An insider for a day

It can wear on your soul, walking as an alien and a stranger (I Peter 2:11). We're told time and again by our God who speaks through Scripture, "do not be confused, unsettled, or conformed because of this" (I Peter 4:12; I John 3:13; Romans 12:2). Yet we still are drawn to these holes of cognitive and spiritual sinking there something wrong with me? Am I on the wrong track, since I seem to be alone on this path?  Did I really understand God's call, or am I just being stubborn (or weak, or foolish, or misguided)?

As lonely as it is to be a stay-at-home mom, and lonelier still to be battling cancer and raising a child with special needs, the loneliest outpost of my life is my choice to blog about the experience.  You keep walking up the staircase of the unexpected - each step a new level of weird and alone, each step taking you further from what is understood and expected (the cultural mores) and further into the confusing and baffling.  Where once your ideas and activities might have been met with stilted silence, they are now greeted with open stares, frank questions, and even sometimes accusations, misinterpretation, or refutation.

Life begins in the blissful cocoon of family life where all of you - from every crooked first grin to every expulsion of gas - is seen as a joyful occasion of new individuality surging into the bland masses of humanity and infusing the earth with a fresh dose of unique DNA and, with it, new hope for an extraordinary future. Sometime in early childhood you begin jockeying for position amongst siblings, friends, and even rival your parent's authority in an attempt to grasp your place in your world.  But it is still, then, your world.  Many will reminisce with me of the taut, anguished days of preadolescence when a hazy and inarticulate cognition of the scope of the world began to shatter the glass shell of yours.  It wasn't until college, for me, that I began to try on this vast world like a new suit of clothes, struggling to make it my own, make it fit.  And shortly after college, tossing it aside again, comfortable once more in the nakedness of my own personality, wit, sensibilities, and dreams.

The growing pains of the struggle to fit in and the final choice to exclude myself willfully from any of the boxes our society proposes a young woman should live in still has the power to make me wince.

And so I tossed off those shells of boxes - their labels only defining parts of my whole: Revolutionary, Career Woman, Feminine, Doesn't Play Well with Others, Introvert, Poet, Daughter, Drone.  I began to delight in just how the curve of me fit against the curve of others, how we complemented each other, how sometimes our bents twist and reshape and transform the architecture and flow of another's soul.

Instead of fitting into a box, I developed a paradigm of that rather resembled a Russian nesting doll.  The largest doll - the one that fills up the most space and is most ornate and beautiful and beloved, yet bruised and dinged with scratched paint from the harshness of a sharp world - that one is the one that says "Daughter of the King" across her chest.  A crown on her head.  Jewels on her throat, where a thyroid and some lymph tissue and tumor used to be.

Next comes a red doll, holding a few coins, a lantern, a piece of cloth, the deed to some land, a burp cloth and a pacifier.  This is Wife and Mother, "whose price is far above rubies" - the woman who toils long into the night, who sews, cooks, cleans, tends, loves, soothes, bargains, grieves and welcomes, gives birth and tends death.  (Proverbs 31)

Another doll inside is Daughter and Sister...she holds several nieces and nephews under a strong arm, holds coffee in her cup and conversation in her mouth, and smiles with parted lips...a joyful doll.  A doll that both gives and receives.

Yet another reveals a writer, a poet, a student, a researcher, an ICU nurse, a photographer, a sling-maker, a tax-payer, a counselor of young women, a meal-deliverer and tender of the sick and needy.  This doll carries a laptop and a clipboard, a stethoscope and a camera, and she's all business with the joy hidden deeper, in her heart.

Whether you look at it as hats you are wearing, plates you are spinning, boxes you fit in, labels that fit...we all have them.  Prioritized in a unique way.  The things that make us so different from the rest of the world.

For once, in the past 24 hours, it has been a sheer delight to feel like one of the group.  For once, I am surrounded by people who totally understand why I write this thing called a blog.  I've heard so many times that it is silly, a time-waster, too intimate, dangerous, pointless, or preposterously self-absorbed.  It is a relief to spend a weekend with others who are using online tools for a specific purpose.

Their stories already fascinate me:  Heather, who unabashedly longs for a macro lens and chronicles a life with one child and a dear husband; the statuesque Miriam, Walking in Christ, trying to transition from sensible to the more amorphous faith-full; Jane, a Registered Dietitian striving to help women understand the underlying spiritual connection that must take first place when it comes to the reverence and restriction of food; Jendi, with more cameras and lenses along than I have children, teaches women to use video to reach people via the internet, and scurries to and fro documenting all the proceedings.

And finally, Melissa, who writes about everything from multi-tasking as a mother of teens to managing her own chronic illness and the ramifications it has for the mundane daily grind as well as the inner spiritual grind that daily transforms us and brings us closer to Christ.  This woman understands, in that deep, experiential way, that once your life has been truly threatened, you live each remaining day with new determination, purpose, joy, and gratitude.

This was a peaceful day.  A day of confirmation and rest that yes - it may be out of the ordinary back home - but it is what God is calling me to do right now.  Mark 16:15 commands me to go forth into all the world and preach the Gospel.  Acts 9:25 and Mark 2:1-5 highlight that resourcefulness, creativity, and tenacity are hallmarks of faith.  Instead of riding in dangerous ships, descending walls in baskets, breaking out of prisons thanks to angels, and scratching letters on papyrus scrolls, I was born in an age of computer keyboards and world-wide, instantaneous connection through some magic of airwave physics.  42 million American women now utilize social media - including blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and other interactive forums - at least weekly (that's a little over half of the population of adult women).  No one seems to know how many women write blogs, although 53% use them to gather information.  Although this would seem to make blogging a mainstream activity in our culture, my conference cohorts echo my own experience: women who write online are few and far between, and still an oddity and somewhat misunderstood.

So, it is with the determination, purpose, joy and gratitude granted by these years of cancer suffering that I send out these missives of faith to a silent world of readers.  And pray that God uses some meager, faltering word of mine to reflect His glory and draw many more sons and daughters to Him.  Make me an instrument, Lord - a furiously typing, ferociously loyal, flagrantly unafraid tool in Your grand plan of redemption, sanctification, glorification.

And thank you, Lord, for these other women using a flat panel of black keys to tap out the Gospel, our modern "basket" with which we send Your hope over the walls of the world.