posted Josh Groban’s “Thankful.” The following week, for my Advent reflection, I used “Be Born in Me” by Francesca Battistelli. And I was hooked. The videos—whether music or otherwise—are now an integral part of each week’s reflection. Needless to say, I listen to a lot of songs searching for the “right one” each week. There are many, many good composers, singers, and musicians out there producing some incredibly inspiring videos. I’m grateful for what their creativity adds to my reflections.
Spam is a problem when you have a blog. My “Stop Spammers” system filters out profanities or (more often than not) people trying to sell their “stuff” through my blog. Within the past 10 years this system blocked 129,157 spammers. Unfortunately, it can occasionally block a comment from a legitimate reader.
One thing I like about blogging is the instant feedback I get. Nothing else I write gives me such immediate feedback. I also like it when I can engage in a brief conversation on my blog with a reader—or when two readers can talk to each other via my blog. Some readers comment frequently—almost every week. And that’s great. Some never comment—and that’s okay too. Some readers have become friends of mine even though I’ve never met them. Occasionally a former student of mine will respond on my blog. That’s always fun for me. (They’re probably surprised to learn that their old English and religion teacher is still alive!)
People often ask me: where do you get your ideas for your blog? First, I read a lot. I’m always clipping out articles or taking notes on things I read. I have several thick folders stuffed with potential topics for my blog. My own curiosity, struggles, joys, pain, worries, fears, and hopes are also sources for blogs. So is my personal prayer life. Last week’s reflection on the hands of Jesus, for example, grew out of my own praying with that particular scripture passage. Friends are helpful too. They send me all kinds of things—ideas, jokes, cartoons, videos, articles, book or movie recommendations. Or if I’m with a group of friends talking about something interesting, sooner or later one of them will say, “Hey, Melannie, you should do a blog on that!” I enjoy writing about a wide variety of topics. I write about all kinds of things, not just so-called “holy things” like scripture, theology, or prayer. But ordinary and extraordinary things I’ve gleaned from nature, science, history, the arts, and contemporary life. I like to include humor too. (I believe humor is one of the holiest things of all!)
As I celebrate ten years of blogging, my heart is filled with immense gratitude. I’m grateful for Sr. Susan for being so persistent and helpful… I’m grateful for my religious congregation who supports this blog as well as blogs by other sisters (their blogs are listed on the right side of this page)… I’m grateful for the technology that has the power to connect human beings all over the world like never before… I’m grateful to God for blessing me with the gift of writing… and for giving me the health and strength to use this gift in this unique way… I’m grateful for the life I’ve lived these many, many years… for the vast number of people I have come to know and love… and for the array of experiences I have had along the way. For it is precisely from my lived life that so many of these reflections flow… And finally, I’m grateful to each one of you, my “dear readers,” for your support, your contributions, and the beautiful witness of your own faith. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! Amen! Alleluiah!
Announcing: Our Contest Winners!
Here are the three readers who won an Amazon $10 gift card (drum roll please):
1) Judith Lucyk lives in upstate New York. She’s been reading “Sunflower Seeds” for about two years. She and her sister read it together and then share their thoughts about it with each other.
2) Sister Jan Villemure is a Franciscan Sister of Charity living in Green Bay, WI. She taught science for 50 years and is now doing pastoral care for the elderly. She’s been reading “Sunflower Seeds” for about three years.
3) Kathy Lamont resides in Ridgeville, NJ but currently she’s a “snowbird” in Clearwater, FL. She’s been reading this blog for several years.
Announcing: The Final Contest!
This week I will give three winners a 20 minute phone call with me, Sister Melannie!
That’s right, if you’re a winner I will call you at a time convenient for both of us
and we can have a conversation together. This is not a spiritual direction session.
This is just a relaxing chat about things you and I might want to talk about.
We can ask each other questions and share whatever else we want.
To enter, write a comment below.
Be sure to include something like: I’d like to enter the phone call contest!
PS#1: Reminder: I will be giving a zoom retreat entitled “Living with Hope in an Imperfect World” sponsored by the Portiuncula Center for Prayer in Frankfort, IL. It consists of three sessions: Friday, Feb. 11 from 6:00 pm to 7:15 pm (Central time) and Sat. 10:00 am to 11:30 am (Central) and 1:00 pm to 2:15 pm (Central). It will include input sessions, handouts, music videos, sharing. All are welcome! Check out their website for further details.
Today’s video is a simple song of gratitude, “Give Thanks.” It was written in 1978 by a seminary graduate named Henry Smith. He was struggling to find work and suffering from an eye condition that eventually led to his partial blindness. During this time Smith took refuge in 2 Corinthians: 8:9 and composed this simple song. Years later, Don Moen, a young worship leader recorded the song, introducing it to the world. I’ve chosen this choral version with lyrics. The video is by Sonya Nancy.
I welcome you to comment on this reflection below: