Results of Your Blogging Preferences Poll

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When I first started blogging, blogs were simple with a feel of neighbors visiting over the fence. In the twelve years since then, bloggers have been urged to find their niche and develop their platforms. Certain features became musts. I had mixed emotions about some of the advice given in “how to have a successful blog” articles, so I decided to ask my readers about their own preferences in a poll. My friend Lou Ann has conducted polls with Survey Monkey a few times, so I asked her about them and then took the plunge.

I had originally planned to announce the poll on my blog, give my own readers a couple of days to have first crack at it, and then share the poll on social media. However, I decided not to do the latter for two reasons. First, I wanted the answers to just reflect readers’ preferences. I didn’t want strangers to the blog to filter in what they did or what they thought should be done. Secondly, Survey Monkey’s free plan only allows for 100 responses. I wasn’t sure what to do if I should happen to get more than 100, and I didn’t want people to get angry or upset if they couldn’t respond. In retrospect, I realize I could have said upfront that only the first 100 responses would be taken.

The poll received 51 responses in a week’s time. I’ll share the questions, results, and a few of my thoughts. The first number is the people who chose that particular answer; the second number is the percentage that answer received among total responses.

Question 1: Is it important to you that bloggers you read follow a consistent schedule?

  • Yes (1; 2%)
  • Somewhat, but it’s not the most important factor (34; 68%)
  • No (15; 30%)

I did not take the poll myself, but my answer would have been the second response. All kinds of blogging advice articles talk about setting and maintaining a schedule so readers know what to expect, but that is not all that important to me as a reader. I enjoy the rhythm of blogs who do follow a schedule or routine, but I also enjoy many with no discernible schedule.

Question 2: How do you feel about pop-up notices asking you to subscribe or offering you free booklets, printables, prayer guides, etc.?

  • I like them. They make it easy to respond. (1; 1.96%)
  • I’m ambivalent about them (3; 5.88%)
  • Hate them (23; 45.10 %)
  • I don’t mind them, but I don’t like for them to pop up the first few seconds I’m on the site or right in the middle of what I am reading. (24; 47.06%)

My answer would have been #3. I don’t care for pop-ups of any kind, but I especially dislike when they appear the first few seconds after I open the site or they block the post I came there to read. It’s almost funny to see an eager “Hey, do you want to subscribe to my blog?” pop-up when I just got there and I don’t even know anything about the blog yet. And it’s irritating when a pop-up blocks the content and has to be clicked off in some way before I can continue reading. When someone comes to our site from a link somewhere else, don’t we want them to be able to read the post they came there for first? And if they like that, they may then decide they want more. Pop-ups are less objectionable to me if they come up on the side or in a corner after several seconds, but I’d rather have offers to subscribe or sign up for free stuff at the end of a post, on a sidebar, across a top banner, etc., rather than a pop-up.

Question 3: How do you prefer for bloggers to respond to your comments?

  • I don’t expect a reply at all (18; 35.29%)
  • A response in the comments (28; 54.90%)
  • A personal email reply (2; 3.92%)
  • A visit to my blog (3; 5.88%)
  • Other (0)

This is something I have long wondered about, and I’m sorry that I have been hit-and-miss in replying. I try generally to visit the blog of everyone who comments and leave at least one comment there, but I have missed that sometimes. I’ll try to work on responding in the comments from now on as well as visiting you as well.

Question 4: How often does your ideal blogger post?

  • Every day (2; 4%)
  • 2-4 times a week (34; 68%)
  • Once a week (11; 22%)
  • Once or twice a month (3; 6%)

Someone emailed me re this question that content was more important than frequency, and I agree. What one writes is a bigger factor than how often. If a blogger writes really good stuff, I’ll read it however often they post. But my answer would have been #2. If every blogger I read posted every day, I’d only be able to read a handful of blogs. There are only a couple I follow that do post every day, and I admit I only scan some of their posts. I follow a couple of authors who post very infrequently, and that’s fine: I’d rather they spend their time on their next book. So it depends on the blog, the blogger, and the available time any given week, but it looks like a few posts a week is the clear preference here.

Question 5: How do you feel about “tweetables,” lines in a blog post designed for you to click on to post directly to Twitter?

