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The Heron

the heron :: sarah bessey

I have been feeling creatively empty. It’s a combination of a few things that are real: the baby won’t sleep, I have four children and there aren’t enough hours in the day for everything to get done, I have obligations and duties and work and requirements demanding all of my attention and my time just like everyone else – trust me, I’m no special snowflake.

But it’s also the unreal, the unseen, the you-feel-it-but-can’t-say-it of times of creative quiet: I’m empty and I’m tired, I have nothing from which to pull the water out of the well, there isn’t a bucket or a scooper and even if I could find one, I suspicion that there isn’t much in the bottom of this old well right now. I hope it’s not death, I hope it’s gestation of winter sleep but whatever it is, I’m feeling the failure of it, the loneliness of it. I’m unable to write and this inability is both an indictment and a fear.

What if I never write again? What if this is it and my time of creativity is gone? What if I’ve lost my voice and my passion? What if I am being submerged and sucked under by a tidal wave of obligation and regular life? diapers and meals, breastfeeding and navigating preteen dramas, spreadsheets and budgets, phone calls and toilet scrubbing, and good gracious how are these laundry bins full again? how is that conducive with a life of the spirit and a baptized imagination and a hankering for goodness and the mind embodied in ways of, well, even art?

I have had to find a way to create, to be my whole self, in this space and in this time with the life I’ve chosen. Because I chose this. And I would choose it again. This is the life I love and I have to believe that there is enough abundance, enough room, for even this Canadian chubby mum of many to show up and try to articulate a bit of truth, that somehow my voice would matter not in spite of this season of my life but maybe even because of it.

So I tried to write an essay one morning, an essay about prayer. I love to pray, or at least, I think it’s prayer: it’s more like holding space for God in my mind and in my heart, an invitation and a clearing away, a shifting over in the booth and the “hello, this spot is for you, go ahead and sit down if you like” in my soul and always somehow the spot is taken and filled and we eat and we are together even without words often.

But the essay wouldn’t come and I started to think black thoughts about white male theologians with wives and housekeepers and grown-up children who only visit once a while and while I’m at it, I should probably start writing letters again and delete Facebook from my phone and what am I even doing with my life, trying to write about prayer from this place when I’m pretty sure there’s little kid pee on the toilet seat that still needs to be cleaned up?

But I kept trying and it kept being awful. Now that I’ve published two books and countless articles, I have some legitimacy to my scribbling hobby. People call me a writer and the big miracle is that the word doesn’t make me feel like an imposter anymore, I even say it out loud when people ask me what I do (“I’m a …writer….”) but it’s a hard kind of life to nail down. I think that’s what frustrated me: I made the time and the space and then it didn’t happen. I booked a babysitter to come here to my house for two days a week, six hours each of those days. She looks after my two littlest ones while the two big kids are at school and I’m supposed to “create” during that time.

I hear from big and good writers that they require regularity and discipline to write: I am the same way. I know when I write the best stuff (early in the morning) and I know what helps me to write my best stuff (time outside in the wilderness, a clean house, a plan for supper, quiet, solitude) and yet I am rarely in that sweet spot. When I do try to create the sweet spot, I sit here at the page and I think in great blank spaces of nothing happening.

I try to coin words that don’t exist and craft sentences to explain how it feels when I look at the curve of my daughter’s cheek while she nurses at my breast or how I learned to pray by doing laundry or how dignity is overrated and how the Holy Spirit feels like a bracing cold wind to me and how you only really learn that when you have nothing left or how I believe in a God who climbs down into the obscurity and calls us beloved but I keep coming up with nothing much. Or how it’s when you’re down to the essence of yourself that you realize even cynicism is for the well-rested and undesperate, and how God deals so gently with us, more gently than we can suspicion, and I feel like I could lay down on the floor and just rest in the love I feel so strongly while I’m here in this daily luminous life, and then I think I should just quit and tell everybody to go read Brennan Manning or Madeleine L’Engle because this is absolutely ridiculous.

So I went for a walk. The babysitter was here anyway, what the hell? I drove to one of my favourite walking paths, striding along the lake. It’s been cold but not too cold so there is a skin of ice on the surface, even a duck wouldn’t dare to test it. I stuffed my rough bare hands into my coat and tucked the grey hair at my temples behind my ears. I haven’t gotten my hair coloured lately and it shows, I haven’t slept and it shows, I’m tired and so I’m here to walk and hopefully find something akin to a deep breath. I won’t find it sitting in my basement staring at the computer screen, I know that by now.

