Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Mud pies and me too

Morning, Lord.

***

...and that's where I left it. Nearly two weeks ago.

Struggling to come here and struggling to talk to you and then clearly it's no surprise that I've got nothing to say. So, because I have nothing, I don't come here and I don't talk to you and the whole thing goes over and over and gets bigger and bigger. I become more and more self-conscious and more and more inhibited and I wonder if it's worth it at all.

Lord, I've got myself in a mess.

I know that you're with me always. I know that you're with me through thick and thin and I know that any progress I make comes from you. I know that you have given me gifts, and that you want me to use them. I know that you have a Plan for me and I know that your timing is perfect.

So, I reckon that you're used to me panicking when things go wrong; I moan and I complain and I cling onto you harder. I am there every time you turn round and when you do, you trip over me, I'm so clingy. I need you and I know it. But what's surprised me recently is how I panic when things go right.

It's only a little thing. Only small, and for some people I know who are way past where I am in this little journey of ours, it must seem tiny. Here it is (and I'm cringing as I write it):

I come and spend time with you, and for a couple of years now it's been my habit to have a waffle with you and then press a small orange button that says 'publish' and let other people in on my meanderings. Sometimes people tell me they liked what I shared. Sometimes there's a deafening silence. Sometimes it makes my heart swell when people tell me that you moved them to tears or to laughter through the words I tapped out. The best thing of all is when someone says, 'Oh, me too!' Then - that's when I know that you are smiling. There's nothing you like more than to see your children reach for each other in encouragement and love. That's when I know that there is nothing else that I want to do, other than this.

So over the last few months I've known that you were smiling. I've felt it, and so have others. People are joining in our conversations and maybe - who knows but you? - my dream is starting to come true and they are seeing you, hearing you, and joining their voices with mine, their prayer and praise with mine. It's wonderful.

People are so kind with words of encouragement, and then occasionally someone is unkind because the things I say about you make them angry and offended and they hit back with hurtful criticism. You don't leave me alone to handle it; you're there when they're mean as well as when they're nice. I have read it, worried about it, debated what to do with it and moved on past it a few times now. I know full well that not everyone will agree with me. I know that not everyone accepts what I know about you. Some people might some day; some never will.

It's the way it works.

But what I'm not used to is a growing audience. I'm not used to writing guest posts for other people's websites and then seeing visits here from a whole new set of people; family from around the world.

Chicken.
I know where you are when I'm in trouble, but these last few weeks I've lost sight of you when things go well.

I don't mean that I'm off doing my thing, basking in the sweetness of success, thinking that I can do it all alone; no. It's not that. It's as if it was so much easier when there were only a few people listening, and I knew almost all of them. I remember when I pressed the 'publish' button for the very first time. I wrote in my journal, 'Will anyone read what I've written? Why should anyone care?' and it was such a quiet, intimate thing. It was just me and you.

Nothing has changed. No, nothing. It's still just me and you. But in my head, I'm all self-conscious again. What on earth do people think?

In that first post-publish journal entry I said that it was up to you, Lord. Up to you whether anyone came by or not. Up to you whatever happened.

Nothing has changed.

I once had a friend who was always there for me when my life was in a mess. Broken up with a boyfriend? There she was with tissues and a bottle of wine. Struggling with exams or poorly or lamenting about the failure of the latest diet? She was there with sympathy and a listening ear and a bag of marshmallows.

But when things were going right? Nowhere to be seen.

She was my rainy-weather-friend and she didn't like to see me when I was happy. She didn't like things to be going well. I never really got to the bottom of why, as we drifted apart during a phase of my life when I was doing ok. She didn't return my calls and didn't come to drink coffee when there were no tears involved.

I feel as if I'm a bit like that right now. When it's you and me against the world (or when it feels like that) I am here all the time and I stay close, but when things start to go right; when you start to give me a little of what I've so badly wanted - I am off like a rat up a drainpipe. Off. Maybe it's safer to stay where things are familiar, anonymous.