  • I like them: they make it easy to support the blogger and share the love. (2; 3.92%)
  • I don’t care about them one way or the other. (35; 68.63%)
  • I hate them: they seem pretentious and clutter the blog. (14; 27.45%)

I admit, the first few times I saw these, I thought they were pretentious. But then I saw a commenter ask one blogger for them because it was an easy way to tweet the blog post. I know a number of bloggers now who support each other in that way, promoting each other’s blogs on social media. For monetized blogs or authors or speakers using their blogs as platforms, the more observable blog traffic, the better chance they’ll have with sponsors or publishers. The situation in publishing these days unfortunately requires an author to be somewhat self-promotional. So I understand them more now, but at this point I am not comfortable with using them myself. I have little buttons at the bottom of each post where one can share to social media if desired, and I think each one automatically puts the title of the post in when shared. Thank you to those of you who do that!

Question 6: Do you sign up for newsletters from blogs that offer them?

  • Yes. I like reading more from the bloggers I follow (2; 3.92%)
  • I have for a couple of bloggers, but not everyone. (24; 47.06%)
  • No. I have all I can do just to read blog posts. (25; 49.02%)

The few times I did sign up for a blogger’s newsletter, I unsubscribed after a while, because they were mostly an additional post and a list of their posts on the blog over the last month, which I had already seen. I get a few author newsletters to keep up with when they have something new coming out, but they either don’t have blogs or I don’t read them, so I guess for me it’s either/or but not both.

Question 7: If a blogger is writing a lot on one topic, do you prefer one long post or several shorter posts?

  • One long post so all the information is in one place. (9; 17.65%)
  • Several shorter posts in a series so I can take it in a little at a time. (22; 43.14%)
  • No preference (20; 39.22%)

So it looks like a series of shorter posts wins out. 🙂 I have mixed emotions: I have seen some blog series where I felt like I was being baited to keep coming back, and if I want to link back to the series for future reference or to share it with others, it’s nice to have just one link for that. But other times it is easier to take in a little at a time in shorter posts, and sometimes there’s just way too much information for one post.

Question 8: Do you listen to blogger podcasts?

  • Yes (1; 1.96%)
  • A few (14; 27.45%)
  • No (36; 70.59%)

Usually if I am listening to anything, it’s an audiobook or music. I’ve seen people mention a few podcasts that sound tempting, but so far I haven’t gotten into them. But I know some people love them.

Question 9: How do you prefer to follow the blogs you read?

  • Email (19; 37.25%)
  • Facebook (7, 13.73%)
  • Blog aggregator like Feedly or Bloglovin’ (9; 17.65%)
  • Other (16; 31.37%)

I should have put a comment box with “Other” to find out what other ways there are to follow blogs. Besides just remembering where it is and checking back with it periodically, the only other option I can think of is newsletters.

Question 10: What posts do you like most here at Stray Thoughts?

  • Personal and family info. (1; 2%)
  • Friday’s Fave Fives (16; 32%)
  • Devotions/Biblically based posts (4; 8%)
  • Book reviews (13; 26%)
  • Laudable linkage (5; 10%)
  • Rambling “stray thoughts” (4; 8%)
  • Other (7; 14%)

Some of you commented that you wished you had been able to choose more than one answer. I apologize: I wanted to configure it that way but I couldn’t figure out how. So in one sense these numbers aren’t totally accurate, because many of you commented that you liked several of the options. But I guess they reflect “If you had to choose one, which would you choose.” 🙂 One commented that they appreciated that there were different categories. That was gratifying to me, because I have wondered if I should narrow the blog down to one focus or niche, though I have always like the hodgepodge aspect of it.

Thank you so much for your sweet, kind comments on this last question! They touched my heart. When I started blogging, of course I hoped for readers – otherwise I would have just started a journal. And I appreciated readers all along, but you have come to mean so much to me. When you share that something I have written touched or ministered to you in some way, it encourages me that God can use me tucked away here at my desk.

One reader commented that though we’re different in many ways, we have much in common because of Christ. I have so enjoyed that bond we share together. Some of you have become dear friends; I’ve even met a couple in person! Some of you have enlarged my horizons, encouraged me, convicted me, and helped me grow. Thank you! I love and appreciate you!

