A post from the Undiscovered Gems series
The one I’ve chosen this time is Take the Poor With You, a wonderful blog that I’ve been reading for about three years now. I smile every time my Google Reader list shows me that there’s a new post, because I know it’s going to be something good.
It’s written by Tienne, a mom of young children whom, as you can guess from the title, has a passion for helping the poor of the world. Her blog is a chronicle of her efforts to serve the poor and grow in holiness amidst the challenges of being the mom of little ones, trying to homeschool, living on a tight budget, and not being on the same page spiritually with her husband.
Her posts are always concise, honest and real. I learned so much from the time she talked about how she felt a powerful call from God to make regular donations to people suffering in Darfur…and her husband didn’t agree. She summarized her quandary in this post when she wrote: “There is money in our budget for Darfur, if we are creative and willing to sacrifice. Yet if one partner is not willing to make that sacrifice, then what?”
Tienne was stuck between wanting to honor her marriage and wanting to follow this burning call she felt. So she came up with a great idea: she’d find a way to cut her household spending — in a way that wouldn’t inconvenience her husband — and send the savings to Darfur. I was fascinated by her post where she chronicled trying to go an entire week without going to the grocery store, cooking satisfying meals from what they already had on hand. An excerpt:
I did things I’d never done before, like grate up a broccoli stalk and add it to chicken broth for our lunch. Normally I just throw the stalks out. Instead of cheese and crackers for a midafternoon snack, I popped some corn kernels. I substituted for lots of things I didn’t have and tried new recipes when my usual ones wouldn’t work. The thing that struck me the most was how much of my time I spent worrying about food, and how diligent I was at conserving it…And in so many ways, God provided.
As the experiment of finding room for the poor by cutting their expenses wore on, Tienne admitted that it was getting frustrating. And this is what I love about her blog: she didn’t gloss over the fact that it was hard. She candidly admitted that she didn’t always go through it with a halo over her head and a smile on her face. In this post she ‘fessed up that she was getting irritated about not being able to buy wine and other delicacies, and wrote:
When I choose a sacrifice, I do it with joy, but when it’s imposed upon me I am resentful, complaining, sulky and depressed. Perhaps more than anything, God wants me to learn how to do joyfully what He wants. Perhaps this is so hard for me not because I’m giving up alcohol, but because I’m giving up control.
Her funds seemed to decrease as her desire to give money to the poor increased, and the tension thickened. Then she had a big breakthrough. With inspiring humility, she wrote:
God wants me to serve the poor, of that I’m certain. He would not have put this drive in me for no purpose. The key is that I serve Him in the way HE wants, not the way I want. Some of you have touched on this in your comments to me, and I’ve really taken them to heart. I think it’s telling that my gut reaction to [blog commenter] Anna’s suggestion to step back was “But then my husband WINS.”
This isn’t the reaction of someone who’s seeking to serve God and follow His will. It’s the reaction of a hyper-controlling, uptight, Type-A personality.
My way obviously isn’t working right now, so I need to find a new way. God’s way.
I read once that the Mongols (or perhaps the Huns?) were so successful in battle because they were taught to fight like water, finding cracks in the defense and working their way through bit by bit until they overcame. This image has been churning around in my head the past week or so. I feel like my desire to help the poor is the current of a river — it’s flowing intensely within me right now, urging me on. And I keep running up against the dam of my marriage. It’s making me frustrated and swelling my resentment of my husband. The force of my drive to help is causing me harm.
Read the rest of that great post to see what insights she gained from that realization.
You can also expect heart-felt posts on other subjects as well. She’s talked about her mother’s upbringing in a small village in rural Croatia, where she lived in a house that had a woodburning stove and no running water. More recently, she wrote a heartbreaking post about the pain of the aftermath of her recent ectopic pregnancy, and her internal struggles as she realizes that homeschooling might not be a fit for her family. Her most recent post is an interesting insight about how the obstacles she’s been facing with her desire to adopt may be due in part to spiritual attack.
Through it all, she never fails to bring it all back to what really matters, and in the process inspires her readers to do the same as well. She wrote last month:
There has been a great deal of upheaval in my life, starting with the ectopic pregnancy and progressing right through discerning school options for next year, determining the relationship I will have with certain family members, and making decisions on future children. All the questions I’ve had about what God wants me to do, I have taken to Him in Adoration, and all I keep hearing in my heart is “Don’t worry,” and “This is My work.”
