Letters to Weary Women

Announcements, Books + Stories, Letters to Weary Women
On words, silence, and an invite into our cozy fort
September 13, 2016 at 4:21 pm 0

Dear loyal, kind, harried reader,

I know you have precious little time these days. What time you have to read is spent on the latest and greatest novel, the magazine you flip through to get a little peace, and the pertinent article you click through from Facebook as you stand in the grocery check-out line (if, of course, you aren't wrangling a toddler or two and trying to make sure they don't lick all the chocolate at their eye level). We have so very many words thrown at us these days. They are often big words full of scandal and political angst. They are words meant to critique with a knife-point edge, not to eradicate the ivy grown around our hearts, but to show us the dexterity of the surgeon. I've just had the pleasure of reading so many books that welcome us into worlds where words are all about flourishing. I'll be sharing more and giving them away because, after all, words are gifts Can you imagine with me: words that do not wound, or if they do -- the wound speaks to your own hidden hurts and someone's words makes you feel less alone? They are words that nudge in the best sense -- to see anew. To pay attention. To find beauty right here in the harried middle. succulentbook I can't wait to share some reviews with you shortly! And hopefully some free books too! (Eek!) I'm planning for so many lovely little things in store on this online space. I'm practically bursting at the seams from all the good ideas. But, dear reader, as a mama to four who chases dreams and words and quiet in very small slivers of time, sometimes the birthing is unseen. As far as my own words go, they've been slight here of late. I've been practicing the holy art of saying "no," or "wait," or "I don't need to be all things to all people all the time." It's a tricky thing to say. It's something that I'm learning slowly, feebly as I back off from being superwoman. "It's okay. We're all breathing. Life goes on." I'm not sure if you're in a quiet season, too. We've had a touch of cool here in southern California and it feels like blessed relief (though I'm sure it'll get back to 80F in a manner of days). I grabbed my boots and drank a bunch of coffee and desperately want to go and get a pumpkin spice latte because everyone on Instagram is doing it. But quiet internal seasons often accompany climatic changes too. As the leaves begin to change (in other parts of the world), I realize that change and even death of good things are necessary for life to grow. For life to flourish. I'm still here, writing away, but it is unseen now. I have books and documents spread and my eyes are opened anew to the gifts and landscape around me. I'm breathing it all in. And for once I'm realizing I needn't make it happen on the Internet for it to happen -- for it to be full, meaningful, rich and important. I can savor in the quiet, unnoticed spots. I can write there too. There is something both terrifying in being unseen and something quite delicious -- as if my words and I were huddled under a secret fort built cozily just for us. tent1 I'm planning on opening bits of the tent soon -- as we continue to share our stories together (go on over here and submit yours!), as we savor good books together, as we learn to chase beauty and sustained attention in a world full of noise. Because there are words shouted at us, there are words that are irrelevant mere seconds after we refresh the page, there are words we wish we could draw back from our mouths. Here, though, there will always be words that refresh. There will be words that sit with you in your pain and show you hope. Join me -- if you haven't already -- in signing up for my little newsletter. On there, I share with you first picks of what I'm reading, all the newsy fun stuff, behind-the-scenes on book-writing, and little gifts. It's just a little thank you for coming in and sitting in my fort with me. Grace to you today, dear one,


