Hey friends! This is a choose-your-own-adventure post!
1. If you’d like to read the unexpected story of how TrueLoveDates.com went from 0 to 1 million hits, start from the beginning and read on to the end!
2. If you’d like 3 Tips to Growing Your Blog/Ministry, head to the middle of the post!
3. If you’d like to receive the FREE 1-Million Hits Celebration Gift, head straight to the last paragraph.
Either way, thank you….be blessed! — Debra
On September 18th, 2008 my writing career began.
Well, sort of.
It was my 25th birthday, and my sweet new husband surprised me with a birthday party he’d planned for me with our closest friends. It was an awesome evening of celebrating, reflecting, and eating cheesecake (the cheesecake is enough to make any party worth it!). After our friends went home, we fell into the comfy cushions of our sofa, and he got out a box with my next birthday surprise. A little pink HP laptop. He’d known about my hidden talent of writing, and that it was my dream to write a book, and so right there and then he encouraged me to start a blog.
Excited to have a reason to write, I took on the challenge. But what would I write about?
Having recently started working as a Professional Counselor in a private practice setting, I was seeing clients all day long and so I wasn’t really interested in writing about anything “counseling-related”. So, I started a blog about the lessons God was teaching me throughout the day. I called it “Lessons Learned While Listening”. It was a compilation of devotions, you might call them, that focused on God’s word as it applied to my daily life. I wanted to be faithful to God in my writing, and I didn’t just want to write about me- I wanted to write about Him.
God grew that little blog, and soon I found that I had built myself a little following of friends and family. Within a few months I’d accumulated close to 300 subscribers, and by the end of the year I had managed to somehow get about 700 subscribers. It was fun to see God use the written word to teach me lessons and change my heart- but it was even more exciting to see how he was using this little blog to encourage others. People I had never even met.
At that time, I set aside every Friday, my day off from seeing clients, to write. Even with no platform, a tiny audience, and no book deal in sight, I felt that God had given me a talent and that it was my job to be faithful with it, even as insignificant as it seemed at the time. It’s amazing what God does when we are faithful with the little He gives us. But more than anything, that time of writing taught me to be dedicated, and disciplined…and it taught me to trust God with my talents.
More and more people began taking note of my writing, and encouraging me to pursue publication. So I did. One thing led to another and I got published in local magazines, small Christian magazines, and eventually larger platforms like Relevant Magazine, Christianity Today, Crosswalk…etc. And through the process of writing, God began to change my heart, and mold my words into the things He wanted me to say.
In 2010, I took a 6-month break from writing and from counseling to focus on the birth of our first baby (trust me…there are times to thrive, and there are times to survive. Having a new baby = SURVIVE!). During that time of taking care of her, God was fueling a fire in my heart for ministry. I missed counseling, and couldn’t wait to have the chance to get back to work part-time and see patients again. But in the meantime, what could I do?
In 2010, my writing focus drastically shifted, and I found myself passionate about writing on love, marriage, dating and relationships. It had been a specialty and focus of mine at work as a Professional Counselor, but now that I had stepped back and had a break from it, it’s all I wanted to write about!! And so I did.
In 2011, I committed myself to writing like never before, and one thing led to another: more and more articles, a book proposal, a literary agent, my first book deal with Zondervan (in 2012), and eventually, the start a brand new blog: www.TrueLoveDates.com was born (2013). My hopes for it was that it would be a place where I could share my heart and offer resources for people who were wanted a better way to do love and relationships. I had no idea that within a little over a year, this blog would grow from 1 hit to over ONE MILLION hits, reaching hundreds of thousands of people every month with the message that there is a better way to do love and relationships.
People ask me all the time how I grew my blog, and how I’ve had the time to write so many articles and posts. The truth is, I did my best to be faithful with the little God gave me, and He did the rest. He grew what I couldn’t. He opened doors that I wasn’t able to open on my own. His plans were bigger than mine, and I’m thankful that I trusted His story, because it’s a whole lot more fulfilling than I would have written for myself.
To everyone out there who believes that God’s given them a message to share through the written or spoken word, here’s my sincere and heart-felt challenge to you:
1. Find Your Voice: I think the hardest part about starting to write is figuring out what to say. But like I say in True Love Dates, you can’t really know what you want (in this case- what you want to say) until you know who you are. Finding your voice is the powerful first step, because there is no one out there like you.
Oftentimes, we try so hard to mimic someone else. We take a little from this person’s voice, and mix it with a little of that person’s voice- hoping to somehow get our own voice in the process. But I challenge you to really look in and see what message God has given you to share. It’s there. You are not Don Miller, Ann Voscamp, or C.S. Lewis- you are you, and the message God has given you is just as important because it comes from the same fountain: His Holy Spirit. Be in tune to the voice God has given you, and then be obedient in sharing His truths.
2. Be Faithful with the Little: Maybe you don’t have many people listening yet. But that’s okay, because being faithful is not about sharing with the masses, it’s about sharing with whoever God has placed before you. There is a huge difference between pursuing faithfulness, and pursuing FAME. Those who pursue the latter may or may not find their way, but those who pursue being faithful will never be disappointed in the end- because they will always be moving in the right direction.
Be disciplined with the talents God has given you and practice them as often as you can. I used to write once a week, but now that my platform has grown, I find that I am having to write almost every single day. As God has given me more, I’ve been faithful with more, and it’s come with more work, and more blessings. But it started with simply saying yes to the little bit that I had…and trusting God with it from there.
3. Trust God to Build What You Can’t: If I’m honest, in my early days as a blogger I spent some time researching how to grow my blog. I would google things like “10 steps to grow your blog” and try to understand the complexities of SEO and all that techy stuff that sounds like a different language to me. But honestly, what it came down to was doing my part- and then trusting God to do what I couldn’t. There are a lot of great thinkers out there, and yes, it’s great to learn how to manage your ministry- but more importantly, you need to learn to manage your heart, your dreams, and your goals…and keep them aligned with the God who holds all things together. Don’t try to get ahead of Him, and He will show you things you could have not done on your own.
My favorite verse, one that I go back to time and time again in my writing is this:
Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
We are called to sow, and we are called to water, and we are asked to do our part…but we’ve got to remember that the only thing that can make ANYTHING grow: our ministry, our talents, and our reach….is our great God. Be faithful with the little He’s given you, and then trust His timing, His will, and His plan to get you where He wants you to go.
So, with that said, a huge thank you to Jesus for this ministry that He’s placed in my lap. As a stay-at-home mom, making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, changing diapers, and loving on my kids is always my top priority, my greatest ministry, my highest calling, and my most important influence. But second to my family, I am thankful for YOU.
I am thankful for every one of you who reads, shares, and reaches out to me with your stories of change, hope, and healing. I am humbled to see what God is doing in your lives, and I know more than ever that He is a good God…and that He cares for me, for you, and for all of us.
*FREEBIE TIME!* As a huge thank you to everyone who reads along, and in celebration of 1 million hits, I’m giving away a small token of appreciation. The True Love Dates Small Group Curriculum is available for FREE for anyone who’d like to go a little deeper with God and get to know His design for love, dating, and relationships! Just click the link to receive it and find loads more information about it! May God bless you and the message He’s given to each of you!!
My Love to You,
Debra Fileta is a Professional Counselor, speaker, and author of the book True Love Dates: Your Indispensable Guide to Finding the Love of Your Life, where she writes candidly about dating, relationships, and how to find true love. She’s also the creator of this True Love Dates Blog! Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter!