...once you are Real, you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always. ~The Velveteen Rabbit
Fifth in a series.
All of the other posts in this series were written a couple of weeks ago and queued up at Typepad, ready to go. This one is mostly being written in real time. That's because I have used this last week, the ninth week, to come to an understanding of the eight previous weeks. I thought I had it figured out, but God had other plans.
On Monday of this week, my first real day back online and the day I planned to integrate all my new habits into my real life, I woke up sick. Sick enough that I didn't exercise. And I didn't pray the Hours. I didn't get dressed. I dragged myself through the day, feeling sicker and sicker as time went on. I did manage to get drawn into an internet dialogue. Spent more time hunched over the computer than I had in the last eight weeks. And then I spent too much time on the phone. At the end of it, nothing good was accomplished and I had a headache and an overwhelming urge to go to confession.
The day ended with me curled up in a ball in excruciating pain from my waist to the top of my head. My entire left side burned. It was the kind of pain that when they say, "On a scale of one to ten, with ten being the worst pain you've ever felt..." I briefly remembered the time they forgot the meds right after my c-section and said "Nine, but almost ten." All night long, I kept considering how very wrong the day had gone. Did I mention that I also ate leftover brownies from the weekend party? Yep. Blew that whole thing, too. It was as if, in one day, I had the opportunity to see how critical every component was.
Tuesday, I went to the doctor. People who know me know that I never go to the doctor. The last time I had a sick visit to the doctor, I had taken a child to the pediatrician and he made me stay until he managed to diagnose pneumonia--in me. It had never occurred to me that I needed a doctor that day. I have just a wee bit of post-traumatic stress where doctors are concerned. This was not improved by my last [life-threatening] delivery. But I went to the doctor because I was that sick and that desperate. Turns out I've been nurturing a staph infection for sometime now. That might go a long way to explain the recurrent mastitis and the fatigue. I left the doctor, filled the prescription and went home.
Wednesday, I read Amy Welborn. Have I ever mentioned how much I love Amy Welborn? She articulates the good and the true and the beautiful so very well. I read all of Come Meet Jesus on Wednesday. And then I began to read it again on Thursday. It's my new gift book of choice. I think everyone should have a copy and I mean to put one in as many hands as I can.
Wednesday definitely found me trying to make sense of it all, trying to hear what He was saying clearly. Turns out this wasn't an eight week experiment. It was the unveiling to me of a rule of life.
I need to start the day with prayer. Lots of it. And I need to pray it in the rhythm of the real Church, not the Church that other people represent to me.
I need to exercise every single day. (No, I don't mean when I'm sick, but I could really tell how the lack of routine could upset the apple cart even if I felt fine.)
I need to start the day (after the prayer and exercise start) with a shower, clothing and lipgloss, and then some quiet time with the Bible. I want my children to find me in that room, with a candle lit and the Bible on my lap when they first wake up. I don't want them to find me staring into my laptop.
I need to refrain from internet drama, even a little bit.
I need to limit the phone to times when my children and husband aren't present, so that I can be fully present in my home. And oh boy, I need to be fully present. To them.
I can't eat sugar or flour--not even a taste.
On Thursday, I packed up the children and went to visit my father and his wife in Charlottesville. Because even after all these years, Charlottesville still calls my name. I am the child of a naval officer and my parents divorced in my late teens. Those two things make it very hard to know where to go when every bone in your body wants to go "home" to someplace where someone will take care of you for a day or two.
My father and stepmother live in Charlottesville--the only town I've ever chosen for myself. It was my town before it was their town. I went to school there and around every corner are little pieces of me and of people I love.Those are my trees, my mountains; the air smells like home to me. It's a good place to be. Sometimes, when we're very tired, a change is as good as a rest. And if that change takes you "home," all the better.
So, surrounded by people I love, in a place I cherish, it's been easy to reflect on the past nine weeks and know what I need to do every single day to live the seamless life I so long to live, to walk in the peace of Christ. Over the past couple of days, I've had heart to heart, face to face talks with people I trust. I bought new lipgloss and a new candle. I met a friend for lunch and kind conversation and then put two tiny girls in the van and drove around while they napped. I drove past the places where I was educated. I drove past the places where I taught--and where I fell in love with teaching. I thought about how dear it all is--the things I've done, the places I've been, the people I've loved.
And I thought about how dear the time to come is. I want it to be everything God intends for it to be.
The last big question remaining for me has been whether to continue to blog or not.
