C. H. Spurgeon
Samson Conquered, sermon from November 21, 1858
For many years I suspected that this was true . . . . . that if I was really, truly honest about what was going on in my life, that I would be an "outcast" from my church community. If they only knew what I was hiding behind that beautiful, plastic smile. If they could just see inside, for just a peek, at the pain that I carried in my heart, they certainly would not want to bother being my "friend." And so, in fear that I would be abandoned, I carried on stoically. Pretending to be what I had hoped and prayed I could be. I could speak all the right words, sing all the right songs, give all the right answers to any question that might come up about Christianity.
I even returned to Bible college at the age of 35 to see if I could figure out why we all SAID one thing but seemed so often to DO things that were completely opposite of what I heard coming from the mouths of the church leaders. "What's up with this?" I wondered for many years. And then, assuming that it must be ME who was wrong, who was confused (well, yes I really was very confused!), believing that it was MY problem, I just gave up and decided to play along. That would certainly be easier, I thought, than trying to be honest. And so I became "The World's Best Hypocrite." But please know, I only did that because I was afraid. In order to avoid the pain of honesty and the agony of abandonment, I pretended. But in the end . . . . it very nearly destroyed me.
And finally, after many years, when I was broken and bleeding and I could no longer manage to stumble down the path of pretense any longer, I just quit. I just quit . . . . everything. And you know what? I was right. All of the things that I was terrified of for so many years, came true. When my "Christian friends" discovered that I had been living a lie that had almost destroyed me, their first reaction was to blame . . . . ME! At that moment, and for many years since my "Year of Brokenness," truth has not mattered one bit. It was so much easier to believe lies (because they usually DO make a much more interesting story!) than to hear the cries of my heart, pleading with them to listen, please listen, to the truth. But you and I both know that you can a lie for a hundred years, and it will never turn into the truth.
And so I learned a very hard lesson: it is sometimes much safer to pretend. "Plastic" people cannot be hurt. Just like those little plastic toy people, you can throw them into a corner and they still smile. You can step on them, whack them with a hammer, drown them in the bath tub (I know because I've seen my kids do it!) and they won't bleed. But (now I am truly telling you the truth) REAL people do bleed and weep, and we often times still feel very vulnerable to judgment, condemnation, criticism, and rejection if we are honest. So my advice . . . . . don't be too quick to drop the "stained glass masquerade," until you are very, very sure it is safe to do so. I'm so grateful that God doesn't treat me like that.
PS I realize that my posts are frequently controversial and sometimes pretty close to the edge. I apologize if that makes any of my readers uncomfortable. But I've lived long enough to know that everything in life, and in the church, isn't perfect and that's OK. Because if I ever found a church that was perfect, I'd mess things up just by walking in the door!
Thanks to Loni for the graphic at the top of my post (she does such great work that I can't figure out!). And if you want to read the posts by the other IOW participants this week, visit Loni at Writing Canvas. Leave a link there and a comment here, and I'll pop 'round for a visit later tonight!
As the news reports and photos continue to stream across the internet and television screens, it is interesting to see the responses from people around the world. Following through part of the night via Twitter, it is obvious to me that millions of people are horrified by the shooting of Neda by the military thugs who are confronting the protesters in the streets ofTehran. This one terrible incident has galvanized people around the world, with the recognition that this is the ultimate fate of people who stand up to the terror that is possible in a country where the government has complete control. But why should we, as Americans, even care? Well, of course, anyone would care and be affected by pictures of a beautiful young woman shot to death (just about anyone, I mean) - but is there more to it than that?
Of course there is, and it is the longing in every human heart for freedom and liberty, and when we see the struggle of a repressed people, crying out for liberty, we are affected by that, as well. But why do we think that just by staying uninvolved and neutral at a time like this will keep US safe? People are people, and there will always be people, in every country of the world, who will murder, maim, torture, and destroy anyone and anything that gets in the way of their power grab. Why do we believe that simply by sitting down and chatting, or "playing fair" we will ever convince a maniac like Ahmadinejad to just "be nice." He will NOT be nice, because his agenda requires power. Human beings have been fighting, making war, killing one another, and doing horrific things to one another since the dawn of time. It does not matter one's religion in this scenario . . . . every religion has devotees who are just plain evil, and will perpetrate their evil deeds on innocent, peace-loving people if it achieves their goals.
I am not a particularly political person, but I realize that the blessings of peace and freedom that I enjoy every day (even in a terrible economy, trying to struggle through until we find another job) and are available to me, are not part of my life because we chatted with previous world thugs and convinced them to "play nice." Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way, and history has proven this over and over. Any normal person with a brain and a heart would prefer peace, hate war, and live a life of freedom . . . . it just doesn't work that way, because the world is full of those who take advantage of the ordinary people who just want to live their lives and not bother others. So, now a nation is revolting against the heavy hand of a tyrannt (or several, as it seems), and we should not be surprised that regular ol' folks eventually get fed up with repression and speak out. Even those who are not particularly political. Today my heart is filled with compassion and fear for the innocents in Iran, and my prayers are with them at the dawning of this new day. Stand for freedom, be willing to die for freedom, because it has never been free . . . . it is worth the fight.
