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It might surprise some people to know that I’m a keeper of secrets. Many secrets, in fact. After all, I’m a blogger: by vocation, an over-sharer, a navel-gazer, an over-thinker with access to a medium. And yet there are vast swaths of my life that never make it to the public eye.

And the parts that do show up here or in a book or even on Instagram often only show up after I’ve wrestled the power away from them and I’m ready for my narrative to emerge for Everywhere. I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber call it “writing out of a scar, instead of a wound.”


But we all need somewhere to say the private things, the vulnerable things, the scary and true things, the victories and the defeats. “I need to say it somewhere,” we say. We’re wired for it, we’re wired for community and relationship, for connection.

So then the temptation is to say it Everywhere or to say it Nowhere.

Instead, I’m learning to say these things to my Somewheres.


I wonder if it isn’t easier to be honest on social media because we have curated our brand. Every one does it: by their likes, their groups, their filtered photos. We project an image of ourselves out into the world and then we want to interact with the world from within the boundaries of that image. It’s neater, tidier.

Because it’s the people who have access to the un-curated version of ourselves who might tell a different story.

My tinies might tell a very different story about me as a mother than what I’ve put online. My friends would be able to tell you that the whole picture of who I am doesn’t show up online, that in some ways I’m both better than that and so much worse than the public Sarah. Aren’t we all?

As Walt Whitman wrote, “do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.”

I need somewhere to be large and contradictory. Don’t we all?


A while ago, I wasn’t doing so good. I was struggling for a few different reasons. It was tempting to stay utterly silent and keep on until it resolved or until I got over it, as is my usual method.

I’m an INFJ (if you’re into that whole Meyers-Briggs thing) and in times of conflict or difficulty, we withdraw – big time. We go deeply inward and don’t emerge until we’ve settled whatever has been ailing us, until we have developed a nice story with a bow on the top. This is the great frustration of the ones who love me, I hear. I withdraw, I shut down, I retreat in times of conflict both external and internal.

So this is my learned spiritual discipline: I talk to my Somewheres.

I say discipline because that is what it takes for me to reach out during conflict. It takes intentional discipline to be honest while I’m still in the midst of the unfinished struggle. I had to say the words out loud: here are my contradictions. I don’t always do it well.

Ironically, I can be even more reluctant to share my victories than I am to share my imperfections. I have a lively horror of #humblebrag. And yet sometimes cool things happen, amazing things even, and I have found I need somewhere to unapologetically brag, too.


The Somewheres are my cure for the Everywhere and the Nowhere. Neither extreme is good for our souls. We can’t say everything to Everyone. It’s foolish and damaging to expose ourselves to every single person with an opinion, to let just anyone’s criticism or direction come to rest heavily on our stories.

And we can’t keep our contradictions, our multitude, all in either, we will be crushed eventually. I think our souls require some release: for wisdom, for perspective, for laughter, for tears, for even the holy act of hearing “I see you and I’m listening.” We need to receive from one another, receive the gifts that God has placed before us in our right-now lives. Paul wrote of this in Galatians 6:2 when he encouraged us to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ.” We need each other. People get a bit squirrelly when they refuse to lay down their masks. No one should be above getting their mail read.


“I need to say it somewhere. And you’re my Somewhere,” I said to my friends.

And so we embraced the word, this idea of being each other’s Somewhere. We are the Somewheres. Whether it was for an unapologetic brag or a tearful admission or a “here’s the whole story behind this thing” or a disappointment or frustration in every corner of our lives. Somewhere to say that that The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was amazing and your heart is broken and you can’t get your baby to sleep and you wonder if you’re wasting your life and your marriage isn’t doing so good and you feel alive for the first time and you are tired and you heard a terrible joke and you found a new paint colour for your bedroom and your teenager is giving you attitude.

I have found, too, that good Somewheres listen and see, but they also push back and challenge. As the writer of Hebrews said, we “stir up one another to love and good works.” (10:24) We will become truly human when we are truly communal, we’re made in the image of God, a communal Trinity God. Some part of our soul starves in isolation and in anonymous crowds. The best relationships are reciprocal, an intentional but un-choreographed give-and-take.


