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Misrepresenting J M

I experienced a little dust-up with a Facebook friend recently. The subject of the dust-up isn’t important, and everything is okay now, but the experience triggered some thoughts about how I’m perceived and what some of my failings are.

Let it be noted that I am still trying to figure out how to integrate Facebook into my world again. I’m still not particularly happy to be back there. And the thing about Facebook is that you’re only really noticed if you’re 1) creating/participating in controversy or 2) sharing Pinterest-perfect lifestyle posts. Controversy gives me a bellyache, and I stink at Pinterest-perfect. I’ve said before–as a wife and mother, I’m a lot more Erma Bombeck than June Cleaver or Martha Stewart.

So in trying to find things to share, I share things that I like, things that speak to my interests and beliefs, things that I think might be helpful to others, etc. I share TED Talks. I share the occasional writing-related article. I share silly grammar cartoons and coffee pictures. And I share posts related to my faith.

What gets the mosts attention/likes? The coffee pictures. My occasional picture of my dog or kids. Maybe a good quote. And a status about something “happy happy joy joy” in my family.

Anyway. This blog post is not about the inanity of Facebook.

Rather, this blog post is about how I communicate my faith to other believers.

Here’s the thing. I’m not very good at sharing why I believe some of the things I believe. I don’t know how to explain it except to give some examples.

When I say that I have some concerns about the culture of “courtship” and the way it’s currently in vogue to push our teens away from dating, somehow, I come across as promoting licentious behavior.

When I say that I have issues with the way we teach God’s will in Evangelical circles, people seem to think that I mean there’s no room for God to work in our lives or that God can’t reveal His will in any way, shape or form.

And when I say that I have an intellectual faith rather than an emotional one, I somehow communicate that I have no room for emotion in my walk with Jesus and that I only have head knowledge.

What do these things have to do with the dust-up and Facebook? Well . . . I started thinking about these things because of the dust-up, and it seems like a lot of these misconceptions about me end up resulting from written interactions (like those that occur on Facebook or in e-mail).

I have to be candid–I’m not sure how to fix these notions.

I can say that I have no intention of promoting licentious behavior in our young people. I think sexual purity is vitally important to our material, emotional, and social well-being in this world. I can clarify that I absolutely leave room for God to speak however He wants to speak in this world. I can tell folks that I have had many, many, many days of pouring out my heart to Jesus in prayer–carpet-fiber-up-the-nose days, in fact, when the only posture adequate before the bone-crushing awesomeness of the Throne of Grace was one of utter prostration (and on those days, if I could have made myself thinner to melt into the floor, I would have).

But it seems hollow to say these things. It doesn’t ring true. It feels like I’m attempting to justify myself and that maybe then I sound like I’m speaking from both sides of my mouth.

It’s a little unnerving that so many of these misunderstandings occur in writing. I worry that maybe I’m not as good at communicating in the written word as I should be for . . . well, for a writer. If these things occur in live conversation, it’s a lot easier to make myself understood. Sometimes. I still get into a lot of trouble on the courtship issue . . .

I suppose the first question is, “why do I care?” And I’m not sure how to answer that except to acknowledge that perhaps I’m more tender-hearted than I care to admit. It hurts to know that I’ve misrepresented myself in such a way as to make people completely misunderstand who I am.

The second question is, “how do I deal with it?” And I can only come up with two possibilities–either stop engaging people on anything where I might potentially be misunderstood, or get better at ignoring the misconceptions. The third possibility–improving how I represent myself–needs to happen either way, but that’s a long process. And even so, I’m not sure I’ll ever really be very good at it.

For the moment, I’m just choosing not to engage. On Facebook, if I post something that might be controversial for some reason, I am choosing to just ignore comments that would draw me into a bad position. If I see a post that might have drawn a comment from me in the past, I am choosing to keep scrolling. It’s the social media version of nodding and smiling–which is, coincidentally, the way I’m choosing to deal with real life conversations.