While I am pondering, no actually agonizing, over what it is I'm supposed to be doing with my life, I have decided to make a list of my options. Then, I can see clearly what the potential positives and negatives might be with each choice. So far, I've gotten a few good words of wisdom, probably the most level-headed has been to remember to say "No" to some of the apparently "good" options in front of me. But that is so hard to do!
Oh, sure, it would be so easy to say "no" to a choice that is obviously "bad" or even "not helpful." But all of the choices before me seem to have some merit. But there is only one of me, and LOTS of different avenues that I could pursue, now that my girls are old enough that I have a little bit of free brain space. Not that they don't need me . . . . and that is precisely one of the definite parameters that I have around whatever choices I make. I have to be flexible enough to be available to my girls and my dear hubby, and not just be in the same geographical space. I really have to be accessible . . . . . I have to be really here when I'm here!
So, here's the beginning of my list . . . . even if you don't care to read all of this soul-searching, it will help me formulate my own decision to see it written out here, in black and white.
Project #1: I've been writing eBook patterns for YouCanMakeThis.com for several months now, and once I have the pattern written, every time one sells, I make money! Oh, I forgot to mention, that making money is one of the prerequisites for, at least, one or two of my "jobs."
I was recently asked to create a pair of appliqued / patchwork jeans to match a beautiful crocheted sweater for a HUGE YCMT publicity / marketing blitz. So, I finished the jeans, made a matching appliqued t-top, and I'm working on a skirt. THEN, this week, I need to get the pattern written so it will come out the same time as the big promotion. I love doing this, and it promises to produce some pretty good income over time, AND it keeps me here for my family. BUT, I will have to write a couple of books a month, and it will take another several months before this would generate enough income to really make a difference.
Project #2: I have also been asked to present a proposal to our county board of advocates for creating an education program for "at risk" clients in our county. More about this later, but this is what I did before we brought our daughters home from China. So, I submitted a proposal for a part-time position, developing a high-school completion program through the county court system, in conjunciton with other service providers in our community. Waiting to see on that one, but it would have to be part-time, very flexible, with some of my work hours here in my home office.
Project #3: I have been approached about the possibility of doing some substitute teaching in our local school system. Both of our girls are in the elementary school, and I know many of the teachers, AND this could generate some income, but have all the flexibility I need. Thinking about this one.
Project #4: I have been the director of a small community radio theater group for the past three years, and the group (and the community!) are asking for another production in the spring. Very little income potential, but this kind of community involvement has brought some of the other opportunities . . . . . so this is tricky, because I really love doing this kind of stuff!
That's the beginning of the list. I'm thinking, and praying, and trying to figure out why I have so many choices in front of me right now. I think I'll go take a nap! Blessings on your Monday, Nina
Have you ever had just TOO many options in front of you? What should I do, where should I go, how can this really happen? Seems like that has been a consistent theme of my life . . . . . and I should be grateful that I have so many good choices, because sometimes life throws us the nasty little game of "Two Choices: Neither of them Good." Been there, too, and that's difficult. But at this point in my life, I am staring down several paths, all of which could be good for my family, my own personal growth, and ministry opportunity. But, as I tell my girls, "There is only one of me, and there are two of you . . . . please be patient!"
I am only one person, and it is sometimes quite distressing to see so many needs, and so many opportunities to do good things for people, my church, my community, my friends, and my family. I truly have to stop, and in my heart and mind, let it go, and really give it to God. I know that is a cliche, but many times every day I have to stop and think, "OK God, I can't handle this, I'm starting to feel anxious and confused, You need to take care of this." This is a decision and determination I have to consciously make many times every day, otherwise I get so wrapped up in what I could be doing, should be doing, should have done yesterday, gotta get done tomorrow . . . . . who is waiting for what, expecting me to do what. Responsibility, I guess, is my middle name!
Perhaps that is why God put me flat on my back for the past three months, but here I go again! As soon as I start to feel better, my brain goes into overdrive. So, today I will consciously try to turn down the speed limit on my brain, focus on what is right in front of me . . . . and try to take one idea / option / opportunity at a time. Ponder it, pray about it, seek advice, and then see where God leads me. But, I wonder about you? Does this ever happen to you, or am I just really neurotic??? Yes, I know, I am . . . . but so is everyone else, I'm just wondering how serious my case is!
I'm going to try to list some of my opportunities in the next couple of days, so if any of you have any insight into the pros and cons of my choices, I would surely welcome your wisdom! Have a wonderful Saturday, and a blessed Sunday. Hugs, Nina
I've received several emails asking if I'm OK . . . . thanks for noticing that I've been silent for the past month! And the answer to that question is yes . . . . and no. Whatever has been going on with me, seems to want to just hang on and on. And I'm frustrated! I have so much to do, and I simply haven't had the energy to do anything. That is just not like me! But every day does seem to be better. I'll have three or four days where I feel GREAT, and then all of a sudden I collapse. Maybe I'm pushing myself too hard on the GREAT days, and put myself into exhaustion mode.
