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In which I mark 7 years of blogging and God chuckles

On 8 July 2005, I started a little blog on Xanga called PoetStyles, my online alias for years.

I always wanted to be a writer, I just didn’t think that blogging was real writing. Blogging, an excessively ugly word that no one understood back then, was just a way to stay in touch with our friends and family, while we moved around the country, chasing our Evangelical Hero Complex in a circle. I yearned to be a writer someday, I read voraciously, I had been writing short stories for years. But these little essays? These reflections? These wonderings and wanderings? Psh. Totally not writing.

In 2008, when I was pregnant with Joseph, Brian sent me to the Festival of Faith and Writing. He researched writer festivals, found one that was a Christian one in Grand Rapids, and, in a grand gesture of love, a gigantic neon sign flashing I BELIEVE IN YOU, DARLING, he booked my ticket, and a hotel, and sent me there for the weekend.

It was awful.

So, so, so painfully awful.

I didn’t know a single soul there. I wasn’t a writer. I was a fan, a reader, a wannabe. And I was crippled by insecurity; introverted by nature, I was by now in powerful retreat mode. I hardly spoke a word for three days. I sat alone in the sessions. I wandered alone through the day. I ate alone. The only bright spot was hearing Luci Shaw perform a reading of her poetry.

Sick unto death of parking lots and air conditioning, I rented a car, and I drove past strip mall after strip mall after strip mall, desperate for some trees. I pulled over at an Applebees, I went inside and begged the wait staff to tell me where to find a nice park. They were baffled. They recommended the exact college where the festival was located. There’s some grass there, I think, they said.

The last day, I attended a session for aspiring writers. There was an agent and two publishers leading the talk. And for the next 45 minutes they pretty much told us all to get over it.  They spoke of networking and conferences. They talked about critique groups and pages per day. They cautioned against optimism, warned that publishing was nearly dead, made fun of ebooks and self-publishers. They were insiders, I felt so painfully outside. They cited stats and probabilities, they talked about how no one ever gets published without huge platform, about how none of us would probably ever have a published book.

I believed them. I believed them. I believed them.

I went back the hotel that night, and I sat in the middle of the floor. I laid out all of my dreams for God to look at. I said, God, do you remember in grade two? Do you remember how I wrote my first story about a snow bunny? Do you remember how I used to be excused from penmanship (my handwriting already legendary, thanks to the drills at my kitchen table with my mother), Mrs. Phillips wanted me to read Caldecott award winners. She told me I would be a writer. I believed her. Do you remember that? Do you remember how I filled journal after journal with terrible poetry throughout my teens? Do you remember that? Do you remember how I scored as a writer and an artist on every single career testing thing? Do you remember how I wrote essays and short stories, under the covers, with flashlights? Do you remember that?

I cried. I railed. I raged. I said, I will never be a writer. I am a terrible writer. I have no voice. I have no platform. I have nothing to give. I have no stories.  This is never going to happen for me. I had to admit it, it was true. I lay on my back, and I said, I give up this dream. I have spent 25 years of my life, calling myself a writer, and I have nothing to show for it. I couldn’t sell an article if I attached a kidney to it.

I am not a writer, I will never be a writer, there will never be a book with my name on it in any bookstore in the world.

And, I kid you not, I heard God. That has only happened one other time in my life, in a real, feels-audible-look-over-your-shoulder-did-you-hear-that sort of way. But I heard or sensed or felt or received a message from God in my marrow, however you want to think about it, I don’t really care what you call it, I just know I heard God.

He said, “You may never be published but that doesn’t change the way I made you. You’re a writer. Stop caring about the other stuff and just write. I’ll meet you there.”

I came home from Grand Rapids, depleted, and calling-less. The white flame that had existed in my heart, setting me apart as a writer and an artist, had dimmed. I would never be a real writer.

So I just began to write anyway.

I launched Emerging Mummy simply because I wanted to write out my life, I wanted to figure out what I thought about the emerging church, theology, God, my marriage, my miscarriages, breastfeeding, my passions, my interests, my parenting, politics. I wanted to find other people that thought about that stuff. I stumbled across Simple Mom, I think Tsh’s site was brand new in those days. She used to post a list of “top referrers” once a week, and that led me to SortaCrunchy, who lead to me almost every other blogger and friendship I now enjoy, and became a dear heart-friend as well. I found a tribe of men and women that were my own, they were writers, artists, thinkers, world-changers.

And me? I was writing. I wrote almost daily, and finally, after two years, I found my voice.

