Beginning the Conversation

I was prepared for early morning schedules and packing her lunchbox everyday. I was prepared for Friday homeschooling and the onslaught of school fundraisers. I was even somewhat emotionally prepared to have a full-time Kindergartener. But I wasn’t prepared for lice. It’s been far enough out now that I can laugh and have a mildly clear perspective without simultaneously wanting to both throw up and burn everything in our home.

“What if trying to keep ourselves safe is the thing that’s actually making life feel tight?” 

We’ve declared camping a family priority this summer. With 5 dates scheduled in to our iCalendars, the Miami Vice-esque tent trailer out from under Grandpa’s forested storage, and a “we still need” list all dialed in, summer was set. Early in June we ventured up the hill for the Turner Tent Trailing 2018 maiden escape. We found ourselves a nice, flat-ish spot along Trout Creek near the Clavey River. If you have not yet been to the Stanislaus National Forest in Northern California, may I suggest it as your next vacation destination. It is like Yosemite had a beautiful litter of babies and they all landed around here. Smooth granite rocks form hillsides out of the river. Native American grinding rocks guide you to swimming holes and shallow waterfalls. Brown trout dart quickly around your legs as you dunk-bathe. Forests are magical.




I’m learning my challenges of working during summer break. The time I thought and had anticipated having to review books, edit pieces and create new articles and chapters, has been mostly squashed between disciplining the tattle monsters, deserting the heat to lounge lakeside, and exercising the mom-guilt demons out on our new treadmill. But then there’s camping. Co-parenting camping! I am no longer the only disciplinarian, chef, butt-wiper, or stylist. So I bring books. I haven’t Kindled and I don’t plan to. There’s something holistically enriching about turning the pages and writing in the margins of a paperback. I never not want to hold a book. So I brought along some of these paperback pals, sat along the creek while the kids played and tagged (mostly) out between the hours of 10 and noon. When the year first started, I told myself not to start another book until I had finished the prior one. That didn’t last more than a hot second. There are just too many thought-provoking reads and I can’t get enough. It’s like a family dinner at my parents’ ranch house with echoing voices, political arguments, girl giggles through long back hallway. Rich and full of life. Full of opinion and stance and processing perspectives. Leeana Tankersley was one of my paperback guests who joined our maiden camping trip. I’ve been in and out of her latest book, Begin Again, while entertaining John Piper and Jonathan Parnell and Owen Strachan.



Finley often joined our reading conversation once the wind picked up and chilled her body. I’d wrap her in a Christmas snowman towel, sit her on my lap and continue with Leeana as she told me about the soul bullies who sought destruction in her path of mothering, womanhood and peace. This book, Begin Again, reflects a quote from St. Benedict that says, Always we begin again. Leeana shares stories from imperative moments of having to begin, moment by moment, day by day, year by year, relationship by relationship. Mindfully engaging in freedom, intimacy, healing and promise. She writes in the reminder to fight against isolation; to build a community rooted in Love, engaged in service and strong in pursuit.

This is the fourth book I’ve read by Leeana, but I have to be honest. Part of my eagerness to buy this book was because an excerpt I wrote was published in it. A while back, she asked her social media followers to answer this question: What is one practice that has been meaningful in your life? 

My response was writing. I shared with her my why and she selected it for the tail end of the book. I’m one of many who were selected, but could hardly handle my excitement and the anticipation to see my words in print. Eric encouraged me to pre-order and it was all a blur when our mail courier showed up. Like unwrapping a newborn baby from their swaddle blanket, I meticulously peeled back the layers of this Amazon package until the the bright white words, Begin Again appeared. A girlfriend of mine was on her book launch team and had filled me in with where to find the excerpt. I think I touched every page leading up to it, smelling the crisp paper. Then there it was. With my initials next to it. In print. Black ink showed my words.

I was prepared to read it. I knew the words I had shared with Leeana and knew that there would be many others who accompanied me along those back pages. I was prepared to share it on social media and in text strings with my folks. But I wasn’t prepared for the pressure. I wasn’t prepared for the tightening. It feels much safer in the confines of my own heart and mind to keep my thoughts and stories, experiences, preferences and truths quiet. To myself. The words sitting before me were just words about why I write, but the symbol of my words in print felt very permanent. I was in the hub of writing my first book, practicing transparency and identifying my voice through specific truths, and then this stopped me. Standing in the chasm of bursting with both joy and immobility, I stopped. I stopped editing those chapters. I stopped creating and connecting stories. Once those words are in print, I can’t unprint them. The permanent black ink was jarring.

Fearful feelings of unveiling the protected held me back. How could I share my thoughts on modern feminism being unequal in such a liberal culture? How could I talk about possible positive outcomes of legalizing abortion after experiencing my own? How could I share transparently about my story without the retaliation of both conservatives and liberals, friends and not-yets? Was I ready for this? Did I really believe these truths as ultimate and was I willing to step into the conversation?

Then in May, with publishing my last post, I shared about writing a book. The paperback conversation with Leeana has continued to remind me of my beginning. We always can begin again. I can sit in the comfort of my quiet and safe internal dialogue, going nowhere. Or I can dare to begin the conversations that set me free. I can engage in the stories of other’s and encourage their movement. So I dared. I shared about writing a book and needing the accountability to do so, so that when I hesitate and immobilize, I have spontaneous texts asking which chapter I’m on. I have to be willing to begin. Every chapter. Every story. Every truth of Jesus that has brought me to this place. Every truth about who I am.

I’ve since sat with a 99 year old woman from church who encouraged me to never stop learning. We sat by her pool as my children swam with her daughter and great-granddaughter, as she shared photos with me, and unraveled valued bits of her life as she remembered them. Every day she wakes up with an eagerness to begin that day with Jesus. She is open to learn and grow more in Promise and Truth. Did I mention she’s 99?

I can prepare myself with lists and quotes and even my laptop in a quiet space, with the perfect hazelnut latte. But if I’m not willing to begin the conversation, regardless of fearful anticipations, I’m just a person sitting in silence. “What if trying to keep ourselves safe is the thing that’s actually making life feel tight?”

Friends, I needed this post. I needed to write it to engage with an audience greater than my notes. So thank you for taking the time to read it. I hope that today, you too will begin again. Somewhere, with something or someone, be encouraged to begin.



*** You can find Leeana’s book, Begin Again, on her website, leeanatankersley.com, or on Amazon. This is not an ad, I just really enjoy sharing book recommendations. ***

4 thoughts on “Beginning the Conversation

  1. Emily……. 💖 I love that the heart and hands of God are guiding the heart and hands of you Emily. Aren’t we blessed to choose growing everyday of our lifes. And we learn from one another. Love you my “great” 💖💕

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