I believe we can be authentic in our lives. I do. I hope I am authentic, I hope my life is seamless, transparent even. I long to be the same person online as I am off-line, in church as I am in my neighbourhood, at work as I am in my family. I believe we can speak our truth and own our truth and unapologetically write it, share it, speak it, live it. I think it’s best to live as if there is no such thing as a secret, sure. And I believe that while we’re doing that, going through our lives unarmed and with our hearts broken and our hands open, that we still need – perhaps even more – a Somewhere, a safe refuge, a place to work out what is working in us. We can’t be everything to everyone, so why should everyone receive everything that we are?


Here are a few things you need to become Somewheres: An ability to welcome the contradictions in each other. Ferocious trust. Secret keeping. A shared sense of humour. A fierce belief in the inherent goodness and holiness of each other. An equal amount of butt-kicking and hair-petting. Bravery. Silliness. A common core. The capacity to laugh through tears. A bullshit detector. An aversion to the phrase, “I’m fine.” Unconditional welcome. Time, so much time. Openness to being challenged. A lot of small and inconsequential talk to lay the foundation for the big scary talks. Loyalty like blood. Showing up at the right time. Light for the darkness. And then there is the part you can’t predict or plan or program: magic. There needs to be a bit of that Holy Spirit drawing together, a sense of purpose and destiny, an answered prayer, a shared language all your own discovered at last.

image via lightstock


Continue Reading · community, faith, friends, journey · 47

Women are Scary :: by Melanie Dale

Most of the time when people write or talk about female friendships they either make it sound like rainbows-and-unicorns-and-cupcakes OR they make it sound like the worst experience of their lives. That’s why I’m so excited to introduce you to Melanie Dale. Not only is she a fellow fan of Doctor Who(!!!), but she wrote a book about female friendship I think almost every woman needs to read. It’s called Women are Scary (isn’t that a fantastic title?!) and it’s one of the most honest, funny, and helpful books for developing friendships in adulthood. I loved it and it made me love women even more. You’ll see what I mean when you read this post from her. Then find her online and buy her book. – S.

Women are Scary :: Sarah Bessey

The Doctor: “There’re a lot of things you need to get across this universe. Warp drive … wormhole refractors … You know the thing you need most of all? You need a hand to hold.”
From Doctor Who, “The Almost People”

For several years, I’ve been a Sarah Bessey fan, so as you can imagine, I’m geeking out a bit as I type these words and have pretty much given up trying to be cool about it.

So. I’m trying to write a post about how women are scary for the author of Jesus Feminist. The irony is not lost on me. And I’m using words like “wench,” “bossy,” and “burping,” which are like a triumvirate of female no-no words. Other women have always intimidated me, and I’m a weensy bit sweaty admitting this here.

But maybe you can relate to the utter weirdness of trying to fit in, of squeezing yourself into a mold that doesn’t seem to fit your kind of female. What do you do with women’s ministry and women’s retreats? When I was figuring out how to be a girl in the church, I felt like an expatriate living in a foreign land where I was expected to understand floral arrangements and how to make a proper cheese ball.

A few years ago, I was sitting in a roomful of women I barely knew, watching a video in which Bible teacher Beth Moore got down in someone’s face and declared, “I love women!”

Ooh, I thought to myself, I don’t think I love women. Women are scary, complicated creatures.

The very next moment, something inside me bubbled up and I prayed inside my head, “God, help me to love women.”

Nothing happened. I didn’t feel the earth shake or my insides quiver. I finished watching the video, picked up my daughter in the nursery, and moved on with my life.

Never did I suspect that God would answer that little prayer in such a big way. Looking back over the last couple of years, since praying that prayer, I’ve realized that God has completely rewired my heart. I find myself asking questions, listening to the hearts and hurts of the women around me, and offering bear hugs with abandonment. Where I wanted to run, I now leap to encourage. Where I felt defensive, I now celebrate our differences.

