Archive | journey

The Sanitized Stories We Tell


In the early days of a pregnancy, I went to see the midwife every month. Then it became every two weeks. Then, it began to feel as if I saw my midwife more often than I picked up my mail. We would go through the usual routine: blood pressure (always low), heart rate (always low), measure the size of my baby bump (always jaw-droopingly huge). For my last baby, I went to a new midwife and midwifery practice for me. My former practice closed up shop and moved to Chilliwack a few years ago so I started from scratch here. One of the reasons why I love midwifery is that instead of walking in and checking off tick-boxes, I have found that midwives typically (not always! I know a lot of wonderful OBGYNs who are very woman-centric, too) focus just as much on my emotional and spiritual state as on my physical state, believing that all of the aspects of my life are deeply connected to birth and health. I’ve found pregnancy and giving birth to be my greatest metaphor, absolutely, too. I can’t separate my spirit from my body particularly during such a mighty time of life.

Near the end of my pregnancy, I confessed to her that I hadn’t been sleeping well. It wasn’t just the typical have-to-pee-every-hour stuff (although that’s very real, people). And it was more than the bout of sickness we had had here for the past few weeks. I was run off my feet with sick kids and a sick husband, culminating in my own punishing chest cold. Yes, I was up coughing but that wasn’t it, either.

Really, it was the dreaming.

I have vivid dreams at the best of times. I don’t know if it’s the INFJ thing or a spirit-gift thing but I’ve often had a weird dream connection to my spirit and even, I would argue, to the Holy Spirit. I’ve often experienced almost a sense of the prophetic in dreams – for my self, for my husband, for our children, even for my sister on occasion. It seems to be a place where I meet God or work through life for some weird reason. So I know enough by now to pay attention to my dreams. And in the last weeks of my last pregnancy, my dreams became oddly consuming and consistent.

I would dream in vivid detail of my actual self in my actual life. I even dreamed the same pajamas that I was wearing at that moment. And in my dream, I woke up to find that I had either given birth to the baby in my sleep or – more frequently – that I was about to give birth. In the dream, I would wake up out of my sleep and feel the baby just seconds from being born. And then I would feel an absolute tidal wave of grief and fear and anxiety, a profound sense of aloneness in such a key moment of my life. Then I would wake up. And inevitably, when I woke up, I would have a hard time distinguishing between the real and the dream. It would take me a few panicked moments to realize that it was a dream, that it wasn’t actually happening.  And I would have this dream all night, every night, for weeks. I repeatedly woke up, panicked that I was having the baby alone. I went to bed every night in dread of it.

So I told my midwife about my dreams. I told her in the way that I always tell things that alarm me: I joked about it. I don’t know if I’m the only person who does this, but I have some weird affliction that makes me downplay or self-deprecate my own fears or needs. I joke about them in an attempt to disarm them, perhaps, to downplay my hurts or my fears or even my grief. So I told her about my dream and then tried to crack a few jokes at my own expense, “oh, can you even imagine that happening?” and “as if I need another reason for disrupted sleep!”

Har har har.

I think this is one of the reasons why I love midwives, they have a finely tuned bullshit detector and aren’t afraid to call me on it. They see right through my “it’s not so bad” and “ha ha” and “it’s not a big deal” words to my spirit somehow. And so without missing a beat, without even cracking a smile at my lame attempts to disarm my own fear, Carolyn looked me right in the eye and said, “Sarah. Have you ever dealt with the trauma of your son’s birth?”

And just like that, I couldn’t breathe.

I started to cry. I hadn’t even said it out loud and she knew somehow exactly what these dreams were about: they were about my birth experience with our son.

