Ten Years Later: Thank You. (Let’s Celebrate!)

I’ve done all the things (including updating my budget spreadsheet and organizing my photo library) in an attempt to put off writing this post.

It feels like a big deal, and honestly I don’t know if I have the right words.

Let me begin with these two: thank you.

Ten Years Later: Thank You. (Let's Celebrate!)

Thank you for showing up here, for reading my rambling words and in-process thoughts. Thank you for inviting me into your inbox, for subscribing as a way of saying “I don’t want to miss a single thing.” Thank you for sharing your thoughts in the comments and taking the time to reply to my blog post emails (I read every single comment/email, and reply as often as I’m able). Thank you for joining me on social media, for following along and chiming in, for sharing my posts with your online friends. Thank you for sending me pictures of the prints and lock screens I create, on display in your office cubicle, on your phone, in your house. Thank you for ordering copies of Even If Not, for celebrating when it released, for leaving reviews on Amazon, and for talking about the book with your online/real life friends. My gosh, I am forever grateful.

Thank you for being my people.

Thank you for ten years.

My very first blog post was published on August 23, 2009. Which means this week I’m not only celebrating four years since I stopped giving God all the excuses and began writing Even If Not . . . I’m also celebrating ten years of blogging.

(Please, I beg of you, never go back and read the old posts. They’re . . .  well, they’re really something. But I can’t bring myself to delete them because the story has to start somewhere, right?)

Ten Years Later: Thank You. (Let's Celebrate!)

I am all about traditions and dates, so it should come as no surprise that I’ve spent all week doing two things: planning giveaways to celebrate, and reflecting on the past ten years and my journey with writing.

For the first five years, this was a secret. I could count on one hand the number of real-life people who knew about my blog. Back in 2009, I read a handful of blogs every single day. It began with a single story — the story of Audrey Caroline — and quickly became a daily “check in” on my favorite blogger’s websites. They inspired me, challenged me, encouraged me, often made me laugh and occasionally brought me to tears. And then one day, at nearly seventeen, I wrote these words as part of my very first blog post:

“I don’t know that I have much to say about well, many things. But I love to write and want so badly to make an impact on this world for Jesus. He’s given me things to say and I’m trying to believe they’re important enough to share. Raise your hand if you ever feel like you have something to say but either no one will listen or they’ll all think what you said isn’t important.

 

(My hand is raised.)

 

That’s sort of where I am right now. And I’ve decided that I will speak up and say what He calls me to say. Whether anyone reads it or not.”

I could say the rest is history, but there’s obviously so much more to the story. A few years later, I stopped writing under an obviously fake name (because when you’re 16 and writing on the Internet in 2009, you worry about stalkers). I bought my own domain name and designed this site. And then not too long after, during my Junior year of college, my professor asked us each one question that changed my life.

In the middle of your mess God is writing your message. - Kaitlyn Bouchillon, Even If Not

What is your ministry?

In other words, where has God placed you and in what ways has He uniquely designed you?

I wish this story went differently, that I could truthfully tell you that I had an inspiring answer.

But I didn’t.

I hemmed and hawed and if memory serves, I said I wasn’t really sure but was looking forward to discovering that answer. But then one of my best friends, sitting directly to my right, piped up and loudly announced to the class “She has a blog!!!”

Good grief, I whipped my head around so fast and I can feel my eyes widening and blood rushing to my face even now. She was one of the trusted few, one who read my words but knew not to go around telling the world.

Thomas Merton prayer... absolutely beautiful.

In that moment, I felt exposed — naked in front of the class. There was no going back after that, and I wasn’t the one to have made that very personal decision.

But good came from it, and I still have the term papers on my computer to prove it. If I sent them to you today, you’d see a college Junior wrestling out what ministry truly means all while coming to the realization that writing isn’t “just that thing she does” but a gift that God gave on purpose — for a purpose.

It became what it was always intended to be: a ministry.

It became what I wanted it to be even from my first blog post, but I finally claimed it as such.

A whole lot of life has happened over the past ten years . . . more than I could truly write out in one post, though there are glimpses in the hundreds of posts since that August 23rd day. I could link two dozen below, but this isn’t about sending you on a treasure hunt or pointing you to words you may have missed. For me, today is about remembering all He has done and thanking you for walking with me along the way — through highs and lows and so very many ordinary days.

path through trees

Over the past ten years . . .

You’ve walked with me through a brain tumor diagnosis and surgery — and then three more surgeries.

Many of you saw me graduate high school and then, four years later, college.

I moved away from home and learned to see Birmingham as home, eventually moving two more times but still remaining in The Magic City.

I went to Israel twice. I heard “it’s cancer” twice.

He is working in our waiting...

My car was deemed a total loss. A stranger made fun of me for having to buy my own Valentine’s Day flowers (y’all showed up in droves over that and I will never forget it).

