Please Don’t Call Me a Blogger

Since we are on the subject of blogging, I thought it time to write the post I’ve wanted to write since the blog’s beginning.

In this post, I want to ask one thing of you.

Please. Don’t call me a blogger.

This is denial at its worst. If one publishes posts on an online platform called a blog, it’s only a matter of time before readers and the English language label that person a blogger. I am silly and naive to insist otherwise.

But I have no desire to be a blogger.

In my circle of friends, the offline friends I have because we share childhood history or church connections, I’m one of the few with a blog. This makes me uncomfortable. I do not like appearing technologically edgy and progressive. I have never, ever established a fad in my life, and I don’t wish to start now.

I’ve also made a habit of avoiding fads. About twenty years ago, a new fabric manufacturer called Tropical Breeze swept into the Mennonite world with a dizzying array of new choices. From my young perspective, it seemed like Mennonite women collectively pounced, and before long, my friends waltzed into school in lovely Tropical Breeze dresses, many of them wearing the same print in one of the various colors offered.

I sniffed and declared I would not wear a Tropical Breeze dress, because everybody wore them. If there ever was a case of reverse snobbery, I had it. It took over a decade before I willingly bought Tropical Breeze material, and then only because it was cheaper and easier to care for than other fabrics—and I was a busy mother on a budget.

What Tropical Breeze is among Mennonites, blogging is on the world wide web. In February 2014, there were 75.8 million WordPress blogs, and that was only for WordPress. The world doesn’t need another blog, and when I signed up with WordPress in May 2014, I became (approximately) blog # 75,800,001. Exhilarating to someone who would rather be different than fit in.

It took me four months to publish my first post. And during those four months, I told only one person what I was up to.

I found the whole situation mortifying. I still do.

Why then do I blog?

The Mennonite world has limited publishing options. While I do submit pieces to several magazines and periodicals, I write much more than I can sell. Some of what I write does not comfortably fit the criteria of those publications. I write to communicate, not to stick it in a drawer. Blogging allows me to share the words I cobble together.

Blogging also creates mini deadlines. I process life through writing; without it, I’m not sure I could cope. But writing does not quite have the urgency of eating or sleeping or do-I-have-clean-underwear, and sometimes I would procrastinate writing certain pieces because I had nowhere to publish them. What was the point of committing time to something I would put in a virtual drawer? But now, I have a place to publish and a few readers, so those pieces get written.

Because of the mini deadlines, I write consistently. A writer improves only when she writes. This accomplishes another goal of mine.

Blogging is connecting me with readers. Without readers, online or offline, I do not exist as a published writer, online or offline.

Not that this blog is solely for self-expression. When I sit down to write, I aim to serve you, the reader. C. S. Lewis said, “We read to know we are not alone.” I want to share stories here that offer hope and healing, even if it means showing you my wounds. I write for someone like me who struggles to find God in the hard stuff (except when I’m producing navel-gazing expositions on why you shouldn’t call me a blogger even though I am). In His Word, God used story to reveal His greatness and power; I hope I am able to do the same with my much less inspired words.

If I did not believe my writing here is doing some good, I would quit today. If my writing does any good at all, it is because Christ has first done a good work in me. Without Him, I am nothing. With Him, I am still nothing; His life in me is the only good I can claim.

If I could find another way to accomplish what this blog does—sustaining a regular writing habit, building reader-writer relationships, serving with honest story—I would choose that over blogging. In the future, I hope to write more than blog posts, but for now, blogging works.

So please, don’t call me a blogger.

Call me a writer who publishes on a blog.

It may be denial, it may be splitting hairs, it may be ridiculous to care, but it matters to me.

What Makes a Story Significant?

I was at Children’s Hospital less than ten hours when our story was put into perspective.

Before Linford left for home that first evening, I ran down to the cafeteria while he stayed with Tarica. As I stepped out of the elevator on the third floor and turned toward the cafeteria, someone spoke behind me.

“I love your dress. Fall colors are my favorite.”

I turned to find an older woman following me. “Thank you,” I said.

“You made it yourself, of course,” she said. It was not a question, and she went on. “I used to sew, too, a long time ago.”

We walked together through the double doors and turned right into a wider corridor, me falling into my customary awkwardness with a stranger. Think, Stephanie. Think of something to say.

But there was no need. She was chatty enough to cover my lost equilibrium.

She told me about her granddaughter here at Children’s. She had a rare type of blood cancer, so rare she was rather a specimen around here, her grandmother said with an odd mix of sadness and pride.

I said I was very sorry to hear that. It must be so hard.

But, she said brightly, the doctors say if she must have cancer, this is the one of the best to have, if that can be said about cancer. Her chance of full recovery is quite high. We are hoping she can go home the end of March.

By this time, we had stopped just outside the cafeteria while the stream flowed around our island of conversation.