But all of my life I have been so high energy. Two speeds for me: fast and faster! I always have several projects going at the same time . . . . family, church, community, business. Usually read three or four books simultaneously (don't why I think I'm getting more reading done that way - I don't read any faster, just need to keep the different books sorted out from one another!). Juggling so many different things, trying to keep everyone happy (but me!), and usually doing a pretty good job at keeping all those plates spinning. But not lately. So, things are stacked up, piled up, way behind, waiting for me . . . . screaming out to me, "Take care of me!" "No, me first!" "Over here, I need you now!"
Then I get overwhelmed again, and all I want to do is go hide in a corner and sleep for a day or two . . . . or three or four. And I hate that! So, I'm determined to keep trying to move forward, because I KNOW that God has a job here for me. I've been hearing from more and more women who have struggled with many of the same kinds of life issues that I have, and since much of our sadness is caused by pretending that we are FINE when we are dying . . . . I feel that I have a responsibility to reach out to YOU, wherever you are, and you know who you are!
So, email me and let me know you are there, and we'll chat. I hope to be posting more frequently now that I'm feeling so much better. But when I'm down, I will pray for you, and ask that you pray for me, too. There is a job to be done, there are wonderful moms and wives who are wounded, and now that I'm no longer bleeding from my broken heart (but it never really goes away), I want to be here for you. Waiting expectantly to hear from you! Hugs for this Friday, Nina
I am waiting to see the light . . . oh, for sure, it has been really hot and sunny here in the mountains for the past several weeks. It has been wonderful, with cool bright mornings, warm and sunny afternoons, usually a gentle rain with a little thunder for a dramatic effect every afternoon, and then chilly, even nippy evenings, just perfect for the first football game of the season. And now I am looking forward to the brisk autumn days here in Our Little Village. But I still need to see the light.
For so many months now, I have been wandering around trying to find my place. Should I continue with my creative projects, designing, stitching, and writing pattern books? Should I pursue other types of creative ideas . . . journaling, painting, paper art, fiber art, altered books . . . . I'm so confused where to begin! But the bigger problem has been trying to find my place along my spiritual journey. Oh, I guess I shouldn't be feeling so "lost," in light of the fact that I have spent so many years studying all this "religion" stuff. But even as I struggle to have a few minutes of peace and quiet to contemplate what in the world is going on in my heart and mind, I have children clamoring for my attention. How do I get there from here?
So, I've been cruising around a few other blogs, trying to discover some inspiration, some direction, some advice and guidance through the darkness. And, here I found a glimmer of hope: Awaiting Rain. I am not alone. There are others who are seeking a more meaningful experience of God's Holy presence in each of our lives. And there are conversations that are taking place, so many people searching for a deeper relationship with God. Discussions about a "rule of life" in which we intentionally, and purposefully plan our days and our schedules around times devoted to that deeper experience . . . . discussions about "mysticism" and the practice of "being" who God would have us to be . . . . have brought a glimpse of light, and and flicker of hope in my heart. I am not alone.
Because, I have traveled the pathway of "doing" everything I've been told I should do to be a "good, Christian girl." To be a good, Christian wife, mommy, friend, and church member . . . . all of the "shoulds" have been screaming at me for many years. And I've tried so hard to do them all - but I failed, miserably, probably because that is not the right way to get where I was trying to go. And, admittedly, I have chosen a pathway in life that allows for very little quiet time. With small children, it is a rare moment that is ever quiet around here. So, I'm not sure how I am going to get there, to that place of peace and solitude where I can focus on my Heavenly Father . . . . but I'm still walking toward that tiny glimmer of light.
Perhaps if I begin my search again, and take those rare moments of quiet to focus on the ancient words of the mystics and the monastics . . . I may experience the gentle whisper of hope. But, for now, I guess just knowing that there are others who long for a more meaningful encounter with the Lord of the Universe will have to be enough to keep me seeking to find my way out of the darkness.
I am always sad to see the many ways that womens' voices are silenced. Although we have made much progress in the past 30 years or so, there is still so much resistance to hearing the true heart of women in our culture, our homes, and our religious communities.
I began working on this piece with the inspiration being the profile of a woman deep in thought, with all the unspoken words held captive in her soul. And I grieve for all the unspoken words that have been lost to eternity because of fear. But I rejoice for the new freedom from that fear that so many younger women have experienced.
Freedom to speak . . . . . to be true and honest . . . . to be loving and gracious . . . . to praise and encourage . . . . . to ask and receive what we need. To me, this is truly about the freedom to express who we really are and what we really feel, while being committed to speaking the truth in love. It is time to stop pretending, just to please others. Can we find the balance between honesty and kindness? Is there a safe place to express not only the joys and the beauty of life, but also the sorrows, the pain, and even sometimes the anger? How do we get there? I wonder . . . . with my one voice. Mostly no longer silent, but still just a tiny bit scared!
If you happen to be looking for me over at Waiting*For*Grace, here's the link!