What I learned

Oh my word.

There are a LOT of SCARED PEOPLE out there.

This is probably the most flattering selfie I’ve ever taken, so I thought I would share it with you.

One of my regrets with this experiment is that it veered toward “What do you like about my blog and why haven’t you been commenting, hmmmm?” Please know that as I have peace with God and my fellowman I was not trying to solicit compliments or scold you for not appearing sooner. Please.

I was hoping for two comments on that post, and preparing myself for none.

*

Now listen, here’s a little story.

Once upon a time, I sat in a Bible school class taught by my father. He was talking about how people view other people, and the various inaccuracies and pitholes into which we fall in our assessments of each other.

(Wait, is the word pitfalls? Okay, whatever. ‘Pitfalls into which we hole’ does not. sound. right. Of that I am sure.)

He said, “On a scale of 1-5, where would you rate ME for talkativeness? One is withdrawn, five is gregarious.” The students voted right in class, and every one of them picked four or five. He turned to me. “Shari, how about you?”

I said, “Um. One? maybe two?”

The other students burst out laughing. They knew him only as their professor, and he talked all the time.

*

What I heard in the past few days very clearly, whether you meant to say it or not, is that

  1. I have been taking you too much for granted. Thank you again for reading and responding to me. I am blessed by your kindness.
  2. We all have fears with putting stuff out there for everyone to see. This was an excellent point and one that I had failed to feel the full weight of. Which takes me back to a) again.
  3. You like it when I reply to your comments. When I do, it relieves some of the pressure you feel from b).

So I hear these things and I’m willing to learn and work with you.

But I also have a few problems. One being that I am that professor’s daughter. I’m actually not a schmoozing kind of person who enjoys working the crowd and being the belle and scattering largess to the populace. I am deeply uncomfortable in that role. At the worst level I feel like I’m – actually, there is no inoffensive word for kissing up to people so that they will like you and flock around you and give you stuff.

I have to live with myself, folks.

I also, sometime, have to spend time living the life that I am blogging about.

It would be an unbearable burden if I needed to comment on all your comments. You do see that, don’t you? Just as if you needed to comment on all my posts. And then if I comment on some, others feel they are being overlooked and what’s wrong with what they said…? I stayed up until midnight last night determined for this once to reply to Every Comment and finally I went to bed in tears because THEY JUST KEPT COMING. It is funny now, but then it was like a panicky game of Whack-a-Mole: reply to one and receive three more. You peoples had a lot to say.

(Please don’t take that wrong. I do not actually see you as moles, and I am quite sure I would like most of you very much. Individually.)

I have to live with myself, folks.

I also have a sense of humor, and when I offer too many replies too kindly I can hear my local people, who are very smart, thinking (not saying, just thinking) “Dude, get over yourself already! What is this, a touch-the-hem-of-your-garment meeting?”

The more I care what you think and say about me, the harder it is to keep my heart fixed on what is true: I am the small and rather foolish property of the Lord Jesus, safe and beloved in Him. How the crowd views me matters very little, and meanwhile my house needs cleaning. If I am going to receive your stars I must also receive your dots: But where I really stand is before the Lord Jesus and my own dearest people, and a few of them are watching anxiously to make sure I am not ruined by admiring strangers.

I am really grateful for your courage in commenting. You sound like lovely people. I will try to show up more, but if I do not reply personally to your comment, can you assume the best? Which is that you spoke like the valuable person you are and I am grateful for your contribution. Thank you.

In the grand scheme of things, it matters very little whether or not you comment on my blog. What does matter is if you are the kind of person who has resolved (by default or by choice) not to open your mouth – to be a consumer and not a producer, to avoid the beauty for fear of the burns, and to admire honesty that you would never imitate.

I am trying to shake you out of silence for that reason.

You are brave kids, now get out there and act like it.

Love,

Shari

On comments

Hi. I try not to write logistical posts, but I’ve wanted to say a few things about my comment section for a long time, and now seems as good a time as any.

First, thank you.

