Sunday, August 29, 2010

Will the real Eleanor Roosevelt please stand up?

I have recently finished reading Eleanor Roosevelt's autobiography. Since I pass Eleanor's home, Valkill Cottage, everyday on my way to work, I thought it was time to get to know her a bit. I found her descriptions of growing up at the turn of the twentieth century fascinating. What a different time than our own! Not only that, but her transformation from a shy, unloved girl to a woman revered by the world for her service in the pursuit of making life better for others is inspiring.
On visiting one of the historic sites in our area I was chatting with a park ranger and when I referred to her book, he said, "She sugar-coated her life." As if she didn't really tell the truth about herself and her life. As if she wasn't being "real" in her book. That got me thinking. Not just about Eleanor, but about life. Did Eleanor present her real life? Do any of us? Do I?
As I thought about Eleanor, I came to the conclusion that she did not sugar-coat her life in her book, but she was very selective in what she talked about. She was a product of her time. In her day, private things were considered off-limits. She shared about all the public aspects of her life very freely, where she traveled, dignitaries she met and what issues they discussed. However, she shared very little of her private pains or joys. In this day of reality TV and tabloid newspapers, perhaps that might come across as "sugar-coating". I think that she was as "real" as she felt appropriate. Her marriage and family were not considered anyone else's business. In our day those aspects of a public person's life are considered everyone's business, but are they really?
Am I not being "real" if I don't share every aspect of my life in public? I think, that like Eleanor Roosevelt, we all have a private life and a public life. There are aspects of my private life and yours that don't need to be public. However, the essence of who we are should be evident now matter where we are.
Much of my life has been spent in the public eye on a small scale. Many people feel like they know me and my husband. Does that mean they should know everything about us? We choose not to share every detail, but we want what people do know about us to create as genuine a picture as possible without exposing every detail. We want to be real, not sugar-coated. I once asked one of my children if they thought we had acheived this. I was relieved by the answer. If my kids think we are faking to the public, what a failure that would be.

"Now we see things imperfectly as in a cloudy mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God knows me completely. " (I Corinthians 13:12)

After reading Eleanor's book, I only know her partially, imperfectly. Even if we had been the best of friends, I would not know her completely. What you or I know of each other is partial and incomplete. Only God knows each of us completely. The challenge for each of us continues to be: "When I stand up in my public life do people see a genuine, though incomplete, reflection of who I am?"
Let's keep each other honest and real. No sugar-coating allowed. Let the real person stand up!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

What have I gotten myself into?!!

If you read my first post, then you know that this whole blogging idea was an uncharacteristic, spur-of-the-moment decision. I started by just clicking "create a blog" to see what would happen next and ended up posting! As soon as I finished, my husband was there and I showed him my brand new blog. He immediately linked it to his Facebook. That may not sound like a big deal, but because of his public position and charming, outgoing personality he has more than 600 friends! I suddenly had a moment of panic. "Will people actually read what I've written? And if they do, what do I do now?" Well, I checked back a few hours later and found that I actually had a few followers and comments! Then I began to ask all the questions I normally would have asked ahead of time. "How often should I blog? How am I going to work this into my already full schedule? Am I going to be able to keep this up? What should be my focus?" If you don't mind, could you join me in a little tweaking?
As I thought about how often to post, I was very aware that school will start in about two weeks. Since I am a 10-month employee in a public school, that means I go back to work. Full-time I might add! I became overwhelmed by the thought of trying to write every day, although I would love to. I have been reading the autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt. Did you know that Mrs. Roosevelt published a newspaper column called "My Day" six days a week from 1935 until her death in 1962? Think about it! In the days before laptops and the Internet, she basically wrote a blog every day and sent it to the newspaper no matter where she was in the world! I am not sure how that was accomplished technically, but I do know that she often survived on much less than eight hours of sleep a night. If I did that I would probably become a walking bowl of Jello! No. At this stage of my life, daily blogging is not for me. So, if you don't mind, to keep myself from going crazy and becoming a walking bowl of Jello, I am setting a goal of posting at least once a week. Maybe more if time and inspiration permit.
Also, I did a Google blog search (I didn't even know there was such a thing until after my first post!) just to see if mine would come up. (Okay, I am a true newbie!) It didn't, but four other blogs titled "A Work in Progress" did. That caused me to consider what I would want to be different about mine. I want to share with you about real life, my real life. I don't want to pontificate about great ideas or truths, although I hope my blog will be full of truth. I want to share my journey with you. So, beginning next time I will be changing the name of my blog to "Real life: A Work in Progress". We are all in a constant state of becoming. Eleanor Roosevelt, for example, did not start out as the humanitarian spokeswoman that history recalls. She started out as a young girl growing up at the turn of the 19th to 20th centuries and rode the challenges and experiences of her life to become the historic woman known as "The First Lady of the World", because real life is a work in progress. (I will probably write more about Eleanor at another time.)
So, thanks for joining me in this process. I know that this blog is something I am supposed to do. I feel very strongly that it is meant to be a mission and a ministry. I remain confident that He who began a good work in, and I hope through me, will be faithful to complete it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A New Work Begins

So I am inspired by my friend, Melissa, to begin a blog. I have always journaled my thoughts. Still, the idea of posting them on the web for all the world to see is somewhat daunting. But what if I really do have something to say? What if my sharing could help someone else? Isn't life really about sharing our experiences so that we help each other?

In an unusual move for me this is a spur of the moment decision. I usually ponder for a long time before making a decision to do something. I consider ALL the angles, pros and cons and weigh every consequence. Not so this time. I love to write. I have dreamed of writing something that might encourage someone. So why not now?

I had no idea what to call my blog, so as I worked through the "create-your-own-blog-for dummies" template I randomly chose "A Work in Progress" and moved on to the next step. Then my mind started pulling in the idea that I am the work in progress. Aren't we all? Why couldn't a continuing blog about the work that God is doing in me and my responses to it be called "A Work in Progress"? Then I had to choose a URL, something I know nothing so I clicked on the "more-info-for-dummies" tab and realized that whatever I chose should in some way be related to the title of my blog. So I decided to go with it and immediately Philippians 1:6 came to my mind,     
"And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns." (NLT)
After fooling around with a few variations on that theme for a URL I was reminded of a song that I used to remind my husband of to encourage him. It is called "Believing for the Best in You" and was recorded in the mid 1980"s by Michael and Stormie Omartian. The idea of that song is that, in spite of how down on ourselves we might get, God is still at work. "You've got Jesus in your heart and you love him so, and that's all I need to know, all I need to know. I'm believing for the best in you." I decided that would be my URL. 

We are all works in progress and I am confident that the good work He has begun in you and in me will be completed because He is faithful! 
Enjoying the journey with you,