Monday, November 11

Glorify God in the Everyday Messy of Relationship. Please.

When one makes the decision to share bits of your life and heart online, soon follows is the realization that you are opening some of the dearest parts of life up to critique.  This was one reason I threw hands up and walked away for a season.  Silence, even in blogging, is golden sometimes.  There is something sacred in anonymity.

It is easy to keep tabs on people via facebook or personal blogs, feel like we know the writer, and then fail to invest in any sort of real life relationship with them.  It is all very one sided and is why, I'm guessing, the experts say that in this age of technology we're lonelier than we've ever been before.
We hear all the time that people *love* our family but most of the kind folks making the statement don't know our family.  They know what they see in public or what they've read here.  Very few have chosen to walk the good and bad of life with us and, granted, we're a messy handful of a family to love.  There are a lot of us, Sean was very sick for a few years, and there is usually a new babe every few years.

We've had every part of our parenting criticized from strangers and people who no doubt read and watch to see which child we screw up first.  Friends who blog have mentioned this same thing. The pressure is ridiculous. If, for a moment, I thought my children's salvation was dependent on my good works, homeschooling skills, or the diet we consume, I'd not be blogging.
Writing online also leaves room for assumption.  Years ago, I wrote about debating whether to spend money on a new dining room set, (at that time we had extra and needed a new one), coming to the conclusion that it wouldn't be wise for us at this season of life (babies, toddlers, rough housing boys who climb everything).
At the same time someone we know in real life but don't get to spend much time with was purchasing new furniture, unbeknownst to us.  Years later, I found out this family had carried offense with me over the issue of a table.  Really.  A table.  A phone call and a, "Hey, Hannah, would you mind telling me if you're criticizing my purchases?" could have avoided all that. We had simply come to different conclusions about a trivial area of homemaking and acted on those decisions.  It was so sad that what I wrote about our decision had hurt another mom.

I suppose I'm writing this to urge and encourage real life, nitty gritty friendship formation.  Please have tea with a younger wife or mom.  Pray and ask how you could get involved and be the hands and feet of Jesus to a family with someone with an illness. Make a big pot of soup and break bread with a large (or small) family.  Go to the park together.  Ask a younger woman to come can or do holiday baking with you.  Share a skill, like knitting, with someone who'd like to learn. Live life really and fully and not just through a computer screen.

Last February, I was absolutely desperate for the friendship of women.  I've been uninvited from mom's group because of our family size (in their defense, large families are not common here and I'm sure the concern was over child care logistics) and who, in their right mind, wants to invite me to brunch when it is a package deal including the most awesome, well behaved and helpful kids? :)  So, post partum hormones flowing, in the dead of winter, nary an adult conversation in view for weeks, I made a rash decision on facebook to ask if anyone wanted in on a book study.  Now, here I am typing with brimming heart because God used that desperation to form beautiful friendships among women from different churches and religious backgrounds.  We all love God, our families and are united in our goal to walk life together and glorify God in the everday messy of it.  It really is a beautiful thing.

When I opened my laptop and began blogging again, it was with eyes wide open that I will still receive unsolicited parenting advice, still choke over hate mail when we process our meat and share how it's done, that I'll no doubt step on toes because we parent differently/have a lot of kids, or whatever I'm writing about on that given day.  It's okay.  Because now I have the balance of real life friends who will tell me if I'm being a jerk, laugh with me, discuss the finer points of parenting and marriage and pray me through the rough spots.  I also have a LOT of fabulous readers, who have encouraged me to keep writing and opened their hearts and lives to me in their messages, comments and blogs.  I'm so thankful for each of you.


Jennifer said...

Thank you for your openness Hannah! I am always so encouraged by the things you post. You share the truth with grace and wisdom. I would love to be able to meet you and your beautiful family. That will probably never happen (let me know if you are ever in Southestern PA ;) but I have enjoyed getting to know you a tiny bit through your blog :)

Anonymous said...

This was (*sigh*) refreshing. . . I needed this today, more than you realize, because as you said it is the internet and you don't know me. To be honest I don't know a whole lot about you or your family, I just started following your blog in the last 2 years or so. But what I do know is that I am thankful for your realness. You aren't trying to attract readers, you just write, and it's good, refreshing.

Your post hit me right in the heart. I only have 2 children at the moment, but I still feel much the same way you do (at least by some in my family). My oldest just turned 3, and has his ear drum burst so it has made for an interesting month. He went from being a happy kid who was enjoyable to be around, to one that is annoying, and needy, and I can see it on everyone's faces. I am trying as hard as I can to parent him in the way the bible says, and from what I've learned from other large family mamas like you and Michelle Duggar, and plenty of others I am not remembering. However I can see it in their faces, they think I am too hard, him too much, etc. Basically I feel lost and that there is no one to say "This is normal, he will go back, he does grow up, you're doing well, maybe try this." We have felt God tell us to view children as a blessing so we are open to the more than average household, but sometimes that scares me (it was me and my brother growing up) because I don't know what that looks like. I am hoping these are the "harder" years when my oldest has no one to play with but me and I have to balance him and my home. . .

