Words of Art

“She had not known the weight, until she felt the freedom.”

Several years ago, I finally got too tired of being good enough. I gave up. I told God, “If you’re so big, you can handle all this yourself. I’m done.” I did the spiritual equivalent of shrugging off my backpack, peeling off my restrictive clothes, crawling into bed, and pulling the covers up over my head.

And God said, “Good. You just rest. I’ll pick all this up. Do you need anything right now? I’ll check in on you.”

As I lay with that blanket over my head, I gradually realized that I could breathe again. It didn’t hurt as much to move. For the first time since I was a teenager, the fear of punishment and God’s wrath receded. The feeling was both exhilarating and painful, like when you flex your fingers after you put down a strap that’s been biting into your hand.

Sometime during that spiritual sabbath, I discovered  JA Photography & Design. Jenn creates and sells letter art, and I was especially caught by this piece:

20151215_093738

I teared up when my print arrived. My faith is a lot wobblier than it was years ago when I knew all the answers. Life is a lot messier. But this word represents the hope that keeps me going.

Deep spiritual moments aside, I just plain love Jenn’s eye for seeing shapes in everyday life and making sense out of them. Since my decorating style is basically, “Hang stuff up on my wall,” art-into-words is pretty much everything I need.

20151215_093953
Is my S upside down? It routinely gets knocked off the wall.

In a shameless plug for this art, let me also add that it’s inexpensive (about $4 per letter) and easy to customize.

Tired of pre-printed signs urging you to “Live, Laugh, Love”? (I am.) Get in touch with Jenn and create one that spells out your name, a personally-inspiring word, or “Live More, Die Less.” *

Or, you know, “grace” — a word I’ve got up on my wall to remind me of the incredible freedom that comes when you finally let God carry the weight.

*”The more you live, the less you die.” That’s a line in the song “Raise the Roof” by Carbon Leaf, the band whose music got me through the final shattering illusions when the “truths” of my teenage years were revealed for certain as a sham.

Advertisements

O the Deep, Deep Love of Journals

Recently I found out that my friend Toni at RedPenTravelers.com “made journals.”

I love pretty much all journals. It was a a mark of virtue in my own “Fellowship” to keep a regular diary, and it was something I could actually do, unlike sew my own clothes or get up early to meditate on Scripture.

At some point, our Venerated Teacher came up with the idea that we shouldn’t keep “diaries” that recorded personal stories and weren’t meant to be read; we instead should keep “journals” that were written for the edification of others. So much for my natural advantage; I was being all worldly and sinful after all.

Although I struggled to conform to this godly (ahem, ridiculous) standard, and still managed to fill up several books. And all these years later, I don’t know anybody who would want to slog through the overblown prose of a Southern girl who read too much Jane Austen and developed crushes on her own fictional heroes.

All that to say that when I found out about Toni’s journals, I rushed over to see them. Because, you know, journals. What I found was absolute fabulousness.

A handmade leather journal cover, customized according to my choice of color and state. My hometown marked with a heart, and the front cover stamped with my initials. It all fit in my purse. It fit in my life. I needed that journal cover like my teenage self needed a real boyfriend.

The travel journals are designed to accommodate inserts that you can buy. I folded and trimmed paper to fit mine. You might notice that the paper is blank. These days I don’t fill up journals like I used to. But my love for them is undiminished.

Toni and I weren’t exactly at school together, but we were in the same cult, which makes a way better story. She and I met as teenagers at the big annual conference, when we both wore long skirts and she had long hair (I never could grow my hair to a godly length). We wrote letters for years, then fell out of touch until Facebook dawned, Recovering Grace was launched, and we all worked through the tangles of our past together.

As Miss Red Pen, Toni proofread my novel. As RedPenTravelers, she’s offering a discount for everyone who shows up saying I sent them.

So, be ye sent. Click here to check out her site. Use the coupon code FELLOWSHIP for 10% off your order through this December.

Seriously, why are you even still here? You could be a few minutes closer to holding your own handmade customized leather journal in your hand. And say hi to Toni for me while you’re over there.

*****

The Fellowship is available on Kindle and in print.

Launch Day!

martini-glass-1326192

It’s November 13!

Launch Day!

Free-Book-Giveaway Day!

Probably-Get-a-Chocolate-Martini Day!

(I mean, I’ll get the martini. You can get the drink of your choice. We’ll toast each other.)

The Fellowship is officially available in print and Kindle format. Click on over to get your copy.

Already bought one? Leave me a review!

Want to know who won the free-book-giveaway?

I bet you do.

Well, one of you does.

The rest of you can stick around for more chances to win more books and/or other cool stuff. Because, you know, I do cool stuff. Even though I, like Bekah, am actually kind of a dork because I don’t know half of the pop culture references you make.

Anyway, the one person who really, really wants to know the winner of this giveaway is…

Gretchen! (despite the fact that she said my modest swimsuit was “star-spangled spanks”).

(Gretchen, I’ll also tag you on my author page)

I’m pretty happy to be giving a copy to her, actually. Not only is she a local friend, but she and I grew up in the same “Fellowship” culture. We didn’t meet one another until Facebook dawned and hundreds of us were able to compare notes and discover just how warped our shared culture was.

(If you’re curious about exactly what my personal story is, I’ll be posting that in the next few days. Meanwhile, read the novel so you know what I’m talking about. Ha! That was subtle.)

Thanks for hanging around. I love to hear from you, so feel free to comment or email.

Now, if you don’t mind, this published author has a chocolate martini waiting.

*****

Order your copy of The Fellowshipnow available.