Letters to Weary Women
Sometimes you need help and that’s okay
October 29, 2015 at 1:40 pm 3
Letters to Weary Women Dear weary woman: We have just a few more days of weary and hope all muddled together in this series. I wanted to be forthright with you. This move has thrown me for a loop. That, along with the seasons never changing in southern California, and my hormones, and I'm finding myself in need of some help outside myself. I'm looking for a therapist. I'm trying some natural hormonal balance stuff from Whole Foods. Plus, one of my sons is having a hard time controlling his emotions at school and I feel like a failure (because, really, I have not modeled terrific self-control). All the problems feel so very rooted to who I am. How can I pluck out the little roots, or take a magic pill, or even know where to start when I find a good counselor? And, how do you untangle your childhood, your adulthood, and your deep-seated proclivity to perform for praise? How do you learn how to rest in Jesus and who he says you are? How do I let it all just be enough? curtains I grew up in a culture where you didn't go to a therapist, that was for people whose lives were really falling apart (if you were on the brink of divorce or you were grieving). Sure, I lived in Utah where prescription meds for anxiety and depression were at a terrific high (the highest state in the use of anti-depressants per capita). Sometimes when you're stuck, you're weary. And sometimes you need others to help get you unstuck, to cheer you on, and to remind you who you are. And if you need help it is not weakness to say so. So, friend, I hope if you feel stuck you'll let yourself be carried by others around you -- by a spouse, by friends, by your church community if you have one, by trained therapists. We were never meant to do this life alone. Way back in the garden, God told Adam it wasn't good for man to be alone and he gave him Eve. He gave him someone who gloriously fit with him, to fulfill God's good plan of stewarding the garden together. God gives us to each other. Sometimes the giving hurts when we rub up against another's rough edges or when we're called out on our junk  -- from the small stuff to the big systemic injustices like racism that we are tacitly a part of*. Carrying others and being carried hurts. Our muscles tire and seize up and it is just so much work. But like carrying a child, it's joy, too -- the nearness, the knowing that you are fully present to someone else. And if you're the one being carried, relax into it. It is good to know we are not alone. Ashley   *Two writers for the Mudroom recently wrote about blackness and racism and please do yourself a favor and read Velynn's and A'Driane's words.   Letters to Weary Women Also I’m giving away Seth Haines’ book, Coming Clean. Enter to win here! I welcome your comments, emails and following along by subscribing (you’ll get my free book on telling your story, too!). Posts in the “Letters to Weary Women” series are linked to the first post in the Write 31 Days Challenge.
Letters to Weary Women, Review
A Book to Meet You in Your Weary: Coming Clean by Seth Haines
October 28, 2015 at 10:36 am 7
Letters to Weary Women I have a book that will meet you right in your weary. It's a book that's terrific about being present in the process of uncovering the pain. My friend Seth Haines wrote a book called Coming Clean: A Story of Faith and it's just out (as of yesterday). It's his story of his first 90 days sober. His youngest son (not yet 2) was losing weight rapidly. The doctors didn't know what to do. So Seth turned to a Nalgene of gin poured over hospital ice to numb the pain -- to get out of his head, to not not feel anymore. Coming Clean is a story about sobriety, but it's more than that. It's a story of faith and healing -- not in spite of hurt and pain, but through it. It's a terrifically honest book. It's a book for those of us who cover up our pain -- maybe not with alcohol -- but with distractions, what we eat, how we exercise, shopping, making ourselves feel important, you name it. It's a book that helps meet you in your own pain and pushes and prods you to find out what's underneath your coping mechanisms. I think we're weary often because we just aren't honest with ourselves. Seth's book is a great guide to to uncovering what's at the root of our languishing. I was privileged to get to read it early and write about it in Books & Culture in a web exclusive. I loved being able to put Seth's book in the context of confessional literature and the history of testimony. If you want to know all I think about the book, I hope you'll read my full review here. It was such fun to write for Books & Culture, to put on my scholarly hat for a bit; it felt very much like a homecoming. But I want YOU to get a copy! Here's how it goes: If you already subscribe to my newsletter, let me know in the comments; otherwise follow along with the Rafflecopter prompts below. The giveaway will close on Sunday! a Rafflecopter giveaway // If you don't want to wait, you can order Coming Clean here. Books you order through this link will help make sure that I can pay for my blog domain.   Letters to Weary Women I welcome your comments, emails and following along by subscribing (you’ll get my free book on telling your story, too!). Posts in the “Letters to Weary Women” series are linked to the first post in the Write 31 Days Challenge.