I still avoid crafts.

I attended my first women’s retreat in college, hosted by the women at my church. At that point I was still learning how to be a little bit normal, how to navigate female relationships. My life as a theatre major, a fairly untalented one, consisted of daily rehearsals in which I stood in the back and played the silent role of wench or maid and practiced carrying trays and not drawing attention to myself while wearing a corset and petticoat.

On the night of my first women’s retreat, I of course had wench or maid rehearsal in my whalebones and came to the retreat late, tired, and my insides just a little squeezed. My boobs were relieved to be out of the corset and away from my throat, and I guess I was exploring my diaphragmatic freedom, because before I knew what I was doing, I burped loudly in front of everyone.

I liked burping. Burping was awesome. And then an entire room filled with older church ladies turned to stare at me and I could tell they were mustering the good Christian grace for which they’d trained, and I realized that maybe my parents weren’t the only ones who thought burping in public was a bad idea. Having girlfriends and being a lady might require sacrifice on my part. No more burping wench-maid. I wasn’t sure what I thought about this.

Years later, I still love Jesus, and burping, and sometimes in spite of myself and my complete weirdness, I still go to these things called women’s conferences. They’re filled with lovely ladies and prayer and I’m always just a little on edge, like I don’t quite fit and if they only knew what was going on inside of me … you know, besides gas. In a room full of Christian women I always secretly panic that I’m going to somehow lose control and scream the f-bomb over and over until they drag me out by my Bible.

In the ’burbs where I do life, we live in an independent, isolated culture. We drive our cars into garages and close the doors behind us, and we can go days and weeks without interacting with the neighbors unless we’re intentional about making friends. If we can learn how to develop real, soul-soothing relationships, there’s no stopping what we can do together for our kids, our families, and the world. But first we have to stop being scary and scared of each other.

I witnessed the perfect illustration of female relationships as I waited for my kids in the pickup line at preschool. I watched as two three-year-old girls held hands and tried to walk in opposite directions. They yanked and yanked each other back and forth. They were very angry. They were bossy. They tried and tried to get the other one to go their way. Because their way was better. They knew. No matter how hard they yanked and yanked, they each had their own idea about the right way to do things. But in all the yanking and bossing, they never let go. They held hands tighter and tighter.

That’s a relationship with a girl. We hold hands. We don’t let go. Because we need each other. We yank and yank, but we don’t let go.

So find your girls, grab hands, and don’t let go. We are better together. Put on your best sweatpants and get started.

headshotMelanie Dale is a geek on a God-ride, a minivan mama and total weirdo who stinks at small talk. Her laugh is a combination honk-snort, and it’s so bad that people have moved away from her in the movie theater. She adores sci-fi and superheroes and is terrified of Pinterest. Author of Women Are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends, she’s also a contributor for Coffee+Crumbs and an advocate for Children’s HopeChest. Living in the Atlanta area, she blogs at about motherhood, orphan care, adoption, and sometimes poo.

Continue Reading · community, friends, Guest Post, women · 21

Women in Bikinis

I had my annual girls’ weekend this past month. It always seems like an indulgence for me to go (it is) and a bit of a hardship on my little family (it is) but every time I come home so refreshed, so renewed, so full, that we now think of it almost as a necessity. Few of us live near each other so we rely on social media and the phone for our daily connections but once a year, we gather at a lake to reconnect, tell stories, laugh until we weep and cry until we laugh. Female friendships are so dear to me – I can’t fathom going through my life without women alongside of me and ahead of me.

I was pretty worn out this year, I don’t mind admitting. I had a red-eye flight heading into the weekend, I was four months pregnant at the time, our life is still a bit too full for my liking, and so hello uninterrupted nap time, you’re a priority. When I woke up late on the Saturday, I wandered outside to sit on the porch overlooking the lake with my cuppa tea and I saw one of the most beautiful sights: women in bikinis.

