The clouds are so close I can almost touch them. My toes hang over the edge, nothing but air beneath them, only the heels of my feet making contact with solid ground. All I can see is a vast sea of blue and white—above, below, to the left, and to the right. Behind me, stretching into the distance is a dusty road, wide on the horizon line. But here, where I’m balancing on this jagged tip of the earth, the road tapers to a point.
The slightest breeze washes over me and I know. It’s time. Time to lean forward; it’s time to lean into the Wind that has been stirring around me for so long. It’s time to jump and see what happens.
My only two options are forward and backward. One of them isn’t really an option at all.
I take a deep breath.
And step forward.
An idea has been stirring in my heart and spirit for months. An idea that I hesitated to own, to claim, to speak, to commit to.
The time has come—to commit to it, to own it, to speak Life into it.
It’s time to “spill the beans,” as one of my #the4500 sisters said.
So here it is:
I’m writing a book.
Not thinking about writing a book.
Actually writing a book.
A book about freedom. And bravery. And being unbound.
I have a lot of questions about what that looks like long-term…
…and very few answers.
But I have a God-given vision
and a Holy Spirit-breathed message.
And so, I am writing.
Saying this out loud, both here on this page,
and in real life, eye-to-eye conversations
serves this purpose:
I covet your prayers.
And I need the accountability.
This is the jumping-off point.
“Then the Lord answered me and said, “Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets, that the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay.…” ~Habakkuk 2:2-3
But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint. ~Isaiah 40:31
Yesterday, I was in the middle of writing a post about how joy is the most vulnerable emotion we have, because its opposite is disappointment—as I was staring deep disappointment square in its ugly face. An opportunity I’d been looking forward to was suddenly crashing and burning…Plan A, Plan B, Plan C…all doomed. I was sad; I was mad. But the circumstances were completely out of my control.
Four months ago, I had a dream about meeting a fellow member of #the4500. Within a day of my sharing the dream in the FB group, Anna and I began texting and planning a meet-up opportunity that fell into our laps; in less than a week, we were scheduling a phone call. Now, a mere 12 weeks later, we’ve spoken on the phone more times than I can count (I can’t claim being a non-phone-talker anymore), interacted on social media daily, and gotten to know each other’s hearts.
The meet-up that was scheduled for the end of October was postponed indefinitely. In the meantime, I signed up for Splendid: Texas and settled for meeting Anna in the spring.
Two weeks ago, a meet-up was suddenly in the works again as Anna was traveling to NC on business. We made plans to meet for lunch along with a handful of other local 4500 ladies. Then the darn Snowpocalypse of 2016 slammed the East Coast with the most unfortunate timing. Anna was 2 hours away; she was stuck, I was stuck, the others were stuck. For 48 hours, we were caught in a limbo of hoping against hope that we’d still make it work, all the while praying that God would make a way where there was no foreseeable way (and recruiting our #the 4500 sisters to join us).
Having heart-sisters spread out across the country is both the best and worst thing. We are drawn to one another by a connection that none of us ever imagined, but in its short 10-month lifespan, #the4500 has taken us on a delightfully wild ride. I could literally go to almost any state in the country and have familiar faces and instant friendship. (I’m in dire need of a hefty travel budget these days.) But not being able to hug one another’s necks, look each other in the eye, and do life face to face is hard.
Finally, at noon on Saturday, we called it. No lunch or dinner meet-up. Anna suggested a tentative breakfast meeting for Sunday, but I was already expecting it to fall through; nonetheless, I texted my mom and sister to see if they’d be willing to make the trip with me Sunday morning. Hours later, I realized the interstates were passable—if we could get on the interstate, and get to NC Saturday night, we still had a chance. I prayed, I begged, I pleaded. They consented, and off we went.
Plan D was finally a winner–a spontaneous, crazy, whirlwind winner.
I walked through the hotel entrance, eyes scanning the room for the face I knew only by profile picture. Sitting across the room, head turned, there she was—this soul sister I’d waited months to meet face-to-face. I stopped at the front desk as she glanced up and I waved. Bounding out of her chair, she stopped two feet in front of me, bent forward, hands covering her mouth, squealing with joy. My smile wrapped around my head. We hugged. (I melted—her hugs are “legendary.”)”You’re real,” I breathed. Words failed and we just stared at each other. “I guess you know each other?” The voice of the poor guy at the desk who was trying to check me in broke us out of our wonder. We glanced at each other. “Yes.” “We do now.”
We do now. We’re finally friends in real life.
