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My 10 Most Popular Posts of 2014 – and the ones I liked

My Popular Posts of 2014

I’m still reeling from 2014 in many ways. It’s been one of those good-hard years. It was a learning curve year for me in many ways – figuring out what I love and what I don’t, what I’m good at and why it’s exhausting to do things simply because others expect it of you or because you thought it sounded like a good idea at the time. I made a lot of mistakes this year. (I won’t subject you to all of my navel gazing in this area, not yet anyway. I am a blogger after all, so no doubt some narcissistic pondering will follow at some point.)

But one thing I did learn this year was to keep my own secrets and sit with my thoughts a bit better. Sometimes I wonder if, in our rush for authenticity, we have forgotten how beautiful it can be to keep secrets. Not the shameful kind but the “just for us” kind, I mean. I’ve purposely been practicing the spiritual discipline of secrecy for much of what is going on in my heart and spirit these past few months. At first it was so difficult and weird – is it real if you don’t document it on Facebook or blog about it?! – but now I’ve relearned the truth that new life often comes forth in quiet, hidden, and sacred places. In the meantime, keeping secrets and holding more of our stories and evolutions, our victories or sorrows close to the bone suits just fine. Who knew, eh?

As a writer – or any kind of minister or artist perhaps – it’s hard not to turn one’s life into content or impose narrative for every moment. The discipline of keeping secrets is a good cure for simply letting it unfold for a while, without expectation of affirmation or criticism.

But practically, this meant that I didn’t blog as much as usual and a lot of what has been happening in my heart/mind/spirit has gone unwritten. I went from blogging almost every day to just a few posts every month, even taking whole months off here and there throughout the year. I’ve even had to take a break from responding to email altogether which is way out of character for me (I love to hear from readers and usually make the time to respond personally to each email I receive).

Of course there are other reasons for my sporadic blogging this year: a surprise new baby coming which completely disoriented us, a new book to finish writing (and I will share all about that in January), travelling and speaking all over North America, stewarding the message of Jesus Feminist throughout her first year of life, creating the Jesus Feminist collection with Imagine Goods, a trip to Haiti, new opportunities as a writer, three tinies at home with their own lives and drama and growth and change, remodelling parts of our home, marriage, church, friends, life, work, laundry (oh, can we talk laundry?!), meals, and everything that goes into keeping the wheels on the life of a busy young family.

No wonder I need a nap. 

Anyway. Enough of that.

Here are the most popular posts that I wrote in 2014 … with a few behind-the-scenes thoughts for each one.

1. In which I am learning to live with the ache :: I dashed this one off last January, never dreaming that it would strike the nerve that it did. Turns out, we’re not alone. Of course, just six months later, we had a surprise pregnancy and one of the first things everyone said to us – online and off – was “So much for that ache!” But I still love this post so much and I deeply connect with it, I know I’ll be revisiting it again soon since we are DEFINITELY COMPLETELY DONE after this tiny arrives.

2. In which I have a few things to tell you about Ferguson :: I very rarely editorialize like this anymore. But I was so deeply moved – and remain so deeply moved – by the protests in Ferguson and the growing #BlackLivesMatter movement in the United States as it continues. And it bothered me that it took so long for the American white Christian blogosphere to react to the so I just went and ahead and did it. I probably didn’t have any place weighing in. I got a lot of hate for this post but I don’t regret it. It was a small and insignificant thing to do in the big picture, I’m under no illusions.

3. 173 Beats a Minute: On one surprising little baby and the possibility of miracles :: This is our miracle baby story. I still can hardly believe that this really happened and is happening right now. I’m 31 weeks pregnant as I write this and I’m still just stupid grateful – when I’m not overwhelmed.

4. In which I disagree with Candace Cameron Bure about “biblical” marriage :: I read Bure’s comments about “biblical marriage” and I had to respond to that phrase in particular as she re-ignited the conversation in pop culture about what Christians really believe about headship/submission in marriage. I’m passionate about the topic, personally, of course, but in all of the conversations I’ve had since Jesus Feminist came out, I’ve come to realise that it’s even more important than I could have dreamed to speak the truth here and teach the truth in our communities. My husband and I submit to one another as we both submit to Christ. We learned that from our Bibles.

