September 25 will mark 9 years since this blog began. I guess it is more accurate to say that it will mark 9 years since the site began–the blog took a few months to come to life. It was 9 years ago that I decided to begin a web site that would display pictures of my children–that’s what challies.com was meant to be. My parents and siblings had recently moved to the United States and, as a proud father, I wanted to show off the kids. It was not too long after that I decided to write a couple of articles to share with my folks. The search engines worked their magic, other people began to read the articles, and I learned that I really enjoyed writing. And that is how the blog began.
That was a long time ago. As another summer is approaching I can’t help but feel that this site is at something of a defining moment. Life has changed a lot since 2002. Back then I had been married for 4 years, I had just 1 child and I was working an entry-level technical support job for a local billing company. Today I am coming up on my 13th anniversary, I am a father of 3, and I am a pastor. The site has grown from 1 or 2 articles to thousands and it has grown from having 1 daily visitor (me) to having tens of thousands. The design has changed 5 or 6 times and the software behind it just about as often. The ascendency of Twitter and Facebook and RSS have meant that as many people now digest the site’s content off-site as they do on-site; more, probably. This has all happened while I’ve been going about life. Yet the site really is part of my life; it has been a formative influence not just on my mind and character, but on my direction and vocation. I owe my career as an author to the blog; it was through the blog that I came into contact with Grace Fellowship Church where I now pastor; I could go on.
The content and format has changed quite a bit too. I used to blog once every few weeks or every few days. In November of 2003 I decided I would force myself to write every day for a year and if I failed, I’d give up blogging altogether. I’ve blogged every day since. I used to post just one time a day, but then I added A La Carte and told myself that I would not count it as that day’s blog post. More recently I’ve sought to emphasize some of the great resources available to us, which means I am often posting 3 times each weekday. Somehow I am not running out of things to say or resources to draw attention to.
Almost 9 years in, I find that I still love the blogging. Almost every day it is a joy to sit down and think and write. This site has always been a place for me to work out issues that have been troubling me or interesting me; I hardly know what I think about anything until I write about it. Every day I look forward to interacting with you, the readers, whether through comments or email or social media.
The blog is something that brings me pleasure, but it also carries a certain weight of responsibility. I see it as something that God has called me to steward. Ultimately it is not my blog to do with whatever I want. There have been times when I have felt like the medium almost demands that I write about certain things–even things I would not otherwise comment on. There are times when I need to make difficult decisions about what I will or will not support or discuss or promote. I have turned down many offers to sell the blog or to move it or to otherwise hand over some measure of control over it. I have made surprisingly difficult decisions about whether to place ads on the site (Will that feel like selling out? How many ads are too many?) and about how much money to put into maintenance and upkeep (as the site’s readership has increased, so too have the costs associated with it–hence the advertising).
Through it all I have sought to ensure that my voice remains. If I cannot speak frankly and candidly, then the site has lost a lot of its usefulness. The primary reason I have turned down all invitations to move the blog is that I would never want an association to diminish my ability to write about the things that are on my mind. That’s not to say that I want to be that kind of a blogger–the kind that sees the blog as a platform to evaluate and analyze everyone and everything. But I do want to have freedom to talk about the things that are important and the things that our on my mind (and yours).
So why do I feel like this site has come to a defining moment? I suppose it must be because my life has changed. Just in the past 12 months I have gone from owning a fast-growing web design company to being an associate pastor at a local church; I have gone from being self-employed to being called to serve by the people I love. I’ve been thrilled to do so. But I have had to ask whether I can be a successful pastor and carry on the blog in its current form. Can I do one without doing it at the expense of another? Will either of them or both of them come at the expense of my family? These are tough questions and ones I have really sought to think through.
At the end of it all I intend to carry on. For the past 9 years this site has been my constant and steady companion. It’s been here through joyous times and tough times; it’s been the means by which I’ve thought through any number of situations; it’s charted so much of my life. And I expect it will continue to do so.
While life has changed over the past few years, I’ve worked hard to simplify it, to emphasize a few things and to let go of many things. That process continues so that today my attention is divided in only a few directions. This site is one of those things I want to continue to give some of my best attention to. I’ll consider it a great honor if the Lord grants it (and me) another 9 years.