imperfect prose on thursdays: breaking out of the box



(post by brandee shafer)

Sometimes I feel a little like a mailbox: chock-full, and mostly with junk. I feel crammed with sales pitches, useless information, fluff. I feel depressed by the news. And I wonder: if it’s true that what goes in must come out, is anyone extracting anything of value from me?

I take a good, hard look at what I’ve been offering, lately, and recognize as much garbage in my outgoing as in my incoming: sales pitches (not so much related to products as to theories), useless information, fluff, depressing news.

I fall into despair, of course. (That’s pretty much always my first reaction to the hard truth: especially when I’m the one telling it.)

I have no idea what to do, initially, but I study my problem, and I pick and poke at it until my better self starts to speak…or until God in me starts to speak; I can’t always tell the difference right away, or ever. I think about Eustace Conway and how–while he’s not God, certainly–he’s onto something, when it comes to boxes. (Google it.)

And I’m not a box. I’m neither a mailbox nor any other sort of box. I’m a real, live woman (although I’m still more comfortable saying “girl,” and, at 38, am I really mature enough to be people’s mother? But I digress.), and I have a God-given brain. I get to choose what I watch on tv, and I get to choose what I read, which is where it gets tricky…

because–if you’re at all immersed in the blogosphere, you know–as surely as blogging involves writing, it involves reading. If you want someone to read what you’re writing, you need to read what (s)he’s writing. In theory. But–while I’ve formed some amazing friendships in the past 1.5 years of blogging–the fact of the matter is: many of the bloggers I enjoy most haven’t added my blog to their rolls…or even visited my blog (so far as I know), at all.

And you know what? That’s ok. They’re still my favorite bloggers.

So it comes to me: I’m free. If I’m in a box, I’ve put myself in it. I can choose to spend more time outside; to spend more quality time with my children; to make the Bible (as opposed to what everyone’s saying about it) my primary source of information; to borrow and purchase actual books, and gasp! read them; and to pray diligently over the words I write, also for each and every person who chooses my words over so many others.

And I think I will. Starting today, I will. There’s a whole, un-boxed circular world out there, and I’m going to choose to walk into its sunset a little more often.

*photos by becky strahle

*joann of ostriches look funny is taking a break from the Internet for awhile, and subsequently, from the imperfect prose team (read more about imperfect prose on thursdays here)… so we’ve asked cara of whimsy smitten to take joann’s place for awhile… welcome, cara!*

~we love that you’re here. the goal of this online space is to create a broken church of sorts, a kind of community that celebrates each other’s stories. with this in mind, would you consider commenting on at least ONE OTHER PERSON’S post after linking up today? thank you so much. e.~

1. link up a post (old or new) that you feel is ‘broken’ or ‘imperfect’ or somehow redemptive
2. put the ‘imperfect prose’ button at the bottom of your post so others can find their way back here (see button code in right-hand column of my blog)
3. read other’s prose, and encourage them!

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64 Comments

  1. Brandee! Somehow I don’t tend to think of you as an inside-the-box kind of girl–but I get what you mean. I am responsible for the junk I voluntarily allow to take up residence in my heart and mind. Even worse is the junk I go looking for when I know there’s better stuff for me, and an abundance of it. You know–the good, pure, lovely, noble stuff Paul encourages me to think about.

    And yes, I will miss JoAnn truly, madly, and deeply. But I’m also pretty smitten with Cara the Whimsy girl. Welcome aboard, Cara!

    Reply
    • Thanks, Nancy. I’m right smitten with you too, sweets!

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  2. oh i get this. so much. you are seen today, brandee.

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  3. Been a long while. Missed this place.

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  4. Ahh Brandee, sometimes, at least for me, though there are many, many blogs I adore, I just don’t have enough hours in a day, week, month, year to visit regularly…and yes inside all day feels pretty boxy. I’m so grateful to be able to get outside a bit more in the past few months, which means even less blog visiting…but it is all for blessing. Get out and enjoy the world while you can…there is a lot of suffering, but more than that there is beauty and kind people.

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  5. Amazing. Yes. Me too. I struggle so much with the fullness that is not the fullness of good.

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  6. yeah Im not a box either but I love them for organizing myself in nice little managable compartments because really Im just A Jesus-girl -who- gives-

    it -all -to- Him- just- to-

    survive -the-madness-kind-of- mess!

    Great guest post!! I will be checking my INBOX..for whats going in! :0p

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  7. Yes, I’ve often said that my default tendency is despair. And we can live our lives in boxes of our own making unless we choose to step out of them.

    Thanks for this.

