When I was little, I had a mental list of things I wouldn’t do when I was a parent. Most children do this. Things like, won’t make kids eat what’s on their plate if they don’t like it or will greet them with popcorn and a movie if they get out of bed. It wasn’t a fair list, but it was a natural one, derived from feelings start to finish. I didn’t know how tired my parents were or that uncertainty sat behind certain noes and yeses. Their tiredness wasn’t my fault or my brother’s; it was a consequence of living.

If you have read Garrison Keillor, then you have laughed, I’m sure. But here is something resonant from the introduction of his book, Leaving Home: “Every time I read a book about how to be smarter, how not to be sad, how to raise children and be happy and grow old gracefully, I think, ‘Well, I won’t make those mistakes, I won’t have to go through that,’ but we all have to go through that. Everything they went through, we’ll go through. Life isn’t a vicarious experience. You get it figured out and then one day life happens to you. You prepare yourself for grief and loss, arrange your ballast and then the wave swamps the boat” (xix).

I know sometimes that I know nothing about anything. I know it positively. Not as a confession but as welcome admission. Sometimes I know so little that I begin to think in tight circles, round and round rows of thought until the thoughts are so tight I cannot think another stitch. So I go and eat a KitKat. Sometimes lightning strikes epiphany and I go to bed triumphant: we have cracked the bedtime code! It is the moon lamp, left on! It is two books and a cuddle! It is a drink of water, no matter what we said about water after teeth brushing! And then the next day knocks that absurd certainly over and we start again, remembering – you remember—that we know nothing.

This I know: Today the baby snuggled his head into my shoulder after nursing. He sat up and stared into my face, his eyes crinkling into a smile before his mouth. I kissed him. My big boy looked through the crack in the doorway, and when I encouraged him, he threw it open wide with loud hellos, bounding out as quickly as he had bounded in, the baby leaning all his weight forward to get after his brother. The house managed to get cleaned (today). The big boy gave the little boy kisses on his arm, because he acknowledges him now, and for that we say amen. He steadies the baby when he shakily pulls up to stand, and he hugs the baby’s head too tight (and, for pity’s sake, boops his head despite his mother). We played the floor is lava. The baby was a lava monster. I hopped a couch cushion across the living room without touching the floor, with hidden muscles I thought had long ago moved away to the home country. (I think, I’ve still got it.) I made the toddler eat his food. And at the end of a long day, we put him to bed.

Many times.

I want you to stop what you’re doing and go read Sean Dietrich’s new post, The Kid. For real. The man writes all kinds of things. Mostly, stories about real people. And sometimes, more than once or twice, about people encountering something special. Alright, now go read it before I say anything more – I’ll be here waiting.

Did you read it?

What did it make you feel? Moved? Uncertain? Comforted? Unsettled?

It left me a little teary. Stories like this always do. Except, I used to doubt them more, because I wasn’t there to see it, or know the character of the teller, or see honesty in their eyes. But some things have happened since then that have eased my doubt. There’s still some healthy skepticism, sure, when the details are wonky or there’s sensationalism, but mostly I don’t hesitate to reach out and hold onto stories like these.

A couple years ago I was praying. I’d just had a sizeable writing rejection. I was questioning the rationality of such a winding endeavor: writing, submitting, getting accepted, getting rejected. Hearing from writers ahead of me that this journey is a journey, and that the payoff is questionable. I was wondering if I was wasting my time, which I guess for me at the time meant, I was going to be writing into the void for my whole life without much of a return. I was praying about this for weeks. Maybe months. A merry-go-round of prayers, asking God, “am I getting this wrong? Is this writing thing for me? Should I call it quits?”

And, well, what I want to tell you is, He answered the prayers.

But before I tell you how, I need to make some disclaimers. Firstly, I have resisted writing this story. Telling it feels . . . vain, honestly. And that makes me uncomfortable. But despite that, it’s worth the telling. I know this because every time I read a story like this, I feel amazed. I feel the closeness of God. Because stories about what God has done for other people have a power to encourage our own selves intimately. To remember what He has already done for us, what He might do yet, and that He sees us. And cares.

Sometime after these months of praying, I went to the park. It had been a long time since I’d spent any real time reading the Bible, and I was kind of doggy-paddling through life. Definitely not butterfly-stroking. Just the barely-swimming kind of wrist movement required for living, neck strained above the water line.

There was a wedding happening at the park that day, so it was bustling when I got there. Tuxedoed guys everywhere, photographers meeting up, and also the usual dog-walkers, friends, moms with strollers. I always go for the secluded benches. The ones tucked into trees or bushes, under a veranda, in a weird dead-end of a path. Somewhere I’m not very seen, so I can stare into space while I think or pray and not look slightly crazy.

