It’s time for my yearly round-up of my most popular posts written in 2016! I think these are a pretty good representation of the year and my place in the world right now so I hope you enjoy checking out any of the ones you may have missed in 2016.

A big thank you to everyone who has read, commented on, shared these posts. I know blogging is undergoing a shift right now as a medium but I always still feel like this is one of my favourite places to write – you are the best readers on the Internet: wise, funny, kind, and whole-hearted. I am deeply grateful for your presence here in this space and it’s always an honour when you show up, when you have something to say in response, or when you trust me with your friends and loved ones.

But since I’m writing another book right now, my blogging has fallen off a bit at the moment but I am still writing a big newsy free e-newsletter to my subscribers every month on the 20th so if you’d like to sign up for Field Notes, just click here. You can also find me on my Facebook page, on Twitter, or on Instagram as well.

My prayers are often with you, my readers. I appreciate you all so much.

Off-brand and searching for herons still,

S.

 

Sarah Bessey's Top 10 Posts of 2016

photo by Sharalee Prang Photography

1. Off Brand

Going off-brand can be terrifying. Daring to change our story when we find our primary identity in that particular story feels like we are losing our own sense of self. It’s more than just changing an opinion or a way of life: it’s changing who we thought we were.

I thought I was always going to mother in one particular way always: instead I changed.

It’s the same way in many areas of our lives.

As I wrote in Out of Sorts, if we aren’t changing or evolving, then we aren’t paying attention. If we pay attention to our life, we will change. We will change in ways that we never imagined and even though there is grief to leaving behind that old story, there is freedom and life and space waiting on the other side of the threshold.

I always go to this church: but then you find yourself leaving.

I always believed that being gay was sinful: but then one of the most loving and Christ-like people you ever knew just came out and you find yourself changing.

I always knew I would live in this town for my entire life: but then you find yourself in faraway lands.

I always knew that marriage was the most important relationship and I judged people who got divorced: but then you find yourself signing papers and underneath the grief there is relief.

I always knew I was called to ministry: but then you find yourself in a regular sort of job and you have to figure out a new story.

I always knew I would get married and have kids: but then you find yourself single.

I always knew I didn’t want to have kids: but then you find yourself with a houseful of small humanity to care for.

I always believed I was in control: but now you know you need help to quit.

I knew that I would homeschool my kids: but today you dropped them off at the public school.

I knew that I knew that I would work in this job forever: but now you’re starting over.

I dreamed about the day I’d have a child: but that child has special needs and nothing about how you parent looks the way you thought it would look.

I have always encountered God in this particular way: but then that way becomes barren and empty and you find yourself walking new paths, as a new seeker of God.

I always knew I would hold this belief or opinion: but then you find yourself questioning everything you ever believed and knew.

I always thought that I would be one sort of person: but now I’m someone else.

Read the whole post here.

Posted May 4, 2016


2. The Nightwatch

This is where I learned the holy work of waiting in the darkness, that the Holy Spirit is bright and alive in this moment not some far off moment, that our God is a mother and a father who comes to us out of the darkness and the cold to lift us up over and over and over again until we finally surrender to rest.

Read the whole post here.

Posted February 3, 2016


3. Rice Krispies: My Spiritual Awakening

We had been fed a steady diet for years that we were meant to change the world, to be heroes, to be different than the rest of the world, to be radical, to prepare only for the mountaintop! Exclamation points!

And when we found ourselves in adulthood with the truth that there are diapers to change and bills to pay, toilets to clean and laundry to fold, time cards to punch and late nights to work, it felt too humble and too altogether ordinary to possibly be God’s will for us.

Read the whole post here.

Posted March 29, 2016


4. For a Girl

You know, for a girl, you can really preach.

I normally don’t read books by girls but I read your book

I never listen in while I’m running sound for these lady things but I listened this time and I thought you said a couple of great things!

We asked you to join this conference because we needed the whole diversity thing but we never expected so many people to actually like your session so much!

I never thought I’d dig what you had to say but for a girl you were fine by me.

You know what? for a girl, you’re pretty good! I even took notes!

Read the whole post here.

Posted March 17, 2016


5. Love Looks Like [Choices]

Now it’s funny when people ask us sometimes, how do you weather major theological differences in your marriage?

I don’t know if we did it the right way. Is there even a right way?

I don’t know the right answer for every marriage but here is the answer that worked for us then and seems to still be working now: Choose each other.

Turn towards one another. Choose each other. Hang on. Stay in step.

The other things will fall into place eventually, life is long and you may return to those things – but we have learned also that sometimes life is (heartbreakingly) short and so either way you’ll be glad that you chose each other.

Love wins.

We did not marry ministry: we married each other.

We did not marry a certain town: we married each other.

We did not marry a vocation or a career: we married each other.

We did not marry a theological belief: we married each other.

We did not marry a political opinion: we married each other.

We didn’t do it perfectly. We still don’t do it perfectly. It’s more of a shuffling fumbling slow-dance, leaning into each other for each turn, unsure if you’re embracing or moving rather than a carefully choreographed performance for someone else’s judgement.

Not everyone understands – so what?

In that moment when it feels like you have to choose between each other and This Big (or Small) Thing you really want, choose each other. Serve each other. Put each other’s happiness first.

Read the whole post here.

Posted July 3, 2016


6. The Heron

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.

Read the whole post here.