What do I want, if not for people to read what I write? I firmly believe that if you have given me a gift, I should use it. If you want me to write, then you must want people to read what I write. So I should be pleased when people do, shouldn't I? Instead of panicking and going into a flat spin before running off and hiding. I should be happy instead of filled with anxiety. Encouraged and enthused instead of oppressed by it.

I have often wondered where I'm heading with all this, and I've chafed at what I perceive to be slow progress. I think I now understand why the brakes have been on - when you take them off, even for a moment, it rattles me so much that I stop in my tracks and start to sabotage the whole thing by standing in the road like a rabbit caught in the headlights of an oncoming car.

People come to see what you and I talk about. So... if I don't talk to you, then they won't come any longer.  All subconscious, you know, but horribly effective. If there's nothing to see, they don't come. Why would they?

I've tried to work out what to do about this, and the only thing I can do is the same as I've always done. I lay it all in front of you.

Here it is. Here am I, with all my strange neuroses and unpredictable panics. It would be funny, if it wasn't so discouraging. I am used to failure, but give me something that goes right instead and I don't know what to do with it.

The amazing thing is that I laid this all in front of you and you smiled that slightly amused, indulgent smile that you smiled and you said, 'It's alright'. You found a handful of your best encouragers and you placed them where I'd find them. You linked me up with a few people that I may never meet in this life, who have become friends in the most meaningful sense of the word. Wise people whose words lift up, not destroy. People who are open and honest about the ups and downs of life and don't try to preach but just tell it like it is.

The Internet is a strange place. Some people criticise it for being shallow and trivial but I have found it exactly the reverse. There are people around the world who have helped me when I needed helping in just the right way. Other people who write who know how insecure it can make you feel. People who know that a word or two of encouragement - even when limited to 140 characters or a comments box - can change someone's day. Stop someone from giving up. Assure someone that they're not alone. Raise a smile when tears have been the order of the day.

I've said, 'I'm struggling,' and people said, 'Me too.'
I've said, 'This is hard,' and people said, 'It is. But you can do it.'
I've said, 'I don't know if I can do this,' and people said, 'Me neither, but He helped me, and He'll help you too'.
I've said, 'I worry that I'm not good enough,' and people said, 'We're not, but He is.'

Who'd have thought it? I've learned that if I stick my head above the parapet, the things that have hit and hurt the most haven't been thrown by anyone else but me.  I can talk myself out of the wonder and pleasure of any experience and find that it's easier to stay crouched down low, hiding, than risk going somewhere where the air might be cleaner and the view so much better.

CS Lewis once said:
'It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about ... when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday by the sea. We are far too easily pleased.'
Maybe I'm too easily pleased. I told you that it was alright if only half a dozen people read what I write, and it was ok if lots of people read it. Then when you move me away from a) towards b) I scuttle off back to my mud pies. I know where I am with mud pies. What do you mean, the seaside? That sounds very open and exposed to me...think I'll stay where I am...if you don't mind...

But no. That's not how it's going to be.

I just want to say, once again, that I am along for the ride. I just want to keep doing what we do together, Lord, you and me.

I want to notice you in my life, I want to tell people about what you're doing and I want to encourage and inspire.

I want people to see you and see how wonderful you are.

I want to be honest enough that people say, 'Me too,' because that connection is invaluable. I don't feel anywhere near such a failure when someone says, 'I feel that way too,' and I have such hope when someone says, 'I felt that way - and things are better now'. That's the power of connecting with people. Little words on a screen can pack such a punch.

I'm sorry that I've been all over the place lately. I'm sorry for the uncertainty and doubt and anxiety when you have always looked after me and you have always been the one who gives me words and there's no reason for that to change now.

It isn't about me. It isn't about me.