I walked and here, look, God is still here because there are people and there is beauty if you know where to look. One of the reasons why I love this walking path is that it’s always boasted a fine collection of senior citizens. I have my favourite paths for solitude and wilderness out in the mountains nearby but sometimes a little city walking park is just the right thing. Plus I’ve gotten more wary in my old age, I prefer witnesses.

The sun was low in the sky already and the trees are asleep with winter cold. I breathed in and out, counting my breaths. I shifted over in the booth of my heart and thought, okay, here’s your spot, Jesus, wanna walk with me? There was only silence and loneliness there. So I stood at the edge of the little lake and watched the geese fly in, the clouds resting like a gauze scarf on the mountains rising darkly in the deep light.

I turned towards the reeds and there, standing still and staring right at me was a heron, a big blue heron. Slender and regal, its long legs were in the water among the reeds. I’ve always loved great blue herons, their blue grey wings are like twilight, their elegance among domesticity, their perseverance and cleverness. I remember hearing once long ago that herons were considered good luck: when the aboriginals would head out on a fishing expedition, the sighting of a heron meant they were headed into success because they embodied patience and wisdom.

I stood silently watching the great blue grey bird caught between mud and cold water and a darkening sky. They’re a regular sort of bird, ordinary and yet beautiful.

Just then an eagle caught my eye far above: there is a nest way up high above the pines at the other end of the lake and sometimes we can see it soaring. Eagles are pretty amazing to see in real life: they are stern and beautiful and awesome. Their white helmets, their golden beaks, their black feathers are striking. Their wing strength is economic and around me I can hear other people gasping as it dips lower to us. I watched the eagle glide higher and then disappear into a horizon I can’t imagine, living far above the rest of us. My gaze returned to the great blue heron still standing patiently in the reeds and I said, all right then.

I went back to my home, the babysitter went home, I loaded up my small ones to go pick up the big ones at school, we came home and I presided over recorder practice and we made tacos for supper, we read books and we watched Jeopardy! together. I nursed the baby in the old rocking chair, knowing full well I would be back there again in about three hours, I bathed small bodies and clipped fingernails, I checked reading folders and signed permission slips and packed lunches. My husband of fifteen years caught my eye from the corner of the couch and winked at me and I grinned. I poured a glass of ordinary red wine and I sat down at the computer again to try to find a few words to say how I find God in this daily place and in this work, how I only learned to pray when I began to pray with my hands and my attention on purpose and how most of prayer to me now is listening and abiding, how I believe it would be nice to have a lovely housekeeper and a clean house and to create amazing soaring art with all of the white space of an uncluttered life and glorious heights of transcendent spirituality, I guess, but I need the God who sits in the mud and in the cold wind, in the laundry pile and in the city park, who embodies grief and joy, wisdom and patience, loneliness as companionship, renewal with simplicity and a good deep breath, and who even now shows up in the unlikeliest and homeliest of lives too, as a sacrament of and blessing for the ordinary things.

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Continue Reading · faith, women, work, writing · 61

My Top 10 Posts from 2015

The Top 10 Posts :: Sarah Bessey

It was a full year around the blog even if I wasn’t writing as often as in years past. The top ten posts are below and it’s a mish-mash of editorializing and story-telling and narrative theology across a whole rash of topics. Sounds about right for this place – I’m often all over the place.

These are the top 10 posts that were written in 2015, based on hits, listed in order of popularity. (I only included the posts that I wrote here in this place, instead of all the guest posts or articles and essays that I contributed elsewhere.) These aren’t necessarily my personal favourites or even representative of my full work but they’re the ones that resonated with people the most.

You know, forgive the navel gazing but I continue to be amazed that I’m still here blogging after 11 years of this. Doing a round-up like this makes one a bit thoughtful, I suppose. I know that blogging as a medium has shifted and changed A LOT over the years and most of the bloggers I started out alongside of have had to step away or shut down for diverse reasons but I’m hanging on still. I’m not sure how blogging will look for me in the future but I still believe in the meritocracy of the medium and its accessibility for us all to speak up, its still important to me even if it is diminishing in its primary place for how I write. Book writing has really caught my heart and I am already writing into the next one, if you can believe it. And then I had a rocky year personally with a lot on our plate between a move, a more complex pregnancy, a new baby, four tinies with their own diverse needs behind the scenes of the blog, my husband’s work, a new book to finish and then release, and all the other life and changes within relationships offline and even online.

And so perhaps that was reflected in the time/attention I had to give to this place. I know that I’ve shifted in what I blog over the years – less blogging about my tinies experiences/lives, for instance, less burn-down-the-Internet soapbox rants, less day-in-the-life blogging with simple stories from daily life – but that means that when I do write, it’s with more thoughtfulness and intention, I hope. I long for the words I write to tell the story of how I encounter and experience God, too. I also had my usual burst of creativity right after giving birth but then that waned into the exhaustion and busy-ness of our family right now. I simply don’t have the time or bandwidth or energy of years past.

