Happy Bloggity Birthday

A yeIMG_0185ar ago, I nervously took a risk. After an invitation to guest post over at Tim’s blog, I decided to collect a few of my thoughts and start a new blog of my own – and Bronwyn’s Corner was born.

Friends – I had NO IDEA what was coming. No idea that people would actually read my stuff. No idea that I would land up joining (and loving!) a most wonderful Writer’s Guild. No idea that I would start writing for other online publications.

I had never had any ambitions to be a “writer” – and so this past year has been one long, constant surprise. It has amazed me how much I’ve enjoyed it: writing feels like talking to friends and turning thoughts about life over with them as if we were drinking coffee together. I love that: it reminds me of my favorite parts of ministry.

Also – I had no idea how many online friends I would meet, and that some of them would turn into real life friends. I had no idea that I would get letters from readers saying “thanks, that’s just what I needed today.” Every time I get an email like that, it still amazes me.

And happy birthday to my little blog 🙂 For its birthday, my awesome friend Corrie helped me give it a make-over. Cute, don’t you think?

So thank you, friends – for reading and encouraging me to keep writing. Thanks for sharing my posts and telling friends about it. Thanks for leaving comments. Thanks for making this little corner of the internet feel, to me, like an extension of my living room: a place for grace, caffeine and laughter.

I am so grateful for you all.

The Thing I’d Rather Be Doing

When I joined Google + last year, it asked me about my occupation. I paused for a moment, and with tongue-in-cheek I wrote Domestic Opposer of Entropy.

For that is what I do: I hold back the chaos. As a stay-at-home mom, I pick up the strewn, I wash the dirty, I tidy the messed, I soothe the hurt and I untangle the knotted. All day. I expend all my effort into resisting the chaos that comes with three short people running about the house expressing their creativity. Domestic Opposer of Entropy put it nicely, I thought. Accurate, with a touch of comedy.

When I joined LinkedIn a few weeks ago, it asked the same question. I paused for a moment, and wrote Writer.

And then I paused some more.

Why would I jump to claim the title of “writer” rather than the snappy, happy title of “domestic opposer of entropy”? It is true that LinkedIn was meant to serve a more professional purpose than G+ and Facebook, which for me remain social media. But I think there’s more to it than that. The truth is, that day after day, while I go about the work of momming,  opposing entropy, resisting chaos and restoring order and all that goes along with the stay-at-home raising of my kids – often, I’d rather be writing.

I’ve been asking myself why. Why would I rather be writing than parenting? For you it may not be writing, but the question is still there: what would you rather be doing? And why would you rather be (sewing/surfing the internet/playing games/fill in the blank) than (whatever you ought to be doing)?

To show myself a little grace here, I need to concede that:

* for me, writing is fun. I like it. It feels like talking to adults after a full day of reasoning with preschoolers, and my brain feels like it is indulging in a leisurely stretch after being confined into a red, plastic toy bin all day. Fun is good. Fun is healthy. It is good to set aside time for fun hobbies.

* for me, writing is ministry. I do have a sense of calling to it. I spent years mentoring and teaching the bible and talking about life to women and college students, and I loved it. I loved sharing life with people, being able to compare notes against the Bible as we walked the road together, being able to laugh and cry and process it all in community. I grieved being able to do that so much less after my children were born, and treasured the opportunities I still had to mentor and teach when they arose – even if those were far fewer. But then, quite unexpectedly last year, a little anecdote I wrote about on my personal blog got a lot of traction, and Tim asked if he could publish it on his, and then I decided to create a different blog (this one) for my “public” thoughts… and then within weeks hundreds of people were reading it – and I recognized the feeling. The feeling of being useful in service in ministry. Being able to say something helpful, to be available, and all without having to get out of my pajamas? It was as if God opened the door wide open and shouted at me: “Walk through it!” I walked. I’m walking. I’m not sure where I’m walking to, but I’m walking.

But there’s a niggle in this for me, because sometimes I would rather let my children watch an extra hour of Netflix so I can write, rather than read to them and wait until they are in bed. Sometimes I ignore their requests for help because I’m checking comments on a post I’ve written, or posting links on Twitter. Throughout the day, I want to write, and I have to parent – and the tension bothers me.

ipad dishwasherDigging a little deeper, I need to confess:

* for me, writing is affirming in a way that parenting is not. My children show me my limitations and weakness by the hour. The list of things I don’t know, don’t understand, can’t fix and can’t control the outcomes of is huge and overwhelming. The to-do list seems to multiply overnight, and almost never add the “-ne” at the end to make them “done”. Stay-at-home momming requires all of my energy, and it often feels like even if I do a brilliant job, the best possible result I can hope for is that things won’t be worse or messier than they were yesterday. I work hard to prepare meals, and still the children complain. I do laundry multiple times a week, and still there are no socks to wear. I just finished unpacking the last load of groceries, and I immediately find something we are out of and have to start a new one.

Writing, on the other hand, does not get undone. When I hit “publish” on a post, it goes up onto the shiny surface of the internet, and no-one smears jam on it. If people have complaints, they keep them to themselves; but for the most part I get positive feedback on my writing – and after a day of hearing whining from my kids it feels good to have someone say “that helped me” or “thank you” or “you are good at this”. When people ‘like’ or ‘share’ something I wrote, it feels like being awarded gold stars. After hearing a lot about Enneagram profiles, I got curious and took a quick online quiz yesterday. Turns out, I am a 3: the one who likes to achieve and be well thought of by others. I thought motherhood had changed, or at least tamed, that in me – but online quizzes don’t lie (ha!). Deep down, I still want gold stars.