5. In which this is for the ones leaving evangelicalism :: I wrote this after the World Vision thing earlier in the year. Their hiring reversal hurt the GLBTQ community deeply as well as their allies, let alone the 10,000 vulnerable kids who lost sponsorships, so a lot of people were talking about how they were done, done, done with evangelicalism. Which I thought was just fine. And so I began to think about when I took a step out of the culture of evangelicalism – many years ago and my reasons were more related to women’s issues as well as the Iraq war – and I wrote this letter to all the ones who were leaving, the way that I wished people had spoken to me when I set out away from my faith tradition. I also did a follow up piece about the ones who chose to stay. These themes are a big part of my new book, incidentally.

6. Soapbox Warning: On Jian Ghomeshi and the acceptability of sexual violence against women :: Oh, this post. What a firestorm this one became. I was overwhelmed with responses of support, the devastating stories from survivors, and then the inevitable backlash. Eventually, it became hard for me to sort out the legitimate critiques from the violent abuse that came my way from every angle and that was when I had to step away altogether and simply let it stand as-is.

7. Guard Your Gates :: I loved this post and I’m happy to see it in the popular ones for the year. I don’t write about the tinies as much anymore, out of respect for their own stories and lives. So that means that a big portion of my life and heart never makes it onto the blog. I felt like maybe this was a way to write about how God parents me as I parent – without selling my tinies out – so I will try to do more of it in the future. Parenting is my greatest altar for meeting God and I am still figuring out how to write about it as the tinies grow up.

8. Women in Bikinis :: The backlash to this one shocked me. I thought I was just writing a nice little homage to my friends and the way that they set me free in so many ways, using the bikini thing as a metaphor, but instead I set off a modesty debate in the comment section that left me shaking my head. I don’t get it, man. Some debates are just a baffling waste of time to me and this is one of them.

9. In which you are not forgotten :: This was my first video released from The Work of the People. Travis Reed had come up to visit back in April and he filmed a day of conversations. In this one, I talked about a pastor who encouraged me with a word from God after one of my miscarriages and how her words – “You are not forgotten” – have become one of my cries of my heart for our world. I loved how it turned out and I love that so many watched it and felt seen, even if just for a moment.

10. In which I don’t mind if the tinies see me on the computer :: I absolutely hate mum-guilt. And I loved this post because it married a few things I’m passionate about – motherhood, freedom, the sanctity of work, and family dynamics. It was one of the rare times when I didn’t regret getting out my soapbox and having a good old-fashioned rant.


Okay, now in looking over these popular posts, I see a trend….. The posts that get shared or commented or liked are often controversial ones. And let’s be honest, I’m not that controversial. I very rarely write what I call “response” posts – editorializing, ranting or reactions to either news or the writings/sayings of other people. And yet those are often my most popular posts with the most traffic, the most comments, the most shares, the most accompanying outrage – and the most overwhelming email inbox.

Meanwhile, the posts that I personally like the best or feel most represent me as a writer are often flying under the radar.

So in addition to the Top 10 of the year, I wanted to share a couple more posts – these are the posts that I actually liked or feel represent my year of writing, even if no one else liked them or tweeted about them, even if they are an out-of-fashion style of blogging like story-telling or moment-capturing. I’m more that type of blogger than the click-baiter or the response-writer or editorialist anyway, who are we kidding?

I needed to see her :: I wrote this one after my church’s Christmas ladies’ event. I was feeling very emotional about it already – I could blame the pregnancy hormones but we all know I’m a feeler – and then my friend, Tracy, who is our worship pastor sent me that picture in the post. It seemed powerful to me somehow – the image of a pregnant woman preaching about the Incarnation – and i got to thinking of all the women I needed to see in my life in order to step out into freedom and the post grew out of that.

