In which I am getting used to my own voice

Source: via Sarah on Pinterest


With every passing day, I realise just how appropriate it is that my word for 2012 is FEARLESS. I’m bumping up against almost every insecurity and fear that I have these days. For instance, coming out from behind the mask of my blog name with my own real name felt significant this week. And then of course, telling you about Jesus Feminist! And doing it through a video blog. Whew.

It was bigger than just sharing the book topic. I was actually scared about speaking out loud. I know that you’re there on the other side of the screen, I know your names, a handful of you have been my friends for more than a decade, another handful have become among my dearest friends, you have always been so kind to me (well, most of you….). But this week, when I was preparing to share my book concept with the world, using my own voice, I was downright scared.

Brene Brown links a lot of these feelings to shame, this sense of “who do I think I am?” So there’s that, for sure, especially given the topic of my work. But it was also about something silly, I suppose. For a lot of my life, I haven’t liked my voice. I get loud, shockingly loud, really easily. I laugh too loud. The know-it-all timbre of my Lecture Mode is legend. I wish I was more measured, less nasal, more gentle, more what I imagine a good Proverbs 31 woman sounds like sometimes – comforting, gentle, poised, holy. I don’t know what holy sounds like, but I imagine it with a British accent for some reason.

It felt weird to be nervous. After all, I have had more than 12 years working in a field that required constant presentations, speeches, meeting leading, in front of all manner of dignitaries and leaders. But I was more nervous this time, talking to a web cam, than I’ve ever been about public speaking to hundreds.  It took 38 takes to achieve that easy-breezy-comfort of the video, and I realised something.

I was nervous because it was my actual voice talking about my actual heart and my actual work that I actually cared about OUT LOUD. I had skin in the game. I care about this work because I truly believe in it, my heart is invested here. I was sending out into the world not only my idea and my passion and my convictions, but I was using my own voice to do it. I felt vulnerable, exposed. This was no strategy document, this was no strategic marketing plan, this was me, just me, saying out loud, here’s what matters to me and here’s why and I really, really hope that I honour God with it. 

That’s scary. And weirdly beautiful.

For all that you know about me – and after all of these years, you know TOO MUCH ABOUT ME – you didn’t know what my voice sounded like. You didn’t know how I pronounce my words and as the comments piled up about my accent (for the record, you are the ones with accents…), it dawned on me that there is something to being real, something to using our voices before we really feel like we know each other, something to having the courage to speak. As your kind and overwhelming comments poured in – about the book AND my “accent” – something began to unfurl in my thinking, in amongst all of the gratitude, this wondering that for our true heart to be shared, we need to use our true voice. And sometimes that looks like writing – I find my truest voice in my words here on the page – and sometimes it looks like sitting down with a web cam, sometimes it’s a song, sometimes it looks like a living room conversation saying a few honest and hard things, sometimes it looks like kitchen table whisperings, sometimes it looks like shouting at the sky in a field, sometimes it’s just humming quiet under our breath while we hold a small soul and sway.

There is something brave in speaking out in your own voice about something that matters to you. It feels a bit like building an altar, a holy thing, in our hyper-connected-but-disconnected world.

I’m learning to trust my voice. I love that I sound like my sister and my mother. I love that almost every one knew right away that I was Canadian. I compulsively sing along with songs, I read paragraphs of books I love out loud to my long suffering husband, I holler my tinies to STOP YELLING, I call for supper, I worship, I praise, I pray, I cry, I pontificate.

I think my voice is connecting to my heart and my mind and my soul, I’m becoming more and more seamless.

That night, I bathed Evelynn before bed, just us two for once. There are few things that make me feel that heaven is here right now like a clean, sleepy baby. I dressed her in soft jammies, combed her wavy damp curls, she was rubbing her eyes, I kept kissing her open mouth to make her laugh in the middle of her yawn. We babbled back and forth, she’s so communicative now, and when we settled into our chair in her room, in the late evening fading sunshine, the door was closed to all the hollering and playing and sounds of family life on the other side. She relaxed and as she nursed deep before bed, I rocked. My heart slowed down and I thought over the day, honoured my voice, released all of my tension and anxiety and fears about it all again, as always, pictured myself laying them down at the feet of my Jesus, I rested in the quiet and the creak and the sighs of a nursing baby girl completely at peace. When I laid her in her bed, half-asleep and content, my voice – my imperfect, flawed, but real voice – was in her baby ears, whispering that she was loved, and sweet dreams, and good night, sweetheart. In the midst of all of it, I want the ones that I love in the daily ways of life to know my voice in its fullness and imperfections, most and first and always speaking a language of Love.