At the time, it had been six years since I had an unattended, unintended free birth. That basically means that I went into labour, the baby came too quickly, and we were left in our building’s parking garage having a big baby by ourselves. It’s a story I have told a million times, usually for a laugh. I use it as an ice-breaking anecdote at women’s retreats, I wrote about it on my blog, I use it as a sermon illustration when I preach at Christmas: I have all my jokes down pat. I tell people about how I hung onto a cement pole and hollered at my husband that the baby was going to FALL OUT. I tell them about the crowd of strangers standing around us, calling 911 on their mobile phones. I crack a joke about how I’m so glad that this happened before the days of smart phones, otherwise it would have been all over Buzzfeed before the placenta was delivered. I tell them about the guy who walked out in the middle of it all, took in the scene, and said “I think I’m going to take the bus!” before beating a hasty retreat. I tell them about standing up with my husband’s arms under my arms, a total stranger kneeling at my feet to make sure that the baby didn’t hit the cement floor, and how I delivered that nearly 9 lbs baby boy into my own hands. I tell them about the fire trucks and the ambulance, I joke about how my mother’s nerves will never recover, I always get a laugh when I tell everyone about how I was whisked away in an ambulance with our baby and Brian was left standing alone in the parking lot wondering what in the hell just happened. He went into shock and just mechanically started cleaning the floors instead of following us. A guy wandered out into the parking lot, took in all of the blood all over the floor, and freaked out, thinking someone had gotten shot. Meanwhile, I went to triage at the hospital to be stitched up by an over-tired ER doctor whose stitching consigned me to a year of recovery from that experience.

Oh, I’ve got all the jokes for that birth experience. Har har har.

My mother has often broached the subject with me, wondering if I was as upset by that experience as she was. But she underestimates my ability to compartmentalize. I can compartmentalize like it’s my spiritual gift. I’m even better at compartmentalizing than I am at being passive-aggressive, and that is saying something.

No, I have not dealt with that trauma, Carolyn. I do not feel like I am allowed to be traumatized: it turned out fine. Look! See! A healthy baby! Everything is fine! I’m fine! He’s fine! We’re all fine! Let’s move on! It ended well and so let’s not make a fuss about it. Let’s carry on.

But six years later, I was reliving that moment of feeling so completely out of control, so afraid, so alone, so unprepared, so exposed over and over and over again in my dreams because I refused to feel it in my awake life.

If we don’t deal with our trauma, our trauma begins to deal with us. If we don’t allow ourselves to feel our feelings, they have a habit of peeking around the corners of our lives, breaking in at the most inopportune moments. And like most damage we experience – whether it was inflicted on us by another or by ourselves or just because this is life and, as Wesley said, life is suffering princess, it’s almost always rooted in our fears but it manifests for each of us different – rage, anger, self-harm, self-neglect, frenzy, numbing, whatever.

I didn’t need tips on how to sleep better. I needed to deal with the root of my sleeping problems and that was unresolved trauma about birth.

As soon as she asked that gentle question, her pen down in her lap, her eyes straight on me, I knew that she had sliced right through to the issue. I had not dealt with my fears and trauma from my son’s birth. And so my spirit or subconscious or whatever you want to call it was going to keep tapping me resolutely on the shoulder until I finally did so.

I feel like we give out gold stars to people who get over things quickly. And like any former evangelical over-achiever I wanted my gold star. We want people to heal on a timeline. Yes, yes, that’s terrible but aren’t you over it yet?

It makes me wonder how much of my trauma or sin or grief or devastation I have not dealt with yet. I wonder about my miscarriages. I wonder about my damaged body image from years of trying to earn approval for my uncooperative body. I wonder about this season of my life now – am I dealing well with this new season? With the death of a few dreams? With my new reoriented path? Or am I just shoving it away away away from myself, tucking it in my secret room, refusing to deal with it. My trauma is my own, you have yours, we each have it.

And sometimes we judge or rank our sorrows, I know I do, I feel I don’t get to be sad when other people are sadder for better reasons. I stack my sorrows up against the sufferings of others and think that because I don’t have it as bad as someone else  that I don’t get to grieve, I don’t get to talk about it, I don’t get to deal with it. So because I survived that birth and because Joseph miraculously survived that birth experience, I have to be over it. Now.

And I was not over it, not really. It had just taken me six years to admit it.

