Rachel Pieh Jones

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So far Rachel Pieh Jones has created 784 blog entries.

Hope Writers Resources #3: Newbie’s Pocket Guide

More Hope Writers resources.

This time, it is a Newbie’s Pocket Guide.

I often still feel like a newbie, which is probably imposter syndrome at work and also the good ol’ Ira Glass idea that our actual work will rarely match up with our ideal of our work. The good news is that this gap closes over time, if we put in the hard work of practice, sharpening in community, and putting our work out there for critique.

Still, if you feel like a newbie or you are a newbie when it comes to writing and art and the courage to put words or images to your ideas, here is a useful guide to walk you through.

Hope Writers Resource, 20 Writing Questions Answered!

More Hope Writers resources for ya.

What are some of your biggest questions about writing and publishing?

I know I still have loads, even after years of doing this, to various degrees of success and many degrees of rejections! This was a fun, old post, about the people who have to read our writing submissions: Submission Mockers.

Here is an 8-page PDF with so much wisdom and helpful answers to 20 of the most common writerly questions.

Let me know if you download this and if you have more questions or would like to dig deeper, send the questions to me. I’ll address them in a future edition of the Stories from the Horn newsletter so we can all learn from each other!

Hope Writers Resources, Free For You Guys!

I am a member of Hope Writers, an online community of writers committed to the success and joy of each other.

This week, Hope Writers have released several of their resources for free, for members to share with our readers.

If you love to write or dream of writing or love connecting with other writers, I encourage you to check out these resources. I’ll be sharing one each day this week here, in my newsletter, and on social media, so you won’t be able to miss them!

Here is the first one, a quiz that will help you figure out your writing stage. Have fun!

After you take the quiz, I’d love to hear your results so we can encourage each other in our writing journey and dreams.

Did your results match what you expected?

What can you do to succeed where you are at and reach the next level?

I love to talk writing (obviously). Let me know how it goes!

The Bookshelf, May 2019

(I traveled to Kenya this month and since I followed Cal Newport’s advice in Digital Minimalism which I read last month, I deleted all games from my phone. I only played one anyway, but still. Gone. Also, I never had social media apps installed on my phone to begin with. So, I had loads of time to read on the plane. Plus, I skimmed Threading My Prayer Rug and It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way, read more below).

Raise Your Voice: Why We Stay Silent and How to Speak Up, by Kathy Khang (listened to the audiobook) Such an important book, Kathy raises her voice about race and more, and challenges us to raise our own voices, alongside hers. Timely, well-written.

“Race and reconciliation can no longer be framed solely as a justice issue but rather as core to the gospel, theologically grounded in the imago Dei (the image of God). As Christians, if we truly believe we are all created in God’s image, and that God the Creator had a hand in developing, creating and shaping not just our embodied souls but also the places and spaces we steward and have dominion over, then reconciliation with one another is not merely an option – it’s part of God’s mandate. It requires us to speak up and speak out.”

Running Man, by Charlie Engle, recommended by Kelly H. A drug addict turned ultra marathoner, telling a gripping story of pushing his body to all kinds of intense and exhausting extremes. He writes with humor and honesty and his descriptions of running across the Sahara are unreal. This is a book that will take you from your chair around the world and back again, urging you to push beyond what you perceive as your own limitations.

This is Marketing, by Seth Godin. Typical Godin, short and pithy and practical, a fun read. He says marketing is basically being generous.

“Marketing is the generous act of helping someone solve a problem. Their problem.”

If You Want to Write, by Brenda Ueland This book felt a bit dated, because it is, but I loved her perspective on the value of silence and solitude. She is clear about the importance of writing and about why it needs to be treated as work. Here’s my favorite quote:

“But if it is the dreamy idleness that children have, an idleness, when you walk alone for a long, long time, or take a long, dreamy time at dressing, or lie in bed at night and thoughts come and go, or dig in a garden, or drive a car for many hours alone, or play the piano or sew or paint alone or an idleness where you sit with a pencil and paper quietly putting down what you happen to be thinking, that is creative idleness. With all my heart I tell you and reassure you: at such times you are being slowly filled and re-charged with warm imagination, with wonderful, living thoughts.”

Threading My Prayer Rug: From Pakistani Muslim to American Muslim, by Sabeeha Rehman. To be honest, I skimmed this. But I’m kind of in a skimming stage of reading and life. The book is lovely and I so appreciate hearing the story of an immigrant Muslim woman.

It’s Not Supposed to Be This Way: Finding Unexpected Strength When Disappointments Leave You Shattered, by Lysa TerKeurst. Lysa faced the near devastation of her marriage, cancer, and more and through vulnerability and courage writes a book that encourages faith in the midst of brokenness.

Born With Wings: The Spiritual Journey of a Modern Muslim Woman, by Daisy Khan. I really enjoyed this book, if you can only read one, between this and Threading My Prayer Rug, read Born With Wings. This is the story of a Muslim woman’s faith journey through doubt and questions and I resonated in so many ways with her story. For anyone who sometimes doubts God but also loves their spiritual heritage, this is a great book.