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  8. Brandee, this is just dazzling with insight, discovery and joy!!! It resonates with a deep, lovely timbre that lets me know that you have put a fine point on some things that I have needed to bring out in myself too. Thank you for this! And for the record, this is a very grown-up post!!

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  9. I thank God for truth, no matter where it comes from.
    And today it comes from you.

    This is dead on, Brandee.

    Opens me up, too. (Now I’m going out to play . . . )

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    • Hooray for play! I saw a green spider, today, and a snail…

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  10. this is beautiful, Brandee!

    how deeply it rings in my soul, the way you just reach out and caress the face of God with your words. it is a gift you have, dearheart.

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  11. “There’s a whole, un-boxed circular world out there, and I’m going to choose to walk into its sunset a little more often.” love this line. love this post.

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  12. great post brandee…we can paint ourselves into those boxes often…and all the busy-ness we can fill it with keeps us insulated…at least we believe that on some level…sometimes we just have to unload to really enjoy life a bit…at least that is where you hit me today…smiles

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  13. Thanks for the great post — we can’t put God in a box, and He made us in His image, so why should we put ourselves in a box?
    God bless,
    Laurie

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    • Great point, and you’re right: we can’t put God in a box. Although, when I was little, we used to sing this song: “If I had a red box to put Jesus in, I’d take Him out and *kiss, kiss, kiss* and put Him right back in!”

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  14. Brandee…I can’t tell you how much this meant to me today. I gave up all social media/blogs/blogging as a fast during Lent, and it was more freeing than I can tell you. Well, here I am, just a couple of months later, caught up in the maze that is cyberspace, perhaps worse than before. It’s started to make me nervous, overwhelmed, and I’ve been praying for the Lord to give me some perspective. I need to guard my heart and though everything is permissible, not everything is beneficial (Paul). Your post came right to my heart from the Lord. Like you, starting today, I will.

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    • Donna, you wrote this post about vitamins awhile back, and it was as though the Lord spoke directly from your keyboard into my heart. I cried and cried. So be encouraged: there must be something of value in your incoming for your outgoing to be so very powerful. It’s all about balance. May the Lord help us both in finding it.

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  15. Love this…just having a similar talk with Jesus about these things this morning…I desire a deeper more authentic walk with Him…all the rest will flow from there…blessings to you as you walk into the sunset more often…I hope to see you there~

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  16. I just had a two hour coffee date with a friend that was like water to parched souls. It turned into a weekly date. I know what you mean about reading blogs, the times it takes, feeling boxed in when we chose it. This seems to be a sacred echo I am hearing among bloggers, taking a break and re-connecting with real life.

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  17. I’ve always considered you more of a well than a box. You are deep and wise beyond your years. I love the stories your share from your life and the truths you pull out and share. And, you’re on my blogroll.

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  18. Dear Brandee, I am so happy to have read your words today. I share your heart about the struggle of writing and reading blogs and feeling less filled up by Him when I let the world dictate the rules about what makes my heart most alive and sing, rather than Him. I can lose sight of the freedom He brings and make myself feel like I am living in a hamster wheel — reading, writing, commenting, etc. . . rather than trusting His rhythm. You help me lean in, to Him, now. Thank you. Bless you.

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  19. Love the analogy. Love that we all tend to feel this way at times. We’re not alone. Beautiful words from a beautiful soul.

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    • I’m more thankful than I can say that our souls get to spend time together outside the computer-boxes.

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  20. What I learned on my acoustic vacation was that I have a sense of the obligations growing when I’m away from the internets. More unread mail. More blog posts to read.

    I want to walk in that round world with you.

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    • Let’s go, Sister! It’s about time for another phone conversation, right?

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  21. Brandee, I wish that I could sit down with you for a cup of coffee. Never mind that I don’t drink coffee, but I just like you a great deal.

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    • I don’t much drink coffee, either! Donuts? You’re a blessing, Robin! You remind me to keep my eyes open for all the little blessings that are really gigantic blessings.

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  22. So glad your featured Brandee’s post here Emily! I just love you both, and you are both on my blog roll and have been for a long time….:-) I can relate so deeply to this post. I have been having a hard time dealing with a grown child struggling with recovery from drugs and alcohol, and I finally broke down lately and started going to Celebrate Recovery meetings. It is hard not to get depressed and feel sorry for myself. I am desperately trying to change the thoughts that are flowing into my brain. I do think CR is helping. Please keep my son in your prayers.