Being Brave Together :: I loved this post because it captures so much of what drives me these days, what makes me brave, and the real-flip-side of how bravery doesn’t feel good to me. some people get a rush from being brave, not me. I’m too much of a people-pleaser still to love it. So this was a wrestling. And then I published it right after my Jian Ghomeshi post even though I actually wrote it before I had even heard of the scandal. I had it ready to go in the queue when I decided to hold off and do the Jian one first. But boy, was it timely to re-read after that one erupted.

October’s Lady :: This is some of my favourite writing to do and yet the stuff that rarely resonates with readers. Go figure.

Instructions for an evening :: Again, I love to write like this but it seems that the Internet world isn’t made for this kind of work anymore. But I’m more committed than ever to keeping on with it. It’s how I think and move through the world, so it’s going to show up in my work. This feels more like the truest version of my self.

Be Not Afraid: A Letter to my Charismatic Brothers and Sisters :: I wrote this letter after Charisma News wrote an absolutely heinous editorial justifying islamophobia and then the evangelical world freaked out because Michael Gungor dared to say that he didn’t believe in six day creation (news flash: a lot of Christians don’t and haven’t for millenia). And because I have quietly become more neo-charismatic as I get older, returning to the traditions of my youth, I felt compelled to write about why that kind of stuff drives me bonkers. It’s an insider letter, perhaps, but I still think that’s where good critique arises – from within the family.

We underestimate the foolish and the kind ones: On building the Kingdom of God, peace-making, and bridge-building :: If I had to pick a post that sums up where I am at right now as an activist, this would be it.

In which I fall for the beautiful facade :: Returning to Haiti this year was an important part of my year. I joined the board of Help One Now and so this was an important trip to see the completion of several projects and the rise of a few new ones, as well as reconnect with our partners on the ground. But this post pretty much serves as a parable for how I miss the point and fall for the beautiful lie in development or activist work still. I wish it had gone a bit more popular because I felt like the idea behind it is applicable to so many areas of our life as believers, particularly in the Church, but what can you do? When I post about Haiti, few people read, even fewer share.

Tell them about the love that doesn’t show up in movies :: I didn’t do much writing in my never-ending series of “What Love Looks Like” but I did love this one. It’s a song for the vast middle part of a love story.


 

Before I sign off for 2014 and begin to look ahead to 2015, I need to take a moment to thank each of you for reading here and for being part of our life. It means more to me than you could know that you are here with me.

Saying “thank you” seems inadequate but it’s all I have right now: thank you.  Thank you for reading, for commenting, for our funny and deep and weird conversations on Twitter and Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, for your emails and letters, for your support and critiques, for showing up to the events in churches and community centres where I stumbled over my words and hugged you a bit too tightly and likely cried, for buying my little yellow book, for your prayers for me and my family, for staying with me, really, for all of it.

Continue Reading · 2014 in review, blogging · 24

In which I am retiring “In which” and a few other decisions about blogging

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I have been blogging for ten years. Of course, hardly anybody read my blog for the first seven years – and rightfully so – but I have been writing online in some capacity for ten years. I started my first blog on Xanga when I was just twenty-five years old: I was a burned out, over-churched, cynical Gen-X kid with a lot of doubts and questions. I wrote my way through that life and into a new life. Moving, change of vocation, identity crisis, an awakening of calling and purpose, pregnancy and birth, raising three tinies, miscarriages and loss, a deepening of my theology and my Christian practice, a strengthening in my marriage, and everything else that has gone into the past ten years for us. I’m not the same woman I was ten years ago and for that I can only thank God.

But I haven’t been the only one changing over that decade: blogging has changed immensely in the past ten years, too.

The hard thing is trying to figure out when to “change with the times” and when to stand your ground in the place you’ve established. For instance, I still love to tell stories about the daily life and simple joys, even though those don’t get the page views or comments or shares of other posts. I won’t stop telling those stories or writing the way I love to write because it’s not popular. But there are other aspects that I need to embrace – running ads to pay for the upkeep of this site which has become prohibitive, being aware of the power of social media, creating regular content that is relevant, and so on.

When I stopped blogging a few months ago, I was close to quitting altogether. Ten years is long enough, I reasoned.  Half the time, I can’t keep up and I don’t think I want to try anymore.