Thank you for talking to me when I write. I’m grateful every time. Did you know there’s a small hold-your-breath moment of panic entailed in hitting Publish on anything? I’m s.o. r.e.l.i.e.v.e.d. when you say something back; the first two comments on any post enable me to breathe again. Especially if they’re nice.

Second, I try to get to know you.

If I don’t know you as a commenter, I try to place you just a smidge – did I go to Bible school with your sister? what are your interests? do we have a mutual friend? You develop a little personality in my mind, and if you leave a URL I look you up. I don’t stalk, I promise; I just prefer to know who I’m talking to. I like when you show up often enough for me to recognize your name. Some of you have been reading for years, and I consider you friends. Thank you.

Third, if I know you in real life, my interest in your comment roughly triples.

Several groups here mean the most to me…

  • I have some prized friends and family reading this blog: my parents, siblings, in-laws, and friends from childhood or teenage years. Sometimes this group is shy, and prefers a private response to a public comment. (I’m slightly mad at the rest of you for scaring them away.) If you are in this group – listen up now, I’m talking to you – your words mean the world to me, because they come from someone who’s known me for years, and I love you that much.
  • If you live within twenty miles of me, your words are incredibly important to me because you are part of my real-life community: my fellow church mates and local friends. I care more than I should about your opinion. If you are in this category, say more. {grin} The names Amy and Marie and Shaunda and Carla and Anita and Irene and Kayla and GrandmaKitty Brown and Gladys, among others I could list, make my world light up. Your voice matters to me. Don’t stop.
  • As far as I can tell, I am writing mostly to Mennonite women between the ages of 20 and 50, and I’m happy there. But if you fall outside that demographic – if you are teenage, white-haired, male, or not Mennonite – your comment means a great deal to me. I prefer writing to a diverse group. You can see with fresh eyes and I’m glad for your perspective.
  • Then of course if you’re The Boss, who fits into every VIP camp and then some, you make my spine tingle. Especially if at the moment, you’re Not The Boss. That’s even better.

Fourth, I love when you are thoughtful and creative, even if you disagree with me.

My favorite comments add something meaningful to the conversation – they connect to me personally, respond to another commenter, or offer a new angle of thought. My least favorite comments (don’t laugh) praise my writing style and say nothing else. If you did that I forgive you. To me it means I’m still an amateur and I distracted you from the real thing by the way I presented it.

But it’s okay. It may lower my opinion of your brainpower but I don’t hate you for it.

(I threw that in just for fun. I’m sorry.)

Fifth, I almost never remove a comment.

I’ve taken down a guest comment only two or three times in my five years of blogging, and only when I followed up with private dialogue to explain why.

Except – If you add a correction to your own comment, I often make the edit you requested or join your second thought onto your first, removing the second comment which is then redundant.

Sixth, I don’t offer a personal reply as often as I could.

Honestly, I prefer to stay out of my own comment section. It feels like I already had my chance to talk, and this is yours. I don’t want to interrupt, interrogate, or micromanage. But does that bother you? Is it frustrating or disappointing if you say something to me and I don’t reply directly? I really want to know.

I try to reply to your comment if it asks a specific question. I also give priority in responding to close friends, and to especially brave comments—people who risk something, in disagreement with me or in honesty with themselves. And people who comment for the first time, and take a moment to introduce themselves.

I like that last item a lot. In fact I like it so much that I’m going to try an experiment. Tomorrow I am going to publish a post to which only first-time commenters may reply. So if you’ve been dithering and tempted… Won’t that be fun? It will be a very quiet space, and no one will hurt you. I hope.


Thanks for listening.
What do you wish for in the comment section?
What intimidates you? What do you enjoy?

Silence

I am experiencing the technical difficulties always attendant on reentry into cyberspace. We had to switch email servers and have some bugs to work out. If you are not receiving email notifications of new posts, hang tight… the Boss is working on it. He tells me it will help him if I keep posting. {Insert eye roll here.}

In obedience to him and to the Holy Spirit
{I think I am mocking but I am not blaspheming},
here is a thought that made it to paper in the months of—


Sometimes I think I am the only one with more questions than answers and

I wonder how it feels to be sure of things Continue reading

The fifth suggestion

I forgot one crucial piece I was going to mention about communicating with men.

