The World in Tension
We humans avoid tension at all costs. We walk on the other side of the street, don’t go to the party, switch social groups (or classes or jobs) to avoid people we’re in tension with, even if it’s one-sided and the other party is wholly unaware.
We buy new clothes, body wraps for the parts of us we don’t like. We put on face creams and filters to fight the tension of aging. We numb with excess (food, drink, TV, busyness, gossip) to push back the tension. We fight tension in a myriad of ways in all seasons of life. Why? Because tension, to live in tension, is uncomfortable.
Tension, by definition, is “the state of being stretched tight” (Webster). It’s a “strained state or condition resulting from forces acting in opposition to each other,” “a relationship between ideas or qualities with conflicting demands or implications” (Lexico).
We don’t like the stretch or strain or opposition. We want to be moms, but our kids drive us crazy and we have no time to ourselves. We want to pursue a hobby or craft, but dinner and laundry and work stand in the way. We want our relationships to grow and be healthy, but were too tired and weary to have the talk, so we live in the tension of “something’s not quite right” while masking it with indifference.
Humans hate tension because it requires us to stop, notice, and attend to the stretch of the disconnect. What makes it harder is there’s not always a solution to the tension–and if there is, it doesn’t keep the tension away forever. Sometimes we’ll just have to live with it. And that begs the question, How will we respond to the tensions in our lives?
Will we recoil, avoid, bomb blast them (to the detriment of ourselves and others), numb, ignore, grow bitter, succumb? Will we hide and feign placidity? Or will we open ourselves to the possibility of living open-armed in tension?
Will we be vulnerable and willing? Will we endure the tensions of life reminding us this is not our home and we are looking to something fuller–a kingdom yet to come? Will we preserve and endure in our motherhood, our art, our vocation, our faith family, our community, even when it’s hard and uncomfortable?
Will we push back the lie that life should be tension free? That if something doesn’t feel good or serve us then we should abandon it.
Will we enter into and live fully in a life marked with tension or will we hide?
The Tension in Me
Between worlds. That’s where I live. Though the world would tell me, and maybe you too, to pick one and stick with I don’t. I can’t. I live between worlds.
- I live in this physical world, but as a follower of Christ I also walk in the invisible unseen spiritual world.
- I am a writer, who’s a Christian, who doesn’t write Christian fiction or Christian non-fiction.
- I am a mom, but also a writer.
- I am a mom, but also a homeschooler.
- I am bi-racial, but nearly all my friends are white.
- I am a mom and a homeschooler and a writer, but also lead in women’s ministry.
- I grew up in the military, unmoored from permanency, having no hometown, no place to call roots.
- I am a purveyor of fairy tales and fantasy in a world of realists.
I could go on. And I’m willing to bet you have your own lists of tensions.
Often these things feel contradictory to each other and if not contradictory, then most definitely strange bedfellows attempting to make the secular and the sacred collide. They don’t seem to work well together. The communities rarely, if ever (aside from homeschooling and faith), intersect. But this is where I live. I have tried to deny one part of myself to more fully live another, only to find it works its way in anyway.
I have thought when the days are long and stressful and full of tasks of home and childrearing there is no room for anything else and I begin to shut out any signs of the creative. It works for a little while, but that desire, that creative spark weaves its way back into my mind and thoughts like a wayward vine growing in the siding of the house until my hand itches with the pulse to create.
I have struggled over and over again through the years with how to reconcile the different parts of me. In seasons where I have poured into the creative work and running with it, feeling delight and beauty in my bones, I’ve been met by critics from the outside, “You do too much,” “You’re too busy for a mom of four,” “You make me feel bad with everything you do” (usually accompanied by a laugh).
It takes me off guard stumbling for a second, slowing my pace and I begin to feel self-conscious. I readjust my shirt, stretch out my ankles, check over my shoulder and notice the insecurities I had turned from catching up with me.
Should I be doing this ?
Is this a waste of time?
Is there something more spiritual I should be doing?
Am I neglecting something more important by being creative?
Once again, I feel the guilt sting that I’m neglecting my children, my husband, my house, my faith family in pursuit of writing though those that matter most encourage and support me. Still I struggle. Still there lives the tension of living between worlds. And time and time again I have made the decision to give it up, to be done with any thought of writing. It would be simpler, I tell myself. It would mean less mental energy. I could spend more time doing other things. But every time I have it feels like a piece of me has died. That in clearing my life of the extraneous, I will find peace. At least the voices of my insecurities and the people who tell me I shame them by being myself will stop.
So I do. And for a time the voices die. There’s an appearance of peace. But within,
“I feel the dreamer has drowned, but I look back, up under the waves, and see a million tiny bubbles of air rushing to burst to life.
I see flowers and laughter, imagination and joy, I see longing and straining, but I see hope.”written December 2018
It’s then I know I can’t stop being creative. I can’t. It’s carved into my bones, into my very soul.
I live between worlds of faith and fiction, of motherhood and occupation, of place and sojourning, of imagination and reality.
Between Worlds is a place where I’ll explore those tensions.
Introducing the Newsletter: Between Worlds
We live in tension, the already but not yet. We walk between two realms, the physical and spiritual. But we also can live in and feel tension in a variety of ways in our lives.
I use to think I needed a different space for all my ideas, ramblings, and work–motherhood (meet Mother Artist), homeschooling (see Our Montessori Home), writing (you’re already here). I’ve struggled in wanting to pursue writing with the necessity (and good) of motherhood. I’ve fought the lie that art will have to wait until the work of active mothering (when all the kids are at home) is over. I’ve doubted my work and desires.
I’ve hidden what delights and inspires me for fear of what others will think. I’ve struggled with how the world and church view the worthiness of art. Faith, Vocation, and Calling. Faith, Work, and Calling. How do they intermingle? Is there any possibility of them co-existing? Is it honoring to God to pursue all of them? How can I even do that and maintain my sanity?
How do we live in the tension of walking in faith where God has us as we walk in our gifts and callings?
That’s what Between Worlds will explore. It’s a monthly dose of encouragement for creative sojourners and mothers struggling to find their place, their rhythm, in a world that feels at odds. It’ll be a little note of encouragement amid a world that tells you it’s impossible.
Each month I’ll explore another tension and where we can find hope. I’ll also share book updates and what I’m reading. Occasionally, you might get a behind-the-scenes peek at The Sea & All Its Stars or a printable for your creative journey.
Each newsletter will also include a prayer for Mother Artists and a benediction for creatives.
If you can’t wait until then, come join me on Instagram. That’s where I like to hang out.