I ended up having to take a front-row bench to the pavilion, where all the wedding rush was taking place. I did get some reading and praying in, but I started people-watching before too long. Two young women passed by, both blond, chatting happily. Two men saddled with camera bags, clothed in black, shook hands and greeted one another. There was a man walking a pet goose.

After a while, the two blonds circled back around. One of them stepped toward me.

“Hi,” she said, peeking toward the bible on my lap. “Are you a Christian?”

I said I was.

This was enough for her, because then she said, “Sometimes I get these nudges from God to tell someone something.”

(At this point I was girding my loins for come what may. I’d already slapped a plastic smile across my face in case this was total nonsense, because my face has not been known to lie.)

She continued. “Today He told me that your gift will spread farther than you can imagine. Like a dandelion, whose seeds spread.”

She went on to actually answer another, separate prayer that I’d been praying, but I won’t get into that. I’m not sure what my face said at that point, but I can promise you it wasn’t lying. Because I knew this was God’s answer. And I was astonished that He’d replied.

The point of all this is, God sees you. Really, actually sees you. And He cares. Like, really cares. He knows about that rotating prayer, the one that’s starting to get tough because it’s been on the spit for so long. Maybe He won’t send a blond in a park to answer your prayer, but then again, maybe He will. Either way, He’s so close you could touch Him.

Trust your prayers are in good hands.

Without a warning or a goodbye, I up and left social media for two and a half months. Last night I hopped back on for the first time.

From January, when I had my baby, up until June, life had been moving fast. The days were rushing through a broken dam. Every week felt like a couple of days and every month felt like a week. I won’t check the math, but you get it. Social media was doing what it does to our days, stuffing loads of information down the proverbial drain, clogging it intermittently, the disposal grinding in fits of futility. Information overload.

I’d been thinking about leaving social media constantly. But it’s hard to take the plunge. It promises you will miss everything. The pregnancies. The ladies' church events. The engagements, the moves, the babies, the jobs. The thought of disconnecting feels impossible. And then you do. And life sails on smoother than ever. Someone says, “did you hear So-And-So is pregnant?” And you might say, “yeah!” because you talked to them in person. Otherwise, you might say, “Oh my gosh, no!” and gush with that person about how excited you are for them. The information comes in consumable amounts – amounts that you can retain, because there is little enough of it, that you remember who said what and when. I started feeling like a person again.

So, when I logged back on last night and scrolled for a while, it felt like slamming a Five Guy’s burger and fries after two months of garden greens. Bleh. Heavy. I deleted the apps again and didn’t feel burdened to get back on.

Lore Wilbert has been writing recently about the pull writers feel to have an online presence. (I know this because when I left social media, I started reading her Substack. I curated a list of writers whose words I still wanted to read, social media or no social media.) In one of her latest posts, she links to another article written about a certain plagiarism debacle. Around and above and beside plagiarism, the author writes of the kind of problems that undergird these massive ones. She writes,

“Plagiarism is a shortcut, but there are many kinds of shortcuts. This story happens to be a very public and clear-cut example of how confusing the creative work and the business can completely invert your priorities, but I cannot tell you how many people I’ve met who want a ton of advice about publishing even before they’ve finished a single draft of a novel, or even started one. They want to be published more than they want to write, or sit with what they write. Or revise, or research, or return to the page. Or read.”

This has been much of my experience, online. I love writing, but that pull to be published easily takes precedence over the curation of meaningful words. The pull to have a name, which apparently few people have, or we wouldn’t be clawing after it. I am drowned in this feeling when I am on social media. I read other writers’ poems and prose – good stuff, definitely – and feel like the post I haven’t written yet, or even thought about writing yet, is already late. Good writing cannot take place in such conditions. Not faithful writing. At least not for me. And then, after a post is written, I hunger after likes and shares and comments because this is the stuff publishers eat up (and my ego, too).

Today I turned twenty-nine. I feel old, but I know I am not. Even with only these-many years, time has started to feel invaluable. Seasons transient. The idea that I will be a “young” author is passed. And this may be an opportunity (and not just the maudlin ruminations of an almost-thirty-year-old). Now, and not tomorrow or next month or in a few years, is the time to mean something when I write, and to do it quietly, among the rushes.

When I logged back onto social media, I felt no compulsion to click into almost any of the billion notifications that were waiting for me. Most of them were meaningless. And, conversely, it was humbling to know that nothing was begging me to come back. Social media does not need me, and I’m not so sure that I need it, even when it comes to the publishing game. (Who knows? I don’t know. But people are saying we need another way, and I am with them.)

So, am I leaving or staying? I’m not totally sure. But I don’t want social media, and that feels like a very good start for today. I like being here, in this blogosphere, in this quiet space. I read a writer’s bio, who is not on social media, a while back, and it said, “she sometimes writes in secret.” And I like that. Very, very much.