Thank you, Father, for your gentleness and compassion in this latest strange lesson in my life. Thank you for the honesty and vulnerability of those people whose struggles they've shared with me this past week. Thank you that you have introduced me to family scattered all over the world who are so different and yet all love you and are willing to reach out and be reached by brothers and sisters who need encouragement.

Thank you that you are a God who has no problem moving with the times and working  as powerfully through twenty-first century social media as you do through the pulpit and the printing press.

Thank you for every person who visits here and reads about you and about my limping, imperfect journey. Thank you (gulp) for stats and comments and guest blogs and 'Me too,' moments.

And, Lord, thank you for the words.

Thank you.





14 comments:

  1. Simply beautiful, Helen, in its aching honesty and yearnings. Your prayer may feel and be private in a sense but it is one echoed in my heart too and, no doubt, in many. How we long for affirmation yet scuttle away like frightened rabbits "caught in the headlights" or scared rats running up a drainpipe when it happens - all because it is almost to much to handle.
    As writers we need readers. Not all will connect lovingly with us. But the urge to share doesn't go away. One day the viewings are few and another they overwhelm us.
    Yet the main thing is that we keep going on, exercise the gifting, practice the art, keep the faith and show up anyway.
    In the end it is all from God's hands and all for His glory, not our own. He is using you so much to reach others. Rejoice in that and allow yourself to relax and keep writing. The love of God only puts us where His grace can keep us.
    The enabling and equipping is all grace. Blessings and courage, my friend! :) xx

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    1. Thank you Joy. Definitely the lesson is to show up anyway. I say over and over to myself that it's not about me but my feelings make a liar of me so often.
      Thank you.

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  2. Dear Helen,
    You are such a blessing to me, even though you may not realize or believe it. I read every word you write. With anticipation that God is going to speak through you to me. And He does more times than not. To me, that's what this whole blogosphere is about--reaching others with the truths God shares with us. You just threw yourself out there today, vulnerable and raw. Talk about transparency. I'm not patronizing you but, yes, I have felt exactly the same anxiety and doubts about writing on my own blog. I've written what I thought was a dynamic blog that folks would respond to and no one NO ONE left even one comment. And the views were just a few. Man, I was shook up and I felt your concern. Why didn't people read? Why didn't they comment? God gave me this beautiful truth to share and no one responded. God gave a great party and nobody came. What gives, Lord? He and I have had many of the same conversations as you did with God today. Those feelings are by no means uncommon for many of us. I can point you to blogging buddies who have told me many of the same things you are saying today. Keep this in mind (as you alluded to in your post): We're writing to glorify and praise God. If not one reader ever visited my blog again, or if my views jump to a bazillion a day, I'll still write for the same reason. To glorify God. And I believe that is your heart as well. I believe God delights in reading this post today. If God had a refrigerator, He would probably tape your post today on it. This is awesome. I love your transparency. I am very transparent about who I am in my posts as well. My transparency has, at times, generated criticism and doubts from some friends. It lost me a job even. But that's who I am and God wants me to keep glorifying Him. And I will. You will too. And you'll have good days and bad days. I will too. But you understand your true identity in Christ. And He knows you have good days and bad days just like Christ had. Don't you think He was overjoyed when He was able to demonstrate His awesome power when He fed 5,000 people? When the blind man was healed? When Nicodemus became a believer? When the woman at the well came? And we know how much He agonized over the lack of trust His disciples showed at times. He sobbed when Lazarus died. He agonized in the Garden of Gasthemene. Good days and bad days are a major part of our journey. I'm sorry for the way your are feeling today. I will be praying for you today. And I will continue to read eagerly and with anticipation each time I see your posts because I know God is going to speak to me through the things He shares with you. Whether the sun shines or it's raining in your life. If you are getting more followers, ask yourself where those followers are coming from? Right from God. And don't you think God is eager for you to share what He gives you with more people? That is something to be excited about and grateful for. Wow! What an awesome opportunity. And you can count on me to be one of those blogosphere friends to receive all the encouragement and edifying words you write. You are special.