I’m often not quite sure where I fit in the online spaces. Like most of us who feel a bit of a misfit, you end up feeling like you fit everywhere and yet nowhere entirely. So I keep creating in this space here and I keep finding out that I’m not the only one who wanders and wonders in these ways through theology, politics, relationships, parenting, prayer, identity, and all points between. I’m always deeply thankful for the complexity you all bring to me and the ways that we together navigate life.

So thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading here and for all of the times you’ve commented, emailed, or shared my words with your own people. I don’t take it for granted and I’m thankful for the life and community we’ve all found here in this corner.

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Photo by Sharalee Prang Photography

1. The Sanitized Stories We Tell

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?


2. Here We Are Again

In the dark, in the wee hours, in the early light, nursing in the corner of the couch, the end of an episode of Gilmore Girls while the rest of the house sleeps and I lightly pat a baby’s diapered bottom into blissful sleep. We smell like baby soap, her hair puffs out like duck fluff. Her mouth is a triangle tent, her breath is an anointing. I could go to bed, I could go to sleep now, she’s ready for a long stretch of sleep. But instead I sit here in the dark, for just a few more minutes. She’s stretched out on my chest, curled up with her legs tucked under – she’ll only do this for another few days, I know, this newborn froggy-leg thing. I stay there, sniffing her hair, patting her bum, breathing slow with her for just a while longer. I can feel the earth turning, time is still moving.

Here we are again.

For one last time.


3. [Love Looks Like] 2:07 a.m.

But here’s the truth: lifelong love is actually most built throughout the hours of the day, all twenty four of them, in the ordinary moments of our humanity. Lifelong love isn’t just for lazy Saturday mornings of coffee and books, it’s not just midnight breathlessness scented with perfume, it’s not just evening dinners with a bottle of wine. Those moments of our lives are lovely and necessary, too, but they’re not the fullness of love either.  Love looks like choosing each other, again, in all of the rotations of the clock’s hands, in all of the years we share together, in the seasons and the minutes. It’s glamorous and sexy, and it’s boring and daily.


4. A Voice for the Voiceless

I am a pro-life Christian feminist. Christians have a long history of valuing the undervalued, saving the discarded from society, and welcoming the differently abled as icons of Christ. Our Jesus came to bring us life and life more abundant. So to us, life is sacred, a gift from God, precious. Every person carries the breath of God. We are made in the image of God. … Because of both my faith and my feminism together, I believe in advocating for life, more than ever.


5. What church planters can learn from Target’s failure in Canada

And yet this has been my experience and so I admit, I’m a bit wary now of outsiders coming into Canada as self-appointed missionaries to Reach Canada For Christ™. I’m not quite at the “get off my lawn” stage yet though. So when news broke today about Target’s abject and utter failure to expand into Canada, I began to think this morning about how church planters to Canada (or even within Canada) can learn from the Target failure.


6. I used to think God wanted a lot from me

That old God wanted so much from me: time, money, energy, focus, worship, passion, work.God wanted my best behaviour, a clean conscience. Work harder, do more, strive strive strive. People are going to hell if we don’t do our part, the stakes are high. Defend the faith!


7. Why not have a woman preach?

You’re missing it. Don’t miss it. Open your eyes and see what the Spirit is birthing in these days, watch women rising up to reclaim their communities for peace and wholeness, watch women laying on hands and proclaiming the Gospel with their lives and their voices and their writing and their songs and even, yes, in their quiet. Watch women raising their children, gathering the lonely, loving the unloveable, building up the church, watch the world change.


8. I’m here, you’re not alone

I’ve heard that most of our theology is autobiography. I think that’s true. I think we often project what we learned about authority or our parents, in particular, onto God. And then we often parent our children in the way that we believe God is parenting us. So if we believe God is a terrible judge with exacting standards and a trapdoor to hell, then that changes how we move through our lives, how we judge others, particularly our children. And yes, I think that damages people.


9. You’re already so loved

You’re already so loved, you aren’t earning a breath of love or tenderness more than what you already have just by breathing – just by existing, just by being here in the wonder. Your name is already written in the lines of the hands of the universe, you’re star-breath-of-dust and you are beloved, intimately, faithfully, wholly. It’s your lifelong rock, you are known. You are loved with delight and abundance, with choice and desire, with covenantal love.