5. Round up.

Not like a cowboy, like a mathematician. He means well, it just sounds different in manspeak. Round it up to the closest equivalent.

 Hm. = I’m listening, keep talking.
 Aw. = You poor dear girl, I can only imagine how awful that must have been!
 Wow. = You’re a crazy gorgeous lady and I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you. You stun me.
 Um. = I feel uncertain of what to say at the moment, but rest assured I care, and will be thinking over my answer. {For the next ten years.}
 Hiccup. = Enough said. Go make me a sandwich.

 

When talking with men

Let me be clear on this: when I am most mocking and piquant about my husband, it’s a sign we’re having fun. When I start writing serious blog posts entitled Thirty Days of Honor, you can bet we’re not doing so well. Ultimate low point of our marriage, right there. Take my word for it; you won’t get any details. Now–where was I? Ah yes. Mocking.

*****

We’ve all been in this conversation, haven’t we?

whistling

The day you bring him a concern and he sits there and looks at you. The day you realize that the thing you asked him for a year ago has been sitting in the basement all this time. The day you ask him a question and he walks out of the room. The day you complain of shooting pains in your wrist and he says calmly, “It’s probably repetitive stress injury” and goes on typing.

(You think I’m making this up? My imagination’s not that good… true stuff, ya’ll.)

It’s a great story. It’s a pressing issue. It’s an urgent question, for Pete’s sake. And yet he is unmoved.

Are all men like this?

Sometimes I say to him, “Talk to me!” This occurs when I have been immersed in juvenile conversations all day and am desperate for words longer than one syllable; or when I have been talking too long and I know I won’t shut up unless someone else starts vocalizing; or when he is making enigmatic faces and it’s stressing me out.

whistling

Early in marriage, my husband taught me a few rules of basic marital English.

  1. Be as direct as possible already! Don’t make me guess where you’re going.
  2. Use words that start with w, not c. “Would you/ Will you?” not “Could you/ Can you?” that seem to challenge my ability.
  3. Don’t give me a task list when I’m rushed with other things.
  4. Don’t pepper me with questions!

Let me be clear on this: I was raised by a marriage counselor. When I hound this boy, I do it with style.

But sometimes, just to show off, I humor him. He comes home from the fire call or the pastoral meeting or the boy expedition and I think of the fifty-nine things I want to ask him. I think of them all, individually, and then carefully I compact them into one well-worded, all-encompassing, leading, invitational question. “How was it, honey?”

“Good,” he says.*

And exits.

{Shari rushes out of doors to slay something inanimate before she starts hurling china at living organisms.}

* {And perhaps this is unfair. If he’s had a Coke or two to loosen his tongue he may say “Really good.”}

yelling

Here are my (brief) suggestions for communicating (briefly) with men. Some of them may be my father’s, who has forgotten more on this topic than anyone else ever knew.

1. Say less.

A wise friend of mine advises speaking 49% of what you really want to say.

2. Wait.

Men’s ears are like gardens: you put in the seed and then you wait for a while. A long while. He may have every intention of coming around, but he won’t be rushed. The idea has to take root.

3. Say it one more time.

Occasionally, he actually forgets. If so, he will have only hazy memories of your initial conversation, and will not realize you are repeating yourself. Just don’t do it a third time. (He’ll think it’s the second.) That’s so beyond the pale, way out into the nagging camp.

4. Let it go his way.

I’m not advocating being a doormat. Believe me. In the Wifely Olympics I won the prize for Least Like a Doormat so many years running they won’t even let me participate anymore. But—

It’s a good day to remember that eleven years ago, or however many it was, you made a promise that it was going to be all about this man until the day you die. And he’s not the only one with faults.

And some days, magically, you’ll get it just right.

listening

*****

All photos in this post were captured, not staged–and taken by my talented friend Shaunda Stoltzfus. Featuring her son and my daughter.

Coming up sometime, probably: “When Talking with Women.”