Posted January 17, 2016


7. When We Are Despairing

So here is my resolution for these very days, the days when we are being lured by fear and anger and despair into hopelessness and silence and resignation; here is what I will tell myself:

I have made my home in Love because I live and move and have my being in Christ. There is no room in this house for fear, for sin, for hatred. I’m making the rooms ready for hope and for peace, I am washing the floors clean for I will refuse hatred in my words and in my own heart. I will remember to pray for my enemies and to love my neighbour and to practice these ways of the disciple as if Jesus meant them because I have a hunch he did mean them when he said them.

I will preach with my days and my words; I will search the Scriptures for Christ because he is our peace; and I will lead like a fellow journeyer, only ever saying: “look there he is, calming the winds and the waves, healing the sick, welcoming the child, talking with the disgraced, eating with the sinners, washing the feet of those who leads, feeding the hungry, dying ignobly, there he is rising from the dead, alive, alive, alive. let’s go to him stay with him walk with him eat with him learn from him how to be alive.”

Read the whole post here.

Posted October 17, 2016


8. The Resistance 

I don’t want to mistake despair for holiness in these days. it seems to my memory that the ones who had the most justification for despair often are the greatest parables of hope and joy.

These are the very days for the prophetic resistance of our joy, for the practice of the Kingdom of God right in the snarl of the Not-Yet. 

In a way, it reminds me of stories my Granny used to tell me of the war years, how they made every effort to keep things as normal as possible to keep not only their own spirits up but because they believed it would demoralize the enemy, how even the regular ordinary beautiful things became not less important because of their suffering but even more important.

It’s resistance. It’s a resistance of the false and broken to embrace and practice the true and the whole. We are prophesying with our lives. In the face of poverty, we practice generosity. In the face of ugliness, we practice beauty. In the face of injustice, we practice justice and mercy. In the rhetoric of fear, we declare be not afraid! In the face of racism, we practice reconciliation. In the face of despair, we practice hope. In the face of ignorance, we practice wisdom and knowledge. We name it, we aren’t afraid of it, and then while the Not-Yet looks on in disbelief at our cheek, we set to work putting things as they are-and-will-be.

Read the whole post here.

Posted July 24, 2016


9. Jesus Always Picks the Wrong One

Imagine if Jesus was in our world right now and he headed right over to someone who cooperated with and benefitted from oppression, someone who had traded integrity for political power, someone we distrust, someone who we feel is dangerous, someone who stole from people in a socially acceptable and governmentally blessed way, someone who took the very religious or national identity that we cherished and basically stomped all over it for his own gain. (I’ve got a few people in mind already.)

Ugh. We hate that guy.

We’d all be there muttering, too. We’d all be wondering about this Teacher who apparently had missed the important parts of the very Law he claims to teach.

We don’t hang around with people like that, Jesus. Don’t you know? Good people wouldn’t be caught dead with a man like that.

Just like we don’t hang around with women who are caught in the act of adultery, we don’t hang around with Samaritans, we don’t hang around with powerless children, we don’t hang around with women who have a bad reputation, we don’t hang around with beggars or the poor or the oppressed or the criminal or the possessed or the socially marginalized or the ones who aren’t allowed to come to temple with the good religious people, good gracious!

Get it together, Jesus.

And while we’re at it, let’s talk about this ignorant people you’ve placed in your inner circle, they hardly can offer the counsel of the most learned among us, get your optics and your brand straight.  

And, hey, news flash, we certainly don’t go to the personal home of a corrupt politician for a bite to eat.

But he does it anyway.

Jesus seems not to care about our who-is-in and who-is-out line in the sand. He doesn’t seem to care about what we think about all the wrong folks hanging around with him. 

Read the whole post here.

Posted November 2, 2016


10. Here on the couch

I went to the emergency room finally. My back is a proper mess and my entire left side is suffering – I’ve lost a lot of mobility in my left arm and particularly my left hand. Answers aren’t certain but it seems like it might be a prolapsed disc in my upper back. I’ve been aggravating it mercilessly and now it has decided that I need to stop it, stop it, stop right now.

So I have been stopped. I’m on the couch. Here I am, on the couch.

Read the whole post here.

Posted August 22, 2016


Want to read more? Check out:

Top Posts of 2015

Top Posts of 2014

Top Posts of 2013

Top Posts of 2012

Top Posts of 2011

Our Favourite Books of 2016
Christmas Concerts and Swim Lessons
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  • There were so many difficult things to write about this year…and so many good things. Thank you for your commitment to helping us deepen our understanding of ourselves, each other, and God. Love the round up–it’s too easy for good and encouraging words to get lost in the “clouds” otherwise.

  • Michelle Luck

    Thank you for this list. Some I remembered and was blessed to be able to re-read and re-discover, others I had missed in the noise of the Internet. You are wise and humble and your words are a gift.

  • Heather Marriage

    …and now my computer is open to so many of your blog posts that seem awesome and somehow missed by me… so much to read and each line deserves a long slow meditation with a warm cuppa on this blustery day. Such a privilege to read your words. Thanks for another great year of truth!

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  • Liz O

    Off-brand changed my life this year. It gave me the courage to shed my brand as “the ambitious one,” let go of some old dreams and start shifting into a life that feels so right for right now. Somehow having the words to put around it (“that’s not my brand anymore”) gave me the courage for change. Your words are such a gift, Sarah Bessey. I treasure your writing.

  • JennaDeWitt

    I think about that living off-brand one all of the time. <3