“But if I had lost something in America, I had gained something else – the ability to discern for myself my own path. I did not want to follow blindly.”

Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat. Um…LOVE. I love food and cooking and haven’t seen anyone take so much evident delight in both as I’ve seen in Samin. This is more than a cookbook, it is a cooking class. Super recommended.

What are you reading?

*affiliate links

Three Sisters Respond to Losing Rachel Held Evans

I attended the 2018 Evolving Faith conference with my two sisters. I posted this photo of us while there.

I brought with me a recent cancer diagnosis. We laughed about the Enneagram. We cried the way only sisters can, when facing fear and grief and brokenness, and also love.

I ran into, unexpectedly, one of my dearest college friends (shout out to Jessica Jones, designer of the Djibouti Jones logo and no relation except being soul-friends for life) and her husband. I met writing friends for the first time in person: Sarah Quezada, Tara Livesay, Sarah Bessey, Idelette McVicker, Tina Francis, Rachel Held Evans.

Living and writing from the Horn of Africa has meant most of my writing connections are virtual. It means I miss all the conferences and gatherings. It means my stories, though full of similar questions, doubts, joys, and hopes, sound foreign and strange. It means the chance to hug, shake hands with, and share actual voice exchanges with women I have long admired and interacted with, was intensely unique and precious for me.

Plus, I was there with my sisters. Which was awesome.

***

I woke one morning in late April, 2019, with a short WhatsApp message from one of those sisters.

“Did you see the news about Rachel Held Evans?”

We started to pray.

I woke a week later to another message from my sister.

“Did you see the news about Rachel Held Evans? So tragic.”

I started to cry.

(in case you missed it, Rachel passed away on the morning of May 4, 2019, you can read a tribute to her by her friends Sarah and Jeff in the Washington Post here.)

As so many of us have cried. And prayed, for her husband and children, her sister and parents, her friends, her people – us – the ones on the outer edges, the ones she challenged and who challenged her back in the push and pull of spiritually wrestling, and who always felt heard and like more than “just” internet friends.

It is just so, so sad.

I got another message from both sisters, two days later.

One wrote, “I’m so sad about RHE and I don’t even really know her stuff or her at all. Just so sad for her family and for all the people who have been impacted by her.”

I wrote back, “Me too. It is unreal. Death sucks.”

Then my other sister wrote, “I’m not sure why, but her death is really impacting me. I’m struck by the words of those she left behind: women, and especially women of color, LGBTQ folks, outsiders. It feels like a motley crew – like the kind of crew that gathered around Jesus. I didn’t follow her closely so don’t have a personal feeling of loss. But I’m deeply struck by how influential she was in her pursuit of truth, and her courage in doing so. I want to be that way. I want to stand up for women and the oppressed. Is that not what we are called to do?!

She went on, and I’ll quote her entirely because, dang, my sisters are awesome.

“I find myself being angry at ‘the church.’ It doesn’t make sense to me anymore that women can’t lead or that we wouldn’t accept gay people. I’m tired of old white male leadership. I’m not angry (ok, that’s not quite true) but I feel so disappointed. Somehow (thank you, mom and dad!) I still feel this deep love for Jesus, for God. I feel so deeply that he loves us and knows us, created and calls us. But I have no more patience for arguing about who is in the tent. Or who can lead or be at our table. We just don’t have the time for that. We are called to Love. We are called to give and forgive. That is hard and enough. We are called to go to the hard places. That is hard enough. Let us go to the hard places.”

The only words I could find in response were, “Amen and amen.”

I love my sisters. I am grateful to the point of tears for our relationship (and also our brother – shout out to you, bro!).

Which makes me think of Rachel’s sister, Amanda Opelt. I know that Rachel’s sister loved her, too. The hole must be immense. May she feel love. May she be able to laugh at memories, even while she weeps. May she feel held.

May Amanda somehow feel my sisters and I, gathering up her tears and sending tender sister blessings to her soul.

Rachel will be missed. The words my sisters expressed are part of her legacy.

A call to go to the hard places. A call to love. A call to courage. A call to cling to Jesus.

***

The next WhatsApp message we exchanged among sisters was a Mother’s Day image saying, “She pees her pants every time she coughs because of you. Send the woman flowers.”

Because that’s the kind of range sisters can cover in a matter of hours.

***

Here are Rachel’s books.

Inspired: Slaying Giants, Walking on Water, and Loving the Bible Again

Searching for Sunday: Loving, leaving, and finding the church (I was part of voting for this one when it won a Christianity Today award)

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a liberated woman found herself sitting on the roof, covering her head, and calling her husband “Master.”

Faith Unraveled: How a girl who knew all the answers learned to ask questions  (this one is on sale as of this posting, a Kindle deal. And a really good book.)

*affiliate links