I suppose this may not be a very interesting blog post. It’s a little bit like the ones I posted in the very beginning. This is me, working out my salvation with fear and trembling, perhaps. It seems like it’s a daily struggle to figure out how to navigate the world when you’re a human oddity.

Perhaps the best I can hope for is to represent Christ well. In that sense, it doesn’t matter what others think of me. It only matters that Jesus is proud of me. So maybe I misrepresent myself, or maybe others think I’m hypocritical, Pharisaical, hard-nosed, unemotional, or even heretical. Maybe that’s unimportant if I’m careful to speak with wisdom, knowledge, and good character.

Ultimately, I’m an ambassador for Jesus Christ. While ambassadors have to be mindful of how they comport themselves, sometimes, they do have to speak hard truths, and they can occasionally misrepresent themselves. But as ambassadors, they have to care less about how they are perceived and more about how the governments they represent are perceived.

I’ll say one thing, though–It would be easier to be a good ambassador for Christ if I weren’t so human.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

Boy Patriot

My son turned 15 almost two months ago. Somehow, amid all of the chaos of July, I simply forgot to post something about him as I’ve done for Lucy, Hermione, and Tiger.

So allow me to remedy my lapse . . .

Boy Patriot made me a mother after a long, painful struggle with infertility. It was a strange thing to become, overnight, just another patient having a normal pregnancy after I’d been seeing specialists for so long. But despite the difficulty in conceiving, carrying my firstborn was one of the most enjoyable phases of my life. I had an easy pregnancy and a semi-challenging (and for a moment, very scary) labor and delivery, and in the end, my arms cradled a healthy 8 lb, 7 oz baby boy.

It’s hard to think of him as such now. When I brought him home from the hospital, he fit perfectly on my lap. Now, he’s taller than I am. He shaves. He talks about flirting with girls. His voice is deep and resonant. He’s learning to drive. He talks of joining the Army.

He’s becoming a man.

It’s tough and rewarding to watch this transition. Perhaps the most interesting thing about it has been my own propensity to feel safe around him when Mr. P isn’t around. Not only is he transitioning into adulthood, but he’s transitioning into protector. I know I can count on Boy Patriot to defend not only me, but also his sisters, his brother, his home, his property.

I find that I don’t always know how to talk about this boy–this young man–now. I don’t see him the same way that I used to see him. I don’t see his faults and gifts and talents through the lens of my own or Mr. P’s. Rather, Boy Patriot is starting to become his own person–his own man.

We have much in common, Boy Patriot and I. It’s rewarding to have a son who enjoys fantasy and science fiction as I do. It’s fun to talk language and literature with him. He’s bright and witty, and he enjoys a good snark now and again. And I have to admit–I found it deeply rewarding when he threw Catcher in the Rye down and said, “This book is stupid, Mom. I’m not finishing it.” Score one for taste!

This is an odd stage in life–this transition, this time when he’d rather be with friends but is confined by his circumstances, when he longs to do more but is restricted by his age, when he wishes for grown-up fare and understands some grown-up things but doesn’t mind an occasional animated movie. It’s a stage where I can see the future dimly, as through a glass, but in tantalizing shades and shadows that suggest good things, great things ahead. It’s a stage of coaching–a stage where I still have a voice and still have authority, but where his decisions and opinions become more and more important each day.

There are moments these days when I see the flash of the man he is becoming–when I hear his voice pledge his all to a woman he loves, when I imagine that this face might one day be imprinted on his own son, when I envision the gray in his father’s hair flecked in his own. But there are an equal number of moments when I remember–when I see the little boy with the white-blond curls and the chubby arms, when I hear the sweet little voice that used to call me “Mommy,” when I can almost taste the moments where the full weight of toddlerhood would finally wear itself out and fall asleep on my shoulder.

Fifteen years. Fifteen years, I’ve been a mom. A mommy. Almost a third of my life devoted to parenting.

And this boy is the one who ushered me into it all.

It’s been worth every moment.

 

September

Shh. Listen.

Do you hear that?

No?

Exactly.

Today is the first day of school for all of my beautiful ducklings. Lucy started last week, and the other three ducklings started today.

I am so tired.