And thank you for taking the time to respond to this poll. If you have any other comments, I’d love to hear them.

One quick little unsolicited plug for Survey Monkey: they allow for 10 questions and 100 responses on their free plan. They were easy to use, even though I didn’t understand quite everything. They have other features that can be unlocked with a paid plan. In my short search, I did not see any other free survey plan that allowed for more than one question. This was a learning experience for me: I’ve thought of ways I could have phrased questions better. I had more than 10 questions I wanted to ask and came up with a few more, so, who knows, maybe I’ll come up with a part 2 poll sometime.

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Poll: Your Blog Preferences

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I’ve had some questions concerning conventional blogging wisdom and current blogging fads. I’ve wondered whether real, everyday blog readers want to see the features we’re assured are must-haves. So I decided to ask!

I’ve created a blog preference poll here with Survey Monkey. This is my first time to create a poll like this, and I asked a friend to test it out. Everything seems ok, but let me know if you have any problems.

There are just ten questions. As I understand it, I won’t be able to see who responds. After a week or so (or longer, if answers are still coming in), I’ll come back and let you know the results.

If you have anything further you’d like to say about blog reading beyond what the survey covers, feel free to share in the comments.

Once again, the blog preference poll is here.

Thanks for participating!

(Update: the survey is now closed. I’ll be posting the results shortly.)

A look back at the blog for 2017

At the end of the year I like to look back over the blog posts of the year and reflect on what God has done in my life through the year.

Besides holidays, birthdays, and everyday blessings, some standout happenings this year were:

  • Meeting my blog friend Melanie in person when she moved from FL to TN this year, and meeting her for lunch pretty regularly since.
  • Spending a night in the ER with atrial fibrillation and having surgery for it in August, followed by a rougher than expected recovery. Things continue to be stable now – a few flutters here and there but nothing major.
  • Mittu having a (thankfully non-cancerous) growth removed.
  • The solar eclipse!

Some favorite pictures from the year:

My mother-in-law’s birthday:

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Timothy at a July 4 parade.

Timothy parade

Jason’s 30th Birthday:

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Easter:

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Timothy likes to help in the kitchen. 🙂

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Meeting Melanie for the first time!

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Every Friday I participate in Friday’s Fave Five, where we share five blessings from the week before, then usually a couple of Saturdays a month I share ” Laudable Linkage,” links to Internet reading that I’ve found particularly noteworthy in some way. I usually have a book review or two during the week, and I shared the books read this year and then my top twelve a few days ago. Occasionally I post various other “stray thoughts.” Usually about once a week, lately on Mondays, I share something God has been teaching me. I debated with myself about whether to just share some of my favorites from this last category or to list them all. I decided to do both. 🙂

My own favorite from this past year are:

Here are all of this kind of post. I started out sharing a quote or quick summation, but then it got very late into the evening. 🙂

January:

Loving As Jesus Loved.

Finding Beauty in Bleakness.

Protection For Wounded Spirits.

Manufactured Spirituality.

February:

Thoughts About Women’s Ministries.

15 Things You Might Not Know About Me.

“Negative” Book Reviews – bad idea or helpful sometimes?

March:

Sandpaper Christians – the kind who rub us the wrong way. What is God trying to do in our lives through them?

Don’t Make Your Spouse Feel Like an Outsider.

Trusting God in the Dark.

Faithful in Obscurity.

April:

12 Things You Should Know About Caring for the Elderly.

“That’s Just the Way I Am

May:

My Ebenezers.

Finishing Well.

The Bible and Slavery.

Problems, Blessings, and Dangers of Middle Age.

June:

The Highest Calling – does the Bible name one?

When the Message Isn’t For Me. Might God have a message for me in a passage or sermon which doesn’t seem to directly apply at first?

Why Study Doctrine?

July:

Tune My Heart to Sing Your Grace. Interesting look at what the Bible says is to be the subject of our songs.

Mentoring Is More Than Affirmation.

With All Our Minds. “God doesn’t want to touch just our hearts from His Word, He wants us to use our minds, to engage our brains.”

What Are You Seeking?

August:

The Holy Spirit’s Activities. Despite the controversies over what the Holy Spirit does in our day, the Bible is clear about plenty He does without controversy.