10. When you feel a bit selfish for pursuing your calling

If teaching or preaching or writing or managing or leading or painting or film-making or delivering babies or studying astro-physics or whatever it is makes you feel more whole, then darling, do it all to the glory of God and you’ll see that the way it makes you come alive will stain your entire life with joy.


 

 

Continue Reading · blog, blogging, writing · 14

When you feel a bit selfish for pursuing your calling

In our new house, I have a little room of my own. Well, technically it’s not “my own” – it doubles as a guest room. But since the guest bed is a hide-a-bed, I’ll just go ahead and call it my “office” so that I feel like a proper adult. I’ve always had a bit of a laugh when serious well-meaning folks ask me about my “writing space” as if it’s a magical area. Nope. I have done 99% of my writing at the kitchen table or a noisy coffee shop or the public library. But now I have my own little room at the bottom of the stairs in the basement: the carpet smells a bit musty, there’s a hearth for a wood stove that doesn’t work, and cedar paneling that has endured since 1983. I love it mostly because I’ve established a No Tinies Allowed Here rule.

The other night, I had to do a few final checks on my book manuscript and it was urgent. It has been a busy month with our move in particular, so busy that I hadn’t really properly written or worked for the entire time except as snatches during 30 minutes of Phineas and Ferb for the tinies, so that night after we had cleaned up the supper dishes, I passed the baby to Brian, he set up the Monopoly board with the tinies, and I went downstairs to get my work done. I turned on a bit of music, made a cup of tea, lit a candle, and entered into my work with my full attention for the first time in far too long.

I came up to nurse Maggie an hour later and tuck her into bed. Brian put everyone else to bed. He came down to check on me at our usual bedtime four hours after I had begun, and I turned to him as one resurfacing after a spectacular deep sea dive, my grin wide and my whole being excited. He laughed at my euphoria. I said, I’m just so happy to be working! I love my job! I love having a quiet spot all to myself!

I finished the manuscript checks, got organized for the next week or two, made some plans, outlined some articles, that sort of thing. Hardly any great creative work but it was the kind of work that lays the groundwork for creativity. When I set up the scaffolding, it’s easier to build, I find. I sent the final docs off to my publisher, shut down the computer, blew out the candle, and floated off to bed. I slept like a champ, nursed in the middle of the night with joy, woke up in the morning singing, all of my energy restored by the simple act of doing the work I love to do. I felt more alive, more engaged with my life, in every way.

Virginia Woolf identified a woman’s need for “a room of her own” for creative work, both figuratively and literally. I haven’t had a literal room before and so I’m deeply grateful for it now. But the big thing I realised at the end of that evening was how important it is to also create the figurative “room” in my life altogether, to create just a bit of the emotional and spiritual room necessary for living out my calling.

I’m happier when I’m doing what I love to do and what I’m called to do and what I enjoy doing. The truth is I’m a better person in every way when I’m doing the work I feel called to do.

Life takes over at times, we all get it. We need to shelve our dreams or our creative work for many good and important reasons or make it accommodate the rest of our lives and the schedules of everyone else for whom we bear responsibility. My work right now revolves around Maggie’s nap schedule and the tinies school schedules and the unpredictable tiring rhythms of a young family. It’s not perfect and sometimes it’s frustrating, for sure, but the priority is there for me in this season of life. (When I was still working full-time outside of the home, I would write blog posts on my lunch breaks because that was my only free time.)

But here is the thing that I believe: we need to do the work we were meant to do in order to be who we were meant to be. And what’s more, I believe that honours God.

We are whole beings. We aren’t living out of just one aspect of our humanity to the exclusion of all the others.

Sometimes I can think that pursuing my calling is selfish. I don’t know where I picked that up – perhaps it’s cultural conditioning, leftover bad theology, or something. On some sub-conscious level, I can feel guilty for taking time to create, for taking time to do the things I love to do, simply because I love to do them.

But the truth is that I start to falter without it. I become frustrated, tired, empty, if I’m not creating something, even if it’s just as simple as a few hundred words a day. I know this but I forget it sometimes. I skip creating in some grand self-sacrificial way but then everyone else ends up missing the best and most whole version of myself altogether. It isn’t until I sit down and do my work again that I return to the rest of my life – homemaking, raising children, community, church, school, marriage, all of it – as my most true self.

I’m better everything when I’m doing the work I was meant to do, however humble or unimportant that work is to anyone else.

That night of work downstairs reminded me of a quote from novelist A.S. Byatt that Elizabeth Gilbert shared on the first episode of her brilliant podcast, Magic Lessons.