    Reply
    • Dear Heavenly Father: Thank You for Carrie and for all the many ways You stir inside her heart and flow out, through her artful words. Thank You for the opportunity You’ve provided her in attending CR meetings, and thank You for the help she’s finding there. Father, I do lift up her son and pray that You’ll strengthen his resolve to abstain from alcohol and harmful substances. I ask You to heal any and all brokenness in his heart and fill any and all voids in his life b/c we know, Father, that addiction so often stems from an attempt to self-medicate. Thank You for being capable of every type of healing; we know You are still in the business of performing miracles, and thank You. Please place a hedge of protection around this young man, and please hold his loving mama in the very palm of Your hand. Thank You for her unconditional love, which comes straight from Your heart. Shore her up, Father, and help her to smile b/c–through the blood of Your precious Son–You’ve got this and every hurt that’s ever been and ever will be. In Your name I pray, Amen.

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    • Thank you Brandee….what a beautiful prayer….you are a dear friend…..thank you for your kindness and encouragment.

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    • sweet carrie, i ache for you. for this boy of yours. for the struggle. and i know one day he will be free, and i know, what you are doing for him in the meantime, this loving on him in spite of, is speaking more gospel to him than any theology ever could. love you.

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  23. Out of the box is where life is, where love is, where He Is! Great post Brandee!

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  24. I wonder how Conway’s mom felt, living out of the box like that. I’m learning to slowly lower the sides of my box as my sons grow into that independence. I think hands-on parenting requires you to climb out of that box and to stretch yourself in ways I never thought possible. But when you’re out of the box, and it’s painful, awkward, just surviving out of faith – it is blessing to have friends like you who pray! Who get it or try to get it and uplift!

    I need to update my blogroll. Not all my favorites, not all my blogahood friends that I spend the most time with are on there – so maybe it is really a compliment to NOT be on a blogroll! LOL You’ve given me a weekend task!

    Awesome post, Brandee!!!!

    Reply
    • Maryleigh, I need to tell you: I think so very often about your letting those big kids of yours go and do what they’re called to do. You’re a great example and even an inspiration. My 12yo son likes to taunt me, sometimes, that he’s going into the military. (I come from a family of military men and love military men but don’t know that I’m strong enough to watch my son go into the military.) I always think, first, over my dead body. And right on the heels of that, I think: but Maryleigh does it. Lots of love to you.

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  25. I regularly grieve that fact that I can’t seem to find the time to read all the blogs I want to — especially SDG blogs. Which is why we now have small groups, but now, I digress.

    With the world as expansive as it is, I have realized that I must go where God sends me at whatever moment He does. Which is, I suppose, out of the box living, just as you describe.

    Love your heart here.

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  26. What I love most about this IP community is that I see myself, every week in the posts and the link-ups and can’t ever feel alone with this right in front of me. Beautiful words, Brandee. Trying alongside you to do the same, more sunsets, more paper books, more butterfly kisses and fresh veggies. Thanks for your words.

    And thank you Emily and the whole Imperfect Prose team for the welcome. So blessed to be a part of this sacred space where souls are free to breathe.

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  27. that is all we can do – try harder, live better.

    thank you for this beautiful post.

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  28. Ohhhkay, I’m STILL trying to leave the internet, but I felt like I should pop in here for a final farewell and say, “YES EXACTLY!”
    I am going off, for those exact reasons. But I love you all, and you (my PEOPLE) are why it’s so hard. Great post Brandee. I LOVED IT!

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  29. Oh, yes. This is a big YES. Your mailbox analogy, of what we’re filled with and what comes out reminds me of this verse from Matthew: Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.

    I often have to examine what I’m filing my heart with, and going “out of the box” into the big circular world, as you put it, is essential.

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  30. Hi – we all need to get out of boxes! k.

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  31. much stands out here, but perhaps the part about praying over our words most of all.

    and to live uncaged, un-hemmed-in? yes to that freedom, and to letting our hearts overflow with goodness and truth.

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  32. much stands out here, but perhaps the part about praying over our words most of all.

    and to live uncaged, un-hemmed-in? yes to that freedom, and to letting our hearts overflow with goodness and truth.

    Reply
  33. much stands out here, but perhaps the part about praying over our words most of all.

    and to live uncaged, un-hemmed-in? yes to that freedom, and to letting our hearts overflow with goodness and truth.

    Reply
  34. Hey, girl. Yesterday when I first read this I prayerfully composed a beautiful comment, hit send, and lost our Internet connection. (You’ll just have to take my word for it on the beautiful part.) So. This is a do-over.

    I feel the same tension between the blog reading and commenting necessary to have community through blogging and the reading of actual books, and I don’t have a good answer or clear guideline, except that if I turn to blogs before I open my Bible, there’s a problem. You are so right that the GIGO principle applies to much of life beyond computer programming.