Summer catches me off-guard every year. Every year, I front load my June calendar, scatter events randomly along the July calendar, and wonder what I’m going to do when the August calendar rolls around. Every year, I stop breathing in June, hope to catch a few quiet moments in July, and focus on damage control and survival in August. Every year, I have grandiose plans in the beginning that fade to just a faint hope that I might get to September with some semblance of sanity.

And so here I sit.

It’s September.

And very little was accomplished this summer. The house projects I intended to tackle remain undone. I did two–count ’em, two–very small client projects over the entire three-month period. I fell irretrievably behind on my Goodreads reading challenge. We took no family vacation. I didn’t even do much sewing, knitting, or crocheting. My word–I haven’t even posted here in weeks!

On the other hand . . .

Lucy and Tiger completed about a month of swimming lessons, and all four ducklings spent a lot of time in the local high school pool.

Boy Patriot and Tiger took a five-day hike with Mr. P and some boys from their Trail Life USA troop.

Lucy and Hermione and I spent a week at AHG summer camp.

The family enjoyed several day and weekend trips around our beautiful home state. We even camped a few times.

And, I managed to get my AHG troop set up–mostly–to start our weekly meetings anew.

Wasted time? Sure, there was plenty of it. Around here, it tends to take the form of:

  • Family movie nights.
  • Lazy Saturday mornings in front of cartoons.
  • Snuggles with the puppy.
  • Quiet reading time.
  • Long conversations with Mr. P over tacos and . . . adult beverages . . . at our favorite Mexican restaurant.

As an over-ambitious mom with a lot of goals for summer, I usually get to September thinking that I’ve ill-used all of my time for the previous three months. I certainly know moms who got a lot more accomplished than I did. I see their pictures on Facebook. They’ve gardened, canned, traveled, schooled, written, organized, entertained, and decorated All The Things. How can one look at that sort of litany and not feel unaccomplished?

Are there things I would do differently if I had the summer to do again? Probably.

Does the summer feel wasted?

Hmm.

No, I don’t think it does.

*deep breath*

It’s September. September means new pencils, clean backpacks, and fresh haircuts. It means forms to complete, dues and fees to pay, clothes to buy. It’s sweaters and leggings and boots on the off days, and sunglasses and capris and flip flops on the other days. It’s jackets in the morning and A/C in the afternoon. It’s sock yarn and fall projects and books and soup and the last days of grilling and the first days of pot roast and the smell of pumpkin and apples and crayons and the sound of geese and the chill of fall and the hint of approaching winter.

It’s beginnings, middles, and ends all at once, is September.

I’m taking a day or two to catch my breath, to rest, to have coffee with friends, to prepare myself for working again, to get a pedicure (my feet are hideous), to clean my workspace and get some processes in place.

And then . . .

Then, I think I’ll be ready to tackle the school year.

Till next we meet . . .

J M

Me, Unfiltered

Here’s the thing.

I’m a conservative (borderline libertarian) in a very blue state. I’m too conservative for the average Joe around these parts, but I’m too liberal for some of my church friends.

I’m pro-life. Unashamedly, unabashedly.

I support the 2nd Amendment 100%.

I am a follower of Christ, but I’m not “orthodox” enough for many of my church friends, nor am I hipster enough to sit with the cool kids.

When I say “orthodox,” what I really mean is that I don’t tend to follow unbiblical rules made up by uptight Christians, even if I am completely orthodox in the major things.

I’m not a fan of Rachel Held Evans, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, or Donald Miller. I do like Tim Keller, Kevin DeYoung, Greg Koukl, and J. P. Moreland.

I’m a Calvinist. Probably. That means I’m out of favor with current theological leanings.

I breastfed my children, but not long enough or publicly enough. I also used disposable diapers, let them have more than two hours of screen time per day, and made them sleep in their own beds almost from day one.

I vaccinated my children without reading a single word on the matter beforehand. I don’t regret it.

I use the Oxford comma. I won’t apologize for that.