Carolyn took the time that day to walk me through my memories: the sad and scary ones. Instead of my anecdotes and one-liners, my jocular “it’s all fine now” version, she let me tell the other side of it. How I was angry. How I was afraid. How I bitterly regretted leaving our apartment, how I blamed everyone else for that decision – we lived only five minutes from the hospital and everyone was desperate to get me to the People Who Knew What To Do. How I put my hands between my legs and felt the perfect dome of my son’s head there and knew that this was happening. How I felt so wildly out of control and afraid. How it felt to have strangers watching me as I squatted and exposed myself and blood ran down my legs. How it felt to be cold and how it smelled like gasoline and cement, how I tore so horribly because there was no midwife there to easily guide the baby safely out of me. How much I missed my husband at the hospital and how we couldn’t find him, not knowing he’d gone into shock at the parkade and was blindly trying to clean up the mess we had made of the floor there. How I resented the ER triage doctor for butchering my stitches so thoroughly.  And how I couldn’t stop thinking “what if what if what if” as I nursed that wee boy in the hospital that night. What if he’d needed oxygen. What if I had dropped him. What if he had been hurt. What if I haemorrhaged. What if what if what if. I could never have forgiven myself if he had been hurt. Never.

I had never told my dark side. I had never admitted to the terror and the pain and the humiliation of that experience. I had prepackaged it for consumption, leaving out the very darkness that gave the light its beauty.

I had turned my son’s birth story into an anecdote and in so doing, I had lessened the power of our experience.

It is a glorious and weird story, yes, but it’s also a dark story to me, filled with regret and fear as well as laughter and resolution.

It makes me wonder how much pressure we feel to sanitize our stories so that they don’t make people uncomfortable, how we anecdote our experience with the lightness or the healing or birth or new life alone in order to make it acceptable. We simplify and sanitize and so we miss the healing we could have if we only spoke the whole truth.

We then talked about what would be different this time around. Now if, heaven forbid, that happened again, what would be different? We crafted a detailed contingency plan – a plan we ended up needing to use as even Maggie’s birth did not go “as planned” either. And so we go, disarming the fear with honesty, with empathy, with letting ourselves admit that its not okay and we need help to become okay, and then by empowering ourselves.

I left her office that afternoon feeling cleansed.

And that night, I went to bed and I slept. I slept and slept. I slept like I hadn’t slept in months, easily and lightly and dreamlessly.

image by Sharalee Prang Photography

Continue Reading · fearless, giving birth, Hold Fast, journey, parenting · 170

This is the point where you wish you could quit :: on climbing mountains and metaphors

Here is how it happens: you wake up one morning and think, today I want to accomplish something. Today, I want to do something hard and a bit impossible for me. Today, I want to climb a mountain.

You are a bit deluded. And optimistic. (You are usually optimistic in the morning.)

After some rearranging of the family plans, you pack up your bag with bug spray and sunscreen, bottles of water and a change of clothes and then you head out. You drive alone and think about the romance of climbing a mountain: you think about standing at the top, wind whipping your hair as you gaze out on the world below, the conquering hero. You think about time to pray and time to think. Lately your mind has been unquiet, constantly thinking and wrestling and popping to one thought after another without ever really settling in to think well about any of it. Your mind aches with constant unproductive use, and so you’ve decided to give your mind a time-out by making the rest of your body ache with work.

You set out with a few others. You are out of breath within ten minutes. (This is going to be a long day.) What were you thinking? but you keep going and everyone passes you. A new group of climbers come by and then they are gone too. This will happen all afternoon.

You listen to a sermon on your iPod Touch. An hour passes. You are still climbing, straight up. The sermon ends, you try some music. You realise that this is not the place for other people’s songs, this is the place for your own breath so you put away the music and listen to the noise of effort.

You are dirty and tired but you’re doing it, one foot after another after another after another. You sit at the switchbacks to rest, to rub your thighs with relief, drink tepid water. As you walk, you pray and you think and you rest. Eventually you stop thinking about all the stuff you wanted to think about and instead you simply exist, with God, with your own breath, with your own physical body’s unbelievable strength. It may not be pretty but you are still climbing up and up and up. Slowly, through the rocks and the dust and the sweat and limitations.