The biggest transformations of my life had their origins in words. I wrote my way through major faith shifts and doubts and wonderings, as I went from mega-church refugee, bitter and cynical and opinionated, to a broken wandering soul, to the wholeness God has graciously given in and through and outside of the wide glorious Church and the Word and the world, I wrote my way back into the Church and community. I wrote through becoming a mother, again and again and again, through miscarriages, through loss, birth, through the painful realities of mothering, and the ways that God met me and changed me profoundly through this crucible of mothering, this joy, this sacred season, and I loved my tinies more and better because I was writing about us, every day. I began to write about what love looked like for Brian and me. I wrote through my opinions and politics-at-the-time with a carelessness and ridiculousness than positively embarrasses me today. (There are portions of my archives I would like to burn down.) I was set free from people pleasing, approval addiction, I began to tackle my fears, to write more honestly, to be more honest with my own self, to engage my doubts and wonderings.

And crazily, people like you started to show up, to hang out and say, “You, too? Me, too!” You were a gift to me, I didn’t feel so alone anymore. (It still baffles me that anyone reads this site, besides my sister.)

Thank you. Truly. Thank you for being part of my life.

I am not the same person I was in Grand Rapids that day, let alone the woman that I was 7 years ago, before any of this online “writing my life out” thing had begun. Over the past year or two, I began to understand why God told me to keep writing that night at the festival though. After all, I had been healed, set free, and made whole through this discipline. God met me here, and He was enough, always had been, always would be.

Selah.

I was satisfied, content, I am still, most of the time. I was beginning to call myself a writer again, after all, blogging counts, I reasoned. I did not care about agents. I had zero SEO experience. I did not attend a single blogger conference (still haven’t). I didn’t move with the movers or the shakers, I was pretty unknown, I began to write for a few other sites, but those were born organically of relationship, not because of a well-crafted pitch. I liked my little corner of the Internet, I liked all of the friends I made – like you, of course – and I needed to write like I needed to breathe, so it worked.

And now, I have a book deal. Which is ridiculous, let’s be honest. (I can’t share all the details just yet – not until the official announcements. Hopefully soon.)

I am sensing God’s laughter in this. When I laid it all down, when I said I didn’t care about platforms or networking, about publishing or any of it, when I just wanted to write, when I simply wanted to show up in my own life with gratitude and grace, and God kept meeting me in the most ordinary, most radical, of ways, then, then, then, the release. The best agent in the business took me on. Ideas, words, flowing. Proposal crafting. Pitching (oh, God, rejection suuuuuucks – and oh, yes, I experienced my share). And now, this goodness, with such good, good people I can hardly believe my good fortune.

I’m writing my book now. You’ll hopefully be able to hold a copy in your hands someday. Like, with a real cover on it.

That may be an owl laughing in my forest out back, sure, but it’s a bit too holy and other-worldly, maybe there is a Godly chuckle there, in the darkness, a knowing, an enjoyment perhaps, I feel like shaking my finger at the woods, oh, you, I would say.

I did nothing “right”. Everything that the festival said to do or try, I did not do. I gave up. I buried my dreams and moved on. I opened my hands, no more tight fist clenching for me. And God showed up, made something beautiful out of my dust, restored me, healed me, and then, now, even resurrected a dream, the dry bones began to dance.

Blogging – the practice, the discipline, the community, the people, the medium, the work, the tribe – changed my life. It is still changing my life. It will always be a big part of my story. And I love being part of your story, in some small way, too.

The very first sentence that I wrote on my little Xanga Poetstyles blog in 2005?

“I wonder how open and honest you can be on the Internet.”

Turns out: pretty damn honest.

I’m wide open.

Gratefully,

 

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, anniversary, art, blog, blogging, books, faith, fearless, gratitude, Jesus Feminist, journey, seasons, work, writing · 109

In which I emerge to my new digs

Source: etsy.com via Sarah on Pinterest

 

Welcome to my new home on the Internet: SarahBessey.com

Yes, I’ve officially emerged at long last.

There are a few reasons for the change. (And no, it’s not because a few people have found me by googling for an homage to 50s horror films.)

For the past few years, I’ve felt like the name, Emerging Mummy, was a bit of a box for me. For people not enmeshed in ecclesial discussions, it’s weird and makes no sense. For people that are a part of those conversations, it puts me in a box, effectively stopping conversation before it even starts.

I write about more than emerging church stuff now, obviously, and what felt right years ago when I started this blog, no longer quite fits. To be blunt, Emerging Mummy doesn’t fit theologically and it doesn’t fit spiritually or emotionally anymore. Also, with the possibility of writing a bit more, I’d like to have my name actually on the blog itself. I’m not just a faith and church writer, I’m not just a mummy-blogger, I’m certainly not a how-to-do-anything blogger.