It IS His work. Nothing I do is my own doing. Nothing I achieve is the product of my labors…My job is not to go out there and save all the poor and downtrodden; it’s simply to embrace God’s salvation and allow it to work within me…That’s it. That’s the sum of my job on this earth. No need to control things and work myself into a lather about timing and persuading those around me to join in my efforts. Just quiet love and a joyful spirit of giving.
As with so many of her posts, all I could say to that was, “Amen.”
I hope you enjoy Tienne’s blog as much as I do. What are some of your favorite “undiscovered gem” blogs?
All my brainpower is going to Christmas cards today, so here’s another blog I wanted to share as part of my Undiscovered Gems series:
Betty Duffy has become one of those blogs that makes me smile every time Google Reader tells me it’s been updated. You just never know what you’re going to get with her posts — she might write about anything from her experiences with depression to her weight loss history to the quirky aspects of her childhood to realizing that her spiritual struggles have one clear solution — but whatever she writes, you know it’s going to be thoughtful and have a strong take. Her combox is great too; the discussions that follower her posts frequently get all deep and make me feel like I should stay in the shallow end of the internet (like in this post about giving up nouns for Lent.)
She also has a great way of phrasing things that perfectly encapsulates a concept, like in this post about her teen years (which had me nodding and laughing out loud):
I wanted my parents to divorce and move us all into an apartment complex too so that I could have good reason to be depressed and bitter. My happy home life did not prevent me from writing many death poems, however, and wearing the black clothes — at least when I wasn’t in that cheerleading uniform.
[My husband] just would not agree to be as Holy as I was — didn’t matter how I poked, prodded, or complained. And, being the spiritual giant that I am, I threw tantrums, deciding that if he wouldn’t be Holy then neither would I…At nearly every retreat or spiritual talk I attended, I thought, “My husband really needs to hear this” rather than “How can I apply this to my life?”
She does occasionally have PG-13 content, like when she’s doing a no-holds-barred takedown of secular morality in modern films, or writing a wry post about natural family planning. But, as she said in a recent post about how we present ourselves in our writing:
I’m not sure, however, that I can “prayerfully consider” every word I put up here. I think it might make me scrupulous and defeat anything I write before I write it…I think that what’s missing from a lot of blogs, and a lot of Christian writing is a humble and deep acceptance of God’s unconditional love and mercy. He forgives us our sins. He uses our sins for his ends. So I think we can relax our fears a little concerning writing with honesty about our lives. If the future of Christian story-telling is in the blogosphere, and I think it might be, then I would be sad if our stories were lost because we were afraid to tell them.
I hope you enjoy her posts as much as I do.
The first blog I want to introduce you to for my Undiscovered Gems series is The Philosopher Mom. I just love the way she shares her extensive knowledge of philosophy and theology and makes it all relevant to the everyday life of a mom. Her blog first became a favorite when she did a series of posts about Teresa of Avila’s “mansions” of the soul, from which I gained so much great knowledge about spiritual growth (the first post is here, the entire series is here).
Her writing has become an even greater source of inspiration for me lately, however, as she candidly discusses her struggles with a hyperemesis gravidarum pregnancy, where she is so sick that her children have had to go live with her mother for a while. Her simple, two-paragraph post about prayer during suffering had me wiping tears from my eyes; I thought her reflections on how openness to life is a call to all of us, even people not currently having kids, were nothing short of profound; and her stirring thoughts on what she’d learned about self-control vs. obedience were a major “ah-hah!” moment for me.
A big “thank you!” to the Philosopher Mom for all her great posts, and I hope you all enjoy browsing through her writing as much as I do!
I’m going to start a completely sporadic series of posts where I highlight some of my favorite “undiscovered gem” blogs, i.e. blogs that have excellent content but that might not be considered big in terms of having tons of traffic. (The random criteria I came up with to define “undiscovered” is if it has fewer than 100 Google Reader subscribers.)
I’ve wanted to do this for a while, since so often I’ll be reading something on my feed reader and think, “This blog is so good! More people need to be reading it!” Also, I’ve had various blogs going back to 2004, and I’ve always noticed that it seems like a lot of blogs that do have a fair amount of traffic primarily link to other high-traffic blogs, and when you’re not “one of them” you start to feel like you’re stuck in some kind of small blog ghetto. Or maybe that’s just me.
Anyway, I’m not sure how often I’ll do these posts — maybe once or twice a month? — but I hope that you all enjoy these glimpses into some of my favorite undiscovered gems in the online world!