I like Harry Potter, A Song of Ice and Fire (the books, not the TV series), Stephen King, Avengers, X-Men, and every blessed word Neil Gaiman has ever written (so far–I’m still working through his stuff).

I don’t like Twilight, Firefly, Doctor Who, Sherlock, or most books categorized as YA.

I think the Supreme Court was right in its decision on the Hobby Lobby case.

Every single one of these things is controversial. Every. Single. One.

Every single one of these things, if I post them on Facebook, is likely to garner a minimum of privately raised eyebrows and a maximum of heated debate that requires me to delete the offending post.

This is why I hate Facebook. And really, social media in general.

This is also why I use a pseudonym.

In any case, now you know what a horrid person I am. Or you think we should be BFFs. Either way, you’ve been warned. This is the person I can’t be on Facebook, so it’s the person I will be here.

This is me, unfiltered.

Imagination

You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

— Mark Twain

 

It’s probably time for an update.

A lot has been happening around here. The end of the school year kept me hopping for a couple of weeks. Not only were we swamped with school programs, field trips, and end-of-year parties, but we also had to fit in a fundraiser, an award ceremony for my AHG troop, and a birthday party.

And the garden still languishes.

I’m digging out, slowly but surely. And it feels like it will probably just always be that way, at least until I can finally let go of some of my volunteer duties.

But that’s not the most significant update, nor is it the reason I was prompted to finally write a blog post.

The biggest update I have to share is . . .

I put my books back on Amazon about a week or so ago.

I’m still not sure how I feel about that.

And this is where I don’t know what to say next.

[An hour later . . . .]

I’m ambivalent and anxious and stuck. I have the books up there, and with that act comes the implicit promise of at least a sequel for the novel. But when I try to re-read the novel, I am only struck by how amateurish and poorly written it is. I can only hear the whispers of negative reviews and the criticisms of readers past and future who think the story is too dull, too traditional, too . . .

[fill in the blank]

It’s hard for me to remember that self-flagellation is a form of pride. This has dawned on me before. Many of us–especially women, I’ve noticed–mistakenly equate humility with self-deprecation, scolding, reminding ourselves and others of all the things were bad at, etc. We somehow mistakenly got the idea that humility means thinking less of ourselves.

As the great C. S. Lewis reminds us:

“True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.”

So I stand again at the gate of pride, beating myself bloody over perceived mistakes, imperfections, flaws, etc. that may or may not even be in my work. And it is pride, because yesterday, I found myself in a spiral of “this sucks–I hate this–my work is hideous–who would like this” and on and on.

That’s not thinking of myself less. Indeed, it’s thinking of myself more.

My eyes were on the wrong place. Once again, they were back on me–my work, my writing, my stories. Even my pronouns are wrong.

Where should my eyes and heart be?

On Jesus, the great Author and Storyteller Who asked me to write these stories in the first place.

I have no idea what He wants to do with this stuff. Maybe it’s nothing. Maybe the entire point of having my stories out there is to grow me for some future task. Maybe this is just about building my obedience muscle.

But the point is, that’s not up to me. That’s up to Him.

I ran across this Mark Twain quote earlier: You can’t depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus.

My imagination was out of focus yesterday. Not my creativity–not my ability to put words together or create worlds or envision what happens next.

No, what was out of focus was my perspective on Who I belong to, Who owns my talent, and Who I’m writing for in the first place.

Dictionary.com says that imagination is “the faculty of imagining, or of forming mental images or concepts of what is not actually present tthe senses.”

It’s not my creativity that was out of whack. It was my imagination–my ability to form a mental image or concept of my Heavenly Father’s delight in my obedience, or of the moment when He says “well done, good and faithful servant,” or of the glory of Heaven itself. My imagination was conjuring mental images and concepts that were not heavenly, but earthly–and more than earthly, they were so earth-bound that they kept me from doing what God has asked me to do.

That’s pride. And more than pride, that’s allowing the Enemy to hijack my usefulness and my joy and my strength.

I won’t give him that power any longer.

And so when my imagination is out of focus, I can’t trust my eyes. Yesterday, my eyes were telling me that my work was amateurish, unsophisticated, boring, ugly, and all the rest.