We range in age from late twenties to late forties. We just look like regular women you’d see working at the bank or in the pews at church or handling school pick up. We have our own hang-ups about our bodies: one might complain about her size, another about her boobs, another about her thighs, another about how things have changed as she got older. A lot of us are mothers and that marks a body, you know.

But here they were out in public in bikinis, unashamed and having a great time.

I said it out loud, “I’m so thankful that I have friends who wear bikinis.”

There wasn’t any hiding behind oversized t-shirts or cover-ups. No posing on the dock or the sand with a perfectly bent arm on our hip to reduce arm-fat with an elevated smart phone for a filtered selfie. Just a group of women in the water, wearing bikinis like their bodies were nothing to be ashamed of. Imagine that.

I know that for some segments of the Church the thought of good-Christian-women-in-bikinis jumps your fence because of a lifetime spent labouring under strict modesty rules. Young women were often subjected to horrendous and humiliating practices about their clothing, even being told that their bodies are wrong or evil. Heaven help the young lady who dared to bring a two-piece bathing suit to youth group camp. Strict rules complete with diagrams and assumptions of motives, what started as likely a well-meaning experience to encourage modesty turned into a witch hunt and a theological confusion about responsibility.

Instead of treating women and girls as persons with full minds, hearts, souls AND bodies, they were treated as essentially physical stumbling blocks to men. And I think that dehumanizes women – in the minds of men and in their own souls. In a way, these modesty rules are a version of the tired and terrible questions asked about victims of rape: “What was she wearing?” meaning “Was she asking for it?” Answer: never.

(My other issue with the modesty rules stuff is that it paints men as unable to control their urges or bear responsibility for their own attractions and thought life – and that’s crap.)

Don’t get me wrong: I’m a pretty modest person by natural style and inclination. I hope I’m teaching my tinies how to choose clothing well AND how to bear responsibility for their own thoughts and choices. But I don’t think you can determine some else’s motives or spiritual life simply by how tight her yoga pants are on a given day. A woman’s spiritual depth or intelligence – let alone her value – isn’t indicated by how high her neckline or low her hemline.

Regardless, growing up in a shame-based culture around one’s body is crippling and hard to release. It leaves one feeling disjointed and separated, unconnected and even ashamed about one’s body. It can take a lifetime to unlearn those lies.

But for me, it’s not the modesty culture stuff that makes me rejoice over the sight of normal women in bikinis.

No, as I wrote for Glennon Melton at Momastery a few months ago for her Sacred Scared series, my battle is much more mainstream: my weight. 

As I wrote for Glennon’s site, “I battle with resenting my own body and the way it has changed over the years.  I feel so achingly and painfully average, a stereotype, like the chubby misfit mama. And it’s so much worse when I am around other Christian women leaders because they are so well put together, so beautiful, so seemingly effortlessly thin, so motivated, and I want to hide.   I know better – I do!  But apparently sometimes I don’t. I know I’m overweight – trust me – but for me, it’s not really about the weight, it’s about how I am often awash in shame and self-loathing about it. Our culture tells me that I am only loveable or sexy if I look like a thin movie star, there is no room for my softness, and sometimes, God forgive me, I believe them. I elevate popular culture’s opinion of me over what I know about being fearfully and wonderfully made, over my husband’s love and desire for me, over my logic, over my own convictions, over my beliefs about who I am in Christ.  I’m still overcoming the lies and some days, let me be honest, some days I am not an overcomer.”

Like a lot of women, I think my battle started when I hit puberty. It turned out that my grown-up body was much more curvy and full – even at my thinnest – than what was in fashion or even what was considered “normal” within my family. I have been battling the feeling of “not enough” ever since then. I was very easily wounded by comments about my weight or size, carrying them and never forgetting the words.

I think that’s part of the reason why I write so often about body image – half the time, I’m preaching to myself. I need to hear the truth still. I need to have good boundaries about what I say about myself.

Overall, I consider myself remarkably healthy at this point in my life – both physically and emotionally – as it pertains to my relationship with my body. And I’m proud of this.