Earlier this weekend, as I lamented our deteriorating meet-up plans, my friend Christine texted me these words: “…whether or not this weekend happens, it is a victory because you showed up…and that is huge. There was a time not too long ago when you wouldn’t have been able to make these plans…because it was too far out of your comfort zone.” Truth.
When I joined the4500, my plan was to keep to the fringes. That all changed in September when I began getting to know Anna better. I am not who I was four months ago.The biggest evidence of that? The absolute absence of any anxiety about meeting Anna in person this weekend. As I told Christine, “I was so chill it was weird.” We may not have had a lot of time together, but it was entirely worth it. We dug deep into heart issues; she challenged me and encouraged me to keep moving toward what I know in my heart I need to pursue. We celebrated victories; we laughed. She got to meet my mom and sister. We stayed up half the night talking and we hugged tightly as she departed for the airport.
Last night, I told Anna that I was still taking baby steps toward owning my brave; she corrected me: “Oh, honey—we’re past baby steps.”
“Yeah, I guess we are. This is more like jumping off a cliff.”
I’ve crossed a chasm I never would’ve dreamed possible. I’ve stepped into a new normal—and I can’t wait to see where it leads next.
If you haven’t picked up your own copy yet (or if you have and want a second one–no shame!), here’s your chance to WIN ONE from your truly! (I’ll even throw in some tissues—‘because you’re going to need them!) Here’s what you should do:
How exciting to welcome my first guest post on my blog–and it be my mom! Meet Sunshine Leister:
Sunshine Leister is a real estate agent, a coordinator for the Society of St. Andrew gleaning network, mom of four mostly-grown children and quite a few “adopted” children, Grandmama to two “adopted” granddaughters, an avid reader, and an accidental member of #the4500launches. She enjoys sharing with her friends on Facebook in a format she calls “Pondering Some Thoughts.”
If you need advice on herbs, essential oils, or want to join a local (Upstate SC) glean to feed the hungry in your community, she’s the one to call…if she can find her phone!
Two months ago, I threw her into #the4500launches Facebook group when she tried to steal away my Advanced Reader Copy of The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner. Here’s what she has to say about the book.
Okay, confession time. I was not one of #the4500. So how did I come to be on this launch team (#the4500launches)? How did I come to write a review of a book that has ripped open emotion after emotion, a book that landed in my hands quite by accident?
Let’s be real. My daughter had been talking nonstop about another author, Anna LeBaron; a group of ‘rejects”called #the4500, and posting heart-rending, thought-provoking tidbits aboutThe Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner on Facebook. I saw them. And I read them. And I waited with anticipation for the book’s release. And then an Advanced Reader Copy of Ruth’s book came to my house for Ticcoa—taunting me to break federal law and open her mail!
I was strong…until Ticcoa opened the package and placed the book on the table. As soon as her back was turned, I found myself settling into a chair, book in hand. Soon, I was found out as Ticcoa got ready to go home: “Mom! That’s my book! How far have you read?!”
I was four chapters in.
Prying the book from my hands, she finally agreed to let me finish it after she’d read it—with the condition that I’d post a review. When I got it back (the next day—she read fast!), I cried, laughed, cheered, cursed, encouraged, smacked my head, and lived the life of Ruth Wariner. And yes, my heart leaned toward murder at times, and then catapulted to the abyss of conviction.
So many decisions, beliefs, deceptions mirrored instances in my own life, played out more subtly and unnoticed. A twist here, a darkness there, an enabling act that said “yes, it’s okay to treat me that way because I don’t want you to feel like a bad person,” a pressing down of anger because “we have to be nice girls,” or “a Christian doesn’t act like that.” Then came the realization that when it is a mother holding those beliefs, it is not only her life, emotions, and psyche that are changed and even depressed, but also that of her children.
As I read this book, layer after layer of denial was exposed and, hopefully, peeled away. I’ll be reading The Sound of Gravel again,because it is truly one that begs to be read more than once. Healing takes time and that costs very little.
For more information about Ruth and to read an excerpt from The Sound of Gravel, please visit Ruth’s website.
I’m so excited to finally share this review with you. The longer I’ve sat on these words, having read The Sound of Gravel seven weeks ago in the first round of advanced reading copies mailed out to members of #the4500launches, the more I’ve had to say about this book. I’ve wanted to read it all over again since the moment I finished it. The Sound of Gravel, Ruth’s willingness to share her story with us, the amazing way I came to be part of this launch team, the opportunities I’ve had to tell the story and encourage others to read this book have shifted my perspective in many ways.
