Monday, March 26, 2012

Mela-Connections

One of the most moving and self-motivating songs in my repertoire, for me, is Matthew West's My Own Little World.



It's a song that has motivated me on my melanoma journey and it's the vehicle God used the most to get me thinking that my own little melanoma world isn't about me. God has a bigger picture in His panoramic view of His creation and just maybe He could give my melanoma a redemptive and transformational purpose. God, being a God Who Is big on "community," has been doing just that through the greater melanoma community.

Once again God has boggled my mind (which really isn't hard for Him to do and I'm beginning to think it's a primary source of amusement for Him). Once again God has used something outside the realm of melaworld to show me a little of what He's doing inside it.

Last week, as I write, I went to a Warren County meeting, at which a man high up in the NC Department of Agriculture was giving a presentation. I didn't catch his name but he caught my hometown and asked if I knew a certain couple, which I did. He said he was kin to them. Besides being well-known locals, the woman of this couple is, also, first cousin of a former aunt of mine and this former aunt has two children with my now-deceased uncle. During his presentation he showed a video and I saw his name in that film. His last name is my former aunt's maiden name. After the event was over we were talking yet again, and I asked him how he is related to the couple. We compared notes and, lo and behold, he is first cousin to my first cousins! He's related on their mother's side (my former aunt) and I'm related on their father's side (my deceased uncle)!

I'm still floored by this chance meeting! Or was it a chance meeting? Part of me says, "No, it wasn't. God's up to something." It may just be that God knows I need to know He's got a big picture in mind and that He excels in pulling off great surprises. Whatever we face, He can handle it and He may just have a few tricks up His sleeve!

So what's this got to do with mela-connections? God makes them in surprising ways and reveals them in surprising ways. He's working to bring us together and remind us that we are not in our own little worlds, though melanoma would have us believe differently. One powerful tool, besides those pockets of communities we develop on Facebook, is blogging!

Not everyone is on Facebook, but if you're on the Internet the world of blogs is your oyster. I can't think of a subject that someone doesn't blog about; usually many someones. Melanoma is no different and the list is growing. What's interesting about blogging is a reader can "join" a blog and if the blogger chooses, a "follow by email" gadget can be added. The numbers of those that join a blog are the numbers the readership sees. The blogger can see another set of numbers and stats. And that's where it can get really interesting!

As I write, this blog has 35 followers. Also, as I write, this blog has been viewed 11, 457 times and they aren't my views! I have set the tracker not to track my own. I'm reasonably certain all those views aren't my parents' either. And I seriously doubt that 35 people keep referring to this blog like that. All bloggers have access to their own stats and can see how many page views they've had. We can even see which countries our readers are from, what type of devices they use, and what web browsers. Just this little bit reveals the powerful potential and outreach blogs have.

That doesn't include the fact that readers can leave comments after each post. They don't have to be followers, they don't have to be registered users of a particular blog site. They can make a connection with the blogger, which, in turn, can lead goodness knows where.

Then, there are the "traffic sources" figures we get and they are given to us in various time spans. But, for me, what's interesting about these traffic sources is they give us, within the chosen time span, "Referring URLs," "Referring Sites," and "Search Keywords." And this is also where we can find more connections being made.

This blog gets a lot of referrals from other blogs! Hopefully they get some from me, too. But these are the blogs that have sent people my way and I thank them: Adventures With My Enemy...Melanoma, Black Is The New Pink, Hotel Melanoma, Melanoma Sucks, and My Journey Fighting Melanoma. There are other blogs, to be sure, that tackle melanoma. All these bloggers have stepped outside their own little world and are helping the greater melanoma community make vital connections. (Not everybody wants to blog or go as public with their disease as bloggers and this is not to be seen as a slight. This is lifted up as an example of stepping out and reaching out, and shown to be another way of making connections besides through FB).

But there's one thing that really touches my heart and that's two recent "search keywords." Those are "jennifer marie christy" and "paul hummel melanoma." Jennifer and Paul are two fellow warriors and fellow bloggers and that Google would connect them to me because someone else was looking for them is humbling and touching. Paul writes My Journey With Melanoma and Jen writes Prayers for Jen. It amazes me to step back and look at the ways "community" is created through blogging. And it's a community that those of us who blog must approach "with fear and trembling" and fun, honesty, humor, whatever your forte, we have to keep in mind that we have a trusting community and we need to honor and respect them and hold their trust as something almost sacred. Because it is.

Then there's that ultimate connection where it's about us and God; back to My Own Little World, which God likes to move us out of. Melanoma would have us each believe that we aren't part of a bigger picture and that we are nothing more than people fighting melanoma. Many are in the battle of a lifetime for their very lives, but melanoma is not the sum total of who they are!

We are created to be people who need community. Even if we are loners or introverts, we need at least one person who cares to share the journey with. We are part of God's bigger picture. We do fit in and we do have a purpose and it is more than being a person with melanoma. And while melanoma is not our purpose, God can use it in our lives and in the lives of others to be a blessing if we let Him.

How is God using the melanoma in your life to connect with others?

Where do you find yourself on God's canvas?

You have a purpose; despite, and in spite of, melanoma.

The picture is incomplete without you.

How are you connected to the rest of the painting?

God is our ultimate connection and He is at work connecting us to Himself and us to each other.

And I am grateful!