  • Mary Hess

    Beautiful, love.  Beautiful heart, beautiful voice, beautiful you.  X

  • Ed_Cyzewski

    There’s no substitute for meeting a friend in person. I realized that anew at the Festival of Faith and Writing. The closer we come to a real, authentic encounter, the more risks we take. There is a real chance of rejection. I’ve been learning in my writing that the times I experience the most fear are the times when I’m often sharing the real me. 

  • Sillydoodah (Dawn)

    Thank you for being brave. And for the record, one of the things I really enjoyed about your video was your lovely voice and pronunciation. :)

  • Sarah Askins

    I can’t express how excited I am about your book. Slowly, women in the church are finding our OWN voices apart from what we are supposed to say or think. Being real, true to our voice is so important. 

  • alwaysalleluia

    What a voice He has given you… in speech and in word… own it, praise Him for it, honor Him with it. 

  • Erika

    I love this post! It rings in my mind as I find my own way. I am looking forward to your book. The topic has been something I’ve been trying to sort through in my own mind these past few years.
    Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

    God bless you and yours.

    Erika –

  • Linda Stoll

    You’ve been sharing your voice through the written word for awhile.  We have taken it in with our eyes and hearts. 

    Now we are given that privilege to add our ears to the mix.  You’ve given us a deeper gift, and you are able to embrace the responses we’ve offered.  Thank you for your willingness to be just a bit afraid, yet obedient to that next step.  And may all the support you are encountering enable you to be strong and courageous and brave as you continue to speak your truth … and His.

  • Beth Woolsey

    So beautiful. So TRUE.

  • Christina Hall

    You sharing these things is a serious help to me. Since the start of my faith blogging some months ago, I have no doubt that something great stirs because of it; that it helps in heart-to-heart communication and intellectual dialogue in the name of God. But boy howdy, is it difficult to reconnect to my Writer’s Voice. I’ve been stuck in Journalism Voice for so long, and trying to navigate the two occasionally has me doubting myself of what the heck I think I’m doing. Humbling.

    It’s always refreshing to engage here.

  • Bethany Bassett

    Oh honey. I know how silly it can feel to be daunted by a webcam, but do you see me working up the courage to vlog? Not yet you don’t. I loved hearing your authentic vocal voice (as opposed to your written voice, which is no less authentic) and your lovely accent and the unmistakable passion for this book you’re birthing, and I love that you took the risk to share it with us.

  • Suzanne Whitton

    Beautifully written.  I have just started a blog and have come across yours only recently.  I love the opportunity to share my voice and obviously blogging is fairly anonymous, saying it aloud is something else…be brave!

  • Gemma Hartley

    I’m glad that fearlessness has opened your life to such amazing things so far this year. Keep at it!

  • Abby Norman

    1. I am 98% sure that Holy sounds like Julie Andrews, who I sound nothing like (I know because my lovely high school students like to do impressions of me. It encourages me to take myself less seriously I suppose.)
    2. I know the thing God is asking me to write, in my true voice. The thing I care about, the thing I am afraid to crack wide open and raw. This year I chose for myself “grace” which has been prophetic in so many ways. But I think I could use a little of your “fearless” as I pull it out and dust it off again….

  • HopefulLeigh

    I love you, true voice and all.

  • Fay_rowe

    Beautiful. I am 61 and last year began to let my voice be heard in podcasts. It was terrifying. Thank you for this voicing of my own fears and mirroring of my courage. It sounds and looks good to me.

  • Me too

    You nailed it .. I have had a friendship through blog for months, and recently this friend asked me to skype sometime. It was incredible what it brought up in me. She had only known me through the keyboard, and although I know what she looks like physically, I had shared no photo with her. The idea that she will now see me physically and perhaps make judgments as a result, along with needing to “think on my feet” rather than compose my thoughts through writing, is really daunting to me.

    You have helped to lift my shame by voicing these things out loud …. How incredible the timing, eh?

  • Emma Tormey

    You are so honest all of the time and I love it! I remember your voice as kind, welcoming, loving and very much full of joy!  I love reading your blog and look forward to reading your book, you were and inspiration in college with your voice in my life and now you are with your words/blog!  Thanks for sharing your journey!  

