I could not be more excited to tell you about the launch of my brand new website. I hope you will spend a minute (or ten, or far more) checking it out. It’s designed (masterfully designed, IMHO, by Brian McCabe of Freshly Roasted Web working in conjunction with my good friend and project manager extraordinaire Elizabeth Bloodworth) to be a place where you can explore the different facets of my writing, teaching, and speaking all under the banner of “embracing our common humanity.”
For those of you who enjoy peeking behind the scenes and seeing how things come into being, I wanted to give a picture of the process we went through to land here.
I started keeping a blog back in 2006, in the months after our daughter Penny was born. A friend set that site up for me as a way for me to every-so-often update family and friends who wanted to check in and see how our new baby (our new baby who had been unexpectedly diagnosed with Down syndrome) was doing. I wrote there about once a month.
Eventually, once a month turned into once a week, twice a week, and soon enough I was writing thoughts about faith, family, and disability on a regular basis. That blog, Thin Places, moved to Beliefnet, and then to Patheos, and then to Christianity Today. Meanwhile, I published my book Penelope Ayers, wrote A Good and Perfect Gift, gave birth to two more children, finished seminary, wrote Small Talk and White Picket Fences (and a number of ebooks and articles) and moved multiple times.
(They say we all overestimate what we can accomplish in one year and underestimate what we can accomplish in ten. This portrait of the past ten years of my life demonstrates the truth of this saying because each one of those years felt like I poked my way forward through diapers and snow days and my own distractions and how on earth did that all happen!?!)
Along the way, the blogging got overwhelming. I said goodbye to CT and went back to my own website, my own small social media presence, and my own thoughts. I dreamed about all sorts of things–a podcast, a video curriculum, a documentary film, all the posts and articles and books I still want to write. And then I hired my friend Elizabeth to help me evaluate it all. She said something along the lines of, “Before we do anything new, we need to figure out how to let people know what is already here.”
At that point, my website was like a storage trailer that was holding everything worth keeping while a house undergoes renovation. Instead of inviting you to visit with me in the living room, we were peering into a dark box and saying, “Hmm. That sofa looks comfortable and that table is really cool, but since they are piled on top of each other and wedged in between the armchairs, I guess we aren’t going to get any time together right now.” My website wasn’t a box in the attic that might never get opened again. It was all the good stuff, but disorganized and mashed together, just waiting for the moment when it got to come out and be useful again.
So we began with a process of discerning who I am as an author and who you are as an audience. I still have an 8-page document of different words we used to describe the topics I do and don’t cover, the words that capture my writing and speaking, the themes I return to again and again. We listed things like disability, brokenness, limitations, privilege, Down syndrome, parenting, family, faith. Words like thoughtful, honest, spiritual. And after hours and hours (over months and months), we landed on the phrase “embracing our common humanity.” I’m going to write more in a blog post (soon) to explain what I mean by that phrase, but in short it is what I hope my writing equips us all to do–to discover the points of connection among us as human beings so that we can live in love and celebrate our diverse backgrounds, needs, and gifts.
We also worked on fonts and colors. We hired two photographers to take pictures (shout out to Chris Cappoziello and Phil Dutton for fun and beautiful work). We wrote a new About page, new book descriptions, new descriptions of how and why I speak and teach. We uncovered old interviews, reviews, podcasts, and articles.
Along the way, I remembered that I had written a cover story for Christianity Today once, and that our family had been in TIME magazine a long time ago. I mentioned ebooks I had created with some of my favorite writings gathered together. I talked about how “love is stronger than fear” has become my motto. The process taught me a lot about who I am and what I hope to be able to do through these years and years of writing and speaking and teaching.
Once we had all the pieces and parts, we hired Brian McCabe to pull it all together into this site, which I love for both its simplicity and its intricacy. Hopefully you will find it really easy to navigate and also surprising in what you discover as you explore.
Thank you for coming over. I hope you’ll enjoy the conversation, and I hope you’ll stay a while.