Monthly Archives: March 2010

Miscellaneous Monday – 3-22-10

Misc. Monday is back.  I make no promises about the coming weeks, but it’s back for today.

Today’s random topic — what I’ve been playing on my iPod, what I’ve been reading, and what I’ve been watching.

1.  What’s on my iPod —  Lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of laid-back music:  Amos Lee, Hem, Joe Purdy, JJ Heller, The Weepies.  I’ve also added some Snow Patrol, some Ray LaMontagne, and some Iron & Wine.  And then there are the days when I just want to listen to the old standbys, Billy Joel and James Taylor.

2.  What I’ve been reading —  Recently, I’ve read a couple good books by Elin Hilderbrand, Barefoot and A Summer Affair.  Her characters are so rich, three-dimensional, flawed, complex.  It’s not easy to put them in a box of “good person” or “bad person.”  Her books entertain me yet engage my mind.  They are marketed as escape books or beach reads, but I find them much more than that.  I think her characters are wrestling with deep topics like identity and the meaning of love and forgiveness and consequences of our decisions and life purpose and juggling motherhood and one’s own ambitions.  Elin Hilderbrand’s books make me wish I were in a book group so I could read with friends and talk about all those topics.

3.  What I’ve been watching —  I’ve seen a few movies lately.  I really liked Did You Hear About The Morgans? I appreciate Hugh Grant’s dry wit and some of the physical comedy he and Sarah Jessica Parker show off in this movie.  Mary Steenburgen and Sam Elliott do a great job playing a small-town, down-home, long-married couple.  The movie made me laugh, but I also appreciate its message about marriage and forgiveness.

I didn’t especially love Up In The Air with George Clooney.  Some of it made me laugh, but it was fairly depressing. (Spoiler:)  I really was hopeful his character would undergo a big transformation, and it was disappointing that he sorted of ended in the same place he started, with an empty backpack.  I felt as fooled and taken advantage of as he did by Alex, the woman he met on his travels.  My husband pegged her story fairly early on, but I told him he was cynical and skeptical.  I was disappointed that he was right.  Again, though, I think the overall message about life and love and relationships and the pain and emptiness of his lifestyle was a good message.  I think the movie did a pretty good job of showing consequences to decisions and actions.

So, how about you?  What are you listening to, reading, and watching?  Tell us about it.



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Safe Sharing

In my last post, I wrote about this great longing we all have to be fully known and fully loved.  The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that this is one of our greatest desires.  And yet, as I said before, I think we are our own worst enemies when it comes to having this deep need met, because we rarely reveal our true selves to others.  How then can we be fully known and fully loved if we hide behind masks?

Honestly, I think unbelievers do a much better job with authentic relationships than we believers do.  After all, we have an image to uphold and we know what Christians say about people who don’t “walk the walk,” so to speak.  I’m sure I’ve been part of those conversations before, much to my own shame.

Not long ago, I was talking with somebody about our attempts to be genuine and authentic.  We talked about the sort of sharing we do in Bible study groups and Sunday School classes and small groups.  There is a level of safe sharing that seems authentic and genuine — well, to be fair, it is authentic and genuine — but it stops short of being really, deeply honest.

It’s fairly safe to admit to a small group, “I have super messy closets!  You just would not believe the junk I have jammed in there.  Please don’t ever come to my house and open a closet door ’cause you never know what might come tumbling out on you!”  Ok, so we’re admitting a weakness, a tendency toward messiness, something some would consider a flaw.  But messy closets are a pretty safe thing to confess.

I have heard plenty of women talk about how they sometimes lose it and fuss at their kids or how they tend to nag their husbands.  I’ve heard guys jokingly talk about their struggle to avert their eyes when young women are dressed in revealing clothing.  And I’ve heard people talk openly about wrestling to understand the purpose of a difficult situation — a job loss, a death, a sickness, a serious crisis.  But there are things we tend to not discuss as we’re going through them, big things we only discuss later, when we’re giving a testimony about how the Lord already worked it all out, after we’re all healed and restored.  There are things we don’t discuss when we’re in the middle of the brokenness.

Why?  Because I’m thinking that it is at those lonely moments of brokenness and temptation and struggle that we most need a community of believers surrounding us.  But we have created these ideas of how believers are supposed to act and supposed to appear, and those notions leave little room for real wrestling with sins that we’ve categorized as “bad” or “big.”

Just last Sunday I was in my Sunday School class of all women and the topic was breaking bad habits or finding freedom from those sins that so easily beset us.  The dear lady teaching the class (and I do love her) kept using the example of the temptation to eat chocolate cake. Ok, so I know this is a pretty universal temptation common to most women I know.  But as I sat there, I kept thinking, “Really?  Eating chocolate cake?  That’s the big, bad temptation?  Eating too many pieces of chocolate cake is the horrible sin that traps us?  Maybe I’m the only one, then.  Maybe I’m the only one who struggles with serious sin.  I wish my only struggle were eating too many pieces of cake.”

But then I remembered.  I’ve known believers in recent years who have battled dark days of depression.  I’ve known Christians who have struggled with addictions to pornography, alcohol, and drugs.  I’ve known Christians who have committed adultery, Christians who’ve walked away from marriages, Christians who’ve been trapped by eating disorders.  I know believers who wrestle with guilt and shame and fear.  So I know I’m not the only one.

Yet if you sat in on my Sunday School class, you’d think the biggest temptation we have is eating chocolate cake.  If you listened in on the many groups of Christian women I’ve been involved with over the years, you’d think our greatest sin was messiness or occasional crabbiness with our husbands and children.

And so we fight our great battles alone.  We wrestle out our salvation privately, hidden safely from view.  Because we have a reputation to maintain.  We have an image to uphold.  We don’t want to disappoint anybody, and we don’t want anybody saying mean things about us behind our backs.

Meanwhile, our deep desire to be fully known and fully loved remains unfulfilled.


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Invisible and Expendable

Do you ever feel invisible?  Unnoticed?  Camouflaged maybe?

I have worn articles of clothing five times and then somebody in my home finally asked, “Is that a new sweater?”  I’ve colored my hair and nobody noticed for days, until a friend at Bible Study exclaimed, “You colored your hair!  It’s a great color for you!”   I have never cared for ketchup or mustard; I’m not a condiment girl.  Still, after nearly sixteen years of marriage, my husband regularly offers to get me ketchup when we’re having hot dogs or eating in a fast food restaurant.

Oh, there are plenty of times my husband or children tell me I look nice and notice what I’m wearing or that I’ve painted my nails.  Just this morning, my four-year-old son looked at me after I’d finally showered and fixed my hair and put on real clothes (not sweats) and said, “You are good-looking, Momma!”  (He’s my favorite today.)  But there are days when I feel invisible or barely noticed.

In college we watched this French movie called The Return of Martin Guerre, which was based on a true story.  In it, Martin Guerre went off to war, leaving his wife and child.  After several years, a man showed up in the village claiming to be Martin Guerre and slid right into Martin’s life.  The wife accepted this impostor as her husband, but soon villagers began questioning the true identity of this man claiming to be Martin Guerre.  I remember discussing with my classmates whether the wife was truly tricked or whether she just wanted a husband so badly, it didn’t matter whether this man was really her husband or someone pretending.  Perhaps she just wanted a man, any man, to fill that role, and the specifics of his identity didn’t matter all that much.

Do you ever feel like that?  As if it doesn’t matter who you really are, that the people around you would be satisfied with any warm body doing the things you do?  That the people around you don’t ever really look at you or listen to you or pay attention to you anyway?  I think we each feel that way from time to time.

One of my favorite novels is Anne Tyler’s Ladder of Years.  In it, Delia Grinstead feels expendable.  So during a summer vacation, she wanders off down the beach, eventually hitchhiking a ride to a small town where she lives in a boarding house and takes a job as a secretary, trying on a new identity of sorts.

After several days, Delia’s family finally posts an announcement in the newspaper that she is missing.  Delia had been scouring the paper for days looking for such an announcement.  Each day, she had been both relieved and disappointed to find no notice of her disappearance.  “Did no one realize she was gone?” she wondered.  Finally, when the announcement does appear, Delia is terribly hurt by her family’s description of her.  This passage of the book has always struck a chord with me.  I think it resonates with that bit in each of us that longs to be noticed, seen, heard, known.

It hurt to read her physical description:  fair or light brown hair . . . eyes are blue or gray or perhaps green . . . For heaven’s sake, hadn’t anyone in her family ever looked at her?  And how could Sam have made her clothing sound so silly?  King of baby-doll, indeed!  . . .

The next day, she read the newspaper.

Today there was no further mention of her disappearance.  She wondered if the authorities had forgotten her that quickly.

Her family couldn’t even find a recent picture of her to print in the newspaper.  They used one from years earlier when she’d been a bridesmaid in her sister’s wedding, a photo in which she was -of course- wearing a horribly unflattering dress.

As I’ve been pondering identity lately, I’ve thought about how important being known is.  I think that is one of the most basic needs we all have — to be really known and really loved, to be wanted by someone who really knows all about us.

Anne Tyler’s Delia Grinstead did not feel known; she felt overlooked, unappreciated, expendable.  So she walked away from her life to start over with nothing, with nobody to not notice her.

Like Delia, Martin Guerre was expendable.  Any man similar-looking enough could walk into his life and take his place.  If his wife could accept another man in his place, did she ever really know Martin Guerre?

Do the people in my life really know me?  Or do they know snippets of me?  Could anybody write an accurate description of me if I came up missing?  Of course, my family could describe what I look like.  I’m pretty sure they all know my hair color and eye color, but what about beyond the physical description?  Does anybody know all of me?  Am I known?  Are you?

And if we’re not, is it because we only show parts of ourselves to people?  The safe parts.  The parts we think people will like.  Maybe parts of us are invisible because we hide those parts.  Maybe we’re camouflaged because we camouflage ourselves.

And do we know the people in our lives?  Do I work to really know my children, my husband?  to meet their need of being wholly known and wholly loved?

Do I foster relationships so my own need to be wholly known and wholly loved is met?

What about you?  Do you ever feel like Delia Grinstead?  Do you relate to Martin Guerre?  Do you ever feel invisible or expendable?

** By the way, the Sunday School response is that we have a Heavenly Father who knows us, completely knows us, and wholly loves us as we are.  He knew us as enemies and loved us in spite of that.  He died so that He could spend all of eternity in relationship with us.  Of course, I know this.  I know that I am wholly known and wholly loved by the only One who really matters.  I know this, and I do find great comfort in this.  And I think this is our greatest spiritual need, intertwined with salvation — to be wholly known and wholly loved or perhaps to understand and believe in faith that we are wholly known and wholly loved.

But I also think we have a need to be known and loved and accepted by other people, or at the very least, by another person.  I think this is one of our greatest emotional needs.  It’s ironic that one of our most significant needs is to be wholly known and wholly loved, yet we spend so much time putting our best foot forward, revealing only the aspects of ourselves we believe are most attractive and acceptable.

What do you think?  It’s your turn.


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Invasion of the Body Snatchers

As you know, I’ve been pondering my identity lately, thinking about the me I was before I became a mother.

Truth be told, I was very maternal before I ever became a mother.  When I was nineteen or twenty, a guy I knew told me I was the most maternal person he’d ever met – and that included his own mother.  Though maternal wasn’t the image I was going for when I was in college, I wasn’t offended he said that.  I was flattered — which probably says a lot about who I was and who I am.

I’m reading this book called Barefoot by Elin Hilderbrand.  One of the main characters is a mother of two small children.  In the scene I just read, she is watching her two little boys sleep and thinking about motherhood.

Being a mother was the best of all human experiences, and also the most excruciating.  Getting the baby to nurse, getting the baby to eat solids, getting the baby to sleep, the teething, the crying, the crawling, into everything, can’t take my eyes off him for a second, a whole roll of toilet paper stuffed into the toilet, the first steps, the falling, the trips to the emergency room (Does he need stitches?), the Cheerios that stuck together and nearly choked him, the weaning from the breast, the bottle, the pacifier, the grating squeal of Elmo’s voice, the first playdate, the hitting, the grabbing, the first word, Dada (Dada?), the second word, mine, the earaches, the diaper rash, the croup.  It was a constant drone, all day, every day, occupying Vicki’s hands, her eyes, her mind.  Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  Who did she used to be?  She couldn’t remember.

Who did I used to be?  Can I remember?  Do I want to be that girl anyway?

Being a mother is such a part of my identity.  In a way, it was part of my identity before I ever had children.  You’re the most maternal person I’ve ever met! And that includes my own mother! As a little girl, I was a mother to my baby dolls.  Then I was a little mother to my younger cousins, to the children I babysat.  In college, I was MamaJennifer the RA to the girls on my hall in the dorm.

Then I had my own children.  Pregnancy. Morning sickness. Labor. Nursing. Diapers. Spitting up.  Baby scales. Growth charts.  Developmental milestones.  Long hours and days of waiting for test results.  Sleep deprivation.  Baby magic lotion.  Board books.  Homeschool curriculum.  Strollers.  Double strollers.  Baby slings.  MOPS.  Chore charts.  Research on learning differences.  Full-speeed-knock-me-over-hugs.  Sticky kisses.  Soccer. Basketball. Theater.  Science projects.  Stuffed animals.  Laundry.  All of it became part of my identity.  All of that and more.  I mean, really, how could I possibly love six little people so much?

Invasion of the Body Snatchers?  Invasion of the Heart Snatchers.

Who am I?  Whoever I am, these six children, with all their cuddles and messes and snotty noses and sloppy kisses and complicated personalities, have certainly made me this woman.  I am not only a mother, but that is definitely a huge part of who I am.

Who did I used to be?  I used to be a girl wanting to be the woman I am today.


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