    May the Lord increase your (our) appetite for what is good and nourishing right now. May you find great joy and healing in your time in His Creation and with real-life friends and family this season. Don’t despair, friend. The Spirit only convicts in order to set us back on the right path. His grace is big enough for us both.

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  35. Oh, Emily. I can so relate….getting caught up in our square world, stuck in our square houses, and fixed to our square computers. Yet, God leads us out. Out into our own personal sunsets. Where the skies have no end. And the His beauty is endless. Such a great reminder for me to not miss His beauty which is endless, or forget His Word that is everlasting. When all else fades.

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  36. My first time posting, although have read your writing for a couple of years…

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  37. You put it perfectly…I feel like a mailbox too. Not much to offer most days, but then isn’t that my fault? For not cleaning out the junk to make room.

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  38. So many beautiful words to read. Seems I always run out of time to go where I want to go, and when I do, something else gets neglected. I just want to be in tune with Him to come and go as he sees fit. Maybe that’s the answer. My words might only be for one person on any given day. And someone else’s for me. But His Word is for everyone on every day in some way. Those are beautiful words we can’t neglect.

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  39. Brandee,

    Those friendships that grow from blog conversations over the years are nice, I agree. But yes, hop out of any boxes, grab your Bible and some good books, and savor them…

    Have a great week.

    Jennifer Dougan
    http://www.jenniferdougan.com

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  40. Emily,

    You are as far away from being a mailbox as anyone I know. But what a wonderful analogy!

    I always love your analogies. I always love how you are able to get right to the heart of an issue – your ability to self-see. You don’t over-analyize, you just articulate what you see with your words.

    I love this part of your post.

    “So it comes to me: I’m free. If I’m in a box, I’ve put myself in it. I can choose to spend more time outside; to spend more quality time with my children; to make the Bible (as opposed to what everyone’s saying about it) my primary source of information…”

    Yes! You are free. It does comes down to us, our choices. I, too, love going to the original source these days. For years, my bedside table was overflowing with books about how others interpreted what the Word was saying to them. I became over-saturated with those books. I’m in a place where I want to know what HE is telling me; His Spirit speaking to mine.

    Much love,
    Laura

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    • thank you sweet laura :) i can’t actually take credit for this post. my friend, brandee shafer, who’s part of the imperfect prose on thursdays team, wrote it. so glad you liked it :) xoxo

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  41. If I am a box, I put myself in it…. best line out of the whole post. I really did love it, so I am hoping on over the Brandee’s site :)

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  42. Sometimes I wonder who I really am . . . who any of us really are. With our parents’ influence, so much advertising, other people’s opinions — how do we separate those things from ourselves? Where does society end and the individual begin, and is there any such thing as individuality? Like you say, we get to decide.

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  43. i love you in all your freeing honesty, brandee. (and i had to grin at the question of if we’re mature enough to be other people’s mothers…this one crosses my mind DAILY. like really? i’m being trusted with actual human beings??)

    ps me. i’m extracting TONS of worth and encouragement and wisdom and friendship from you, and it helps me walk through my day with added patience and joy. so keep letting Him pour into you as you pour into others, ’cause it’s happening. it really is.

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    • Thank you, Nic, and likewise: I take so very much from your words. I never miss one of your posts. I do want to admit right here and now that my blog self is a better self than my real, every day self. My blog self never yells at her husband or kids or leaves piles of things laying around.

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    • i love you nic. so much. you’re not alone in this. and i too derive so much strength from you. xoxo

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  44. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  45. For some reason I was signed in as my husband, so I fixed that. (ie. reason above comment was deleted.)

    After reading this, I am struck by how we don’t (at least me, I don’t) often evaluate the garbage that comes out of me (garbage in, garbage out).

    You wrote honest words here. Right down to how the bloggers we love often may not read us or even be aware of us. And it’s OK. What you’ve written is freeing truth. I love the “if I am in a box, I put myself in it”. Our journey will have so many similarities to the journey of other brothers and sisters in Christ, and even other humans outside of that, but at the same time, it is going to be unique, too. My nature is to always conform to what I think the “norm” in a given situation/context is. It’s easier and safer and allows one to fly under the radar (which I quite enjoy doing). But what is funny is that after I try on what seems to be the “norm” for so many others, it often doesn’t fit me at all. Then I feel stupid for having ever wanted to go with the flow in the first place. Funny. You’d think I would learn by now, but I haven’t. It takes being reminded by writing like yours. :)

    Blessings,
    Kara

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i'm so glad you're here, friend. how are you?