So it was a nice summer away. I worked on the book, we walked through some changes as a family (more on those later), and enjoyed the summer with the tinies.

But as the weeks passed, I began to realise something: I missed it. I missed blogging because I love it. I love the immediacy of it, I love the mess of it, I love the unedited glimpse into life. I missed writing about my daily life. I did NOT miss huge aspects of social media which has grown wearying for me or the idea of having to create “pinnable” images (I’m crap at that stuff) but I resolved to find a way to blog in a way that brings me joy.

Blogging is a powerful medium particularly for those of us who are outside of the usual power narratives and structures either because of location or religion or gender or orientation or race or political leanings, let alone all the odd combinations therein. This is how we have been heard. When else in the history of the Church would anyone care what a happy-clappy bleeding-heart mum from western Canada thinks about anything? Never. That’s your answer. This is a powerful medium for connection and for change.

For me that meant settling a few things about blogging:

  • My whole self belongs on this blog. I am not an ideologue or propaganda or a brand, I’m just Sarah. I’m interested in a lot of things and I have a (sometimes too) full life. But one of the things I’ve always loved about blogging is that I get to my whole self here: I get to love theology and Church talk, I get to care about race and feminism and social justice, I get to write about mothering and family and marriage, I get to crack jokes at my own expense, I get to love Doctor Who and Call the Midwife, I get to love thrifting and knitting and pretty things as well as being a Jesus feminist, I get to be a homemaker who talks recipes and cleaning and laundry as well as a lover of literature and poetry and history and Girl Power, I love the local church and yet I don’t wear rose-coloured glasses about this stuff.
  • I don’t want to overthink writing right now. I’ve decided to write like it’s fun again. I’ve decided to bench my inner critic – and ignore the thousands of Internet critics – and just write like nobody is reading it. (Which may end up happening.) If I want to write about something, I’m going to write about it. No more overthinking, no more fear, no more worries about “what might happen” or if it “fits my brand.”
  • Write with passion and conviction again, critics be damned. My soapbox has gotten a bit dusty. I might pull it out a bit more now and again. I’ll run the risk of being called emotional and being misunderstood. I have been ruminating on this one for a while. Of course, for those of you who know me or have read me for a long time, you know that I don’t believe you need to speak in anger or judgment or arrogance to speak the truth: but make no mistake, I want to speak the truth. With gentleness, with love, and with strength. Sure, I love to write beauty but sometimes the most gorgeous thing I can imagine saying is the truth.
  • Amplify the voices and experiences of others. My platform might not be a big deal but I want to steward it well and generously.  I want to curate those voices and introduce you to the people who are teaching me, across a wide spectrum of global issues, theology, and current events.
  • Write more about global women’s issues with a focus on prayer and action. Feature the stories that matter to those of us who identify as Jesus Feminists.  I’ll make an effort to stay engaged, to pray with purpose and faith, and then to find ways to engage with hope.
  • Chill out. Write what I want, when I want, and hang the rest of it. I still believe down deep that good content trumps click-bait titles and free graphics.
  • I have a full life offline and that life – particularly my husband and my tinies – gets my first loyalty.

The other decision I made was to kick “in which” to the curb at long last. All those years ago, I began to start my posts with “In which.” I wish I could tell you it was a big conscious decision but it wasn’t. I just loved the original Winnie-the-Pooh books by A.A. Milne and all of those chapters started with “In which…” I have always hated titling posts – in fact, for a good long time, I just published essays without titles, if you can believe it. So this was just an easy way for me to work. It became a habit and then a routine. I never even considered anything else.

But I’ve decided to retire the whole “In which” thing now. I’m kind of tired of it and I imagine everyone else is, too. I think the passive sentence fragment as a title has run its course. Plus a lot of other bloggers use it now and so it’s not a differentiator for me like it used to be. And it makes the other aspects of blogging – particularly sharing on social media – difficult.  (I might use it now and again, of course. I reserve the right for retro writing.)

I’ve broken almost every “rule” people make about blogging. This post itself is a big no-no: “Never blog about blogging.” But so many of you have been on the journey with me for so long that I felt like I needed to share a bit about where my thoughts were at after a summer of quiet in this space.

