Archive | writing

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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image source

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 · 81

Ask Away: How do you manage to write in this season of your life?

This August, I’m answering questions from readers. Silly or serious, post your question on my Facebook page. I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can either through video, on Facebook, or through a post.

There were quite a few folks with a variation of the question, “How are you able to write in this season of your life?” or “How do you do it all?”

So after I finished laughing – a bit hysterically – I sat down and decided to record a video of the practical things I do in order to make time to write. It took two days with many fits and starts and interruptions to create something halfway useable. So be forewarned that my answers likely won’t be a “silver bullet” to magically make more time for you.

Short answer: writing in the midst of your life is a bit of a mess, but you show up anyway.

Read more:

Take chances! Make mistakes! Get messy! 

An interview with yours truly about writing

Chasing dreams in the Midst and in the Afters

Art is like manna

And another interview about my creative process


Continue Reading · Ask Away, writing · 18

Out and About

A little update of sorts, just the newsy sort today.

We bought a house!!!!!

A photo posted by Sarah Bessey (@sarahbessey) on

We bought a house!  After dithering for weeks and looking for longer, we found a lovely blue-grey house in our town, close to a park with a lovely big backyard for all these tinies we have now. #PraiseHands We won’t move for a few more weeks and it will be absolute chaos, I imagine, but we’ll get there….I hope.

I have an article up in the newest issue of Propel which is a magazine/movement dedicated to empowering women who lead. The article is about finding a way to be a fully engaged mother while still being faithful to my calling and vocation. I love this collective of women leaders and am very honoured to be in their pages. I find so much encouragement, challenge, and wisdom there. If you haven’t yet, you can download the magazine here.

I had a good chat with Lisa Colon Delay whose Spark My Muse podcast combines two of my favourite things: talking about creativity and an education about wine. In my segment, we discussed a bit about publishing and blogging, my advice for writing, the responses to “Jesus Feminist,” a bit about who is inspiring me these days, and how fear of scarcity can keep us from our work. Plus as a nod to Canada, she shares about ice wines. You can listen to our chat here.

Now, I want to introduce you to Whole Mama. Whole Mama is a community challenge and invitation for mothers to integrate our creative and spiritual selves with our mom selves. Every week these inspiring women host a Twitter chat, a link up with a writing prompt, as well as a phone call and other resources to empower mothers as creatives and powerhouses. I love reading their posts and was recently interviewed by the very dear Esther Emery on the subject of prayer. We had such a good visit and my only regret was that I would have loved to have heard her responses to each of these questions instead of just mine!

We talked about how I pray and how I recover my centre when I feel all squirrelly and then she asked me what I would like to say to their community, and well, I got started preaching. So you can check out more about Whole Mama here but here’s the video, if you’d like to watch.


I’ve been hard at work editing my new book this summer. My big hope is that I get it done before I have to pack up this house and move with all these children home for the summer. A girl can dream, eh? In the meantime, I grow more excited about this book by the day. I can’t wait to get it into your hands this November. In the meantime, it is available for pre-order now.

I’ve started to book a few speaking engagements for this fall. Maybe I’ll see a few of you soon?

July 19 2015 – Abbotsford Vineyard in Abbotsford, BC

September 25-26 2015 – Back to the Future: Ancient Practices Returning to the Church at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Virginia, USA (details TBD)

October 7, 2015 – Regent Redux in Vancouver, B.C.

October 18 2015 – Abbotsford Vineyard in Abbotsford, BC

October 24, 2015 – Woman to Woman in London, UK

Well, that’s about it for now. Of course, you can always find me on Instagram which is where I do more of my personal family photo stuff, on Twitter, and on my Facebook page.

Continue Reading · blogging, writing · 20

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


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



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