“How long has your granddaughter been here?”

“Since August,” she said.

August. It was now February. That was…that was…too many months to count while she was talking.

“Why are you here at Children’s?” she asked.

Not for much, I wanted to say. Nothing very much at all. “My daughter has epilepsy. She is here for ten days of testing to see if she qualifies for brain surgery.”

Ten days. What are these among so many? (And little did I know our ten would shrink to six.)

We parted with promises to pray for each other and for the children we love—and I have prayed. I pray still. I will not soon forget that woman’s granddaughter.

I distractedly purchased food and returned to the elevators. The woman sharing the elevator with me was also going to the sixth floor. We briefly spoke, she of her daughter who was born ten weeks early in October and has been hospitalized ever since.

First August and now October.

I crawled back to the EMU and crept into Room EP4, where a bright-eyed little lady in a gauze turban smiled at me.

She wasn’t sick. She wasn’t hurting. She wasn’t dying. She was healthy—save for a little matter of haywire electricity in her brain.

I was so ridiculously blessed it was embarrassing. Why did I think I had a story? How could I dare to tell it? So many stories are more significant, more traumatic than ours.

And what if—it was a new thought, or perhaps an old thought with a new slant—what if someone feels her own story is minimized by the telling of my story, as I felt when I compared ten days to six months? True, many families are worse off than we are, but still more families have never needed a children’s hospital. Would my story make someone feel like her story was insignificant?

We shrink from insignificance. We can bear pain and fear and suffering, but if we are made to feel we do not matter, we crumble inside even as we defiantly shore up our walls.

(At least I do. Maybe I’m alone in this.)

On one hand, I found people whose stories surpassed ours in length and breadth and height. On the other, I found those with stories containing less drama and fewer doctors.

Was our story significant enough to be told?

Down in the cafeteria again a few days later, I looked around the crowded space and wondered what these people would say if I asked them for their stories. Hospital staff with badges, parents wearing pink labels, cafeteria workers in uniform—every one of them had a story.

And…and…(I finally realized)…every story mattered, even mine.

Everyone is made in the image of God. Everyone laughs and cries and makes mistakes. Everyone feels fear and anger and disillusionment and wonder and grief.

Every one of these stories is written in the books of God.

They matter. I matter. You matter.

The story I tell is only one out of billions, and significance is never measured in human words.

Why then do I tell it?

I tell our story because I am a writer and I can’t seem to help myself.

But more than that, I tell this story because perhaps it can stand in proxy for all those untold stories. Because there are many mothers who stand by hospital beds living stories that would break your heart. Maybe I can be a tiny voice for them, or a small reminder of those you know with stories a little like mine. Or maybe your story is similar, and the words you find here spark a connection.

Beyond that, there is this: Our stories are unique and special, never the same, but the emotions behind the stories are common to us all. My fear is an echo of your fear, my joy of your joy. You do not have to live a story anything like mine to know what it’s like to hurt and worry and laugh and praise God. You have all that in your story already, and our common emotions create a connection beyond the story itself.

More than anything, however, I tell our story because God is in it, undeserving though we are, and I will not, cannot be silent.

God makes every story significant. Even if it ends in the womb. Even if happens in a quiet, unnoticed corner of the world. Even if you can find no words for your pain. Even if it seems God cannot possibly be in this chapter. Even if nothing more exciting than a flat tire happens in it.

Your story matters because you matter, and most of all to God.

Never, never doubt that.

The Irony of Writing About Motherhood

You don’t have to look hard to find us, because we have boldly staked claims in our corner of the internet. We are stay-at-home moms who write about the life-changing task of motherhood.

We all have something to say and a sympathetic audience, so why not say it? Mothering can consume us, and it’s such a relief to reach out and connect with others in similar shoes. Ah, what comfort—we are not alone. And if we are able to help someone weather a rough patch or solve a problem with our words, so much the better.

But writing about motherhood contains an internal and inescapable irony. I see it in my own words about campfire memories and wildflower bouquets, when I write about spending time with my family, about seeing my children before they are grown and gone.

How did I write those words? I sat down at the computer and said “just wait, sweetie” and pecked at the keyboard and served hot dogs for supper.

To write about motherhood I must abandon the duties of which I write. I ignore the sticky floor and the stickier kitchen counter so I can pen missives about having proper priorities. I put off cleaning the outgrown clothes out of drawers so I can write about that day the snake crawled under my refrigerator.

This abandonment is not exclusive to writing: Sewing, scrapbooking, and cake decorating can demand equal commitment and time. But writing trips me up the most.

I wrestle with this contradiction, my responsibilities on one hand, the words on the other, and me caught in the middle. Or is it my children caught in the middle?

I hope not. I pray not.

Because that would be the greatest irony: to neglect my children so that I can write about motherhood.