the Burden

I saw a woman bent under a weighty Burden, staggering up a hill toward a clouded sky. When she turned her head to look once over her shoulder, I saw that the face was mine.

Atop the hill was a cross, and on the cross a Man upon whose face she could not bear to look. His blood dripped down down into the dust on which she walked.

As she walked she cried aloud Why, why if you are suffering for me am I bearing this weight? Have I not brought to you my Sin-Burden and laid it at your feet long ago? And every day I bring you more, my pride and shame and stumbles, each a load I release before your mercy? What is this great Burden still upon my back, Lord?

In my mind and hers we heard answer. It is not your sin you carry, love, but your Care. Wrapped in its heavy folds is everything you obsess over, every situation you manage for yourself, every person whose happiness you take upon your shoulders. Your Burden is friendships wrapped in fear, children wrapped in overprotection, dread of what others will think, timetables with which you torment yourself, worries for the future, lists and unchecked boxes and all the things you wish you could undo. It is a ponderous weight. Can you not let it go?

I saw her stumble forward, saw her hands fumble at the straps that bound the Burden to her.

Please, please take it for me, she said, and her tears and his blood were one in the dust. The load fell hard against his cross and he smiled. It seemed to me that the woman fell also, yet I saw she was not falling but shrinking down, down until caught like a crumpled leaf on a breath of wind she rose toward him, flew into the wound above his heart and was held in perfect love, no longer the Carrier but the Carried.

His blood dripped down onto the burden.

Gifts of great beauty

So now that we are talking to each other, what should we talk about?

If I were a smarter blogger, I would have quickly followed up on your willingness to talk with a titillating post on a hot topic, like “Q: What do you think of The Shack?” (A: I don’t think of it at all. What shack?)

I’m not stupid, I’m just stubborn. And occasionally tongue-tied.

So this is a popcorn post – random bits of delight from my days – and then you can share some of yours with me.


First I have a few things to say about food. I found a new favorite cake: chocolate, with maple and buttercream frostings alternating. So yummy.

I’ve been eating my Grandma Grace’s peanut butter toast for breakfast (okay, my peanut butter toast made her way; I’m not stealing poor granny’s brekky). Take a piece of wheat bread and toast it. Spread with peanut butter and long slices of banana. Top with honey and cinnamon. I’m not sure if it’s *that good* because it’s *that good* or because I grew up on it.

This is my favorite lunch: a changing kaleidoscope of color, texture, and flavor. The best edible cure I know for gray days.

I’m spending lots of time with my family. I was watching this basketball game happen and they said “Do you want to play?” and I sort of laughed and panicked because I don’t know the rules. But I said yes, and it was actually fun. No one took pictures of that part, which on the whole is probably a good thing.

Then I found this on my kitchen counter, a teeny bouquet tied up with grass.

Only a six-year-old can be that artistic and precise with weeds, turning them into gifts of great beauty. I love that about her.

She is growing her writing skills too, and has spent much time on this paper just for the fun of it, imitating her big brothers’ assignments. (click to enlarge)

Spring has sprung in Meadville. Last fall I finally remembered to plant the bulbs for which I long in March, crocuses and tulips and daffodils and hyacinths, and I can’t wait to see more of them pop.

I am thinking often of Easter, remembering the wonderful things we did last year to celebrate. This year we are adding handicrafts in the form of glittery eggs from Dollar Tree strung on bare branches. I can’t stop looking at them. I never know how to decorate for this holiday, but if eggs are a symbol of new life, I cannot think of anything more appropriate for Easter than new life hung on a Tree.

Plus it makes the children busy and happy, cutting and twisting all that wire.

We revived last year’s mercy garden, with fresh things from the yard and gardens. On Easter weekend I will put a candle in the tomb.

I think it is so amazing that I found an incredible photo backdrop I didn’t know I had, in the form of my dilapidated basement doors (above). Isn’t that smashing? You might see more of them in future. I always assumed foodie bloggers had cardboard backgrounds they stood behind their masterpieces… I didn’t know they carried the food outside and set it on top of their junk.

But talking of eggs, my son brought me a real trophy from his flock. “Imagine being a hen laying normal eggs and then having to lay this one,” he said.

She is doing well on bedrest.


What popcorn would you like to share from your days? Three pieces at random.

Happy Tuesday!
Shari

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

For first-timers only

This post is for readers who have never commented in this space before. If you can’t remember whether or not you have – you’re fine. Stop being so conscientious.

If you are a regular commenter and leave a note here, I will take it down. Sorry. If you want to speak, leave a comment on the preceding post and I will personally reply to it. This one time.


Hello.

My name is Shari Zook, and I’ve been reading and writing in this space for five years. It’s easier to be silent, but I try to say something now and then, because I believe that words need to get out of our heads and into the world so they can do their job, communicating with other humans.

What is your name, and how long have you been here?

You don’t have to answer if you’re shy. I’m the shyest of the shy. You wouldn’t always know it to look at me, but I promise it’s true.

I love springtime, this time of year when all my perennials are pushing and the wind pounces on my house like a wild and living thing. It’s invigorating to be out and cozy to be in. For now I am in. My cat is curled sleeping on the rocking chair and I hear traffic going by on the road.

What do you hear? What do you love?

Oh look. She moved.

Do you know the first comment is the hardest? After that, it’s a little easier because you’re present, and visible.

This is just a quiet spot to say hi, and join the conversation.

Hugs,
(unless you’re male)
(in which case I offer a firm handshake) –
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?