It’s Not For Nothing. When caregiving seems like it’s not accomplishing anything.

No Pat Answers. “We should acknowledge the hard places God sometimes brings our loved ones to without being flippant about it.”

September:

Nice, But Still a Rebel. “Is it possible to be thoroughly nice and still not right with God?”

Word Studies in the Bible. Problems, considerations, and tips for doing a word study.

Dealing With Disappointment and Discouragement.

Looking to Jesus’ Example in Discipling Our Children. “There are ways ways Jesus interacted with His disciples that I could apply to my interactions with my own children, who were also my disciples.”

October:

Living and Praying in the Light of God’s Name. “Have we ever prayed for forgiveness, as Daniel did, or help, as Asaph did in Psalm 79, for God’s sake, for the sake of His name, for His glory? I have to admit, most often my focus is on my own need and wanting it resolved as soon as possible.”

Keeping Balanced in an Unbalanced World. “Feeling unbalanced is disorienting, even scary sometimes, occasionally paralyzing. Balance is an essential part of walking. It’s hard to move forward if you’re constantly fearing a fall, but even aside from fear, without stability your mind and body can’t process moving forward.”

Reading the Bible Literally. “The better way to read the Bible is in an ordinary way like you would any other nonfiction, taking it as meaning what the words would ordinarily mean unless the context indicates it is figurative speech.”

A Stirred-up Woman. “The power of a stirred-up woman for evil or for good.”

When God Asks the Impossible. When God asks people to do exactly what they can’t do.

November:

The Strength of My Faith. “It’s not the strength, size, intensity, or maintenance of my faith that makes the difference. It’s the One I have faith in.”

Everyday Gifts. “Sometimes in longing for the “big” moments we can overlook the everyday evidence of God’s presence, love, and care.”

Watching Angels. “Who knows what little babies and elderly people actually see when they fixedly stare at some point like that.”

Keeping Minimalism in Balance.  “Like anything, it’s possible to become unbalanced one direction or another.”

December:

My Sin Is Not Someone Else’s Fault. “God has promised a way of escape in each temptation. Too often I am looking for a reason to give in rather than a way to get out of temptation.

Tips for “Managing” Christmas. “There’s more to do, a lot of it enjoyable in itself, but it adds to an already packed schedule and can leave us feeling frantic rather than enjoying the season, much less pondering the meaning of it.”

For God’s Glory. “God doesn’t seek glory because He ‘needs’ it. He seeks it because we need it.”

I like to see which posts seemed to impact the most people, and according to my WordPress stats, my most viewed post of the year is the same one it has been the last few years, one from back in 2011, Coping When Husband Is Away. Most of my most-viewed posts are older ones. The one viewed most from this year is my review of The Magnolia Story by “Fixer-Upper” stars Chip and Joanna Gaines with Mark Dagostino, but that’s way, way down the list. the next most-viewed of this years posts is Thoughts About Women’s Ministries and after that is Problems, Blessings, and Dangers of Middle Age.

If you’re still reading this post, give yourself a pat on the back from me. 🙂 Thank you for sticking with me, for reading, and for commenting and encouraging me.Though I feel like I “have” to write, and I think things through best by writing them out, knowing that God uses some of that for good in other people’s lives is a great joy to me. Hopefully we’ll continue to learn together in 2018.

Favorite Posts of 2016

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Another end-of-year activity I like to do is look back through old blog posts. Not so much the “just chatting,” book reviews, memes, laudable linkage, or even the Friday Fave Fives posts (though the FFF posts are by their very nature favorites!) But the ones where I wrestled through an issue or shared something God was teaching me.

January:

4 Reasons to Face the New Year Without Fear.

I’m an Older Woman…So Now What?

February:

Our Church Ladies Booklet.

March:

To the Shy.

April:

The Value of Housework.

May:

Fleeting Pleasures, Eternal Joys.

My Father, My King.

Uncontrolled Reactions.

Christians With Political Differences.

June:

Receiving Criticism.

Summer.

Bible Verses For Caregivers.

July:

Nursing Wounds.

But That’s Not My Spiritual Gift!

August:

Bookcases (Nothing profound here – I just enjoyed sharing them. 🙂 )

Communicating With God as a Person.