Why is that something that seems so hard to you is seemingly easy to everyone else? The other climbers are simply ascending, cheerily friendly and sympathetic as they sail past with their breezy encouragement to keep going. Women fly by with flat stomachs in their neon running shorts, one woman has on false eyelashes. False eyelashes! You’ve sweated off your make-up, your face is red, your ponytail is wet with sweat, you have dust and pine needles stuck to your ass from the last time you sat down to rest.

“Don’t look up,” one man advises. “You’ll only get discouraged when you see how much farther you still have to go. If you must look around, look down, look how far you’ve come.”

Why didn’t someone tell you that at the bottom? because you keep looking up and feeling your heart sink. Still so far to go. Keep going keep going keep going until the halfway sign mark, then the three-quarter way mark. These markers are discouraging: surely you should be done now but instead, you still have so far to go. And your thighs are quivering.

You keep going.

This is the point where you wish you could quit. This is the point where, in every other part of your life, you would say “Good enough!” and walk away. You would say things like “I tried my best” as you moved on to something easier, something to distract, anything really. Who wants to work so hard? In your real life, you would peace out, leave it to the experts. Surely someone else can do this.

Starting something hard is way more fun than finishing it well. Only the pines witness the resolute courage to keep moving.

The only way out is up. You are in charge of your own rescue.

You keep going.

The last half is the real work. You’ve stopped gazing at the trees with wonder. You’ve stopped praying, stopped philosophizing, stopped writing lame blog posts in your head, vanity vanity.

You are on all fours, scrabbling up rock face, your fingernails are filthy and torn. One poor woman fell down in front of you. She landed in the dust of the rocks in a heap, startled and winded. You picked her up, got her water, stayed for a while but she wanted to keep going. You could tell she was embarrassed by her fall, embarrassed to be needing something from a stranger, even kindness.

You keep going.

You are longing to be done. Done done done. you want to be done. You quit you quit you quit. It’s been three hours of steady climbing straight up. Your mind is still at last, captivated by the effort of your heart and body perhaps, you are simply willing yourself to keep moving.

And then you break through the trees to the rock and you are there. The last few steps to the summit, and you begin to turn back around slowly, panting, sweating, aching, dirty.

You stand at the top of a mountain and close your eyes to the view for a moment.

You did it.

You did it. You climbed nearly 3,000 feet up into the sky by yourself.

It wasn’t pretty. It was terrible work. It took you twice as long as you thought it would. Everyone passed you, even that one guy who was seventy if he was a day. Everyone was better at it than you. (Part of you resented them for making it look so effortless.) You are so tired, If you could have quit, you would have. But instead here you are right where you wanted to be all along.

You stand at the top of the mountain but you aren’t cheering and high five-ing anyone like a few other groups: you are alone. You’re happy. Deeply profoundly happy, filled with joy and accomplishment. You stand on the rock and look out and think: I used to be there and now I am here and I did that on purpose.

You take off your shoes, peel off your socks and simply sit in the wind, looking out into the world. It takes an hour for you to realize that your mind is quiet at last. Maybe it’s because you did all your praying with your feet and your muscles and your dirty hands today.

reposted from the archives

Continue Reading · journey, Out of Sorts · 23

My Weird Childhood Faith Isn’t So Weird Anymore


received the gift of tongues when I was just eight years old. An older woman in our small charismatic church introduced us Friday night Bible study kids to the idea of a “prayer language.” I don’t remember how my teacher explained it, only how she gently placed her hands on our heads, one after another, while quietly praying in tongues herself. My mouth filled with syllables I didn’t know and didn’t understand; I lifted my skinny arms to the ceiling, and I spoke in tongues like a mystic.

I was raised in small charismatic churches in western Canada, long before the Internet made it easy to keep tabs on what other Christians were up to. I grew up believing that our experiences—speaking in tongues and then the interpretation, healing, miracles, prophecy, words of knowledge, and faith—were utterly unremarkable.