Q&A

Cover - FlowersWith the official launch of my novel this Friday, I was glad to (pretend) to sit down to an (imaginary) interview with the good folks at SuperExcellent Book Interviews. SEBI is, of course, a totally fake entity; the link takes you to my Amazon page.

I wrote the interview and answered my own questions.

Seriously? Who even does that?

*glances over both shoulders* Um, me, apparently.

*****

We at SuperExcellent Book Interviews were super excited to have Sara Roberts Jones join us for a little chat about her novel, The Fellowship.

Q: Sara, your book will be released on Kindle this Friday, November 13. I understand it’s already available in print?
A: Yes. Thanks to the Amazon gods whose ways are very mysterious.

Q: Are you planning anything special for this week, in honor of the officially “all the way released” day?
A: Yes! I’ll be drawing names for a free book on Friday. Anyone who won my giveaways or commented on my swimsuit picture is eligible for the drawing. Meaning there’s still time to get your name in, if you click on the link and comment. Go on, it opens in another window so you can go ahead and do it and not even lose your place here.

Q: And is that the end of your fun posts-with-prizes?
A: Funny you should ask that! No, in fact, I’m lining up at least two more giveaways of pretty spectacular items, in time for Christmas shopping. For a glimpse of what they’ll involve, check out Red Pen Travel Notebooks and J.A.’s letter art.

Q: You’ve gotten some feedback from your first readers, with comments like,

“I identified with the main character in ways I can’t express.”

“The protagonists aren’t all good, and the villains aren’t all bad… There’s a surprising amount of humor throughout, subtle and otherwise.”

“I seriously took the morning off work to finish this book.”

“This book changed my life. I don’t even need a Bible anymore. My only regret is that I didn’t meet a brown-eyed country boy earlier in life.”

Q: Wait, are you sure these are all authentic reviews?
A: Well, most of them are.

Q: Although initial reactions to your novel have been favorable, some readers say that the work is triggering and difficult to read. Would you say that’s accurate?
A: Well, sure, it’s story of a young woman who lets herself be manipulated by her “authorities.” She submits to a system that says she’s flawed just because of who she is. It’s also the story of a young woman whose passion to help others and find God ends up inspiring a huge, shattering reaction in her church.

There’s no way to tell that story in a chick-lit pink kind of way. So yes, it’s frustrating and has a few disturbing moments. But a community like the Fellowship isn’t all bad. If you hesitate to get into the story, worried that it’s going to engulf you in despair and ugliness… it won’t. There’s laughter and warmth threaded throughout the story, and vindication in the end.

Q: Why is this novel timely for the Christian community?
A: There have always been, and always will be, authoritarian leaders who use and abuse their followers. But they always look so good on the outside. Many Christians admire these leaders, thinking that what they say is very solid and Biblical. But they just don’t know what really lurks behind that crisp, clean exterior.

The dark underbelly came painfully to light just this year on a national scale with the Duggar family scandals. This family (involved in the same cult I was in) believe in a heavily authoritarian, restrictive lifestyle. Their actions indicate that they believe it’s more important to protect the family name (and fortune) than to speak up for victims. We all know now that Josh Duggar cheated on his wife with random women, but Anna Duggar apparently has no plans to divorce him or leave the family. She can’t — women in systems like these have no real choice. No matter how much they smile.

My novel explores a world like that, sympathetically portraying the people who are trapped in that mindset. I really don’t think it could launch at a more fitting time.

Q: Would you say any scenes are inappropriate?
A: Sure, like entire passages of really sordid theology and injustice. Otherwise, nothing a reasonable adult would find uncomfortable.

Q: Who is your favorite Avenger?
A: Captain America. Hang on, what does that have to do with anything?
Q: Nothing. I just figured you’d enjoy thinking about Captain America.
A: I do, thanks.

Q: Is there anything you’d like to say about your novel before we close?
A: Go buy my book.
Q: Besides that.
A: It launches November 13.
Q: We’ve already said that, too.
A: There’s a shirtless guy on page 319.
Q: Yes, that’s definitely worth mentioning. Well, it’s time to wrap this up. Thank you for joining us and discussing your novel!
A: You’re so welcome. It’s like this whole interview was tailored for me.

*****

Click here to order (print version) or pre-order (Kindle version) of The Fellowship

Revealing (the) Outfit

My title made me laugh.

The pictures I posted in my previous post are — as many of you knew or guessed — a “modest” swimsuit. I suppose it would also work for an acrobat, Krisa. Tara, I would be delighted to get one for you for a hot anniversary celebration, if you want.

It’s very lightweight, and there are leg-loops and a bottom snap to keep the skirt from flying up. In more subdued colors, it might not even be such an assault on the eye. True, that is a knee-length skirt going on there, which just isn’t safe; but the swimsuit is pretty well-designed for its purpose.

It’s the purpose that I object to. I’m just fine with the fact that women have certain features that particularly appeal to men’s sexual appetites, and it’s a mark of respect to herself to cover them up for the general public. What I don’t like is the idea that a woman must obliterate the shape of her own body, or else she tempts men to lust and therefore sins.

But that’s everyday life for Bekah and her friends in the Fellowship. Their swimwear covers their bodies from neck to knees… but they still swim in a separate area from where the boys swim. You can’t be too careful.

Inspiring lust isn’t something that Bekah herself worries about much; she doesn’t see herself as especially beautiful. But her friend Meghan has all the right curves no matter how modestly she dresses. And as the story unfolds… that proves to be a real problem.

All of you who commented are entered into a drawing for the novel once it’s launched — congratulations!