September:

Across the Will of Nature.

Going to a Church With Problems.

Those Perfect Friends.

Principles For Interpreting the Bible.

October:

Thankful For God’s Protection.

The Introvert in Assisted Living.

A God We Don’t Understand.

November:

Ornaments For Timothy. Again, not a deep one, but a pleasant memory.

Thoughts on the Election.

“Edgy” Christian Fiction.

December:

When God Wants Me To Do Something I Don’t Want To Do.

Interestingly (at least to me), according to my WordPress stats, the top ten posts they say got the most views do not contain any posts from this year. At first that makes me wonder if my day-to-day readership has dropped off. 🙂 But I think it means that some of these show up in search engines, so are viewed a lot that way. Those top ten are:

  1. Coping when husband is away.
  2. Christmas devotional reading.
  3. What does it mean to magnify the Lord?
  4. Through Gates of Splendor.
  5. Thanksgiving reading.
  6. A Passion for Thee.
  7. C. S. Lewis on love.
  8. Transverse Myelitis.
  9. Paul Harvey on fathers.
  10. When God Is Near.

I don’t know a way to look at the stats for just this year’s posts, but it looks like the one with the most views is I’m an Older Woman…So Now What?

I don’t know if this is of any interest to anyone but myself, but I like to reminiscence on the year plus see what other readers found most helpful.

I’ve enjoyed this blogging year and am looking forward to the next. Thanks so much to YOU for reading and commenting! It’s a major encouragement, and I have been so blessed by the blogging friendships we’ve made along the way.

10th Blogging Anniversary!

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Ten years ago today I published my very first post to begin this blog!

Wow, a lot has changed in 10 years.

If I am calculating correctly, my youngest was in junior high, my middle son had just completed his freshman year in college, and my oldest had just graduated. Now they are all young men, out of school, and working (well, except one got laid off recently but hopefully will find a new job soon).

We’ve added a sweet, beautiful daughter-in-law and the world’s cutest and smartest grandson to the family. After a rough start in the NICU due to arriving 10 1/2 weeks earlier than his due date, he’s doing just great.

We moved my mother-in-law from ID to SC to live near us in assisted living, and just three years ago moved her into our home.

We moved from SC to eastern TN.

My husband and I have enjoyed another decade of marriage and our hair is a little greyer than it used to be. We’ve helped each other through his kidney cancer surgery and detached retina and my heart rhythm problems.

But a lot has remained the same. I wonder sometimes if I should change my blog, with all the talk of “branding,” platforms, and niche in the last few years. But I have always felt comfortable with this hodgepodge of “stray thoughts,” just sharing personal life, amusing or interesting observations, and what God has been teaching me along the way.

Earlier in the year I anticipated this anniversary coming up and thought about doing some kind of big giveaway or planning some kind of hoopla. I forgot about it and just now remembered that today was the day.

So I’ll just quietly observe it without a virtual party. But as an anniversary gift to me, I’d love for you to say hello in the comments! Tell me something about yourself or how you came here.

Thank you for reading. You make this a lot more fun than if I was just talking to myself. 🙂 I treasure the friendships I’ve made along the way.

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My favorite posts of the year

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Around this time of year, I like to skim back through the year’s old posts to find the ones I especially want to remember. I love the book reviews, weekly recounting of blessings in the Friday Fave Fives, the occasional meme or “stray thoughts” post, but I especially like to look over the posts where I thought through an issue by writing.

Before I did that, though, I received an e-mail from WordPress with some of my “year in review” stats. According to those stats, my most often read post is once again Coping When Husband Is Away from 2011. I had no idea when I wrote that it would hit such a nerve, and while I can’t say I liked the circumstances discussed there, I am glad God is using it to help other women in the same boat.

An odd thing, though, is that none of the top ten viewed posts according to my stats were posts from this year. In fact, the top two written this year, my review of Out of a Far Country by Christopher and Angela Yuan and Elisabeth Elliot In Heaven were way, way down the list of top viewed posts for the year. I don’t know what to make of that. 🙂

Anyway – on to this year’s posts:

January:

Are We Responsible For God’s Reputation?

February:

The Quiet Person in the Small Group.

Finding Time to Read.

How Not to Become An Old Biddy.