As I look back on my childhood, although the gifts of the Holy Spirit were dear to us and we deeply believed in their practice, the real difference was that we expected God. We wanted the wild and the untamed Spirit to disrupt us. We lived out of an assumption of God’s good gifts and overwhelming love. We yearned to see the Kingdom come on earth, right here, as it was or would be in heaven. We figured that was what God wanted, too. Believing power would come from on high to see the lost found and the sick healed and imprisoned set free, our church operated on a first-name basis with the Spirit.

Later, when I began to spend time with other Christians outside of my tradition, I discovered that we were considered fringe. A bit suspect amongst the establishment. People thought charismatics were dangerous, the weird ones, controversial. Who knew?

Over the years, I’d seen my share of damaging abuses done in the name of the Spirit. I’ve been on the receiving end of some weird practices. I look back on some of the things I used to believe and cringe a bit. Think of an over-realized eschatology, and I’ve probably heard it preached beautifully.

Anytime I get defensive about how charismatics are mocked or stereotyped, I am presented with something like this article from Charisma “news” referring to Donald Trump as “God’s Trumpet to America,” and I have renewed sympathy for cessasionists. In my upcoming book, Out of Sorts, I write about how I’ve learned to make peace with having an evolving faith, which means that, like most of us who grew up in some form of Christianity, I’ve had to sort through what I was taught and figure out what I want to carry with me and what I want to lay down. Being a charismatic provides a lot of material.

Read the rest of this article at Her.meneutics, Christianity Today’s Blog for Women….

image source

Continue Reading · faith, Guest Post, journey · 0



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 · 46

Ron and Hermione

Ron and Hermione :: Sarah Bessey

We don’t have a big yard, its about the size of a couple postage stamps, give or take a few images of the Queen. But we do have a forest just behind the ordinary chain link fence, a dense coastal forest filled with cedars and squirrels, spirea mountain ash and coyotes. Every September, a mama bear and her cub lumber through for a few weeks and we keep our tinies inside or  carefully supervise them instead of what we usually do: open the door, set the boundaries – “this house to this house, our yard and your best friend’s yard” – and let them go. We have salmonberry bushes and blackberry bushes tangled up around a little creek that runs through, we poke our hands through the thickets, braving scratches, for the first berries of the year. By August, we’ll be sick of blackberries, the jam will already be made.

We don’t live in the wilderness, just a quiet little neighbourhood of semi-detached homes on the edge of town in the valley. We’re next to a blueberry farm. We have been thinking seriously about moving this year. We got so far as to buy a house and set our moving dates but then for a few reasons, it all fell apart. Now that it’s been a few weeks since that disappointment, I’ve come to see the grace hiding in that falling apart. It’s a small thing in the scheme of things, I know, but it loomed large for our little family and was the source of much conversation. We continue to weigh our options, should we stay or should we go?

And life continues. I’m in the midst of editing the new book which is slow going in this season. I stop frequently to nurse the baby or to make lunch or to pick up the tinies from the bus stop. I have a babysitter for our preschooler two mornings a week which is an enormous help. My husband takes the three big kids to my parents’ place for the day on a Saturday now and again, giving me the house and the baby to myself as I try to put a chapter to bed. Serendipitously, two weekends ago when he did that, it was a chapter about how discussions of theology need ordinary people to be involved, how well-educated and well-read and well-travelled scholars also need us low church experiential local folks talking about how we see and experience and know God, about how theologians are hiding in every walk of life. I wrote those words at my kitchen table with the youngest of four tinies beside me, snoring. Naptime writing is urgent writing, sometimes I think it might be my best thinking. This isn’t speculation: if theology – how we think about God and then how we live that out – isn’t for all of us, then what is it even for?

Caring for small children, being a homemaker, can be repetitive and ordinary: laundry, cleaning bathtubs, long walks made twice as long by wandering and questions, grocery shopping, nursing, all of it. Life is rarely as exciting as people like for it to appear on Facebook. We go to church, we participate in leadership meetings to shape the conversations of our communities, we pray for our friends, we make meals, I write posts and articles and books about God, we wash our minivans, we set up the sprinkler for the neighbourhood kids and hand out freezies to hopeful hands, we go to work, we talk about the people we know. Sacred and beautiful, sure, I’ll say that, but also slow and daily and sometimes monotonous, too.