I’m just me and I just like to write through my life. And so I will be just me, here with you, online, too.

I feel a bit teary and sentimental about it this morning though. Emerging Mummy has been a huge part of my identity, I can’t lie, and I feel a bit more vulnerable and exposed now, out here with my real name. When I chose the word “Fearless” for my year ahead, I had no idea how prophetic that would be in almost every area of my life. This seems minor to some but it feels big to me. And it’s sad to see something that has meant so much to me pass away. It might even be stupid to change the name, since every one always warns against changing up your ‘brand’ when you’re already well-established.

But I’m not a brand, I’m just me, and you’re just you, and I guess we’ll figure it out.

The incredible, made-this-easy-for-me Gretchen at Little Pink House managed the entire transfer of this site. I can’t recommend her highly enough if you’re wanting some back-end work done for your site.

Now for some important information for you:

Your subscriptions should NOT have been affected. The comments that you made at Emerging Mummy are all still here, too. Your sign-in for comments is the exact same through Disqus.

You will keep receiving new posts in your email or in your reader if you had signed up for those services. If not, you can do that today. Sign up to receive new posts from me in your email inbox or subscribe here for your RSS Reader.

My Twitter name was changed a few weeks ago. You can now follow me at @SarahBessey.

The main inconvenience for you is that I’ve had to set up a new Facebook page. (Facebook does not allow name changes.) So if you have liked Emerging Mummy on Facebook, please know that it will be deleted very soon. You’ll need to click here and then Like my new eponymous page. I’m planning on trimming up my personal Facebook page as well (so that it is actually a personal page, fancy that) so if we are Facebook friends but you know primarily or only through my writing life, please like that new page so that we can stay in touch.

I do love to hang out with you guys in a “backstage” sort of way on Facebook and Twitter – I share links to stuff I find that’s interesting, respond to questions or notes, ask questions or offer opinions on items of interest, live-tweet Picakens, that sort of life-changing material. I hope to see you there.

Thank you for being part of my life, my friends. I appreciate you, your voice, your presence, and your support more than I could ever say.

 

Continue Reading · blog, blogging, fearless, journey · 54

In which I am stalling and just writing – on a pumpkin

Brian and the tines brought home a little pumpkin from the community garden along with bags and bags of cucumbers that I promptly declared that I would not pickle. I scrawled a few lines on the tiny pumpkin because somehow, I’m driven to write words, even with Sharpies on gourds.

You know how kids are so exhausted when they start school? I hear from my friends about their kindergartners coming home, worn clean out, collapsing to sleep still in their Dora backpacks straps. Anne has not had that transition, but instead, it is mine. We’re two weeks into homeschooling and I’m exhausted. I think teachers need raises, I mean, honestly, did you know that kids go to school, like, every day? So every night, I”m figuring out lesson plans and during the afternoons, she studiously calls me Teacher for some reason even though I’m trying to get her to stop it. I’m not a teacher, I say, I’m your Mum. And in my head, I’m all of it and none of it here, too, so we’re reading a lot and Joe squirms and squirms and squirms but I’ve figured out he’s listening while he’s moving so it doesn’t bother me – much – anymore and Evelynn observes us all, wisdom.

I read this and now I feel like he read my mail. Because yes, guilty, sir.  I’m stalling like crazy because I can feel this brick in my chest, the one chanting writeitoutwriteitoutwriteitoutwriteitout and it scares me half to death because what if it isn’t any good and what if no one reads it and what if I’m just another hack and what if what if what if it succeeds? I am halfway finished the book I think might actually have some value, maybe even be a-real-with-a-cover-book someday, but I haven’t even opened the file in days and days.  And then I have the book that I’m sure will never be published because it’s nothing and everything all at once, it’s only in my skin still. Both of them wanting time and so instead I write a blog post, make cookies and eat too many, refinish a bookcase because clearly I am nuts.

I wait all day long to write at night and then, when everyone is in bed and Brian is out working for yet another night, I collapse into my chair and think, oh, gracious, I’m just too tired to even think. I mutter and think and yearn for time to write, to create, all day and then when it comes, I’m all Let’s See What’s Going On With The Twitter.

Last night, I typed out query letters. I printed off my own work onto a page and suddenly the words that I loved and bled out seemed small and worthless but I folded up the computer paper anyway, slid it into an envelope along with the envelope that they, the literary elite, will use to send it back to me with a typed rejection and today Brian dropped them in the mailbox, asking them to think it’s worth a bit of ink on their paper. And then that will make me a writer?
Even this, this just-write challenge is me, stalling.
Linked up with thanks for the time with Heather, the lovely one, at The EO.

Just Write

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Continue Reading · blog, blogging, writing · 0