I’m looking forward to this new season of writing my life out online.

It means more to me than you could know that you are here with me. Sometimes I still can’t believe I get to do this or that anyone reads it. But my life has been enriched with your presence here, your influence has changed me, and I still love what I do even ten years in. I’ll call that a win.

 

Continue Reading · blogging, work, writing · 148

In which I am taking a break

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It’s time for a bit of silence.

There are practical life reasons for taking a break from blogging and social media – most particularly, I only have so much time in a day and I have started to write my second book. It’s nearly summertime and the tinies have a lot of plans for time at the pool and out exploring beyond wifi connections together. I’ve been slowly removing commitments from my life across the board, actually, not just here. But there are also soul reasons – for instance, the noise level has become a bit much for me while I’m in “create” mode among other reasons. I’m feeling the need to curl away in silence. As our Jesus said, we must begin with our own life-giving lives.

I’m learning to obey those gentle leadings and so I’m stepping back just for a bit. I anticipate returning to blogging in a few weeks, perhaps by the end of summer, but I’m not going to be too structured or hard lined about it – I may pop in now and again on Instagram or even my Facebook page to say hello.

I ask for your grace in my responses to email and within social media, too. I’m just not there as much as I used to be and so frequently conversations zoom right past my attention.

 

While I’m taking a break from blogging and social media, feel free to poke around my archives. In fact, I’ll make it easy for you –  here are a few of the most popular posts over the past few months:

In which this is for the ones leaving evangelicalism and In which this is for the ones who stay

In which the Spirit inhabits the praises of the people

In which I don’t mind if the tinies see me on the computer

In which I’m learning to live with The Ache

In which I disagree with Candace Cameron Bure about “biblical” marriage

In which I am learning to obey the sadness

In which the Kingdom of God is (sort of) like light through the trees

In which I fall for the beautiful facade

Or perhaps start here with my top posts of 2013 or the videos from The Work of the People.

I’ll be in Tulsa next weekend at the Praxis Conference with Jonathan Martin, Aaron Niequist, Brian Zahnd, Ed Gungor, and a lot of other incredible folks. Then on June 20-21, I’ll be at GodChicks in Los Angeles with Holly Wagner and Christine Caine. And the rest of my speaking schedule for the next few months is here. Perhaps I’ll see you?

In the meantime, may God bless you and keep you, may He make his face shine upon you, and give you peace.

I was reading Ephesians this morning in the Message and this is my prayer for us:

“I ask him to strengthen you by his Spirit – not a brute strength but a glorious inner strength – that Christ will live in you as you open the door and invite him in. And I ask him that with both feet planted firmly on love, you’ll be able to take in with all followers of Jesus the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb te depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God. God can do anything, you know – far more than you could ever imagine or guess or request in your wildest reams. He does it not by pushing us around but by working within us, his Spirit deeply and gently within us.” – Ephesians 3:17-20, MSG

See you later, friends.

Continue Reading · blogging · 23

In which I launch Field Notes, my e-newsletter – and a free ebook!

Field Notes

A bit of fun news tonight: I’m starting a free e-newsletter for subscribers!

It’s called Field Notes, and it will feature exclusive content not found on the blog or anywhere else. My goal is to send it out every three months or so. In fact, announcements or big news will hit Field Notes first from now on.

For instance, I’m already working on my second book and when it’s time to announce it, subscribers to Field Notes will be the first to know. (And that may be happening sooner rather than later….) It will also include contests, giveaways, book recommendations, freebies, the best-of my work over the past month, and other fun features of bloggers, writers, news, and more that you won’t find anywhere else from me.

And to celebrate Field Notes,  in the first edition you will receive a free copy of my  new e-book, “The Practices of Mothering.” It’s the e-book version of a series I wrote a few years ago about the stuff I actually DO to enjoy mothering tinies – everything from the practical to the emotional. It remains one of the most popular series I’ve ever done here and this will make it easy for you to read it, keep it, print it, and pass it along.