Anyway, enough with the rambling. Basically thank you, thank you for being open, for letting me realize even though I feel lonely, so do plenty of other mamas. Thank you for reminding me to pray God would send me a mentor mom that has many children and won't think I am crazy. Thank you.

~ Shannon said...

Dear Hannah,

It breaks my heart to hear of the criticisms and hate that you've had to face, simply because of what you've shared (specifically because it's often different than the mainstream). It really boggles my mind why anyone would take the time to say/write unkind things -- on the internet, it's so easy to just go elsewhere when you encounter ideas opposed to your own! It's astonishing how free some people feel to lash out with criticisms on such personal topics as how many children you have, and how you choose to raise them.

That aside, I have certainly appreciated your honest, humble, and courageous parenting -- I know I only see what you choose to put on your blog, and I know you are not perfect (if you were, I wouldn't be able to relate! ;-). But what I do see has encouraged me for years (in fact, I started reading your blog long before I had children of my own!).

Your comments on loneliness were perfectly timed for me -- while I'm still at a loss for how to develop relationships when almost all of the women I know seem uninterested or too busy, your words were a good reminder that life comes in phases; Lord willing, I'll soon find some Godly fellowship!

Thank you for how you've shared your heart and how you consistently point back to God's grace, in spite of the unkindness you've faced!


New Mom said...

Although I don't know you IRL, I wish that I did! One day, when we get to heaven, we will all meet face to face:) Until then, I enjoy the small bit of you and your family that I've gotten to know through reading your blog all of these years. I've never read anything on this blog that gave me a negative impression (tho I did skip the photos of butchering ;) This world can be a hard place, but your blog is a soft space I can dwell upon after a long day! Thank you!

jb said...

We all come from different backgrounds. We all have different life experiences. No two families are alike. I come from a family of 7 kids and I have 5 of my own. Let's celebrate our differences! Let's find joy in our differences! That is what makes life fun and interesting. I love the difference in people. It opens my eyes and heart to things that I have not thought about before. It is all good! Thanks so much for sharing. I wish that I could know you and meet you and be your friend. We all need good friendships and people to be their for us. Thanks so much for sharing. I love it.

Lucy said...

There are always as many opinions as there are pairs of eyes and ears, I guess. I know once I left a comment on the chicken slaughtering saying I wished you'd catch them at night do they didn't get stressed and I hope you didn't think of that as hate mail. I find your life very inspiring - I'll never have a large family (my kids are adopted and SS will only let us have two due to our home size) or live in the countryside but the way you do so much, so creatively on a budget and make life gracious, fun and interesting is inspiring for me as a home educating Christian wife/mother. And reaching out and making IRL connections is also very inspiring. Thanks for sharing on your blog.

Anonymous said...

I don't get why ppl give unwanted advice- or get mean. :(

Me said...

Thanks, Jennifer. Maybe I can find a reason to stop in PA on a long drive to Fl!

Oh, Kristen, I cannot imagine the pain of having an eardrum burst! You go, mama Bear and defend that little boy's changes as he's healing. Poor fellow! I have always said that the years of having just a few littles is harder than having many children. If only people knew and didn't give up on having a large family! My kids can buckle themselves and each other in, make meals, dress themselves and help the littles get dressed when I need. It is a HUGE help as the older kids grow and become more involved. I'm thinking of you and your little guy tonight and praying for you.

Shannon, bwahaha, no, not perfect here. :) I'm praying you find the friendship of Christian women soon.

New Mom, I so love that thought of us all meeting each other heaven-side one day!

Love what you said, jb. :)

Lucy, oh no, that is not hate mail by a long shot! I don't print the hate mail because it is quite vile and crude. My chickens also get chased/caught/cuddled often, so I don't think it stresses them out too much. :)

Julian said...

Hannah- its funny because I lost a very very dear friend to me because my husband and I decided to go to a different church. I cannot even tell you how devestating it was to lose yet another friend. ( in my childhood I had a terrible church upbringing left and everything I knew and everyone I knew left me.)
I'm sorru about the cruelty and insensensitiveness of others towards you. I can't believe they excluded you because of your family size. We have six.
We also started a new church that accepts everyone from all backgrounds. I'm slowly learning to warm up to people again. I kinda froze my heart. I know that it takes immense courage , and faith in God to move forward and to put yourself out there again. I'm inspired by this post. Encouraged for you, and hopeful for myself.
You once said you'd pray I found a church. We have. That prayer was answered. Thankyou.
Be who God made you to be no matter what others say. He has a special purpose for you that no one else can accomplish. Speciffically designed with you in mind.
Blessings, christina

Ps. Have you read the sacred romance by brent curtis AND john eldredge?