I have made my peace with my body and I even write love letters to my own body as a radical act of faith. I rebel against my own social conditioning about my body by choosing to not only accept myself, but celebrate my body.

But make no mistake: it’s been a hard-won freedom with occasional stumbles.

So I never thought I deserved a bikini. I thought those sorts of things were for thin women, for women without my breasts and my hips and my little pooch-y belly. I was meant for full-piece miracle suits and oversized cover-ups and quick dashes to the change rooms.

I thought bikinis had to earned. I never wore bikinis. Even in my teens and my twenties when I still had a belly unmarked by bearing children, I thought I wasn’t in the bikini class. The thought of wearing a bikini now was unthought by me. It never would have even entered my brain to choose a bikini.

Seeing my group of friends having a great time out on the lake – paddle boarding, laying out on floating rafts, swimming, jumping off the dock with abandon, unashamed – changed me.

Their hair was wet, there was no make-up, no self-consciousness. They were without shame about their bodies. It was stunning. I mean, yes, they were beautiful, absolutely. But it was stunning more because in our culture that constantly tells us that we aren’t enough or we’re too much, these women simply didn’t care and went out for a swim in a bikini. Each body was different from the other and yet each one was beautiful. Turns out you don’t earn a bikini by having a “bikini ready body” – you “earn” a bikini by putting one on your body as it is. Done.

I’m so thankful that I have friends who wear bikinis.

These women set me a bit more free with the glorious sight of their own freedom.

There is something about seeing women who walk in a freedom that we don’t yet enjoy that ignites us. I’ve had the same feeling when I saw women doing something I longed to do myself and hadn’t yet gathered the courage or conviction to step into.

When I see women enjoying a freedom that I can’t yet imagine, I think: I’m going to get there. I have a vision now for a new area of freedom and wholeness in my life. Whether it’s in my vocation and calling, my opinions and daily life, my priorities or whatever, I want to get there.

This is what I love about my friends. They challenge me simply by living their lives. I could tell you the dozens of ways I came home from our weekend together challenged.

And this seems like a silly one perhaps – women in bikinis, good gracious – but it was really a challenge about my body and how I view my body, about shame and freedom, about the goodness of our bodies before God, pushing back against my own prejudices and cultural conditionings.

It wasn’t really about the bikinis. Not really. (And we’re heading into the fall and winter so we’re past bikini season anyway. But wouldn’t it be awesome if more normal women in the middle of their years wore bikinis? I think so.) Really, my thankfulness was more about the presence of women in my life who extend to me a glimpse of wholeness and freedom.

There were other moments of challenge regarding calling and vocation, mothering and marriage, sex and Scripture, hospitality and theology, you name it over the course of our couple days together. All of those conversations arose in the context and safety of long friendship.

Far-away women on stage or writers from the pages of a book teaching me or preaching at me are great and I love that. I receive a lot of life from women of influence, I do. But I also need women in my real walking-around life teaching me with their own lives, living as testimonies to freedom and wholeness, as invitations for my own life.

Next year, I’ll be bringing a brand new little nursing baby with me – and hopefully a bikini.


Continue Reading · fearless, friends, women · 115

In which you gather at the homemade altar

You sent out the emails with the place and the time. You stopped at the grocery store for a round of sourdough bread and a bottle of the finest grape juice. You took the baby to the frozen food store while the tinies were at school, and you picked up appys and lemon squares (between a home cooked meal and your own sanity, you’ll choose your sanity, every time). The night came and you bathed all the tinies and put them in their beds early. You realized the washroom needed a quick wipe-down seconds before everyone arrived and madly ran around with the Windex, threw all the coats that usually hang on the banister into the closet. You made a pot of tea.

The doors are unlocked, everyone can just walk right in. They know that.

You covered your beat-up old coffee table with tablecloths from the thrift store. You arranged candles, centred the iron cross from your mantle, laid down your Bible and your Common Prayer. You placed the bread and the wine and – just like that – you turned your coffee table into an altar, your home into a sacred space for the gathering.