One of the things I did when I decided to take a month-long blogging break was to sift through lots of old columns and give them to my children as copywork to keyboard. In such a way, I preprogrammed posts and continued to blog, using writing that was sometimes 15 years old. The process of choosing those pieces was lovely, indeed. I spent several hours reading my own writing and remembering things I know I thought I'd never forget.
But I had forgotten.
And it was a joy and a consolation to read them again. I read about our happy times, my moody times, the struggling times. As soon as my eyes met the word on the page, I instantly remembered every column in great detail. I even remembered where I was when I first composed them in my head. My children enjoyed reading them and I think they were touched more than once to see in black and white how very much they are loved. Those columns have value. And it's a very personal value.
The blog is even better. This place has always been the place on the web where I am at home; I am myself. I am real. There is more writing and many, many photographs. It's a family treasury and my immediate family has never been anything but extremely supportive of my blogging. I know that every post is a deposit in a treasury of family memories. Some of those memories are family anecdotes and others are the personal musings of a mother's heart. I think, when I sift through them fifteen or thirty years hence, both will be of worth.
More than my memories though, I want these posts for my children, particularly my daughters and daughters-in-law. I want to connect with the young mothers they probably will be. I want to empathize and to encourage and to support. I want to be for them the hand up, the strong shoulder, the warm hug I have wanted so many times on this journey. I think these posts might help us both. I want to remember the struggle of these years. I want to remember how hard I tried, how much I pondered, how deeply I loved. I want to remember because I want to be able to empathize. Going forward, it is my intent to write with those young ladies of the not too distant future as my audience.
So, why publish?
Because of you. Because despite the nasty notes and ugly threads and hurtful comments hurled through cyberspace, mostly the people who read this blog are very good people. And you wrote to me. You told me how and why this blog mattered to you. You told me your stories and you touched my heart again and again. You sent me birth announcements.
We are given gifts. We all have our talents to bury or to squander or to invest. All my life, God has given me words. When I have been lonely, afraid, without comfort or attachment, He gave me words. I write to make sense of the world around me and I always have, for as long as I can remember. Actually, He gave me the Word and He gave me words. Late at night, huddled under the covers with a flashlight and the Children's Living Bible, I had a very strong sense of understanding that to know this--really know--the God of these words was the only way I could stay sane.And then I scribbled notes in the dark, reams and reams of notes. I write because it's my gift--the lifeline God has thrown me, for me. But, He showed me that when I have the courage to share those words, they can bless someone else. I can give them as a gift. I can articulate something that she is thinking and so help bear the burden of the thought.
As I recently told a friend, if you have a beautiful voice, and you sing the Hours faithfully at home in total privacy, that is certainly a beautiful thing. You are giving God a beautiful gift and you are allowing yourself to be open to His transcendence. But I would be ever so grateful if you would consider recording your voice. When I lay down to nurse my baby to sleep and start to sing to her, she ceases nursing, holds up her hand and says, "Stop." I cannot sing. Your song would be a gift to me.
I want my words to be a gift.
I worry, though. When I first started blogging, one thing several friends who are writers agreed upon was that this is a great medium for people who think in narrative. At last we had some place to actually put all those thoughts. The last few days have me wondering. Are we supposed to think in narrative? I don't think so. I think we're supposed to think--or not think-- in prayer. Thinking in narrative focuses our minds and our hearts on ourselves. Living a one-piece life of genuine prayer focuses both heart and mind on God.
To know Christ is a gift, a gift I am tempted to shelter and carefully protect, lest it slip away somehow. A gift I can scarcely believe is mine. A gift that seems so precious that my first instinct is to protect it deep within my soul.
I think I'm making this all too complicated. Maybe it's really much simpler. Live the life of prayer--make it genuine and true and real. And if the Lord gives me the words and the time, share abundantly.
I know that I cannot control how I am received. I cannot control what people will write and say and do. I cannot begin to take into account every possible situation. I can just remember how much I wish someone would sing the Hours for me in clear voice and how I might somehow bless someone likewise with clear prose. I can share a life of prayer--just as long as sharing it does not cause it to cease being a life of prayer.
I could sit for hours and try to do a cost-profit analysis on pushing the "post" button. And I have. In the end, it doesn't matter if blogging has caused more pain or more happiness in my life. In the end, what matters is whether I have the words and whether I have the means to share them. These words are God's gift to me. I cannot, in good conscience, smother a gift so dear. Instead, I give thanks for this new media. I give thanks for the opportunity to see words come to life on a MacBook in the small spaces of my day when my children leave me in the quiet with my thoughts. I fully understand that those times may be scarce and I promise not to squander them wandering mindlessly online. I give thanks that I can and will tell my children and anyone else within earshot that there is joy.
The whole series: