Sunday, February 27, 2011

Speaking Out

I ended my last post with a few questions:

When you are passionate about seeing change, do you think it is more effective to fight against the thing you don't like, or to fight for the thing you want to see? Do you see a distinction between the two, or do you feel they are the same thing?

Is there a time for specifically speaking out against something?

It has taken me longer to get back to this topic than I intended, but I needed to think about it for a while myself.

Before I get started, please note that these are simply the ideas I'm mulling over in my own head. My conclusions may not apply to everyone; for that matter, they may not always apply to me. As I think through these things more, I may change my perspective. But for now, this is where I am.

As I stated in my last post, when it comes to things that matter to me, I have become more convinced that my role is that of an encourager, not one who tears down the things I am against. I am not sure that constantly railing against various topics is really the way to shine a light on the changes I want to encourage.

Should that apply to everyone? I have absolutely no idea. But it is something that has irritated me about a few different Christian books lately because it seems like there is a lot of negative talk about whatever the author doesn't like. And this led to the question, "Is there a time for specifically speaking out against something?"

After thinking the question over for a while, I think my answer is yes. Yes, there are times that it is appropriate to speak out against things that are going on in our culture, in our world, and certainly in the church.

Where I think I part ways with the authors of some of these books is, I think that probably the most appropriate context for speaking out against something is relationship.

When Paul wrote letters to the various churches, they were not books written to the Church as a whole. Yes, they became part of the Bible we read today, but Paul certainly didn't write these letters with the goal to have them published, sell them, and to change the face of Christian culture as a whole. He was writing to specific churches, specific people he had relationships with, addressing specific issues within those churches.

I'm not saying Christian books are useless. I think they certainly serve a purpose, and I think God absolutely can and does use them to speak to people. I know God has spoken to me before through Christian books. But I do think they are to be taken with a grain of salt. In the end, the author does not know me or you or most of his or her audience. There is no relationship there. And I think a lot of times, real changes take place slowly, one person at a time, through relationship and community.

Of course, publishing a book is not the only way to speak out against something without the foundation of relationship; there are ways that people just like you and me can do it too. Facebook status updates, blog posts, and so on. So what do you think? If you feel the need to speak out against something, do you do it in a public way so anyone and everyone can see it, or do you do it more quietly in the context of relationship? Why?

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Fine Line

I have read a couple of popular Christian books lately that have left me feeling frustrated and discouraged. It seemed I would enjoy these books very much, considering that I believe in loving and caring for other people as an integral part of living out a Christian faith. And, on the surface anyway, it seemed like this was what these books would be about.

But these books, rather than simply encouraging this approach to faith, spend a huge amount of time tearing down what they are against. And, to hear them tell it, what they are against is basically Christianity in America as a whole.

For one thing, I feel that to negatively characterize the whole of Christianity in America is painting with a broad brush. Are there American churches that are so integrated with the American dream that they are completely self-focused and self-dependent? Well, yeah. And it's true that this is not the gospel. But I honestly do not believe that the majority of Christians in America have this attitude. I think most of us are doing our best to live an authentic faith. Instead of hearing that we are probably living unbiblically, perhaps we should instead be encouraged to seek the heart of God even more. In the end, books are not going to convince me of the heart of God or his plan for me. God can and will do that as I continue to seek him.

But this approach bothers me for another reason, and it may take a few posts to completely address my thoughts about it. So please bear with me.

The first question I have been asking myself is, "When we want to see change, is it best to tear down what we are against, or encourage what we are for?" It seems like semantics, a fine line, and some people would say our job is to do both. When fighting for a particular change, aren't you naturally fighting against something else?

I have encountered this struggle in my own life regarding something I care very much about: discipline of children. I will be very honest; I would love to see the day when all parents are able to effectively discipline their children without feeling the need to use spanking as an option. And that applies to all ends of the spectrum, from the spankings that border on abuse all the way down to the light swat on a diapered bottom. But does that mean I must fight against spanking, tear it down, and characterize people who do it as bad parents? Or does it mean I should encourage the kind of discipline I believe in so strongly? (Please note that this is not what this post is actually about, so if you disagree with me here, that's okay; this is just here as a personal example of the issue I am addressing.) I have become more and more convinced that my role is that of an encourager, not one who tears down what I am against.

But the next natural question is, "Is there a time for specifically speaking out against something?" That is my next question, anyway. And I am still thinking on that, so I will have to address it later. ;)

But for today, I will leave you with this: When you are passionate about seeing change, do you think it is more effective to fight against the thing you don't like, or to fight for the thing you want to see? Do you see a distinction between the two, or do you feel they are the same thing?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

In Pursuit of Myself

In my last few posts, I've been really honest about where I am right now and the struggles I'm having with figuring out exactly who I am, both as a mom and outside of being a mom.

I had a talk with a good friend over the weekend that helped me make some headway in figuring this out. He suggested that perhaps one of my biggest challenges is simply that I don't have anything for me that I love to do. I think that was a good point. Lots of moms love to do the things I mentioned in my last post-- cooking, baking, crafting, etc. But that's not really my thing. I need to find that thing that I love doing and then do it. Because deep down, even though I know I don't want to be a stay-at-home mom forever, I absolutely DO feel that this is where I am supposed to be right now. It is so important to me to be home with my kids during their early years. I fully expect that once Isaac starts school, I will be pursuing school or a career of my own. But right now, this is where I know I am called to be. So I need to find a way to make it work better for me, and trying to force myself to become the "domestic goddess" I mentioned in my last post isn't the solution.

I think I am taking steps in the right direction, though. Over the weekend, my family joined the Y and I have been going to work out every day since then. It has been really nice to get some time to myself to exercise, plus it's good for me. Isaac loves the childcare there; in fact, he hasn't wanted to leave when it's time to go home! He looks forward to going to play every day.

I've also started reading a few books that have nothing to do with parenting. They're books about Christianity, particularly the American version of it, and while I don't agree with the authors on everything they say, it gives me a lot to think about. It's so nice to have something to think about and talk about other than my children.

Plus I am considering going ahead and applying for a master's program in counseling. I could start in the fall, and just go part-time. I think I could handle a class or two per semester, especially since they're evening classes.

Already I am feeling more balanced and more like myself again. And, interestingly enough, I've noticed myself enjoying my role as a mom more, too. Good stuff!

Friday, February 11, 2011

I Am Not a Domestic Goddess

During the time I've been a stay-at-home mom, I've struggled with trying to live up to expectations. Are they my expectations of myself, or society's expectations of me? I'm not sure, but I'm also not sure it matters which it is. Either way, I've fretted about living up to certain expectations, and I have especially fretted over feeling like I'm failing.

I remember my last semester of college, sitting in class and dreaming about finally being able to be home with my son full-time. I was excited about spending more time with him, of course, but I also had visions of accomplishing so many other things. A perfect house! Homeschooling! Scrapbooking! Candle-making! Baking! Cooking everything from scratch! Making my own jewelry! Yes, I was going to be Homemaker Extraordinaire! A regular Domestic Goddess!

You can laugh. For that matter, I am laughing... but only a little. Because to be honest, I am still trying to live up to these kinds of expectations of myself.

I sometimes feel like, in other people's eyes, this is the perfect picture of the stay-at-home mom. Someone who is endlessly patient with the children, who keeps a wonderfully clean and perfectly decorated home, who is always cooking and baking, who is creative and crafty.

And some people are all those things, and they are great at it! I'm just... not. I don't like to cook, and I only occasionally like to bake. My attempt at homeschooling went awry very quickly. I spend too much time online. My home is rarely perfect, and even when it is, it doesn't last long because I am home with a toddler. As for being crafty... meh. I like the idea of it, but I rarely have the patience or dedication for it, or the money. I do have interests and talents, but they aren't of the baking and crafting variety. I love to read and write, I am interested in personality theory, psychology, counseling, sociology, and spirituality. I want to go back to school for a master's degree, and in a few years, I want to start a career.

For a while, I was reading several "mom blogs" and I finally had to cut way down on the number I was reading. They were reinforcing these expectations I was putting on myself. Lots of cooking, baking, crafting, homeschooling, and so on. No offense to moms who happen to blog about those things; if you love it and are good at it, awesome! The issue I'm having is totally me. I was putting pressure on myself and telling myself I was a failure for not being all those things I was reading about.

So where does that leave me? Am I a failure if I let go of these expectations? Or am I finally succeeding at accepting myself for who I am? And to address the question from my last post, do I know who I am outside of being a mom? I think embracing my own talents and interests is a step in the right direction.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


I am really struggling with life right now.

Part of the issue is winter, I'm sure. I always get like this during the winter. Everything is gray and dead, and it affects my mood. When spring rolls around, I seriously feel like a completely different person. But winter... winter sucks.

But winter is not really the whole problem.

I am feeling this deep sense of pain and dissatisfaction. I hate admitting that I feel this way, but I do. I know my life is great, but I am still struggling. I hear those voices in the back of my head, the question posed to me from a very young age: What do you have to be unhappy about? I guess if it worked to shame myself into a sense of happiness, I'd already be there. I am very good at shaming myself for not being who I think I should be or feeling how I think I should feel.

Sometimes I think that I don't know who I really am beyond being a mother. I mean, I went from being a teenager who didn't have a clue who I really was... to being a wife and mother while I was still a teen. Eighteen years old is young, folks. And while I think I have done okay with becoming a mother at such a young age, it has also taken its toll on me. I had to grow up faster than most people. I don't have much in common with most of my "age group." Although in a lot of ways I never really did. I was in college for a few years, so that was something for me, but once I graduated, honestly, my life began to pretty much revolve around being a mother.

And I can hear the arguments now, that being a mother is an amazing calling, and that raising children is so important, and why wouldn't I want to give my all to my children? I've said all those things myself. And I agree, but I'm not sure that I need to give so much of myself that being a mother becomes the totality of who I am.

Yet I feel like my reality requires that of me, and it frustrates me. Anytime I try to pursue something for me, it doesn't work out. A few years ago, I was all ready to go back to school, I was applying to master's programs... and then I found out I was pregnant with Isaac. I've applied for jobs I think I would really love, but I haven't gotten them. More recently, I was beginning to consider a part-time job or going back to school, and then I got a faint positive pregnancy test only to miscarry a couple days later. I'm still recovering from that emotional roller coaster. But yeah, it feels like every time I try to move into having an identity outside of being a mom, I get put back in my place.

Being a mom is a huge part of who I am. But as I am discovering, and re-discovering, other parts of who I am, I feel frustrated that I can't explore or pursue those things to the extent I desire.

I often become restless and bored, and irritable too. Sure, I can occupy myself getting all riled up and vocal about things like parenting methods, breastfeeding, and birth... and I have certainly done that before... but it feels empty somehow. Sure, I care about those things. I care about them very much. But I don't want to be consumed by them. Those things are not who I am.

There is really no point to this. I'm just sitting here and typing the words as they come to me. And I'm not even sure yet if I want to post this. It feels too raw, too honest, and way too vulnerable. I don't really want people telling me I shouldn't feel this way. This is a tricky stage of life for me to be in. Please be gentle with me. I am struggling to find my way.