  • Lindsay

    Sarah, it’s strange to say this because I almost never comment so of course you don’t know me, but…I’ve been so blessed in “getting to know you” over the past few months. One of the things I appreciate most about you is your genuineness. I am usually too self conscious about my ideas to actually put them in a comment. In you, your readers/commenters and others you link to (RHE, Jamie the Worst Missionary, etc), I have found such a wonderful community of similarly-minded believers who I really worried and was coming to believe just did not exist. I’m way down in rural South Carolina, USA…Until I found your blog and others like it, I thought I was so “weird”, just didn’t fit in with all of my questions and doubts and just general church-related angst.  I could go on forever, but my own “tiny” is ready for bed, so I will stop rambling. I’m so glad you’re here. And you’re right…we do have the accents.

    • Abby Norman

      I am in Atlanta, a transplant from the North, and the Lord saw it fit to stick me in a southern baptist church. You are not alone! Even regionally!

  • Leanne Penny

    beautiful, beautiful, the imagery of a nighttime with baby skin resonates with me deeply.  

    I loved your video intro and my husband and I had a long car trip today and we chatted about your book and how good it would be for out marriage to go through it together.  Gender equality is something we believe in but are uneducated about, and that needs to change.  So you may very well be a part of our change, so thanks Sarah 😉

  • beka

    Hi Sarah – I just wanted to let you know that your blog on the lies you and your daughters and all of us women are taught to believe about our bodies (the post on body image) really made an impact with me. I am speaking tomorrow, at our first Women’s event for our brand new church plant, and I wanted to quote you from your blogpost. I hope that’s ok, I will give credit to you for your words, and your website as well. Thanks for speaking the truth, and being willing to share your heart. Praying our ladies will be as blessed as I was when they hear it :) – Beka Holman

  • Adriel Booker

    I’ve been thinking a lot about fear this week, and just yesterday Jeff Goins posted about it too. I’ve realized that when things get scary, it’s usually an indication that I’m embarking on something important. Status quo stuff never involves fear.

    And yes, I’m not sure who does “like” the sound of their own voice! (Even “talkers”!) I do a lot of public speaking and teaching and honestly I find it fairly easy. BUT when I listen back to myself (on the very, very rare occasion), I always fight feelings of insecurity. “I sound like that??” And yet our voice (physical, not just our message) is part of us… I don’t want to ever be ashamed of things about myself that I can’t change. That’s insulting to myself, others, and God himself.

    Loved watching your video and hearing your (obviously) Canadian voice! :) And am very excited about your book journey and this important message.

  • fiona lynne

    I love reading all your posts, but especially these ones about being fearless, because my word of the year is brave, and I can so relate to it feeling “prophetic”. In four months I have had to settle in to a new city in a new country, and am starting my own business which involves putting myself out there, *speaking* my vision to people with confidence, and doing lots of scary things like talking with notaries. 
    I loved this line especially, I feel like I am building an altar every time I take a brave step forward and open my mouth… “There is something brave in speaking out in your own voice about something that matters to you. It feels a bit like building an altar, a holy thing, in our hyper-connected-but-disconnected world.”

  • Sharon O

    I really thought this was deep down honesty and for that your journey becomes more real to yourself and to others.
    It is scary to ‘see ourselves’ or ‘hear ourselves’ for the first time. Growth has to take place for deep work to take place, so now the journey for you is to continue to be brave, be accepting and be willing to take new risks.

  • Louise Harvey

    I know you don’t mean just your actual voice, but for the record, I ADORE your accent! I’m British and it makes me want to move to Canada right now!

  • Ann

    The thing that most got me when I watched the video was “oh wow, she sounds like ME!”
    I do have a lot more East Coast to my pronunciation than you, but overall, you sound the way I do when I talk, and that was unexpectedly, deliciously familiar. You might as well have been in my living room, cosy and chatting and sharing yourself—and when your book comes out, I suppose in a way you will be.
    I’m looking forward to it!

  • pastordt

    Loverly, friend. Just loverly. Thank you.

  • donna oshaughnessy

    “I don’t know what holy sounds like, but I imagine it with a British accent for some reason.” For some reason I concur :0)! LOVE your blog…it is quite encouraging and makes me think outside of my own box :0).

  • Serena Newman

    HA!  I’m British, and dislike my voice for many of the same reasons – my London accent, my LOUDNESS, my CACKLING LAUGH … I suspect we have to start treating holy as belonging to us in God, rather than emphatically always being some one else (i.e. better) …

  • Renee @ FIMBY

     I get loud, shockingly loud, really easily. I laugh too loud.
    Me too friend. I thought maybe that was just an extrovert thing. My voice scares me sometimes – loud and bright as it is.

  • Caroline McGill

    Just watched the video out of curiosity for the book after reading your blog this year. There is nothing ‘accidental’ about your voice. Written or spoken. Nothing. Beautiful, as always.