But if my imagination had been properly focused, my eyes might have said, “yes, it’s imperfect, but that’s okay. Some of the imperfections can be fixed. Some can’t. Some make it more beautiful. Some are just subjective. The point is, you wrote the story you were supposed to write. And whether you were obedient then or not, you’re being obedient now. That’s the point. That’s what counts.”

This is not a clean, tidy, perfect journey, but then, what journey is? And isn’t that the point of my stories–that none of us have perfect journeys? That redemption is a messy, uncomfortable, beautiful process of fits and starts and loss and gain? That sanctification doesn’t happen overnight?

Well, most of you probably don’t know the point of my stories. But let me tell you that yes, that’s pretty much the point of most of my stories.

I have no time at all to devote to writing or editing fiction right now, and yet, here I am–staring down the gaping maw of a sequel that I promised years ago, a sequel that, apparently, a dozen or twenty people still want to read.

So I take a deep breath, and I repeat to myself the verse that took me through the last year as a first-year Troop Coordinator: “And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NASB)

Till next we meet . . .

J M

Gardening

My garden is languishing.

I posted a while back about how my family would be trying some new things–specifically, gardening and raising rabbits. The rabbits are still alive, I’m happy to report. Mr. P acquired two more–a buck and another doe–but we haven’t had a good chance to let them mate yet. Still, it’s reassuring that the three of them are still breathing, because I’ve had nary a thing to do with any of them.

My modest little garden, however, is languishing. Well, the plants are growing, but there are things to be done–weeds to pull, lettuces to harvest, beans and peas to string–and I have not had a spare moment to do any of those things.

The thing is . . . I have a lot of things to do. Here’s the basic list, in no particular order:

  • Be a wife.
  • Rebuild my business.
  • Be a scout leader, which at this point means keeping up with approximately six distinct and not-insignificant jobs.
  • Keep my house clean (doesn’t really happen).
  • Cook dinner most nights (it’s hit or miss).
  • Get four humans out the door to two different schools most days (happens like Swiss clockwork).
  • Maintain the family calendar.
  • Keep the puppy busy enough that he won’t pee on the floor.
  • Keep the old dog happy enough that she might decide to acknowledge the puppy.
  • Ferry children to afternoon and evening activities.
  • Read my Bible daily (or mostly daily).
  • Go to Bible study every Tuesday.
  • Teach my children manners.
  • Make my children do their chores.
  • Scold my children every time they act like morons.
  • Force my children to go outside and do something that doesn’t involve a screen.
  • Praise my children for everything, big and small, in an attempt to be a positive mom.
  • Maintain friendships with people near and far.
  • Stop being such a hermit.
  • Do budgets.
  • Clean closets, being sure to keep lists of all items to be donated to charity so that we can deduct the donation next year.
  • Find . . . well, everything that everyone is missing.
  • Keep track of all clothes for all six people–what needs replacing, what needs giving away, what’s old, what’s new, what’s too small, what’s too worn out . . .
  • Remind the children to work on homework and scouting requirements.
  • Fundraise.
  • Tweet and post to promote business.
  • Floss.

Those are the “Have Tos.” I’ll be honest here–many don’t happen, and those that do don’t happen very competently.

Then there are the “Oughts.” These are often disguised as “Musts,” “Shoulds,” “Whats???” and “I Can’t Believe You Haven’ts.” For instance:

  • Watch “Dr. Who,” “Firefly”/”Serenity,” “Sherlock,” all of the X-Men movies (working on it), and whatever other Geek Obsession of the Day is popular at the moment, whether I like them or not, because if I don’t, I can’t possibly be seen as a credible fan of anything related to science fiction or fantasy.
  • Read The Hunger Games Trilogy, Divergent, The Mortal Instruments, The Fault in Our Stars, or whatever other YA book/trilogy/series is popular right now, whether I like YA or not, because if I don’t, I can’t possibly be seen as a valid critic of pop culture.
  • Read all of the appropriate and acceptable classics and speculative fiction books, because if I don’t, I can’t possibly be seen as a competent reader and/or writer.
  • View all of the appropriate and acceptable Christian movies, because if I don’t, I’m probably just contributing to the destruction of our society and most likely going to hell.
  • Attend all of the women’s events at church, because if I don’t, I’m isolating myself and will probably end up alone and sad with 17 cats someday.
  • Keep up with all of the parenting, knitting, writing, political, etc. blogs so as to appear to a) know what I’m doing, and b) look like I pay attention in the world.