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And on the flip side, I find that my whole life informs and enriches my work. The way I was raised informs my work. The ways I encounter and experience God informs my work. Falling in love with my husband all those years ago, the way our relationship has unfolded over the past sixteen years  informs my work. Becoming a mother and now the experience of raising my children informs my work. Ordinary life enriches my work. All the things I do and experience and live out inform my work. If I didn’t have all these other things, what in the world would I have to write about anyway?

I’m not sure, but I think this tendency might be more common for women. I think we struggle more with the perceived “selfishness” of living out our calling or vocation with abandon. So we feel guilty when there is no need for guilt, sometimes even adopting a martyr complex of all the things we are denying ourselves in service to our families.

In reality, God placed those gifts and callings inside of you for a purpose and it’s profane to stifle them in some misguided attempt at honouring God. If you want to honour God, come alive.

It’s entirely right and appropriate to bring your whole self to your whole life. I think God created us for an abundant life, filled with joy and meaningful work and service.  And I think it’s important for our children to see us working, to us loving our work (even the kind we do just for the fun of it, because it makes us feel alive).

I saw this in a friend recently. She is a gifted Bible teacher and she kept putting it off and putting it off because it was hard to figure out a way to make it work in her season of life as a mother to young children and a full-time job. But when she made space to engage in that aspect of her calling – teaching, leading, training others how to study and love the Bible – she came alive! It was incredible to see. She came home from the nights of teaching as if she were on an adrenalin high. The joy of it would carry into her whole week, affecting her family and all the rest of us. The work she did mattered, of course it did, and she changed lives with her work. But the act of doing the work itself was also life-changing for her and for the ones who loved her.

If teaching or preaching or writing or managing or leading or painting or film-making or delivering babies or studying astro-physics or whatever it is makes you feel more whole, then darling, do it all to the glory of God and you’ll see that the way it makes you come alive will stain your entire life with joy. 

The work is good and purposeful and necessary in and of itself, absolutely. I’m always flat amazed at the ways that my words, tapped away on this smudgy laptop wing into lives all around the world in ways I never would have expected. That’s worthwhile! But I also love the gift that the act of working gives to me. Isn’t that just like God? For even during the Fall, when we were “cursed” with work, we find goodness hiding there, too.

Because it’s never just about us. That true version of yourself – the one that needs the wholeness of creativity and work and service altogether – exists in a family and in a community and as part of God’s love letter to the world. When you are fully alive, as Ireneus famously said, it glorifies God. And when God is glorified, all of us are drawn to the light and life of that moment. 

It doesn’t have to be pretty. It doesn’t have to be seamless and easy. It doesn’t have to come together without struggle. In fact, I can pretty much promise you that it’s going to be hard at times to create the room for your calling to be lived out. But it will be worth it. Because if it makes you feel alive, if it’s what God gifted and called and created you to do right along with everything else in your life, then we all need you to do it and also you need to do it.

 

 

Continue Reading · faith, women, work, writing · 83

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 we are chasing dreams in the Midst and in the Afters

A_Sarah

 

I have a confession for you: sometimes I used to get so mad at the Inklings. I have felt resentful because C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien and all these other writers, real writers, had luxuries like housekeepers and pubs and colleagues and writing cabins and a way to pay their bills, they had creature comforts and every time the Muse arrived, they didn’t have to shush her, plead with her to come back later because, right now, Muse, can’t you see? Preschool, supper, diapers, bath times, and everything wonderful in my life needs my attention.

I’m not someone who has pursued a very traditional path to becoming a writer. Even now, my life doesn’t resemble the Great Writers and their habits.

Instead, I imagined my little yellow book while I was a full time working mum with another one on the way. And then I actually wrote most of it while I was on maternity leave with a four-year-old, a two-year-old, and a newborn.  I remember once crying in self-pity, “Hell, anyone could have written the Narnia books if they had a housekeeper and sustained silence. Even I could construct Middle Earth if I had a full night’s sleep!

Instead, I wrote most of my book at my kitchen table during naptimes or sitting on the bathroom floor while a kid was in the bathtub or at the public library with earphones on so that the study groups of teenagers wouldn’t distract me.

This is the season of chasing my dream in the Midst of my life and in the Afters of my life: in the midst of raising tinies, after supper, after bath times, after stories, after kitchen dance parties, in the midst of Saturday morning cartoons, after bills are paid, after work, after groceries are put away, after laundry is folded.

I write after it all and in the midst of it all because this life is what I’m writing about….

If it wasn’t like this, I don’t know what I would write about anyway. Our lives are always content. I remember hearing once that all theology has its roots in autobiography.

I’m over at SheLoves Magazine today sharing about why I believe there isn’t one way to be a writer. A lot of us write in the Midst and in the Afters. Click here to read the rest of this article.

Continue Reading · SheLoves, women, work, writing · 20