And that is how church begins on a rainy Thursday night in a small city in the west.

You love the way the men make each other laugh, the way their faces crinkle at the eyes. You love the way the women congregate in the kitchen so easily, standing around talking about their babies.

The night unfolded with logistics and scheduling, then justice to frustrations, prayer to silence, stories of our lives now and from our past.

It’s dark outside, pouring rain. Your babies are sleeping in their beds under the quilts their Grandma made for them, miraculously snoring through the loud laughter. The candles on your homemade altar drip drip drip as the night unfolds, and this is your church, these are your people, they look you in the eye. You know their stories, they know yours, but there is still so much to discover. Hope is still present. You’re not quite a family yet, but you’re getting there, one gathering after another.

And then you pray over their bowed heads, each one so precious to you, and invite them to the table.

So come to this table,
you have much faith
and you who would like to have more;
you who have been here often
and you have not been here for a long time;
you who have tried to follow Jesus, 
and you who have failed;
come. it is Christ who invites us to meet him here.


You tear off the bread and hand it to your beautiful friend: this is his body, broken for you. She turns and hands it to the man beside her, blesses him with that same benediction. Then you pass the cup – this is His blood, spilled for you – and you all partake together, one after another, hand to hand. You aren’t standing in a line, you’re beside each other and it’s hard not to grin sometimes. You read Scripture out of your old friend, Isaiah’s book, and right now here you are looking at the way that the desert has bloomed. This is your river running to Zion, and it’s right in your own living room.

Good night, good night. I’m so glad I was here, I’m so glad you could come, this was just what I needed. I love you, love you, too. See you next week.

This is another way that you have fallen back in love with the Bride of Christ: you opened your doors and welcomed her in to your life.

Liturgy taken from Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals

Continue Reading · church, community, faith, friends, journey · 13

In which women talk about women (an interview)

I read Sarah Cunningham’s book, Dear Church: Letters from a Disillusioned Generation, years ago and loved it. Like many of you, I’ve followed her work online for a while and was pleasantly surprised to be included in her ongoing series Women Talk Women. She interviewed me a few weeks ago and today the full interview is up at her blog.

We discussed everything from friendship to jealousy, cattiness to criticism, even Madeleine L’Engle and my sister.


Sarah Cunningham: Have you had an easier time building friendships with men or women? And what do you think are the challenges of both?

Sarah Bessey: I do have friendships with men, primarily professional friendships or through my husband. But my deepest friendships are with women. I think one of the great lies of our culture is that women can’t be trusted. We hear from reality television and some church people alike that women are catty, insecure, jealous, gossip-prone. My experience has absolutely been the opposite. On the whole, I’ve found women to be funny, strong, supportive, motivated, wise, and deeply spiritual. Anything else tends to be the excepting minority.

I think women in the church today are rather tired of being pitted against one another and I believe we want to transcend the competitive staging of our relationships. For instance, the “mummy wars” are usually more of a myth to sell magazines than my actual experience. I see women around me – in work, in my neighbourhood, in many faith traditions, in professional encounters, even online – as very committed to each other’s well-being. The underlying sense of sisterhood among women of faith is strong. I have found women on the whole to be willing to be friends even without point-by-point agreement on every aspect of life.

SC: Love. Why didn’t I interview you earlier? As a strong leader, you’ve probably occasionally run up against another woman who acted “catty” toward you. What do you do with that?

SB: Cattiness from women is usually gossip about surface things – my weight, my looks, my mannerisms, that sort of thing. (And that can get under my skin almost more than someone who thinks I’m a heretic!) But I don’t confuse criticism with cattiness. Someone can disagree with me very well without being catty, so I try to separate out “catty” from “critic.” I’ve been attacked by women, but I’ve also been attacked by men. I’ve been gossipped about, sure, but it’s not gender-specific.

Read the rest of the interview at Sarah Cunningham’s blog, Crowdsourcing Life.

My thanks to Sarah for the invitation! She’s one to follow.


Continue Reading · friends, women · 4