I hope you enjoy my thoughts on The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner. And be sure to stick around at the end for a link-up where you can read more reviews of the book from other bloggers!
The soft glow of the desk lamp warms my dark bedroom. Huddled in my chair, feet propped on the foot of my bed, I’m burrowed under a blanket with a book inches from my nose. I’m engrossed in a world so far removed from my own that I have to remind myself that this is real. Someone actually lived through this. I keep forgetting to breathe. Salty tears leak out of my eyes, blurring my vision, knocking the words on the page out of focus. I hear myself gasp occasionally—hand flying to my mouth as I think, “No, no, no.”
I have a hangover. A binge-reading hangover.
It’s not the first of its kind that I’ve experienced, but it might be the most haunting. In fact, I don’t think I’ve had such a marked reaction to a book since I read Toni Morrison’s Beloved in college. (Yes, it’s that haunting.)
I finished The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner yesterday.
The Sound of Gravel is Ruth’s memoir about her childhood spent in Colonia LeBaron—home of a doomsday polygamist cult founded by Ruth’s grandfather. The words that most readily come to mind in describing this book are gripping, numbing, traumatic, enthralling, angering, and heart-breaking—all these words are appropriate, because what Ruth faced in the fifteen years the book spans is more than most people will face in their entire lives.
Growing up in a ramshackle house, haunted by the murder of her father (a prophet of the church of the colony), shouldering a great deal of parenting responsibilities for her siblings, experiencing traumatic situations and experiences no child should be forced to encounter, young Ruthie struggles to make sense of the life she’s been thrust into while recognizing that she doesn’t quite fit in, wondering “did I belong here?”
I don’t want to divulge many spoilers, because I think it’s important that the reader hear the bulk of this story through Ruth’s own words—it’s her story to tell, not mine. As readers and listeners of other’s stories, it can be easy to gloss over or romanticize the struggle faced by the storytellers. One of my worst habits in my college creative nonfiction writing class was tying up my pieces with “a pretty bow”—a habit my professor tried to force out of me. And while this story does eventually get tied into a lopsided bow, it takes a lot of frayed ribbons to get there.
Before I ever started reading The Sound of Gravel, I felt strongly about holding this story with a gentleness of heart, mind, and soul—to honor Ruth’s vulnerability in sharing her experience with the world. Maybe this is due to the fact that I came to know Ruth through an incredible series of events that involved her cousin (my friend Anna) finding Ruth on Twitter and approaching her about helping her promote her book. Or maybe it’s because I’ve recently been impressed with the realization that we all have our own reasons to be brave—and we all have to own our brave—whatever that looks like for each of us. Ruth has done just that by writing and sharing her story—she owns her brave, a brave that is so far removed from my frame of reference that it is hard to fathom.
Seriously. Wrapping my mind around the scenes that play out in this book left my mind spinning, searching for that pretty bow to tie everything up, to bring resolution to the heart-rending trauma. For the entire day after I finished The Sound of Gravel, I felt numb. I found myself blinking back tears at random moments, my mind transported back to the dusty Mexican landscape, thinking of little Ruthie facing yet another obstacle.
Ruth Wariner is a powerful storyteller; she weaves detailed scenes with gripping language. She begins by painting a vivid picture of the isolated environment of the colony, and then thrusts her readers into the mind of her five-year-old self, leading us into the world as she knew it. Once I picked this book up, I didn’t put it down for nearly 250 pages—and I only put it down then because it was 2 a.m. and I had to get at least a little sleep—but I was up and finishing the last 100 pages a couple hours later.
My favorite part of this book is the title. From the time I heard about this book, the title intrigued me. The Sound of Gravel. The moment I realized where the title came from, I was struck by the weight of Ruth’s story all at once. In this scene, overlooking her mother’s coffin, the burden she carried on her young shoulders were clenched in her fist—in the form of tiny rocks and the dust of her beginnings—and released with a promise.
The Sound of Gravel.
Read this book.
I wholeheartedly recommend it.
For more information about Ruth and to preorder The Sound of Gravel (releases Tuesday, January 5, 2016), please visit www.RuthWariner.com.
The Sound of Gravel: Review Link-Up
Bloggers and GoodReads Reviewers: If you’ve written a review, feel free to link up with us!
1.Click the blue link-up button below.
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3.Check out a few of the other review posts and leave your comments!
Readers: You’re welcome to click the blue button and follow the links to some other fantastic reviews! Leave your comments on the blogs you visit and join us in getting the word out about Ruth’s book!