I wrote a book that has been read by more people all around the world than I could have hoped. I’ve been published in a magazine, contributed to several books, and a few of my devotionals are published in the (in)courage Bible. (The. Bible. What in the actual world.)

I spent several weeks in Haiti and praise God, will never be the same. I permanently marked my foot with a short Hebrew phrase, a tattoo that daily reminds me of this truth: Light always wins.

You encouraged me when I once again didn’t have an answer for an important question, this time the popular “What are you doing after graduation?” I’ve wrestled with doubt, spiritual warfare, and night terrors. I discovered the Enneagram. I began to see that our right now, our absolutely ordinary and mundane days, are breathtakingly beautiful.

And you don’t know it, because I’ve held a few stories close to my heart, chapters that just don’t need to be pixelated — but through your kindness and your continued showing up, you’ve walked with me through emotional abuse and two absolutely brutal friendship break-ups.

Even If Not: Living, Loving, and Learning in the in Between by Kaitlyn Bouchillon

The posts that have made me the most nervous to publish are the very same ones that you’ve left dozens of comments on, emailed me personally to invite me into your own stories, shared hundreds of times with your friends. Literally — every single time I’ve feel like my heart is bare and I’m standing exposed all over again, you carry my words gently and remind me once again that this right here is ministry and God is present with us, giving the words and relaying the words and working in our midst.

Life doesn’t look like I thought it would, how I always dreamed it would, at this age and this stage. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t so very good.

Six and a half years in, I wrote these words — and all too often, they still ring true:

Most of the time I flip-flop about my place online. I see mommy bloggers and bestselling authors and wise leaders and truthfully – even with a book releasing next week – it often feels like I don’t belong in this space. I can’t write about my kids or my husband or my corporate job. I can’t Instagram a cute picture of my children all dressed up or my house a mess as I redecorate. I am not in those seasons and I cannot write to them.

 

I often feel out of place online, and that’s the honest truth of it. Like somehow I’m here too early, making an appearance before the husband or the kids.

 

But here I am and if you’ve read this far, then here you are, too. We’re here, together, even if our lives look drastically different. I kept wishing someone would write to where I’m at, would speak the honest truth in love, would encourage me that even when it’s hard and we’re in between one thing and another, God is still there. But then He tapped my shoulder and said, “Love, you write to it.”

Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God.

I’m here. And you’re here. And God is with us both.

So let’s keep going, keep showing up, keep telling the Story.

I will. For as long as He gives the words and continues to say “This is the way, walk in it,” I will.

Thank you for joining me here. You are Ephesians 3:20 to me.

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Now to Him who is able to [carry out His purpose and] do superabundantly more than all that we dare ask or think [infinitely beyond our greatest prayers, hopes, or dreams], according to His power that is at work within us, to Him be the glory… Ephesians 3:20-21, AMP

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free print from KaitlynBouchillon.com - Zechariah 4:10

To celebrate ten years, I’m hosting giveaways over on Instagram — all week long! Starting on Monday, you’ll see a daily giveaway post on my feed. A lot of time and care went into making sure each prize not only generously gives back, but also points to others while aligning with who I am and all God has done over the past ten years. I hope you’ll see that reflected in each giveaway — and I sure do hope you’ll join me on Instagram if we aren’t already friends over there!

But if you aren’t on Insta? No worries. There are multiple (yep, prepare yourself) gifts and giveaways coming over the next few months just for email subscribers. If you don’t already regularly join me at The Table, my monthly(ish) newsletter, let’s just say now would be a really good time.

P.s. the image above? It’s a 5×7 print, my gift to you today. Just click here to download!

And if you have a moment and would be so kind, would you leave a comment letting me know how you first found this corner of the Internet? I’d really love to hear.

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Dear ten-years-ago-me,

You’re going to write some absolutely horrible blog posts, make oh so many mistakes, and want to quit approximately 27,361 times. In fact, for several years you’ll write without telling real-life people. But you’ll keep at it even when it’s hard, and eventually you’ll stumble into owning the gift He has given.

You’ll show up and write through good times and bad, bleeding out stories through the keyboard. It will empty you and fill you at the very same time.

Over the next ten years, you’ll meet some of your favorite writers through the online world you’ve only barely entered into. And though this sounds crazy, not too long from now you’ll count several of them among your dearest friends.

The words will come and then they’ll disappear but wait well, for they’ll return in His timing. He will take all those words farther than you can ask or imagine or dream . . . into magazines and devotionals and even – are you ready for this? – the Bible.

And, oh yeah, eventually your story will be printed, bound, and shipped around the world. Strangers will tell you that they met Jesus within the pages, but the truth is you’ll see Him in a new way, too. You’ll find Him right there — in every high and every low. You’ll discover the beauty of ordinary days and the God who is faithful in all things, at all times, in all ways.

And after ten years? You’ll find that what was true then is true now: none of it was ever about you. Keep writing His story. His plan for you is greater than the dream you have for yourself.

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