Oh, don’t forget the subjective “Musts”:

  • Maintain the appropriate level of outrage over all acceptable social causes.
  • Pray for All The Things–everything that everyone asks for, because otherwise, the guilt creeps in, so either don’t commit or don’t pray, but either one produces guilt.
  • Listen to everything my children say, no matter how inane or boring, to ensure their psyches aren’t harmed.
  • Pre-read, view, and listen to all media your children would like to consume to ensure their precious psyches aren’t harmed.

About that garden . . .

The truth is that I have a dozen or more gardens that need tending, and the ones that shout the loudest get the attention.

I’m a terrible gardener.

And I’m so tired.

And there’s no time for any of the things I sort of want to do–namely, knit, read, and write.

This thing called life is not for the faint of heart.

Where was I going with this post?

Maybe this post is just the result of a really hectic month and a bottleneck of feelings that had to come out. Maybe it’s a desperate plea for help–for someone to take a few of my jobs so that I can breathe again. Maybe I’m just ranting and whining a little (probably).

This isn’t just about time and exhaustion, although that’s a significant piece of it. I think it’s also about this guilt I carry–this conviction that if I don’t do All The Things, then somehow I’m failing my God, my husband, my children, my church, my friends, my troop . . .

. . . myself . . . .

I have no great words of wisdom here. I have no homily or platitude or momism that’s going to tie this post up with a tidy little bow. And I don’t want to hear, “this is a season,” or “we must learn to say ‘no,'” or “make time for yourself–you need it and deserve it.” I confess that I am keenly aware that as the mommy, I am the emotional barometer of our home, and quite frankly, I don’t deserve squat right now. I’m barely holding my head above water, and after days of birthday parties, minor emergencies, strong-willed children, teacher notes, missed appointments, and puppy pee, all I can really say is this:

I feel like poop.

I’m not looking for prayer or platitudes or homilies or momisms. Right now, I just want someone else to say, “yeah, I get it. There’s nothing you can do. You just have those times when the closet isn’t big enough for all the hats and there’s just not enough butter for all the bread.”

Is it okay to just admit sometimes that we just feel like poop?

I know that God gives strength and grace. I know that I’m blessed beyond measure, both in this realm and the next. Maybe it makes me a bad parent, but sometimes, I really don’t take a lot of comfort in those things.

I’m too busy doing damage control.

I read the mom blogs–the ones that are real, the ones that don’t seem quite so real, the ones that suggest we soldier on and carve out time for our own interests, the ones that suggest that our time will come someday, the ones that just suggest we all extend this amorphous grace to one another.

All right. But that’s not what I need right now.

Right now, I’m frazzled, unhappy, frustrated, sad, irritated, overwhelmed, and at the end of my rope. All I need is for another mom to say, “yes, I get it. It sucks. Have a drink, have some chocolate, have a sleep, and maybe tomorrow will be better. Or maybe it won’t. I really don’t know. But this is what we do. We do damage control until it gets better. Eventually, we won’t feel quite so much like poop.”

I’ve been tinkering with this post for several days, and I’ve gone back and forth on whether to post it. I finally decided I can’t be the only one out there who feels this way. I can’t be the only one who takes little comfort in platitudes and Christianese and momisms. There must be more of you.

So this is my message to you today: Yes, I get it. It sucks. Have a drink, have some chocolate, have a sleep. Maybe tomorrow will be better, maybe not. I don’t know. But you just keep doing damage control until things get better, and eventually, you won’t feel quite so poopy.

Pick a garden–any garden–and start weeding.

Till next we meet . . .

J M