Letters to Weary Women
How Just Showing Up can Save Your Life
October 27, 2015 at 8:00 am 4
Letters to Weary Women Dear Weary Woman: We had an excellent weekend full of friends and fun. So much fun in fact that Monday was spent catching up and it's nowhere near completion. But I'm just leaving it. Slowing down is hard because all the little cracks and crevices show when we say "no" to the busy. I like being out, eating out, having a drink with friends. I like the new adventures. I don't usually think of myself as naturally extroverted, but there's something special about getting dressed up and going out. It makes me feel young, if only for one night to escape from the routine, the bed times and dishes. So today, when laundry and dirty dishes called loudly, I wanted to run away. My eyes begin to roam everywhere and I start to create stories of others' successes and make myself small in comparison. I whine. The other day, I even said out loud I wanted to go home. Starting over, creating a new home, is achingly hard. I miss my routines, my places, the crispness of the fall in Salt Lake City. I miss my friends' houses where we could sit on each other's carpet and share a cup of coffee together. I miss my 100-year-old house. And the loss is so dizzying sometimes that I want to both never move again for the plucked-up heartache and also never settle down again so it doesn't hurt so bad -- so I can keep having adventures and run away to Italy and eat pizza and drink wine and laugh under twinkling lights. I lose it. I get sad and mope. I complain. It's more than okay to ache and miss places and people. I miss my Thursday tea and prayer with Melissa the most. She gave me the gift of just showing up, week in and week out. And yet, I know that in this dark shadow of waiting for home, that there is good, too. There's got to be. Circling the Story I feel like I'm on the edge of something. I realize it's transition and we're trying to birth a little band of Christ followers into a church, and I'm writing my first book. Wonderful and crazy-making things. But there's a deep underground burrowing happening now, where something is dying to be brought back to life in the promise of spring. It all just feels a bit dark now, though. And the temptation when it's dark is to believe nothing is happening. To push away the darkness with other, lesser things. I see my heart and how it runs to so many different weary-making things to solve the ache -- to a bigger/newer/better house, to comfort, to food and drink, to exercise, to perfect behavior from my children -- and all that comes of this is just more need. I'm so very quick to look to other things to make me feel okay. To feel seen. To feel valuable. To feel loved. So I'm rooting myself in the mundane as an antidote to my wandering heart. I want to show up in my own life and not spend my time scrolling on my phone or not doing the next hard thing just because it's hard. I'm resolving to do little things like getting sunshine, exercising, eating good food, reading a chapter from my Bible, and cooking meals. Little things that like a weekly tea and prayer time will build up over time to create new rhythms and make this new place a home, too. So, friend, if you're weary like me because you have a wandering heart, I hope you'll dig in to the right now right in front of you. Just show up. It doesn't feel like much, I know. If it's entering expenses on a spreadsheet, or doing the dishes, or following up with a client, or giving your dog a bath -- it all feels pretty inconsequential. But it's also monumental, it's the warp and woof of our lives. I know I want all the big glory moments -- my social media highlight reel -- constantly in front of me. But the discipline of the mundane helps to ground me. It gives my hands useful employment and keeps my mind from turning things over again and again into an endless loop always about me. Thank God I am not the hero or villain. I'm so thankful the story is not about me. So go for a walk, notice things around you, and invite a friend over for tea. To finding the joy in the mundane, Ashley Letters to Weary Women   I'm over at Cara Meredith's site talking about my weekly tea and prayer ritual with my dear friend. I hope you'll read more over there. It fits in quite nicely with today's letter. Also I'm giving away Seth Haines' book, Coming Clean, later this week. Make sure you subscribe to get another chance to win it! More posts in #LettersToWearyWomen can be found here
Letters to Weary Women
Let’s Talk About Sex
October 26, 2015 at 5:00 am 8