But even in that ordinary work, I keep trying to give shape to the new world, to the dangerous possibilities of living our lives right now as if God saved everything, as if it is all redeemed or being redeemed. If what I believe about Love doesn’t find a roost here in my regular and ordinary and unremarkable life where I learn and practice what Eugene Peterson called “the biggest nouns and verbs,” then I have no right to those words in moments of transformation and change and importance. There are chickadees perched on the railings of the deck, just for a few seconds. They fly in, perch, flinch, and depart, over and over. I like to think they’re all checking for the crumbs leftover from the weekend of eating outside. Maybe they know which house has messy eaters.

My husband and I sat outside on Saturday night, watching the sun set. It’s nearly summer solstice and the days are long. We put the tinies to bed in broad daylight and settled onto our back deck, facing the forest. The sun sank behind the house and that last golden light of the day hit the trees. In the morning, the light is cool and white and sharpening; but in the evening, it’s warm and liquid, it softens the forest.

Brian and I talked about the regular things: should we move? should we stay? We talked about the kids and about work, about the plan for the week ahead. I’m distrustful of people who always seem to be thinking of deep spiritual things, always striving and going-going-going: I think they must be horrible to live with. I think we need the humanity of laughter and Netflix and ordinary life. We poured a glass of white wine each and wrapped ourselves up in blankets. Joe is reading under the covers with a flashlight, I think tonight he’s reading James and the Giant Peach. Anne has left Babysitters Club books littered around the house, Evelynn is devoted to Robert Munsch these days, of course – that slapstick humour perfectly suits her. I secretly love when they sneak-read. Is there any reading more delicious than that sneaky after-bedtime reading when you are a child? The evenings are still cold when the darkness gathers.

We were waiting for our owls. We have two owls out back, I’m not quite sure what kind, perhaps a western screech owl. We have heard that owls mate for life. I don’t know if that’s true or legend, but every year, we see two owls in the summer nights, year after year after year. Our owls come out to hunt. We like to sit there in the near-dark and watch them, swooping down to the forest floor, returning to rest on the branches of the trees with their prizes.

We had a long discussion about what to name our owls, pairs of names are always fun to consider. Romeo and Juliet? Peanut and Butter? Antony and Cleopatra? Nip and Tuck, á la The Blue Castle? Anne and Gilbert? Elizabeth and Darcy? We settled on Ron and Hermione since, well, they are owls and so the Harry Potter books are entirely appropriate.

I don’t think we’re going to move. And it’s entirely the fault of the forest. I live in a tidy little neighbourhood of identical houses, sure, and I don’t have a yard, I get it. But we have the silence of the night and a creek, we have Ron and Hermione, we have the trees, and I don’t think I’m ready to give that up. Maybe I’ll change my mind. A trampoline and a garden would be nice.

When life can feel a bit dull and prosaic, my forest nights somehow keep me grounded in the dense amazement of being alive. I remembered an old Roald Dahl quote I read once, “And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.”

I believe in magic.

I believe in ordinary and repetitive and daily boring life and the way magic hides in plain sight.

I believe in church picnics and breastfeeding, I believe books matter and summer nights are for sitting outside while the sun sets. I believe in good coffee and eating berries off the bush. I believe in going for walks with children because they are so slow and perfectly inefficient. I believe our theology is formed in our lives and experiences, and I believe we need to listen to each other. I believe in working hard and loving what we do. I believe in unsupervised children and sidewalk chalk and sprinklers. I believe in kitchen tables and piles of books. I believe in windows being wide open while sun-tanned children go to sleep at a reasonable hour so that they can read under the covers with a flashlight. I believe in heavy blankets for cool summer nights and long conversations over a shared bottle of wine, I believe love lasts a lifetime even if it changes, and I believe in birdsong in the morning. I believe in owls.

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