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Isn’t the cover pretty? My thanks to Andrea Levendusky for her artwork and Dan King  of Fistbump Media for his tech help.

The first edition of Field Notes will be headed your way on May 5 so sign up below.

(If you are already receiving my posts through email, you’re already subscribed. I wanted to make sure you got the free e-book, too!)

EDITED TO ADD: If the “SUBMIT” button isn’t showing up for you, try clicking here and signing up. Or enter your email address and press “Enter.”



Continue Reading · blogging, Field Notes · 8

In which the moments are now ours alone :: on (not) blogging about my tinies

Sarah and Anne

photo by Tina Francis Mutungu

In the fading of the day, Anne was curled up against me in our beat-up old leather chair. I was reading, and she was just resting, watching me. We were rather quiet because the other two were watching Daniel Tiger’s Neighbourhood together. I had my hand in her blonde hair, slowly running my fingers through, she was precariously balanced, a noodle of a girl. Then we had a lovely conversation.

Maybe you’ve noticed or maybe you haven’t, I don’t know, but Anne and Joe have steadily been disappearing from my blog for a while now. I used to tell a lot more stories about them – their spirituality, their daily lives, their quirks, their new experiences, their wisdom, their frustrations – but the “mum-blog” aspect of my writing has wound down.

(It’s likely I’m the only one who misses it – the world hardly needs another over-sharing mother with a blog.)

I made a conscious decision to stop blogging about the tinies when they started kindergarten. I figured at that point – when they had friends at school, a presence in our community, a life of their own beginning to emerge – that they needed to know that their life was their own. So when they headed off to school, they headed away from my blog, too.

It’s been hard sometimes because, well, I’m a writer. It’s hard not to write about the most precious part of my life, the most inspiring, most rich and challenging part of my days. But I don’t write about the intricacies of their lives anymore – at least not publicly. (Babies and toddlers are fair game, so Evelynn still shows up a lot, particularly on Instagram since we’re together all day while the older tinies are at school. I tend to treat that medium as a her baby book (poor little third baby). But even with her young age, I try to be respectful with an eye on her future life.)

The tinies all know about my blog, of course. Before I post a picture of the older tinies, I ask if it’s okay with them. “Is it okay if I share this on Facebook? on my blog?” Most of the time they say yes, they get a kick out of it. Sometimes they say no, and then it’s just our moment. Sometimes I don’t even ask, I just know: it’s not for anyone else but us.

I do write about motherhood still, of course but now it’s more about Me As A Mother, my own journey. Details are obscured. No one is named if a particular situation warrants a mention. A couple of years ago, right about the time I was having these realizations about “war photographers” that I eventually wrote about for D.L Mayfield, I was having very similar thoughts about my own tinies.

And I’ll be honest with you: there are a few posts back in my archives that I wish now that I had not written about the tinies – I feel sad that I took a private moment and made it public, let other people weigh in on their lives. I was learning, and I get that, but still I have regrets. I have deleted them. I will make apologies when they are older: “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have written about that. Will you forgive me?” I’m trying to figure out a way to keep writing about mothering without using my children as fodder – and until I do, I’ll just keep erring on the side of silence and protection.

So that moment on the chair earlier today with Anne, it was ours alone. Even though the Writer-Me wants to capture the narrative and make some art, some connection, out of it, the Mama-Me is holding it close to the heart, protecting them. The days are moving too quickly sometimes. Anne is seven and a half, Joe is five and a half, Evelynn is nearly three. We have a lot of laughter, a lot of mess, a lot of frustrations, challenges, victories, and sacred moments. We have conversations that end well and other ones that end in eyes-rolling or yelling. There are things about the tinies and about this new season of our lives that are so incredible. But most of those moments will go unblogged. Those moments, those conversations, they’re ours alone now. I’ll jot them down in a journal, maybe someday they’ll show up in my writing but that day won’t come for a while – if ever.

I need my children to know that they aren’t blog fodder. I need them to know that they can grow up without an audience being privy to their sacred moments.

I need them to know that when they curl up around me in that old leather chair that their secrets are safe with me.

 

 

Continue Reading · blogging, family, parenting, writing · 87