Thanks to Cara Strickland for writing a vulnerable and beautiful post to weary unmarried ladies today. You can find her first two letters here and here. -- AH

Letters to Weary Women

Dear Weary Unmarried Woman,

Let’s talk about sex.

In most rooms, especially those filled with Christians, I don’t feel like I’m allowed to do this. I’m not supposed to know enough to contribute to the conversation, and if I do, it’s not something that is held in the same regard as the words spoken by those safely ensconced in marriages.

Whatever you have to say on the subject, you can sit with me. Maybe you’re sexually experienced and you regret it (or you don’t). Maybe you’ve never been kissed, never held hands with someone you thought was pretty cool. Maybe the entire question of choice was taken from you by force and the thought of sex fills you with dread. Whatever story your body and mind tell about sex, this is a safe place.

Whatever way you’ve settled your sexual ethic (or the ways that it’s still in flux), it’s a challenge to be single in the world. Once, a married friend shared with me that for her sex wasn’t as exciting as she’d expected. “It’s an appetite like any other,” she said. “It’s like when I’m hungry or thirsty and I eat and drink.” I wanted to tell her that I get hungry and thirsty (and horny), too. I can go to the grocery store or pour myself a glass of water (or wine), but the rest of the equation isn’t as straightforward.

Let's Talk About Sex Circling the Story

I don’t know about you, but the churches of my youth didn’t talk much about desire (certainly not female desire). It’s amazing how much shame about sexuality I’ve internalized over the years. That shame has seeped into my body and mind and I’ve had to learn to fight it. Sometimes that means that I go to dance class or really let loose at the funky casino club my roommate likes to frequent. Sometimes that means that I put on the the high heels, or the dress that makes me feel curvy and beautiful. Sometimes that means that I buy myself the lingerie I really want even though it’s “just for me.”

Maybe you’re a single woman who would love someone to spoon with, who longs for human touch. I still remember an experience from several years ago when I brushed past a waiter at a restaurant and it stirred up a deep haunting ache in me. Maybe you relish your physical independence or wonder if you would even enjoy sex. Just like it’s incorrect to say that men only want one thing, it’s also incorrect to say that all women do (or do not) want something. When I do enter into conversations about this topic, I’m always amazed at the wide variety of thoughts and feelings about sex. There is nothing one-size-fits-all about this topic.

Letters To Weary Women: Cara Strickland on sex and singleness

In Christian culture, it’s easy to feel like sex is always up for discussion. You’ve probably seen two or three articles about it today. Maybe you scroll to the bottom and see that it’s written by yet another married person, even though it’s directed at single you. Here is what I want you to know: whether or not you are having sex says nothing about your worth, your chosenness, your adorableness, or your successfulness. I’m sure you know that, but it’s easy to say and harder to believe sometimes (at least for me).

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if we took just half of the energy that we spend talking about sex and used it to create art, set up single friends, or simply make them meals.

Remember this: you don’t have to engage in conversations that you don’t want to. You don’t have to nod and smile when people complain about being touched all the time. You don’t have to feel guilty for wanting to have sex, or for not wanting to have sex.

Let’s level the playing field a little bit, shall we? Your sexuality is an important part of who you are, but it doesn’t come close to fully describing you. You and I are made up of all of the experiences, conversations, hopes, talents and desires that we have and have ever had. You can’t be reduced to the sum of your physical parts (and neither can your married friends).

I don’t know about you, but I thought that by this time I would be married. I thought that my sex life would no longer be up for discussion, scrutiny, or concern. I thought that sex would be a team sport by now. For me, some days, that’s really hard, and I’m guessing that if you’ve made it this far, it is for you, too. I hope you can find someone close and supportive to talk about this with, someone who won’t tell you what to feel. I hope that you’re creative with the ways you express yourself in public and private. I hope that you always remember that sex is about you, not the other way around.



Letters to Weary Women

I welcome your comments, emails and following along by subscribing (you’ll get my free book on telling your story, too!). Posts in the “Letters to Weary Women” series are linked to the first post in the Write 31 Days Challenge.