With men, you are met with facial-foliage, bathrobe, glazed eyes, the sound of emo music and the smell of filth.
With women, you are more likely to be met with the sight of pajama pants, sweatshirt complete with ice cream stains, hair pulled back in a pony tail, the sound of Hugh Grant (gag!) fumbling his way through some sort of apology that leaves the woman shrugging (knowing FULL WELL that he'll only hurt her again and again) and taking him back, and the smell of bleach.
These are the sights and sounds (and smells) that you might expect of someone with writer's block. But when she opens the door, you see she's not alone. She's got company. Books are scattered across the coffeetable. The comical lyrics of the Ditty Bops pour into the hallway.
You mention that you noticed no activity on her blog for the past ... oh ... 2 months! She laughs it off and changes the subject. Still ... you're concerned. You ask what she has been doing with herself over the last couple of months.
Apparently she's been to Sydney and back with her husband. And then while he was away at a conference she's fought boredom by inviting friends over for movie nights and meeting friends for tea in the afternoon. Her days are filled with work and her evenings with her husband.
She seems to be fine and yet you are somehow hurt. Did she not get all the messages from concerned friends? For a fleeting moment you think you see remorse despite her superficial smile.
She wrings her hands.
"I ... I ... wanted to write. Truly I did. I still do! But I just don't know what! Occasionally an idea will come to mind while I'm out with friends but when I get home, that idea that once seemed so brilliant has become dull and uninteresting ... who would want to read it anyway. I've stopped answering the emails because I have no hope to give them. I began to fill my time in the kitchen concocting bizarre culinary experiments (hmm ... curried onion baclava ... could be good ... [WARNING! do not make!]). I invited friends over for tea and have gotten to know so many people on such a deeper level. I've been reading books and contemplating a future Bible study with women in my church. In some ways I thank God for this 'block' and yet ... I know I have let down those that I call friends who read my blog and pray for me and encourage me through their comments. I am ashamed. What do I do?"
She looks at you pleading for answers.
You suggest something she could write about.
She shakes her head. "I thank you for your suggestion. But others have tried to help me in a similar way. I'm afraid I gave them false hope by my polite responses only to disappoint them when they clicked onto my blog later in the evening to find ... nothing."
You begin to throw out the usual topics ... women, men, marriage, relationships ... what about the series she began about submission?!!
She leans back and closes her eyes and lets out a deep breath. "It seems as if I have so much to say. But is it truth? Or merely experience? Am I better off learning in humility and keeping my big mouth shut? God forbid I pass something off as truth and cause a sister to stumble. I feel instead that I have so much to learn and had best learn in silence."
You can now see the battle she is fighting in her mind. You sense the responsibility she feels. You ask her to share some of her experiences.
She recounts a conversation she had with a newly married man at church. "As we discussed the high expectations wives place on themselves in marriage, he responded that he would much rather have a relaxed, stress-free wife minus a kitchen garden, minus spotless windows, minus gourmet meals, minus a headache and sore feet. He'd be happy to have none of those as long as he could have a wife that is happy to see him come home, has the time to sit down and talk with him, and the energy to allow him to express his love to her in the evening."
She looked down at her hands. "I remember for years before I was married placing expectations on myself concerning what I had to be and do in order to become the perfect wife for my future husband. I don't think men put themselves through the mental torture women do ... although I could be wrong. Over the past two months, as I read more of Scripture and learn more of grace, I have seen the pitfall of trying to achieve perfection of my own merit rather than leaning on the saving work of Jesus Christ and his Holy Spirit working in me to conform to the image of God's Son."
"When I punish myself for not living up to my own imagined standard, I am often punishing myself that not only does God not expect of me but neither does my husband."
You ask her why she hasn't written about this?
"I feel so unqualified. I have so much to learn of God's grace. In the past I feel that I came to God with songs and sacrifices when he merely wanted obedience. My pride showed in my writing ... look at what I was achieving! look at how great my marriage is! If I should boast, let it be in Christ ... not me. It was Christ that brought Mike and I together and it is Christ who continues to make us a holy union ... NOT my cooking skills, not my cleaning skills, etc."
You're a bit confused. As a reader of her blog you hadn't sensed any pride. Oh sure, others had commented that perhaps she was too honest in her approach. But you generally found her insights helpful. Perhaps she's merely rambling and hasn't got all her thoughts together on the matter yet.
You try a different tactic. Glancing at some of the books strewn across the coffee table you ask if she's read anything good lately.
She leans forward excitedly, "Actually, while on holiday in Sydney, I read an entire book cover to cover. I'd read the same book when I was 16 but had greatly disliked it ... I don't even think I finished it. But while visiting a friend, I noticed the book Stepping Heavenward on her bookshelf. I read it every spare moment I got while Mike was reading the paper, watching the news, or reading blogs online. As I read, I began to see my own ongoing journey towards Christian maturity in the fictional journal of Katy.
"I remember being 16 and reading of the people in Katy's life who lovingly came alongside her encouraging her towards holy living. I was frustrated and indignant. Thinking that everyone ought to just back off. She was trying her best. However, my eyes widened weeks ago as I read the book again and realized the impact marriage has on shaping a person in holiness and grace.
"My own experiences matched Katy's as I seek to please God despite my faults, selfishness, and failure to live up to what I think I ought to be. With hope, I look forward to continue in my growth in love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
"I once viewed Katy's frustration over her own sins as unnecessary and extreme. But now I pray that God will grant me a more tender heart towards my sin and eyes to see my loving Savior who knows my sin and enables me to repent and rejoice in His salvation. Stepping Heavenward gives me great hope that God might even use my "journaling" to encourage others as they see themselves in my experiences."
You smirk, "So you'll continue writing?"
She seems surprised at her own admission ... and yet wanting to be realistic she makes no promises.
You stay for a bit longer and she tells you jokingly how she and her husband discovered how to have a holiday that both of them enjoyed. She has plenty to say but still seems hesitant to write any of it down.
After you leave, she checks her email thinking about everything you'd talked about.
She reads, "Laura says, Oh bah. What is the point of checking even?"