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    1. Steven thank you so much for your wise and encouraging words. You are such a blessing to me too and your practical advice is worth its weight in gold to me.
      I can't really do anything but keep on keeping on - sometimes it's hard to write but it's harder not to. I'm trying to stay close to God instead of running away from him because when I try to ignore it all it just gets more and more oppressive until I pick up where I left off!
      Like I said to Joy, above - I have to keep reminding myself that it's not about me. It isn't about me, and then the way I feel proves to me that secretly it IS about me and I have to start again. As you said, if nobody but God ever sees these words, and he is pleased with them, then that's ok. If someone far away that never makes contact with me reads them somehow and is encouraged, or inspired, or challenged, or reassured - then that's ok. It isn't about me. No, it's not.
      Thankyou. So much.

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  3. I completely get this. I so struggle with the size of the response and am easily discouraged when no one comments. Yet, it really is for His glory, and my finite mind cannot measure that. This side of heaven, I will not know the significance of my words (or His through me)--writing or speaking. When I am questioning, He reminds me that I can say, "I have this friend who lives in England..." and know that it is true.

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    1. It certainly is. I can't wait for the day when you and I stand somewhere and find out what went on behind the scenes in all this. Just imagine being introduced to someone who read your wonderful blog and was changed by it - and you never, ever knew.
      Thank you, my friend across the sea. Going to be a good day then!

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  4. Ah Helen, fabulous writing. Really gripping. You have really blessed me since I stumbled upon ya. You really are gifted and yes WE really are benefiting:-) keep it up. Don't ever grow weary doing this:-) God is using you big time. Blessings. Rowena

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    1. I so love the way you write with an Irish accent, so you do. Rowena, thank you - how wonderful when technology does this sort of thing. Thank you for your encouragement and kind words.

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  5. Keep going Helen, God is with you. :-) You always have such fantastic quotes... the CS Lewis one really got me thinking.

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    1. Thank you! CS Lewis is a mine of thought-provoking stuff. Over and over again I read something of his and it sticks in my mind all day. Thank you for reading and for your comment.

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  6. Thank you for your honesty Helen, I too often wonder if people read what I write as I live my life with Jesus. God has given you a gift and you are an encouragement to others. We're all on a journey with Him, and sometimes God causes paths to cross with others... fair weather friends, rainy weather friends, people we know well, people we never meet. That's the beauty of being in His family. Be encouraged and blessed, Helen, as you encourage and bless others.

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  7. And thank you for yours. I'm sure you know that I read every post of yours and I'm praying along with you. Thank you for taking the trouble to come and be encouraging to me in the middle of all that's going on for you.
    We just keep on keeping on, I guess. I am quite sure that you are such a blessing to all who read your words. Even if it breaks your heart to write them, I hope that it helps too.
    Thanks again for visiting.

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  8. I'm learning from reading your post Helen--we are kindred spirits. When we identify the problem STRESS seems to dissipate. Prov. 1:17 says, "Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird." You may be wondering what such a Scripture has to do with STRESS. If a net were spread in front of a bird, it would fly around, above, or away from it. Because the bird identifies the net as a hindrance to its ability to move freely, the net becomes an enemy to it. When STRESS enters our lives as writers, bloggers...we must view it as an enemy to our happiness and health. STRESS is not something we should accept as okay without realizing that is designed to steal our joy--which effects our joy. A GREAT CONVERSATION Helen with God that I know goes on continously in your writing.

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  9. How poignant, Helen! I can so relate. Not to the blog thing, as I don't have lots of people reading it at this point, but the idea that when everything goes well it doesn't feel like I hold onto God as much because . . . well, everything's going well! I've talked with Him about this, and told Him I wanted to hang onto Him even when things are ok. In fact, I want to feel/know every minute of the day that I cannot do one thing without His sustaining power and His guidance. We're on a journey!

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