March:

“Special” Music in the Church.

Why Listen to Audiobooks?

Is It Nice to Call Someone a False Prophet or a False Teacher?

April:

Praying for the Lost Scripturally.

A very special birthday.

Camouflaging Dirt.

When the Message Isn’t For Me.

May:

Finding Time to Read the Bible.

Spots and Wrinkles.

Dealing With Caregiver Resentment and A Few More Thoughts on Caregiver Resentment.

June:

Is it more important to be nice or to be right?

Elisabeth Elliot In Heaven.

Not a long life, but a full one.

July:

Upcoming surgery is not a favorite because of the surgery or the post, but because of your sweet comments after I bared my heart over several concerns.

Exceeding Abundantly, But Unseen.

It’s ok to say it hurts.

Fallow Hearts.

August: None. Must not have done any deep thinking that month. 🙂 Actually, I was recovering from a procedure at the beginning of the month, then my son was in town for a week later in the month, so I was otherwise occupied.

September:

Middle Child and Other Syndromes.

October was mostly 31 Days With Elisabeth Elliot.

November:

Help For Changing Thought Patterns.

From Depletion to Abundance.

Am I Doing Any Good?

December: Another busy month.

So that’s it for this year! It’s so hard to believe 2015 is about to come to an end. Thank you for reading and for making the blogging experience so enjoyable!

 

Do you see ads here?

I know WordPress places ads on its free blogs, but I don’t see them myself. So I wanted to ask my readers: how often do you see them here and what kinds are they?

If you ever see anything offensive on them, would you please let me know? If you could take a screen shot and e-mail it to me (click on the link in my sidebar) that would be helpful so I would know specifically how to address it with the powers that be.

Thanks so much!

My favorite posts of the year

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There is something about the end of the year that invites reflection. One aspect of that for me is that I like to look back through my posts of the previous year and remind myself what I have been thinking about. I don’t necessarily look back through book reviews (other than listing the books I’ve read this year and then my top ten favorite books of the year) or Friday Fave Fives (though the top ones of those would probably be when Timothy was born and then when he came home from the NICU 10 1/2 weeks later) or Laudable Linkage or anything like that. Rather, I like to look back over the posts when I’ve been thinking through an issue or wrote about something that affected me or something I felt God was teaching me. So from those posts, here are some of my favorites (favorites not in the sense that I necessarily enjoyed them the most, but they are the ones that impacted me the most):

January:

Christian Fans. “How sad that people will defend at all costs a media personage, even a Christian one, who will never know them or care about them, at the expense of a relationship with someone they know and are supposed to love in their very own church and community.”

February:

Be Still? Or Fight? “Sometimes God will supernaturally win the battle for me while I only watch, but sometimes He gives me victory by handing me a sword.”

The Spiritual Value of a Secular Job.

The Value of Homemakers.

March:

Can We Let God Down?

Strong Women.

YA Censorship. A question about censorship in YA lit led to a further discussion about objectionable elements in any literature.

April:

Trusting God in the Dark.

Helping Parents As They Age, part of the Adventures in Elder Care series.

May:

None. I was spending a lot of time at the NICU that month. 🙂

June:

Eternal Glories Gleam, written after our pastor’s announcement of his terminal cancer diagnosis.

July:

But If Not….Another that grew out of my pastor’s illness: thoughts on the reality that God does not always answer prayer the way we’d like.

When People Say the Wrong Thing.

A Plea to Caregivers, another in the Adventures in Elder Care series.

August:

It was a busy month, so there is nothing in the way of “deep thoughts” except for some book reviews, but I did finally get all of my favorite cookie recipes into one post. 🙂

September:

Absent From the Body, Present With the Lord, on my pastor’s death.

My Ebenezers.

Irritating vs. Irritate-able. My biggest problem is not what irritates me, but my ability to be irritated.

October:

31 Days of Inspirational Biography. This was a series of posts through the whole month: this post contains a list with a link to each one. It did me good to look back over the lives of saints who have gone before and to learn from them.

Why Read Biographies?

November:

No Mere Mortals.