We all have a thing we’d rather be doing, and if we’re honest, the reason we say we’re doing it is not always the full reason. Often, there’s a deeper thing going on, and from time to time it’s worth pausing to take a good, hard look at the deeper motives and see how much they’re driving our behavior. A little soul-mirror is needed, a little truth-telling to the inner me. Where there is misplaced identity, I need to address it. I am acceptable not because I achieve, but because I am accepted by God and that is enough. Where there is misplaced ambition, I need to address it. I write wanting to honor God, not myself. Where there are misspent hours, I need to confess those. Where there are misaligned priorities, I need to re-calibrate my calendar and my character in obedience to Christ.

I enjoy writing. For me, it is fun and it is ministry. But I am also on my guard that it is a dangerous affection and idolatrous threat if I let my identity wrap around the words “writer”, or indeed the words “mom” or “opposer of entropy” too tightly. I am, first and foremost, a child of God, and he has called me to live with eternity in my heart and relationships as my priority. The perplexing parable of the unrighteous steward comes to mind: he knew he was going to lose his job for being dishonest, and so in his last hours on the job he called in his masters’ debtors and offered to write off some of their debt. By doing so, he hoped to muster up some new friends to mooch off when he became unemployed. Astonishingly, Jesus commended the man in the story, because he had “acted shrewdly” by using unrighteous money to make friends for himself in the future. Say what, Jesus?

This is what I understand Jesus to be saying in this mind-bending parable: the man was shrewd because he knew how to use the means he had in the present to cultivate relationships which would last in the future. He invested in people, and given that people are eternal – that was a wise investment. The parable helps me in two ways. Firstly, as a writer, it reminds me to keep praying that the writing is about investing in people, in you, and not about finding affirmation. Secondly, as a Mom, is puts my daily time-spending into perspective. For as much as writing may be a calling and a help to others, the truth is that blog posts have a fleeting impact. Even if this post goes viral and attracts tens of thousands of viewers, it will be forgotten in a month. Distant history in a year. That kind of post would no doubt feel deeply significant and admirable at the time, but it would be what the author of Ecclesiastes says all such accomplishments are: fleeting, a mere breath, a chasing after the wind. On the other hand, the choice I make to be with my children, hour after hour – that’s an investment in eternal people which will remembered next week, and the week after that, and the week after that, and after that, and after that. . .

A little soul-searching reminds me to keep things in perspective. To keep on writing, but not to wrap my worth up in it. And to keep parenting, but to change my focus: off the laundry, and onto the precious bodies that fill those clothes, off the dishes and on to the children we are nourishing, off the to-do list and on to the souls of the ones we are raising. For I am doing more than opposing chaos in my home, I am shaping character in their hearts.

When the next big social media platform arises, and it asks me my occupation, I’m not sure what I’ll write yet. Maybe “relationship investor”. Maybe “ice cream connoisseur”. Maybe “beloved disciple”, or “amateur juggler”. If you have any suggestions, I’d love to hear them.

A writer’s prayer for the new year

A Writer's Prayerfor the New Year

Lord God,

I need your help for the year ahead. I need the usual bucketloads of grace as a wife, mom, and friend, but I need your help as a writer too.

I need grace to overcome insecurity with confidence in your adequacy.
I need help to overcome jealousy of others with generosity of spirit.
I need help to cover enmity with encouragement.
I need your courage to speak truth in places where there is silence.
I need your insight to shine light where there is darkness.
I need your humility to make mistakes in public.
I need your love: to love You and to love those around me, whether we agree or not.

If writing is what you are calling me to do, let me write well and worshipfully. May my words be gracious and truthful. May your kingdom be represented on this blog, even as it is heaven. For whether many read this, or none at all – the power, the glory and the honor are yours. Now and forever. Amen.

 

photo credit: Catherine de Lange/istockphoto

The Buddy System

Scuba-diving school was intense. The instructors taught us how to manage our equipment, clear our masks, regulate our air flow and how to descend into the water slowly to give our bodies time to equalize under the pressure. We practiced in the pool, and after a few sessions we graduated to the ocean.

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Standing on the sandy Saldanha Bay beach, our instructor imparted one more lesson before we took the plunge: we could not dive safely unless we had a Buddy. We quickly paired up and studied the wetsuit-clad features of our new partners. These were the people we had to look out for underwater: were they handling the pressure changes? Were they safe? Were they close enough to reach if there was trouble? Every few minutes, we needed to check in with our Buddy. “All OK?”, I would ask with a signed thumbs up. “All OK,” my Buddy would signal back.

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Having buddies made diving safe.

Four months ago, when I started this blog, it felt a lot like scuba diving. There was so much new information, a new world to explore: the equipment was unfamiliar, my figurative mask needed clearing, I wasn’t sure how to control my breathing. In the excitement of the first few weeks, I dived in and quickly felt the pressure building even though I hadn’t ventured in very deeply.

That’s the tricky thing about deep water: the pressure increases quickly.

I was so thankful a few weeks later to have lunch with three women who had been writing for a lot longer than I had. They had perspective, encouragement, tips. They offered support and community. As it tuned out they were all members of the Redbud Writers Guild: a community of Christian women who are “fearlessly expanding the feminine voice in our churches, communities and culture.” I turned in my application the next day.

It seems fitting to me that the Redbud writers call each other “Buds”. Diving into writing, I need a buddy. I need someone to check: am I handling the pressure changes? Am I safe? Am I within arms reach if there is trouble? I need experienced buddies to watch and learn from, to see how they chart their courses and handle the currents. Social Media allows us a way to check in with each other: “you OK?” a Bud will ask. And fittingly, the facebook signal for reply is exactly the same as in diving:

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Having Buds makes blogging safe.

In a sea of sharks, I’m so glad I belong to my Buds.

 

This is day 5 of 31 Days of Belonging. Click here to see a list of other posts.
Photo credit: splash dive.com, liveandletsdive.com