Why Read Fiction and Christian Fiction? I discussed why read at all, then why read fiction, then why read Christian fiction. This was a post that had been in the back of my mind off and on for years, so I was glad to finally get it written down. And, it’s funny, after thinking this would be my magnum opus, I don’t think it made a splash in the blog world much at all. 🙂

A revival of what?

December:

Grieving at Christmas is one I have reposted a number of times under different titles. Each year, sadly, I seem to know someone grieving the passing of a loved one this time of year.

Looking at my WordPress stats for the year, none of the current year’s posts is near the top of the number of viewed posts. The highest of them is 31 Days of Inspirational Biography at #15. The post viewed most this year (almost four times as many views as any other post) is Coping When a Husband Is Away from 2011. I’m amazed but thankful that God is using it to help women dealing with that issue.

Only a few days left of this year! Except for the monthly What’s On Your Nightstand post tomorrow and a book review or two to finish out this year, I am ready to look ahead to 2015.

Carrie at Reading to Know is celebrating her 8th blogging anniversary with a giveaway of a $50 Amazon card, but to qualify she asks readers to post a photo of themselves with a favorite book.

The hardest part for me was choosing just one book. Of course the Bible would be the all time #1 favorite, and I don’t want to just take that for granted. In a recent book meme I had a hard time choosing just one book in any category. But Evidence Not Seen (linked to my review), about a missionary wife who was taken captive and confined to a Japanese prison camp during WWII, would definitely be up there in the very top echelons of my favorites.

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My 8th Blogiversary!

Photo Courtesy of marthastewart.com

Photo Courtesy of marthastewart.com

It’s hard to believe I have been blogging for 8 years!

Our family has experienced a lot of life changes in that time: high school and college graduations, a wedding, a grandson, a mother-in-law moving in from out of state and then into our home, surgeries, a move to a different state, crossing from the forties into the fifties. More grey hair, more wrinkles, hopefully a little more wisdom and experience.

When I first stepped into the blogosphere eight years ago yesterday, the blogging community for the most part felt more like neighbors chatting across the backyard fence than a business, and I’ve endeavored to share my “stray thoughts” about family, home, Christianity, and just about anything else I find interesting or amusing with other online neighbors. I’ve always wished I had come up with a more creative name, but it still aptly describes the content. I’ve been amazed and so grateful that anyone has stopped by at all to read, and that some of you have stayed for years amazes me even more. Occasionally I’ll read blogging advice articles and wonder if I should think more about my “niche” and “platform,” but then I think…nah. If I ever need to have a professional blog for any reason, I’ll probably start a new one: I hope to keep this one as a personal and  hodgepodgy place to fellowship.

I’m so thankful for any way in which God has redeemed and used anything here.

Thank YOU so much for reading and commenting! Thank you for your patience with my foibles, your words of encouragement, your prayers through our various family crises. Without you this wouldn’t be much more than an online journal. You make it both more fun and more of a blessing.

In appreciation, I am going to host a little giveaway of one of a couple of different gifts to two different winners. I traditionally like to give away something that I have enjoyed, so I am going to offer a copy of the book Women of the Word by Jen Wilkins (linked to my review)

WOTW

 

…and a copy of the Galkin Evangelistic Team‘s CD Be Still. It is actually a set of two CDs. One has very peaceful and soothing instrumental settings of various hymns and spiritual songs, and the other has Scripture readings with the same music as background. You can hear clips of the songs on the CD  at the Galkin’s site here or on iTunes or Amazon.

Be Still

For many months this has been my go-to CD while puttering in the kitchen, especially on Sunday mornings, and it has greatly ministered to me.

If you’d like to be entered for either of these gifts, just leave a comment below. Let me know if you have a preference for one or the other and whether you’d like the electronic or physical versions (you would need a Kindle app for your computer, phone, or tablet for the electronic version of the book, but the apps are free). I can only send the physical versions to US addresses (and possibly Canada – will have to check on shipping prices there), but the electronic versions can of course be sent anywhere. And this isn’t required, but just for fun in your comment let me know how you first came across “Stray Thoughts” and how long you’ve been reading here. I’ll draw a name using random.org a week from today (August 4).

Thank you, once again, for a very enjoyable eight years.

The giveaway is now closed. Congratulations to Ivory Spring for winning the book and Amy for winning the CDs! And thank all of you for your kind and lovely comments.